- Name: Victor Alexander Charles CRUTCHLEY
- D.O.B: 2nd Nov, 1893
- D.O.A: 10th May, 1918
- D.O.D: 24th Jan, 1986
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Lieutenant, HMS Vindictive, Royal Navy
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
The Second Ostend Raid, Belgium 9-10 May 1918
The First World War 1918
After the unsuccessful attempt to block the Ostend exit to the German naval base at Bruges as part of the Zeebrugge Raid on 22-23 April 1918, a second attempt was made on 9-10 May 1918. HMS Vindictive under Commander A E Godsal was accompanied by HMS Sappho. Sappho developed engine trouble and had to return to base, but Godsal succeeded in sailing Vindictive into the harbour of Ostend, where he was killed by a shell which hit the bridge and also badly wounded the navigation officer, Lieutenant Sir John Alleyne. Lieutenant V A C Crutchley assumed command and tried to manoeuvre Vindictive to block the channel but the ship was already aground and could not be moved. Crutchley nevertheless set the charges and ordered his crew to abandon ship. Two motor launches, ML 254 and ML 276, had been detailed to evacuate the crew. The closer, ML 254, commanded by Lieutenant G H Drummond, had already been hit by a shell before it reached Vindictive. Despite having two bullet wounds in his forearm and shrapnel in his left thigh and by his collar bone, Drummond reached Vindictive and took off two officers and 38 men before the ship blew up. However while heading out to sea he collapsed, and it was Crutchley who assumed command and kept ML 254 afloat long enough for the survivors to be rescued by HMS Warwick. As ML 254 left Ostend harbour, she collided with ML 276, commanded by Lieutenant Commander R R L Bourke, which was heading in, but by good luck neither launch was further damaged by the mishap. ML 276 searched for ten minutes near Vindictive under very heavy fire to make sure that everybody had got away. Just as he was leaving, Bourke heard the shouts of Lieutenant Alleyne and two sailors, all very badly wounded, who were clinging to an upturned boat. Bourke succeeded in rescuing all three men before heading for the open sea. ML 276 had been hit fifty-five times in all by German fire before a monitor took her in tow. Despite the gallantry shown by the participants in the raid the canal exit at Ostend was only partly blocked.
This officer was in “Brilliant” in the unsuccessful attempt to block Ostend on the night of 22nd/23rd April, and at once volunteered for a further effort. He acted as 1st Lieut. of “Vindictive,” and worked with untiring energy fitting out that ship for further service. On the night of 9th/10th May, after his commanding officer had been killed and the second in command severely wounded, Lieut. Crutchley took command of “Vindictive” and did his utmost by manoeuvring the engines to place that ship in an effective position. He displayed great bravery both in the “Vindictive” and in M.L. 254, which rescued the crew after the charges had been blown and the former vessel sunk between the piers of Ostend harbour, and did not himself leave the “Vindictive” until he had made a thorough search with an electric torch for survivors under a very heavy fire. Lieut. Crutchley took command of M.L. 254 when the commanding officer sank exhausted from his wounds, the second in command having been killed. The vessel was full of wounded and very seriously damaged by shell fire, the fore part being flooded. With indomitable energy and by dint of baling with buckets and shifting weight aft, Lieut. Crutchley and the unwounded kept her afloat, but the leaks could not be kept under, and she was in a sinking condition, with her forecastle nearly awash when picked up by H.M.S. “Warwick.” The bearing of this very gallant officer and fine seaman throughout these operations off the Belgian coast was altogether admirable and an inspiring example to all thrown in contact with him.