Friday 28 August 1914 – We Lost 98

The first significant naval battle of the Great War takes place at Heligoland Bight.  Commander Reginald Tyrwhitt is charged with leading the Harwich Force in a raid on German shipping located close to the German naval base at Heligoland. Tyrwhitt begins the action by sinking two German torpedo boats at around 07:00.  The Germans then deploy six light cruisers in response.  Finding himself outgunned Tyrwhitt calls to Vice Admiral Beatty for assistance at 11:25.  Beatty, with the First Battle Cruiser Squadron arrives at 12:40 and sinks three German cruisers and damages three others. The battle is portrayed in the press at home as a major victory, the Royal Navy having sunk three cruisers and 2 destroyers for no British ships lost. A total of thirty-fire British sailors are killed while forty are wounded. Seven hundred Germans are killed and two hundred rescued and made prisoners while another three hundred are wounded.

The first recorded effective British bombing attack is carried out by Lieutenant Louis Arbon Strange of 5th Squadron Royal Flying Corps.  He drops a home-made petrol bomb on a German truck near Mons. The vehicle swerves off the road and catches fire. The blazing petrol also catches the following truck on fire.  Lieutenant Norman Channing Spratt carrying a few steel darts as makeshift armament succeeds in forcing down an enemy aircraft by circling around it in mock attacks.

Today’s losses include:

  • 3rd Baronet Barttelot
  • Son of a Member of Parliament
  • Son of the Consul General at Petrograd
  • First of two sons a family loses in the Great War
  • Son-in-law of clergy
  • Child born posthumously

 Today’s Highlighted casualty is:

Captain Malcolm Leckie DSO (Royal Army Medical Corps attached Northumberland Fusiliers) dies of wounds received in action five days earlier at Mons at age 34. He is the brother-in-law of ‘Sir’ Arthur Conan Doyle and is the first of nine hundred three medical officers to die in the Great War. He is a descendant of the Leckies of the Baroney of Leckie and one ancestor ‘Sir’ Walter Leckie commanded the Scottish troops at the battle of Lagny on 10 August 1432 when they were defeated by Joan of Arc. He is a member of the Blackheath Hockey Club and Captain of Guy’s Hockey Club. He represented England versus France and played for the Kent Hockey Club.

  • Lieutenant Commander Nigel Kenneth Walter Barttelot (HMS Liberty) the brother of 3rd Baronet is killed in the Battle of Heligoland Bight at age 31. His brother will be killed in Teheran in 1918 while his nephew, the 4th Baronet will be killed in action in August 1944.
  • Major Foster Swetenham (Dragoons) is killed at age 38. He is the son of Edmund Swetenham MP and he served in the South African War. He is also the son-in-law of Colonel J W Chapman VP CB. He is the first of only two Swetenham’s to be killed in the Great War, both are cousins and both will be killed within two months of each other.
  • Captain Reginald Walter Morton Stevens (Irish Rifles) Brigade Major (9th Infantry Brigade) dies of wounds received two days before at age 39. He is the son in law of the Reverend J C Mace and his daughter will be born a fortnight after his death.
  • Captain John Colloyrean Michell (Lancers) is killed at age 42. He is the son of John Michell Consul General at Petrograd and served previously at Matabele in 189 and the South African War.
  • Captain Guy Maxwell Shipway (Gloucestershire Regiment) dies of wounds received three days earlier at age 37. He is the son of Lieutenant Colonel R W Shipway JP and he served in the South African War where he was severely wounded during the relief of Kimberly.