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Monthly Archives: May 2016

  • E18 - Centenary of Loss

    The Royal Navy submarine E18 was lost, with all hands, on 2 June 2016. A joint memorial service is being held on 5th June at 13.00 in the Church of the Holy Spirit, Tallinn and at St. Ann’s, Portsmouth also at 10.00.

    E18 entered service in the UK in 1915 and soon began North Sea patrols with the 8th Flotilla at Harwich. On her one and only patrol prior to leaving for the Baltic E18 departed Yarmouth on 9 July 1915. On 14 July 1915 when at the mouth of the Ems, deep in enemy waters the Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Halahan brought E18 to the surface as he preferred the sea to using the toilet arrangements on board. While in this awkward situation a Zeppelin appeared, E18 dived but was easily visible from the air. E18 was then straddled with 12 bombs which caused no damage other than some embarrassment for Halahan in being caught ‘short’.

    E18 was dispatched to the Baltic as part of the Royal Navy Submarine Flotilla to be based there. She left Harwich on 28 August with her sister-ship E19. In the Baltic E18 carried out many patrols.  She sailed on the 25th May 1916 for her 7th Baltic patrol.  On the 26th, at 4:42 PM, E18 torpedoed the German destroyer V100, blowing off her bow. Two days later, on the 28th, E18 was sighted by a German aircraft off Memel (now Klaipėda, Lithuania), E18 was last sighted on the 1 June 1916 at 1500 hrs sailing north by the German U-boat UB-30 northwest of Steinort. It is believed she was lost "most likely by striking a mine" on her return to Reval west of Osel.

    HMS E18 Wreck

    In October 2009, the wreck of HMS E18 was discovered by a ROV deployed by Swedish survey vessel MV Triad. The wreck lies off the coast of Hiiumaa, Estonia. Photographs taken of the wreck show the submarine with its hatch open, suggesting that it struck a mine while sailing on the surface.


    Website: There is a dedicated website at HMS E18 with more of the submarine's history and many good images of the wreck.

  • The sinking of HMS HOOD and the BISMARCK - a short summary



    Schlachtschiff Bismarck

    The Bismarck, probably Germany’s most famous battleship in was sunk on May 27th 1941. The Bismarck had sunk HMS HOOD on 24 May before being sunk herself


    On May 18th 1941 Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen slipped out of the Baltic port of Gdynia to attack Allied convoys in the Atlantic.  Grand Admiral Raeder intended for the Bismarck, the Prinz Eugen, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau to operate in the Atlantic supported by supply and reconnaissance ships. However, Raeder’s plan, code-named “Exercise Rhine”, was severely hampered when the Gneisenau was hit by bombs while in Brest and repairs needed by the Scharnhorst were taking longer than anticipated. Regardless, Raeder ordered the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen to sail as planned under the command of Admiral Lutjens.

    On May 21st, both ships docked at Kors Fjord, near Bergen. Prinz Eugen needed to refuel; when the news reached the Admiralty that the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen had left Bergen, Admiral Sir John Tovey, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, ordered HMS HOOD and HMS PRINCE OF WALES to sail, accompanied by six destroyers. The ships left Scapa Flow on May 22nd.

    All other ships in Scapa Flow and some on the Clyde were put on short notice. To boost his fleet, Tovey ordered HMS VICTORIOUS to sail on the 22nd May and on the following day the battle cruiser HMS REPULSE sailed. At noon on May 23rd, Bismarck and Prinz Eugen entered the Denmark Strait, between Iceland and Greenland.

    At 19.22 on May 23rd, the cruiser HMS SUFFOLK spotted both the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen in the mist. SUFFOLK reported her sighting and HMS NORFOLK picked this report up. At 20.22, the NORFOLK spotted both German ships. SUFFOLK’S report reached the HOOD and Admiral Holland, on the HOOD concluded that there were 300 miles between his ship and the Bismarck. Holland ordered that the HOOD should steer a course for the exit of the Denmark Strait and the battle cruiser steamed off at 27 knots. At this speed, the ‘Hood’ should come into contact with the ‘Bismarck’ at 06.00 on May 24th. The HMS KING GEORGE V and HMS VICTORIOUS also picked up the message but were both 600 miles away. The Admiralty remained concerned for the safety of the convoys in the Atlantic as there was always the danger that Bismarck might slip away. Therefore, the HMS RENOWN, HMS ARK ROYAL AND HMS SHEFFIELD were ordered to sea from Gibraltar to give further protection to the convoys.

    ‘Bismarck’ had darkness on her side and for a couple of hours; SUFFOLK  and NORFOLK lost touch with the Bismarck. Without their positioning information, HOOD could easily have lost contact with the Bismarck. However, by 02.47 on May 24th, SUFFOLK had regained contact with the Bismarck. At 05.35, the lookout from the HOOD made out the Prinz Eugen and the Bismarck at a distance of 17 miles.

    Holland ordered HOOD to turn to the German ships and at 05.45 they were only 22,000 metres apart. At 05.52, HOOD opened fire and shortly afterwards was joined by PRINCE OF WALES. At 05.54, both the Prinz Eugen and the Bismarck fired their guns primarily against HOOD.

    The Prinz Eugen hit HOOD and set alight some anti-aircraft shells kept on deck. The fire this caused was not particularly dangerous though it produced a great deal of smoke. At 06.00 a salvo from the Bismarck hit HOOD. The Bismarck had fired from 17,000 metres and the elevation of her guns meant the shells had a high trajectory and steep angle of descent. HOOD had minimal horizontal armour and one of the shells from the Bismarck penetrated HOOD’s deck. A massive explosion tore the ‘Hood’ in half. Only three men of a total crew of 1,419 survived.

    After the destruction of HOOD, the Germans turned their fire onto PRINCE OF WALES. Her captain, Leach, turned away under the cover of smoke and, along with SUFFOLD and NORFOLK continue to tail the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Bismarck had not escaped untouched, A shell had pierced two oil tanks. The damage was minimal but it meant that 1000 tons of fuel was no longer available to the Bismarck. Lütjens decided to split up the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, hoping to split up the ships that were pursuing him alone. In this he failed. As the Prinz Eugen steamed away, the pursuers targeted only the Bismarck.

    At this point the battleship HMS KING GEORGE V was only 200 miles away and closing fast. Accompanying the KING GEORGE V was the carrier HMS VICTORIOUS. At 22.10 on May 24th nine Swordfish torpedo-bombers left VICTORIOUS to attack the Bismarck. By midnight the planes had found the Bismarck and attacked. Eight torpedoes were launched at the Bismarck and one hit home amidships but did no damage. Nevertheless, Lütjens informed Berlin that it was impossible for him to shake off the Royal Navy and that he was abandoning the task in hand to sail to St Nazaire as his ship was short of fuel.

    As the Bismarck sailed, she was tailed by the SUFFOLK, NORFOLK and PRINCE OF WALES. Just after 03.06 on May 25th, the SUFFOLK lost contact with the Bismarck and it was assumed that she was steaming west into the Atlantic. In fact, the Bismarck was doing the opposite – sailing east for a port in Biscay. At 08.00, Swordfish from the VICTORIOUS were sent up to look for the Bismarck but found nothing. NORFOLK and SUFFOLK also drew a blank. What gave away the Bismarck was the Bismarck itself.

    Lütjens sent Hitler a message about his contact with the Hood.  This message was picked up by the Royal Navy and informed Tovey that the Bismarck was, in fact, making for the Biscay ports. At 18.10 KING GEORGE V and other ships turned to the Biscay ports Bismarck had a lead on them of 110 miles. The weather also favoured the Bismarck as it was deteriorating and visibility was reduced as the cloud as low. The Admiralty used Catalina flying boats to search for the Bismarck. On May 27th, the Catalina’s finally spotted the Bismarck.

    This information was given to the Swordfish crews from HMS ARK ROYAL which was steaming up from Gibraltar. They took off at 14.30 in rapidly deteriorating weather. The lead Swordfish spotted a large ship on its radar and fourteen planes dived through cloud for an attack. Unfortunately, they attacked HMS SHEFFIELD as they were unaware that she was in the same area shadowing the Bismarck. Luckily no damage was done to the ‘Sheffield’.

    The Swordfish returned to VICTORIOUS to be re-fuelled and re-armed. By 19.10, they were airborne once again. At 19.40 they spotted SHEFFIELD, which gave the crews the direction of the ‘Bismarck’ -12 miles to the south-east. Fifteen planes attacked the ‘Bismarck’ and there were two definite torpedo hits and one probable. One of the torpedoes damaged Bismarck’s starboard propeller, wrecking her steering gear and jamming her rudders. Two observation planes saw the ‘Bismarck’ literally sailing in circles in the immediate aftermath of the attack and at less than 8 knots. The attack had crippled the ‘Bismarck’. Throughout the night the stricken battleship was harassed by destroyers under the command of Captain Vian.

    The destroyers shadowed the ‘Bismarck’ and fed her position back to the NORFOLK. NORFOLK was joined by the battleships ‘RODNEY and KING GEORGE V. On May 27th at 08.47, RODNEY opened fire on the ‘Bismarck’. At 08.48, KING GEORGE V did the same. ‘Bismarck’ fired back but a salvo from RODNEY took out the two forward gun turrets of the ‘Bismarck’. By 10.00 all her main guns had been silenced and her mast had been blown away. By 10.10, all her secondary armaments had been destroyed and the giant ship simply wallowed in the water. At 10.15, Tovey called off his battleships and ordered HMS DORSETSHIRE to sink the ‘Bismarck’ with torpedoes. Three torpedoes were fired at the ‘Bismarck’ and she sank at 10.40. Out of her crew of 2,200, there were only 115 survivors. Only 2 officers out of 100 survived.


    For more about this eventful week there are many books to be read. A selection can be found here: The Sinking of the Bismarck

  • 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War

    On 19th May 2016 The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) opened a major exhibition to commemorate the largest naval battle in history, the Battle ofJutland. ‘36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War’ is the most comprehensive exhibition ever staged on the subject, and  highlights the essential role of the Royal Navy in winning the First World War.

    The Battle of Jutland was the defining naval battle of the First World War, fought over 36 hours from May 31st to June 1st 1916. It is often considered a German victory due to the number of British lives lost; the British lost 6,094 seamen and the Germans 2,551 during the battle. However these figures do not represent the impact upon the British and German fleets. At the end of the battle the British maintained numerical supremacy; only two dreadnoughts were damaged, leaving twenty-three dreadnoughts and four battlecruisers still able to fight, whilst the Germans had only ten dreadnoughts.

    NavyBooks was lucky enough to be invited to the Press Preview on Tuesday 17 May and walk through the never-before-seen displays and immersive galleries that have been created. These audio visual ‘pods’ bring home the confusion of battle with sound and fury of guns, explosions and the sea along with voices of the crews of both fleets. Clever use of CGI technology provides moving images of the ships, men and action – so realistic that the curator was asked where they found the archive film.

    Ian Whitehouse, Managing Director of NavyBooks said  ‘I cannot recommend this exhibition highly enough. The archive material, unique artefacts and the presentation of the exhibition are all beyond reproach. In the year when many eyes will turn to the Western Front and the Battle of the Somme it is important to recognise and remember the essential part that the Royal Navy played in winning the First World War and the sacrifice that this involved’.


    The exhibition provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to view the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s collection together with objects from 21 private lenders and five public organisations and is part of a wider NMRN First World War centenary programme, The Great War at Sea. The exhibition launch coincides with the NMRN’s other major contribution to the Jutland centenary, the opening of the battle’s only survivor HMS Caroline, in Belfast 2016.

    Over 80 items from the Imperial War Museum have been loaned to the exhibition some of which have never been seen before. They reveal the stories of the brave sailors who fought in terrifying conditions at Jutland, and allow people to reflect and remember the 6000 men who lost their lives at sea. Alongside this will be personal effects from men and women involved in the battle. The diary of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service Nurse Mary Clarke tells of her service as a naval sister in the Grand Fleet hospital ship PLASSY (May-June 1916). Also included will be the lifebelt belonging to William Loftus Jones, English recipient of the Victoria Cross and commander of HMS Shark which sunk during the battle. The lifebelt was recovered from the body after being washed ashore following the battle, and is displayed alongside a photograph of HMS Shark survivors.

    Also on display are three guns that saw action at Jutland; the large gun from German destroyer B98, and two smaller deck guns from HMS Opal and HMS Narbourgh, usually on display at Orkney Islands Council’s Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum at Lyness.

    The exhibition also showcases ensigns flown by British warships at the Battle of Jutland. The largest flag from the dreadnought battleship, HMS Bellerophon, measures around 2.6m by 5.3m.

    Read here the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones' speech at the formal opening of the Exhibition.

    For more details see:  Jutland Exhibition

    NavyBooks has a number of books about Jutland - see Jutland for more details.



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  • ON THIS DAY - 21 May 1982

    3 Commando Brigade establishes first bridgehead on the Falkland Islands at San Carlos. Ten enemy aircraft destroyed by escorts and Sea Harriers. HMS ARDENT sunk by enemy aircraft, ANTRIM, ARGONAUT and BRILLIANT damaged. This was the first day 5 days of battle between aircraft and ships during the British landings in San Carlos.

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