Frank Arthur Brock

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Frank Arthur Brock
Wing Commander Frank Brock
Born (1888-06-29)29 June 1888
Cheam, Surrey, England
Died 23 April 1918(1918-04-23) (aged 29)
Port of Zeebrugge, Belgium
Allegiance United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Service/branch Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank Wing Commander
Battles/wars World War I
 • Zeebrugge Raid
Zeebrugge Memorial. Inscription reads:
TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND IN MEMORY OF
THESE THREE OFFICERS
AND ONE MECHANIC OF THE ROYAL NAVY
WHO FELL ON THE MOLE AT ZEEBRUGGE
ON ST GEORGE'S DAY 1918 AND HAVE
NO KNOWN GRAVE
WING COMMANDER BROCK F. A. O.B.E.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER HARRISON A. L. V.C.
LIEUTENANT HAWKINS C.E.V.
MECHANIC SECOND CLASS F/50269 ROUSE J.

Wing Commander Frank Arthur Brock OBE (29 June 1888 – 23 April 1918) was a British officer of the Royal Air Force who devised and executed the smoke screen used during the Zeebrugge Raid on 23 April 1918, in the British Royal Navy's attempt to neutralize the key Belgian port of Bruges-Zeebrugge during the First World War.

Background[edit]

Brock was born in Cheam, Surrey, the son of Arthur Brock of Haredon, Sutton, Surrey, of the famous C.T. Brock & Co. fireworks manufacturers.[1][2] He was educated at Dulwich College[3] where he blew up a stove in his form room.[4] Brock joined the family business in 1901 (later becoming a director) where he remained until the outbreak of the First World War.[5]

He originally joined the Royal Artillery, being commissioned as a temporary lieutenant on 10 October 1914,[6] but within a month was loaned to the Navy, to which he transferred, becoming a temporary sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on 27 October 1914.[7] He was promoted to lieutenant on 31 December 1914,[8][9] becoming a flight lieutenant of the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 January 1915.[10] Brock was a member of the Admiralty Board of Invention and Research and founded, organized and commanded the Royal Navy Experimental Station at Stratford.[11]

Among his many developments were:[11]

  • The Dover Flare – used in anti-submarine warfare.
  • The Brock Colour Filter
  • The Brock Bullet (or Brock Incendiary Bullet or Brock Anti-Zeppelin Bullet) – the first German airship to be shot down was destroyed by this bullet.[12]

By the time the Royal Naval Air Service merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, Brock had risen to the rank of wing commander, and in January 1918 had been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to king and country.[13]

Zeebrugge Raid[edit]

On the night of 22–23 April 1918, the Zeebrugge Raid began when an armada of British sailors and marines led by the old cruiser, HMS Vindictive, attacked the Mole at Zeebrugge, Belgium, in order to negate the serious threat to Allied shipping, that was being posed by the port being used by the Imperial German Navy as a base for their U-boats and light shipping. Brock brought on board with him a box marked 'Highly Explosive, Do Not Open' which actually contained bottles of vintage port which were drunk by his men.[14] For the attack, Brock was in charge of the massive smoke screens that were to cover the approach of the raiding party:

Brock's new and improved smokescreen, or "artificial fog" as he preferred to call it, was ingenious. Essentially, a chemical mixture was injected directly under pressure into the hot exhausts of the motor torpedo boats and other small craft or the hot interior surface of the funnels of destroyers. The larger ships each had welded iron contraptions, in the region of ten feet in height, hastily assembled at Chatham. These were fed with solid cakes of phosphide of calcium. Dropped into a bucket-like container full of water, the resulting smoke and flames roared up a chimney and were dispersed by a windmill arrangement. It was more toxic than its predecessor. Taking in a lungful was an extremely unpleasant experience.[15]

At Zeebrugge, Brock, anxious to discover the secret of the German system of sound-ranging, begged permission to go ashore, not content to watch the action from an observation ship. He joined a storming party on the Mole and was killed in action.[16]

Brock received a mention in despatches from Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, for his distinguished services on the night of the 22–23 April 1918,[17] and is commemorated on the Zeebrugge Memorial[18] because his body was never recovered. The Zeebrugge Memorial commemorates three officers and one mechanic of the Royal Navy who died on the mole at Zeebrugge and have no known grave. The memorial stands in Zeebrugge Churchyard where thirty Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War are buried or commemorated. Seventeen of the burials are unidentified, but a special memorial commemorates the officer of the Royal Naval Air Service known to be buried among them.[19]

Henry Major Tomlinson wrote of Wing Commander Brock: A first-rate pilot and excellent shot, Commander Brock was a typical English sportsman; and his subsequent death during the operations, for whose success he had been so largely responsible, was a loss of the gravest description to both the Navy and the empire.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brock, Alan St. Hill (1922). Pyrotechnics: The History and Art of Firework Making. Great Russell Street, London: D. O'Connor. 
  2. ^ Warner, Philip (1978). The Zeebrugge Raid. London: William Kimber. p. 29. 
  3. ^ Hodges, S (1981). God's Gift: A Living History of Dulwich College. London: Heinemann. p. 101. 
  4. ^ Bourne, John M. (2001). Who's Who in World War One. London: Routledge. p. 28. 
  5. ^ Brock, Alan St. Hill (1922), p.166.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28932. p. 8040. 9 October 1914.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28953. p. 8635. 27 October 1914.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 29024. p. 7. 29 December 1914.
  9. ^ O'Connor, M (2005). Airfields & Airmen of the Channel Coast. Pen & Sword Military. p. 52. ISBN 1-84415-258-8. 
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 29197. p. 5874. 18 June 1915.
  11. ^ a b Bourne, John M. (2001), p.38.
  12. ^ "Fighting the Zeppelin". bbc.co.uk. 20 January 2003. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 30460. p. 375. 4 January 1918.
  14. ^ Bourne, John M. (2001), p.39.
  15. ^ Lake, Deborah (2002). The Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids 1918. Barnsley: Leo Cooper. 
  16. ^ Aspinall-Oglander, Cecil Faber (1951). Roger Keyes: Being the Biography of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Keyes of Zeebrugge and Dover. Hogarth Press. p. 246. 
  17. ^ The Edinburgh Gazette: no. 13294. p. 2583. 25 July 1918.
  18. ^ Reading Room Manchester (23 April 1918). "Brock, Frank Arthur". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  19. ^ Reading Room Manchester (23 April 1918). "Zeebrugge Memorial". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  20. ^ Tomlinson, Henry Major (1930). Great Sea Stories of All Nations. London: G.G. Harrap & Co. Ltd. p. 369.