Torpedoed in the North Sea.
The secretary of the Admiralty communicated the following statement for publication on September 22 1914:-
HM Ships Aboukir (Captain John E Drummond), Hogue (Captain Wilmot S Nicholson) and Cressy (Captain Robert W Johnson) have been sunk by submarines in the North Sea.
The Aboukir was torpedoed, and whilst the Hogue and the Cressy had closed and were standing by to save the crew, they were also torpedoed.
A considerable number were saved by HMS Lowestoft (Captain Theobald W B Kennedy), and by a division of destroyers, trawlers and boats.
Lists of casualties will be published as soon as they are known.
How The Three Ships Were Sunk
The Secretary of the Admiralty on September 25 authorized the following statement with reference to the sinking of HMS Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue in the North Sea on September 22:-
The facts of this affair cannot be better conveyed to the public than by the attached reports of the Senior Officers who have survived and Landed back in England.
The sinking of the Aboukir was of course an ordinary hazard of patrolling duty. The Hogue and Cressy, however, were sunk because they proceeded to the assistance of their consort and remained with engines stopped endeavouring to save life, thus presenting an easy and certain target to further submarine attacks. The natural promptings of humanity have in this case led to heavy losses which would have been avoided by a strict adherence to military considerations. Modern naval war is presenting us with so many new and strange situations that an error of judgement of this character is pardonable. but it has been necessary to point out, for the future guidance of his Majesty's ships, that the conditions which prevail when one of a squadron is injured in a minefield or is exposed to submarine attack, are analogous to those which occur in an action, and that the rule of leaving disabled ships to their own resources is applicable, so far, at any rate, as large vessels are concerned. No act of humanity, whether to friend or foe, should lead to a neglect of the proper precautions and dispositions of war, and no measures can be taken to save life which prejudice the military situation. small craft of all kinds should, however, be directed by wireless to close on the damaged ship with all speed.
The loss of nearly 60 officers and 1400 men would not have been grudged if it had been brought about by gunfire in an open action, but it is peculiarly distressing under the conditions which prevailed. The absence of any of the ardour and excitement of an engagement did, not, however, prevent the display of discipline, cheerful courage, and ready self-sacrifice among all ranks and ratings exposed to the ordeal.
The duty on which these vessels were engaged was an essential part of the arrangements by which the control of the seas and the safety of the country are maintained, and the lives lost are as usefully, as necessarily, and as gloriously devoted to the requirements of His Majesty's service as if the loss had been incurred in a general action. In view of the certainty of a proportion of the misfortunes on this character occurring from time to time, it is important that this view should be thoroughly appreciated.
The loss of the three cruisers apart form the loss of life, is of small naval significance. Although they were large powerful ships, they belonged to a class of cruisers whose speeds have been surpassed by many of the enemy's battleships. Before the war it had been decided that no more money should be spent in repairing any of this class and they should make their way to the sale list as soon as serious defects became manifest.
The following are the numbers saved from each ship:-
Aboukir, 17 officers, 237 men; total 254. Cressy, 14 officers, 190 men; total 204. Hogue, 29 officers, 352 men; total 381. Totals 60 officers, 779 men. Grand total, 839.
A number of officers and men who were rescued by the flora and other vessels were landed in Holland. Some were taken to hospital, where they were visited by Prince Henry. On Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and 27, all who were fit to travel were sent back to England by the Dutch Government, and all were warm in praise of the kindness and hospitality of their Dutch hosts.