This year marks the 90th anniversary of the assault and blockade of Zeebrugge and Ostend. During the First World War they were two of the most heavily fortified enemy bases in the North Sea. Commanded by Vice Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, the objective was to prevent German destroyers and U boats based at Bruges from reaching the open sea by sinking block ships across the mouth of the canal at Zeebrugge. Also planned was to block the harbour entrance at Ostend where vessels of a shallower draught could reach the North Sea.Described by Winston Churchill as 'the finest feat of arms of the Great War...', 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded.Letter from Keyes to Admiral Beatty 10 February 1910 in which Keyes discusses the plan for the Zeebrugge Raid:
My dear AdmiralCarpenter and Chichester will travel up with this letter tomorrow. I think the former who worked on the Plan when I was at the Admiralty and put it forward...will be able to give you all the information you will require including the total number of officers and men who will be engaged. I don't want to be grasping and greedy, and I know your Flag Officers and Captains will help as far as they possibly can, but of course the more that can be lent from the Grand Fleet the happier and more confident I shall be, for they will come down so full of fire and the spirit of the Fleet that nothing will stop them.
The cruiser HMS Vindictive was launched in 1897. Famous for the role she played in the raid on Zeebrugge, she was fitted out as an assault ship and landed a party of seamen and Marines on the Long Mole to destroy the shore batteries. There were many casualties and great heroism under heavy enemy fire. Scuttled as a blockship at Ostend 10 May 1918 HMS Vindictive was raised and broken up in 1920.To commemorate the anniversary we have a small display in the Reading Room that features items from our collections relating to the Raid.Liza (Information Specialist)