H.M.S. Raglan (1915)

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H.M.S. Raglan (1915)
Pendant Number: M.09 (1914)
M.03 (Sep 1915)
M.14 (Jan 1918)[1]
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Govan[2]
Laid down: 1 Dec, 1914[3]
Launched: 29 Apr, 1915[4]
Commissioned: Jun, 1915[5]
Sunk: 20 Jan, 1918[6]
Fate: Breslau and Goeben[7]

H.M.S. Raglan was an Abercrombie class monitor, the first class of big gun monitors to be commissioned for the Royal Navy during the First World War. When Lord Fisher returned to the Admiralty as First Sea Lord on 30 October, 1914 he and others foresaw the need for coast bombardment vessels to harass Germans on the Belgian coast, in order to frustrate their making naval use of it. All battleships were required either in the Grand Fleet or on patrol duties, so a new class of ship, with a shallow draught for inshore work and a requisite small number of big guns was specified.

By coincidence, on 3 November, 1914 Charles M. Schwab, president of the Bethlehem Steel Company paid a call at the Admiralty to try to sell armaments. It transpired that he had eight 14-inch guns of the latest pattern which had been ordered by the Greeks for the battleship Salamis then building in Germany. Now that the British had commenced their blockade of Germany, the guns could not be delivered and Schwab, when asked what he had available, offered the now spare guns for sale.

Speed of design and construction was paramount. Contracts for the guns, their mountings and ammo were discussed on 6 November. A meeting was held at the Admiralty with shipbuilders was held on the 11th to discuss the allocation of construction. A hull form was finalised on 17 November and on 1 December the first of the monitors, designated M.3 was laid down at Harland and Wolff's yard at Govan, Glasgow.

Construction

Lot No. 476, laid down as M.3, was given the name Robert E. Lee in February, 1915 - the names of the four ships of the class being American Civil War Generals to reflect the guns background. The monitor was launched on 19 April, 1915, her guns having crossed the Atlantic in February. Due to U.S. Neutrality laws and the outcry the namings caused, the names were changed on 31 May and Robert E. Lee, the last to be completed, had commissioned as M.3 under Captain Cecil Dacre Staveley Raikes. On 19 June M.3 became Lord Raglan then on 23 June became simply Raglan.

Equipped with Harland and Wolff engines, Raglan achieved the best trial speed of any of the monitors, whose anti-torpedo bulges and poor hull form slowed them considerably. Her best speed on the measured mile was 7.64 knots. They were promptly sent into action to the Dardanelles, Raglan being despatched on the 28 June in tow of the old protected cruiser Diana. She arrived on 22 July and went straight into action, supporting the Suvla Bay landings on 6-7 August. Unfortunately, on one shoot, one of Raglan's guns fired prematurely and the shell exploded in the British lines, killing one man and wounding three. Her gunnery officer at the Dardanelles was Lieutenant Arthur John Power (1889-1960), later Admiral of the Fleet.

Service

Continually supporting the troops with gunfire, in October Raglan embarked a R.N.A.S. Short 166 aircraft designed specifically for shipboard use, to help spot the shooting of the monitors firing on Gallipoli town. With the commencement of the evacuation from the peninsula, Raglan, due to a rather bad shooting record was kept in reserve with other ships at Imbros in case the withdrawal from Helles in the new year of 1916 should go awry. On 7 January the Turks launched a heavy attack on the British lines and all available ships were moved up to lend fire support. The evacuation of the position was eventually completed on the night of 8/9 January with the loss of one man.

Raglan and her sister-ship Abercrombie were the only two of her class kept in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Raglan was employed regularly, bombarding Smyrna and the west coast of Turkey in February and March, 1916 before being sent to the Salonika front to bombard Bulgaria, setting afire crops. In May, Commander Henry Franklin Chevallier, Viscount Broome, the nephew of Earl Kitchener, took command, while the ship was undergoing a refit at Malta. She participated throughout the rest of 1916 and 1917 in lying off Imbros watching for Goeben and Breslau, and being engaged in supporting the Allied offensives in Salonika, at Stavros, and in Palestine, when she bombarded Deir Seneid in Gaza and Askalon.

Following her support off Palestine, on 26 December Raglan returned to Imbros, where with the small monitor M.28 she formed the Second Detached Squadron of the Ægean Squadron, again keeping watch for the German/Turkish ships from the Black Sea.

Sinking

In the early morning of the 20 January, 1918, the battlecruiser Goeben and her consort cruiser Breslau sneaked out of the straits in the mist of the Sunday morning. Goeben hit a mine, but the damage was not serious and the two ships proceeded towards Imbros to destroy whatever ships were anchored there. There ought to have been a Lord Nelson class battleship there but Agamemnon was stationed at Mudros 25 miles away and Lord Nelson was at Salonika with the Admiral. A little after half seven, Raglan sighted the two German ships and at 07:35 signalled "GOBLO" by wireless, the code that the breakout of the two ships had occurred. She then started exchanging fire with Breslau, each correcting their aim until they began to hit each other with medium calibre fire. However, the German's fourth salvo hit the spotting top and killed the Gunnery Officer and wounded Broome. The 14-inch gun was reloaded and ready to go into local control when a hit from Goeben pierced the tall armoured barbette and killed a number of the gun crew, having detonated the ready use charges. The First Lieutenant, who had been in the turret, came out, saw the carnage and unable to see the C.O. ordered the ship to be abandoned at anchor.

The Germans then closed to 4,000 yards and after several hits detonated the 12-pdr magazine, which sank her bow-first at 08:15 in 40 feet of water, leaving her foremast and spotting top jutting from the water. Unfortunately, 127 men from Raglan were killed while 93 survived. At the Court-martial held on 31 January the conduct of the crew under overwhelming odds was recognised to have been exemplary.

The small monitor M.28 had also been sunk in the onslaught, but soon after the action Breslau hit a mine to the east of Imbros and went under. Goeben was also mined again and was forced to beach herself on the Turkish shore, where she effectively became a non-combatant.

Captains

Dates of appointment are provided when known.

See Also

Footnotes

  1. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 102.
  2. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 43.
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 43.
  4. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 43.
  5. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 43.
  6. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 43.
  7. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 102.
  8. The Navy List. (October, 1915). p. 397h.
  9. Raikes Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 490.
  10. The Navy List. (November, 1917). p. 397h.
  11. Naval Operations. Vol. V. pp. 88-9.
  12. email to Tone 02212012 from John O'Grady

Bibliography

  • Buxton, Ian L. (1978). Big Gun Monitors: The History of the Design, Construction and Operation of the Royal Navy's Monitors. Tynemouth: World Ship Society. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).


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