CWGC Shotley (St. Mary) Churchyard - Shotley Gate, Wednesday 1st August 2018
HMS Amphion was an Active-class scout cruiser built for the Royal Navy before the First World War. Completed in 1913, she was initially assigned to the First Fleet and became a destroyer flotilla leader in mid-1914. When the war began, her flotilla was assigned to the Harwich Force.
On the morning of the 5th August 1918, Amphion and the 3rd Flotilla sortied into the North Sea to patrol the area between Harwich and the Dutch island of Terschelling for German activity. At 10:15 a ship in the black, buff, and yellow colours of the Great Eastern Railway's steamers that plied between Harwich and the Hook of Holland was spotted. Fox sent the destroyers Lance and Landrail to investigate and shortly afterwards another destroyer reported that a trawler had seen a suspicious ship, 'throwing things overboard, presumably mines'. Amphion led the flotilla to investigate and observed that the fleeing ship was deploying mines even then. At 10:45, Lance opened fire at a range of 4,400 yards.
The target was SMS Königin Luise, a former Hamburg-Heligoland excursion boat that had been converted to an auxiliary minelayer by the Germans. They had planned to mount a pair of 8.8-centimetre guns on board, but they did not have the time to do so; her only armament was a pair of lighter guns and 180 mines. On the night of the 4th August, she had departed Emden and headed into the North Sea to lay mines off the Thames Estuary, which she began at to do at dawn.
The fire from the destroyers was ineffective until Amphion closed to a range of 7,000 yards and began hitting the German ship at about 11:15. By noon, Königin Luise was sinking and the three British ships rescued 5 officers and 70 ratings. The flotilla proceeded onwards with their patrol until they reached the Dutch coast around 21:00 and turned for home. Fox was uncertain as to the locations of the mines laid by Königin Luise and laid a course that was seven nautical miles west of where he thought the mines were. He guessed wrongly and led his flotilla over the danger area
At 06:35, Amphion struck a mine that detonated underneath her bridge. The explosion set her forecastle on fire and broke the ship's keel. The destroyer Linnet attempted to tow the cruiser, but a deep crack across her upper deck showed that she was hogging badly and Fox ordered his crew to abandon ship. Shortly afterwards, her forward magazine exploded, throwing one 4-inch gun into the air that narrowly missed Linnet. One of Amphion's shells burst on the deck of the destroyer Lark, killing two of her men and the only German prisoner rescued from the cruiser. Amphion then rapidly sank within 15 minutes of the explosion losing 1 officer and 131 ratings killed in the sinking, plus an unknown number of the crew rescued from Königin Luise.
She was the first ship of the Royal Navy to be sunk in the First World War.