139 28 August 1914
it is all in the papers that we have been engaged off Heligoland,
I am permitted to write and tell you of it from my point of view,
but only one sheet can pass the censor.
reached a position not far from Heligoland early on Friday morning
and the destroyers were sent in to draw the enemy out, which
as you know they did successfully. About noon our light cruisers
got into action and we rushed to their support, with the enemys
submarines attacking us as we went. Another flotilla of them
had also done the same earlier in the day. When we got to the
Light Cruisers their quarry had already surrendered, but we sighted
other enemy ships on the port bow and went for them. The lion
and Queen Mary led and were the first in action of our Squadron,
but we got sight of a ship through the haze and smoke very shortly
after and engaged her. She had already been a bit hammered by
our two leading ships, who went on to attack another. Directly
after we opened fire we were attacked by a submarine on our other
bow, which was fortunately seen by our navigator. We guessed
where her torpedo would be going and dodged it, though we did
not actually see it, and then dashed on into the line again.
Meanwhile the Cruisers shot were splashing around our bows
and one passed between our fire control position at the top of
the bridge. Fortunately none hit us. By this time we had come
within torpedo range and fired one which hit the enemy just forward
of amidships and exploded and stopped her. Meanwhile our guns
had been doing good work and made her look a pitiable object,
so we ceased firing just after I had let go another torpedo which
missed. We did this to allow her to strike her flag. Whether
she did so or no I cant say, but I was standing outside
the conning tower by the Captain, looking at her through our
glasses when she let fly again. However, the Admiral sent some
destroyers to pick up survivors, as she was in a sinking condition,
when she fired at them too. Our flag ship had turned back by
this, and when she saw the destroyers fired at, she sent a couple
of shots which cooked her goose and she settled heavily by the
head with her stern in the air and sank. My feelings are hard
to analyze. We were in such great force that the enemy seemed
to have no chance, but we found that she had sown the seas with
floating mines (strictly against the laws of Nations) and we
passed within twenty yards of one and quite close to another,
contact with which would have done us terrific damage. All the
same after I had got over the elation of my torpedo hitting I
felt like a murderer. But now since reading of Louvain that feeling
has left me and I am pleased at having accounted for a few such
barbarians. I do not think there were any survivors from that
ship. There is no doubt she put up a very plucky fight and one
must admire a brave enemy even if he plays dirty tricks. We hope
the Germans would have sent out to support their ships, as we
were in great force and could have accounted for a good many
more of them. But though we understand from a prisoner that the
great Von de Tann was out, she appears to have done
The only moment I am [was] conscious of feeling nervous was when the submarine
was firing at us on the one side and the cruiser on the other. But that lasted
only a few seconds and excitement seems to eliminate all other feeling. Of
course it might be different if we were being badly hit.
are delighted with our Admiral, Sir David Beatty, and he deserves
enormous credit for our success. One must feel that it was by
the Grace of Providence that none of all our ships was damaged
by mines or torpedoes. We should have been on an enemys
coast without chance of getting home again. The mist preventing
Heligoland from firing at us was another great mercy.
are greatly distressed at the news from the soldiers, but hope
all may be well yet. It was the first torpedo of the war to take
course you want to hear about the battle, but I dont know
that I am permitted to tell you much that isnt in the papers.
We chased them from the Dogger Bank to somewhere near Heligoland,
and three out of their four ships got badly on fire. Their shooting
was distinctly good, but we kept them pretty well smothered so
it was difficult for them to reply very effectively. Also our
Admiral placed them so that their funnel smoke interfered with
them badly. In fact he handled our squadron perfectly.
were fourth in the line, and though theoretically slower than
the three ahead of us were able to keep right in our station.
The Indomitable behind us could not keep up so well and so was
a little late in getting into action. On the Lion and Tiger got
hit of our battle cruisers, though all of us first four got under
a pretty decent fire. Our destroyers were very dashing and magnificent.
Theirs were drive off. It is a little trying being under fire
for such a long time, but not as bad as one would think, and
the time passed with lightning speed.
was a wonderful sight to see their ships on fire and blazing
with yellow flames. Their Zeppelin was hanging about nearly all
the time, but did no harm except at the end of the action, when
she mistook the sinking Blücher for one of our rescuing
destroyers. They were not hit, but of course stopped the rescue
work and a lot of men were drowned who could have been saved.
That is what made the Germans think they had sunk one of our
ships, and their account of the sinking is an exact story of
what happened to the Blucher. They must have found out their
mistake by now. Some of the prisoners stories are interesting,
but I dont suppose I may tell them.
went close to the Blücher just before she sank. She had hauled
down all her flags, trained the guns fore and aft, fallen her men
in on the deck and absolutely surrendered. I think our Engineers
will get a great deal of kudos over the way this ship steamed; it
was marvelous. The Range was too great for us to use our torpedoes,
and so I was able to quietly watch the battle the whole time.