Primary Documents - Alfred von Tirpitz on the Zeebrugge Raid, 24 April 1918
Reproduced below is the text of former German Naval Minister Alfred von Tirpitz's official report into the British raid upon the German-held ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend on the night of 22-23 April 1918.
The raid was originally proposed by British First Sea Lord, Sir John Jellicoe, and formulated by Dover port commander Sir Roger Keyes, after Jellicoe stated to the British cabinet his view that Britain's continuing ability to wage war depended upon blocking the exits from both ports, and thus denying German submarines convenient bases.
The main force of the attack was to be at Zeebrugge, with a smaller raid launched against Ostend. In the event the outcome of the raid upon Zeebrugge was inconclusive - while British losses were heavy an old submarine did destroy the mole connecting the bridge to the shore after it exploded containing explosives. The raid upon Ostend was however a clear failure (click here to read the Admiralty report into the follow-up raid on Ostend).
Represented at the time as a tremendous British victory by Allied propaganda (with the consequence that Keyes was ennobled), and by the Germans as a demonstration of their success in holding each port, the Zeebrugge raid did not in reality hinder German operations from either port for more than a few days.
Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz's Official Report on the Zeebrugge Raid, 24 April 1918
During the night of April 22-23 an enterprise of the British naval forces against our Flanders bases, conceived on a large scale and planned regardless of sacrifice, was frustrated.
After a violent bombardment from the sea, small cruisers, escorted by numerous destroyers and motorboats, under cover of a thick veil of artificial fog, pushed forward near Ostend and Zeebrugge to quite near the coast, with the intention of destroying the locks and harbour works there.
According to the statements of prisoners, a detachment of four Companies of the Royal Marines was to occupy the Mole of Zeebrugge by a coup de main, in order to destroy all the structures, guns, and war material on it and the vessels lying in the harbour. Only about forty of them got on the Mole. These fell into our hands, some alive, some dead. On the narrow high wall of the Mole both parties fought with the utmost fierceness.
Of the English naval forces which participated in the attack the small cruisers Virginia [sic], Intrepid, Sirius and two others of similar construction, whose names are unknown, were sunk close off the coast. Moreover, three torpedo-boat destroyers and a considerable number of torpedo motor-boats were sunk by our artillery fire. Only a few men of the crews could be saved by us.
Beyond damage caused to the Mole by a torpedo [sic] hit, our harbour-works and coast batteries are quite undamaged. Of our naval forces only one torpedo-boat suffered damage of the lightest character. Our casualties are small.
Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923
Duck-Boards comprised slatted wooden planking used for flooring trenches or muddy ground.
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