"Gallant Arethusa"

HMS Arethusa

The Battle of Heligoland Bight, 28 August 1914, was a very welcome victory for the Royal Navy, offsetting the dismal news from the Continent. The Imperial German Navy lost cruisers Mainz, Ariadne, and Köln plus the destroyer V187, while all the British ships returned home, some having varying degrees of damage.

The new light cruiser HMS Arethusa, wearing the Broad Pendant of Commodore Reginald Tyrwitt, commanding the Harwich Force, came in for a certain amount of acclaim, having engaged several enemy ships and receiving a significant amount of damage. The following Admiralty instruction is from document ADM 1/8391/286 in the Public Record Office. An excellent summary of the battle may be found in James Goldrick's The King's Ships Were at Sea (Naval Institute Press, 1984).

22nd September, 1914
D. 25088/14/


I am commanded by My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you that in the case of each ship which was engaged in the recent action in the Heligoland Bight whether damaged or not, the words "Heligoland August 28th. 1914" are to be painted in gold letters in some convenient place.

Further, in the case of HMS "Arethusa", My Lords have decided that the following verses are to be engraved upon a brass plate and fixed in a conspicuous place in the ship:-

Come all ye jolly Sailors bold,
Whose hearts are cast in honour's mould,
While English Glory I unfold,
Huzza for the "Arethusa"!
Her men are staunch
To their fav'rite launch,
And when the foe shall meet our fire,
Sooner than strike, we'll all expire
On board of the "Arethusa".

And now we've driven the foe ashore,
Never to fight with Britons more,
Let each fill his glass
To his fav'rite lass;
A health to our Captain and Officers true,
And all that belong to the jovial crew,
On board of the "Arethusa".

Action has already been taken in regard to H. M. Ships "Arethusa", "Fearless", "Laurel", "Liberty", "Laertes" and "Goshawk", which were damaged, and with the exception of the "Fearless", were subsequently repaired at H. M. Dockyard, Chatham. Approval has also been given for the inscription to be painted in H. M. Ships "Attack" and "Legion".

My Lords desire that you will cause the necessary steps to be taken to have the inscription placed in all the remaining vessels affected, the work being carried out by the Ship's Artificers or by the Dockyards as convenient.

These instructions will be included in the next issue of the Admiralty Weekly Orders.

Duplicates of this letter are being sent to the Vice Admirals Commanding, 1st., 2nd., 3rd., and 4th., Battle Squadrons, Vice Admirals Commanding Cruiser Force A, Rear Admiral Commanding Cruiser Force K, Admiral of Patrols, and Commodore (T), and Commodore (S).
I am,
Your obedient Servant,
[signed] O. Murray.

The Commander-in-Chief
H. M. Ships and Vessels,
HMS "Iron Duke"

Last Updated: 2 January, 2000.

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