Why Saint George’s Day 1918 is commemorated in Zeebrugge.

Saint Georges day te Brugge

The heroism of the hundreds of victims in our Bridge Harbor is commemorated each year on April 23, Saint George’s Day. St. George the knight-treasurer is the patron of Great Britain. The Raid on Zeebrugge is recorded in British history books as a great military success. In reality, it was not undivided as our guide will tell you in the tour.

1918: A safe haven from the occupying forces

The German occupiers had seized the brand-new port of Zeebrugge (1907) as a strategic base for U-boats to control the Channel. They had surrounded their submarines in the docks with anti-aircraft guns. The British felt threatened and were looking for a way to eliminate the enemy ships. Enclosed in their own nest, that was the plan of the British Royal Navy in 1918.

April 11: No British fog on “la môle” yet

Zeebrugge’s semicircular harbor dam (La môle) and the dunes were planted with German guns. With a curtain of fog and a diversionary attack by 840 Marines on the wall, the British planned to sink three old block ships, packed with construction debris, off the port of Zeebrugge. The action was launched on April 11. A rising wind put a premature end to the action. One fast boat did not make it back in time and fell into the hands of the Germans at Ostend. The precise plans of attack – Top Secret – on board.

Explore Zeebrugge with a guided bike tour? Our guide tells this exciting war story as if you were there yourself. Or prefer WWI in the Bruges cemetery? Contact us at dispatching@s-wan.be.

April 23 – St. George stand by us! The second attempt

Admiral Keyes was able to motivate British troops to make a second attempt on the eve of the national feast of Saint-Georges’ Day, precisely at midnight. The curtain of fog was raised again and 3 British ships again sailed in the utmost secrecy to Zeebrugge until close to the wall. Unfortunately. Three cheers. Just minutes before landing, the curtain of fog was suddenly blown away. Two parties stood face to face a few meters apart. The German guns – already in greatest readiness for 2 weeks – burst forth.

A defeat full of heroism

Everything went wrong that could go wrong. The British ships were improperly docked due to the surprise attack, making it almost impossible for troops to get to the wharf. A small British submarine blew up another section of the viaduct, but with no final consequences for the Germans. And the 3 large block ships were sunk in the harbor but were not in the intended place, their hindrance was limited. German machine guns caused hundreds of casualties. So not a success to write home about, but the British propaganda did its job. It was not the result that counted but the courage of the attackers! And that one was unseen!

A British AND a German success?

It rained decorations along both sides. In Britain, 200 decorations were awarded, about 1 for every 10 seconds on la Môle. And the German Kaiser came to Zeebrugge to decorate his marines on the spot for showing such resilience. A British monument to Saint George’s Day is erected in Zeebrugge. The cemetery holds 200 victims of both sides. Since then, every year the bell is rung at Dover Town Hall in tribute, and a floral tribute follows at Zeebrugge Military Cemetery, always around April 23.

Fascinated by this story from WW1? Book a guided tour at S-wan and discover Zeebrugge by bike. Contact us at dispatching@s-wan.be.

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Visit in Brugge with the colleagues When calling for the price of a guided tour, I had Hélène on the phone. Rather than selling her tours she asked questions, understood my needs and shared her recommendations. We selected the chocolate tour. (mix of EU and US colleagues) Hélène was a wonderful guide. Very funny, interested in us , well prepared (linked the explanations to our Pharma business), no pressure, good pace, flexible! shared perspectives. Of all the quides we ever had ... she was the best! Don't hesitate and win time preparing your trip- assure you are in good hands ! Just relax and enjoy the stories of Hélène!
Jenna J
Jenna J
Best personal tour with fantastic guide! I would highly recommend the 'best of Bruges' tour - we were a family of 5 and had a private tour, shown around by the most fantastic tour guide, Frank. He was superb! So knowledgeable and made the experience. Fantastic! You will not be disappointed.
Virginie C
Virginie C
Guide compétent et sympathique J'ai réservé une visite quelques jours avant notre arrivée. Très bien conseillée par mon interlocutrice. Nous avons passé 2 heures de promenade très agréable avec un guide expérimenté et disponible. Top.