Long before dawn on the 4th of August, as soon as the message that Britain was at war with Germany was received, Newport's chief constable aided by twelve of his men set off to capture the German steamship Belgia anchored in the Bristol Channel ten miles from Newport. Captain Cutliffe, the dock master, took the thirteen policemen armed with borrowed service rifles in a tug to their quarry. They boarded the vessel with no opposition and escorted the prisoners and their "Prize of War" back to Newport.
According to an announcement in the New York Times (Aug 5th 1914), the Belgia was short of coal and the captain had tried to contact the German Consul in Newport. It was supposed he feared he would be captured by the French if he ventured out to sea.
Nevertheless this was a brave undertaking by the Newport police considering how they were outnumbered. Pictured below are the 13 men posing with the borrowed rifles.
Picture source: Through Seven Reigns
Standing: Constables E H Dean, H Birch, G E Nelmes, S Cullimore, I Bailey, D C Bowen, A H Herbert.
Seated: Constable E Caldicott, Sergeant T Davies, Captain C E Gower (Chief Constable), Inspector S Cox, Sergeant F Drewett, Constable A Homer.
This incident may well have been the first strike of the war by the British on the Germans. We don't know what became of the German prisoners... were they held for the full duration of the war? We do know what became of the ship, though. She was renamed Huntstrick and taken over by the Merchant Navy. We believe she was sunk by a German Submarine on Friday, 8 June 1917.
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