Battle of the Isle of May (part I)


The Isle of May….


British K-class submarine

Monday 29th January comments: (Isle of May NNR) Part One: Over the course of this week, we’ll be running a series of special blog posts which will shock many and surprise others at the events which unfolded off the Isle of May, a century ago.

100 years ago to this week, the nation was gripped by the ravages of the Great War which was raging across much of northern Europe. The British Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet had been involved in one of the deadliest and bloodiest navel battles of all time at Jutland just 20 months previous, with the loss of over 6,000 men. As a result, the Fleet Admiralty were keen to improve on ‘battle readiness’ for any further sea confrontations with the enemy which may come about as the war continued.

It was decided a navel exercise would take place out in the North Sea involving two components of the Grand Fleet; that based at Rosyth near Edinburgh which would meet up with the battle group from Scapa Flow. The exercise, known as EC1 was kept secret and involved the 13th Submarine Division (known a K-boats) and a number of Destroyers, Battleships and Light Cruisers.

The K-boats were specially designed to operate with a battle fleet and soon all the waiting boats were ready to sail. The orders were simple; all boats would follow in line and sail out of the Firth of Forth, head north passing the Isle of May before eventually heading direct north to meet up with the

At the head of the line, two cruisers would lead the way; HMS Courageous and HMS Ithuriel which were backed with submarines K-11, K-12, K-14, K-17 and K-22. Then came the   battle cruisers which included HMAS Australia, HMS New Zealand, HMS Indomitable and HMS Inflexible with their destroyers. Finally HMS Fearless which was backed by submarines K3, K-4, K-6 and K7. In total with each boat sailing in a single line, it stretched for 30 miles.

Just after 18:30, under the cover of darkness on the evening of 31st January 1918, exercise EC1 was underway as the boats departed Rosyth. Little did anyone know of the events which were about to unfold as the fleet were about to enter the ‘Battle of the Isle of May’…

To be continued tomorrow.

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