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A Brief History of the Zeebrugge Raid 1918

The Zeebrugge Raid 23 April 1918

The aim of this raid was to sink several old ships in the canal entrance at Zeebrugge to stop German U-boats from using the port.

HMS Vindictive, along with the requisitioned Liverpool ferryboats Iris and Daffodil, carried parties of Royal Marines and sailors.

Their job was to subdue the German defences located on the mole that protected the harbour whilst other naval personnel sank the block ships in the shipping channel.

The attacking Royal Navy forces lost their element of surprise when the smoke cover cleared revealing their positions to the German forces defending the harbour. Thereafter they came under intense attack.

Under heavy fire Vindictive berthed further away from the planned position. The landing parties then faced a daunting barrage as they crossed specially contrasted gangplanks and descended about five metres from the top of the wall to the main level of the mole.

Despite several gallant actions they failed to neutralise the German guns which made it harder to sink the block ships in the planned positions. After an hour the British naval forces retreated.
Ultimately, the raid had limited success as the canal only remained blocked for a few days. 

Sergeant N A Finch, 4th Battalion Royal Marines, pictured in 1918 holding the Lewis gun he used during the Zeebrugge raid. Positioned in the foretop of HMS Vindictive he came under heavy gunfire from the German forces but kept operating his gun when everyone around him had been killed or wounded. The gun, now part of the museum collections, bears the scars of the encounter.

Finch later received the Victoria Cross for his action. One of two men selected by ballot by his comrades in the 4th battalion Royal Marines.


Damage to the port funnels on HMS Vindictive after the Zeebrugge raid.

The badly damaged HMS Vindictive return to Dover after the Zeebrugge raid.

This section of one of the flamethrower shields from HMS Vindictive is mounted on wooden shield.  The multitude of holes is a testimony to the intensity of the Gerrman defence of the mole at Zeebrugge.

Learn more about The Zeebrugge Raid and see this on display in the HMS Hear My Story gallery at The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

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