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HMS 'Vindictive' at Zeebrugge, 23 April 1918

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings
Gallery locationNot on display
EventsWorld War I, 1914-1918, World War I: Zeebrugge Raid, 1918
VesselsVindictive (1897)

Object details:

Object ID BHC0669
Description (Updated, May 2014) The Zeebrugge Raid, which took place on the night of 23 April 1918, was a British attempt to neutralize this key Belgian port, then in use by the German navy as a base for their U-boats and light shipping, and consequently posing a threat in the North Sea and Channel. It was first proposed in 1917 but only effected (after an aborted first attempt) in late April 1918 based on a plan devised by Admiral Sir Roger Keyes. The intention was to prevent use of the harbour by sinking three old cruisers filled with concrete in it ('Thetis', 'Intrepid' and 'Iphigenia') and also doing this to block the entrance to the feeder canal from Bruges. The 'Vindictive' was intended to make a diversionary attack against the Mole enclosing the harbour, then land a force of marines and cover them in an attempt to silence German guns, while two old submarines were exploded under the landward causeway to the Mole to prevent its reinforcement. Because a change of wind made a planned smokescreeen ineffective, 'Vindictive' came under very heavy fire and was forced to put men ashore in the wrong place with the result that German artillery was not silenced either by the marines or her own guns (the ship having been refitted with mortars, flame-throwers and howitzers for such close-range action). The crew of submarine 'C3' did manage to set it on course to blow up the causeway successfully but the 'Intrepid' blockship hit an obstruction and sank in the wrong place, and neither 'Thetis' nor 'Iphigenia's scuttling positions proved more than a temporary inconvenience to the enemy. Allied propaganda claimed the rather inconclusive raid as a key British victory, its significance bolstered in the public mind by the awarding of eight Victoria Crosses, including to Lieutenant R. D. Sandford, commander of 'C3', and Captain Alfred Carpenter of 'Vindictive'. Of the 1700 men involved in the operation, however, 300 were wounded while more than 200 were killed. 'Vindictive', by this time an old ship launched in 1897, took heavy damage in action close alongside the Mole but came away succesfully and was herself sunk as a blockship less than a month later in a similar raid on Ostend. This painting shows her landing men on the Mole with others going ashore from, probably, 'Iris' behind, one of the two Mersey ferries (the other being 'Daffodil') used as troopships in the raid - in which over 70 vessels were involved. 'Daffodil' had used her bow to keep 'Vindictive' alongside but is probably not the second vessel seen here. The glow beyond includes bursting star-shells in the air, but may allude to the detonation of the explosive-packed 'C3' under the landward causeway. The artist's view is from the seaward (north) end, the harbour being over the Mole on the left. De Lacy (c. 1860-1936) was born in Sunderland, son of an artist and professor of music. He originally trained as an engineer and had both army and navy connections, before training as an artist in London. Like W. L. Wyllie and Charles Dixon, he worked as an illustrator for periodicals such as the 'Illustrated London News' and 'Graphic' at the same time as becoming a painter of Thames and marine views, and battle subjects during the First World War. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1889 and also at the Royal Society of British Artists. There is another small version of this subject by de Lacy, dated 1918, in the Imperial War Museum collection to which he presented it. It may be either a study for or replica of this much larger canvas, which was presented to the NMM in 1962.
Date made circa 1918

Artist/Maker Lacy, Charles John de
Lacy, Charles John de
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Frame: 929 mm x 1072 mm x 63 mm;Painting: 840 mm x 990 mm
  • HMS 'Vindictive' at Zeebrugge, 23 April 1918 (BHC0669)
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