Tag Archives: HMS Goliath

The Sinking of HMS Goliath 13 May 1915

Following the amphibious landings at Cape Helles and Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 Allied warships continued to give fire support to the troops. Their fire was not always accurate, but its potential benefitted the Allies in both physical and moral terms.[1]

Each night two battleships, escorted by five destroyers covered the right hand flank of the Allied position, giving fire support to the French at the ravine of Kereves Dere. On the night of 12-13 May Kapitänleutnant Rudolph Firle, a German officer serving with the Ottoman navy, was given permission to take the destroyer Muavenet-i Milliye, captained by Senior Lieutenant Ayasofyali Ahmed Saffed, to attack them.

The night was dark and foggy, with no moon, which helped the Muavenet to avoid the British destroyers. However, she was spotted and hailed by the battleship HMS Goliath at 1:15 am. The Ottomans made some sort of reply, the challenge was repeated and the Muavenet rushed forward and fired three torpedoes as Goliath was ordered to fire.

Hits abreast of the fore turret and the foremost funnel caused Goliath to list badly to port before the third torpedo struck her close to the after turret. She turned turtle before most of her crew could get to the deck and sank after floating upside down for a couple of minutes. The Muavenet was able to escape into the darkness, although the British destroyers picked up her wireless signals reporting her success.[2]

The 4-5 knot current made it impossible for men to swim to shore. Only about 180 of the 750 men on board Goliath survived. The dead and the survivors are listed on naval-history.net. This was the most men to die on board a single Royal Navy ship in the Dardanelles, although more French sailors were killed when the battleship Bouvet struck a mine on 18 March. Every member of the Muavenet’s crew was given a gold watch and an embroidered purse full of gold.[3]

Goliath was the first battleship to be sunk in combat with another surface ship during the war. HMS Audacious and the two RN ships sunk along with the Bouvet on 18 March struck mines, HMS Formidable and the Ottoman Mesudiye were torpedoed by submarines and HMS Bulwark blew up accidentally. The ships sunk at Helgoland Bight, Coronel and the Falklands were all cruisers. SMS Blücher, sunk at Dogger Bank, is sometimes referred to as a battlecruiser, but was really an armoured cruiser.

The Admiralty now decided to bring the super dreadnought HMS Queen Elizabeth home. Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, later wrote that the sinking of the Goliath led Lord Fisher, the First Sea Lord, to make ‘a most strenuous counter-demand to that effect.’[4]

However, the sequence of events given in the Official History suggests that the issue was decided on 12 March, before Goliath was sunk. The Admiralty believed that Queen Elizabeth was needed by the Grand Fleet, where she would work with HMS Warspite, her newly completed sister ship. At least three U-boats were known to be on their way to the Dardanelles: one was unsuccessfully attacked by French destroyers off Sicily on 11 May. As replacements two pre-dreadnoughts, HMS Venerable and Exmouth and the first two of the Abercrombie class of monitors were to be sent to the Dardanelles.[5]

The four Abercrombies were each armed with a twin 14 inch gun turret that that had originally been built in the USA for the Greek dreadnought Salamis, which was under construction at Hamburg. Since they would never get through the British blockade, the manufacturer offered them to the RN. Because of their US guns, the ships were originally named after American Civil War leaders. However, their names were changed to those of British generals because the sale of the guns to the UK was controversial enough in the USA without highlighting it by naming the ships after Americans. The monitors were less vulnerable than battleships or cruisers to torpedoes because of their shallow draft and anti-torpedo bulges.[6]

Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, was very unhappy at the removal of the RN’s biggest and newest ship from the Dardanelles. He argued that it would have a major effect on the morale of both sides, but Fisher, who threatened to resign, got his way and Queen Elizabeth was ordered home.[7]

 

 

[1] N. Steel, P. Hart, Defeat at Gallipoli (London: Papermac, 1995), p. 183.

[2] This and the two previous paragraphs are based on J. S. Corbett, H. Newbolt, Naval Operations, 5 vols. (London: HMSO, 1938). vol. ii. pp. 406-8.

[3] R. K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea (London: Jonathan Cape, 2004), pp. 483-84.

[4] W. S. Churchill, The World Crisis, 1911-1918, 5 vols. (London: Odhams Press, 1939). vol. ii, Kindle edition. Location 5351 of 9134.

[5] Corbett, Newbolt, Naval. vol. ii, pp. 405-6.

[6] R. Gray, Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906-1921 (London: Conway Maritime Press, 1985), pp. 43-44.

[7] A. J. Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow; the Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919, 5 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1961-70). vol. ii, pp. 276-77.

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The First Royal Navy VC of WWI

The first member of the RN to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI was Commander Henry Peel Ritchie. He was an officer of the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Goliath, which in November 1914 was blockading the port of Dar-es-Salaam in the German colony of East Africa (now Tanzania). When the German light cruiser SMS Konigsberg sank HMS Pegasus she was operating from Dar-es-Salaam and several German merchant ships that could have supplied raiders were trapped in the harbour.

On 28 November Ritchie was put in charge of a raiding party that was ordered to disable the German merchantmen in the harbour. It came under heavy fire and Ritchie was wounded eight times, but he steered Goliath’s steam pinnace to safety. The citation for his VC stated that:

‘For most conspicuous bravery on the 28th November 1914 when in command of the searching and demolition operations at Dar-es-Salaam East Africa Though severely wounded several times his fortitude and resolution enabled him to continue to do his duty inspiring all by his example until at his eighth wound he became unconscious The interval between his first and last severe wound was between twenty and twenty five minutes.’

He was awarded the medal by the King in April 1915. According to Wikipedia, British casualties were one dead, 12 seriously wounded and 12 captured. Three large merchantmen were immobilised, several shore installations destroyed and 35 prisoners taken. As well as Ritchie’s VC, two men were awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal and seven the Distinguished Service Medal. Goliath and the protected cruiser HMS Fox bombarded the port two days later.

Ritchie’s wounds meant that he was unable to return to sea service and he had to retire in 1917. He lived until 1958, when he died in Edinburgh, just after one of his three daughters emigrated to the USA. He was buried in Warriston Cemetery. Nothing is known about his family since then, and the location of his VC is unknown. The UK Government, the RN and Edinburgh City Council have made a call for information on the missing parts of Commander Ritchie’s family tree.

On 28 November 2014, the 100th anniversary of his act of gallantry, a plaque to Ritchie was unveiled at his birthplace, 1 Melville Crescent, Edinburgh, which is now a government office. In 2013, the UK  Government announced that paving stones would be laid in their birthplaces to commemorate all British WWI VC recipients. After it was pointed out that a number of them were born outside the UK,  the plan was amended to give them a stone in the place in the UK with which they had the greatest connection.

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