SURRENDER OF U-BOATS AT HARWICH -WWI
After the outbreak of the First World War, a priority for the Royal Navy was to secure the approaches to the English Channel to prevent elements of the German High Seas Fleet from breaking out into the Atlantic and from interfering with British maritime trade and convoys to and from the continent.
THE SURRENDER OF THE GERMAN FLEET, HARWICH, NOVEMBER 1918© IWM (Q 20616)
HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and other British battleships in line astern, photographed from a naval airship.
Most of the major fleet units of the Grand Fleet had dispersed to the navy's anchorage at Scapa Flow or to other North Eastern ports to monitor the northern route from the North Sea into the Atlantic.
Consequently a number of patrol flotillas were organised along the south and east coasts of England, with commands established at several of the major ports in the region.
The Dover Patrol was based at Dover, consisting mostly of destroyers, while a number of pre-dreadnoughts and cruisers were based at Portland Harbour.
A large number of destroyers, flotilla leaders and light cruisers were centred at Harwich, under the command of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt.
The Harwich Force consisted of between four and eight light cruisers, several flotilla leaders and usually between 30 and 40 destroyers, with numbers fluctuating throughout the war. These were organised into flotillas.
Also stationed at Harwich was a submarine force under Commodore Roger Keyes. In early 1917 the Harwich Force consisted of eight light cruisers, two flotillas and 45 destroyers. By the end of the year there were nine light cruisers, four flotillas and 24 destroyers.
The combination of light, fast ships was intended to provide effective scouting and reconnaissance, whilst still being able to engage German light force and to frustrate attempts at minelaying in the Channel.
It was intended that the Harwich Force would operate when possible in conjunction with the Dover Patrol and the Admiralty intended that the Harwich force would also be able to support the Grand Fleet if it moved into the area. Tyrwhitt was also expected to carry out reconnaissance of German naval activities in the southern parts of the North Sea, and to escort ships sailing between the Thames and Holland.
Tyrwhitt's objectives were often complicated due to the need to provide reinforcements for the Dover Patrol. The force fired the first shots of the war when a flotilla led by HMS Amphion sank the minelayer Konigin Luise on 5 August 1914.
During the war the Force captured or sank 24 enemy merchants, and it escorted 520 eastbound and 511 westbound ships between Dutch and British ports.
Their ships also took part in the Cuxhaven Raid on Christmas Day, 1914.
Morning: Surrendered German Submarines, U-Boat Avenue, Harwich© IWM (Art.IWM ART 2401)
The force was also active in a number of clashes with the German Navy. Their ships were present at the Battles of Heligoland Bight, Texel, and Dogger Bank, and were mobilised after the German raids on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby in 1914, and on Yarmouth and Lowestoft in 1916.
They were called out during the lead up to the Battle of Jutland, but did not take part in the battle.
After the end of the war, Harwich was designated the port at which the remaining German U-boats would be surrendered, and Tyrwhitt's Harwich Force oversaw the operation.