- Dogger Bank incident
The Dogger Bank incident (also known as the North Sea Incident, the Russian Outrage or the Incident of Hull) occurred when the Russian Baltic Fleet mistook some British trawlers at Dogger Bank for an Imperial Japanese Navy force. The Russians attacked on the night of 21/22 October 1904. Three British fishermen died and a number were wounded. One sailor and a priest aboard a Russian cruiser caught in the crossfire were also killed. The incident almost led to war between Britain and Russia, but it was diplomatically defused.
The Russian warships involved in the incident were enroute to the Far East, to reinforce their 1st Pacific Squadron stationed at Port Arthur, and later Vladivostok during the Russo-Japanese War. Because of incorrect reports about the presence of Japanese torpedo boats, submarines and minefields in the North Sea, and the general nervousness of the Russian sailors, 48 harmless fishing vessels were attacked by the Russians, thousands of miles away from enemy waters.
However, the recently developed torpedo boats of the European navies, which did have the potential to wreck large warships, could also strike while nearly invisible. Torpedo boats created a psychological stress on sailors at war, and as early as 1898 during the Spanish-American War, American sailors had opened fire on ocean swells, trains on land, and rocks along the coastline, believing them to be enemy torpedo boats.
Accidents and rumors, which had also dogged the US Navy during their war with Spain in 1898, did not exempt the Russian fleet on their voyage, and there was general fear of attack amongst the sailors, which their command tried to quell by calling for increased vigilance and issuing an order that "no vessel of any sort must be allowed to get in amongst the fleet". This soon led to an incident near the Danish coast unrelated to the Dogger Bank disaster, when fishermen bearing consular dispatches for the fleet were fired on, but escaped unharmed.
The disaster of 21 October began in the evening, when the drunken captain of the supply ship Kamchatka (Камчатка), which was last in the Russian line, took a passing Swedish ship for a Japanese torpedo boat and radioed that he was being attacked. Later in the night the officers on duty sighted the British ships, interpreted their signals incorrectly and classified them as Japanese torpedo boats, and consequently opened fire on the British fishermen. The British trawler Crane was sunk and two British fishermen lost their lives. On the other boats there were six fishermen wounded, one of whom died a few months later. In the general chaos, Russian ships shot at each other: when the protected cruiser Aurora (Aврора), which had yet to be involved, approached, she was taken for a Japanese warship, bombarded and slightly damaged. At least one Russian sailor was killed, another badly wounded. A priest aboard a Russian cruiser caught in the crossfire was also fatally wounded. More serious losses on both sides were only avoided by the extremely low quality of Russian naval artillery fire, with one battleship reported to have fired more than 500 shots without hitting anything.
Hull fishing fleet (48 vessels)
29 GAMECOCK TRAWLERS 12 LEYMAN TRAWLERS 3 GAMECOCK CARRIERS 2 MISSION HOSPITAL SHIPS 1 GAMECOCK ADMIRALS BOAT 1 GAMECOCK MARK BOAT Name of vessel Reg Tons Type of vessel Skipper ALPHA LO24 274 MISSION HOSPITAL SHIP JOHN WHITE AMARAPOORA H59 148 GAMECOCK TRAWLER ALFRED FLETCHER AUK H755 168 GAMECOCK TRAWLER HENRY BELTON AVA H78 162 GAMECOCK TRAWLER THOMAS SMITH AVON H423 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER RALPH FALL BASSEIN H68 153 GAMECOCK TRAWLER THOMAS EDMONDS BURMAH H86 168 GAMECOCK TRAWLER WALTER EDMONDS CEVIC H76 151 GAMECOCK TRAWLER CHRISTOPHER HODGSON CLYDE H425 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER WILLIAM WOOLLOCK CRANE H246 168 GAMECOCK TRAWLER GEORGE SMITH DON H433 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER JOHN DAVEY DOVE H279 168 GAMECOCK TRAWLER WILLIAM COLLINS (1) ESK H435 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER EDWARD LODGE (2) FAME H1421 75 GAMECOCK MARK BOAT JOHN MORTIMER FORTH H469 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER JOHN GIBBS (3) GOTHIC H67 153 GAMECOCK TRAWLER EDWARD DIXON GROUSE H100 167 GAMECOCK TRAWLER THOMAS O’HARA GULL H241 166 GAMECOCK TRAWLER GEORGE GREEN HULL H473 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER JOHN LEE ISIS H474 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER THOMAS BUTLER JED H478 167 LEYMAN TRAWLER CORNELIUS KINGDOM JOSEPH & SARAH MILES LO175 272 MISSION HOSPITAL SHIP JOSEPH WHITE KENNET H480 167 LEYMAN TRAWLER SAMUEL FOOTE KITE H773 169 GAMECOCK TRAWLER HERBERT WALKER KNOT H784 168 GAMECOCK TRAWLER LUTHER HAYWARD (4) LEVEN H489 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER ALBERT EDGAR MAGPIE H802 278 GAMECOCK CARRIER MATTHEW PEAKER MAJESTIC H334 152 GAMECOCK TRAWLER HERBERT HENRY MANDALAY H77 148 GAMECOCK TRAWLER THOMAS LEYLAND MARTABAN H82 148 GAMECOCK TRAWLER JAMES HIGGINBOTTOM MARTIN H187 242 GAMECOCK CARRIER JAMES BOOTH MINO H799 168 GAMECOCK TRAWLER WALTER WHELPTON MOULMEIN H61 151 GAMECOCK TRAWLER JOHN HAMES NIDD H495 168 LEYMAN TRAWLER JOHN ATKINSON (5) OCEANIC H449 168 GAMECOCK TRAWLER JOHN ALLAN OUSE H514 167 LEYMAN TRAWLER JAMES KEELER OWL H801 169 GAMECOCK TRAWLER HERBERT WARE PIGEON H155 143 GAMECOCK TRAWLER WILLIAM ALLON RANGOON H87 129 GAMECOCK TRAWLER GEORGE THOMPSON ROBIN H4 169 GAMECOCK TRAWLER JOHN BROOKE RUFF H34 169 GAMECOCK ADMIRAL’S BOAT THOMAS CARR SNIPE H133 143 GAMECOCK TRAWLER JAMES GILLARD SWIFT H99 242 GAMECOCK CARRIER JOHN FLETCHER TEAL H90 143 GAMECOCK TRAWLER THOMAS CANTWELL TEUTONIC H117 152 GAMECOCK TRAWLER THOMAS PENMAN THRUSH H703 166 GAMECOCK TRAWLER HENRY PEARMAN TOMTIT H35 143 GAMECOCK TRAWLER THOMAS HALL WREN H215 144 GAMECOCK TRAWLER THOMAS MANLEY (6)
(1) The Skipper could have been JAMES CULLING
(2) The Skipper could have been JOHN NEAL
(3) The Skipper could have been JOHN GOWAN
(4) The Skipper could have been GEORGE WOODGATE or ROBERT DODSON
(5) The Skipper could have been JOHN BROCKLESBY
(6) The Skipper could have been CHARLES SMITH
Other trawlers and questions
The Gamecock trawler Bovic was on its way to join the fleet at the time of the incident, while other trawlers not mentioned are assumed to have been docked in Hull during the incident. They include the Gamecock trawlers Britannic, Hawk, Ibis, Jackdaw, Jay, Parramatta, Prome, Quail and Swallow, and the Leyman trawlers Greta and Mersey. Arthur Credland provides the most accurate information on the incident, but there is evidence that the Kite was at the incident, and it is not clear if there is any evidence of the location of the other trawlers, also he has the Skipper of the Forth as John Gowan but the Fishing Crew List has the Skipper as John Gibbs, this could be a long standing mix up of people with similar names from the inquiry as John Gowan does not seem to have been qualified as a Skipper. Hulltrawler.net has the Greta, Ibis, Mersey and Vigilant at the scene but has other errors and could not provide proof, as is the case with the trawlers Onyx and Swan.
The incident led to a serious diplomatic conflict between Russia and Britain, which was particularly dangerous due to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. In the aftermath some British newspapers called the Russian fleet 'pirates' and the Russian admiral Zinovi Petrovich Rozhestvenski was heavily criticised for not leaving the British sailors lifeboats. The editorial of the morning's Times was particularly scathing:
- "It is almost inconceivable that any men calling themselves seamen, however frightened they might be, could spend twenty minutes bombarding a fleet of fishing boats without discovering the nature of their target."
Royal Navy battleships of the Home Fleet were prepared for war, while British cruiser squadrons shadowed the Russian fleet as it made its way through the Bay of Biscay. Under diplomatic pressure, the Russian government agreed to investigate the incident, and Rozhestvenski was ordered to dock in Vigo, Spain, where he left behind those officers considered responsible (as well as at least one officer who had been critical of him).
On November 25, 1904, the British and the Russian governments signed a joint agreement in which they agreed to submit the issue to the International Commission of Inquiry at the Hague. The commission completed its report on February 26, 1905, in which it criticized Admiral Rozhestvenski for his decision to fire upon the British ships. However, it concluded that "as each (British) vessel swept the horizon in every direction with her own searchlights to avoid being taken by surprise, it was difficult to prevent confusion". It concluded that "the opening of fire by Admiral Rozhestvenski was not justifiable". It also concluded as follows: "the commissioners take pleasure in recognizing, unanimously, that Admiral Rozhestvenski personally did everything he could, from beginning to end of the incident, to prevent trawlers, recognized as such, from being fired upon by the squadron".
The fishermen eventually received £66,000 from Russia in compensation. In 1906 the Fisherman's Memorial was unveiled in Hull to commemorate the deaths of the three British sailors. The approx. 18 feet high statue shows the dead fisherman George Henry Smith and carries the following inscription:
- Erected by public subscription to the memory of George Henry Smith (skipper) and William Richard Legget (third hand), of the steam-trawler CRANE, who lost their lives through the action of the Russian Baltic Fleet in the North Sea, October 22, 1904, and Walter Whelpton, skipper of the trawler MINO, who died through shock, May 1905.
- ^ The Russian Outrage (Chapter XXII) - Wood Walter, North Sea Fishers And Fighters, K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co, London, 1911
- ^ a b Connaughton, Richard Michael (1988) (Digitized by Google Books online). The War of the Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 247, 250, 259. ISBN 0415071437, 9780415071437. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=igwOAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA259&dq=%22dogger+bank%22+incident+battle+russia#PPA247,M1. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- ^ Simpson p. 108
- ^ a b c Dogger Bank - Voyage of the Damned ('Hullwebs - History of Hull' website. Retrieved 2007-09-08.)
- ^ Joint British-Russian declaration
- ^ Dogger Bank Incident Final Report
- ^ International Dispute Settlement - Merills, J. G., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University, 1999
- Simpson, Richard V. Building The Mosquito Fleet, The US Navy's First Torpedo Boats. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, 2001. ISBN 0-7385-0508-0.
- North Sea Incident, by ARTHUR CREDLAND
- The DAY the Russian Imperial Fleet fired on the Hull trawlermen, by BRIAN LEWIS
- Westwood, John N., Russia against Japan 1904-05. A new look at the Russo-Japanese war, Houndmills 1986.
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