HMS Amphion – the first Royal Navy ship to be lost in World War One
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The first week of World War One saw an immediate commencement of hostilities with the German cruisers “Goeben” and “Breslau” attacking and bombarding the French colonial ports of Philippeville and Bona, located on the northeast coast of Algeria, on 4 August.
The German invasion of Belgium began on the same day and British mobilsation orders were issued. Sir John Jellicoe took command of the British Fleet and Britain then formally declared war on Germany at 11 pm that evening.
The next day, 5 August, saw the Liege forts in Belgium under heavy German artillery fire, and at the same time Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. Lord Herbert Horatio Kitchener was made Secretary of State for War.
In what is believed to have been the first shot fired “in anger” by British forces in the war, on 5 August an Australian garrison put a shell across the bows of the German steamer “Pfalz” at Point Nepean, near Melbourne, forcing her to come about.
The next day, 6 August, was a disastrous day for Britain when the cruiser “Amphion” struck two German mines in the North Sea and sank with the loss of some 150 sailors. She was the first ship of the Royal Navy to be sunk during the war.
The defence of the Realm Act was passed in the United Kingdom on 8 August, giving the Government massive powers to pursue the war effort in all possible ways, at the same time suspending many previously held civil liberties.
Further naval action took place on 9 August, when the British cruiser HMS Birmingham attacked the German submarine U-15 near Fair Isle off northern Scotland. She rammed the submarine, cutting her in two, and the German vessel then went down with all hands. This was the first loss of a U-Boat for World War One.