Raid on Yarmouth

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The Raid on Yarmouth was a bombardment by German battlecruisers of the British port of Yarmouth on 3 November, 1914.


On 3 November 1914, a German force under Konteradmiral Franz Hipper bombarded Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl, the Commander-in-Chief of the German High Sea Fleet, did not want to take the offensive in the North Sea. However, he was keen to carry out minelaying operations and coastal raids in order to maintain morale.

Admiral Reinhard Scheer, then a battle squadron commander and later C.-in-C. of the High Sea Fleet, summarised in his memoirs the naval staff's orders to von Ingenohl as saying that 'The Fleet held back and avoid actions which might lead to heavy losses. This does not, however, prevent favourable opportunities being made use of to damage the enemy...There is nothing to be said against an attempt of the big cruisers in the North Sea to damage the enemy.'[1]

The attack was to be carried out by Hipper's three battlecruisers, S.M.S. Seydlitz (flag), S.M.S. Moltke and S.M.S. Von der Tann, plus the armoured cruiser S.M.S. Blücher and four light cruisers. Hipper's squadron sailed at 4:30 pm on 2 November, followed 90 minutes later by two battle squadrons, which were to operate in support.[2]

The plan was, according to the post war British Naval Staff Monograph, to lay mines and bombard 'certain coast works which the imaginative German spies had reported as in place at Great Yarmouth.' [3] Hipper's squadron narrowly missed a force of British light cruisers and destroyers that had been sent out to look for submarines and mines.

Just after 7:00 am H.M.S. Halcyon, an elderly gunboat converted into a minesweeper, encountered the Germans. She escaped serious damage thanks to the destroyer H.M.S. Lively, which laid a smoke screen, the first to be used in the war. [4] The destroyer H.M.S. Leopard also came under fire, but the only Halcyon suffered casualties: the Naval Staff Monograph says one man was 'severely wounded' and Naval Operations 'three men wounded', but[[1]] names one man as dying of wounds.[5]

There were three British submarines at Yarmouth, E 10, D 3 and D 5. They left port when firing was heard, but D5 struck a mine, probably a British one that was adrift as it was a long way from the course that the Germans had been taking. Only five men survived, with 21 dying.

The Germans had been delayed by navigational problems resulting from the removal of the buoys that marked shoals off the Norfolk coast in peacetime and poor visibility making it difficult to take bearings. They were therefore behind schedule and Hipper decided to withdraw. The Naval Staff Monograph argues that the 'boldness of the Halcyon and Lively...saved...Yarmouth from such damage as a well-directed bombardment would have inflicted.' [6]

The British were unable to intercept the retreating German force, but the armoured cruiser S.M.S. Yorck, which had been part of the covering force, struck two German mines on her way back into port and sank. The other German ships had anchored outside Wilhelmshaven because of thick fog, but Yorck, needing urgent dockyard repairs, was given permission to go into port.

As a result of this raid, the Third Battle Squadron, consisting of the eight King Edward VII class battleships, the penultimate British pre-dreadnought class, was moved from Portland to Rosyth in order to be better positioned to counter future raids.[7]

The raid inflicted little military damage on Britain, apart from the loss of D5 to a friendly mine, which was more than cancelled out by the loss of Yorck to the same cause.

See Also


  1. Scheer. "Germany's High Sea Fleet in the World War". p. 68.
  2. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XI. p.6.
  3. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XI. p.6.
  4. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XI. p.9.
  5. Naval Operations. Volume I. P. 251.
  6. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume XI. p.10.
  7. Halpern. "A Naval History of World War I".p. 39


  • Corbett, Sir Julian S. (1920). Naval Operations. Volume I. London: Longmans, Green and Co..
  • Halpern, Paul (1994). "A Naval History of World War I". London: UCL Press.
  • Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division (1924). Naval Staff Monographs (Historical): Fleet Issue. Volume XI. Home Waters—Part II. September and October 1914. O.U. 5528 A (late C.B. 917(I)). Copy at The National Archives. ADM 186/620.
  • Scheer, Reinhard (1920) "Germany's High Sea Fleet in the World War". London: Cassell and Company.