A cannon has been fired on the Isle of Wight to mark the 100th anniversary of the first shot being fired by the Royal Navy in the First World War.
On August 5, 1914, the destroyer HMS Lance fired the first naval shot in anger in the First World War, sinking the German auxiliary minelayer Königin Luise, which was laying mines off the Suffolk coast.
It came just a day after the United Kingdom entered the Great War.
One hundred years later and a gun salute has been held at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, with a sail past by the Royal Navy patrol vessel, HMS Mersey.
A single cannon was fired at 10am and was followed by a one minute silence to remember those who served their country.
"Today’s event marks an important part of UK history and it was a privilege to take part.Just as HMS Lance was protecting our interest in 1914 in a few hours time we will be back at sea protecting our nation’s interest in the waters off the UK.”
"People tend to think of the First World War very much as trench war but the Navy was very much involved with ships powering along to protect our land infantry. The Royal Navy was able to secure an asset for us – HMS Mersey – and today’s firing went extremely well.”
One hundred years ago tomorrow (August 6) the Royal Navy suffered its first loss of the Great War – just hours after its first triumph. More than two weeks before the British Expeditionary Force lost its first soldier on the Western Front some 130 souls were killed when HMS Amphion sank in the North Sea with the war barely 30 hours old.
Amphion left Harwich on August 5 to sweep the North Sea with a destroyer flotilla and was in the vicinity when HMS Lance fired on the former North Sea ferry, Königin Luise, as she lay mines to block British shipping lanes. Shortly after 7am on August 6, as Amphion returned to Harwich, she sailed across the line of mines laid by the Königin Luise.
The blast tore apart Amphion’s forward section – every man save one on the forecastle guns was killed. Just before the explosion, 19-year-old stoker 1st break with his fellow stokers, among them a fellow Lyme Regis native, Thomas Gollop. The latter took rather longer to finish his mug of cocoa and this delay saved his life while Herbert Street was killed in the blast.
Also killed was the Royal Navy’s first officer casualty, Staff Paymaster Joseph Gedge, Amphion’s accountant; in his name a medal was subsequently introduced at Oxford University and a science block erected at his former school in Leatherhead – a project backed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet in 1914, Admiral Jellicoe.
More than 130 Britons died in the loss of the cruiser and her wreck, on the bed of the North sea some 30 miles east of Orford Ness, is a protected war grave.
Such casualties would soon be dwarfed by the Empire’s losses in France. But even in the first month of the war, not one day passed without a member of the Naval Service dying – often of illness, some drowned, but most lost their lives in action.