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World War 1 at Sea - Contemporary Accounts

 

HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR - THE MERCHANT NAVY, Volume 2, Summer 1915 to early 1917 (Part 1 of 2)

by Sir Archibald Hurd

 

Published by John Murray, London 1924

The Loss of a British Merchant Ship (click to enlarge)

on to The Merchant Navy, Vol 2, Part 2 of 2

 

 

 

A Modern Introduction

 

Up-to-date, well-researched naval histories have an important part to play in understanding past events, but I would like to suggest they are equalled by contemporary accounts written not long after the stories they describe, and often by those who took part.

 

Such near-contemporary accounts include the three volumes of THE MERCHANT NAVY by Sir Archibald Hurd. They remain in print, but are still not widely known, and being out-of-copyright, can be found on the internet.

 

They are indispensable to any researcher or scholar of World War 1 who wants to start to understand the vastness of the war at sea and its near fatal impact on British, Allied and Neutral merchant shipping.

 

In reading these volumes, I am surprised how partisan the accounts are. The Germans are still the Hun, but then the U-boat war totally changed the rules of "civilized" mercantile warfare that had reigned for centuries. The shock had still not subsided when these books were written.

 

Any transcription and proofing errors are mine. (Note: all ship's names will be in italic lower case when time allows)

 

Gordon Smith,

Naval-History.Net

 

   

HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR

 

 

BASED ON OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS

 

BY DIRECTION OF THE HISTORICAL SECTION OF THE COMMITTEE OF IMPERIAL DEFENCE

 

 

 

THE MERCHANT NAVY

 

Vol. II

 

 

BY ARCHIBALD HURD

 

 

London

John Murray, Albemarle Street, W

1924

 

 All Rights Reserved

 

The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have given the author access to official documents in the preparation of this work, but they are in no way responsible for the accuracy of its statements or the presentation of the facts.

 
 

 

CONTENTS

 

PREFACE ...... pp. v-ix

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

SUBMARINES IN BRITISH WATERS

 

The United States and the sinking of the Lusitania — The brotherhood of the sea vindicated — An enemy stratagem — The sinking of the s.s. Strathnaim with a loss of twenty-one lives — The ordeal of the s.s. Armenian — A British master's humanity towards his dog — The fate of the s.s. Anglo Californian — No mercy by the enemy for women and children — 248 lives lost in August 1915 — The destruction of the liner Arabic — Experience of the crew of the s.s. Diomed — The liner Hesperian sunk — Irritation in America — The enemy's campaign on the West Coast and in the English Channel temporarily abandoned...... pp. 1-41

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

AUXILIARY CRAFT'S FIGHT AGAINST THE SUBMARINES

 

Varied tasks of the Auxiliary Patrol — Submarine on passage to the Mediterranean — Zeppelin raid on Dover— The trawler Amadavat's intervention saves a merchant ship — Excursion steamer's fight with a submarine — The Inverlyon's fight with a Flanders submarine — Raid off the Irish coast — Beaten by high seas — Attack on an oil-tanker. pp. 42-49

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

THE FISHERMEN'S ORDEAL

 

The importance of the fishing industry — Defencelessness of the trawler — Wholesale destruction of fishing-craft — Ingenious disguises to trap the enemy — Submarine versus submarine — The destruction of U40 — An attack on fishing-vessels off the Hebrides — A long duel — The misfortunes of U41 — Admiral Startin's stratagem — Heavy losses of sailing-ships — The salvage of the s.v. Kotka — Mine-sweeping operations — Keeping open the Archangel route — Success of a Lowestoft smack — The Admiralty's attitude to the fishing industry....... pp. 50-73

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE SEA TRANSPORT OF THE FIRST MILLION TROOPS

 

The British Army dependent on merchant shipping for transport overseas and on the Navy for protection — Interdependence of naval and military policy — Previous transport movements — Creation of the Expeditionary Force — Its quick mobilisation — Embarrassments of a defensive policy.......... pp. 74-81

 

(a) The Expeditionary Force dispatched to France

 

The cross-Channel movement — Pre-war plans — A change of base — Navigational difficulties — Moral of a mistake— Attempt to relieve Antwerp — Unexpected demands on the Merchant Service — Scenes at Ostend — Distress of the refugees..... pp. 81-88

 

(b) The Empire Mobilisation

 

Lord Kitchener's decision to mobilise trained troops in France — Troops dispatched from Egypt, Malta, and Gibraltar — The New Zealand Expeditionary Force — Territorial troops sent oversea — First contingent of the Australian Expeditionary Force — Movement of Canada's Expeditionary Force — Egyptian garrison's voyage to England — Wessex and Home Counties Territorial Divisions sent to India — British troops brought home from India — Reinforcements from New Zealand and Australia — Wessex Reserve Territorial Division moved to India... pp. 89-96

 

(c) The Dardanelles Expedition

 

Orders for 29th Division and Naval Division to sail for the Mediterranean — Rapid embarkation and errors in packing the holds of transports — Nineteen transports and five store transports employed — Concentration at Alexandria — The 2nd Mounted Division moved to Egypt — Transports for Australian and New Zealand troops — Completing the First Million — The Merchant Service's record — No lives lost... pp. 96-99

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

MERCHANT SEAMEN AND THE BLOCKADE

 

The blockade of Germany instituted by a squadron of old cruisers — Early capture of a German vessel — Difficulties of examination of suspected ships at sea — Reconstruction of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron — Liners requisitioned — Retention of Mercantile Marine crews — Arduous and perilous work — Increasing danger from submarine and mines - The Viknor sunk by a mine — Admiralty appreciation of work of Northern Patrol — Disposal of Patrol in January 1915 — Difficulties of maintaining the Patrol — Sinking of the Bayano by a submarine— Foundering of the Clan Macnaughton — Strengthening of the Squadron and increased efficiency of the Patrol — Aid rendered by the Patrol to neutral shipping — Running the blockade — A ruse to trap a suspected vessel — New base in the Shetland Islands — Installation of the wireless direction finder — The India torpedoed — The coal problem — Seamanship and courage of prize commanders and crews — Eventful voyages — Admiral Jellicoe's tribute to the work of the Patrol — Action of the Alcantara and Andes with the German raider Grief — Curiosities of contraband — Change in the command of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron — Tribute to Rear-Admiral de Chair pp. 100-156

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

THE AUXILIARY PATROL IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

 

The attack on Gallipoli — Activity of submarines — The problem of the Straits of Otranto — Mine-sweeping vessels for the Dardanelles — Trawlers at work in the Straits of Gallipoli — Enforced retirement under heavy fire — Another unsuccessful attempt — A change in tactics — Essential aid to the army — The anti-submarine patrol — Rescue of the Serbian army— Sinking of an Austrian U-boat — Defending the Otranto Straits — The situation in the Mediterranean — Overworked fishermen relieved. pp. 157-176

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

SUBMARINE INVASION OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

 

German successes in the Mediterranean — Concentration of the enemy in southern waters — Merchant vessels sunk without warning — Action of the Woodfield with a submarine — Spirited fight by the City of Marseilles — The enemy's blows at the communications of the Allies — The experience of the Clan Macleod — Sinking of the Clan Macfarlane — Terrible experiences of the crew at sea — Adrift for seven days... pp. 177-203

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

THE SINKING OF THE P. & O. LINER " PERSIA "

 

Torpedoed without warning — Breach of pledge to the United States — A tragic scene — 334 lives lost — An American passenger's experiences — Another passenger's ordeal — Lord Montagu's tribute to the crew — Thirty hours without food or water...... pp. 204-215

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

IN THE HANDS OF THE BEDOUINS

 

The sinking of the Coquet — Callous conduct of a submarine commander — Cast adrift 200 miles from the nearest land — " Nothing short of murder " — Terrible experiences at sea — One boat lost — Landing on the desolate African coast — Attacked by Bedouins — An unequal fight — Survivors taken prisoner — Wanderings in captivity — Release after nearly eight months pp. 216-230

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

THE MERCHANT SERVICE ON THE DEFENSIVE

 

The policy of supplying guns and ammunition to merchant ships for defensive purposes — Attitude of the United States Government to the use of American ports by armed vessels — Proclamation by Germany of " war zone " — A new problem — The extension of defensive armament policy — Admiralty instructions to masters of armed merchant ships — Status of armed vessels — Gunnery training of merchant seamen — Right of self-defence — Memoranda of the United States respecting armed merchant vessels — Attitude of neutral countries towards entry of armed vessels into their ports....... pp. 231-246

 

 

(Part 2 of 2)

 

 

CHAPTER XI

 

THE WAR OFF THE FLANDERS COAST, WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF THE ENEMY'S MINE-LAYING ACTIVITY

 

Importance of Ostend and Zeebrugge to the enemy — First attack on Zeebrugge by the Dover Patrol — Employment of pleasure steamers and drifters — Second attack on Flemish coast — Ordeal of the fishermen — Work of the Auxiliary Patrol — Laying and maintaining the mine barrage off the Flemish coast — A difficult operation — Destruction of submarines by drifters — Gallant work of drifters in range of enemy batteries — Destruction of the armed yacht Sanda — Tribute of Admiral Bacon to the courage of officers and crews of drifters and trawlers — Loss of the Brighton Queen by mine — Difficulties of the campaign off the Flemish coast — Co-operation of the Army essential to success— Enemy's violation of neutral waters — Enemy's mine-laying — Trawlers sunk — Mine-field across the Moray Firth — A widespread campaign — Trawlers working double " tides " — 4,574 mines destroyed — Reorganisation of the mine-sweeping service — Enemy activity overseas — Salving a mine..... pp. 247-265

 

 

CHAPTER XII

 

FISHING-CRAFT ON WAR SERVICE, 1915-16

 

Work of the Royal Naval Motor-Boat Reserve — More seaworthy craft required — Orders for 550 motor-launches — Varied tasks of the new type of craft — First effective barrage — Not a complete success — The barrage abandoned — Assisting the French Navy — Successful operations by drifters against a submarine — Rescue of German seamen — The enemy taken by surprise — U74 destroyed by trawlers — Enemy's dead set on trawlers — A fisherman's " battle " — Mine-laying submarine destroyed — An enemy raid on the fishing-fleets...... pp. 266-282

 

 

CHAPTER XIII

 

RAIDS ON DOVER STRAITS AND OTHER INCIDENTS

 

German destroyers based on Zeebrugge — Raid on the drifters guarding the Dover barrage — Attack on the Tenth Drifter Division — A second attack — Heavy British casualties — Another attempted raid — German plans miscarry — Creation of the Anti-Submarine Department — Difficulties in the English Channel — An armed trawler to the rescue — A German prisoner's good fortune....... pp. 283-289

 

 

CHAPTER XIV

 

RESUMPTION OF THE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN IN BRITISH WATERS

 

Confusion of policy in Germany — Sinking of a merchant ship 236 miles from the nearest land — Brotherhood of the sea — Ship sunk at anchor by a Zeppelin — The s.s. Teutonian destroyed off the Fastnet — Progress of the campaign in British waters — Vessels torpedoed without warning — The escape of an oil-tanker — Value of defensive armament — Loss of the Minneapolis — The Goldmouth's unequal duel — Torpedoing of the Sussex — The German Government's pledge..... pp. 290-306

 

 

CHAPTER XV

 

THE CASE OF CAPTAIN FRYATT

 

The ordeal of the s.s. Brussels — Communications in the North Sea — Shipmaster's "highly meritorious and courageous conduct" — Escape of the Brussels — Captain Fryatt's manoeuvre — The Admiralty's congratulations — Capture of the Brussels — Captain Fryatt and the first officer made prisoners — Solitary confinement for cross-examination — Trial by court martial — Fruitless request for postponement from Berlin — The case for the defence — American intervention — Captain Fryatt's heroic death — Neutral condemnation of German action — Court of inquiry in Berlin — Captain Fryatt condemned as " a franc-tireur of the seas " — Lord Stowell's judgment — " Defence is a natural right " — American rulings, pp. 307-336

 

 

CHAPTER XVI

 

THE ENEMY'S FINAL PLUNGE

 

Division of opinion in Germany on the use of submarines — Temporary success of the Imperial Chancellor — Activities in the Mediterranean — A defenceless ship, the Destro, saved by speed — The hopeless duel of the Roddam — Abandonment thirty-five miles from land — Enemy operations in the Arctic Ocean — The policy of spurlos versenkt — The loss of the Rappahannock — A demonstration off the North American coast — Sinkings in British waters — The problem of the passenger ship— A German commander's humanity — Over thirty hours in the boats — The fate of the s.s. Cabotia — The Fabian under fire — Prisoners on board a submarine — The sink-at-sight campaign in the Mediterranean — P. & O. liner Arabia torpedoed without warning — Increasing disregard at sea of German pledges — The destruction of the City of Birmingham — A Clan liner's fight — The escape of the s.s. Palm Branch — Experiences of the crews of German submarines — Mounting losses of merchant ships — Successful action of the Caledonia — The oil-tanker Conch set on fire in the English Cliannel — An exhibition of fine seamanship — The enemy's guile — The hard fate of the Artist — On the eve of the intensive campaign... pp. 337-379

 

 

CHAPTER XVII

 

CRUISES OF THE GERMAN RAIDERS

 

I. The "Mowe"

 

False sense of security at sea — Warnings of the Admiralty — Escape of the Mowe from Hamburg — First capture off Cape Finisterre — Utilisation of British cargo of coal — Looting of the Author — The Elder Dempster steamship Appam captured — Gallant fighting of the Clan Mactavish — Dispatch of the Appam to Newport News with prisoners — Action of the United States authorities — Raider's seizure of the Westbum — Prisoners placed on board the Westbury for purposes of release — Arrival at Santa Cruz — Ship scuttled by Germans — Return of the Mowe to Germany — Second cruise begun — Spirited action of the Mount Temple— The Yarrowdale intercepted and used as an auxiliary — Crowded with prisoners, the Yarrowdale is dispatched to Swinemunde — The misfortunes of the Dramatist — An Admiralty collier sunk — 300 prisoners placed on board the Hudson Maru and landed at Pernambuco — Fate of the Netherby Hall — Fine resistance by the Otaki — Posthumous Victoria Cross awarded to Lieutenant Bisset Smith, R.N.R., the master of the Otaki — Return of the Mowe to Germany.... pp. 380-415 n.

 

II. The "Seeadler"

 

American sailing-ship converted into a raider and fitted with a motor — Gallant attempt of the Gladys Royle to escape — Chase of the Lundy Island — A British captain's experience on his honeymoon — The Horngarth under fire for nearly an hour — British seamen prisoners placed on board a captured French vessel and sent to Rio de Janeiro — Wreck of the Seeadler off Mopelia Island........ pp. 415-422

 

III The "Wolf"

 

The s.s. Wachenfels, equipped with mines, guns, and torpedoes and provided with a seaplane, is sent to sea as a raider — Seizure of the Turritella and use as an auxiliary raider — The captured ship intercepted by H.M.S. Odin and then scuttled by the Germans — The misfortune of the Jumna — Master's diary of life on board the raider — Prisoners' uncomfortable quarters — Extensive mine-laying by the Wolf— A fortunate meeting — The Wairuna chased by the raider's seaplane and captured — Mine-laying in New Zealand waters— The raider in hiding with her latest prize — A narrow escape — The Spanish steamer Igotz Mendi seized and used as a prison ship — Homeward journey of the Wolf in company with the Igotz Mendi — Stranding of the Igotz Mendi — Merchant ships damaged or sunk by the Wolf's mine-fields...... pp. 422-435

 

 

APPENDIX

 

A. Instructions to Merchant Captains. pp. 436-440

 

B. Interpretation of same by German Court of Inquiry... p. 441

 

C. Analysis of Vessels Intercepted. pp. 442-443

 

 

INDEX pp. 444-464

(not included – you can use Search)

 

 


 

 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

 

The Loss of a British Merchant Ship ... 36

An Armed Drifter..... 70

On Watch in the Arctic.... 100

A Boarding Boat on Duty ... 112

On the Forecastle of an Armed Merchant Cruiser..... 124

Left in an Open Boat ... 218

(Part 2 of 2)

Drifters Hoisting in a Torpedo  ... 268

Armed Trawlers in the North Sea ... 272

Releasing a Depth Charge from a Drifter ... 284

Vessel Hit by a German Submarine ... 358

Sunk without Warning .... 376

The Sinking of the "Georgic" ... 400

 

MAPS

 

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron in the Autumn of 1915... 156

(Part 2 of 2)

The Mine Peril in Home Waters ... 265

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron: Statistical Diagram of Blockade Operations ... end of volume

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron: the Working of the Blockade in 1915 ... end of volume

 

 


 

 

 

PREFACE

 

In the first volume of this History of the part which the Merchant Navy took in the Great War, the record was carried down to the early months of 1915, when the conscience of the world was shocked by the torpedoing of the Lusitania, with a loss of nearly 1,200 lives. The present volume continues the narrative to the eve of the German Declaration of " unrestricted submarine warfare " on February 1st, 1917.

 

During this period of twenty months the war at sea passed through what may be called an intermediate stage. In the spring of 1915 the American President came forward as the general advocate of neutral rights at sea. Although he confined his protests to cases in which the sovereign rights of the United States had been disregarded, Mr. Wilson none the less became, in effect, the spokesman of all neutrals. The sinking of the Arabic in September brought on a crisis between America and Germany, and at the end of the month the Imperial Government stated that it " regretted and disapproved " the incident. No guarantee for the future was given; but the American Government was satisfied, knowing, probably, that the apology meant more than appeared. Washington had, in fact, scored a diplomatic victory; for the German Government had ordered their submarine commanders to " cease from any form of submarine war on the West Coast of Great Britain or in the Channel." In the Mediterranean, sinkings went on much as usual, as there was here less chance of injuring American citizens. For the rest of the year a restricted form of submarine warfare, against which the American Government made no protest, continued in the zone of operations.

 

The High Naval Command at Berlin obeyed these restrictions most reluctantly, and pressed their Government for wider powers. Early in the new year the Chief of the Great General Staff, von Falkenhayn, reported to the Emperor that the army would not be able to force a decision without naval assistance, and this admission seems to have given new force to the naval arguments for unrestricted submarine warfare. During February 1916 the restrictive rules under which submarine commanders were acting were cancelled; and on March 24th the steamer Sussex, which had a number of American citizens on board, was torpedoed without warning in the English Channel.

 

Thoroughly exasperated, the American Government now issued what amounted to an ultimatum. The Germans gave way, and early in May Count Bernstorff presented a Note in which his Government promised that henceforth the campaign would be conducted in accordance with the general principles of international law, and that no vessel would be sunk until some provision had been made for the safety of the passengers and crew.

 

These concessions ushered in a new phase of the conflict. The Imperial Chancellor had yielded to the American demands in the teeth of fierce opposition from the officers of the naval and military commands. The thought of loyally supporting the Government in the attitude it had adopted evidently never entered their minds, as the events recorded in this volume attest; and for the rest of the year they strove, by making progressive encroachments upon the pledges given, to restore the submarine campaign to the position which it had lost. They were tolerably successful; for at the end of 1916 merchant vessels were being sunk without warning in the Atlantic and North Sea as well as the Mediterranean: in January 1917 the number of lives lost in British merchant ships was 276, and 245 of these died as a result of the submarine campaign. When, a few weeks later, the German Government declared unrestricted submarine war, it was practically announcing an accomplished fact, but the decision proved the final influence which brought the United States into the war.

 

In this volume an attempt has been made to reflect the course of events as they affected merchant seamen, and all who were forced by circumstances to travel by sea. It traces the gradual crescendo of callousness exhibited by the enemy seamen, and of the necessarily slow evolution of measures of defence.

 

Provision had been made by the Admiralty against enemy cruisers which might escape on the high seas, and that these measures were not inadequate experience proved. By the end of March 1915, as has been recorded, this menace had been laid, and during the period covered by this volume the only losses inflicted by enemy surface craft on merchant shipping were due to the spasmodic appearance of raiders whose depredations furnish a narrative of permanent interest to the student of war. The Admiralty had repeatedly warned the nation that it could give no guarantee that no enemy vessel would ever succeed in breaking through, by night or in thick weather, the cordon provided by the Grand Fleet and its auxiliary forces.

 

The success which attended the dispositions of the Admiralty after the institution of the patrol by the Tenth Cruiser Squadron exceeded all expectations. The stoppage of seaborne supplies combined with the system of commercial embargo which had been slowly elaborated, became so effective, in spite of political action initiated by neutral States, that the Germans were commercially isolated from the rest of the world, except in so far as they were able to obtain supplies overland from neighbouring countries, and were in a position to take the fullest advantage of the protests of neutrals against the strict enforcement of the blockade.

 

It is perhaps not generally realised that the blockade, supported by the ships of the Grand Fleet, was actually enforced by merchant ships which, though under the command of naval officers, who had under them a nucleus of active service ratings and men from the Royal Fleet Reserve, were principally manned by merchant seamen. The spirit in which these operations were prosecuted in fair weather and in foul, and in high latitudes where cold and fog prevail, constitutes the supreme vindication of the character and seamanlike qualities of the Merchant Navy, which was to be re-enforced before the war came to its close by thousands of incidents of splendid and daring heroism in face of hopeless odds, and noble self-sacrifice in the common cause. Captain Charles Fryatt, in particular, supplied his fellow-seamen in these anxious months with a noble example of unflinching courage and unwavering dignity in face of accusers who were determined, as is revealed in these pages, to encompass his death at any cost of honour — little thinking what influence the judicial murder of this merchant captain would have in crystallising neutral opinion against Germany. Captain Fryatt came to be accepted throughout the civilised world as the typical figure of the British merchant seamen. Their fellow-countrymen were dependent for life on their staunchness and seamanlike skill, and the trust was gloriously vindicated.

 

Nor in reviewing the part which the Merchant Navy bore during the war can we ignore its services in meeting the constant demands of the Royal Navy, or its essential contribution in the movement of troops. A fighting fleet without the support of a merchant navy must be demobilised. Moreover, an island State, if it would exercise military influence overseas, is dependent upon the efficiency of its sea communications, and in the chapter which deals with the transport of the first million troops posterity is provided with a classic example of how the seas can be bridged and increasing armies kept supplied with munitions, food, and all their various requirements.

 

But while the Merchant Navy was supporting the Royal Navy, as well as the new armies, in near and many distant theatres, it was also fighting its own battles, almost defenceless though it was. The extent to which the submarine would be pressed into the service of a belligerent State had not been foreseen in any country. The mere fact that the Germans possessed only about a score of submarines when hostilities opened, and that at International Conferences the conditions under which warfare on seaborne commerce might be conducted had been accepted by all maritime Powers, had contributed to a feeling of security which events were speedily to dissipate.

 

The record of the sufferings of the merchant seamen, as set forth in official and other documents which have been placed under contribution in the preparation of this volume, constitutes an epic of the sea to which history provides no parallel. For many months the men of the Merchant Service were without any semblance of defence. At the very moment when armament was required for the Mercantile Marine, the new armies had to be fitted out, while the Royal Navy itself also required guns and other equipment. The British Government, confronted with the treble demands for guns and ammunition as well as for trained gunners, was powerless to do all that the desperate situation of the merchant seamen suggested as desirable. But by the opening of the year 1916, a considerable proportion of the larger and most essential ships of the Mercantile Marine had been defensively armed. The progress in this respect was not, as will be seen, without its influence on enemy policy. The success with which defensively armed ships beat off attack, and in many cases inflicted serious loss on the enemy, defeated the enemy tactics, and their increasing embarrassment was at last to find expression in the declaration from Berlin on February 1st, 1917, inaugurating the intensive submarine campaign in defiance of international law and the code of humanity, as well as the pledges which had been repeatedly given.

 

In the varying circumstances of the twenty months with which this volume deals, merchant seamen not only maintained in efficiency the antennae of the blockade operations, while at the same time supporting the Navy and the armies confronting the enemy overseas, and supplying the 45,000,000 people of the United Kingdom with food, but also formed the backbone of the Auxiliary Patrol. In this new navy, amateurs and professionals — in fact, anyone who had acquired familiarity with sea conditions — were mobilised. The record of the Auxiliary Patrol is an enheartening revelation of the sea aptitudes of the British people. Acknowledgment is again made of the assistance of Lieutenant-Commander E. Keble Chatterton, R.N.V.R., in the preparation of this portion of the History.

 

The Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and many shipowners have unreservedly placed their records under contribution for this History. Without their assistance it would have been impossible to present this narrative of the ordeal, without its parallel in the long and varied records of humanity, to which merchant seamen were submitted during the Great War.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

SUBMARINES IN BRITISH WATERS

 

The sinking of the Lusitania, in circumstances which have already been described, involving the loss of 1,198 lives, focused the attention of the world upon the character of the war upon commerce which the enemy was prosecuting, and emphasised the fundamental characteristics which differentiated it from commerce destruction as practised by belligerents in former wars. The United States Government, already disturbed by the destruction of the Falaba and other ships conveying American citizens, could not avoid taking official notice of the sinking of a great liner which had left one of its ports, carrying a large number of Americans, with a guarantee that it was a peaceful vessel of commerce. Within less than a week of the disaster, the State Department at Washington had drafted and forwarded to Berlin an explicit protest. In this Note, dated May 13th, 1915, the United States Government stated that

 

" It assumes... that the Imperial Government accept, as of course, the rule that the lives of non-combatants, whether they be of neutral citizenship or citizens of one of the nations at war, cannot lawfully or rightly be put in jeopardy by the capture or destruction of an unarmed merchantman, and recognise also, as all other nations do, the obligation to take the usual precautions of visit and search to ascertain whether a suspected merchantman is in fact of belligerent nationality, or is in fact carrying contraband of war under a neutral flag,"

 

The attention of the Imperial Government was called with the utmost earnestness to the fact that "the objection to their present method of attack against the trade of their enemies lies in the practical impossibility of employing submarines in the destruction of commerce without disregarding those rules of fairness, reason, justice, and humanity, which all modern opinion regards as imperative. It is practically impossible for the officers of a submarine to visit a merchantman at sea and examine her papers and cargo. It is practically impossible for them to make a prize of her, and, if they cannot put a prize crew on board of her, they cannot sink her without leaving her crew and all on board of her to the mercy of the sea in her small boats."

 

In some instances, it was added, " time enough for even that poor measure of safety was not given," and it was finally declared that it was manifest that " submarines cannot be used against merchantmen, as the last few weeks have shown, without an inevitable violation of many sacred principles of justice and humanity." This Note was something more than a mere assertion of the right of American citizens to use the seas: it constituted an indictment of the principles governing the submarine war, reminding the nations of the world, whether belligerent or neutral, of the unprecedented character of the ordeal to which British merchant seamen in particular were being exposed.

 

In contrast with the savagery which had marked the destruction of the Lusitania, an example of the sentiments of brotherhood which continued to move the seamen of the old maritime races to assist comrades in distress, irrespective of race, language, or creed, was furnished by the crew of a Norwegian steamer less than a fortnight after the sinking of the Cunard liner. The steamer Drumcree (4,052 tons) was passing Trevose Head on May 18th when a violent explosion occurred. Though a double watch on the bridge had been maintained since leaving port, no one had seen a submarine, but the wake of a torpedo had been observed about 100 yards away off on the starboard beam. Time did not permit of the helm being used successfully, and the vessel was struck near the cross bunker. She was wrecked from practically No. 2 hold to the engine-room; she had gaping holes in her side and deck; the deck-plates were buckled and the beams twisted

 

LOSS OF THE " DRUMCREE "

 

into strange shapes. The water poured into the hold, as well as into the engine and boiler-rooms. The wireless-room and its installations were reduced to ruins, but the operator, though he had been injured, remained at his post until the master (Mr. A. Hodgson), having satisfied himself that it was impossible to make a call for assistance, sent him to his boat. Fortunately all the boats had been swung out when the Drumcree left Barry Dock, and as the ship lost way they were lowered and quickly manned and then stood by.

 

In the meantime Captain Hodgson, in company with the chief officer, had made a hasty survey and had satisfied himself that there was still a chance of saving the ship, although the water had risen to sea level in the injured compartments. In spite of the warning signal which Captain Hodgson had hoisted, several vessels, regardless of danger to themselves, closed on the Drumcree. The Norwegian steamer Ponto was hailed by Captain Hodgson, and the master was told that the Drumcree was in no immediate danger of foundering in the moderate weather which then prevailed. He was asked to give a tow in the direction of Cardiff, keeping close to the land on the English side of the Channel. Though the neutral master cannot have been unconscious of the peril in which he stood, he readily agreed to render this service and brought his ship smartly into position under the bow of the Drumcree.

 

With the help of the two crews, hawsers were made secure, and then the Ponto, having taken sixteen of the crew of the Drumcree out of one of the lifeboats, began to tow the damaged steamer. That the position of the Ponto was an unenviable one was shown shortly afterwards when a second attack was made on the crippled ship, a torpedo striking her farther aft than on the first occasion. Another explosion occurred, throwing the hatch coverings of No. 3 hold and other wreckage into the air, whilst a column of water rose as high as the mast. The ship began to settle by the stern with a list to starboard, and it looked as though she would sink at once. The Ponto had no recourse but to free herself from her dangerous companion. Captain Hodgson ordered the remainder of the officers and men of the Drumcree into the lifeboat which was lying alongside. A hasty inspection of the after part of the vessel showed that the water was still rising, so at last Captain Hodgson joined his men, intending to remain in the vicinity until his vessel disappeared.

 

" The submarine, however, now appeared, showing only the periscope, close to the stern of the ship and manoeuvred," as Captain Hodgson afterwards recorded, " as if bent on further mischief. We therefore pulled to the Ponto, which was standing by, and relieved our boat of most of its load. Then, as the captain of the Ponto was naturally anxious about the safety of his own ship, some of the officers and engineers volunteered to remain by the ship [the Drumcree] in the boat with me until she should sink or so that we might at least (in the unlikely event of her remaining afloat) hoist a night warning signal. The Ponto's people, however, warned me that the submarine was again in sight close to us, and I therefore felt compelled to abandon her and boarded the Ponto with my officers at 5 p.m."

 

The signal station at Lundy was told of the position of the derelict, since she might become a danger to navigation in the darkness. In recounting the circumstances in which his ship was lost, Captain Hodgson remarked that " the captain of the Ponto is, in my opinion, deserving of very great credit for the resolute manner in which he stood by us, at no small risk to himself and his own crew, as also for the courtesy and consideration with which he received us on board and provided for our wants, which has been deeply appreciated by us all." Though his ship had gone down, the master had the satisfaction of testifying that his crew had behaved well and had carried out orders without confusion, although they were new to the vessel and had had but one opportunity of carrying out boat drill. " The officers and men," he added, " I will not attempt to praise; they worked with me to the last in endeavouring to bring the ship to port and were as reluctant as I to abandon her."

 

Though the submarine war was still in its early stage, merchant seamen were learning that the enemy was adopting every expedient of which he could think to lure them to destruction. On the last day of May, when the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company's ship Demerara (11,484 tons), on passage from Liverpool to Lisbon, was off the south

 

ENEMY SUBMARINE DECOY

 

coast of Ireland, what appeared to be a mine was observed floating on the surface of the water. The master [Lieutenant G, S. Gillard, R.N.R. (retired)], recognising that a mine was a danger to navigation, approached to within 200 yards. Rifle fire was then directed on the supposed mine, which was hit several times. The bullets of the .45 Martini appeared to produce no effect, so Captain Gillard decided to use his 4.7-inch gun. One shell fell close to the supposed mine but failed to detonate it. An hour after this attempt had been made to destroy what was thought to be a danger to shipping, the periscope of a submarine was seen on the starboard quarter. The enemy vessel at once pursued the British ship, firing from time to time. The Demerara put on her best speed and the enemy's fire was returned at 1,000 yards, the British red ensign having been hoisted. The submarine then dived. The Demerara was manoeuvred with skill so as to keep the submarine on the quarter between the wake and bow waves. Periodically the submarine showed her periscope, and each time fire was opened by the British ship. In all thirteen rounds were discharged. The thirteenth was a lucky shot. It appeared to strike the top of the periscope. As it did not ricochet, the captain of the Demerara assumed that the periscope had been hit. Whether that was the case or not, at any rate nothing further was seen of the submarine. Events supported the conjecture that the mine which the Demerara had tried to destroy was merely a decoy.

 

The incident had a curious sequel. On September 6th the German Legation at Buenos Aires delivered a note verbale to the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs to the effect that

 

" The steamer of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Demerara, which will arrive here probably to-morrow, the 7th, was guilty of attacking the armed forces of His Majesty the German Emperor. It is thus demonstrated that her armament was not mounted for purposes of defence. For this reason the Imperial Legation begs the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic to be good enough to take the requisite steps in order that the competent authorities shall apply the treatment of war vessels, from every point of view, to the said vessel on her arrival."

 

The British Government was able to show that the British vessel had employed its guns merely for the purpose of offering defence against an attack carried out, moreover, under cover of a decoy mine. Captain Gillard was mentioned in despatches in recognition of the skilful manner in which he had saved his vessel.

 

When May closed the record showed that in that month nineteen ships, of 84,025 tons, had been sunk. In the amount of tonnage destroyed, as well as in the number of men, women, and children killed, this month was the worst which had yet been experienced, and in no corresponding period during the remainder of the war did the destruction of human life reach so high a figure. In addition to the shipping destroyed, nineteen vessels, of 117,591 tons, were damaged or molested by enemy submarines. No losses were sustained owing to the action of mines or aircraft.

 

During the early months of the summer events were to show that the protest of the United States Government, the sense of brotherhood exhibited by neutral seamen, and the pluck, skill, and endurance of British officers and men were producing no effect on the official mind of Germany. It was still believed in Berlin that the submarine would prove the instrument of speedy victory, and then Germany would be free to deal with neutrals, and in particular with the United States. So the campaign against merchant shipping was pursued with a relentless insensibility to all human instincts. On the opening day of June eight men were killed when the Saidieh (3,803 tons) was sunk. On June 9th the Lady Salisbury (1,446 tons) went down, three men losing their lives, and six days later the master of the Strathnairn (4,336 tons), as well as twenty of his companions, was drowned.

 

The month closed with the sinking of the Armenian (8,825 tons) with the loss of twenty-nine lives, of the Scottish Monarch (5,043 tons) with a loss of fifteen lives, and of the Lomas (3,048 tons) with the loss of one life. The blowing up of the Arndale (3,583 tons) by a mine at the entrance to the White Sea, when three were killed, raised the death roll for the month of June to eighty-one.

 

Ample evidence was forthcoming that the Germans, in spite of their protestations, had no intention of abandoning the practice of torpedoing ships without

 

THE " SAIDIEH " AND " STRATHNAIRN "

 

warning. The Saidieh was on her way from Alexandria to Hull when she met her fate near the Elbow Buoy in the North Sea at 2 p.m. on June 2nd. She was unarmed, and had almost completed her voyage when a shock was felt from stem to stern and volumes of water rose on the starboard side. The chief mate (Mr. Daniel Jenkins), standing on the bridge with the Trinity pilot, who had been taken aboard at Deal, at once sounded the whistle and ordered all hands to get ready to lower the boats. Two minutes previously the master (Mr. J. R. Ryall) had gone into his cabin. He rushed to the deck when he felt the concussion. The ship was rapidly sinking, and within six minutes had disappeared beneath the waters. In addition to her crew of forty-one officers and men, she had on board eight distressed seamen. When the boats were swung out, six firemen and an A.B. were reported as missing, and the presumption was that they had been killed by the explosion. While No. 3 boat, which contained several members of the crew and the stewardess, was being lowered an accident occurred. One of the falls had been cut by a Greek seaman, the boat capsized, and the occupants were thrown into the water.

 

They were fortunately rescued, patrol-vessels having quickly come to the scene. While these events were occurring, the chief mate noticed a submarine's periscope 50 or 100 yards distant, but the enemy had no compassion on the unfortunate mariners and their companions. After being rescued, the stewardess died from the shock she had sustained. The survivors and the body of the dead stewardess were landed at Chatham.

 

The sinking of the Strathnairn caused heavier casualties than had occurred in any ordinary trading-vessel since the Tangistan went down on March 9th. The Strathnairn (master, Mr. John Browne) was bound from Penarth to Archangel with coal. At 9.30 p.m. on June 15th, when the vessel was twenty-five miles N, by E. from Bishop and Clerks, the second mate (Mr. J. H. Wood), who was asleep in his cabin, after being relieved by the chief officer, was thrown out of his bunk by an explosion. When he reached the deck he noticed that, although way was still on the ship, a lifeboat and a gig had been lowered and had been smashed against the vessel's side. Captain Browne came to the conclusion that the vessel was sinking and slipped down a lifeline into a lifeboat which had been lowered with a number of Chinese seamen in it. Owing to the boat's painter being cut before the boat had been released from the dropping gear, it also collided with the vessel's side and all the occupants were washed out of it. Realising the error which had been made in lowering the boats too soon, Mr, Wood waited until the ship was stopped before launching the remaining gig. Fortunately the Strathnairn, though a little deeper in the water, had taken only a slight list to port, and the gig was successfully launched with the assistance of the remaining ten Chinamen on board. Mr. Wood allowed the gig to drift astern in the hope of picking up the captain, but was disappointed.

 

At this moment he saw the periscope of a submarine moving round the stern of the vessel, taking no interest in the plight of the unhappy survivors. For some time the gig remained near the doomed ship, and then Mr. Wood decided to row to the eastward. Early on the following morning, after a night of many vicissitudes, he and his companions were picked up by the Amanda of Padstow, and later in the day reached Milford Haven. The experience of the first engineer (Mr. J. C. Smith) and the Chinese carpenter was less happy. The former jumped overboard with the Chinaman and throughout the night the two men, white man and yellow man, clung for life to a capsized boat. Not until 6.30 on the following morning, after nine hours' physical and mental agony, were they picked up by the Abbotsford of Glasgow and landed at Swansea.

 

These two vessels, together with the Inkum (4,747 tons), the Strathcarron (4,374 tons), the Lady Salisbury (1,446 tons), the Erna Boldt (1,731 tons), the Leuctra (3,027 tons), the Dulcie (2,033 tons), the Tunisiana (4,220 tons), and the Dumfriesshire (2,622 tons), were all torpedoed without warning. The Armenian, the Scottish Monarch, and the Lomas were, however, captured before being sunk. Nevertheless the loss of life was heavy. The first-named vessel, of the Leyland Line, was on voyage from Newport News to Avonmouth with 1,422 mules for H.M. Government. Shortly after noon on June 28th, she was steering to pass ten miles north of Lundy Island when she received a wireless message from Crookhaven stating that submarines were active south of the Smalls. The master (Mr. James Irickey) determined to make for Trevose Head. At 6.40 p.m.,

 

THE " ARMENIAN'S " GALLANT FIGHT

 

when twenty miles west of this point, a submarine was sighted on the port bow, about three miles away, steaming towards the Armenian on the surface. As the British ship, though unarmed, had a speed of 14 ½ knots, Captain Irickey decided to make a fight for it.

 

He accordingly headed for the submarine with the intention of ramming her. The enemy, however, opened fire and Captain Irickey turned his ship stern on to the submarine so as to decrease the target. Several shots fell ahead and astern of the merchantman until the range was found, when the wireless telegraph house was wrecked. Another shell entered the firehold and started a fire. Captain Irickey with his officers and men set to work to subdue the flames, but other fires were caused by subsequent shells. One struck the steering gear, putting it out of action, and another fell on the engine-room hatch, sending debris on to the engines, which were, however, kept at full speed. During this phase of the one-sided action twelve of the crew were killed and others injured. Captain Irickey still held on to his course.

 

When the unequal ordeal had lasted nearly an hour, the funnel was struck, the shell passing down into the body of the ship. The stokehold was put in darkness and the boilers were so damaged that steam could not be maintained. The master then realised that escape was impossible. He hoisted the white flag and blew the ship's whistle in token of surrender, preparations being made simultaneously to abandon ship. Whether the submarine failed to notice the British signals or was determined to punish to the uttermost so persistent an opponent will never be known. At any rate the shells continued to fall on the crippled vessel, damaging the boats' falls and causing some of the boats to hang by one fall only, with the result that many men were thrown into the water. Eventually all the surviving members of the crew were able to get away.

 

The captain, satisfied that no one was on board, himself left. But shortly afterwards an improvised raft was seen leaving the Armenian with the chief engineer, the veterinary surgeon, and the purser; they also were rescued. When all six boats were clear of the ship, the submarine approached and, getting into position on the port quarter, fired a torpedo into the Armenian. Under Captain Irickey's orders, the hatches of the lower hold had previously been battened down, the ballast tanks pumped out, and the refrigerator boxes secured, thus giving additional buoyancy to the vessel. Consequently the first torpedo left the Armenian still afloat and another was discharged, this time into the stokehold, with the result that the ship forthwith began to sink rapidly. Owing to the action of the captain, the enemy had to expend about fifty shells, as well as two torpedoes. As she sank rapidly the Armenian, with a length of 530 feet, presented a remarkable spectacle; half her length was reared into the air.

 

The ship having been dispatched, the submarine — U38 — dived and disappeared. The commander showed, however, a measure of humanity; before diving he rescued three or four men from the water. Captain Irickey's boat being the only one with a compass, the other boats were collected and connected astern. A course was then made for land under sail. At 7 o'clock the following morning the Belgian steam trawler President Stein took the men on board and at noon turned them over to the destroyers Mansfield and Milne, which landed them at Avonmouth that afternoon. The unequal action resulted in the loss of twenty-nine lives, including the fourth engineer and twenty American cattle attendants. The Admiralty marked their appreciation of the master's efforts to save his ship and its valuable cargo by conferring upon him the Distinguished Service Cross. The quartermaster, W. A. Goss, and two firemen, T. Davies and E. G. Talbot, received the D.S.M., and the second officer, Mr. H. O. Davies, and the chief engineer, Mr. J. Crighton, obtained "mentions."

 

The Scottish Monarch was a slower ship than the Armenian, but nevertheless the master (Mr. R. H. Potter) made a determined effort to get away from the enemy. The vessel was forty miles south of Ballycottin Light, County Cork, when the third officer sighted two submarines about two miles off on the starboard beam. They were flying the German ensign. Captain Potter immediately went on the bridge and starboarded his helm so as to bring the submarines astern of him. He proceeded to steer a zigzag course at about 11 ½ knots. One of the submarines then disappeared, but the other quickly overhauled the Scottish Monarch and when about a mile away opened fire.

 

THE " SCOTTISH MONARCH " TORPEDOED

 

The first shell did little damage, but three later ones, fired at close quarters, made a hole in the port side of the vessel. There was nothing for it but to stop the engines and lower the boats, into which the crew made their escape. Captain Potter, however, remained on the bridge while the submarine continued firing at intervals, holding the starboard side. When the decks of the Scottish Monarch were awash, the master got into his own boat during an interval in the attack, and three-quarters of an hour later the Scottish Monarch sank out of sight. Captain Potter and nineteen of the crew were picked up by the Miami of Glasgow, about thirty miles south of Hook Point, early on the following morning and landed the same day.

 

The submarine's attack had caused no casualties, but in leaving all these men afloat far from land the enemy became responsible for the loss of fifteen lives. The sea was choppy and the two boats which were still afloat remained in company for some time, but soon the one under the first mate (Mr. J. Gabrielsen) capsized. All the hands managed to regain the boat, but she was full of water and the tanks were adrift on the starboard side. In the meantime sight had been lost of the master's boat. The unfortunate men, with the first mate, were left without hope of succour in their waterlogged craft.

 

Before midnight she had capsized three times more and only four men were left — the first mate, the carpenter (Michael Appson), and two seamen, all of them with lifebelts on. On the following morning a vessel was seen, and the carpenter hoisted a handkerchief on a stick hoping to attract attention. Although the strange ship passed close by the boat, the pitiful signal of distress was evidently not seen. Then the two seamen became exhausted and were washed overboard. Vessels appeared on the horizon and disappeared, since there was no means of attracting their attention. About five o'clock that afternoon, after weary hours of hope unfulfilled, the first mate, who was sitting aft, dropped with exhaustion into the water which filled the boat, and died. The Scottish Monarch having gone down on the evening of June 29th, it was not until eight o'clock on the evening of July 1st that the carpenter, the sole survivor of the boatload, was picked up by a fishing-boat and landed on the following afternoon at St. Ives, where the body of the first mate was quietly carried ashore. Among the flotsam and jetsam washed up at Ile de Batz nearly a fortnight later was a cylindrical lifebuoy bearing the name of the sunken ship, all that remained of the Scottish Monarch of Glasgow.

 

The experience of the Lomas, to the sinking of which reference has been made, was happily less tragic. All went well on her voyage from Buenos Aires to Belfast until June 30th, when the vessel was some distance off Bishop Rock. The master (Mr. Phillip Evans) was on the bridge when, in the clear morning light, he saw a submarine about two miles astern of him well exposed on the surface. He at once gave orders for all possible speed and steered so as to keep the enemy ship astern of him. The submarine gave chase, and when she had drawn within two miles of the Lomas began firing.

 

Captain Evans still held on his course, counting the shells as they fell. Seventeen shells were fired and nine of them hit the vessel, the second mate being killed. The Lomas was only making about 7 ½ knots, so, as escape was impossible, the master stopped the ship after an ordeal which had lasted an hour and a half. The submarine was then almost alongside the vessel. When the crew had left the ship in the boats, the enemy vessel set to work to sink her by gunfire and torpedo. As the Lomas began to settle down, the submarine commander hailed the lifeboats to put the inquiries which, according to established custom, should have preceded offensive action. What was the name of the vessel and her nationality, her tonnage and cargo; where did she come from and where was she bound? All these questions having been answered, and the Lomas having gone down, the submarine disappeared. One man had been killed during the stern chase, but the master and the rest of the crew were fortunate in being picked up within an hour and landed at Milford Haven.

 

These were a few of the tragic incidents which marked the progress of the submarine campaign during the month following upon the destruction of the Lusitania and the dispatch of the Note of protest by the United States Government. The record would be incomplete were there no reference to the circumstances which attended the destruction of the Iona (3,344 tons) on June 3rd. The Iona was twenty-two miles off Fair Island (lat. 59 degrees 13' N,

 

HEAVY LOSSES ON JULY 1

 

and long. 1 degrees 12' W.) when she was pursued by a submarine. The master (Mr. D. Ritchie) had hopes of escape and ordered all possible speed. The submarine then began firing, one shot passing through the after wheel-house, and a second striking the port side of the saloon. Captain Ritchie's own cabin was wrecked and a fireman was injured. Realising that it was hopeless to make further resistance, the master stopped the ship and the crew took to the boats. While the men were taking their places, the enemy ship continued firing, one shot injuring the second mate; the steward was also slightly wounded. The ship was then sunk by a torpedo. The shipless officers and men were thus left afloat without apparent hope of rescue. The submarine, after sinking the Iona, destroyed a trawler which was in the vicinity, and the merchant seamen and fishermen then joined company and shaped a course for land. They rowed in desperation through the night, and happily on the following morning were sighted by the patrol trawler Dover and taken into Kirkwall.

 

The month of July (1915) opened badly for the British Mercantile Marine, no fewer than seven vessels being destroyed on the first day. Of these two were attacked near the Fastnet and the remainder at the entrance of the English Channel. The enemy continued to exhibit a wide catholicity, not disdaining to sink comparatively small sailing-vessels, at a great expenditure of time, labour, and explosives. The enemy's methods in this respect were illustrated in the case of the sailing-vessel L. C. Tower (518 tons).

 

This little four-mast schooner (master, Mr. L. C. Tower) was on her way to Newport, Monmouthshire, with timber when she fell in with a submarine. With all sails set, she was making a course towards Lundy Island. It must have been apparent to the Germans that the vessel was of comparative unimportance, but, nevertheless, they overhauled the L. C. Tower at their best speed, ordered the vessel to be abandoned, and then expended a good deal of trouble in setting her on fire. The crew got ashore at Crookhaven in their motor-boat, and the vessel, burnt to the water's edge, was afterwards towed into Berehaven.

 

On the afternoon of the same day the Welbury (3,591 tons) was sunk in the same locality. The master (Mr. Robert Newton), on noticing that the enemy was trying to signal " Abandon ship immediately," turned his vessel's head towards the nearest point of land. The submarine, noticing the manoeuvre, proceeded to cut the Welbury off, and then discharged a warning gun. The pursuit was a short one, as the enemy craft had the advantage of speed, and, moreover, maintained a steady fire on the vessel, not ceasing even after she had stopped. One shot went through the engine-room. Whereas in the case of the L. C. Tower the British flag was confiscated, no step was taken to obtain such a souvenir out of the Welbury.

 

More serious events were in the meantime happening at the entrance to the Channel; the Gadsby (3,497 tons), the Craigard (3,286 tons), and the Richmond (3,214 tons) being sunk off the Wolf Rock, and the Caucasian (4,656 tons) and the Inglemoor (4,331 tons) captured and destroyed off the Lizard. In the case of the Gadsby (master, Mr. St. John Olive) the submarine commander showed unexpected consideration for the men whom he was leaving afloat in their small boats; he inquired whether they had provisions and sails, and then, giving them the position — which proved to be incorrect — torpedoed the merchant ship and disappeared. Fortunately the crew was soon afterwards picked up by a Greek steamer and landed at Londonderry, without further misadventure, two days later.

 

At this early date in the submarine campaign, British seamen were irritated by the ignominious fate which was dogging them; their vessels were in most cases of slow speed and they were, in accordance with the custom of many years, without any means of defence. The story of the Craigard (master, Mr. A. McCullough) may be given as typical of the misfortunes which often faced the dauntless men of the British Merchant Navy. From the beginning of his voyage, from Galveston (Texas) to Le Havre, nothing but disaster had befallen him. On June 16th the high-pressure engine broke down. That seemed the crowning disaster. After a stoppage of ten hours. Captain McCullough was able to proceed at an average speed of 7 ½ knots. His troubles, however, were not over.

 

" At about 8.30 p.m. July 1st and in lat. 49 degrees 8', long. 6 degrees 10' W. I saw," he afterwards declared, " to the southward of us, and at a distance of about six to seven miles.

 

A CURIOUS INCIDENT

 

what seemed to me something like a torpedo-boat coming up to us very fast, a dense volume of smoke coming from the craft. I had my doubts what this stranger might be; however, I was not long kept in suspense, for without any warning whatever the stranger commenced firing at us, and as he came nearer he displayed a signal to get into the boats at once, and at the same time he hoisted the German flag. When he commenced firing I ordered the helm hard a-starboard, stopped my engines, and ordered the boats to be lowered, keeping the craft as well astern as possible. He kept firing away at us until he saw the boats in the water. Then he went on the port quarter and let us have a few more on the port side. He then left us and went after another steamer about a mile to the north of us and commenced shelling this steamer, putting about a dozen shells into her on both sides. Afterwards he returned to my steamer and finished her off about 9 p.m. of the same date; it being dark at the time, I do not know whether he boarded her or not, as we were about a mile away from the steamer when a terrific explosion occurred at the hour named above. Thus I was forced to abandon my ship through not having any arms on board to retaliate or defend ourselves, and, being in a helpless state as regards speed, I could not do more than I did."

 

The crew were more fortunate than perhaps they realised at the time. None of them was injured, and eight hours after they had taken to the boats they were picked up by one of His Majesty's ships and landed at Plymouth. The sinking of the Caucasian and the Inglemoor took place in the early morning, and was marked by an incident suggesting that, though the enemy was bent on ignoring the higher code of humanity, some of the German seamen still retained, curiously enough, a kindly feeling towards dumb animals. The Caucasian (master, Mr. F. H. Robinson), on voyage from London to Norfolk and Jacksonville, U.S.A., was about eighty miles south of the Lizard when at 5,45 a.m. a submarine was sighted in the clear morning light. She was on the surface and was coming at full speed towards the merchantman. She signalled "Abandon ship at once," but Captain Robinson, though his vessel could not do more than about 9 knots, ignored the order and steered a zigzag course, hoping to keep the enemy astern. The submarine then opened fire, the shells falling all round the Caucasian, and at last the steersman left the wheel. The master, who had been on the upper bridge watching the movements of the submarine, descended to the lower bridge and took the wheel, while the second mate remained on the lookout. After a chase of sixty-five minutes, the seventeenth shell struck the compass stand and steering standard, with disastrous results, the vessel becoming unmanageable.

 

When the crew had taken to the boats, the enemy commander came alongside and declared that he intended to sink even the lifeboats, because his order to stop had not been obeyed. At that moment Captain Robinson's dog fell overboard, and instinctively he jumped into the water to save it. He was clinging to the rails of the submarine, when the German commander exclaimed with surprise, "You jump overboard to save a dog!" The master made no reply, but the commander, evidently moved at Captain Robinson's affection for his dog, announced that the boats could proceed.

 

That there was a limit to the enemy's consideration was, however, proved a short time afterwards when the Inglemoor (master, Mr. A. W. Stonehouse) appeared on the scene. Captain Stonehouse, noticing the two boats full of men with a submarine nearbv, decided to rescue the distressed mariners; he hoped that the enemy would, in the circumstances, spare his own vessel. He was, however, to be disappointed. He was compelled to abandon the Inglemoor under heavy fire. He reminded the enemy commander that the crews of the two vessels amounted to about one hundred men, and asked permission for them to go on board the motor-barge he had been towing. The request was granted. The submarine then torpedoed the Inglemoor and nothing more was seen of her. Jury-sails were rigged on the barge, the master and men of the Caucasian were picked up, and later on the motor engine was started. These companions in misfortune fortunately fell in with a patrol-vessel soon after noon and were eventually taken in to Penzance, thankful that they had fared no worse than they had done. Captain Robinson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

 

In one day upwards of 23,000 tons of shipping had been sunk, but fortunately the enemy was unable to maintain

 

ACTIVITIES OF U39

 

this high standard of destruction during the remainder of the month, which closed with a total loss of less than 49,000 tons owing to the submarine campaign. On July 3rd only two ships, the Renfrew (3,488 tons) and the Larchmore (4,355 tons), were captured, both of them being sunk by gunfire off the Wolf Rock, an area which had already yielded the enemy so many prizes. The master of the latter ship (Mr. Isaac Jones) afterwards put on record a succinct, but none the less eloquent, account of his experiences.

 

In the early morning he heard two muffled reports to the east-south-east, apparently some distance away. Shortly afterwards two destroyers crossed his bow going full speed towards the firing, and the Larchmore forthwith hoisted her colours. This dramatic incident occurred at 5.30 in the morning, and suggested that U39, which had already done so much injury, was being hotly pursued. The Larchmore proceeded on her voyage, the course of events suggesting that immediate danger of an attack was over. Shortly after seven o'clock, however, the submarine appeared again, half submerged, two to two and a half miles away. She at once rose to the surface and opened fire. A rapid succession of shots fell on the merchant ship, and Captain Jones was thrown down by the concussion, injuring his knee. For a quarter of an hour the firing was vigorously maintained as the submarine drew in towards the doomed vessel. One shell killed the donkeyman, and the ship was holed in several places. Escape was impossible, so the crew took to the boats, shells falling round them as they sought this miserable means of safety.

 

The submarine afterwards approached the boats where the dying donkeyman lay, and Captain Jones was cross-examined. This minor ordeal was soon over, and the submarine resumed firing into the merchant vessel. He was busily engaged in this task when a cruiser appeared on the horizon. Assistance had come too late to save the ship, but at least the crew were assured of their own safety. Captain Isaac Jones, who was mentioned in despatches, was, in company with the other survivors, afterwards landed at Falmouth, together with the master (Mr. J. F. Stevenson) of the Renfrew, which had also been submitted to a heavy bombardment because the master had refused to capitulate at the first signal which U39 had made. Two other ships, the Arabia (7,933 tons) and the Guido (2,093 tons), were also chased on this day, but managed to escape.

 

Only two ships were attacked on July 4th, and one of these, the little sailing-vessel Sunbeam (132 tons), was captured off Wick. A conspicuous vindication of the resourcefulness and high courage of British merchant seamen was supplied by the officers and men of the Anglo Californian (7,333 tons). At 8.30 a.m. this vessel, on passage from Montreal with a large number of horses, was about ninety miles south of Queenstown when an enemy submarine was sighted breaking surface on the port beam about three miles away. The master (Mr. Frederick Parslow) immediately realised the imminent danger which confronted him. Every effort was made to increase speed, and the ship was manoeuvred so as to bring the enemy astern. An S.O.S. signal was sent out, and to the relief of everyone on board was at once answered by a British man-of-war. For half an hour the submarine continued to chase the Anglo-Californian, gaining on her rapidly. At last the enemy came within firing distance, and then for an hour and a half, while the merchantman zigzagged backwards and forwards to confuse the aim of the enemy, a steady fire was maintained.

 

The British vessel was frequently hit, and in order to save life Captain Parslow decided to obey the signal to abandon ship. The engines were stopped and the boats manned: the port after lifeboat was successfully lowered, but one of the falls of the starboard boat was struck by a shell, with the result that the boat fell away and capsized. The submarine at last ceased firing and then closed. Captain Parslow's courage in maintaining the chase had not, however, been fruitless, for at this juncture an armed ship, the Princess Ena, which had been slowly overhauling the submarine, opened fire at 9,000 yards, to the consternation of the enemy. The shot fell short, but a wireless message from a destroyer " to hold on " gave Captain Parslow fresh courage. The course of events seemed to be favouring him, so the firemen who were in the boat still on the davits were ordered to go once more below, and orders were given for the ship to get under way. The men responded with fine spirit to the master's orders. The submarine, fearing that after all the ship might escape, opened fire at close range on the bridge and boats, rifles as well as the vessel's

 

AN EPIC OF THE SEA

 

guns being brought into use. Captain Parslow and his men were without any means of defence. In a few moments the upper bridge had been wrecked and the master killed; the steering wheel and compass had been damaged and one of the port davits smashed, causing a boat to drop into the sea, together with all its occupants. The chief officer again ordered the ship to be abandoned, the firemen came up from below, and the remaining boats were manned and lowered. The outlook seemed black when suddenly the destroyers Mentor and Miranda steamed up. The submarine, counting discretion the better part of valour, dived out of sight. The Anglo Californian then proceeded under escort to Queenstown, which was reached in safety.

 

Captain Parslow had succeeded in saving his ship, but at the sacrifice of his own life, and twenty members of his crew were also killed, seven others being wounded. Everyone on board, from the master downward, had exhibited pluck and coolness, as well as seamanlike competency, in the emergency. Frederick Parslow, the son of the master, had remained on the upper bridge with his father throughout the action, steering the ship. By little short of a miracle, he was unwounded, although one of the spokes of the wheel was blown away and the bridge was riddled. Under the unnerving circumstances which confronted him down below, the chief engineer (who, with Mr. Frederick Parslow, afterwards received the Distinguished Service Cross) maintained discipline. Throughout the fierce fusillade the wireless telegraph operator stuck to his post on the lower bridge, sending and receiving accurately a number of messages. A veterinary surgeon (Mr. F. Neal), who was in charge of the 900 horses on board, not only rendered aid to the animals, of which twenty were killed, but under heavy fire attended to wounded members of the crew. The chief officer (Mr. H. O. Read), who in the later phase of the action, after the death of the master, acquitted himself well, was, in common with the second engineer (Mr. H. F. Suddes) and the wireless operator, awarded a mention in despatches. As long as the memory of these early days of the submarine campaign persists, the story of the unequal fight put up by the unarmed Anglo-Californian under her heroic captain will be retold as an epic of the war by sea.

 

That the Germans had lost respect for the common humanities to which civilised seamen of all nationalities, not excluding avowed pirates of earlier days, had always paid respect, was shown by the circumstances in which the Meadowfield (2,750 tons) was destroyed on July 9th. The four preceding days had been disappointing for the enemy. On the 5th, on the 6th, and on the 7th not a single vessel had been captured. Aircraft had unsuccessfully attacked the Groningen (988 tons) four miles off the Galloper, but the bombs had missed their objective and she had escaped unscathed. The 8th was also a poor one for the Germans, for only one ship, the Guido (2,093 tons), was torpedoed off Rattray Head. The Traquair (1,067 tons) was chased on the same day near Knock Deep, but her speed enabled her to escape.

 

The submarine commanders must have known that the German Admiralty were anxiously looking for better results than were being achieved, and it may be that irritation under failure accounted for the callousness exhibited by the submarine which fell in with the Meadowfield on the afternoon of July 9th. She was a Glasgow vessel and was carrying copper ore from Huelva. She had started on her voyage on July 3rd, and was fifty miles south-west of the Tuskar when the master (Mr. Thomas Dunbar) heard the sound of a shot. He took up his glasses to ascertain whence it had come. Just as he had picked up the outline of a submarine on the port quarter, another shot was fired which wrecked the chart-room under the bridge as well as the wheel-house, killing Neil McLean, who was at the wheel. Captain Dunbar immediately ordered the engines to be stopped. In addition to his crew he was carrying five passengers, including two ladies and two children, and he could not put their lives in added danger by resistance. He had confidence that if the Germans realised that the Meadowfield had on board children as well as women they would at least cease firing while the boats were lowered. So the two children were held up and must have been seen by two of the officers of the submarine who were watching all that was happening on board the vessel through their glasses. That they had no mercy was proved by the fact that the shelling of the merchant-ship still continued. In a statement which he subsequently made on oath, Captain Dunbar recorded subsequent events:

 

AN UNEQUAL STRUGGLE

 

" Deponent (?) ordered the boats out, and the mate and fourteen hands got into the port boat and deponent and the remainder of those on board, who included two lady passengers, one male passenger, and two children, got into the second boat, which was the starboard lifeboat. As the port boat was being lowered the submarine ceased firing, but as soon as she got clear recommenced, and continued firing during the time deponent's boat was being lowered and got away."

 

Thus Captain Dunbar found himself in charge of two heavily laden boats, which included among their freights two women and two children, forty-two miles from the nearest land. The submarine continued to shell the Meadowfield until she sank, and then disappeared. Fortunately at 9 o'clock that night the two boats were seen by the Grimsby trawler Majestic, and Captain Dunbar and his companions were safely landed at Holyhead shortly after midnight. That the sinking of the Meadowfield resulted in the loss of only one life was due to no consideration on the part of the Germans.

 

On the same day the Ellesmere (1,170 tons) was torpedoed forty-eight miles from the Smalls, apparently by the same submarine. The master (Mr. C. W. Heslop) was on passage to Liverpool when the enemy was sighted two miles on the starboard bow. Captain Heslop brought the submarine astern of him and then the shells began to fall. The second one carried away the after davit of the starboard lifeboat. Four other shells afterwards struck the ship, but still the master hoped against hope that he might save his ship. With shells falling around him, he still held on his course. At last a shell passed through the bridge deck, killing one man and shattering the left arm of another. The firemen down below were in no mood to continue the unequal struggle, and, as there was no place from which to navigate the vessel, the master ordered the Red Ensign to be lowered in token of surrender. A few minutes later, after the crew had got away, the Ellesmere was torpedoed. Captain Heslop, who was subsequently " mentioned " for his spirited conduct, had made a plucky effort to save his ship, and in his sworn statement after he and his companions had been rescued by the armed trawler Osprey II, he declared that the casualty " might have been avoided by having a gun and a gun's crew on board the Ellesmere." That was the cry of many ships' masters at this period, but new armies were being raised and equipped and required all the armament which the country could provide.

 

These were the only two vessels which were sunk on July 9th; two other ships were attacked, but effected their escape. The Pacific Steam Navigation Company's Orduna (15,499 tons) was molested by gunfire and torpedo off Queenstown; the gunfire was ineffective, and the torpedo missed the target. For the second time the master (T. M. Taylor) could congratulate himself on the skilful and successful handling of the great liner he commanded, for on the 28th of the previous month he had been chased off the Smalls. Another vessel which was also brought safely into port on July 9th was the Leyland liner Etonian (6,438 tons), which, having eluded the enemy near Queenstown on May 7th, was again chased by a submarine off the south of Ireland. Competent use of her high speed saved her from destruction.

 

The master (J. C. Murray) of the Winlaton (3,270 tons) showed on July 10th how even a slow ship handled with determination could worst the enemy. The afternoon was far spent when a submarine was seen steaming hard towards the merchantman with the evident intention of cutting her off. The Winlaton had little speed, and her master dismissed the idea of a chase. He decided that his only course was to steer straight for the enemy. This he proceeded to do, to the evident surprise of the officers of the submarine. The Germans watched the merchantman for some time, and when she was about a mile away from them they put the nose of the submarine down and were soon out of sight. Twenty minutes later the submarine again appeared on the surface, well astern of the Winlaton, but after a short interval steamed slowly away. This was the first instance reported to the Admiralty of a slow ship sighting a submarine at a distance and by steering straight for her causing her to dive and decline action. In recognition of his initiative and courage, Captain Murray was given a commission as a Lieutenant, R.N.R. and a " mention."

 

During the remainder of the month, though thirteen ships were chased by submarines, only six of them were

 

THE TOLL OF JULY 23

 

destroyed, and of these but two — the Grangewood (3,422 tons) and the Iberian (5,223 tons) — exceeded 2,000 tons. The master of the last-named ship (Mr. Thomas B. Jago) attempted to get away. Circumstances seemed to favour him, for the submarine was about seven miles distant when first sighted in a position over seventy miles south of the Fastnet. He had under his orders a well-found ship with a turn for speed, and when he gave orders for a full head of steam he received excellent support from the engine-room. The enemy, however, had evidently noticed that the Iberian was unarmed, and he had no hesitation, therefore, in attempting to overhaul her. As he gained upon the merchantman, shells began to fall, and one of them pierced the deck and decapitated four men besides wounding several others. The next shell struck in the same place and blew one man to pieces. Captain Jago realised that he could not expose his crew to further risk of death, and accordingly he ordered the ship to be stopped.

 

Leaving behind the bodies of the four men who had been killed, but taking with them the eight wounded, the officers and remaining men manned the boats and were soon clear of the doomed vessel. The submarine then closed in and discharged a torpedo into the Iberian. The commander, having reproached Captain Jago with running away, provided bandages and lint for the wounded, and then, having discharged another torpedo into the port side of the merchantman, disappeared. "Had I had a gun," the master afterwards recorded, " I would have sunk the submarine and certainly the Iberian would have escaped." Late that night the boats attracted the attention of a steamer, which took the exhausted officers and men on board. Before Queenstown was reached two of the wounded seamen died. Captain Jago was " mentioned " for his service.

 

During the remaining days of the month sixteen more lives were lost, four on board the Firth (406 tons), which was sunk near Aldeburgh Napes buoy, and eleven in the Mangara (1,821 tons), which was destroyed near Sizewell buoy, Aldeburgh. Both vessels were torpedoed without warning. The other casualty occurred in the Turquoise (486 tons). This ship, together with the Nugget (405 tons), was captured and sunk by gunfire off the Scillies. The month of July closed with the loss of twenty ships, of 52,847 tons, the African Monarch (4,003 tons) having been blown up by a mine on the 6th of the month at the entrance of the White Sea and two men killed. Nineteen other ships, of 88,886 tons, had been molested or damaged, including two which struck mines and the one, already mentioned, which had been attacked by aircraft. The deaths reached a total of fifty-nine.

 

During August enemy submarines made a determined attempt to justify the high hopes which the Germans had entertained when they determined to employ submarines, as well as mines, in attacking ocean-borne trade. Before the month closed forty-nine vessels of the British Mercantile Marine, of 147,122 tons, had been sunk with a loss of no fewer than 248 lives. Twenty-one other ships had escaped, but nevertheless the toll exacted of men and ships was a heavy one. So far as tonnage is concerned, it was indeed the most successful month the Germans had hitherto experienced, and it was apparent that exceptional efforts were being made to support public confidence throughout Germany in the ultimate victory of the Central Powers as the result of the campaign. Although seven ships disappeared after striking mines, the great bulk of the tonnage fell to the submarine. August 1915 was indeed a black month for British shipowners and British seamen.

 

On August 1st the Clintonia (3,830 tons), after a spirited defence by her master (Mr. Geoffrey Donnelly) under a heavy fire, was sunk thirty miles from Ushant; five Europeans and five Lascars were drowned owing to the capsizing of a ship's boat, and a number of men were wounded during the running fire which the submarine maintained before Captain Donnelly ordered his engines to be stopped.

 

On the same day three more casualties from drowning occurred when the Banza (2,320 tons) was overtaken off Ushant by U68. After the ship had been abandoned and had disappeared beneath the waves and the submarine had gone away, the shipless crew hoisted sail. One of the boats capsized; she was righted with difficulty, but was still waterlogged and the sails had been lost. About an hour later she again capsized and was once more righted. For six hours the unfortunate seamen, when they were not fighting for life in the water, were

 

AN OUTSTANDING CRIME

 

sitting in the boat with the water covering them up to the chest. One fireman became delirious and fell to the bottom of the boat and was drowned before he could be picked up. His body was quietly lowered over the side. Fortunately, during the evening of this tragic Sunday a French fishing-boat rescued the twelve survivors. The other boat of the Ranza was picked up by a Dutch vessel.

 

During the succeeding days of August the losses of tonnage continued to mount up, many useful vessels of considerable tonnage being destroyed. On the 3rd inst. the Costello (1,591 tons) was sunk by gunfire ninety-five miles W. by S. from Bishop Rock, with a loss of one life; two men were killed in the Glenby (2,196 tons) thirty miles N. from the Smalls; two seamen were killed in the Dunsley (4,930 tons), which was sunk off the Old Head of Kinsale; and then occurred one of the outstanding crimes of the submarine campaign when the White Star Company's liner Arabic (15,801 tons) was sunk by U24.

 

The enemy craft had bombarded the naphtha tanks near Harrington on August 16th, and then, proceeding by way of the St. George's Channel, had reached a position where the Atlantic traffic was thick. The Arabic had left Liverpool early in the afternoon of August 18th with 137 cabin passengers and forty-nine third-class passengers, of whom many were of neutral nationality. They included twenty-six Americans, as well as French, Russians, Belgians, Swiss and Spanish travellers, with a German who possessed a Home Office permit. The crew numbered 248. As the vessel was outward bound to the United States, there was no possibility that she carried ammunition. All the boats were fully equipped and carried compasses, oilbags, oil lamps, sea anchors, and matches, and were in a thoroughly seaworthy condition. The boats were carried inboard on their chocks, and all rafts and patent boats were unlashed and ready to float off. Six hundred lifebelts had been placed about the decks, fore and aft, so as to be handy in case of an emergency. The watertight doors had been closed, as well as the doors of the shaft tunnel, and the lower deck ports had been secured. Every precaution had, in fact, been taken to secure the safety of the ship and all on board.

 

About 9 o'clock on the following morning, when the vessel was about fifty miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, a steamer was sighted five miles away on the starboard bow. The Arabic was zigzagging, in view of the general peril to which British ships were exposed in these waters, and the general direction of her course gradually brought her nearer to what was evidently a British merchant ship, which was stopped. It was noticed that two boats under sail, full of men, were making towards the land, which was, of course, out of sight. Observers on board the Arabic saw that the steamer was well down by the head, and realised at once that she had been torpedoed by the enemy. This vessel was the Dunsley of London, which had been subjected to a heavy shelling for twenty minutes — two men being killed, as already stated, and six others injured before the master (Mr. P. L. Arkley) abandoned hope of saving his ship.

 

The chief officer and the second officer were on watch on the bridge of the Arabic when the sinking Dunsley came into sight. The master of the Arabic (Mr. W. Finch) concluded that the Dunsley had been torpedoed, so he altered course about three points to the southward, intending to keep well clear of the area in which a submarine might be lurking. For some time the liner continued on her new course, still zigzagging, and a wireless message was promptly dispatched notifying the fate which had overtaken the Dunsley.

 

No submarine, however, was seen at this period either from the bridge or by the lookout men. The passengers and others who were watching the Dunsley sinking lower and lower in the water were hoping that after all the Arabic would escape molestation, when the ship was shaken from end to end by an explosion, the wireless-room being wrecked and the aerial carried away. The second officer (Mr. F. F. Steele) had just moved to the starboard end of the bridge when a line of air-bubbles on the starboard bow, about 100 yards away, caught his attention. He instantly realised that a torpedo had been discharged at the liner, and he shouted to the master, " Here he is, sir. He has let go at us. Hard a-starboard! " Captain Finch, who had also observed the menacing streak, at once gave orders for a full head of steam and the helm was put over. Everyone on board who was aware of the impending crisis anxiously waited to see if the ship would clear the torpedo. Doubt was quickly resolved, the vessel being struck aft, almost

 

U24 SINKS THE " ARABIC "

 

abreast of the jigger mast. The Arabic was doomed; the second officer put the engine-room telegraph to " Stop " and then to " Full speed astern" so as to get way off her, and thus enable the boats to be launched. Captain Finch, noticing that the ship was beginning to list to port, ordered everyone to the boats, for there was no time to be lost.

 

It is unnecessary to describe the scene on board when the passengers, who included a large number of women and children, realised that within a few minutes the Arabic would probably sink. The sequel showed that the ship had been well organised for an emergency; while of the crew of 243, 21 lost their lives, only 18 passengers — 12 cabin and 6 steerage — were reported missing, so efficiently and quickly were the boats swung out, lowered, and filled. Seeing that the time which separated the impact of the torpedo and the sinking of the Arabic amounted to only eight minutes, it was due to no act of mercy on the part of the enemy that the death-roll was not far greater.

 

Captain Finch remained on the bridge directing operations for the saving of life, and when the Arabic sank, having righted herself before she plunged stern first, he went down with her. A few seconds later he rose to the surface, to discover that his vessel had completely disappeared. A man of robust build, of about seventeen stone, he managed to cling to a raft from which, exhausted though he was, he swam to a boat. He helped a fireman into her and then picked up a woman and a baby before he himself sought this poor means of safety. After another fireman had been rescued, the whole of the little company transferred to a lifeboat which was near-by, and Captain Finch took command of all the craft which were afloat among the wreckage. Mr. Bowen, chief officer, and Mr. Oliver, first officer, had also remained in the ship until the last, Mr. Oliver diving overboard from the forward part of B Deck on the starboard side, while Mr. Bowen slid down the after fall of No. 1 emergency boat, to be picked up by one of the boats already in the water.

 

As soon as the engines had stopped, all hands left the stokehold except one man who was standing by the telegraphs and a junior engineer (Mr. P. G. Logan). No purpose was to be served in remaining, so they too began to climb up to the deck. What happened to the fireman is uncertain, but Mr. Logan escaped and was afterwards able to give an account of his experiences. He left the engine-room on the port side of the deck below the main deck. Securing a lifebelt, he ran along the port alleyway. When he had advanced a short distance, the water met him and he threw the lifebelt away, as it impeded his progress. At last he was able to reach the companionway to the poop, which was already three feet under water. On the starboard side a boat, with about a dozen persons in it, was already afloat on the falls, indicating the rapidity with which the Arabic was sinking. Mr. Logan unhooked the forward fall and a quartermaster released the after fall. The boat was thus got clear of the vessel, which disappeared a few minutes later. Just as the Arabic was sinking, Mr. Logan saw a collapsible boat with six or seven persons in her, who were apparently unable to control her. As the boat was only ten or fifteen yards away, he took off his boots and boiler suit and swam towards her, and then took charge. With the aid of his companions, he pulled towards the wreckage and fourteen persons were rescued from the water.

 

In the meantime Mr. Steele, the second officer, had taken charge of No. 11 boat, which was safely lowered with thirty-seven occupants. The first officer had found temporary safety in this overcrowded boat, but a few minutes later he transferred to another, while the third officer went to a collapsible boat which was near-by. Apparently a large proportion of the deaths were due to the capsizing of No. 16 boat. This craft was drawn by the suction of the water towards the rapidly sinking Arabic, which had assumed an almost perpendicular position. A davit caught the boat and smashed it into pieces. Forty-two or forty-three people were consequently thrown into the water. An able seaman managed to reach one of the rafts, with which the White Star Line had recently equipped the Arabic as well as other vessels under their control, and from this position of comparative safety he effected a number of rescues. The carpenter of the Arabic, Norman MacAuley, was also responsible for saving a number of lives. As soon as the fate of the vessel was certain, he went to the saloon door on Deck C and assisted some ladies in putting on their lifebelts. He then plunged down to the after part of

 

BRITISH SPIRITS

 

E Deck to investigate the damage which had been done there, but he was driven back by the flow of water. Going to the boat deck, he was able to give aid to a number of other lady passengers and subsequently returned to Deck C. He afterwards gave an account of his later experiences:

 

" My boat station was No. 7. I helped people into No. 7 boat and then, as there were plenty of hands there, I assisted others into No. 5 and No. 3 boats. The water was now coming over the stern, and C Deck was submerged for a considerable distance. No. 3 boat was filled up, and as no passengers were to be seen on deck, I took my place in this lifeboat and kept her clear of the ship's side as she was lowered. The boat reached the water safely. My boat picked up two other persons — one steward and one passenger — after the boat had sailed four times through the wreckage."

 

These chance stories of the manner in which the Arabic, with her freight of 429 persons, was abandoned in the urgent emergency convey some conception of the fine spirit exhibited by officers and men, from Captain Finch downwards, in their care of those confided to their charge. Fortunately the S.O.S. signal which had been sent out by the liner when the Dunsley was seen to be in distress was responded to quickly by patrol vessels, and all the survivors, numbering 390, were landed at Queenstown.

 

The remainder of the month yielded other incidents to show that nothing that had yet occurred by sea had broken the spirit of British merchant seamen. They would not admit defeat even when, unarmed themselves, they were confronted by a desperate enemy possessing gun and torpedo in association with power of submergence, enabling him to deal stealthy and mortal blows. Among the narratives of this period there stands out the case of the Eimstad (689 tons). A submarine hailed the ship off Cross Sand Lightvessel on August 17th, at the same time opening fire with both guns. None of the eleven shells hit the Eimstad. Then a torpedo was fired, which missed. In the meantime the master (Mr. F. A. Holder) had all lights doused, himself cutting the steamlight halyards. An attempt to ram the submarine failed. but the spirit which was exhibited eventually caused the enemy to abandon the contest and he disappeared. Captain Holder was " mentioned " for saving his ship.

 

Another conspicuous case of resistance was that of the Diomed (4,672 tons), belonging to Messrs. Alfred Holt & Co. This ship (master, Mr. J. Myles) was outward bound from Liverpool to Shanghai. She carried a crew of fifty-three hands, and had on board a mixed cargo of about 8,000 tons. At 11 o'clock on the morning of August 22nd the Diomed was about fifty-seven miles W.N.W. from the Scillies — an area in which very heavy losses were sustained during this month— when a submarine was observed. Captain Myles was on the bridge with the chief officer, and as the Diomed could steam at about 13 1/2 knots and the enemy was distant at least six miles, he determined to make a fight for his vessel and all that she carried. So the helm was ported and very soon the submarine was lost to sight.

 

It looked as though the Diomed would escape. But after she had run for a considerable time in a westerly direction, a submarine — whether the same one as had been first sighted or another is uncertain — was observed on the port beam. The distance was again estimated at about six miles. Once more the helm was ported in order to bring the submarine astern. These incidents occupied three-quarters of an hour, and the immunity they had hitherto rewarded his efforts gave Captain Myles fresh confidence. But at last the enemy lessened the distance separating her from the merchantman and opened fire. The range was about three miles. For over two hours the chase had been in progress when the shot began to break up the stern of the ship; fire was then concentrated on the fore part of the vessel, and then it was directed against the bridge. The enemy had made no signal and was flying no flag. The first victim was the third steward, who was killed while standing on the fore part of the ship. Shortly after two o'clock Captain Myles was mortally wounded as well as the quartermaster, while the chief officer (Mr. F. A. McGowan Richardson), on whom the command had now devolved, was himself seriously injured.

 

By this time the position of the Diomed had become hopeless, and the chief officer ordered the vessel to be abandoned. Two boats on the port side had been reduced to matchwood by the shellfire, and of the two

 

AN ADMIRALTY COMMENDATION

 

boats on the starboard side one had been holed. This damage was unfortunately not observed until the boat had been lowered into the water with twenty men in her, when she rapidly filled and capsized. Mr. John Rennie, the second mate, took charge of the uninjured starboard boat, but an internal explosion in the engine-room of the Diomed resulted in a quantity of water being shipped. In these circumstances the prospect of any of the officers and men being saved seemed slight.

 

The Germans on board the attacking submarine evinced no interest in their fate. The damaged starboard boat had capsized, and the unfortunate men who had been in her were left to the mercy of the waves. Mr. Rennie, fully realising his responsibility, succeeded in getting his boat baled out, and then the men in the water were picked up. Those who were clinging to the capsized boat had to be left for the time being, as Mr. Rennie, with thirty-four men in his charge, could do nothing for them. He had hopes of getting out the gig before the Diomed sank, and with this intention drew in towards the doomed vessel. The submarine had apparently disappeared, but as soon as Mr. Rennie approached the Diomed, the enemy reappeared on the surface and made towards him, compelling him to abandon his purpose.

 

In the circumstances nothing more could be done, and a few minutes later the Diomed disappeared beneath the waves. Mr. Rennie in his heavily laden boat then headed for the Irish coast. At about six o'clock he fell in with a destroyer, which promptly returned to the spot where the Diomed had been sunk and picked up the survivors on the capsized starboard boat. In the deposition which he subsequently made Mr. Rennie stated that the " submarine rendered no assistance. The Commander looked at the men in the water and shook his fist at me, saying something in German." The splendid resistance which Captain Myles and his officers and men had made in the effort to save their ship was highly commended by the Admiralty, and the Distinguished Service Cross was conferred on the chief officer. The toll of life lost was ten, the master and two others being killed by the shell-fire and seven being drowned through the capsizing of the starboard lifeboat, which the enemy's shell-fire had rendered unseaworthy.

 

Three other incidents find place in the record of this month, and they all occurred on August 21st at the entrance to the Channel. The Cober (3,060 tons) and the Ruel (4,029 tons) were sunk, but the other vessel, the San Melito (10,160 tons), was rescued. The master (Mr, John J. Peterfield) of the former put up a plucky fight on this summer day. He came across a submarine when forty-five miles S.S.W. from the Scillies. He promptly brought her astern of him and a chase lasting an hour ensued, during which the enemy maintained an intermittent fire of high-explosive shells. At last the poop was struck and considerable damage was done. Some of the men of the Cober, without waiting for orders, rushed the boats and tried to lower one of them, with the result that several of them were thrown into the water. Captain Peterfield still continued on his course, ordering the chief officer to endeavour, in another boat, to rescue the men who were fighting for life about two miles off. In this he succeeded against heavy odds. All hope of saving the Cober had been abandoned, and Captain Peterfield, bowing before the inevitable, at last prepared to abandon his ship. The submarine had submerged, and as he left the ship at 1.20 p.m. a torpedo struck the Cober on the port side, and in a short time she sunk. Fortunately for Captain Peterfield, who was " mentioned " for his conduct, as well as for his companions, they were soon afterwards picked up by the Dutch steamer Monnikeandam and were landed at Falmouth.

 

The Cober was a slow ship, but the San Melito (master, Mr. James D. Jackson) was one of the Eagle Oil Transport fleet with a turn for speed. She was seventy miles S.W. from the Lizard when a submarine appeared. Captain Jackson manoeuvred his ship to bring the enemy astern at 2.50 p.m., and in the meantime ordered full speed. An official record of subsequent events is to the following effect:

 

" The San Melito was struck on the starboard side by a shell, the concussion stunning the master, and at the same time the quartermaster left the wheel, which was taken by the chief officer (Mr. W. Piper) for the remainder of the action. The submarine continued to chase and shell the San Melito until about 3.30 p.m., doing slight

 

A BRUTAL DEED

 

damage to the ship, but causing no casualties among the crew. Patrol craft then appearing about five miles off, the submarine dived and disappeared."

 

In these circumstances, owing to the courage and determination of Captain Jackson and his officers and men, the San Melito was saved. Captain Jackson, the chief officer, and the chief engineer (Mr. W. Morralee) were mentioned in despatches, and Captain Jackson was also given a commission as Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve.

 

The officers and men of the Ruel were singled out for a demonstration by the enemy of the brutal methods he was prepared to adopt in the hope of breaking the spirit of the British merchant seaman. This ship left Gibraltar on August 16th for Barry Roads, in ballast, and on the afternoon of August 21st a submarine appeared on the starboard quarter and opened fire at a range of about three miles. The master (Mr. Henry Story) altered his ship's course to westward and, raising all steam, which gave him a speed of 8 ½ knots, managed to keep the submarine astern of him. A chase ensued which lasted for one and a half hours, when a shell passed through the Ruel's stern, another bursting over the bridge. By this time the enemy was only a mile away, and the crew of the Ruel took to the two boats. The submarine then closed in and fired six effective shots. The enemy had killed one man, a steward, and had wounded eight others, but he was still unsatisfied and proceeded to fire on the boats, the submarine commander picking men off with his revolver.

 

Captain Story, the second officer (Mr. W. J. Stenhouse), and Lieutenant D. Blair, R.N.R., subsequently made a statement on oath to the effect that " when in the act of abandoning the steamer Ruel in a sinking condition due to attack by a German submarine, we were fired on while alongside and pulling away from the above vessel, the wounds of those injured showing that both shrapnel and rifle bullets were used." They added that " the submarine was distant about 150 yards, and close enough for the crew to observe that we and the remainder of the crew of the steamer Ruel were abandoning the ship and had given up any further attempts to escape." The Ruel sank forty-five miles S.W. from Bishop Rock, and the survivors were fortunate in that as she disappeared the armed trawler Dewsland appeared upon the scene, accompanied by the drifter Campania. These two craft, though they arrived too late to save the Ruel from destruction, drove off the submarine and rescued Captain Story and his companions, who were landed, without further incident, at St. Mar, in the Scillies.

 

For reasons which were afterwards to be revealed, the losses from submarine attack both of ships and men during September were far less heavy than in the preceding month. The number of ships — eight, of 11,997 tons — blown up was, however, the highest hitherto recorded, suggesting that the enemy had been devoting increased attention to the laying of minefields. In all seventy-seven men were killed and the thirty ships which were sunk were of 101,690 tons. A further indication of a temporary lull in the submarine campaign in the waters surrounding the British Isles was furnished by the small number of ships which were molested by the enemy but succeeded in making their escape.

 

Twenty-seven vessels were interfered with by submarines, and their records furnish a number of illustrations of the spirit exhibited by officers and men in the unequal contest. The master (Mr. Henry John) of the Whitefield (2,422 tons) made a spirited effort, under a running fire, to elude capture off Cape Wrath, on the north-west coast of Scotland, on September 1st, while on his way from Archangel to Nice. On the following day the Roumanie (2,599 tons), also outward bound from Archangel, was captured and destroyed by bombs off St. Kilda. Although the Churston (2,470 tons) was mined off Orfordness, four men being killed, on September 3rd, the British Mercantile Marine suffered no other loss on that day. Within twenty-four hours, however, enemy submarines had obtained full compensation for this failure; three large ships met their end off the Fastnet, the Cymbeline (4,505 tons), the Mimosa (3,466 tons), and the Allan liner Hesperian (10,920 tons).

 

In the case of the first ship six lives out of a total crew of thirty-seven were lost owing to the action of the enemy commander. He had kept the vessel under fire for about half an hour, and then as the crew were leaving the ship a torpedo was discharged which hit the vessel amidship on the port side under the bridge. One of the boats

 

ANOTHER UNUSUAL INCIDENT

 

was smashed by the explosion and six men were killed, the remainder being fortunately picked up by the other boat. For sixteen hours the survivors were buffeted about by the waves, wondering whether they would ever see land again. Five of their number had been injured by the explosion, one of them seriously. The submarine had made off as soon as it was certain that the Cymbeline could not survive. By a happy chance these distressed mariners in sad plight were observed by the Swedish barque Alhatros, and at last they reached Brandon Quay. One incident of interest marked the destruction of the Mimosa, one of the vessels of the Anglo-American Oil Company. When the master (Mr. T. N. Hugo) had taken to the boats, the commander of the submarine, apparently feeling some pity for his victims, cast adrift 137 miles S.W. by W. from the Fastnet, told Captain Hugo that he would tell the first trawler he saw to pick them up.

 

The sinking of the Hesperian, a great passenger liner with over 600 persons on board, again attracted attention to the callous inhumanity with which the campaign was being conducted by the enemy. Only a few days before Count Bernsdorff, the German Ambassador, had assured the United States Government that " passenger liners will not be sunk without warning and without insuring the safety of the non-combatants aboard providing that the liners do not try to escape or offer resistance." The Hesperian was nevertheless sunk. She was outward bound from Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal, with a general cargo, and carried about 300 passengers. There was no suspicion, therefore, that she had on board either munitions or troops, but nevertheless she was torpedoed without warning. It was a fortunate circumstance, and to the credit of her owners, that she had sufficient lifeboat accommodation for more than three times as many persons as were on board, and that there was a liberal supply of lifebuoys and lifebelts, otherwise the death-roll would have been far heavier than it was.

 

The vessel was going at full speed, zigzagging on her course, when she was struck. That the subsequent explosion was due to a torpedo and not to a mine was proved by fragments of the missile which were secured by the master (Mr. W. S. Main) and by members of his crew. The attack on the Hesperian was therefore a flagrant violation of the pledge which the enemy had so recently given to the United States. The impact of the torpedo and the explosion which followed stopped the vessel, and Captain Main sounded the boats-station signal on the steam whistle and ordered the chief officer to get the passengers into the boats. Of the 314 passengers a large number were women and children, and the order went forth, " Women and children first," the crew being instructed to stand by their stations. The ship, after shivering fore and aft under the impact, had listed ten degrees to the starboard and sank by the head. A column of water and debris was thrown up into the air a distance of about 100 feet and fell on to the deck and bridge. The hatches on No. 2 deck were blown up and considerable damage was done to the second cabin and bridge decks. Fortunately none of the boats had been damaged or their fittings injured, and, in spite of the terrifying experience which had suddenly confronted them, the passengers evinced no signs of panic. They must have realised that they were in desperate straits, but nevertheless they remained cool and collected. The boats were filled and got away safely. The torpedo had been discharged at 8.30 p.m., and within an hour the boats were clear of the vessel. After the attack had taken place. Captain Main had ordered an S.O.S. call to be sent out, and within a short time rescuing vessels were on the spot.

 

 

 

The Loss of a British Merchant Ship

 

The master afterwards mustered those who remained on board the Hesperian and found that, including himself, there were thirteen — three officers, three engineers, two Marconi operators, the boatswain, the carpenter, and two seamen. The night was far advanced, and the ship was very much down by the head. There seemed a chance, however, that she might be saved, and continued efforts were made to tow her into Queenstown from the early morning of September 5th onwards by the naval vessels which had responded to the signal. During the afternoon the liner became unmanageable; time and again the towing ropes carried away, and then a southerly gale sprang up and high seas were encountered. Throughout the long day the master and his companions, reinforced by some of the crew who had returned to the Hesperian' s assistance, strove to save the injured vessel. As night came on the gale increased and the seas rose higher. The

 

THE SINKING OF THE " HESPERIAN "

 

vessel was labouring heavily and the list had increased, suggesting that she was gradually sinking. Captain Main at last came to the conclusion that in the interests of the lives in his charge — over thirty officers and men who had stood by him on board in the emergency — it was his duty to order everyone to take to the lifeboats. He himself at last submitted to the inevitable and also took shelter on board H.M.S. Veronica.

 

With searchlights playing upon the Hesperian, the Veronica remained close to the doomed ship throughout the night of anxious watching. Early on the succeeding morning, although the gale at sea had not abated, Captain Main and ten of his crew again boarded the Hesperian. Their worst fears were confirmed; the ship was rapidly sinking, and nothing could be done to save her. She went down at 7.47 a.m. on September 6th, within twelve minutes of the master passing over the side for the last time. The sinking of the Lusitania, with a loss of 1,198 lives, had shocked the conscience of the world; the destruction of the Arabic had drawn from the United States a Note of protest to Germany; and now, in defiance of the pledge given by Count Bernsdorff, the Allan liner Hesperian had been attacked without warning eighty-five miles from the nearest point of land and thirty-two lives had been sacrificed. It was realised that the comparative smallness of the death-roll was due, not to any consideration on the part of the enemy submarine, but rather to the admirable construction of the ship, the life-saving appliances with which she had been provided by her owners, and the calm way in which officers and men, as well as the passengers, had behaved in the great hour of emergency.

 

The spirit of desperation with which the Germans were conducting the submarine campaign was again illustrated when the loss of the Ashmore (2,519 tons) was reported. This was a well-found vessel of Aberdeen which had been chartered by the Belgian Relief Commission to bring a cargo of maize from Rosario to the distressed population of the country which the enemy had overrun in the early days of the war. Her voyage was uneventful as far as Dover, where the master (Mr. G. A. Noble) received instructions, on resuming his passage to Rotterdam, to keep on a line between Elbow buoy and the Kentish Knock Lightship. Captain Noble, having taken a pilot on board, put out from Dover at 5 a.m. on September 12th. Three and a half hours later, when the Ashmore was steaming between the Kentish Knock and the Galloper Lightship, the boatswain, who was on the after deck, noticed the track of a torpedo approaching the ship. Before he could give the alarm the vessel was struck. Nothing was seen of a submarine, but the naval authorities were satisfied that the ship had not struck a mine, but had been torpedoed without warning.

 

The stricken Ashmore began at once to settle down after the explosion, which apparently had killed four men in the engine-room and stokehold. Captain Noble tried to go below to ascertain the fate of these men, but he found that the water had already risen to a height of about 20 feet, while steam was escaping from the boilers. Everything suggested that the four men had been killed outright. The majority of the crew were ordered away in the two lifeboats, but Captain Noble with the second officer, the carpenter, and steward remained on board. The master went in search of the ship's papers, but his cabin had been completely wrecked. The ship had taken a heavy list by this time, so at last Captain Noble and his companions passed over into one of the lifeboats which had been called alongside, and ten minutes later nothing was to be seen of the Ashmore. The crew were fortunate in being almost immediately afterwards rescued by mine-sweepers, and were soon afterwards landed at Chatham by a patrol-steamer to which they had been transferred.

 

Three days later the Patagonia (6,011 tons) was also torpedoed without warning. She was on passage from Odessa to Nicolaieff in ballast, and within an hour and a half after leaving port she was struck aft. The second officer, who was on watch at the time, saw the torpedo approaching and instantly ordered the helm to be put hard aport. If it had not been for this prompt order the ship would have been hit amidships. The master (Mr. D. T. Davies) was well supported by his officers and crew in the emergency, with the result that no lives were lost. A similar immunity from casualties fortunately attended the destruction of three ships on September 23rd off the Fastnet. At 8.30 a.m. the Anglo-Columhian (4,792 tons) was nearing the end of her voyage from Montreal to Avonmouth with a large number of horses when

 

AMERICAN PROTESTS

 

she was shelled by a submarine and eventually sunk. Early on the same afternoon the Chancellor (4,586 tons) shared the same fate in this locality, though the master (Mr. R. N. Donald) put on all speed in the attempt to escape. He was carrying a general cargo from Liverpool to New Orleans, and in view of the slowness of his own ship and the speed of the enemy his position from the first was almost hopeless. That evening the master (Mr. R. Steel) of the Hesione (3,663 tons) noticed a ship's lifeboat crowded with men evidently in distress. This proved to be a lifeboat of the Chancellor in charge of the chief officer (Mr. R. H. Herbert). Captain Steel's natural instinct was to bear down on the boat and rescue the men. This he did. He then reduced speed in order to effect the rescue. Mr. Herbert, warned by the fact that the submarine was still on the surface and conscious of the heavy price which might be exacted of the rescuing vessel, signalled to the Hesione to proceed.

 

By this time Captain Steel had also sighted the submarine and realised the danger into which he had run by acting in accordance with the code of the brotherhood of the sea. He called down to the engine-room for all possible speed and thus brought the submarine right astern of him. A strong wind was blowing and the seas were running high, and try as they might the engine-room staff could not obtain more than 7 knots, whereas the Hesione was capable, under more favourable conditions, of 10 ½ knots. The submarine opened fire, but Captain Steel still held on his course. At length he realised that the contest was hopeless and he ordered the ship to stop. In a short time the crew had taken to the boats, and then the Hesione was sunk by gunfire.

 

The firing had attracted patrol-vessels to the spot and both crews were rescued. With the sinking of the Urbino (6,651 tons) off the Bishop Rock on September 24th (1915), the submarine campaign in the waters round the British Isles was suspended for the time being. The American protests which followed the sinking of the Arabic and the Hesperian were too serious to be ignored, and during the months of October and November not a single merchant ship was either molested or sunk, and it was not until the end of the first quarter of the following year that merchant seamen in these areas were again confronted with this particular form of attack. The enemy had decided to shift the scene of his operations to other waters which promised to yield good results in association with less chances of becoming embroiled with the United States or of arousing other neutrals to combined action. The submarine campaign was forthwith transferred to the Mediterranean, in which few ships carrying American passengers were likely to be encountered.

 

This decision represented the triumph, if only temporary triumph, of British merchant seamen. They had refused at Germany's dictation, and in spite of Germany's unprecedented acts, to keep out of that part of the " war zone " which embraced the waters round the British Isles. If they had, cravenly, avoided the manifold perils of which they had had such ample evidence, the enemy would have encountered none of the difficulties which arose with neutrals, and particularly with the United States, and he would have won the war owing to the starvation of the people of the United Kingdom, and the cutting of the communications with the armies engaged in Belgium and France. But, owing to the dogged persistence of British merchant seamen, Germany's diplomatic troubles increased. On June 6th orders had been issued that no large passenger ship, whatever her flag, should be attacked. As we have seen, these instructions were not obeyed. Immediately after the sinking of the Arabic, Count Bernsdorff informed the United States Government — to the great indignation of the German naval authorities responsible for the operations at sea, but with the full approval of the Imperial Chancellor — that the submarine commander who had been responsible for that loss would be punished. The differences of opinion between the naval and civil elements in Germany were sharply accentuated by this action. On August 27th instructions were issued that no further submarines were to be sent to sea for attacking merchantmen until the diplomatic position had been cleared up.

 

Three days later it was decided that until further notice no small passenger ships were to be sunk without warning and without steps being taken to rescue the crew. On the 1st of the following month the Naval Secretary telegraphed to the Chief of the Cabinet, for submission to the Emperor, that " this order could only be carried out at the utmost danger to the submarines, for which he could not be responsible." He asked permission

 

NEW GERMAN ORDERS

 

to resign his office, but this was refused. On September 18th the decision was reached that the " general position necessitated that for the next few weeks all risks should be avoided of breaches of regulations laid down for the campaign." (My Memoirs, by Grand Admiral von Tirpitz.) Orders were accordingly given to suspend all submarine activities of any sort on the west coast of the British Isles and in the English Channel, and to carry on operations in the North Sea only in accordance with the ordinary prize regulations.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

AUXILIARY CRAFT'S FIGHT AGAINST THE SUBMARINES

 

Before the German Emperor's decision was reached to limit submarine operations, so as not to arouse further American opposition, the intensity of the enemy's attack on merchant shipping was imposing heavy burdens on the Auxiliary Patrol. During the month of August 1915 shipping was being destroyed off Ushant, off the Norfolk coast, off the Scillies, off the south-west coast of Ireland, off St. Abb's Head, off the Lofoten Islands, and the Old Head of Kinsale, in the Aegean, off the Tuskar, in the Irish Sea and elsewhere. The campaign had assumed a threefold character. First, there was the steady submarine warfare going on in the North Sea and off the western coasts as a matter of almost established routine. Secondly, a concentration was being made on what may be described as the south-western approaches, i.e. the track followed by shipping entering the English or Irish Channel from the Atlantic or Bay of Biscay. Finally, there were the episodic attacks by submarines on their way out from Germany to the Mediterranean, where, as will be seen later, the enemy was concentrating his forces.

 

Everywhere the Auxiliary Patrol was working at its maximum efficiency. New plans were continually being tested in order to defeat the enemy. In the Irish Sea, for instance, three armed yachts, the Lady Blanche, Sabrina, and Bacchante, were patrolling between the Tuskar and Bardsey Island. Between the Tuskar and the Smalls nets were being towed by a long line of drifters, reinforced by half a dozen armed trawlers. Four other units of six trawlers were patrolling the area between Youghal-Tuskar-Bristol-Channel-Scillies, with the armed yacht Jeanette exercising a general supervision and the armed yacht Sapphire, patrolling between Minehead and Trevose Head, acting as a wireless link. A new Commander-in-Chief, Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, had been appointed

 

GERMAN CONFIDENCE

 

to take charge of the Irish area. This officer, who had had experience both in the Grand Fleet and as President of the War College, went to Queenstown when the south-western approaches were becoming the principal area of the enemy's activity. His was a difficult task, made none the easier by the fact that his forces consisted only of a small flotilla of the newly built sloops (originally intended for mine-sweeping), in addition to trawlers, drifters, armed yachts and motor-boats.

 

It is impossible to deal at length with every incident of the operations of the Auxiliary Patrol during this period, but it is essential to convey a correct appreciation of the character and extent of the German operations in home waters. The most experienced submarine officers were doing their utmost to support German confidence. U22 left Borkum at the beginning of August and sank the armed merchant cruiser India off Westfjord, Norway, on August 8th. On August 4th U27 left for the Irish coast, but was sunk by the decoy ship Baralong on the 19th. U38 also proceeded to the south-west approaches and within five days sank twenty-two cargo vessels, five trawlers, and three sailing-ships, chiefly by gunfire during thick weather. On August 4th U34 and U35 left Heligoland for the Mediterranean with orders to wage war only as far as the latitude of the English Channel and then proceed without delay for Cattaro, which was reached on August 23rd. On August 5th U24 and U25 were also operating, the former proceeding round the north of Scotland and the west and south of Ireland, up the Irish Sea, sinking, as has been stated, the White Star liner Arabic.

 

Before the end of the month U33 and U39 were ordered to leave Germany for the Dardanelles, spreading destruction around them on passage. The former passed out of Borkum on August 28th, north about, sank a steamer off Cape Wrath, then came down the west coast of Ireland on September 4th and sank the Cymbeline off the Fastnet. On her southerly progress she also sank the Mimosa, the Storcsand, a Norwegian sailingship, and finally the John Hardie, ninety-eight miles W. by S. of Cape Finisterre on September 6th. She then continued her voyage without further incident, passed through the Gibraltar Straits and, having arrived in the Mediterranean, was sighted and attacked by H.M. Torpedo-Boat 95 six times on September 9th, when fifty miles west of Alboran island; but she reached Cattaro on September 16th, and then began to carry out the task for which she had been selected — the sinking of enemy shipping in the Mediterranean. Similarly U39 left Germany on August 27th, proceeded north about on September 2nd, attacked the sailing-ship William T. Lewis ninety-five miles west of the Fastnet, and then carried on for the Straits of Gibraltar without further adventure. Having entered the Mediterranean, this vessel was sighted on September 8th about 130 miles east of Cartagena going south-east. She sank several more vessels, and reached Cattaro on September 13th. Such, then, was the new position at sea. The solution of the submarine problem had become more difficult than ever, apart from the increasing trouble due to mines; off the south-east coast of England UC 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7 were particularly busy mine-laying.

 

In these new conditions the trawlers of the Auxiliary Patrol were leading a varied life. Some Portsmouth trawlers had to be used for escort work across the English Channel owing to the scarcity of destroyers; off the Lowestoft coast other trawlers were employed in protecting the " War Channel," along which sixty merchant ships, on an average, daily passed escorted by these fishing-craft; and wherever submarines were likely to operate, drifters laid their nets. Even when patrol-vessels returned to port, there was frequently no rest for them. On August 10th, Just after midnight, a Zeppelin appeared over Dover harbour dropping bombs, one of which exploded on striking the water and damaged the armed trawler Equinox, then lying at anchor, hitting her in forty-three places. Three of her crew who were in their bunks asleep were wounded. Another armed trawler, the Cleon, not far off, was also damaged.

 

The alertness of the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol made the submarine's life more exciting than comfortable. Owing to the enemy's superiority in speed on the surface and his more powerful guns, it often enough happened that the submarine escaped; but if the trawler or yacht could not claim to have sunk the U-boat, at least many a merchant ship was spared from destruction owing to the enemy's attention being distracted. An incident in the summer of 1915 illustrated this fact. On August 14th

 

THE SAVING OF THE " MAXTON "

 

the trawler Amadavat (Skipper P. P. Glanville), based on Milford, was patrolling about 3.45 p.m. ten miles south-south-east of the Tuskar. She was armed with one 6-pounder. A submarine was seen a mile away on the port bow. The Amadavat proceeded at full speed (8 knots) towards her and fired a couple of shots. This made the enemy submerge. The Amadavat then headed for the line of drifters and warned them of the danger in which they were standing, and afterwards proceeded north-north-west towards the position where the U-boat had last been seen.

 

The enemy craft was discovered half a mile astern of a big steamer. The trawler again opened fire, and after four shots the submarine disappeared. Skipper Glanville then wisely surmised that the enemy would appear the next time ahead of the steamer, so the gunner of the Amadavat was ordered to train his 6-pounder on the bow of the merchantman. The submarine did appear as expected, whereupon the trawler fired two more shots which dropped very close, causing the submarine to alter course away from the trawler. The Amadavat continued firing, the third shot smothering the enemy conning-tower with spray. After this narrow escape the submarine disappeared. The trawler forthwith picked up the steamer's boats and resumed the patrol. By persistency and eagerness, combined with courage and common sense. Skipper Glanville had undoubtedly saved this vessel — the Maxton. He was afterwards commended for his promptness and foresight, even though the submarine had escaped.

 

Curiously enough, on the next afternoon a somewhat similar incident occurred in the North Sea. Near Smith's Knoll, off the East Anglian coast, the four Grimsby paddle-steamers, Brighton Queen, Westward Ho!, Glen Avon, and Cambridge, were engaged mine-sweeping. Not far away were some Lowestoft smacks, which had become favourite targets for the enemy submarines. Suddenly, at 2.15 p.m., the paddlers sighted a submarine of the UB type. Sweeps were immediately slipped, and the once familiar excursion steamers chased the submarine, opening a brisk fire with their guns. On board the Brighton Queen it was thought that the third round hit the enemy's conning-tower. It is amusing to picture an excursion paddle-steamer putting a warship to flight. That is, however, what happened. This prompt action, though it did not lead to the destruction of the German submarine, certainly saved the fishing-smacks.

 

But the submarine had not made good her escape, for on that same Saturday night she fell to one of the disguised Lowestoft fishing-smacks to which reference has already been made. This was the ketch Inverlyon, which had been armed with a 3-pounder. Her crew comprised her fishing skipper and three hands, all enrolled temporarily in the Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section). Her fighting crew consisted of a gunner R.N. (Mr. E. M. Jehan), who had with him four R.N. ratings. At 8.20 p.m. this sailing-smack was trawling three miles north by east of Smith's Knoll spar buoy when she sighted U4. When the enemy had got within thirty yards the German ensign was observed, and an officer was heard shouting something about " boat " — most probably ordering the Inverlyon to launch her boat and come alongside.

 

The submarine then stopped. The smack promptly hoisted the White Ensign and Mr. Jehan discharged his revolver at the German officer, this being the signal for the naval ratings to open fire from the 3-pounder. Nine rounds were promptly got off, of which the first and third shots were thought to have pierced the centre of the conning-tower and exploded inside; the second shot cleared away the after part of the conning-tower, as well as the German ensign. The German officer fell overboard on the starboard side, probably dead. The submarine then came round the Inverlyon's side with the tide, so that she was distant only about ten yards. At this extremely short range six more shots were fired from the smack, the first striking the conning-tower, the second and fourth going over it, and the third, fifth, and sixth hitting the hull. The submarine went down at a very sharp angle, and it was confidently assumed that she had been fatally injured. The bodies of three men, who were still outside when the U-boat submerged, came to the surface; one of the Germans was still alive and was shouting appealingly to be rescued. Skipper Phillips, in the Inverlyon, with instinctive gallantry and humanity, undressed and swam off with a lifebuoy, but the man sank before he could reach him. The Admiralty awarded Mr. Jehan a Distinguished Service Cross for this smart and successful action.

 

SUBMARINES OFF IRELAND

 

A short, sharp submarine raid off the Irish coast, lasting from December 25th to December 28th, occurred with dramatic suddenness at the end of 1915. Comparative peace had settled down since September, and this outburst was an unpleasant surprise. If enemy craft on their way to the Mediterranean had imagined that the vigilance of the patrol craft would be relaxed during Christmastide, they were mistaken. At 1.35 p.m. on Christmas Day, when about nine miles W. by S. of the Smalls, the Van Stirum, used as an Admiralty transport, was attacked. She endeavoured to escape and sent out distress calls. At 2.20 p.m. she wirelessed the message: " Done for; pick me up five miles south of the Smalls." One shell had struck her on the starboard quarter and another had brought down her aerials. At 2.35 p.m. she was abandoned and the submarine torpedoed her. The torpedo passed under a partly lowered boat and struck the ship abreast the engine-room, blowing the American boatswain to pieces. At 4.15 p.m. the submarine returned to the ship and shelled her. At this point the enemy noticed three fishing-vessels approaching at high speed, the first vessel being the Belgian trawler Nadine, which was fishing out of Milford. Her skipper, on hearing the firing, hauled up his trawl, steamed in the direction of the sound, and was able to take on board the entire crew of the Van Stirum, whom he brought into Milford just before midnight. It was pure chance that the Belgian was fishing in that neighbourhood, but it was very fortunate for the men of the merchantman.

 

The next thing was to find the Van Stirum, if still afloat. At 8.30 next morning the trawler Evangel (Lieutenant W. A. Peter, R.N.R.) discovered her with a heavy list eighteen miles south-east of the Tuskar, a pathetic derelict. A fine effort was made to save the ship. The Evangel launched her boat and put four of her men on board the Van Stirum to handle the tow ropes. There was no steam for the steering-wheel or means of putting in the hand-steering gear, so the vessel could not be controlled. At 10 a.m. the drifter Lupina arrived, together with her group of Milford drifters. These craft were ordered to act as follows: One was directed to proceed to Rosslare so as to get a report through to Admiral Dare at Milford; one was to cruise towards the Tuskar and one towards Milford to obtain towing assistance. At 10.20 a.m. the trawler Loch Awe came on the scene and took a tow rope from the Van Stirum's quarter in order to steer her, but this rope soon parted. The Loch Awe then changed positions with the Evangel, which had been towing ahead.

 

The Evangel had buoyed the wire tow rope for the Lupina to pick up, but the latter in doing so unfortunately fouled her own propeller. This was cut clear and a rope was then taken from the derelict's quarter. About 11.80 a.m. the Loch Awe and Lupina were towing ahead with the Evangel steering astern, the intention being to make the Blackwater, on the Irish coast. At 4 p.m., after repeatedly carrying away wires, the disabled ship fouled her propeller. Two hours later another vessel of the Auxiliary Patrol, the Osprey, arrived and managed to get a wire from forward.

 

At midnight the wind freshened, with rain and increasing sea, and the Van Stirum fell into the trough of the sea, while the Evangel repeatedly parted her wires in a vain attempt to keep the ship end on to the waves. By 3 a.m. there was a strong south-east wind and rough sea, and by the look of things the conditions were going to get much worse. At 6 a.m. the Evangel parted her last wire and informed the Osprey of the fact, reporting that the derelict was in a perilous condition. The Evangel then returned to the stricken vessel and, finding that she was likely to sink at any moment, endeavoured to go alongside and take the men off from the quarter. Owing to the heavy sea running this was not successful: in fact the Evangel's starboard bow collided so heavily with the Van Stirum's quarter as to start some of the trawler's rivets. Matters now became critical.

 

The Evangel launched her boat and by means of a heaving line was able to pass this boat alongside the derelict. The latter's forward bulkhead had now collapsed, so that she had sunk by the head and remained with her nose on the bottom and her stern in the air for about a minute. She finally disappeared at 7.10 a.m. This incident occurred about eight miles S.E. by S. of South Arklow lightship. The Evangel then proceeded to search for the Van Stirum's boat and found her half full of water, but she also found that the men had fortunately managed to get into her just in the nick of time. The sea was running so

 

FRUITLESS SALVAGE EFFORTS

 

wildly that it was impossible to pick the boat up, so after getting the men safely on board it was abandoned. The attempt to salve the steamer had failed, but it had been a glorious failure, which only the bad weather had spoiled, A letter of appreciation came from the Admiralty to the officers and men of the Auxiliary Patrol who had so nearly succeeded in their purpose.

 

Similar misfortune frustrated the efforts farther round the coast to rob the enemy of the fruits of his campaign. At 6.30 a.m. on December 28th an S.O.S. call was received at Queenstown from the oil tanker El Zorro off the Old Head of Kinsale. She was full of oil, badly needed for the prosecution of the war. She had safely crossed the Atlantic, but had been torpedoed in sight of port. The armed yacht Greta and a couple of obsolete torpedo-boats were at once dispatched to the scene, but by this time the submarine had made off westward. Two tugs were sent out, but could not make much headway owing to the sea. That night it blew a gale. The El Zorro anchored and the crew were taken off during the night by the trawler Freesia. The gale increased and no further steps could be taken to salve the ship. The El Zorro dragged her anchor, and went ashore a little way west of Queenstown.

 

Still pursuing her way westward down the coast, the submarine three hours later was seen by another oiler, the Viturvia, but fortunately the enemy did not molest her. At 8 a.m. (December 28th) the light cruiser Adventure, with Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly himself on board, had left Queenstown and proceeded down the coast to hunt the submarine between Kinsale and the Fastnet. At 12.45 p,m. the Adventure picked up an S.O.S. from the Leyland liner Huronian, proceeded towards her at 22 knots, closed her about 1 p,m,, and found that she had been torpedoed. The Adventure then searched the vicinity and undoubtedly frightened the enemy away, with the result that the Huronian was successfully escorted by sloops and the trawler Bempton into Berehaven, where she was eventually patched up sufficiently for her to proceed to Liverpool with her valuable cargo of cotton and grain.

 

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

THE FISHERMEN'S ORDEAL

 

While passenger ships, cargo liners, and tramps were maintaining the country's oversea communications, the hardy seamen engaged in the fishing industry continued to ply their trade round the British coasts and farther afield. In the year 1913 the harvest of the sea had amounted to 1,202,453 tons, exclusive of salmon and shellfish. The crowded population of the British Isles would have been reduced to sore straits in the matter of food if supplies of fish had been entirely cut off after the outbreak of war. As has been recorded, the Admiralty at an early stage in the contest realised the value of fishing-craft, with their experienced crews, as supports of the Royal Navy, and gradually built up the Auxiliary Patrol. The crews of those vessels which remained free to continue their fishing operations were rendering no mean service to the community in supplying it with good food, as was generally recognised at the time, but there was little appreciation of the fact that the fishing-craft, in pursuing their peaceful functions, were not only running great risks, but were promoting the common cause.

 

The fine spirit exhibited by the fishermen and the utility of their craft were fully appreciated by the enemy. In the middle of June 1915 a German retired admiral reviewed the situation at sea in the Vossische Zeitung, and advocated the indiscriminate destruction of British fishing-vessels on the ground that they formed an important auxiliary arm of the Royal Navy, and he added, with truth, that most of the nation's steam trawlers were already in the service of the Admiralty. But it was not merely the craft of the Auxiliary Patrol which greatly alarmed the U-boats. The unarmed and uncommissioned trawlers, while fishing or on voyage between their fishing-grounds and home ports, proved an increasing embarrassment, often

 

U-BOATS AND FISHING TRAWLERS

 

causing the German submarine officers to break off a fight and even run away on some occasions. It was one of the surprises of the war that, as a rule, U-boats attacked trawlers with a conspicuous lack of determination. There were some outstanding exceptions, but these serve only to accentuate the cautious tactics usually employed. It might have been thought that, since they could sink passenger ships with such ease, they would have made bolder efforts to destroy the small fisher vessels. But it was the mobility of the latter, and the realisation that the trawler's steel forefoot represented an effective weapon for ramming, that made the enemy play for safety and rely on long-distance attack.

 

The fishing-trawler was otherwise defenceless. If the enemy, by skilful manoeuvring, evaded those defensive-offensive tactics, the fishermen had to rely for safety on their own personal skill and seamanship. As the trawler was not a fighting ship, but was at sea solely for the purpose of bringing fish to market, the first duty of the crew in the presence of a submarine was to save the ship. Thus it was with the fishing-trawler Phoebe, which had left Fleetwood bound for the Iceland fishing-grounds. On June 18th, while passing Barra Head, she was stopped by a patrol-boat and warned that submarines were about. The Phoebe's skipper (Mr. J. W. Golding) therefore doubled the lookout. In the early hours of the next morning he was again stopped by a patrol-boat off St. Kilda, and informed that two vessels had been sunk off the Butt of Lewis. The Phoebe continued her voyage, laying a course for Iceland, and after steaming another fifty-five miles by the log a suspicious object was sighted. It was now 8.20 a.m. and the mate was in the wheel-house. He did not waste time in speculation, but promptly called the skipper from his cabin, telling him that he had sighted what he took to be a submarine about a mile and a half to the eastward, with periscope and conning-tower showing and hull awash. The submarine was heading north-north-west and the trawler N. 1/2 E.

 

Skipper Golding spoke down the tube to the chief engineer and, directing him to give the trawler all possible steam, he altered course so as to go head-on for the enemy's conning-tower. The submarine then steered more westerly, and away went the Phoebe likewise for about twenty minutes, the U-boat in the meantime gradually rising to the surface. The enemy next hauled off to the southward, stopped, and at a distance of a mile opened fire; the first shell dropped about fifty yards short on the trawler's starboard bow. Skipper Golding's duty now was obvious. His ship was unarmed and, if he remained where he was, she would almost certainly be sunk. Therefore, having failed to ram the enemy, he used his utmost endeavours to save his owner's property. It was a fine clear morning, and he could see the smoke of a couple of vessels to the eastward and another couple to the southward. He accordingly kept his vessel going, blew his steam whistle continuously, showed his stern to the submarine, and zigzagged his course.

 

The second shell dropped into the sea only twenty yards short; the third whizzed close over the wheel-house; the fourth fell just short of the stern. It was a pretty close thing, but by clever handling the skipper brought his vessel safely out of the fray; he succeeded in running the U-boat out of sight, and eventually got to St. Kilda, where he reported his adventure. When the full account of this incident reached the Admiralty, their Lordships sent Skipper Golding an expression of their appreciation of his courageous action in attempting to ram, and in his success in avoiding the loss of his ship. They also awarded the sum of 55 to be divided between owners, skipper, mate, and crew.

 

The sinkings of ordinary fishing-vessels became numerous as the summer of 1915 advanced. Ten were sunk in April, twenty-two in May, and fifty-eight in June, this month marking the " peak " of the curve; there were thirty-six sinkings in July and August respectively, and only six in September. No such incidents occurred again until January 1916, when seven were sunk, the greatest number attained that year being thirty-eight in the month of September. In July U3 succeeded in destroying a number of fishing-trawlers belonging to Hull, Grimsby, Aberdeen, and North Shields. To combat these tactics of the enemy in attacking ordinary fishing-vessels, disguised trawlers were being used with the fishing-fleets, but enough patrol-trawlers were not available to provide complete protection. The Fishing Vessels' Owners' Associations at both Hull and Grimsby were protesting at this period against the Admiralty requisitioning any more

 

" WHERE IGNORANCE IS BLISS "

 

trawlers for the naval service. For a time some East Coast fishing-craft were allowed to carry pigeons for sending information ashore of enemy activities, but this method of passing in intelligence was found slow and unreliable. The two armed yachts Eileen and Mekong were charged with the duty of keeping an eye on East Coast fishing-fleets and used to go out to about long. 2 degrees 25' E,, where the Hull fishing-fleet of trawlers was at work in September. Three armed trawlers fitted with wireless were also dispatched patrolling off the Dogger Bank.

 

About 350 fishing-trawlers continued, in spite of the war, to fish in the North Sea; the steam fish-carriers went out to meet them as in normal times and conveyed the catches to London. In spite of the losses sustained, the fishermen continued to go to sea with complete disregard of all danger. Some of the " yarns " current during the war concerning the casual regard which the North Sea fisherman had for mines must be dismissed as apocryphal. But in the late summer of 1915 two cases did occur which support the adage that fact is stranger than fiction. One day, for instance, a fisherman came into Grimsby towing a German mine which had all its horns knocked off. He explained that as he had heard that the horns were the dangerous parts he had knocked them off with a boathook! Another fisherman one night made fast to what he thought was a buoy; but at daylight it turned out to be a mine! Fortunately, efficient as undoubtedly the German mines usually were, in many instances they failed to act; otherwise neither of these fishermen would have seen his home port again.

 

The mastering of the submarine menace now needed something else besides seamanship and gallantry. British seamen were opposed to the best brains of the German Navy and the most enterprising of its personnel. It was obvious, therefore, that to bravery had to be added subtlety and to daring cunning. If it is impossible to catch a pest by ordinary means, a trap for him must be baited; in other words, he must be taken off his guard. That is precisely what now had to be done in the North Sea. The best form of trap was to disguise the armament of a patrol-trawler, leaving her paint and fishing numbers and the deck appointments, her masts and funnels, just as they were in peace-time, and send her to sea among the fishing-fleets, on the pretence of fishing, in the hope that the enemy would appear and attack her. The armed trawlers would then cease pretending and open fire at the enemy. This stratagem was being tried in the early months of 1915, for instance, by Humber armed trawlers among the Dogger Bank fishing-craft, but so far no submarine had been sunk.

 

But a more ingenious device was subsequently evolved, which was as successful as it was clever. The idea was to send an apparently innocent fishing-trawler in those waters off the north-east Scottish coast where fishing-craft had actually been sunk. Attack was invited. This was the bait. Astern of the trawler was one of the C-class of submarines, submerged, but towed by the trawler. This was the trap. An elastic cable and telephones were installed in order to keep up communication, and thus the trawler could keep the submarine informed of the enemy's movements, so that, at the precise moment, the British submarine could cast off tow rope and cable, and attack her " opposite number," the U-boat. This scheme was first suggested by Acting-Paymaster F. T. Spickernell, R.N., Admiral Beatty's secretary, but the details were worked out by Captain V. H. S. Haggard, R.N., who was in command of H.M.S. Vulcan, the submarine depot ship, lying in Leith docks, where a flotilla of submarines was stationed for the defence of the Firth of Forth.

 

The senior officer of these submarines was Lieutenant-Commander H. O. Edwards, R.N., afterwards killed, and he, together with the other submarine officers, exercised their crews for a whole month, going out to sea and inviting attack. No success was achieved until June 8th. C27 was operating in the manner indicated with the disguised armed trawler Taranaki, and the submarine was just about to fire her torpedo when it was realised that the U-boat was too near. It was feared at the time that the enemy had seen C27 and that thus Germany would learn of this new ruse. The greatest care was therefore necessary in any future attempt.

 

At 1 a.m. on June 23rd H.M. Submarine C24, under the command of Lieutenant F. H. Taylor, R.N., stole out of Aberdeen in company with the armed trawler Taranaki and shaped a south-easterly course. Five hours later the trawler (Lieutenant-Commander Edwards) took the submarine in tow. The latter then submerged to

 

C24 SINKS U40

 

thirty feet. At 9.30 a.m. a U-boat rose to the surface fifty miles S.E. by S. of Girdleness and fired a gun across the trawler's bows at a distance of about 2,000 yards, the shell bursting about twenty yards ahead. Three minutes later C24 was informed by telephone that the enemy was 1,000 yards astern. Thereupon Lieutenant Taylor gave orders to slip the tow, but unfortunately, by the worst of luck, the tow rope jammed and could not be slipped. Finally, at 9.45 a.m. the trawler slipped her end of the rope and stopped. The enemy also stopped, being on the trawler's starboard beam, about a thousand yards off; she was trimmed ready for instant diving. Clearly the German scented the trap, so in order to entice him Lieutenant-Commander Edwards ordered out the trawler's boat as if he were abandoning ship. Meanwhile C24 had gone ahead with helm a-starboard to attack the U-boat. Again, by bad luck, the British submarine became unhandy and immediately sank to thirty-eight feet, and it took some time to get her trim right again.

 

The cause of this mishap was presently discovered. One hundred fathoms of 3 ½ -inch towing wire and some 8-inch coir hawser, in addition to a hundred fathoms of telephone cable, were still fast to the bows. In spite of this, the two coxswains of C24 steered and trimmed her so ably that she never broke surface. Meanwhile Lieutenant Taylor, using his periscope little and seldom, eventually sighted the enemy's conning-tower and gun, and closed to 500 yards. He then manoeuvred to get in a beam shot, and at 9.55 a.m. fired at the conning-tower. To the joy of the Taranaki's crew, the torpedo was seen to explode under the conning-tower and the U-boat instantly sank, never again to rise. C24 then came to the surface and picked up the German commanding officer, while the Taranaki rescued another officer and one petty officer. Nothing else remained of this enemy craft — U40 — except a lifebuoy and a bucket. When C24 tried to go astern it was discovered that the propeller refused to move, having twenty turns of telephone cable round the shaft. However, having transferred the German prisoners to the trawler, C24 was taken in tow again and safely reached Aberdeen. Everyone had done well in the Taranaki and C24, in spite of difficulties, and one of the latest and most successful U-boats had been accounted for. For this service Lieutenant-Commander Edwards received the D.S.O., and Lieutenant Taylor the D.S.C., and each coxswain a D.S.M. It is interesting to note that the captain of U40 admitted that he had been watching the Taranaki all the morning and had been completely deceived, so excellent was the disguise.

 

On the same morning that this incident occurred, another trawler engagement was being fought off the Hebrides far from the scene of the Phoebe's encounter. It was eleven o'clock, and the armed trawler Bush (Skipper G. King) was on patrol about eight miles north-north-west of the Butt of Lewis. Two drifters with their nets down were three miles inside of her at the time, and it was blowing hard from east-north-east with considerable sea. Suddenly from windward a shell fell about fifty yards short of the wheel-house of the Bush, which was heading about south-east. Skipper King went full speed ahead, altered course, and saw a submarine travelling about north-north-west. Whilst in the act of turning, a second shot was fired and this also missed. The Bush now used her rocket distress signal, hoisted the signal " Submarine in sight," and fired her 12-pounder. This first shot from the trawler fell short; the second shot was very close, but also short. The third shot was so close that the enemy made a smoke screen and under cover of this dived and disappeared.

 

For two hours search was made in the heavy sea, but the enemy was not seen again. Shortly afterwards the Bush met the Norwegian s.s. Bianca, bound from Archangel, and directed her down the Minch, thus saving her from the submarine. The Bush was only slightly damaged by the six shots fired at her. Of these the last three were hits, the fourth having passed between the gunlayer and breechworker. Two large pieces of shell were picked up which indicated that the enemy's gun — the equivalent of 3 ½ -inch — was decidedly superior to that of the trawler's. The submarine was not sunk, but a trawler had shown the enemy that fishermen were fighters. The incident pleased both Admiral Jellicoe and the Admiralty, and from the latter came an expression of appreciation and the sum of 60 for the crew of the Bush.

 

About a month later there followed yet another trawler-submarine engagement off the Hebrides, but this time it was at the southern end, in the neighbourhood of Barra Head. If it be matter for surprise that German submarines

 

THE FIGHT OF THE " PEARL "

 

at this time should have hovered about the Hebrides, the reason is not far to seek. The Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow required an enormous amount of coal and other stores. These supplies had to be brought in merchant ships which came up the West Coast so as to avoid the submarines operating in the North Sea. In addition, there was a good deal of other traffic by merchant ships, especially to Archangel, through which we were supplying war material to the Russians. Moreover, both Barra Head in the south, the Butt of Lewis in the north, and the island of St. Kilda in the west were landmarks, navigationally most useful to the U-boats proceeding to and from the coast of Ireland. It followed, then, that the craft of the Auxiliary Patrol based on Stornoway had no easy time.

 

On July 27th, at 4 a.m. — just that time when nature is at its lowest and when, therefore, the best lookout is not always maintained — the armed trawler Pearl was patrolling off Barra Head. The weather was not pleasant, for the wind was freshening from the south-east and it was thick; there was a moderate south-west swell coming in from the Atlantic; almost certainly a gale was brewing. At 4.15 a.m. a small object was sighted four points on the starboard bow, about 5,280 yards away. Course was altered towards it, and five minutes afterwards, as it appeared to be a submarine on the surface, heading south, the trawler cleared for action. The Pearl was commanded by Sub-Lieutenant A. C. Allman, R.N.R., and carried also a skipper in addition to her crew.

 

With all hands at their stations, the skipper at the wheel, and full speed on the engine-room telegraph, the Pearl made for the enemy vessel, which altered course to south-south-west. The trawler had nothing better than a little 3-pounder gun, so Sub-Lieutenant Allman instructed his petty officer not to open fire until the range was down to 1,000 yards. At 4.25 a.m. the submarine was only 500 yards off, but travelling at high speed and firing across the trawler's bows. The Pearl altered course and prepared to ram, at the same time bringing her gun to bear. The first two shots dropped very close to the submarine's stern; the fifth and sixth seemed to hit. It was a short range; the gun's crew were working quickly and the shooting was good, but within five minutes the gun no longer bore. The submarine was compelled hurriedly to dive, crossing close to the trawler's bows. Sub-Lieutenant Allman put his helm hard a-starboard and made a great effort to ram, but missed the enemy by about forty feet. In a short time the periscope was seen, so the petty officer at the gun took careful aim and with his second shot hit and broke off the periscope, after which the U-boat submerged completely, leaving on the surface a thick oily wake.

 

This was to prove an exceptionally long duel, one of the very longest in the whole of the submarine war, and it speaks well for the dogged determination of the officer in charge and his crew that with such inferior armament they were able to dominate an enemy equipped with a more powerful gun, as well as torpedoes, and possessing the ability to choose his own range. It is known now that the submarine was U41 and that her captain was one of the most efficient officers of his service. At 4.35 a.m. she was heading south-west, doing about 7 knots, so the Pearl took a position on her opponent's starboard bow, kept a parallel course, and, with her gun bearing, was ready to ram should the U-boat come to the surface. This went on until an hour later, when the enemy altered course to north-east, with speed unchanged. At 6.15 a.m. the U-boat again altered course, this time to north-west, and eased to 4 knots. It was obvious that the Pearl, by keeping up the chase, was causing the enemy's batteries to run down and all the while the trawler kept closing in, alert for the first chance of ramming.

 

Unfortunately, a quarter of an hour later the weather came on thick, rain falling, but at 9.15 a.m. the submarine came close to the surface, though without showing herself. Still refusing to lose any possible chance, the trawler carried on, and at 11 a.m. endeavoured to fire her explosive sweep about 500 feet ahead of the oily wave, but by a piece of bad luck the electric cable was so injured in getting it over the side that it would not fire. Troubles did not come singly, for, after chasing for another hour, the chief engineer reported that one of his pumps was out of order and that it would be necessary to stop in an hour's time for a repairing job which would take three hours.

 

It was a most disappointing incident, yet there was no possible alternative but to give up the chase, which had now brought the Pearl to a position thirty-eight miles

 

THE LAST OF U41

 

S.W. by W. of St. Kilda. The Pearl managed to get into St. Kilda that same afternoon, but with scarcely any water in her boiler. She had maintained a spirited hunt after the submarine over a period of nearly eight hours, during which the trawler had exercised her will-power over the enemy simply by sheer blunt determination. Had the Pearl really damaged U41? At the time it was thought that the enemy had been holed in an oil-tank in his outer skin and that this accounted for the oily wake. Four shots had been fired by the submarine and thirty-four by the trawler, so at short range some could not have failed to hit. It was afterwards ascertained that U41 was seriously injured in the conning-tower, so that, although she was outward bound, she was compelled to break off her voyage and return home.

 

This was to be no pleasure cruise for the U-boat, for, having arrived at St. Kilda, the Pearl made her report, and later on in the day a wireless message informing the patrols was picked up by the armed yacht Vanessa, which immediately altered course to cut off the retreating enemy. At 9.10 p.m. she actually sighted her and chased her till after ten o'clock, but then the enemy got away and was seen no more that day. At four the next morning she was sighted still farther north by the armed trawler Stanley Weyman, by the armed yacht Maid of Honour, and by the armed trawler Swan, and chased for the best part of two hours, but U41 evaded them and got safely back to Germany.

 

This submarine was in charge of Lieutenant-Commander Hansen, who had already had experience of the offensive-defensive value of the ram. For U41 was just out from the dockyard after repairs caused by being rammed on July 16th by the mine-sweeping gunboat Speedwell, which on this day had sighted U41 only 250 yards away, and had gone for her with full speed on both engines and struck her with such force as to cause the Speedwell to heel over, her bottom plating being damaged. The incident had occurred north of the Shetlands and had damaged both periscopes of the submarine, so that she had to make her way back across the North Sea, reaching Germany on July 19th. The moral effect on the crew of the Pearl's success in sending her home for repairs a second time within the same month can well be imagined. U41 was sent to her grave by a British man-of-war a few weeks later. As to the Pearl's exploit, the Admiralty praised her commanding officer and crew, awarding them the sum of 150 and promoting Sub-Lieutenant Allman to Lieutenant, with seniority dating from the day on which he had engaged the submarine.

 

On the southern side of the Firth of Forth is the port of Granton, which by the spring of 1915 had developed into a most important naval base, crowded with all kinds of vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol. The senior naval officer was Admiral James Startin, who, having ended his time on the active list before the war opened, had come back to serve as a R.N.R. officer. To his infectious enthusiasm and powers as an organiser were due in large measure the successes which were achieved by the vessels using this base. He had been struck during the early summer by the number of molestations by submarines of neutral merchant traffic in the North Sea. On July 9th a U-boat had held up four steamers about forty miles east of Fifeness, but had bolted as soon as the armed yacht Minona had come into sight. The Admiral therefore resolved to carry out a stratagem.

 

Among his vessels were two fine trawlers, the Quickly and the Gunner. The former had already been disguised so cleverly that she had been taken by one of our own destroyers for a Danish cargo steamer. He now improved her disguise, replaced her 3-pounder by a 12-pounder, mounted a 6-pounder aft, and sent her off to St. Andrew's Bay. The trawler Gunner he also disguised, giving her a deck cargo made up of an empty hawser reel, a hundred bags of sawdust, some empty crates, and some timber. The Gunner joined the Quickly in St. Andrew's Bay and to her transferred the cargo. Four naval ratings as guns' crew had been put on board these two ships, and on July 19th the vessels left the bay, Admiral Startin himself being in the Quickly, and steamed towards Bell Rock, where target practice was carried out until the Admiral was satisfied that both vessels could make good shooting.

 

They then proceeded to their rendezvous where submarines had recently been at work, and during the afternoon the Quickly completed her disguise as a Norwegian cargo boat, Norwegian colours being hoisted at the mizzen masthead and also painted on prepared slips of canvas which were placed on each side amidships. To make the disguise perfect, a couple of derricks were placed on the

 

THE FIGHT OF THE " QUICKLY "

 

foremast. She thus resembled one of those numerous Norse traders which could be seen any day in the North Sea. At 9 a.m. on July 20th the Quickly arrived at the rendezvous, and just one hour later a large submarine was sighted on the surface with two masts and two guns. Ten minutes afterwards both the " Norwegian " vessel and the U-boat were steering parallel courses, the intervening distance being about four miles. For a short period the U-boat scrutinised the Quickly, then altered course to cut her off, lowering both masts. At 10.24 the enemy had closed to about 1,500 yards and hoisted the international signal to stop. Five minutes later she fired the first shot at the trawler; but already the latter's gun crew had been preparing for action under cover. The Norwegian flag was now hauled down, the White Ensign run up, the strips of canvas taken off, and at 10.32 the Quickly returned the fire from her 12-pounder with a shot that struck the enemy's hull abaft the conning-tower, much smoke being seen to issue from her. The 6-pounder then opened fire, and the enemy returned it, but her shots fell either short or over. Admiral Startin himself stated:

 

" The 6-pounder claims to have put her foremost gun out of action. The third shot from the 12-pounder struck the submarine right forward, and flames were seen by myself and everybody coming from her bows."

 

At 10.50 a.m. the U-boat submerged until her conning-tower was awash, but came to the surface again and began to steam away in that condition. By this time the Gunner, which had been following astern, arrived on the scene and also opened fire. The German craft steamed away very slowly, being at times enveloped in smoke. Another shot from the Quickly's 12-pounder shattered the conning-tower and the Gunner also hit her. The two ships then closed the enemy with a view to ramming her, but she submerged and at first could be clearly seen by them. There was much oil and there were many bubbles; so a depth charge was exploded. Nothing came to the surface to suggest that it was effective.

 

After remaining in the neighbourhood for another couple of hours, the two British craft left the scene. It was afterwards learnt that the submarine was not sunk; she had managed to get home in a wounded condition. There are on record other equally amazingly narrow escapes where U-boats, after being quite as severely punished, managed to make really long voyages safely back to Germany. No one, however, will begrudge the commendation which the Admiralty bestowed on Admiral Startin, the officers and crews of these two ships, nor the sum of 500 which was awarded to be divided among the crews. To Lieutenant T. E. Price, R.N.R., the commanding officer of the Quickly, was given the D.S.C., and a similar decoration was conferred on Sub-Lieutenant C. H. Hudson, R.N.R., who was in command of the Gunner. The D.S.M. was conferred on the captains of the 12-pounder and the 6-pounder guns respectively, and also on the Admiral's coxswain, who spotted for the 6-inch gun in the Quickly.

 

Whilst such engagements as these were going on, the fishermen, who were still pursuing their calling, showed that they were ready for any emergency with which the fate of war might confront them. At the end of June the Norwegian barque Kotka, an iron-built vessel of just under a thousand tons, had the misfortune to fall in with a submarine in the Atlantic off the south-west Irish coast. But for the Hull fishing-trawler Rambler she could never have been saved; and in order rightly to appreciate the circumstances it is necessary first to realise what were the hazards which sailing-ships were at this time compelled to support.

 

Owing to the scarcity of tonnage, the demand for such sailing-ships as could carry oversea cargoes was now very great. The Government had taken up a large number of steamships as war auxiliaries, transports, supply ships, colliers. At the same time there was greater need for tonnage in which to bring across the ocean food, timber, and other commodities to meet national and military needs. In these circumstances, the despised sailing-ship, even though old, entered on a fresh lease of life. The British register was swelled by many German sailing-ships which had been captured and sold to British or neutral firms and were now engaged in carrying grain. But the U-boat was no longer confined to the North Sea: she too was an ocean-going craft which could go round the north of Scotland, into the Atlantic, down the Irish coast, and operate off the western approaches of the British Isles. No easier prey could be afforded the submarine

 

AN IMPORTANT CONFERENCE

 

than the home-coming sailing-ship; she was in the nature almost of a gift to any U-boat that might come along. Thus, during the first half of June in the southwest approaches to the British Isles, no fewer than five British, three Allied, and two neutral sailing-ships were sunk, most of them carrying valuable cargoes of raw materials. A spell of easterly winds, such as is usual during this month, exposed these craft to considerable risks, and therefore the Mercantile Marine Service Association of Liverpool suggested to the Admiralty the desirability of providing free towage into port of such sailings-hips as arrived off our coasts. Tugs, it was urged, should be stationed at Queenstown and Falmouth to assist them into port.

 

It was whilst the Admiralty were considering this matter that the fine four-masted barque Dumfriesshire of Glasgow (2,622 tons) was torpedoed and sunk on June 28th, twenty-five miles south-west of the Smalls. She had left San Francisco with 4,100 tons of barley and had reached Falmouth on June 25th. From there she had been ordered to Dublin, and on her way was destroyed. In July Lloyd's also wrote to the Admiralty giving a list of sailing-vessels sunk by submarines since March 31st, and made the suggestion that sailing-vessels should be warned, when approaching the United Kingdom, of the safest routes. From March 31st to July 2nd, it was pointed out, forty-three of these craft had been sunk by U-boats off the British Isles, and on July 6th there were at sea bound from American ports for the United Kingdom no fewer than 138 sailing-ships with such valuable cargoes as grain, timber, and nitrate.

 

The difficulty was that there were no such things as safe routes: wherever a sailing-ship went she was in grave danger. A conference was therefore held, presided over by the Fourth Sea Lord, with representatives of the Board of Trade, the Sailing-Ship Association, and the Trade Division of the Admiralty. This took place on July 16th, and it was decided that the Admiralty should be asked to send a cruiser to meet all in-coming ships and indicate to them a port of discharge, whence they might be convoyed; that the Admiralty should be requested to telegraph to the various Consuls directing them to advise the masters of sailing-ships to stop outside the 100-fathom line and there await a westerly wind, then running straight to their port of discharge: that westerly ports should, where possible, be used for discharge: that the Admiralty should locally provide the necessary tugs subject to the exigencies of the naval service. The outcome of this was the issue of an order that when towage was urgently needed for sailing-ships it should be provided; and Intelligence Officers were advised by telegraph all over the world to warn British and Allied sailing-ships to keep west of the 100-fathom line until a favourable wind should enable them to lay a direct course for their destination.

 

Such, then, was the degree of risk which awaited the home-coming sailing-ship. The Hull steam-trawler Rambler had left Liverpool for her fishing-grounds off the south-west of Ireland, and in the early hours of the morning was engaged in fishing when she sighted the Kotka about seven miles off. Something in her appearance was evidently wrong, so at 6 a.m. the trawler hove up her gear and steamed towards her. It was at once obvious that there was not a soul on board: it was equally evident that she had been holed.

 

What actually had happened was that, when thirty miles south-west of the Bull Rock, a submarine had shelled her and then the crew had abandoned ship. She was an iron ship, bound from Maine to Cork, and it was pathetic that, after safely crossing the Atlantic, she should have fallen a victim so near to her port of destination. Skipper Richmond launched the Rambler's boat, and sent the mate, second engineer, boatswain, and cook to investigate, but on account of the heavy sea they were unable to get on board. However, five hours later the boat was again launched and Skipper Richmond went himself, together with the second engineer and a deck hand, to see what could be done. He found the barque was under water forward and the only part of her hull that was clear was her poop. He decided to try and take her in tow as the weather was moderating, and in the meantime returned to his trawler. At six o'clock that evening the wind had died down, though there was a big ocean swell, and the operation began.

 

The position of the two ships was now about thirty or thirty-five miles south-south-west of Galley Head. It was quite possible that a submarine might suddenly appear from nowhere and sink both trawler and barque. The

 

TRAWLERS' SUCCESS

 

salving of the latter was, therefore, no ordinary hazard. Fishermen, as a class, are not distinguished navigators, but they do number among them some of the finest exponents of seamanship, and this latter art was well exhibited on this occasion. The mate, chief engineer, and deck hand boarded the Kotka, and got a wire hawser off a reel which was on the barque's after deck-house. This wire they floated down to the Rambler by supporting the wire with the Kotka's buoys and lifebelts, one end of it being secured to the barque. The trawler then steamed as near as possible to the floats, and a wire from the Rambler was made fast to the end of the Kotka' s wire; the former then shackled her trawl warps on to it. By this time it was 7.30 p.m. and towing commenced, the barque being towed stern first because of the damage she had sustained forward.

 

All went well during the night, and at four the following morning the trawler signalled the Old Head of Kinsale asking that an Admiralty tug should be sent from Queenstown. At 10 a.m. the armed trawler Heron arrived from that port. She made fast to the Kotka's port quarter, but her warps parted twice. The Rambler then shortened her warp, but this caused it to part also, after which it was decided to tow the barque bow first. Some of the Heron's and Rambler's crew were put aboard her, and from 11 a.m. the Heron towed ahead, with the Rambler astern steering. An hour later the Admiralty tug Warrior from Queenstown arrived and took the Heron's place, and in the evening a second Admiralty tug came on the scene and lashed alongside. In a short time the barque was got safely into Queenstown Harbour, and beached after a fifty-mile tow.

 

Thus once more trawlers, manned by men of stubborn purpose, had defeated the machinations of the enemy's submarine warfare. The sea is the strictest of schools, and the fisherman spends most of his life learning its lessons. If the fishing industry of the British Isles had not existed in a flourishing state, it would have been impossible to deal with the submarine menace: the U-boats would have acted almost as they pleased. More food-carrying steamers would have been sunk, greater hardships would have had to be endured ashore, and the armies would have lacked adequate supplies. Gales of wind, thick weather, dark nights, intricate pilotage, ship-salving on the high seas, ship-handling in narrow waters — these are the common experiences of fishermen and keep alive that spirit which has meant, and will continue to mean, so much to an island people. The liner, the tramp, the trawler and drifter are all part of the nation's essential sea services.

 

But the work of the trawlers was not confined merely to the thwarting of submarines: the insidious mine throughout the war remained a standing menace to the ships of the Grand Fleet and Merchant Navy alike. In April the Swarte Bank mine-field had been laid; about the end of next month or the beginning of June the Outer Silver Pit mine-field had been laid; and on the night of May 17th-18th the Dogger Bank mine-field came into existence, the enemy's hope being to entrap the Grand Fleet on its periodical sweeps towards the Heligoland Bight. Most wisely the Admiralty policy had been to allow the fishing-trawlers the widest possible freedom in fishing, realising that so long as the fishermen were permitted to go about their work unfettered, the country had the advantage of an improvised sweeping-fleet scouting, as it were, for these hidden mines. The fishermen wanted nothing but their freedom, and this was conceded to them in large measure.

 

The Swarte Bank mine-field had been discovered by fishing-trawlers, so had the Outer Silver Pit mine-field; so, too, was the Dogger Bank mine-field in the month of May. In effect, fishing-trawlers, dragging their gear along the bed of the sea, proved to be the outposts of the mine-sweeping fleet. When once these minefields had been discovered, there followed months of wearisome work for the paddlers and trawlers engaged in sweeping up the laid mines. As to the Tory Island mine-field, laid as far back as the autumn of 1914, the clearance continued to be made under difficult circumstances. During the comparatively fine weather of June much progress was made, and by the first week of July it was comparatively clear, though not till the following March was it definitely swept up completely for all ships.

 

By the summer of 1915 two facts had been grasped. Up to June 1st all the enemy mines off our coasts had been laid by surface ships; but from that date onwards the position was complicated by the advent of the UC-boats, based on Flanders, which laid their mines off prominent

 

VALUE OF AUXILIARY PATROL

 

headlands and lightships in the southern portion of the North Sea. Off such places as the Thames Estuary, Lowestoft, and the Kentish coast, they endeavoured to block up well-used channels. The result was, obviously, to put a good deal of increased work on the trawlers and paddlers. This new phase of the enemy's policy emphasised still more the high value of the Auxiliary Patrol, which enabled shipping to pursue its way with the minimum of risk. It is inconceivable that the port of London, for instance, could have received and dispatched so much shipping — and therefore goods — had it not been for the reliance placed on the mine-sweeping force to seaward.

 

It is unnecessary to refer to the increased strain on material and personnel which this work involved, because that is obvious. The arrangements had to be adjusted, as well as might be, to the new conditions. Neither destroyers nor torpedo craft could be spared. Engines can be run only for a certain length of time; ships need a refit every half-year: in like manner, the human machine, tuned up to the maximum of efficiency, can do only a limited amount of work and then it, too, must have a rest or break down utterly. All the time, however, cargoes of mines were being brought across from Bruges by way of Zeebrugge, dumped down off the southeast coast lightships, headlands, buoys, and landmarks in such a manner that special sweeping had to be constantly carried out. Men " groused," and officers complained, of this ceaseless nerve-wracking turmoil; but each and all realised that the job had to be done and they alone could do it. Let these facts stand on record.

 

But that was not all. Russia was still our Ally and had to be supplied with many important munitions of war. All this traffic depended on the Russian approaches being kept clear of mines. The Germans were not slow to appreciate this fact also, and in June sent up the auxiliary cruiser Meteor (of which we shall have something to say later) on a mining enterprise to the White Sea. This vessel left Germany escorted by a submarine and laid 285 mines on the track to Archangel, about the beginning of June. The first intimation of this new mine-field was the blowing up of the steamer Arndale on June 11th, causing the loss of three lives. Between that date and the end of September nine other merchant in ships, of British, Russian, Norwegian, and American nationality, were either damaged or lost. The enemy's intention was obvious: he realised the value of the Russian offensive, and the importance of the sea lane by which military supplies were being sent into Russia through Archangel.

 

In another area far to the north the battle between the mine and the sweeper had, therefore, been joined. The enemy had laid the mines, would probably lay more, and it was the duty of British auxiliary vessels to assist the Russians in sweeping them up and keeping open a clear channel as long as the ice allowed. Therefore once more the much-wanted, hard-worked trawler was called in to bear the brunt of warfare. At Lowestoft an expedition was fitted out consisting of half a dozen trawlers and a couple of supply ships, each trawler being armed with a 12-pounder gun, and the supply ships carrying stores for three months. These trawlers Avere the Bombardier, Sir Mark Sykes, T. R. Ferens, Granton, Lord Denman, and St. Cyr, the first-mentioned being fitted with wireless telegraphy.

 

Commander L. A. Bernays, R.N., was placed in charge of the force. He was unfortunately afterwards killed when in command of a different type of ship; he had left the Navy and emigrated to Canada, where he was living after the war had broken out. He returned to the Navy, and had from the first succeeded in infusing something of his own enthusiasm into the Grimsby trawlermen, who were sent with him to sweep up the Scarborough mine-field, laid in December 1914. Commander Bernays had a curious manner of maintaining discipline, and his naval outlook had been tempered by long residence in Canada, but his rough crews understood and respected him. After sweeping in the North Sea, he had been employed clearing up the Tory Island minefield, whither he had insisted on taking his Grimsby trawlermen, rugged like himself in speech and character. When the Admiralty ordered Commander Bernays to undertake this Russian mine-sweeping expedition, they were well inspired.

 

It was on June 22nd that the vessels left Lowestoft bound first for Lerwick, whence they crossed the North Sea, reaching Alexandrovsk on July 6th. They began immediately their mine-sweeping operations. By July

 

DESTRUCTION OF MINES

 

9th several mines had been destroyed; four days later the trawler T. R. Ferens struck a mine herself; but by the eighteenth of July this expedition had done such good work that fifty mines had been destroyed. By August 10th the force had been increased by the arrival of two more trawlers from Lowestoft, besides a collier. By the middle of August there were still no Russian patrol-vessels, for there was, at Archangel, no fishing industry on which they could draw, and only one weak little steamer was engaged in stopping ships off Svyatoi Nos. The enemy had laid his mines cunningly off headlands and athwart the course which would be taken by shipping between these headlands. In September Commander Bernays was recalled to be employed in home waters.

 

On October 2nd the armed yacht Aegusa (afterwards lost in the Mediterranean) arrived at Yukanskie from Aberdeen with Rear-Admiral Philhmore, who reported that by the middle of October 150 mines had been destroyed by our White Sea trawlers and a few by the Russians, but it would be impossible to destroy all the remaining mines before the ice set in. In November the ice set in and put an end to that year's campaign. It happened to be a very severe and early winter.

 

In home waters there was so much work for the fishermen and their craft that the dispatch of additional vessels to the Baltic (sic) could not be justified. The attack on our fishing-fleets by August had become serious, and the fine weather was all in favour of the smaller submarines which came over the North Sea from Flanders. Especially was this the case in the vicinity of Lowestoft, where the fishing-fleet was scattered from Smith's Knoll all round the banks to the northward. Again, therefore, subtlety had to be allied with courage. The Senior Naval Officer at Lowestoft decided to commission four fishing-smacks, arm them with a 3-pounder each and send them off to the fishing-grounds so that it was impossible for even a friend, let alone a foe, to discriminate between armed decoy smacks and those unarmed. The following incident, the first of its kind, well illustrates the class of work which these sailing-vessels carried out. Incidentally it is pertinent to remark that a year previously no one would have dared to have suggested that a fore and aft rigged sailing-vessel could ever again become a man-of-war.

 

By August 8th (1915) four of these sailing fishing-smacks had been commissioned. They left Lowestoft with their crews dressed in all respects like fishermen, and with nothing on deck or as to their rig suggesting that they were other than peaceful craft, meet victims for the first enemy submarine which might come along. Thus on the 11th of August the Lowestoft smack G. and E. put to sea. Her crew consisted of Lieutenant C. E. Hamond, R.N., her real skipper (F. W. Moxey) temporarily enrolled as second hand R.N.R. (T.), Petty Officer Ellis, R.N., Second-hand Page, temporarily enrolled as deck hand R.N.R. (T.), Leading Seaman J. Warman, R.N., as gunlayer, Third-hand H. Alexander, temporarily enrolled as deck hand R.N.R. (T.), and Able Seaman K. Hammond, R.N. There was thus an admixture of her original crew with experienced naval fighting men. At 1 p.m. this smack was about five miles south of Smith's Knoll Buoy when a submarine came to the surface three miles south-east of the smack Leader, which was a mile south of the G. and E. First of all the enemy closed the Leader and ordered the crew to launch their boat and go alongside the submarine. The enemy then made use of this boat to place a bomb in the Leader, which blew up, after which the fishermen were again placed in their boat and cast adrift. " So far so good," thought the Germans; "we shall now deal with the smack G. and E. in the same manner." As the submarine was seen approaching this smack, the crew of the G. and E. pretended to be getting out their rowing-boat, and this business was kept up until the enemy had closed to some forty yards and had slewed to a position parallel with her intended victim.

 

 

 

An Armed Drifter

 

This was the smack's opportunity. Lieutenant Hamond issued a short sharp order, up went the White Ensign, and off went the gun. There was not a moment's delay. No one could afford to make a mistake; they were at too close quarters for that; and one of the two was certain to perish speedily. The duel, in fact, was so short that the smack fired only five rounds from her little 3-pounder. Three of these shots penetrated the conning-tower — for it was impossible at that point-blank range to miss — but the gun had to be depressed so much that the fourth and fifth shots actually struck the smack's rail, though one afterwards penetrated the base of the

 

FISHING SMACK V. SUBMARINE

 

conning-tower. Petty Officer Ellis also succeeded in killing with his rifle one man who was in the conning-tower. With great rapidity the submarine dived at a very high angle, nose first, having been taken completely by surprise. So great was her hurry to submerge that she left the body of this man on the conning-tower. She never came up again. There was great joy among the Lowestoft fishermen that this small but dangerous German warship from the Flemish coast had been got rid of so neatly.

 

There were other instances of this successful armed smack warfare, and they certainly taught the invaders of Belgium that British seamen were skilful in stratagem as well as brave. A well-deserved D.S.C. was awarded to Lieutenant Hamond. This engagement furnished an admirable example of the way in which the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy co-operated during the war with the sole object of defeating the Germans. To the plain, blunt seamanship of the latter came the aid of the former's fighting skill. Such was the peculiar temperament of the German, however, that he became very angry when he learned of the way mere sailing-smacks were destroying his ingeniously built craft, and threats were sent in to Lowestoft by other submarines through the medium of the crews of our fishing-vessels which were sunk later on. But not even these threats prevented the hardy North Seamen from going about their work. Nelson himself was an East Anglian. In years to come descendants of the men of the twentieth century who confronted the enemy by sea will be moved to wonder and admiration when they realise that, in spite of the progress of physical science, little sailing-ships of wood, without mechanical power, met in close combat and destroyed steel vessels which could alike go ahead or astern, and make themselves invisible.

 

The problem of the fisherman from the beginning to the end of the war was no easy one. If the naval authorities had stopped all fishing a most important industry would have been killed, causing distress and unemployment, besides depriving the nation of one of its principal articles of food. On the other hand, if they allowed fishing to continue, losses from mines, torpedoes, and gunfire and bombs could not be avoided. There is a tendency to minimise the value of the fishing trade. At the beginning of the war it employed in England and Wales alone 44,000 men and about 216,000 tons of seagoing craft. In addition, there must be reckoned many thousands of persons engaged in the distribution and curing of fish, The fish supply was the equivalent, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, of nearly half the total amount of meat annually consumed in the British Isles, and of this supply about seven-eighths were landed at coast ports.

 

It came to this then, that these fishermen were, after the declaration of war, pursuing their calling in what a soldier would designate " no man's land," After the first few months of hostilities most of the best ships and the most active personnel had joined the Navy. Approximately 50 per cent, of the fishermen were serving under the White Ensign, and the rest had to carry on their work among mines and submarines as best they could. The ordinary dangers of the sea were, of course, present as before; but owing to the removal of the lightships, and the dowsing of innumerable shore lights, the absence of buoys, and the introduction of new channels and routes, their lot was not made any the easier.

 

Inasmuch as the North Sea was the main naval theatre of the war, until the submarines started operating off the western side of the British Isles, from a strictly naval point of view there would have been advantages in forbidding any fishing-craft from working in that area. It would have certainly made matters easier for the Grand Fleet in its periodical sweeps down the North Sea, and it would have lightened the duties of the patrols. It must be admitted that at the beginning of the war the Navy looked upon these craft rather as a nuisance; but when it was found that these trawlers were the means of discovering unsuspected mine-fields, they were regarded in a very different light.

 

Once definite conclusions had been reached as to the usefulness of the fishermen, the craft had to be protected in some way. It was the Navy's duty to see that this was done, but that meant detaching vessels from purely offensive operations. During the summer of the year 1915 the losses of both steam and sailing fishing-craft were very heavy, and insurance rates soared up. In August the question was again raised as to whether, from the naval point of view, it was desirable to allow these

 

NAVAL CONTROL OF FISHING FLEETS

 

vessels to continue their fishing. The whole matter was carefully investigated by the Admiralty afresh. Admiral Ballard, who was commanding most of the East Coast area, stated very truly that fishing-trawlers were keenly on the lookout for anything suspicious and offered considerable obstacles to the free navigation of enemy submarines. Every trawl, warp, or drift net was a potential source of trouble, and in at least one case a U-boat got her periscope foul of a trawler's wire and was thrown on her beam ends. The Dutch fishing-fleets were still allowed to work in the North Sea, and if British fishing-fleets were withdrawn, it would mean that we should require at least 150 more armed patrols.

 

At this time the total number of trawlers fishing off the East Coast was about 350, most of which belonged to the Humber. The Hull fleet was under the control of a fishing " Admiral," and every morning fish-carriers met the vessels at sea and took the fish to London; otherwise trawlers fished independently. The obvious solution of the difficulty was some sort of control over these fleets under Admiralty organisation. This Admiral Jellicoe advocated. Both he and Commodore Tyrwhitt were in favour of allowing the trawlers to continue fishing. But the regulation and control of their movements were not easy, though eventually the difficulties were surmounted.

 

For the present it was clear that the advantages of maintaining fishing-fleets at sea were sufficient to warrant the insurance of these vessels at a premium lower than what would be justified from the purely financial point of view, and this was the decision to which the Admiralty came in the middle of October. In the year 1917 a really satisfactory system was introduced, by which these vessels fished together in groups under Naval control, a sufficient number in each group being armed at least to enable some sort of fight to be put up with any submarine that came along; one of the trawlers was also fitted with wireless. This meant commissioning the trawlers and placing them under the command of the Senior Naval Officers of their respective ports and they thus became, in fact though not in name, part of the Auxiliary Patrol. But this evolution took time, and it was only as the result of many hardly learned lessons that it came about.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE SEA TRANSPORT OF THE FIRST MILLION TROOPS

 

If an adequate conception is to be formed of the manner in which the Mercantile Marine supported the national effort by sea and by land in the early days of the war, some account must be given of the movement of troops oversea. The transport of war is the merchant ship of peace, usually a passenger vessel when the change of status occurs; the crew of merchant officers and men remains. It was not the policy of this country to support a separate and distinct transport service, though it could use its army, apart from the needs of home defence, only if it had facilities for moving it by sea. Reliance was placed on the authority of the Admiralty to requisition whatever tonnage was required for the movement of troops when the emergency arose.

 

The army of an island Power, the axis of a maritime Empire embracing nearly one-quarter of the land surface of the globe, is dependent for movement upon merchant shipping, and for protection while afloat the heavily laden transports must rely upon the Navy confronted with many other duties. As events were to show, the enemy conducted his operations below the surface as well as on the surface. In that respect, as well as in others, the transport movement, which began in August 1914, differed from anything which had been attempted before. The mobilisation of the military forces on August 4th brought into operation, under conditions which it had been impossible to foresee in anything approaching completeness, the plans for transport oversea, which had been prepared by the Admiralty in consultation with the War Office. The interdependence of naval and military policy was speedily demonstrated in a manner of which the public generally had no knowledge at the time, for, after the British ultimatum had been dispatched to Germany,

 

PROBLEMS OF OVERSEA TRANSPORT

 

complete secrecy was observed as to the naval and military arrangements which were speedily carried out in order to put the British Empire on a war footing. The silence suggested that the country had been caught unprepared; but behind the fog of war a transport movement was inaugurated, unparalleled in character and extent in the history of any country. The reorganisation of the British Army, which had been in progress from 1902 down to the opening of the war, suddenly, though not unexpectedly to the departments concerned, reacted on naval conditions, and within a few weeks a large number of merchant ships were engaged in a great transport movement, world-wide in its extent, in face of the undefeated naval forces of the second greatest sea Power in the world.

 

The oversea transport of large military forces calls for the closest co-operation between naval and military departments, and demands, perhaps, a higher degree of technical efficiency in all the elements concerned than any other operation of war, particularly if the movement is carried out in face of an enemy fleet which has not revealed its intentions. The operation is facilitated when the soldiers can be disembarked on a friendly shore, but even in that case there remain the perils of the oversea passage, the imminence of which so impressed many British seamen that, down to the summer of 1914, it was an axiom, accepted by many high authorities, that troops should not be moved by sea until the enemy's naval forces had been either defeated or definitely thrown back on the defensive. In the early days of August 1914 the strategic policy to be adopted at sea by the enemy was undisclosed, but British merchant seamen, placing complete reliance on the sufficiency and efficiency of the British Fleet, cooperated in the great transport movement with singleness of purpose, confidence in the adequacy of the arrangements for their safe passage, and complete subordination of their own interests to the interests of the State.

 

Many expeditions across the sea had been carried out since the close of the Napoleonic struggle, but, down to the South African War, in only four instances had the number of troops been considerable. The French dispatched on the short voyage to Algeria in 1830 37,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and a proportionate number of guns; for the invasion of the Crimea in 1854 the forces of the Allies numbered about 53,000 men; the army of the Potomac, which was transported from Washington to Fort Monroe in 1861, was relatively a small one; and for the British expedition to Egypt in 1882 85,720 officers and men were landed at Alexandria, Ismailia, and Suez. During the South African War, 1899-1902, 396,021 officers and men were carried to South Africa from the British Isles, India, and the Colonies, but that movement was spread over a period of two years and eight months. The first orders for the reinforcements were on a small scale, and were carried out slowly.

 

" The decision to reinforce the British troops in Natal was arrived at by the Cabinet on the 8th of September. More than a month later, October 12th, the first shot was fired; but not till six weeks after the decision to reinforce did units from home begin to leave the country, and these troops had to travel more than 7,000 miles before they could affect the situation at the front. At this crisis the whole force available at home was dispatched. It consisted of two battalions of infantry and a brigade division (three batteries) of field artillery." (The Army in 1906, by the Rt. Hon. H. O. Arnold Foster, late Secretary of State for War.)

 

At the close of the South African War, steps were taken to remodel the army, and these measures reacted on the transport arrangements. It was originally proposed to provide a " striking force " of 80,000 men, and plans were considered for organising the necessary sea transport on that basis. After Lord Haldane became Secretary of State for War, an Imperial General Staff was developed, the oversea force was further expanded to 164,000 officers and men, and the watchword of the new military regime was " quick mobilisation." It was realised that the value of the Expeditionary Force would depend largely on the rapidity with which it could be mobilised and embarked for oversea passage. The plans of the military authorities having been prepared and tested, as far as that was possible, it rested with the Transport Department of the Admiralty to complete the scheme by providing adequate and suitable transport for the troops as soon as they reached the water side, thus avoiding delay.

 

EARLY UNCERTAINTIES

 

A country which embarks upon an aggressive war can fix the date for the declaration of the opening of hostihties, and lay its plans many months ahead, drawing up a schedule for the mobilisation and transport of troops. A Power which acts on the defensive is necessarily at a disadvantage. But, apart from the uncertainty as to when the ships, ordinary merchant ships engaged in peaceful trading, would be required, the difficulties associated with British military transport in 1914 were not lessened by the necessary absence of full knowledge in preceding months of the part which the British Army might have to take in war, whether in defending oversea portions of the Empire or in supporting the French Army on the Continent.

 

In the years before the opening of the war, the Government had definitely refrained from giving a pledge of military support to France. But on August 3rd, 1914, the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated, in the course of a speech in the House of Commons, that for many months previously " conversations had taken place between the chief naval and military experts of Great Britain and France with a view to joint action if the necessity should arise." On this occasion the Foreign Minister read a letter which he had addressed to the French Ambassador on November 22nd, 1912, in proof that " these conversations were not binding on the freedom of either Government." In that letter, in the terms of which the French Government concurred, the Foreign Minister stated: " I agree that if either Government have grave reasons to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power or something which threatens the general peace, it should immediately discuss with the other whether both Governments should not act together to prevent aggression and to preserve peace, and if so, what measures they would be prepared to take in common."

 

That, as the Foreign Minister pointed out, was the starting-point for the Government when the crisis developed in the summer of 1914. " The Government," he declared, "remain perfectly free." He added that "the Triple Entente was not an alliance but a diplomatic group," and " we do not construe anything which has previously taken place in our diplomatic relations with other Powers in this matter as restricting the freedom of the Government to decide what action it should take now or restricting the freedom of the House of Commons to decide what their action shall be." It was in these political circumstances that the plans for the transport of British military forces in the event of war had to be prepared. The point is of some importance, since it illustrates the embarrassments which an uncertain outlook in the diplomatic field, in association with a defensive policy, may throw upon public departments, which in case of failure must be prepared to accept censure.

 

The transport of the British Army must always be of a complicated character, owing to the responsibility for garrisoning oversea bases, and the necessity of keeping a large force of British troops in India. The Army Estimates for the financial year 1914-15 made provision for 727,232 officers and men, besides 75,987 British troops on the Indian establishment. That aggregate included the Regular Forces, the Army Reserve, the Special Reserves, the Militia, and the Territorial Force. The Regular Army was distributed between Home and Foreign stations as follows:

 

 Units

At Home.

Abroad.

Total.

Cavalry Regiments

19

12

31

R.H.A. Batteries

13

12

25

R.F.A. Batteries.

99

48

147

Mountain Batteries.

9

9

Garrison Artillery Companies

43

56

99

R.E. Companies

56

21

77

Guards Battalions.

9

9

Infantry Battalions

74

74

148

 

The Indian Army establishments consisted of 2,751 officers and 161,081 other ranks, with 35,700 Reservists. In addition, there were an Indian Volunteer Force, consisting of Europeans and Anglo-Indians, of about 1,500 officers and 37,000 other ranks, and about 20,000 Imperial Service Troops. Each of the British Dominions also possessed the nucleus of a military force.

 

Immediately war was declared, the predominant problem was how the varied and not inconsiderable, if, in some respects, untrained, military resources of the Empire could be best utilised for the defence of the world-wide Empire

 

THE PART OF THE MERCHANT NAVY

 

itself against possible dangers and for the promotion of the Allied cause. The impression, current at the outbreak of war, that the Merchant Navy became responsible only for the movement of the Expeditionary Force to France was based upon a misapprehension, both of the preparations which had been made by the Transport Department of the Admiralty, and of the plans which Lord Kitchener drew up on taking office as Secretary of State for War on August 5th for the redistribution of the military forces of the Empire. The Secretary of State for War accepted the transport arrangements which had already been made for carrying the Expeditionary Force across the Channel, and he conceived a further plan of imperial mobilisation which threw upon the Merchant Navy a greatly increased and unexpected burden.

 

Finally, after consultation between the Mother Country and the Dominions, the Dominion authorities prepared plans for bringing considerable bodies of newly raised troops from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, further increasing the responsibilities of the Mercantile Marine as well as the Royal Navy. In effect, Lord Kitchener determined, while throwing the Expeditionary Force on the Continent, to carry out a " general post " of the military forces of the Empire, involving a widespread movement of transports crowded with officers and men in all the seas and oceans of the world at a time when the enemy fleets were still undefeated.

 

The power of moving armies across the sea was a deciding factor in the victory of the Allied and Associated Powers in the Great War. The problem presented two difficulties: (1) ensuring the security of the troops in transit against danger from enemy surface craft, submarines, and submarine mines, and (2) the provision and handling of shipping to accommodate the military personnel, animals, vehicles, and stores of all kinds required for military use. The first problem was one for the Navy, and this important phase of naval strategy is dealt with elsewhere. (Naval Operations, by Sir Julian Corbett.) It is proposed to deal here with the part taken by the British Mercantile Marine in overcoming the second difficulty, the provision and handling of shipping and the essential auxiliary services.

 

By the last month of the war about 520 British vessels, ranging from ships of 500 tons gross to the largest passenger liners, were being employed on British military services. Their tonnage was about 1,750,000 gross, and that represented approximately the average amount of tonnage continuously devoted to this service throughout the war, excepting in the very early stages when the armies operating overseas were smaller, and less tonnage sufficed to meet their requirements. A very important principle to be borne in mind when deciding upon an oversea military operation is that it is not only a question of providing tonnage once for all for the actual troop movements; there must always be an aftermath of demands for transport of stores, ammunition, and reinforcing drafts in one direction, and of sick and wounded, and maybe prisoners of war, in the other. The proportion of tonnage required for these purposes depends upon the nature of the military forces employed, of the character of the operations upon which they are engaged, and upon the nature of the theatre of war in which they are to operate.

 

There is much to be learned from the numbers of men and weights of stores transported from a land base to and from an army in the field by railways, motor lorries, horsed wagons, and other forms of land transport. This information, which has an important bearing upon land strategy, does not, however, come within the scope of this history. We are, however, concerned with another aspect of the matter. After an army has been landed at an oversea base, the responsibility for maintaining this constant stream of traffic across the sea falls upon the Mercantile Marine, which links up the oversea army with the home country. In such circumstances the commanders of an insular army are as dependent upon shipping for their strategy as they are upon railways and other forms of land transport.

 

The military strategist handling an army in a peninsula or other theatre of war with a large proportion of coastline can sometimes take advantage of sea command to change his base of operations; he can thus shorten his lines of communications and alter their direction. Acting on these principles in the Peninsular War, Wellington, commanding a comparatively small military force, changed his base from Lisbon to Santander and other ports on the north coast of Spain. In the Egyptian War of 1882 the British base was changed suddenly from Alexandria to Ismailia. Kuroki, in the Russo-Japanese War, would

 

TENTATIVE PREPARATIONS

 

have been unable to advance through Korea from Chemulpo to the Yalu had it not been for constant changes of base to other more northerly places on the coast, and history affords many similar examples. It is doubtful whether the British Army could have intervened in the first battle of the Marne had it not been for the help of the Mercantile Marine in the change of base from Havre to St. Nazaire and Nantes on the River Loire, to which important operation special reference must be made later.

 

A just appreciation of the services which the Mercantile Marine rendered in the transport of troops can be formed only in the knowledge that by land and sea, lines of communication for armies reveal the same principle; the longer the line, the greater the amount of transport required in proportion to the strength of the army. Although the actual amount of tonnage per man and horse may be the same for the troops actually transported, the number of ships required for subsequent services increases enormously with the distance of the oversea theatre of war from the home base. The operations in France and Flanders were vastly more economical in shipping and protective measures than the operations in distant theatres.

 

 

(a) The Expeditionary Force to France (B.E.F.)

 

As has been indicated, the only operation for which it had been possible to make preparations, and those of a tentative character, was the transport of the original British Expeditionary Force across the Channel. When the emergency occurred, it was only necessary to bring the scheme up-to-date, to ascertain the names of vessels available in home waters at the time, and to introduce a few amendments necessitated by original overestimates of the capacity of the French harbours for handling the traffic with sufficient speed. Orders were issued on August 5th, 1914, for the scheme to be put into execution. It was at first intended that August 7th should be the first day of embarkation, but ultimately the date was fixed as August 9th.

 

The original plan provided for the embarkation of six divisions, cavalry and line of communication troops, but two divisions (the 4th and 6th) were taken out of the scheme when the order to embark was issued. The 4th Division was subsequently reinstated on the list and began to embark on August 22nd, and fought at Le Cateau on the 26th; and the 6th Division, from Ireland, was transported to England and conveyed to France on September 8th and 9th. The Merchant Service rose to the occasion so well that the necessary transports were ready, as a rule, the day before they were required, although in some cases the necessary refitting of vessels for the carriage of men and horses occupied from two to six days. As the embarkation proceeded, it was found to be possible to expedite the programme. The moves originally fixed for the 13th day were carried out on the 12th day, and those for the 14th on the 13th day. In other respects the embarkation followed exactly the lines originally laid down. In actual experience the military were in charge of the troops, equipment, etc., until the wharves were reached. The Navy's responsibility began when the troops were on board and ended when they had been landed on the overseas wharves.

 

Up to August 23rd the troops and military resources were landed at Boulogne, Le Havre, and Rouen. From that date until August 31st at Le Havre and Rouen. Then came the change of base, of vital importance to the British war strategy, to which reference has already been made. Between August 31st and September 16th the disembarkation ports were St. Nazaire and Nantes on the River Loire. From September 16th, owing to the more favourable situation resulting from the first battle of the Marne, the service to Le Havre and Rouen was partially resumed.

 

Southampton was the principal port of embarkation for troops. The following table shows the numbers embarked at English and Irish ports between August 9th and September 21st:

 

Port.

Officers.

Other Ranks.

Horses.

Nursing Sisters and Civilians.

Southampton

5,028

171,708

51,434

1,389

Newhaven

66

409

-

9

Avonmouth

58

4,547

-

-

Liverpool

16

1,741

-

-

Devonport

30

844

421

-

Dublin         )

 

 

 

 

Belfast         )

826

25,921

10,184

-

Queenstown)

 

 

 

 

Totals

6,024

205,040

62,039

1,398

 

FIRST MOVEMENTS

 

These figures give some idea of the strain brought upon the British Mercantile Marine to meet the demand for transference of the Expeditionary Force to France. In addition to personnel and horses, 93,364 tons is a minimum estimate of the amount of ammunition, stores, vehicles, etc., carried to the same destination for the Army, distributed as follows: Ammunition for guns: 3,984 tons, for small arms 2,185 tons; food: 31,509 tons; forage: 21,364 tons; petrol: 1,006,462 gallons; vehicles: 12,162 tons; stores: 25,080 tons. These figures were dwarfed by the vast amount of tonnage occupied for military purposes when the large new armies took the field on the Western Front and in other theatres of war; when expenditure of ammunition was on a scale undreamed of, and trench stores, new weapons, and tanks were introduced; but the figures serve as a useful corrective to the prevalent idea that sea transport of armies is a simple matter of embarking and disembarking personnel and horses.

 

The general allocation to various ports of embarkation had been arranged as follows: — Southampton, Dublin, Glasgow, Queenstown, Belfast, and Jersey: troops and horses; Newhaven: stores; Liverpool: mechanical transport and frozen meat; Avonmouth: mechanical transport and petrol; London: stevedores; Devonport; Siege Brigade; Dover: Naval Brigade. On the first day (August 9th) six transports, with a total of 5,361 tons gross, left. The numbers varied during the period, the maximum number being reached on August 14th (forty-four vessels, gross tonnage 154,361), and the maximum tonnage on August 16th (thirty-nine vessels, gross tonnage 171,188). On the last day of the period, September 20th, six transports, of a total gross tonnage of 43,409, left. The movements were worked on the ferry system, the same vessels doing from a single voyage up to nine voyages during the period; the whole movement was completed in 570 trips, and the ship-tonnage clearing from the ports totalled 2,241,389 tons gross. The daily average of sailings was thirteen vessels, of 52,125 gross tonnage.

 

As typical of the zeal with which the personnel of the Merchant Service worked to keep the programme up to time, and so contribute to the success of our army in the field, one incident may be mentioned. When sudden orders were received to evacuate Le Havre, two Leyland liners were at Southampton at No. 47 berth, coaling. In the middle of the night orders were given to stop coaling and to sail at once to Le Havre. The coaling was stopped, but a difficulty occurred in closing the coaling ports, which had to be secured by bolts from the outside. The ships' officers and engineers went over the side on stages to effect this, and, as the ships steamed away into the darkness, these men could be seen hanging on the ships' sides, only a few feet from the water, putting in a few bolts to ensure the safety of their ships; by their action much time was saved.

 

This leads us to the rapid evacuation of Le Havre, upon which the speedy recuperation of our army after the retreat from Mons so largely depended. The need to make provision for the ordered movements hitherto described had, as we have noticed, been foreseen. Owing to the adverse military situation, first Boulogne had to be abandoned as a port of disembarkation, then Le Havre, the main base of the British Army. The order for the evacuation of the latter port was received on August 30th. On that day about 60,000 tons of military stores were lying on the wharves. This immense amount of stores, 21,000 troops, and 7,000 horses were conveyed by sea from Le Havre to the River Loire by the Mercantile Marine, and as a result the British Army, reinforced and re-equipped, was able to cross the Marne on September 9th, and continue its advance subsequently. By the 16th the transfer had been completed.

 

It is not easy to find any historic precedent which applies to this successful effort. The official history of the Egyptian War of 1882 mentions the transfer of a base of a much smaller British army from Alexandria to Ismailia. The comparison is hardly a fair one, because Alexandria was not evacuated, but retained as the main base of the army, Ismailia being used as the forward base. Moreover, the scale of army equipment was not so lavish in those days, and the army itself had not lost heavily in guns and stores in a rapid retreat. The official history tells us that, although the plans for the change of base were completed by August 16th, 1882, and the necessary orders issued, matters had not progressed sufficiently for

 

AN INCIDENT IN THE " INVENTOR "

 

operations from Ismailia to commence until September 9th, twenty-four days, compared with eighteen days when the emergency occurred at the beginning of the Great War, a result of which a large share of the credit falls upon the efforts of the Merchant Service to cope with the emergency. It is claimed that over 7,500 tons of stores were cleared daily from Le Havre, in addition to 10,000 tons taken from Rouen in two days; 2,000 Belgian troops, with guns and 2,000 horses, were also cleared from Rouen. An idea of the comparative magnitude of the effort can be gleaned from the figures for Richborough, a model port of embarkation, after twenty-eight months of work and about 1,750,000 in money had been expended upon facilities there for loading war-like stores. A report of Lieutenant-General Sir H. Lawson, dated October 24th, 1918, stated that the average daily shipment of stores at Richborough amounted to about 3,000 tons; the maximum had been 6,000 tons.

 

The navigational difficulties, which were very serious, were on the whole successfully surmounted. The ships were not in all cases suitable for the ports of the Loire, which were not as capable as Le Havre of accommodating vessels of large displacements. One vessel, the Inventor, described as the most important storeship of all, was the largest that had ever reached Nantes. Such heavy ships could only come up on the top of the tide, and they had to be berthed against an island where the water was deepest; even there they settled and heeled over at low tide. The carrying capacity of the Inventor was 10,800 tons, and her holds were 40 feet deep. She was berthed at Nantes late on September 7th and, owing to the poor local facilities which existed, it took over ten days to clear her holds, in spite of the utmost exertions. Her case is referred to in some detail because of an incident during her unloading. The incident furnishes an illustration of the great complication of the question of sea transport of military stores, and its influence upon the fighting efficiency of armies.

 

A small consignment, of about a quarter of a ton, on board this vessel, contained the boxes and belts of machine-guns urgently required by the fighting troops in replacement of losses. This consignment was buried under about 10,000 tons of other stores of all kinds. Whether this was due to an order given to load the most important stores first at Le Havre to avoid capture, or to the original stowage of the hold at Southampton, is a matter on which no light can be shed. As soon as the change of base from Le Havre was ordered, the machine-guns to replace losses in the Mons retreat were sent by rail as urgent stores to the new advanced base, but they were useless without the belts and boxes. These were not found, near the bottom of the Inventor's cargo, until September 17th, and the urgent demands by the Army for machine-guns were consequently not satisfied until after long delay.

 

At that period no vouchers accompanied ordnance stores to France, and there were no supercargoes in charge of them. The incident in no way reflects upon the Merchant Service, and is quoted in order to place on record for future guidance that the issue of an action may depend upon the receipt in the right sequence at the front of a quarter of a ton of technical stores out of the hold of a storeship containing nearly 11,000 tons, and difficulties multiply when all packages are not clearly marked with the nature of their contents. At a later date " convoymen " accompanied cargoes, and vouchers came through with the military stores.

 

This account of the work done by the Mercantile Marine in connection with the transport of the original Expeditionary Force to France would not be complete without a reference to the sudden strain caused unexpectedly by the decision to attempt the relief of Antwerp. The movement of the Royal Marine Brigade to and from Ostend in August 1914 was carried out by war-vessels, so is outside the scope of this chapter. We need not pause to deal in detail with the transport of the Royal Naval Brigade to Dunkirk in September 1914, of the Royal Naval Artillery to the same destination in October, and of the 7th Division and Naval Division to Belgium, but the complication of the service subsequently undertaken cannot be over-emphasised. The 7th Division was landed at Ostend and Zeebrugge. Transports arrived at Ostend on October 7th and 8th, and the landing of troops and stores was at once proceeded with. On Saturday, October 10th, when most of the stores had been landed, orders were given to evacuate Ostend in forty-eight hours' time, to re-embark all stores, and to make every effort to get

 

A FOUR DAYS' RECORD

 

the ships away to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. About twenty-four transports were in the port, many of them in the tidal basin, which only about six ships could leave on one tide.

 

Then the Naval Division, the Marine Brigade, the refugees, and Belgian troops began to pour in, and owed a deep debt of gratitude to the masters and crews of the transports who gave them shelter, hot cocoa, and sorely needed food. Refugees and troops blocked all approaches. Only comparatively few stevedores could be obtained, twenty-eight on one day and seven on another. Practically the whole of the loading of British army stores was done by the officers and crews of the transports, who put in extraordinarily long hours of work, and by British soldiers; the Belgian cranemen and men on the lock-gates also worked continuously without reliefs. Amongst the loads were heavy guns, a 9.2-inch weighing thirty-eight tons, two 6-inch, and six 4.7-inch, besides two steam tractors and a good deal of ammunition. There were no suitable slings, but the transport Artist had a spare new wire hawser of which the master (Mr. Mills) and his chief officer made use and personally slung the steam tractors, thus saving these valuable stores from capture, a most noteworthy performance.

 

Between October 10th and 13th, 6,000 Naval Division, 1,000 Belgian wounded, and one shipload of horses, carriages, and other things belonging to the King of the Belgians, were transported from Ostend to England; 440 British troops and two shiploads of Belgian stores were moved from Ostend to Boulogne; 1,500 Belgian troops from Ostend to Cherbourg; 2,000 Belgian refugees from Zeebrugge to Calais and Cherbourg, 1,200 Royal Naval forces and 6,000 Belgian wounded from Dunkirk to England, 11,000 Belgian troops from Dunkirk to Cherbourg. Between October 17th and 18th 17,900 Belgian troops were transported from Dunkirk to Calais, and 3,000 from Boulogne to Dunkirk. In addition, about 1,000 Russian refugees from Belgium and England were carried to Archangel, and a number of emergency coast moves were carried out. Thirty thousand French troops were also moved from Le Havre to La Pallice, and 10,000 from Calais to Cherbourg, in British ships.

 

The scene at Ostend, at the time when the troop movements were taking place, may be gathered from the following account:

 

" On October 14th it was announced that the vessels sent to Ostend were evacuating refugees at the rate of 5,000 a day; a previous report had stated that the roads leading to the port were black with refugees flocking towards it. The number of these unfortunate people awaiting embarkation on October 13th was 20,000, and a destroyer escort was requisitioned to protect the crowded transports. The Belgian packet-boat helped materially in the work of transference across the Channel, assisted by the English passenger ships Invicta, Queen, and Victoria."

 

Zeebrugge port was closed down on October 10th, and Ostend on the 14th. Speed had to take precedence of organisation, as may be gathered from a report from the Naval Transport Officer at Dover on October 15th, that " half the refugees that had arrived there were wounded soldiers, etc., all mixed up hopelessly." There was unavoidable overcrowding, and the varied personnel was taken to Dover faster than it could be handled there; but the matter was urgent, and the way in which the British Merchant Service rose to the occasion and dealt with the difficult situation without disaster from marine risks or overcrowding earned the highest praise of the naval and military authorities.

 

At first Belgian pilots were employed to pilot the vessels as far as Dunkirk, but owing to the congestion they could not get back to Ostend. The navigation of these waters is always difficult, and the prevailing foggy weather increased the difficulties and risk. Luckily some of the transports had Trinity House pilots on board. Any master who did not elect to sail without a pilot was given one of these, and his ship led a string of three or four transports until open waters were reached. The whole operation was conducted without mishap, and only one vessel, the Coath, an ammunition ship, was delayed near Malo-les-Bains, where she was ordered to anchor by a French patrol-boat and apparently forgotten. She reached Dunkirk two days later.

 

A GREAT STRAIN

 

 

(b) The Empire Military Mobilisation

(Direct movements to enemy territory are not included in this section.)

 

Having dealt briefly with the sea transport of the British Expeditionary Force to France, for which preparations had been made in pre-war days, and with the variation in the plans which occurred, we can now pass to the unexpected and unprepared movements of troops which threw such a heavy strain upon the Merchant Service in the early days of the war. Owing to the doubt which prevailed as to whether troops from the self-governing Dominions and India would participate with the British Army in a great war, no detailed preparations had been made for their sea transport, and there had been no study of the influence of the withdrawal of British merchant shipping for this purpose upon the economic position in Great Britain.

 

The point is mentioned to emphasise the serious nature of the strain brought to bear upon the Merchant Service in meeting the sudden demand for tonnage for troop transport, while at the same time making every effort to maintain the supply to the British Isles of the food and raw material needed by the population. The transports for the short cross-Channel movement were worked, as we have seen, on the ferry system, and one vessel did as many as nine voyages in about three weeks. This conveys some measure of the difference in the number of vessels required for long voyages occupying several weeks, or even months.

 

Lord Kitchener determined to concentrate all the highly trained forces of the Empire in France, replacing them by less well trained units. It was a bold stroke of policy, and its success depended on the efficiency of the transport arrangements and the devotion of officers and men of the Merchant Service. When the great military mobilisation began to take effect, the chief movements were, in sequence of the orders received for their execution:

(1) August 19th: the removal of part of the garrisons of Egypt, Malta, and Gibraltar to the United Kingdom;

(2) August 25th: the movement of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force;

(3) August 29th: the transfer of Territorial troops to Egypt, Malta, and Gibraltar;

(4) September 4th: the movement of the first contingent of the Australian Expeditionary Force.

(5) September 9th: the movement of the First Canadian Expeditionary Force;

(6) September 13th: the dispatch of transports from Egypt to India, and conveyance of Egyptian garrison to England;

(7) September 23rd: the transfer of Wessex Territorial Division to India;

(8) October 10th: the movement of British troops to India;

(9) October 14th: the transfer of Home Counties Territorial Division to India;

(10) November 3rd: the movement of the second contingents, Australia and New Zealand Expeditionary Forces;

(11) November 11th: the transfer of Wessex (Reserve) Territorial Division to India,

We will take these movements in succession in order to reflect the character and extent of the burden which was thrown on the Mercantile Marine, for they involved the use of a great volume of shipping.

 

(1) Removal to the United Kingdom of Troops from. Egypt, Malta, and Gibraltar.— The grand total of these movements amounted to 7,355 officers and men, 711 horses, and 278 mules. The troops moved from Egypt included 1 cavalry regiment, 3 battalions of infantry, 1 battery of R.H.A., 1 Field Company R.E., and details of the Army Service Corps, Veterinary Department, and Ordnance Corps; from Malta 3 battalions of infantry, and details; from Gibraltar 1 battalion of infantry, and details. There were also large numbers of women and children at all those Mediterranean garrisons. The movement was foreshadowed on August 19th. It was carried out between September 13th and October 16th by nine transports, with a total gross tonnage of about 80,000. On August 28th further information was received through the General Officer commanding in Egypt that the whole Egyptian garrison would eventually be removed excepting a few minor details, its place being taken by a Territorial division. Indian troops would require transport from Egypt to Marseilles.

 

(2) Movement of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. — On August 25th notice was received of the approaching movement of the original New Zealand Expeditionary Force, On August 31st the New Zealand Minister of Defence announced that the force was ready to embark, and on September 12th that the reinforcements for this main force would be ready to follow about six weeks after its departure. The first convoy, containing nine transports (72,800 tons gross), left Wellington on October 16th, 1914, and arrived in Egypt on December 1st. On November

 

A VAST VOLUME OF SHIPPING

 

11th provisional arrangements for the dispatch of the reinforcements were forwarded to New Zealand. On December 12th the Admiralty gave permission for the three transports carrying them to steam without escort as far as Aden, although enemy cruisers were known to be at large. They left on December 14th and arrived in Egypt on January 31st, 1915. The strength of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force was 7,670 officers and men with 3,467 animals, and the reinforcements numbered 1,971 officers and men with 959 animals, and were carried in three transports, of about 20,350 tons gross. In addition to these troops, 200 Maoris, offered by New Zealand and accepted by the Army Council, were transported to Egypt, and 147 British Army Reservists were conveyed without escort round the Horn, arriving in England on December 20th.

 

(3) Transfer of Territorial Troops from England to Gibraltar, Malta, and Egypt. — On August 29th a demand was received from the War Office for the dispatch of a Territorial division and 2 regiments of Yeomanry to Egypt, an infantry brigade to Malta, and 2 battalions to Gibraltar, the estimated total numbers amounting to 490 officers, 14,372 other ranks, and 363 horses. Thirteen merchant vessels were selected to carry the troops, and seven were requisitioned for the horses, etc. It was understood that the existing garrison of Egypt would be brought to England in these transports, when it was relieved. By September 4th nineteen vessels (155,500 tons gross) had been appropriated. The first of these left Southampton on that day, and the last arrived at Alexandria on September 25th. One vessel, the Grantully Castle, proceeded through the Canal to Port Sudan, carrying about 1,900 troops.

 

(4) Movement of the First Contingent of the Australian Expeditionary Force. — On September 4th, 1914, the Australian Government sanctioned the requisition of detained enemy ships for use as transports, and on September 5th announced that all the units of the first Australian contingent would be ready to embark within six weeks, at the same time representing to the Board of Trade that it was important, so far as practicable, that the transports should also carry cargo on the voyage to England. On September 8th the Admiralty announced that by October 7th an escort for the convoy would be ready at Fremantle, and that the New Zealand reinforcements would join the convoy.

 

The Australian Navy Office reported on September 9th that twenty-seven transports would assemble at St. George's Sound by October 5th. The Miltiades, conveying British Army reservists, left Australia on October 23rd. On November 1st thirty-six transports left for Colombo. It had been decided on October 26th that the Australian and New Zealand convoy should come to England by the Cape of Good Hope route, but on November 21st the decision was reached to land the contingents in Egypt to complete their training and for defence of the country, then threatened by an invasion by Turkish troops, Turkey having by this time joined the Central Powers. The British Army reservists were to be sent on to England. This change in the arrangements threw an extra strain upon the Merchant Service, and much correspondence ensued about the destination of the various vessels unexpectedly liberated by the new scheme of disembarkation.

 

The convoys arrived in Egypt on December 1st, 1914, without mishap or delay. The only adverse incident which occurred was that one transport, the Anglo-Egyptian, touched the breakwater at Colombo, but the damage was not sufficient to delay the vessel. Throughout the course of these unprepared troop movements, it is noticeable that, although so many merchant ships, liners and cargo-vessels were diverted from their usual routes, they were handled safely by good seamanship in harbours with which the captains and crews were not familiar. Twenty-eight vessels for troops (gross tonnage 244,500) and fifteen for details, stores, etc., were employed to transfer the Australian contingent to Egypt. The total military personnel carried numbered 21,429 officers and men, with 8,000 animals.

 

(5) Movement of the First Canadian Expeditionary Force across the Atlantic. — This movement of large numbers of valuable transports loaded with troops into the war area infested with submarines and mines, while sea command was in dispute, threw a great strain upon the seamanship and resourcefulness of the Merchant Service. The first papers on the subject in the transport department are dated September 9th, 1914. The arrangements for the organisation of the convoys and provision for their safety

 

THE CANADIAN FORCE

 

by the Navy are beyond the scope of this history. Secrecy was all-important. Quebec was the port of embarkation, and subsequently assembly took place in Gaspe Bay. The movements of 18,000-ton vessels of 17 knot speed had to be synchronised with those of 3,000-ton vessels with a speed of 10 knots. Southampton was first selected as the port of disembarkation, and Liverpool was also suggested. The transport of the First Canadian Division was rendered more difficult by its inflated numbers, which amounted to 31,200 officers and men and 7,300 horses. The convoys left on October 3rd. During the voyage many changes were made in the proposed ports of disembarkation, but finally Devonport was selected. By October 15th all the transports, excepting one, the Manhattan, which sailed separately, had reached Plymouth Sound, and they had been unloaded on October 22nd.

 

In view of the want of previous practice in station-keeping between merchant ships of such widely divergent speed and size, the safe transport of this heterogeneous convoy reflected great credit upon the masters and watch-keeping officers of the merchant ships. Thirty-one vessels (total gross tonnage 321,000) carried the Canadian troops; two more, with the Newfoundland contingent and a British infantry battalion (2nd Lincolnshire) accompanied the convoys on October 3rd, and four cargo vessels left independently between October 7th and November 7th. There were only a few minor claims for damage to transports, and only one adverse incident; some rifles were carried on to Glasgow by one of the transports after the disembarkation at Devonport.

 

(6) Dispatch of Transports from Egypt to India, and Conveyance of Egyptian Garrison to England. — On September 12th the Viceroy of India made representations to the War Office on the subject of requirements in transports, and it was suggested that the twenty then on their way to Egypt with Territorial troops should go on to India for use of the military authorities. Between September 26th and 28th nine transports were sent on to India from Egypt, and one vessel from Marseilles. Four transports (gross tonnage 38,240) left Alexandria for England with the original Egyptian garrison (strength 78 officers, 3,074 other ranks, including 220 natives with 625 animals), on September 30th, and one transport left Port Sudan, carrying a British battalion (1st Suffolk), on October 3rd, arriving at Southampton on October 11th.

 

(7) Transfer of Wessex Territorial Division to India. — On September 23rd a demand was received to move this division to India, the numbers being estimated at 490 officers, 14,372 other ranks, and 363 horses. Four transports were detained at Southampton for the purpose. The troops embarked on October 9th in nine transports, total gross tonnage 73,000. Two hundred and twenty naval ratings were sent to Malta in one of the transports, the Ingonia, which would otherwise have proceeded empty to India. The convoy arrived at Bombay and Karachi on November 9th-11th.

 

(8) Movement of British Troops from India. — This movement was initiated on October 10th, 1914. The first group, consisting of 5 battalions of infantry, 11 R.F.A. batteries, 3 R.G.A. heavy batteries, details, and women and children (the troops totalling 227 officers and 11,500 men), left Bombay on October 16th in seven transports (total gross tonnage 62,000) and arrived safely at Plymouth on November 16th with the exception of the Dunera, which put into Southampton the same day, having run considerable risk of being torpedoed by submarines on her way up-Channel. She was the only transport in the convoy not fitted with wireless telegraphy. This need was supplied before her next voyage.

 

The second group, of 9 battalions of infantry and 2 R.H.A. and 2 R.F.A. batteries, 3 companies of R.G.A,, women, children, and horses (the troops totalling 332 officers and 11,887 men), left Bombay and Karachi on November 19th and 20th in nine transports (total gross tonnage 79,700) and arrived at Devonport on December 22nd. The handling of these loads while on board by the Merchant Service engaged in the transport work may be judged from the smooth disembarkation of the whole in forty hours, which elicited from the admiral of the port the expression " admirably carried out."

 

The third group of 5 battalions, accompanied by details and by very large numbers of women and children, besides the personnel of 2 Indian hospital ships and an Indian general hospital (the troops totalling 182 officers and 5,412 men), left Bombay and Karachi on December 9th and 10th in seven transports (total gross tonnage 63,700)

 

TERRITORIALS MOVED TO INDIA

 

and arrived at Avonmouth on January 10th, 1915.

 

The fourth group, of 1 battahon, with women and children (the troops totalling 52 officers and 1,420 men), left Bombay in one transport of 8,092 tons gross and arrived at Avonmouth on February 1st.

 

The fifth group, with details of numerous regiments left behind, women, children, and ordnance stores (the troops totalling 33 officers and 651 men), left India on February 23rd in four transports, of 34,000 tons gross; two were detained in Egyptian waters, one of these, the Ionian, being requisitioned for the General Officer Commanding. The two sent on, the Caledonia and Aragon, after detention at Gibraltar owing to the danger attending upon the full moon and possibility of enemy attack, arrived at Avonmouth on March 12th. There was an outbreak of measles amongst the children in these ships to add to the worries of mothers and officers. Nearly 100 cases occurred, of which 75 were in the Caledonia. The remaining transport, the Saturnia, ultimately came on to Avonmouth via Marseilles.

 

(9) Transfer of Home Counties Territorial Division to India. — The first intimation of this move was contained in a letter from the War Office dated October 14th, 1914, in which the hope was expressed that the division could be moved on October 25th. Three days later the number of troops was given as 457 officers and 12,112 men, of which number 36 officers and 800 men would be dropped at Aden. There was serious congestion of shipping at Plymouth at the time, causing delay in unloading shipping, so the port of Southampton was chosen and October 29th was the date selected for the convoy to leave. In spite of delays due to one transport, the Dilwara, developing a fire in her bunkers, and to another, the Corsican, grounding in Southampton Water, the convoy of ten transports (gross tonnage 90,500) left Southampton on September 29th and 30th. Owing to the political situation in Egypt, it was detained there to enable the convoy from India, due at Suez on November 18th, to be nearer Egypt. This enabled the Dilwara to join up, and the whole convoy arrived at Bombay between December 1st and 3rd. The revised numbers carried were 444 officers and 11,838 men.

 

(10) Movement of New Zealand Reinforcements, and the Second Australian Contingent and Reinforcements. — On November 3rd, 1914, transports were requisitioned. On November 6th the date of departure was fixed provisionally for the middle of December. A hospital ship, the Kyarra, sailed on December 14th and the convoy left Albany on December 31st, consisting of nineteen transports, of which three (gross tonnage 20,350) carried the New Zealand reinforcements (strength 1,971), and sixteen (gross tonnage 149,700) the Australian second contingent and reinforcements (strength 9,453 officers and men and 4,609 animals). The convoy arrived at Suez on January 30th, 1915, at which time the attack by the Turks upon the Suez Canal was developing. One of the transports, the Themistocles, came on to England, calling at Malta to bring 184 details to England and at Gibraltar to take on board 392 details.

 

(11) Transport of Wessex Reserve Territorial Division to India, etc. — On November 11th, 1914, the War Office asked for transport to India for the Welsh Territorial Division, but the Wessex Reserve Territorial Division was afterwards substituted, and the date of dispatch fixed as December 12th. Five transports (total gross tonnage 47,000) were employed. The numbers of troops were 338 officers and 10,057 other ranks. The vessels arrived at Bombay and Karachi between January 4th and 8th, 1915. The Scottish Women's Hospital, destined for Serbia, was dropped at Malta.

 

This movement may be said to have completed the original military mobilisation of the Empire.

 

 

(c) The Dardanelles Expedition

 

The transfer of the British Army to France was, as we have seen, an operation for which preparations had previously been made. The extemporised arrangements in connection with the relief of Antwerp followed. The character of the work thrown on the Mercantile Marine in these operations can be gathered from the brief details which have been given, and some estimate can also be formed of the stupendous effort involved in carrying out the sea movements required to mobilise and to distribute, in the first instance, the military forces and resources of the Empire. Details of the tonnage of transports have been added as a guide for estimates of the amount of

 

TRANSPORTS FOR THE DARDANELLES

 

shipping required to move military units and drafts respectively for long or short voyages, a question of considerable importance to an island Power, from the point of view both of defence and of attack. In order to complete the detailed account of the movement of the " first million," it is necessary to give some account of the initial movements entailed by the decision to send troops from the United Kingdom to the Mediterranean with an ultimate destination in hostile territory, the Gallipoli Peninsula, together with some preliminary events leading up to that operation.

 

On February 11th, 1915, three transports were requisitioned to move 2,800 Royal Marines and details from Southampton to Mombasa, starting on February 17th. Eight hundred men were subsequently deducted from this number, and about 220 Artillery and Engineers were added. The requisitioning of two of the transports, the Alnwick Castle and Dunluce Castle, was cancelled, and another— the Grantully Castle — substituted. A further demand for one ship to be fitted partly as a hospital ship led to the requisitioning of the Grantully Castle being cancelled and the Somali and Alnwick Castle (again) being taken up, the Somali's hospital fittings to be erected on the voyage out. Some horse-boats and guns were to be taken. As an example of the uncertainties with which the movement of troops was attended owing to changes in the political and military situations, on February 16th all these arrangements were cancelled, and it was decided to send the Royal Naval Division and the 29th Division to the Mediterranean. On February 20th a requisition was received for the transport of 7 battalions of the Naval Division, and about 8,000 officers and men, to leave Avonmouth on February 27th for Lemnos. Thirteen transports were employed in this convoy, one of them carrying mule transport, one a Naval Air Force unit, and four of them stores. Four ships were ordered to leave on February 27th, and four on the 28th.

 

In connection with this rapid embarkation (which led to subsequent delay owing to the packing of the holds of the transports), it may be noted that it was not realised that the troops embarked were likely to take part at once in an opposed landing on a hostile coast. The complication of the needs of troops in action or who were likely to be in action, as affecting the packing of holds, has already been touched upon when dealing with the transfer of base of the British Army in France from Le Havre to St. Nazaire and Nantes. While the rapid embarkation of the troops and stores reflected great credit upon those concerned, it may be put on record that extra time spent in packing the holds of transports, under expert military supervision, if proceeding to a destination in hostile territory, may cause delay at the time, but such delay at the outset is well repaid subsequently by the saving of time and losses in carrying out such a delicate operation as landing troops in face of opposition.

 

The numbers in the 29th Division were at first estimated at 717 officers, 21,971 other ranks, and 6,391 horses; the numbers actually carried were 705 officers, 20,533 men, and 6,522 animals. Nineteen transports were employed, and five store transports, one, the Inkonka, carrying an Air Force unit. The vessels sailed, separately, for Alexandria at intervals between February 27th and March 15th, 1915, arriving on various dates from March 14th onwards.

 

The 2nd Mounted Division was directed to follow as soon as possible after the 29th Division. The approximate numbers were 525 officers, 9,470 men, and 9,585 horses. No remount ships were available. Nineteen transports were appropriated, and the vessels sailed in groups between April 8th and 13th, calling at Malta for orders. Three transports were kept for subsequent embarkations on April 15th, and one transport, with the G.H.Q. signal company, was ordered direct to Lemnos. The transports began to arrive at Alexandria on April 20th.

 

In the meantime twelve transports containing horseboats, fittings, and crews for them, with their rations, had been dispatched from Portsmouth singly by coastwise route for Alexandria, where they were urgently needed, a demand for the transport of 10,000 men of the Australian and New Zealand forces from that port on February 27th having been received.

 

By midnight on March 21st/22nd, 1915, the numbers of British Dominion, Colonial, and Indian troops which had been transported by sea by the British Mercantile Marine amounted to about 1,039,300. This figure represents effectives. 137,169 sick and wounded had also been

 

A GREAT ACHIEVEMENT

 

carried. Within six months of the declaration of war, therefore, well over a million armed combatants of the British Empire, with their equipment and stores, had been transported across the world's oceans and seas, an achievement without precedent in history. Out of the first million there were no casualties amongst the troops, either from marine risk or from enemy action. When the constant transfer of shipping from familiar to unfamiliar voyages is considered, and account is taken of the navigational and the other difficulties, there is no need to emphasise the enterprise and organising power of British shipowners, or the seamanship, resourcefulness, and zeal of the masters and crews. One and all, they served the nation well in the hour when it was confronted with a situation the gravity of which, in view of many unknown factors, it had been impossible fully to foresee.

 

Apart from the tentative plans for the transport of the Expeditionary Force, the movements by sea of the military forces in accordance with the wishes of the War Office had to be provided for at a few days' notice. Arrangements had to be improvised as each emergency arose, and every call which was made on the shipping firms or the crews of the ships concerned was met promptly and efficiently. No contract, written or implied, existed between the State and the Mercantile Marine, but nevertheless the whole of its resources, material and personnel, were instantly and ungrudgingly placed at the service of the nation. The success achieved in face of constantly changing conditions by sea and by land was in no small measure due to the Naval Transport Department, which requisitioned and loaded the ships. And, as has been indicated, the Navy, on which devolved the responsibility of protecting the transports while on passage in face of undeveloped enemy forces, fulfilled its mission. The pride in the transportation of the first million troops without the loss of a single life is shared by the men who served under the Red and White Ensigns.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER V

 

MERCHANT SEAMEN AND THE BLOCKADE

 

The blockade of Germany, which was instituted immediately after the declaration of war, differed in many important respects from the blockade maintained during the long struggle with France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the result that from 1914 onwards merchant ships and merchant seamen were required to bear no mean share of the burden. Students are familiar with the strain which was imposed upon blockaders in the past owing to the uncertainties of wind and sea. In the sailing-ship era, although the blockade was maintained as close to the enemy's shores as possible, there was no guarantee that enemy ships would not escape from port, and that incoming ships, favoured by the fortune of wind, would not succeed in eluding the vigilance of the blockaders. On three occasions the French fleet at Toulon managed to escape in spite of Nelson's vigilance, and frigates and privateers frequently broke out singly, inflicting heavy losses on British merchant vessels.

 

 

 

On Watch in the Arctic

 

During the period which intervened between the close of the Napoleonic Wars and the opening of the Great War in 1914, it had come to be recognised that the advent of the steam engine, the increased range of the high-power gun mounted on shore, and the evolution of the torpedo in destroyer and submarine had radically affected the whole problem of maintaining a blockade. Whereas the sailing man-of-war, moreover, was a self-contained unit of power, with water and provisions sufficient for the needs of the officers and men for a period ranging from three to six months, the modern man-of-war had become dependent on auxiliaries for food and stores, and radius of action was restricted by limited capacity for carrying fuel. In these circumstances the blockade of Germany was maintained at long range; the ships of the

 

BLOCKADE DIFFICULTIES

 

Grand Fleet were based on Scapa Flow, Cromarty, and the Firth of Forth, and from time to time they left harbour to carry out what were known as " sweeps " in the North Sea.

 

Before hostilities opened, the naval authorities had realised that forces would be necessary to keep the seas in all weathers, acting as the antennae of the Grand Fleet and maintaining a constant patrol in order to prevent contraband being conveyed into Germany. At first this arduous duty was confided to groups of the older cruisers of the Navy, but eventually, owing to the unseaworthiness of these vessels and their restricted fuel capacity and to their being required for other services, it devolved upon armed merchant ships, which, though commanded by naval officers, were manned by seamen of the Mercantile Marine. Long before the war came to its close the active blockade of Germany was being maintained by the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, consisting of twenty-five large merchant ships, and it may always be a source of pride to shipowners, and in particular to the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine, that merchant ships bore the responsibility which in former days had been discharged by frigates of the Navy, and that the character of the ships, in association with the high standard of seamanship of the crews, enabled a more successful blockade to be sustained in conditions of great difficulty than had been known in any previous war. The significance of that success can be appreciated only in knowledge of the conditions in which it was achieved.

 

There were two channels by which goods might enter Germany either direct or by way of the northern countries of Europe: one was through the Straits of Dover and the other round the north of Scotland. The laying of a large mine-field in the extreme southern portion of the North Sea compelled all vessels to go through the Downs, and thus it was possible to intercept and examine every ship which passed up and down the English Channel. The problem presented by the northern route was far more difficult of solution. The distance from the north of Scotland to Iceland is 450 miles, and from Iceland to Greenland another 160 miles. Once vessels had passed this line and made the coast of Norway inward bound, they could proceed to their destinations inside territorial waters where they could not be stopped and examined.

 

Ships which were outward bound could also take advantage of the territorial waters of Norway, and then, favoured by darkness, mist, or fog, could make a dash for the Atlantic with some confidence of escaping observation unless the patrols were numerous and vigilant. The problem set to the Northern Patrol, consisting of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, became, therefore, one of watching an area of over 200,000 square miles, the size of which was somewhat reduced during the winter months by ice. The patrol was maintained under many difficulties, since the vessels had necessarily to work at great distances from their bases and, owing to their limited number, were a long way out of sight of each other. During the winter, gales are almost incessant in this northern latitude, and when the wind falls fogs of varying density often shroud the sea.

 

Finally, long before the submarine campaign on merchant shipping was embarked upon by the enemy systematically, submersible craft were engaged in searching for and attacking the ships which were maintaining the blockade. In these circumstances of danger from the forces of nature as well as from the stratagems of the enemy, a relentless economic constriction was imposed on Germany. The service involved officers and men in hardships with which British seamen had for many years been unfamiliar, many of the blockading vessels remaining at sea in spite of gales, fogs, and submarines for as long as a month or more at a stretch.

 

On the Saturday before the outbreak of war Rear-Admiral Dudley de Chair received orders from the Admiralty to mobilise the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, hoisting his flag on board the Crescent at Portsmouth. The other cruisers chosen to form the Squadron consisted of the sister ships Edgar and Grafton, which were also at Portsmouth, the Endymion, Theseus, and Gibraltar, which were at Devonport, and the Royal Arthur, which was at Chatham; the Hawke, which was also to join the Squadron, was refitting at Queenstown. The gunboat Dryad was included in the command. The eight cruisers were old ships; they had been laid down under the Naval Defence Act of 1889. All of them, except the Gibraltar, which was of 7,700 tons, displaced 7,350 tons. When new, they had attained speeds somewhat exceeding 19 knots;

 

TWO GERMAN VESSELS CAPTURED

 

they had a normal coal capacity of 850 tons, with a full load of 1,200 tons. The vessels, owing to their age, had been relegated to the Third Fleet of the Home Fleets before the opening of the war and were provided with nucleus crews on the lowest category, provision being made to complete the complement mainly from the Royal Naval Reserve. The Rear-Admiral commanding, on reaching Portsmouth, had without delay to mobilise this homogeneous and obsolete group of cruisers and take his force to sea in face of the enemy with officers and men drawn in the main from the Royal Naval Reserve, and therefore consisting mainly of merchant seamen.

 

As a result of extraordinary efforts the Crescent, Grafton, and Edgar were ready by August 3rd, and Admiral de Chair proceeded at once, hoping to be joined off Plymouth by the Endymion, Theseus, and Gibraltar. In this he was disappointed, as these three ships were delayed, but, signalling to them to follow with all dispatch, he pressed on, passing up the West Coast of England on August 4th to Scapa Flow.

 

At midnight orders were received to commence hostilities against Germany, and early on the following morning, when off the Mull of Cantire, the first blow against the enemy was struck when the Grafton, in accordance with the Admiral's orders, chased and captured the German s.s, Wilhelm Behrens (750 tons) and sent her into Greenock with a prize crew. The German steamer Marie Glaeser was also captured by the Tenth Cruiser Squadron later in the same day off the Isle of Man. On the following day the Endymion and Theseus joined the flag at Scapa Flow, and late in the same day the Crescent and Edgar put to sea, where the Admiral was joined later on by the other ships of his command. In accordance with the orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, the Rear-Admiral proceeded, by way of the westward of the Orkneys, to the area allotted to him in his war orders; and thus began the work of patrol which was to be maintained without intermission until January 1918, in face of difficulties and hardships which no one at that period could have, foreseen.

 

Throughout the period of hostilities the embarrassments which would in any circumstances have arisen in maintaining the patrol were increased owing to the decision of the British Government that it was undesirable to declare a blockade in accordance with the generally recognised tenets of international law. It was determined to act under Orders in Council, the provisions of which were naturally criticised in neutral countries and particularly in the United States. For in endeavouring to cut off all Germany's supplies, it followed inevitably that the neutral States bordering on the enemy's territory suffered inconvenience through their traders, who under normal conditions carried on an active commerce with the United States and other countries on the American continent. Though the officers commanding the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, and the senior officers of the other naval forces which co-operated with them during the early period of the war, had no concern with questions of international politics or law, the existence in the background of controversies with other countries demanded that the utmost discretion and tact should be exercised in applying economic pressure upon Germany.

 

In the unparalleled circumstances in which the blockade of Germany was instituted, novel forms of procedure were evolved as a result of experience, and it soon became the established practice to send suspicious vessels into a neighbouring port for examination. This procedure was the subject of a good many protests on the part of neutrals, but it was an inevitable feature of a blockade under modern conditions, as it was difficult to open hatches in heavy weather without wetting the cargo, and an order to sift the cargo to the bottom meant hoisting it all on deck and keeping the ship in submarine waters many days — a source of danger the neutral ships did not care to accept.

 

Experience proved that it was safer and more humane in view of the dangers of fog and of storm, apart from the activities of the enemy, to take neutral ships into a protected port for examination even if the difficulties of examination by sea had not been insuperable. Moreover, the British method contrasted favourably with that adopted by the Germans, who seldom, even in the North Sea, attempted to take a suspicious ship, neutral or allied, into port, but made it an almost invariable practice to sink her at sight, leaving the crew to fare as best they might in small boats. The enemy's actions were in striking contrast with the orders issued at the beginning of the

 

A COMPLICATED TASK

 

war by the Admiralty. These directed that officers and men engaged in blockade work were to treat the captains and crews of suspected neutral ships with the utmost courtesy and consideration, and to place them and their vessel in as little danger or inconvenience as was consistent with the efficient maintenance of the blockade.

 

At first the work of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was carried out under conditions of peculiar difficulty. The Rear-Admiral commanding had been provided with a number of old cruisers with newly mobilised crews; the force had to be transformed into an efficient and well-disciplined unit, and provision had to be made for keeping the vessels supplied with coal and stores. The Admiral had also to consider the problem of securing convenient and suitable bases. Over and above all this, the work of the Squadron was subject to interruption owing to the demands which were made upon it.

 

Early in the month of August it was, for instance, required to act as the advance screen of the Grand Fleet during a sweep in the North Sea; it steamed four miles ahead of the Grand Fleet, the whole force proceeding in the direction of the Skagerrak on the lookout for the enemy's fleet. At this period, moreover, reports were repeatedly reaching the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet of the proposed movement of German men-of-war and armed merchantmen, of suspicious happenings in the islands to the north of Scotland, as well as of floating mines which often proved to be merely fishing-buoys. For these and other reasons ships had to be repeatedly detached from the patrol, and it proved no easy matter in the circumstances to carry out the duties assigned to the Squadron, which, owing to the absence of vessels coaling or undergoing repairs, was never at its full strength.

 

The Admiral had also to improvise a defensive system at Lerwick, guns being landed from his squadron to enable the harbour to resist an enemy raid. Great anxiety prevailed lest the enemy should land a large force on the Shetlands, and on several occasions rumours of German transports full of troops having passed out of the Baltic were received. Provision had also to be made for protecting the supplies of coal which were being dispatched to the White Sea for the use of the Russians.

 

By the middle of August the Tenth Cruiser Squadron began to undergo a gradual change in its composition, which was eventually to lead to its reconstruction. On the 18th the armed merchant cruiser Alsatian, one of the liners of the Allan Line, joined the flag, and about a week later the Mantua reported to the Rear-Admiral for patrol duty, and she, again, was joined by the Oceanic before the end of the month. The arduous and dangerous character of the work which had been assigned the Squadron was soon made apparent by a series of untoward incidents. On September 8th the Admiral commanding received information that the Oceanic was ashore at Hoevdi Grund in a dense fog, two and a half miles E. by S. from South Ness, Foula Island, in the Shetlands. This liner unfortunately became a total wreck, the crew being rescued by the Alsatian and landed at Liverpool.

 

The arrival of the armed merchant cruiser Teutonic on September 20th was a welcome accession to the strength of the Squadron, but the anxieties of Admiral de Chair were not lessening, for from day to day reports reached him of the increasing activity of enemy submarines. That the menace to his ships, in spite of the fact that zigzagging had become a matter of daily routine, was a real one was soon to be proved by an event which robbed the patrol of one of its units and resulted in the loss of 560 lives. On the afternoon of October 15th the Theseus reported the presence of submarines on the patrol line on which she was operating in company with the Edgar, Theseus, and Hawke. A torpedo had been fired at her, passing astern without doing any damage. The senior officer promptly ordered all the cruisers to proceed north-west at full speed.

 

At that time the Hawke was not in sight. Earlier in the morning she had been observed steaming to the south-west to examine a steamer, and that proved to be the last that was seen of the ship. At 4.30 that afternoon Admiral de Chair endeavoured to get into touch with the Hawke by wireless, but without result. He immediately reported the ominous silence to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, and the Swift was directed to proceed from Scapa at high speed to search for the Hawke in the position from which she had last been reported. Two divisions of destroyers were afterwards dispatched from Scapa to search for the vessel. On the following day the Swift picked up a raft with an officer and twenty men —

 

LOSS OF THE " HAWKE "

 

the sole survivors of the Hawke, which, it was then learnt, had been sunk by a submarine.

 

Within a short time of the raft being sighted, the Swift herself was attacked by one or more submarines while engaged in her work of rescue, several torpedoes being fired at her. It was only with great difficulty that the Swift, manoeuvring at high speed amid the wreckage, with destroyers screening her, succeeded in rescuing these survivors. In spite of the danger in which he stood. Captain Charles T. Wintour remained on the scene of the disaster until he was satisfied that there was no one else to be picked up.

 

The loss of the Hawke convinced the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet that these large and old cruisers were being risked unduly by employment without destroyers in the central part of the North Sea. It was decided, therefore, to withdraw the ships to a better strategic position to the northward and eastward of the Shetland Islands, the smaller craft being directed to watch the Fair Island Channel and the Pentland Firth approaches to the North Sea. At the same time it was arranged that the Battle Fleet, when possible, should be kept to the westward of the Orkneys, forming at once a support for the cruisers and a second blockade line, or that it should cruise to the north and east of the Shetland Islands with its destroyer screen, the cruisers patrolling farther south.

 

As the winter closed in reports from the patrols indicated that the cruisers of the Edgar class were ill-fitted for the arduous sea work that had been assigned to them, particularly as in chasing suspicious merchant vessels it was often necessary that their old boilers and engines should be hard pressed. Frequent gales with high seas running also contributed to the conviction that the vessels were unsuited for patrol duties in these latitudes. On October 29th the Grafton reported that her main condenser was leaking, that her funnels were showing signs of weakness, and that it was feared that the copper expansion ring at the back of the port high-pressure slide was fractured. On the same day, during a combined movement to cut off a suspicious steamer, the Theseus signalled that she had broken down and had had to ease steam owing to engine defects. In spite of these misfortunes this steamer, which proved to be the Bergensjiord, was captured by the Endymion. She had on board the German Consul-General from Seoul, Korea, together with six German stowaways. She was on passage from New York to Bergen with mails and passengers and general cargo, and a quantity of crude rubber and copper. The ship was sent into Kirkwall for examination.

 

On the following day the troubles of the Squadron were increased, when the Endymion reported serious defects, and the Crescent also was experiencing mechanical troubles. Early in November the Grafton, which had already developed engine defects, had to leave the patrol for five days, owing to a number of rivets connecting the furnace and combustion chamber in one of her boilers becoming loose. She was followed the next day into port by the Endymion, with several perforations in the inner bottom over the feed tank.

 

Confronted with these difficulties, Admiral de Chair, in spite of heavy seas and strong wind, struggled to maintain the patrol as best he could. On November 11th, the Edgar having developed engine defects, the Admiral proceeded with his depleted force to take up the work of the northern patrol once more, when he encountered a storm to the west of the Shetlands which led eventually to the decision to withdraw all these old cruisers from this arduous work. The sea conditions were such that the Squadron had to heave to owing to the fierceness of the gale. During the forenoon heavy seas swept over the fore part of the Crescent (flag-ship), wrecking the fore bridge, sweeping overboard the Admiral's sea cabin, carrying away the ventilating cowls of the foremost stokeholds — a considerable amount of water passing downwards and putting the fires out — breaking hammock nettings, seriously damaging the port cutters, besides removing bodily a whaler, and tearing away hawser reels and deck fittings owing to the rotten state of the woodwork. The Edgar lost an able seaman, who was swept overboard, and a cutter was damaged. She also sustained other injuries. The Theseus, which was nearer under the lee of the Shetland Islands, suffered less seriously. After temporary repairs had been effected to the Crescent at Swarbacks Minn, Rear-Admiral de Chair proceeded to Scapa Flow.

 

On arrival he was informed by the Commander-in-Chief

 

SQUADRON RECONSTITUTED

 

that it had been decided to send half the ships of his squadron to the Clyde Yard for refit. A few days later conferences were held with the Admiralty officials as to the amount of work which was to be done in the Crescent, Royal Arthur, and Grafton. The whole work was to be completed by December 7th. In the meantime, however, the future of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was reviewed by the Admiralty, and on November 20th it was decided that the seven Edgar cruisers, whose unfitness for the work of the patrol had been fully demonstrated, should return at once to their home port and pay off. The experiment of utilising these old ships had not succeeded, and in light of the experience which had already been gained with armed merchant cruisers, possessing good sea-keeping qualities, it was determined to reconstitute the Tenth Cruiser Squadron.

 

Rear-Admiral de Chair hoisted his flag in the Alsatian, at Liverpool, on December 4th, in command of his new force, which it was arranged should consist of the following twenty-four armed merchant cruisers:

 

Re-arming with 6inch guns at Liverpool - Alsatian (Flag)

 

Fitting out at Liverpool – Eskimo, Caribbean, Ambrose, Oropesa, Hilary, Hildebrand, Virginian, Cedric.

 

Fitting out at London – Orotava, Clan Macnaughton, Digby, Otway.

 

Fitting out at Avonmouth – Patia, Patuca, Bayano, Motagua, Changuinola

 

Fitting out at Hull - Calyx

 

Fitting out on the Tyne - Viknor

 

Fitting out on the Clyde - Columbella

 

On the Northern Patrol – Teutonic, Mantua

 

Was employed on special service proceeding to west coast of Africa, with orders to join Admiral de Chair's flag on her return - Laurentic

 

For the time being, though other naval forces were being temporarily pressed into the service, the blockade of the enemy was somewhat relaxed. The presence at sea of the reconstituted Tenth Cruiser Squadron was urgently necessary, but unfortunately the work of fitting out was subject to repeated delays, partially due to recurrent labour troubles. At Liverpool, as well as at London and Avonmouth, constant pressure had to be exerted by the commanding officers and the officers superintending the work on board. The first ship to be completed was the Cedric, which was finished on December 11th, but it was not until January 16th that the Motagua was ready for sea.

 

The change in the character of the Squadron also involved a great many alterations in the administration. One of the most difficult problems was connected with coaling, and a roster had to be established to enable the ships to proceed in proper rotation to Liverpool or Glasgow for this purpose. On passage to the Mersey and Clyde, it was recognised that they were exposed to the considerable risk of being torpedoed. This disadvantage had to be accepted. Owing to the many demands which were then being made upon the light craft of the Navy, it was impossible to provide an escort at any stage of the voyage. That losses were not incurred was due largely to the fine spirit exhibited by officers and men, and to the sense of discipline and esprit de corps which was rapidly developed under very unusual conditions.

 

For the personnel of the Squadron consisted only of a leavening of naval officers and men accustomed to the naval routine, and for the rest the crews consisted of ratings of the Royal Naval Reserve and the Mercantile Marine, in addition to the small number of men of the Royal Fleet Reserve. The higher signal ratings were drawn from the Navy, and these were assisted by Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve men. The wireless installations were in charge of naval ratings, largely reinforced by Marconi operators. The ships were under the command of naval officers, but for navigational purposes the masters, accustomed to handling them, were in most cases retained, together with a large proportion of the other mercantile officers. Among the crews were a large number of men who had served in the ships under peace conditions, and the commanding officers, realising the ordeal to which these merchant seamen were submitting with splendid devotion, adopted every possible measure to ameliorate the conditions in which they lived.

 

IMPROVED LIVING CONDITIONS

 

In such large passenger ships as had been requisitioned for patrol duty, the provision of ample cabin space is generally recognised as of the first importance if the vessels are to be run at a profit, and consequently the quarters of the crew are often cramped and uncomfortable. The men under peace conditions are at sea only for a comparatively short period, and find compensations for the discomforts experienced afloat during their frequent periods of relaxation ashore. The patrol service on which these ships were engaged involved, on the other hand, lengthy periods at sea under exceptionally arduous conditions, and it was found feasible to increase the accommodation of the men and to improve the amenities of life.

 

A special effort was made to minister to the comfort of the firemen. Under ordinary conditions of service, the fireman of the Mercantile Marine seldom troubled to change his clothes, although the Board of Trade regulations require that washing facilities shall be provided. During a cross-Atlantic trip many of these men are content to sleep in the clothes in which they work, and owing to the state of their bedding at the end of the voyage, it is frequently burnt. The captains of the ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron saw to it that every facility was provided to encourage the men to wash and to shift into clean rig as soon as their work was done. It became the aim of the officers, in short, to introduce naval routine, which meant that the men were shifted into clean rig after each spell of work, and were encouraged to make the most of their leisure time. In addition to improved living-quarters, they were given an airy smoking-room in each vessel. In the Alsatian this smoking-room became one of the " show places " in the ship, and the men exhibited great pride in its cleanliness and decoration.

 

The conditions under which patrol was maintained at the turn of the years 1914-15 is reflected in the diary of the Admiral commanding:

 

" Tuesday, December 29th. — Left ' A ' Patrol in Alsatian and proceeded south of Faeroe Islands to ' B ' Patrol in order to get into touch with Cedric and Hildebrand. Calyx searched for mine (probably one of those laid off Tory Island) reported west of Hebrides. Information was received of arrival of Teutonic at Liverpool and sailing of Viknor from Tyne.

 

" Wednesday, December 30th. — Wind from S.S.W. backing to S.S.E., force 7 and squally, heavy sea, but several neutral steamers were intercepted by Squadron. It was too rough to board, but ships were taken under lee of the land and prize crews put on board. They were then sent in to Kirkwall. Calyx was ordered to Liverpool to coal.

 

" Thursday, December 31st. — Wind still southerly, blowing hard, hail and snow squalls, heavy sea. Eleven ships on patrol; five coaling and four not yet joined. Ships at Tilbury and Avonmouth still delayed by labour disputes and strikes.

 

" Friday, January 1st, 1915. — Heavy gale from south, backing to south-east. Glass fell to 28.50 degrees ; very heavy sea. Detached Virginian to patrol north of Iceland to see if shipping were passing that way, and also to report if passage were blocked with ice. Mantua patrolling passage between Iceland and Faeroes. Alsatian reinforced ' C ' Patrol as Otway was escorting ships to Kirkwall. Hilary was ordered to stand by dismantled Norwegian sailing-ship till gale moderated.

 

" Viknor joined ' B ' Patrol, but owing to damage sustained in gale, had to take shelter in Burra Sound.

 

" Impressed the importance of armed merchant cruisers of not interfering with neutral ships' colours, and also of treating them with courtesy.

 

" Saturday, January 2nd. — Wind in south-east, force 9, heavy sea. Glass fell to 28.10 degrees . Hilary reported that at 1.15 a.m., while towing Norwegian barque Marietta, which had been dismasted, the vessel sprang a leak and foundered. Her crew took to the boats, but one boat capsized and only six men were saved. Among those drowned were Sub-Lieutenant Oswald E. Miles, R.N.R., and Frank Scott, Signalman, O.N.D.J. 5747, of Hilary.

 

" Cedric was lying to with prize, weather being too bad to board. Hilary proceeded to Kirkwall to land survivors of Norwegian barque.

 

 

 

A Boarding Boat on Duty

 

" Sunday, January 3rd. — Gale moderating, glass rising, weather clearing. Each ship of ' D ' Patrol having two prize crews away, also several prize crews being away from ships of ' B ' and ' C ' Patrols, arranged for Hilary to bring them out and distribute them. Was informed

 

AN ADMIRAL'S DIARY

 

by the Admiral at Queenstown that Orotava had left that port to join my flag. This armed merchant cruiser had left London about December 24th, but, owing to incomplete state and defects developed, she had put into Queenstown for necessary repairs, etc.

 

" Monday, January 4th. — Bayano arrived and was placed under orders of Otway on ' C ' Patrol.

 

" Virginian was detached to Liverpool to coal, with orders to return as soon as possible in readiness to join special patrol with Teutonic and Mantua off Norway, ordered by Commander-in-Chief for January 10th.

 

" Digby reported sailing from Thames to join my flag.

 

" Tuesday, January 5th. — Mantua was detached to Liverpool to coal, with orders similar to those given to Virginian.

 

" Directed the senior officers of ' B ' and ' C ' Patrols to shift their respective base-lines twenty miles to the westward at 8 a.m., at the same time warning them of the reported presence of submarines off the Shetlands.

 

" Hildebrand reported that in consequence of the submarine menace she was unable to go to Kirkwall, and that destroyers were being sent to bring in the steamer Denver, which she was escorting. I therefore directed Hilary, which was still at Kirkwall, to bring out all prize crews and distribute them to their own ships, leaving the harbour after dark.

 

" Wednesday, January 6th. — Orotava joined ' B ' Patrol and Oropesa returned to ' C ' Patrol.

 

" Patia was reported leaving Avonmouth and Virginian arrived at Liverpool. Detached Caribbean to Liverpool to coal. Hilary proceeded to St. Kilda, where she transferred ' D ' Patrol prize crews to Hildebrand.

 

" Alsatian was working to westward of ' C ' Patrol on a track approximating to the Atlantic route used by vessels passing north of Shetlands.

 

" Thursday, January 7th. — Changuinola was reported leaving Avonmouth, and Mantua arrived at Liver- pool.

 

" Alsatian proceeded to westward as far as St. Kilda to communicate with ' D ' Patrol and returned towards ' B ' Patrol at night.

 

" Cedric reported an accident which occurred when hoisting in her motor-boat after boarding; four seamen were injured and the boat had to be abandoned as a total wreck.

 

" Friday, January 8th. — Directed the senior officer of ' C ' Patrol (Otway temporarily) to extend his patrol from lat. 59 degrees 30' N. to lat. 61 degrees 10' N.

 

" During the forenoon I communicated by boat with Cedric and gave her the necessary directions for carrying out her patrol,

 

" Saturday, January 9th. — With the approval of the Commander-in-Chief, I remained south of the Faeroe Islands in order to direct patrol, and with the special purpose of insuring the interception of the Norwegian mail steamer Bergensfjord, which was expected to pass through patrol areas between January 9th and 13th, and was reported to have German reservists on board, travelling under neutral passports.

 

" Hildebrand reported that all prize crews had been distributed to their ships.

 

" Clan Macnaughton was reported to be unable to attain a speed of more than 11 ½ knots.

 

" Mantua at Liverpool informed me that she had developed a leak which necessitated docking her; she would not be ready to sail till about 19th.

 

" Digby arrived from London and joined ' B ' Patrol.

 

" Find it very difficult to keep touch with other patrols when north of the Faeroes, due to the short range and small power of the Marconi W/T apparatus with which the armed merchant cruisers are fitted."

 

On the day on which the Admiral commanding the Tenth Cruiser Squadron learnt that the Motagua, the last of the armed merchant cruisers to be completed, was leaving Avonmouth to join his flag, news was received that the Viknor had not reached Liverpool with the prisoners taken out of the Norwegian steamer Bergensfjord, The Viknor had intercepted this vessel in lat. 62 degrees 10' N., long. 2 degrees 24' W. On learning of this success, the Rear-Admiral, in the Alsatian, at once proceeded to this position in company with the Patia and the Teutonic. He found the Viknor standing by the Norwegian ship, having arrested a passenger on board who was travelling under the name of Spero with a neutral passport. This passenger admitted that his real name was Baron Hans Adam von Wedel,

 

MINES IN THE NORTH SEA

 

who was wanted by the British Government on suspicion of being a German secret agent. He claimed American citizenship. Six stowaways and a passenger who were believed to be German reservists were also arrested and removed to the Viknor. The circumstances in which the Bergensfjord had been intercepted had aroused suspicion. She had passed north of the Faeroes by night, evidently with the purpose of avoiding the patrol, and had no intention of calling at Kirkwall for examination in accordance with the now established routine. A prize crew was put on board, and the Viknor was directed to escort the Bergensfjord to Kirkwall, afterwards proceeding herself to Liverpool to land her prisoners and complete with coal. The Alsatian took up a position on the other beam, and in this fashion the Norwegian ship was taken towards the Scottish port.

 

On the following day the Viknor made her position through Malin Head signal station. Three days later Rear- Admiral Henry Stileman, senior officer at Liverpool, reported that the Viknor had not arrived at that port. A report subsequently received from Port Rush suggested that she had struck a mine off the north coast of Scotland and had been lost with all hands. At this period, in addition to the menace of the submarine, the ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron had to face a determined attempt by the enemy to mine the waters in which the Northern Patrol was being maintained. Day after day mines were being reported in the North Sea, as well as on the west coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and it was assumed that many of them were mines which had broken adrift from their moorings during the gales which had recently been experienced.

 

As they were not provided with safety appliances, as provided for under the Hague Convention, they were a constant source of danger to shipping, naval and mercantile, especially at night. In spite, however, of all the difficulties with which it was faced the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was maintaining the blockade in greater efficiency than ever ; between December 26th and January 18th no fewer than eighty ships were intercepted, of which fifty-two had been eastward bound. It was a source of encouragement to officers and men that the Admiralty was seized with a due appreciation of the work that was done. They placed on record at this time their high opinion of the manner in which the operation was being carried out, stating that " the work of the vessels of the Northern Patrol is an extremely arduous one. Winter gales are incessant; four vessels have gone down — two with all hands and the others with heavy loss of life." It was added that "the approach of long summer days increases enormously the submarine risk. No blockade in history has ever been so effective from a naval point of view, or so full of unexpected dangers."

 

At the end of January the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was disposed on the following lines:

 

" A " Patrol, North of the Faeroes - Alsatian (Flag), Otway, Columbella, Mantua, Virginian.

 

" B " Patrol, North of Shetlands - Teutonic (Senior Officer), Cedric, Patia, Caribbean, Orotava, Viknor.

 

" C " Patrol, South of Sydero - Motagua (Senior Officer), Bayano, Oropesa, Changuinola, Hilary, Digby.

 

" D " Patrol, West of Hebrides - Hildebrand (Senior Officer), Patuca, Eskimo, Calyx, Ambrose, Clan Macnaughton.

 

This disposition had been found the most effective for intercepting blockade-runners attempting to break through going east or enemy raiders and mine-layers going west. The principle on which this new organisation was based was that the actual lines of patrols were sufficiently far apart to ensure that those ships which passed one line by night were almost certain to be intercepted by the other during daylight. The ships on each line of patrol were, as a rule, thirty miles apart and kept a uniform speed of 13 knots in the same direction, altering course 16 points every three hours; by this means it was impossible

 

INCREASED EFFICIENCY

 

for any blockade-runner to get through a line in clear weather during the hours of daylight, the end ships of the patrol being in sight of land for the required time. The following form of signal made to any group of ships was quite sufficient to place them on any patrol in the shortest possible time.

 

From S.O. 10th C.S.

 

To Cedric, Victorian, Patia, Orotava, Teutonic, Alcantara.

 

" C" Patrol cross line 34 degrees from lat. 58 degrees 35' N., long. 9 degrees W., at 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. daily, steering 240 degrees and 60 degrees respectively 25 miles apart from the south, Cedric, Victorian, Patia, Orotava, Teutonic, Alcantara; speed 14 knots. Assume this order at 6 p.m. to-night, Monday.

 

The reconstruction of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron tended to render the blockade far more efficient, owing to the better seaworthy qualities of the armed merchant cruisers as compared with the ships of the Edgar class. But the boarding of steamers in stormy weather still imposed upon officers and men arduous and perilous duties. It was often a matter of considerable danger to place a prize crew on board a ship which had been intercepted and which it was thought advisable to send into port for examination. In the third week in February 1915 it was indeed a matter of great difficulty to maintain the efficiency of the patrol. On the 17th a heavy gale from the south-east, backing to E. by N., was experienced in the northern latitudes in which the squadron was working. The glass fell rapidly from 29.80 degrees to 28.56 degrees and snow and hail in heavy showers descended. A number of the ships had to lie to owing to the force of the storm. The Columhella was unable to steer the course assigned to her, and the Calyx had to run to the west of Loch Tarbert for shelter. To add to the troubles of these merchant seamen on war duty, it was reported that five submarines had been seen not far from Cape Wrath making west, apparently in order to harass British shipping. The gale continued throughout the following day, the wind coming from the east-south-east; from time to time there were snow squalls, and it was too rough to lower boats.

 

The conditions confronting the Admiral commanding constituted a nice problem in seamanship and exercised his judgment to the utmost. As an illustration we have the case of the Caesarea when she was about to leave Scapa with thirteen prize crews, which eight vessels of the squadron had placed on board neutral ships which had been sent into port. Owing to weather conditions, the speed of the squadron having been reduced, and in several cases ships having been compelled to lie to, he signalled to the Caesarea postponing her departure as there was no possibility of transferring the men to their ships. The Caesarea had, however, already sailed. In due course she reached the arranged rendezvous with her prize crews, but owing to the state of the sea it was impossible to launch a boat and consequently she had to return to Scapa. By the close of the week, in spite of all the difficulties experienced, no fewer than fifty-one ships, an average of over seven a day, had been intercepted, of which twelve had been sent into port with prize crews. By the week-end, indeed, the Rear-Admiral found that fifteen prize crews were away from their ships, and that owing to the weather there was no immediate hope of their return.

 

The arduous conditions of service began to tell on some of the men. A number of mercantile ratings who had signed on for three months expressed themselves unwilling to re-engage, thus raising a new problem which had not been foreseen. It was one, however, for which a remedy was found. An idea of the lives these men were leading can be obtained not only from what has been stated as to weather conditions, but is typified in the experience of the Caribbean. This vessel, on February 24th, was proving unsuitable for patrol work, as she was old and slow, and rolled badly in the heavy weather generally experienced in these latitudes. On February 24th she reported that one dynamo was completely disabled, and that her foremost funnel had shifted owing to heavy rolling; the roll in each direction sometimes exceeded 40 degrees , and occasionally reached 50 degrees , and not infrequently a gunwale was submerged. Towards the end of the month another heavy southerly gale with big seas was experienced. Once again it proved impossible to distribute prize crews among the ships to which they belonged, and the vessels of the patrol had to lie to.

 

The problems with which the captains of the ships of the squadron had sometimes to deal may be gathered

 

"PATUCA " INTERCEPTS THE " NAVAHOE "

 

from an incident which occurred on February 27th. At 2.25 a.m. the Patuca had intercepted the American s.s. Navahoe, from Bremen bound for Norfolk (U.S.A.), steering west with side lights, but no steaming lights. When she was sighted, she altered course 16 points. On being overhauled she stopped, but as it was too rough to board she was signalled to follow the Patuca under the lee of the land, where examination of papers might be carried out. On this the captain reported his condenser broken, and added that it would take three hours to repair it. Later he made the following signal: " Condenser ready; no contraband; refuse to follow you." The Patuca was ordered to retain her until the weather moderated, and to board and examine her when possible. At 5 p.m. the Patuca reported that the Navahoe signalled " Lead," and was following her towards St. Kilda.

 

On the following morning, at 3,50 the Patuca boarded the Navahoe under the lee of St. Kilda. In a very heavy squall the boarding boat was swamped alongside and had to be cut adrift, but the officers and crew managed to get on board the steamer. The Patuca then proceeded with the Navahoe and hove to thirty-three miles north of the island. As the state of the weather — a gale was blowing from the north-west — prevented hatches being lifted for examination, and the captain said he would require drinking and boiler water shortly, the Admiral directed the Patuca to take the Navahoe to Stornoway, the nearest port, and carry out the examination there. It was reported later that no mines or oil fuel were discovered at this examination, and the ship appeared to be in ballast, so all ended well. This incident followed closely upon the untimely death from exposure of the commanding officer of the Patuca, Commander France-Hayhurst, R.N. He died at Glasgow on the 24th.

 

Soon after March opened, intelligence was received of the sinking of one of the ships of the squadron — the Bayano. On the 10th there were no fewer than five armed merchant cruisers in the Clyde, a port that had for some time been utilised by a portion of the squadron for coaling and repairs. That night, which was very dark, the Bayano put to sea without lights to rejoin the flag. At 5.15 a.m. she was attacked by a submarine ten miles S.E. by E. from Corsewall Point off the Galway coast and sunk with a heavy loss of life.

 

On the same day the Ambrose, on reaching Liverpool, reported that she had been attacked off Oversay Island by a submarine on three separate occasions. Two torpedoes were fired, one in the first and one in the second attack, but on the third occasion the conning-tower of the submarine was seen about 400 yards on the port quarter. Fire was at once opened, and a hit was apparently scored after eight or nine rounds. The first successful shot threw up a thick water mist, and on two subsequent projectiles striking the water in the same place, a thick oily-looking spray appeared. Nothing more was seen of the enemy craft. The Ambrose was of slow speed and her escape was undoubtedly due to the skilful manner in which Commander Bruton manoeuvred the vessel, and to the accuracy of the fire of the gunners.

 

Three days later, while proceeding north from the Clyde, the Digby was also chased by a submarine off Skerryvore. She took refuge in Tobermory Harbour, but on the following day, having obtained a destroyer escort, she proceeded in safety to her patrol area.

 

On February 2nd the squadron suffered a serious loss. The Clan Macnaughton, on the extreme end of the Western Patrol, foundered in lat. 58 degrees 47' N., long. 9 degrees 27' W. with all hands. She was unable to signal any call for help. Such a call, however, would have been of little use, as all the ships that night on patrol were doing their best to look after themselves. They were having a most trying experience, as all lights sighted, even in the worst weather, had to be investigated and kept in sight till the weather moderated sufficiently to enable signals to be made. This was often difficult, especially in the case of sailing-ships driving before the gale under bare poles, and it is feared that in some such endeavour the Clan Macnaughton may have gone down. Two ships searched for three days in the vicinity, but no trace of life or wreckage was found.

 

About this time the Admiralty withdrew the Calyx and Esquimo from the squadron owing to the unfavourable reports which had been made upon them by the Rear-Admiral commanding. They were old boats of slow speed. The Admiralty were requested to requisition six more large ships for duty with the squadron in view of the stream of traffic through the patrol areas. On March 26th no fewer than eleven steamers were intercepted, of which

 

AN ANXIOUS TIME

 

it was considered necessary to send seven into Kirkwall with prize crews. Day by day incidents proved that the eighteen ships which now constituted the squadron were inadequate for the work which had to be done. The bad weather at this period added to the difficulties. " The weather became very bad and prevented boarding in the open sea," Admiral de Chair reported on April 3rd, " but by taking ships under the lee of the nearest land, prize crews were put on board where required, and all vessels intercepted were dealt with. In some cases it was necessary to turn an intercepted vessel over from one ship to another of the patrol, as no more prize crews could be spared from the first ship's company. The Patia had six prize crews away. In all twenty-one prize crews were away from the squadron."

 

On rejoining the squadron after recoaling, the Columhella reported that the heavy seas experienced on the previous night had carried away her gun-shelter, and had put out of action the ammunition supply and communications on the forecastle. The Ambrose, which had left Liverpool to rejoin the patrol, was for a time the cause of considerable anxiety at this time, but it was afterwards found that she had had to put into Belfast on account of heavy weather. These conditions led to a collision between the Patia and a Norwegian steamer during boarding operations, a plate of the British ship being started and a frame bent. To add to the troubles of the Admiral, news was received on April 17th that the Virginian had run ashore in the Clyde, opposite Govan Ferry, blocking the river and delaying the Oropesa on her way back to the patrol. While the squadron was contending with fierce gales in the more southerly waters in which the patrol was being maintained, farther north the ships were seriously embarrassed by the drift ice; as late as the end of May floes about one square mile in extent separated from the pack, suggesting that the ice was about to break up, and simultaneously the temperature of the water rose an average of 4 degrees F.

 

In the meantime, however, the squadron had been strengthened by the six additional ships which the Admiralty had agreed to allot to the patrol service. These vessels were the Alcantara, the Orcoma, the Andes, the Arlanza, the India, and the Ebro. These measures resulted in the squadron being at last brought up to the strength which it had originally been intended should be attained.

 

By the spring of 1915 — before the loss of the Viknor, Bayano, and Clan Macnaughton — the Tenth Cruiser Squadron consisted of the following vessels, particulars being given of the owners, the naval officers in command, and the masters who were retained after the vessels had been requisitioned by the Admiralty:

 

Ship.

Owners.

Captain (R.N.) (in Command).

Masters (R.N.R.).

Alcantara

Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.

Cdr. T. E. Wardle

Lt.-Cdr. F. M. Main

Alsatian

Allan Line Steamship Co.

Capt. G. Trewby

Cdr. Edmund Outram

Ambrose

Booth Steamship Co.

Cdr. C. W. Bruton (after May 1915 Cdr. V. L. Bowring)

Lt. Bernard H Symns

Andes

Pacific Steam Navigation Co., Ltd.

Cdr. C. W. Trousdale (after Jan. 1916 Cdr. C. B, Young)

Lt. Richard L.Fortier

Arlanza

Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.

Capt. D. T. Norris

Lt. C. J. Goble

Bayano

Elders & Fyffes, Ltd.

Cdr. H. C. Carr

Lt. Bernard Dunphy

Caribbean

Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.

Cdr. F. H. Walter

Lt.-Cdr. Chas. H. M. Woods

Cedric

Oceanic Steam Navigation Co.

Capt. R. Benson

Cdr. James O Carter

Changuinola

Elders & Fyfies, Ltd.

Cdr. H. Brocklebank

Lt.-Cdr. Arthur H. Reade

Clan Macnaughton

Clan Line (Irvine, Cayzer & Co.)

Cdr. R. Jeffreys

Lt. George J. Weldrick

Columbella

Anchor Line (Henderson Bros.)

Capt. H. Heard (after July 1915 Capt. A. Bromley)

Lt. Raymond H.A. Dunn

Digby

Furness, Withy & Co.

Capt. R. F. Mahon (after Oct. 1915 Cdr. A. Warren and after Dec. 1915 French officers and crew)

Lt. Hamilton M.Hely

Ebro

Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.

Cdr. E. V. Dugmore

Lt. Leopold G. P Vereker

Hilary

Booth Steamship Co.

Cdr. Bather

Lt. Chas M. Wray.

Hildebrand

Booth Steamship Co.

Capt. H. Edwards (after Dec. 1915 Capt. J. Grant Dalton)

Lt. Henry P. B. Smith

India

P. & O. Steam Navigation Co.

Cdr. W. G. Kennedy

Lt. Richard G. Groundwater

Mantua

P. & O. Steam Navigation Co.

Capt. C. Tibbetts

Capt. Frederick W. Vibert

Motagua

Elders & Fyffes, Ltd.

Capt. V. Phillimore (after Feb. 1915 Capt. J. Webster)

Lt.-Cdr. Robert Wallace

Oceanic

Oceanic Steam Navigation Co.

Capt. W. F. Slater

Cdr. H. Smith

Orcoma

Pacific Steam Navigation Co.

Cdr. C. W. Bruton (after May 1915)

Lt.-Cdr. John A. Holland

Oropesa

Pacific Steam Navigation Co.

Cdr. N. L. Stanley (after Dec. 1915 French officers and crew)

Lt. Frederick W. Robinson

Orotava

Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.

Cdr. G. E. Corbett

Lt. Reginald S. Ward

Otway

Orient Steam Navigation Co.

Capt. E. L. Booty

Cdr. Hugh G. Staunton

Patia.

Elders & Fyffes, Ltd.

Capt. G. W. Vivian (after 1914 Cdr. V. L. Bowring)

Lt.-Cdr. Chas. H. Oxlade

Patuca

Elders & Fyffes, Ltd.

Cdr. C. H. France Hayhurst (after May 1915 Cdr. P. G. Brown and after Sept. 1915 Cdr. T. Dannreuther)

Lt.-Cdr. Sidney K. Bacon

Teutonic

Oceanic Steam Navigation Co.

Capt. H. Chatterton (after Oct. 1915 Cdr. A. H. Snyth)

Cdr. Hugh F. David

Victorian

Allan Line Steamship Co.

Cdr. F. H. Walter

Cdr. E. Cook

Viknor

The Viking Cruising Co.

Cdr. E. C. Ballantyne

Lt. W. C. M. Johnson

Virginian

Allan Line Steamship Co,

Cdr. H. H. Smith

Cdr. Alexander Rennie

 

FOREIGN OFFICE BLOCKADE POLICY

 

A far more efficient patrol became possible as a result of the allocation of these additional ships to the squadron. The improvement threw into prominence the divergence of policy between the naval forces, intent only upon putting constriction upon the enemy, and the Foreign Office, anxious so to regulate the blockade as not to give neutral states justifiable cause of dissatisfaction. There was something to be said from both points of view. The action of the Foreign Office was the subject of not a little criticism on the part of the naval authorities at Whitehall, as well as by officers who were submitting to service of unparalleled hardship only to see diplomatic action robbing them of the fruits of their vigilance.

 

In the early months of the year 1915 two instances occurred which suggested that undue leniency was being exhibited to neutral vessels. In the first instance, the American s.s. Greenbriar, which had been taken into Kirkwall and then released by superior orders, reached Bremen, where fourteen Germans were taken out of her and the chief engineer, an Englishman, promptly imprisoned. The American papers at first expressed indignation at the capture of this ship, but they speedily changed their tone when they learnt that she had Germans on board and was full of contraband cargo. For the fourth time the steamer Bergensfjord was intercepted, and, to the chagrin of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, was again released.

 

On May 10th Rear-Admiral de Chair steamed towards Denmark Strait to investigate the icefield which had been reported in that vicinity. He found a large field of closely packed ice drifting south-east. The edge was traced from lat. 66 degrees 48' N., long. 16 degrees 12' W., to lat. 68 degrees N., long. 13 degrees 2' W. No passage could be discovered, and the captain of a steamer stated that no vessels were passing to the north of Iceland, news which was not unwelcome to the crews of the ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron.

 

 

 

On the Forecastle of an Armed Merchant Cruiser

 

As the summer (1915) opened the menace of German submarines steadily increased, and from time to time the Admiral commanding had considerably to vary the areas patrolled in order to reduce the chances of his ships, offering large targets for attack, being sunk. Conclusive evidence of the dangers which had to be incurred was supplied by incidents which occurred in the month of June. Submarines, while on the look-out for vessels of the patrol themselves, stopped two steamers near St. Kilda. On June 14th the Motagua, while boarding the British steamer Goathland in lat. 58 degrees 22' N., long. 8 degrees 15' W., had a narrow escape. She observed an unknown steamer being sunk by a large submarine. She at once proceeded towards the distressed vessel, driving the submarine off by gunfire. Her arrival was too late, however, to save the ship, the identity of which was then unknown. On the same day the India was attacked in lat. 59 degrees 20' N.,

 

AN EXAMINATION

 

long. 7 degrees 52' W. The periscope of an enemy submarine was sighted right aft of the port quarter. After discharging a torpedo, which just missed the ship, the submarine dived, and the India completed her voyage to the Clyde to coal in safety. At this period submarines were also reported three miles west of Rathlin O'Beirne Island, off Barra Head, and to the westward of Flannan Island. An illustration of the services which patrols were rendering to neutral shipping was furnished by the action of the Orotava. On June 15th she sighted a submarine close to the Danish steamer Russ. That ship was stopped, and had her boats half lowered, as if she were about to abandon ship. The Orotava promptly went to her rescue, and opening fire on the submarine, drove the enemy away. The Danish vessel was then escorted to a place of safety, the Orotava screening her from the possibility of further attack. In consequence of the activity of submarines, a change had to be made at this period in the routes given for British and Allied vessels bound for Archangel from British ports, it being considered unsafe for them to pass south of Holyhead.

 

As the summer drew on, it became more than ever evident that large sums of money were being offered to enterprising skippers to go through the blockade. It was rightly assumed that some would endeavour to pass well north of Iceland into the Arctic Circle, making the extreme north of Norway and getting south inside territorial waters, and consequently the Admiral had to send ships to watch these waters. As a further complication a captured ship stated that submarines were using Jan Mayen Island (500 miles north of Iceland) as a base for attacking the ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, and so the Alcantara went round the island and landed a party of seamen to investigate. Nothing, however, was found except some German huts and three black fox cubs, which were promptly captured and brought on board to become ships' pets; but they did not live long.

 

On June 17th the flagship proceeded to the eastward, in order to get into touch with one of the patrols and incidentally to intercept the Norwegian steamer Kristianiafjord, which was reported to have left Bergen on the previous day. The Kristianiafjord was heard signalling with Bergen early in the morning and at frequent intervals afterwards, so orders were given from the Alsatian to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron to stop signalling by wireless. It was noticed that the Norwegian vessel's replies to Bergen were very short and made quickly; this rendered it difficult to obtain a reading by the direction-finder which had been fitted in the Alsatian. It was also observed that the strength of the Kristianiafjord's signals did not alter appreciably throughout the day, and it was assumed that this stratagem was adopted in order to prevent an estimate of her movements being formed.

 

After about five hours, during which the Kristianiafjord was also working with the wireless of another Norwegian ship, the line on which she was steaming was roughly located by means of the direction-finder, but not her exact position. At 9.45 p.m., however, a message from her was intercepted stating that she was 370 miles from Bergen. The Alsatian then recommenced signalling on full power, and the ships on patrol in the vicinity were directed to make no wireless signals. The Norwegian vessel was thus given no opportunity of locating these vessels by means of her direction-finders, and in trying to avoid the Alsatian she ran into the other ships of the patrol. As a result of this skilful handling of the situation, the Kristianiafjord, with 544 passengers on board, was intercepted by the Mantua in lat. 60 degrees 42' N., long. 11 degrees 37' W., at 10.30 a.m. of June 18th, and was sent into Stornoway with an armed guard. This incident furnished an interesting illustration of the efficiency of the patrol, since within a short time of the Admiralty telegram being received to stop her, the suspected vessel had been rounded up and was on her way to port for examination.

 

By this time it became apparent that the squadron was in need of a more convenient base, so in compliance with a signal from the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, the Admiral proceeded to Swarbacks Minn, in the Shetlands, to examine that anchorage in order that he might judge its suitability as a northern base. Sir Dudley found there was room for seven of his cruisers to lie at single anchor, and while there he was able to carry out a practical demonstration of the value of its central position. At noon on May 6th he received a report that an oil-tank steamer had been sighted in lat. 60 degrees 30' N., long. 4 degrees 20' W., steering north-east, having apparently

 

A NEW BASE

 

evaded the patrols. Hastening from the harbour at 18 knots, the Alsatian captured the tanker at 3.30 p.m. on the same day, and sent her into Kirkwall with a prize crew. A plan was drawn up for the defence of Swarbacks Minn, and arrangements were made with representatives of the Works and Stores Department, who joined in the conference, for coaling and watering twenty-four ships. It was considered necessary, in view of the large coal consumption of the squadron (1,600 tons per diem), that four colliers should always be available for immediate use, besides a moored coal-hulk for supplying the yachts and drifters which had been associated with the squadron, as well as for the harbour craft.

 

The question of water supply was one of considerable difficulty. It was estimated that 150 tons a day would be necessary for refilling the boilers of the visiting ships. A loch above the whaling station in Olna Firth was eventually selected, since it yielded a fair drinking water of peaty character free from contamination, and arrangements were made for laying a pipe-line to the shore, whence lighters would convey it to the ships. The old cruiser Gibraltar had been fitted as a depot and repair ship and orders were given that she should be stationed at the base, moored so that her guns could defend the boom from attack. The Admiralty was requested to dispatch from 200 to 300 firemen, in addition to her reduced complement, so that personnel might be available to assist in coaling ships. At the same time it was reported that a hospital ship and a frozen-meat ship would be required at the base, and it was urged that, as a precaution against the enemy laying mines off Swarbacks Minn, a couple of sweeping trawlers should be sent northward to keep the channel open.

 

As the month of June drew to a close, two incidents occurred marking the difficulties under which the patrol was carrying out its duties. On June 21st the Alsatian intercepted the Norwegian sailing-ship Bessfield, with wheat from South America for Norway. The master reported that when about thirty miles from Mizzen Head, U34 stopped the ship by exploding a shell above her deck, pieces of the shell falling on board. The German officer ordered the Bessfield not to call at any British port, and the master, before being released, was given written orders not to call at any British port but to proceed direct to Bergen, it being added that if he was found off his course he would be shot. The Alsatian nevertheless sent the vessel into Lerwick.

 

On the following day, when the Teutonic was off the Norwegian coast, she sighted the German steamer Konsul Schultze, at a distance of thirteen miles. The vessel was off Kya Island. The Teutonic immediately gave chase and drew in to eight miles, still outside gun range. The German vessel then altered course and ran for territorial waters to the north-east of the island. On learning what had happened, Admiral de Chair directed the Teutonic to keep the German ship in sight, and to call up the Victorian to watch the other side of the island. Later the Teutonic reported to the Admiral that the Konsul Schultze had proceeded in a north-easterly direction towards Folden Fjord. A report was at once made to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, and the Teutonic was ordered to patrol about lat. 64 degrees 22' N., long. 9 degrees 34' E., with the Victorian in support of her to try and get the steamer to come out. If a submarine had been available this German ship would probably have been captured. The watch was maintained throughout the following day, but the German vessel was not again sighted, and it was afterwards ascertained she had gone into Trondhjem.

 

German submarines in the meantime were actively engaged intercepting ships off the Butt of Lewis, sinking many of them without warning. The enemy's success did not pass unnoticed, and on June 25th Admiral de Chair learnt that an " E " class submarine had been directed to cruise off Stadlandet, thus supplying a long-felt want. At this period a number of German steamers were being sighted in territorial waters, to the chagrin of the officers and men of the patrolling ships. Whatever the patrol lacked in efficient constriction on the enemy was certainly not due to want of vigilance on the part of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. During the six months which had intervened since December 1914, the distance covered by the flagship had been 35,738 miles, the expenditure of coal and water amounting to 20,796 tons and 13,382 tons respectively. The figures of the flagship were typical of all the other ships of the squadron, and a

 

A SERIOUS COLLISION

 

current estimate put the annual consumption of coal of the twenty-four ships at 598,000 tons. During the week ending June 26th no fewer than seventy-one vessels were intercepted and examined, fourteen of them being sent into port with armed guards.

 

The month of July opened with an accident to the Patuca, which served as a reminder of the hazardous character of the work which the vessels of the patrol were carrying out. Orders had been received from the Admiralty that the Swedish steamer Oscar II, on passage from Buenos Aires to Christiania with a cargo of coffee, hides, etc., should be sent into port if she was met with. The Patuca fell in with this vessel early on the morning of July 1st, with disastrous results. The Oscar II struck the Patuca on the starboard bow, crushing her own bow, and then, rubbing alongside, she was holed in the engine-room by the patrol ship's propeller. Some plates of the Patuca were injured, and the flange of her propeller was badly bent, but collision mats were requisitioned, and by shoring up her side and filling in the spaces between the damaged plates with cement, she was made sufficiently seaworthy to proceed to the Clyde at 14 knots.

 

The damage sustained by the Swedish ship was more serious, and she started making water badly. The engine-room filled, putting out the fires, and the crew abandoned her and went on board the Patuca. The Admiral commanding immediately ordered the Columbella and Digby to the scene of the accident, and the Royal Scot was detached to tow the Oscar II to Stornoway. The Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, on receiving intelligence of the mishap, announced that destroyers would be in readiness off the Butt of Lewis. The Royal Scot took the injured vessel in tow, the Digby acting as escort. At 1 p.m. the Digby reported that the upper deck of the Swedish vessel was awash, and that the tow had parted. Three hours later the Royal Scot had the steamer again in tow, but the voyage promised to be a long one, as no higher speed than 4 knots could be made.

 

Early the following morning the Digby reported that another towing hawser had given out and that the wind and sea were rising. The tug Plover was forthwith dispatched from Stornoway to go to the assistance of the Oscar II, but failed to locate her. Shortly before noon the Royal Scot was still struggling with her burden, making about 3 ½ knots. Subsequently, owing to the condition of the damaged ship, all hands had to leave her. At 1.30 p.m. the tow again parted, but was once more picked up by the Royal Scot. By this time the destroyers Staunch and Fury had joined the escort. At 5 o'clock that afternoon the towing operations had to be suspended, and an hour later the tow once more parted. At 8.35 p.m. the Digby reported that she was experiencing great difficulty in towing as all the wires had gone except that attached to the cable of the derelict, adding that there was no steam or hand gear on her capstan.

 

Early the following morning the Oscar II, though completely water-logged, was still in tow of the Royal Scot. At 6 a.m. the ships reached lat. 59 degrees 11' N., long. 7 degrees 42' W., when steering became difficult through the yawing of the derelict. At 9 a.m. the tow again parted, the bollards having drawn and the wires gone, and as further towing by the Royal Scot was impracticable, that ship was sent to Stornoway to fill up with water. The Digby, assisted by the Fury, then attempted to pick up the tow, but unsuccessfully. By this time the Oscar II had developed a list of 40 degrees and the seas were sweeping over her. At 7 p.m. she sank, and the Digby then returned to her patrol and the Royal Scot went to Scapa Flow.

 

The incident is of interest as a reflection of the devotion to duty exhibited by the officers and men of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron in carrying out the patrol with a determination to inflict as little inconvenience and loss on neutrals as possible. They were tireless in adapting their procedure to circumstances. In contrast with the efforts made to save the Oscar II is the record of the prompt measures adopted on July 8th in the case of the German Friedrich Arp. The Tenby Castle, one of the armed trawlers attached to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, sighted the enemy ship, outward bound from Stettin to Narvik with a cargo of magnetic ore, off the Norwegian coast. The Tenby Castle fired a shot across her bow and ordered her to steer S.W. by W. The master refused to obey and steamed towards the land. The trawler then fired a shot into the steamer's stern. She stopped, but still refused to steer as directed. The trawler then gave warning that she would be sunk unless she obeyed orders.

 

AN ARMED GUARD DISGUISED

 

Again she made for the shore. Realising that decisive measures were necessary, the Tenby Castle fired sixteen rounds into her starboard quarter, and she sank in lat. 67 degrees 47' N., long. 14 degrees 15' E. The crew, as well as the pilot, were rescued and transferred to the India. At this period there was a further marked recrudescence of submarine activity, but nevertheless in the week ending July 24th 115 vessels were intercepted, of which 17 were sent into port with armed guards.

 

The closing days of the month provided an incident which proved at once the activity of the enemy and the stratagem to which resort was had in defeating him. On July 29th information was received of the sinking of the Norwegian steamer Trondhjemsfjord in lat. 61 degrees 30' N., long. 3 degrees 42' W., by a German submarine on July 26th. This vessel was proceeding to Kirkwall in charge of an armed guard from the Hildebrand, when she was fired at by the submarine, the shot passing over the bows. The master altered course to bring the submarine astern and proceeded at full speed. After a chase of half an hour, the submarine fired a second shot and the Trondhjemsfjord, which was being rapidly overhauled, stopped. The master was ordered on board the submarine with the ship's papers, but before leaving he arranged for the disguise of the armed guard, his wife, who was on board, providing the oflicer (Lieutenant Crawford, R.N.R.) with some of her husband's clothes in place of his own, which she packed with her own effects for removal. The rifles, etc., belonging to the guard were concealed in the fore peak.

 

Soon after the master got on board the submarine the crew of the Trondhjemsfjord were directed to abandon ship immediately. When all the boats were clear of the ship the submarine fired a torpedo amidships from a distance of about 130 yards, and the Trondhjemsfjord listed heavily to port. Amongst other cargo this steamer was carrying a large quantity of sulphuric acid, which burst with a loud explosion and flew to the height of the mastheads on the ship being hit by the torpedo. After the vessel had sunk, the submarine towed the crew and armed guard in their boats about four miles to the southward, where the Norwegian barque Glance was met with and ordered by the German officer to embark them. The submarine was of the latest type, being about 200 feet long, with two masts, fitted with wireless, and was armed with a 12-pounder gun forward and a 6-pounder gun aft. The hull was grey, and her number was painted out. Her commander was a young man about twenty-five, who treated the master of the Norwegian steamer with courtesy. He explained that his chief reason for sinking the Trondhjemsfjord was that she was an English steamer bought by a Norwegian Company since the commencement of hostilities.

 

He also said that he was looking for the Drammenfjord, which he was instructed to sink on account of her British origin. The master of the Trondhjemsfjord (Captain Bang) and his wife appear to have behaved in a most circumspect manner throughout. Whilst on board the submarine, the former denied that he had an armed guard on board his ship or that he had been boarded by a British patrol vessel. The crew and armed guard were first transferred to the Swedish steamer Orlando, bound for Sweden, and the armed guard eventually reached Thurso in the trawler Princess Juliana, the master and crew of the Trondhjemsfjord remained in the Orlando.

 

While practical experience of war conditions in the blockading areas had shown the necessity for an alteration in the types of vessels employed, it had to be remembered that throughout the whole of the Empire's sea service unprecedented conditions were bringing about almost daily changes in the sphere of scientific equipment. From these experiments the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was not exempt, and an interesting little note of the Admiral in command, under the date of August 21st, 1915, (At this period of 1915 the Alsatian reported that she had experienced nearly twelve complete days of continuous fog and mist when on patrol to the south of Iceland.) reveals that his flagship, the Alsatian, had been fitted up during July with a new wireless telegraph direction-finder, designed by the National Physical Laboratory. Trials were to be given to this, and a later note, of September 7th, shows that during a thick fog, in which the Hildebrand and Teutonic were to be met at a prearranged rendezvous, the new direction-finder proved very useful in determining their position. It is a matter of no great historical importance, but it is a vivid indication that, pressed as they were by circumstances, the scientific spirit of the officers of

 

GERMANY AND THE BLOCKADE

 

the new navy, as well as the old navy, was as alive in the Tenth Cruiser Squadron as in any other division of the naval and mercantile services.

 

On July 19th, 1915, the flagship Alsatian, after coaling and repairing at Liverpool, proceeded to rejoin the squadron, which had by this time been welded into a thoroughly efficient blockading force. During the later part of this month enemy submarines in these southern seas had become very active; the Columbella was attacked on the 22nd in lat. 60 degrees 26' N., long. 4 degrees 42' W., but the enemy was avoided; this submarine craft, after making the attack, dived and came up again five miles astern, whether or not with the idea of attacking a Danish schooner in the vicinity was uncertain. At any rate, both the British patrol steamer and the Danish vessel escaped. On the same day, however, a trawler and a Russian collier were sunk, and the French ship Dance on the 23rd by one of the submarines operating in lat. 59 degrees 15' N., long. 7 degrees 20' W. On July 26th the Teutonic reported that she had intercepted the Norwegian steamer Bianca, which had also been stopped by a German submarine carrying two guns, twenty-five miles N.W. by W. from Foula Island; the British steamer Grangewood, which had been intercepted by the Patuca on the 24th, was also destroyed twenty miles east-north-east from Muckle Flugga in the Shetlands.

 

The Germans were evidently studying with jealous eye the success with which the blockade was being maintained, and the goodwill by which it was regarded by many neutral seamen. " Ruthlessness " was the German watchword. An indication of the enemy's counteraction was furnished towards the end of July, when the Norwegian steamer Fimreite, with an armed guard on board (furnished by the patrol ship Motagua), was torpedoed. At 4.14 a.m. on the 23rd, when about lat. 60 degrees 15' N., long. 8 degrees 45' W., a submarine was sighted on the port bow making for the Fimreite at high speed. She fired a gun and ordered the steamer to stop and send a boat. While the master was on board the submarine, the officer in charge of the armed guard (Mr. P. B. Clarke, Midshipman R.N.R.) ordered his men to take off their uniforms and help to put the boats out.

 

On his return to the ship the master of the Fimreite stated that he had been questioned as to his destination, and had given it as Hull; asked if he were going direct, he had replied " via Kirkwall." He was then asked if he had a prize crew aboard, and answered, " Yes; one officer and four soldiers." The Germans told him they would sink him for trading with the English, and told him not to let the Englishmen get into the boats, as they were to sink with the ship. The officer of the guard, thinking the Germans might search the boats, ordered his men to remove every scrap of uniform and to disguise themselves as much as possible, taking their revolvers in their pockets. As soon as the boats were clear of the ship, the submarine opened fire on her with what looked like a 6 or 12-pounder gun. She fired about fifteen projectiles, one of which struck the boilers, and the Fimreite sank bow first. There were twenty-nine men seen on board the submarine watching the shooting, most of them dressed in duffle suits. The submarine had one mast amidships and a black patch forward where her number had probably been painted out. After sinking the Fimreite, she dived, heading in a westerly direction. The crew and guard were in the boats from 4.45 a.m. till 3.30 p.m., when they were picked up by the Norwegian barque Springband, which transferred them to the Caliban for passage to Stornoway.

 

The work of the patrol was now in full swing: the organisation, considering the novelty of the conditions, the seas in which operations were being carried out, and the complications provided by the German submarines, was working smoothly. Some idea of the amount of work being done at this period may be gathered from the fact that during the last week of July sixty-nine ships were intercepted and examined, twelve of them being sent into port with armed guards, while during the first week of August sixty-four vessels were intercepted, the same number as before being sent into port.

 

The most memorable incident, perhaps, of this month was the disaster which overtook the India while on patrol duty off the Norwegian coast some six or seven miles north-north-west from Heligver Light on the afternoon of August 8th. On the morning of this day the s.s. Gloria, a Swedish ship, had been sighted by the India to the northward, accompanied by two armed trawlers, the Saxon and

 

THE " INDIA " TORPEDOED

 

the Newland. The India's course was altered to meet them, and an officer went on board to examine the Swedish vessel. A search lasting about one and a half hours was made. The Gloria was allowed to proceed at about 10 a.m., a report upon her cargo being made by wireless to the senior officer of the patrol in the Virginian. The India then altered her course to the south-west, at a speed of 14 knots, zigzagging according to orders, and at 11 a.m. sighted another ship making for Taen Island. As she was inside the three-mile territorial limit, the officer in charge of the India, Commander W. G. A. Kennedy, R.N., closed her and followed her to the northward for purposes of identification. This again took the India several miles north of her patrol line into the West Fjord. The vessel proved to be a Swedish steamship, Atland.

 

Once more course was altered for the patrol line, and at about noon an urgent wireless message was received from the Virginian ordering Commander Kennedy to send the Swedish ship Gloria into Kirkwall. Once more, therefore, he had to alter course, increasing his speed to 16 ½ knots, with the hope of again intercepting this vessel. At 2 p.m., however, he had seen nothing of her, and being then well to the north of his patrol line, he again turned south, and zigzagged at a speed of 14 knots. An hour later a steamer was observed inshore, just to the northward of Taen Island, and the India altered her course so as to intercept her, coming up with her about 4 p.m. Being just inside the territorial limit. Commander Kennedy could not interfere with her, but on signalling she replied that she was the s.s. Hillhouse, bound from South Shields to Archangel in ballast, and she hoisted the Red Ensign. As she had no name visible anywhere, Commander Kennedy considered her to be very suspicious, but was obliged to leave her alone. Yet again, therefore, having sighted and signalled the armed trawler Saxon, he altered his course back to the centre of the patrol line, soon afterwards perceiving another steamer making towards Taen Island.

 

Course was again altered in order to try to intercept the newcomer, and Commander Kennedy then left the bridge for a few minutes to go to the wireless house, passing thence to the hurricane deck. Within a few minutes the alarm gong sounded, and returning to the bridge he saw the track of a torpedo approaching the India from an angle of about 80 degrees on the starboard bow. Orders were given " Full speed ahead " and " Hard aport." Commander Kennedy hoped that the torpedo had safely passed under the ship, as her track had reached the vessel's side before the explosion. Unfortunately this was not the case, the India being struck on the starboard side between the after companion-way and the after gun on the starboard side.

 

The great vessel at once began to settle by the stern, and the order was given to abandon ship. Seven of the ship's lifeboats — four on the starboard and three on the port side — had been kept lowered in view of such an eventuality, and though six of them were fully and successfully manned, one of the port boats capsized, owing to a great deal of way being still on the ship. The starboard boats were being thrown into hopeless confusion, owing to the first lifeboat's foremost fall freeing itself and causing her to swing round and foul the third lifeboat and first whaler; the first cutter was, it was believed, stove in against the ship's side whilst being lowered. " I very much regret," Commander Kennedy reported, " that all the efforts which were made to save life by means of the boats actually caused the great loss of life."

 

Of the number saved, namely 189 officers and men, no less than 19 officers and 138 men had all dived into the sea, or gone down with the ship. As the vessel sank in less than five minutes after the explosion, all efforts to get the rafts out were unavailing. Commander Kennedy went down with his ship, and eventually floated up amongst the wreckage. Throughout the trying ordeal, discipline was splendidly maintained. " I wish to place on record," Commander Kennedy stated in his report, " my admiration of the magnificent behaviour of the officers and men; notwithstanding the appalling swiftness of the catastrophe, the most perfect discipline prevailed until the end." The survivors were subsequently picked up by the Swedish steamer Gotaland and the armed trawler Saxon, and were landed in Norway; they were removed to an internment camp at Jorstadmoen. The total number of lives lost was 9 officers and 107 men.

 

Meanwhile the work of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, temporarily short of three of its units, continued to increase, in face of great submarine activity on the part

 

THE NEW BASE DEVELOPED

 

of the enemy, which necessitated frequent variations of the patrolling. During the first week of September 1915, no less than eighty-nine vessels were intercepted and examined, fourteen being sent into port with armed guards. The development of the new base at Swarbacks Minn became a matter of the first importance in view of the role which the squadron was filling. On September 9th Admiral de Chair accordingly landed to inspect, in company with Rear-Admiral Fawckner, the progress of its coaling and watering plant and other local arrangements. He found that the rate of coaling had increased with experience and was now averaging from 50 to 60 tons per hour, while a plentiful supply of boiler water was procurable. Ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron were being sent in to coal singly, taking about 1,000 tons each, but the resources of the base were being so developed as to allow, it was hoped, of several ships being coaled simultaneously. A further technical improvement had also been brought about by the fitting of a second look-out crow's-nest on the foremast of all ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. This, being placed well above the height of the funnels, gave them a very good range of vision, and ensured that other ships could be sighted before the patrol vessels were themselves seen. Ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron had thus become readily recognisable by the two crows'-nests on their funnels.

 

Great trouble was now being experienced through fog in these far northern seas, and this resulted, on September 11th, in an unfortunate collision between two vessels of the patrol, the Patia and the Oropesa, both of which had, in consequence, to be sent into the Clyde for repairs; the Patia was attacked en route by a submarine, happily without injury. The Patia adventure was a curious one. The injury suffered by the vessel's stern had been so considerable that the water rose to the collision bulkhead. The bulkhead was shored up and the ballast shifted aft, so as to bring her bow up, and the captain decided to steam stern first, with the Ebro as escort. In these circumstances slow progress was made, so Rear-Admiral de Chair submitted to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet that assistance should be sent. The suggestion was adopted, the Patia being ordered to proceed to East Loch Roag, in the Hebrides. Early on the morning of the following day — September 13th — the Ebro reported that she had sighted a submarine in lat. 58 degrees 5' N., long. 10 degrees 5' W., steering north.

 

From later reports from this vessel and the Patia, it appeared that they had both observed the lights of a supposed steamer, which the Ebro went to investigate. It was very dark. The chase proved to be a submarine, but her identity was not established until the Ebro was so close that she could not depress her guns sufficiently to fire, when the submarine dived. After a short interval she rose again and showed a light. The Ebro attempted to ram her, but she had disappeared when the ship arrived on the spot. Meanwhile the Patia, which had hitherto been proceeding stern first at 3 knots, reversed her engines and went ahead at 12 to 13 knots to clear the dangerous area. At 6.30 a.m. she reported that she was proceeding east at 13 knots and that her shored-up bulkhead was intact, collision mats in place, and 200 tons of ballast shifted aft. In view of these favourable conditions, she requested permission to proceed direct to the Clyde, instead of putting into East Loch Roag, and, this course having been approved by the Commander-in-Chief, she changed course to the south with the Ebro in company.

 

In spite of fog and the bad weather which continued almost without intermission throughout the month, the work of the patrol went forward; 51 vessels were intercepted during this week, 9 of them being sent into port with armed guards; while during the following week these numbers increased again to 77 and 14 respectively, and on the last day of the month no less than 8 steamers were sent within twenty-four hours into Kirkwall and Lerwick under armed guard, 2 of them being found to contain German subjects.

 

Beset by fogs, often so dense as to obscure all vision, and with German submarines still active, the patrol continued its difficult and arduous task. One dark night, with a breeze blowing, wireless telegraphy signals were received from a ship on " C " patrol to the effect that the captain and officers' watch could smell petrol. As none of the ships carried petrol, it was concluded that a submarine had just passed to windward of this ship, probably waiting for daylight to get a shot at the vessels on that patrol line. On receiving this signal the Admiral moved

 

A TYPICAL INSTANCE OF HEROISM

 

the whole line thirty miles to the westward during the night, which avoided that submarine, while at the same time not impairing the efficiency of the patrol. One can imagine the disgust of the commander of the submarine, after all his trouble to locate the patrol, when he realised that he had been outwitted. The place of the India had in the meantime been filled by the Almanzora. In the course of their work the ships were repeatedly succouring neutrals, as well as British and Allied ships.

 

Instances of individual heroism and seamanship on the part of officers and men of the vessels of the patrol were of such daily occurrence as to forbid any attempt at a complete record. A typical instance of the sort of problems set to and solved by even the youngest officers of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron may, however, be cited in the experience of Midshipman C. A. Bamford, R.N.R., and Sub-Lieutenant D. L. Edwards, R.N.R., during two voyages, each beginning on September 16th. On this day Mr. Bamford had been placed in charge of an armed guard on board the Swedish topsail schooner Valand, bound from Iceland to Leith with a cargo of herrings, with orders to take the schooner to Lerwick, making Muckle Flugga during the dark hours, if possible. A light fair wind was experienced until the morning of the following day, when the wind began to haul easterly. At half-past nine the next morning Myggenaes, in the Faeroes, was sighted, bearing S.E. by S. By the evening of this day, however, the wind had increased to a strong south-easterly gale, and on the morning of the 20th the gale had become so high that, after consultation between the captain of the Valand and Mr. Bamford, it was resolved to heave to.

 

As the wind continued to increase, the only course then seemed to be to run north and sail down the eastern side of the Faeroes. This was accordingly done, and at 8 p.m. on September 21st Myggenaes was once more sighted, this time bearing S. by W. At this point the Valand's steering gear broke down, but fortunately the gale had somewhat moderated, and in a few hours the necessary repairs had been effected. On the 22nd the little vessel was becalmed, but on the following day a head wind was encountered, accompanied by dense banks of fog. On the 25th the fog had cleared, and there was a moderate east-north-east wind. By this time provisions had been almost exhausted and reliance had to be placed mainly on salt herrings from the cargo. At noon the wind once more began to blow from the north-east, and by evening the vessel was again labouring in a strong north-easterly gale. At 8 o'clock Muckle Flugga was sighted, but owing to the fierceness of the storm and the absence of coast lights, and the improbability of sighting any of the patrol near Lerwick, it was decided to steer a course farther eastward rather than to attempt to make port.

 

At 1 o'clock on the morning of the 26th the fore rigging carried away, and the foremast itself nearly went overboard, but by knocking away the bulwarks on the port side, passing wire stropes round the ribs of the ship, and rigging up temporary stays, the damage was repaired in a few hours' time. On the evening of September 27th Mr. Bamford determined to make another attempt to get to Lerwick, and accordingly sailed northward on the port tack. At 4 o'clock in the morning of the following day the starboard anchor was carried overboard, but was eventually got on board again without doing any damage beyond making a dent in the ship's side. An hour later land was sighted, and at 8 o'clock it was discovered that the ship was between the Fair Island and Sumburgh Head, the north-east gale having set the vessel to the westward. As it was then clearly impossible to get to Lerwick, and, in view of the wind, dangerous to attempt to reach Kirkwall, the ship's gear being in a rotten condition — sails and ropes carrying away incessantly — Mr. Bamford now decided to run before the gale and try to make Leith.

 

On September 29th land was sighted bearing west-north-west, and at 4 p.m. the storm-beaten Valand passed close to a town which her master thought was Aberdeen. Sail was reduced accordingly in order to make Bell Rock by daylight. As there were, however, no proper charts or navigation instruments on board, and as the sun had not been visible since the Shetlands had been left behind, it was not surprising that an error in the vessel's bearing was made, the town which had been sighted being Montrose and not Aberdeen. At 4 o'clock on the morning of September 30th the Valand attempted to go through the southern channel of the Forth between

 

THE " HAUGAR'S " EXPERIENCES

 

May Island and Dunbar, but was instructed by destroyers to enter by the northern channel. Owing to the wind, May Island was not weathered until 5 o'clock that evening, when the vessel proceeded up the Forth as far as Largo Bay and anchored for the night, to proceed next morning into Leith Roads after an experience that none on board was likely to forget.

 

Somewhat similar were the adventures of Sub-Lieutenant D. L. Edwards, who was in charge of an armed guard on board the Norwegian brigantine Haugar, also bound from Iceland, with a cargo of herrings, to the port of Haugesund. With similar orders to take the vessel into Lerwick, Lieutenant Edwards set his course accordingly, and on September 18th, at daybreak, sighted the Faeroes. Here, however, caught in the same gale as the Valand was experiencing, he agreed with her master that the only course to adopt was to heave the vessel to. The seas were running so high that the pump had to be worked continually; the ship, which was over fifty years old, was leaking badly, and the water in her, in spite of all efforts, was increasing rapidly. While the original crew of the Haugar were manning the pumps. Lieutenant Edwards, with the armed guard, trimmed the sails as necessary. Throughout the next day the gale continued unabated, heavy seas being continually shipped. The topmast backstay was carried away and a preventor rigged.

 

On September 20th the vessel was in the neighbourhood of Faeroe Bank, and, the wind decreasing a little, a course was set on the starboard tack. At 9 o'clock next morning the Faeroes were again sighted; the ship was headed for Dimon Fjord, the wind being south-south-east. As it was essential to weather the Faeroes, and not anticipating a change of wind before they could tack clear of them. Lieutenant Edwards and the master of the Haugar decided to go through the fjord and thus save considerable time. By 8 o'clock they were due north of Sydero Island, where they were becalmed and drifted out to sea again. At 7 o'clock in the evening a south-westerly wind sprang up, and they again attempted to go through the fjord, but when only half a mile from the high land the wind dropped and the tide carried the ship landward. By then it was quite dark, no lights were visible and the vessel was near the rocks. Drifting west, and almost sweeping against the rocks, there now became visible to leeward a ledge of rocks running out to sea, and as it seemed impossible that the ship would be able to clear them. Lieutenant Edwards, after consulting with the master, decided that the ship would have to be abandoned. The lifeboat was accordingly hoisted out with topsail halyards, and as it was not provisioned, Lieutenant Edwards put his remaining stores into it. The boat was then pulled off a little way, there being no place where a landing was possible, and those on board watched the ship drift towards the rocks. To everyone's surprise, however, she passed clear of them, so they once more re-embarked from the boat, which was itself leaking so badly that it had to be continually baled.

 

On once more getting on board the Haugar, Lieutenant Edwards found that the compass had been broken to pieces by the main boom, but luckily there was a spare compass, which he succeeded in rigging up. A breeze now sprang up from the south-south-west, and the Haugar proceeded to tack to the south of Sydero. By September 22nd the provisions which Lieutenant Edwards had brought with him had been finished and the ship had not much left in the way of stores. Those on board had therefore to subsist almost entirely on hard bread and salt fish. On September 23rd they were once more becalmed, and Lieutenant Edwards, from aloft, sighted the Faeroes. At 4 o'clock on the morning of the 24th a breeze sprang up from the north-north-east, which freshened towards evening.

 

The ship would not head up so high as Muckle Flugga, but it was found that the course would take them south of the Shetlands, and that they could thus make Kirkwall instead of Lerwick. The next day the wind increased to such an extent that at 8 o'clock in the evening they had once more to heave to. Towards night the weather grew steadily worse. Part of the bulwarks were stove in and the jib and stay sail were blown away. The old ship was now labouring heavily and making water fast; the armed guard were helping at the pumps and rendering every assistance possible to the Hangar's crew. On the next day the weather began once more to moderate, and by 3 o'clock land was sighted, which was made out to be Papa Westra Island, north of the Orkneys. Being unable to pass north of it, however, the ship stood out again, and on the 27th the wind, which was now north-north-east, again

 

ARMED GUARDS' DIFFICULTIES

 

rose. Lieutenant Edwards, however, advised the master to proceed on their course in the hope of sighting land before dark, which, however, they did not do. The heavy squalls were now straining the ship in every part. Seas were being continually shipped, and pumping was very difficult. At daybreak land was sighted, the wind still being in the north-north-west and blowing in violent squalls. Sule Skerry was, however, successfully rounded at 10 o'clock in the morning, and the port of Kirkwall made by 6 in the evening, the Haugar then having four feet of water in her holds. Throughout this period of stress and storm, the conduct of all on board was beyond praise. Continually wet through, and frequently only able to snatch their sleep in saturated clothes, the highest standard of courage and seamanship was maintained.

 

Another incident at this period further indicates the difficulties with which the young officers in charge of the armed guards had to deal. On September 30th Sub-Lieutenant Alfred M. Easty, R.N.R., boarded the Swedish steamer Avesta in lat. 60 degrees 46' N., long. 13 degrees 26' W., and proceeded towards Kirkwall, the course being set to make the Butt of Lewis. At 6.45 a.m. on October 1st, in lat. 59 degrees 54' N., long. 10 degrees 40' W., an enemy submarine was sighted by T. Watson, A.B. (who was then on watch), about two points on the port bow. This was immediately reported to Mr. Easty. The ship was then steering S.E. by S. (magnetic) and steaming at about 8 knots. When sighted, the submarine appeared to be steering to the southward. About 7 a.m. she altered course to the south-south-east. She did not appear to be capable of any great speed, as, although closing the Avesta, she was drawing astern all the time. She was also evidently either using an excess of oil or having some engine trouble, as she was smoking slightly.

 

The Avesta hoisted the Swedish colours on sighting the enemy. Mr. Easty ordered the guard to keep out of sight and to hide their uniforms as much as possible, he himself removing his cap and jacket. The captain was instructed to keep a steady course and speed as long as possible, and was told that should he be compelled to stop, he was to make no mention of having an armed guard on board. He replied that he would probably have to give some reason for his present course, as apparently the Germans were aware that the vessels of his line (A. Johnson, Stockholm) made a northerly course on their homeward voyage.

 

" I accordingly instructed him," Mr. Easty recorded afterwards, " to inform the submarine commander that he was proceeding to Kirkwall voluntarily. Probably, had we been examined, a German, who was a member of the crew, would have informed the enemy of our presence. It was useless to attempt to hide him, as his name and nationality appeared on the crew list. I must here remark that the Swedish captain behaved with great courtesy and seemed only too anxious to do all he could for us. Meanwhile the submarine was closing us, and about 7.30 a.m. she was about 3 points abaft the port beam, distant about one mile. She then hoisted a signal... but as we could not clearly distinguish the flags, we kept our course and speed. Just at this time smoke appeared to the eastward, and a vessel looking remarkably like a cruiser was apparently approaching. The submarine also saw this vessel, and evidently thought her to be a cruiser, for she turned and, without bothering further about us, made off in a north-westerly direction, and was soon lost in a rain squall. She was seen again later, proceeding slowly in a westerly direction. The approaching vessel proved to be the American s.s. Polarine of New York — an oil-carrier. She was light, and steering W. by S. She appeared to be keeping a steady course and speed so long as she was in sight.

 

" The submarine appeared to be one of the modern large ones. She was on the surface the whole time. I was unable to ascertain whether she carried a gun or not, but she appeared to have been at sea for a considerable time. She was covered with rust, and looked something like a ' drifter ' at a distance. She was last seen at about 7.50 a.m. steering west at a slow speed. I reported having sighted a submarine — giving the position and direction she was last seen heading— by semaphore to one of the armed trawlers (fitted with W/T) which stopped me off Cape Wrath at 8 a.m. on October 2nd. We arrived at Kirkwall at 6.30 on October 2nd, and myself and armed guard returned to H.M.S. Mantua at 4 p.m. on October 7th."

 

DARING SEAMANSHIP

 

Yet another example of outstanding seamanship, this time on the part of one of the larger vessels of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, was that of the Hildebrand, which intercepted and boarded on October 16th the Norwegian steamer Corona, bound from Baltimore to Bergen with a load of grain. Her master having stated that his ship had sprung a leak and was sinking, the crew of the Corona was taken on board the Hildebrand, which stood by the damaged vessel. The crew were thoroughly examined, six of them, who had joined at Baltimore, being placed under arrest on account of their suspicious character. In the meanwhile the Otway had been directed to proceed at full speed to assume charge of possible salvage operations, intercepting en route, and sending into Kirkwall with an armed guard, the Danish steamer United States, which was proceeding east with 312 passengers, amongst whom was a well-known Austrian aviator, Guido von Georgevitch.

 

It was at midnight that the Corona had first been intercepted by the Hildebrand, and by half-past eight the next morning it was discovered that she had made 18 inches of water above the stokehold. The leak, however, appeared to be a small one and confined to the engine-room and stokehold, and accordingly an attempt at towing was undertaken at a quarter to one. At half-past five the steamer's cable, which was being used in conjunction with the wire hawsers, parted, but in spite of the very heavy sea that was running at the time, she was once more taken in tow shortly before 9 o'clock and headed for Stornoway. In view of the darkness of the night, the heavy seas that were running, and the presence of possible submarines, this was an exceptionally skilful and daring piece of seamanship on the part of Captain Edwards, R.N., to which the attention of the Admiralty was afterwards drawn by Admiral Jellicoe, in command of the Grand Fleet.

 

Unfortunately Captain Edwards' efforts were not destined to be successful, and at 11 o'clock on the following morning the Corona had to be sunk, as she was likely to become a danger to navigation. That the Hildebrand, and indeed all the vessels of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, were often, in spite of their policing functions, friends in need, was again made clear when, on October 30th, this vessel intercepted the Danish sailing-ship Haracaibo and supplied her with eight days' provisions, the heavy south-easterly gales having prevented her from making any headway towards Lerwick, her port of destination.

 

Throughout the rest of October, and indeed at frequent intervals throughout the whole of the following two months, the patrol work of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was carried on in the face of such weather as has already been described in the experiences of the preceding three officers. Vessels to be examined were almost daily boarded under conditions of wind and sea that in ordinary times would have seemed to involve the highest degree of risk. Often the weather was so bad that even by the storm-experienced boarding-parties of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, it was found impossible to get a footing upon suspected vessels; and on these occasions it was frequently found necessary to follow such vessels and, in some cases, to lie to while keeping them in company. In a letter to the Admiralty at this period Lord Jellicoe drew attention to the fact that " very heavy weather was experienced by the patrols " and that " a number of ships were boarded and armed guards placed on board in most difficult circumstances."

 

Another type of difficulty, and one that illustrates the tax that was at all times placed upon the tact and initiative of the responsible officers, may be exemplified in the experience of the armed guard from the Columbella, which was placed on board the American sailing-ship Andrew Welch on November 2nd. After sighting several submarines, the Andrew Welch rounded Muckle Flugga on November 6th, in an attempt to make Lerwick, under the usual stormy conditions. She spoke to a patrol-boat off Noss Head, which directed her to heave to, but disappeared again from sight without rendering her any assistance. The weather becoming worse, the master of the Andrew Welch wished to make for the port of Helmstadt, in Norway, and on the refusal of the officer in charge of the armed guard to allow this, the crew of the Andrew Welch struck work. As the armed guard was, of course, quite insufficient for working the ship, a compromise had necessarily to be made, and the officer in charge agreed to try and attempt to make the port of Aberdeen. On November 11th the little vessel accordingly.

 

A GREAT RECORD

 

arrived off Girdleness, where signals were made for a pilot and a small steamer was spoken, which promised to send out a tug. The tug did not arrive, however, and the heavy gale from the north-north-west obliged the Andrew Welch to remain hove to for three whole days and nights. Once more the crew refused to work, and as the water supply was getting very low and the pumps were failing to draw, the officer of the guard was at last obliged to run for the nearest Norwegian port, Christiansund, where he put himself into communication with the British Consul, and whence, with his armed guard, he was subsequently allowed to return home. That such instances of insubordination were rare is perhaps the best tribute to the firmness and humour with which these officers, many of them little more than boys, carried out their difficult and delicate tasks.

 

The transition year of 1915, during which, as we have seen, the nature, personnel, and technical equipment of the patrol had had to be very considerably modified as well as amplified owing to the unprecedented and unforeseen exigencies of a sea blockade under modern war conditions, was now drawing to an end, and Admiral de Chair was able to give a summary of the work done under these trying conditions. Despite the weather, the almost constant presence of enemy submarines, the losses of time and material as the result of inevitable accidents, and the primitive nature of the island bases upon which the patrol largely depended, the ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron had patrolled, without intermission, an area of 220,000 square miles. During this time 3,068 ships had been intercepted on the high seas and carefully examined. Of this number, 743 were found to be carrying contraband and otherwise suspicious cargoes, and had been in consequence sent to British ports for examination and confiscation of cargo as considered desirable by the authorities in charge.

 

During the twelve months, the Tenth Cruiser Squadron had lost two ships by submarine attack, the Bayano and India; two by mines, the Viknor and the Arlanza; and one by foundering at sea in heavy weather, the Clan Macnaughton.' (The Arlanza was brought into harbour.) With these ships there had gone down some 63 officers and 800 men. With regard to the armed guards placed on intercepted vessels, some typical experiences of which have already been recorded, the casualties sustained by these were remarkably few, only one guard being taken prisoner, while two had their prizes sunk under them by submarines. Of the vessels intercepted, 90 were American, 857 Norwegian, 300 Swedish, 606 Danish, 8 Dutch, 1 Spanish, and 1 Argentine. In addition 264 British vessels, 17 French, 124 Russian, 2 Belgian, and 1 Italian were examined, while 7 other vessels of unknown nationality were also intercepted. In addition to these, 817 fishing-craft of seven different nationalities came under notice and were examined.

 

Even more, perhaps, to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron than to any other portion of the British sea services during the war was the value of wireless telegraphy under modern war conditions apparent. Continually moving from place to place in the course of their patrol, covering in so doing enormous distances, and seldom in sight of one another, the efficient control of the ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron would have been impossible without the aid of wireless telegraphy. How great a reliance was placed upon it during the year 1915 may be gathered from the fact that a daily average of twenty-one signals was sent and forty-six signals received by the one senior officer alone of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, an average, throughout the year, of one signal every twenty-one minutes, although the amount of such signalling was strictly reduced to the smallest possible minimum.

 

Throughout the year, except during brief periods in which she had to go to port for coaling and repairs, the Alsatian remained the flagship of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, under the command of Rear-Admiral Dudley de Chair, Commodore Benson taking over the command in his absence. For 262 days the Alsatian was at sea, steaming during that time 71,500 miles and using 40,287 tons of coal, a record that may be taken as typical of the work of each ship of the squadron.

 

The year went out in gales. The character of the weather is reflected in the story of the wreck of the British steamer Morning in lat. 62 degrees 21' N., long. 6 degrees W., when the patrol-ship Cedric rescued the master (Mr. Andrew Smith) and the second officer (Mr. Joe Hansen). The steamer — a Dundee whaler — was loaded with ammunition

 

ADMIRAL JELLICOE'S PRAISE

 

at Brest and was on her way to Archangel. She left Queenstown on December 21st, and after bunkering in the Faeroes was spoken by the Alsatian on December 22nd during a south-easterly gale. The master stated that after leaking for two days, due to working of ship, she foundered on the morning of December 24th in lat. 64 degrees 15' N., long. 7 degrees W. With the exception of the second mate and himself, the crew were drowned, the boats being stove in. Both men were much exhausted, having been four days in an open boat in bad and very cold weather. Admiral Jellicoe was in no doubt as to the devotion exhibited by officers and men of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. He reported to the Admiralty at the close of 1915 that he was " fully in agreement " with Rear-Admiral de Chair in praising the work which they had done under conditions of much difficulty and in the face of great dangers. " The work of officers and men," he remarked, " merits the highest commendation."

 

As the Old Year closed in gales, so did 1916 open with fierce winds and high seas. The Tenth Cruiser Squadron, in maintaining the blockade of the enemy, had to struggle against a variety of difficulties during winter days and nights. Under such circumstances it was not, therefore, surprising that orders could not sometimes be carried out, and in a typical failure to do so, owing to overwhelming handicaps, the significance of the work successfully accomplished can better perhaps be appreciated. As an example we have the adventures of a young officer of the Royal Naval Reserve, Lieutenant S. F. Carter, who had been placed, on December 21st, in charge of an armed guard consisting of one midshipman and four seamen, on board the Norwegian barque Skomvaer. Provided with supplies for eight days, and with orders to take the Skomvaer into Lerwick, it was not until January 1st, owing to the strong easterly winds, that Lieutenant Carter was able at last to make a run for this port.

 

During the interval, in which he had been beating about, he had fallen in with other vessels of the patrol, the Orotava on December 26th, who had supplied him with provisions for a further eight days, and the Cedric on January 1st, who had given him provisions for another five days.

 

On January 1st, the wind veering to the south-west, he was able at last to run toward Lerwick, passing Muckle Flugga two days later at 2.30 p.m., and arriving off Lerwick in the first watch. For five whole days, however, it was a case of being so near and yet so far, and owing to the contrary and baffling winds, he was unable actually to get into port. By January 8th, so fierce was the gale blowing from the northward, that he decided at last to run his vessel into Kirkwall, but on the evening of the next day the wind fell back to the south-west, and he once more headed, according to his orders, for Lerwick. On January 10th a gale was blowing from the west-northwest, and in the forenoon the master informed him that provisions, water, and oil were all running short, and the crew complained to the master respecting the safety of the ship. The sea was then running so high that at 5 p.m. the master insisted that the ship must run for safety, and Lieutenant Carter reluctantly consented, and accordingly ran to the south-eastward. On the next day the Norwegian coast was sighted, in a period of calm between heavy snow squalls, and on January 12th, shortly after noon, a pilot was picked up. The Skomvaer then tried to make either the port of Stavanger or Haugesund, but was eventually taken in tow by two small tugs on January 13th and towed into Flekkefjord, where she arrived early in the morning of January 14th, more than three weeks after Lieutenant Carter had boarded her with his armed guard.

 

On January 15th the weather was once more so bad that the patrols were forced to lie to, the wind increasing to hurricane force. So fierce was the gale that the Orotava, which was at Swarbacks Minn for the purpose of coaling, dragged both anchors and was unable to complete her coaling. The boom-gate vessel of the port also dragged her anchors, so that the entrance to the harbour was temporarily blocked, while the shore end of the boom net defence, which was secured round a large rock, was carried away owing to the splitting of the rock under the enormous strain. Four days later the Duke of Cornwall, which had left Swarbacks Minn to return to Longhope with despatches, was also forced to put back to harbour owing to the heavy seas running, while ships coaling at Busta Voe were obliged to stop coaling and raise steam, some of them dragging their anchors, although all had two anchors down. The next day the Patia reported that, while hove to, she had shipped so heavy a sea that her bridge had

 

DAMAGE AT SWARBACKS MINN

 

been seriously damaged and an officer injured, while at Swarbacks Minn, in going alongside the Artois, the collier came into collision with her, making a hole in the port bow with the crown of her starboard anchor. On January 21st the Orotava reported that her wheelhouse and all bridge fittings had been smashed by a heavy sea, and that she had been obliged to run before the gale, endeavouring, but unsuccessfully, to use her hand-steering gear. On January 22nd, owing to the heavy weather, the gate of the boom at Swarbacks Minn was damaged and sank below the surface in the centre and could not be opened, while the main deck in the storeroom passage on the starboard side of the Orcoma was buckled by about seven-eighths of an inch. The persistence of the patrol in continuing its work under such conditions is perhaps evidenced by the fact that no less than ten vessels were intercepted in that stormy week, eight of them being sent into port.

 

Of the skill and stout-heartedness that made such a record possible in such conditions, an admirable instance is afforded by the experience, a day or two later, of the Ebro. This vessel, on January 24th, intercepted the Norwegian barque Beechbank, with an armed guard on board, in lat. 61 degrees 25' N., long. 1 degrees 50' E. The barque was trying to make Lerwick, but had lost her fore and maintop masts, her mizzen and top-gallant mast, and nearly all her sails and boats. As the barque herself was comparatively undamaged, however, the Ebro resolved to endeavour to take her in tow, but could not at first succeed in doing so, owing to the heavy weather. There was nothing for it, therefore, but for the Ebro to stand by till morning, the crew of the Beechbank proving themselves somewhat difficult to handle and refusing to go aloft. The cutting away of the mizzen and top sail and other work aloft had, therefore, to be carried out by the Royal Naval Reserve officers of the armed guard. Lieutenant Wynn, and the master of the ship, Lieutenant Wynn taking complete charge after the dismantling had been accomplished.

 

On the following day the weather continued very bad, with a gale from the west-south-west, and the sea ran so high that it was found impossible to communicate by boat, while the Ebro herself, being in light condition, with only 22 per cent, of coal remaining, became somewhat unmanageable. This difficulty was overcome by veering an anchor and six shackles of cable, a dangerous experiment, but one that justified itself in steadying the Ebro and enabling hawsers to be got on board the other vessel by means of a rocket and a buoyed line drifting to windward.

 

The Beechbank was thus eventually got into tow with a 6-inch and 5 ½ -inch wire and 90 fathoms of her chain cable. By half an hour after noon, the Ebro and Beechbank were on their way to Lerwick at a maximum speed of 2 knots, with the Alcantara standing by as a defence against submarine attack. Throughout the night, in spite of heavy weather, the Ebro succeeded in towing the Beechbank towards her destination, and was at last successful in reaching Lerwick at 10 o'clock on the morning of January 27th. Had Commander Dugmore of the Ebro not succeeded in taking the Beechbank in tow, she would almost inevitably have been lost, as she was being driven by the gale on to a lee shore. For their work in this connection. Commander Dugmore, R.N., of the Ebro, and Lieutenant Wynn, R.N.R., in charge of the armed guard in the Beechbank, received the special commendation of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

 

Till the end of the month the weather continued rough and difficult, but nevertheless during the last seven days of January twenty-one vessels were intercepted and examined and five sent into port. Nor did February (1916) open more auspiciously, as can be gathered from the incidents that followed the interception, on February 2nd, of the Danish sailing-ship Vigilant by the patrol-vessel Artois. At the first attempt of the latter to send a party on board, there was an accident with the boat and a man fell overboard. He was picked up, however, and the Vigilant was safely reached. It was found that her foremast was gone, and her rigging in such a bad state that the master requested that he and his crew should be taken on board the Artois. This was done with very great difficulty, owing to the weather, and an attempt was then made to tow the derelict vessel, which was loaded with wood and leaking badly. The weather became worse, however, and it was found impossible to get the Vigilant in tow, the Artois consequently standing by her

 

A STERN FIGHT

 

for the night. As the Vigilant had been bound for Morocco, and as it was considered most desirable to get her to Stornoway in order that she might be well searched, in view of the possibility that she might be carrying stores for enemy submarines in the Mediterranean, the Orcoma was also sent by Rear-Admiral de Chair to stand by.

 

Throughout the next day the Artois continued to keep in touch with the Vigilant, but was unable to take her in tow on account of the high seas. On February 4th the weather improved a little and the Orcoma helped the Artois in taking the Vigilant in tow, and they proceeded towards Stornoway at a speed of 4 knots, the Mantua subsequently joining them in order to protect them from submarine attack. On February 5th, owing to the gale increasing again, the Artois's speed was reduced to 1 knot, a further escort consisting of a yacht, two whalers, and a tug, which had been ordered out from Stornoway, being unable to join them owing to the stormy weather. On the evening of that day the Artois arrived under the lee of the Butt of Lewis, and at last, on February 6th, she succeeded, in spite of the force of a full gale, in safely arriving with her prize at Stornoway. Great care had to be taken in overhauling and boarding prizes in case they might be raiders in disguise.

 

While the work of the patrol was thus continuing, under conditions of the utmost difficulty, the clhef event of the month was the action which took place on Tuesday, February 29th, between the Alcantara and Andes and the German raider Greif, which resulted in the loss of the Alcantara after a fierce and plucky fight, and the subsequent destruction of the Greif by the guns of the Andes.

 

On February 29th, 1916, at 8.45 a.m., the Alcantara, when on patrol, sighted smoke on her port beam and, steering towards it, sighted a steamer flying the Norwegian flag and steaming north-east. Acting under previous orders. Captain Wardle took care to find out all about her before getting within 4,000 yards. He inquired her name by signals, and was told she was the Rena from South America with a cargo of coffee. Lloyd's Register proved the existence of a ship of that name, so Captain Wardle closed, signalling to the stranger to stop her engines. When she had done so, the Alcantara, getting within 2,000 yards, with her guns manned and all ready for action, examined her carefully, and approached from right astern to board. When about 1,000 yards distant, the Rena's ensign staff, carrying the Norwegian flag, dropped over the stern, her steering house on the poop disappeared, disclosing a gun; flaps fell down on the ship's side, and guns opened fire, the German ensign being hoisted at the moment. The Alcantara replied at once with her bow guns. The opposing vessel was hit repeatedly, receiving serious injury. In desperation the mysterious vessel discharged torpedoes, but without success.

 

The action had lasted about forty minutes, when the enemy abandoned ship owing to the fierce fires which had broken out, and Captain Wardle ceased firing. The Alcantara had been badly holed in the water-line, and, listing to port, turned on her side and sank at 11 a.m. The Andes, being the next ship on patrol, had closed on receiving the Alcantara's signals, and came up in time to take part in the action and sink the enemy. The Comus and Munster, which had also arrived on the scene, helped to finish off the enemy and pick up survivors. An officer and 110 men of the enemy ship were rescued. The German prisoners admitted that the sunken vessel was the Greif. She had been secretly converted into a raider at Hamburg, and was carrying a crew of 360 officers and men. She had left Germany a few days earlier and was making for the Atlantic to raid commerce. She had not reckoned on the vigilance of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, and her loss was a severe disappointment to the Germans.

 

By this time the blockade was proving highly efficient. It was not until it had been in operation for some time that smooth working was secured. The whole system represented an innovation, and day by day experience suggested ways in which the efficiency of the system could be improved. At first the Customs House officers, accustomed to the routine of a Free Trade policy, found it difficult to adjust themselves to new conditions. It had hitherto been their habit to board incoming merchant ships and to content themselves with a formal inquiry for dutiable wines, spirits, or cigars, making examinations only when the circumstances were suspicious. When the new regime of the blockade was introduced, some of the masters of neutral ships, familiar with the ordinary routine

 

INGENIOUS DEVICES FAIL

 

would produce a few bottles of whisky and allow the Customs officers formally to seal them. This apparent honesty, there was afterwards reason to believe, was intended to divert attention from contraband carefully hidden away in the bottom of the hold. A few weeks of experience of the blockade worked wonders, and the Customs officers were so " knowing " that all the devices adopted to elude the blockade proved fruitless. Probably never before did an enemy, and those in collusion with him, adopt so many ingenious ruses. Among them a few may be mentioned as a matter of interest:

(1) Double bottoms, decks, and bulkheads, concealed guns, rifles, and other firearms and ammunition.

(2) Copper keels and copper plates on sailing-ships.

(3) Hollow masts.

(4) Rubber onions. These were discovered when a British officer dropped one on the deck. " The onion bounced 10 feet into the air."

(5) Rubber concealed in coffee sacks.

(6) Cotton concealed in barrels of flour.

(7) Rubber honey, made in the form of honeycomb filled with a curious liquid mixture.

(8) False manifests. This was the most frequent form of "faking." In several instances, where the captain of the neutral realised that the " game was up," he produced both the genuine and the false manifests for boarding-officers to compare; a form of frankness not without its element of humour.

But, in spite of every artifice, and in spite also of gales of wind, high seas, fogs, and a variety of difficulties, the Tenth Cruiser Squadron had succeeded in interrupting most of the trade by sea which the enemy was endeavouring to carry on.

 

The success of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron and the course of events generally since the war had opened had created a new situation as far as the blockade was concerned. At the outbreak of war absolute contraband consisted only of those articles which were exclusively of military character, such as guns, ammunition, etc.

 

Conditional contraband included foodstuffs, but they had to be destined for the use of the fleets and armies of the enemy. This left many of the important articles included under the heading of raw materials quite free and it was only gradually that such were restricted. During this time the arduous work of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was, in a great measure, being nullified by the release of ships carrying necessaries for the enemy, but finally the extreme dissatisfaction of the Navy (especially of the officers and men employed in the blockade) became apparent to the Government, and the establishment of a Ministry of Blockade, with headquarters at the Foreign Office, was determined upon. In March 1916 it was decided to appoint Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair as naval adviser in order to bring his great experience to bear on the problem, and try to make the blockade work of the Navy more directly effective. Consequently, on March 6th, 1916, he hauled down his flag to take up his temporary appointment at the Foreign Office, subsequently being selected to represent the British Navy on Mr. Balfour's War Mission to the United States of America in 1917.

 

In a speech at Montreal University on May 31st, 1917, on the occasion of the Honorary Degree of LL.D. being conferred on Admiral de Chair, Mr. A. J. Balfour, who had served for some months as First Lord of the Admiralty, recalled that that officer, during " the long early months of the war," was in command of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, " which practically carried out, single-handed, the blockade of Germany — night and day through summer and winter in the stormiest seas to be found anywhere on the face of the globe." "The Squadron under his command," Mr. Balfour added, " carried out, untiring, unchecked, and with unqualified success, the great task with which they had been entrusted.

 

While we remember and know these things, there are two great branches on which, perhaps, our ordinary thoughts are least occupied. One is the unflinching service rendered by our Merchant Marine in the face of dangers never contemplated as incident to the life of a sailor, and not less than this is the work of that Cruiser Squadron to which I have referred, whose labours were more continuous, more important, and more successful than any other branch of His Majesty's naval forces." Sir Dudley de Chair was succeeded in command of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron by Vice-Admiral Reginald Tupper.

 

 

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron in the Autumn of 1915 

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

THE AUXILIARY PATROL IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

 

An incomplete picture of the extent and character of the operations of the Auxiliary Patrol would be presented if the impression were conveyed that its work was confined to the waters around the British Isles. From a comparatively early date in the war, a demand for auxiliary craft came from the Mediterranean. At the beginning of November 1914 the Turkish forts on the Gallipoli Peninsula had been bombarded for a short time, and in the following February a determined movement to force the Straits was initiated. It soon became apparent that the men-of-war engaged in this operation were as dependent for safety on mine-sweeping trawlers as were the vessels of the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. Hopes of forcing the Dardanelles rested on the success of trawlers in sweeping a clear passage for the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, for the entrance was strongly defended by successive mine-fields. The demand for auxiliary craft in the Mediterranean became more insistent later on, when it became impossible to sweep in face of heavy fire from the shore batteries, and the men-of-war had to be content with rendering aid to the Allied military forces by distant bombardment of the Turkish batteries and positions. This change of tactics oflered to the enemy the opportunity of employing submarines, and several of these craft issued from the Adriatic to attack the bombarding vessels. The need thus arose for patrol trawlers and drifters provided with nets to assure the safety of the men-of-war.

 

Another stage in the operations opened on Italy entering the war on the side of the Entente on May 23rd, 1915. By this time German and Austrian submarines, operating from Cattaro, had been encouraged by the disadvantages which the neutrality of Italy had inflicted on the Allies, attack the maritime lines of communication between the Straits of Gibraltar and the Dardanelles, thronged with men-of-war and supply ships, and eventually they threatened the trade route between the northern end of the Suez Canal and the Atlantic, over which essential supplies of goods of various kinds were being conveyed from the Far East and the Antipodes. This phase of the enemy's activities led to a determined attempt on the part of the Allies to restrict the use of the submarine bases on Cattaro and Pola, an operation facilitated by Italy's entrance into the war.

 

This problem closely resembled those presented, respectively, by the Straits of Dover and the North Channel, to which allusion has already been made. Whilst Cattaro in the Adriatic corresponded roughly to the position of Zeebrugge in the Straits of Dover, in the case of the North Channel the enemy's submarine bases were several hundred miles distant. Since the problem of defending these three Straits had much in common, the tactics adopted were very similar. When the position in the Mediterranean became critical, drifters were dispatched by the Admiralty to shoot their nets in the Adriatic as they had done at the southern exit of the Irish Sea, as well as off Zeebrugge, in the hope of denying passage to the enemy submarines issuing from the Austrian ports. The defensive measures in the Mediterranean had, of course, to be varied owing to differences in depths and distances, but generally the problems of the three straits were identical in character.

 

The various stages in the operations of the auxiliary craft in the Mediterranean may be stated with advantage in chronological order. On January 19th, 1915, arrangements were made by the Admiralty to collect twenty-one mine-sweeping trawlers as soon as possible and dispatch them to the Dardanelles. They were to be sent first to Devonport, to be coaled and provisioned. Of this twenty-one, seven were selected from Grimsby and fourteen from Lowestoft. On January 28th thirteen of them set out from Devonport under Commander William Mellor, in the trawler Escallonia, and the remaining eight followed a few days later, after remedying certain engine-room defects. The first trawlers began to arrive at Gibraltar on February 3rd, and the next day left for Malta. Four days later these vessels put into Malta, where they were fitted

 

SWEEPING THE DARDANELLES

 

out for the dangerous work that was awaiting them. The Dardanelles campaign could not begin — so telegraphed the Commander-in-Chief — until the arrival of these craft, so important had the fishing-vessel become in modern naval warfare. By February 21st the whole of the twenty-one trawlers had assembled at Malta, of which four had sailed for the Dardanelles on February 15th and another four two days later.

 

On February 25th the trawlers began their task of sweeping at the entrance to the Dardanelles, covered by a division of battleships accompanied by destroyers. Within two days they had swept a distance of four miles from the entrance of the Straits, no mines having been found. The plan was that the trawlers should first clear areas in which the battleships could manoeuvre for the purpose of bombarding the enemy's forts. But it was when the sweepers approached the Narrows that the trouble began, for at this position the enemy had laid line after line of mines between the Asiatic and European shores. Furthermore he had protected these mines by batteries and searchlights. There was a strong current running down towards the Dardanelles Straits further impeding the work of the trawlers. The undertaking of the trawlers was therefore difficult as well as dangerous and, as events were to prove, impossible in spite of all the courage, seamanship, and tenacity of purpose exhibited by the fishermen in face of dangers they had never thought to confront.

 

On March 1st these little ships steamed up under cover of darkness, protected by destroyers. They swept to within three thousand yards of Kephez Point. It was a bright moonlit night. When abreast of the Suandere River, the enemy's batteries opened such a fierce bombardment that the trawlers had to retire, the destroyers aiding their withdrawal by making a smoke screen. Fortunately none of the trawlers was hit, and Admiral Carden telegraphed to the Admiralty that the sweepers were doing excellent work.

 

But at this date neither the magnitude of the Dardanelles task nor the hopelessness of the mine-sweeping trawlers' efforts was appreciated. The key to the problem of advance was the mine-fields at the Narrows. The battleships and cruisers were held up till the fishermen, recently arrived from the North Sea, could clear a wide channel in the face of powerful batteries and forts. During the night of March 6th-7th the sweepers, protected by the light cruiser Amethyst and destroyers, again essayed the task, and were once more driven back by the enemy's guns. During the night of March 10th-11th seven more trawlers, attended by two picket-boats fitted with explosive creeps, and supported by H.M.S. Canopus, Amethyst, and destroyers, once more entered the Dardanelles and proceeded up the Straits. The protecting vessels opened fire on the batteries and searchlights which guarded the Kephez mine-fields, but it proved impossible to extinguish the lights by gunfire. In spite of the enemy's heavy fire, the trawlers Escallonia, Avon, Manx Hero, Syringa, Beatrice II, Gwenllian, and Soldier Prince, together with the picket-boats, succeeded in getting above the mine-field, the intention being to sweep down with the current.

 

In this inferno of invisible mines, blinding searchlights, and bursting shells, the position of the trawlermen was not an enviable one. The result was that only one pair of sweepers succeeded in getting out their sweep, securing a couple of mines. The trawler Manx Hero struck a mine, blew up, and sank, though the crew were picked up. Two trawlers were struck by shells and a couple of men wounded. It is remarkable that any of these dauntless men escaped the ordeal, for all the vessels were under heavy fire from 6-inch guns and weapons of lesser calibre. Although the first pair of trawlers had succeeded in getting out their sweep, it is matter for little surprise that both the second and third pair failed to run a proper sweep, with the result that little progress was made that night.

 

On the following night another group of trawlers made the effort, and in view of their experience their names should be perpetuated. They consisted of the Restrivo, Vidonia, Star of the Empire, Frascati, Fentonian, Strathlossie, and Strathord. The plan was to be the same as had been adopted on the previous night. Similar misfortunes were again encountered. As soon as the sweepers entered the rays of the searchlights, the enemy's guns opened fire and seven shells dropped over the trawlers. The sweepers, realising the odds which were against them, absolutely defenceless against such attack, turned sixteen points and retired. But let no one dare to call these men cowards! Throughout the whole war these fishermen and their

 

ADMIRATION OF NAVAL AUTHORITIES

 

R.N.R. officers were never frightened of mines or submarines, which they attacked with the greatest possible gallantry whenever they encountered them; but it was quite another matter to take these men straight from the North Sea and turn them, ordinary fishermen, into conspicuous targets for field-guns and forts. No harder or more dispiriting a task was ever set the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol throughout the war than that of sweeping the Dardanelles Straits. The dice were so loaded against them that the sweepers had no chance. To have been successful the operation required very fast craft fitted with efficient gear, and very highly and specially trained crews; moreover, the work had to be done by day, if at all. As it was, the sweeping was carried out by night by slow trawlers handicapped by the current, whose officers and men were inexperienced and had never before been under shell fire.

 

In the circumstances, it was decided to stiffen the crews with volunteer officers and men from the Royal Navy, and volunteers were speedily forthcoming. But not even with this aid was it possible to get to Kephez. On March 18th the Restrivo and five sister vessels made the attempt — by daylight this time. One pair got out their sweep, but owing to the fire from howitzers and field guns they were unable to reach Kephez. The reorganisation of the mine-sweeping flotilla at the Dardanelles indeed was to prove a lengthy operation. Many of the original crews who had brought out these trawlers were unwilling to continue sweeping under heavy fire and were sent back to home waters, where they performed excellent work. Their places were taken by volunteer crews. Roughly about half of the original trawler ratings were recalled home — to the number of about one hundred. There were plenty left behind to continue to assist in the work.

 

The admiration of the naval authorities found expression in the recommendation by Admiral de Robeck to the Admiralty for the award of a D.S.O. to Skipper Alfred Swain, of the trawler Escallonia, and Skipper Alfred E. Berry, of the trawler Frascati. These skippers and their men had been constantly under fire, but still continued to serve in the Dardanelles campaign. By April 7th the Commander-in-Chief had discontinued mine-sweeping inside the Straits, as he considered that the results did not justify the risks which had to be run from the fire of the enemy. Thus, until the end of the war, these mines were never swept, and therefore the fleet never penetrated the Narrows. A change in tactics occurred and the work of the Navy consisted in supporting the Army.

 

This change involved further work for the trawlers, though of a different character. They were required to carry out all sorts of unfamiliar duties in support of the naval operations. As an illustration, some account may be given of the events of April 25th, a day which will always be known in the Antipodes as " Anzac Day." The first landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops north of Gaba Tepe was carried out under the orders of Rear-Admiral Cecil F. Thursby, with whose squadron fifteen trawlers were associated. In reporting upon this operation, Admiral de Robeck wrote: "I should like to place on record the good service performed by the vessels employed in landing the second part of the covering force: the seamanship displayed and the rapidity with which so large a force was thrown on the beach is deserving of the highest praise."

 

Similarly at the southern extremity of the Gallipoli Peninsula the fourteen trawlers under Rear-Admiral R. E. Wemyss performed excellent work. By this time the Admiralty were dispatching reinforcements from England to Admiral de Robeck's fleet. On March 15th Lowestoft had been ordered to send thirty of the fastest mine-sweeping trawlers to Falmouth, en route for Gibraltar, Malta, and Lemnos. Eight fleet-sweepers, including railway steamers which had been attached to the Grand Fleet in the early stages of the war, but had been found unsuitable for the duty, were now dispatched to the Dardanelles, calling at Plymouth. On March 17th the Lowestoft trawlers left and they reached Plymouth two days later. At Malta they were fitted with armour-plating to protect winches and wheelhouses, and then they continued their voyage to the Dardanelles.

 

But in addition to the trawlers needed by the Army for many services, there presently devolved on them the duty of maintaining an anti-submarine patrol. Germany had come to realise how seriously her war plans would be affected if success attended the effort to force a way through the Dardanelles. So she determined that she herself would supplement the submarines which Austria-Hungary

 

THE U21'S SUCCESS

 

had hitherto been operating. At first she dispatched only small submarines of the U-boat type. These craft had to be sent out in sections overland to Austria and were put together there. They were based on Cattaro and operated in the Aegean. One of these vessels, UB3, perished on a mine-field off Smyrna soon after she had been put afloat.

 

In view of the grave construction which was put upon the Allies' plans for bringing pressure on Turkey, the Germans decided on a yet more ambitious attempt to intervene. U21 was dispatched from Ems on Anzac Day (April 25th) under Lieutenant-Commander Hersing. He shaped a course round Scotland. He was to test the practicability of conducting a submarine campaign in the Mediterranean with submarines which had hitherto operated in the waters surrounding the British Isles. The event is important inasmuch as it marked a new epoch in the use of the submarine. U21 was the first German submarine to proceed to the Mediterranean under her own power, and it was the longest voyage which any such craft had hitherto accomplished unaccompanied and under war conditions. On May 13th she reached Cattaro, and a week later left there for the Dardanelles, where, on May 25th, she torpedoed and sunk H.M.S, Triumph, and two days later destroyed H.M.S. Majestic. On June 5th she proceeded to Constantinople.

 

The result of this fresh development of the submarine campaign was that new and extended plans had to be made for protecting the bombarding ships. It was at once decided to send out twenty more trawlers, as well as thirty net drifters. From Poole thirty drifters, with nets, indicator buoys, fourteen days' coal — half a dozen of them being also armed with a 3-pounder apiece — started out for the Dardanelles in the early hours of June 5th, reached Gibraltar on June 13th; they left for the eastward two days later. The twenty trawlers had to be taken up specially. They were sent to Falmouth, where each was armed either with a 3-pounder or a 6-pounder gun and given extra crew accommodation; the ventilating arrangements were improved and wind sails were provided so as to fit them for service in the heat of the Aegean. By June 9th these twenty vessels had started for the voyage south.

 

Some idea of the work which fell to these Dardanelles trawlers may be conveyed in a few sentences. On July 4th the trawler Lord Wimborne was engaged from 9.30 p.m. until 5.30 the following morning landing troops alongside the River Clyde. She was compelled to make seven different attempts, but each time was spotted by the powerful searchlight mounted in Chanak, and promptly shelled. The trawlers and trawlermen were the admiration of the soldiers whom they saved during the preceding weeks from starvation. Throughout the month of July the greatest strain of the Dardanelles naval warfare was borne by the trawlers employed in towing barges and transporting wounded men, loading ammunition by night for the Peninsula. The men had little chance of getting sleep, and the craft were infested most of the time with flies, which spoiled the crews' food.

 

So rapidly had this auxiliary force grown, that at the beginning of July Admiral de Robeck had under his command 47 trawler mine-sweepers, 31 net-drifters, 20 armed trawlers, 7 fleet-sweepers, and 4 motor patrol-boats, of which 3 had come out from England. One of the fleet-sweepers had been equipped for mine-laying. On June 2nd a blockade of Smyrna had been declared, and it was being maintained by a destroyer and various other craft, including a couple of trawlers and two motor gunboats of the Royal Naval Motor-Boat Reserve, commanded by R.N.V.R. officers. Within a few weeks U21 had been followed by other U-boats from Germany, bound for Cattaro, and thence to the Dardanelles, and by the end of August every available trawler in the Aegean, which was not employed either in handling supplies for the army or in escorting transports, was out on patrol searching for enemy submarines; and net-drifters were also at work with their nets, protected by trawlers moving on an outer circle.

 

During the autumn additional drifters and trawlers were sent out and employed in connection with the operations in Salonika; while during the last months of the year auxiliary craft continued to perform other tasks, especially in regard to protecting the transports. During the evacuation of Suvla and Anzac, which took place on December 19th-20th, these small craft again proved indispensable, no fewer than 42,700 troops being taken off by the

 

SUBMARINES IN THE ADRIATIC

 

trawlers and fleet-sweepers. Meanwhile it was the duty of the net-drifters to protect the monitors and battleships while bombarding the enemy's coast. Finally, on January 7th, 1916, and the following day, came the evacuation of Cape Helles, in which the trawlers took their full share of the work, being once again subjected to heavy shell-fire. But even with the evacuations from Gallipoli, the task of the trawlers was not ended. Daily at dawn they swept from Mudros boom defence for fifteen miles, and so serious was the menace to British merchant ships that a complete chain of patrols had to be maintained from Malta to the Aegean and all round the islands. Trawlers and drifters were compelled to pass monotonous days in carrying out these essential duties. They were well organised, armed with guns and lance bombs, and most of them also now had depth charges.

 

Attention must now be turned to the Adriatic, where the trend of events had also made enormous demands on the craft of the Auxiliary Patrol. Three days after Italy's intervention in the war, Rear-Admiral Thursby had reached Taranto with a division of battleships. From the very first it was realised that it was absolutely necessary that the Austrian and German submarines based on Pola and Cattaro should, as far as possible, be thwarted. The Otranto Straits had to be denied to them. The intention was to station in these straits as many fishing-craft as could be provided, equipped with nets, just as in the Dover Straits, and supported by destroyers based on Brindisi and Valona, the operations being covered by aircraft. As has been stated, U21 had reached Cattaro on May 13th by sea, and previous to this date other submarines had arrived in the Adriatic overland. During the month of June these Adriatic submarines were most active. On June 9th H.M.S. Dublin, a light cruiser which had joined the Adriatic Squadron, was torpedoed whilst returning from the Albanian coast, but managed to reach Brindisi under her own steam. In the same week the Italian submarine Medusa was torpedoed by UB15 and sunk whilst on her way to Venice. On July 7th the same submarine sank the Italian cruiser Amalfi. It was therefore evident that it was high time nets were at work to make the Otranto Straits impassable.

 

At the end of August it was decided to send out drifters from England to the Adriatic. The necessity arose at an inopportune moment, for, owing to the great outburst of submarine activity during this month off the southwestern approaches to the Enghsh Channel, more rather than fewer Auxiliary Patrol vessels were needed in home waters. However, drifter fishing was about to come to an end, and the opportunity was seized to take up some more of these craft. The result was that sixty drifters were got ready for the Adriatic, Commander O. Hatcher, R.N., being appointed to command them. On the last day of August the first batch left Falmouth for the Adriatic, via Gibraltar, and by September 10th the whole of the sixty had arrived at Gibraltar. By the end of the month the last of the flotillas had reached Taranto, and by September 25th the first two divisions had been dispatched to lay their nets across the Otranto Straits.

 

It was on October 12th that the first dramatic incident occurred to these craft. The line of drifters with their nets were laid across the Straits within but fifty miles of the enemy's base at Cattaro. At 8 o'clock that morning the drifter Restore was separated about three miles from the other drifters. She had for armament only a few rifles, and therefore was no match for the modern submarine with her gun or even guns. With the odds heavily against the little fishing-craft, an enemy U-boat, about four miles away, began to shell the Restore with two guns. The drifter was, of course, quite unable to maintain any engagement, so she blew her whistle, sent up rockets, and steamed towards Saseno Island to the north-eastward. Unfortunately one shell passed through the Restore, exploding in the engine-room, and disabled her. The drifter's crew had no alternative but to get into their boat, after which the U-boat, from about two miles, closed to twenty yards and again shelled the ship, sinking her within three minutes. Having attacked three other drifters, the U-boat steamed northward towards Cattaro. This experience was not without its sequel, for by November 13th all the Adriatic drifters had been armed. Admiral Thursby had sent a request to the Admiralty for more of these drifters. From Poole and Milford, where they had been serving, additional craft accordingly steamed to Falmouth, and a few days before Christmas thirty-five

 

ITALIAN LOSSES

 

had reached Brindisi to supplement the work of the original sixty vessels.

 

But in the meantime events of the first importance had been taking place ashore, no less than afloat. On the last day of November (1915) the Serbian army began its pathetic retreat through Albania towards the sea, and thenceforward the British drifters in the Adriatic had an exceptionally strenuous and hazardous time until the end of February. Vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were indispensable at this most critical period in the fortunes of the Serbians, To these drifters fell the duty of assisting in the evacuation of the Serbian army and thousands of refugees; they were present at the landing of Italian troops at Valona; and they were at hand at all times to succour disabled ships.

 

Thus on December 4th, 1915, the Italian transport Re Umberto, while carrying troops to Valona, struck a mine off Cape Linguetta. In the vicinity were the drifters Evening Star and Lottie Leask, which proceeded alongside the sinking steamship. They threw all available ropes to her decks, and over five hundred soldiers were thus enabled to swarm on to the decks of the two drifters before the transport sank. Just in time to avoid disaster, the drifters succeeded in chopping away the ropes as the transport disappeared. In this way many lives were saved. " The fact that any were saved," wrote Admiral Thursby, " is due solely to the courage and gallantry displayed by the skippers and crews of these drifters." On the same day the Italian destroyer Intrepido was mined at the entrance to Valona, but the drifter Manzanita was close by, and her commanding officer, Lieutenant H. C. C. Fry, R.N.R., placed her alongside the destroyer, notwithstanding the risk of mines, and took off both officers and men.

 

These small craft were always more or less directly exposed to attack by the enemy. For instance, on December 18th the drifter Lottie Leask, when twenty miles west-north-west of Saseno Island, was shelled by two submarines. The drifter was able to fire five rounds, but, after being hit as many times, began to sink and had to be promptly abandoned. After rowing about for all one night in their small boat, the crew landed on a sandy beach and stayed that night at a shepherd's hut; they then wandered farther on till they came to a monastery; thence, after passing through swamps in the darkness, on December 22nd they fell in with some Italian soldiers, who gave them biscuits and enabled them to reach an Italian camp. Thence they marched with a hundred Serbians to Valona, and eventually got afloat again.

 

The value of the drifters in defending the Adriatic was proving inestimable, and by the beginning of January 1916 another fifty had to come out from England. Mines for their nets were also beginning to arrive, so that if an enemy submarine should foul their nets it was hoped that the U-boat would be destroyed.

 

Thus the dual work of these little ships went on. To them fell the lot of saving life and destroying submarines. On January 8th, 1916, the Italian transport Cittd di Palermo, carrying, among others, 150 British troops, struck a mine about ten miles from Brindisi. Notwithstanding the obvious risk, twenty-one drifters which happened to be in the vicinity at once steamed into the danger zone to her assistance and were able to pick up about a hundred survivors. While so doing, two of the drifters, the Freuchny and Morning Star, themselves ran on to mines and blew up, but the rest of the flotilla, undaunted by these disasters, continued their search for survivors.

 

At this period Durazzo was full of Serbian troops who, having retreated, were embarking to a place of safety, and the drifters were kept busy with their nets off this section of the coast. The route from Valona to Corfu had to be actively protected by them during the movement of troops to the latter place. In fact so much protection had to be afforded that these British fishermen had scarcely any opportunity for rest, and even when they were able to get a nominal respite in port, they were liable to be sent out at four hours' notice in the event of sudden attack by the enemy. The Otranto drifters were, in short, performing the most active and important work in the Mediterranean area at this period.

 

So far, however, they had not enjoyed the desire of every patrol vessel, which was to destroy an enemy submarine, but this stroke of good fortune was to come. On January 20th, 1916, when about seven miles west-south-west of Cape Laghi, an engagement occurred between the drifter Garrigill and a U-boat, in which the latter broke

 

A GOOD CATCH

 

off the fight. Eight days later the Heatherhloom certainly had a submarine in her nets and dropped depth charges on her, but with no result. On February 8th the drifter Lily Reaich, too, had a similar experience; before the end of the month this drifter had foundered on a mine off Durazzo. Several other drifters perished likewise on mines about this time. The danger suggested the defence, and by the middle of March vessels of this class, light though they were and slow, were therefore sent from Brindisi to sweep up mines. On May 13th, after months of weary waiting, of monotonous routine, of varied dangers and keen effort, there came at last to the drifters a well-deserved reward. It happened in this wise. At a quarter-past nine in the evening, when about twelve miles east-north-east of Cape Otranto, the drifter Calistoga (Skipper William Stephens, R.N.R.) had just finished towing her nets into position when an indicator buoy was fired and such a strain came on the nets that the Calistoga's head was towed round.

 

It was fairly obvious that a submarine was foul of the nets, so the skipper took a bearing of the buoy and found it was altering rapidly. He then fired a warning rocket signal, slipped the nets, and gave chase to the buoy. About a thousand yards away was the drifter Dulcie Doris, which also slipped her nets and went after the buoy. Presently a submarine came up about five hundred yards ahead. The Dulcie Doris opened fire on her at point-blank range, hitting her three times under the conning-tower. A third drifter, the Evening Star, which was seven hundred yards south-west of the Dulcie Doris, on seeing the indicator buoy flare, also slipped her nets, went in pursuit, and fired at the enemy, hitting her twice. The submarine listed over and began to sink, and the enemy crew was seen to take to the water. Boats were then launched from the drifters, and the commander and two other officers were picked up, as well as seventeen men. They were taken as prisoners into Brindisi.

 

Next day the second in command admitted that they had been caught half an hour in the net by the propellers, and could not get clear. By this date the depth of the nets had been increased to 120 feet, which it was thought would be the farthest depth to which submarines would dare to dive. Thus ended the life of the Austrian U-boat No. VI. For this fine service the sum of 1,000 was awarded for division between the three drifters mentioned.

 

On July 9th, however, the enemy had his revenge, when at four in the morning a group of five drifters, based on Brindisi, were attacked by an Austrian cruiser, with the result that the two drifters Astrum Spei and Clavis were lost. After this incident it became necessary to shift the drifter line farther south down the Straits, thus making it less easy for the raiders to interfere with them with little risk to themselves. Before the end of July the armed yacht Catania (Commander the Duke of Sutherland, R.N.R.) arrived at Taranto in advance of a number of motor-launches which were coming out from England to patrol the Otranto Straits. The drifters were badly in need of all the help which could be given. They had, however, further evidence about this time of the success which was attending their hazardous and monotonous work. About 6.30 a.m. on July 30th, U44 got foul of the nets of the Quarry Knowe, which signalled the Garrigill. The latter dropped depth charges, and eventually the nets, which had evidently enveloped the submarine, went to the bottom. The career of this vessel was ended. About a month later the enemy retaliated by sending three aeroplanes over the drifter line and sank the Rosies with the second bomb. During the autumn the drifter base was transferred from Brindisi to Taranto, as these craft were operating now farther to the southward across the Otranto Straits. The minelayers, too, were based nearer their patrol area, being given the use of Tricase Harbour, which was specially deepened for them.

 

In spite of every effort, there was no doubt that submarines on their way to and from Cattaro were succeeding in avoiding the nets, chiefly by crossing the line at night on the surface. Bad weather, especially on a dark night, when the drifter line would become more or less scattered, was welcomed by the enemy submarines working in the Mediterranean. When once they had negotiated this nominal barrage of the Otranto Straits, they had a clear run, and only the right weather and the right time were needed to enable an enterprising submarine commander to get through. Indeed, it is remarkable in the circumstances that any U-boats were sunk. In face of many

 

AUSTRIAN SUBMARINE DESTROYED

 

difficulties, the little steam vessels — most of them built of wood — of the Auxiliary Patrol did maintain a barrier that was at least tiresome, often dangerous, and at times fatal, to the enemy's under-water craft. Exposed to attack from cruisers, aeroplanes, and submarines, and with the lightest of weapons with which to reply, these fishermen and junior officers of the Royal Naval Reserve deserved well of the Allies. The French and Italians, less familiar than the British seamen with the conditions of such warfare as the enemy was waging, were not protecting the drifters quite as well as might have been expected, although various conferences between admirals of the various nationalities took place now and again. The strain on the fishermen, the wear and tear of drifters towing their 180-foot-deep nets, and the large number of reliefs, together with costly shore establishments, indicated how enthusiastically Great Britain had come to the support of the common cause in foreign waters.

 

The conferences were not fruitless, and by the middle of December six Italian destroyers were patrolling in the Straits. On December 17th the Adriatic drifters definitely sank yet another submarine; this time it was the Austrian U-boat No. XX which was destroyed. The enemy craft fouled the 180-foot-deep nets of the drifter Fisher Girl, and after a number of depth charges had been dropped by the drifters, she sank to the bottom of the Adriatic, never again to be seen on the surface. Five days later the enemy replied by attempting to raid the drifter line by means of a force consisting of a light cruiser and three or four destroyers. This incident occurred at 9.30 p.m. Two drifters, the Gowan Lea and Our Allies, were shelled, the former being hit several times and severely injured, though there were no casualties.

 

Fortunately the enemy force was seen by six French destroyers, which were not on patrol, but happened to be passing the drifter line en route from Brindisi for Taranto. The enemy was immediately chased by the French vessels to the northward until 2 a.m. From Brindisi some Italian destroyers and H.M.S. Gloucester also put to sea at 11.30 p.m., but the enemy was able to escape. Although the Austrians had failed in their plan, it was only by a lucky chance that several of these British fishing-craft were saved from destruction. The defence of the drifters indeed constituted a difficult problem. The drifters were required because the submarines had to be hindered, and the actual losses of the latter through the tactics of the drifters showed what good work was being done. At the same time they furnished an easy target on any night that the Austrians might select. It was therefore decided to vary the position of the net line from time to time and to place it still farther to the southward; the previous line had extended from a position fifteen miles east of Cape Otranto to Strade Blanche, the nets being used whenever the weather permitted.

 

We must now leave the Adriatic and the Dardanelles and see what was happening in the rest of the Mediterranean. The position in the late summer of 1915 may be briefly summarised. The Germans were still nervous of the possible result of the Dardanelles campaign. If the British forces after all succeeded in breaking through, Germany would have virtually lost the war. The Germans accordingly began to send submarines to hinder the operations. The pioneer voyage of Hersing in U21 was followed by Ruecker and Kophamel in U34 and U35. They set out from Germany on August 4th, and reached Cattaro three weeks later. They were followed by U39 and U33, which left Germany on August 27th and 28th, and reached Cattaro on September 15th and 16th, Orders were also given for other oversea submarines to follow.

 

For a time, then, the scene of greatest submarine activity, irrespective of mine-layers, shifted from the British Isles to the Mediterranean. Through that sea passed not merely transports, but passenger liners and cargo carriers from the Suez Canal. It was the policy of the enemy to wage a keen submarine warfare against Allied mercantile traffic in this southern sea. The torpedoing of the transport Royal Edward in the Aegean by UB14 on August 13th, whilst this submarine was on passage from Cattaro to Constantinople, showed what could be expected. It was to be anticipated, also, that as the submarine mine-layer off the south-eastern English coast had begun to be very active, before long there would be submarine mine-layers in the Mediterranean. If mines were dropped off Malta — an obvious position — there would be serious danger to His Majesty's ships and transports, so it was

 

ANTI-SUBMARINE PATROLS

 

decided in August to send six trawlers from the Nore area to Malta for mine-sweeping and patrol, the first four setting out on August 14th.

 

During the autumn a number of trawlers were purchased from Portugal and, after being commissioned, were based on Gibraltar. During November a dozen German trawlers, which had been captured by Captain Tyrwhitt's Harwich force in the Heligoland Bight, were sent to Lowestoft, fitted out for the Mediterranean, and armed with 12-pounder guns. Other trawlers were similarly prepared and sent to Falmouth, where they steamed to the Mediterranean. Some of the craft were dispatched to Port Said, some to Malta, the others to Alexandria, In addition, the squadron of fast armed yachts, which had been patrolling in the Irish Sea, left early in November for the Mediterranean, where, at first, they were lent to the French. Vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were at this period being put to all sorts of uses. At the end of November, for instance, troops were being sent from Egypt to Marsa Matruh in trawlers owing to the Senussi rising. The demand for armed trawlers was so insistent that by December another sixty-six had to be withdrawn from their patrol work off the British coast and sent to the Mediterranean, thirty-six being sent to Alexandria and thirty to Malta. The ex-German trawlers gave a good deal of trouble, owing to their defects, but at Lowestoft and Falmouth, Gibraltar and Malta, they were eventually made serviceable.

 

To organise these numerous patrol-vessels, Rear-Admiral le Marchant, who had had experience with them at Kingstown, was appointed to Malta. A few more yachts, such as the Aegusa and Safa-el-Bahr, were also dispatched to the Mediterranean before the end of 1915. It was decided on December 23rd that the Gibraltar, Malta, and Egypt anti-submarine patrols should be arranged as follows: Gibraltar was to have the yacht squadron, as well as eight other yachts and six sloops; Malta was to have four destroyers, twelve sloops, two yachts, and forty-eight trawlers; Egypt was to have a dozen sloops, besides her group of trawlers. These elaborate arrangements were necessary for the reason that the submarine sinkings in the Mediterranean were becoming serious. It was unfortunate that when already there were too few Auxiliary Patrol craft in the British Isles the number had to be depleted. They brought with them south that same eager, fighting spirit that they had exhibited in British waters; they had to endure months of monotonous boredom, broken only occasionally by a short sharp burst of excitement, such as occurred to the yacht Aegusa on April 13th, 1916.

 

This yacht (Captain T. P. Walker, R.N.R.) received a wireless intercepted message that about 8 a.m. a submarine had been sighted in lat. 37 degrees 18' N., long. 15 degrees 57' E. The Aegusa at once proceeded towards this position and shortly after 1 p.m., before arriving there, received news that the enemy had apparently gone towards the Adriatic. Captain Walker assumed that her track would be to the north-east, and shaped his course accordingly, hoping to catch her before sunset. At 5.35 p.m. a steamer was observed about five miles off, and almost immediately afterwards a submarine was seen coming away from the steamer. The submarine fired a torpedo, which caused the ship to heel over and sink. In the meantime the Aegusa had opened a deliberate fire at 8,000 yards. The enemy was making off at full speed on the surface in an easterly direction, and soon submerged, thus escaping. A fortnight later the Aegusa was lost off Malta, having been either torpedoed or mined.

 

During the early months of 1916 the submarine menace in the Mediterranean developed apace. Some idea of the success that fell to the enemy may be obtained from the record of U35 during the month of June of that year. This craft had changed her commander, Kophamel having been succeeded by Arnauld de la Periere, a German naval officer whose father was French and had fought against Germany in the Franco-Prussian War. This submarine officer, owing to the thoroughness of his work in the Mediterranean, earned a high reputation among his fellow countrymen. He sank no fewer than forty-one ships between June 10th and 29th, twenty of them being steamers and twenty-one sailing-craft.

 

In the middle of June, in order to keep abreast of the mine-sweeping necessities in the Mediterranean, six paddle-steamers (well-known hitherto to excursionists at British seaside resorts) were collected at Falmouth and thence sent south. Many of the Auxiliary Patrol vessels had been

 

ENEMY ACTIVITY MAINTAINED

 

out in the Mediterranean since the early months of the war and were needing a rest. There is a sea-saying that " ships and men always rot in port." But it is not less true that, unless they are both relieved at the end of a definite time, they will go to pieces. The crews had not been able to visit their homes and relations for a long while, whereas their brethren serving in the waters of the British Isles had been able to get a few days' leave at least twice a year. On July 28th, 1916, the first group of a dozen trawlers was ordered home from the Mediterranean so that the crews might be rested and the ships refitted, and further groups were to be sent home in the same way as opportunity offered. To replace these, another dozen craft were sent out from Falmouth and Portland at the end of July.

 

The first of the home-coming trawlers began to reach Falmouth at the beginning of October from Mudros, and proceeded to Lowestoft for refit and some of them were afterwards sent to the White Sea. Thus from the Dardanelles to the north of Russia the trawlers extended their daily duties. Similarly with the drifters which had been out for a long time, being based on Mudros. In November orders were issued to select good steel drifters from the English patrol bases and to send them to Falmouth, where they were fitted with guns, nets, depth charges, bombs, and one month's stores. They then proceeded to Mudros via Gibraltar. These steel craft were to relieve twenty-four wooden drifters which were directed to return to England.

 

As further additions were made to the auxiliary defence force in the Mediterranean, so also did the enemy continue to maintain his activity.

 

Thus the contest went on between the submarine and anti-submarine. The Malta Auxiliary Patrol craft were doing their best to make it safe for the transports outward and homeward bound, but it was a vast undertaking. From Malta to Cerigotto Channel is a distance of 420 miles, and this transport route was patrolled by the trawlers to the east, and from Malta to the westward as far as Pantellaria, a further 130 miles. Other trawlers as well as some paddlers, were engaged in mine-sweeping; M.L.s and trawlers were patrolling off the Maltese coast; whilst other trawlers still, with some armed yachts, were busy doing escort work. Such was the position at the beginning of 1917, a year that was to witness a record number of sinkings. For Malta it began badly enough, for on January 9th, 1917, H.M.S. Cornwallis, which had fired the first shell on the first day's bombardment of the outer forts of the Dardanelles and took part in that campaign for a longer period than any other battleship, was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine off Malta. There was no respite for anyone from the peril of the torpedo. Battleship or transport, armed yacht or trawler, it was all the same. Ships and men of all sorts were doing their best, but Germany had sent her very best U-boat officers to the Mediterranean, and these submarines, besides their ability to become invisible, were also better armed on the surface than were our small craft, suffering from the unsatisfied demands of the new British armies for equipment. Arnauld de la Periere, the " star turn " of the enemy flotilla, was a believer in attacking his victims by long-distance gunnery; and because of his gun's superiority of range he could do pretty much as he liked. It may now be confessed that the information which these submarines possessed of the tracks of the British merchant ships was remarkably accurate, since they had little difficulty in finding their prey. That having been done, the rest was easy, and many a mercantile officer was compelled to see his ship floundering in her death agony whilst on his way to Cattaro as a prisoner of war.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

SUBMARINE INVASION OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

 

During the early months of 1915 the German Admiralty Staff, impressed by the freedom of communications which the Allies were enjoying in the Mediterranean, and particularly by the possibilities which resided in the attack on the Dardanelles, had been studying the situation in southern waters. It was assumed that the Allies would be unprepared for an extension of the submarine campaign and that, at first, counter-measures, such as were being developed in home waters, would be lacking. Moreover, the geographical formation of, and high visibility in, the Mediterranean were regarded as favouring submarine operations. Arrangements were accordingly made, as has been indicated in the preceding chapter, to send six small " B " submarines and four boats of the " C " class by rail in sections to Pola and to put them together at the Austrian port. Towards the end of May the sinking of H.M.S. Triumph and H.M.S. Majestic encouraged the enemy to further efforts. Kapitan-Leutnant Otto Hersing volunteered to take U21 round from the North Sea to the Mediterranean in order to prove the feasibility of submarines making so long a journey, unattended, under war conditions. The journey was successfully completed, and U21 was followed by other craft.

 

The news of the sinking of the transport Royal Edward on August 13th, with the loss of 132 lives, reached Germany at a moment when a fierce controversy between the naval and civil authorities was proceeding as to the wisdom of antagonising neutrals, and particularly the Americans, by attacks on merchant shipping round the British Isles. On September 18th, as already stated, the order limiting the operation of submarines in home waters was issued, and the scene of activity shifted to the Mediterranean.

 

Events had convinced the Germans that the Mediterranean offered favourable conditions for attacking the communications of the Allies. On September 4th the Natal Transport (4,107 tons) had been destroyed. This vessel was on passage from Bombay to Liverpool with a general cargo. She had left Port Said early in the afternoon of September 2nd and, in view of the rumours that submarines had appeared in the Mediterranean, a sharp lookout was kept. When the ship had been at sea two days and was off Gavdo Island, Crete, the chief officer (Mr. J. T. Jones) heard the sound of a gun, and looking astern, saw a shot drop into the sea about one mile away. A submarine was then observed three or four miles astern.

 

The master (Mr. W. C. Davison) was in his cabin on the bridge, and at once took charge on hearing the firing, ordering a full head of steam. Two more shots followed, one astern and the other ahead of the vessel, and then the forecastle head was hit, the projectile penetrating the two decks and entering the fore peak. The unequal struggle had lasted about a quarter of an hour, and Captain Davison, responsible for the lives of the crew of thirty-three hands, felt that he had no alternative but to stop. The submarine continued firing while the crew were taking to the boats, but they got away safely. While the ship was being abandoned, another submarine rose to the surface two or three miles away and fired a rocket signal to her companion and firing ceased. As the boats pulled away to the north, the Natal Transport — which had been holed in many places — presented a sad spectacle; she had a list to port and smoke was issuing from the ventilators of the holds. In the darkness the boats proceeded toward the coast of Crete, and, with assistance sent to them by the British Consul at Canea, the officers and men got ashore.

 

The destruction of the Natal Transport was followed on September 7th by the sinking of the Caroni (2,652 tons), which was torpedoed fifteen miles west from Chassiron in the Bay of Biscay. She was shelled as the evening was closing in, and the crew were left to their fate fifteen miles from land. The Mora (3,047 tons) was destroyed by gunfire on the following day sixty-eight miles W. by S. from Belle Isle off the Brittany coast, and on the 9th the Cornubia (1,736 tons) met the same end

 

ENEMY ACTIVITY INCREASED

 

seventy-five miles S.E. by S. from Cartagena. After sailing and pulling for twenty-eight hours in a rough sea, with a high wind, the crew landed at Puerto de Mazarron. These three ships fell the victims to submarines which were outward bound to the Mediterranean. Ten days later the transport Ramazan (3,477 tons), carrying Indian troops, was shelled and sunk off Cerigotto Island with a loss of 315 lives, including 314 Indians. The Linkmoor (4,306 tons) was destroyed off Cape Matapan less than twenty-four hours later. Then came the sinking of the H. C. Henry (4,219 tons) in almost the same position on the 28th, and the Haydn (3,923 tons) went down off Crete on the 29th. The last-named vessel was bound from Karachi to Glasgow. The crew, under orders from the enemy craft, left the ship in two boats as darkness fell. The submarine, having completed her work, disappeared without offering assistance. The master (Mr. J. W. Learmouth) decided to remain in the vicinity until the next day, when it was agreed that both boats should steer for the nearest British port on the homeward voyage, a distance of five hundred miles. During the following night the boats lost sight of each other. Captain Learmouth's boat was picked up on October 3rd and brought into Malta. The remainder of the crew had been in their open boat for forty-eight hours before they were rescued by the s.s. Trafalgar and landed at Port Said.

 

These events occurred during the period when the enemy was reconsidering the submarine campaign in the light of American protests, and with the close of September he determined to concentrate his resources on an attack upon the lines of communication of the Allies in the Mediterranean. Henceforward British and other seamen were confronted with dangers in the Mediterranean resembling those with which events had made them familiar in home waters. The Germans had learnt that submarines could make the long passage from the North Sea to these southern waters, and every available craft of suitable design was dispatched to spread destruction in the Mediterranean.

 

With the opening of the month of October (1915) the submarine campaign in southern waters began in deadly earnest, with dire results to British shipping and British merchant seamen. In all ten ships were accounted for by the enemy and thirty-five lives were lost during that month. On the 2nd the Sailor Prince (3,144 tons) was intercepted off Cape Sidero, Crete. Though the ship was forty-eight miles from land, the crew were ordered to take to the boats, but fortunately eight hours later they were rescued by the s.s. Borulos. As soon as he got on board the master of the Sailor Prince (Mr. J. Chilvers) told the story of his experiences, confident that he had nothing more to fear. That the submarine was still watching the course of events became apparent, however, about two hours later, when she made an attack on the Borulos. The steamer had on board about three hundred passengers, including a good many women and children, and when the submarine revealed its intention a panic broke out, some persons jumping overboard.

 

Captain Chilvers immediately went to the bridge and hoisted a signal stating that the vessel carried passengers, including women and children. The Greek flag was afterwards hoisted, and then the submarine closed in. In the meantime as many passengers as possible had been rescued from the water and placed on board the enemy craft, but it was afterwards found that twenty-five had been drowned in spite of the efforts of two British firemen, named Barker and Crocker, who lost their lives in endeavouring to save women and children from drowning. Before the submarine could carry out its apparent purpose of sinking the Borulos, the second officer of that ship bore the visiting-card of Prince Mahmoud to the commander, at the same time telling him that the Prince and his family were on board. He also informed him that there were Greek passengers in the Borulos and appealed to him to spare the ship. Greece, though a small country, was neutral; the Borulos was spared and reached Alexandria without further incident.

 

The Arabian (2,744 tons) was sunk on the same day as the Sailor Prince, and the Craigston (2,617 tons) two days later, and then on the 5th the Bursfield (4,037 tons) was overhauled by a submarine seventy miles west of Cape Matapan. The master (Mr. A. L. Hunt), the fourth engineer, a messroom steward, and a fireman were killed by gunfire during the chase which took place before the vessel was overtaken by the enemy.

 

The ordeal to which merchant seamen had been condemned by the enemy is reflected in the following summaries

 

A MONTH'S HEAVY LOSSES

 

of the records of steamships sunk between October 6th and October 23rd, when the Marquette (7,057 tons) went down with a loss of twenty-nine lives.

 

The Silverash (3,753 tons) was overhauled by a submarine on the 6th when about 190 miles east from Malta. The master (Mr. John Parry Jones) decided that escape was impossible. The crew took to the boats, which were afterwards picked up by the steamer Remembrance.

 

The Scawby (3,658 tons) was stopped by a submarine at 2.30 p.m. on the same day when 220 miles from the nearest land — Malta. The crew were ordered to abandon ship, and the submarine, having exploded a bomb by the vessel's side, went off after another steamer. As there appeared some hope that the Scawby might not sink, the master (Mr. M. M. A. Fisker) ordered the boats to stand by. The submarine, observing the intention to reboard the vessel, returned and began firing with rifles at the boats as they were approaching the ship. Nothing further could be done, so the boats set sail in the direction of land. They were picked up the following morning — one at 6 o'clock and the other at 9 o'clock.

 

The Halizones (5,093 tons) was intercepted by a submarine off Cape Martello, Crete, on the 7th. The master (Mr. W. J. Eynon) put on full speed, but, after seven shots had been fired by the enemy, gave up the hopeless effort to escape, and the crew were ordered to abandon ship when 120 miles from the nearest practical landing-place. After being in their boats for seventy-two hours, they reached land on Sunday afternoon, October 10th. The Thorpwood (3,184 tons) was also off Cape Martello when, on the morning of October 8th, she was chased by a submarine, which flew the French colours until the first shot had been fired, when the German ensign was hoisted. The pursuit was a short one. The master (Mr. Henry V. Adams), after consulting with his officers, decided that escape was impossible. Though there was no landing-place nearer than 125 miles, the crew were ordered to abandon ship.

 

The Apollo (3,774 tons) was off Gavdo Island, Crete, on October 9th, when she was overhauled by a submarine. The master (Mr. M. J. Redmond) had no recourse but to stop the ship. The nearest land was sixty-five miles distant. The crew was nevertheless ordered to take to their small boats, and the only consideration extended to them was permission to take with them a chart and provisions. One boat was forty-nine hours before reaching land, and the other was fifty-two hours.

 

During November the enemy's anticipation of reaping a rich harvest in the Mediterranean was partially confirmed. In addition to nine ships, of 9,677 tons, which were sunk by mines in various areas, with a loss of no fewer than ninety-three lives, the submarines operating in the Mediterranean accounted for twenty-three vessels, of 84,816 tons, with casualties numbering twenty-five. Consequently during those weeks the British Mercantile Marine was deprived of thirty-two vessels (94,493 tons). In addition, submarines molested eleven ships, of 64,460 tons. The experience of the Woodfield (3,584 tons) furnished evidence of the effective use which could have been made of long-range defensive armament if it had been available at this period. This vessel carried only a small gun, and the attacking submarine kept at a safe distance. The Woodfield (master, Mr. Robert Hughes) was on her way from Avonmouth to Malta when, in the early morning of the 3rd, the stillness was broken by the sound of gun-fire, two shots passing across the vessel's bow. Far away in the distance, Captain Hughes then saw a submarine steaming towards him. The vessel was at once put stern on to the enemv.

 

As soon as the merchant captain's intention to evade capture became apparent to the commander of the submarine, he opened fire again and for two hours the fusillade continued, the British merchant captain, undaunted by the odds against him, still holding on his course. The ship was hit several times; seven men were killed and the carpenter was fatally wounded. When Captain Hughes, who, with thirteen others, had been wounded, realised that his vessel was in a sinking condition, he ordered the port and starboard lifeboats to get away. He had in his charge, in addition to his crew of thirty-four hands, thirty-one passengers, and seven of these were among the injured. All who remained alive got away safely in the two boats. When everyone had left the ship except the captain, the gunner, and a soldier, the submarine ceased firing, submerged, and came up on the starboard beam, A torpedo was then fired, which struck

 

TWO SUCCESSFUL ESCAPES

 

the vessel amidship. Not, however, until two more shots had been fired did the Woodfield sink. The master and his two companions were the last to leave the ship; they took refuge on a raft, which was picked up by the second mate's boat, which safely reached the coast of Morocco. Captain Hughes had not succeeded in saving his ship, but he had at least sold it at a high price in view of the large number of shells, besides a torpedo, which the enemy had had to expend. The incident took place out of sight of land, about forty miles east of Ceuta. On the same day the Woolwich (2,936 tons) was captured and destroyed 100 miles south from Cape Sidero, Crete, and but for the manner in which the transports Japanese Prince (4,876 tons) and the Mercian (6,305 tons) were handled on the same day, these two vessels would have shared the same fate, with probably heavy loss of life.

 

The escape of the Japanese Prince illustrated what could be done by good seamanship, for the vessel was unarmed and had no wireless. For over four hours the submarine chased this transport. She fired about forty-five shells, but fortunately none of them caused casualties, although many pieces of shell were picked up on the decks. This immunity was due to the skill with which the master (Mr. A. H. Jenkins) manoeuvred his ship, earning recognition at the hands of the Admiralty. He was awarded a lieutenant's commission in the R.N.R., and he, as well as the chief engineer (Mr. C. James), was mentioned in despatches.

 

Speed and skilful manoeuvring also saved the Mercian (Captain Walker). This ship, like the Japanese Prince, was steaming in the Mediterranean, proceeding with 500 troops from Gibraltar to Malta. At 2.15 p.m. an enemy submarine was sighted about two miles on the starboard quarter. The submarine immediately opened fire with two guns, one being a 3.4-inch, the first shot striking the foremast, the second the mainmast, and the third wrecked the wireless telegraph house. The master then zigzagged his ship to try and dodge the shells. About this time the master sent the quartermaster from the wheel to find out the damage done to the wireless telegraph house; this man did not return, and in consequence the master had to take the wheel for over an hour of the action until relieved by Private Thompson. The master ordered the two Maxims to open fire as soon as the submarine came within range, but these naturally were of small use against a 3.4-inch gun. The submarine fired about 100 shells, of which twenty to thirty struck the ship, causing twenty-three deaths and fifty-five wounded. At 3 p.m. a patrol-vessel hove in sight, and soon afterwards the submarine ceased firing and disappeared. The master, who was awarded the D.S.C., was ably seconded by the chief engineer and his staff.

 

Five ships, including the transport Moorina (4,994 tons), were attacked by submarines on the 5th. The escape of the City of York (7,834 tons) and the Huntsman (7,460 tons) was due to the effective use which was made of the two guns with which these vessels had been armed; while the Lady Plymouth (3,521 tons) got away owing to her speed. She was fired on again on the following day as she was proceeding along the coast of Algiers, but once more showed her heels to the enemy. The Pola (3,061 tons) also escaped by good fortune and good seamanship off Tukush Island, Algeria, on the 6th, when four other vessels, including the Lumina (5,950 tons), which was defensively armed, were destroyed.

 

On the following day an enemy submarine in the course of six hours sank off Cape Martello, Crete, two good British vessels of an aggregate of nearly 8,000 tons. The weather was fine, the sea was fairly smooth, and there was little wind. By chance the two ships steamed within the area under the observation of the submarine under these favourable conditions for attack. The Clan Macalister (4,835 tons), on passage from Liverpool to Indian ports with a general cargo of about 6,600 tons, was proceeding at full speed, at about 10 knots, and was some 120 miles south-east from Cape Martello when her master (Lieutenant-Commander J. W. Taylor, R.N.R., retired) noticed a vessel sinking about eight miles away. While heading in the steamer's direction in accordance with the immemorial rule observed by seamen of what Nelson described as " the polite nations," he saw the vessel disappear. Two minutes later his eye was arrested by what he took to be the bow wave of a submarine, some seven miles away on a south-south-easterly bearing. Putting on full speed, Captain Taylor went off to the north-north-west, placing the enemy astern of him.

 

In the stokehold and engine-room all the hands were

 

"CLAN MACALISTER" AND "CARIA" SUNK

 

working hard to keep a full head of steam, but, in spite of their efforts, the submarine gradually gained on the Clan Macalister. When about two and a half miles distant the enemy began firing, using shell first of all and afterwards shell and shrapnel promiscuously. The vessel was hit several times, but as the damage inflicted was not serious, Captain Taylor ignored the enemy's signal to stop and continued on his course. For over an hour and a half the chase was maintained, and then the chief engineer reported that the lascars in the stokehold, frightened by the firing, to which the Clan Macalister could make no reply, had left their stations and that steam was rapidly falling. The vessel was by this time being shelled at close range, and Captain Taylor was forced to the conclusion that nothing more could be done to save his ship. The engines were stopped and all hands were ordered to the boats, the enemy continuing his bombardment while this was being done. A torpedo finally settled the fate of this unit of the Clan Line.

 

While this ship was being disposed of, the Caria (3,032 tons) came on the scene. She was proceeding in ballast from Naples to Alexandria, when the second officer, who was on the bridge, heard a shot and at once called the master (Mr. J. A. Wolfe). A submarine was then observed about two points on the starboard bow, two miles away, astern of the Clan Macalister, which was heading on an opposite course to the Caria. Captain Wolfe became the passive witness of the final phase of Captain Taylor's plucky attempt to escape. While chasing the Clan liner, the enemy devoted attention also to the other merchant ship. Having dispatched the Clan Macalister, the submarine returned to the Caria, which, owing to her light condition, was able to steam at considerably less than full speed, the propeller being half out of the water. Captain Wolfe had no hope of escape, so the ship was abandoned and forthwith sunk by gunfire. By a happy chance the boats of the two ships fell in with the steamer Frankenfels on the following morning, and thus the crews reached Malta in safety.

 

This double success encouraged the enemy to hang about off Cape Martello, and two days later the Den of Crombie (4,949 tons), homeward bound from Far Eastern ports with a general cargo of 7,100 tons, came in sight. Shots began to fall near her, and then the submarine was observed on the port beam. The Den of Crombie was unarmed, and the master (Mr. H. C. Hemming) decided he had no alternative but to stop. The ship was immediately abandoned, and after the enemy had fired about a dozen shots the Den of Crombie disappeared and the submarine made off. The four boats kept company during the day. After darkness had closed in, a steamer's lights were seen approaching. Captain Hemming ordered flares to be burnt, but the strange vessel, evidently suspicious that an attempt was being made to lure her to destruction, shut down all lights and altered course when within about a mile of the chief officer's boat and disappeared to the eastward, to the dismay of the distressed seamen. During the ensuing night the boats lost touch with each other and became separated. Fortunately, on the following morning the troop transport Royal George hove in sight of the chief officer's boat, and an hour later came across Captain Hemming and his companions. The boats of the second and third officers were also picked up, with the result that all the crew of the Den of Crombie got ashore.

 

On the same day the master (Mr. Howard Tindle) of the Sir Richard Awdry (2,234 tons) had the mortification of being compelled to surrender his vessel off Gavdo Island, Crete. He was on passage from Saigon to Marseilles with a cargo of rice, and all had gone well for over a month, when he fell in with the submarine which was to bring about the destruction of the ship under his command. Captain Tindle, on observing the enemy, altered course in the hope of getting away. The submarine then began firing somewhat wildly. A signal for help was promptly sent out, and as events were to prove would have resulted in saving the ship but for circumstances beyond Captain Tindle's control. At last the submarine obtained the range, with the result that the wireless aerials were destroyed; other shots passed through the funnel and ventilators and shrapnel burst around the bridge. Captain Tindle was still maintaining a full head of steam, when the Chinamen down below became panic-stricken and deserted the stokehold. Speed at once began to fall off, so the ship was stopped. In spite of this action

 

A FOUR DAYS' REST

 

the submarine continued firing and, drawing in, discharged six shots at point-blank range into the engine-room. The chief and fourth mates were slightly wounded. The Chinese seamen by this time had got beyond control, and all of them, with the exception of four, took to the boats without waiting for orders. Captain Tindle had to admit that the position was hopeless, so he and his officers and the four remaining Chinamen passed over the side into a small boat as the ship was settling down by the stern. Though the Sir Richard Awdry was not a large vessel, she was sinking slowly, so the Germans discharged a torpedo, which caused her to heel over and disappear in seven minutes. The French trawler Marie Frederic, in response to the signal for help, appeared on the scene at this moment and drove away the enemy; but, owing to the conduct of the Chinese stokers, she arrived too late to save the ship from destruction. Though they little deserved their good fortune, all these men, except a Chinese cook, were saved.

 

On the following day the Californian (6,223 tons) was torpedoed off Cape Matapan. She was steaming at 12 knots at the time, and, unlike the other vessels mentioned, was under escort, being accompanied by a French torpedo-boat. When the Californian was struck at 7.45 a.m. a French patrol-boat took her in tow, and there seemed some chance that she might get into port, but unhappily shortly after 1 o'clock the rope broke. Efforts were being made to resume towing, when a second torpedo hit the ship and she at once began to make water fast. The master (Mr. W. Masters), with his crew, remained by the ship for seven hours from the time that the first attack was made, but their devotion and all the efforts of the French seamen were unavailing. Fortunately, in spite of the extensive damage done by the torpedo, only one life was lost.

 

Four days passed, during which British merchant shipping in the Mediterranean was unmolested, and then, on November 14th, the losses began once more. The Treneglos (3,886 tons) was proceeding at full speed seventy miles west-south-west from Gavdo Island, off Crete, when a terrific explosion occurred in the engine-room, killing outright the third engineer and two firemen, and smashing the port lifeboat. It was at once apparent that the ship was doomed. The master (Mr. S. P. Beale) ordered the boats get away as quickly as possible, and hardly were they clear of the ship when she sank. From first to last nothing was seen of the submarine. On the following day, within a few miles of the spot where the Treneglos had disappeared, the Orange Prince (3,583 tons) was also torpedoed without warning, and in this case also three lives were lost. The vessel was going at full speed when the torpedo burst into the stokehold, killing three men. Everyone, except the master (Mr. J. Holloway) and the chief officer, took to the boats, and a few minutes later a second torpedo struck the ship. Captain Holloway and the chief officer had barely time to escape before their vessel disappeared below the water.

 

Little more than half the month had passed, and already the enemy had destroyed thirteen British merchant ships, and there was no respite for British seamen. On November 18th the Enosis (3,409 tons) came under a heavy shell-fire when 150 miles east-south-east from Malta. A submarine was observed on the starboard beam flying no flag and bearing no number or other distinguishing mark. The range was soon obtained; one shot fell on the forecastle just as the men had left it, and another struck the bridge, mortally wounding the master (Mr. Alfred Bowling). The chief officer (Mr. J. Condon) was attending to lowering the boats, but he at once went to the assistance of Captain Bowling; the master had been terribly injured and, although still living, was past human aid.

 

As the boats were being put into the water, another shell exploded near the chart-room, doing further damage and putting the master out of his suffering. As soon as the boats were clear of the Enosis, she was torpedoed out of hand and sank, the body of Captain Bowling going down with her. Though the ship was destroyed far from land, the crew fortunately got ashore in safety. On the 19th the Hallamshire (4,420 tons) was torpedoed without warning when off Cerigotto at 2.20 p.m. The submarine apparently stood by to await events, and as the vessel was not sinking fast enough, she was attacked by shellfire shortly after 4 o'clock. The submarine failed to show any flag in accordance with the rules of warfare. By 5 o'clock nothing was to be seen of the Hallamshire, with her cargo of 5,600 tons of coal. A French destroyer picked up the master (Mr. A. G. Clark) and his men.

 

A VIVID NARRATIVE

 

The Merganser (1,905 tons) met a like end off Gozo on November 20th. The ship was steaming at just under 10 knots, but the master (Mr. J. T. Sharp), in his effort to escape, managed to get 13 knots out of her. Even this speed, however, was not sufficient to take the Merganser out of gun range. Once more a French torpedo-boat was the means of saving the lives of the crew. After an interval of six days the Tringa (2,154 tons) was captured thirty miles from Galata Island and sunk by gunfire, with a loss of three lives; on the following day the Tanis (3,665 tons) and the Kingsway (3,647 tons) were sunk by gunfire, the former three miles north from Zembra Island, and the latter off Cape Bon, Tunis. The latter ship was in ballast, and was making little headway owing to the gale which was blowing, accompanied by high head seas. She was on her way from Malta to Huelva, Spain, when gunfire was heard. The narrative of events afterwards given by the master (Mr. Walter Langford) conveys an impression of the character of the ordeal to which British seamen were condemned:

 

" I was in the saloon at the time and went on deck immediately. The third officer met me on the bridge ladder and reported that a shot had been fired which had struck the water about 15 feet ahead of the ship. I ran to the bridge and ordered him to stop the engines. At this time another shot was fired, which passed a few feet over the ship's No. 4 derrick. I could see no sign of any submarine owing to the heavy sea. Realising that it was impossible to escape when the second shot was fired, I blew three short blasts on the whistle to indicate that my engines were going astern, and I immediately ordered all the boats to be lowered and the crews to get into them as quickly as possible. The firing ceased for about five minutes.

 

" I ordered the chief officer to take ten men into the port lifeboat and to get clear. The second officer was directed to take charge of the starboard lifeboat and took twelve men with him. The remaining four were told to get into the starboard jolly-boat, and I got into this myself, intending to change afterwards into one of the lifeboats. By this time the submarine, which was now seen for the first time, had come close on the port side, and before all the crew had time to get into the boats she fired three shots in quick succession at Nos. 2, 8, and 4 holds. These went right through the ship — in one side and out the other. After considerable difficulty, all the crew got away in one lifeboat and two jolly-boats, the other lifeboat having been smashed by the action of the submarine. The submarine rounded the vessel twice, firing at her continually, and she sank at 0.30 p.m. on the same day. The submarine immediately disappeared. She was about 250 feet long, was painted a light bluish-grey and was apparently quite new. The gun appeared to be a 6-inch howitzer, mounted on a pedestal about 12 feet abaft the conning-tower, and seemed to be fired from the conning-tower, having recoil cylinders on either side. No letters or numbers were seen, but one man in her held a small Austrian hand-flag."

 

Captain Langford and his men got ashore safely. The loss of this ship was afterwards the subject of a Court of Inquiry, which decided that " after the first shot to call attention to the presence of the enemy submarine, this was so close that the Kingsway, more especially having regard to the conditions of weather prevailing at the time and the lightness of the ship, could not possibly have escaped."

 

A welcome relief to the rising record of shipping losses was provided by the spirited and successful fight, on November 23rd, which was made by the City of Marseilles (8,250 tons), when on her way from Liverpool to Bombay via Marseilles. She had been given a 4.7-inch gun, and with this one weapon she drove off the enemy. Three weeks earlier the Kashgar (8,840 tons) had performed a similar feat, and as already noted, the Antilochus (9,039 tons) had also used her gun with good effect.

 

The experience of the City of Marseilles supplied confirmatory evidence of the value of such defensive armament as the Admiralty was able to provide at a time when, owing to the growth of the Army and expansion of the Navy, there was a serious shortage of guns. The Ellerman liner (master, Mr. B. Dowse) was steaming at 12 knots at 10 a.m. when a submarine was sighted four miles on the port beam; the enemy was flying no colours and made no signals. Captain Dowse, realising the

 

AN EXCITING DUEL

 

peril in which he stood, put on speed and the ship was soon steaming at 16 1/2 knots. There seemed good hope of bringing the submarine on the port quarter. The passengers on board, as well as the officers and men, were not unconscious of the emergency which had arisen, but exhibited praiseworthy pluck. There was no other vessel in sight, and unless the submarine was driven off reliance would have to be placed on the ship's boats for safety. A S.O.S. call was sent out by emergency code, fixing the position of the City of Marseilles, in the faint hope of help being forthcoming. The only reply received was, however, from an Italian hospital ship, stating that she had no code, but offering to stand by. As it was considered inadvisable to send messages en clair, this chivalrous response was not acknowledged. If the City of Marseilles was to be saved, it had to be by her own exertions.

 

The duel between the merchant ship with her one gun and the submarine with its concentrated offensive power opened at a range of about three miles. The enemy fired about seven rounds at the British vessel without doing serious damage, although splinters of shell fell on board. The British gun's crew made a spirited reply. Their seventh shot ricochetted and appeared to hit the submarine. The enemy craft at any rate took a list to port and, turning round sharply, abandoned the chase. When last seen the submarine was steering in a north-easterly direction and had a list of about 25 degrees to port, which brought a large area of her starboard side out of water. The City of Marseilles proceeded on her passage, the passengers overjoyed at the success with which the ship had been handled and the spirit shown by the men manning her one gun.

 

On the last two days of the month four more ships, all of them unarmed, were destroyed; three of them — the Malinche (1,868 tons), the Colenso (3,861 tons), and the Langton Hall (4,437 tons) — were sunk off Malta, while the Middleton (2,560 tons) was destroyed by gunfire seventy miles from Gavdo Island, which had become a favourite cruising-ground with the enemy. The last ship was on her way from Mudros to Alexandria, when a suspicious object was seen about three miles astern. At first the master (Mr. H. Rattray) was not sure what it was. Then a shell passed over the ship and doubt was resolved into certainty.

 

The Middleton at her best could steam only about 7 knots, but nevertheless Captain Rattray held on his course, zigzagging in order to confuse the enemy's fire. About twenty minutes after fire had been opened, seven of the crew were struck by shrapnel, one of them being killed outright. Escape was impossible, so Captain Rattray stopped the ship. As soon as the crew had taken to the boats, the enemy sank the Middleton by gunfire and then disappeared. An appeal by the second mate for bandages for the injured men was ignored. Captain Rattray found himself in a situation which called for all his resource. During the day two of his men died of their wounds. It was not until night was falling that the Clan Maclaren hove in sight and rescued the survivors. The casualty list was not, however, yet complete, for another man died on board the Clan liner before she reached Malta.

 

The year 1915 closed with a series of tragedies which cost the British Merchant Navy twenty-one ships, but still more grievous was the loss of 419 lives, of which all but three, caused by mine explosions, were traceable to the operations of enemy submarines in the Mediterranean. Apart from this terrible story of the destruction of the P. & O. liner Persia, which is dealt with in a subsequent chapter, incidents occurred which stand out conspicuously in the record of the enemy's attempt, at any cost of life and property, to interrupt the communications of the Allies in the Mediterranean.

 

On the first day of the month, the Clan Macleod (4,796 tons) was sunk by gunfire no less than 100 miles east-south-east from Malta. She was on her way home from Calcutta with a general cargo of about 6,000 tons. The master (Mr. H. S. Southward) was steering towards Malta when, in the clear morning light, the chief officer sighted smoke on the port quarter. He assumed that it was a destroyer and, as the enemy had no surface craft at sea, nothing was to be feared. About twenty minutes later a shot came out of nowhere, falling short of the Clan Macleod. Captain Southward at once altered course so as to put the smoke patch well astern of him, the engines were opened out, and all the firemen were sent below in order to get as much steam as possible.

 

A COURAGEOUS ATTEMPT

 

Though the British merchant ship was unarmed, Captain Southward was not without hopes of saving his ship. The submarine headed three or four times towards the vessel's port quarter, firing as she did so. The shots fell ahead, and Captain Southward, his determination still firm, continued to manoeuvre his ship dexterously, the submarine maintaining a hot pursuit. It was soon apparent that the enemy had the advantage of speed. Shortly before 10 o'clock she had approached to within half a mile of the Clan Macleod. She then again opened fire, and the eighth shot struck the vessel. What happened afterwards can be best told in Captain Southward's own words:

 

" About this time I realised that I could not save the steamer, hoisted international signal of surrender, stopped the engines, and rounded to, bringing the submarine on the starboard side. The crew were sent to boat stations, but to my surprise the submarine started to shell the bridge, doing considerable damage. I was struck by the first shell. He then started to shell the boats and boat crews, killing nine men, wounding six (three fatally), and smashing the starboard boats. During this shelling the crew had all been sent to the port boats, which were manned and lowered without any casualty. After the boats were lowered the chief officer and myself had a look round the decks, but could not see anyone alive, so we then left the steamer.

 

" After the boats left the steamer the gun of the submarine was pointed towards the lifeboat and the commander shouted for me. As the second officer told him I was in the other boat, he turned the gun away and told him he need not be afraid. The submarine was flying the German naval flag. When the other boat appeared in view of the submarine, I was ordered to go on board. I did so, and found the commander and lieutenant in a furious rage with me because I had not stopped sooner. The commander rushed down from the conning-tower, shook his fist in my face, and said, ' Why did you not stop? ' I replied that I wanted to save my ship. He then said, ' Why did you not stop when I fired? ' I replied that my instructions were to escape if possible. The commander said, ' Never mind your instructions; you must obey my orders.' I replied that I did not know anything about his orders. His next remark was, ' I can shoot you as a franc-tireur.' I said, ' I don't think so.' He said, ' You are assisting my enemy.' I replied, ' I am your enemy.'

 

" The commander then said, ' Had you stopped when I fired three shots you would not have had this,' pointing to a wound in my hand. I replied that it was my misfortune.

 

" I was then ordered back into the boat, and the submarine at once proceeded to sink the steamer by shellfire. After firing a couple of shots into every compartment, he returned to the boats and I was again ordered on board. I was asked for my instructions, which I said I had destroyed. I was also asked for the register, and told him it was on board the steamer.

 

" The lieutenant dressed my hand, pointed out that my foot was wounded, and gave me packets of dressing for my foot and for some of the wounded. Before I left the submarine he told me to inform all captains I met that they would be fired upon if they tried to escape. I told him that that would be their business and had nothing to do with me. He also asked me the position, and I said I had not had a position for some time.

 

" We then parted company, and after I had picked up two wounded men, who had evidently stowed themselves away, the two boats set sail for Malta, the chief officer having charge of the cutter with nineteen men on board, and myself in charge of the lifeboat, with fifty men on board. The submarine kept about half a mile south of the boats with only the periscope showing for three or four hours, when he disappeared.

 

" The lifeboat's crew were picked up by the steamship Lord Cromer, of Liverpool, on the following day at 6 p.m., and landed at Algiers on December 5th. The cutter's crew were rescued at 2 a.m. on December 4th, and were landed at Malta the same day."

 

One of the injured men died of his wounds. For several months Captain Southward was in hospital, recovering slowly from the injuries he had received during his courageous and skilful attempt to save his ship.

 

Within twenty-four hours two other large ships had

 

GALLANT CONDUCT OF " BENALLA "

 

fallen victims to the same submarine — the Umeta (5,312 tons) on the same day, and the Commodore (5,858 tons) (master, Mr. H. Russell) early on the following morning. The submarine continued to fire on the former vessel after the master (Mr. W. Moxon) had stopped his engines. Fortunately, none of the boats was injured and everyone on board got away in safety, except one lascar who refused to leave, and an engine fireman who died of thirst and exposure in one of the boats. The Umeta was sunk 112 miles east-south-east of Malta, and when the enemy had disappeared, leaving the British seamen to their own resources. Captain Moxon gave the boats a course for that port. During the night they became separated. The master and his companions were drifting about at the mercy of the waves until the afternoon of the 5th, when they were fortunately rescued by the Greek steamer Massalia and landed at Algiers. The rest of the crew also found safety.

 

The Commodore was even farther from the nearest land — 160 miles — when she was overhauled. For half an hour she was kept under a heavy fire, which was not abated even when the men on board were taking to the boats. One man had already been killed, and another severely wounded, and while the boats were being lowered five more hands were injured — two of them severely. The survivors were adrift for twenty-eight hours before they were picked up by a Belgian steamer. On the following day the Helmsmuir (4,111 tons) was torpedoed off Gavdo Island, and three other ships were chased.

 

The attention of the naval authorities was attracted in particular to the conduct of the P. & O. Benalla (11,118 tons). She was proceeding from Alexandria to Malta with troops, when a wireless call was received from the transport Torrilla (5,205 tons), with 2,000 soldiers on board. The Benalla was carrying a 4.7-inch gun, and her master (Commander C, W. Cockman, R.N.R., retired) immediately proceeded to her assistance at full speed. He found that the Torrilla was being shelled by a submarine, and, as she carried only a 3-pounder gun, was being outranged by the enemy. Captain Cockman, exhibiting fine courage and a high sense of the comradeship of the sea, at once brought his 4.7-inch gun into action at a range of 8,200 yards. His intervention was almost immediately successful, for after the third round the submarine submerged and made off. For thus saving a valuable ship, as well as many lives, Captain Cockburn was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

 

For a period of three days British seamen in the Mediterranean, as well as in other waters, enjoyed complete immunity from molestation, and then on the 7th a loss was again reported. The Cunard steamship Veria (3,229 tons) was steaming towards Alexandria and was within twenty-four miles of that port — almost safe from danger — when she was intercepted by a submarine and destroyed. On the following day the Tintoretto (4,181 tons) had a narrow escape in the same locality. At 9.30 a.m. a torpedo was fired at her, but fortunately missed the ship astern. The master (Mr. W. Tranter), sustained by the presence on board of a 12-pounder gun, brought the submarine astern of him, and when the enemy opened fire returned it vigorously. A running fight was kept up for nearly four hours, pieces of shell falling on board the merchantman, but causing no damage. At last the Tintoretto's gun hit the submarine at extreme range, and this success brought the action to a close. Captain Tranter, as well as the chief engineer, Mr. J. P. Rich, received " mentions," and the Clasp of the Mercantile Marine Medal, which had by this time been instituted, was awarded to this Lambert & Holt liner in recognition of the fine defence which had been made against the enemy's attack.

 

The same good fortune did not attend the Busiris (2,705 tons) on the following day, when she was sunk by gunfire 190 miles west-north-west from Alexandria, and the Orteric (6,535 tons) was torpedoed by the enemy off Gavdo Island. In both cases a determined effort was made to escape, in spite of the heavy fire to which the vessels were exposed. The master of the latter vessel (Mr. G. B. McGill) was encouraged to hold on his course by the reply to his wireless signal for help which he received from a man-of-war. At last, after the ship had been struck eight times, Captain McGill ordered the boats to be lowered. While this was being done one boat was hit, two men being killed outright and four others seriously injured. When the three lifeboats had dropped half a mile astern of the Orteric, the submarine opened fire on the craft in which the chief engineer and

 

ACTIVITY IN HOME WATERS

 

sixteen hands had taken refuge, but fortunately the shots missed their target. It was the good fortune of the survivors, left afloat 140 miles from the nearest land, to be rescued within an hour and a half.

 

Another interlude then occurred during which the enemy met with no success. On the 13th the Cawdor Castle (6,243 tons) escaped by the use of her gun; on the 16th the Teucer (9,045 tons) outpaced the submarine by which she was attacked; and then on the 24th submarines began once more to take toll of British merchant shipping. In the meantime there had been a spasmodic outbreak of activity in the English Channel. The Huntly (1,153 tons) and Belford (516 tons) were torpedoed without warning off Boulogne, and before the month closed submarines had secured the Van Stirum (3,284 tons) off the Smalls, and the Cottingham (513 tons) off Lundy Island; while on the 28th the El Zorro (5,989 tons) was sunk near the Old Head of Kinsale, eleven lives altogether being lost. The Cottingham was on passage from Rouen to Swansea on December 26th, when a submarine opened fire on her. It was soon apparent that escape was impossible, so the engines were stopped and the boats filled. The master (Mr. C. Mitchell) was picked up by a patrol-boat the same evening, but nothing was ever heard of the chief officer and the six men who were with him in the other boat, though the Cottingham was sunk within sixteen miles of Lundy Island.

 

This outburst of activity in the waters surrounding the British Isles was of short duration, and in the meantime the enemy continued to pursue his campaign in the Mediterranean. On Christmas Eve the Yeddo (4,563 tons) was captured and bombed off Cape Matapan; the Abelia (3,650 tons) was sunk by gunfire 152 miles from Gavdo Island; and then on the 30th, as the Old Year passed into history, the P. & O. liner Persia (7,974 tons) and the Clan Macfarlane (4,823 tons) were torpedoed without warning with a loss of 386 lives. In recognition of his services Kapitan-Leutnant Max Valentiner was awarded the Ordre pour le Merite.

 

The story of the experiences of the officers and men of the Clan Macfarlane furnishes the climax of the record of the sufferings inflicted on British merchant seamen during the year 1915. This defenceless ship was engaged in her lawful occupation, having left Birkenhead on December 16th with a general cargo of about 7,400 tons. She was on passage to Bombay, and all went well until the afternoon of December 30th, when the vessel was sixty-three miles S.E. by S. from Cape Martello. A good lookout was being maintained as the ship pursued her voyage at an average speed of 10 knots. Though the atmosphere was clear and there was little sea, nothing was seen of enemy submarines. The Clan Macfarlane safely navigated the areas associated with the greatest danger, and it seemed as though she might make Alexandria in safety.

 

The master (Mr. James White Swanston) was among the fifty-two victims whose lives were sacrificed as the result of enemy action, and consequently we are dependent on the information, very full and circumstantial, afterwards supplied by the chief officer (Mr. F. J. Hawley). He was just going on duty at 4 p.m. when the ship was shaken by a terrific explosion. He immediately rushed on deck and found that the upper hatches of No. 5 hold, which had been battened down on leaving Liverpool, had been blown out. It was at once apparent that the ship had been torpedoed. She carried, fortunately, no passengers; but the crew were largely composed of Indians, and that the loss of life was not heavier was due in no slight degree to the courage and discipline exhibited by these natives under nerve-racking conditions. Mr. Hawley, having first ordered the boats to be lowered below the level of the harbour deck, sounded No. 5 hold and discovered that the water had already risen to a height of 18 inches and that part of the cargo was floating out of the steamer through the gaping hole which the enemy's torpedo had pierced. A search was made of the forecastles in order to make sure that no one remained in them, and then, after conferring with Captain Swanston, instructions were given that this fine steamer should be abandoned. She was already settling down by the stern and darkness was coming on. There was no time to be lost.

 

With splendid composure officers and men left the steamer in six boats shortly after 5 o'clock and rowed to the north so as to keep clear of the sinking ship. After an interval of rather more than half an hour, a submarine

 

A TERRIBLE ORDEAL

 

appeared from the southward and fired six shots into the Clan Macfarlane on the port side forward. The submarine commander made the usual inquiries, and then disappeared without a thought for the safety of the men in the boats. As the darkness of night fell around him, Captain Swanston, undismayed by his misfortune, ordered all boats to be placed in line and made fast astern his own boat, in order to ensure their keeping together during the oncoming night. Fortunately they had all been provided with sails, and each man had a lifebelt. So masts were stepped and a course was set for Crete, upwards of sixty miles distant. With the wind blowing from the west, the little boats continued to sail throughout that night and during the succeeding day, the sea happily remaining comparatively calm.

 

In the course of the afternoon land was sighted and the spirits of all on board rose. The survivors continued on their course in the expectation of speedy deliverance, but in the early hours of New Year's Day the wind dropped. Captain Swanston held a conference with his officers, and it was decided to separate the boats and take to oars. In these conditions some progress was made. By 10 o'clock that morning a light wind had sprung up and the craft once more set their sails. As evening closed in the boats were again made fast together astern of the captain's boat, in order that they might not lose touch with each other during the night. Early on the morning of January 2nd a glimpse was caught of the north-east corner of the island of Crete, but in the meantime the wind had risen and the sea was becoming rough, so sail was shortened and a course was set along the coast. A landing could not be effected owing to the high sea which was running; it was therefore determined to hug the coast at a distance of three or four miles on the chance of the weather conditions improving.

 

By this time the unfortunate men had become exhausted by exposure, and to add to their troubles a tow-rope parted, with the result that the third officer's and second engineer's boats went adrift. The captain, seized with a high sense of his duty, cast off his boat to go in search of the missing craft. It was an almost hopeless task in the darkness which prevailed. Mr. Hawley, the chief officer, lay to with the other boats throughout the night. The weather, far from improving, became increasingly bad, and weary and dispirited as they were, the men had to bale continually. In the meantime death claimed five of the natives in the chief officer's boat and one died in the second engineer's boat.

 

At daylight on January 3rd the captain's boat was sighted. The search had failed. Three more native seamen had succumbed owing to exposure. The outlook was desperate as the remaining boats were once more made fast to one another. That afternoon it was regretfully realised that one of the boats was unseaworthy, so it was abandoned; the fourth engineer and six natives were transferred to the chief officer's boat, and two other natives went into the captain's boat. Hardly had this readjustment of the burden been completed, when the rudder of the captain's craft was carried away. So Captain Swanston cast off and made fast to the stern of the second officer's boat, and the chief officer was left at the head of the pitiful procession of little boats, buffeted by wind and wave. Late that afternoon, owing to the rising wind and sea, the surviving boats were once more in danger of being swamped. The captain, therefore, lay to and set a reefed jib, an oar being used for steering, while the chief officer's boat also lay to with its sea anchor down.

 

Throughout the night the little craft, labouring heavily, continued to ship seas and the men were kept hard at work baling out the water. With characteristic courage they fought the elements throughout the night, and then at dawn were distressed to find the captain's boat was missing. At noon, however, it was sighted, making in a westerly direction. Mr. Hawley decided to follow, and set jib and reefed lug sail for that purpose. As he had the second officer's boat in tow, he could make little headway. Efforts to attract Captain Swanston's attention failed, and as darkness fell the master's boat was lost sight of. It was not seen again, and it will never be known how this undaunted seaman and his companions, adrift in their rudderless boat on a distressed sea, met their end.

 

Early on the morning of January 5th Mr. Hawley was forced by circumstances to abandon another boat

 

" CROWN OF ARAGON " TO THE RESCUE

 

and the second officer and the fifth engineer, together with seven natives, passed over to the chief officer's boat. The operation was a hazardous one, and in the process the rudder of the chief officer's boat was carried away. High seas were running and the outlook was as black as it could well be. As the light broke over the waters the survivors of the Clan Macfarlane found themselves fighting grimly for life as the waves broke over the bulwarks of their frail craft. Hope revived at noon as the smoke of a steamer was seen at a distance, but the vessel disappeared. Thus another day passed and night fell.

 

Early the following morning, January 6th, the second cook, who had died from exposure, was buried, and before noon one of the boys and a native fireman had also succumbed to the ordeal to which they had been exposed by the enemy's inhumanity. It seemed as though the struggle was hopeless, but at last wind and sea began to moderate, and Mr. Hawley was seized with the faint belief that he might make the Port of Alexandria, which he reckoned to be about 250 miles off. So, with the reef lug sail set, he steered his little boat as well as he could with an oar on an east-north-easterly course. Throughout that night the chief officer and the second officer took alternate watches, and noticed with returning confidence that the sea was becoming quieter. Their hopes were again dashed; as daylight came the wind shifted and the sea began to rise once more. The little company was now a small one, for another native had died from exposure, and the captain's boy had also fallen into his last sleep. It seemed as though there might not be a single survivor. Just when hope had been well nigh abandoned, a steamer was sighted about three miles distant. The distressed seamen had no means of attracting her attention except by waving articles of clothing. Would the signals be seen? Doubt was soon resolved into certainty as the strange vessel, which was revealed as the Crown of Aragon, bore down to perform her errand of mercy.

 

Mr. Hawley and his companions had been adrift in their small boats for seven days and seven nights, and the only wonder was that any of them had survived to tell the tale of their sufferings. During the passage of the Crown of Aragon to Malta two more natives died, worn out by all they had gone through. The voyage to Malta was marked by an incident which raised fears that after all the rescue might prove vain. For a submarine was sighted as the Crown of Aragon was making her way to Malta. The vessel carried a 12-pounder gun. So the master turned the stern of his ship on the enemy and prepared to fight if need be. The submarine, taking note of this manoeuvre, submerged and made off. In this way the twenty-four remaining members of the crew of the Clan Macfarlane, six Europeans and eighteen natives, escaped almost as by a miracle from the fate which had overwhelmed fifty-two of their companions.

 

Though the Germans continued from time to time to harry British merchant ships in the southern part of the North Sea by aircraft attack during the period when operations by submarines in British waters were suspended, they met with no success. The story of the General Steam Navigation Company's steamer Balgownie (1,061 tons) reveals the spirit with which masters and men stood up against this new form of warfare. This vessel was on passage from London to Rotterdam in the closing days of November, when she was surprised by the enemy. Captain Goodson's resource and courage led to the presentation to him of a cheque for one hundred guineas from the War Risks Association, a similar sum being distributed among the crew. In making the presentation to Captain Goodson, Sir Kenneth Anderson, President of the Chamber of Shipping, briefly recalled the facts as they had been modestly recorded in the Captain's log. At about 2.30 p.m. on November 27th the crewof the Balgownie were surprised by the rapid approach from the south-east of three flying machines, which dropped about twenty-three bombs, some of which fell within half a ship's length of the vessel. After attacking for about twenty minutes and using up all their bombs, two of the aircraft continued to fire with machine guns until their ammunition was exhausted, the bullets dropping on and around the ship like rain. The vessel kept on a zigzag course at full speed, the only weapon being the ship's distress rockets, of which the fullest use was made, and the captain fired over fifty rounds from his rifle. Although the shots did not strike the machines, they made them fly higher, and no doubt saved the ship.

 

ATTACKED FROM THE AIR

 

During the closing months of 1915, when the enemy desisted from employing submarines in home waters, a number of other merchant vessels were attacked by aircraft in the vicinity of the Belgian coast, but all the bombs which they dropped fell harmlessly in the water, though all the vessels were unarmed and were therefore unable to prevent the aeroplanes from approaching close to them.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

THE SINKING OF THE " PERSIA "

 

The ordeal in the Mediterranean which British seamen were confronting with characteristic courage had attracted little attention until the P. & O. liner Persia was sunk on December 30th, 1915. In the case of the Lusitania, the enemy claimed that she had been built as an auxiliary cruiser of the British Fleet, that she was armed, and that she was carrying ammunition from the United States to a British port. These excuses for an act of inhumanity which shocked the civilised world have already been discussed. (Vol. I., pp. 410-28.)

The Persia was admittedly nothing more than an ordinary passenger ship, and the Germans had promised that passenger ships should not be molested; she was on her way from England to Indian ports and was under no suspicion of carrying munitions; she mounted a small gun aft, but it was available only for defence and, in the sudden emergency on December 30th, proved useless. Yet, in face of the pledges which had been given to the American Government, she was torpedoed without warning, and such was the effect of the explosion that within five minutes she had disappeared in the waters of the Mediterranean. Her destruction resulted in the loss of 334 lives.

 

The Persia (7,974 tons) had been built at Greenock in 1900, and was a sister ship of the Egypt, Arabia, China, and India, belonging to a class of vessel which was, at the time of building, the largest in the P. & O. Company's service. She held a passenger certificate issued by the Government of Bombay, allowing 530 passengers and 300 crew. The lifeboat accommodation, consisting of eighteen lifeboats capable of accommodating 830 persons, was far more than sufficient for all persons on board at the time of the casualty, and the large loss of life was

 

 

TORPEDOED WITHOUT WARNING

 

accounted for by the fact that the vessel took a sudden list after being torpedoed and sank within five minutes. Owing to the list it was not possible to lower the starboard boats, and owing to the short time she remained afloat only five or six of the port boats could be lowered.

 

The Persia left Tilbury on December 18th with 201 passengers, including many women and children, and had a crew of 317. She was bound for Port Said, Aden, and Bombay, and in addition to mails carried a general cargo. The early stage of the voyage was uneventful; the Persia called en route at Gibraltar and Marseilles, and then at Malta, where five of the passengers and two of the crew were landed.

 

On Thursday, December 30th, at about ten minutes past one in the afternoon, when the Persia (master, Mr. W. H. S. Hall) had reached a position about lat. 34 degrees 1' N., long. 26 degrees 0' E., she was torpedoed, without warning, by a German submarine. The passengers were at lunch at the time, the second officer, Mr. Harold Geoffrey Stephen Wood, was in charge on the bridge, Captain Hall and the chief officer, Mr. Gerald Clark, both being in their cabins. As usual precautions against the submarine menace had been adopted. On the previous day everyone on board had been assigned to a boat and drill had taken place. Instructions had been issued that all passengers in case of emergency were to assemble on the promenade deck, the boats, it was added, would be let down from the boat deck above until they reached the level of the promenade deck, when the passengers would get into them. There was no thought that only a matter of five minutes would be available for saving everyone on board.

 

At the moment of the explosion a native seaman was on the lookout forward; another native seaman was in the crow's-nest, while a British able seaman and a native were on the lookout on the lower bridge. A British able seaman was at the wheel. There was a moderate breeze blowing west by north, and a certain amount of swell, and the ship was proceeding at her full speed of about 16 knots, when the first warning of anything untoward came. The second officer caught sight of the wake of a torpedo rapidly approaching the Persia about four points on the port bow. It was so close that before Mr. Wood could turn to put the helm hard a-starboard the vessel had been struck — just abaft the forward funnel on the port side, a violent explosion shaking the ship from stem to stern. This explosion was immediately followed by a second one, due to the blowing up of the boilers.

 

The second officer immediately went to the whistle, intending to sound the prearranged emergency signal, but found that all steam had gone. He then ran down to Captain Hall, who had left his cabin and come to the lower bridge, and Captain Hall ordered him to get the boats out. Mr. Wood hurried at once to his station on the poop, noticing on his way that there was a great hole in the hurricane deck on the port side, presumably due to the explosion of a boiler. The ship was then listing heavily to port, and continued to heel over until she lay on her port side, before disappearing within only about five minutes of the explosion of the torpedo. Within this brief time, however, Mr. Wood was able to see to the lowering of two port boats on the poop deck, which were loaded with men and women passengers and a few of the crew. He then loosened the gripes of two inboard boats and attempted to lower a starboard boat, which was found to be impossible owing to the list which the Persia had taken. One of the port poop boats floated clear, but the other was pressed down by the davits as the ship turned over. The Persia was still making way, although with lessening speed, which rendered the lowering of the boats a difficult operation.

 

Meanwhile the chief officer (Mr. Gerald Clark), who had been momentarily dazed through having been struck by some of the furniture shaken from the walls of his cabin, had seized a lifebelt and axe and ran up to the boat deck. There he saw that the boats from the poop deck were already being lowered, and he at once, therefore, went to the assistance of those who were attempting to lower the boats from the boat deck, using his axe, where necessary, in order to clear the boats as quickly as possible. He remained on the boat deck freeing the boats as fast as this could be done, in the hope that, although there was no time to load them, they might be of service in picking up survivors from the water. He was occupied in this way until the listing of the vessel became so steep that

 

DOWN WITH HIS SHIP

 

he found it impossible to keep his feet any longer, whereupon he slid into the water, to be eventually picked up by No. 2 boat.

 

 

The second officer had also slipped into the water, and had succeeded in swimming to an empty boat, into which he climbed himself, afterwards saving several lives. This boat was one of the inboard boats which he himself had helped to loosen, and both of them had fortunately floated clear. Ultimately Mr. Wood succeeded in getting forty-three people into his boat, the chief officer afterwards sending across five more from No. 2 boat. Unfortunately, owing to the fact that the Persia was still under way, most of the boats that had been loosened were swamped, torn away, or capsized. Only five got finally free of the rapidly sinking ship. Four of these boats were afterwards joined together and an attempt was made to row back to the scene of the Persians disappearance, but in view of the overladen condition of the boats and the contrary wind and swell, this was found to be impossible.

 

The boats had all been swung out from the davits at the time of the explosion, and the understanding with the engine-room staff had been that in the event of the ship being struck by a mine or torpedo, the engines were to be instantly stopped. Unfortunately it seems probable that the engineers were in the stokehold at the time, superintending the cleaning of the fires, and were either killed by the explosion of the torpedo or as the result of the boiler explosion that followed. Altogether, out of the total number of 501 persons on board the Persia, only 167 were saved, 65 being passengers, including 2 children, and 102 crew; 121 passengers and 213 of the crew were lost. Throughout the afternoon and the following night the four boats remained together, and were finally picked up about 7 o'clock in the evening of December 31st by the mine-sweeper Mallow, which took the survivors to Alexandria. None of the ship's papers could be saved, and nothing was seen of Captain Hall, who presumably went down with his ship.

 

In view of the fact that most of the passengers were below at lunch when the explosion occurred, that the engine-room instructions could not be carried out, and that within five minutes of the impact the vessel had disappeared, it is a striking tribute to the courage, quick-wittedness, discipline, and seamanship of the surviving officers and crew that so many lives were ultimately saved. An impression of the scene on board the vessel and of the subsequent experiences of those on board is conveyed in a graphic statement of Mr. Grant, an American business man, who, with two of his fellow-countrymen, was on board the Persia. The American Consul at Aden was among those drowned.

 

" I was sitting," said Mr. Grant, " in the dining saloon at five minutes past one, and had just finished my soup. The steward was asking me what I would take as a second course, when there was a terrific explosion, and the saloon was filled with broken glass, and with smoke and steam from the boiler, which seemed to have burst. There was no panic. We went on deck as if we were at boat drill, and I reported myself at my lifeboat on the starboard side. The vessel was listing to port and I clung on to the rail.... The vessel gradually listed more and more, and it was impossible to launch any of the starboard boats. Finally I climbed over the starboard rail and slid down into the water. I was sucked down and got caught in a rope, which pulled off my shoe, but, breaking loose, I got to the surface again and clambered on to some wreckage, to which I clung. The last I saw of the Persia was her bow pointing high in the air, and that was only five minutes after the explosion. While thus supporting myself, I managed to collect other wreckage for others to cling to.

 

" It was past 4 o'clock before I was picked up by a boat. I then saw that there were five boats pulling around in search of any other persons who might still be struggling in the water. Some of the boats were overloaded, and subsequently there was a redistribution of their occupants. Four of the boats were then tied together by their painters. The fifth was some distance away. At half-past three the following morning my boat separated from the others to search for help in a more frequented channel. We rowed for three hours, and at last saw a cruiser. We called out ' We are English,' and explained that we were survivors from the Persia, which had been sunk. We also gave particulars as to the whereabouts of the other boats. These were found about 7 o'clock, and the occupants

 

EYE-WITNESSES' NARRATIVES

 

were taken off by the English sailors. The end was a horrible scene. The water was as black as ink. Some of the people were screaming; others were saying goodbye to each other; while those in one of the boats were singing hymns."

 

The torpedoing of the Persia was viewed from another angle by Mr. Walter Ernest Smith, assistant engineer of the condenser plant, Port Said. He was travelling second class, sharing his cabin with a friend, Mr. Knight. He was in his cabin washing his hands for lunch when there was an explosion.

 

" I immediately got hold of a lifebelt and started to make my way up on deck. On my way I came across a lady I had met on the boat who was standing dazed, doing nothing. I asked why she did not get her belt on, and seeing that she was stupefied, I gave her mine and went back to my cabin to get my own life-saving jacket; she was not amongst those who were saved. When I left my cabin the second time, I noticed that women and children were lying about, some evidently in a dead faint and others moaning and crying out. One woman I remember particularly, a Frenchwoman, who was leaning up against the rail in the corridor outside the cabins, was quite dazed. Seeing she was not in a fit state to help herself, I pushed her along, and that seemed to rouse her. I practically got her on to the deck, where someone else took the lifebelt from her, fastened it on her, and pushed her overboard. She was saved,

 

" When I got up to the boat deck I found Knight and another man in one end of our boat, and the carpenter and another sailor in the other end. They were trying to get her away. The three pins had been displaced and the fourth had stuck, as we had foreseen. Knight said 'An axe, Smith; this is jammed.' There were no axes in the boat. I was then in the boat and looked around and picked up a broken oar and handed it to him, and he gave the pin a whack with it. The pin luckily gave way and the last lashing was free. By this time the Persia was at a big angle, leaning over to the port side, that is, on the side the torpedo had struck her, and so when we freed the last lashing our boat swung out from the side of the vessel and then bumped back again into her side. We all lost our feet in the boat, and one man was pitched over the side into the sea. Knight was pitched out of the boat, and I could only see his finger-tips above the side of the boat as he clung on. He managed to scramble on board our boat again.

 

" By this time the stern of the Persia was settling down. While I was helping in our boat I saw a boat next to us, full of people, being lowered down. All of a sudden one of the davit ropes broke, and that end of the boat fell down and everyone and everything fell straight into the sea. The other davit rope then gave way, and the boat landed in the water right way up and quite dry, but no one was in her. People then, who, I supposed, had jumped off the Persia farther forward, began to climb into this empty boat until, I suppose, there were about twenty to thirty people in her. She had remained fast to the Persia by her painter or one of her davit ropes. I then saw another boat empty of people fall right on the top of the boat in the water, and it appeared to me that most of the people in her must have been crushed. I saw some of them pinned between the two boats. We had failed to get the davit ropes of our boat loose in time, and the stern of the Persia was now low in the water. We waited until our boat touched the water, and then, as the Persia still sank, we unhooked the hooks of our davit ropes from the davits and thought we were free. Knight, however, cried out, ' A knife. Smith; the painter is fastened.' He said the davit had caught our painter. I gave him my pocket-knife and he cut the painter with it and we were free. We then were sucked right across the stern of the sinking Persia. We were then in the boat six — three passengers and three crew, the latter all white.

 

" We were fascinated by the sinking Persia, and also we were kept over the sinking boat by the suction. After she had sunk, we got out the oars and pulled out of the way of the wreckage. We immediately started to pull people in. There were a good many people in the water. All people we picked up had lifebelts. After some time we got in, I suppose, nearly fifty people. Among them were five women. There was not room in the boats for

 

A GRAPHIC STORY

 

all the people in the water. Five boats altogether, I believe, got away, but I only saw four — that is to say our own, No. 14, and No. 14a, which was next to ours on the Persia and must have floated off when the Persia sank. There was also No. 16 and the accident-boat, which was under the command of the chief officer. He took charge of all the boats, but we never had anyone who actually took charge in our boat. There were several seamen, besides the carpenter, but as there was no officer in the boat, the seamen were reluctant to obey in particular one of themselves, and if any one of the passengers offered a suggestion he was told to shut up. Some time after we had got clear I saw a small boat away on my side of the boat and Knight saw one also on his side. I saw a boat, too, which I took to be a tramp, and as I watched her — this was about 4.30 p.m. — I saw an explosion take place forward of her foremast. She did not sink at once, as we watched her for an hour or more, but the next morning she was no longer there. Before nightfall the chief officer ordered us to make an anchor, which we let down, and the other boats were moored to us in a line.

 

" After dark we saw the lights of a vessel, and we burnt our flares, but she took no notice of us. The next morning we saw a large Cunarder. Directly we saw her the chief officer instructed the second officer to set sail and head her off. This he did and got close to her, but directly she saw him she sheered off. This he told us afterwards. In the afternoon the chief officer, who had kept the best men in his boat — I think they were mostly passengers — said he was going to row in the direction of Port Said. This was about 3 p.m. After dark we saw the head light of a vessel. We watched it anxiously and burnt our flares. Finally we also saw the starboard light, and then the port light, and we knew she was heading towards us. When she got fairly close to us all the people in our boat got up, and as no one controlled our boat, she was soon broadside on to the sea. I do not know why we did not capsize. Knight was shouting to everyone to sit down. Finally we got alongside. There was a bit of a sea running, and they were only able to let down a rope ladder. We had some difficulty in getting the women up; one of them stuck halfway up, and I thought she would get crushed the next time we rose on a wave, but Knight and I managed to push her up. Knight and I then scrambled on board. The ship was the Mallow, one of H.M. ships."

 

A noteworthy tribute to the discipline and promptitude of the crew was paid by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, one of the passengers, who was for some time presumed to have been drowned. Lord Montagu was at luncheon with the rest of the passengers when the explosion occurred, and at once went to the station which had been allotted to him in No. 6 boat on the port side in case of emergency. He saw that the boats were already being lowered. He realised, however, in view of the rapid heeling over of the vessel, that it would probably be impossible to get into them, and therefore, with great difficulty, he started to climb up the starboard side, trying to pull up with him his lady secretary, who happened to be standing by. He was then swept off his feet by the rush of water along the promenade deck, and the next moment he was overboard. The ship then sank, and he was sucked down a long way, striking his head and body against several pieces of wreckage. He ultimately came to the surface again, thanks in part to the buoyancy of the life-saving waistcoat which he was wearing at the time. " So far as I am a judge," said Lord Montagu, " I am convinced that the commander, the officers, and the crew did all that was possible to be done under the terrible circumstances."

 

When he had sufficiently recovered his senses to look around. Lord Montagu saw that the sea was covered with struggling human beings, but comparatively little wreckage. He swam towards a signal locker that he observed near-by, but found the ship's doctor clinging to this, apparently in a stunned condition and with an injury to his head. The locker being only sufficient to support one person. Lord Montagu then swam towards a boat floating upside-down some fifty yards away. A number of native seamen were clinging to this boat, a larger number than it was properly able to support. Eventually, however. Lord Montagu managed to climb up and get astride of the keel band on the extreme end aft, and from this position saw a boat only half filled

 

LORD MONTAGU'S EXPERIENCE

 

a short distance away. He shouted, but without succeeding in drawing the attention of the occupants, to whom frantic cries for help were rising up from all sides.

 

" About an hour after the disaster," Lord Montagu said, " there were left on the upturned boat six Europeans and about a score of the native crew. The others had dropped off as they became too weak to hold on. At this time the boat was suddenly righted by a big wave, and with great difficulty we scrambled into her. I then discovered that not only had she a large hole in the bottom, but that her bows were split open as well. She was in a state of extreme instability, for some of the air tanks, which showed me that she was one of the lifeboats, were smashed, and others were perforated. The smallest weight on the starboard side tended to capsize her again. This, indeed, happened many times before we were picked up, and added very greatly to our sufferings. By sunset most of us were sitting up to our knees in water. When the sun went down on the first day there remained of the original party in the boat, thirteen native seamen and firemen, two native stewards, an English steward named Martin, an Italian second-class passenger, Mr. Alexander Clark (a Scottish second-class passenger), and myself. If it had not been for Mr. Clark and Martin, the steward, who more than once helped us to climb back into the boat when she capsized, I should have had little chance of surviving.

 

" Though there was not much wind, there was a considerable swell, and nearly all the time the sea was breaking over us. Before the night was half gone several more natives died from exhaustion, and as the bodies were washed about in the boat we made efforts to throw them overboard. The night seemed interminable. About 8 p.m. a steamer, with her saloon lights all showing, passed about one mile to the southward. I think she must have been a neutral boat. We tried to attract her attention by shouting, and the other ship's boat to the eastward burned two red flares; but no notice was taken, a submarine ruse probably being suspected. At dawn next morning there were only eleven all told left in the boat. About three hours after sunrise we saw a two-funnelled and two-masted steamer away to the southward, and our hopes were again raised. We hoisted a piece of torn flag on the one oar left in the boat, and the other ship's boat, which seemed to be floating high and well, also signalled. The ship, however, passed westward bound, about three miles away. For the rest of the day we saw nothing. One of the native crew about noon managed to get a tin of biscuits from the locker in the boat under the thwarts, and we ate a little of this, though it was spoilt by the salt water.

 

" We had then been nearly thirty hours without food or water. I myself had had nothing but a cup of tea and a biscuit since dinner on the 29th. I felt the heat of the sun a good deal, as I had only a small khaki scarf for protection. At sunset on Friday we had practically given up all hope of being saved.... I found it a great struggle to keep awake. The tendency to drowsiness was almost irresistible, but to fall asleep would have meant the end. We capsized once more about 7 o'clock through the Italian turning light-headed. He had yielded to the temptation to drink salt water. In this accident we lost the tin of biscuits and the red flares we had hoped to use during the night. Then about 8 o'clock we saw the masthead lights of a steamer away to the eastward. At first I thought it was only a rising star, for there was very clear visibility that evening. Presently I could discern her side lights, which suggested that she was coming pretty nearly straight for us. When she came closer we started shouting in unison.... When the ship was half a mile away, she ported her helm, stopped her engines, and appeared to be listening. We knew then that, like other ships, she expected a ruse and dare not approach until she had made further investigations.

 

" After some time she came nearer and we heard a shout from her bridge. Then her steam whistle was blown. I dared to hope, though hope had almost died within us. We tried to explain that we were helpless and had no means of getting alongside. Eventually the captain of this ship — Captain Allen — which proved to be the Alfred Holt steamer Ning Chow, bound from China to London, very cleverly manoeuvred her alongside our wreckage. We were by this time like a cracked eggshell. Bow lines were passed round us by a plucky Russian and an English quartermaster, and we were eventually hoisted on board.

 

PARLIAMENTARY APPRECIATION

 

The captain and his officers did all they could for us. I should like to mention that it was Mr. Allan Maclean — a Maclean of Duart, Island of Mull — the third officer of the ship, who was the officer of the watch at the time, and he first appears to have heard our cries. His alertness and keen sense of hearing were our salvation. I consider it was a very courageous thing for the captain to stop for us, as he and his officers knew they were in the danger zone, and ran the risk of being torpedoed themselves while they were helping us. Once on board we began slowly to recover from the exposure and our injuries. We arrived at Malta at dawn on January 3rd. (1916) "

 

In a lesser degree, the harrowing experience of Lord Montagu and his companions were those of all other survivors, exposed as they were, in a drenched condition, for over thirty hours in open boats, while the fate of the others shocked the whole civilised world. As in the case of the Lusitania and of the many similar, if less conspicuous, outrages that were to follow, the traditions of the British Mercantile Marine were nobly exemplified, both in respect of decision in emergency and instant readiness for self-sacrifice.

 

It should be added that, although the Persia was armed with one gun for purposes of defence, this was not used, the Persia neither threatening to attack nor trying to escape from the submarine responsible for her loss, which was never seen by anybody on board, and from which no warning was received.

 

In replying to a number of questions in the House of Commons on March 8th, 1916, with reference to the sinking of the Persia, the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Walter Runciman) said:

 

" I would like to add a word of appreciation, in which I am sure the House would like to join me, of the coolness and courage of the passengers and crew and the discipline of the ship maintained in face of this sudden and appalling disaster. I am told that the captain, officers, and engineers of the Persia had spent their lives in the company's service, and all had unblemished records. The country is deeply indebted to those who are facing the perils to which our merchant ships are being subjected."

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

IN THE HANDS OF THE BEDOUINS

 

In the early days of 1916 a merchant ship on her way from the Spanish coast to India was destroyed by the enemy, and her officers and men left adrift in their small boats on a stormy sea 200 miles from the nearest land; the one boat which survived the fierce onslaught of the natural forces reached the North African coast at Ras Amana after six days. Events were to prove that the unfortunate men had only escaped from the merciless sea to be attacked by marauding Bedouins. Three men were killed, two were wounded, and ten others were carried away as prisoners by the Bedouins, to suffer in captivity for a period of nearly eight months.

 

The steamer Coquet (4,396 tons) put out from Torrevieja, on the Spanish coast, on the last day of the Old Year with 6,200 tons of salt, which she was to land at Rangoon. The ship was well found, the officers and men were competent, and until just before noon on January 4th the voyage proved uneventful. The master (Mr. Arnold C. B. Groom) had adopted the usual precautions. A seaman was on the lookout forward, the two lifeboats were slung out ready for lowering, and a man at the wheel kept his eyes skinned. The third officer was in charge on the bridge. Captain Groom was in the saloon when he heard a gunshot, and as he ran on deck there was another report, two shells passing across the steamer's bow. Though the breeze was only moderate, there was a heavy swell, and from the deck of the Coquet the captain was able to make out very indistinctly the form of a submarine on the port quarter, but several of the crew had noticed another submarine on the port bow. Confronted with two of the most highly developed scientific weapons for making war by sea, the captain instantly realised that his only course was to stop his engines and order the boats

 

CROSS-EXAMINATION

 

to be got ready. The Coquet was already losing way when the master hurriedly placed his confidential papers in the galley fire. When he next looked out over the tossing waters he saw that one of the submarines (the other having disappeared) was flying a signal to abandon ship immediately.

 

The master, with his officers and men, at once got into the two boats, and the submarine then opened a fusillade on the merchantman; eight shots were fired at the ship, but not a single one hit her. The enemy craft drew in closer and ordered the boats to proceed alongside. " This was a dangerous proceeding," Captain Groom afterwards recorded, " as the submarine's deck was just awash and there was a big swell." At any moment the frail boats might have been dashed to pieces, and as it was they suffered considerable injury, which afterwards contributed to the sufferings of the survivors of this outrage on the high seas. Captain Groom was ordered on board the submarine, to discover that she was manned, in the main, by officers and men who were wearing Austrian uniform.

 

A boarding party, armed with revolvers and cutlasses, got into the two boats and they were ordered to return to the Coquet. All hands were given twenty minutes in which to collect what they wanted to take with them. At the same time the captors ransacked the ship and lowered one of the small boats, in readiness to carry away them and their loot. When they had got all they wanted, they ordered the two lifeboats to return to the submarine, set two time-fuse bombs under water abreast Nos. 1 and 2 holds of the merchant man, and left the ship themselves. Shortly afterwards there were two explosions, and the ship settled down by the head. Within four or five minutes the Coquet lifted her stern high in the air, something hit the whistle lanyard, and with a pitiful scream the Coquet disappeared.

 

During these proceedings Captain Groom had been under close cross-examination by the commander of the submarine, who spoke passable English. He was plied with questions as to the progress of the war, but managed to parry the inquiries, probably conveying the impression that he was not a very intelligent officer of the British Mercantile Marine. The one-sided conversation was still in progress when the two lifeboats returned, the men vigorously using buckets to bale out the water which was finding its way into the injured craft. Captain Groom pointed out to the commander of the enemy submarine that the bilge planks of both boats had most likely been sprung while they were alongside his awash deck. " I told him it was nothing short of murder to send thirty-one men away like that, in the middle of winter and so far from land. He laughed and said he would save the next ship and send her to look for us."

 

The thought that these unfortunate mariners were about to be cast adrift on the wide expanse of the heaving seas of the Mediterranean must have seemed to Captain Groom demoniacal. The captors, however, were in no mood for mercy. As soon as the boats were alongside, they searched them for anything appealing to their fancy, taking chronometers, sextants, and charts, and every scrap of paper they could find, including the master's "account of wages." Captain Groom was then directed to take his place in one of the boats, and the submarine made off, having added a fresh page to the record of inhumanity by sea which was being compiled by the men to whom the prosecution of the submarine campaign had been entrusted.

 

 

 

Left in an Open Boat

 

Only those who are familiar with the Mediterranean in its angrier moods can appreciate the feelings of the master of the Coquet as he looked over the heaving waters and realised how much depended upon his own personal courage, seamanlike skill, and tempered judgment. The nearest land was 200 miles distant. What hope was there that the two boats, with their load of thirty-one men, could reach it?

 

" As we were well to the northward," he has stated, " I deemed it wisest to steer south (especially as the wind was freshening from the north to north-north-west), as we should then be running right across all the tracks of the steamers between Port Said and Alexandria and Malta. We ran so until nearly dark, when a steamer was sighted. We saw her hull. The mate's boat, which was a good bit nearer to her than we were, showed three red flares, and we showed one, but if she saw them — and I don't see how she could have failed to do so if any lookout at all were being kept — she took no notice of us. The

 

SIX DAYS IN OPEN BOATS

 

sea was getting too dangerous to sail any longer, so mast and sail were taken down and sea anchor put out; the latter, although of ' B.O.T.' dimensions, proved very inefficient as regards keeping the boat head on to the sea; latterly we used the mast instead. We were very soon all wet through, and remained so practically for the next six days (the whole of the time we were in the boat).

 

" Heavy weather, with a cold northerly and westerly wind, continued all that night. ' Allowance ' of biscuits and water was started right away that night, viz., two and a half biscuits and two gills of water per man per day; latterly I increased the water allowance, finding it was not enough with so much salt spray about. All the able-bodied men had to take their turn at baling, two at a time; the steward, who firstly was old, and secondly ill, I made exempt from this work, also the four boys I had, who were very young, also seasick and somewhat frightened, I fancy. The boat was very overloaded with seventeen in it, and was ankle-deep in water, in spite of vigorous baling with the two buckets. The next day, the 5th, I got the carpenter to take out three of the watertight tanks on the side where the plank was split, and caulk it roughly from inside with bits of shirt; this stopped the leaking a little."

 

Throughout that day and the following night the weather continued stormy, and all hopes of being picked up by a passing steamer had been abandoned, when just before daylight on the 6th Captain Groom was encouraged by the sight of a dark object which was disclosed, away to the seaward, as his boat rose on the crest of the waves. It appeared and then disappeared, and at last he concluded that it might be a steamer creeping along with everything darkened, so he lighted a red flare. In reply a red flare duly appeared, and hopes ran high. But the signal which had given such joy proved to have been made from the mate's boat. There was consolation in company, but the chances of falling in with shipping were reduced if the two boats kept together, so as the mate drew in towards him. Captain Groom shouted out that he had better keep some distance away in order to increase the possibility of rescue. So the two boats drifted apart, and the mate and his companions were never seen again. What happened to them remains a matter of sad surmise.

 

" The weather got a little worse that night and we used the oil-bag with good effect in keeping the breaking seatops flat. No change on the day or night of the 7th; everybody chilled to the bone with that northerly wind blowing right through our saturated clothes; we all used to look forward to the daylight coming, in the hopes of seeing a little sun; but it was nearly always covered with clouds. Several of us had excruciating pains in the ankles, knees, and wrists; the poor little Italian boy was crying all one night with them in his sleep, and, of course, I could do absolutely nothing for him; I had them badly myself.

 

" In the early morning of the 8th the weather moderated somewhat, and I decided to set sail and make for the African coast. I reckoned that we had drifted across all the steamer tracks by this time, and with the sea then running it would have been entirely out of the question to try and sail back over them again. So we steered south again, and made fairly good weather of it. During the day the wind ' backed ' to west-north-west. This did not make things any more comfortable; however, we continued on our course.

 

" During the day of the 9th the wind ' backed ' still more, and during the rest of the day and that night I was only able to make south-east instead of south course. However, just after midnight, I made out land to the southward, and just then the wind started to freshen considerably and shifted to the south. Such a bad and dangerous short sea rose that I had to take in the sail (I had tried reefing it at first), and got the mast and a couple of oars out as a sea anchor; such a disappointment when land was so near and our water so low, but there was nothing else for it. About 5 a.m. the wind moderated a little, also the sea; so we set our sail again and started to battle against a nearly dead head wind; a very hopeless job in a steamer's lifeboat with a ' regulation ' lug (sail). We slowly banged and punched on a diagonal course for the shore all day, and then, as we got nearer, the wind fell lighter and lighter, and this nasty lumpy swell still in evidence! "

 

A NIGHT OF MISERY

 

Land was in sight, but could they reach it in the calm which had succeeded the high winds? The men were exhausted owing to the successive days of exposure and the absence of nourishing food. It was with difficulty that some handled the oars, while others continued to bale out the water; but at last the boat crept into a little bay, with houses dimly discernible in the background. The boat was nearly swamped on two occasions, but at last everybody got ashore and the boat was made safe for the night.

 

What a night of misery it proved to these unhappy men, after six days of indescribable suffering in their little boat! Captain Groom has left us the simple but harrowing narrative of their experiences:

 

" We slept on the sands that night, after having slaked our thirst with some well water and eaten a quantity of limpets from the rocks with our biscuits. There were a quantity of cave-dwellings around the bay; but they were all so damp and smelly that we deemed it wiser to sleep in the open on the sandy beach, thinking that the sand would have retained some of the sun's heat. This conjecture proved faulty, however; there was a chill dampness which struck up through the sand, and, having only our wet clothes to cover us, we woke up chilled through and through, with every bone aching; we slept, owing to the fact that it was the first opportunity we had had of sleeping since leaving the ship. The buildings we had seen from the sea proved to be long-deserted ruins, and there was no sign of life anyywhere. The two engineers, the second mate, and I kept watch by turns during the night."

 

On the following morning, as the light was breaking, Captain Groom reviewed the situation — a merchant officer without a ship, marooned on the inhospitable shores of the African continent. He came to the conclusion that, as there was plenty of water, as well as shellfish, with which life could be supported, it would be unwise to stir until he knew exactly where he was and the direction in which the nearest port lay, at which he could obtain succour for himself and his men. There was little or no wind, so if the boat was to be employed in a reconnoitring expedition it would be necessary to use the oars. Neither the master nor his companions, completely exhausted by the late ordeal, were tempted to reembark with this prospect. So after breakfast Captain Groom set out with three men to ascertain what their surroundings were like, hoping that, perchance, they might discover some civilised human habitation.

 

" It was very bad walking, sometimes rough, muddy ground, strewn with big stones, and hills with ankle-deep sand, etc. We felt it terribly owing to having been cramped up in the boat so long and deprived of the use of our legs. We plodded on until about noon without seeing anything that we wanted, and were just giving up hopes when a very tall Arab appeared. He came back to the camp with us. One of the firemen, a Greek, could speak Arabic, and when it was made known to the Arab what we wanted he wanted us to get into the boat then and there and he would pilot us to the nearest port. This, alas! was impossible. When I left in the morning I had told the second mate to get the boat properly baled out, and, if possible, list her over so that the carpenter could make a better job of stopping the leak. He tried to do all this, but with all balers at work they could make no impression on the amount of water in the boat; it came in as fast as they baled it out. The keel had evidently been set up, as the planks each side of it were badly broken, and entirely beyond any repair that we could do to them. So the project was put an end to. The Arab suggested that I should go with him to the nearest town on foot; this I could not do, as I was utterly done up with the six or seven hours' walking that day; but I eventually sent two Greek firemen with him (one spoke Italian and the other Arabic), and told them to try and get some boats to take us out of this as soon as possible."

 

With the departure of these two men another chapter in the experiences of the remnant of the crew of the steamship Coquet opened.

 

" That night the rest of us — fifteen — slept in one of the cave-dwellings with a big wood fire in the centre; we had dried our clothes somewhat during the day and

 

THE " GENTLE " BEDOUIN

 

the fire helped to keep us warm during the night; the floor, however, was very hard and damp. After ' breakfast ' we began looking out longingly for signs of a boat coming; some of us had a wash in a muddy river-bed. I was just going off to this pool about 9,45 a.m., thinking to have a bathe, when we were all surprised by several bullets whizzing round us. On looking, we found that they came from two Arabs on a hill some distance inland, who, between shooting at us, were dancing wildly and laughing and yelling. Thinking they were two Arab boys who had got hold of rifles somehow and were just amusing themselves, I told our people to take cover, which we did in a deep trench formed by the ruins of some old building, right at the water's edge; in fact the sea came well up in the trench at one end. I could watch the two Arabs from where we were, and they soon went away, but I thought it wise to keep down there for a bit.

 

" Half an hour after that about fifteen Arabs, with rifles, suddenly appeared over the edge of our trench and, after giving a preliminary yell, began jabbering hard in Arabic at us. The two closest to me had their rifles all ready to fire. I held up my hands to indicate that I was unarmed; one of them still jabbered at me, but the other took careful aim at my head; I ducked forward and to one side a little at just about the same instant that he pulled the trigger, so the bullet took a track through the flesh across the back of my shoulders, instead of hitting my head. The Arab was only about six feet from me when he fired; the force of the shock knocked me backwards. I remember falling and my head hitting the sand. After that I must have lost consciousness, as when I awoke everything was quiet except for the groaning of the carpenter, who was rolling between me and the edge of the water, about six feet. I found he was horribly mutilated, but still alive. He asked me to drag him away from the sea; I tried to, but he was a big man and my wound was very painful. A little way out in the water the steward was floating, face downwards; whether he was shot or drowned, or both, I do not know. Farther up the beach the little Italian messroom boy was lying dead. I could see nothing of anybody else, and was afraid to go out of the trench, thinking that if the Bedouins saw me alive they would come back to finish me off."

 

It must have seemed to this courageous and hardly tried merchant officer that he was doomed to die on this sandy beach, either from exposure or by the hands of the Arabs if they chanced to return. His sole companion was apparently the carpenter, to whom he gave drinks of water from a bucket, which they had brought to the trench, in the hope of alleviating his agony. At last a patch of smoke appeared on the horizon, and then the outline of a small steamer appeared and Captain Groom realised that help was at last to hand. The vessel was flying the Italian flag. She had sailed from Ania promptly in response to the appeals of the two Greek firemen. Could she arrive before the Bedouins returned?

 

" When she headed into the bay and her boat was coming ashore, I came out from the trench. There was not a sign of the Bedouins or the rest of our people, except a sailor named Lord, who was lying on the sand some distance from the trench most brutally wounded by both bullet and bayonet. He said that the others, ten of them, had been carried off as prisoners by the Bedouins, after having had everything of any value taken off them: they were taking him also, but he thinks they thought that he was so wounded that he would be a hindrance to them, and so tried to finish him off on the spot and left him for dead.

 

" When the boat landed, the commander of the Fort of Marsa Susa came ashore with a party of his Arab soldiers, who quickly ran to the tops of the nearest hills to look for the Bedouins, but they had had too long a time and had got out of sight. The soldiers then made a thorough search in the vicinity, but found no trace of the Bedouins or their captives. The commander of the Fort of Marsa Susa then took us aboard the little steamer, also the bodies of the steward and messroom boy, and our wounds were washed and bandaged as well as was possible. The carpenter died just as we were starting to wash his wounds."

 

What had happened to the men whom the Bedouins had carried off? The captors had lined up the survivors of the seamen, taken from them everything of value which they possessed, and then driven them off into the hills, using their bayonets and shouting vigorously. They

 

A TRYING MARCH

 

afterwards kept these unhappy men at the jog-trot for about an hour until they reached a valley, where they found, to their satisfaction, tiny pools of water among the rocks. The water was very lively with little hairy, red, crawling " bichos," but nevertheless the thirsty men were very thankful for it. After about a quarter of an hour's rest, the Bedouins set off again, and their prisoners were forced to imitate mountain goats all day until about 9 p.m., when the party came to a few caves which were being used as an encampment. There their captors brought them before a big, fat Arab, who appeared to be a chief. He could speak a little French, so some sort of a conversation was carried on through the Greek sailor. When this pow-wow came to an end after midnight, they were given a meal, consisting of boiled goats' flesh and very fresh, heavy bread. This was the first food they had had since eating a few limpets before the Bedouins attacked them,

 

" Early next morning, after a tiny glass of Turkish coffee," one of the party recorded afterwards, " we set off in a heavy downpour of rain, most of us on foot, but one of our party, who had a hole in his leg as the result of a bullet, was on a camel. As it was his first attempt at imitating a Camel Corps trooper, he was quite amusing to watch until he got used to the motion. I don't mean that he was sick or anything like that, but he was nearly off several times, which added to our mirth and his annoyance. At about noon we came to a lone tent, where we stopped for refreshments, which turned up at long last and proved to be a big, flat, round bowl of boiled rice, which we ate, sitting on our haunches in true Arab style, with our hands instead of spoons. When we had eaten as much of it as we could get down, which was not very much, as one can't eat much rice at the first sitting, our host threw in what appeared to be some bones with a little meat on them, which we sucked and gnawed at until there was no meat left. We learnt afterwards that these bones were goats' ribs."

 

A fresh move was begun after a short rest, and a three hours' trudge brought the party to another cave camp. As the Arab women were housed in the largest cave, which was the only one large enough to contain all the prisoners, they had to turn out, taking their goods and chattels with them. They left very comfortable sleeping-quarters, which the seamen were very glad to occupy, having been served with another meal of meat and rice.

 

" This journeying went on for another few days, until we came to quite a large native camp, where we were kept in the prison tent along with other malefactors for nearly a week. We thought we were very badly off then, but we found out later that that was the best time we had in all our sojourn.

 

" One day, the big sheikh whom we had met before came to us and told us that we were going to be taken to a big town by the sea and given clothes, boots, and all wearing apparel and revolvers, amongst other things, and were going to be sent away in a ship. We were very much elated, and followed him in high spirits for several days, stopping here for a meal and there for the night, until we fell in with a large gathering of people who seemed to be going on some pilgrimage. At last we emerged into a vast plain, with what we took to be a small town in the centre, to which we came, ushered in to the strains of martial music, including the ' British Grenadiers,' played by a brass band composed of Arabs, Turks, and Italian deserters."

 

After a time the men were led before Sidi Idris, the legitimate head of the Senussi tribes, and through the interpreters he asked them if they would like to be sent straight home or kept to the end of the war, to which they made the obvious answer. Next day they set off once more, mounted on camels, in company with a big caravan, and travelled all that day and for many subsequent days, sometimes with the caravan and sometimes by themselves under guard, until they came to an abandoned blockhouse, called Sklydeema, where they remained two days to rest.

 

" There a Turk took a fancy to my wrist-watch, which I had worn and kept going ever since the Coquet went down. He asked me what 1 wanted for it, and I told him eighty francs, so he gave me five to go on with. When I asked

 

ARRIVAL AT JEDABIA

 

him for the residue, he swore he had given me the fair price and I never got any more for it. I learnt afterwards that it stopped soon after he got it, so he sold it to one of Sidi Idris's stewards, whom I saw wearing it months after, but of course it was broken and of no use to him. We left one of our party, a fireman, in Sklydeema, who was dying of tetanus, induced by a bad bullet wound in his arm. He died two days after we left."

 

After another week's travelling these harried seamen came to their final lodgment at Jedabia. They arrived there on the evening of February 4th, exactly a month after they had left the sinking Coquet.

 

" We were first housed in a room with four walls, a roof, and a concrete floor, and were quite well looked after for a few days. A party of Italian prisoners were brought in on the fourth day, and that evening we were all put together in a compound. Our party, comprising twenty-three men, were lodged in another hut facing us across the courtyard. Of course we got into communication, as one of the Italians spoke French very well, and we could understand that. They asked us if we had been made to do any work, and were surprised to hear that we had not. Next day, however, an Arab guard came and took us all out to work together, and that was the beginning of our troubles.

 

" That same evening two Italians prevailed upon our Greek sailor to try to escape, to which he agreed. So about midnight they all climbed the wall of the compound, which was right on the outskirts of the fortified blockhouse of Jedabia. They climbed to the top all right, with much puffing and blowing, and the first man to drop down on the other side fell on some rusty tins and rubbish, making a frightful row, and we all thought that the whole lot would be caught, but nothing stirred, so they set off on foot. Of course the next day the Arabs discovered the escape, and some of them set off in pursuit on fast racing camels, and soon came up to the fugitives and brought them back.

 

" Then all we prisoners, British and Italian, were lined up and given a lecture by the Commandant of Jedabia upon the evils of trying to escape. He asked who was the instigator of the attempt, and all the blame was put on the poor Greek sailor. The two Italians were given twenty lashes with the kurbash and the Greek was given fifty lashes and condemned to be chained to a six-foot chain pegged into the ground for two months, and he was also handcuffed. Whenever he wanted to move about, the second mate had to take a turn round his (the Greek's) neck with the chain and keep hold of the peg, and peg him up securely again when he came back. The Commandant also warned us that the next person or persons attempting to escape would, if caught, be shot.

 

" Soon after this we had to make a kind of room of corrugated iron at one end of a demolished barrack. I must mention that Jedabia was an Italian block-house, or fort, which the garrison had to evacuate and which they demolished with dynamite as far as possible before they did so. When we had finished our new prison, we moved into it, and a guard of six Arabs, under an effendi, was posted; they were housed in a small species of dug-out right alongside the only exit from the prison yard.

 

" From now on until the end of July we lived, fed, and had our being in this corrugated-iron room, and our duties became more or less regular. At sunrise the effendi (captain) of the guard would beat on the iron door with his kurbash (whip) and repeat the summons to rise and get to work, and we would all troop out, except the sick or exempted ones. Our jobs were various, but they all had to do with rebuilding Jedabia. Some mixed mortar; others got big and little stones; others again assisted the native masons and bricklayers.

 

" For a month or so all our food was cooked for us by Arabs belonging to Sidi Idris's retinue of servants, and at noon one of us was told to go and get the food and the rest went home. Our food consisted, for the most part, of boiled goats' meat and rice that had been boiled in the soup, which was very good, but there was never enough of that. After about two hours' siesta, we were led out again and continued our various labours till sunset, when another meal was provided of the same character, after which we usually went to bed. Our beds consisted of grass mats spread over the earthen floor, with a conveniently shaped stone for a pillow, and our covering was a number of date sacks

 

TREATMENT IN JEDABIA

 

made of camel's hair, sewn together. We had to sleep very close together to keep warm for the first few months, as the nights were very cold; in fact, it was always pretty chilly at night time.

 

" We saw many instances of the Arab's love of pomp and show when any notability came into Jedabia. Sidi Idris came in one evening shortly after we were installed in our permanent prison. The whole population turned out to watch the procession of gorgeously dressed sheikhs, riding on beautifully caparisoned Arab horses, whose saddles and bridles had gold buckles, etc., with stirrup's of gold. One morning in April we were surprised to see small European tents and camp equipment of green canvas and white men moving amongst them. We learnt that these were some German officers, who had just landed on the coast fifteen miles away from a submarine. On further acquaintance they proved to be very agreeable, and expressed much sympathy at our plight. With them was one Nuri Bey, brother of Enver Bey, of Turkish Army fame. He, so we learnt, had managed to escape from the English and had found his way to Jedabia. The Germans used to give the second mate five francs per week for tobacco for our party, and Nuri used to give the same for tea.

 

" Towards the end of the Ramadan the Italians were all marched off to another block-house, called Jalo, which was eight days' journey farther to the southward, and where there was no permanent water supply and the conditions far worse than those at Jedabia. The day after their departure we did not have to go out to work, and Nuri Bey called us to his tent and presented us each with thirty francs Turkish, as, he explained, payment for work done for the Turkish Government. The same day a small parcel came through to us from the British Consul, which proved to contain money, cigarettes, and letters. Marvellous to relate, all the money and cigarettes came through intact, which speaks well for the power of Sidi Idris, who, I believe, knew that the parcel was coming.

 

" The next day an Italian deserter joined our party, which was the signal for us to go out to work again. However, it was not for very long, as two nights after his appearance we were sent for while he slept and were brought before some Egyptian potentates, who said that we were going to be sent home the next day. Next evening we were each given a complete outfit of Arab clothes, including a burnous and tarboosh. A crowd of camels having been brought round to us, we each mounted one and set off under the escort of four blackmen and arrived at an inhabited Italian block-house early next morning, where we received very kind treatment for two days, when we boarded a coasting steamer going to Bengazi. Here we were given a complete European outfit and entertained by the British Consul for ten days, when we took ship for Malta."

 

And thus, in due course, these seamen, after a series of adventures and trials suggesting that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, reached London on the morning of August 29th, seven months and twenty-five days from the sinking of the Coquet.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER X

 

THE MERCHANT SERVICE ON THE DEFENSIVE

 

The need for arming all merchant vessels in a great war at sea was foreseen in the year 1881 by the late Sir John Colomb, M.P., who had served at sea as an officer in the Royal Marine Artillery. In a lecture delivered at the Royal United Service Institution in May of that year he predicted

 

" that the exigencies of maritime war will necessitate our arming not merely a careful selection of the best, but every ocean-going British steamer. We must prepare in peace to give them, at home and abroad, armaments and trained instructors, and then on the declaration of war bid them follow their avocations and let our enemies know that we mean to carry on our sea trade ' in spite of their teeth,' under the banner, if you like, of ' Defence not Defiance.' "

 

Active steps were taken by the Admiralty in 1912, as described in Volume I of this history, to put a similar policy in practice on a small scale, but the vessels supplied with defensive armament in time of peace carried no ammunition. On August 5th, 1914, the Admiralty decided to make arrangements to place ammunition on board, and informed the Foreign Office as follows:

 

" In view of existing circumstances. My Lords have deemed it desirable to arrange for the ammunition for the Admiralty guns to be placed on board the ships as soon as opportunity offers. The names of the ships so supplied, with particulars as to their proposed destination and ports of call, will be communicated to the Secretary of State as soon as possible in each case. For the vessels so fitted, the authority to state that no ammunition is on board could no longer stand, but My Lords trust that in issuing instructions to the Diplomatic and Consular representatives on the point, directions may be included that every assistance should be afforded to the masters of ships so as to avoid or minimise inconvenience or delay."

 

On the same date the Board of Customs and Excise were notified to the same effect, and asked to do everything in their power to avoid inconvenience and delay. Arrangements were also made for the necessary order of a Secretary of State for explosives to be carried in emigrant ships, and the Board of Trade, in view of the fitting of cooled magazines to Admiralty specification, waived their pre-war objection to explosives being carried in passenger vessels. It is interesting to note that, out of the thousands of British merchant vessels which were subsequently armed without being fitted with proper magazines, not a single case of spontaneous combustion occurred amongst all the ammunition carried.

 

On September 3rd, 1914, the Government decided to abandon running defensively armed merchant ships to United States ports, without in any way waiving the principle involved. The Admiralty accepted the Foreign Secretary's view that the position must be reconsidered, and they were prepared to concur with him that, under protest and without surrendering the principle of international law on which they had acted, H.M. Ambassador should be instructed to inform the United States Government that, under the existing conditions, defensively armed merchant vessels would not be employed in trading with United States ports.

 

Between the outbreak of war and September 3rd, the date of the Government decision, ten large vessels, in addition to those already armed, had been selected by the Admiralty to receive defensive armament of 6-inch guns. These vessels were the Grampian and Scotian (Allen Line); the Montreal, Manitoba, and Montezuma (C.P.R.); the Arabic, Adriatic, and Baltic (White Star); and the Haverford and Merion (International Navigation Company). The armament of these vessels was either in place, or in process of being mounted, at the time, but they were then disarmed or work was suspended on them. Three of the ships armed before the war, the Idaho, Colorado, and Francisco, were also disarmed for the same reason.

 

DEFENSIVE ARMAMENT PROBLEMS

 

In January 1915 the developing menace of submarine attack wrought a revolution in the problem of defending merchant shipping at a time when the utmost pressure was being put on the armament firms for guns for the naval and military forces. On February 4th, 1915, the Germans issued the proclamation declaring certain waters to be a "war-zone," within which all merchant vessels would be destroyed. This action raised an imperative need for additional protection for British merchant shipping; but although the proclamation modified in detail the problem of defensive armament, the essential principles were unchanged. The origin of defensive armament was to enable merchant ships to defend themselves from the attacks of enemy armed merchantmen, improvised as raiders. The additional danger, after the proclamation, arose chiefly from the fact that submarines carrying guns could approach without being seen and disappear at will.

 

Even with a very light gun, a submarine could force an armed merchant ship to surrender, unless the merchantman could either outstrip the enemy or could be protected by an armed vessel. It was still the problem of a merchant ship attacked by a lightly armed raider of a different description. If the merchant ship could be armed, even lightly, the submarine would be faced with difficulties in attacking an unarmed enemy with a higher and steadier gun-platform and better facilities for observation. The merchant ship, it is true, presented a larger target, but a single hit on the submarine stood a good chance of sinking her, or of making it impossible for her to dive. Another advantage of defensive armament was that it prevented the submarine from approaching to close range, and it is not easy at long ranges to sink a merchant vessel by light gunfire. For such reasons the defensive armament of merchant ships necessitated an increase in the size and weight of armament carried by the submarine, in order to ensure superiority. This margin could only be obtained at the expense of other fighting qualities of the submarine, such as speed. It was not until 1916, when a year's experience had been obtained, that all these advantages were fully realised. Statistics showing the rapid extension of the policy of armament are given in the succeeding chapter, on training the Merchant Service to fight.

 

An explanation of the Admiralty policy of extending the defensive armament of merchant shipping in February 1915 was sent to shipowners in the following secret circular:

 

" It has been decided to arm defensively vessels engaged in local trade, with one 12-pounder gun aft for defence against submarine attack. The Admiralty will pay for the cost of mounting the guns, providing the magazines, and for any movements of the ships necessary for the work to be done. They will not pay any compensation for delay in resuming trade.

 

" A gun's crew of two men will be supplied by the Admiralty for each gun; these men will be paid by the company, the money being refunded by the Admiralty. The status of these ships will be the same as defensively armed merchantmen. They will not be commissioned and will fly the Red Ensign.

 

" About one-half of these ships will be selected from Admiralty chartered colliers and store-carriers running between east and west coasts and France. The remainder will be selected from local coast trades. The Admiralty will pay for replacement after the removal of the gun."

 

When, in April 1915, a few more guns were available, it was decided to extend the principle of defensive armament from vessels on coastal voyages to some of the larger classes of merchant ships engaged in oversea trade. A similar circular was then issued to shipowners, containing additional information about the method of transferring guns from one ship to another. As far as practicable, arrangements were made to prepare the vessels thus affected before they left the United Kingdom, or their terminal ports abroad, for receiving their guns. The general situation in July 1915 was that British vessels trading in the Mediterranean had at their disposal, at Gibraltar and Port Said, fifty-two guns of 4-7-inch calibre, which were embarked on entering the station and disembarked for the use of other vessels before leaving. Guns of the same calibre were mounted permanently in 8 colliers, 59 meat-carrying vessels trading with the Argentine, Australia, and New Zealand, and 9 supply ships and transports carrying military stores. Twelve-pounder guns of 12 cwt. or of 8 cwt. were mounted in coastal vessels

 

ADMIRALTY INSTRUCTIONS

 

trading around the coast of the United Kingdom and to ports in the North of France, and similar guns in collier transports and in transports with military stores. The system of armament was gradually extended, as guns and mountings became available by the methods subsequently described.

 

From the outset, the instructions issued to the masters of defensively armed vessels contained a clause to the effect that the guns were placed on board for defence, not for offence, and that they were intended as an effective help in the prosecution of the voyages, the main object in view.

 

On October 20th, 1915, the instructions were amplified. The defensive nature of the armament was further emphasised, and the following principles were laid down:

 

" The Status of Armed Merchant Ships

 

" (1) The right of the crew of a merchant vessel forcibly to resist visit and search, and to fight in self-defence, is well recognised in International Law, and is expressly admitted by the German Prize Regulations in an addendum issued in June 1914, at a time when it was known that numerous vessels were being armed in self-defence.

" (2) The armament is supplied solely for the purpose of resisting attack by an armed vessel of the enemy. It must not be used for any other purpose whatsoever.

" (3) An armed merchant vessel, therefore, must not in any circumstances interfere with or obstruct the free passage of other merchant vessels or fishing-craft, whether these are friendly, neutral, or hostile.

" (4) The status of a British armed merchant vessel cannot be changed upon the high seas."

 

" Rules to be Observed in the Exercise of the Right of Self-defence.

 

" (1) The master or officer in command is responsible for opening and ceasing fire.

" (2) Participation in armed resistance must be confined to persons acting under the orders of the master or officer in command.

" (3) Before opening fire the British colours must be hoisted.

" (4) Fire must not be opened or continued from a vessel which has stopped, hauled down her flag, or otherwise indicated her intention to surrender,

" (5) The expression ' armament ' in these instructions includes not only cannon, but also rifles and machine-guns where these are supplied.

" (6) The ammunition used in rifles and machine-guns must conform to Article 23, Hague Convention IV, 1907; that is to say, the bullets must be encased in nickel or other hard substance, and must not be split or cut in such a way as to cause them to expand or set up on striking a man. The use of explosive bullets is forbidden.

 

" Circumstances under which the Armament should he Employed

 

" (1) The armament is supplied for the purpose of defence only, and the object of the master should be to avoid action whenever possible.

" (2) Experience has shown that hostile submarines and aircraft have frequently attacked merchant vessels without warning. It is important, therefore, that craft of this description should not be allowed to approach to a short range, at which a torpedo or a bomb launched without notice would almost certainly take effect.

" British and Allied submarines and aircraft have orders not to approach merchant vessels. Consequently it may be presumed that any submarine or aircraft which deliberately approaches or pursues a merchant vessel does so with hostile intention. In such cases fire may be opened in self-defence in order to prevent the hostile craft closing to a range at which resistance to a sudden attack with bomb or torpedo would be impossible.

" (3) An armed merchant vessel proceeding to render assistance to the crew of a vessel in distress must not seek action with any hostile craft, though, if she herself is attacked while so doing, fire may be opened in self-defence.

" (4) It should be remembered that the flag is no guide to nationality. German submarines and armed merchant vessels have frequently employed British, Allied, or neutral colours in order to approach undetected. Though, however, the use of disguise and false colours in order to avoid

 

EXTENT OF DEFENSIVE ARMING

 

capture is a legitimate ruse de guerre, its adoption by defensively armed merchant ships may easily lead to misconception. Such vessels, therefore, are forbidden to adopt any form of disguise which might cause them to be mistaken for neutral ships."

 

These instructions were subsequently revised, amplified, and finally embodied in " War Instructions for Defensively Armed Merchant Ships."

 

At first, owing to the urgency of the menace to merchant shipping, it was necessary to supply merchant ships with such guns as could be obtained. Guns of eighteen different types, British, French, Russian, and Japanese, from 6-inch to 2-pounders, were issued in the first instance. This obviously led to great complications in ammunition supply and was a most undesirable system, but the only practicable one until sufficient guns of standard types could be procured. The matter became still more urgent when the Germans used more heavily armoured submarines, carrying heavier guns of 5-9-inch calibre; but it was not until September 1917 that sufficient British guns became available to enable the Admiralty to adopt a standard system of defensive armament.

 

When war broke out in August 1914, the service of defensively armed merchant ships was in the hands of three officers and about twelve other ranks; 747 officers and men were employed on shore duties in connection with defensively armed merchant ships on November 15th, 1918, and 11,537 as guns' crews for the ships — the increase reflecting the lengths to which this development was carried under the compelling influence of war. The policy was originally adopted, as we have seen, as a defence against surface craft, in view of information received that the Germans intended to arm their merchant ships as commerce raiders in time of war.

 

In February 1915 the U-boat campaign was launched against merchant shipping. By the middle of May in that year, 149 British merchant ships had been fitted with defensive armament. By November 1918 5,887 ships had been so fitted, and 1,684 of them had been lost, leaving a balance of 4,203. Of these, nearly 2,500 carried guns of 4-inch calibre or of larger size. By the date of the Armistice, 6,067 guns and 806 howitzers had been mounted in merchant ships.

 

On November 16th, 1918, when the Armistice was signed, 4,079 were afloat actually carrying armament. The following table shows the numbers of British merchant ships fitted for defensive armament that were afloat on different selected dates up to the end of 1915:

 

Date— 1915

No of ships fitted

May 14th 

149

June 25th

212

September 24th

219

November 6th

401

December 25th

766

 

After the frozen-meat vessels, the first ships to be armed defensively, as we have seen, were those engaged in coastal traffic, and proceeding from the Irish Channel round the South Coast of England to London. Very few guns were available at first, and only a small proportion of them could be spared for vessels on the East Coast, which was then comparatively safe. The Channel was not so dangerous as it became at a later period. This was the policy up to the middle of May 1915, when the fitting of the following lines was ordered:

 

Orient, Anchor, P. & O., British India, Anchor Brocklebank,

Clan, City, Hall, T. and J. Harrison, Blue Funnel (Holt Line).

 

Defensive armament saved a number of ships at this period, some by actual gunfire, some by moral effect; more guns were allocated as they became available, and more coastal craft were armed. At first there were not enough guns to send overseas, so all guns, by a system of transfer, were kept in the submarine zone, which was restricted at the outset, and the guns were transferred, as has been already stated, from one ship to another for the voyage. For ocean voyages one gun was then taken out of each of the thirty-seven frozen-meat ships originally armed, and transferred to others. In May 1915 some of these guns were sent out to Gibraltar and to Port Said, and in the following November to Dakar, to be mounted for the homeward voyage and replaced by returning ships, and this policy was subsequently applied to other overseas ports: Halifax, Sierra Leone, and Cape Town. The thirty-seven guns were thus made

 

PATRIOTISM OF SHIPOWNERS

 

to serve the requirements of a large number of vessels. In spite of certain mechanical difficulties, such as the designing of special deck-plates to suit both the seating and the gun when different natures of ordnance were being exchanged from one ship to another, the matter of supplying material was a comparatively simple one compared with training the Merchant Service to fight their ships and to handle the guns when attacked. The training of a sea-gunner in the Royal Navy in normal times occupies several months, and it is superimposed on a disciplinary training extending over many years. There was no time to apply such a system to merchant crews, but while skill in gunnery and facilities for enforcement of discipline were lacking in the Mercantile Marine, heroism was not wanting.

 

A special system of training the Merchant Service to fight their own ships when encountering submarines was established by the Admiralty in 1917. In the meanwhile tribute must be paid to the patriotism of shipowners who, in pre-war days, held out inducements to their officers to join the Royal Naval Reserve. The fruits of their efforts were apparent when the time arrived for extending the system of arming merchant ships as the submarine menace developed. For many years some companies, by cash allowances to their officers whilst undergoing drill, by giving permission to serve with the Navy for long periods (up to two years) at a stretch without loss of seniority, and by affording other facilities, were able to boast of a large number of R.N.R. officers. In July 1916 the Admiralty arranged for additional officers of the Mercantile Marine to undergo a short course of gunnery at the Naval Gunnery School at Chatham.

 

At first a few naval ratings were lent to fight the guns in the few merchant ships that could be supplied with armament. Two gunners, the majority being pensioners or Royal Fleet Reserve men of the Royal Marine Artillery and Infantry, were sent to each ship to carry out the duties requiring a special gunnery training, and to assist the ship's crew. These men actually joined the Merchant Service as part of the crew, and were paid by the shipowners concerned, and a small inspecting and training staff was established to superintend matters. By statistics previously given, we have seen that the number of defensively-armed merchant ships had risen from thirty-nine at the outbreak of war to 766 at the end of the year 1915; the numbers continually increased as guns became available, and from the following statistics it is easy to realise how history repeated itself, and why British merchant seamen, like their ancestors of old, were called upon to defend their own vessels from the King's enemies. The Royal and Merchant Navies, which had drifted apart during many years of peace on the high seas, were again knit together by the bond of defence against a common danger. The figures appended give the number of British merchant vessels afloat, fitted with defensive armament, on certain selected dates up to September 1916:

 

Date — 1916

No of defensively armed ships afloat

February 15th 

991

April 12th

1,109

September 18th

1,749

 

Apart from the question of gun armament, shipowners were recommended by the Admiralty from the earliest days of the war to provide their vessels with rifles for use against aircraft and submarines, and for the purpose of sinking any mines that might be sighted. Pistols were also recommended for use in emergencies. Special instructions bearing on this point were issued on April 26th, 1915. The right, under International Law, of resistance and of fighting in self-defence was explained in these instructions, which contained, amongst others, the following clauses:

 

" Participation in armed resistance should be confined to persons acting under the orders of the master or officer in command..,.

 

" The ammunition supplied for rifles and machineguns must conform to the requirements of Article 23, Hague Convention IV, 1907, that is to say, the bullets must be cased in nickel or other hard substance, and must not be split or cut in such a way as to cause them to expand or set up on striking a man....

 

" Masters of ships to which rifles are issued must exercise a proper control over their employment, and are responsible for opening and ceasing fire. Fire must not

 

DIFFICULTIES RAISED BY NEUTRALS

 

be opened from a vessel which has stopped, hauled down her flag, or otherwise indicated to the submarine her intention to surrender."

 

Other clauses of a general nature were similar in the instructions, specially issued on April 26th, 1915, for the use of small arms, to those issued on October 20th of the same year for defensive armament in general, as quoted in extenso above.

 

On May 31st, 1915, a special memorandum was issued to masters of transports carrying troops. This memorandum pointed out that heavy rifle or machine-gun fire would make it more difficult for a submarine to make a successful shot with a torpedo. If submerged, no injury would be done to her, but a good volume of fire falling just short of the periscope would make splashes, thus hampering an observer on board the submarine in seeing clearly through his periscope. It was enjoined that military officers should be in command of the men to control both rifle and machine-gun fire, and a military officer on watch should be in command of the troops on deck, but he should not order fire to be opened upon a hostile submarine or torpedo vessel without the previous assent of the master or his representative — the ship's officer of the watch. The use of field-guns was not recommended.

 

Such were the main features of the policy adopted up to the end of 1916 for employing guns, small arms, and machine-guns to enable British merchant ships to defend themselves from attack. They were supplemented, about the middle of 1916, by the supply of apparatus for the manufacture of smoke-screens to be used as an aid to escape. There remains the important question of the attitude of neutrals, without whose concurrence in the use of their harbours by defensively armed merchant shipping this policy would have lost much of its effect.

 

The right of merchant ships to carry defensive armament on the high seas is one of long standing, and this right has been admitted by the jurists of all nations. The subject is discussed exhaustively in a pamphlet entitled Defensively Armed Merchant Ships and Submarine Warfare. Owing, however, to difficulties raised by certain neutral countries to the entry of armed merchant ships into their ports, the Admiralty found it desirable to issue a special form of indemnification to owners of the defensively armed vessels, reading as follows:

 

" I am commanded by My Lords of the Admiralty to inform you that in consideration of your having, as arranged, fitted guns and mountings in your s.s., and of your carrying ammunition supplied by the Admiralty for the service of the same, for the purpose of providing for her defence in case of war, My Lords will keep you indemnified against all loss and expense by reason thereof to which you may be put."

 

Between August 7th and 11th, 1914, telegrams were sent to H.M. representatives at all the capitals in Europe and in North and South America directing them to point out, in the event of any question being raised as to the position of British armed merchantmen, that these vessels were armed solely for defence and could not be converted into warships on the high seas, because Great Britain did not admit the right of any Power to do this. Therefore, there could be no right on the part of any neutral Government to intern British armed merchantmen or to require them to land their guns, seeing that the neutral Government's duty in regard to belligerent vessels is limited solely to actual or potential warships.

 

The United States, on August 8th, 1914, issued instructions about the clearance of merchant ships belonging to belligerent Powers, but these instructions made no special mention of defensively armed ships. On August 21st the State Department intimated that each case would be dealt with on its merits, and that it would be a great help if the British Minister would give a written guarantee that these vessels were armed only in self-defence, and would never attack. This was agreed to. On September 1st a difficulty arose over the s.s. Adriatic, which was armed at the time with four guns, and was incorrectly believed to be proceeding to Halifax for troops; as well as over the s.s. Merion, which arrived at Philadelphia mounting four guns. The action taken on September 3rd by the British Government as a result, and its influence upon the defensive armament of British merchant shipping, have already been described. On September 19th, 1915, the United States Government issued detailed conditions governing

 

ATTITUDE OF THE UNITED STATES

 

the treatment of defensively armed merchant ships, the main purpose of which was to assimilate them completely to ordinary merchant vessels. Should any doubt arise as to the defensive character of the armament, the onus proba7idi was to fall on the masters and owners.

 

A considerable number of vessels, under these regulations, cleared from New York with their guns mounted aft, but in August 1915 the s.s. Waimana was held up at Newport News. She had been chartered for two voyages from the River Plate to Marseilles with meat and general cargo. One voyage had been completed, and she was proceeding from Marseilles to Buenos Aires on the second voyage via Newport News for coaling purposes. Her speed was moderate, and she was a trading vessel with only defensive armament of one 4-7-inch gun, which had been fitted in her in London in April 1915. Two naval ratings were included in her crew. She arrived at Newport News at 8 a.m. on August 26th, was ready to proceed after bunkering at noon on August 28th, but was detained by the action of the United States Government until September 22nd, and clearance was not given until her gun had been landed.

 

On March 25th, 1916, the United States Government published a further memorandum on the status of armed merchant vessels, considering the subject from two points of view: firstly, from that of a neutral when such vessels enter his ports; secondly, from the point of view of an enemy when they are on the high seas. The following summary was attached:

 

" The status of an armed merchant vessel as a warship in neutral waters may be determined, in the absence of documentary proof or conclusive evidence of previous aggressive conduct, by presumption derived from all the circumstances of the case.

 

" The status of such vessel as a warship on the high seas must be determined only by conclusive evidence of aggressive purpose, in the absence of which it is to be presumed that the vessel has a private and peaceable character, and it should be so treated by an enemy warship.

 

" In brief, a neutral Government may proceed upon the presumption that an armed merchant ship of belligerent nationality is armed for aggression, while a belligerent should proceed on the assumption that the vessel is armed for protection. Both of these presumptions may be overcome by evidence: the first by secondary or collateral evidence, since the fact to be established is negative in character; the second by primary and direct evidence, since the fact to be established is positive in character."

 

In the course of the memorandum it was clearly laid down as a principle that merchantmen of belligerent nationality, armed only for the purposes of protection against the enemy, were entitled to enter and leave neutral ports without hindrance in the course of legitimate trade, and that, as affecting the high seas, " Enemy merchant ships have the right to arm for purposes of self-protection." (Revised regulations were issued when the United States entered the war.)

 

Holland, from the outset, refused to admit such vessels to her ports, and this attitude was maintained until the Armistice was signed in November 1918, although it was pointed out that all other Governments were admitting ships so armed to their ports on the same footing as ordinary merchant ships.

 

Spain at an early stage admitted that merchant ships might carry guns without acquiring the character of ships of war, but nevertheless the Spanish Government raised difficulties from time to time. On May 31st, 1915, however, they issued a Decree requiring the master of an armed merchant ship to declare in writing that his vessel was destined exclusively for commerce, that she would not be transformed into a ship of war before returning to her own country, and that the arms and ammunition on board had been, and would be, employed only for the defence of the vessel if attacked. This arrangement was adhered to throughout the war, each difficulty as it arose being made the subject of diplomatic correspondence.

 

In Norway a working arrangement was come to. Armed ships did not visit her ports at first, but by 1916 it became necessary to reconsider the position in view of the increased activity of German submarines and the extended arming of the Merchant Service. (The new arrangement was not put into writing until November 1916, and more exhaustively in 1918.)

 

ATTITUDE OF SOUTH AMERICAN STATES

 

Other European countries made no objection, but some of the South American Republics raised difficulties. Uruguay, on August 7th, 1914, issued a decree which was considered satisfactory. Peru was not approached on the subject until later (May 1917). Chile made no objections, but in 1915 required the arrival of a defensively armed merchant ship to be notified beforehand to the Chilian Government. (This was cancelled in November 1918.) The Argentine Republic ordered defensively armed vessels to discharge ammunition before entering Buenos Aires or La Plata, and no armed merchantman was permitted to leave port within twenty-four hours of an enemy merchantman. (Even in normal times no merchant vessel was allowed to enter any Argentine port with ammunition on board.) Brazil, on September 5th, 1914, while not regarding armed merchant ships as privateers, saw certain objections, and suggested that the vast naval power of Great Britain could find other means of protecting her Mercantile Marine. Cuba, in April 1916, issued a special decree on the subject, much on the lines of the United States conditions of September 19th, 1915. (A brief memorandum of the attitude and requirements of various neutral countries was subsequently issued by the Admiralty.)

 

 

Such, in brief terms, were the measures taken by the Admiralty, up to the middle of 1916, to arm the Merchant Service for self-protection, and the steps taken by the British Government to ensure that vessels so protected would be able to proceed upon their lawful occasions with the necessary access to neutral harbours. The effect upon the Mercantile Marine itself was conspicuous. The line of demarcation between the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service was more closely marked on the eve of the war than at any previous date in our naval history. Each had its own functions to perform, and each performed them in its own way. That the two services would, or indeed could, co-operate closely in defeating the enemy at sea had not been seriously regarded by either. The masters and other officers of the Mercantile Marine, excepting those who belonged to the Royal Naval Reserve, would most certainly have resented any suggestion that they should pass under the tutelage of officers whom they regarded as belonging to an entirely distinct organisation, with which merchant seamen had little concern.

 

The officers of the Royal Navy, on the other hand, never contemplated in pre-war days the possibility of instructing their brethren of the Merchant Service in the best methods of defeating the enemy for themselves. Owing to the policy of supplying defensive armament to merchant ships, the relationship underwent a change under the influence of war conditions. The old barriers which had arisen during the long period of peace were gradually broken down, and naval and merchant seamen, with a new sympathy for each other, worked whole-heartedly together in the common cause. Without such a sentiment inspiring both services, little success could have attended the various courses which were first contemplated in 1916, established in 1917, and constantly developed in usefulness and interest until the conclusion of the war. The nation can contemplate with pride the splendid manner in which the officers and men of the British Merchant Service, old men well advanced in years as well as young men, strained every effort to fit themselves to meet the new and unexpected conditions with which they were confronted.

 
 

on to The Merchant Navy, Vol 2, Part 2 of 2

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revised 30/9/13


 

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