Action of 17 October, 1914

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The Battle off Texel was a light forces action near the Dutch coast on 17 October, 1914.

The British light cruiser Undaunted, leading a force of four Laforey class destroyers, encountered four obsolescent German torpedo boats heading out to sow mines.


On 17 October, the 1st Division of the Royal Navy's Third Destroyer Flotilla was sent to relieve a routine patrol in the Broad Fourteens. Undaunted, Captain Cecil Fox, led Lennox, Lance, Loyal and Legion against the smaller and more elderly S 115, S 117, S 118 and S 119 of the German 7th Half-flotilla.

At about 1:40 pm Undaunted spotted the smoke of four ships approaching. Ten minutes later, they were identified as German torpedo boats in line abreast. The British closed and the Germans turned away both at full speed.

However, the British destroyers were new vessels capable of 29 knots, whilst Undaunted could make 28.5 knots. The German ships, S115, S117, S118 and S119 of the 7th Half Flotilla, had been completed in 1903. They had been designed for 26 or 27 knots, but a Naval Staff Monograph, written post war for internal RN use, quotes the German Official Naval History as saying that they were capable of only 19 knots.[1]

The Germans were heavily outgunned, so stood little chance unless they got inside torpedo range: two 50 mm (1.97 inch) guns and three 45 cm (17.7 inch) torpedo tubes versus three 4 inch guns and four 21 inch torpedo tubes in the British destroyers and Undaunted's two 6 inch and six 4 inch guns and four 21 inch torpedo tubes.

Undaunted opened fire at 8,000 yards range at 2:05 pm, but soon ceased fire as the Germans were zigzagging, making it hard to hit at that range. The Germans had been on a mine laying mission, and started to throw their mines overboard. The Naval Staff Monograph suggests that the British mistook the splashes for the launch of torpedoes.[2]

A general action began once the range was down to 2,500 yards. Legion and Loyal concentrated on the western most German, S117, which sank at 3:17 pm according to Fox's report (3:14 according to his ship's signal log).[3]

Lance and Lennox concentrated on the eastern most German ship, S115, which was out of action by 4 pm, but did not sink for another half hour.

S118 struggled to keep up with the other German ships because of a leaking condenser. She therefore turned towards Undaunted. Korvettenkapitän Georg Thiele, the Half Flotilla commander, realising that his force had no chance of escaping, took S119 after her in the hope of torpedoing Undaunted.

Several German torpedoes were launched, but Fox kept his ship out of their range. All four German ships were sunk, although their skilful manoeuvring meant that the British used a lot of ammunition.

Fox's report indicates that the second German ship sank at 3:30 pm and the third at 3:55 pm. Only 35 Germans survived, of whom 33 were picked up by the British and two by a neutral fishing boat the next day. 223 Germans were killed including one who died of wounds after being rescued by the British. British casualties were five wounded and their ships suffered little damage.[4]

This was a one sided action, but it boosted British morale after the sinking of HMS Hawke by Template:GE-U9 the day before. More importantly, on 30 November a British fishing vessel trawled up a chest that had been thrown overboard by Thiele's S119. It contained a copy of the VB (Verkehrbuch) code book, which was used at sea. mostly by flag officers. British code breakers described its discovery as being 'the miraculous draught of fishs.'[5]

See Also


  1. Naval Staff. Naval Staff Monograph. Volume XI. p. 118.
  2. Naval Staff. Naval Staff Monograph. Volume XI. p. 119.
  3. Naval Staff. Naval Staff Monograph. Volume XI. p. 119.
  4. Naval Staff. Naval Staff Monograph. Volume XI. p. 119.
  5. Halpern. A Naval History of World War I. pp.36-37.


  • Halpern, Paul G.(1994). A Naval History of World War I. London:UCL Press
  • Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division (1924). Naval Staff Monographs (Historical): Fleet Issue. Volume XI. Home Waters—Part II. September and October 1914. O.U. 5528 A (late C.B. 917(I)). Copy at The National Archives. ADM 186/620.