Both harbours in Belgium had canals that connected in land several miles away from the ocean. Within these canals the Germans had facilities used to service and repair their U Boats. From these they would launch out to strike in the Atlantic during the Battle of that name.
The British attempted to block both of these harbours in the above noted battles. This of course was to trap about 30 U boats within them and unable to escape and carry on their devastation in the Atlantic. Further, with the harbours obstructed, the Germans would have to launch from elsewhere, taking then more time to get at the Allies and through more dangerous waters.
At the later battle the British warship HMS Vindictive was sunk. After the war a several year project culminated with the raising of the Vindictive for salvage purposes. A portion of the hull was chopped away and made into a commemorative and unveiled with appropriate ceremonies in back in 1928. Over the years the memorial started to deteriorate. This coupled with inner harbour expansions led to the decision to clean up the memorial and actually move it closer to the exact location where the battle took place.
A couple of weeks after we unveiled the new Commonwealth War Graves Commission marker for Rowland Bourke here in Victoria BC, the folks at the city of Ostende conducted their own ceremony. They honoured not just Bourke, but all Allies participating in that battle.
At my request, the Honorable Denis Robert, Canadian Ambassador to Belgium sent back to Canada two copies of a wonderful little booklet commemorating the 2013 ceremony in Belgium. They came back to Canada in a diplomatic pouch. Yesterday one of these was presented to the Bourke family here in Victoria BC.
Here is the "indictive" before the battles and years later when it was raised.
In upper left the monument has been refurbished and packaged for the move and is about to be lifted onto the truck. The last image shows, after travelling several blocks and having been lowered into its final resting place at the new dock. It was just off this dock where the battle took place.
This man's father, of the same name and title, was a Lieutenant in the British Navy, was in the above battle, knocked out by a shell and thrown in the water. When he came to, he and two others cries for help where heard by Rowland Bourke and his crew and were rescued. After the war Alleyne returned to England, got married and had a son. That son is pictured above with the Ambassador. Had it not been for Bourke and his crew, the man would have drowned and the son of course never born!
Back in BC, regular readers know of the unveiling we did for the new Bourke Memorial marker. As a result of that service and the press coverage on the event, a family contacted me to say that for many years they had been the most proud owners of an item that once belonged to Rowland Bourke. The owners, retired Canadian Navy Commander Hughes and his wife had decided, after much discussion, that they would like to present the item back to the Bourke family and asked if I would play a role to facilitate this. I was honoured to accept the request and about two weeks ago Commander Hughes and I and Jason Jones, spokesperson for the descendants of Rowland here in Victoria enjoyed a wonderful tour on the naval facilities at HMS Venture, by its Commanding Officer. That fellow, Lt Commander Mark Raeburn is a Royal Navy serving officer and his tour in Canada was coming to an end within weeks. But he, and we were all thrilled to have him and his unit host the brief presentation. It should also be noted the Commander Raeburn represented the British High Commission at Ottawa, at the Bourke marker unveiling back in May.
Lt Commander Raeburn in upper left, beside Commander Hughes, Jason Jones and myself. The cigarette box was probably presenting by Bourke in the years after receiving it to a lawyer in Vancouver, and through that person it had passed on down to Commander Hughes's family.
The box was presented to Bourke possibly on his return from London after attending the 100th year anniversary celebrations at Buckingham Palace for the very creation, back in 1857 of the Victoria Cross. It is an incredible family keep sake and will no doubt be a cherished possession of the Jones and Bourke families for many years to come.
The Hughes family are to be commended for this wonderful gift to the family. Well done to all involved.
By the way, tomorrow is the day 95 years ago that Rowland Bourke's VC was gazetted.