The Orange Navy – Part 6

Securing Home Waters

Before the outbreak of World War I Imperial Germany had built up a large and modern navy that was modelled on Britain’s Royal Navy and meant, if necessary, to supplant it. When war began civilians in both countries expected that there would be an early clash of the fleets that would decide the outcome of the War, at sea at any rate.

This did not happen because the British had succeeded in maintaining their numerical superiority. The Germans felt that they could not risk losing their fleet in a huge clash in the North Sea. The British victory at Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914 drove this home. The British could not afford to rest on their laurels, however, and had to be eternally vigilant against the danger that the German fleet still posed.

The Dover Straits and The Channel
The British had taken care to secure control of the Channel since at least the time of the Armada in 1588. Once again, on the outbreak of war, they returned to this task. Several of the vessels deployed had Orangemen in their crew. HMS Active was an Active-class scout cruiser which was leader of 2nd Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich. On the outbreak of war she was sent to defend the eastern entrance to The Channel against incursion by any German naval forces. Among her crew was Brother J L Young of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287, based at Devonport.

The British Expeditionary Force crossed to France between 15th and 17th of August to take up its position on the left of the French line. This movement had to be carried out with the utmost security, and the Royal Navy ensured that it took place unmolested. Two of the ships used to provide this protection were HMS Majestic and HMS Jupiter, both of which had Orangemen in the crew. Both ships were Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleships. This class of ships had been an excellent design when they were built between 1895 and 1898, but the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 had rendered all previous designs obsolete. At the outbreak of war they were considered the oldest and least effective ships in the Royal Navy. Nevertheless they were used to guard The Channel and the south coast of England, and Majestic and Jupiter were part of 7th Battle Squadron.

These two ships continued to guard cross-Channel troop movements through the following weeks, and between 3rd and 14th October, HMS Majestic was one of the escorts for the first convoy to bring Canadian troops across the Atlantic. In October they were both assigned to The Nore as guard ships and then, on 3rd November, they were redeployed to the Humber. HMS Majestic returned to the Dover Patrol in December and HMS Jupiter eventually returned to the Channel Fleet after spending some time as a guard ship off the Tyne and as an ice-breaker at Archangel in Russia.

Both these ships had at least one Orangeman in their crew, and neither were members of the lodges with a large Naval contingent whose names have recurred in our story. On HMS Majestic was Brother George Nugent of Litherland Temperance Lodge number 770, meeting in Bootle, and on HMS Jupiter was Brother W Hall of Star of Toxteth Lodge number 105, which met in Liverpool. Star of Toxteth LOL 105 met, at this time, in the Orange Hall on Beresford Street. It struggled after the War and ceased to work in the 1920’s. Litherland Temperance LOL 770 met, at this time, in an Orange Hall on Scott Street in Bootle. After the

War it met for many years at the Litherland Conservative Club on Linacre Road. In the early 1960’s Bootle Province secured premises for a hall on University Road and the Lodge moved there. The Lodge lasted until recent times and ceased to work in 1991.

In the autumn of 1914 the BEF moved from the front on the River Aisne further north to Flanders. Here it stood directly in the path of the German Army’s attempt to push down the coast and take the Channel ports. At this time British warships were used to bombard German positions from a station off the coast. On 15th December 1915, in company with HMS Revenge, HMS Majestic bombarded German coastal artillery at Nieuwpoort.

Another ship to be used for gunnery support to operations on land was HMS Foresight. Foresight had joined the Dover Patrol at the outbreak of war, and in October took part in operations off the Flanders coast. Brother James Cuddy of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287 was a member of the crew of HMS Foresight.

HMS Exmouth was a Duncan-class pre-dreadnought battleship that was called to support the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow at the start of the War. On 2nd November 1914 Exmouth was transferred to the Channel Fleet to oppose increased German naval activity in The Channel, and on 14th November she became part of the 6th Battle Squadron. On 24th November Exmouth, in company with HMS Russell, bombarded Zeebrugge, which was being used as a base for German submarines, firing 400 rounds. The crew of HMS Exmouth included Brother W H Garnsworthy, of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287, and Brothers H Fisher and L W Dyer, both of Excelsior Loyal Orange Lodge number 56, which was based in Plymouth.

HMS Talbot was an Eclipse-class protected cruiser launched in 1895. When war broke out she was assigned to Cruiser Force G and 12th Cruiser Squadron operating in The Channel. In September 1914 she captured a German merchant ship. Among her crew of 450 was Brother R Jones, a member of Stanley’s Pride Loyal Orange Lodge number 286 which was based in Bootle. For many years this Lodge met at the Albert Hall on Bank Road, Bootle. The Lodge survived until World War II but made no returns after the early 1940’s. This building was also used by the Loyal St George Lodge of Oddfellows, Manchester Unity. The Bootle Times of 8th March 1918 described the unveiling of a Roll of Honour listing 40 members of that Lodge who were serving with the forces, two of whom had died.

The destroyer HMS Greyhound started the War as part of 6th Destroyer Flotilla based at Dover. In this role she took part in defensive patrols along the Dover Barrage, and anti-submarine and counter-mining activities. From 22nd August to 19th November 1915 she took part in Royal Navy operations along the Belgian coast, in particular providing anti-submarine cover. This earned her the battle honour “Belgian Coast 1915-18”. In November 1916 she transferred to 7th Destroyer Flotilla based at the Humber.

Brother W Turner of Sons of Temperance Loyal Orange Lodge number 698, based at Gosport, was a member of Greyhound’s crew. This Lodge had come into being in the late 1890’s/early 1900’s and, at this time, met in the Katherine Hall on North Street in Gosport. The Lodge operated until the Second World War but ceased to work by the late 1940’s.


The Channel, and in particular the Straits of Dover, were firmly in British hands throughout the War but the Germans were capable of mounting an attack at any time. One such action took place on 26th and 27th October 1916 and is known as the Battle of the Dover Strait. A large force of German torpedo boats attacked the Dover Barrage at night and began sinking the drifters that were manning the anti-submarine nets. The destroyer HMS Flirt went to see what was happening and was soon sunk by the German craft.

The main strength of the British defence of the Dover Barrage was six Tribal-class destroyers based at Dover and they set out to confront the German force. The British destroyers, however, did not maintain cohesion as a force and HMS Nubian came upon the Germans on her own and was torpedoed. This blew off her bow and reduced her to a drifting hulk. HMS Amazon and HMS Cossack came up to rescue Nubian and were themselves heavily engaged by the Germans, Amazon having two of her boilers knocked out. In a separate engagement HMS Mohawk also sustained several hits. The Germans withdrew before the British could send further reinforcements.

HMS Cossack began the War with 6th Destroyer Flotilla and Brother J Neill of King William III Loyal Orange Lodge number 688 was a member of the crew. LOL 688 was based in Plymouth. Cossack seems to have been an unlucky ship to some extent. On 23rd August 1914 she had been involved in a collision with another destroyer of her class, HMS Ghurkha. On 1st July 1917 Cossack collided with the SS The Duchess. This caused Cossack’s depth-charges to explode, which sank The Duchess and blew off Cossack’s stern, making it necessary to tow her into Dover. On 16th September 1916 HMS Glatton caught fire and it was feared that the fire would spread to a nearby ammunition ship. The devastation caused by the explosion of a similar ship in Halifax NS on 6th December 1917 had emphasised just how dangerous this was and it was decided that the safest course would be to sink the Glatton. HMS Cossack was ordered to sink her with torpedoes but Glatton was a modern ship with excellent anti-torpedo armour and two torpedoes from Cossack failed to sink her. Finally, Glatton was sunk by two larger torpedoes from another destroyer.

We have already encountered HMS Lurcher, an Acheron-class destroyer, when we looked at the Battle of the Heligoland Bight. HMS Lurcher and HMS Firedrake were both attached to 8th Submarine Flotilla based at Harwich. On 22nd September 1914 these ships towed the British submarines E1 and E5 to the Skagerrak, where they formed the first units in what was to be a British submarine flotilla in the Baltic Sea. Five Orangemen have been identified among the crew of Lurcher out of a crew of seventy.

Scapa Flow
The growth of the German Navy had caused the Royal Navy to re-assess many of its old assumptions, including the location of its main base. The British had the largest navy in the world and the Grand Fleet was its most important component, and it was decided to locate it at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. This had the advantage of being far enough removed from the German Navy’s bases to minimise the dangers of a sudden attack, but it was still well-placed to allow the Royal Navy to seal off the North Sea at its northern end and maintain a blockade of Germany. The Grand Fleet took up residence at Scapa Flow and other ships were sent there to guard the base and patrol the waters around it.


One of these was HMS Alsatian, which had been launched in 1912 as an ocean-liner. On the outbreak of war she was converted to an armed merchant cruiser. She was assigned to 10th Cruiser Squadron and patrolled off The Shetlands as part of the Northern Patrol. During the course of her service with the Royal Navy in World War I she served as a flagship both for Rear-Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair and later for Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Tupper. She was one of the first ships to be fitted with wireless direction-finding equipment. After the War she was returned to her role as a passenger liner and carried on until 1931.

Among the crew was at least one Orangeman, that being Brother William Ball, a member of Litherland Temperance Loyal Orange Lodge number 770. The Merseyside Maritime Museum has a model of HMS Alsatian said to be “Made by William Ball, a carpenter aboard”.

HMS Devonshire was the lead ship for her class of six armoured cruisers. In the approach to war in the summer of 1914 she was a part of 3rd Cruiser Squadron which was assigned, as a squadron, to The Grand Fleet. From then she patrolled from The Shetlands and The Faroes to the Norwegian Coast. On 6th August 1914 she captured a German merchantman. In December 1916 she was transferred to the Atlantic to protect Allied shipping. HMS Devonshire had at least three Orangemen included in her crew of 610. They were Brothers W N Jane and W Rutter, both of the Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287 in Devonport, while the third was Brother F Douggan of Devon Pioneer Lodge number 824, which was also based at Devonport.

HMS Argyll was in the same class as HMS Devonshire and also in the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. She patrolled the same area and took part in the capture of the German merchantman on 6th August 1914. On 28th October 1915 Argyll was sailing off the Scottish coast near Dundee in a storm. There was a lighthouse on the Bell Rock but all lighthouses had been told to switch off their lights so that they gave no assistance to U-Boats. HMS Argyll sent a message requesting that the light be switched on. This would have been allowed but the lighthouse had no radio and did not receive the message. Attempts to contact the lighthouse by other means failed, but Argyll was not informed of this and carried on expecting that the light would be switched on to help them navigate. Argyll ran aground at 4.30am. Two destroyers came up and rescued the crew so that none were lost or even injured. The ship, however, was wrecked beyond recovery. Argyll had two Orangemen in her crew, Brothers W Owens and F Boyd, both of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287.

A ship that suffered a similar fate was HMS Goldfinch, which was an Acorn-class destroyer.
Goldfinch was wrecked in dense fog on Start Point in north Orkney on the night of 18th-19th February 1915. All the crew were saved, one of whom was Brother T McConachy of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge 287.

Brother E A Simpson was a member of the Doctor Barnardo Memorial Total Abstinence Loyal Orange Lodge number 819, which met at Limehouse in London. He served on HMS Thrush, which had been launched in 1889 as a composite gunboat. For a time HMS Thrush was commanded by the future King George V when he was still the Duke of York. In 1906 Thrush was assigned to work with the coastguard and in 1915 was set to work as a cable ship. In 1916 she became a salvage ship and on 29th January 1917 rescued most of the crew of the submarine K13 when it sank. The following day King George V, doubtless remembering his

old ship with fondness and pride, sent a congratulatory telegram to the crew. Thrush herself was wrecked off Glenarm in a snow storm on 11th April 1917. Eight members of the crew died but Brother Simpson was not among them.

We have already seen how there were Orangemen aboard several Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleships. HMS Illustrious was another such. At the start of the War it was intended to transfer Illustrious’s crew to HMS Erin but this was cancelled and it was decided to use Illustrious as a guard ship. Her duties began at Loch Ewe and on 17th October 1914 she was transferred to Loch Na-Keal. In November she was transferred to the Tyne and the following month she was sent to the Humber. On 26th November 1915 she was finally paid off and subsequently served in a number of roles such as an overflow ship and a munitions storage ship. Brother E Maguire, of King William III Loyal Orange Lodge number 688, based in Plymouth, was a member of the crew.

HMS Temeraire was the ship on which Brothers F Wilmott, of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge 287, and S Vennard, of Devon Pioneer Loyal Orange Lodge 824, were crewmen. Temeraire was a Bellerophon-class battleship. On 18th March 1915 she was patrolling the North Sea and tried, unsuccessfully, to ram the U-29. HMS Dreadnought also sought to ram the U-Boat and she was successful. U-29 went down with all hands. The Captain of U-29, who died with his men, was Otto Weddigen who, earlier in the War, had sunk the Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy.

Other ships that were attached to the Grand Fleet played less active roles but nevertheless gave valuable support. Brother T Blaney of Devon Pioneer Loyal Orange Lodge number 824 served on HMS Leander, which had been launched in 1882 as a “second class cruiser”, but had been converted to a depot ship for torpedo boat destroyers and was stationed at Scapa Flow throughout the War.

Brother T Quinney was a member of Star of Mona Loyal Orange Lodge number 764, which met at Douglas on the Isle of Man. He was also a member of the crew of HMS Ramsey, which had begun its life as a passenger steamship and, on 20th November 1914, had been commissioned by the Royal Navy for use as an armed boarding steamer attached to the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. Ramsey was used for patrolling duties and, on 8th August 1915 approached what seemed to be a Russian merchantman. This was, in fact, the German surface raider Meteor which was sailing under disguise. When Ramsey got close enough the Meteor opened fire and sank Ramsey in a very short time. Brother Quinney is shown in the records neither as a casualty or as a survivor so he must have been elsewhere, possibly transferred to another ship, at the time of the sinking. It must be significant that Brother Quinney was a member of a lodge on the Isle of Man and that Ramsey, in civilian life, had been operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

Brother H S Greenhagh of Royal William Loyal Orange Lodge number 717, based at East Ham in London, served aboard HMS Walaroo, which had been launched in 1890 as a Pearl-class cruiser. At the start of the War she was used as a guard ship at Chatham.

Ships of all types were used by the Royal Navy in the many and varied tasks undertaken during the War. HMS Mutine was a Condor-class sloop which had been converted to a survey


ship in May 1907. Brother F Davis of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287 was a member of the crew.

Brother C J H Moreland was a member of Sons of Temperance Loyal Orange Lodge number 698 which met at Gosport. He served on HMS Harrier which had been launched in 1894 as a Dryad-class torpedo gunboat. On the outbreak of war she was converted for use as a minesweeper.

The Humber
The Humber estuary was judged to be strategically important. The commercial traffic that was based there needed protection, and it was also a valuable base for use against any German incursions into the North Sea. Several of the units we have already looked at were based there for a time.

The Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleships HMS Majestic and HMS Jupiter were both sent to the Humber as guard ships on 3rd November 1914. They were relieving their sister ships HMS Magnificent and HMS Hannibal, which were also Majestic-class pre-dreadnoughts. One of the crew of Hannibal was Brother W Roberts of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287. The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, was a warrior to his bone marrow, and while politicians such as Sir Edward Grey hoped for, and worked for, a peaceful outcome to the crisis of July 1914, Churchill thought that it was just as well to prepare for the worst. In the days before Britain’s entry into the War on 4th August 1914 Churchill worked quickly to ensure that the Royal Navy would be prepared for any challenge. On 27th July 1914 HMS Hannibal was brought out of Reserve to help form 9th Battle Squadron, and sent to the Humber where she served as a guard ship. Later she was sent to Scapa Flow.

Hannibal was recommissioned as a troopship on 9th September 1915 and sent to the Dardanelles. Jupiter was also refitted and sent to the eastern Mediterranean in 1915, while in February 1915 Majestic was assigned to the Dardanelles.

We have already seen how HMS Foresight began the War by serving in The Channel with the Dover Patrol. In May 1915 she was sent to join 6th Light Cruiser Squadron at the Humber, with a specific remit to assist with defence against Zeppelin attacks. Later in 1915 she was sent to the Mediterranean.

HMS Albatross began the War with 7th Destroyer Flotilla, which was stationed at that time at Devonport. In September 1914 the Flotilla was reassigned to the Humber and anti-submarine and anti-mining patrols. In 1916 she was redeployed to Scapa Flow for anti-submarine defence of the Grand Fleet’s anchorage. One member of the crew was Brother Jos Shannon, who was a member of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287.

We have also seen HMS Greyhound in action with 6th Destroyer Flotilla on the Dover Barrage. In November 1916 she was sent to join 7th Destroyer Flotilla at the Humber. Here she was employed on anti-submarine and counter-mining duties.

HMS Quail was a B-class destroyer with a speed of 30 knots and a main armament of one Quick-Firing 12-pounder gun, five 6-pounder guns, and two 18-inch torpedo tubes. On the

outbreak of war she was sent to join 7th Destroyer Flotilla at the Humber. She had a crew of sixty-three amongst whom we can identify two Orangemen, namely Brothers C Denney and T Chandler, both of whom were members of Devon Pioneer Loyal Orange Lodge number 824. HMS Quail served throughout the War on the Humber.

HMS Skirmisher also was a part of 7th Destroyer Flotilla on the outbreak of war, and accompanied the rest of the Flotilla when it was redeployed to the Humber. This vessel was a Sentinel-class scout cruiser which had been launched in 1905. She had a speed of 25 knots and, at the outbreak of war, had an armament of nine Quick-Firing 4-inch Mark IV guns, six Quick-Firing 6-pounder guns, and two 18-inch torpedo tubes. She had a crew of 298 and we can identify ten Orangemen among them, all of whom were members of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287. Their names are Robert Brockbank; H J Howe; A G Hunt; T Lowden; William Luxon; Harry MacCormick; James Martin; W H Pascoe; Erno Scantlellry; A S Wadge.

The German Raids
The German Navy felt a real sense of inferiority relative to Britain’s Royal Navy based, in part, on the knowledge of their numerical inferiority. The German command decided to try to whittle down British numbers by luring part of their fleet into an ambush where they would lose heavily. The means they chose to do this was to attack civilian targets on the east coast of Britain, draw Beatty’s battlecruisers out in retaliation, and then overwhelm him by a superior force.

On 3rd November 1914 a strong portion of the German High Seas Fleet set sail to carry out the first of these raids. The force consisted of three battle cruisers, one armoured cruiser and four light cruisers. Their target was Great Yarmouth which, with no disrespect to the town, was hardly a hub of Britain’s war industries. It was like deploying the SAS against Bin Laden but telling them only to ring his doorbell and then run away.

Great Yarmouth was defended by one minesweeper and two destroyers. Three submarines were in the harbour and there were more destroyers available at a distance. The German bombardment was very ineffective and British casualties occurred when the submarines were leaving harbour to attack the Germans and one of them sank after hitting a newly-laid German mine. There were 21 dead and 3 wounded. The German losses occurred when their armoured cruiser, SMS Yorck, was almost home but hit two mines, (German ones), and sank with the loss of 235 dead.

The Kaiser was, perhaps, the only person who did not regard this as a fiasco. In fact, he was so excited that he awarded Admiral Hipper an Iron Cross. Hipper, to his credit, never wore it.

The next raid took place on 16th December 1914 and was a much more serious operation. The attacking force consisted of four battle cruisers, one armoured cruiser, four light cruisers and eighteen destroyers. At the same time, just to the east of the Dogger Bank, were eighty-five ships of the High Seas Fleet waiting to sink any British force that sought to counter-attack.

Fortunately for the British they had already cracked much of the German naval codes and were able to learn much about German intentions. They deployed their forces accordingly.


The forces brought to readiness by the Royal Navy consisted of Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Squadron, with four battle cruisers; the 2nd Battle Squadron, with six modern dreadnought battleships; 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, with four light cruisers; and 3rd Cruiser Squadron, with four armoured cruisers. Simultaneously, from Harwich came Tyrwhitt’s “Harwich Force” of two light cruisers and forty-two destroyers, and eight submarines from Keyes’s force together with their two command destroyers. One of these destroyers was HMS Lurcher who, as we have seen from her actions at the Battle of the Heligoland Bight, had five Orangemen on board.

The British, successfully, concealed their code-breaking by giving the impressions that they were getting intelligence on German movements from British trawlers in the North Sea. The Germans believed this and, spotting some trawlers and picking up increased British radio traffic, they began to suspect that their movements were not unnoticed.

At 05.15 on 16th December a small British destroyer force clashed with German destroyers. The British did not know it, but they had encountered, not the destroyers of Hipper’s force, but the destroyer screen of the far larger High Seas Fleet, lying in wait to ambush the British. The British were outnumbered and suffered the greater damage. Early the following morning the destroyers clashed again and although the British were outnumbered they pressed home their attacks with such determination that the German commander, Ingenohl, began to fear that he had exposed his force too much. He found it impossible to believe that the British destroyers would display such aggression if they were not backed by a much larger force, which they weren’t. Ingenohl was close to achieving his aim because, if he had held his position, he would have been in the path of a British force small enough for him to defeat but large enough for its loss to bring the naval balance into equilibrium. Amazingly, at this point he began to withdraw.

At 06.50 the British destroyers sighted a German cruiser and moved to attack. Captain Jones, commanding HMS Shark, reported this contact at 07.25 and his report was picked up by Vice-Admiral Warrender, commanding 2nd Battle Squadron, and HMS New Zealand, which was one of Beatty’s battlecruisers, but neither of them passed the message to Beatty. Warrender headed towards the action and assumed Beatty was doing the same. Beatty finally received the news at 07.55 and sent HMS New Zealand to assist Warrender. These ships were now moving towards an encounter with the entire German High Seas Fleet but, at 08.42, the British received news that Scarborough was under attack. Warrender and Beatty assumed, correctly, that Hipper’s battle cruisers had slipped past them and were now bombarding Scarborough. They turned about and headed north, thereby escaping the trap of which they were unaware.

At 06.35 Hipper had sent back his destroyers and all light cruisers except for SMS Kolberg, which had mines to lay. At 08.10 she began laying these off Flamborough Head. At 08.00 two of the battlecruisers began bombarding Scarborough then, at 09.30, moved off and bombarded Whitby.

Meanwhile, three of the battlecruisers arrived off Hartlepool and began bombarding the town at 08.10. There were some British naval units present, two light cruisers, four destroyers and a submarine, but being taken by surprise they were largely ineffective. Stiffer resistance came from shore batteries manned by men of the Durham Royal Garrison Artillery. They kept up a

steady fire on the German ships, scoring several hits on the Blücher, and the Germans turned away at 08.50 with the shore batteries still firing after them. The Germans had fired 1,150 rounds, killing 7 of the gunners and wounding 14, but also killing 86 civilians and wounding 424. The shore batteries had fired 123 rounds, killing 8 Germans and wounding 12.

When news of the German bombardments reached the Humber the cruiser HMS Skirmisher set out accompanied by torpedo boats. The weather was bad and the torpedo boats were sent back, but Skirmisher continued alone and eventually reached the area off Whitby around noon. Here Admiral Ballard reported that there were no longer any Germans in the vicinity.

By 09.30 Hipper’s force had regrouped and were heading south. He knew that the High Seas Fleet, a source of possible support, was returning to its bases but that there were British units between him and home. He could not be sure how strong they were or their precise position. Meanwhile, Warrender and Beatty split their force in order to cover both of two likely escape routes for Hipper.

At 11.25 one of the cruisers with Beatty encountered Hipper’s cruisers but due to confused signals they withdrew rather than attack. At 12.15 the German force encountered Warrender’s Squadron but visibility was poor, the British hesitated, and Hipper’s ships slipped past.

Of the battle cruisers in Beatty’s force two of them had Orangemen in the crew. HMS New Zealand had Brother T H Green of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287, and Brother W Roberts of Devon Pioneer Loyal Orange Lodge number 824. Beatty’s own flagship was HMS Lion and among the crew were Brothers G Flaherty and James Brown of Ulster Scot Loyal Orange Lodge number 287, and Brother Peter Catterall of Old Brunswick Loyal Orange Lodge number 88, which was a Liverpool lodge.

Battle of the Dogger Bank, 24th January 1915
The Germans had begun to realise that the British were very well informed about the movements of their ships, but had no suspicion that this was due to the British having broken German naval codes. Instead, the Germans thought it was due to British trawlers in the North Sea acting as spy ships. Consequently the Germans decided to send a force into the North Sea to clear the trawlers from the area of the Dogger Bank. Due to the British code-breaking successes they were already aware of this and had set in motion forces which were designed to attack and destroy the German force.

At 07.20 on 24th January 1915 the light cruiser HMS Arethusa sighted the German ships. Hipper, in command of the German raiding force, soon understood that he had been spotted and he turned his ships to the south east to head for home. Admiral Beatty, commanding the British, ordered his ships to make all possible speed in pursuit.

Beatty caught up with the fleeing Germans by 08.00 and Beatty positioned his ships with great skill. He took up position to starboard of the Germans so that prevailing winds would blow clear any smoke from funnels or guns and allow him a clear field of fire. The same smoke would obscure the view of the German gunners.


Beatty’s flagship, HMS Lion, was at the head of the British pursuit and she opened fire on the Germans at 08.52 at a range of 20,000 yards. The Germans could not reply as their guns did not have this range.

Beatty had five ships to the Germans’ four, and his plan was for the leading British ships to fire at their opposite number in line while, at the rear of the column, his two slowest ships, HMS New Zealand and HMS Indomitable, should both concentrate on the Germans’ slowest ship the Blücher. Once again confusion among the British ships worked to their detriment. Lion fired on Seydlitz, as intended, but HMS Tiger also fired on Seydlitz. Tiger’s shooting was ineffectual because, with two ships firing on Seydlitz, Tiger confused the fall of shot from their own guns with those from the Lion. Nevertheless, at 09.43 a shell from Lion hit Seydlitz and started fires which spread all the way to the magazines. This could have caused the German to blow up but the magazines were flooded in time to prevent this.

The German ships had been returning fire since 09.11 and they began to concentrate their fire on HMS Lion. At 10.18 Lion began to sustain hits from SMS Derfflinger’s 12-inch shells. Lion was damaged in the engines and began to take in water, causing her to lose speed. At 10.41 Lion took a hit that, like that on the Derfflinger earlier, started a fire that almost ignited the magazines, but the fire was successfully put out. By 10.52 Lion had sustained 14 hits and had taken on 3,000 gallons of water, and had to drop out of line.

Meanwhile, further back in the line the German armoured cruiser Blücher, had been taking hits since 09.09. Damage sustained caused the German ship to lose speed and fall further behind the rest of Hipper’s ships. HMS New Zealand began firing on Blücher at 09.35 and HMS Indomitable joined in at 10.31. Hipper had no alternative but to abandon Blücher to her fate in order to save the rest of his force. Beatty was scenting victory and wanted to pursue Hipper and cause as much damage as possible. As Blücher could make very little headway it was possible for him to leave her to be finished off by his slower ships.

At 11.02 Beatty gave the signal to “attack the rear of the enemy”, meaning the rear of Hipper’s fleeing column of ships, but this was interpreted to mean that Blücher was to be attacked, even though it could barely move. With HMS Lion out of the battle, Beatty had to transfer his flag to other ships. At 11.50 Beatty transferred to the destroyer HMS Attack and set off in pursuit of his battlecruisers. At 12.20 he caught up with them and transferred his flag once more, this time to HMS Princess Royal, and he ordered his ships to set off after Hipper. It was soon obvious, however, that the chance had gone due to the confusion in British signals, which had been made even more difficult by Beatty having to change ships.

Hipper escaped but the fate of Blücher was sealed. German warships of this period were, however, extremely well-built and Blücher fought on bravely for some time, even causing damage to some of her attackers. Blücher was finally sunk at 13.13 by torpedoes. The British spent some time taking survivors from the water but the arrival of some German Zeppelins caused the British to withdraw, so that it is recorded that 792 men of the Blücher died in this engagement.

The only ship sunk in this battle was the Blücher, and German manpower losses were 954 dead, 80 wounded and 189 taken prisoner. The British lost 15 killed and 32 wounded so that the battle was another British victory, though it could have been even more emphatic.

We have seen how HMS Lion and HMS New Zealand both had Orangemen in their crew. The same was true of the battle cruiser HMS Princess Royal, where Brother H Ferritt of Sons of Temperance Loyal Orange Lodge number 698 (Gosport), was a member of the crew.

Amid the clash of the mighty battle cruisers the contribution of the smaller ships may be overlooked, but the first British ship in action at the Dogger Bank was HMS Aurora, a light cruiser with a speed of 28.5 knots, an armament of two Breech-Loading 6-inch Mark VII guns, six Quick-Firing 4-inch Mark V guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes, and a crew of 318. At this time she was leader of 1st Destroyer Flotilla, which was part of the Harwich Force. In August 1915 she played a part in the sinking of the German raider Meteor. HMS Aurora had its very own Orange Lodge, number 892.

The Germans change tactics
For the Kaiser the Dogger Bank was one defeat too many and he sacked Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl from his position as commander of the High Seas Fleet, and replaced him with Admiral Hugo von Pohl. Pohl’s views were markedly different from those of Ingenohl, who had tried to whittle away Britain’s numerical superiority in surface ships by ambushing them. This tactic had failed and Pohl dropped it. Instead he favoured turning to the U-Boats to attack the Royal Navy and merchant shipping. For the period of von Pohl’s time as commander of the High Seas Fleet his surface ships saw very little action but in February 1915 the Germans adopted unrestricted U-Boat warfare.

This changed the nature of the War for the Royal Navy. Instead of exhibiting the Nelson touch in dashing attacks on the enemy, the British had to adapt to the slow, monotonous grind of patrolling and convoy protection. It wasn’t as spectacular as the surface battles but it was absolutely essential to keep Britain in the War. Will we ever see, on an Orange banner, a picture of Orangemen in the Royal Navy, standing at lookout in freezing cold and surrounded by grey sky and grey sea for hour after hour keeping a watch for U-Boat periscopes ? After all, they kept us in the War when the U-Boats could have strangled us.

Michael Phelan
Loyal Orange Institution of England

1st September 2014