Second Raid on Yarmouth

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The Second Raid on Yarmouth was a bombardment by German battlecruisers of the British ports of Yarmouth and Lowestoft on 24 April, 1916.

It was the second time Yarmouth had been attacked from the sea.


Shortly after taking command of the German High Sea Fleet Admiral Reinhard Scheer laid down the strategy that it should follow. It could not currently win a decisive battle against the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet, so should avoid having one forced on it. It should instead exert pressure to force the British to send out forces that could be attacked on terms favourable to the Germans. This should be achieved by submarine and mine warfare, attacks on British trade with Scandinavia and sorties by the High Sea Fleet.[1]

The Russians had asked the British to carry out a demonstration in the North Sea to keep the High Sea Fleet there whilst they replaced their minefields in the Gulf of Finland, where the ice was melting. A sweep by destroyers, with close support from the Second Light Cruiser Squadron backed by the Fourth Battle Squadron and Second Battle Cruiser Squadron, in the Skagerrak was therefore planned for 22 April. Submarines were positioned to attack any German ships that came north. Three days before the operation was to take place it was decided to add the First Battle Cruiser Squadron and Third Battle Squadron.[2]

On the afternoon of 21 April intelligence reached the Admiralty that the High Seas Fleet was about to put to sea. The planned sweep was therefore replaced by a sortie by the entire Grand Fleet. The German operation was then cancelled after the light cruiser S.M.S. Graudenz struck a mine and other German ships reported spotting submarines.[3]

On the night of 22-23 April the British encountered heavy fog, during which the battle cruisers H.M.A.S. Australia and H.M.S. New Zealand collided, as did three destroyers whilst a neutral merchantmen rammed the battleship H.M.S. Neptune. There was no sign of the enemy, so the fleet returned to base on the morning of 23 April.[4]


At mid-day on 24 April the High Seas Fleet put to sea. The battle cruisers were led by Konteradmiral Friedrich Boedicker because Konteradmiral Franz Hipper, their normal commander, was indisposed. His force was reduced to four ships after S.M.S. Seydlitz struck a mine.[5]

The British were able to intercept and decode German wireless signals and realised that they were at sea when the German fleet flagship took over wireless control from a shore station. The damage to Seydlitz also created a lot of signals. Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, was ordered at 1550 to hold the Grand Fleet at two hours sailing notice once it was refuelled. Ten minutes later he was informed that Irish rebels had seized the General Post Office in Dublin.[6]

On 21 April Sir Roger Casement, an Irish Nationalist and a former British diplomat, had been arrested soon after being landed in Ireland by a U-boat. The same day the German auxiliary Libau, disguised as the Norwegian Aud, had been intercepted with a load of arms for the rebels. She scuttled herself the next day. [7]

The British Naval Staff Monograph states that the Irish rebels had requested that the German fleet take action against the east coast of Britain in support of their Easter Sunday Uprising and that this proposal was backed by the German Naval staff.[8]

Scheer's memoirs, however, make no mention of events in Ireland when discussing this operation. He says that the objective was to force British ships out of port by naval bombardment of Lowestoft and Yarmouth and airship raids on Harwich, Ipswich, Lincoln and Norwich. [9]

At 1628 on 24 April a signal from Scheer ordering that the German operation continue despite the damage to Seydlitz was intercepted. At 1753 Jellicoe was told that the German battle cruisers were heading north west and that the Admiralty thought that the main German fleet was also out. British local defence flotillas, submarines and aircraft on the East coast were put on alert.[10]

Jellicoe ordered the ships at Scapa to raise steam at 1900, anticipating an order for the whole Grand Fleet to do so that arrived shortly afterwards from the Admiralty. It was clear that the Germans intended to attack somewhere, but it could be somewhere on the East coast or possibly Flanders, where German positions had been bombarded by the RN that morning.[11]

The 5th Battle Squadron, comprising the newest and fastest dreadnoughts, the Queen Elizabeth Class, and the Fourth Light Cruiser Squadron left Scapa at 2110. The First Battle Squadron departed from Invergordon at 2200, the Battle Cruiser Force sailed from Rosyth at 2250 and the rest of the Grand Fleet left Scapa between 2200 and 2300. A mutilated signal intercepted at 2014 indicated that the German battle cruisers were heading towards Yarmouth, although it was possible that this was a feint, with the rest of the High Seas Fleet heading to Flanders.[12]

At 0350 on 25 April, soon after daybreak, the three light cruisers and eighteen destroyers of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt's Harwich Force encountered six German light cruisers and a number of destroyers. A few minutes later four battle cruisers became visible. Tyrwhitt turned south in the hope of drawing them over two British submarines. The Germans, however, continued northwards and by 0413 were bombarding Lowestoft.[13]

Tyrwhitt turned his force north and at 0430 opened fire on the German light cruisers at 14,000 yards range in poor light. The Germans replied at 0437. No damage had been done by either side before 0449 when the German battle cruisers, which had abandoned their attack on Yarmouth and sailed towards the sound of the guns, joined in. The light cruiser H.M.S. Conquest was hit by four or five 12 inch shells from S.M.S. Derfflinger and/or S.M.S. Lützow. She suffered no vital damage, but 25 of her crew were killed and 13 wounded. The only other ship damaged was the destroyer H.M.S. Laertes, which had a boiler put out of action by shell fragments. The Germans turned eastwards at 0456 and were soon out of sight. At 0540 Tyrwhitt turned north-eastwards in an attempt to regain contact with the Germans.[14]

The Grand Fleet and the Battle Cruiser Force were still well to the north when the Germans withdrew. Both sides had submarines in position, but the only ones to be successful were S.M.S. UB 18 which sank the submarine H.M.S. E 22 and S.M.S. UB 29 which damaged the light cruiser Penelope. Two German submarines were lost: S.M.S. UB 13 struck a mine on 24 April and S.M.S. UC 5 ran aground on 27 April.

The raid on Lowestoft destroyed two 6-in gun batteries and 200 houses. Three civilians were killed and 12 wounded.[15]

The accompanying raid by six airships was hampered by bad weather and most of the bombs dropped were ineffective. L 16 injured one man, destroyed five houses and damaged 100 at Newmarket. A woman died of shock at Dilham, but the only other damage was to sheds and windows. L 13 was slightly damaged by anti-aircraft fire.[16]


The operation boosted the prestige of the High Seas Fleet in Germany.[17] In Britain, however, there was anger with the RN's failure to protect the British coast.[18]

This led to a realignment of British naval forces. The Third Battle Squadron of H.M.S. Dreadnought and the seven remaining pre-dreadnoughts of the King Edward VII class (the name ship had been sunk by a mine on 6 January 1915) and three Devonshire class armoured cruisers of the Third Cruiser Squadron were transferred from the Grand Fleet to the south east of England. Rosyth on the Firth of Forth was to be developed into a base capable of accommodating the full Grand Fleet. The work was completed in 1917, but Rosyth did not become the Grand Fleet's main base until April 1918.[19] This did not really weaken the Grand Fleet since Dreadnought was the only one of the ships moved which was modern enough to stand in the line of battle.

See Also


  1. Naval Staff. Naval Staff Monographs. (Fleet Issue.) Volume XVI. p. 5
  2. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. pp. 8-9.
  3. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. pp. 9-10.
  4. Naval Operations. Volume III. pp. 298-99.
  5. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume II. pp. 424-25.
  6. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. p. 11.
  7. Naval Operations. Volume III. pp. 303-4.
  8. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. p. 8.
  9. Scheer. "Germany's High Sea Fleet in the World War". pp. 120-30.
  10. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. p. 11.
  11. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. pp. 12-13.
  12. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. p. 14.
  13. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. p. 22.
  14. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XVI. pp. 22-23.
  15. Massie. "Castles of Steel". p. 559
  16. Jones. "The War in the Air Volume VII". pp. 203-5.
  17. Naval Operations. Volume III. p. 311.
  18. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume II. pp. 433-34.
  19. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume II. pp. 434-45.


  • Corbett, Sir Julian S. (1923). Naval Operations. Volume III. London: The Imperial War Museum..
  • Jones, H. A. (1931), "The War in the Air Volume VII": Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922).
  • Marder, Arthur Jacob (1965). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919: The War Years : To the Eve of Jutland.. Volume II. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Massie R. K (2004), "Castles of Steel". London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division (1926). Naval Staff Monographs (Historical): Fleet Issue. Volume XIV. Home Waters—Part V. From July to October 1915. OU5528D (late CB917L). Copy at The National Archives. ADM 186/623.
  • Scheer, Reinhard (1920) "Germany's High Sea Fleet in the World War". London: Cassell and Company.