First Battle of Heligoland Bight

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First Battle of Heligoland Bight

The 28th of August 1914 AD

Less than a month after Britain declared war on Germany and her allies and with the latter’s land forces advancing through French territory, two British naval officers came up with a daring plan for a raid on enemy patrols near the North German mainland. First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill was taken with their idea, and approved it though with some major changes.

Destroyers and Cruisers from Harwich , along with a significant submarine force, were despatched to intercept a routine morning patrol of German destroyers and their cruiser support in the Heligoland Bight about 30 miles off the North German shore. The attack proved successful, thanks to a late decision to increase what proved to be the decisive supporting force. Three German Cruisers – Ariadne, Mainz and Koln – were sunk; more than 700 German sailors including an Admiral killed; and nearly 350 taken prisoner. The British lost 35 men and no ships.

The engagement had far-reaching consequences: the Kaiser, stung by the loss of three ships, ordered that all sallies were to be cleared by him first, immobilising the fleet and facilitating the British blockade of Germany; and what amounted to an inferiority complex within the German Navy as regards the Royal Navy was confirmed by the action, not least because of the psychological blow of a defeat within a few miles of the German homeland.

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