HC Deb 31 October 1916 vol 86 cc1544-5

(by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can give the House any further information than has appeared in the Press as to the recent Channel raid on our transport service; and whether he can assure the House that effective measures are being adopted to insure the safety of our cross-Channed transport service?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Balfour)

The communication in last Friday's newspapers gave all the information with regard to the subject of my hon. Friend's question which was then in the possession of the Admiralty. I have now seen a report by the Admiral Commanding at Dover, and have had the advantage of a conversation with him. But I have no very important facts to add to what has already been said.

The raiders had, of course, the advantage which raiders always possess—that of choosing the moment of their attack, its particular objective, and the course to be steered in order to attain it. I presume that in this particular case the intention of the Germans was to interfere with the cross-Channel service, which is a link in the main line of our communications with the Army at the front. If this was their object, it certainly failed. The only cross-Channel vessel (the "Queen") that was attacked was an empty passenger steamer and even this would have been saved had her captain realised that after the attack his ship would remain afloat for six hours.

The "Flirt," a destroyer of old type, which was on patrol, appears to have been surprised in the darkness of a very dark night by the German destroyers, who fired on her at close range and sank her. The "Nubian" was torpedoed while attacking the German flotilla, but could have been brought into harbour but for the gale which soon after broke over the Channel. It is believed that she will be salved. Six drift—net boats were lost.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the German claim is correct that there are no German losses?


So far as we know, the German claim is incorrect. We have no ground for thinking that any German destroyer was destroyed by the fire of the British ships. Of course they were hit, but there is no ground for thinking that they were sunk. There is ground for thinking, however, that two of the German destroyers struck mines we had laid, and I have no doubt they were blown up and probably sunk.


Is it a fact that these raids are only made possible by the use of Zeppelins by the enemy?


No, Sir; I cannot conceive that the Zeppelin would be of the least use on a night like that, which was exceptionally dark as well as stormy.