Popham’s Expedition to Ostend 1798
This original article was written shortly after WW1, when the Zeebrugge raid was still fresh in the memory of participants and historians. Over one hundred years before the Royal Navy had attempted a similar operation, for the same strategic reasons. In 1798 Captain Riggs Popham submitted to the Admiralty a detailed and carefully thought through scheme for a joint naval and military expedition to destroy the basin gates and sluices of the newly completed Bruges Canal, which was being used to convey sections of an invasion flotilla. The raiding squadron comprised twenty seven ships and 1400 troops. A violent gale off the Kent coast delayed the start for two days and further bad weather prevented a landing for another two days. In spite of considerable opposition the approaches to the harbour were seized, the locks and sluices successfully blown up and several troop transporting vessels burned in the canal. Further bad weather prevented an evacuation of the troops resulting in 1134 officers and men being taken prisoner.