NORTH FORELAND LOOKOUT POST IN THE GREAT WAR | Click here to buy the book or look at our other books about East Kent
NORTH FORELAND LOOKOUT POST IN THE GREAT WAR
From left to right
Chief Petty Officer Edwin S. Oak-Rhind, Leading Seaman Maurice B. Hughes (brother-in-law to ESO-R) Leading Seamen S. Boucher & W. N. Haggard (not known which is which) The badges read RNAS AAC = Royal Navy Air Service - Anti Aircraft Corps.
It gives me great pleasure to publish for the first time one of the most important documents relating to the Isle of Thanet during the First World War.
As well as being of great significance to local historians it also tells us a lot about how air warfare and the defence of the UK developed during WW1.
WW1 heralded the beginning of air warfare, so all aspects were experimental in nature, neither the population nor the armed forces knew what to expect. For the first time England was both bombed from the air and shelled from the sea. The speed and ferocity of the response in this the closest part to Europe had a considerable deterrent effect on this form of attack.
Due to the limited range of aircraft of this period the South East suffered disproportionably from the bombing, the coastal towns especially as bombers were inclined to “dump” any bombs that they couldn't get to their intended target on them.
I have made this booklet as close to the original document as I can, my various attempts to use a typeface that looked more like the typewritten sheets however didn't work well in this format.
As is both proper and usual with significant historical documents inheritor has donated the original to one of the national archives. This is important as it means that future historians will always have access to them for research purposes.
However as is usual the inheritor of the documents, Martin Yates, also inherited the copyright, this means that he is able to allow me to publish it. Martin and I both thought that it would be a good idea to make the documents available to local people in a booklet.
Personally I feel that this document illustrates exactly what I am trying to achieve with my local history publications.
When Ramsgate library burnt down the vulnerability of our local history became abundantly clear, so I decided that I would try to make as much of what was destroyed by the fire, or what one would expect to find in a Thanet history archive available in a reasonably cheap and sustainable way. This is my 20th publication so far. I am acutely aware that had the original come to light earlier it could well have been donated to Ramsgate Library and therefore lost for ever.
Were I to publish in a conventional fashion, that is, getting a printing firm to produce the books for me the investment per book would have been measured in thousands of pounds and I would have run out of money long before reaching this one. As it is, I and the people who work with me in the bookshop, have been able to produce it from the original typewritten sheets, in a couple of weeks between the other jobs in the shop. As far as tying up the capital needed to produce the next book (A Picture of Margate 1820) goes, because I will print it on our laser printer in the shop, I only need to print the amount I expect to sell straight away. I am not expecting sales to hit the bestseller lists, enough to ensure that it will never be lost for ever is sufficient. In fact should it not sell at all the effect on the overall project would be negligible.
I am, as my children would put it, “going on about this”, because it shows clearly to anyone who has a piece of local history that it is both possible to keep it or donate it to an archive and at the same time share it with other local people who are interested. I am always happy to assist in any way I can to get anything that you have about the history of this area into print.
HISTORY OF THE NORTH FORELAND LOOK OUT POST 1915-19
About Christmas 1915 the Admiralty, who were then responsible for the air defence of these Islands, decided that Look Out Posts should be established round the South East Coast to act as "eyes" for Anti Aircraft Defences, London.
Captain Stansfeld R.N.Officer Commanding the London AA Defences offered Mr. E. S. Oak-Rhind charge of one of these Look Out Posts to be established at North Foreland.
This offer Mr. Oak-Rhind accepted & enrolled as crew two other local men both of whom possessed useful sea knowledge.
The initial crew were enrolled in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, AA Corps & were rated as follows;-
E. S. Oak-Rhind. Chief Petty Officer in charge.
S. Boucher. Able seaman.
W. N. Haggard. Able seaman.
watch being kept from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset - so little did the authorities anticipate attack after dark.
The first day's watch commenced in the compound of The North Foreland W/T, on the 3rd January 1915 & under the most depressing conditions.
Later in the day the Look Out Post was transferred to H. M. Coastguard Station, Ramsgate where proper facilities were to be found for such Look Out.
The initial decision to place the Look Out at North Foreland was correct as it at once became the landfall for attacking craft & it was not for some long time that Mr. Oak-Rhind could pursuade the authorities to make the obvious provision for the Look Out to be once more at North Foreland.
Late in April 1915 the authorities had come to the conclusion that watch must be kept day & night & for this purpose Mr. Oak-Rhind enrolled M. B. Hughes to form the fourth member of his little crew.
From the 29th April 1915 until early in 1919 a continuous watch was kept by this Look Out Post.
From H. M. Coastguard Station Ramsgate watch was kept from the public promenade with such privacy as could be obtained in such a place. At best it was a poor position as the engines of trains, trams, motors & the like were audible from many directions & made the certain detection of aircraft engines the more difficult.
A great advantage however accrued from being attached to such a Station as the Watch Room of the Station was in effect a telephone exchange for all naval signals-which embraced all air signals relative to the waters.
This information was of the greatest assistance to The Look Out-& when in addition the Watch Room was in direct telephonic communication with the North Goodwin Light Vessel from which much advance information came its advantages outweighed its disadvantages.
Whilst stationed at H. M. Coastguard Station Ramsgate the Look Out Post was in direct telephonic communication with AA Admiralty London & early in 1916, when the Army took over the air defence of the country from, the Admiralty, with Home Forces, London.
Shortly after an additional direct telephone was attached to The Westgate Seaplane Base.
The handling of our signals by the AA Admiralty staff was excellent but it took some considerable while before Westgate could train an efficient staff.
Upon the Army taking over defence early in 1916 the question arose as to whom the Look Out Post should be attached-the Army or Westgate Seaplane Base?
Finally it was decided that we should be attached to Westgate & so came under the Command of The Commander in Chief, The Nore & locally under the command of Wing Commander Peel Ross, Officer Commanding H. M. Seaplane Base, Westgate.
Commander Ross most wisely moved the Look Out Post to The North Foreland Lighthouse from the gallery of which a commanding look out was obtained. The telephonic conditions were excellent-hostile reporting being especially efficient.
Upon an initial hostile message Westgate would switch The Look Out on to what was known as "The Fighting Board" by which method he could deliver his signal simultaneously to
Westgate Seaplane Base
Air Station, Manston.
Foreness War Signal Station.
C in C, The Nore.
Whilst stationed at North Foreland Light House Leading Seamen Hughes & Haggard left the crew, the former to take up a commission & the latter to go into "The Ministry of Munitions." Their places were taken by Leading seamen Maple & Ware of the Westgate Look Out Post & Aircraftsman Coles- all splendid workers.
Additional telephones were run from the gallery of the Lighthouse to the North Foreland W/T Station below with whom we worked in the closest harmony & beneficial result & for a period with an AA gun battery nearby commanded by a very zealous officer-Lieutenant Parker Jones.
This latter was a voluntary effort upon our part with the consent of our C.O.
Most fortunately when the great enemy attack came it found this area under the command of Wing Captain H. P. Smythe Osborne R. N. Officer Commanding H. M. Air Station Manston, an officer of outstanding ability & with that greatest of all gifts in war- the ability to get the last ounce out of his men when necessary.
Small wonder then that with such leadership & such opportunity this Look Out Post was quickly recognised as wholly efficient.
All hands obtained their good conduct stripes & rose to the rank of Leading Seamen, whilst Leading Seaman Boucher & the C. P. O. in charge were mentioned in Dispatches in the London Gazette of 1st May 19l8.
17th May 1915 RAID ON RAMSGATE & ST MARGARET'S BAY.
The watches of the l6th May had passed as had the watches of the last four & a half months-an eager searching of the skies seaward with still no enemy viewed.
Movements of moment however had been taking place that afternoon, for three Military Airships had left their sheds in Belgium & taken the air:- LZ 37,38 & 39. At 12 oc midnight The Look Out observed heavy gunfire bearing eastward, followed by flashes in the air.
LZ 38, commanded by Hauptmann Linnarz, was eastward of Ramsgate, poised for the attack, but had at once been met by such fire as our ships could then bring to bear.
In order, apparently, to avoid the fire from the water Linnarz turned his Airship about & made for The Tongue Light Vessel, keeping seaward of the coast line.
Over The Tongue Light Vessel he turned & crossing the coast line at Margate attacked Ramsgate from the rear.
Passing out seaward he made The Gull Light Vessel, crossing the coast line once more at Deal he was short of Dover at 2.25 a.m. turned & heading eastward he bombed Oxney, near St Margaret `s Bay, in passing.
At 3 a.m. LZ 38 was over The North Goodwin Light Vessel & was visible from our Station up to 3.25 a.m. as a somewhat shapeless balloon in the "grey" preceding dawn.
Ten minutes later Flight Sub-Lieutenant R. H. Mulock, who had risen from Westgate in an Avro, was visible making The North Goodwin-would he-could he catch Linnarz & take his toll?
Mulock caught up with him at 2.000 ft-opened fire-when his gun jammed & before he could clear it LZ 38 passed out of sight-crossed the British lines at Armentieres & so home to his Belgian base. Back to his Belgian base but with this lesson learned-that never again would he dare raid so low-&
so disappointing as the night was to us, the enemy attack would, in the future, be weakened by this acceptance of danger.
To us-with day-an utter weariness, but with confidence born of the knowledge that after months, of anxious search we had detected the coming AT ONCE & had, with the resultant warning, enabled our Heads, so far as our area was concerned, to plot the course of the enemy with accuracy, & upon the accuracy of this plotting would depend the efficiency of to-morrow.
Thus early was it demonstrated that the men were sound if the material was weak.
The Look Out Posts did all that could be asked of them, searchlights found & held the enemy, our Air Arm established contact. What then was wanting? Effective ammunition.
17th May 1915.
ZEPPELIN RAID ON RAMSGATE & ST MARGARET'S BAY.
ZEPPELIN LZ 38, commanded by Hauptmann Linnarz,
History:- 10th May 1915...Raided Southend.
17th May 1915...Raided Ramsgate.
26th May 1915...Raided Southend.
31st May 1915...Raided London.
7th June 1915..Flight Lieutenant J .S. Mills bombed shed at-
Evere, near Brussels, & destroyed LZ 38.
LOCAL COURSE OF LZ 38.
Anti Aircraft Look Out Post, H. M. Coastguard Station Ramsgate.
Outgoing messages AA Ramsgate to AA Admiralty London by direct telephone.
Incoming messages to H. M. Coastguards Ramsgate.
17th May 1915.
ZEPPELIN RAID ON RAMSGATE & ST MARGARET'S BAY.
M. B. HUGHES ON THE LOOK OUT.
Weather conditions:- Wind ENE.
Velocity 1 to 2.
Time. From. Signal.
0000. AA. Heavy gun fire East of Station & bright lights in sky.
0015. AA. East Pier Ramsgate reports Zeppelin dropping bombs in Downs.
0100. Foreness. Tongue Light Vessel reports sounds of aircraft going West,
also Edinburgh Light Vessel.
0140. Foreness. Margate reports Zeppelin over Station.
0155. AA. Zeppelin over Station steering SE.
0200. AA. Eastchurch reports Aeroplane 158 left in chase of aircraft.
0225. Dover. Dover reports Zeppelin sighted & fired on by AA guns.
0240. AA. Ramsgate Police report 3 or 4 bombs dropped: damage unknown.
0300. AA. North Goodwin Light Vessel reports Zeppelin, 2 miles seaward,
0305. AA. Dover reports seaplane up in chase of Zeppelin.
0318. AA. N. G. L. V. reports Zeppelin still in sight at 0318 steering S.
0325. AA. N. G. L. V. reports lost sight of Zeppelin steering SE high up.
0330. AA. Westgate reports Aeroplane just gone up.
0335. AA Navy Office Ramsgate reports Zeppelin going South from East
Goodwin Light Vessel at 0330.
0336. AA. Seaplane passing Station steering SE.
0340. AA. Seaplane passing Station steering NNE
0400. Foreness. Reculver reports Zeppelin just lost sight of steering NE 700 ft up.
04l5. AA. Biplane No.1018 passed Station bearing NW steering S.
Telephone system in operation at H. M. Coastguard Station Ramsgate.
The Coastguard telephone system ran right round the coast & so messages were in due course received from all Naval Stations & Coastguard Stations.
In addition H .M. Coastguard Station Ramsgate were in direct telephonic communication with North Goodwin Light Vessel.
Signals thus received into the Watch Room proved most useful adjuncts to those of our own direct observation as sent by us to AA Admiralty London.
ZEPPELIN RAID ON LONDON 31st MAY 1915.
Night with a gentle breeze & a cloudless sky- above the waters the silver moon in the fullness of her rising.
Such a night as brought the townsfolk on to the promenade in their dozens. Nine o'clock-with a message that sets every nerve athrob-"Calais reports Zeppelin steering towards North Foreland."
The Look Out's keen eyes search the heavens, his keener ears strain for the hum of an engine whilst the promenaders, oblivious of approaching danger, chatter & gaze on a world of silvery beauty.
At 9.23 p.m. precisely a burst of gun fire SE tells the Look Out that a Zeppelin bears in that direction distance some five miles & is met by every gun that our Drifters & patrol craft can
bring to bear. Silent now the people-then a whirr of engines high in the heavens & once again Hauptmann Linnarz with LZ 38 advertises his approach.
What is his objective? Will it be Ramsgate? Or will he be the first to make & bomb London- the great objective?
At 9.30 the Look Out views him bearing northward, steering westward, black & huge against the silvery sky-moving swiftly like fate itself.
Instinctively the certainty that this at last is the attack upon London itself. Crossing North Foreland he was over Margate at 9.45-still visible to the Look Out-passing from his vision some five minutes later his course set for Shoeburyness.
Steering a masterly course he made his landfall a little north of this point, & keeping well clear of the river, he traversed Essex & made a claw like swoop on to the north eastern section of the capital.
Stoke, Newington, Dalston, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Stepney, West Ham & Leytonstone were freely bombed.
The retreat lay just north of the Crouch, the Maplin Light & the Black Deep.
31st May 1915. ZEPPELIN RAID ON LONDON.
ZEPPELIN LZ 38, commanded by Hauptmann Linnarz.
Military Airship, History, see previous raid.
31st MAY 1915. ZEPPELIN RAID ON LONDON.
E .S. OAK-RHIND ON THE LOOK OUT.
Weather conditions:- Wind SE
2105. Foreness. Zeppelin hovering over Dunkirk at 2045.
2108. Foreness. Calais reports Zeppelin steering towards the North Foreland.
2123. AA. Heavy firing seaward SE of Station, also coloured Verey's lights.
2130. AA. Zeppelin viewed bearing north of Station steering west.
2145. AA. Zeppelin viewed hovering in vicinity of Margate at about 5.000 ft.
2150. AA. Zeppelin last seen steering WNW.
2225. AA. Sound of plane steering NE.
2235. AA. Sound of plane bearing S.
Zeppelin Raid of 9th/10th August 1915. L 12 on Dover.
Five of the latest naval airships set out to raid England.
At 7.30 p.m. & whilst over the North Sea the commanding officer signalled by searchlight-remain together until 8.45 p.m., then each airship will carry out an independent raid, first on the London Docks & then on the City.
Actually no single airship managed to reach London, meandering around the eastern counties upon which they unshipped their bombs.
The prize ship of the night was L 12. When Oberleutnant Peterson was off the shore between Margate & Herne Bay, he thought a strong south wind had blown him far north of Harwich. So he turned for south, & after a zig zag path reached Dover soon after mid-night, believing that he had now reached Harwich. As he was dropping his bombs on the harbour he was suddenly assailed by massed anti aircraft gun fire & his ship hit at once. He at once made for Belgium-home-but losing gas was compelled to descend gradually to the surface of the water & off Zeebrugge was towed by a German Destroyer to Ostende.
Whilst lashed to the quay the Zeppelin was bombed again & again by our Dunkirk machines & smashed to bits.
The raid was interesting to our Look Out as all reports were based upon sound alone. As will however be observed the reports were perfectly accurate. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Lord rose from Westgate in a Sopwith to attack but failed to find L 12.
Upon attempting to land, under the then very elementary provision for night landing, he crashed & was killed.
ZEPPELIN RAID OF 9th/10th AUGUST 1915- L. l2 on Dover.
ZEPPELIN L 12.
Commanded by Oberleutnant Peterson.
Hit & damaged by Dover AA guns.
Bombed & smashed at Ostende.
E. S. OAK-RHIND ON THE LOOK OUT.
Weather conditions:- Wind SW
2135 2nd Army. Keep sharp look out for Zeppelins attacking to-night. If raid directed on
London time will be about 2300. If on Lowestoft sooner.
2250 AA. Aircraft engines bearing North.
2255 Foreness. Reculver reports Airship steering eastward at 2245.
Birchington reports Zeppelin overhead steering SE at 2248.
Westgate reports Aeroplane 1212 left in pursuit of Zeppelin.
North Foreland reports Zeppelin overhead steering seaward at 2255.
2300 AA. Aircraft engines still audible bearing NE.
2301. AA. Drifter just fired two white rockets denoting aircraft in its vicinity.
2305. AA. North Goodwin Light Vessel reports sounds of aircraft in vicinity of North
Foreland, heard guns, saw rockets.
0005. AA. Heavy gun fire from westward, probably 15 pounders.
0020. AA. Zeppelin can be seen fixed in Dover searchlights.
Dover guns in action.
0030. AA. Zeppelin dropping bombs on Dover Harbour.
1520, AA. Aircraft engines due south of Ramsgate.
Zeppelin homeward bound.
1st Seaplane Raid on Thanet (Margate) l3th September 1915.
For some nine months the Look Out had been searching the skies for a raiding aeroplane, knowing that at any moment on any day-from dawn to dusk-an enemy machine could appear out of the blue.
It was therefore a matter for satisfaction that upon this, the first occasion, the single raider was detected from the Look Out & the warning given well before she crossed the coast line & some eighteen minutes before she bombed Margate.
The statement that "warning" was given might be questioned in view of the fact that the Look Out did not report her as German.
When viewed she must have been NE of North Foreland-her land fall-distance from Ramsgate some five miles & with the angle thus presented her Black Cross recognition marks were of course not visible.
At this time however AA Admiralty London knew the position of every machine up & the machine in question came in from an "empty area" & that the danger line of attack.
Westgate were at once advised by AA London.
This seaplane came from an aerodrome nearby Ostende-made North Foreland-& keeping seaward turned in on Cliftonville, Margate where she dropped ten bombs. She then re-traced her course home.
E.S. OAK-RHIND ON THE LOOK OUT. Wind S.
Velocity 2 to 3.
1720. AA. One Bi-plane bearing N steering WNW.
1740. AA. do bearing N steering NE.
1745. AA. do now well out to sea flying very high going east.
1750. Foreness. Westgate reports machines 980 & 982 going up after German seaplane
1930. Foreness. Westgate reports above machines returned having lost sight of German
seaplane in the Channel.
1st Seaplane Raid on Thanet (Margate) 13th September 1915.
2nd Seaplane Raid on Ramsgate & Broadstairs. 9th February 1916.
Although nearly four months of ceaseless watch without result had taken the edge off anticipation, the raid of this day was a model in a "Lightening Raid” Look Out work.
The afternoon was bright with a high sea mist when the North Goodwin Light Vessel reported into The Watch Room "Two German Seaplanes steering towards North Foreland". Nine minutes later the roar of engines could be heard approaching our Station but on account of the steep angle of mist could not then be viewed. One minute later two silver coloured seaplanes, with their distinguishing marks clearly visible, burst into view directly overhead. Three minutes later one dropped her load of bombs some few hundred yards above our Station whilst the other turned NE & followed the coast up for about a mile & released her load on the outskirts of Broadstairs.
Both, after discharging their bombs, at once streaked for home.
The vexed question of Air Raid Warning for coast towns in the immediate line of attack may well be dealt with here.
At 3.33 p.m. the Look Out exceeded his orders & rang the Ramsgate Police Station & reported "Two German Seaplanes over the Town."
That is to say following the North Goodwin Light Vessel warning & upon detecting the roar of the seaplane engines & deducing the course he put this warning through before any other.
Actually therefore the Police knew of the danger six full minutes before bombs were dropped-& this was a lightening raid- & did nothing.
Throughout the whole of these reports it will be seen that the Look Out Post as exampled gave an initial warning well before any hostile aircraft crossed the coast line, but of course its warning was only given to the Air Authority to which it was attached.
When it is remembered that this Look Out Post gave no false alarm & missed no hostile attack-so far as the Isle of Thanet was concerned-it is obvious that if the warning could have been given direct, by direct telephone, to the Civil Authority by the Look Out a warning could have been given to the civil population, upon every occasion, prior-usually considerably prior, to any bombs being dropped.
So far as Ramsgate was concerned at this time the senior Naval Officer had undertaken to warn the Civil Authorities so they could give the necessary warning siren.
In this raid The North Goodwin Light Vessel warning came into the Coast Guard Station from where, after having been written down & repeated, it was passed to the Navy Office, from where, the signal after having been shown to an officer, would be passed on by PUBLIC TELEPHONE, with its well known possible delay, to the Civil Authority. BUT BY THIS TIME THE RAID WOULD HAVE TAKEN PLACE.
2nd Seaplane Raid, on Ramsgate & Broadstairs.
9th February 1916.
Two Albatross Seaplanes
2nd Seaplane Raid, on Ramsgate & Broadstairs 9th February 1916.
E.S. OAK-RHIND ON THE LOOK OUT.
Wind. Dead calm.
Velocity. Dead calm.
1526. AA. North Goodwin, Light Vessel reports sounds of aircraft bearing East.
1530. AA. N.G.L.V. reports two German Seaplanes steering towards North Foreland, now
1535 AA. Engines of aircraft audible bearing east.
1536. AA. Two German Seaplanes overhead.
1539. AA. German seaplanes now dropping bombs.
1540. AA. One German seaplane now steering north.
1544. AA. Second German seaplane now steering south.
1550. AA. First British machine now overhead.
1550. AA. Bombs now exploding some 400 yds NE of Station.
(Note:- Actually some one mile distant i.e. southern extremity of Broadstairs)
1533. AA. to Ramsgate Police (unauthorised signal)
"Two German seaplanes over the Town".
3rd Seaplane Raid, Margate.
1st March 1916.
A single seaplane passed nearby The North Goodwin Light Vessel at approx. 6.20 p.m. & keeping wide of North Foreland came in on Margate from the NE where she released bombs, crossed over Kingsgate, where more bombs were released & so heading eastward home.
S. BOUCHER ON THE LOOK OUT.
1820. AA. North Goodwin Light Vessel reports hostile seaplane steering SSE
1828. AA. Seaplane lost sight of steering east.
An incoming warning was not given from this look out upon this occasion only the outgoing course, but an incoming warning could not be given as the attack came from the NE-i. e. the other side of the island.