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World Wars

A Congressional Message

The Tommy
John Masefield, the English writer, says, St. George did not ...

The Lost Battalion
On December 24, 1918, Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Whittlese...

Joyce Kilmer
The first poet and author in the American army to give up his...

When the last gun has long withheld Its thunder, and i...

The Turning Of The Tide
A division of marines and other American troops were rushed t...

Where Are You Going Great-heart?
Where are you going, Great-Heart, With your eager face...

The Fleet That Lost Its Soul
Sailors and especially fighters on the sea have in all ages p...

Why The United States Entered The War
The United States was slow to enter the war, because her peop...

The Poilu
The soldier of France, the poilu, is a crusader. He is fight...

America Enters The War

The Searchlights
Political morality differs from individual morality, because ...

Where The Four Winds Meet
There are songs of the north and songs of the south, A...

The Thirteenth Regiment
The World War has shown clearly that all peoples are not alik...

On slight pretext, Germany in 1864 and in 1866 had made wars ...

The Second Line Of Defense
In Norwich, England, stands a memorial which will forever be ...

Redeemed Italy
Italy, since 1860 at least, has cherished the dream that some...

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. ...

At The Front
What one soldier writes, millions have experienced. At f...

A Boy Of Perugia
In the year 1500, Raphael was a boy of eighteen in Perugia wo...

Blocking The Channel

Bruges is an important city of Belgium made familiar to American boys
and girls by Longfellow's beautiful poem, The Belfry of Bruges. He
describes what the belfry old and brown has seen.

Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand,
'I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land.'

What a terrible story the historian or poet will have to tell who
narrates what the belfry of Bruges has seen during the fifty-two months
of the World War, a year, we may call it, in which each week had become
a month.

The port of Bruges, called Zeebrugge or Bruges on the Sea, lies not far
from the city, at the mouth of a maritime canal. The entrance to this
canal was protected by a great crescent-shaped mole thirty feet high
inclosing the harbor.

The Germans in the shipbuilding yards at Antwerp built small warships
and submarines and sent them over the canals across Belgium to Ostend
and Zeebrugge, from where they went out to destroy Allied shipping.

The English determined to put an end to this and on the night of April
22, 1918, an expedition was sent to block the channel and to destroy as
far as possible the mole which protected it. It has been said that it
was one of the most thrilling and picturesque of the naval operations
of the war. To Americans it recalled Hobson's exploit with the
Merrimack, at Santiago, while to Englishmen it brought back memories of
Sir Francis Drake and his fire ships in the harbor of Cadiz. The
fight lasted only an hour but the British lost 588 men, for the channel
and the mole were so fully guarded with searchlights, machine guns, and
artillery that such an attempt was looked upon by the Germans as
foolhardy and doomed to absolute failure.

A British cruiser, the Vindictive, in charge of Commander Alfred F.
B. Carpenter, with two ferryboats, the Daffodil and the Iris, were
to escort six obsolete British cruisers filled with concrete and sand
to the harbor mouths at Ostend and Zeebrugge and to sink them there in
the channels. The ferryboats carried sailors and marines who were to
attack and destroy the mole. It was thought that this attack would
divert the attention of the defenders and make it easier to sink the
concrete laden cruisers in the channel. Two old and useless
submarines, filled with explosives, were to be blown up against the
viaduct joining the mole and the shore.

A heavy protective curtain of smoke was essential to the success of the
plan. Commander Brock, who was killed during the action, planned the
smoke screen and carried it out so successfully that the Vindictive
was able to get almost to the mole before being discovered. At Ostend
the wind blew from such a direction that the smoke screen did not hide
the boats and the attack there on that night was for that reason a
failure. It succeeded better later, on May 9, when the battered
Vindictive was sunk in the channel.

The following is the story of the action at Zeebrugge taken from the
official report of the British Admiralty:--

The night was overcast and there was a drifting haze. Down the coast
a great searchlight swung its beam to and fro in the small wind and
short sea. From the Vindictive's bridge, as she headed in toward the
mole, with the faithful ferryboats at her heels, there was scarcely a
glimmer of light to be seen shoreward. Ahead, as she drove through the
water, rolled the smoke screen, her cloak of invisibility, wrapped
about her by small craft. This was the device of Wing Commander Brock,
without which, acknowledges the Admiral in command, the operation could
not have been conducted.

A northeast wind moved the volume of it shoreward ahead of the ships.
Beyond it, was the distant town, its defenders unsuspicious. It was
not until the Vindictive, with blue-jackets and marines standing
ready for landing, was close upon the mole that the wind lulled and
came away again from the southeast, sweeping back the smoke screen and
laying her bare to eyes that looked seaward.

There was a moment immediately afterward when it seemed to those on
the ships as if the dim, coast-hidden harbor exploded into light. A
star shell soared aloft, then a score of star shells. The wavering
beams of the searchlights swung around and settled into a glare. A
wild fire of gun flashes leaped against the sky, strings of luminous
green beads shot aloft, hung and sank. The darkness of the night was
supplemented by a nightmare daylight of battle-fired guns and machine
guns along the mole. The batteries ashore awoke to life.

It was in a gale of shelling that the Vindictive laid her nose
against the thirty-foot high concrete side of the mole, let go her
anchor and signaled to the Daffodil to shove her stern in.

The Iris went ahead and endeavored to get alongside likewise. The
fire was intense, while the ships plunged and rolled beside the mole in
the seas, the Vindictive with her greater draught jarring against the
foundations of the mole with every lunge. They were swept diagonally
by machine-gun fire from both ends of the mole and by the heavy
batteries on shore.

Commander (now Captain) Carpenter commanded the Vindictive from the
open bridge until her stern was laid in, when he took up his position
in the flame thrower hut on the port side. It is marvelous that any
occupant should have survived a minute in this hut, so riddled and
shattered is it.

The officers of the Iris, which was in trouble ahead of the
Vindictive, describe Captain Carpenter as handling her like a picket
boat. The Vindictive was fitted along her port side with a high
false deck, from which ran eighteen brows or gangways by which the
storming and demolition parties were to land.

The men gathered in readiness on the main lower decks, while Colonel
Elliott, who was to lead the marines waited on the false deck just
abaft of the bridge. Captain Halahan, who commanded the blue-jackets,
was amidships. The gangways were lowered, and they scraped and
rebounded upon the high parapet of the mole as the Vindictive rolled
in the seaway.

The word for the assault had not yet been given when both leaders were
killed, Colonel Elliott by a shell and Captain Halahan by machine-gun
fire which swept the decks. The same shell that killed Colonel Elliott
also did fearful execution in the forward Stokes mortar battery. The
men were magnificent; every officer bears the same testimony.

The mere landing on the mole was a perilous business. It involved a
passage across the crashing and splintering gangways, a drop over the
parapet into the field of fire of the German machine guns which swept
its length, and a further drop of some sixteen feet to the surface of
the mole itself. Many were killed and more wounded as they crowded up
the gangways, but nothing hindered the orderly and speedy landing by
every gangway.

Lieutenant H. T. C. Walker had his arm shot away by shell on the upper
deck, and lay in darkness while the storming parties trod him under.
He was recognized and dragged aside by the commander. He raised his
remaining arm in greetings. 'Good luck to you,' he called as the rest
of the stormers hastened by. 'Good luck.'

The lower deck was a shambles as the commander made the rounds of the
ship, yet those wounded and dying raised themselves to cheer as he made
his tour. . . .

The Iris had troubles of her own. Her first attempts to make fast
to the mole ahead of the Vindictive failed, as her grapnels were not
large enough to span the parapet. Two officers, Lieutenant Commander
Bradford and Lieutenant Hawkins, climbed ashore and sat astride the
parapet trying to make the grapnels fast till each was killed and fell
down between the ship and the wall. Commander Valentine Gibbs had both
legs shot away and died next morning. Lieutenant Spencer though
wounded, took command and refused to be relieved.

The Iris was obliged at last to change her position and fall in
astern of the Vindictive, and suffered very heavily from fire. A
single big shell plunged through the upper deck and burst below at a
point where fifty-six marines were waiting for the order to go to the
gangways. Forty-nine were killed. The remaining seven were wounded.
Another shell in the wardroom, which was serving as a sick bay, killed
four officers and twenty-six men. Her total casualties were eight
officers and sixty-nine men killed, and three officers and 103 men

Storming and demolition parties upon the mole met with no resistance
from the Germans other than intense and unremitting fire. One after
another buildings burst into flame or split and crumbled as dynamite
went off. A bombing party working up toward the mole extension in
search of the enemy destroyed several machine-gun emplacements, but not
a single prisoner rewarded them. It appears that upon the approach of
the ships and with the opening of fire the enemy simply retired and
contented themselves with bringing machine guns to the short end of the

[Illustration: One of the camouflaged guns of the German shore
batteries which raked with fire the Vindictive, the Daffodil, and
the Iris when they grappled with the mole, during the night raid.
The outer end of this mole, where a viaduct joins the mole to the
shore, was destroyed for a distance of sixty to one hundred feet by an
old British submarine, loaded with high explosives, running into the
channel and blowing itself up at the entrance.]

The story of the three block ships that were to be sunk in the channel
at Zeebrugge, also from the report of the British Admiralty, is as

The Thetis came first, steaming into a tornado of shells from great
batteries ashore. All her crew, save a remnant who remained to steam
her in and sink her, already had been taken off her by a ubiquitous
motor launch, but the remnant spared hands enough to keep her four guns
going. It was hers to show the road to the Intrepid and the
Iphigenia, which followed. She cleared a string of armed barges
which defends the channel from the tip of the mole, but had the ill
fortune to foul one of her propellers upon a net defense which flanks
it on the shore side.

The propeller gathered in the net, and it rendered her practically
unmanageable. Shore batteries found her and pounded her unremittingly.
She bumped into the bank, edged off, and found herself in the channel
again still some hundreds of yards from the mouth of the canal in
practically a sinking condition. As she lay she signaled invaluable
directions to others, and her commander, R. S. Sneyed, also accordingly
blew charges and sank her. Motor launches under Lieutenant Littleton
raced alongside and took off her crew. Her losses were five killed and
five wounded.

The Intrepid, smoking like a volcano and with all her guns blazing,
followed. Her motor launch failed to get alongside outside the harbor,
and she had men enough for anything. Straight into the canal she
steered, her smoke blowing back from her into the Iphigenia's eyes,
so that the latter was blinded, and, going a little wild, rammed a
dredger, with her barge moored beside it, which lay at the western arm
of the canal. She was not clear, though, and entered the canal pushing
the barge before her. It was then that a shell hit the steam
connections of her whistle, and the escape of the steam which followed
drove off some of the smoke and let her see what she was doing.

Lieutenant Stuart Bonham Carter, commanding the Intrepid, placed the
nose of his ship neatly on the mud of the western bank, ordered his
crew away, and blew up his ship by switches in the chart room. Four
dull bumps were all that could be heard, and immediately afterward
there arrived on deck the engineer, who had been in the engine room
during the explosion, and reported that all was as it should be.

Lieutenant E. W. Bullyard Leake, commanding the Iphigenia, beached
her according to arrangements on the eastern side, blew her up, saw her
drop nicely across the canal, and left her with her engines still
going, to hold her in position till she should have bedded well down on
the bottom. According to the latest reports from air observation, two
old ships, with their holds full of concrete, are lying across the
canal in a V position, and it is probable that the work they set out to
do has been accomplished and that the canal is effectively blocked. A
motor launch, under Lieutenant P. T. Deane, had followed them in to
bring away the crews and waited further up the canal toward the mouth
against the western bank.

Lieutenant Bonham Carter, having sent away his boats, was reduced to a
Carley float, an apparatus like an exaggerated life-buoy, with the
floor of a grating. Upon contact with the water it ignited a calcium
flare and he was adrift in the uncanny illumination with a German
machine gun a few hundred yards away giving him its undivided
attention. What saved him was possibly the fact that the defunct
Intrepid still was emitting huge clouds of smoke which it had been
worth nobody's while to turn. He managed to catch a rope, as the motor
launch started, and was towed for a while till he was observed and
taken on board.

A short time after the attack, the Kaiser visited Zeebrugge and gave
out the statement that practically no damage had been done and that the
channel was still clear. But then an Allied airplane flew over the
channel and the mole and secured photographs showing two cruisers sunk
in the channel just as had been planned, and effectively blocking it,
and also a break in the viaduct sixty to one hundred feet in length.
Only another German lie, this time indorsed by the Kaiser, declared
the British papers. A leading German daily said, however, It would be
only foolishness to deny that the British naval forces scored a great
success. By a stroke, crazy in its audacity, they penetrated one of
the most important strongholds over which the German flag floats.

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