'Old Vindictive'

The cruiser Vindictive was built in Chatham in 1897. She had a protective band of armour around her waterline as defence against torpedos and her bow was specially shaped and reinforced for use as a battering ram

she patrolled the Oceans of the world from South America to Russia often as a flag ship with an Admiral on board

In 1903 she towed the sailing ship 'Terra Nova' from Gilbraltar to Aden via Suez (below) on her urgent voyage to rescue Capt Scott's first Antartic Expedition; more images at: University of Aberdeen photo collection

In 1906 the launch of HMS Dreadnought with her heavy armour, large calibre turret-mounted guns and oil-fired steam turbine engines, made Vindictive and all battleships of her generation obsolete.

By 1918 Vindictive was at the end of her useful life and it was decided to risk her on the Zeebrugge Raid. All superfluous equipment was removed and her superstructure was completely remodelled to accommodate assault troops on an extra deck and gang planks to reach the top of the Mole

On the evening of 22 April 1918 Vindictive led the attack fleet across the Channel. She carried 300 assault troops and towed the ferries Iris and Daffodil carrying another 600 Royal Marines

But Vindictive was hit by German shells before she reached the Mole; ten of her twelve landing ramps were destroyed and many men and key officers were killed

Once alongside the Mole, the Vindictive came under a huge barrage of close range fire

After just over an hour of intensive bombardment the Vindictive left the Mole and headed for Dover

Back in Dover the damage she had suffered became very clear

but although she was in a bad way, it was decided to send her out again for an attack on Ostende

but this time she was not to return as she was scuttled in Ostende harbour

and there she lay until 1920 when she was raised to be broken up for scrap (note her battering ram bow)

her funnels and superstructure were removed and the damaged decks became a tourist attraction

her bows were removed and placed in the middle of a roundabout in Ostende where they stood for over 50 years

In early 2013 the Ostende town council removed Vindictive's bows and had them completely restored. They were then relocated in a specially prepared site overlooking the entrance to Ostende harbour on Staketsel Straat. The site was officially opened in a ceremony attended by the King of Belgium.

The King of Belgium (in the grey raincoat) lays a wreath at the site of the new Vindictive memorial

Nick McKenzie in front of the bows of HMS Vindictive March 2013