Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zeebrugge

Z is for Zeebrugge

This last post in the Blogging from A to Z challenge is about a battle that occurred nearly 100 years ago at the end of WWI.  I hasten to add that none of my ancestors fought in this battle but I thought that it was a nice way of stitching up all the sorts of things that we have been learning about this month.

In Australia we recently commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the first Anzac Day service on 25th April.  In the UK, the 23rd April, or St George's Day, is the day to commemorate a significant battle in WWI - the raid on Zeebrugge. 

On 23 April 1918 the British Navy carried out a raid on the the Belgian port of Zeebrugge in an attempt to block the path of German U-boat submarines that were docked further up the Zeebrugge canal.

Here is a map of the battle site from a newspaper at the time.

ZEEBRUGGE AND DOCKS. (1918, April 25). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), , p. 5. Retrieved April 28, 2016, from

It was a fierce battle and over 200 British sailors and marines lost their lives. (Blanch, C., A short ferry ride to war

Twelve Australian volunteers  were chosen to help in the battle.  They were:

Sub-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant-Commander) John Howell-Price , D.S.O., D.S.C. b. 16 September 1886, Five Dock, N.S.W.

Warrant Engineer (later promoted to Engineer-Lieutenant in recognition of his bravery) William Henry Vaughan Edgar, D.S.C. (No. 7423, R.A.N.) Of McMahon's Point, N.S.W. ; b. Dunedin, New Zealand 20 Apr. 1884. Died Heidelberg, Victoria 1962.

Leading Seaman, George J. Bush, D.S.M. (No. 7018, R.A.N.) Of Manchester , Eng.; b. Islington, London, 19 Oct., 1887

Leading Seaman Dalmorton J.O. Rudd, D.S.M (No. 3389, R.A.M.) Of Campsie, N.S.W.; b. Sydney, 14 June 1896

Leading Seaman Henry J. Gillard (No. 8517, R.N.) Of Bangor, North Wales; b. New Brighton, Cheshire, Eng. 29 Jan 1890

Able Seaman Leonard T. Newland (No. 1937 R.A.N.) Of South Northcote, Vic; b. Ballarat, Vic., 16 Aug. 1889

Leading Seaman George E. Staples, D.S.M. (No. 2858, R.A.M.) Of Semaphore, S. Aust; b. Parkside, S. Aust., 20 April, 1896. Died 13 Aug., 1920

Leading Stoker, W.J. Bourke (no. 2237, R.A.N.) of Perth, W. Aust.; b. Perth, 7 Dec., 1891

Leading Stoker R. Hopkins (No. 3135, R.A.N.) Of Windsor, Vic.; b. Wyong, N.S.W. 5 oct., 1893

Leading Stoker G.J. Lockard (No. 3123 R.A.M.) Of west Marrickville, N.S.W.; b. Sydney, 28 Feb., 1893

Leading Stoker Herbert J. McCrory (No. 1183, R.A.M.) Of Surry Hills, N.S.W.; b. Sydney, 24 Jan 1892

Leading Stoker J. Strong (No. 2536, R.A.N.) Of Annandale, N.S.W. ; b. Gallymont, N.S.W., 10 Nov., 1893.

There are all sorts of accounts of the battle.  It was quite complicated strategically speaking and interesting on a number of levels - from the use of old cruisers loaded with concrete to act as blockships, to the use of fog machines to hide their advance, to old subs being blown upunder the Mole.  (I didn't realise that mole also meant a pier or causeway - did you?)  The names of the vessels range from Vindictive to Iris and Daffodil and there were all sorts of craft involved from old cruisers and destroyers, to ferries, motor launches and submarines.  It was all hands to the pump - from 2000 dockworkers at Chatham to the Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes.

This article probably gives the clearest account of the battle and is well illustrated.

You can read one of the Australians - McCrory's - account of their training here.

This is an excellent article describing the action that the Australians saw during the battle and where and how they served.

There is some footage of the HMAS Australia here where one of the crew are presented with the Zeebrugge medal.

Here is a Belgian TV Documentary about the raid.

If you wanted to read something meatier, Project Gutenberg has a couple of volumes for you - Captain Carpenter's The Blocking of Zeebrugge and Lieut. Westerman's The Thick of the Fray at Zeebrugge. Outlook advises that:
 "No boy alive will be able to peruse Mr. Westerman's pages without a quickening of his pulses"  

The Internet Archive has The Dispatches of Vice Admiral Sir Roger Keyes edited by C. Sanford Terry and The Zeebrugge Affair by Keble Howard.

In terms of memorials I have discovered that there is the Zeebrugge bell housed at Dover (a gift from the King of Belgium).  It is rung every year by the mayor in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  There is a rather nice postcard featured here from 1923 and a video on You Tube of it being rung just a few days ago.  Those who fell may have been buried at St James's Cemetery Dover or Zeebrugge Churchyard.

I hope that you have enjoyed finding out more about the navy and naval records for family historians in my contribution to the Blogging from A to Z challenge. Thank you for coming on the journey with me and responding so enthusiastically to my posts.  It has made the slog so much easier having friends along the way cheering me on.

As you can see, there is a host of online and offline resources available for you to explore.  

I will attempt to create a digest of some of the resources as a kind of ready reckoner for you after I've had a few zzzzzzzzssss......


Blanch, Craig, A short ferry ride to the war | Australian War Memorial. (2016). Retrieved 29 April 2016, from

Jose, Arthur WilberforceVolume IX – The Royal Australian Navy, 1914–1918, Official History of Australia in the War 1914-1918, Appendix 25 – The Australian Detachment for Zeebrugge. (2016). Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 29 April 2016, from

England, 1918. Lieutenant William Henry Vaughan Edgar DSC, RAN, with a party of civilians on HMAS Australia. Artificer Engineer Edgar, whilst serving on HMAS Australia, volunteered to serve in the .... (2016). Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 29 April 2016, from

Raid on Zeebrugge (1) TV documentary. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 29 April 2016, from

Scenes on board HMAS Australia. (2016). Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 29 April 2016, from

Studio portrait of Sub-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) John Howell-Price DSO DSC (1886-1937). Howell-Price served with the Royal Naval Reserve from 1915 to 1918 and in the RAN from 1918 to .... (2016). Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 29 April 2016, from


A is for ADM
B is for Books (and Battleships)
C is for Chatham
D is for Dockyards
E is for Edgar Class Cruiser
F is for Flagship
G is for Greenwich
H is for Haslar
I is for Indexes and the Internet
J is for Jackspeak
K is for Kew (and Keyham)
L is for Lean's Navy Lists
M is for Malta (and Musters)
N is for Newspapers (and Navy Records Society and Nancy Dawson)
O is for HMS Orontes
P is for Prize Money (and Pensions)
Q is for Quartermaster
R is for Rodger (and Reading and Really Good Reference)
S is for Ships
T is for Trinity House (and Tobacco and Trusses)
U is for HMAS Una (oh allright and Uniforms too)
V is for HMS Vernon
W is for Wavy Navy
X is for X-craft
Y is for Yard Pay Books (Yellow Admirals, yardarm and Youth)


Jill Ball said...

There's a strange noise buZZing in my ears - is it the choir of ZZers who have completed the challenge.

Thank you Alex for your meaty posts which have been educative and entertaining.

Alex Daw said...

Tee hee - thank you Jill. Yes it is a chorus of collective sighs - Zut alors! That's done and dusted. We did it!

Dianne said...

Alex I have enjoyed sailing through the alphabet with you. I learned a lot and you made it so interesting. And I love your French - Zut Alors! Haha good Z note to end on.

diane b said...

Well done! This research from AtoZ about the the Navy must have kept you busy for hours.

Wendy said...

Obviously you were not worn down by the pressure to keep pace with A-Z. Look at the research for this piece! You go, Girl. Congratulations on making it to the end with gusto.

Fran Kitto said...

Your theme was very interesting. You have set a high standard.

Kristin said...

Congratulations on finishing the challenge, and with such a detailed post too.

Finding Eliza

Suzanne McClendon said...

I have enjoyed your series very much, Alex. It has been great and I plan to be a regular visitor here.

Two things stood out to me in this post. First, I really like the jacket that Mr. John Howell-Price is wearing in the photo you posted. Second, I wonder if Lead Seaman George J. Bush is any relation to our former Presidents George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush. David (my husband) also has a Bush line in his family tree. :)

It is said that some of our family came by way of Australia, having been sent their as prisoners at some point. I don't know how true that is yet. I do need to dig deeper into that story and all of your great resources might help me to pin that down one way or another.

Thank you for such interesting reading and information. I hope that you have a blessed day!

Alex Daw said...

Oh Suzanne - it has been lovely to meet you too. I hadn't picked up on Lead Seaman George. J. Bush - I was too busy looking at some other names which stood out for me because they were the names of recent Australian Prime Ministers - Rudd and Gillard. I was wondering if they were related to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. When you say our family - do you mean the McClendons - because to my mind that is a relatively unusual family name and I would hope might produce results on Trove if you looked there first. What about this article for example

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Congratulations on reaching the end! You did a huge amount of complex work on your series and I plan on keeping it bookmarked as a reference guide.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Pauleen - thank you so much. Wasn't it a huge effort and nice to see so many of us participating.