Battle of Dover Straits – 1917

Casualty: Leading Seaman Geoffrey George Ivens, 236507, killed 21st April 1917 after German Destroyer raid in Dover Straits.

[Geoffrey George Ivens was born in Stratford upon Avon in 1889, but I know not his parents. He was adopted by William and Adeline Hewins and was living with them in 1901 at Clifford Chambers, Gloucs. He died aged 28 in the heat of battle, on board HMS Broke]

Another raid by German Zeebrugge-based destroyers but this time only on the Dover barrage – 5th Half Flotilla (HF) to attack the English side, bombarding Dover if possible, “Z” or Zeebrugge HF the French side with Calais as their possible additional target. On the British side four destroyers led by Nugent patrolled between No.7A Buoy and Calais, while flotilla leaders Broke and Swift kept between the South Goodwins LV and No.5A Buoy.

Map available here

Other Dover Patrol ships were stationed near the Downs and in Dover as usual. First contact was at 2310 when the ZHF shelled Calais, after which no more was heard of them. Next was just before 2330 SE of Dover when patrol trawler Sabreur sighted 5th HF:

Sabreur, Admiralty trawler, 188/1916, Grimsby-reg, hired 9/16, Skipper Robert Scott. Engaged by the enemy destroyers, shell burst in front of wheelhouse, other hits included one in the engine room, lights extinguished and action avoided as Sabreur was only armed with 1-6pdr; trimmer wounded from engine-room hit (Rn/D/ap)

5th HF then opened a wild fire on Dover and the Kent countryside at 2330 before heading back for the barrage. Just short of it and with time in hand they turned for the southern entrance of the Downs to attack any shipping, but in doing so headed straight for Swift (senior officer) and Broke, which at 0045 were 3 miles E of the S Goodwins LV. Both leaders spotted ships on the port bow, came under fire and made out the funnel flare of five or six destroyers on the opposite course:

Swift, flotilla leader, 2,390t, 4-4in/2-18in tt (Cn/dd – 1-6in on forecastle in place of 2-4in in 1916; D – in 1918), Cdr Ambrose Peck. Turned to ram but missed, passed through the German line and hit several times, hit back in return and fired a torpedo which hit G.85. Swift left with wireless out of action and 4ft of water in the stoker’s messdeck, but turned and followed the Germans east, had to give up and made her way home; 1 crew killed, 4 wounded (Rn/Cn/D/dd)

Broke, flotilla leader, Faulknor-class, 2,000t, 6-4in/1-1½pdr/2mg/4-21in tt, Cdr Edward Evans. Also (like Swift) turned to ram and fired a torpedo which seemed to hit the intended victim (alternatively this was Swift’s hit on G.85), steadied, then put helm hard over to hit a destroyer further down the line – G.42 rammed amidships at 27kts. Locked together, Broke’s sailors had to repel German boarders in hand-to-hand fighting and while Broke poured fire into G.42 from point blank range, the last two German destroyers poured fire into her as they steered past. Getting clear, she limped eastwards after Swift, but with boiler-rooms badly damaged, steam dropping, half of bridge on fire and decks swept with shellfire. Decided to turn back for the torpedoed G.85, stopped and in flames, and the rammed G.42, which both opened fire. Broke replied and silenced them, but then her engines gave up and she drifted towards the burning G.85. Destroyers Mentor, Lydiard, Lucifer had by now left Dover, reached Broke about 0115 and pulled her clear, taken in tow for Dover; 40 crew killed and wounded (dd – 21 killed, 36 wounded) (Rn/Cn/D/dd)

The action took place around 51.09N, 01.37E where the two German ships went down, Swift and Broke were in dockyard hands for several weeks and there were no more destroyer raids on the Dover Straits for ten months. Cdr Evans was feted in the British press as “Evans of the Broke”.

Details drawn from


One response to “Battle of Dover Straits – 1917

  1. Pingback: WWI participants | All about Ivens·

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