The Coastguards who went to sea in the battleships of the Royal Navy had an unhappy experience. They had to serve mostly in old reserve ships which were no match for the ships of the German High Seas Fleet or their U- boats. The vast majority were never to return to their wives and families in the Coastguard Stations around the coast of the United Kingdom.
Many of the Coastguards had been drafted to three old cruisers of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, Cressy Aboukir and Hogue, which had been based on the Nore, 'to ensure the presence of armoured ships in the southern approaches of the North Sea and eastern entrance to the channel and to keep the area clear of enemy torpedo craft and minlayers'. This patrol had been maintained since the outbreak of war. Because the weather was so bad in September 1914 their destroyer escort had been withdrawn as it was reasoned also that no German U- boat would be able to operate in it. On the morning of 22 September disaster struck these three old cruisers. The German U-9 commanded by Lieutenant Weddigen came up with the cruisers which were steaming at a steady 10 knots and not bothering to zig zag. The Aboukir was stuck by a torpedo and sank in 25 minutes. Hundreds of men were in the water and the other two cruisers came to a stand still as they lowered boats to pick them up. This was a fatal error for, first Hogue and then the Cressy were sunk. In less than one hour one submarine had sunk three battle cruisers. Out of 2200 men on board these three ships more than 1400 were drowned and most of these were Coastguards. Others were young cadets from Osborne who had been posted for safety to these old ships.
This was just one sad occasion that men from HM Coastguard lost their lives.
Today we shall be remembering all those in the many conflicts around the World past and present who have lost their lives for the freedom of others.