Small Craft

Late 19th & Early 20th Century British Yachting

The Sailors: Amateur British & Irish Yachtsmen Before World War One

Erskine Childers
Extract from the Supplement to the London Gazette, 19 February, 1915
ADMIRALTY MEMORANDUM on the combined operations by H.M. Ships and Naval Seaplanes on the 25th December, 1914.

On the 25th December, 1914, an air reconnaissance of the Heligoland Bight, including Cuxhaven, Heligoland, and Wilhelmshaven, was made by naval seaplanes, and the opportunity was taken at the same time of attacking with bombs points of military importance. The reconnaissance involved combined operations by light cruisers, destroyers and seaplane-carriers, under Commodore Reginald Y. Tyrwhitt, C.B., and submarines acting under the orders of Commodore Roger Keyes, C.B., M.V.O.

The vessels detailed for the operations arrived at their rendezvous before daylight, and as soon as the light was sufficient the seaplanes were hoisted out and despatched. The following Air Service officers and observers took part in the reconnaissance:-

Flight Commander (now Squadron Commander) Douglas Austin Oliver.
Flight Commander Francis Esme Theodore Hewlett.
Flight Commander Robert Peel Ross.
Flight Commander Cecil Francis Kilner.
Flight Lieutenant (now Flight Commander) Arnold John Miley.
Flight Lieutenant Charles Humphrey Kingsman Edmonds.
Flight Sub-Lieutenant (now Flight Lieutenant) Vivian Gaskell Blackburn.

Lieutenant Erskine Childers, R.N.V.R.
C.P.O. Mechanic James W. Bell.
C.P.O. Mechanic Gilbert H. W. Budds.

The seaplane-carriers were commanded by:-
Squadron Commander Cecil J. L'Estrange Malone.
Flight Commander Edmund D. M. Robertson.
Flight Commander Frederick W. Bowhill.

At the beginning of the flight the weather was clear, but on nearing the land the seaplanes met with thick weather, and were compelled to fly low, thus becoming exposed to a heavy fire at short range from ships and shore batteries. Several machines were hit, but all remained in the air for over three hours, and succeeded in obtaining valuable information regarding the disposition of the enemy's ships and defences. Bombs were also dropped on military points. In the meanwhile German submarines, seaplanes and Zeppelins delivered a combined attack upon the light cruisers, destroyers and seaplane-carriers, but were driven off.

Flight Commanders Kilner and Ross and Flight Lieutenant Edmonds regained their ships. Flight Commander Oliver, Flight Lieutenant Miley and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Blackburn became short of fuel, and were compelled to descend near Submarine E.ll, which with other submarine vessels was watching inshore to assist any seaplane that might be in difficulties. Lieutenant-Commander Martin E. Nasmith, commanding E.ll, although attacked by an airship, succeeded, by his coolness and resource, in rescuing the three pilots. Flight Commander Hewlett, after a flight of 3½ hours, was compelled to descend on account of engine trouble, but was rescued by a Dutch trawler, landed in Holland, and returned safely to England.

An expression of their Lordships' appreciation has been conveyed to Commodore Keyes (Commodore S.), Commodore Tyrwhitt (Commodore T.), and to Captain Sueter (Director of the Air Department), for their share in the combined operations which resulted in this successful reconnaissance.