Ostend at Anchor celebrates the heroes of the time

Ostend Raid 23 April 1918
23 Apr 1918
Blocking Raid on Ostend Harbour
A simultaneous raid at Ostend at midnight on 22/23 April 1918 had not gone to plan. The two blocking ships “Brilliant” and “Sirius” did not find their objective, ran ashore and had to be sunk there. This was due to a change in the wind affecting the smoke screen plus the unknown recent movement of the Stroom Bank Buoy marking the channel into Ostend harbour. The two blocking ships were unknowingly 2,200m (2,400 yards) too far to the east when they turned to make for the harbour and consequently ran aground on the shore.
Ostend Raid 10 May 1918
09-May-1918 — 10-May-1918
A Second Attempt
It was agreed that Vice-Admiral Roger Keyes could set up a repeated attempt to block Ostend harbour. The second raid on Ostend would need to be carried out within four days of the 23 April operation before the suitable tide and hours of darkness remained similar to the plans of 22/23 April. Repairs and refitting were carried out on “Vindictive” at Dover and she was filled with 200 tons of concrete. The commanders and men from the “Brilliant” and “Sirius”“ volunteered to crew the “Vindictive”, together with some of the “Vindictive” crew who had been in the 23 April raid on Zeebrugge and other volunteers, on her second, and final, run to the Belgian coast.
Due to unfavourable weather on 27/28 April the raid was postponed. A second old cruiser “Sappho” was brought into the operation and filled with cement.
Operation Goes into Action on 9 May
On the evening of 9 May the “Vindictive” and “Sappho” sailed to Dunkirk from where Commodore Lynes would command the operation on Ostend. Unfortunately the “Sappho” had an accident in the boiler room and she broke down on leaving her anchorage at Dunkirk. Unable to keep up with “Vindictive” she was taken out of the operation.
At 01.43 hrs the British naval force and Royal Air Force squadrons opened fire and dropped bombs on the Ostend shore defences. A thick sea fog suddenly descended on the area, creating problems for the ships to maintain visible contact with one another.
HMS “Vindictive” Arrives in Ostend Harbour
This time the British had put their own calcic-phosphide lit buoy to guide “Vindictive” to make the correct turn into the harbour. At 02.00 hrs “Vindictive” successfully found the entrance to the harbour, helped at the third attempt to see it by a million candle-power flare lit in the fog by one of the inshore boats in the flotilla. However, she now came under enemy fire. The Germans could not see exactly what they were firing at due to the fog and smoke, so they fired a barrage of machine gun fire from the pier heads across the entrance to the harbour. Artillery joined in from gun batteries in the coastal defences. The British destroyers in the force further out to sea fired star shells to light up the pier-heads for “Vindictive” to see to steer between as she continued on the last few minutes of her journey. The British destroyers’ guns also fired on the German gun batteries. “Vindictive” was now illuminated for the German gun batteries and machine gunners and they concentrated their fire onto her.
“Vindictive” Abandoned and Sunk
Communication between the conning tower and the after control was down. The ship’s captain Commander Godsal (formerly commanding the blocking ship HMS “Brilliant”) went outside the conning tower to give orders for the blocking position. He was killed when a shell exploded close to the conning tower. (His body was never found.) Lt Crutchley took command of the situation. The ship grounded at the eastern pier at a 25 degree angle. The order was given to abandon ship and blow it up there. Naval motor launches ML254 and ML276 ran into the harbour through enemy fire to pick up the surviving crew including several badly wounded.
Crew & Wounded Rescued
As HMS “Warwick” and her consorts began to withdraw to the west along the coast motor launch ML254 was taking on water. They signalled an SOS out to sea in the hope of being rescued as they had badly wounded men in the boat. Their call for help was seen, the British ships turned back and they were picked up.
By the time this rescue was completed the the tide had dropped lower and the British ships had to leave the area by a route further into the Channel that was mined by the Germans. At 04.00 hrs the “Warwick” hit a mine destroying the aft part of the ship. The wounded were taken off by HMS “Velux” and HMS “Whirlwind” towed “Warwick” back to Dover.
British Casualties
The British casualties were: 2 officers and 6 men killed; 5 officers and 25 men wounded; 2 officers and 9 men missing.
Gallantry Awards
The following officers were awarded the Victoria Cross:
• Lieut-Cdr Geoffrey Heneage Drummond, RNVR
• Lieut-Cdr Roland Bourke, DSO, RNVR
• Lieut Victor Alexander Charles Crutchley, DSC, RN
A number of gallantry awards were made following the raid. A full list is provided by the excellent website at naval-history.net.