Sunday 13 September 1914 – We Lost 167
E9 becomes the first British submarine to sink an enemy warship in action at sea when it torpedoes the German cruiser Hela off Heligoland. Following the introduction of submarines in several navies, Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, the First Sea Lord of the British Royal Navy in 1902, stated that submarines were “underhanded, unfair, and damned un English” and that he would convince the British Admiralty to have the crews of enemy submarines captured during wartime be hanged as pirates. Remembering Wilson’s statements, commanding officer Max Horton instructed his submariners to manufacture a Jolly Roger, which was flown from the submarine as she entered port. Each successful patrol will see Horton’s submarine fly an additional Jolly Roger until there was no more room for flags, at which point Horton had a large Jolly Roger manufactured, onto which symbols indicating E9’s achievements were sewn
The British Army is advancing north from the Marne, with the intention of crossing the Aisne. The Aisne is both a river and a canal, and at the village of Bourg, it is intersected by the Oise-Aisne canal as well. Before Bourg is the 4th Dragoon Guards. Here there are three bridges that cross the two canals and the river. Advanced patrols note that the two canal bridges are intact, but that the road bridge over the Aisne River has been blown. A plan is made to seize the two canal bridges, and the aqueduct, which will allow a passage into Bourg itself. The area is held by German infantry, supported by machine-guns at key points on the bridges.
The commanding officer meets with his men on the south side of the Aisne canal and orders a charge on the outposts that guards the first bridge. His men are already coming under fire from Bourg, which sits on a high point, but the charge takes the Aisne canal bridge quickly. A machine gun from a building on the other side of the Aisne-Oise canal is laying down heavy fire, and the Dragoon Guards are also taking fire from a second gun on the aqueduct. At this point up rides Captain Gerald Hugh Fitzgerald, the Dragoon’s machine gun officer, dismounts his guns and soon silences the German fire. This enables the infantry to move up, cross the bridges and use the aqueduct to cross the river and enter Bourg. At this point a shot rings out from the church tower in Bourg; and Captain Fitzgerald is shot between the eyes.
Troops of the 11th Brigade, 4th Division, III Corps – the left most unit of the British Army on the Western Front cross the partially destroyed bridge at Venizel in the early morning hours. On the Aisne, the fledgling Wireless Flight of 4th Squadron Royal Flying Corps is used effectively for the first time, gaining notoriety for their work above the battle of Aisne. Lieutenants Donald Swain Lewis and Baron Trevenen James in their BE2a’s are the first airmen to observe for the artillery, a completely novel aspect of army cooperation work. Within two years both men, members of the Royal Engineers attached to the Royal Flying Corps will be killed in action.
Today’s losses include:
- A man who will be in the first group awarded the newly created Military Cross which will be announced on 1 January 1915
- Grandson of the Duke of Leinster
- A son and grandson of clergy
- Sons of Generals
- Man who lost a brother in the South African War
Today’s highlighted casualty
Sergeant Major Norman Henry MacWhinnie MC (King’s Own Scottish Borderers) is killed at age 37. He will be one of the first 99 to be awarded the new Military Cross announced 1 January 1915.
- Captain Gerald Hugh Fitzgerald of the Dragoon Guards is killed at age 28. He is the only son of the late Lord Maurice and Lady Fitzgerald of Johnstown Castle and a grandson of the 4th Duke of Leinster and the 7th Earl of Granard KP.
- Captain Harry Stanley Toppin(Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 39. He is the son of the late Major General James Morris Toppin, is a French Interpreter and served in Egypt in 1898 and the South African War. His brother will be killed in September 1917.
- Lieutenant Horatio John Vicat (Royal West Kent Regiment) is killed at age 29. His brother will be killed in December 1917.
- Lieutenant Archibald John Denroche-Smith (Hussars) is killed at age 23. He is the son of General John Bayly CB.
- Second Lieutenant Ingle Francis Rowley Miller (Inniskilling Fusiliers) dies of wounds as a prisoner of war received 26th August at age 21. He is the grandson of the Reverend Alexander Rawley Miller and his brother Lieutenant Alexander Rawley Miller was killed in the South African War.