Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, January 7, 2016

About the Dover Patrol

Admiral Bacon

In late July 1914, with war looming, 12 Tribal-class destroyers arrived at Dover to join the near obsolete destroyers already at anchor in the harbor, most of them built in the late 1800s. These destroyers formed the nucleus of the fledgling Dover Patrol, which, from its early beginnings as a modest and poorly equipped command, became one of the most important Royal Navy commands during both World Wars. At its bases in Dover and Dunkerque, France, the patrol assembled cruisers, monitors, destroyers, armed trawlers and drifters, paddle mine-sweepers, armed yachts, motor launches and coastal motor boats, submarines, seaplanes, aeroplanes, and airships. 

Dover Patrol Memorial
With these resources it performed several duties simultaneously in the southern North Sea and the Dover Straits: carrying out anti-submarine patrols; escorting merchantmen, hospital, and troop ships; laying sea-mines and even constructing mine barrages; sweeping up German mines; bombarding German military positions on the Belgian coast; and sinking the ever-present U-boats.

Admiral R.H. Bacon commanded the Dover Patrol from January 1915 until 31 December 1917. He had been one of the prewar Royal Navy's ablest officers, director of ordnance, an ally of Jackie Fisher, and ironically one of the founders of Britain's submarine service. His open-mindedness and willingness to work with General Haig helped to initiate and almost to pull off one of the most innovative concepts of the Great War. Vice Admiral Roger Keyes replaced Bacon and was charged with the special duty of blockading the German-held Belgian ports and the U-boats based there. This was to culminate in what was the Patrol’s "finest hour", the raid on Zeebrugge and Ostend on 22/23 April 1918.

Source: Dover England Website

1 comment:

  1. Bacon was a consummate seaman with little time for the "political" admirals at the Admiralty. He was sacked and replaced with Keyes, who altered Bacon's plan for the Zeebrugge raid in essential respects. Bacon produced a paper pointing out that these changes would almost certainly lead to failure, but was ignored. Such was the conflict between the Barrage Committee at the Admiralty and Bacon that , writing the Forward to Bacon's "Concise Story of the Dover Patrol", Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe contradicted the Official Royal Navy History as being incorrect on the subject of the channel minefields, and Bacon being right. (see Vol V of Naval Operations - The Official History.). Jellicoe also supported Bacon's view on the inadvisability of the Zeebrugge raid as mounted by Keyes. This amounts to a quite extraordinary attack on the Admiralty in support of Bacon by one of Great Britain's most senior Admirals.