23/4/1918 The Ostend and Zeebrugge Raids: a failed attempt to bottle up U-boats #1918Live

German naval bases in Belgium have long troubled the British. Ostend and Zeebrugge provide access to the sea from the port of Bruges, where the Germans have based both U-boats and surface raiders that are able to harass Allied shipping in the Channel and beyond.

Now in an effort to neutralise this threat the British carry out a naval attack on Ostend and Zeebrugge. The plan is to sink obsolete ships at the entrances to the ports to block their use by enemy shipping. British warships and marines will attack German shore batteries to allow the block ships to get into position.

The attack on Ostend is a complete failure. In the darkness the attacking ships are unable to find their exact target and end up sinking the block ships away from the harbour’s mouth to no good purpose. The attack on Zeebrugge is slightly more successful: the British manage to sink the block ships in the mouth of the harbour but the closure is only partial and the Germans will soon find ways to restore unimpeded access to the sea for their U-boats.

The British take nearly 600 losses in the attacks while German losses are minimal. Both sides present the engagement as a victory, though as the Germans have not been seriously disrupted in their use of the ports their claim may have more merit.

images source:

Map of Zeebrugge, Ostend and Bruges, diagram of Zeebrugge after the raid (Wikipedia: Zeebrugge Raid)

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