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The Harwich Naval Forces

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The Harwich Naval Forces
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Author(s): E. F. Knight
Date Published: 2011/08
Page Count: 112
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-628-2
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-627-5

The Royal Navy at war from the home front

This is an account of the Royal Navy forces of the First World War which operated out of Harwich, a Haven Port on the North Sea coast of Britain in the county of Essex blessed with deep water. Situated on the mouth of the estuaries of the Stour and Orwell rivers, it provided the only safe anchorage between the Thames and the Humber. Its significance and value as a naval base for military purposes was always evident and from the 17th century it has been heavily fortified. So when war was declared in 1914, Harwich’s value and importance was obvious and the base became operational, vitally guarding the English Channel to the south and the route to the Atlantic for the German fleet to the north. The author of this book came to the task as a result of his long familiarity with the area, and within these pages he describes every aspect of the naval work that was concentrated on Harwich. This provides a fascinating insight into the activities of the Home Fleet during the conflict. The early action at Heligoland Bight is covered among others. Convoys and patrol duties of both vessels and seaplanes are also dealt with in some detail. This was the home of the Harwich Submarine Flotilla and its work, including reconnaissance, is fully described. Finally mine-laying and sweeping and the activities of the Royal Naval Trawler Reserve and the Harwich Auxiliary force are covered. Jutland provided the only major sea battle of the Great War and other naval actions across the globe were comparatively small-scale. Most significantly the narrow seaways between island Britain and continental Europe had to remain tenable. Across these narrow waters the greatest army the British Empire had ever mobilised fought in deadly stalemate and was in perpetual need of essential men and material. This is an engrossing story of the First World War at sea and of the men and ships that provided protection and vigilance.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

About one hour after the Harwich Force had turned and started for home, the Arethusa, limping along, picked up a wireless message from the destroyer Lurcher, attached to the Harwich submarine flotilla, reporting that she was being pursued by five enemy light cruisers off Heligoland. On receiving this message Commodore Tyrwhitt immediately turned back to support the Lurcher. The peril of taking such a course with a crippled flagship needs no explaining, but the old traditions of the sea make a commander very loth, in any circumstances, to refrain from going to the aid of a friend in difficulties. In the course of this war our ships have often thus hurried to the succour of others in the face of fearful odds. Over-rashness may have been displayed on occasion. But let us regard another side of the question. What confidence and spirit it must give to our men to feel that, if menaced by deadly peril, they can rely upon their comrades to come to their help if it is humanly possible to do so! A navy that has no soul, in which a commander will coldly calculate the exact risk before deciding whether the game is quite worth the candle, will never achieve great things.<br>
So the flagship, the Fearless, and the two destroyer flotillas, having turned, steamed back to the eastward for one hour and were once more within a few miles of Heligoland. They found themselves on a sea empty of ships; no more wireless messages from the Lurcher reached the Arethusa, and as nothing could be seen or heard of that vessel, the quest was at last abandoned and the order was given to steam once more to the westward for home.<br>
The mist now gradually thickened. At about 10 a.m., shortly after the squadron had turned, a light cruiser was seen coming out of the fog on the Arethusa’s port quarter. For a second or so it was thought that she was one of our own ships. On being challenged she flashed some signals. Then a ripple of flame ran along her sides, and she displayed her true colours by opening fire on the flagship. The light cruiser Fearless and the destroyers, though they had but few torpedoes left, attacked her in a most gallant fashion and succeeded in driving her off. But, doubtless knowing that the Arethusa was in a crippled condition and that other German ships were coming up, she soon returned to resume the attack. And now another enemy light cruiser suddenly loomed on the Arethusa’s starboard quarter and joined in the fight. The British ships were now fighting a retiring action, our destroyers doing splendid work, zigzagging over the sea and losing no opportunity of vigorously attacking the enemy, thus covering the retirement. <br>
But now there came up on our squadron’s front yet another enemy light cruiser, the Mainz, to take part in the action. So our ships were being attacked on all sides, and despite the bravery of the defence the situation must have appeared somewhat desperate. Our destroyers attacked the new arrivals, giving them no respite. The Mainz put up a great fight against the destroyers that were harassing her. Her fire was accurate; she put two of the destroyers out of action.