Ships of the Dover Patrol in Dover Harbour.
In late July 1914, with war looming, twelve ‘Tribal’
class destroyers arrived at Dover to join the near obsolete
destroyers already at anchor in the harbour, most of
them built in the late 1800s. These destroyers formed
the nucleus of the fledgling Dover Patrol, which, from
its early beginnings as a modest and poorly equipped
command, became one of the most important Royal Navy
commands of the First World War.
The Dover Patrol assembled cruisers,
monitors, destroyers, armed trawlers and drifters, paddle
mine-sweepers, armed yachts, motor launches and coastal
motor boats, submarines, seaplanes, aeroplanes and airships.
With these resources it performed several duties simultaneously
in the Southern North Sea and the Dover Straits: carrying
out anti-submarine patrols; escorting merchantmen, hospital
and troop ships; laying sea-mines and even constructing
mine barrages; sweeping up German mines; bombarding
German military positions on the Belgian coast; and
sinking the ever present U-boats.
There were many heroic actions involving
the men and ships of the Dover Patrol. On 24 October
1914 the destroyer ‘Falcon’ was hit by a German eight-inch
shell, which killed the captain and 24 members of the
60-man crew. The ‘Falcon’ was brought back to Dover
where she was repaired. Later in the war the ‘Falcon’
became the command of Lieutenant
C.H. Lightoller whose previous claim to fame was
as Second Officer on the ill fated ‘Titanic’.
One of the most memorable officers
of the Dover Patrol was Captain E.R.G.R. Evans who always
carried a penguin mascot nailed to the mast of his destroyer,
a relic from his days with Captain Scott’s ill-fated
Antarctic Expedition. He was promoted to captain after
his famous sea battle with German destroyers on 20 April
1917. On this occasion he was in command of the Flotilla
leader ‘Broke’ and, with the destroyer ‘Swift’, intercepted
and sank the German destroyers G42 and G45.