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SMS Bayern

19th August 1916 Bombardment of Sunderland   The raid on Sunderland, 19th August 1916, was part of a German post-Jutland attempt to draw our units of the British Grand Fleet to ambush them hoping to inflict losses to try to address the numerical superiority of the British Fleet.

The Action of 19 August 1916 was one of two further attempts made by the German High Seas Fleet in 1916 to engage elements of the British Royal Navy following the mixed results of the Battle of Jutland in World War I. The lesson of Jutland for Germany had been the vital need for reconnaissance so as to avoid the unexpected arrival of the British Grand Fleet during any raid, so on this occasion four Zeppelins were deployed to scout the North Sea between Scotland and Norway for signs of British ships, while four more scouted immediately ahead of German ships. Twenty four submarines were also deployed off the English coast in the southern North Sea and off the Dogger Bank.


Although Jutland had been officially hailed as a success, the German commander Admiral Reinhard Scheer felt it important that another raid should be mounted as quickly as possible to maintain morale in his severely battered fleet. It was decided that the raid should follow the pattern of previous ones, with the battlecruisers carrying out a dawn artillery bombardment of an English town, in this case Sunderland. Only two battlecruisers were still serviceable after Jutland, Moltke and Von der Tann, so the force was bolstered by the addition of three battleships, Bayern, Markgraf and Grosser Kurfürst. The remainder of the High Seas Fleet, comprising 16 dreadnought battleships, was to carry out close support 20 miles behind. The fleet set sail at 2100 on 18 August from the Jade river.


Information about the upcoming raid was obtained by British Intelligence in Room 40 through intercepted and decoded radio messages. Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, commander of the British fleet, was on leave so had to be recalled urgently and boarded the light cruiser Royalist at Dundee to meet his fleet in the early hours of 19 August off the river Tay. In his absence, Admiral Cecil Burney took the fleet to sea on the afternoon of 18 August. Vice-Admiral David Beatty left the Firth of Forth with his squadron of six battlecruisers to meet the main fleet in the Long Forties. The Harwich Force of 20 destroyers and 5 light cruisers commanded by Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered out, as were 25 British submarines which were stationed in likely areas to intercept German ships. The battlecruisers together with the 5th Battle Squadron of five fast battleships were stationed 30 miles ahead of the main fleet to scout for the enemy. The assembled fleet now moved south seeking the German fleet, but suffered the loss of one of the light cruisers screening the battlecruiser group, HMS Nottingham, which was hit by three torpedoes from submarine U-52 at 0600.

Finding the opposition

At 0615 Jellicoe received information from the Admiralty that one hour earlier the enemy had been 200 miles to his south east. However, the loss of the cruiser caused him to first head north for fear of endangering his other ships. No torpedo tracks or submarines had been seen, so it was unclear whether the cause had been a submarine or entering an unknown minefield. He did not resume a south-easterly course until 0900 when William Goodenough, commanding the light cruisers, advised that the cause had been a submarine attack. Further information from the admiralty indicated that the battlecruisers would be within 40 miles of the main German fleet by 1400 and Jellicoe increased to maximum speed. Weather conditions were good, with plenty of time for a fleet engagement before dark. The German force had received reassurances about Jellicoe's position, when a zeppelin had spotted the Grand Fleet heading north away from Scheer, at the time it had been avoiding the possible minefield. Unfortunately for the British, the Zeppelin L 13 sighted the Harwich force approximately 75 miles ENE of Cromer, mistakenly identifying the cruisers as battleships. This was precisely the sort of target Scheer was seeking, so he changed course at 1215 also to the south-east and away from the approaching British fleet. No further reports were received from zeppelins about the British fleet, but it was spotted by a U-boat just 65 miles north of Scheer. Scheer turned for home at 1435 abandoning his potential target. By 1600 Jellicoe had been advised that Scheer had abandoned the operation and so turned north himself.

The actual attack

A second cruiser attached to the battlecruiser squadron, HMS Falmouth, was hit by two torpedoes from U-63 at 1652 and sank the following day while being towed to the Humber, when hit by two more torpedoes fired by U-66. By 1745 the Harwich force had sighted German ships, but was too far behind for any prospect of an attack before nightfall so abandoned the chase. A British submarine HMS E23 commanded by Lieutenant-Commander R.R Turner managed to hit the German battleship SMS Westfalen at 0505 on the 19th, but the ship was able to return home.


This was the last occasion on which the German fleet travelled so far west into the North Sea. On 6 October a decision was made in Germany to resume attacks against merchant vessels by submarine, which meant the submarine fleet was no longer available for combined attacks against surface vessels. On 13 September a conference took place on Jellicoe's flagship to discuss recent events and it was decided that it was unsafe to conduct fleet operations south of latitude 55.5° North (approximately level with Horns reef and where the battle of Jutland had taken place), except in extreme emergency such as a German invasion force. Scheer was unimpressed by the efficiency of the zeppelin reconnaissance. Only three zeppelins had spotted anything and from seven reports four had been wrong. On 18–19 October Scheer once again led a brief sortie into the North Sea and British intelligence gave warning. However, the Grand Fleet declined to prepare an ambush, staying in port with steam raised ready to sail. The German sortie was abandoned after a few hours when SMS München was hit by a torpedo fired by E38, Lieutenant-Commander J. de B. Jessop, and it was feared other submarines might be in the area. Scheer suffered further difficulties when in November he sailed with Moltke and a division of dreadnoughts to rescue U-20 and U-30 which had become stranded on the Danish coast. British submarine J1, Commander J. Laurence, managed to hit the battleships Grosser Kurfürst and Kronprinz. The failure of these operations reinforced the belief, created at Jutland, that the risks involved in such operations were not justified by the outcomes. Both sides feared the loss of their capital ships to submarines or mines.

16th October 1917   The Battle of Moon Sound was a naval battle fought between the forces of Germany and the then Russian Republic alomg with three British submarines in the Baltic Sea from 16 October 1917 until 3 November 1917. The German intention was to destroy the Russian forces and occupy the West Estonian Archipelago. The German Navy had 1 battlecruiser, 10 battleships, 9 light cruisers, 1 mine cruiser, 50 destroyers and 6 submarines while the Russians had only 2 pre-dreadnoughts, 3 cruisers, 3 gunboats, 21 destroyers and 3 submarines.


It was the Germans' intention to destroy the Russian Army and occupy the West Estonian Archipelago (Moonsund Archipelago). The Germans captured the archipelago, with its main islands of Saaremaa (Ösel), Hiiumaa (Dagö), and Muhu (Moon) during the Operation Albion in September 1917. This left a Russian squadron consisting of the old Russo-Japanese War-era pre-dreadnought battleships Grazhdanin (Tsesarevich), and Slava, together with cruisers and destroyers, stranded in the Gulf of Riga. The Russian fleet escaped on 17 October 1917 by way of the Suur Strait separating the island of Muhu from the Estonian mainland.


At the start of the Battle of Moon Sound, there were two submarines in the Gulf of Riga. They were C 27 (Lt. Sealy) and C 32 (Lt. Satow). When the Germans got there, Captain Francis Cromie sent out another submarine called C 26 (Lt. Downie). On the night of the 16th of October, Lt. Sealy fired two torpedoes at two German ships but missed. Two further torpedoes struck their targets. C 27 returned to Hanko when it was no longer needed. C 32 attempted to attack a German ship but was spotted and bombed. In the afternoon of 16 October, Gruppe Behncke travelled to the south exit of the Suur Strait and dropped anchor around 8:30 pm. All German ships were anchored in a close line with a torpedo boat at each end. The Germans made significant progress on shore on 16 October, taking 120 officers and 400 men prisoner and capturing 49 guns. By the end of the day, German forces were prepared to capture the West Estonian Archipelago and the navy was ready to attack in the Matsalu Bay and the Suur Strait. The Russian battle strategy was changed at 0430 on October 17 due to a mistake made in the transfer of an order. That morning, ships were on the move by 0700. The 3rd M.S.H.F was heading east while the 8th H.f.F.l. was heading north under command of Erich Koellner. At 0720, Russian battleships opened fire on the 8th H.f.F.l, the 3rd M.S. Dive and the Sperrbrecher. The 8th advanced but were under constant Russian fire. It was the 3rd M.S.H.F's duty to clear mines. At 0800 Admiral Behncke ordered that the cruisers stay put and not advance any farther. At this point, König and Kronprinz proceeded east by the 3rd M.S.H.F, both under the command of Georg von der Marwitz. Slava was advancing so that she came between Paternoster and Werder and started firing upon any east-bound German ship. While this was going on, the 3rd M.S.H.F. had reached Laura Bank and turned north, König and Kronprinz continued east and Slava was now heading north. Admiral Hopman was at the same time heading west towards the Väike Strait. At 0910, two Russian ships that had returned south opened fire on the 3rd M.S.H.F. The Russians now understood that if they could stop the minesweepers, they could stop the entire German attack. At 0940, 3rd Ms. Dive was brought over to the east side of Russian minefields to assist the 3rd H.f.F.l. By 1000, the minesweepers were on the northern edge of the rectangular minefield. König and Kronprinz now went forward. Around 1013, König opened fire on Slava. By 1017, Kronprinz followed König`s lead and opened fire on the battleship Grazhdanin. Bayan was also attacked by König. Slava took many underwater hits, causing extensive damage. Grazhdanin only got hit twice in all of the chaos. At 1040 the Germans ceased fire. The Russians continued to fire on the 3rd M.S.H.F. Around 1030, Admiral Bachirev ordered all sea forces to withdraw to the northern Suur Strait. Slava was now fatally wounded, destroyed by Turkmerec Strauropolski. The Russians were determined to make the channel impossible to pass through so they laid out more mines and used damaged ships to their advantage. At 1046, the Werder Battery opened fire on the German battleships. At approximately 1109, two German battleships anchored while under fire at Võilaid. At 1128 there was a false submarine alarm followed by a legitimate one at 1208. Around 1335, Kolberg attacked Võilaid for approximately ten minutes but met no reply. At 1545, Admiral Hopman`s flagleutnant Obltz Keln led a landing party to take over Woi. At 1730, white star shell could be seen which meant that the battery had successfully been taken but the guns were unserviceable. By 1500, Kommodore Heinrich took V100 toward the channel that would lead them to the Suur Strait but were immediately under fire by gunboats under the control of Admiral Makarov. At 2200, Kptlt Zander began to go forward to the Suur Strait. The destroyer S 50 took up position to mark the passage. At the end of the day, Germans were in control over the southern Suur Strait, the Väike Strait and the Matsalu Bay. On the night of October 17, Russians gave up trying to capture the Suur Strait. Just after midnight on October 18, S 64 was shaken by a mine detonation and was rendered unmanoeuvrable. By 0100 , S 64 had sunk. At dawn, German torpedo boats assumed patrol stations in the Matsalu Bay. The landing operations on Hiiumaa gained momentum between 0715 and 0800 as the area around Emmaste was secured. By 0830, German minesweepers had worked forward to a mile south of the Viirelaid lighthouse. At 0800, Behncke's group started east and went behind the 3rd M.S.H.F. Just after 1000, Behncke ordered Admiral Hopman to dispatch Strassburg and the 8th M.S.H.F. to the 3rd squadron while Kolberg, the torpedo-boats and Sperrbrecher would remain to the west. At 1240 the 3rd M.S.H.F. and two boats of the half flotilla confirmed that Slava was sunk along with two freight steamers. The Germans could see Russian destroyers laying mines, the Russians had not yet detected the Germans, so the Germans opened fire, which was met with a reply. Two German torpedo boats opened fire as the Germans continued northward, two Russian gunboats and several destroyers took them under fire. They then turned south at high speed under the cover of a smoke screen. By the evening of the 18th, Kuressaare had been made a supply base, the southern part of Hiiumaa under control of the second Cyclist Battalion and the S-Flotilla landing section. Saaremaa and Muhu were now firmly in German hands. On October 19 the forces of the Gulf of Riga and numerous transport steamers and auxiliaries left the northern Suur Strait under the protection of minesweepers and destroyers. By mid-afternoon, the German forces had penetrated the strait. The German losses were seven minesweepers, nine trawlers and small boats as well as one torpedo-boat. The Imperial Navy had a total of 156 dead and 60 wounded. The Russian Navy had 54 dead and 141 wounded. The German Army captured 20,130 prisoners, 141 Russian guns including 47 heavy pieces and 130 machine guns.


Casualties of the Battle were far more extensive for the Germans than the Russians. 300 German soldiers were killed, and 200 were wounded while the Russians suffered fewer than 100 deaths and around the same number of wounded. German destroyers S 46, S 64 and the Russian destroyer Grom were sunk. All the four ships, Slava, Citizen, König and Kronprinz were damaged but Slava was in a bad condition. The German battleships Bayern and Grosser Kurfürst were badly damaged. Destroyer B 98 was damaged, A 32 ran aground and the auxiliary ship Corsika was damaged. 7 minesweepers and the destroyers S 65 and S 66 were sunk.

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