The Dover Patrol was a Royal Navy command of the First World War, notable for its involvement in the Zeebrugge Raid on 22 April 1918. The Dover Patrol formed a discrete unit of the Royal Navy based at Dover and Dunkirk for the duration of the First World War. Its primary task was to prevent enemy German shipping—chiefly submarines—from entering the English Channel en route to the Atlantic Ocean, thereby obliging the German Navy to travel via the much longer route around Scotland which was itself covered by the Northern Patrol.
In late July 1914, with war looming, 12 “Tribal”-class destroyers arrived at Dover to join the near obsolete destroyers already at anchor in the harbour, most of them built in the late 19th century. These destroyers formed the nucleus of the fledgling Dover Patrol, which, from its early beginnings as a modest and poorly equipped command, became one of the most important Royal Navy commands of the First World War.
The Dover Patrol assembled cruisers, monitors, destroyers, armed trawlers and drifters, paddle minesweepers, armedyachts, motor launches and coastal motor boats, submarines, seaplanes, aeroplanes and airships. With these resources it performed several duties simultaneously in the Southern North Sea and the Dover Straits: carrying out anti-submarine patrols; escorting merchantmen, hospital and troop ships; laying sea-mines and even constructing mine barrages; sweeping up German mines; bombarding German military positions on the Belgian coast and sinking U-boats. During the war, the Dover Patrol was maintained by the Dover Engineering Works, an Iron Foundry which employed and housed many hundreds of workers in Dover Town and was managed by Vivian Elkington, nephew of Walter Emden. The company still exists today operating from a reduced premises at Holmestone Road, under the name of Gatic.
After the war, a fund was set up to erect a memorial to the Dover Patrol. In July 1921, the memorial at Leathercote Point nearSt Margaret’s Bay was unveiled. Similar memorial obelisks stand at Cap Blanc Nez on the French Coast and at Fort Hamilton, overlooking New York harbour.