Hermann von Bredow and the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight

Heligoland is a small island some 30 miles off the north German coast. It was occupied by the British from 1807 until 1890 when it was ceded to Germany.

On 17 November 1917 German minesweepers were clearing a passage through British minefields in Heligoland Bight. They were guarded by a group of cruisers and torpedo boats. The British squadron consisting of a strong force of cruisers launched a surprise attack. All the German minesweepers managed to escape the British onslaught except for the armed trawler, Kehdingen which was sunk. Hermann von Bredow, a second lieutenant on board the Kehdingen, was captured and eventually arrived in Skipton Camp in October 1918. The battle itself was inconclusive. The only vessel sunk was the Kehdingen. Both sides suffered slight damage to a light cruiser, and both sides also found the presence of mines hampered their freedom of movement.

Photographs: The British cruiser HMS Courageous fired the opening shots of the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight

THE GERMAN NAVY IN THE NORTH SEA, 1914-1918 German sailors bringing up supplies on trucks from underground storage bunkers in Heligoland, October 1918. Copyright: © IWM (Q 87467). 

Hermann von Bredow had been born in Wilhelmshaven in 1893. He returned to service with the German Navy after his release from Skipton achieving the rank of Rear Admiral.

He was again taken prisoner during the Second World War, but was released in 1947. He died in 1954.

The First Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914 resulted in the capture of two seamen who would later be imprisoned at Skipton. Both these men, Caspar Mertens and Bernhard Kiefer were among the first prisoners to be captured during World War One: Mertens had the dubious honour of appearing on the very first British list of prisoners of war.