Friday 25 December 1914 – We Lost 149
Units behind the front lines attend church services and many have arranged Christmas dinners which are taken in barns and damaged buildings. In the front lines both British and German soldiers observe an informal, ad hoc, Christmas Day truce, meeting in No Man’s Land to exchange cigarettes and to take snapshots. Not all units know about it and it is not universally observed but it is widespread over at least half of the British front. Outraged, the General Staff forbids this ever to happen again. In spite of the so-called Christmas Truce death still occurs on this day during the Great War. Eighty-one British soldiers die today the 2nd Grenadier Guards suffer losses in heavy fighting.
The Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven, at the mouth of the Elbe River, are the target of a new method of attack. Seaplanes are carried in three converted cross channel steamers, HMS Engadine, HMS Riviera and HMS Empress, to a position close to the target. Departing at 07:00 two of the nine Short seaplanes involved fail to get off the surface; the others fly to Cuxhaven, but cannot locate the sheds. The reconnaissance of the German fleet does prove valuable however and so disturbs the German command that they at once move a number of vessels, the battle cruiser Van de Tann being badly damaged in the process. Three of the seaplanes return to their carriers; three more are abandoned at sea near Norderney Gat due to low fuel, their pilots being rescued by submarine E11. The seventh seaplane also goes down in the sea, its pilot being picked up by a Dutch trawler.
A supporting naval squadron, including HMS Arethusa and HMS Undaunted, under the command of Commodore R Y Tyrwhitt is itself attacked by two Zeppelins and a number of German seaplanes, the first air attack on naval forces at sea. It is beaten off with comparative ease, and the Zeppelin L-6 very nearly becomes a casualty due to over six hundred bullet holes in her gasbags. No hits are made on the British ships, though there are a number of near misses.
At 12:20 an unfamiliar engine sound is heard by the crew of the Barton’s Point (Sheerness) anti-aircraft battery and five minutes later an enemy float plane is spotted at about 7,000 feet. It is greeted by fire from several guns and the Beacon Hill (Sheppey) gunners shoot away their own telephone wires in their enthusiasm. The enemy flies on to the north of Grain, and then turns west. Having descended to 4,000 feet he flies along the River Thames and at 13:15 over Erith is intercepted by a Royal Flying Corps Vickers Gunbus from Joyce Green, crewed by Second Lieutenant Montagu R Chidson and Corporal Martin. Upon seeing the Gunbus the German turns and retreats down the Thames, Martin firing several bursts as the chase proceeds over Purfleet and Tilbury. At 13:35 the enemy unloads two bombs in a field near Cliffe railway station (the pilot later claims to have attacked oil storage tanks at Sheerness). At about this time Martin’s gun jams and as the engine is running badly, Chidson breaks off contact.
Captain Thomas Otho Fitzgerald with two companies of the King’s Africa Rifles and 1 company of the Indian Grenadiers under Colonel Ragbit Singh captures Jassin German East Africa. British losses are two killed and three wounded while the Germans losses are seven killed.
The hired trawler Night Hawk is sunk by a mine off Scarborough, six of her crew members being killed. S S Gem (Master J McKeegan) strikes a mine three miles from Scarborough and is sunk. Her master is among the ten killed, while there are two survivors. S S Therese Heymann (Master Thomas Evans age 52) sails from the Tyne on a voyage to Savona, Italy with a cargo of coal and disappears when she struck a mine off Filey. Twenty are lost.
Today’s losses include:
- Lieutenant Leonard Castel Campbell Rogers MC (Gurkha Rifles) dies of wounds received the previous day. He is the grandson of the Reverend R H Gatty.
- Lance Corporal Herbert James Yates(Scots Guards) dies of wounds at Boulogne.
- Lance Corporal Arthur Bertram Webb (Bedfordshire Regiment) dies on service at home. His brother will die on service at home in June 1917.
photo from wikipedia.org