20 May 1917 – Kavalla bombarded

Out on the Macedonian Front the British commanders have received reports from prisoners that German submarines are being assembled in the Customs House buildings at Kavalla. Air reconnaissance has revealed great activity in the port, as well as new mine-fields, and reports of additional heavy guns on the coast. The Vice-Admiral has therefore ordered a naval bombardment of Kavalla.

All the Royal Naval Air Service units in the area are involved. Preliminary photographic reconnaissance of Kavalla and its forts have been carried out, and the waters near the port were closely surveyed for mines.

Today the attack commenced. ‘A’ Squadron at Thasos, reinforced by three seaplanes from Mudros, have the task of directing the fire of the monitors M29 and M33 on the Customs House, Post Office, and lighters, and of the Raglan on any enemy guns which open fire on the bombarding ships. Aircraft patrols in search of U-boats and mines are also to be maintained while the bombardment is in progress.

At 0410 the first aircraft went up to carry out the spotting. The monitors were quickly ranged on their targets, and it was not long before the Customs House, the Post Office, and a barracks were on fire.

Unfortunately the Henri Farman scheduled to co-operate with the Raglan was shot down and the crew, Flight Sub Lieutenant James Douglas Haig and Sub Lieutenant Gordon Keightley, were thrown out and killed. German ace Rudolf von Eschwege from FAb30 was responsible.

A relieving aircraft, a Short seaplane, took over the spotting for the monitors soon after 0600, and a Nieuport arrived at the same time and patrolled in readiness to direct the Raglan on active enemy guns. The Guns remained silent however, put off by a patrol of five bombers and three escorts from ‘E’ and ‘F’ Squadrons which had flown down from Marian specially for this operation and made an early hit on an occupied gun emplacement,

Air photographs taken next day revealed considerable damage to the Customs House and to other buildings in its vicinity.


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