10 February 1917 – Frozen

4 and 5 Wings RNAS have been mostly twiddling their thumbs since their arrival in Dunkirk in November 1916. Bad weather has limited flying and made night bombing virtually impossible. A reconnaissance made on 23 January by 2 Squadron RNAS revealed that the German destroyers had arrived at Zeebrugge and were lying behind the Mole. Almost at once gales and a severe frost set in, but on the 1 February a further reconnaissance indicated that as a result of the severe weather conditions, German shipping was stuck in the harbour at Bruges, as the exit was frozen. Air photographs showed twenty torpedo craft and three submarines. 4 and 5 Wings were ordered to attack beginning on 3 February. The squadrons were equipped with Short bombers and Sopwith Strutters.

The first attack was carried out by Four aircraft of 7 Squadron RNAS but only one, flown by Flight Lieutenant Cecil Hill Darley, reached the target dropping six bombs of which three fell amongst a group of 12 torpedo boats and one fell on the dockside sheds. A second raid on the following night proved to be more successful and three Squadron aircraft each dropped six 112 pound bombs in the vicinity of the docks.

Raids continued over various nights and by the 10th of February, 4 and 5 Wings dropped three and a half tons of bombs on the docks. Despite all this the raid had little impact as none of the destroyers or submarines were hit. Some minor damage was caused to buildings and some ammunition was destroyed.


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