Flamethrower cylinder : HMS Vindictive, Zeebrugge raid

Place Europe: Belgium, Zeebrugge
Accession Number REL/08106
Collection type Technology
Object type Flamethrower
Physical description Brass, Iron
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1914-1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Shrapnel damaged flamethrower cylinder. The red painted iron cylinder has a brass hose connection at the top. Extending from one side is a narrow tube with brass fittings and handwheel valve. On the other side of the cylinder are two hooks.

History / Summary

This flamethrower cylinder was used on HMS Vindictive during the Royal Navy's raid of the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on the night of 22/23 April 1918. The raid aimed to disable a major German U-boat base which posed a serious threat to allied shipping in the English Channel and North Sea. The plan involved numerous ships in support of landings from HMS Vindictive and Iris, and the sinking of obsolete warships, HM Ships Thetis, Iphigenia and Intrepid, to block the entrance to the port. Eleven volunteers from HMAS Australia were selected and trained for the raid - five seamen were assigned to HMS Vindictive as members of the landing party, five stokers were allocated to the block ship HMS Thetis, and an officer was placed in charge of the engine room of converted ferry HMS Iris. They joined a force of 1780 personnel and 165 vessels, many of which were specially modified to suit their role in the raid. HMS Vindictive's main armament was replaced with flamethrowers, howitzers and mortars to provide protection for the landing party which stormed the mole (breakwater) and attacked the harbour defences. Approaching the mole, HMS Vindictive and Iris came under heavy fire and were unable to fully complete their objective of disarming the mole's defences. Both ships were badly damaged and suffered heavy losses. Undetected by the Germans, submarine C3 rammed the viaduct connecting the mole to the shore. After evacuating the crew, the submarine's explosive charges were detonated, breeching the viaduct and cutting communications to the mole. Meanwhile, the block ships Thetis, Intrepid and Iphigenia entered the harbour. Thetis ran aground after sustaining heavy damage and becoming entangled in the defence net across the canal entrance. The crew abandoned ship before she was scuttled. Intrepid and Iphigenia made their way up the canal and into position, where they were sunk to block the canal entrance. The bold raid resulted in heavy casualties, 214 killed and 383 wounded, though the detachment from HMAS Australia returned safely.