The HMS Vindictive was a famous British World War I war ship, involved in a daring raid on a submarine base the Germans had established on the Bruges Canal in the Belgian city of Zeebrugge on April 23, 1918. Although many British lives were lost during the battle, the event dealt a decisive blow to the dreaded German U-boat fleet, and dramatically raised morale in both Britain and Belgium. When the Vindictive returned to England following the raid, the commander, Admiral Keyes, was hailed as a hero. In his memoirs, Lloyd George, the Prime Minster during World War I, wrote: “Every child knows the story of Zeebrugge, the one Naval exploit of the war that moved and still moves the imagination of the Nation.” Winston Churchill referred to the raid as “an episode unsurpassed in the history of the Royal Navy.” The print shown above left depicts the Vindictive at sea with a flotilla of other battleships.
The Vindictive returned to Zeebrugge and was sunk as a blockship across the entrance to Ostende harbor during the night of May 9th to 10th, 1918. This sealed the port and ended its use as a German submarine base.
Colin McKenzie, whose great-uncle was honored with the Victoria Cross for his gallantry during the raid on Zeebrugge, assembled a web site documenting the event. In correspondence to us he wrote:
“After the War [the Vindictive] was raised and for a while was a tourist attraction tied up against the quay in Ostende (see photograph above right). Eventually she was cut up for scrap and this must have been when the souvenirs were made. I have heard of a chair and a small picture frame made out of her wooden decking, and I know where her wheel is. The bows of Vindictive were saved and form the centrepiece of a memorial park on the middle of Ostende.”
McKenzie, Colin. “The Raid on Zeebrugge – 23rd April 1918.” Albert McKenzie VC – The Raid on Zeebrugge. http://www.mckenzie.uk.com/zeebrugge/index.htm (16 January 2008).
“Operatique navale.” Institut de Stratégie Comparée, Commission Française d’Histoire Militaire. http://www.stratisc.org/act/bru/act_bru_hisguerre_104.html.
“Ostend.” Britannica.com. http://220.127.116.11/bcom/eb/article/0,5716,59021,00.html.
Pictures of ship courtesy of Colin McKenzie and are not for sale.