Naval History Homepage and Site Search

 

World War 1 at Sea - Contemporary Accounts

 

HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR - THE MERCHANT NAVY, Volume 3, Spring 1917 to November 1918 (Part 1 of 2)

by Archibald Hurd

 

Published by John Murray, London 1929

Standard tramp steamer dazzle painted (click to enlarge)

on to The Merchant Navy, Vol 3, 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.

 

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. III

 

 

BY ARCHIBALD HURD

 

 

London

John Murray, Albemarle Street, W

1929

 

WITH A FOREWORD BY H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES

MASTER OF THE MERCHANT NAVY AND FISHING FLEETS

 

 
 

CONTENTS

 

 

FOREWARD ...... pp. v-vii

 

 

PREFACE ...... pp. ix-xi

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (I) February - April, 1917

 

Germany orders unrestricted submarine warfare - Their estimated results of and submarines available for - U.S.A. declares war - The liner Laconia sunk - Losses during February - The sinking of the liner Alnwick Castle - Losses during March and April - The blackest month of the war – The sinking of the ambulance transports Lanfranc and Donegal - The liner Ballarat sunk - The sinking of the s.s. Terence pp. 1 - 33

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

THE THIRD WINTER OF PATROL WORK

 

The Auxiliary patrol - Activities of - The hunting flotillas - Work of decoy trawlers - Attacks on fishing craft - Work of the Milford Haven drifters - Rescue tugs - Attack on Dutch convoy - Boom defences - Defending the Dover Straits - Losses of fishing craft during March­ - The gallant Rodney II - Fine seamanship by the Dentaria - Raids on the Dover Straits - Protecting the fishing fleets - The armed yachts - Expermental convoys - Arrival of U.S. destroyers at Queenstown - Ocean raiders - Strength of Auxiliary Patrol - The Belgian barrage - The A.P. trawler Taranaki rams submarine - Gallant fight of the A.P. smack Nelson - Posthumous V.C. awarded to Skipper Thomas Crisp, R.N.R. - The end of the U.28 - The cruise of the U.151 - The shelling of Scarborough­ - The misfortunes of the tug Flying Falcon - The "fish" hydrophone - Scandinavian Convoy attacked - The Dover Straits - The destruction of the U.48 - Another attack on the Scandinavian Convoy - The French coal trade convoy - The UB.56 mined pp. 34 - 75

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

THE TENTH CRUISER SQUADRON (I) MARCH 1916­ - DECEMBER 1916

 

Admiral Tupper in command - Strength and disposition - White Sea Trade route - The Arlanza mined - The Iceland Patrol - Adventures of armed guard in Norwegian barque Pestalozzi - Running the blockade - Disposition of the Patrols - The fish oil trade - The Deutschland - C.-in-C.'s tribute to the squadron - Experiences of armed guards - German prize captured - Difficulties of intercepting raiders - The Wilson liner Eskimo captured - Work of the squadron during 1915 and 1916 - Extension of blockade measures . pp. 76 - 105

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE DEFENSIVE ARMING OF MERCHANT SHIPS

 

British and neutral policy - Tactical rules - Effects of arming - Rapid development - Ports for arming - Admiralty instructions as to screening - Types of ordnance - Idea armament - Howitzers - Bomb-throwers - Depth-charges - Smoke screens - Paravanes - Inspection staff and Admiralty instructions - Tactical policy - Position at end of war pp. 106 - 134

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

TRAINING THE MERCHANT SEAMEN TO FIGHT

 

Officer instructors - Inspection duties - Submarine menace courses­ - Gunnery - Crystal Palace - No age limit - Variety of ordnance - Effect of increasing efficiency - Paravane courses - The Goorkha's adventure - Total attendances at courses - Signal schools - Value of instruction pp. 135 - 163

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (II) MAY - JUNE 1917

 

Losses in May - The s.s. Feltria torpedoed - The sinking of the troopship Transylvania - Heavy loss of life - The sinking of the s.s. Locksley Hall - The s.s. Caspian's fight to a finish - The s.s. City of Corinth sunk off the Lizard - The ordeal of the s.s. Umaria and s.s. Clan Murray - The escape of the oiler San Ricardo - Losses in June - The sinking of the liner Southland - Sinkings in the Atlantic - Escape of the s.s. Holywell - Terrible experiences at sea - A Cunarder sinks a submarine - P & O liner Palma attacked in the Atlantic by two submarines - The escape of the s.s. Nitonian pp. 164 - 182

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

THE TENTH CRUISER SQUADRON (II) JANUARY 1917­ - DECEMBER 1917

 

The blockade of Germany - Difficulties of maintaining - U-boats in northern waters - Increasing danger from mines - Patrols and surface raiders - Strength of the squadron - German armed guard captured – Armed guard's adventure in s.s. Stralsund - The "war zone" and neutrals - Shortage of trawlers - A year's work - Allied shipping situation March, 1917 - United States and the blockade - Call for more destroyers - Methods of patrol and disposition of squadron, April, 1917 - Losses in the squadron - Success of escort work - Wireless communication in the squadron - Experiences of armed guards - Action with raider – British submarines in northern waters - The sinking of the Hilary - The Avenger and Otway sunk - Dearth of destroyers - Reduction of the squadron - The Hildebrand attacked - Loss of the Artois and Champagne - Break-up of the squadron - Vessels intercepted during 1917 pp. 183-211

 

 

(Part 2 of 2)

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

DAZZLE PAINTING

 

A war-time innovation - Range-finding at sea - Principles of – First experiment - Admiralty staff at Burlington House - Costs - Early stages­ - Differing opinions - Admiralty Committee on - Trials in Grand Fleet - Reports of British submarines - Enemy opinions - Statistical evidence - Allies adopt - Still experimental at end of war pp. 212 - 228

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

THE AUXILIARY PATROL

 

Minelaying and minesweeping - Mines destroyed to Feb. 1917 – End of UC.32 and UC.43 - The exploit of the Greenisland - Loss of UC.26 and UC.44 - The White Sea - The Otranto Straits - The Adriatic – Austrian cruiser raid on drifters - Mines off Salonica and Egypt - Action with U.49 - Patrol craft off Palestine - Home Waters - The Dover Patrol – The drifter Young Fred sinks UB.82 - Zeebrugge and Ostend – UB.85 surrenders to the drifter Coreopsis – U-boat losses - Belgian ports regained – U-boats recalled to North Sea - The last enemy minefield - Summary of results­ - The Otranto Straits - Total enemy submarine losses - The price pp. 229 - 264

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (III) JULY 1917 - NOVEMBER 1918

 

Losses in July and August 1917 - The sinking of the s.s. Matador­ - The escape of the s.s. Onitsha - A gruesome end - Heavy loss of life - The Belgian Prince - Enemy callousness - The Cunarder Volodia sunk in the Atlantic - Torpedoed in convoy - A five hours' duel - A running fight - Notable escapes - Losses in last quarter of 1917 - Another five hours' action - Fate of the s.s. Eskmere's crew - Convoy attacked in the Mediterranean - The sinking of the liner Apapa - More convoys attacked­ - The Cunarder Vinovia torpedoed - British merchant shipping losses - A five hours' chase - The torpedoing of the s.s. Tuscania - A submarine disguised as a drifter - A fine piece of searnanship - A sporting chance - Unknown heroes - Cast adrift for eight days - Losses in June 1918 – The Orduna sinks a U-boat - Losses in July 1918 - The White Star Liner Justicia sunk - The loss of the ambulance transport Warilda - Sunk on maiden voyage - Improvement in enemy behaviour - Losses in October and November 1918 pp.265 - 296

 

 

CHAPTER XI

 

THE SINKING OF HOSPITAL SHIPS

 

International Law - Shadows of coming events - German allegations - Inspection of Mauretania - The Anglia and Galeka mined - The loss of the Britannic and Braemar Castle - Berlin Declaration of 28th January, 1917 - British Government's reply of 5th October - The Glenart Castle damaged - The Asturias and Gloucester Castle torpedoed - The Salta mined - The Dover Castle sunk in the Mediterranean - The Goorkha damaged - Neutral inspection - The sinking of Rewa – Correspondence with German Government - The loss of the Glenart Castle – French assistance - Attack on the Guildford Castle - The Llandovery Castle sunk in the Atlantic - Heavy loss of life pp. 297 - 339

 

 

CHAPTER XII

 

MERCHANT SEAMEN PRISONERS

 

In German ports July, 1914-August 4th - Seizure of the s.s. Bury - Prison hulks - Physical ill-treatment - Captain E. Webb - List of camps and number of prisoners, July, 1917 - Ruhleben - Brandenburg - Cottbus - Sennelager - Case of William Savory - The "brick ordeal" - Hameln and Luebeck - Statement of Mr. J. S. Wickman - "Mad Harry" - Dulmen - Supplies from home - Relief organisations - Prisoners of war book scheme - Improved conditions - Treatment of cadets and apprentices - Government measures - In Austria - Hungary and Turkey - Compensation scheme pp. 340 - 364

 

 

CHAPTER XIII

 

THE FAILURE OF THE SUBMARINE

 

The silent pressure of sea power - Losses and new construction of British shipping - Defence problems - Success of the convoy system - The rich heritage of the war pp. 365 - 372

 

 

APPENDIX

 

A. United States Government Regulations for the Conduct of Armed Merchant Vessels pp. 373‑375

 

B. Analysis of Vessels Intercepted and Sent in by the Tenth Cruiser Squadron during 1916 and 1917 pp. 376‑377

 

C. Number and Gross Tonnage of British Merchant Vessels and Fishing Vessels Lost through Enemy Action during each month of the War And Number Of Lives Lost Pp. 378‑379

 

  

 

INDEX

(not included – you can use Search)

 

 


 

 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

 

H.R.H. The Prince of Wales ... Frontispiece

British Merchant Ship Torpedoed ... 26

The Auxiliary Patrol: Drifters and Trawlers in Dover Harbour ... 50

"Listening-in" on the Hydrophone ... 66

Dropping a Depth-Charge ...  122

An Effective Smoke Screen ... 124

Merchant Steamer with Paravanes Out ... 126

"Otters" in Action against Submarine Mines ... 127

Fishermen Drilling On Shore ...138

Tough Nuts ... 152

Torpedoed Merchantman on Fire ... 180

 

(Part 2 of 2)

 

Standard Tramp Steamer Dazzle Painted ... 224

The Loss of a British Merchant Ship ... 270

A German Submarine Stops a Sailing Ship ... 284

A Convoy Zig-Zagging in the Danger Zone ... 294

The Mercantile Marine Memorial on Tower Hill ... 372

 

 

MAPS

(not included)

 

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron - Intercepting Positions on 8th March, 1916, 11th December, 1916 - Positions to Intercept Raiders, 4th
June, 1916   ... 104

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron - Position of Ships on 21st January, 6th March, and 1st April, 1917 ... 210

 

 


 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

 

H.R.H. The Prince of Wales

 

As Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Meets, I welcome the opportunity offered me by Sir Archibald Hurd of contributing a few introductory remarks to the volume which completes the history, based on official documents, of the magnificent part played by British Merchantmen in the Great War. It has been my fortunate lot to be a world-wide traveller and I have encountered the British liner and tramp not only on every sea but in many a port in both hemispheres. The sight of the Red Ensign has, in these later days, given me a thrill of a very special kind, for that familiar piece of bunting can never fail to recall the wonderful record of our merchant seamen throughout the struggle of four and a half years.

 

The present volume raises the curtain on what I take to have been the climax of that vast drama - the enemy's plunge into unrestricted submarine warfare on our merchant shipping. Thus was provided the final test of a heroism and endurance unparalleled in history, and how magnificently our seamen responded to the test is to be found chronicled in these pages. To view that record in its proper perspective, it is well to recall those days at the very outbreak of war which abeady seem to some of us to be almost lost in the mists of time.

 

The participation of our seamen in the struggle began with the operations of the German raiders. There was nothing surprising or unprecedented in the destruction achieved by the Emden and other German cruisers and armed merchantmen in Eastern waters and elsewhere. Hostilities were conducted in harmony with principles laid down by international law, and, though many valuable ships were sunk, the toll was no greater than might have been expected, and not a single life of the captured crews was sacrificed. The British seaman recognised that nothing more was being asked of him than to accept the usual hazards of a naval conflict. It was a phase of the war, in short, in which the dictates of humanity were strictly regarded, and every reasonable consideration was shown to the passengers and crews of the vessels unlucky enough to be taken.

 

This phase, however, was short-lived. With the arrival on the scene of the submarine and the indiscriminate use of the mine, the whole position for the merchant seaman was changed. He found himself faced by hazards and perils such as he had never before experienced, or indeed had ever conceived as possible. With the intensification of the enemy's campaign, the British sailor, a non-combatant following an ordinarily peaceful avocation, saw himself directly involved in the whole frightful mechanism of war, whose grim operation, as I have said, reached its climax in the phase of unrestricted submarine attack recorded in detail in this third volume of the history.

 

Let us who are land-dwellers not mince words over this thing. It is the glory of our Merchant Navy, and will be so acclaimed by generations to come, that they faced without hesitation the tremendous odds and the frequent hazard of death, undaunted in spirit to the bitter end. Let us not forget, also, that had it been otherwise this country of ours must have perished.

 

One highly characteristic phase of the work of our Merchant Navy, described in this volume, is that covering the activities of the Auxiliary Patrol. I imagine the Auxiliary Patrol was one of the most striking, as it certainly was one of the most successful, of the many pieces of war­time improvisation which history will place to the credit of the British nation. It was born, as need hardly be recalled, out of those new conditions of submarine attack and indiscriminate mine raids to which I have referred, and it gradually evolved into a vast supplementary fleet.

 

Here was indeed a medley of small vessels - trawlers fresh from our fishing grounds, drifters, whalers, paddle-steamers so familiar to Channel excursionists, steam yachts so well known in the Solent, motor-launches and motor-boats. Their hazardous duties were as varied as their types. In their long hours of patrol they watched for and hunted German submarines; they searched for and dragged mines; they fought hostile aircraft; they con­trolled and examined millions of tons of shipping navigating the Narrow Seas; and in many other ways splendidly seconded the efforts of the Grand Fleet. Varied indeed these craft were in type, but their crews were animated by one heart and one spirit. As time went on, this collec­tion of ships was welded into a great disciplined service of 4,000 vessels with its operations extending as far north as the White Sea, to the Mediterranean and Aegean in the south, and westward to the West Indies. The Auxiliary Patrol was in its days of complete development manned by nearly 50,000 officers and men.

 

The figures representative of the full war effort of the merchant service as a whole would make staggering totals. Therein it was carrying on and even bettering the tradition of centuries. On Tower Hill a fitting and impressive memorial, bearing the names of the officers and men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who have no grave but the sea, and who died that this country might live, was unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen on December 12. It has been erected by the Governments of the peoples of the whole Empire as a tribute, to last for all time to these men's heroic services.

 

It has been said that two-thirds of the Elizabethan fleet which met so triumphantly the shock of the Spanish Armada were merchant vessels, and that the proportions of the force with which Drake "singed the King of Spain's beard" were much the same. The relations of the two great Services have altered since those days, but the Great War has served to prove once more that the Merchant Navy is as essential to-day as ever it was to the operations of the Royal Navy and to the safeguarding of the life of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

 

Edward P.

Master of the Merchant Navy

and Fishing Fleets.

 

 



 

PREFACE

 

The Prince of Wales has graciously written a Foreword to this final volume of the Official History describing the part which the merchant seamen and fishermen of this country took in the Great War, His Royal Highness not only pays tribute to their loyal and heroic services, but also passes in rapid review the varied character of the work which they performed at sea. It would be almost an impertinence to attempt to supplement his words of appreciation.

 

It is sufficient to state that the present volume covers the history of the Merchant Navy from the beginning of the unrestricted submarine campaign to the conclusion of hostilities. No attempt has been made to describe or analyse the strategical or tactical problems; these matters are dealt with in the other Official Histories. This volume is concerned only with the manner in which the un-covenanted seamen of this country confronted the final ordeal to which the enemy, in desperation, submitted them.

 

When, in the month of April 1917, British shipping of upwards of half a million tons was lost from all causes and vessels under all flags of 881,000 tons were sunk, it seemed as though the Allied cause might, after all, be defeated, as the Germans had foretold, by their mines and torpedoes, That this disaster was averted was due to two causes - the doggedness and courage of the officers and men of the sea services, naval and mercantile, and the persistence and ingenuity which were exhibited by the Admiralty in devising defensive and offensive measures and in per­fecting the convoy system. It was an especially bold, and, in some respects, dangerous expedient to bring all shipping under one control in order that it might be shepherded from port to port. Merchant officers, unused to "sailing in company," were required to keep station, but were doubtful as to their ability to do so.

 

The incomparable seamen of the Merchant Navy of all ranks and ratings, as these pages record, responded completely and nobly to every demand which was made upon them.

 

There was only one way in which to treat this subject in its many aspects, and that was to select episodes illus­trative of the main theme, or rather themes, to set out those incidents in their order of occurrence, to quote textually from the statements of masters and men wherever possible, and to reduce comment to a minimum, in order that the facts might stand out in their strongest possible outline. This history contains inevitably only a selection of such incidents. It has not been possible to describe every act of bravery, every loss, or every successful escape. If an attempt had been made to do anything like justice to the fine record of the men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets, not three, but many volumes would have been necessary. It has been possible only to extract from the official records such outstanding occurrences as would, when presented in proper sequence, convey to posterity an adequate conception of the signal services which these men rendered not only to this country, but to all the Allied countries during the Great War.

 

This history will have been written in vain if it does not show conclusively that, had it not been for the devotion, initiative, and hardihood of these merchant seamen and fishermen, the war fleets could not have fulfilled their mission, and the armies of the Allies, so widely distributed, would have failed in their purpose, not from lack of valour but from want of supplies of food and munitions. "An army," it has been said, "moves on its belly," but the army of an island country must necessarily move in ships to its place of action, and the unique characteristic of the Great War was the distances which armies and munitions had to be transported by sea in face of unparalleled dangers.

 

It was necessary, in one instance, to depart slightly from the general method of treatment. No such history would have been adequate if it had contained no reference to the work performed by the Tenth Cruiser Squadron which was associated with the Grand Fleet and became therefore a part of the Royal Navy. The duties of the Squadron were monotonous to a degree; stirring incidents rarely interrupted its routine of hardships; and to have dealt only with the few incidents which did occur would have done scant justice to the officers and men, drawn in the main from the Merchant Navy, whose fortitude and sense of duty enabled miracles to be performed. In justice to them, the military significance of the work which they performed has been lightly touched upon.

 

Nor was it possible to ignore the sinking of hospital ships in circumstances without parallel in former wars. Throughout the campaign of the enemy against men wounded in action or suffering from sickness, neither the seamen, the medical staffs, nor the nurses, women protected alike by the Red Cross and by the code of humanity, flinched from the ordeal.

 

A chapter is devoted to the sufferings of Merchant Sea­men who fell into the hands of the enemy while performing their duties afloat. It is well that posterity should be reminded that many officers and men of the Merchant Navy spent two or three, and in some cases four years of their lives behind the barbed wire of the prison camps in Germany. The majority of them were not only exposed to many indignities and wanton acts of cruelty, but were supplied with inadequate food and suffered hardships so barbarous in their character as to be almost unbelievable, were it not for the unimpeachable records which have been drawn upon for the purpose of writing this portion of the history. It is an act of justice that some record should be preserved of sufferings which cost many of these men their lives and left many others maimed and broken to the world.

 

It is impossible to part from this history without paying a tribute to the assistance which has been generously given by the Admiralty, and the Board of Trade, and in particular by the Secretary and Staff of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The com­pletion of the task of writing this history was delayed by illness and other unavoidable circumstances, and to Colonel E. Y. Daniel and Lieutenant-Commander A. Colquhoun Bell cordial thanks are especially due for the manner in which they co-operated to complete the task of several years.

 

Archibald Hurd.

January, 1929.

 

 

Note: Many of the U-boats claimed sunk or damaged in the following accounts were not confirmed post-war.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (I)

February‑April, 1917

 

ON January 81st, 1917, the German Emperor, in a message to the Chief of the Naval Staff, issued an order which changed the course of the war by sea and by land. "I command that the unrestricted U‑boat campaign shall begin on February 1st in full force." The Emperor was, by his decision, interpreting without doubt the will of the majority of the people of the German Empire, as well as reflecting the determination of the naval and military leaders. The Imperial Chancellor, impressed by the political dangers associated with this step, had opposed it as long as he could. He regarded submarine warfare, conducted without restraint, as "the last card," and he was convinced that the time had not come for playing it. It was an act of desperation, as Dr. Bethmann‑Hollweg realised. Even when overborne by the leaders of the fleet and army, he consented very unwillingly to the avowal of a change of policy, and, as events were to prove, his opposi­tion on grounds of political expediency was fully justified.

 

The Battle of Jutland had been fought and, in spite of the claim to victory which had been made in Germany in the hope of impressing neutrals, it was realised that the High Seas Fleet, with its crews showing increasing signs of disaffection, could do nothing to affect the issue of the war. The Allies had fought the armies of the Central Powers to a standstill; the hopes of the German military leaders had sunk to zero, and even Hindenburg confessed that "the position could hardly be worse." The economic blockade, maintained by the Allied naval forces with increasing rigour, was subjecting Germany her and con­sorts to a measure of constriction which was affecting the spirit of soldiers and sailors, as well as of the civil population.

 

As the year 1916 drew to a close, the naval and military leaders had met, and subsequently the Emperor presided over a conference, which was also attended by the Imperial Chancellor. The result was a foregone conclusion. "The people and the army," it was declared, "were crying out for the unrestricted U‑boat war." The High Naval Command urged that, although the political risks were not negligible, this intensification of the submarine war offered to Germany and her Allies "the one and only hope of victory," since the negotiations for peace ‑ of course on Germany's terms ‑ had failed, and confidence that Presi­dent Wilson would speedily intervene had disappeared. The flickering hopes which led to the decision to abandon all pretence of conducting the submarine campaign in accordance with Prize Law, were supported by the steady increase in the sinkings of merchant shipping which had occurred throughout the latter half of 1916. In June the world total had amounted to 108,855 tons, and in October, November, and December, when the submarine commanders increasingly ignored the Prize Law, it had mounted up to approximately 340,000 tons a month, while in January 1917 there was a further advance to 368,521 tons ‑ almost entirely due to submarines and mines.

 

The downfall of the Asquith administration, in associa­tion with these successes at sea, led to the belief that the declaration of an intensive campaign would have important psychological effects on all the Allied nations, and would be regarded by neutrals as a sign that Germany, conscious of the risks associated with the decision, was so strong that she could afford to take them. Admiral von Holtzen­dorff, Chief of the Naval Staff, confidently predicted that over 4,000,000 tons of shipping, including 3,000,000 tons sunk, would be lost to Great Britain in five months, and that she would in consequence be brought to her knees. In face of the Emperor's attitude, supported by the leaders of the army and navy, the Chancellor, at last, conceded that the prospects for unrestricted submarine warfare were "very favourable." On that assumption, the Emperor's order for the intensive campaign to begin was put into effect, and the momentous announcement of the last day of January followed. Ships carrying passengers

 

UNITED STATES BREAKS WITH GERMANY

 

as well as ordinary cargo vessels came forthwith under the ban. Hopes ran high that terror would speedily spread among the crews of neutral shipping, which had become essential to the efficient conduct of the war by the Allies, and that tonnage would be laid up in increasing volume, even if British seamen were not similarly intimidated.

 

The advice which the German Naval Staff had pressed upon the Emperor and all concerned with the direction of policy was based upon the knowledge that 111 sub­marines would be available for prosecuting the intensive submarine campaign. Experience had shown, however, that only about one‑third of the vessels could be maintained at sea at any one time. Two out of every three boats were always "resting," either undergoing repairs or giving leave to their hard‑pressed crews. Consequently, of the 111 submarines only about 38 would be available for service at sea on February 1st, but this number was held to be sufficient for a beginning; 23 submarines were operating in the North Sea, 5 in the Adriatic, 9 from the bases on the Flanders coast, while one was working from Constantinople. The Germans had put in hand a large programme of construction and the Naval Staff were satisfied that they would not only be able to make good any losses which might be sustained, but would rapidly increase the number operat­ing at sea. They under‑estimated, however, as subsequent months were to reveal, the increasing efficiency of the defensive measures which had been adopted by the British naval authorities, and copied by the French and Italians. But the most serious error of judgment of which they were convicted was as to the influence which the German declaration would have upon the United States, and the importance of the assistance which the Americans, in spite of the great distance across the Atlantic, would render the Allies, not only in the joint conduct of the war on land, but in the operations by sea.

 

The first round in the new struggle for the command of the sea went to the Allies, for immediately the German declaration reached Washington diplomatic relations with Berlin were severed, and this was followed in April by a declaration of war. Consequently Germany embarked upon her new and desperate course with the knowledge that, whatever effect her declaration might have on other countries, it had definitely arrayed against her the American people with their vast resources of man power. It was, however, some time before America could intervene in the struggle, and meanwhile the main responsibility of counter­ing the enemy's efforts to obtain dominion of the sea fell upon the British Navy and the British Mercantile Marine. Though the blow had not been unexpected, the date when the Germans would put their plans into operation had remained uncertain, and it was consequently difficult for the British naval authorities to apportion, in advance of the opening of the intensive submarine campaign, the resources which the situation might demand. The naval authorities were, moreover, embarrassed by the urgent claims of the new army, as well as the Air Force, on the war‑mobilised industries of the country, and fresh material was also required for the development of a new offensive on the Western front.

 

In these circumstances the intensive submarine campaign opened on February 1st when the little steamer Essonite (589 tons) was torpedoed without warning three miles N.N.W. from Trevose Head, with the loss of ten lives. On the following day the sailing vessel Isle of Arran (1,918 tons) was captured and sunk 100 miles S. from the Old Head of Kinsale. From this time onward the Germans pressed the British Mercantile Marine hard, and the losses from day to day began to mount up in alarming fashion. On February 3rd the ruthlessness with which the campaign was to be conducted was illustrated by the fate of the steamer Eavestone (1,858 tons). This vessel was on her way to Gibraltar when, 95 miles W. from the Fastnet, she sighted a submarine just before noon. The enemy opened fire at 3,000 yards, evidently in order to find the range. In this he soon succeeded, and firing continued at the rate of a shot a minute. The steamer was repeatedly struck; even when the crew were taking to the boats firing was not suspended. When the boats had dropped astern of the ship, the submarine turned her gun upon them at short range, firing three shrapnel shells. The third shot killed outright the master, the steward, and the donkeyman, besides wounding two able seamen and the second officer. The incident showed that, when reference had been made by the enemy to the "unrestricted" character of the campaign, it was intended to convey to the world that the Germans would pay no regard, either to the regulations

 

EARLY SINKINGS

 

of the Prize Law, or to the ordinary dictates of humanity. Shortly after this deliberate slaughter of defenceless seamen, the first mate of the Eavestone was called on board the submarine and closely questioned. No enquiries were made as to the losses sustained, and no suggestion was made that help might be given to the wounded. The survivors of the crew, with their dead, were left to the mercy of the sea. Fortunately the boats were picked up the same night by the Norwegian barque Regina.

 

Within the next few days upwards of a dozen other ships were sunk off the Fastnet, some of them without warning, while in other cases the vessels were captured before being destroyed, and prisoners were taken. The biggest of these vessels was the Anchor liner California (8,669 tons), which was passing the Fastnet on her way from New York, when she was sunk out of hand, thirteen of her passengers as well as thirty‑two of the crew being drowned. At this period another submarine was active off Spurn Point. Late at night she chased the steamer Hanna Larsen (1,311 tons) and eventually captured her. As soon as fire was opened on the Hanna Larsen, the master (Mr. Thomas Reid) stopped the ship, ordered full speed astern, and had the boats prepared for lowering. Four shots in all had been fired, and then, as nothing could be seen of the enemy, Captain Reid decided to resume his voyage. A few minutes afterwards another shot was fired from somewhere on the starboard quarter, and the engines were again stopped. Firing continued, the vessel being hit in several places, and the steam‑pipe having apparently been severed, the bridge was enveloped in steam. Under continuous fire, the crew took to the boats, four men being wounded during the operation. Then at last the enemy appeared, bombs were placed in the Hanna Larsen, the master and chief engineer were taken prisoners, and the rest of the crew were left to fend for themselves.

 

The experiences of Captain Reid and the chief engineer on board the submarine, which proved to be the UC.39, supplied testimony to the spirit in which the campaign was being prosecuted by the enemy. The following morning the submarine sighted the Norwegian steamship Ida. Immediately fire was opened, and the merchant ship stopped. The German gunlayer, on inquiring whether he should cease firing, was told by the commander to carry on. Altogether no fewer than twenty‑five rounds were discharged. When at last fire stopped, one of the Ida's boats came alongside the submarine and reported that two men had been left on board the steamer. A German officer and three men were sent on board and found the mate and a steward lying dead on the deck, where they had been killed while engaged in lowering the boats. The Ida was forthwith sunk by bombs. Two hours later the UC.39 opened fire on a steamer and a trawler, but on diving to attack lost them in the mist. When she next came to the surface, intending to sink another steamer which had been sighted, her fire, to the surprise of all on board, was answered by a destroyer. She dived, but not quickly enough, for a depth charge struck her, with the result that water poured into her conning tower and control room, causing a panic among the crew. The situation was critical. The commander had no alternative but to rise to the surface, where he came immediately under fire of the destroyer. He was climbing out of the conning tower hatch, apparently with the intention of surrendering, when he was killed by a shell. The submarine was still under way, and the intention of those on board was still uncertain, so the destroyer con­tinued firing, with the result that the engineer, who had come on deck with the sub‑lieutenant, was wounded.

 

All this time Captain Reid, in company with his chief engineer, was down below, listening to what was happening on deck. He came to the conclusion that he had better show himself and so he went on deck and, waving a white handkerchief, shouted: "We are two Britishers taken prisoners last night." The scene on board the submarine was a remarkable one; those men of the submarine's crew who had not jumped overboard or been killed during the encounter, were standing along the deck with their hands up, while a short distance away lay the British destroyer. In this wise, the career of the UC.39 came to an end, seventeen of the survivors of her crew being taken prisoners. In due course Captain Reid and his companion, none the worse for their experiences, were landed at Immingham. Even at this early date of the intensive campaign, the German seamen, as the master of the Hanna Larsen afterwards related, were far from confident

 

LOSS OF "LACONIA"

 

of the result of the adventure upon which the German Government had entered, and the survivors were not 10th to find safety on board the British destroyer even as prisoners.

 

Day by day throughout the month of February the Germans continued to take more toll of the British mercan­tile marine, as well as of neutral shipping. The heaviest loss of life occurred when the Clan liner Clan Farquhar (5,858 tons) was sunk without warning 80 miles N. from Ben Ghazi. No fewer than forty‑nine lives were lost. The Rosalie (4,237 tons), which like the Clan Farquhar was defensively armed, went down off the Algerian coast, the master and twenty of the crew, out of a total complement of thirty, being drowned. But the outstanding event of these days of ordeal to which all who hazarded their lives at sea were exposed, was the sinking of the Cunard liner Laconia (18,099 tons). She was 160 miles N.W. by W. from Fastnet when at 9.20 on the night of February 25th an explosion occurred. Everything which human in­genuity and vigilance could suggest to ensure the safety of the seventy‑seven passengers and the crew, numbering 217, had already been done. As soon as Captain W. R. D. Irvine realised that his ship had been torpedoed, he ordered the boats to be manned; at the same time he took way off the ship and an S.O.S. signal was sent out. Good order prevailed, passengers and crew taking to the boats in accordance with the routine which had been rehearsed earlier in the voyage. The Laconia was already sinking, when a second torpedo struck her on the star­board side, and, within less than an hour from the time of the first explosion, the liner had sunk out of sight. What did the ship matter? The tragedy consisted in the sacrifice of twelve lives, and the circumstances in which they had been lost.

 

By the end of this first month of the unrestricted cam­paign no fewer than 86 British ships of a tonnage of 256,394 had been destroyed by submarines, and 355 seafarers had been required to surrender their lives. The action of enemy cruisers and torpedo boats and mines brought the total up to 105 ships of 313,486 tons and the death roll to 402. Neutrals had also suffered heavily; the total loss under all flags having mounted up to 540,006 tons.

 

The experiences during February proved, however, merely a foretaste of the fury of the enemy which was to prevail during the succeeding months of the spring and summer. In March the British Mercantile Marine was deprived of 353,478 tons by enemy action, and the number of lives lost rose to 699, while the Allied and neutral losses were over 240,000 tons. Sixty‑two of the British ships which encountered enemy submarines during these weeks were sunk without warning. Not merely were the officers commanding denied the scant consideration provided for under the provisions of Prize Law, but they and their men were treated with a ruthlessness which in pre‑war days would have been regarded as beyond the bounds of the human conscience. Day by day the death roll continued to mount up, and no doubt the enemy extracted from the reports which came in from the sea fresh encouragement to continue the campaign in all its ferocity.

 

On the first day of the month, the Drina (11,483 tons) was torpedoed without warning and 15 of her crew went down with her; two days later the Sagamore (5,197 tons) shared the same fate, the master and 51 of his companions being killed; on the 17th the Antony (6,446 tons) was sunk with a loss of 55 lives; and then occurred the destruc­tion of the Union Castle liner Alnwick Castle (5,900 tons). The moving story of the loss of this ship was told some days later in sailor‑like language by the master (Mr. Benjamin Chave). She was about 820 miles W.1/2 S. from the Bishop Rock. She had on board, besides her crew numbering 100 and 14 passengers, the captain and 24 men of the collier transport Trevose, who had been rescued from their boats on the previous evening after their ship had been torpedoed. In the darkness of the morning ‑ at 6.10 a.m. ‑ of March 19th, Captain Chave was drinking his morning cup of coffee when an explosion occurred, a column of water and debris being blown high in the air, and then falling on the bridge where the chief officer and the fourth officer were on duty. All the precautions which Captain Chave had adopted ‑ the placing of look­outs in all the usual positions, and the steering of zigzag courses ‑ had been unavailing. It was apparent that the ship was doomed. So the engines were put full speed astern and all the six boats were safely launched and left the ship which, short as had been the interval since the torpedo struck her, was rapidly sinking by the head.

 

LOSS OF "ALNWICK CASTLE"

 

The records of these days of supreme ordeal by sea contain no more moving story than the report which Captain Chave made to the owners of the Alnwick Castle nine days later, when he was safely on board the French steamer Venezia. After describing the circumstances in which the ship was torpedoed and the boats were got away, this officer stated:

"The forecastle was now (6.30 a.m.) just dipping, though the ship maintained an upright position with­out list. The people in my boat were clamouring for me to come, as they were alarmed by the danger of the ship plunging. The purser informed me that everyone was out of the ship, and I then took Mr. Carnaby from his post, and we went down to No. 1 boat and pulled away. At a safe distance we waited to see the end of the Alnwick Castle. Then we observed the submarine quietly emerge from the sea, end on to the ship, with a gun trained on her. She showed no periscope ‑ just a conning tower and a gun as she lay there ‑ silent and sinister. In about ten minutes the Alnwick Castle plunged bow first below the surface, her whistle gave one blast and the main topmast broke off; there was a smothered roar and a cloud of dirt, and we were left in our boats, 139 people, 300 miles from land. The submarine lay between the boats, but whether she spoke any of them I do not know. She proceeded N.E. after a steamer which was homeward bound, about four miles away, and soon after we saw a tall column of water, and knew that she had found another victim.

 

"I got in touch with all the boats, and from the number of their occupants, I was satisfied that everyone was safely in them. The one lady passenger and her baby of three months old was with the stewardess in the chief officer's boat. I directed the third officer to transfer four of his men to the second officer's boat to equalise the number, and told them all to steer between east and E.N.E. for the Channel. We all made sail before a light westerly wind which freshened before sunset, when we reefed down. After dark I saw no more of the other boats. That was Monday, March 19th.

 

"I found only three men who could help me to steer, and one of these subsequently became delirious, leaving only three of us. At 2 a.m., Tuesday, the wind and sea had increased to such a force that I deemed it unsafe to sail any longer; also it was working to the N.W. and N.N.W. I furled the sail and streamed the sea anchor, and we used the canvas boat cover to afford us some shelter from the constant spray and bitter wind. At daylight we found our sea anchor and the rudder had both gone. There was too much sea to sail; we manoeuvred with oars, while I lashed two oars together and made another sea anchor. We spent the whole of Tuesday fighting the sea, struggling with oars to assist the sea anchor to head the boat up to the waves, constantly soaked with cold spray and pierced with the bitter wind, which was now from the north. I served out water twice daily, one dipper between two men, which made a portion about equal to one‑third of a condensed milk tin. Fortunately I had made a practice of keeping in the boats a case of condensed milk, a case of beef, two tins of biscuits, and a skein of amberline and some twine and palm and needle, besides the regulation equipment; also I had provided a bundle of blankets for each boat. We divided a tin of milk between four men once a day, and a tin of beef (6 lb.) was more than sufficient to provide a portion for each person (twenty‑nine) once a day. "

 It must have seemed to the passengers at least, if not to the seamen, that their chances of surviving were small. The captain of the enemy submarine had shown no mercy, but had left them to their fate. They were confronted in small boats with all the unchained forces of nature, and it would have been small wonder if some of the survivors had abandoned themselves to counsels of despair. But Captain Chave's narrative reveals in glowing terms the manner in which these men and women, belonging to a seafaring race, maintained the highest British traditions:

"At midnight Tuesday‑Wednesday the northerly wind fell light, and we made sail again, the wind gradually working to N.E. and increasing after sunrise. All the morning and afternoon of Wednesday we kept under way until about 8 p.m., when I was compelled to heave to again. During this day the iron step of our mast gave way and our mast and sail went overboard, but we saved them, and were able to improvise a new step with the aid of an axe and

CAPTAIN CHAVE'S STORY

piece of wood fitted to support the boat cover strongback. We were now feeling the pangs of thirst, as well as the exhaustion of labour and exposure and want of sleep. Some pitiful appeals were made for water. I issued an extra ration to a few of the weaker ones only.

 

"During the night of Wednesday‑Thursday the wind dropped for a couple of hours, and several showers of hail fell. The hailstones were eagerly scraped from our clothing and swallowed. I ordered the sail to be spread out in the hope of catching water from a hail shower, but we were disappointed in this, for the rain was too light. Several of the men were getting light‑headed, and I found that they had been drinking salt water in spite of my earnest and vehement order.

 

"It was with great difficulty that anyone could be prevailed on to bale out the water which seemed to leak into the boat at an astonishing rate, perhaps due to some rivets having been started by the pounding she had received.

 

"At 4 a.m. the wind came away again from N.E. and we made sail, but unfortunately it freshened again and we were constantly soaked with spray and had to be always baling. Our water was now very low, and we decided to mix condensed milk with it. Most of the men were now helpless, and several were raving in delirium. The fore­man cattleman, W. Kitcher, died, and was buried. Soon after dark the sea became confused and angry; I furled the tiny reefed sail and put out the sea‑anchor. At 8 p.m. we were swamped by a breaking sea, and I thought all was over. A moan of despair rose in the darkness, but I shouted to them to bale, bale, bale, and assured them that the boat could not sink. How they found the balers and bucket in the dark, I do not know, but they managed to free the boat while I shifted the sea‑anchor to the stern, and made a tiny bit of sail, and got her away before the wind. After that escape the wind died away about mid­night, and then we spent a most distressing night. Several of the men collapsed, and others temporarily lost their reason, and one of these became pugnacious and climbed about the boat, uttering complaints and threats. The horrors of that night, together with the physical suffering, are beyond my power of description.

 

"Before daylight, however, on March 23rd, the wind permitting, I managed, with the help of the few who remained able, to set sail again, hoping now to be in the Bay of Biscay and to surely see some vessel to succour us. Never a sail or wisp of smoke had we seen.

Landsmen, impressed by the large number of ships which are always at sea, are apt to conclude that the sea is covered with ships, and that at any point on either of the great trade routes the welcome sign of a whiff of smoke from some friendly steamer is certain to appear within a few hours if disaster should overtake them. The ex­periences of the passengers and crew of the Alnwick Castle should correct that false impression. As soon as the ship was struck, the wireless officer (Mr. Carnaby) had repeatedly sent out S.O.S. signals, but though the position of the ship was given, no succour arrived. Day after day the horizon was unbroken by the appearance of any vessel, and it is small wonder in the circumstances that Captain Chave, devoting all his seamanlike skill to the navigation of the boats, at last found himself surrounded by human beings who could no longer sustain the physical and mental agonies to which they had been submitted.

"When daylight came the appeals for water were so angry and insistent that I deemed it best to make an issue at once. After that had gone round, amid much cursing and snatching, we could see that only one more issue remained. One fireman, Thomas, was dead; another was nearly gone; my steward, Buckley, was almost gone, and we tried to pour some milk and water down his throat, but he could not swallow. No one could now eat biscuits, it was impossible to swallow anything solid, our throats were afire, our lips furred, our limbs numbed, our hands were white and bloodless. During the forenoon, Friday, March 23rd, another fireman, named Tride, died, and my steward, Buckley, died, also a cattleman whose only name I could get was Peter, collapsed and died about noon."

Not until early on the afternoon of Friday, March 23rd, did the French steamer Venezia, appear on the scene. A swell was running, and in their enfeebled state Captain Chave and his companions were unable to manoeuvre their boat alongside the French vessel. But Captain Bonafacie proved equal to the occasion, handling his vessel

 

FRENCH GENEROSITY

 

with the greatest skill, and then, leaving the four dead bodies in the boat, the twenty‑four survivors, too weak to climb the ladders, were hoisted with ropes, one by one, until they were all on board. This story of the sinking of the Union Castle liner would be incomplete without Captain Chave's tribute to the reception which he and his companions met with on board the Venezia.

"I cannot speak with sufficient gratitude of the extreme kindness and solicitation which was shown us by all on board. Our wet clothes were at once stripped off and dry ones put on, hot tea with cognac was poured down our parched and swollen throats, then we were put to bed in steam‑heated first‑class cabins. Our feet and hands were swollen to twice the normal size, and several of us narrowly escaped frostbite. In the evening we were given a light meal of soup and boiled beef with potatoes, with claret, and during the night the stewards were kept busy providing water for our unquenchable thirst. Every possible want was anticipated by the captain, officers, engineers, and stewards, who placed freely at our disposal their wardrobes, toilet articles, tobacco, etc."

On the same day as the Alnwick Castle went down, the Frinton (4,194 tons) was sunk with a loss of four lives, and in the next three days no fewer than seven other vessels suffered the same fate, being torpedoed without warning. The largest loss of life was in the case of the Stuart Prince (3,597 tons), when twenty persons, including the master of the ship, were sacrificed to the enemy's policy of frightfulness; the greatest loss in tonnage was the Rotorua (11,140 tons), a steamer of the New Zealand Ship­ping Company, which was sunk in the English Channel with her cargo of perishable food‑stuffs from New Zealand. The last‑named two ships were both destroyed on March 22nd, and day by day to the end of the month the tale of losses, both of personnel and tonnage, mounted up. On the 25th, five vessels were torpedoed and sent to the bottom without warning, the loss of life in the case of the Queen Eugenie (4,358 tons) alone being thirty‑five persons, including the master.

 

On the 27th, between 8 and 9 p.m., the Thracia (2,891 tons) was torpedoed when on passage from Bilbao to Ardrossan with a full cargo of ore. She was one of a string of twelve vessels being escorted by a French de­stroyer and two trawlers on a short stage from Belle Ile to Brest. They were steaming at night and anchoring during the day. The Thracia, which was a quarter or half a mile distant from the nearest vessels, was struck just forward of her stoke‑hold. The explosion burst her boilers, killing outright an engineer, a greaser, and two firemen. The ship sank with appalling sudden­ness, and there was not time even to attempt the lowering of the boats. The crew numbered thirty‑eight all told, and of these there were only two survivors. One was the gunner, who had time to put on a lifebelt, and was picked up after a short interval by a neutral steamer. The other was a cadet, named Dove, a boy of fifteen, who was acting fourth officer. This lad had been on watch with the chief officer till eight o'clock, and when the ship was struck was lying in his bunk reading. He put on a great­coat and went on deck, and as the ship was rapidly sinking he was thrown immediately into the water. The weather was intensely cold, with a north wind blowing, and the sea was very choppy. He succeeded in reaching an upturned boat, climbed on it, and lashed himself to it. Seven others of the crew also got on the boat, but were either washed off, or drowned while trying to swim towards a vessel which was seen. Three hours after the Thracia was sunk, a submarine came close up to the boat, and hailed the boy, who was now its only occupant. After asking him questions about the ship and its cargo, they called him an English swine, and threatened to shoot him. He replied, "Shoot away, and be damned to you," on which they said shooting was too good for him, and left him where he was, to drown. At eleven o'clock next morning he was picked up by a fishing boat, after thirteen hours in the water, and was later transferred to a destroyer. The official record states that when he was seen in Liverpool he was very shy, and his story had to be dragged out of him.

 

While in the great majority of cases the weapon used by the submarine was the torpedo, at least two of the smaller merchant ships destroyed at this time were sunk by gunfire. On the last day of March the sailing schooner Primrose (118 tons) was on voyage from Granville to

 

"PRIMROSE" SUNK BY GUNFIRE

 

Fowey, when the master (Mr. Alexander Steele), who was below, heard the sound of a gunshot, and the mate reported having seen a flash on the port bow. Less than a minute afterwards a second shot was fired, and the conning tower of a submarine became visible about two miles astern. It was eleven o'clock, a bright moonlight night, and the sea was calm. The second shot fell short of the schooner by about a fathom, and while the boat was being launched a third shot came aboard, and exploded over the main hatch, killing one of the seamen, and carrying away the foresail. The skipper and the two remaining seamen got into the boat just as a fourth shot struck the vessel amid­ships. They pulled away in a northerly direction, and saw the submarine come up to about 200 yards from the vessel and fire seven more shells into her from close quarters. Within half an hour she had sunk, and as the wind got up when they had pulled the boat some ten to fifteen miles, the survivors put out their sea‑anchor, and lay to till morning. Eventually they reached Alderney, but not before they had seen a submarine, presumably the same one, making for a ketch on the horizon, and heard it open fire.

 

Although the number of British merchant vessels captured or sunk by submarine during the month of March was well over a hundred, it is not to be thought that submarine attacks were invariably successful. During that same month there are records of no less than seventy­seven encounters between merchant ships and submarines, in which for various reasons the submarine commanders failed to achieve their murderous intent.

 

Among the vessels which were actually torpedoed, but escaped sinking, albeit with some loss of life, were the two hospital ships Asturias and Gloucester Castle. On the night of March 20th‑21st the Asturias (12,002 tons) was torpedoed without warning at night, although she was brilliantly lit with her Red Cross lamps. Thirty‑five lives were lost, but the ship was subsequently beached. On the 80th of the same month the Gloucester Castle (7,999 tons) underwent the same experience. In her case only three lives were lost, but the rescue of the wounded proved extremely difficult, and the attack was a very brutal aggravation of their sufferings. (For details of the attacks on these hospital ships, see Chapter XI.)

 

Two notable encounters in this month between mer­chant ships and submarines in which the attacker was definitely worsted, were those of the Aracatata (4,154 tons) and the Crown of Granada (2,746 tons). On March 10th the Aracatata, on her way to Liverpool from Costa Rica, was nearing the Irish coast, when at 1 p.m. an enemy submarine opened fire upon her from astern. The master (Mr. John H. Scuddamore) had carefully rehearsed his officers and crew for such an encounter, and returned the fire with his 12‑pounder, firing altogether forty rounds in reply to thirty‑five from the submarine. Three times the ship was hit, the second shot from the submarine passing through the firemen's quarters, killing one man and injuring four others. Another shell struck the bridge, between the master and the second officer, injuring the latter; and the third passed through the funnel, and wrecked the galley. The master successfully dodged the remainder of the shots by his coolness and skilful naviga­tion, noting the position of each splash, and zigzagging accordingly. He was well seconded by everyone on board, and in his report of the encounter he gave special praise to the chief steward for his first aid to the wounded, and to the two gunners, one of whom was the ship's carpenter, for their effective handling of the gun from a particularly exposed position. Some three‑quarters of an hour after the attack commenced, a British war vessel arrived to give assistance, but already the submarine's gun had been silenced for some minutes, and the Aracatata had regis­tered at least one hit. The merchant ship had out­manceuvred and out‑fought the submarine before help came to her.

 

The Crown of Granada was an outward‑bound ship from London to Barbados, and on March 23rd, not far from the scene of the Aracatata's fight, she sighted an enemy submarine on the surface, about four miles ahead of her. The master (Mr. A. D. Falconer) put his ship about, to bring the submarine astern, and opened fire. This was at 7.50 a.m., and a running fight was maintained for an hour and a quarter. The German gun outranged the ship's 12‑pounder, and the submarine avoided coming up too close. At first her shots fell right ahead, but gradually she reduced her range, and the ship escaped them by repeated alterations of her course. The submarine

 

THE BLACKEST MONTH OF THE WAR

 

fired forty‑six rounds, and hit the ship once, in the after‑hold, four feet below the waterline. The hole was not a large one, and was very promptly patched. Meanwhile the ship's gunners steadily plugged away, firing no less than seventy rounds; and though they never quite reached the submarine, the shots fell near enough to worry her, and to confuse the aim of her gunlayers. Shortly after 9 a.m., having had enough of it, she sub­merged, and gave up the contest.

 

The month of April 1917 was the most disastrous to British merchant shipping in the war. No fewer than 997 lives were lost, and ships to the extent of 516,394 gross tonnage were destroyed or captured, by enemy sub­marines alone. The torpedo attacks were in nearly every case without warning, and while the submarine commander frequently approached the survivors struggling in the water or tossing in small boats, it was only for the purpose of securing the master of the sunken vessel as a prisoner, with sometimes the chief engineer or one of the officers. During this month the total losses, including Allied and neutral shipping, due to enemy action reached the enormous sum of 881,027 tons.

 

The Germans now utterly disregarded the rules and obligations of maritime warfare previously observed by civilised nations. Throughout the Napoleonic wars it had been a point of honour to rescue from drowning those seamen whose ships had been taken or destroyed. At Trafalgar, British sailors, at imminent risk of their own lives, saved the crews of enemy warships on the point of being blown up or sunk. It was reserved for the twentieth century to witness in the German submarine campaign the deliberate jettisoning of all such obligations hitherto con­sidered sacred, and the casting to the winds of the most elementary dictates of humanity.

 

On April 8th, 1917, the Torrington (5,597 tons), proceeding from Gibraltar to Cardiff, was torpedoed without warning about 150 miles south‑west of the Scilly Isles. The master (Mr. A. Starkey) saw that it was impossible to save the ship, and ordered the crew, consisting of thirty‑four men, into the two lifeboats. He deposed in evidence later that he and the twenty men in his lifeboat were commanded to go on board the submarine, and that he was taken below and kept a prisoner, while his men were left on deck. The submarine then submerged for twenty minutes, the men on deck being all washed off and drowned. Mean­while his lifeboat had been manned by four of the German sailors and one officer, who all returned on board the submarine when she rose again to the surface. They brought with them provisions which had been in the mate's boat, as well as those from his. "I am positive," he said in his deposition, "of the provisions being from both boats, as I had different brands of meat, also one boat contained rum and the other brandy, portions of which I saw myself in the submarine afterwards." Although the sea was quite calm all that day, the mate's lifeboat was never heard of again, and none of those on board it were picked up.

 

Captain Starkey was landed at Heligoland, and im­prisoned there till December 1918, but while he was still on board the submarine she sank two other British ships, one of which, the Toro (3,066 tons), went down on April 12th. In both cases the master was made prisoner, and both times the submarine submerged for about twenty minutes, immediately after the prisoner had been brought below. In the case of his own ship, the Torrington, Captain Starkey said, "I never heard of any reason why the sub­marine should have dived. There was no ship in sight, and no alarm was given. Some of her own men and one officer were absent from the submarine when she dived, and we remained in the vicinity for the rest of the day on the surface. I was kept amidships away from the other prisoners for about two hours, and then sent forward with the two that were already there." These two were Captain Draper of the Umvoti (2,616 tons) and Captain Ashfield of the Petridge (1,712 tons), both of which had been sunk earlier on the same morning as the Torrington.

 

That the deliberate murder of entire crews by depriving them of lifebelts, and leaving them to be washed off the deck of a submarine when she submerged, was no isolated case of inhumanity, was amply proved in July of the same year when the Belgian Prince was sunk, and three of the intended victims managed to secrete cork jackets under­neath their greatcoats, and survived to tell of their experi­ence. This incident is described in a later chapter.

 

Of 169 British merchant vessels sunk during April, three were destroyed by torpedo on the first day of the month. These were the WARREN (3,709 tons), the

 

THE TABLES TURNED

 

Kasenga (4,652 tons), and the Zambesi (3,759 tons). On April 2nd only one ship was sunk, the Britannia (3,129 tons), and the early morning of that day was memorable for the successful resistance and escape of the Wandby (3,981 tons), attacked in the Bay of Biscay. She was on voyage from Bilbao to Newport, and was making for La Rochelle, when about 6 a.m. a shot from a submarine fell close astern of her. The sea was very rough, and it was not till after the sixth shot that the enemy was sighted. The submarine was one of the latest type, using two 4‑inch guns. The Wandby's master (Mr. D. Simpson) at once brought her dead astern, and opened fire in reply. At the end of three‑quarters of an hour the Wandby's fifteenth shot brought the encounter to an end, and the submarine dis­appeared below the surface. She had fired thirty‑six rounds, and had hit the Wandby once, on the port quarter just above the waterline, and some damage had also been done by bursting shrapnel, but happily no British lives were lost. The master's own account of the affair is interesting:

"We got well away from port with the convoy, but had an accident to our wheel‑chains, and were left behind. We repaired our damage, and on Monday morning the Germans came along, and started shelling our old ship, which only gets eight knots. There was no chance of running away, and it was either a case of throwing up the sponge or fighting, and we pegged away at him. The fifteenth got home, and the last we saw of him was his bows up in the air and he went down stern first."

By the end of the first week in April twenty‑three vessels had been sunk, the two largest being the City of Paris (9,239 tons) and the Canadian (9,309 tons) on the 4th and 5th respectively. By the torpedoing of the City of Paris 122 lives were lost. On the same two days the Dun­drennan (4,248 tons) and the Kangaroo (4,348 tons) were both attacked by submarines upon the surface, and returned the fire with such success that they escaped without serious damage.

 

At 7.30 a.m. on the 4th, the master (Mr. J. Cruddace), of the Dun­drennan, observed a submarine about 8,000 yards distant approaching the vessel at full speed. She was at once brought astern. The shots from the submarine fell very close at first, but when the steamer opened fire they became considerably more erratic. After each shot from the submarine the Dun­drennan slightly changed her course. The ship fired thirteen rounds, and the submarine about thirty. At 8.15 the enemy ceased fire and disap­peared.

 

The Kangaroo was a motor‑ship belonging to the Govern­ment of Western Australia. She was attacked by gun­fire about 6 a.m. in the Mediterranean on April 5th. The master (Mr. H. C. Norris) vigorously returned the fire, and in addition used smoke boxes with good effect. The port smoke box was used first, but the wind caused the smoke to blind the gunners and the look‑out on the bridge, so it was extinguished, and the starboard one started instead. About 6.30 a.m. an enemy shell struck the vessel, causing some minor damage, but wounding nobody. The sub­marine, which was about five miles distant when first sighted, continued to gain steadily on the Kangaroo, but was careful not to expose its whole length to her fire. By zigzagging slightly, and hauling his ship to westward about a quarter to half a point more each time, the master successfully misled the gunners of the submarine. The Kangaroo fired thirty‑six rounds, and one of her shells was thought to have hit the submarine, which gave up the encounter and submerged at 7.20 a.m.

 

On April 8th, the day on which the Torrington was sunk and her crew murdered, the R.M.S.P. Carmarthen­shire (7,823 tons) was nearing the entrance to the English Channel, when at 5.20 a.m. the officer of the watch sighted a submarine about three miles distant. The following extracts are taken from the report of the encounter by the master (Mr. E. C. Wakeman):

"I was on the bridge instantly, and steadied the ship when her stern was in line. Telephoned the ship's position (which was kept ready in a book for every half‑hour) to the wireless operator. Rang the pre‑arranged signal to the engine‑room on the telegraph, then called all hands, sending the chief officer round the ship to see that every­body was out with lifebelts on, and that those who could be were stationed by their respective boats, but under cover. After reporting this to me, he went aft, and got the ammunition up, returning to the bridge when the

ESCAPE OF "CARMARTHENSHIRE"

whole of it was ready for use. The engineers all went below, and got the utmost speed out of the ship, opening up the engines to their limit, the steam roaring up the escapes. . . . The submarine opened fire on me without warning, certainly within one minute of the time of sighting her, firing three rounds, the shells striking the water just clear of my quarter. I then ran the ensign up aft, and the largest ensign I had on the jumper stay amidships, and opened fire on her, our shells falling close to her. At that she dropped further astern, and opened fire again, making three distinct attacks and firing about fifty rounds in all, the last four rounds being shrapnel. . . . Not being able to reach her I ceased firing after twenty rounds, she attacking all the time, and Mr. Penny, the refrigerating engineer (being the only engineer on deck), assisted by the gun's crew, removed a stop out of the elevating arc of the gun, which enabled me to increase the range to 9,900 yards against 6,600 before. I then opened fire again, using another eighteen rounds, making thirty‑eight rounds in all. At 7.30 the submarine turned beam on to me, and dived." After giving other details he adds, "I had given the gun's crew orders that when we were reduced to four rounds they were not to fire any more, no matter how we were hit, in the hope that the submarine would close; then they were to let her have the four in the hope of getting her, and finally escaping."

This order is particularly interesting, and is evidence of the determined spirit in which the attack was resisted.

 

In the second week of April twenty‑eight ships were sunk, and in the third week fifty‑eight. On the 13th the Argyll (3,547 tons) was torpedoed about 100 miles west of the Scilly Islands. Eleven of the crew managed to launch a boat and save themselves, but twenty‑two were drowned. On the same day the Zara (1,831 tons) was carrying a crew of twenty‑eight and twenty‑eight passengers, when she was struck on the port side by a torpedo. A terrible explosion occurred, and the ship began to sink very rapidly. The starboard lifeboat was lowered, but the vessel went down before the port boat was got clear. Twelve of the crew and seventeen passengers were saved, but twenty‑seven lives were sacrificed.

 

About five o'clock on the same afternoon the Kariba (3,697 tons) was torpedoed 230 miles south‑west of the Scillies, her starboard lifeboat being smashed by the explosion. Her bunker hatches were blown up, and the stokehold immediately filled with water, so that she went down in a few minutes. Her crew took to the two remain­ing lifeboats, which kept together for about two hours, and then lost sight of each other. The port lifeboat contained twenty‑one men, with very little food. Eleven died from exposure, and two others died afterwards in hospital. The survivors were picked up on the 22nd by the French trawler Esperanza, and taken to St. Louis, after nine days in the open boat.

 

The Lime Branch (5,379 tons) was also torpedoed on that day, but succeeded in reaching Plymouth under her own steam. She was struck in No. 2 hold, and settled down by the head until the fore end of the harbour deck was awash. The other two holds being found sound, the engines were restarted, and she proceeded slowly. An escort was signalled for, and a destroyer met her at 7.30 p.m. At 7.50 she was again attacked, but owing to her slower speed the second torpedo passed about a foot in front of her.

 

A somewhat similar escape was effected by the Brank­some Hall (4,262 tons), which was attacked on the 11th. It was a very dark night, with a high sea running, when the torpedo struck her. She took a list of 30 degrees to port, and her boiler‑room, engine‑room, and No. 4 hold became full of water. The boats were launched with great diffi­culty, and about 4 a.m. the crew were picked up by a French torpedo boat, and placed on board the guard‑ship in Cherbourg harbour. Finding next day that the ship was still afloat, the master (Mr. H. G. Jenkins) and sixteen of the crew managed to get a tug to take them back to her. They found twenty‑four feet of water in the engine­room and No. 4 hold, but none in holds No. 1 or No. 5. The help of a second tug was obtained, and the ship was anchored off the harbour for the night. On the following day she was brought safely in.

 

In all these instances and many others, utter indiffer­ence was shown by the German submarine commanders as to the fate of those on board the ships they sank. On the 15th occurred an instance of still worse barbarity. At 11.45 p.m. the Cairndhu (4,019 tons) was about twenty‑ five miles from Beachy Head,

 

"LANFRANC" AND "DONEGAL"

 

when she was struck by a torpedo on the port side amidships, and took a heavy list to port. Both lifeboats were successfully launched and stood by the ship, which was sinking rapidly. Shortly afterwards a submarine appeared and deliber­ately rammed the port lifeboat, many of whose occupants were thrown into the water. Fortunately, though awash and with the seas breaking over her, she was kept afloat by her watertight tanks. The survivors were picked up by a passing steamer, but not before twelve men had been drowned or succumbed to cold and exposure. The other lifeboat with the master and six men succeeded in reaching port in safety.

 

Two days later the ambulance transports Lanfranc (6,287 tons) and Donegal (1,885 tons), when on passage from Havre to Southampton, were torpedoed without warning between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Ambulance trans­ports were vessels fitted to carry invalids and wounded, but, though painted a distinctive grey, they ran as ordin­ary troop transports and, as distinct from hospital ships, could claim no immunity from attack. They were ex­posed to the same risks from unrestricted submarine warfare as were the ordinary merchant vessels.

 

The Lanfranc (master, Mr. W. E. Pontet) was carrying 234 wounded British officers and men and 167 wounded German prisoners in addition to the medical personnel and crew. She was escorted by the destroyer Badger, and the P.37. When about half‑way across the channel, a terrible explosion took place on the port side abreast of the bulkhead between the engine‑room and No. 3 hold. The engines were immediately stopped. The ship listed to port, settled rapidly by the stern, and then slowly came again into an upright position. Three of her boats were smashed by the explosion, and the Marconi installation was rendered useless. Both escorts were within about a mile of her at the time, one on either bow, and while P.37 closed the Lanfranc, the Badger searched for the submarine. As the Lanfranc was at the time of the explosion steaming 14 knots, it would have been dangerous to lower her boats at once. As soon, however, as she had lost sufficient way, one boat at a time was lowered on each side, eight boats getting away safely. Unfortunately, one boat on the starboard side sank stern first, and nearly all the occupants were thrown into the sea, but were picked up later by lifeboats from the Badger or sailing trawlers. Both escorts had by this time come alongside, and at very great risk, owing to the condition of the Lanfranc and the high seas running, had been embarking the wounded passengers, both British and German.

 

The behaviour of the latter was in many cases deplorable. Numbers of them rushed the boats or jumped on board the escorts.

 

In contrast to this behaviour of the Germans, we have another story told by a British officer on board:

"The behaviour of our own lads I shall never forget. Crippled as many of them were, they tried to stand at attention while the more serious cases were being looked after, and those who could lend a hand scurried below to help in saving friend or enemy. I have never seen so many individual illustrations of genuine chivalry and comradeship. One man I saw had had a leg severed and his head was heavily bandaged. He was lifting himself up a staircase by the hands, and was just as keen on summoning help for Fritz as on saving himself. He whistled to a mate to come and aid a German who was unable to move owing to internal injuries. Another Tommy limped painfully along with a German officer on his arm and helped the latter to a boat. It is impossible to give adequate praise to the crew and staff. They were all heroes. They remained at their posts until the last of the wounded had been taken off, and some of them took off articles of their clothing and threw them into the life‑boats for the benefit of those who were in need of warm covering. The same spirit manifested itself as we moved away from the scene of the outrage."

 Four British, fifteen German wounded, and five members of the crew were drowned.

 

The Donegal (master, Mr. John Jackson) had reached a point about nineteen miles south of the Dean light‑vessel when she met her fate. She was escorted by two de­stroyers (Liffey and Jackal) and had on board 639 wounded British soldiers, of whom 33 were stretcher cases. At 7.43 p.m. the chief officer drew the master's attention to the track of a torpedo four hundred yards distant on

 

JOHN PRIEST'S EXPERIENCES

 

the port side, just astern of the escort. Captain Jackson immediately ordered the helm to be put hard a starboard, but the vessel was, nevertheless, struck near her port propeller, the whole of her stern, with a newly mounted 13‑pounder gun, being practically blown away and the gunner killed. Luckily the weather was fine and clear, and all the boats were safely got away, with the exception of two which were broken when the escort Jackal was laying herself alongside. The other escort, Liffey, was meanwhile circling about in search of the submarine, but when the Jackal had taken on board 500 of the wounded, she in turn laid herself alongside the Donegal, and took off the remainder.

 

The ship sank at about half‑past eight. A few hands were thrown into the water, but most of them were picked up by the boats. The behaviour of the whole ship's company and the troops was uniformly excellent. There was not a trace of panic, and all orders were promptly carried out. It was largely owing to this fact that the casualties were so comparatively few. About twenty‑six of the wounded soldiers were drowned, while the casualties to the crew amounted to eleven lost and five injured.

 

An interesting record among those of the injured was that of John Priest, one of the firemen, aged twenty‑nine, who had had four of the vessels in which he had been employed sunk under him, and three damaged. He had been on board the Titanic when that liner was lost on her maiden voyage. He was in the Olympic at the time of her collision with the cruiser Hawke. He had been wounded in the fight between the Alcantara and the German raider Greif. He had been in the Britannic when she was sunk. And, lastly, he had suffered injuries to his head as the result of the explosion in the Donegal.

 

On the day the Lanfranc and Donegal were sunk, the Aburi (3,780 tons) was on her way from Liverpool with a general cargo and 700 tons of coal for West Africa. At 7.15 a.m. she was about 150 miles off the north of Ireland, when a periscope was sighted by the second officer, some two hundred yards from the ship. Almost immediately, he saw a disturbance caused by the discharge of a torpedo. This struck the vessel at the after part of the bridge, piercing No. 2 hold and the engine‑room. The master (Mr. W. Heaton) gave orders to abandon ship, and threw the codes and confidential papers over the side. While he was doing this a shell whistled overhead, and the submarine appeared on the surface about a quarter of a mile away. One lifeboat had been wrecked by the explosion, and two other boats were swamped. Eventually two boats were got away, the master, chief officer, and gunner, swimming to the last one after searching the ship to make sure that all were clear. The submarine continued firing, and when the boats were rather more than a mile astern they saw the ship sink by the head and the submarine submerge almost simultaneously. The boats after a while got separated, but both succeeded in keeping afloat, in spite of very bad weather conditions, until they were picked up two and a half days later by a trawler and a coaster. By that time three men in the master's boat and thirteen in that of the chief officer had died from exposure.

 

The sailing and management of these small boats for long distances in heavy seas was a notable feature of many of these instances. On the 18th the Castillian (1,923 tons) was two days out from Liverpool, bound for Genoa with a full general cargo and one passenger, when she was struck by a torpedo about 1 p.m. and sank within four minutes. One boat was carried down with the ship, and came to the surface bottom upwards, the other was lowered safely with the chief officer and four men on board. The rest of the crew were thrown into the water, and seventeen of them, including the master, were picked up one by one, ten others being drowned. The survivors set sail for the Irish coast, and covered no less than 178 miles before they were rescued by the Manchester Corporation, and taken by her into Lough Foyle. All suffered very greatly from the exposure.

 

 

 

British Merchant Ship Torpedoed

 

April 19th was a day of many disasters, thirteen vessels being sunk. The callousness which marked the German submarine campaign was particularly exemplified in the case of the Caithness (3,500 tons), which was torpedoed about noon that day. She was in the Atlantic, 130 miles from the north‑west coast of Spain, and sank within a few minutes of being struck, the crew being all thrown into the water. The submarine came up among the survivors, and questioned them about the ship while they were still struggling in

 

FOUR DAYS IN OPEN BOATS

 

the water, trying to keep themselves afloat; when she had got her information, she just left them where they were, to drown. Eleven of them succeeded in righting a boat which had been overturned; and seven days after­wards two men were picked up in this boat alive. These two were the only survivors out of the Caithness's crew of forty‑nine.

 

The next day, the 20th, the Portloe (3,187 tons) was struck by a torpedo amidships, and foundered at once. The third engineer and the mess‑room steward managed to cling to some wreckage for a couple of hours, when they were rescued; but their twenty‑four shipmates were all drowned.

 

Very early that same morning the San Hilario (10,157 tons), with a cargo of oil fuel from Puerto Mexico, was making for Queenstown, when she was attacked by gun­fire about 250 miles west of the Fastnet. She was steam­ing 10 1/2 knots, but was immediately put to full speed, and eventually made 12 1/2 knots. The submarine was about five miles away when she first opened fire, but rapidly overhauled the steamer, and after seventy rounds made her first hit at the base of the funnel, damaging the steam pipes. The gun's crew at this point wanted to abandon the gun, but the chief officer, Mr. Clark, helped by the senior apprentice, kept them to their post. The San Hilario was hit twelve times, and continued to return the fire until there were only five rounds left. The master (Mr. F. Cole) gave orders then to abandon ship, and the crew got safely away, and were in the boats for four days, when they were picked up. The master himself was taken prisoner, and the ship was sunk.

 

Occasionally the peril of a torpedo was successfully averted by the vigilance of those on watch. The Leasowe Castle (9,737 tons) was in the Mediterranean on this day, when the third officer observed the wake of a torpedo approaching from the port quarter; he immediately informed the master (Mr. J. N. Culverwell), who was on the other side of the bridge, and it was just possible for the helm to be put over in time to lessen the damage. The torpedo struck the stern, destroying the rudder and the rudder post, and causing the gun to be dismounted. The periscope of the submarine was sighted about 1,500 yards away, and a second torpedo was fired, which passed ten yards astern. The ship managed to reach Gibraltar under her own steam. In this case the third officer's vigilance averted a much worse disaster, and practically saved the ship.

 

The loss of life during the next three days was happily not so great, and on the 21st the Roumanian Prince (4,147 tons) had a well‑deserved escape, due partly to the master (Mr. H. A. Camp) and partly to the wireless operator. A vessel with two sails set was sighted on the port bow, and the master suspected her to be a submarine. As soon as he altered his helm to bring the suspicious craft astern, the latter dropped her forward sail, and fired, the shot falling about two hundred yards short of the vessel. The second shot fell a hundred and fifty yards ahead, and a third burst over the bridge, destroying the aerial, and splintering the decks. The Roumanian Prince was armed with a 12‑pounder, but did not fire, as the submarine was out of range, and the master wished to keep its commander in doubt as to what armament the steamer carried. By the time the submarine had fired fifteen shots, the wireless operator had repaired the apparatus, and a message was sent out, a reply being received almost immediately. The submarine then aban­doned the chase, and half an hour later an escort arrived.

 

On the following day the Karroo (6,127 tons) success­fully maintained a running fight for about three hours with a submarine by gunfire, after being narrowly missed by two torpedoes. She was on voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Devonport, and some distance west of the Scilly Isles, when at 11.50 a.m. the track of a torpedo was seen just abaft her port beam. Almost immediately afterwards a second torpedo was seen approaching, and as the ship was now swinging rapidly on her helm, this also missed her by about thirty feet. The submarine then came to the surface, and opened fire with her two guns at a range of about 8,000 yards. The Karroo was fre­quently struck, and fired thirty‑five rounds, while the submarine fired nearly two hundred. Towards three o'clock two torpedo‑boat destroyers made their appearance in answer to the Karroo's S.O.S., and the submarine sub­merged.

 

The remainder of the month was marked by a disastrous tale of losses, eight merchant vessels being sunk on the 24th,

 

LOSS OF P & O "BALLARAT"

 

nine on the 25th, and many more on the succeeding days. The greatest loss of life was on the 24th, when the Abosso (7,782 tons) was torpedoed without warning off the south coast of Ireland. She was carrying 127 pas­sengers and a crew of 133, and 65 of those on board were drowned. Other sinkings on that day included the Barnton (1,858 tons), which was torpedoed with a loss of 14 lives, and the Ferndene (3,770 tons), which lost her master and eight members of her crew.

 

On the same day also the Thirlby (2,009 tons) narrowly escaped disaster in the Atlantic. No fewer than three torpedoes were discharged at her, and she was afterwards attacked by gunfire. At 7.30 a.m. the first torpedo was seen to pass across her bow, though nothing was visible of the submarine from which it came. At 8.10 a.m. a second torpedo was observed approaching, and the master (Mr. T. W. Hill) altered the vessel's course, so that it passed astern. Soon afterwards a third torpedo was avoided in the same way; and four minutes later the submarine appeared right astern. The Thirlby opened fire, and the submarine dived, and appeared again about three miles distant, whence she started firing from both her guns. The Thirlby's shots, however, fell so close, that the submarine dropped further back, and kept for a while out of the ship's range. After she had scored a hit with one of her shells on the ship's deck she came up closer, but a second time was forced by the excellence of the ship's gunnery to drop back to a respectful distance. About noon another vessel approached, which was fitted with wireless appara­tus, and sent out a message for assistance. This was answered by a destroyer, which came up about 2 p.m. After hearing particulars she went in search of the sub­marine, which had disappeared. During the attack the submarine had fired over 150 rounds, and the Thirlby 57.

 

The largest vessel sunk about this time was the Ballarat (11,120 tons), which was torpedoed on the 25th about 30 miles from the Land's End, happily without loss of life. She was a P & O boat, and was on a voyage from Australia to Great Britain with Australian troops. It was 2 p.m. when the torpedo struck her, causing a terrific explosion, which carried away one of her propellers and bent the shaft of the other, destroyed the main steam pipe of the engines, and put out of action the 6‑inch gun and the wireless apparatus. The signal for troops and crew to go to their boat stations was sounded im­mediately, and within a few minutes more than twenty boats had left the ship, and were picked up by destroyers which came to the rescue. An attempt was made to tow the Ballarat to safety, but she sank at 4.30 p.m. 7 1/2 miles from the Lizard light. The splendid discipline of both troops and crew made it possible to land the ship's entire complement, 1,752 souls, without any casualties. The master (Mr. G. W. Cockman), and some of the officers, left the ship only a few minutes before she sank.

 

A much larger vessel than the Ballarat, the White Star liner Baltic (23,876 tons), was attacked both on the 25th and 26th, and was saved both times by the vigilance of the look‑out, and by the instant action of the master (Mr. W. Finch) in ordering the helm over. Captain Finch had been in command of the Arabic, when she was sunk in August 1915, and not only held strong views on the efficacy of "zigzagging on short legs," but made it his practice to supplement the ordinary look‑out by having the whole of the deck watch on look‑out duty while his ship was in the danger zone. He himself remained on the bridge practically the whole time, and this meant that, from the time when the submarines began to operate well out in the Atlantic, he was on continuous duty for four days, both coming in and going out from Liverpool. The first attack on the Baltic took place in fine weather, a suspicious patch being sighted on the port bow. Im­mediately the ship was swung to port, in hope of passing over the submarine, and a torpedo went by within a few feet of her. On the occasion of the second attack the first intimation of danger was the appearance of the air bubbles rising on the firing of the torpedo. Again the instant action of the helm saved the vessel, and the torpedo missed by about twenty feet. The Baltic had nearly 400 souls on board, including six men of the Danish schooner Eos, whom she had picked up from a small boat the day before; she was also carrying a cargo of 20,000 tons. The proverbial affection of a merchant captain for his ship and pride in her good qualities were well illustrated by the report of an official interview with Captain Finch in Liverpool. Reference was made to the tremendous strain which his four days' periods of constant

 

LAST WEEK OF APRIL

 

duty had imposed, but he dismissed the subject with a joke about his seventeen stone being a strain upon his legs, and the exclamation, "But you should have seen her answer her helm; she is a beauty."

 

A few of the vessels that were sunk in the last week of April were the Swanmore (6,378 tons) on the 25th, with a loss of eleven lives; the Harflete (4,814 tons), with a loss of one, on the 26th; the Beemah (4,750 tons) and the Glencluny (4,812 tons) on the 27th; the Jose de Larrinaga (5,017 tons), the Port Jackson (2,309 tons), and the Terence (4,309 tons) on the 28th; the Karonga (4,665 tons) and the Daleby (3,628 tons) on the 29th; and the Delamere (1,525 tons) and the Gretaston (3,395 tons) on the 30th. In all these cases one or more lives were lost; in the case of the Gretaston there were no survivors.

 

The Harflete (master, Mr. Scott Carpenter) was attacked at 11.30 a.m. and avoided two torpedoes. The submarine then came to the surface, and a running fight ensued with gunfire. The 22nd and 23rd shots from the Harflete seemed to strike the submarine, which ceased firing, and gave up the chase. At 9.45 p.m. on the same day the Harflete was suddenly torpedoed, and soon afterwards sank. The crew were picked up next morning, and taken in to Queenstown.

 

The sinking of the Karonga, with a loss of eighteen lives, in the Strait of Messina, was notable for an act on the part of the chief steward for which he was awarded the Albert gold medal. When the ship was torpedoed, two of the deck plates buckled, and caught the legs of a Lascar between them so firmly that he would have been inevitably dragged down with the rapidly sinking vessel. Mr. A. W. Furneaux, the chief steward, saw him, and at great risk to his own life extricated one of the man's legs, and finding it impossible to set the other free, amputated it with an ordinary clasp‑knife, and carried the man to a boat. In the boat he dressed the wound as well as possible, and gave the man his lifebelt.

 

On the afternoon of the 29th the Daleby (3,628 tons) was about 150 miles south‑east of Cape Clear, when she was torpedoed without warning. She was struck twice, the second torpedo blowing up all the lifeboats and causing her to sink immediately. The last man to leave the ship dived off as she was sinking. The submarine then came to the surface, and circled round him, but no attempt was made to pick him up. Afterwards he noticed the ship's dinghy floating a little way off, and swam towards it. The wind, however, was behind him, and kept blowing the boat away, so that he did not reach her for two hours. Having baled her out, he returned to the scene of the disaster, where he managed to pick up a fireman, who had been wounded in the head, and was unconscious. He revived this man, and together they started rowing for land, though the fireman was not able to do much work. After twenty‑four hours they were rescued by a steamer, but twenty‑six of those who had been on board the Daleby perished.

 

In the sinking of the Terence (4,309 tons), which occurred on the previous day, three submarines took part, and her master (Mr. W. Frodsham) received afterwards the D.S.C. for the determined effort which he made to save his ship from destruction. The Terence was bound from Buenos Aires to Liverpool, and the series of encounters opened when she was about 200 miles from the Irish coast. At 1.20 p.m. the first submarine was sighted, and seventeen rounds were fired at her without effect; she then disappeared in the haze. At 4.55 p.m. the wake of a torpedo was seen approaching the ship, and, the helm being put over quickly, the torpedo passed astern. Shortly afterwards the sub­marine came to the surface, and for the next two hours an artillery duel went on between it and the merchantman. About 7 p.m. the submarine was firing shrapnel, which kept bursting over the ship, and as the Terence had fired seventy­four rounds and had only sixteen left, Captain Frodsham ordered these to be reserved, and the gunners to cease firing and take shelter. Ten minutes later a second submarine appeared, and each of them discharged a torpedo ineffectually at the Terence. They continued shelling her till 8.15 p.m., when they ceased firing owing to the darkness. The master believed they were still following, and took counsel with his engineers as to the possibility of lessening the amount of smoke from the funnel. At 11.15 p.m. the ship was struck by a torpedo, and after the long shelling to which they had been sub­jected the crew had somewhat lost their nerve, and all hands rushed to their stations, so that the boats were lowered and got away in a few minutes. The second

 

BRAVERY OF MASTER OF "TERENCE"

 

officer, finding that the master and chief officer were still on board, brought his boat back, and with some difficulty persuaded them to leave the ship. So resolved was the master not to be taken prisoner to Germany, that he intended, if a submarine should capture him, to jump overboard and, if possible, carry a German officer down with him. The boats, however, after sixty‑one hours, reached Ireland safely.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER II

 

THE THIRD WINTER OF PATROL WORK

 

THE German decision at the opening of 1917 to press an intensive submarine campaign threw greatly increased work on the Auxiliary Patrol. Could the officers and men stand the additional strain which had now to be met if the foundations on which the Allied war effort, by sea, by land, and in the air were to be preserved?

 

Every Allied ship found within the barred area was to be attacked without delay. "Our object," it was decreed from Berlin, "is to cut England off from traffic by sea, and not to achieve occasional results at far‑distant points. As far as possible, therefore, stations must be taken up near the English coast, where routes converge and where divergence becomes impossible." All submarines, as a rule, were to proceed by way of the English Channel so as to shorten the cruise and thus lessen the period subse­quently spent in dockyard hands. The bad weather experienced for long periods in the North Sea and Atlantic was severely testing the enemy's submarines, and they were directed to use the Straits of Dover, instead of the north‑about route to reach their operating stations, and to attempt to pass through the British defensive system during the hours of darkness, preferably at a time when the tidal stream would assist them.

 

Everything consequently conspired to throw increased responsibility on the craft of all descriptions which had been pressed into the country's service at this "bottle neck" of ocean traffic, contiguous to the bases which the Germans had established on the Belgian coast. If only the Straits could have been closed with nets or mines, all might have been well, but the nets were proving unreliable under the pressure of high seas, and the supply of mines, particularly mines of the im­proved type, was, owing to the urgent demands for muni­tions of every kind required for the navy, the army, and merchant shipping, inadequate for the serious situation which had developed. Moreover, it was not only in the Straits of Dover that the auxiliary craft had to respond to calls for service beyond anything hitherto known. The enemy was pursuing his activities in such widely separated areas as the western approach to the English Channel, the Mediterranean, off the south coast of Ireland, the North Sea, the whole length of the English Channel, the Irish Sea, and far out in the Atlantic.

 

What was to be done with the exiguous means then available? Defensive measures already found effective, such as the employment of armed patrol vessels and Q‑ships, had to be perfected. New devices, such as hydrophones, and new tactics such as stalking and hunting the enemy rather than awaiting his coming had to be adopted. Specialist officers were detailed to the various Auxiliary Patrol bases to superintend the working of the hydrophones which were being hurriedly installed in small craft. A systematic method of training ratings in the art of listening by these instruments ‑ an art that was not so simple as it seemed ‑ had to be instituted. Hydrophones were at this period in an early stage of evolution, and it needed both a sensitive ear and much experience to distinguish between the various under­water sounds which they picked up and the sound of a submarine's engines.

 

The enemy's submarines regularly succeeded in negotiat­ing the Dover Straits, a favourite place being between the buoys on the western side of the barrage of this date. Occasionally they would be caught in the nets, but oftener still they wriggled through. On the very first day of the unrestricted campaign, UC.17 reported that she got caught between two of these buoys. She succeeded in extricating herself, but about forty yards of net remained hanging from her hull. By going astern with her engines, she managed to get clear of this unwelcome load. Such an incident in no way supports an indictment against our drifters and their crews; it is merely a proof that by this time a thoroughly reliable and effective method of thwart­ing the U‑boat had not been evolved. At the best the use of nets is only a defensive measure. It had been difficult in the earlier stages of the war to find the right offensive tactics to be employed against the unseen foe.

 

The idea of using trawlers and M.L.s (motor launches) in formation for hunting flotillas promised well. The enemy often had reason to respect and fear the 9‑knot trawler with its little gun and vigilant crew. Now, too, as revealed in the reports of submarine commanders, they were becoming nervous of the M.L.s. The next stage was to employ these trawlers and drifters and M.L.s on more scientific lines in accordance with ripening experience. The first units organised to hunt with hydrophones were the drifters in the Aegean, which began to operate in February 1917. Organised in divisions of seven, the leader being in the centre, all the vessels were moved according to the direction of the drifter or drifters which heard the sound of the U‑boat. The idea was to keep the enemy within the area assigned to the division and eventually force him to come to the surface within gun‑range of the drifters. This idea was afterwards adopted in Home Waters, and by June 1917 four hunting flotillas of six M.L.s each were formed and based on Newhaven, Portsmouth, Portland, and Dartmouth. As a result, many engagements during the next three months took place between these flotillas and submarines. The U‑boat would first be located on the hydrophones by means of cross‑bearings, and depth‑charges would then be dropped. Even if he was not always destroyed, the experience certainly inflicted on the enemy a good deal of "moral damage" and tended gradually to wear him down until, as actually happened on some occasions, the submarine came to the surface glad to surrender.

 

Owing to the success of these flotillas others were formed during the spring of 1918 at Peterhead, Granton, the Tyne, the Humber, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, the Nore, Littlehampton, Torquay, Newlyn, Holyhead, and Larne, the senior M.L. officer's ship being fitted with wireless. Each M.L. was equipped with four depth‑charges, a gun, a hydrophone, and a flashing lamp. As time went on, a better type of hydrophone was evolved, and these little grey ships were to be observed coming along in line abreast, as far apart as visibility and signalling would allow by day; at night or in thick weather, they drifted with engines stopped, listening eagerly to the hydrophone, the aim being invisibility and silence, so as to catch the enemy unawares, perhaps while in the act of charging his

 

U‑BOAT ATTACKED BY TRAWLERS

 

batteries. Other hunting flotillas were started elsewhere, and more powerful depth‑charges were introduced into the service.

 

Meanwhile the old but successful methods were being continued. The armed smacks out of Lowestoft and the decoy trawlers from certain Scottish ports were at work, some of the latter, disguised with deckhouses, and with sweeps and davits removed, being sent out into the Atlantic as far as the Flannan Islands. The trawlers, in spite of their third winter on patrol, were giving the enemy little peace. On February 7th the trawlers Swallow and Pigeon II were patrolling off Whitby when they had an experience worthy of being put on record. About 10 a.m. Lieutenant J. Dixon, R.N.R., the Swallow 's commanding officer, ob­served a steamer sinking, and proceeded at full speed, in company with the Pigeon II, to investigate. On getting closer, it was noticed that there was another steamer in the vicinity which was stopped with boat tackles over the side; several boats were rowing about. These two vessels turned out to be the Corsican Prince (2,776 tons) and the St. Ninian (3,026 tons), which had been torpedoed three miles east of Whitby. As the Swallow came up, two boats full of seamen were sighted, and there was obviously a periscope to the eastward of the St. Ninian. Shouting to the men to remain in the boats till picked up, Lieutenant Dixon proceeded at full speed for the periscope and rammed the submarine, close to the conning tower, with such im­pact that the Swallow 's bow was knocked violently to starboard, the periscope passing down along the starboard side three feet away. The Swallow then turned, dropped a depth‑charge, and buoyed the spot. A good deal of oil was observed coming to the surface. Meanwhile the Pigeon was picking up the three boat‑loads of men and ultimately landed them at Whitby.

 

It was just at the moment when the Swallow rammed the enemy, that the latter was firing a torpedo at the St. Ninian only three hundred yards away. This took effect so that the steamer sank in a few seconds. One hour later the destroyers Doon and Waveney, who were seven miles off, intercepted a wireless message and proceeded at 20 knots to the scene and searched for the enemy. At noon the Waveney sighted a periscope cutting through the water in a southerly direction. The forecastle gun was fired, one shell bursting near to the periscope. Later on, the periscope was again seen on a south‑westerly course. The Waveney therefore rammed her at full speed, the bump being distinctly felt down the starboard side. About this time a third destroyer ‑ the Nith ‑ took in a signal and steered to cut the enemy off. At 1.15 p.m. she sighted the submarine slowly heading to the south‑west, having just come to the surface. On sighting the Nith, she dived, but a depth‑charge was dropped, and a large patch of oil afterwards appeared on the surface. The chase was maintained and three hours later the Swallow noticed a disturbance in the water, oil appearing near the dan buoy. But darkness was now setting in and the hunt had to be abandoned. This incident was an instance of the ease with which a submarine could evade patrol craft and deceive them. There is no reason for supposing that the U‑boat was destroyed; on the contrary, it had become part of their artful routine to discharge a certain amount of oil into the water after attack, so as to deceive the hunters into the belief that the hull had been injured. It was some time before this ruse was realised, with the result that more than once a submarine was wrongly claimed as having been sunk, whereas the stalking and attack should have been continued. In the case which has been cited the co‑operation of the trawlers and destroyers only just failed in their purpose. The submarine was evidently in difficulties, but the darkness came to her salvation. Lieutenant Dixon received an appreciation from the Board of Admiralty for the promptitude of his attack.

 

The captains of submarines in the meantime were carrying out orders to be ruthless towards fishing craft. The movements of the UC.44 illustrate the campaign. This vessel, having crossed the North Sea, began operating off the north‑east coast. On February 11th, the enemy sank the trawler Ashwold of Shields, taking the skipper prisoner. A course was then steered north and next day the trawler Dale was destroyed 42 miles S. by E. 1/4 E. from North Ronaldshay (Orkneys). The vessel then came south and sank in succession the trawlers King Alfred, 75 miles south of Fair Isle, Belvoir Castle off Buchan Ness, and Mary Bell off Aberdeen. She then went back to her base, arriving at Heligoland on February 16th. In each case the victim was a steam trawler, and each of the skippers

 

MILFORD HAVEN DRIFTERS

 

was taken prisoner. On the day before she got home she was attacked by a couple of British destroyers, whose depth‑charges at once destroyed the submarine's electric light fittings, plunging her into darkness. However, the German had recourse to the usual ruse of discharging oil; and chairs were placed in the after torpedo tube and came to the surface, so that the impression was created that the submarine had been blown up and had gone to the bottom.

 

In the monotony of these wintry days many a man serving in drifter, trawler, steam yacht, Q‑ship, or motor launch must have been led to wonder whether, after all, he was doing as much for his country as the men in the muddy trenches of Flanders. He had patrolled thousands of miles, shot and hauled nets day after day, swept channel and estuary, but in most cases he had never so much as seen a submarine's periscope. Such doubts were groundless. The vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were doing far more ser­vice by keeping the seas than they ever imagined. How often did the presence of the patrol craft cause the enemy to leave a steamship untouched! How often, when lying to those tiresome, kinking nets, did the drifters harass the U‑boat and prevent the enemy from carrying out his orders to be "energetic" and "rapid" and to sink British shipping where traffic converged!

 

One such incident occurred at the southern end of the Irish Sea, where liners and other ships converged from the North Atlantic, the Bay of Biscay, the South Atlantic, and the English Channel, making for Liverpool, or proceeding on their devious ways when outward bound. Since the year 1916 the drifters based on Milford Haven, under the direc­tion of Admiral Dare, had been working their nets across the sea from the Welsh coast right up to the Irish shore. Was all this work of any avail? We now know that it was, for UC.65 at this important focal area was baffled. It was only with the greatest difficulty that she could get through the line of nets, and she reported on returning home that she had been surrounded by net‑drifters. The whole of the area, she guessed quite correctly, from the Smalls to the Tuskar was barred by these little ships, and escape was only possible by submerging to the tremendous depth of 197 feet and going dead slow. The danger to the sub­marine's hull owing to pressure at that depth was not negli­gible. In their various ways, the fishermen, merchantmen, and yachtsmen were taking their full share, in face of great hardship and no mean risks, in keeping the seas open for the Allies.

 

Valuable work was also being carried out by quite a different type of small craft. We have already seen how the necessity of rescue tugs increased owing to the activity of enemy submarines in their campaign against merchant shipping. During February 1917 the better organisation and distribution of these craft became the duty of a special committee at the Admiralty. It was a case of the supply being unequal to the demand. Tugs had to be attached to the Grand Fleet in order to be ready to take charge of vessels injured in a fleet engagement. Obviously such tugs must be available at short notice since it was impossible to foresee when they would be wanted. They could not be spared for any other purpose. Others, again, were needed for transport, for towing stores and ammunition across channel for our armies. Others were engaged, as they had been since the outbreak of war, in the examination service off the entrances of our harbours. The Merchant Navy also needed tugs, otherwise how were big liners to be brought alongside their landing stages and manoeuvred in and out of docks?

 

But none the less the Admiralty required tugs for rescue work if injured merchant vessels were to be got into port, and they had to be hired. They were stationed all round the coast, the three principal stations being Buncrana and Queenstown, in Ireland, and Falmouth, in England. They were armed, provided with smoke‑producing apparatus and depth‑charges, and fitted with wireless. Many of their ratings were secured from the Trawler Reserve and some of these men did so well that in five months they were promoted to second mate, and then to mate. Such men had before the war been skippers of sailing smacks with no experience of steam, but owing to their practical know­ledge of sea‑lore they made excellent officers. It was no easy task to go out into the Atlantic in bad weather, find a sinking liner, get the tow rope connected up, and bring the vessel, possibly with a list to port or starboard or down foreward or aft, through the submarine zone safely into port. Such efforts demanded seamanship, daring, patience, and coolness of the first order. The rescue tug service paid for itself many times over in the value of the

 

WORK OF THE RESCUE TUGS

 

ships and cargoes which were saved. For instance, during the last seven months of 1917 these craft saved 69 ships, which had been torpedoed or mined, and during 1918 the number of salvages was still higher. These vessels, it should be emphasised, were hired tugs, for though new tugs were laid down by the Admiralty in the autumn of 1917, the first of them was not completed until September 1918, and by the date of the armistice only five were ready. There were always fifty per cent of such tugs at sea, and actually strengthening the patrols. As soon as the local senior naval officer received the news that a ship had been torpedoed or mined, he called up the nearest tug by wireless and she altered course and made for the ship's position.

 

It was not only to British or Allied ships that these tugs were rendering service. On February 22nd, eight Dutch ships which had put into Falmouth, came out, bound to the westward. These were the Jacatra, Gaasterland, Noorderdijk, Bandoeng, Eemland, Ambon, Zaandijk and Menado. They had been given a safe‑conduct by the Germans. On the evening of that day a distress wireless call was picked up from the Bandoeng, whereupon three of the rescue tugs from Falmouth, as well as patrol vessels, were at once sent out. What had happened was soon explained. When about twenty‑five miles west of the Bishop's Rock, Scillies, the ships were attacked by a Ger­man submarine, with the result that every one of the eight vessels was abandoned by her crew. Afterwards the tugs and patrol vessels came up. The distressed Dutchmen, to the number of about two hundred, were picked up and taken into Penzance and the Scillies. Six of the ships sank, but the Ambon and Menado were salved.

 

The immediate result was that Dutch steamers sought refuge in Falmouth harbour, and during the week ending March 3rd there were as many as twenty‑four of them lying at anchor up the Fal, causing great congestion and inconvenience. This attack, so unexpected and successful, had been carried out by Lieutenant‑Commander Hersing of the U.21, the submarine which had left Germany in April 1915, had reached Cattaro in May, and then had begun to operate in the Aegean and Mediterranean. The U.21 was on her return voyage to Germany, when the Dutch convoy offered a most tempting target. She reached Wilhelmshaven on March 3rd. It was stated later that Hersing was unaware of the fact that his country had granted a safe­conduct to the Dutch ships, and, after long negotiations, Germany agreed to compensate Holland by transferring to her, under certain conditions, six German steamers then lying in ports of the Dutch East Indies.

 

Meanwhile, in the Harwich area the minesweepers and patrol vessels were having a busy and anxious time; for the safety of the Harwich Force, under Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, as it came in and out of harbour, depended largely on them. Submarines were operating in these waters very persistently, and therefore, in order to make the navigational conditions less easy for them, it was decided to shift one or two of the lightships.

 

Other measures taken at this time included the laying of boom defences in additional harbours so that merchant shipping might lie safely at anchor before putting to sea under cover of darkness. The trawlers which had laid and maintained the Yukanski boom in Lapland in 1916 were now thousands of miles away, preparing a boom off Sierra Leone, an illustration of the wide range which these little vessels covered in the performance of their war duties. Simultaneously the defensive equipment of merchant ships was being extended and improved.

 

Thus, so far as was possible with the human and material means at their disposal, the Admiralty were doing their best to combat the new developments of the submarine warfare. The situation was an embarrassing one. It was difficult to get material, inasmuch as private firms were already fully occupied in supplying the armies overseas. Nor was it easy to obtain an adequate supply of men for the Auxiliary Patrol, for they were required everywhere, both ashore and afloat.

 

As a result of the raid on the Dover Straits of Oc­tober 26th, 1916, the Dover Patrol had been gradually strengthened by vessels detached from the Grand Fleet flotillas and by destroyers borrowed from the Harwich Force. As to the drifters whose duty it was to look after the barrage, these craft were withdrawn at night and their places taken by four or five destroyers who carried out a careful patrol. But the Ramsgate armed drifters and a torpedo boat still watched the northern approach to the Downs.

 

RAID ON DOVER STRAITS

 

The night of February 25th, 1917, was fine though over­cast, and the moon was obscured by clouds. The enemy took advantage of the conditions to make another raid on the Dover Straits, though it did not achieve very much. At 10.30 p.m. the destroyer Laverock became engaged with enemy destroyers three and a half miles to the south­west of the barrage. Shortly afterwards the enemy altered course to the north and retired across the barrage. At 11.10 p.m. there was a second attack, much farther to the north; the Ramsgate armed drifters, who were spread on the line North Foreland‑North Goodwin Lightship, being taken by surprise. The nearest inshore drifter of this squadron was the John Lincoln. She observed three de­stroyers half a mile to seaward, steering in a northerly direction along the coast. Immediately they opened fire, directing their guns towards the land; some shells fell in the vicinity of the North Foreland and others in and near Margate, in which town a woman and two children were killed. The John Lincoln. fired a green rocket, which was the signal to indicate that an attack by surface craft was being made. Before response could be made to the signal, the enemy disappeared to the eastward.

 

During the month of March 3,586 tons of British fishing craft were destroyed. At this period fishing trawlers were being armed and despatched to their Iceland fisheries and elsewhere, keeping together for mutual support. The off­shore fishermen, such as those operating from Newlyn and St. Ives, were protected by armed drifters. How necessary this precaution was the events of March 11th and 12th revealed, for while fishing from ten to twenty‑five miles off Trevose, Cornwall, eleven smacks were sunk by the enemy.

 

The strain of the intensified submarine warfare was telling severely on vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol. Senior officers all round the coast were complaining that with the demands for more escorts, more minesweeping, and more adequate protection of fishing craft, it was not possible to carry on an efficient patrol. The little ships were wanted everywhere and for all sorts of tasks. Then there was the sailor's eternal enemy to contend with ‑ bad weather. In a gale of wind there are few places round the British coast less "healthy" for small craft than the Yorkshire coast with its dearth of suitable harbours. On March 4th, 1917, the French tug Robur was coming along this coast with the three‑masted schooner Cognac in tow. The Robur sprang a leak and was soon in such a sad plight that she had to cast off the tow, leaving the Cognac to anchor two miles off Scarborough, while she herself made off to the northward. The net drifter Rodney II, in command of Skipper James Dougal, R.N.R., fortunately came along, stood by the Robur, and escorted her to a position two miles east of Hartlepool where the Robur let go her anchor. The weather was very bad ‑ an onshore gale of wind blowing. The con­ditions were such that the local lifeboat could not get out, and the destroyer Quail, which was proceeding north to render assistance to the distressed tug, was unable to get past Whitby and had to return. However, the gallant little Rodney II, her crew displaying splendid seamanship, succeeded in going alongside and taking off the Robur's crew.

 

Meanwhile the Cognac, anchored farther down the coast two miles off Scarborough, was in a miserable plight. Early on the morning of March 5th, the armed trawler Dentaria received a wireless signal ordering her to go to the assistance of the Cognac. Proceeding at full speed, Lieutenant Charles Wood, R.N.R., took the Dentaria crashing through the gale, and at 12.45 p.m. found the schooner with seas breaking over her and gradually dragging towards the beach. Off such a coast in such conditions of wind and sea, the chances of anything afloat surviving seemed small. The wind was south‑east, force 7 to 8. After many attempts the Dentaria succeeded shortly after 2 p.m. in passing the Cognac a tow line by means of a rocket and a small line. The schooner now started to heave up her anchors, but her master reported that in so doing the windlass had become damaged beyond repair and that the vessel was leaking, with her pumps broken down. A quarter of an hour afterwards, owing to the heavy seas and the swell, the tow line which had been got aboard with such difficulty was carried away. Things were going from bad to worse and by the late afternoon, since wind and seas were increasing, Lieutenant Wood signalled to the Cognac asking whether, as it was useless to attempt again to take her in tow, the master wished to abandon ship. The Cognac signalled in the affirmative, and then there followed a fine example of sound seamanship.

 

RESCUE WORK BY ARMED TRAWLERS

 

Lieutenant Wood had been joined by the armed trawler Viola (Skipper Charles Allum, R.N.R.), whom he sent to steam ahead of the Cognac with oil bags out. This, of course, reduced the sea and enabled the Dentaria to approach the schooner and take off the crew. Only one man was washed overboard, but he was picked up. By five o'clock all were safe on board the Dentaria.

 

Seamen who know anything of the conditions which prevail at times off the Yorkshire coast will appreciate the difficulties which beset the Dentaria; the least error of judgment would have been disastrous. By the time the rescue had been completed in this comparatively shallow water near to the shore, it was blowing a fresh to strong gale with heavy seas and snow squalls. During the night both trawlers remained cruising near the schooner, hoping to be able to take her in tow as soon as the weather moder­ated. But with the dawn it was seen that the schooner was much deeper in the water; she looked a sorry sight as the gale swept the seas over her. All that afternoon, the trawlers remained standing by. As darkness fell, the weather, instead of improving, settled down to a full gale which raised a very dangerous sea. The two trawlers were therefore compelled to stand well out from the land so as to obtain a truer sea, and they were presently joined by the armed trawler Stronsay.

 

So passed another trying night, and then next morning the Dentaria's wireless recorded the fact that the Cognac had been driven ashore. The three trawlers were then able to make for the Tyne. Drifters and trawlers alike, fishermen and merchant sea­men, had distinguished themselves during that easterly gale. In weather that was too bad for destroyer or life­boat, these auxiliary craft had fought and prevailed and saved every man. "I consider," wrote the Tyne Senior Naval Officer in his report to the Admiralty, "that Lieu­tenant Charles Wood, R.N.R., as is usual with him, displayed the most consummate seamanship on this occasion, the position of the Cognac on a lee shore in the gale being most desperate." The gallantry of Skipper Allum was accentuated by the fact that the Viola's steering gear had broken down. Although he was offered permission to run for shelter, he succeeded in making temporary repairs while lying‑to, and continued to assist the Dentaria.

 

We have referred already to East Coast smacks being armed to fight submarines. The unrestricted phase of the campaign compelled this decoy idea to be employed else­where round our coasts. Thus a motor‑ketch called the Sarah Colebrooke, belonging to the ancient port of Rye, was taken into service, and having been sent round to Portsmouth to be fitted, cruised about the English Channel for some months. On June 3rd, when twenty miles S. by W. of Beachy Head, she had a fierce engagement with a submarine. Some of the Plymouth and Brixham smacks were similarly armed, and even fitted with motors. Off the north‑east Scottish coast steam trawlers, suitably armed and disguised, continued to go out with the fishing fleets, shoot their trawls, and carry on just like other trawlers; then, when a submarine appeared, they would cut away the fishing gear and attack the enemy.

 

Before the spring was over, there came more raids in the Dover Straits. Since that of February 25th, the disposition of the Dover forces by night had continued unchanged. On the night of March 17th‑18th, the moon was in its last quarter and above the horizon only in the early morning. The weather was calm and clear. The northern ap­proach to the Downs was being watched by six armed drifters, spread between the Broadstairs Knoll Buoy and North Sand Head, supported by the torpedo boat No. 4, cruising to the southward. Two days previously the steamship Greypoint, bound to the north, had been forced by an engine‑room breakdown to anchor about a mile east of the Broadstairs Knoll Buoy. At 12.35 a.m. on March 18th the drifter Paramount sighted three or four enemy destroyers approaching from the north‑east, passing close to the eastward of the Greypoint. The drifter fired the usual warning green rocket, and the enemy replied by shelling the drifters and torpedoing the Greypoint. After that the enemy went on for a mile or so to the south‑west, then turned round, and came back on a north‑easterly course. On this return journey, the Germans continued to fire on the drifters, as well as at the sinking Greypoint; they also bombarded both Ramsgate and Broadstairs. The drifter Redwald was seriously damaged and had to be beached. The entire crew of the Greypoint were rescued by the armed drifter R.R.S. The Redwald had received five hits, which caused two boxes of shells to explode, seriously wounding the skipper and trimmer, as well as injuring

 

FURTHER RAIDS ON DOVER STRAITS

 

six other members of the crew. After being beached, she was successfully refloated and brought into Ramsgate. Torpedo boat No. 4 had sighted the enemy near the Gull Lightship and at once proceeded towards the firing at a speed of 15 knots; but she was outdistanced by the German destroyers‑another illustration of the value of speed.

 

At 10.50 p.m. on this night the destroyer Paragon, while patrolling the barrage with three other destroyers, was torpedoed and shelled heavily at close range. She replied, but presently broke in two and sank: no officers and only ten men were saved. The destroyers Laforey and Llewellyn came up, but the Llewellyn was also torpedoed, though eventually she was able to steam stern first into Dover. From Dover, too, were sent six motor launches. M.L.241 was able to rescue eight survivors from the Paragon, and five bodies were picked up by M.L.s 274 and 280. Thus once again came proof that the Dover barrage was not secure against surface raids, and it was decided to mount some guns on the North Foreland.

 

On March 29th at nine in the morning two German seaplanes crossed the barrage, evidently having a good look at the position of the nets and buoys for the information of their submarines. On the same day, in the early hours, a raid off Lowestoft by German naval forces caused the loss of the British steamship Mascota, seven of her crew being taken prisoners. A few weeks followed and then came another raid in the Dover area on the night of April 20th‑21st in favourable conditions. Since the raid of March 17th‑18th, the patrol system for guarding against night attacks had been entirely altered. Two flotilla leaders patrolled the south‑eastern side, while there were reserve ships in Dover. The shore batteries at Foreness and North Foreland had been completed. The enemy's object on this occasion was to bombard Dover and make a demonstration off Calais.

 

At 7 p.m. on April 20th, twelve of his destroyers left Zeebrugge at 15 knots for the Dover Straits in two de­tachments; the western force of six destroyers made the Dover barrage about 10.30 p.m., passed the western barrage patrol unsighted, and at 11.30 p.m. shelled Dover whilst heading north‑east. They then encountered the armed trawler Sabreur (Skipper Robert Scott, R.N.R.) off Dover. The Sabreur was on patrol and the first intimation that the skipper had of the enemy was when they fired on him. About forty shells were discharged, the first bursting in front of the wheelhouse. At this time the Sabreur was heading north‑west and the enemy north‑east, the trawler's port side being fired into from a range of half a mile. The trawler, therefore, quickened her speed, starboarded her helm, made for the westward for a while, and then, as she needed medical aid, turned for Dover. She had received a direct hit on the fore‑end of the engine‑room easing; a shell had burst in the stokehold, damaging bulkheads and bunkers, but otherwise, surprising to relate, no harm had been done to hull or boiler or engines, and only a trimmer on duty in the stokehold had been injured. On deck only the wheelhouse window, the foremost winch, and the rigging had been damaged. The Sabreur had been unable to return the enemy's fire without unduly exposing herself, for the gun would not bear unless the enemy had been brought nearly abeam. Deeming it better to avoid action with so superior a force, the skipper extinguished his lights and made off. These auxiliary patrol craft were in the Straits as anti‑submarine craft; it was not expected that they should, on terms of hopeless inequality, fight a division of destroyers, with thrice the speed and overwhelmingly superior gun power.

 

For the rest, this raid is the story of an historic naval en­gagement in which the Broke (Commander E. R. G. R. Evans) and Swift (Commander A. M. Peck) distinguished themselves, fighting the enemy with conspicuous gallantry, but the event concerned the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol no further. Two more raids occurred within the next few days, when ports were bombarded in which Auxiliary Patrol vessels were resting. The first was on the night of April 25th‑26th, when German destroyers bombarded Dunkirk, followed the next night by a similar raid on Ramsgate.

 

By this time the submarine campaign had reached its greatest intensity, for in April more tonnage was sunk than in any month during the course of the war. Shipping was sunk in the English Channel, in the Bay of Biscay, in the South‑West approaches, in the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, in the North Sea, in the Irish Sea, and off

 

GALLANTRY OF THE "GAUL"

 

the South of Ireland. From the positions where the attacks were made, it was evident that the enemy was making a dead‑set on the trans‑Atlantic trade right away from the seaward limits of the Auxiliary Patrol vessels. In addition to this, cases occurred where the submarines, watching for a favourable opportunity when the patrol had passed round a headland escorting a valuable steamer, would waylay the next oncoming vessel and torpedo her right under the land. Then would come wireless calls, the abandonment of the steamer, the arrival of patrol craft from all points of the compass, the disappearance of the submarine, and the slow towing into port of the sink­ing steamer surrounded by small armed craft of every discription.

 

The enemy were taking great pains at this period to secure accurate information as to the movements of British shipping, and even employed submarines for this sole purpose. On such scouting cruises, the U‑boats were strictly forbidden to attack any vessels. U.49, for instance, made a couple of such trips to the English coast during April, and by means of her wireless kept the staff at the base informed of all that was observed. The reason for adopting this policy was that the convoy system of pro­tecting shipping was coming into use in the North Sea.

 

Meanwhile, the Admiralty were making progress in perfecting every device which promised good results. Directional hydrophones were being distributed to auxi­liary patrol bases, and even gramophones, with records of various types of engine and propeller noises, were sent to the bases and proved of the highest value in the pre­liminary training of ratings.

 

The enemy attack on the fishing fleet at this stage in the war was very intense. On the morning of April 24th, the Grimsby fishing fleet was at work in a position about ten miles N.E. by N. of the Spurn, under the escort of the two armed trawlers, the Gaul (Skipper J. Kime, R.N.R.) and the Margate, when a submarine with two guns was sighted four miles to the south‑west of the Gaul. The enemy immediately opened fire on the fishing trawler Mayfly. The Gaul steamed full speed towards the enemy, engaged her, and wirelessed an S.O.S. signal. For half an hour a keen action ensued, during which the Gaul fired seventeen rounds and was hit by the enemy five times. The Gaul's gun was hit and one of the gun's crew was killed and another wounded. The skipper, the second engineman and trimmer were also killed, and the signalman was wounded. The wireless was shot down and it was found that the forepart of the ship was filling with water. At the actual moment when the Gaul's gun was put out of action, the armed trawler Margate was able to intervene, engaging the enemy at close range. Conditions favoured the submarine, and the Margate, after maintaining the action for an hour and a half, sank, taking down with her one officer and eleven men. But this was not by any means the complete record of loss. Four of the fishing trawlers had been set on fire. The Gaul endeavoured to launch her boat, but just as it reached the gunwale it was blown to pieces. A fog then came on, hiding from sight the trawlers and the submarine. The Gaul herself was in a bad way, but by continuous baling on the part of the four hands from midday to half‑past seven in the evening, the water was kept under and the vessel managed to reach port.

 

 

 

The Auxiliary Patrol: Drifters and Trawlers in Dover Harbour

 

This tragic incident illustrated how heavy was the responsibility of protecting the fishing fleets. By the beginning of May, off the Tyne coast, the situation became embarrassing. The claims of the fishing industry had to be carefully weighed against those of the coastal convoys. Trawlers in that area of the Auxiliary Patrol were now employed almost entirely in escorting these convoys. Drifters had, therefore, to be used to protect the fishing trawlers and the herring drifters, besides carrying out the local coast patrols. As a rule fifty or sixty drifters of the herring fleet were out at once, the fishing position being changed nightly. Of the four or five armed drifters looking after these craft, one would have wireless, the Tyne being about forty miles from their fishing grounds. For patrolling off these north‑east coast ports during the night so as to prevent enemy minelaying, M.L.s were on duty. On the other hand, much farther along the coast M.L.s were employed during the spring and summer laying mines to cover the seaward entrance of the southern half of the Thames estuary against submarines. They succeeded in laying nearly a thousand mines, and carried out the task with scarcely a hitch.

 

The armed yachts, in spite of their inevitable drawbacks,

 

THE ARMED YACHTS

 

were still on patrol and escort work. Several, after three winters at sea, had become badly strained and damaged. It had been necessary to pay off some of them, while others had been lost by mine or collision, or submarine, or through stranding. But the bigger and more seaworthy yachts were still keeping the seas and proving most useful units. Evidence was supplied time and again of their deterrent effect on the enemy. One instance may be cited. In the late afternoon of April 12th the armed yacht Rovenska, based on Falmouth, sighted the steamship Borderer, about fifteen miles south‑west of Scilly flying a red flag. The Rovenska at once proceeded towards her and learned that a submarine had come up alongside the ship showing four feet of periscope, but had dived on seeing the yacht approach. The Rovenska remained with the Borderer as escort, and in the opinion of the merchant captain his steamer was saved from almost certain de­struction.

 

By this time the activities of the Auxiliary Patrol were being supplemented by the first experimental convoys. Was the enemy experiencing the effect of this improve­ment in the varied measures adopted by the Admiralty to defend merchant shipping? There is no shadow of doubt that the German submarines were being hard pressed. The captain of UC.77, in reporting to German headquarters, summed up the situation as it affected the U‑boat thus: "The principle of effective anti‑submarine methods has therefore been grasped by the British, and hampers our operations in the same way as the centralisa­tion of ocean‑going shipping has done": and he went on to refer, sadly, to "the numerous trawler groups, yachts, and submarine‑chasers" which the British were now employing as escorts. The naval authorities, with better supplies of guns, mines, depth‑charges, bomb howitzers, and other offensive and defensive material at their com­mand, were getting to grips with the problem. We can picture, in the light of later knowledge, the chagrin with which captains of submarines found their freedom of action increasingly circumscribed and their craft, as well as their own lives, exposed to new perils as the summer of 1917 advanced. Such a vessel could hardly get outside her base before she encountered the lines of British mine­fields which had been laid so thickly by this period.

 

Across his track would lie a patrol of British submarines; then a well‑organised force of destroyers, yachts, trawlers, drifters, M.L.s, and aircraft would await her. On the trade routes, enemy submarines were also being harassed by innocent‑looking Q‑ships or by escorts of convoys. At likely positions where enemy craft might hope to rest on the bottom, or off landmarks where the skippers might want to get a navigational "fix," British mines or mine­nets were in position. When the U‑boat was threading her way through the sandy channels of the East Anglian coast, dummy lighthouses caused her to lose her bearings. Permanent hydrophones, laid down several miles from the shore and connected up to listening stations on land, gave her presence away and hunting flotillas kept her on the move, dropping depth‑charges at every favourable opportunity.

 

The United States had entered the war early in the year, and on April 9th Admiral Sims had arrived in England. The first division of United States destroyers had reached Queenstown on May 4th, and at once began to patrol. On June 26th the first U.S.A. troops landed direct from North America in France. The move­ment of the transports inevitably tempted the enemy to concentrate submarines on the western approaches. It was essential that Germany should do everything in her power to sink any ship whose men or cargoes would prove of assistance to the hard‑pressed Allied armies. The submarine commanders well knew that if the attack were made within a few miles of the Irish coast, destroyers, Q‑ships, and Auxiliary Patrol craft would be quickly on the spot, and in any case the torpedoed steamship would probably limp into port. Therefore, by the third week in June the U‑boats were venturing out into the Atlantic to an unprecedented distance and sinking ships as far out as four hundred miles from the nearest land.

 

In the meantime, minelaying U‑boats continued to operate, and as their work took them close to the land they frequently encountered British trawlers, fishing or patrolling. Having laid their mines, these craft were usually ready to fight. At midnight on June 3rd‑4th, when five miles east of Girdleness, the Grimsby steam trawler Virgilia (Skipper Alfred Rawlings) was coming home with a full catch of fish from the Faeroes, when

 

PLIGHT OF "UC77" AND "UC66

 

UC.77 rose to the surface, capturing her and then sinking her by bombs. The skipper, of course, was taken prisoner and the crew were left in the dinghy, but only after the Germans had thrown the dinghy's mast and sail into the sea. However, a motor launch came on the scene a few hours later and picked the men up. On the following night this submarine was off Hartlepool and attacked a vessel by gunfire. Unfortunately for the Germans this turned out to be a patrol vessel with good guns and even better gunners, whose first shots caused damage to the enemy craft. The captain only just escaped having his head blown off by a shell which passed over him, and several of the gun's crew came rushing aft with their hands and faces covered with blood as visible evidence of the injuries they had received. The captain of the submarine thought it discreet to dive, but a depth‑charge exploded by her stern at this moment and shook her so violently that every German on board believed his end had come. Then followed a second depth‑charge, which struck one of the oil tanks and burst it, with the result that fifteen tons of oil were lost. A third charge burst just ahead. A few minutes later, the craft fouled some nets, but, by going ahead and astern, she managed to get clear.

 

Similarly off the Devon and Cornish coasts the war was being waged relentlessly by the enemy against these sturdy fishermen who were still "carrying on." On the afternoon of June 8th, off the Start, four fishing smacks were captured and sunk. There was a special‑service armed smack with them, but unfortunately there was no wind and having no motor, she was forced to remain an unwilling spectator. The submarine ceased her destructive operations only when she saw the approach of a destroyer. (It was as a result of this incident that one of the special‑service smacks was this month fitted with a paraffin motor.) Four days later, at 10.30 a.m., the armed trawler Sea King, fitted with a hydrophone, was off the Lizard when she saw UC.66 only four hundred yards away. The trawler at once headed for the enemy, but the sub­marine submerged. The Sea King was commanded by Commander Godfrey Herbert, RN, himself a sub­marine officer who had had exceptional war experience and success in command of anti‑submarine craft. His second‑in‑command, Lieutenant E. W. Buchanan, R.N., had served for a long time in destroyers. No sooner had the enemy submerged than Commander Herbert placed his trawler in exactly the correct spot, let go a depth­charge, and was encouraged by hearing a series of heavy explosions. The depth‑charge had hit the submarine, and her cargo of mines were going off one by one. A considerable amount of oil came to the surface a few minutes later. The remainder of the flotilla also dropped their depth‑charges and then all vessels listened on their hydro­phones. Not a sound was heard. The enemy had been silenced. The steel hull of UC.66, lying on the bed of the English Channel, had become the coffin of thirty or more German sailors.

 

In this same week four of the cross‑Channel barrage buoys were damaged by the machine‑gun fire of enemy seaplanes. But there were twenty drifters as well as M.L.s patrolling the barrage and they managed to shoot down a couple of the seaplanes. The persistent attention of the aircraft suggested that by this means the enemy were trying to facilitate the passage of the barrage by his submarines. A shortage was now being felt in the supply of German submarine officers of the same high efficiency as many of those who had distinguished them­selves in the early days of the war. Neither captains nor crews were quite up to "standard pattern," and men who were serving at sea in the British patrols were struck by the unseamanlike behaviour of many of the German sub­marine commanders. They were evidently losing their nerve under the terrible ordeal to which they were being sub­jected. Those who got back home told their harrowing tales of the capabilities of depth‑charges and the alertness of the British patrol craft.

 

Day by day their hope of victory as a result of the intensive submarine campaign was receding. It was not checking the movement of troops from the United States to Europe and since April the amount of merchant shipping sunk had shown signs of a decrease. The smoke‑boxes which were being used as screens against submarines made the enemy's operations more difficult. By reason of the increase in the number of craft, many of them supplied with hydrophones, guns, and howitzers, the patrol system off our shores was now more efficient than it had ever been, and the improved training of the crews was not

 

U‑BOAT OCEAN RAIDERS

 

without its influence. In July the tide of fortune was beginning to turn decisively, and as a result submarines were operating still farther out into the Atlantic, ships being now attacked as far as 800 miles west of Finisterre.

 

The number of enemy submarines in commission had, however, increased, and the design of the newer boats of the larger size revealed a much heavier displacement. A good many of these craft were for all practical purposes small ocean‑going raiders with the supreme advantage over raiding cruisers that they were able to submerge. This constituted a new menace to merchant shipping, in that it extended the limits of the submarine zone.

 

The new development pointed to no easing of the situation as it affected the Auxiliary Patrol. On July 7th, at half‑past three in the morning, whilst the Scandinavian convoy was proceeding from Lerwick towards Holmengraa, a submarine was seen ahead of the yacht Amalthaea. The yacht fired on the enemy and the destroyer Arab dropped depth‑charges, whilst the whaler Pilot Whale, acting as convoy leader, also attacked with gunfire, whereupon the submarine submerged. An idea of the extent to which ocean‑borne commerce was being protected at this time may be gathered from the following figures. On July 11th a census was taken of all the Auxiliary Patrol vessels, and it was found that these consisted of yachts, trawlers, whalers, paddlers, drifters, smacks, and motor launches, employed either on patrol or minesweeping, to the number of 2,246. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the work of these vessels by forcing the enemy to adopt, to his own ultimate undoing, new expedients in the hope of snatching victory from the hands of destiny.

 

Meanwhile, the necessity had arisen for the employment of large numbers of Auxiliary Patrol craft off the Belgian coast. The history of the barrage inaugurated off that shore by Admiral Bacon has already been traced. During the winter it proved impossible to maintain it, but by the middle of July 1917 it was decided to reinstate it. The Admiral had an increased number of destroyers mounting 4‑inch guns at his disposal, and the enemy was showing so much activity with his destroyers at Ostend and Zee­brugge that energetic action was necessary. Moreover, the Flanders submarine minelayers were exceedingly busy. The operation which it was determined to undertake was to lay both deep mines and mine‑nets off the Belgian coast, so as to deprive the enemy destroyers and submarines of the free use of these waters. This was no slight task, as it was important that the nets should be laid without previous warning and with the utmost despatch. To lay the entire line at once was impossible, and it was considered advisable to deal first with those portions that were most likely to be attacked during the operation. The whole force, numbering 102 vessels, was to be collected as nearly at dark as the state of tide permitted, and then the laying was to commence.

 

There were thus two parts of the operations ‑ the laying of the mines and the laying of the nets. The forces employed by Admiral Bacon consisted of monitors, a light cruiser, a former cross‑Channel mail steamer converted into a minelayer, flotilla leaders, destroyers, seven paddle minesweepers, drifters, M.L.s and P‑boats. The monitors, paddlers, drifters, minesweepers, destroyers, M.L.s and P‑boats assembled at Dunkirk on July 24th, and left in the following order. At 9.40 p.m. came the destroyers escorting the drifters. These drifters laid a line of thirty­two dan buoys which would act as marks for the net­drifters, who would come after. At 10.45 p.m. came another division of destroyers escorting the paddle mine­sweepers and the net‑drifters. The paddlers swept ahead and the P‑boats assisted in making sure of the distance between the buoys; at 1 a.m. (July 25th) came the monitors and M.L.s, and two hours later the light cruiser whose duty it was to supervise the destroyers. The minelayer proceeded straight from the Downs, arrived at the western end of her line at 4.30 a.m., and then laid 120 deep mines in the required position. The net‑drifters placed their nets in position along a line of fifteen miles in an hour and a half, and on July 28th they prolonged this line still farther. The monitors, protected by the M.L.s, who made smoke screens, bombarded Ostend in the meantime, and then the whole operation was carried out according to plan. The enemy destroyers attacked the drifters and their British destroyer support at long range, but the fire was returned energetically.

 

The work of barrage laying was not merely an under­taking demanding a good deal of technical skill, but a most anxious task. The best speed of a drifter with

 

BELGIAN COAST BARRAGE

 

engines recently overhauled and clean bottom was about 9 knots. Most of these units used in the war were built of wood, and in any case they were unsuited to fight against enemy destroyers. Admiral Bacon, who was present in the destroyer Broke, realised that if the drifters were unscreened, not only would it mean a heavy loss in little ships and brave men, but the nets would not be laid and the whole purpose of the operation would be defeated. But, instead of showing initiative, the enemy destroyers pursued the same tactics as on April 24th, 1916, remaining under the shelter of their batteries and firing on our destroyers at long range. The whole operation was regarded by the Admiralty as having been organised and carried out very satisfactorily.

 

Then came the duty of maintaining a patrol of this twenty‑mile barrage for the double purpose of preventing the enemy doing systematic damage to it, and keeping the gear in an efficient condition. The enemy, indeed, wasted no time in interfering with the new barrage. By July 28th he had begun, and by August 5th he had evidently been hauling at it by means of a grapnel, for one was found in the net, both batteries and mine‑cases having been destroyed. Further interferences took place on later dates, and German seaplanes were probably responsible for sinking part of the barrage, cutting the wires and so on. The reinstitution of this barrage had been undertaken partly with a view to assisting what was spoken of in inner naval circles as "the Great Landing" of our Army on the Belgian coast. Owing to various reasons this plan was never carried out, but the patrol was maintained, necessitating the employment of over 6,000 naval officers and men. The intention was to land an army of 13,750 between Westende and Middelkerke. The operation was continually postponed and finally abandoned on October 15th.

 

An interesting commentary on these operations was provided by the minelaying submarine UC.61. At 1 p.m. on July 25th, the very day that the British ships to the number of 102 were off the Belgian coast, this submarine had left Zeebrugge on her way to Boulogne and Havre, where she was to lay her mines, thence proceeding to the Atlantic, where she was to shell or torpedo any merchant shipping encountered. She was able to get through the cross‑Channel barrage during the same night, and shaped a course along the coast between Gravelines and Cape Blanc Nez. The weather became thick and evidently she had not allowed for the set of the strong tide, so between Blanc Nez and Gris Nez she stranded on the shoal off the village of Wissant at 4.20 on the following morning. After being abandoned she was blown up. It was not the first time that she had negotiated this barrage. Usually she had passed between the last buoy of the barrage and the Snou shoal, thus rounding the barrage without going either below or above it. She had done this five times. Almost three years of the war had passed and still we had not been able to bar the Dover Straits to the enemy. On examining this submarine it was found that she was fitted with a hydrophone, and thus she could hear the approach of our patrols.

 

Such operations as were occurring at sea at this period frequently enforced the same lesson ‑ i.e., the interdepen­dence of the various naval forces. An incident which occurred on the night of August 8th‑9th illustrated this truth. It was five minutes within midnight, and the armed trawler Taranaki was returning from the Tyne to Granton, escorting a merchant ship. Suddenly the trawler observed a patch of white foam close to her starboard bow, and immediately afterwards struck a submerged object with considerable force. The trawler promptly stopped her engines and then they had to be used for several minutes to get the ship clear of the obstruction. There was no question of a shoal, for a cast of the lead gave 35 fathoms. A Court of Inquiry was afterwards held, and the evidence went to show that the Taranaki had struck a submarine. A few days later came the news by way of Amsterdam that a German submarine of the largest and most modern type had been towed into Zeebrugge by a couple of torpedo‑boats. The submarine had been rammed in the North Sea, and had been severely damaged, losing three or four of her men. It was not absolutely certain that the Taranaki was responsible for a German submarine being prevented from operating, but it is highly probable that such was the case. Small unexpected incidents came as a continual reminder of the interaction of events. In saving a merchant ship, the

 

SKIPPER T. CRISP AWARDED V.C.

 

Taranaki incidentally put a submarine out of action, unless all the evidence was to be disregarded.

 

More than once a Lowestoft armed smack thought she had sunk a submarine when in fact the enemy had escaped. These disguised sailing craft did, nevertheless, often suc­ceed in destroying German submarines. Of their glorious fights, perhaps the most remarkable is that which occurred on August 15th, 1917. We have cited case after case of the gallantry of fishermen, turned fighters; we have seen them behaving in the most magnificent way in face of the enemy, displaying enterprise, and pursuing their course despite heavy odds. Now we come to the story of one of these men who added distinction to our naval annals. Skipper T. Crisp, R.N.R., was in command of the disguised armed smack Nelson. She was operating off the East Anglian coast, pretending to trawl, but was acting as bait for submarines. At 2.45 p.m. the trawl had been shot, and the Nelson was on the port tack. The skipper himself was below packing fish, while one of the hands was on deck cleaning fish for next morning's breakfast. When Skipper Crisp came on deck a few minutes later, he noticed something on the horizon, examined it, and then sent for his glasses. Almost directly he sang out an order ‑ "Clear for action ‑ submarine." He had scarcely spoken when a shot fell about a hundred yards away on the port bow. In the meantime the motorman had gone to his duty, the deck hand had dropped his fish and was in the ammunition room, and the gunlayer was standing by his 13‑pounder, whilst the other hands, at the word from the skipper, had let go the trawl warp and buoyed it with a dan.

 

Shell after shell was now coming rapidly from the submarine, and it was about the fourth shell which went through the Nelson's port bow just below the waterline. The skipper now put her about on the other tack, and then came three more shells, of which the last struck Crisp, did not explode, but passed through his side, through the ship, and out through the side of the ship. There was no confusion among these hardy fisher­men, but the second hand, T. W. Crisp, the skipper's son, took charge of the tiller. Shells were still being fired at the smack, water was pouring in through the holes and the ship was evidently sinking. One of the crew went to render first aid to the skipper, who was obviously mortally wounded. "It's all right, boy," he said, "do your best." Thus he encouraged his men. Then, speaking to his son, he ordered him to send off a message. He dictated the following: "Nelson being attacked by submarine. Skipper killed. Send assistance at once." This was to be sent by carrier pigeon, which was kept on board these craft as means of communication.

 

The ship was sinking fast ‑ the skipper himself was dying. Only five rounds were now left of the am­munition, and it was time to leave the Nelson. The younger Crisp went to his father, lying stretched out along the deck, and heard him say, "Abandon ship. Throw the books overboard." He was asked if they should lift him into the boat, but this intrepid man, who to the last thought only of his ship, his men, his confidential books, and his duty, merely answered, "Tom, I'm done. Throw me overboard." He was in too bad a condition to be moved, so they left him on his deck, took the small boat, and rowed away. In about a quarter of an hour the Nelson went down just as the light of day was ending. In this wise the career of Skipper Crisp closed, and he was received into the bosom of the sea in a manner befitting a Viking, a great admiral, or an Elizabethan pioneer. He was awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross, and his son, T. W. Crisp, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, came up to Buckingham Palace to receive the two decorations from the King.

 

The rest of the story is quickly told. During the night the Nelson's survivors rowed about. Towards the morning the wind freshened and blew them out of their course. All that day they pulled at the oars, having fastened a pair of trousers and a large piece of oilskin to two oars so as to attract attention. Once a vessel was sighted and once a group of minesweepers, but they failed to notice the men in distress and passed out of sight. During the second night the weather became finer, and they went on pulling until the next daybreak. At 10.30 a.m. they found a buoy, made fast to it, and by the afternoon a ship came along and they were rescued.

 

After sinking the Nelson the submarine attacked and sank the Lowestoft armed smack Ethel and Millie in the same locality. She had nothing more than a 6‑pounder,

 

WORK OF UNARMED TRAWLERS

 

and was more completely outranged by the enemy's 4.1‑inch gun than even the Nelson. When the Ethel and Millie had used up all her ammunition, her crew aban­doned ship. When last seen by the Nelson's crew they were ranged up on the deck of the submarine, which was heading east.

 

Three days later came another disaster to the Auxiliary Patrol force. The place was forty miles east of the Shet­lands, and a submarine was sighted and attacked by both the armed trawlers Benjamin Stevenson and Elise. The first trawler fired five rounds and the submarine replied with seven. The Elise fired fourteen rounds, and the submarine about fifteen. The engagement lasted only half an hour. The enemy then disappeared, and both trawlers went in pursuit. She was sighted by the Benjamin Stevenson a little later, but she disappeared again. The Benjamin Stevenson had been holed and began to leak badly. The Elise was undamaged except for two slight dents on the starboard bow and the severing of a link in the anchor cable by shell splinter. Both trawlers set a course for Bard Head. Half an hour later, the Benjamin Stevenson had to be abandoned as she was in a bad way. The Elise having picked up the crew took her in tow from 1.30 p.m. to 5 p.m., when she foundered. The enemy had displayed the same tactics as when he sank the Nelson. Being better armed, the submarine kept out of range of the fishing vessel, and so had little to fear, for the Benjamin Stevenson had only a 12‑pounder and the Elise a 6‑pounder. Nine days afterwards the Elise was again engaging a submarine forty‑five miles S.E. by E. from Bard Head. In this fashion did these undaunted fishermen in trawlers with improvised defences maintain their struggle against the enemy.

 

Unarmed fishing trawlers engaged in their ordinary peaceful occupation were also helping the common cause. It has been already explained that minefields were dis­covered by them; ships as well as lives were thus saved. Their vigilance was fruitful in quite another way. During the night of August 30th‑31st, an old ship's boat, used for fishing, had mysteriously disappeared from the beach at Druridge Bay (Tyne area). At 9 a.m. on August 31st the fishing trawler Ranter was in the North Sea and spoke a boat which seemed generally to answer the owner's description. It contained several men who described themselves as Danish seamen from a torpedoed sailing ship, and they said they were now making for Holland. This story seemed rather improbable, for they were only twenty miles east of the Tyne. Furthermore, they firmly declined the Ranter's offer of assistance on the plea that they had already been torpedoed twice and wanted to sail home. The British seamen, however, noticed that the course they were steering was not in the direction of Holland. Twelve hours later the Ranter fell in with the armed trawler Vidette, to whom she reported the incident. The Vidette, having wireless, sent a report to the Tyne Senior Naval Officer, with the result that the destroyer Bonetta, promptly despatched from the Tyne, overhauled the stolen boat with its six occupants. They proved to be escaped German naval prisoners.

 

Though dissatisfaction had occurred in the German High Seas Fleet from time to time, the condition of the enemy's submarine service had hitherto been less serious. Officers and men who were carrying on the intensive campaign had been given better food and more of it than the men in the big ships, who rarely went to sea. On a submarine coming in for her refit, her crew greatly appreciated their leave, which was on a fairly liberal scale. But now things began to alter, and the crews became, not merely less efficient, but less easy to handle. By the end of the summer of 1917 the German crews were getting so little leave, and so many boats were being lost that the men became thoroughly disheartened. The campaign was falling short of the full and rapid success so confidently anticipated, and the boats were being sent to sea after only short periods of refitting leave. The men, overwrought with submarine voyaging, and weakened in morale by the losses of other submarines and their own narrow escapes, not only did not volunteer for the Untersee service, but did their best to avoid it by missing their boat or feigning sickness.

 

During September one U‑boat was working as far north as the Arctic Ocean near North Cape, whilst another, U.151, was operating off the coast of Africa. In regard to the first‑mentioned, rather a curious incident occurred. At this time along the route to Archangel passed ships with stores and munitions for the Russians; and knowledge

 

CRUISE OF "U.151"

 

of these movements explained the interest which Northern waters had for the U‑boats. On September 2nd, 1917, the steamer Olive Branch was on that route with a cargo of ammunition, her exact position being lat. 72' 34, N., long. 27' 56' E. A submarine came along and opened fire at a range of only 250 yards. The second shot landed in No. 4 hold, where the ammunition was stored, and the Olive Branch blew up. But the same explosion wrecked also the submarine, which was last seen in a sinking condition with men struggling in the water. Thus did U.28 end her career‑hoist with its own petard!

 

But successes were being achieved by the Germans, and successes calculated, as they thought, to impress neutrals. U.151, a converted mercantile submarine, similar to the Deutschland, carried out a very successful cruise at this period. Leaving Germany about September 3rd she proceeded to the Atlantic by way of the north of Scotland, and operated off Madeira, the Straits of Gibraltar, and thence southward along the African coast to Dakar, afterwards proceeding across to the Cape Verde Islands, and up to the Azores, getting back to Germany just before Christmas. In the course of this cruise, she sank thirteen merchant ships of British, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian, Norwegian, French, Portuguese, and American nationalities, torpedoed a couple of Brazilian steamers in St. Vincent harbour (Cape Verde Islands), and relieved a Norwegian ship of some valuable copper and stores. For his successful voyage Commander Kophamel, her captain, received from the Kaiser the Order "Pour le Merite."

 

Inasmuch as submarines were very active off the Yorkshire coast, it was decided to lay British minefields froirn a position about six miles east of Whitby to about ten miles north‑cast of Scarborough. This was effected during September. What influence this decision had on the enemy's plans remained to be seen, but early on the evening of September 4th a submarine engaged in the futile task of bombarding Scarborough. The first four shells fell into the sea amongst the minesweepers anchored outside the harbour. The enemy then increased his range and most of his other shells to the number of about twenty fell into the town of Scarborough. Several hotels, houses and shops, and the railway station suffered damage, chiefly in the form of broken glass. Six of our minesweepers at once put to sea and fired at the enemy, but he did not stop to fight.

 

The scheme of placing the fishing trawlers under naval control, commissioning them and causing them to fly the White Ensign, their fishing crews being enrolled in a special reserve just as if they were in the Auxiliary Patrol and their movements controlled by the Senior Naval Officer of their port, worked satisfactorily. Their armament was at first, however, too light. On July 10th a group of eight of these fishing trawlers on their way to Iceland were destroyed by bombs and gunfire from a submarine sixty miles S. by E. of Sydero. It therefore became necessary to arm them more in accordance with the strength of the newer submarines of the enemy. Thus on September 6th, of the six Grimsby fishing trawlers proceeding to the Iceland grounds, five were well armed and one was fitted with wireless. Two days later six Hull fishing trawlers, similarly armed, left the Humber for the same grounds. Officers of the R.N.V.R. were appointed to each section of six armed fishing trawlers for the purpose of taking charge when a fight with the enemy began.

During the autumn and winter (1917‑18) the trawlers and rescue tugs were having a strenuous time, especially those whose duty took them out into the Atlantic. The kind of work which had to be performed may be judged from the following incident. On September 25th two rescue tugs, the Flying Falcon and the Milewater, were sent out from Lough Swilly. They were instructed to pro­ceed with sealed orders which were to be opened off Fanad Head. They arrived at this point at 9.30 a.m., the orders were opened, and instructions were read to meet, at a certain rendezvous at 7 a.m. on the 26th, a convoy coming from the westward in charge of the Sloop Primrose. When the Flying Falcon reached the rendezvous, the wind was blowing hard from the S.W., with a nasty cross sea running. On one of the crew going to examine the log, it was found that this had been carried away. At 9 a.m. she fell in with the convoy, homeward‑bound, and was ordered to take up a position to the southward at the rear, with the Milewater to the northward. About five

 

A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE

 

o'clock in the afternoon, the steering gear of the steamship Antillian, one of the convoy, broke down, and for a time the Flying Falcon stood by her until the gear was repaired. About midnight Barra Head light was picked up.

 

The weather had now become very bad; it was blowing heavy SW. gale and the Flying Falcon was labouring very heavily. These conditions continued until the convoy was off the Oversay light (Islay), when a tre­mendous sea broke over the tug, sweeping away the top of the companion way and causing a quantity of water to get down below. The Flying Falcon lay on her beam ends in a bad way. She was able to send out wireless calls for assistance, and then another heavy sea broke on board, smashing the hawser grating and washing the hawser overboard. When going over the side the hawser fouled the propeller and the engines came to a standstill. In the trough of the Atlantic sea the little tug seemed doomed. At times it looked as if she would roll right over. In one terrific roll, the coal in the bunkers shifted to leeward so that she could not right herself, and lay right down on her beam ends for twenty minutes.

The weather showing no signs of improvement, the captain deemed it time to lower the port boat, but whilst this was being done a huge wave washed him, his six hands, the boat and all into the sea. Three of the hands and the captain managed to get back to the tug, but the other three were swept away and drowned. In this helpless condition, the tug was drifting shorewards to her doom. The master then called for volunteers to go into the bunkers and trim the coal. This was manfully done and after half an hour's work they had got the ship a little more upright; in fact, the engineers eventually were able to persuade the engines to move. But it was too late. They were so close to the shore that the captain was compelled to let go both his anchors. Wind and sea continued unabated, and after another two hours the cables snapped, the ship drifted ashore, fortunately on a sandy bottom, and the survivors were landed by means of the rocket apparatus.

 

Progress during these months was being made in the efforts to pick up the sound of the movements of invisible submarines. A new type of hydrophone called the "fish," from the shape of its body, was evolved. After satisfactory trials in October 1917, steps were taken to supply it to the trawlers, which towed it astern submerged to a suitable depth. The "fish " was connected by cable to the ship, a silent listening cabinet being installed near the bridge. By means of this new hydrophone, it was possible to tell the exact direction in which the enemy submarine was proceeding. During the first few days of October three submarines ‑ U.50, U.66, and U.106 ‑ were sunk as a result of the combined operations in the North Sea by our destroyers, submarines, and drifters. Of these one was most probably accounted for in the mine nets of the drifter William Tennant (Lieut. J. A. Camp­bell, R.N.R.). About half‑past ten on the morning of October 2nd this drifter, while anchored and keeping constant hydrophone watch, heard the high‑pitched sound of a submarine running on her electric motors submerged. Evidently she then got into the mine nets, for there followed a heavy under‑water explosion close to the nets, which shook the drifter considerably.

 

 

 

"Listening-in" on the Hydrophone

 

In order to protect the convoys passing to and from the Atlantic by way of the North Channel (North of Ireland), a line of hydrophone drifters was stretched across the mouth of the Clyde and another from the Mull of Galloway to Skulmart (south of Belfast). Though they represented a distinct advance on anything which had hitherto been available, the hydrophones were, of course, still far from perfect, and did not stop sinkings, even of armed ships. On October 9th the armed merchant cruiser Champagne (5,360 tons) was torpedoed and sunk off Dundrum Bay at 6 a.m., and this was followed ten hours later by a similar disaster to the steamship Peshawur (7,634 tons) off county Down, the 114 pas­sengers being picked up by the yacht Albion. Similarly on October 19th a submarine was reported five miles south‑west of Corsewall Point during the forenoon. Every precaution was, therefore, taken to prevent attack on a convoy that was passing through the area from the North Channel to the southward, eight M.L.s and drifters, with hydrophones, being sent to listen in the vicinity. When passing through the position 54-55' N., 5-22' W., the Knight Templar, the commodore ship of the convoy opened fire on a submarine. The Larne patrol vessels, which were assisting to escort the convoy, at once formed

 

ATTACK ON SCAINDINAVIAN CONYOY

 

a screen between the convoy and the enemy. The convoy passed safely through the area, but the submarine hunt continued with all vessels that could stand the weather, and about nine in the evening M.L.476 sighted a German submarine, disguised as a fishing vessel, three miles to the south‑west of Corsewall light. The enemy was proceeding at 12 knots, but before the motor launch could open fire she had disappeared in the darkness and mist.

 

The German operations against the Scandinavian con­voys which came across the North Sea with cargoes were also being pursued with energy. As has been stated, these vessels were escorted and shepherded largely by vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol. It occurred to the German Headquarters that a raid against the convoys would be valuable for two reasons. First, it would assist the U‑boat campaign, in that it would cause the British forces to give even better protection to the Scandinavian trade, thus further depleting the purely anti‑submarine patrols. Secondly, the Germans anticipated that the success of such attacks would have a terrorising influence on the neutral crews. For the carrying out of the raid they possessed two light cruisers, the Brummer and Bremse, which had originally been built in German yards to become Russian minelayers. They were notable for their fine turn of speed.

 

On October 16th the west‑bound Scandinavian convoy left Marsten for Lerwick. It consisted of twelve ships, of which two were British, one Belgian, and the rest Nor­wegian, Swedish, or Danish. These vessels were being escorted by the two British destroyers Mary Rose and Strongbow, in association with the armed trawler Elsie and the armed whaler P. Fannon. At 6.5 a.m. next morning, when in a position 6013' N., 1 06' E., the Strongbow sighted the Brummer and Bremse. At first, she did not recognise them as German ships, but having done so advanced smartly to attack the superior force. It was just daylight; there was a S.W. wind, a heavy southerly swell, and the light was bad, the visibility being not more than 4,000 yards. It was not till the Strongbow had made the challenge three times that the enemy bluffed a reply. The Strongbow's alarm gongs were sounded and speed for 24 knots was ordered. At 6.15 a.m. the second German ship opened fire, the first salvo entering the Strongbow's engine‑room, bursting the steam‑pipe. The foremost German ship's other salvo hit the Strongbow's forecastle, started a fire in the lower mess‑deck, put the foremost gun out of action, and killed most of the gun's crew. The Strongbow was now stopped, and at a range of 2,000 yards both ships fired rapidly with frequent hits. The wireless operator and the quarter­master were killed, the captain was wounded, the bridge and the steering gear were wrecked. The enemy then sheered off, and approaching the convoy sank the other destroyer as well as nine of the twelve steamers. The Mary Rose quickly disappeared, but the Strongbow was still afloat. The wounded captain was put on to the raft, but the enemy returned, and swept the Strongbow's deck, killing all the men there. At this moment the Elsie came up, and was driven off by the enemy. The Strongbow was now on fire badly. About 8.20 a.m. the enemy made off back to Germany, and an hour later the Strongbow sank. The Elsie most gallantly stood by the destroyer and ultimately saved most of the survivors, having previously searched for the Mary Rose without success. Both trawlers reached Lerwick undamaged as well as three of the convoy, including the two British steamers.

 

On October 24th the west‑bound convoy was again attacked, but this time by a submarine. The steamship Novington was torpedoed off the east of the Shetlands (though afterwards brought into Lerwick and beached), and the Russian steamship Woron was torpedoed and sunk.

 

The U‑boats continued to make their way through the Dover Straits as before. It became known, for instance, that U.58, which was sunk off Ireland on November 17th, had passed through the barrage close to the French side on November 14th at 1.52 a.m. So also had UB.18, which got into the midst of a British minefield off Prawle Point on November 17th, and blew up. The position at Dover was that the whole of the offing from Thornton Ridge to Dunkirk was theoretically rendered impassable for the enemy by means of mines and mine‑nets. Between the Thornton Ridge and the Dutch limits other mines were laid to make the submarines' voyage precarious. But whatever was done, it was fairly certain that the enemy would use neutral waters. Mines were laid subsequently

 

DEEP MINE BARRAGE

 

across the Schouwen‑Zeebrugge track, and every now and again coastal motor boats from Dunkirk used to drop mines off Zeebrugge itself.

 

All this was based on sound tactics, but still it did not strengthen the defence of the Dover Straits. The barrage had failed. It had been given a long trial and had cost a great deal of money and labour to maintain, but it had proved little more than an inconvenience to the enemy. It had not been for any length of time an effective barrier or even a hindrance to him except for a brief space in the year 1915. The only sound strategy was the employment of deep mines. The fact is that this country had started the war badly equipped with mines both as to numbers and type. There had been difficulties with the mooring gear, the production of non‑porous castings, and even with the glass requisite for the horns. Eventually, however, 10,000 mines a month were manufactured, 980 firms being engaged in creating the various component parts.

 

On October 24th, in anticipation of supplies of the right kind of mine, which became available the following month, the Admiralty approved of the laying of eight parallel lines of mines at depths of at least forty feet below the surface in the case of two lines. The direction was roughly from Folkestone to Gris Nez. On November 21st work on this barrage began, and the operation went on until the armistice, by which time passage across the Dover Straits for any German submarine was almost impossible. The ubiquitous trawler again rendered invaluable aid. The trawler had done such wonderful work in minesweeping, submarine sinking, convoy escorting, and patrolling that no operation seemed complete without her presence. The trawlers Ostrich II, Osta, Carmania II, Russell II, The Norman, Hero, and others were largely responsible for carrying out the dangerous work of dropping mines in the new barrage.

 

In sailing from the ports of Germany or Flanders to the Atlantic or Mediterranean, there are only two possible sea passages. One is by way of the North of Scotland, and the other is through the Dover Straits. For reasons already given, the latter, though not exclusively used, was very popular with the enemy's submarines. How much the U‑boat preferred the Channel passage may be gathered from the fact that during the first eleven months of 1917 at least 253 times had German submarines negotiated the barrage. The Admiralty, therefore, decided to go ahead with the laying of this minefield, extend the breadth of its lines, and keep the barrage illuminated by flares so that the Auxiliary Patrol vessels might cause the submarines to dive and blow up.

 

This operation may be said to mark the beginning of the final phase of the anti‑submarine war. In effect it was comparable to confining an enemy to a field by means of electric doors: the moment he tried to leave the field he was electrocuted. In the present case, the southern door was Dover Straits, and it was determined to defend that first, leaving the closing of the northern exit to be under­taken later on.

 

Ramsgate drifters had a most exciting day's submarine hunting at this period of the war with a fine "kill" to wind up with. They had toiled with courage and persis­tency during these days and nights of the long war. Shelled by German destroyers, attacked by enemy aircraft, buffeted about by bad weather, and never receiving much recognition, they at last came into their own. The story really begins on November 21st, 1917, when U.48 set out from Wilhelmshaven, intending to pass through the Dover Straits for a cruise off Ireland. Two days later at 4 p.m. she had already arrived sixty miles N.E. of Dover and then submerged, but at that moment came an explosion, probably due to a bomb dropped by a seaplane. This experience did not improve the morale of the ship's com­pany. About three and a half hours later U.48 was heading for the Dover Straits, having rested on the bottom to await a convenient opportunity of getting through. During the night the oil motors gave a good deal of trouble, so that the submarine had to run on her electric motors. The starboard shaft would do no more than 300 revolutions, while the port shaft was running at the usual 450. The probable reason of this was that she had fouled the North Goodwin net barrage: in fact, pieces of the net were after­wards found attached to the propellers.

 

The enemy seems to have been intending to cross the Dover net barrage between buoys 2A and 4A, but the vessel must have got out of her reckoning and fouled the North Goodwin nets. She was completely off her course, and whilst proceeding on the surface at 8 a.m. on

 

DRIFTERS IN ACTION WITH U‑BOAT

 

the morning of November 24th, she ran hard and fast on the north‑west edge of the Goodwins. Every seaman who is familiar with these treacherous sands and the strength of the tide in the Gull stream will appreciate the unhappy position of the submarine aground on a November night. Every effort was made to get her off by means of her engines, but she remained firm. There was nothing for it but to lighten her; many tons of oil and a large amount of freshwater were pumped overboard, the ammuni­tion was cast into the sea, and three torpedoes were fired out of the tubes. This lightened the craft so much that she became waterborne once more, though she was unable to get out of the bed she had made for herself in the sand, and so with a falling tide she again grounded. Her position was about one and a half miles N.E.1/2 E. from the Gull Lightship.

 

At 6.30 a.m. it was just twilight. Three drifters, the Present Help, the Paramount, and the Majesty, were sweeping the War Channel for the flow of merchant shipping, when to their great joy they suddenly saw the submarine. In a moment the sweep was slipped and away went the little craft to profit by the chance of a lifetime. One who was present described it thus: "As soon as the submarine was sighted, the Majesty, Paramount, and Present Help were after the enemy like a pack of hounds, and no one could have been more prompt in joining action with the enemy." Although these three drifters between them had only two six‑pounders, a three‑pounder, and a Maxim gun, whereas the enemy was equipped with a 4.1-inch gun, a 22‑pounder, and Maxim gun, to say nothing of his remaining torpedoes, they blazed away at the enemy as they came swooping down in line abreast, closing the range all the time and ignoring the heavy fire which was coming from the enemy's superior armament. About ten minutes later, whilst these little craft were swooping from the north‑west the destroyer Gipsy, armed with a 12‑pounder and 6‑pounder, came down from the northward. Both drifters and destroyer main­tained a vigorous fusillade. About the same time there arrived on the scene two more drifters, the Acceptable and Feasible, who also attacked the enemy, while from the southward came the armed trawler Meror bringing more guns to bear. Determined to close the range, they kept as near into the Goodwins as their vessels would float. The Feasible (Lieut. Delves Broughton, R.N.V.R.) kept two hands working the lead throughout the action, and the Paramount was so eager to get right up to the enemy that she actually hit the ground thirty yards off the submarine. About a quarter‑past seven U.48 was seen to be on fire forward. Her captain, Lieut.‑Commander Edeling, then had the confidential books destroyed, ordered "Cease Fire," and the ship was abandoned after attaching explosive charges. Overboard jumped the crew, the submarine blew up with a heavy explosion, and one officer and twenty‑one men were picked up out of the total complement of forty‑three.

 

Every man on board the British vessels had done well: even the drifters' engineers off watch assisted by passing up ammunition, and the greatest keenness had been dis­played by all the drifters' crews. Before the enemy blew himself up, not one of the drifters had remained farther than 100 yards off the submarine, several of the enemy being killed by the Maxim gun fired from the top of the Paramount's wheelhouse. For their fine achievement, Lieut.‑Commander F. W. Robinson, R.N.R., of the Gipsy, received the D.S.O., Skipper E. Hemp, R.N.R., of the Paramount, Skipper R. W. Barker, R.N.R., of the Majesty, and Skipper T. Lane of the Present Help, each were awarded a D.S.C. In addition, the Admiralty set aside a sum of 1,000 for distribution between the crews of the drifters, and in making the award Admiral Bacon added the following remark: "I wish to express my satisfaction at the gallant way in which the drifters named attacked the submarine armed with a 4.1‑inch gun. It is one more example of how the Ramsgate drifters and the Auxiliary Ser­vice of the navy know how to meet and fight the enemy." It was established at the Court of Inquiry that, when first sighted U.48 was afloat and steering S.W, but on being attacked altered course, and that owing to the fire of the drifters and the destroyer, and the action of the tide, she was driven aground. It had certainly been a great victory for the Auxiliary Patrol, and caused a healthy spirit of emulation in the Dover Straits.

 

Further north the drifters were also able to register a success. They had laid mine nets off Flamborough as far back as October 20th, for it was thought that the submarines used Flamborough Head for fixing their position, and many

 

HEAVY LOSSES IN CONVOY

 

convoys and single ships had been attacked off there. Now the labour of placing these nets in position was rewarded, for on December 10th, 1917, UB.75 was destroyed.

 

Two days later came another big raid on the Scandinavian Convoy, which this time was eastward‑bound. The incident occurred in about 59 50'N. 3 50' E., and the con­voy consisted of one British, one Danish, two Norwegian, and two Swedish ships, all of which were sunk. The escort consisted of the two destroyers Pellew and Partridge and four armed trawlers, the Livingstone, Tokio, Lord Alverstone, and Commander Fullerton. Early on the morn­ing of the 11th the enemy light cruiser Emden, with the Fourth Half Flotilla and the Third Half Flotilla of destroyers, the biggest and fastest which the enemy pos­sessed, left Germany and proceeded up the North Sea. When off the N.E. end of the Dogger, the Emden remained behind and the two half flotillas separated.

 

The Fourth Half Flotilla, probably consisting of five destroyers, proceeded north, torpedoed a British ship about twenty‑five miles off the coast soon after midnight, and by 3.15 on the afternoon of the 12th had rejoined the Emden at the rendezvous.

 

Meanwhile the Third Half Flotilla, including four de­stroyers, after parting company with the Emden on the afternoon of the 11th, had steamed up the North Sea and at about 9.30 a.m. sighted the convoy of six merchant ships, two destroyers and four trawlers. Suddenly the Germans appeared from the N.W and engaged the Partridge and Pellew, who were ahead of the convoy on the port and starboard side respectively. The British destroyers en­deavoured to draw the enemy away from the convoy, leaving the trawlers to carry on the escort. Three of the enemy were thus enticed and the fourth remained behind to deal with the merchant ships. She sank all six, together with the armed trawler Livingstone. As to the destroyer versus destroyer action, the Partridge was soon disabled by a shell which penetrated her main steam pipe. She used her torpedoes, one of which struck a German destroyer, but it did not explode. The Pellew, owing to a squall of rain, was able to escape, though severely damaged. When the three enemy destroyers came back to join the fourth, they proceeded to sink the remaining three trawlers Tokio, Lord Alverstone, and Commander Fullerton.

 

The trawlers' 6‑pounders had been hopelessly outranged. They never stood a chance against these modern German destroyers. At a range of five miles the Livingstone had been hit in the engine‑room, cabin, and mess‑deck. The Commander Fullerton had been struck near the gun platform, then on the mess‑deck, then just by the bridge, and many times afterwards. Then came a shot which hit the winch by which the dinghy was being hoisted out, so that the boat dropped into the water. As the trawler began to sink, the enemy lay 700 yards off and kept firing at her. About 6.30 p.m. the survivors were picked up by the Sable. Three survivors from the Livingstone had been picked up at 2.20 p.m. by the Sorceress. The enemy took prisoners, from the Partridge and the four trawlers, four officers and forty‑eight men, as well as twenty‑three of the merchant crews. The whole engagement had lasted not more than three‑quarters of an hour, and of the dozen ships, all had been wiped out, with the exception of the Pellew.

 

On the same evening as the Scandinavian convoy had been destroyed, the French Coal Trade convoy was crossing the English Channel as usual. Among the escort was M.L.357 (Lieutenant J. F. B. Kitson, R.N.V.R.), which was about a mile and a half east of the leading ship. At 7.30 p.m., the motor launch, having just passed through a small bank of fog, suddenly sighted a submarine not more than seventy‑five yards dead ahead. There she was, lying broadside on and apparently in the act of submerging. Full speed ahead went the wooden‑hulled M.L., porting her helm so as to cross the enemy's track and assail him with gun and depth‑charge. The intervention had come too late, for in a few minutes only the conning tower was visible, and as this was abaft the M.L.'s beam, Lieutenant Kitson was unable to train the gun. However, at a speed of 18 knots the motor launch rammed the enemy with such force as to pass completely over her from starboard to port; the impact was so severe that the engines were stopped instantaneously.

 

The submarine dived at a sharp angle, but not before the M.L. had fired a shell at her. The enemy's track was followed, and when she came to the surface fifty yards away, apparently on her side, the M.L. again opened fire. Six shots were discharged and two were seen to burst

 

LOSS OF "UB56"

 

on her hull amidships. Then the submarine disappeared and was not seen again. The M.L. was, of course, badly damaged aft through her pluck in daring to ram a steel ship. She was making water fast and settling down by the stern; but in less than a quarter of an hour the armed trawler Hercules IV got her in tow and eventually beached her in a sinking condition off Penzance. She had been kept afloat until then with the greatest difficulty. The submarine was not sunk, though she was probably seriously damaged. The Admiralty awarded Lieutenant Kitson a D.S.C.

 

A week later the Dover Patrol had confirmation that they were beginning to assert their will on the enemy, for at 11.42 p.m. on December 19th a very heavy explosion was heard and just after midnight men were seen struggling in the water. One of them, a German named Bleeck, was picked up alive, but he soon expired. In this wise the British mines had accounted for the loss of UB.56. There was evidence that other submarines were still getting through, but the barrage of mines was not yet finished. Every day the door was being closed tighter and tighter.

 

 

 


 


CHAPTER III

 

THE 10TH CRUISER SQUADRON (I) ‑ MARCH 1916 - DECEMBER 1916.

 

THE duties of the 10th Cruiser Squadron became more onerous than ever after the institution of the Ministry of Blockade towards the end of February 1916. It would have been natural to expect that with the more determined prosecution of the blockade policy some further means of carrying it out, or at all events, some strengthening of the blockading force, would have been established, but nothing of the kind was done.

 

In only two respects was the work of the squadron lightened ‑ first by the issue of the "Statutory Black List" (February 29th, 1916) giving the names of firms known to be working for the enemy, which enabled the captains of blockading ships to decide more readily when cargoes were actually "suspect," and secondly by a new method (estab­lished March 11th) of facilitating the entry of legitimate American exports to Scandinavia by giving "Letters of Assurance," known by their code‑name "Navicerts," to ap­proved shippers, to enable them to pass their goods through the blockade without examination and resulting delay.

 

When Vice‑Admiral Reginald Tupper (hitherto Senior Naval Officer, Stornoway) succeeded Rear‑Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair on March 6th, 1916, the squadron comprised 22 armed merchant cruisers, besides 4 armed trawlers fitted with wireless. Admiral Tupper sailed from Liverpool in the Alsatian on March 7th, and on the 8th met Commodore Benson in the Teutonic and took over the command of the squadron. The disposition of his ships at that time was:

Iceland‑Rockall Patrol: Teutonic, Artois, Orotava, Gloucestershire, Victorian, Mantua, Columbella, Hildebrand, Patia, Changuinola, Hilary (divided into A and C Patrols).

 

WHITE SEA TRADE ROUTE

 

Rejoining from Liverpool: Alsatian.

Rejoining from Swarbacks Minn: Motagua.

Rejoining from Portsmouth: Moldavia.

Proceeding to Liverpool: Almanzora.

At Liverpool: Andes, Orcoma, Virginian, Otway.

At Swarbacks Minn: Ebro, Patuca.

Detached (White Sea): Arlanza.

The protection of the White Sea trade route had always been one of the duties of the squadron, and it had become increasingly important during the autumn of 1915, when very large supplies of guns and ammunition were being sent to Archangel from France. In November cruisers from the Grand Fleet had also been detailed to watch the route. Archangel was badly equipped as a port, and was further handicapped because it was entirely closed to all traffic by ice for nearly six months in the year. It had also no direct railway communication with Petrograd. But it was the only entrance left to European Russia from the sea, after the closure of the Baltic ports, and the blocking of the Black Sea when Turkey joined the Central Powers.

 

It was therefore only to be expected that the port would be heavily congested, and the Germans were not likely to miss the opportunity of inflicting damage. The presence of minelayers off the entrance to the White Sea became evident early in the summer of 1915, and in August, as the Russians found themselves inexperienced and help­less to cope with the danger, a flotilla of eight minesweeping trawlers had been sent out from England.

 

In October an Allied Military Mission, consisting of General Wolfe Murray and his Staff, and Captain Corbel of the French General Staff, sailed for Archangel in the Arlanza. She was to bring back Admiral Roussin and other members of a Russian Mission to England, who were coming to discuss the problems associated with Archangel. She sailed on her return journey on November 14th, but had not gone very far when she struck a mine off Lumbovski, near Svyatoi Nos, a headland on the Murman coast, where ships stopped for convoy through the swept channels. A Wilson liner, the Novo, happened to be near, and took off the passengers, and the Arlanza was towed by a tug and two British minesweepers into the little harbour of Yukanski, near Svyatoi Nos. The Russians had no facilities for repairing her there, and were unable even to arrange for her to be towed up to the ice‑free port of Alexandrovsk, and it was decided that she should remain where she was for the winter. The Orotava was sent out with supplies for her, and brought home her captain and all her crew, except a "care and maintenance" party, who were left to face the cold and discomforts of a very rigorous winter in an ice‑bound harbour.

 

It was not till April 1916, when the old cruiser Intrepid went out with two trawlers to tow her off that the Arlanza was rescued. Even then, she owed a great deal to the repairs that her crew had effected during the long and dreary winter months they had spent at Yukanski. The Intrepid and the trawlers broke the ice and got the Arlanza out of the harbour with considerable difficulty. The Intrepid started to tow, but the tow broke, and the cruiser had to help the trawlers which had become fast in the ice. The Arlanza managed to move slowly under her own steam, following the others, until she got to Alexandrovsk, where she found the battleship Albemarle which had come out during the winter to serve as an ice‑breaker and to help the traffic generally. With the Albemarle's assistance, the Arlanza was patched up, and in June was towed back by tugs to Belfast for refit. She did not rejoin the 10th Cruiser Squadron until November 1916, and thus the White Sea minefield, remote as it seemed to be, had deprived the squadron of a newly commissioned merchant cruiser for over a year, at a time when every unit of the force was most urgently needed for the blockade.

 

The difficulties with ice were not confined to the White Sea. When Admiral Tupper first joined the squadron in the spring of 1916, the endeavours of neutral ships to evade the patrols by going north of Iceland had begun again, and the Motagua was detailed to investigate ice and weather conditions in that region and also to keep a good lookout for enemy raiders, who might attempt to get into the Atlantic by that route.

 

The passage by the north of Iceland was reported navigable, and probably on account of frequent rumours that raiders were starting from Germany, a second ship, the Ebro, was sent on March 12th to patrol with the Motagua off the North Cape, up to the edge of the ice pack.

 

PATROLLING OFF ICELAND

 

The Moldavia was stationed off the Portland Light (south of Iceland) to maintain wireless communication with the other two ships, and also to intercept any vessels making the south coast of Iceland.

 

The Motagua's own report revealed the difficulties with which she was confronted. Proceeding along the south coast of Iceland on March 12th, she ran into loose ice, but patrolled off Staalbierg Huk, and discovered by reports from trawlers that the ice generally came down about the end of March, but that there was, as a rule, a space of clear water right round the land through which a ship could work her way. On March 14th she proceeded north to meet the Ebro, but found the ice of varying density in 66 20'N. A ship might have made her way near the land, but with the ice moving in dangerous masses it was not advisable to attempt a passage; a fishing boat reported loose ice as far northward as the North Cape, and heavy pack ice to the eastward. After examining the ice edge, at considerable risk, the Motagua returned south.

 

On March 15th the ice to the north‑west was found to be receding; it had moved apparently 10 miles in two days. That night the Motagua patrolled off the North Cape, and found no ice there, but in the morning she proceeded east, and in about 66 35'N., 2128'W., sighted such heavy pack ice to the north that she was forced to turn south again, skirting the edge of the ice, and picking a perilous path through numbers of small "bergs" and "growlers," which extended south as far as could be seen. The ice then trended to the north‑cast and the Motagua resumed her original course. The movement of the ice with the wind from the north and the considerable amount of loose ice near the land, which became dense out to sea, and the possibility that another pack might be drifting from the North Cape and cutting off any possibility of retreat, forced the Motagua to the west again, and she resumed her patrol with the Ebro. On March 17th she left the patrol and sailed for the Clyde.

 

Captain Webster, of the Motagua, pointed out that the part of Denmark Strait north‑west of Iceland was the key to the situation for ships going round to avoid the patrols. If that part of the strait were blocked with ice, in all probability ice extended from Iceland to Greenland without a break, and if the ice were clearing away, it started moving in the strait first and moved to the eastward, so that a ship going round the North Cape and finding it clear, even though ice had been there till recently, would probably find the north coast of Iceland fairly free in a day or two.

 

The passages through the ice varied considerably, and added to the difficulties of the patrol, but there was no doubt that a considerable amount of Norwegian trade­  the skippers evidently knew how to take advantage of the moving ice ‑ attempted to evade the patrols by this somewhat dangerous route.

 

On March 19th the Changuinola, sent up from the east to relieve the Motagua on the Iceland Patrol, reported that she had arrived at the North Cape, after passing through all the dangers of loose and pack ice, and had joined the Ebro to patrol the open channel, about twenty miles wide, between the edge of the ice‑field and Straumnaes.

 

The Moldavia, patrolling off Isa Fiord, boarded the Nor­wegian steamship Gustav Flack on March 31st. The Nor­wegian attempted to escape into neutral waters, even while the boarding boat was being lowered from the Moldavia, and was only stopped by a shot across her bows. She was ostensibly bound for Bergen, with wool and skins, and was sent into Lerwick with an armed guard. Eventually she came before the Prize Court with an incriminating cargo.

 

The provision of the extra patrol of three ships off Iceland, partly no doubt necessitated by the alarm as to enemy raiders, was a matter of serious difficulty to the new Admiral of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. He repre­sented very strongly to the Admiralty the necessity of keeping the squadron up to its full strength of twenty‑four ships. At the time it had been reduced to twenty‑two, and one of the number, the Arlanza, was still ice‑bound in the White Sea. The Almanzora, repairing at Liverpool after suffering damage by fouling the boom defence at Swarbacks Minn in a gale, was being greatly delayed by labour troubles in the shipyards, and the Andes was still being detained for the court‑martial after the Alcantara-Greif action. (See Volume II). The absence of these vessels reduced the number available to nineteen. The Artois (late Digby), which had lately been taken over by the French and attached to the 10th Cruiser Squadron, had developed so many defects that she was almost continually under repair.

 

STRENGTH OF THE SQUADRON

 

Ships were, necessarily, often detained in harbour for repair or by bad weather, and the average number of ships on patrol was generally only eleven, less than half the re­puted strength of the squadron. During the preceding year only one ship had been kept on patrol north of Iceland, but with two more in that region the important "A" Patrol was sometimes reduced to a single ship. The "C" patrol had also been moved to 15W. owing to the submarine menace, and the consequence was that a large gap existed on the trade route through which traffic might pass without being intercepted. The Admiral considered that at least twelve ships should be constantly on patrol, and to maintain that level, at least twenty‑four ships were necessary, to allow a margin for coaling, repairs, etc. Even the Avenger, a new armed merchant cruiser, which was due to join the squadron, had been lately detailed for other services. At a later date, the Princess, also a newly‑fitted ship, was similarly detached when actually on her way to join the squadron. She was a German prize, originally fitted out for the 10th Cruiser Squadron, but was found to be too slow. The Armadale Castle from East Africa was sent to take her place.

 

At this time (March 1916) the Admiralty, embarrassed by many difficulties, could only reply to Admiral Tupper that it was impossible either to increase the number of armed merchant cruisers, or, as the Admiral had suggested, to detail extra armed trawlers fitted with wireless to strengthen the patrols. All the available small craft, it was stated, were wanted elsewhere.

 

The two French cruisers, the Artois and Champagne, which were supposed to be an addition to the squadron, were inspected by the Admiral on March 25th, and were said to be in good condition, and the crews healthy and smart in appearance, but the Champagne seems to have been used by the French entirely for carrying stores and passengers to Archangel. She was not included at that time in Admiral Tupper's command.

 

The weather during March continued to be very bad, with frequent squalls of snow and hail. There were renewed reports of enemy submarines, and it was suggested that the lights off Swarbacks Minn should be extinguished and ex­hibited only when a vessel was approaching the harbour; but as a ship of the 10th Cruiser Squadron was expected to arrive almost every day about dawn, Admiral Tupper considered that the extinction of lights, except for admission of ships, would help rather than confuse a submarine, as the enemy would know when an incoming vessel was expected.

 

These suggestions point to the constant anxiety which existed with regard to enemy submarines. At one time it was thought that they used only the Fair Island Channel, south of the Shetlands, but as the larger U‑boats became available, and were able to remain longer at sea, it was known that they were beginning to use the more northern route.

 

Admiral Tupper suggested that the approaches to Swarbacks Minn could be better secured by additional Auxiliary Patrol vessels, but the Admiralty could not supply them. The Auxiliary Patrol trawlers from Lerwick were nearly always employed north of Muckle Flugga, or north‑cast of Out‑Skerries, and none could be spared to help the four trawlers and four drifters stationed at Swarbacks Minn to patrol the west coast. On April 21st the Commander‑in‑Chief informed Admiral Tupper that six trawlers would shortly be available for Iceland, and would be ready to start on May 24th to work on the north­east and east coasts of the island, and on the south coast off the Portland Light, but that was in order to stop the trade that was evading the blockading patrol rather than to guard against submarines. Submarines continued to be reported in northern waters, south of the Shetlands, at the end of March, and several times during April. On April 14th two were reported off Muckle Flugga.

 

An armed guard from the Patuca had an experience of the reality of the submarine danger at this time. On March 13th a Norwegian barque, the Pestalozzi, was de­tained by the Patuca while on her way to South America, and sent in to Stornoway with an armed guard. She encountered north‑easterly gales which prevented her from making the port, and on March 23rd was stopped by the U.28 in 5818'N., 120' W. The master of the Pestalozzi was ordered on board the submarine, and forced to disclose that he had a British armed guard in his ship. The officer in charge, Sub‑Lieutenant J. C. Bate, R.N.R., and the five men of the guard were sent for, and the German commander made prisoners of the officer and a leading seaman, took possession of the arms and ammunition,

 

VOYAGE OF THE "PESTALOZZI"

 

sent the remainder of the guard back to the Pestalozzi, and ordered the master to continue his voyage to Santa Fe, and there hand over the four Englishmen to the German Consul. (In a semi.humorous account of the episode published in the German press, it was said that the commander of the U.28 refused to take the remainder of the guard on account of their "dirty dungarees.") Apparently the sea was high, and no one from the submarine boarded the Pestalozzi, but four trips were made between her and the U.28, and three of the four boats she carried were swamped or stove in, and had to be abandoned.

 

Two months later, May 28th, the Glasgow, warned by the Admiralty that the Pestalozzi had not arrived at Stornoway, and that no one knew what had happened to the guard from the Patuca, intercepted the barque in the South Atlantic, and took off the remaining four members of the guard. As their arms had been removed, they had been unable to persuade the crew to go to a British port, and two British steamers which had been asked to take off the guard had refused, one because she had no boats to fetch them, and the other because she was short of provisions. The master of the Pestalozzi said that he had refused to go anywhere but to his port of destination with only one remaining boat. He feared another attack from a submarine, especially as his last ship had been sunk by a submarine, and he had been warned that if the Pestalozzi were seen making for a British port she would be sunk without warning. The master attributed his misfortune to the fact that the officer in charge of the guard had insisted on going to Stornoway, and would not allow him to make for a north Irish port, such as Londonderry, which he could have reached with a fair wind in a few hours. On June 3rd the Pestalozzi was released and allowed to continue on her voyage. It was afterwards arranged by the Admiralty that an armed guard should have the option of taking a vessel to the nearest port for examination. (After the American protest of April 20th against the sinking of the Sussex, the German submarine orders for trade warfare were cancelled, and all the U‑boats were recalled from the North Sea by wireless on April 24th. Of course this was not known in England at the time, and a new alarm was raised when Admiral Scheer sent out his sixteen Submarines to scout on May 15th.)

 

The alarm of German raiders was raised again, on March 28th, when it was reported that a raiding cruiser was possibly attempting to pass out to the westward. On April 6th there was a further alarm of a large steamer sighted twenty miles north of Muckle Flugga, steering W.S.W. The Orcoma and Orotava (the one on her way to Swarbacks Minn, and the other leaving the harbour) were ordered to intercept the suspected steamer, and the Patuca, which was making for the Clyde, was also warned, but the suspected ship was not sighted.

 

The excitements of the chase were often enhanced in a manner unknown before in any war by wireless calls from distant ships. The excitement of the captain of one of Nelson's frigates can be imagined if he had heard two of his future prizes talking - even though stammering and stuttering unintelligibly in the distance ‑ to each other! During April the American‑Norwegian mail steamers, Kristianiafjord and Bergensford, were especially under suspicion, and patrols were organised to find them. On April 8th faint wireless calls were heard from one to the other. It was evident that the ships were systematically avoiding the usual routes. The Admiral suggested that they should be intercepted near their terminal ports. The Bergensfjord was again heard about 9 a.m. on the following day calling the Bergen coast station, but no bearing could be obtained by the directional wireless. A Norwegian steamer reported that she had sighted the Kristianiafjord in 54N., 2730' W., on the 6th, and it seemed that both ships had passed south of Rockall without being seen.

 

These two ships had made a number of voyages since the war began, and had been intercepted over and over again by the 10th Cruiser Squadron, but they got through fairly often without being caught. The Commander‑in­Chief on one occasion wrote very strongly about the Kristianiafjord's attempts to evade the patrol by steaming without lights. He said that she ran the risk of being taken for an enemy raider and fired at without warning. As she had a number of passengers on board the risk to life was very great. Between January 1st, 1915, and April 17th, 1916, the Bergensfjord made 12 journeys east and 11 journeys west. She was intercepted 8 times going east and 5 times going west. The Kristianiafjord made 11 journeys east and 12 west. She was intercepted 3 times going east and 6 times going west.

 

DIFFICULTY OF LOCATING VESSELS

 

It was concluded that the master of the Bergensfjord could not be trusted to abide by his agreement to follow the route laid down by the British Admiralty, and the Norwegian‑American Line were informed that their coal supply would be stopped until their mail steamers called at the examination ports as requested. The Bergensfjord must have passed through the patrol on the night of April 27th, or the next day, though dispositions had been made to intercept her. She did not use her wireless, but if she had kept to the prescribed route she must have been caught. On the 30th the Kristianiafjord, after an attempt to escape, was intercepted by the Motagua.

 

On May 18th on her return journey to New York she was again caught by the Moldavia, and sent in to Kirkwall with an armed guard. The Alsatian tried to intercept the Bergensfjord by her wireless direction finder on May 21st. At one time her position seemed to be about 400 on the Alsatian's starboard bow, and it appeared certain that she would be found, but her next signals were much fainter. She had passed through the Western patrols in a fog! It was afterwards found that she had called at Kirkwall under directions from her owners, who, possibly fearing that they might lose their coaling facilities, had ordered their vessels to call voluntarily at Kirkwall when eastward‑bound. Both vessels stopped there of their own accord on their next journey, on June 9th and 11th respectively.

 

The explanation of the difficulty was that at the begin­ning of the war it was supposed that the 11th Hague Convention (1907) guaranteed the inviolability of the parcel as well as the letter mails. But in 1915, when it was realised that goods on their way to and from enemy countries were being sent increasingly by parcel post, it was agreed that the Convention applied only to letter Post, and from September 23rd, 1915, onwards, the Allied Governments exercised the right of seizing contraband or enemy goods sent by parcel post. One of the first seizures was from the Swedish mail steamer Hellig Olav, When she called at Kirkwall for examination; she was found to be carrying 8,000 lb. of raw rubber made up in small parcels and sent from New York to a Swedish firm at Gothenburg, known to be the centre of the contraband trade between Germany and Sweden. At the same time, though the steamship companies were not actually implicated in this illicit trade, they were certainly anxious to deliver their mails to time, and to this was due their anxiety to avoid the delay of examination. Opening a number of small parcels was naturally a slow process, though as time went on it was quickened as much as possible. During April two other mail steamers, a Norwegian and a Dane, were sent in with very heavy enemy mails and some suspected Germans on board.

 

In the second week of May the number of ships stopped for examination rose to 88, of which 21 were sent in with armed guards. It was supposed that the increase was partly due to Dutch vessels proceeding "north‑about" instead of going through the Channel, and also to the reopening of the White Sea, though the port of Archangel was not formally declared open till June. The passage north of Iceland was also declared free of ice, and the Gloucestershire and Ebro were sent up to report on the passage.

 

On May 19th, about 4 p.m., orders were received from the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet that owing to the submarine threat ‑ the first report of the scouting submarines sent out by Admiral Scheer before the battle of Jutland ‑ the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron ("A" and "C" Patrols) were to take up the Western Patrol (from 55N. to 57N., 15W. to 19W.). The "E" patrol was to remain north of Iceland and the Alsatian north of the Faeroes to maintain wireless communication. When the German submarines were first sent out on this occasion it was believed that another attack on trade was imminent. Admiral Scheer's plan at the time was really another raid on the east coast of England at Sunderland.

 

A submarine was reported coming south from Muckle Flugga on the 22nd, and a destroyer with two armed trawlers was sent to look for her, but without result. Hostile submarines were also reported off the Faeroes on May 17th and 20th, and were thought to be searching for the 10th Cruiser Squadron. It was also said that a large enemy submarine had called at Westmanhavn in the Faeroes on May 28th, and the Columbella fired eight rounds at a supposed submarine on May 26th in 6050'N., 221' W. (Possibly U75, which laid the minefield where the Hampshire was sunk.)

 

On the day of the battle of Jutland (May 31st), at about

 

LYING IN WAIT FOR RAIDERS

 

6 p.m. the 10th Cruiser Squadron, under orders from the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet, took up the Eastern Patrol, on a line N. (true) from Muckle Flugga. This move had nothing to do with the battle, or the expected movements of the High Seas Fleet; it was entirely due to a report from the Admiralty that the raider Moewe had sailed from Wilhelmshaven, and that another raider the Niobe (or Independent) was expected to sail from the same port on June 1st.

 

At 6 p.m. on June Ist the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet directed the squadron to continue the "Muckle Flugga" Patrol (on a line due N. from Muckle Flugga), and directed two ships to be sent north of the Faeroes; a cruiser from the Grand Fleet with an armed boarding steamer was despatched to patrol between the Faeroes and Shetlands, owing to persistent rumours that raiders were coming out. On June 3rd the line was altered to join a position in 5935' N., 730' W., to the coast of Iceland, and two armed trawlers were sent to patrol north of the Faeroes. During this period (from May 31st to June 3rd) wireless silence was strictly observed. Nothing was seen or heard of any raiders, after all the excitement, and it was assumed that they had gone north. Admiral Tupper kept two ships off the North Cape in case they attempted to break out in that direction, but as Admiral Jellicoe observes in his book, "nothing came of it." (The Grand Fleet, p. 296.)

 

It was afterwards remarked at the Admiralty that the 10th Cruiser Squadron had not taken up the position assigned to it in "Battle Orders" in the event of a fleet action, and that it was very far from the scene of action on May 31st‑June 1st. This was explained by the altered situation in view of the expected raiders. Whether that rumour had been purposely spread by the Germans in order to divert the squadron to more distant waters, or whether they really meant to send out raiders at the time, but were prevented, is not known.

 

Possibly the repeated rumours of coming attacks on commerce by cruisers were natural, as the trade warfare by submarines died down. (The German plan seems to have been rather to devote their efforts to minelaying.) At any rate, it was not till June 11th that the 10th Cruiser Squadron went back to the usual Iceland-Rockall Patrol. The passage round the North Cape was very systematically blocked again by the squadron on June 26th. It proved to be a record day, as 26 vessels were intercepted, and six were sent in with armed guards.

 

The constant hunt for raiders sometimes caused an exciting pursuit when a vessel that could not be identified easily was sighted. On June 28th, at 9 a.m., in 6257' N., 1415' W., the Artois (southern ship of the "A" patrol) reported that she had been following, at 13 knots, the smoke of a westbound steamer since 7.30 a.m. She was directed to follow at full speed, and the Teutonic, from the south and the Orcoma from the north, also at high speed, started to chase the unknown vessel. The hunt continued all day, as the Artois could keep in touch but could not gain on her quarry. At 7 p.m. the Orcoma sighted the supposed raider at a distance of about 16 miles in 6143' N, 1840' W., and reported her as a steamer with two masts and two funnels. At 11 p.m., when the Teutonic was gaining on her, the vessel stopped, and was boarded by the Orcoma. She was a Russian, the Czar, from Archangel to New York, in ballast, with 145 passengers. She was allowed to proceed and the cruisers returned to their patrols.

 

Although the submarine attack on trade had practically ceased, the Germans were still making full use of their minelaying submarines, as was proved by the minefield west of the Orkneys on which the Hampshire was so tragically lost early in June. On July 4th the Commander-in-Chief warned Admiral Tupper that minelaying submarines might pass Fair Island from the eastward at any time after 4 a.m. on the 5th, or Muckle Flugga six hours later. The "C" patrol was therefore moved 60 miles to the westward. It seemed that there were indications of renewed submarine activity, probably in order to attack the trade with Archangel, and the patrols had to be continually shifted. The traffic to the White Sea was very heavy during June, and the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron were constantly on the route to protect shipping against possible raiders. In July a regular patrol by Grand Fleet cruisers was started, and on July 7th the Grand Fleet patrol north of the Shetlands was strengthened.

 

FISH OIL TRADE

 

For some time a cruiser and an armed boarding steamer had been on duty there, and this force was increased to two cruisers and two destroyers. (The Grand Fleet, pp. 427, 431.)

 

Another record was made by the 10th Cruiser Squadron during the first week of July, as no fewer than 112 ships (including 40 fishing vessels) were intercepted and examined; 27 of them were sent in with armed guards. There was considerable suspicion at the time of Dutch fishing vessels with cargoes for Holland. The officer in charge of the armed guard from the Hildebrand, placed on board the Dutch trawler Eveline, on July 2nd, discovered that each barrel of cod liver fetched between 8 and 9 at Ymuiden, and that they were intended for transmission to Germany.

 

When the Patia called in at Sigle Fiord in Iceland, about this time, the Vice-Consul told her captain that a very large trade in fish oil was being carried on, and many ruses were adopted to avoid the Icelandic laws regarding export. The Admiral accordingly sent up two trawlers to help the "E" patrol off Iceland to deal with the fish and oil trade. The number of small vessels employed made it very difficult to stop or examine them all. Apparently the captains of ships trading to Iceland had to sign an agreement that they would call for examination at a British port, under a penalty to the Icelandic Government. This penalty, a fine of 5,000, was incurred by a ship called the Edith, which was lying at Reykjavik while the Patia was there. The prosperity of the trade can be judged from the fact that any shipping company thought it worth while to run the risk of incurring so heavy a penalty by attempting to evade examination, but there seems also to have been considerable resentment about the delay, sometimes inevitable, when a ship called for examination at a British port.

 

On July 10th the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet again warned the Admiral that a raider of the Moewe type might attempt to pass through the patrols at any time after daylight on the 12th, and the dispositions were made to intercept her. Wireless silence was also maintained, but as no news could be obtained of the raider the normal patrol was resumed on July 15th. A raider did make an effort to get out during July, for a British Merchant vessel, the Eskimo, was captured on the 26th, off Risor, in Norwegian territorial waters, by a German armed merchant cruiser. No further operations of the kind seem to have taken place till the Moewe got out again in November 1916.

 

Dense fog was experienced during the last week of July and the patrols could only feel their way blindly, so that the number of ships intercepted was much smaller than usual; but considerable precautions were taken in order to intercept the famous submarine liner Deutschland, and her supposed consort, the Norwegian steamer Haug­land. The Deutschland was, of course, designed as an experiment for using submarines to run the blockade; she was unarmed, but had a cargo of valuable chemicals. She sailed for America in June, and reached Norfolk, Virginia, on July 9th. It was on her return voyage that great efforts were made to catch her. She was reported to have sailed from New York on August 1st, and would be due to pass the patrols on August 12th. All the available ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron (twelve) were spread on a line from 5910' N., 7W., to the coast of Iceland, ships being 30 miles apart. Two trawlers were detailed to patrol west of the Faeroes, as it was thought possible that the Deutschland might meet another German submarine in that locality as an escort. Four trawlers from Stornoway were also sent to keep watch on the Rockall Bank, where it was hoped that they might force the great submarine to dive again, and keep her down till her batteries were exhausted.

 

The day, August 12th, on which she was expected was misty and foggy, with a considerable sea running, but a Dutch steamer sighted a supposed submarine twenty‑five miles west of St. Kilda at 9 a.m. It was thought that this might have been the Deutschland, but she was not seen by the patrols, and the Dutch ship did not report till the next day. She probably passed at a later date, for she arrived in Germany on August 23rd. The patrol lines were changed again on August 15th, but fog greatly hampered the work of the squadron throughout that week.

There were rumours of submarines near the Faeroes on August 16th, and the ships on "A" patrol altered their positions, but the rumours were not substantiated, though reports of submarines farther south were received

 

SUCCESSFUL PATROL WORK

 

fairly often. During August the number of submarines reported in the North Sea was very large, but their target seen's to have been the Grand Fleet itself, especially on August 19th, when the light cruisers Nottingham and Falmouth were sunk. The chief effect of these rumours or reports on the blockading squadron was that the line of patrol was altered for the time. All the reports of submarines off the coast of Iceland were eventually proved to be without foundation, and were possibly caused by the appearance of the northern fishing boats. These boats were thirty feet long, with a cabin aft, and one mast, and were propelled by a motor; it was quite possible to mistake them for submarines.

 

As the "rationing policy" for neutral countries became more strictly enforced, the work of the squadron was not lessened. The number of ships intercepted and sent in during the week ending September 16th was the largest in any one week since the beginning of the war. The majority were caught by the "E" patrol, consisting of two ships of the squadron and two armed trawlers off Iceland. One hundred and sixty‑two vessels were inter­cepted altogether, and fifty‑eight were sent in with armed guards, and fourteen without armed guards. These statistics supply an index to the activity and efficiency with which the 10th Cruiser Squadron was working in conditions of the greatest physical and political difficulty. During October the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet congratulated the squadron on their success between September 1st and 21st, when 435 vessels were dealt with, and 123 sent in. The ships on patrol were only 10; ships proceeding from one patrol to another, or rejoining from harbour, 7; armed trawlers, 4; ships going off patrol to coal or refit, 7, and 2 armed trawlers. It was a fine record for so small a force. The squadron had been strengthened in August by the addition of the Orvieto (late minelayer).

 

Some experiences of the armed guards sent to bring suspected neutral vessels into British ports for examina­tion were curious and interesting, and illustrated the very considerable risks involved. On August 10th, in 5638' N., 155' W. (approximately south of Rockall Bank) the Norwegian steam trawler Hareid of Aalesund was intercepted and boarded by the Hilary. An armed guard was detailed to bring the Hareid into Lerwick; Lieutenant W. J. Canner, R.N.R., was placed in command. His first discovery was that there were no navigating instruments of any kind on board, except the patent log The master also said that his compass had a big error: but he did not know how much! The weather during the whole of the passage to Lerwick was such that no observation was obtainable. Lieutenant Canner, with the resourcefulness characteristic of British seamen, made a lead line from some cod line and by continuous soundings eventually reached Lerwick after being five days on board, the last two without fresh water, and with the whole ship's company complaining of thirst.

 

After three days on board, the course by compass should have brought the ship to westward of the Shetlands. By the soundings it seemed that she ought to be northwest of Muckle Flugga, and a Swedish sailing trawler also gave their position as about thirty miles north‑west of Muckle Flugga. The course was continued until Lieu­tenant Canner considered that the ship was about twelve miles north‑west of the point. At that time (noon, Sunday, August 13th) the chief engineer reported that he had only enough coal for another twenty‑four hours, and that the fresh water was nearly finished. The course was altered to keep to westward of the Shetlands, and then to the east to make the land, but a dense fog came on, and as the soundings increased suddenly to about 107 fathoms, at 3 a.m. on Monday it was decided to stop till daybreak to save the little remaining coal, in the hope that the fog would lift.

While the ship was stopped her course was worked out as far as possible, and it was decided that she must be about sixty miles from the Norwegian coast, and about ninety miles to eastward of the Shetlands. At daybreak she proceeded, steering west till noon, when she again stopped to try to fix a definite position, but without results. The Norwegian master of the trawler then declared that having very little coal left, no water, and only a hazy idea of the ship's position, he refused to accept any responsibility for her safety, if Lieutenant Canner continued to steer west. He considered that by steering east the coast of Norway must eventually be sighted, or if the ship were on the west side of the Shetlands,

 

PEREGRINATIONS OF A TRAWLER

 

those islands would be seen. The master proposed to sign a written document to the effect that every effort had been made to go to Lerwick, but that for humanity's sake it was necessary to proceed on an easterly course to Norway.

 

As the crew were already suffering from thirst, the ship's company were assembled and the position explained to them. They were of opinion that by steering west the vessel would possibly go farther out into the Atlantic ocean, and apart from the fact that everything available had been burnt (they were already burning empty barrels), they were not at all unlikely to die of thirst. The master and crew finally decided to leave everything in the British officer's hands.

 

Lieutenant Canner, though of opinion by the soundings that the vessel was east of the Shetlands, fully realised his risk and responsibility in steering west, but determined that the ship should not go to Norway, and continued on a westward course. At 2 a.m. on Tuesday (15th) he considered that they ought to be close to land and steamed dead slow, steering south‑west to stem the ebb‑tide, and waiting for daylight. At 6 a.m. he proceeded west again, still in a dense fog. The suspense of the moment, with no knowledge of what the lifting of the fog might reveal, with the last coals burning, and nothing to drink, must have been intense. At 8.30 a.m. land was sighted about 200 yards on the port bow, and was found to be Helli Ness, close to Mousa Island south‑east of the Shetlands. From that position the ship steered for Lerwick and arrived there about 10 a.m.

 

With characteristic brevity, Lieutenant Canner finished his letter to the Admiral, "There is nothing further to report," but the Admiral noted that he "deserved credit" for the manner in which he had brought the ship into port.

 

Another officer from the Hilary, Lieutenant S. B. Groome, R.N.R., had a somewhat similar experience, when in charge of an armed guard ordered to bring the steam trawler Assistant, with a cargo of herrings, into Kirkwall. He boarded the trawler south‑west of Iceland, on August 8th, and was greeted by the tidings that the captain had not enough coal, provisions, or water on board to take his ship to Kirkwall, as he was supposed to reach Lodmunder Fiord, Iceland, the next day. The coal was enough at easy speed, and the Hilary supplied sufficient water and food. As usual, there were no instruments or navigational books of any description on board, and on August 9th the patent log was lost. The weather was fortunately fine and clear, and on August 10th a course was set for Fuglo Island, Faeroes. By 6 p.m. no land had been sighted, and a very thick fog came on. The captain then said he could no longer navigate his vessel, and asked Lieutenant Groome to take charge, but he refused to accept any responsibility, though willing to help. Eventually he undertook the navigation, and set a course S. 16 E. (mag.), hoping to make Fair Island. The captain of the trawler had no idea as to how far out his compass was. On August 12th, at 6 p.m., land was sighted about a quarter of a mile ahead, but there was still a thick fog, and by the lie of the land it was concluded that they were off Burrier Head, Shetlands. As the weather cleared, Lieutenant Groome set a course south and sighted two lights, but at midnight was again uncertain, and set a course S.W.1/4 S. for Fair Island. At 1 p.m. a very thick fog came up with a strong wind and heavy sea; the vessel rolled heavily and shipped much water, and most of the herrings were washed overboard.

 

At 4 a.m. on August 13th the fog was too thick to sight Fair Island, and after several hours of great doubt as to his position, and some anxiety because the fresh water on board had come to an end, he picked up the Kirkwall pilot boat at 1.50 p.m. and anchored in Kirkwall harbour at 2.30 p.m. The Admiralty commended both these officers, and further considered the wisdom of risking armed guards in such ill‑found small craft.

 

On September 22nd the newly fitted ship Avenger joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron. A week later the Almanzora returned from Liverpool and was ordered to join the "E" Patrol, which was still sending in more suspected vessels than any of the other patrols. Sub­marines were still active. On September 26th two ships of the Auxiliary Patrol, the yacht Conqueror II and the patrol trawler Sarah Alice, with five British steamers, were torpedoed in or near the Fair Island Channel by enemy submarines. Four days later the Admiralty oiler Califol was attacked by a submarine in 5948' N., 55' W‑

 

ARMED GUARDS

 

and two armed trawlers which were patrolling near the Faeroes were sent to her assistance. It was, however, soon reported that destroyers were on their way to the Califol and that she had evaded the submarine; the orders to the trawlers were countermanded. Patrols were also warned on October 1st that a submarine had been seen in 60N., 420' W., at 1 p.m. on September 30th. It was stated that she was in company with a cargo steamer of about 2,000 tons, with the word Holland painted on her side. Special precautions were taken in case the vessels were acting in company.

 

As the herring fishing season was at an end, and fewer ships were met, proceeding from Iceland to Scandinavian ports, the "E" Patrol was reduced to two ships in the first week of October.

 

Although there had been many reports of submarines in the area patrolled by the 10th Cruiser Squadron, on October 8th the lines were again moved eastward by order of the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet. Nevertheless, during the week ending October 8th, 105 vessels were intercepted, and twenty‑six sent in with armed guards. A large number of these ships were bound for Archangel, many of them carrying arms and munitions for Russia. Some of the ships complained of the bad quality of the coal supplied to them, which in many cases considerably reduced their speed ‑ a serious matter, with submarines on the route.

 

On October 9th the Alsatian intercepted the Norwegian steamer Hercules, from New York to Archangel, with a cargo of oil, copper, railway materials, etc. The master stated that, if he were unable to pass Vardo Island by October 15th, he was permitted to discharge his cargo in Norway. Apparently this was what he intended to do, as he was heading for Norway, and said he could not reach Vardo by the date given. The Admiral, who had his flag in the Alsatian, had information that it was undesirable to let more copper go to Norway, and as he did not feel confidence in the master of the Hercules, the ship was sent to Lerwick with an armed guard. She was manned entirely by Chinese, with Norwegian officers.

 

On the 18th, as numerous submarines were reported north of the Shetlands the lines were again shifted  ­further evidence of the continually changing conditions to which Admiral Tupper was exposed in carrying out his difficult task.

 

The weather was again very stormy in the middle of October, and though officers and men were inured to the dangers of sea, fog, and wind, boarding became impossible so that ships were obliged to accompany vessels in which it was desired to place armed guards until the weather moderated. Occasionally a warning was received that a submarine was probably lying in wait for some particular ship, generally a munition carrier. During the month the 10th Cruiser Squadron was directed to look out for the Rumanian steamer Jiul, which was thus threatened, but in spite of their precautions she was not sighted.

 

On October 27th the Kildonan Castle, a new armed merchant cruiser that had lately joined the squadron and was patrolling in 6313' N., 1830' W., was attacked by a submarine. Two torpedoes were fired at her almost simultaneously at a range of between 600 and 1,000 yards. Both fortunately missed, and the Kildonan Castle was put at full speed. There was no time to open fire, as the periscope was not seen till after the wake of the torpedoes had been sighted, and the submarine was then diving. The Kildonan Castle was carrying out rifle practice at the time in accordance with the routine enforced on all ships.

 

The "A" Patrol was immediately moved north‑west and two armed trawlers, which were on their way to patrol between St. Kilda and Rockall, were sent to search for the submarine. It was thought that she was out to intercept Archangel traffic, or was possibly scouting round Iceland to see if the patrols there would prevent a raider from getting through. On October 28th the Avenger sighted a submarine still further north (6616'N., 2630W). It was just possible that this was the same vessel. There were other reports at the time, and the patrols were shifted each day about sixty miles, either east or west, on a different angle, in the hope of confusing the submarines.

 

Just at this period (late in 1916) the political situation was such that the Germans wished to avoid "complications" in the war zone round England. They were to make peace proposals in December, and meanwhile restricted their submarine attacks on commerce to the Mediterranean, and, in northern waters, to attempts to sink supplies sent via Archangel to the Russian seat of War.

 

GERMAN PRIZE CAPTURED

 

The Admiral of the 10th Cruiser Squadron in November again asked for more Auxiliary Patrol vessels to be attached to the squadron, as numbers of his ships were working off the coast of Iceland and there were British fishing tralwers in those waters. In addition, the Faeroes might require watching, and other positions would be more usefully patrolled by smaller anti‑submarine craft. From October 30th to November 2nd reports had been received of submarine activity between Muckle Flugga and the Flannan Islands, and the outlook was bad.

 

The Admiralty did not consider that an extra trawler patrol was yet required for duty off Iceland, though it was recognised that, owing to the fact that the blockading squadron had to keep well to the westward because of the submarine menace, there was a likelihood that neutral vessels might slip through to the eastward. The Stornoway trawlers patrolled to about the 100‑fathom line (off the Hebrides), but vessels might pass between them and the squadron, and it was suggested that four trawlers from the Orkneys might be usefully employed there. On the 11th the Vice‑Admiral, Orkneys and Shetlands, was directed to send them to Oban for service with the 10th Cruiser Squadron.

 

The weather during the second week of November was so bad as practically to prevent boarding. Only seventeen vessels were intercepted and examined during the week, and five were sent in with armed guards. At this time, moreover, eight ships of the squadron were at Liverpool or in the Clyde for refit.

 

On November 18th the Otway boarded a German prize, the Norwegian s.s. Older, which had been captured by a German submarine on November 13th in 478'N, 96' W. The commanding officer of the Older was unable to prevent the German prize crew (a lieutenant, a warrant officer, and seven men) from exploding bombs and opening cocks to sink the ship, when the Otway took off the crew. The Otway also took off the nine Germans, and the crews of the two other ships sunk by the submarine (eight of the British steam trawler Hatsuse, sunk on November 14th 86 miles SW. from the Fastnet, and twenty‑five of the crew of the Italian steamship Lela, which had been sunk on November 13th.) It was discovered that the sub­marine had been in company with the Older up to the previous evening (17th) and they were both said to be bound for Kiel. A general warning was issued to the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Telefunken signals had been intercepted on the 17th at 6.28 a.m. and 9.59 p.m., which were probably sent by the submarine.

 

The next day (19th), as it was found that the Older was not much damaged, Italian and British crews were put on board, and at 1.15 p.m. she was despatched to Stornoway with an armed guard from the Otway, and arrived on the 22nd.

 

Delays in the refitting of ships were causing a shortage in the number of vessels on patrol; this embarrassed the Admiral of the squadron, and also upset the relief programme, and kept ships on duty beyond the normal fifty days, which was "bad for their boilers"; the Admiral might also have added that the too prolonged strain on the crews tried their endurance to breaking point. On December 1st Admiral Tupper reported that, as the boiler­makers refused to work overtime on board the Orcoma, her sailing would be delayed. The Kildonan Castle was also away on special service. (She rejoined the squadron on December 25th.) Only thirteen ships were at sea at the beginning of December (out of the total of twenty‑four) instead of seventeen, as there should have been.

 

On December 2nd in about 5956'N., 11W., the Avenger and the Teutonic both intercepted a vessel which was thought to be the Dutch ship Gamma, and she was allowed to proceed on her way. It was afterwards suspected that the ship was a raider and not the Gamma, and a Court of Enquiry was held on board the Orion on December 18th, with Rear‑Admiral Goodenough as President. The Court found that the ship was not the Gamma, as she repre­sented, but there was some confusion about her calling at Kirkwall, as according to the latest orders Dutch ships did not go to Kirkwall, and the officers of the examining ships were justified in allowing her to go on. It was concluded that she was a supply ship and not a raider. The real Dutch Gamma apparently cleared at Kirkwall on December 3rd, and the report of this clearance first raised the question about the ship examined on the 2nd.

 

The weather continued to be bad throughout November, and it was probably owing to that fact, as well as to the

 

GERMAN RAIDERS

 

shortage of blockading cruisers, that two German raiders, the Moewe and the Wolf, got through to the Atlantic at the end of the month. (The Moewe was out in the Atlantic for four months, captured and sank a considerable number of ships (the Germans claimed twenty‑seven) and returned to her base on March 22nd, 1917. The Wolf was out longer, the sphere of her activities being chiefly the Indian Ocean. She returned to Kiel on February 19th, 1918, without meeting any British forces.)

 

On December 8th the Admiral received orders to detach four ships of the squadron to pursue the raiders. As it was necessary for these vessels to have a large radius of action and to be suitable for the tropics, the Almanzora, Orvieto, Orcoma, and Arlanza were selected for the purpose. The first three were already at Liverpool, and the Arlanza was ordered to join them there at once. She had only lately returned to the squadron after her adventures in the White Sea. Later in the day the Gloucestershire was also sent to the Clyde, presumably to replace one of the other vessels, which might not be ready in time.

 

Owing to the shortage of ships, the "E" Patrol (off Iceland) was temporarily given up, and the Otway and Moldavia joined the main patrol line, which was altered on the 9th, owing to further submarine alarms; but on the 11th the Admiral heard from the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet that a German raider was possibly coming out via the north of Iceland or the Faeroes, and he directed that a ship should go back to the "E" Patrol, and that the more northern Patrols ("A" and "B") should be strengthened at the expense of the more southern ("C" and "D"). Eight ships only were available, and that number was obtained by counter­manding the order for the Avenger to oil, and by directing that the Ebro should remain out for two or three days longer, though she was already overdue for overhaul and coaling. A force of light cruisers was detached from the Grand Fleet to search for the raiders further south, and as the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron took up the patrol on a line joining Sydero and Noup Head, the "C" Patrol was reduced to two ships, and the four ships of the "A" and "B" Patrols were ordered to work on a line 360 from 6130' N., 9 W. This was all that could be done by the 10th Cruiser Squadron towards stopping a raider on her way north of the Faeroes for Icelandic territorial waters.

 

Two armed trawlers were directed to patrol between St. Kilda (Hebrides) and 10 W. with the idea of working across the route followed by Dutch vessels between Holland and Falmouth. The route followed by those vessels generally carried them clear of the 10th Cruiser Squadron patrols, and it was known that, if the enemy knew this fact, he would have a key to a comparatively safe passage through the patrols. The Admiral intended to use the trawlers attached to his squadron to block the passage as far as possible, but suggested that Dutch vessels should be ordered to pass west and north of Rockall from the position 61 N., 6 W. This would generally ensure that they would be intercepted, and give the impression that the whole area was thoroughly patrolled. At 7 p.m, on December 14th the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet informed Admiral Tupper that no further news had been received about the supposed raider, and that ordinary patrol should be resumed. The fact that the Moewe and Wolf had both got out was not known at this time.

 

On the 15th there was a further alarm of a suspicious vessel sighted off Muckle Flugga, and the "C" Patrol was moved to the eastward to intercept her, but she proved to be the Minotaur. Another alteration was made in the patrol on December 19th in order to watch more effectively the passage between the Faeroes and Iceland, but the shortage of ships still caused considerable difficulty.

 

During December both the Moldavia and Hildebrand revealed structural weaknesses which would keep them in dock until the middle of January, so that the squadron had to work with a shortage of vessels, though the blockade continued to provide varied tasks, which put a great strain on the Admiral's resources. On December 29th the Kildonan Castle, Ebro, and Changuinola were directed to chase a large four‑masted steamer which the armed trawler Arley had been unable to stop (in 5810' N., 910' W.), The Arley had fired blank charges at her, but without effect, and could not overhaul her as her speed was 14 knots. She was said to be a Danish motor‑ship, the Panama, which had cleared from Stornoway the day before. The three cruisers were, however, unable to find her, and returned to patrol in the evening.

 

On December 31st the Admiral, in the Alsatian, visited Scapa Flow, to discuss with the Commander‑in‑Chief of the

 

CONFERENCE AT SCAPA

 

Grand Fleet (Sir David Beatty) various matters in connec­tion with the squadron, especially the possibility of using Scapa instead of Swarbacks Minn as a coaling base, or the alternative of abandoning a northern base and using Liverpool and the Clyde only. The visit to Scapa was greatly appreciated by both officers and crew of the Alsatian, especially the opportunity of seeing the Grand Fleet and realising more fully that the 10th Cruiser Squadron actually belonged to it.

 

The constant alarm as to German surface raiders seems to have affected very considerably the dispositions of the 10th Cruiser Squadron during 1916. As early as February the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet had suggested to the Admiral commanding the squadron that it might be advisable to alter the patrols in view of the possibility that more disguised and armed merchant ships might be coming out. (The Moewe, on her first cruise, came out at the end of December 1915.) The menace, he said, would probably necessitate a cruiser squadron being kept north of the Shetlands, and, when the weather permitted, a freer use of destroyers and constant cruiser sweeps towards the Skagerrak. The Commander‑in‑Chief's idea was that, on the alarm being raised, the 10th Cruiser Squadron should at once take up a position from Muckle Flugga to Utvaer Lighthouse, whence they would sweep south.

 

All the Admirals in the Grand Fleet were directed to send in proposals for meeting the difficulties which had become apparent in maintaining the patrol. Sir Cecil Burney (First Battle Squadron) pointed out that efficient patrols between the Shetlands and Iceland, and in the fairway north of Iceland would mean establishing a blockade on a front of 410 miles (without counting the Northern Channel), and that would mean at least 40 ships constantly on patrol, and approximately 60 ships to main­tain it. The total number of ships in the 10th Cruiser Squadron at the time was 27, of which 17 were actually away, leaving only 10 on patrol, instead of 40. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that raiders did get through. Admiral Burney suggested employing the four cruiser squadrons of the Grand Fleet as well as more submarines in order to render the blockade more adequate.

 

The Rear‑Admiral commanding the First Battle Cruiser Squadron put forward two plans, one to fix routes for all outward‑bound neutral traffic passing north of the British Isles, and the other for the neutral Powers to establish a convoy system for outward‑bound ships from Slottero Light to Sumburgh Head, 180 miles. Either of these measures, he urged, would reduce the area to be covered by the patrolling vessels, though neutral Powers would no doubt object. It was obvious that these two suggestions covered the whole field: increase the blockading squadron, or decrease the area the squadron had to cover; but neither was adopted. Sir David Beatty's letter on the subject dealt chiefly with the danger to men of war and squadrons at sea when passing within two miles of a merchant vessel, unless she had been care­fully inspected.

 

New instructions were subsequently issued for boarding vessels and making signals. Ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron were directed not to board suspected vessels unless a consort was within supporting distance.

 

A curious incident occurred on July 26th. The Wilson liner Eskimo, from Christiania to Newcastle, was captured by a German auxiliary cruiser off Risor, on the coast of Norway, and taken to Germany. The captain considered that he was, according to custom, within territorial waters, which were deep right up to the coast in this position. The German ship fired five shots, and the second shot hit the Eskimo. The Berlin official communique of July 28th spoke of an "engagement" with the armed British steamer Eskimo; but the ship was not armed. She carried two rifles and a small amount of ammunition for them, all in charge of the master.

 

This event only affected the 10th Cruiser Squadron in so far that the capture was effected either in territorial waters or very close to them. Attempts of the same kind had apparently been made before, and if territorial waters were to be even more closely watched it would add very considerably to other difficulties.

 

In October 1916 further instructions were issued for action to be taken to intercept enemy raiders which were reported as being about to sail, or as having sailed, from an enemy port, with the intention of breaking out into the Atlantic. These instructions were chiefly for the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and armed boarding steamers on the Shetland‑Faeroes patrol and the 4th Light Cruiser

 

ESCAPE OF RAIDERS

 

Squadron and destroyers on the Shetland‑Norway patrol. The 10th Cruiser Squadron had their own orders for a line approximately between Rockall and Iceland, and while disposed to intercept raiders, were to intercept and send in merchant vessels as usual. If ice permitted, two ships were to be detailed to patrol in the Denmark Strait, and one off the south‑east coast of Iceland. In spite of all these precautions, two enemy raiders escaped into the Atlantic. The Moewe and Wolf left Germany towards the end of November, and on December 15th the Commander‑in­Chief of the Grand Fleet wrote strongly to urge that more drastic measures should be taken, especially with regard to control over Norwegian territorial waters, in which enemy vessels and neutral vessels carrying contraband passed freely up and down without fear of molestation.

 

As an illustration of the correctness of his apprehensions, it may be noted that the raider Seeadler, which was formerly the American sailing ship Pass of Balmaha, left Bremen on December 21st, 1916, for the coast of South America, evaded the patrols, and got through without being seen.

 

On December 17th a new memorandum was issued by the Commander‑in‑Chief, Sir David Beatty, as to action to be taken on receipt of information that an enemy commerce raider was about to sail or had sailed from an enemy port. Later in the month he represented very strongly to the Admiralty that the recent reduction in numbers of the blockade squadron weakened the general efficiency of the patrol, as the force was inadequate for guarding in a reliable manner the passages north of Iceland, between Iceland and the Faeroes, and between the Faeroes and Orkneys. This was especially serious with regard to the passing out of raiders, as well as for keeping a strict blockade. The only enemy surface vessels which could operate against trade on the high seas were those which evaded the 10th Cruiser Squadron patrol, and all the oversea supplies for countries bordering on Germany had to run the gauntlet of the blockading squadron. It was, therefore, in his opinion, absolutely imperative that their numbers should be increased. With four of the best ships absent hunting a raider in the Atlantic. The Kildonan Castle about to be withdrawn for special service, the Armadale Castle not yet joined, the Artois and Champagne not reliable, and about a third of the remainder coaling or refitting, there were usually only 12 or 15 vessels on patrol. The Commander‑in‑Chief suggested that five ships (armed merchant cruisers) should be withdrawn from the Atlantic trade routes, three others from South America, one from East Africa, and one from China, to strengthen the 10th Cruiser Squadron. He also urged that vessels from the 2nd Cruiser Squadron might be sent to South America, and the other ships replaced by French and Japanese vessels. He recommended that a permanent patrol of about 24 vessels ought to be kept by the 10th Cruiser Squadron. The Admiralty answer to this was that the squadrons abroad had not only patrol work to carry out; they had to prevent the escape of enemy interned vessels, to escort transports, and to carry gold to the United States.

 

During 1916, 3,388 vessels were intercepted, and 889 were sent in with armed guards. In 1915 the numbers had been 3,098 and 743 respectively, and the increase was probably due to the large number of vessels intercepted off the north‑east coast of Iceland during the herring fishing season, as owing to the submarine menace, the patrols were frequently so far to the westward that they were in a less favourable position for intercepting shipping than in 1915. Whether the enemy realised this fact is not known. Only one ship of the squadron was lost during 1916, the Alcantara (See Vol. II., p. 154) in action with the German raider Greif, but an officer and five men belonging to the Ebro were lost in the Norwegian barque Olivia which had been sent in under armed guard, and was never heard of again. An officer and a leading seaman were also removed by a German submarine from the Norwegian barque Pestalozzi and taken to Germany as prisoners of war.

 

The work of the squadron was considerably affected by the extension of blockade measures, without any corresponding increase in the number of the blockading vessels. The increased submarine menace also added to the difficul­ties, as it was always driving the patrol to the westward, and thus leaving an unguarded channel for merchant ships to get through without undergoing examination, and the recurring alarms about surface raiders very often took the squadron away from its own pressing duties.

 

EXTENSION OF BLOCKADE MEASURES

 

In spite of all these dangers and drawbacks, the work was unceasingly carried on, and the blockade developed successfully. Though three enemy raiders evaded the patrols and got through into the Atlantic and Indian oceans in 1916‑17, two others were sunk, and the Germans must have realised very well that the odds were greatly against them, as they did not tempt fortune by risking rnany more ships as oversea raiders. (For operations of the German raiders, see Vol. II., Chap. XVII.)

 

The position of the 10th Cruiser Squadron after four of the best ships had been sent away to the Atlantic in December 1916 was very precarious, but this was recognised by the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet, and at the Admiralty, and the cruisers and light cruisers of the Grand Fleet were increasingly employed in blockade and patrol work.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE DEFENSIVE ARMING OF MERCHANT SHIPS

 

In the previous volume of this history a special chapter entitled "The Merchant Service on the Defensive" was devoted to the measures taken by the Admiralty up to the middle of the year 1916 to arm the British Merchant Service for self‑protection. We must now describe the steps which were taken, in view of later developments of German policy, to defend the Allied cause. That the enemy tactics were defeated was due partly to the success of the British navy in sinking submarines, and otherwise pro­tecting merchant shipping against their depredations, partly to the arming of British merchant ships and the training of their crews to defend themselves, their ships, and their cargoes. With the first‑mentioned methods (described in the volumes on "Naval Operations") this history does not deal. It treats of an equally or even more inspiring theme, the armament of the merchant ships and the training in dis­cipline and in fighting efficiency of the personnel. The German policy nearly succeeded. That it failed is largely due to the enthusiasm with which all ranks under the Red Ensign, men and youths, from captain to cabin‑boy, rose to the occasion. The subject comes naturally under two heads: (1) the supply of armament to British merchant ships, and (2) the training of the crews in its use. This chapter deals with the first portion of the subject.

 

Before describing in detail the measures taken by Great Britain to arm merchant ships on an extensive scale, it is desirable to complete the tale of the attitude of neutrals towards the policy involved. The special conditions which affected the territorial waters of different countries may be gathered from a memorandum drawn up by the Admiralty in 1916 and issued in its final form on March 1st, 1917. Under the terms of this memorandum, the Merchant Service was informed that defensively armed vessels might visit the ports of any neutral country (except Holland) to

 

ATTITUDE OF NEUTRALS

 

which they were permitted to proceed under the conditions affecting voyages recognised as permissible under the Government war risk scheme. Special instructions for masters of ships as a guide to their procedure in ports of the United States, Spain, Cuba, and Norway were appended. To obtain clearance from a port in the United States (including those in the Panama Canal zone) an assurance to the local authorities, from the British consular office, was required to the effect that the armament would be used only for defensive purposes, and the masters were warned that they must also expect to have to answer certain questions. If any difficulty arose, appeal to the nearest British con­sular officer was recommended. On a defensively armed vessel visiting a Spanish port, the captain, proprietor, or agent of the vessel was directed to furnish a written declara­tion, with the intervention of the British consular officer (if any):

 

1. That the vessel was destined exclusively for commerce.

2. That she would not be transformed into a ship of war or auxiliary cruiser before returning to the United Kingdom.

3. That the armament on board would only be used for defence of the vessel in case of attack.

 

Instructions affecting visits to ports in Cuba were less definite. On arrival at a Cuban port of "an armed ship of belligerent nationality, purporting to be a merchant vessel" the port authorities immediately conducted an investiga­tion as to the proposed employment of the armament, and reported to the State Department whether there was sufficient proof to negative the presumption that she was, and should be treated as, a war vessel. In Norwegian Ports the masters of ships were required to furnish the commanders of the local guardships with details of their ships' speed, dimensions, armament; their last, present, and proposed voyage; the number and nationality of officers and crew, and so forth. In case of difficulties in any neutral Port, the masters were recommended to apply to the nearest British consular officer.

 

On March 13th, 1917, after the United States had broken off diplomatic relations with Germany, but had not yet declared war, the Navy Department issued Regulations for the conduct of American Armed Merchant vessels, which are so important that they are given in extenso in Appendix A.

 

It will be seen by reference to these regulations that the American system was to place an "armed guard" on board each vessel, instead of training their Mercantile Marine as a combatant service to protect themselves, as in the British service. These armed guards were for the sole purpose of defence "against the unlawful acts of Germany or of any nation following the policy announced by Germany in her note of January 31st, 1917." Neither the armed guards nor their arms were to be used for any other purpose than that specified. The armed guards, in matters of a non‑military character, were under the orders of the master of the vessel, but their military discipline was administered by the naval officer commanding them, who was alone responsible for opening or ceasing fire. As in the British service, national colours were to be hoisted before fire was opened. It was laid down as lawful for fire to be opened upon any submarine of Germany, or of any nation following her policy of January 31st 1917, that attempted to approach, or lay within 4,000 yards of the commercial route of an American vessel sighting the sub­marine in the zone prescribed by Germany. Fire was also to be opened at ranges exceeding 4,000 yards upon any submarine which fired first.

 

Offensive action was not permitted outside the zone against submarines so specified, if on the surface, unless guilty of an unlawful act jeopardising the vessel con­cerned. Fire could be opened upon submerged submarines outside the zone. Although not called upon actually to serve the gun, the merchant crews were required to handle ammunition, clear the decks, and otherwise to perform supplementary service in fighting the ship. The prece­dence of the naval officer was defined as coming next after the master, with the proviso that he was not eligible to succeed to the command of the ship. He was responsible for the condition of the guns and of their appurtenances; for training not only the armed guard, but also the members of the crew detailed, as above, to assist in the service of the guns; for the readiness of the armed guard. for a continuous look‑out near each gun; and for reporting to the Navy Department.

 

Such was the policy of neutrals, and of the United

 

BRITISH PRACTICE

 

States when about to become a belligerent, during the acute stage of the German unrestricted submarine campaign which was launched in February 1917. In British merchant ships, guns, almost without exception, were placed right aft from the outset. A certain amount of agitation for a gun forward was raised from time to time, mostly by masters who had not had an opportunity for studying thoroughly the arguments for and against this procedure. The primary duty of a merchant ship was to bring her cargo safely to its destination, and not to engage in action with the enemy if that course could be avoided. That policy was originally laid down in pre‑war days, when its initiation was under the guidance of Admiral H. H. Campbell. It was summarised in his reply to masters of meat‑ships who wanted their guns mounted forward: "We want the beef that you are carrying." That principle having been established, it was clearly desirable that, on sighting a submarine, a merchant ship should turn her stern towards it and run.

 

To mount the guns aft was obviously the most effective policy under such conditions. Two alternatives were suggested to captains of merchant ships for their procedure in the rare event of their sighting submarines ahead, when it might be urged that, whilst endeavouring to turn the stern towards the enemy, the whole broadside would be exposed, offering an easy and vulnerable target. If a submarine, sighted in such a direction, was so close as to be within effective torpedo range if the ship turned, masters were told to endeavour to ram; if outside torpedo range, to turn and so to bring their guns to bear as quickly as possible. These after‑guns, they were reminded, had an arc of fire which enabled them to be trained upon a target well before the beam. Apart from the desirability of taking to flight in order to save the cargo, three great objections to mounting the guns forward were indicated. So mounted they would be constantly under water if there should be any sea running, they would be on a very unstable platform, and, unless the submarine fled from the merchant ship (an unlikely occurrence), the rate of change of range would be so rapid as to render accurate firing almost impossible. It is noteworthy that the French and Americans, who first mounted guns in both positions, soon adopted the British practice of mounting them all aft.

 


The official notice issued in 1918 by the French Anti. Submarine Division describes very lucidly the opinions already arrived at in Great Britain. The tactical rules were explained in that notice to be purely defensive, and based upon experience in the merchant ships of all the Allies. They can be summarised briefly in tabular form:

 

TACTICAL RULES FOR MERCHANT SHIPPING

 

Case.

Submarine Sighted.

Instructions.

A.

On the surface

Turn stern on, putting engines to full speed.

B. Submerged

C. Far off

Manoeuvre as above.

ditto

D. Close, and less than 70 off the bow

Try to ram at full speed.

ditto

E. Close, and more than 70 off the bow

Turn stern on, putting engines to full speed.

 

Aft is obviously the most effective position for guns in cases A, C, and E. Even in case D, a gun would not be of much use; a short range bomb‑throwing mortar would be far more useful.

 

A warning was issued in the same document that the possession of a gun mounted forward was likely to lead a merchant ship into adopting extremely dangerous tactics of approach. A definite example was given, in order to illustrate this point. The steamer Amiral de Kersaint, carrying two guns, one in the bow and the other in the stern, had her stern gun damaged by gunfire. Attempting to "make a show with her bow gun" she was sunk by gunfire. Had she continued to run away, she would probably have escaped, and so fulfilled her mission.

 

It will be seen from the foregoing notes that the British policy of arming merchant shipping was a purely defensive one, that its defensive nature was proved to, and ulti­mately accepted by all neutrals, and that the system of mounting guns in the stern, as the most effective position in pursuance of a defensive policy, was adopted both by

Great Britain and also by Allied countries.

 

Lord Jellicoe, who joined the Admiralty as First Sea Lord in December 1916, writes (The Crisis of the Naval War, p. 7.) that during the period

 

DUMMY GUNS

 

immediately preceding the unrestricted submarine campaign large numbers of merchant ships were being sunk by gunfire, and consequently one of the most pressing needs was a great increase in the number of guns supplied to defensively armed merchant vessels. The First Lord (Sir Edward Carson), he tells us, fully realised the urgent necessities of the case, and was constant in his efforts to procure the necessary guns. The following figures, gathered from the statistics for the year 1916 and the first twenty‑five days of 1917, are of special interest in this connection:

 

EFFECTS OF DEFENSIVE ARMAMENT

January 1st, 1916, to January 25th, 1917

 

 

Sunk.

 

 

By Torpedo without warning

By Gunfire, Bombs, etc.

Total.

Escaped.

Total Attacked.

Defensively Armed

62

12

74

236

310

Unarmed

30

205

235

67

302

Total .

92

217

309

303

612

 

Under such conditions, it is not surprising that the value of a gun became so obvious that the masters of British vessels sailing from neutral ports often mounted dummy guns in conspicuous places, either specially constructed guns made of wood, or stove‑pipes, or any‑thing which gave the right appearance. The example of the Nicosian, in the early days, can be quoted as typical. Her commander erected a dummy wooden gun on the wheel‑house aft, and improved its appearance as the result of suggestions made by a military passenger. A submarine, which approached the Nicosian, at first sheered off, keeping out of gun‑range for half an hour before coming closer and attacking her with gunfire. This half‑hour enabled another friendly vessel to approach, and the Nicosian was saved.

 

The years 1917 and 1918, following upon the intensive and ruthless U‑boat campaign initiated early in 1917, marked progressive activity in the armament of British merchant shipping. In the previous volume of this history it was shown that on September 18th, 1916, the number of defensively armed British vessels afloat had reached 1,749. The rapid development, as more guns became available, can be gathered from the following figures:

 

 

Defensively armed ships afloat.

1917

 

February 22nd

2,899

May 15th

3,253

August 9th

3,440

December 29th

3,656

 

 

1918

 

April 13th

3,857

August 10th

4,162

November 2nd

4,203

 

The only ports in the United Kingdom in which the work of arming merchant shipping was carried out early in the war were the Mersey and the Thames. As the menace to merchant shipping developed, this work had to be extended to many other places, both in the United Kingdom and overseas, as shown in the table (below), which gives a good idea of the magnitude of the opera­tions. A staff of 91 officers and 441 others, total 582, was ultimately required to undertake the work involved.

 

 

Ships fitted or refitted for

No. of times on which guns were

No. of times on which howitzers were

Ports.

Guns

Howitzers

Mounted

Dismounted

Mounted

Dismounted

United Kingdom

 

Mersey

1,094

130

3,078

2,178

123

10

Tyne

820

112

1,208

463

97

16

Thames

788

205

1,834

1,322

254

14

Cardiff

654

56

985

419

30

4

Clyde

535

118

759

375

117

8

Barry

363

27

543

236

28

4

Humber

333

78

532

282

40

2

N.E. Ireland

182

39

245

112

51

6

Tees

226

62

329

169

24

4

Newport (Mon.)

168

18

214

92

14

Swansea

164

8

202

43

4

Southampton & Portsmouth

159

19

252

122

28

12

Avonmouth

133

15

224

120

13

1

Manchester

15

5

30

20

Devonport

60

6

110

66

16

Forth

96

7

119

54

12

1

 

Overseas:

 

Gibraltar

368

968

818

2

Egypt

327

2,083

2,016

3

India

125

17

9

2

Canada

101

277

111

S. Africa

100

469

326

Malta

60

72

34

U.S.A.

36

134

91

Jamaica & Bermuda

22

-

224

160

-

Marseilles

21

33

27

Mudros

95

126

48

Australasia

78

64

1

Dakar

13

816

785

2

Sierra Leone

5

88

61

Miscellaneous

264

-

499

355

2

4

Totals

7,405

905

16,534

10,915

860

88

 

Taking guns and howitzers together, it will be noted that they were mounted over 17,000 times and dismounted about 11,000 times by the shore staff. Much of this mounting and dismounting was due to the shortage of supplies of guns, necessitating the armament of vessels only while they were in the most dangerous areas. A contributory cause was the necessity of the replacement of smaller guns by larger ones as the armament of German submarines became more formidable.

 

Reference has been made to the moral effect upon submarines of displaying the armament of merchant ships. The instructions issued by the Trade Division of the Admiralty on October 20th, 1915, contained the following clause, which indicates the punctilious care taken by the Admiralty to counter any charge that might be made against British merchant shipping for posing as neutrals:

 

FITTING AND REFITTING

 

"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 escape capture is a legitimate ruse de guerre, its adoption by defensively armed merchant ships might 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."

 

The screening of guns was forbidden until December 1916. On January 1st, 1917, this policy was reversed, in view of the announced intention of the German Admiralty to direct submarines to sink at sight all defensively armed vessels. Officers in charge of defensive armaments were then told by the Admiralty:

 

(a) That the arrangement of guns should be such that they would be as far as possible hidden from view until the moment for opening fire.

 

(b) That when guns were mounted on a deckhouse, screen should be fitted, appearing to submarines like a part of the house, or, if this should not be practicable that the guns should be kept trained athwartships and a cover fitted appearing from off the beam like a deck fixture.

 

(c) That where guns were mounted on the upper deck abreast of a deck‑house, a gun‑cover of exactly the same colour as the deck‑house itself would probably suffice as a screen.

 

(d) That the screens should be removable, and the masters instructed to uncover the guns on going into British, Allied, or neutral harbours.

 

The system of screening remained in force until Septem­ber 25th, 1917, by which date the vast majority of vessels in the danger zone were armed, and, since the enemy almost invariably torpedoed at sight, it was essential that the guns should be always ready for immediate action, without the loss of even a few seconds in lowering the screens. From that date only permanent weather‑screens, on the forward side of the guns, were fitted, with a low rail or screen round the remainder of the platform as a security to the crew from falling overboard.

 

Besides the question of screening armament, the policy of providing some means of communication between the bridge and the guns also merits attention. There was, at first, a serious shortage of material to make adequate provision for this purpose, but the responsibility of the master for opening fire rendered something of the sort necessary. The need was met for a time by such methods as the use of hand‑signals, sirens, and docking telegraphs, where fitted, but by February 1918 the situation had to some extent altered. The introduction of howitzers, of which the utility depended upon immediate action, ren­dered rapid delivery of orders from the bridge essential, and some simple and cheap form of direct communicatioll was accordingly required. As the result of experiments motor‑horns of the Bleriot and Klaxon types were found satisfactory, and orders for 6,000 were placed in September 1918.

 

Both guns and howitzers have been mentioned as

 

TYPES OF ORDNANCE

 

having been included in defensive armament, and it will be convenient at this stage to review briefly the history of these and other weapons and fighting appurtenances supplied to the British Mercantile Marine. The term howitzer is used on land to describe pieces throwing their projecciles to great heights in the air with a view to drop­ping them at long ranges with great accuracy upon very small invisible targets. In practice, it is found that accuracy cannot be attained without the help of observers who report the fall of the shot so that corrections can be applied. Howitzers on land are mounted upon fixed, and, as a rule, upon carefully levelled platforms. At sea the conditions are so different that it is important to realise the distinction, and "howitzers" so mounted in merchant ships could, perhaps, be better described as bomb‑throwers, in order to avoid confusion of terms. The main function of these weapons was officially described as having been to enable a vessel when steaming to drop a depth‑charge upon a submarine, or to fire bombs at the spot where its periscope was last seen. Satisfactory re­sults could only be expected at very short ranges. In May 1917 the first howitzers were becoming available for delivery. Their disposal will be dealt with in due course.

 

British merchant ships that were armed before the war each carried two guns of 4.7‑inch calibre, mounted aft. The vessels employed on coastal voyages early in 1915 each carried one 12‑pounder, but later on, when these guns were required for the armament of ships in the Mediterranean, they were replaced by small 3‑pounders and 2 ½ pounders. In 1915 a few old guns of 6‑inch calibre were supplied to merchant ships employed as troop‑transports; these guns had a range of about 7,000 yards. Their projectiles, which weighed 100 lbs., were found to be too unwieldy for handling by the limited guns' crews which were available in the merchant vessels. When the need for universal armament became apparent, sufficient guns of a suitable type were not available, and weapons of various kinds were obtained from every avail­able source. Little success attended attempts to purchase guns in neutral countries. As a result of the shortage, defensively armed merchant ships were at first armed with extraordinarily heterogeneous types of ordnance, including

6‑inch, 4.7‑inch, 4‑inch,18‑pounder, 15‑pounder, 14‑pounder, 18‑pounder, 3‑inch high angle, 12‑pounders of 18 cwt., 12 cwt., and 8 cwt., 6‑pounder Hotchkiss, 6-pounder single tube, 3‑pounder Vickers, 8‑pounder Hotchkiss, 90 mm. French guns, 10‑pounder Russian, and 2 1/2‑pounder Japanese. The complications arising over ammunition supply and over training the personnel can be imagined. The system was obviously most undesir­able, but it was the only method practicable until a sufficient supply of guns of standard types could be secured.

 

To compete with the earlier German submarines, guns such as the 12‑pounder of 12 cwt. were fairly effective, but as the submarines developed and were more heavily armed, carrying guns up to 5.9‑inch calibre, weapons with longer range and greater striking power became essential for defensive armament. By September 1917 the output of ordnance had been increased, and the Admiralty issued a table of ideal armament to owners and builders of merchant ships, recommending the basis to be adopted for strengthening newly constructed vessels to take the armament, and repeating the statement, already alluded to, that all guns would be mounted aft. The following table was appended:

 

IDEAL ARMAMENT

September 1917

 

Gross Tonnage of Vessels

Ships' Crew

Types of Guns.

Number of Guns.

7,000 and above

55 and over

6‑inch

2

3,500 to 6,999

30 to 54

4.7‑inch

2

1,500 to 3,499

22 to 29

4.7‑inch

1

400 to 1,499

Below 22

3‑inch high angle or 12-pounder of 18 cwt

1

 

Account was taken of the strength of the crew, as well as of the tonnage, as a basis for estimating the best armament, in order to make sure that there would be enough men available to complete the guns' crews required. No alteration in the way of stiffening and providing gun-seatings was made in vessels already built because, owing to shortage of steel, there was at that time no prospect of being able to provide even one gun for every vessel

 

THE SUPPLY OF GUNS

 

for about two years, and it was very doubtful whether two guns would ever be provided for each of the larger ships. This provision was, however, always kept in view as the ultimate aim. Specially valuable vessels, such, for ex­ample, as six "Leaf"‑class oilers, each carried two 4.7‑inch guns and ten naval ratings to man them, and it was necessary to mount two heavy guns in certain newly constructed vessels where the armament was so placed that neither gun could fire across the stern. Early in 1918, a number of light guns became available, and one of these was allowed as a supplementary armament to vessels fitted for two heavy guns but only carrying one such weapon. By September 1918, permission was granted to mount two heavy guns in every large oiler, and in all refrigerating ships carrying over 4,000 tons of meat. Sailing ships were allowed two light guns.

 

So matters progressed. Early in 1918 approval was given for the arming of all merchant ships of over 400 gross tons with heavy guns. It was estimated that about 50 per cent. would be suitable for carrying this type of armament. Finally, since the 6‑inch gun, with its 100 lb. projectile, had not been found entirely suitable for use in merchant ships, for reasons already given, a new gun of 5.5‑inch calibre, firing a projectile weighing 80 lb., was designed for the purpose. Eleven hundred of these guns were ordered, but they had not been supplied by the date of the armistice in November 1918. By that date the following table had been drawn up to show the nature of armament which was considered to be the best as the result of later experience:

 

IDEAL ARMAMENT

November 1918

 

Gross Tonnage of Vessel.

Type of Guns.

Number of Guns.

7,000 and over

6 or 5.5-inch

2

5,000 to 6,999

5.5 or 4.7‑inch

2

3,500 to 4,999

4.7 or 4‑inch

2

1,500 to 3,499

4‑inch

1

400 to 1,499

4‑inch where practicable, otherwise 3‑inch, or 12-pounder of 12 cwt

1 or 2

Below 400

3‑inch, or 12‑pounder of 12 cwt

1 or 2

 


It will be seen from the above that whereas, at first, guns as small as 2 1/2‑pounders were supplied to defensively armed merchant ships, by the conclusion of the war, as the types of enemy submarines were developed, it was not thought to be worth while to supply guns smaller than the 12‑pounder of 12 cwt. Of 2,987 new guns mounted during the year 1917, only 190 had been smaller than 12‑pounders.

 

Before passing to the supply to merchant ships of weapons other than the gun, it is desirable to take note of difficulties encountered over systems of electrical firing and night sights, of types supplied to the navy. These, so far as the merchant service was concerned, were soon abolished on account of the difficulty of keeping the electrical circuits in a state of efficiency. The guns supplied to the merchant service which were not fitted for percussion firing had for this reason to be fired with an extemporised lanyard, and sight dials were painted with luminous paint as a substitute for night sights. Another handicap to efficient gunnery in the merchant ships was the absence of range‑finders. The demand for the navy alone far exceeded the supply. Only in the few merchant ships armed with 6‑inch guns were range‑finders to be found from 1915 onwards.

 

The question of supplying howitzers or bomb‑throwers to merchant ships first arose in May 1917, and orders were then issued to the officers concerned for the mounting of 700 7.5‑inch howitzers, which were allotted to this purpose. Their projectiles weighed 100 lb., and they were all to be mounted forward. There were several delays. By Sep­tember, partly on account of the cost of labour and material for mounting them, partly owing to the introduction of the convoy system, which somewhat reduced the urgent need for heavy armament in every individual merchant ship, a proposal was put forward to cancel the issue of these howitzers. In October the first of them were completed. It was then decided to mount them in all ships of over 8,000 tons gross, and to mount them aft, as near as possible to the gun or guns, so as to ensure better control and a steadier platform. In order to avoid delay in firing the first shot at a submarine sighted ahead, or off the bow, it was obviously necessary to arrange for an arc of training extending as far forward as possible. Th'

 

HOWITZERS AND B0MB‑THROWERS

 

The value of this form of armament depended upon being able to fire at a submarine sighted at close range before it could launch a torpedo. Since it was out of the question for a howitzer on the quarter to fire at anything off the opposite bow, it was necessary, in practically every case, to mount two howitzers in each vessel so armed.

 

Orders for the use of howitzers were issued by the Trade Division Of the Admiralty on October 17th, 1917. These orders took account not only of the 7.5‑inch howitzers referred to, but also of 10‑inch bomb‑throwers, weigh­ing between two and three tons and throwing a projectile weighing 210 lbs. Two men were to be supplied by the Adiniralty for each howitzer or bomb‑thrower, or pair of howitzers or bomb‑throwers, so mounted. At this stage the supply of this form of armament was looked upon purely as an experiment, as was frankly admitted at the time. Submarines were attacking every vessel without warning, and the sight of the track of a torpedo fired at close range was frequently the first indication of an enemy's presence. There was no further use for a gun in such cases. The gun had already accomplished its mission by compelling submarines to remain submerged and to have recourse to their torpedoes instead of remaining on the surface and employing gunfire. It was thought that under such conditions a bomb, fitted with a delay action fuse, designed to burst when about forty feet below the surface, might damage a submerged submarine, at least to the extent of preventing the use of another torpedo, or that such a bomb might have the effect of deflecting or destroying a torpedo already launched.

 

This anticipation was justified by experience, as was proved in the case of Morvada, of the P & O Company. Acting‑Captain W. B. Macdonald, RN, reported on April 11th, 1918, that on March 23rd, when a passenger in this vessel, sailing in convoy about a hundred miles west of Malta, he saw from the promenade deck the track of a torpedo approaching from a direction about two points abaft the starboard beam, and between 300 and 400 yards away when he sighted it. He judged that the explosion would occur in the engine‑room and he at once cleared the passengers from the starboard side. Then he saw the splash of a projectile in the water, between the ship and the torpedo, followed by an under‑water explosion which deflected the torpedo, caused it to run parallel to, and in the same direction as the ship's course, rise to the surface about sixty yards away, and spin round with its engines still running. A second similar projectile bursting under water gave the torpedo its quietus. This torpedo was subsequently picked up, with its war‑head blown off, by an escorting sloop, and taken to Gibraltar. The shots, which undoubtedly saved the vessel from destruction, were fired from a 7.5‑inch howitzer through the quickness and presence of mind of John Crockan, R.N.R. gunlayer 3rd Class. When off duty he had sighted the track of the torpedo 700 yards away; he had then run to the poop, and aided by W. R. Brown, an able seaman in the Royal Fleet Reserve, had fired the howitzer.

 

The total number of these two types of ordnance mounted in British merchant ships before the conclusion of the war was 681, including 676 7.5‑inch howitzers and five 10‑inch bomb‑throwers (first supplied in September 1918). These pieces were distributed in 350 vessels

 

The use of machine‑guns, rifles, and pistols in the mer­cantile marine, prescribed on April 26th, 1915, was initiated before the period here dealt with; it was described in the previous volume of this history.

 

The subject of howitzers and bomb‑throwers leads naturally to that of depth‑charges, which were designed for a similar purpose. The history of the introduction of depth‑charges in the Merchant Service is as follows. Acting­Captain W. H. Sweeney, R.N.R., the Port Convoy Officer at Milford Haven, put forward a proposal in March 1918 to fit the ships in the wing columns of convoys with depth­charges to be dropped from chutes on each side of the poop. These depth‑charges had for some time been the principal weapon against submarines, and during the previous year the demand for them had far exceeded the supply. A depth‑charge is a device whereby a heavy charge can be exploded under water in the neighbourhood of a submarine, if located, and Lord Jellicoe puts this weapon first amongst those that actually achieved the destruction of German U‑boats. To effect its purpose, a charge of 300 lb. of the explosive supplied had to be exploded within fourteen feet of its target. At twenty‑eight feet the submarine might be expected to be forced to rise to the surface and expose itself to attack by gunfire or by

 

DEPTH‑CHARGES

 

ramming and up to sixty feet the moral effect upon the crew night produce the same result.

 

Captain Sweeney devised a plan for the tactical handling of convoys, the wing columns using depth‑charges for offensive action against anysubmarine that might be located. The proposal to use depth‑charges on so large a scale was not considered practicable by the naval staff, but in June 1918 a proposal to supply depth‑charges to the rear ships of each column of a convoy was approved, the idea being that this procedure would increase the reluctance of sub­marines to attack convoys because of the greater risks they would be obliged to face, especially if attacking between the lines of ships. The first convoy of merchant ships so provided left Liverpool on July 14th, 1918, for Port Said, and the experiment was extended later to all through convoys passing by the Mediterranean route. These depth‑charges and chutes were designed for easy transfer from one ship to another. Outward‑bound vessels left them at Port Said, where they were picked up by homeward convoys. With a view to further extension of their em­ployment inquiries were addressed to the Government of the United States, asking whether there was any objection to vessels so fitted entering American ports, and a satis­factory reply was received, but it was decided to defer this extension until the reports made known whether any further precautions might be necessary to ensure the safe use of this weapon in merchant ships.

 

The charges were placed under the care of the guns' crews, who received special instruction in handling them from the torpedo ratings on the staff of the senior naval officer at the port of departure. The proposed method of employ­rnent was that the rear ships should drop a sort of barrage of depth‑charges astern of a convoy attacked, on the chance of injuring or destroying the attacking submarines. Certain precautions were necessary. Masters of ships carrying depth‑charges were enjoined to drop them overboard if coming under gunfire, owing to the danger of the charges exploding if hit, and they were always to be kept at a safe distance from the armament of the vessels, on account of the risk of injury from the flash of the guns. When em­ployed, they were to be set to explode at a depth of 200 feet. Normally, their pistols were set at "safe," and if dropped overboard with that setting they would not explode.

 

 

 

Dropping a Depth-Charge

 

They were not to be released by vessels moving at a speed of less than 6 knots on account of the obvious danger involved to the releasing vessel and her crew. The experimental issue of depth‑charges occurred so near the end of the war that there was no time to gather much experience of their value when used by merchant ships. The system has been described here to illustrate the additional responsibilities thrown upon the masters of British merchant ships and the extra calls constantly made upon the crews, as the war progressed, to increase their skill in handling new weapons of defence against submarine attack.

 

Another defensive apparatus that was developed during the course of war at sea was the artificial smoke‑screen. Smoke‑producing apparatus was first issued to British merchant ships during the middle of 1916 to assist them to escape when out‑ranged by gun‑fire, or when chased by hostile vessels. Several different types of apparatus were tried, the earlier types being open to the objections that there was risk of spontaneous combustion, that they made a big flame which showed conspicuously at night, and, when supplied to "oilers," caused a danger of fire at all times, and that some of them deteriorated rapidly when exposed to damp. Sixty‑six vessels, however, in spite of these drawbacks, attributed their escape from submarines to the use of these earlier types of apparatus. The latest types were designated "F" and "G".

 

"F" type of smoke‑producing apparatus was not sus­ceptible to damp, and was therefore safe to stow in ships. It consisted of a steel container or float; when ignited and thrown overboard, the chemical contained therein burned with a dense white smoke, which was produced for a con­siderable period. Ten of these floats, and twelve igniters were allotted to each ship so supplied. The floats were cylindrical in shape, with a plug at the top which had to be removed and replaced by an igniter when put in operation. They were filled with two different mixtures, and painted red or blue to indicate which mixture they contained. They were always used in pairs, a red and a blue float being thrown overboard at the same time to enable the two different sorts of smoke generated to mingle and so form an efficient screen. The same apparatus, if considered desirable,

 

SMOKE SCREENS 123

 

could be used on board the merchant ships, instead of being thrown overboard.

 

In "G" type, a fixed one principally issued to oilers, a "distributor" was fixed to the deck and con­nected to two steel cylinders. Smoke was generated by turning on two taps between the cylinders and the distributor. No light was used, and there was no flame. The distributor was in the form of an inverted hollow cone, containing a sprayer and a jet. Spare cylinders were supplied for use when the original cylinders were exhausted.

 

Both types of apparatus, especially the "G" type, required a certain amount of care and skill in the handling in order to ensure the best results. As a typical example of the efficiency attained, the case of the Trentwood can be quoted. This vessel, which was unarmed, was attacked during a voyage from Havre to Southampton, the attacking submarine first breaking the surface only 50 yards from the ship. Smoke‑generating apparatus was at once used, and the vessel escaped by the aid of the smoke­screen so produced.

 

The use of smoke screens called for skill not only in those who handled the apparatus itself, but also in the masters in handling their vessels tactically so as to make the best use of this aid to escape. Instructions to aid them in these tactics were issued at various times. These instructions assumed a final form in January 1917. Several points had to be considered, and a decision formed without delay. The most effective action to be taken was affected by several considerations, including the relative positions of the ship and of the attacking submarine with regard to the strength and direction of the wind, the proximity of land or shallow water, and so on. It was left to the masters, in the main, to follow their own judgment, as it was impossible to lay down any rigid rules for guidance in such varied circumstances. They were told that when a submarine was observed directly to lee­ward the ship had best steer straight to windward, only zigzagging very slightly in order to broaden the cloud of smoke being generated. Under such conditions a chasing submarine could form but little idea of the exact position of her chase, and the direction for gunfire could only be based upon guess‑work. Apart from the question of smoke, a vessel with so small a free‑board as a submarine would also under such conditions be much hampered in her gunfire by being forced to proceed with her head to wind and sea.

 

If a submarine should be observed in such a position that the wind blew at right angles to the line joining the ship and the submarine, then the master was recom­mended to alter course down wind. The type ("F") of smoke apparatus which was thrown overboard was deemed the best for use under such conditions, the ship manoeuvring on the side of the cloud remote from the submarine. With the smoke generated from the apparatus fixed on board there were great difficulties, and all that the masters using this apparatus were told was that they should manoeuvre on the course giving them the greatest benefit from the smoke screen.

 

 

 

An Effective Smoke Screen

 

When a submarine was first observed directly to wind­ward of a ship, the difficulty of taking advantage of a smoke­screen was the greatest. If the wind was strong enough to move the smoke screen so fast as to expose the stern of the ship, a quick zigzag was recommended as the best procedure. In all cases the suppression of funnel smoke was recommended, this smoke being of a different colour from that of the smoke screen, which was either white, grey, or yellow. The use of a smoke‑box half way up the mast in order to screen funnel and masts from view was also suggested under certain conditions. Various additional hints were given about the probable procedure of submarines endeavouring to avoid the handicap of smoke­screens, and further details were appended about the best form of zigzag when under fire.

 

There was another insidious danger to be confronted by our merchant seamen in their voyages, the danger from submarine mines. These were laid deliberately by the Germans in the highways of sea‑traffic, and they formed a grave menace both to merchant ships and to war vessels under all flags. The "paravane," an apparatus towed at an angle from a ship's bow and designed to catch and to sever the moorings of mines, was first devised, as a means of protecting war vessels, by Lieutenant C. D. Burney, R.N. This apparatus was introduced for warships in 1916, and Lord Jellicoe mentions (The Crisis of the Naval War) that considerable opposition to its general adoption had been encountered, partly on account of

 

THE "OTTER"

 

the difficulties experienced in the early days of development, and partly owing to the extensive outlay involved. The "otter" was a species of paravane adapted to the use of rnerchant ships. As in the navy, there was some opposi­tion in the early stages to its introduction in the merchant service, but these difficulties were ultimately overcome. By July 1917 ninety‑five merchant ships had been fitted with otters; the figure rose to 294 by September and to 900 by December. By the end of the war 3,000 British merchant ships had been so fitted, and the use of the otter had been extended to many foreign vessels. Not only were many ships saved by the use of this invention, but, by cut­ting the moorings of mines, they sometimes disclosed the presence of hitherto unknown minefields, thus saving other vessels from destruction.

 

The story of the invention of the otter and of its introduction into the Merchant Service as a protection against submarine mines is not without interest. Its first predecessor, the explosive paravane or submarine sweep, was originally designed by Lieutenant Burney, as an apparatus for taking the offensive against submarines lurking beneath the surface. These explosive paravanes were towed in pairs, one on each quarter of a destroyer or similar vessel, with the object of their fouling a submarine, exploding, and so effecting its destruction. The immediate successor of the explosive paravane was the protector paravane, an apparatus of similar design fixed to the bows of H.M. ships and fitted with a powerful cutter to sever the moorings of mines, instead of an explosive charge to destroy sub­marines. It was proved by experiment that vessels so fitted could pass safely through minefields. When the towing wires, which formed a sort of wedge with its apex at the ship's bow, encountered mine‑moorings, the mines attached thereto were deflected from the ship towards the outlying paravanes. The cutters then came into operation; the mine‑moorings were cut, and the mines floated harmlessly to the surface, where they could be destroyed by rifle fire or by other methods.

 

This brings us to the otter, the form of protector paravane issued to merchant ships. The first war vessel to sever a mine‑mooring with her protector paravanes was the light cruiser Cambrian, on March 16th, 1917.

 

The first merchant ship to achieve similar results with an otter was the Hunsworth, on July 16th of the same year, off St. Albans Head. Details are available of forty‑three subsequent cases of mine‑moorings being cut by the otters of British merchant ships between that date and the end of the war. Making no allowance for unreported cases, of which there were probably large numbers, the amount of British merchant shipping saved from disaster from submarine mines in the war by this means may be put at about 240,000 gross tons, and the value of the ships and their cargoes at about 23,000,000, without taking account of the valuable lives saved thereby.

 

 

 

Merchant Steamer with Paravanes Out

 

Otters can be described as sunken bodies, fitted with powerful cutting apparatus, towed by wires which ex­tended outwards from the stems of vessels towing them. As long as the towing ship was under way, they remained in the same relative position, without this position being affected by her course and speed. In order to understand the principle on which they worked, a comparison may be made with a kite, flown on a still day. To make the kite rise in the air, the kite‑flier must produce air‑pressure on its surface. This result can be attained by the rapid movement of the kite‑flier along the surface of the ground. When the kite feels the air‑pressure, so created, it rises in the air at an angle depending upon the angle of attachment of the string. Substituting water‑pressure for air‑pressure, the "otters" were forced by the forward movement of the ship to assume a position causing the towing wire to form an angle with the ship's course, similar to the angle formed by the string of a kite with the surface of the ground. We can, therefore, imagine a merchant ship, which was so provided, ploughing her way through mine­infested waters, protected by a wedge of wire with its point at her stem and its flanks about 220 feet apart secured to otters, below the surface, which were capable of cutting the moorings of any mines that might be en­countered. Such a merchant ship would be safe against any mines not actually struck by her stem itself, at the point of the wedge, and this risk was almost negligible, partly because of the very small area affected, and partly because of the tendency of the bow‑wave to deflect a mine from the actual stem‑line to the projecting wire

 

FITTING THE "OTTER"

 

attached to the otter. The use of the apparatus is made clear by the following diagram:

 

 

 

 

"Otters" in Action against Submarine Mines

 

We have seen that an interval of four months elapsed between the date on which a man‑of‑war (Cambrian) and a merchant ship (Hunsworth) were saved by cutting the moorings of mines by this method. The year 1917 witnessed a tremendous strain upon British industries engaged upon the manufacture of war material of all natures for our sea, land, and air forces. There was, consequently, as we have seen, considerable delay in the supply of guns and howitzers to merchant shipping. Before otters and the special towing‑wire required for use with them could be manufactured in large quantities, special plant had to be made. Moreover, the urgency of the position required that the experimental stage and the manufacturing stage should be carried on simultaneously, thus introducing additional complications into the manu­facture, supply, and correct handling of the apparatus. In order to ensure security, it was obviously necessary to fix the otter‑wires as deeply below the surface as possible on the stem of each vessel. For this to be done it was necessary either to place her in dry‑dock or to raise her bow clear of the water. The great difference of design between merchant ships caused an additional complication, some vessels having overhanging bows, others straight sterns, and some requiring a downward prolongation of the stem to provide a deep enough point of attachment. The fittings for holding the wires had to be varied accord­ingly. For each type of vessel, special attachments had to he designed and differently fitted.

 

Having described the nature of the various weapons and appliances supplied to the merchant service to aid in combating the menace from hostile surface craft, from submarines, and from submarine mines, it will be well at this stage to explain briefly the system adopted to allocate the incidence of cost for these services, both before the war and throughout the period of hostilities. All expenses in connection with defensive armament before the war were borne by the shipowners. From the out­break of war until the end of the year 1915 the Admiralty bore the cost of fitting the ships and of mounting the guns. They also paid and victualled the guns' crews, but they did not accept any liability for loss of trade due to delays caused by gun‑mounting. This wholesale liability, which fell upon the Admiralty for the expense of arming merchant shipping, was later applied only to ships of which the building had been completed on or before March 31st, 1916. For vessels with their port of registry in the British Isles, the policy ultimately adopted to govern the incidence of the cost of mounting guns, as between the Admiralty and the owners, was embodied in an Admiralty memoran­dum dated June 1917.

 

In ships completed after March 31st, 1916, the cost of fitting for the guns was at the charge of the owners. "Fitting" was defined as in­cluding stiffening the vessels and providing gun‑seatings, magazines, ready racks for ammunition, weather screens for the guns, accommodation for the guns' crews, and such means of communication between the bridge and the gun as might be necessary. No expenses for delays in resuming trade, due to gun‑mounting, fell upon the Admiralty, and provision was made that the Admiralty directions must be followed for landing and for taking up guns. The Admiralty, on their part, provided the guns and their mountings and also the ammunition and stores in connection therewith. They also met all charges for mounting and dismounting the guns, and for lighterage expenses, but not for port charges, pilotage expenses, charges for landing ammunition under port regulations, or expenses resulting from delay, deviation of voyage, or moving ships in harbour, whether arising out of fitting, carrying, or changing the armament. The Admiralty also provided, for each gun which they mounted in a merchant ship, a trained gunlayer, a second and, for certain guns, a third hand, bearing all the expense Of

 

INCIDENCE OF COST

 

paying and of victualling these men, who were to be carried in addition to the normal ship's complement.

 

For ships on the British Colonial register the Admiralty assumed no liability excepting for the wages of the guns' crews. The frequent transfers of guns and crews, which were unavoidable, would have made any other system irnpossible on account of the difficulties in adjusting accounts. All the Dominions agreed to this system. In respect to certain prize ships, which were being run by the Australians, and some troop transports requisitioned in Australia, the Australian Government accepted liability for the cost of all work done locally on the ships, and for small incidental expenses incurred elsewhere. The Admiralty paid for mounting, dismounting, and fitting work away from Australia. Such was the policy for allocating cost, as affecting guns, in the United Kingdom and the Dominions.

 

For the expense of mounting and fitting howitzers the Admiralty at first accepted all responsibility, but the owners ultimately were made liable for fitting vessels that were laid down on or after December 1st, 1917. The nature of fitting prescribed included (1) stiffening the vessels to withstand the heavy downward thrust caused by firing this nature of ordnance, (2) providing seatings for the mountings, magazines, ready‑racks for shells or bombs, weather screens and accommodation for the guns' crews, and (3) installing such means of communication as might be needed between the bridge and the howitzer. The Admiralty provided free of charge the howitzers, ammunition, and stores connected therewith. The provisions about expenses entailed by delays due to mounting, dismounting, and so forth were similar for howitzers as for guns.

 

For the cost of supplying, embarking, installing, and disembarking otters, depth charges, and smoke appa­ratus to merchant ships, the Admiralty accepted full responsibility.

 

At this stage it will be well to note the nature and strength of the personnel employed by the Admiralty to carry out these obligations on their behalf. In the suc­ceeding chapter, some details will be given of the duties performed by some of this personnel in connection with training the merchant seamen in their duties, but the officers and staff in charge of the defensive armament of merchant ships had far wider functions to perform.

 

The work of arming British merchant ships throughout the war was carried out under the general superintendence of Captain W. H. D. Margesson, R.N., of the Trade Division of the Admiralty War Staff. Started on a small scale, it grew, like other war services, very rapidly in scope and importance, as may be gathered from the following brief summary of the headings indicating the nature of the activities of this section of the staff. The work included:

 

(a) Fitting ships to enable guns to be mounted.

 

(b) Constructing magazines and providing accommodation for guns' crews.

 

(c) Mounting guns, and subsequently transferring them so as to ensure the fullest use in the submarine danger zone of the armament re­sources that were available.

 

(d) Keeping the armament in a state of efficiency.

 

(e) Supplying smoke‑apparatus to the whole merchant service.

 

(f) Fitting for howitzers and bomb‑throwers.

 

(g) Mounting each nature of ordnance.

 

(h) Supplying Lewis guns for protection against air‑craft, and rifles for sinking mines.

 

(i) Supplying zigzag clocks, binoculars, light filters, and such‑like appurtenances.

 

(j) Supplying and replenishing ammunition.

 

(k) Fitting vessels with depth charges, and chutes for launching them.

 

The staff were also charged with the allocation of guns' crews and with arrangements for drilling them when in harbour, as described in the next chapter. Such matters as fitting crows' nests to the masts, making arrangements for darkening ship, and instruction in signalling also came to some extent under the control of this branch. The total strength at the time of the armistice numbered 803, and included 172 officers, warrant officers, and overseers, and 135 armourers. Out of these numbers Captain Margesson's staff at the Admiralty numbered 27, including 8 officers. Apart from accountant officers and the clothing depot staff, the numbers distributed at the various ports in the United Kingdom, including London, were 56 in the Thames, 31 in the Humber (Hull and King's Lynn), 37 in the Tees (Middlesbrough), 70 in the Tyne (Newcastle), 21 in the Forth (Leith), 61 in the Clyde area (Glasgow and Lamlash), 104 in the Mersey area (Liverpool, Manchester, and Holyhead), 120 in South Wales area (Cardiff, Llandaff, Avonmouth, Barry, Newport, Swansea, and Milford Haven),

 

WORK OF THE STAFF

 

23 on the south‑west coast of England (Devonport and Falmouth), 38 on the south coast (Southampton, Ports­mouth, Newhaven, and Littlehampton) and 30 in Ireland (Belfast). There were also 2 officers and an armourer at Gibraltar and at Port Said, one officer and an armourer at Marseilles, 2 officers and 2 armourers at Dakar, 2 officers at Cape Town, and one at Jamaica.

 

The growth of the movement may be gathered from the fact that, when war broke out, the staff only comprised three officers, each assisted by a pensioner Chief Petty officer as gunnery instructor and by one armourer. Office accommodation for their use was provided in London by the Shaw Savill & Albion Company, at Liverpool by the White Star Line, and at Southampton by the Royal Mail S.P. Company. The offices at Glasgow, Cardiff, and Newcastle were opened in 1915. In 1916 an officer‑in­charge was appointed at Hull, in 1917 Leith was separated from the control of Glasgow and Middlesbrough from Newcastle, and an office was opened at Belfast. The officer­in‑charge at Devonport was appointed in 1918. Final instructions for the work to be carried out by the various branches of the staff concerned were issued by the Admiralty War Staff in April 1918. The points to which, as the result of experience, the special attention of sectional officers was drawn for their guidance when visiting defensively armed merchant ships give a good idea of the general policy adopted with regard to their armament. These points merit attention, and it will be as well to put them on record in order that this valuable experience in the practical working of the system may be preserved.

 

They came under various headings:

 

1. Armament.‑ Whether the ship is suitable for a heavier armament. Cleanliness and efficiency. Obstructions in the line of fire. Maximum arc of fire. Arrangements for the use of rifles. (These should be handy to the bridge, ready for use. They were under the personal custody of the master.)

 

2. Ammunition.‑ Position of the magazine. Supply ready for use. Quantities actually on board. Quantities required. Whether stowed properly.

 

3. Defensive armament ratings. ‑ Accommodation. Efficiency. Dress and conduct. Arrangements for victualling. Routine at sea and in harbour. Whether they are supplied with the latest instructions, and whether such instructions are understood and carried out.

 

4. Organisation for action.‑ Numbers of merchant crew detailed to assist the naval ratings at guns and howitzers and to supply ammunition. Opportunities afforded to them for drilling at the weapons. (Men holding Crystal Palace certificates, as explained in the next chapter, should have been detailed to complete the guns' crews.)

 

5. Smoke apparatus.‑ Whether up to date, and kept in a clean and efficient state. Whether the proper quantities were on board. Where it was stowed, and whether easily accessible. Whether the officers and men who use it thoroughly understood the instructions.

 

6. Look‑outs.‑ Position of the crow's nest. Number of special look‑out men.

 

7. Zigzagging.‑ Supply of zigzag clocks. All ships to zigzag day and night whenever possible, irrespective of speed, as ships were rarely, if ever, hit by a torpedo if carry­ing out an efficient zigzag. The great importance of zig­zagging to be impressed upon all masters.

 

8. Navigation lights.‑ Visibility to be reduced, in accord­ance with instructions, and position of side‑lights in some cases to be altered.

 

9. Darkening ship.‑ Galleys, wheelhouse, etc., besides the scuttle and engine‑room skylights, to be darkened by efficient permanent screens. (Black paint was found to be very effective, applied to scuttles.)

 

10. Watertight doors.‑ Tunnel and watertight doors only to be opened at sea, with the master's approval, when absolutely necessary.

 

11. Wireless telegraphy. ‑ Whether operators and material, if fitted, were efficient. Numbers of operators.

 

12. Flashing lamps.‑ Arrangements for limiting their range and their arc of visibility. An efficient flashing lamp was defined as having a maximum range of visi­bility of three miles in clear weather, capable of being dimmed down, by a diaphragm or otherwise, to a range of one mile. The arc of visibility was in no case to exceed 3 points (about 34 degrees), and the arc was limited by means of a small funnel, shaped like a megaphone.

 

13. Otter gear.‑ Sectional officers were asked to overcome, if possible, the objection to the use of thil important safeguard against mines which obtained in the

 

TACTICAL POLICY

 

Merchant Service owing to difficulties experienced in handling it in vessels with small crews.

 

14. Convoy instructions.‑ They were also instructed to explain to the masters the latest information about handling convoys.

 

15. Confidential books.‑ To make sure that a properly weighted bag was kept in readiness to sink confidential publications, if in danger of falling into the hands of the enemy.

 

Any suggestions made by masters and their officers were to be carefully noted, and the latest information was given to them, and to the ships' companies, about the courses of instruction open to them.

 

These details give a good idea of the many points which had to be studied by the Merchant Service while in harbour in order to ensure the best use being made of the facilities placed at their disposal by the Admiralty to aid them in defending their ships. The work undertaken was strenuous and continuous, and without it the results attained could not have been achieved. The arts of gunnery and of handling ships in company, so as to make the most effective tactical use of the weapons employed, are a lifetime study in the Royal Navy. We have seen by the foregoing notes that arming of merchant shipping, in order to be effective, entailed the hasty acquirement of skill, both in the gunnery of individual ships and in their tactical handling, by the personnel of the Merchant Service. The tactical policy in men‑of‑war and in merchant ships differed. While offensive action against an enemy was the primary con­sideration in one service, escape and the security of cargoes were placed above everything else in the tactics enjoined upon the other. Defensively armed British merchant ships were not war vessels; they were always commercial vessels endeavouring to proceed upon their lawful occasions, to escape, defending themselves, and to safeguard their cargoes when attacked. They complied in every respect with pre‑war practice and with international agreements and understandings in the face of extreme provocation by a ruthless enemy who cast all such considerations aside.

 

Before passing to the subject of training the personnel of the Merchant Service to perform the new combatant role which they so willingly assumed, it will be desirable to place on record that a memorandum prepared by the Admiralty in July 1918 on this question contained a statement to the effect that the experience of the war had shown that the defensive arming of merchant ships,

together with the system of convoys, had been successful in combating unrestricted submarine warfare, and that unless some new method of anti‑submarine defence was invented, a similar policy would be adopted in any future war.

 

At the close of the year 1918 all British vessels under 3,500 gross tons, and all tramp steamers up to 5,000 gross tons were being disarmed as opportunity offered, but the between‑deck stiffenings were not being removed from vessels of 1,600 gross tons and above, and all vessels of this size that were being built were still being stiffened on the basis established before the conclusion of hostilities on November 11th.

 

This completes the story, from the material point of view, of the defensive arming of the British Merchant Service in the great war. There remains the personal and more inspiring aspect of the question, which is dealt with in the next chapter.

 

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

TRAINING THE MERCHANT SEAMEN TO FIGHT

 

It has been noted that, up to a certain period, it had been possible to supply to the Merchant Service a sufficient number of skilled personnel, drawn to a large extent from the Royal Marines. The time had now come for the officers and men serving under the Red Ensign to undertake further responsibility for handling the weapons and defensive appliances which had been supplied to them. In order to meet their needs, various courses of training were established by the Admiralty, and it was at these courses that those serving under the White Ensign and the Red were knit together in one great British sea‑service, to combat the grave peril to the Empire, the former by offensive, the latter by defensive warfare. Previous differences of training and of outlook counted for nothing in face of the country's danger. The Royal Navy provided the instructors, and the Merchant Service, from the experienced master to the newly joined deck‑hand, flocked to the instructional courses to profit by the opportunity of acquiring skill in an art new to them.

 

In the preceding chapter, we investigated in detail the measures taken by the Admiralty to equip the Merchant Service with weapons and defensive appliances to withstand the grave menace which arose from this submarine campaign, as well as from the minefields sown broadcast in the highways of sea‑traffic. Neither weapons nor appliances would have availed, unless they had been handled intelligently, and unless the personnel of the Merchant Service had accepted a system of discipline and technical training differing in toto from all their previous experience.

 

Reference has been made in the previous volume of this history that, apart from the ordinary instruction of the R.N.R., the Admiralty made arrangements in July 1916 for other officers of the Mercantile Marille to attend a short course of training in gunnery at the R.N. Gunnery School at Chatham. This first experimental course did not attract a sufficiently large number of officers, and it was therefore discontinued. Towards the end of the same year (1916) a new proposal was put forward to train "officer instructors," selected from the list of R.N.R. officers, and subsequently to use thern to instruct the Merchant Service in gunnery and in cognate subjects, thus spreading throughout the service a better knowledge of the best defensive measures to adopt against submarine attack. Fifty officers of the R.N.R. were accordingly appointed to the Excellent, the gunnery establishment at Whale Island, Portsmouth, for a fort­night's course in:

 

(1) Gun‑drill and stripping guns from 12‑pounder to 6‑inch, of the nature supplied to defensively armed mer­chant ships.

 

(2) The control of gun‑fire at sea.

 

(3) The tactical use of smoke apparatus.

 

(4) The use of range‑finders of the description supplied to some merchant ships.

 

These fifty R.N.R. officers joined the Excellent, to be trained as officer instructors, in four approximately equal batches between January 15th and February 25th, 1917. When qualified, they were allocated by the Director of the Trade Division of the Admiralty to various defensively armed merchant ships which were sailing in the area where German submarines were most activee and arrangements were made for their transhipment to other vessels when the vessels in which they were originally borne reached a port at the limits of the area. This system proved to be wasteful of effort. In April 1917 fifteen of the officer instructors were withdrawn, and dis­tributed amongst the shipping ports of the United Kingdom. Later on more of them were withdrawn from afloat and distributed on shore. Four were sent to the Mediterranean at the disposal of the Naval Commander‑in‑Chief, one went to Gibraltar, and one to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Ultimately all were withdrawn from the sea, with the exception of one in each armed escort, and they were distributed amongst the different shipping and convoy assembly

 

R.N.R. OFFICER INSTRUCTORS

 

ports of the United Kingdom, where they were attached to the staff of the officer in charge of the defensive armaments. By the end of the war 21,064 visits had been paid by them to merchant ships, and 19,705 officers, including 3,700 masters, had been interviewed.

 

At first the duty of these officer instructors was purely instructional. They visited the ships at their ports, and they instructed the officers and men in gunnery and in other defensive measures for combating the submarine menace. Later on, in January 1918, inspection work was added to their instructional duties, and this work soon occupied most of their time. They were charged with the duty of inspecting vessels to ensure compliance with the orders issued by the Admiralty, under the Defence of the Realm Act, for the proper darkening of ships, and for reducing the visibility of navigation lights. Questions were raised in the Merchant Service about the nature of these extended duties, and in April 1918, as we have noted in the preceding chapter, it was found desirable to issue a circular to shipowners and to masters of the British Mercantile Marine to explain the new duties and distribu­tion of these officer instructors. The general scope of this circular has already been mentioned, in connection with the supply of armament and appliances. The actual wording of the principal clauses ran as follows:

 

" These officers have instructions to inquire into and inspect the arrangements made, particularly:

 

(i) For the proper screening of lights in cabins.

 

(ii) For compliance with Admiralty orders in regard to reduction in brilliancy of navigation lights, and the Proper screening of stern lights for use in convoy.

 

(iii) For reduction in power and proper screening of signal lamps.

 

(iv) For the fitting of crows'‑nests.

 

(v) For ensuring water‑tight doors being kept closed at sea, and for the immediate closing of such as require to be opened periodically.

 

"They are also charged with the duty of drilling the guns' crews, of inspecting guns and howitzers, and of arranging lectures at the port for the instruction of masters and officers in regard to all questions connected with the submarine menace and how to combat it.

 

"Signal instructors are attached to the staffs of the officer commanding defensively armed merchant ships with a view to signal exercises being arranged for, and instructions being given to the officers and men responsible for signal duties on board the merchant vessels in port."

 

In order to keep in touch with the latest methods for dealing with hostile submarines, the R.N.R. officer instructors also attended periodically the submarine menace courses which were conducted at various places by officers of the Royal Navy.

 

 

 

Fishermen Drilling On Shore

 

These submarine menace courses were established in order to give to the masters of merchant ships a knowledge of the weapons with which they were supplied, to explain to them the reasons for the various Admiralty orders which were issued from time to time, especially those affecting the handling of the ship, the darkening of the ship at night, and other measures needed to combat the submarine menace. Before going into further details, we can picture to ourselves the nature of the "students," men of experience and masters of their profession, who flocked to these courses in order to learn how best to apply their strong individuality and their patriotic deter­mination to carry on at all costs the sea traffic upon which the issue of the war depended. They were thus described by an eye‑witness:

 

"The strength of an average class was fifty, and it included the young merchant officer and the veteran of seventy; the Cunard captain and the tramp‑master running coal out of Cardiff to France; the mate of a pig‑boat and the first officer of a large liner. Amongst them were men such as a master who was for weeks a prisoner in the Emden; a mate who, after several days in a U‑boat, was transferred to Germany, and was subsequently repatriated shattered in health; a captain five times torpedoed, still carrying on, and hoping to 'get some of his own back on them'; and an officer who did five days in an open boat after leaving a sinking ship in the Bay."

 

A naval officer has left a record of his impressions:

SUBMARINE MENACE COURSES

 

"To control one of these courses is an extremely interesting job, and one in which the R.N. officer temporarily incapacitated from sea ‑ as are most of the instructing officers ‑ can feel that everything that he does is well repaid him. It can be imagined that all sorts and con­ditions of merchant officer, with every sort of yarn to tell, is met with . . . and the naval officers employed on these duties can safely say that they have a more intimate knowledge of the Merchant Service officers, and the conditions that they work under, than any other officers of the Royal Navy."

 

It was largely through the influence of these courses that the two great national sea services were brought more closely together, a common bond of sympathy and understanding being forged.

 

The first submarine menace courses, lasting from Tuesdays to Fridays, were started at Chatham on February 27th, 1917. The officers attending them were made as comfortable as possible by the navy. They were generally provided with accommodation in the naval barracks or in an overflow ship, and, when this was found possible, all their messing expenses were paid by the Admiralty. When no room could be found for them in naval quarters they were granted 12s. a night as subsistence allowance, and the Admiralty paid, at the rate of 3s. a head per day, to the ward‑room mess of the naval barracks in order to cover the expenses of providing them with luncheon. Free passes to and from their homes or ships were granted. The courses at Chatham proved so attractive and so valuable that arrangements were made to hold similar courses at Cardiff for the masters and officers of vessels using the South Wales and other Bristol Channel ports. A trawler and a "C" class submarine were specially employed there to assist in the practical instruction. The first of these Cardiff courses was opened on June 11th, 1917, and it was soon found necessary to shorten them to two and a half days, on account of the quick turn‑round of vessels in Bristol Channel ports. The Chatham course now became inconveniently crowded, so a third submarine menace course for masters and officers was started in the Excellent.

 

There being less vacant naval accommodation at Portsmouth than at Chatham, the officers attending were usually accommodated at an hotel, and they drew subsistence allowance at Chatham rates. By the autumn of 1917 experience proved that weather conditions in the Bristol Channel were so uncertain that the day's practical work at sea could seldom be carried out at Cardiff. This being the most important part of the course, arrangements were made to transfer the instructional work from that port to Glasgow, where the first course was started on November 16th, 1917. Following the Cardiff precedent, only short courses of two and a half days were at first attempted, but from March 5th 1918, the Glasgow courses lasted for four days, which was the same as the length of the course at Chatharn and Portsmouth.

 

So far the courses had all been voluntary, but, as the submarine menace continued to develop in intensity, the Admiralty decided that it was necessary to make them compulsory for all masters and chief officers of British merchant ships of 1,600 tons gross and above, in order to ensure uniformity in opportunity for officers serving under different owners to acquire skill in fighting their ships, and to gain knowledge of the different weapons and new methods of defence that were constantly being introduced. This result was secured by an order dated May 14th, 1918, issued by the Admiralty under the authority of the Defence of the Realm Act. On September 12th, 1918, the order was extended to second officers and above, in all vessels of over 1,000 tons gross. In order to provide for the extra numbers attending under this compulsory system, a fourth submarine menace course was started at Devonport, and extra living and lecture‑room accommodation was provided at Chatham, Glasgow, and Portsmouth. Two thousand six hundred and twenty‑two masters and 3,159 other officers of the Merchant Service attended the voluntary courses at these four places between February 27th and June 3rd, 1918. Between that date and November 22nd, 1918, the closing date, 1,998 masters and 2,447 officers attended the compulsory courses, so that the officers who attended the submarine menace courses held in Great Britain numbered, in all, 10,226 (4,620 masters and 5,606 other officers). The following table gives details of their distribution between the different ports:

 

COURSES OVERSEAS

 

SUBMARINE MENACE COURSES IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

February 27th, 1917, to November 22nd, 1918

 

Port.

Voluntary Courses.

Compulsory Courses.

Total.

 

Masters.

Officers.

Masters.

Officers.

Masters.

Officers.

Chatham

1,798

839

481

637

2,279

1,476

Portsmouth

207

1,267

396

477

603

1,744

Devonport

-

-

455

548

455

548

Glasgow (4 days)

190

206

666

785

856

991

Cardiff and Glasgow (2 1/2 days)

427

847

427

847

Totals

2,622

3,159

1,998

2,447

4,620

5,606

 

In course of time it appeared that, in order to spread still more widely the knowledge of the nature of this new and deadly enemy threatening the security of sea traffic, and the best way to cope with the danger, supplementary submarine menace courses must be started in overseas ports. Good use was made by the Naval Commander‑in­Chief in the Mediterranean of the R.N.R. officer instructors who, as we have seen, had been placed at his disposal. The first of the courses conducted by them was established at Marseilles, where work was begun on November 9th, 1917. At this port 267 masters and officers, from 133 vessels, attended two‑day courses; 94 merchant ships were visited, and 469 ratings in their crews were instructed in gunnery, the use of smoke apparatus, and other kindred subjects. At Alexandria courses of two and a half days were started on December 9th, 1917, and up to Sep­tember 10th, 1918, these courses had been attended by 136 masters and officers. Many others attended for a day or a day and a half at this port, but were prevented from completing the instruction by their ships sailing. Similar courses were established in December 1917 at Port Said, where much traffic passed: 157 masters, 558 Officers, and 114 apprentices took advantage of the facilities given at this port. The total number of masters and Officers of the Merchant Service who passed through subrnarine menace courses in the United Kingdom and abroad (not counting apprentices) was therefore

 

United Kingdom

10,226

Marseilles

267

Alexandria

136

Port Said

715

Total

11,344

 

In this connection, efforts were also made to give similar facilities for attending submarine menace courses at Bombay and in the United States. A course was started at Bombay on August 19th, 1918, but transports and trading vessels only remained in harbour there for an average of three or four days, and it was found that the masters and officers were too much occupied with their ordinary work during these short periods to attend a complete course. An attempt was made to deal with the situation by arranging programmes of lectures, but by October 1918 the attendance was found to be so small that the courses and the lectures were discontinued. They were attended by a total of seventy‑five officers. The question of establishing instructional facilities at Calcutta was also raised, but it was not considered that the number of vessels calling there justified the establish­ment of further classes.

 

By July 1918 the United States Navy Board had established submarine menace courses for officers of the American Merchant Service at New London, on the lines of those held in the United Kingdom. British officers of vessels trading between French and Mediterranean ports and the United States had great difficulty in complying with the Admiralty order of May 14th, 1918 (rendering attendance compulsory), and by September 1918 arrange­ments were made with the United States Government to enable them to attend the courses at New London. But no ship containing officers who had not attended the course elsewhere remained in harbour long enough to take advantage of these facilities before the conclusion of hostilities.

 

The Admiralty realised more and more that it was necessary to take the personnel of the Merchant Service

into their confidence, and that in order to cope with the serious danger the officers must first understand the

nature of the submarine, its limitations and its possibilities. Lectures delivered at the submarine menace courses covered the ground as intensively as possible, and brought out the chief points of interest. The members of the classes were taught, for instance, that the Germans did not, like the French, use steam for their submarines. That the much‑vaunted German submarine cruiser was really a modified Deutschland, which was not fast, could

 

NATURE OF INSTRUCTION

 

not exceed 16 knots on the surface, and could only dive very slowly, but that it could carry enough fuel to keep the sea for about four months. That the chief source of weakness of submarines was their need of electric power when submerged ‑ the more they were forced to go under water and use their electricity, the sooner the batteries became exhausted. That merchant ships, by zigzagging, caused submarines to use up their battery power, as they had to move at high speed in order to correct their position. That the maximum speed of a submarine when submerged was only about 9 knots. That within two hours submarines when manoeuvring under water, exhausted their batteries, and were then obliged to come to the surface, where they were specially vulnerable. That the bigger a submarine the more difficult it was for her to dive. And so forth.

 

Sufficient technical details of the construction of a submarine were given to explain the scope of its movements. The method of charging the batteries was ex­pounded, as well as the favourable hours, before dawn and after sunset, for performing this operation, which was a noisy one. As far as possible each lecture was followed by a practical demonstration in order to illustrate its points. A "submarine attack table" was used to de­monstrate the methods employed by a submarine in attacking single ships steering straight and zigzag courses, and convoys. Different forms of zigzag were demonstrated and explained, including one which, when employed, had always proved successful. As an example of the tactical advice given, the following may be quoted: "Always zigzag, night and day, but on sighting a submarine make him punch into a head sea. Lie close to the wind. Make every use of wind and sea, and steer the course which makes matters as difficult as possible for the submarine. When in gun action with a submarine do not zigzag; so long as you are hitting keep a steady course, otherwise you upset your spotter and gunlayer."

 

Owing to the brevity of the courses (four days), all the instruction given was simplified as much as possible, and most of the teaching was carried out through the eye, by means of models, diagrams, photographs, and actual service gear. The submarine attack tables did more to convert the merchant seamen to the necessity of zigzagging than did any amount of expounding of principles or issue of written orders. The best form of zigzag was shown to depend upon whether a fast or slow vessel was concerned, and whether the special dangers of a particular area called for special precautions. A visit to a submarine pointed the moral of the instruction, and the members of the class were usually sent to sea in a tender to watch a submarine submerging and attacking. One or two torpedoes were discharged at a range of about 600 yards, so as to pass close to the tender, the object being to enable the members of the class to recognise the "blob of discharge," and the track of a torpedo, under such conditions.

 

Armament was not supplied to merchant seamen to enable them to sink submarines, but to help them to defend themselves when their ships were attacked, and this needed skill in gunnery, to which as much attention as possible was devoted in the short time available. This, again, was made as realistic and practical as possible by using a "spotting table" on which submarines could be placed, steering different courses, continually altered to necessitate a change in deflection. A model of the stern of a merchant­ship was fitted on the table, with a gun mounted thereon, the whole rotating on a pivot, so that when the ship was supposed to alter course the model was turned in the required direction, and the spotting officer could see practically what change of deflection was needed. While one officer spotted, another set the sight on a sight‑bracket to the range and deflection, according to his instructions. The "rate" at which ranges opened or closed, the important bearing of this rate upon the chances of hitting, the means of determining a "rate of change" so as to continue hitting, "bracketing" to find the range, and all such technical matters were also taught practically. The officers were then given experience in controlling fire at a towing target. They were taught enough drill to understand the duties of the different members of a gun's crew, and they were told sufficient about the material handled, especially the parts needing attention to keep a gun and mounting efficient, causes of failures and of misfires, and so forth. The instruction about targets applied not only to submarines, but to torpedoes, which formed one of the most useful features of the gunnery course.

 

Other methods of defence contributing to the safety Of merchant ships were also explained, notably the use of

 

CAMOUFLAGE

 

screens of heavy smoke emitted by smoke‑projectors which could be dropped from the ship. As we have already noted, merchant ships were supplied with this apparatus, which was being carried by 4,005 of the vessels afloat at the end of the war. The value of camouflage was also explained. Many merchant seamen had seized independently upon the idea of disguise, and, although they did not adopt special painting for their vessels, they altered the out­line to deceive the enemy, and they mounted dummy guns or howitzers. The general methods of camouflage formed a feature of the instruction at the courses for masters and other officers.

 

Owing to the large number of applications received by the Admiralty to make provision for instructing cadets and apprentices in gunnery, a scheme for a course at Chatham Gunnery School was sent in on July 12th, 1917, and the general arrangements were embodied in a circular issued by the Trade Division of the Admiralty on August 1st. These courses lasted for ten days, assembling on a Tuesday and finishing on the following Friday week. While under instruction the candidates lived on board a man‑of‑war, slung hammocks, and were members of a special mess, their messing and travelling expenses being paid by the Admiralty. They wore the uniform of the company to which their vessels belonged. Those who obtained certifi­cates were paid 6d. per day while serving in guns' crews of defensively armed merchant ships, while the guns were on board, for a period of fifteen months after qualification. Those wishing to requalify had to apply, three months before this period elapsed, to attend a requalifying course. These courses were extended to Devonport before the end of August, and to Portsmouth in September, 1917. Instruc­tion was given in gun‑drill and in stripping guns of all natures from 6‑inch to 12‑pounder, of types which were mounted in defensively armed merchant ships. The total number attending the courses was 1,800.

 

While skill in the use of weapons can be taught, heroism in action depends upon in‑born qualities. An idea of the nature of the human material, with which the instructors at those courses for cadets and apprentices were called upon to deal, can be gathered from a typical example, occurring during the action between the Manchester Trader (3,988 tons gross) with a German submarine in the Mediteranean, seven or eight miles S.E. of Pantellaria Island, on June 4th, 1917. The vessel was armed with a 13‑pounder which was outranged by the submarine's gun. The rnaster (Mr. F. D. Struss) reported:

 

"The submarine was sighted on the port quarter distant about five miles. . . . At the same instant he fired his first shell, dropping a short distance from my quarter. The shot was followed immediately by another which passed over the bridge into No. 1 hold and exploded. By this time I had the submarine dead astern and had fired my gun, but could not reach him. His shells came at the rate of two every minute, scoring hits in No. 1 hold and No. 3 hold continuously. During the early part of the action I found that, by watching for the flash from his gun, and then altering my course half a point, I need only take on board about one shell of every three or four, the others striking a sliding blow on the ship's side. So I kept doing this during the time the action lasted. My S.O.S. was sent out by wireless about 7.5 a.m., and, being answered, I continued to send out positions, course, speed, etc. At 8.30 a.m. I threw all my confidential papers over the side, same sinking at once.

 

"The submarine ceased fire for about twenty minutes but continued to chase. I just fired at intervals to let him know that I could still keep him off. At 9 a.m. he shot away my wireless, and, shortly afterwards, made me alter course from N.E. to S.E. Having no wireless, I was unable to inform anybody of this change of course. At 9.30 a.m. I imagined that I hit him, as a flash was seen just abaft his conning‑tower on the port side. Up to this part of the action he had been zigzagging across my stern, but now he was either end on to me or else showed me his starboard side. My ammunition was now down to seven high‑explosive shells and five practice. So I fired a practice one to let him know he couldn't come too close, which he was trying to do. My gun was next loaded with a high explu­sive shell. I was waiting for a chance to fire it when, at 9.45 a.m., a shell came over the poop, killing the leading gunner, firing the shell from my gun, jamming the breach and putting the elevating gear out of action. The submarine

 

THE "MANCHESTER TRADER"

 

detected this, and kept straight in my wake, shelling all the time and coming closer. At 10.30 a.m. he was shelling me very heavily, shells falling on deck or striking the ship's sides glancing blows. My crew were all under cover by now, only myself and Apprentice Sutcliffe, who steered the vessel during the action, being on the bridge, all the engineers being below firing, trying to get more speed. At 11.15 a.m. surrendered, owing to the sub­marine being close and making my ship untenable. Lowered away the boats and they immediately com­menced to fill, being perforated with shrapnel. . . . When we were close to the submarine one of the officers asked for the master. All my crew shouted that I was killed; he then called up my second officer and told him he wished to speak to him, and, as he was stepping on the submarine, smoke was seen, so they set away at once, full speed on the surface, putting five or six shots into the ship as they passed her. . . .

 

"I cannot speak too highly of my crew, which was composed of aliens. My engineers stuck to their work to the last, and Apprentice Sutcliffe, who had already been at the wheel for one hour when the action started, steered the ship with great coolness and pluck during the whole action, obeying my orders and carrying them out promptly."

 

Apprentice Thomas Suteliffe, who stuck to the wheel during the four‑hour engagement with shells bursting around him, celebrated his seventeenth birthday on being landed subsequently at Palermo.

 

Throughout the submarine menace courses the attention of masters and officers was particularly called to the import­ance of organising their ships' companies for action when resisting submarine attack, and the need for drills (which inculcate discipline) and for occasional practice firing. This was quite a new aspect of service in the Mercantile Marine, in which the system of discipline and conditions of service differed entirely from those obtaining in men‑of‑war, where fighting efficiency is the primary object both of the special training and of the rigid discipline enforced. In order to prepare the various ratings for the new work that they would be called upon to perform, if the weapons sup­plied were to be used to their maximum effect, the first step taken was to appoint special officers and gunnery instructors to detail and to train the guns' crews; a total of 532 officers and others were employed on this service.

 

As the number of defensively armed ships increased, and larger guns were supplied to them, requiring bigger guns' crews, a special scheme for training additional men of the Merchant Service in gunnery became imperative. There was a difficulty in finding gunnery instructors, but this difficulty was overcome when the Commandant of the Royal Marine Artillery at Eastney represented personally to the Director of the Trade Division that he had in his barracks a number of old pensioner gunnery instructors who were employed only on barrack duties.

 

It was decided to carry out the work at the Crystal Palace. Special drill sheds were erected there, and both guns and stores were hastily supplied for instructional purposes. Naval officers and Marine gunnery instructors were detailed by the Admiralty, and the first course was opened on April 30th, 1917, the men being obtained through the superintendents at the Mercantile Marine offices at the various ports. Only deck ratings, viz., boatswains' mates, quartermasters, able and ordinary seamen, were at first in­cluded. The courses lasted for fourteen days, and 200 could be received every week. Eighty‑four joined the first class. The men were under naval discipline during the training, and when trained they were given certificates entitling them to 6d. a day whilst actually employed as members of guns' crews. Shortly afterwards, on May 8th, 1917, the scheme was extended to engine‑room ratings, cooks, and stewards, and the accommodation and staff at the Crystal Palace were increased to enable an additional 200 to join weekly for instruction. Volunteers for the courses signed a special form of agreement, and were paid while under instruction at the standard rates current in the Merchant Service, the amounts being increased on April 8th, 1918, when the standard rates were raised. At first the men who volunteered to supply ammunition to the guns received no extra pay, but this was set right on February 6th, 1918, from which date these men were paid in the same manner as the guns' crews. The instruction covered sight‑setting, working the "loader," gun drill, knowledge of the guns and mountings, and of the ammunition, as affecting the armament of defensively armed merchant ships. The courses were suspended

 

CRYSTAL PALACE COURSES

 

on October 23rd, 1918, by which date 8,507 ratings had been trained at the Crystal Palace R.N. Depot, which was under the command of Commodore Sir R. W. Bulkeley, R.N.R. The branch of the depot devoted to training mer­chant seamen was called the Mercantile Marine Gunnery Uniit, of which the Commanding Officer was Lieut.‑Com­mander R. C. Stevenson, R.N.V.R., and Lieut. G. H. Withrington, R.N.V.R., the Gunnery Officer, from whose account of the training and life of the merchant seamen under instruction the following particulars have been taken.

 

There being no age limit for men serving in the Merchant Service, no age limit was laid down for volunteers for the gunnery course at the Crystal Palace. The standard was one of physical fitness, rather than of age, and the rough­and‑ready rule that was adopted was that if a man could handle the projectiles, weighing 45 lb., used in guns of 4.7­inch calibre, he was accepted for the course. The men were medically examined at the ports before they signed on; the examination was not a very strict one, and on arrival at the school they were examined again. With the exception of a very small number who refused treatment nearly all were accepted. The youngest, 15 to 16 years of age, were to be found amongst the boy cooks and stewards, who averaged about 17 years. Many of these had served five or six times in vessels which had been mined or tor­pedoed. An assistant steward, aged 14, who had been torpedoed four times, complained bitterly on being dis­charged as unsuitable for gun's crew work because of his poor physique. The firemen, greasers, trimmers, and deck­hands varied in age from 22 to 45 years. The quarter­masters and boatswains' mates were all staid middle‑aged men, most of them with a lengthy and varied experience at sea, and nearly all "square‑rig" men with plenty of com­mon sense. They were classed as petty officers, messed and trained separately, and, as occasion demanded, placed in charge of parties cleaning the sleeping quarters before breakfast. The whole of the cleaning of quarters, messes, and batteries was done by the men undergoing instruction.

 

One quartermaster aged 72 had been torpedoed twice, and on the last occasion had spent six days and six nights in all open boat. He refused to undergo treatment for his feet, which had been frost‑bitten, for fear that the result would be his discharge without obtaining a certificate. Another wore the Distinguished Service Cross, awarded to him when serving as an officer in an action against enemy submarine.

 

As the guns arrived at the Crystal Palace, they were mounted as quickly as possible, in one instance before the battery building had been completed, so that at the end of the war the mounting could not be passed through the door. When the men signed on for the course before the Superintendents of the Mercantile Marine at the various ports, they agreed to serve in the Sunhill for fourteen days, that being the name of the ship bearing their names on her books. This led on at least one occasion to a little misunderstanding. A man lost himself on his way to join for the course, and kept the receiving Chief Petty Officer waiting for over an hour. When asked for an explanation by this Chief Petty Officer, who pointed to a big board with H.M.S. Sunhill painted on it over his office, the man, after contemplating the board for some time, remarked: "Well. This is the first ship I've been in what ties up to a tree at night‑time!"

 

The men were given free railway warrants to the Crystal Palace Depot from the ports where they signed on, and drafts were timed to arrive on Monday evenings, the first arriving on April 30th, 1917. On arriving, the drafts were mustered, given a meal, paid 5s. a head in advance, supplied with bedding and with canvas bags to keep their kits in, and allocated to their sleeping quarters. Next morning they were medically examined and supplied with uniform, which remained the property of men who qualified. They were then inspected in their uniforms, the Naval Discipline Act was read to them, and a short lecture was given on the need of obedience to orders, saluting the quarter‑deck, and other conventions. After these for­malities, the instructional course proper began after dinner at 1.45 p.m. As a typical story indicating the mental attitude of some of the men joining the classes, we can select the tale of a man who, after the reading of the Naval Discipline Act, called out, in reply to a question whether everyone understood it, "You said something about being shot. I didn't sign on to be shot!" After reading the clause again, the officer added, "If you de­serted to the enemy, I should be very pleased to take charge of the firing party," to which the reply was, "Oh,

 

ROYAL MARINE GUNNERY INSTRUCTORS

 

that will be all right then!" Later in the course, a man whose leave was stopped for a minor offence put in a request that he might forfeit two days' pay instead of having his leave stopped because he had an engagement

to meet a girl.

 

Considerable care was taken in selecting the Royal Marine Gunnery Instructors in view of doubts expressed officially about getting merchant seamen to accept naval discipline, or to acquire any knowledge of gunnery. As matters turned out there were no difficulties at all. The men were reported on as the finest material that an instructor could have. They had all come to the school for one purpose only, to learn gunnery in order to "get some of their own back." The high standard increased with the continual murders of seamen by leaving them in open boats with no food, placing them on the deck of a sub­marine which then dived, and such‑like methods. As regards discipline, the gunnery lieutenant reported:

 

"From a navy point of view the discipline was lax. That is to say we did not insist on saluting superior officers, correct lashing‑up of hammocks, saying 'Sir,' etc. etc., but we did insist on absolute discipline in the batteries during instruction. During the whole period of its exist­ence the school had only two cases punished by warrant­  one for theft, the other for giving false evidence at an enquiry " (to shield a chum) . . . "Properly handled, the merchantman lends himself to training very easily, he settles down in new surroundings and under other‑than­usual conditions, quickly. He objects strongly to having anything to do with any other officers than his own. This proved rather disturbing to officers of other units, who, because a man was in uniform, considered that he should be told to salute every officer religiously. In many instances, when picked up, the M.M.G.O. said, 'I don't belong to you, I'm a M.M.G.O. man."'

 

In the ammunition lecture‑room, the men were shown specimens of all ammunition carried in defensively armed merchant ships and taught how to handle it; and the use of smoke‑producing apparatus, with the preparations required, was also explained. In the sight‑setting room actual gun‑sights, one to every two men, were used, and the class was exercised at sight‑setting, including rapid alteration of sights for working a bracket, or for ascertaining ranges. The bracket system of finding range and deflection was expounded. One little incident is worth recording. At gun‑drill the sight‑setter alters the sights for spotting corrections, and the gunlayer then relays the gun. On one occasion, when the sights were altered, the gunlayer "punched the sight‑setter in the mouth." When asked why, he explained that the man had been "mucking about with his sights."

 

 

 

Tough Nuts

 

For instruction in gunnery, the men were formed into classes of from ten to fourteen, the same instructor taking his class through all the subjects in the course. The object was to give the classes plenty of drill in loading the guns and howitzers rapidly and correctly, no attempt being made to teach the men to be gunlayers, beyond the amount of knowledge of the duties to be learned during the ordinary course of drill. Instruction began at 9 a.m. daily and continued until 12.15, with a short interval between 10.30 and 10.45. Instruction in the afternoon was from 1.45 to 4.30 p.m. The men were free to leave at 5.30 p.m., returning at 10 p.m. unless special leave had been obtained to stay out later. Week‑end leave was granted from 1 p.m. on Saturdays to 7.30 a.m. on Mondays to any men who had not previously overstayed their leave. Those who remained at the Depot were free to go where they liked from 1 p.m. on Saturday until midnight, and on Sundays from after dinner, which was at noon, until 10 p.m. On the last Friday of the course, men who thought that they had an aptitude for sight‑setting were specially tested, and, if they passed the test, their certificates were endorsed accordingly. On the last day of each course there was a special competition at the "loading‑teacher" which always raised keen enthusiasm, each class entering two or more crews. Owing to the shortness of time avail­able, to the nature of the men composing the classes, and to the material which they were to handle, the nature of the training was considerably altered to suit the special conditions. It was commonly called in the Depot "Up-and‑at‑'em drill," and looked at somewhat askance by R.N.V.R. ratings undergoing the regular courses in gunnery at the Crystal Palace in order to prepare for service in the fleet. At 4 p.m. on the concluding day of the course the men were paid, returned their bedding,

 

UP‑AND‑AT‑'EM DRILL

 

and got out of uniform. At 5 p.m. they were given their free railway tickets to the ports of their selection, gunnery certificates, and other papers, instructions about how to sign on as guns' crews, and a few words of advice and good wishes from the Commanding Officer or Gunnery officer. Without exception the classes left with hearty cheers for the Staff and Instructors.

 

On the system previously outlined, the men came back to requalify after twelve months, many of them wearing the Distinguished Conduct Medal for service in action. No regular record was kept at the Crystal Palace of the number of times individual men had been torpedoed, but as many as five duplicate gunnery certificates were issued to several men who had not time to get the originals when their ships were sunk, and when special badges for undergoing this experience were issued by the Board of Trade, one man at the school applied for eleven of these badges, and two other men for ten each. An officer who was on the staff of the school estimates that the average number of torpedoings would be at least one per man. When the First Sea Lord (Admiral Jellicoe) inspected the school, he went down the ranks of one class asking the men how many times they had been torpedoed. Beginning at the right‑hand man the answers were: 1. "Seven times, sir." 2. "Twice, sir." 3. "Four times, sir." 4. "None, sir, I've only been mined."

 

In a typical merchant ship the stations for the ship's company in the event of submarine attack are shown below:

 

Gun's crew.‑Second officer, 8 gunners, 2 certificated seamen.

Ammunition Supply.‑ 3 certificated men, 8 stewards.

Fire Party.‑ Third officer, plumber, joiner, boatswain's mate, and starboard watch.

Ambulance Party.‑ Doctor, 6 stewards.

Provision and Clothing Party.‑ 8 stewards.

Signalling Party for Boats.‑ Fourth officer, 3 quarter­masters, 2 boat‑deck men.

Notes.‑ Firemen and trimmers off watch proceeded below to assist in maintaining steam. The signal for the crew to proceed to the above stations was continuous groups of three short blasts on the whistle. The signal to abandon ship was alternate long and short blasts, blown continuously.

 

The allowance of projectiles was 50 common shell and 10 practice shot for guns of 4‑inch calibre and above, 100 common shell and from 10 to 16 practice shot for smaller guns.

 

Just before a vessel sailed, a gunner's mate from the local D.A.M.S. Staff visited her, ascertained that all the equipment, etc., in charge of the gunlayer was correct, and, by arrangement with the Captain, had the crew mustered, selected those holding Crystal Palace certificates, and made up the gun's crew, choosing as sight‑setters those who had their certificates endorsed as above described. Such gun drill as was possible before the ship sailed was then carried out.

 

Five practice rounds per gun were fired as soon as practicable after the gun was mounted, and five rounds every month afterwards. With howitzers and bombthrowers ten rounds were fired every three months. This practice was forbidden in home waters, where only per­cussion tubes were fired, aiming drill being carried out at the same time. Casks or boxes were used as targets for the firing, care being taken to remove lettering and labels, which might have furnished the enemy with information, if picked up.

 

An idea of the variety of ordnance supplied to the Merchant Service, and of the resulting complications in handling, ammunitions supply, and drill, may be gathered from the following statistics, which are in amplification of those furnished in the preceding chapter:

 

Ordnance Mounted in D.A.M.S. on November 16th, 1918. ‑137 6‑inch, 715 4.7‑inch, 1,060 4‑inch, 99 18‑pounders, 56 15‑pounders, 11 14‑pounders, 282 13‑pounders, 83 3‑inch H.A., 24 12‑pounders of 18 cwt., 1,821 12‑pounders of 12 cwt., 16 12‑pounders of 8 cwt., 140 6‑pounder Hotch­kiss, 5 6‑pounder single tube, 118 3‑pounder Vickers, 262 90m/m French guns, 674 7.5‑inch howitzers, and 34 10‑inch "bomb‑throwers." Total, 4,329 guns, and 708 howitzers and bomb‑throwers. Grand total, 5,037, in addition to 1,711 lost through war or marine casualties.

 

The value of defensive armament, and training in its use, in its influence upon the enemy on the one and, and upon the British merchant seamen on the other, was amply demonstrated. The German submarine commanders

 

ATTACKS BY GUNFIRE

 

showed a steadily increasing respect for the efficiency which these men, previously untrained for war, gradually acquired. This matter is capable of proof.

 

The Admiralty, as we have seen, were hard put to it at first to find suitable guns, and they were compelled to issue the few, generally of small calibre, that were avail­able. The unsuitability of this light armament was fully recognised, but it was realised that any form of gun was better than no gun at all. The national and private gun­making resources were working under tremendous pressure at the time to meet the demands of both army and navy, but, as soon as circumstances permitted, the weapons of small calibre in merchant ships were gradually replaced by more powerful ordnance. Statistics are available which furnish conclusive proof of the success of the policy which was adopted, and of the results of the fine fighting spirit exhibited by the officers and men of the Merchant Service. Instead of fighting on the surface, using their guns, the hostile submarines were soon driven under water and compelled to resort to their torpedoes, which were limited in number and very costly. During the height of the submarine campaign (April 1917) the number of gun­attacks upon British steamships numbered 46 per month, representing 29.7 per cent. of the total attacks. During the last three months of the war the number had fallen to 4 per month, representing 6.9 per cent. of the total attacks on British vessels. The following table is of interest in this connection:

 

GUNFIRE ATTACKS ON BRITISH MERCHANT SHIPPING, 1917‑18

 

Three months ending

No. of Vessels armed

No. of Gunfire Attacks

Percentage of total Attacks

Percentage Resulting in loss or damage

April 1917

2,100

138

29.7

32.0

January 1918

3,300

19

6.6

15.8

October 1918

4,200

12

6.9

25.0

 

February 1917 to October 1918

368

15.8

29.3

 

Although very few foreign merchant ships were armed, it seems certain that foreign shipping benefited indirectly from the armament of British vessels. The mere fact that so large a proportion of the ships at sea carried guns caused the enemy to exercise considerable caution before attacking merchant ships, which had previously been entirely at his "mercy" ‑ a quality seldom exercised. The figures for foreign merchant shipping attacked, during the period for which the British figures have already been quoted, were:

 

GUNFIRE ATTACK ON FOREIGN MERCHANT SHIPPING, 1917‑18

 

Three months ending

No. of British Vessels armed.

No. of Gunfire Attacks.

Percentage of total Attacks.

Percentage Resulting in loss or damage.

April 1917

2,100

127

40.1

91.3

January 1918

3,300

26

14.5

73.1

October 1918

4,200

23

22.3

52.2

 

February 1917 to October 1918

374

27.6

78.9

 

As the number of guns increased and British merchant seamen became more expert in their use, the German submarines showed an increased reluctance to break surface and to expose themselves to the resultant risk. During the first six months of the unrestricted submarine campaign, the submarine was seen before she attacked in 41 per cent. of the actions. During the last twelve months of the war the proportion had fallen to 24 per cent. Further statistics which bear upon this matter indicate clearly the practical value of defensive armament and effective lookout, combined with training in gunnery and in handling vessels in action. They give the percent­age of armed merchant ships sunk or damaged (i.e., hit by gunfire) to the numbers attacked under various conditions.

 

EFFECTIVENESS OF DEFENSIVE GUNFIRE

 

Period.

Percentage of Successful Attacks

Gun not used

Gun used

Submarine not seen before attack

Submarine seen before attack

Submarine not seen, gun not used

Submarine seen, gun used

February to July 1917

75.0

23.8

78.5

25.9

83.1

19.1

September to November 1917

75.9

24.1

81.7

17.4

82.4

13.6

June to August 1918

77.4

17.6

75.0

32.4

77.7

12.0

 

SUBMARINE MINES

 

The difference in the proportion of enemy successes when the submarine was not seen before she attacked, and when the submarine was seen and defensive action was taken is notable ‑ in the later period 77.7 per cent. of attacks resulted in loss or damage in the one case, and 12.0 per cent. in the other.

 

More complete practical proof of the value of defensive arinament, as handled by the trained officers and men of the British Merchant Service, could hardly be furnished.

 

The submarine mine, laid secretly in the highways of sea‑traffic, presented to the merchant shipping of all nations a peril even more deadly in certain areas than that caused by the intensive submarine campaign. In the preceding chapter some account has been given of the otter apparatus, which enabled merchant vessels to pass safely through minefields. The apparatus would have been useless unless it had been properly handled, and this required some training in its nature and practice in its employment. To ensure correct fitting, the Paravane Department of the Admiralty arranged for instruction to be given at Portsmouth free of charge to representatives of Messrs. Vickers, who were charged with the respon­sibility for supplying and fitting the otters. About fifty officers of the Royal Naval Reserve were then put through a course of instruction in handling the otter, to enable them to superintend the fitting, conduct trials, and impart instruction to the personnel of the Merchant Service, to whose charge the appliance would be entrusted when in operation at sea. These R.N.R. officers also made the necessary arrangements for at least one officer in every merchant ship to attend a one‑day's course of instruction in the training‑ship Accrington at Portsmouth, where they attended lectures in the forenoon, and in the afternoon saw the moorings of dummy mines being actually cut by the use of the otter. As many as fifty masters and mates were sometimes attending on the same day. Altogether about 6,000 officers of the Merchant Service went through the courses at Portsmouth, and there became convinced of the utility of the otter for the purpose for which it was designed.

 

The apparatus required careful handling. The otters were slung to special gallows on both bows and attached to inhaul wires. There was a heavy strain on the towing wires, when going at any speed. These were attached to a special fitting in the bow of the ship, fixed if necessary on a prolongation of the stem to ensure that the moorings should be cut of any mines which, owing to her draught, the vessel might strike. On account of the great wear and tear on the towing wires, it was necessary that the otters should be kept in operation only when in the danger areas. When hoisted in, the towing wires were raised by special chains, attached to the fitting on the stem. The operations required, besides good seamanship and special training, a considerable amount of labour on the part of the small crews of merchant ships, but this work was amply repaid. For example, the master of the hospital ship Goorkha reported to the Managers of the Union Castle Line that on November 8th, 1918, her otters cut a mine's moorings by daylight off Kavala. The mine was seen on the surface lying harmless, clear of the ship's side. On November 14th the Goorkha passed safely through a minefield, cutting the moorings of three more mines. The report of her master gives us some idea of the nerve required of our merchant seamen and the care which they took of the device under their charge when passing through minefields at high speed. The following is an extract:

 

"The last minefield I passed through, in daylight, the otters cut adrift three enemy mines (in 15 minutes) which came to the surface just abaft the bridge. In dangerous areas, especially such as we have to traverse just now, the otters are more than ever necessary." "Look‑outs are placed in Nos. 5 and 6 boats to watch the water‑surface above the otters. The patients (who are able) are kept on deck with life‑belts on, and the crew also, as far as possible. The tremendous tearing sound and vibration caused by the mine‑mooring wire rushing along the otter towing wire does not leave many of the crew in their quarters forward, and is felt quite strongly on the fore­castle head.

 

" In the event of getting among mines, I see nothing for it but to steer a straight course, full speed if possible, as slowing down too much, or stopping, brings the otters to the surface, where they are useless, and turning under helm renders the stern liable to strike a mine, which the

 

THE "GOORKHA" IN A MINEFIELD

 

otters have cut adrift. The very hard steel cutting‑teeth in the jaws of the otter show little or no signs after cutting mine‑wires, although, in one case, portions of the wire were found in the jaws, and in another a length of wire and the depth‑nipper were brought on board with the otter. In another instance the port otter refused to work and came alongside ship, when it was found on hoisting it out of the water that, though it had cut the mine adrift, it had fouled the wire with some anchoring arrangement attached. The wire was cut with an axe and the otter freed. In most cases, the mines cut adrift by the Goorkha's otters have very shortly afterwards been sunk by gunfire. In the Mediterranean from June 28th to November 17th, 1918, the ship steamed 1,594 hours, during which time otters were in use 361 hours."

 

The Goorkha, as has been noted, was a hospital ship. She was at that time employed on voyages in the mine­infested waters of the Aegean Sea. Her master's report gives us some idea of the constant strain brought by the peril of passing through minefields upon the officers and crews of the Merchant Service, and helps us to realise the work done by them in handling the otter apparatus so as to run their vessels even through minefields. Before the days of the otter, about 18 vessels per month were being sunk by mines. After the otters were fitted this figure dropped to three or four, and no merchant ship so provided was sunk by a mine. The work to be done by the crews included lowering the otter towing‑wires, by an arrangement of double chains, to the point of attachment fixed below the water to the ship's stern, and then hoisting out the otters by means of davits and derricks fitted on deck, the reverse process being pursued when getting in the otters. These operations had to be constantly re­peated on reaching and on quitting the danger areas. The areas where the largest number of mine‑moorings were cut by British merchant ships using this apparatus were situated near the United Kingdom and in the Medi­terranean, but there is an instance on record of a mine­ mooring having been cut off Sierra Leone on May 10th, 1918, and another off Long Island, New York, on Sep­ternber 29th of the same year.

 

We are now in a position to picture to ourselves the British Merchant Service, during the fateful years 1917 and 1918. They were defending themselves by gunfire and howitzer‑fire, by smoke‑screens, camouflage, and other devices against gun or torpedo attack in the ruthless U‑boat warfare, and they were facing the ordeal of going full‑speed through minefields, trusting in otters for protec­tion against this deadly and insidious danger. To make themselves efficient in the performance of these new and unexpected duties, they took every advantage of the facilities which were afforded.

 

Excluding the gunnery and other training given to the crews of the Merchant Service on board their own vessels, we have arrived at the following totals of the numbers of those of all ranks who were given special training on shore, in the United Kingdom and abroad, to meet the menace of submarine and submarine mine

 

 

Attendances

Attendances

Submarine menace courses for Officers:

 

 

U.K.

10,226

 

Abroad

1,118

 

total

 

11,344

 

Otter courses for Officers (U.K.)

 

6,000

 

Gunnery course for Cadets and Apprentices

 

 

U.K.

1,300

 

Port Said

114

 

total

 

1,414

 

Gunnery course for Volunteer Ratings: Crystal Palace

 

8,507

 

Total

 

27,265

 

We must also take account, in addition to these figures, of the lectures given, from May 1918 onwards, in London, Newcastle, Hull, and the Bristol Channel ports, to all pilots on the methods of dealing with the submarine menace. These lectures were given by the R.N.R. officer instructors of the D.A.M.S. Service, after communications had passed on the subject with Trinity House.

 

The instruction so far referred to was directed towards securing gunnery efficiency and safety from minefields in individual ships. In connection with the assembly and manoeuvring of vessels in convoys, for combined action between individual merchant ships, and between them and men‑of‑war or shore signal‑stations, efficiency

 

SIGNAL SCHOOLS

 

in signalling also required constant attention and im­provement.

 

Under the system first established, the officer instructors to whom we have referred took naval signalmen with them on their visits to merchant ships, and these signalmen gave instruction to the ratings concerned. This proved a wasteful arrangement, and in May 1917 the officer commanding Defensively Armed Merchant Shipping at Liverpool established a signalling school there for merchant seamen. Later on this school granted proficiency certificates, which had the effect of popularising the courses there. The standard of proficiency was slightly higher than that comprised in the Board of Trade Masters' certificate. By the end of the war the Liverpool school had granted 47 of these proficiency certificates, and eventually the attendance at the school reached a weekly average of 150. Newcastle, taking Liverpool as a model, established a similar school in January 1918.

 

To meet further needs, signal courses for officers of the Merchant Service were instituted at all the great shipping centres in the United Kingdom. From December 1917 onwards masters, officers, and others joined a signal­instruction class which was held daily at Port Said for convoy signalmen, under the supervision of a signal mate, R.N. From February 1918 onwards another signal school was established at Bombay, with the primary object of instructing officers of the Merchant Service.

 

Such, in brief terms, were the facilities put by the Admiralty at the disposal of British merchant seamen to enable them, after the outbreak of war, to train themselves to defend their ships against the ruthless and desperate attacks of the enemy. The casualties to the guns' crews in British merchant ships in action numbered in killed 694, wounded 62, missing 27, prisoners 74, a total of 857. That figure represented 7.4 per cent. of the numbers borne. Over 55 per cent. of the men in the trained guns' crews served in vessels which were attacked or sunk by the enemy.

 

That the merchant seamen made good use of the instruc­tion in fighting qualities and of the weapons provided for them may be illustrated by examples taken at random from the records. Although it occurred comparatively late in the war, we will cite first the gallant little action fought by two small sailing vessels, the Mary Sinclair (118 tons gross) and the Mary Ann Mandal (112 tons gross), on March 23rd, 1918. These were two small craft carrying coal to France. At 6 o'clock on a calm morning with scarcely enough breeze to give steerage way, they were attacked with rifle‑fire from a German submarine about 8 miles S.S.W. from Brighton. The submarine was a large one, carrying a 4‑inch gun, and the hull, conning tower, and periscope were plainly visible. The Mary Sinclair carried two 12‑pounder guns, the Mary Ann Mandal two 3‑pounders, and they at once used them. By the time each had let off two rounds, the submarine dived and disappeared. After about an hour they were again attacked, this time by gunfire, at a range of about 3 miles. Both vessels took up the challenge and fired 108 rounds between them, the submarine firing between 50 and 60 rounds from her heavier gun. Things began to look so bad for the little sailing craft that the sailing orders and confidential blue‑book were burned to prevent their capture. The Mary Ann Mandal received five hits by shrapnel and one by a shell. Her main topmast was shot away, and there were holes in her deck and sails. So the unequal combat continued until, at about 8 a.m., the trawler Willet came upon the scene, and the sub­marine again dived. The schooners were brought safely into harbour.

 

We can take another example, that of the Bellorado in the Mediterranean in February 1917. This vessel was carrying a valuable cargo of 5,959 tons of coal. During the afternoon watch a look‑out man saw something strange, which he took to be a periscope, just disappearing. From that time onwards a special look‑out was kept by the master and the chief officer, who were both on the bridge. About three‑quarters of an hour later a sub­marine appeared on the port quarter of the Bellorado, which was going, at a little over 10 knots at the time, and just finishing a zigzag. The impression conveyed was that the submarine's captain had intended to come up abeam, and found himself, to his surprise, about two miles astern. He at once opened fire, but did not score a hit until about the fifteenth round, other shots landing from a cable to half a cable ahead. The master of the Bellorado had also given orders to fire, and good practice was made from the outset, one shot landing just at the submarine's stern,

 

SAVED BY GOOD GUNNERY

 

apparently scoring a hit. Then the Bellorado was hit twice, one of the shots striking the wheelhouse, killing the master, chief officer, and an A.B., who was steering, destroying the compasses, and disabling the steering gear. The other shot struck the galley, and wounded three men. Meanwhile the gun's crew kept up an accurate fire, and the second officer, who was passing ammunition from the magazine to the gun, heard one of the crew call out that the submarine had been hit. He came up, had a good look at her, and decided that the submarine was going down by the stern. Going up to the bridge to report, he found the bodies of the master and chief officer, and realised that, the steering gear being out of order, the vessel was describ­ing a circle. The third officer, on his way to the bridge from the wireless cabin, saw a shell hit the submarine just below the conning tower, making her "quiver a bit," sink by the stern, and go under, stern first, at an angle of 15‑20 degrees, firing a final shot, at 5.20 p.m., just as she went under. (The sinking was classified at the time as "possible," but no submarine was sunk in the Mediterranean in February 1917.) After adjusting her steering gear, the Bellorado reached Malta in safety. She had been saved by good gunnery.

 

Such was the spirit of the Merchant Service in applying the lessons learned at the courses herein described. Unless this fine spirit had been displayed, no system of instruction could have produced the end in view, the defence of the important interests, vital to the cause of the Allies, which were entrusted to British merchant seamen.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (II)

May‑June 1917

 

THE unrestricted submarine warfare, which commenced in February 1917 and represented Germany's last reckless throw for victory, had attained, as described in an earlier chapter, the highest point of its success in April, and from that time onward, with one or two slight set‑backs, its toll of merchant shipping was steadily diminished by the counter‑measures adopted by Great Britain and her Allies. While in April 155 British merchant ships were lost through submarines, the number in May was only 106. The losses in tonnage fell from 516,894 in April to 320,572 in May, and the loss of life from 997 to 507. The June figures were slightly higher than those of May for loss of tonnage, but, happily, not for loss of life; and the figures for July and August were not so very greatly lower than those for May; but in no month before or after did they approach anywhere near the losses in April.

 

May opened badly, with no fewer than eleven vessels sunk on the 1st, and ten on the 2nd of the month. The San Urbano (6,458 tons), the British Sun (5,565 tons), the Tela (7,226 tons), and the Troilus (7,625 tons) were the largest of these vessels, while the sinking of the Bagdale (3,045 tons) was responsible for the greatest loss of life ‑ twenty‑three persons, inclusive of the master. The Warnow (1,593 tons) had a complement of twenty men on board, of whom fourteen, including the master, were either killed by the explosion when she was torpedoed or drowned. The chief officer and five of the crew managed to keep themselves afloat on an upturned boat. When the submarine came to the surface, they asked for assistance, but the commander replied that he would see them hanged before he would help them.

 

On the 5th the Feltria (5,254 tons) was torpedoed, as usual without warning, off the S.E. coast of Ireland.

 

SUBMARINE RAMMED

 

The explosion blew all the port‑side boats to pieces. The lives lost numbered forty‑five, including the master. The starboard boats were lowered, and the wreckage of the port boats was cut away, and altogether twenty‑one survivors were picked up next morning. Among these was the fourth engineer. While swimming from the wreck, he had been picked up by the submarine and asked the usual questions about his ship, and then, with what the submarine commander evidently thought unusual con­sideration, brought within about twenty yards of the nearest boat and made to jump back into the sea. Being already quite exhausted, he would certainly have been drowned but for the Feltria's quartermaster, who left some wreckage, to which he was clinging, and supported him until the boat could reach them.

 

On the previous day the troopship Transylvania (14,315 tons) had been sunk by a torpedo in the Gulf of Genoa with a loss of over four hundred lives, and the Pilar De Larrinaga with a loss of twenty. In both these cases the master was among the drowned.

 

On May 6th the master (Mr. G. Dobbie) of the Countess Of Mar (2,223 tons) sighted a submarine about 300 feet away on the starboard bow. He promptly headed for it, and passed over it, doing considerable damage. There was a very heavy sea running, and he took great risk in ramming the submarine. For his prompt action he received the D.S.C.

 

The same award was made to Mr. W. T. King, master of the New Abbotshall (783 tons), which on the follow­ing day was chased by a submarine in the North Sea, when on voyage from London to Kirkcaldy. He used smoke apparatus successfully, and, though only carrying a 6­pounder gun, returned the submarine's fire, scoring a hit which caused the chase to be abandoned. In this case the gunlayer, J. Kay, R.N.R., also received well‑deserved mention.

 

The Locksley Hall (3,685 tons) left Port Said on May 7th with a crew of sixty‑two all told, of whom fifty were Indians. No vessel was sighted during the voyage, and by noon on the 12th she was about thirty miles from Malta, where she was to call for coal. The master (Mr. Alexander Gardner) was in the chart‑room when he heard the second officer give a sudden order to the helmsman to "hard‑a‑port," and at once going out on the bridge saw the wake of a torpedo coming directly towards the ship. No periscope was visible, but in a moment the ship was struck in the engine‑room, and the fourth engineer and five of the engine‑room crew were killed outright. The native members of the crew were panic‑stricken, and without stopping to pick up their lifebelts rushed the boats, refusing to get out of them, so that they had to be lowered by the master and the officers. When he had ascertained that all had come up from the engine‑room, the master sent the officers away with the boats, and remained on board for a while destroying the ship's papers. He then found that the port dinghy was still hanging in the davits, with some natives in it, and the chief steward standing by; with some difficulty this was lowered, and he got into it. Captain Gardner was fully determined not to be taken prisoner, so he pulled round to the other boats and warned them not to give him away if the submarine came to the surface and asked questions. To assist matters, he dis­carded his uniform coat and cap, and covered his face with coal dust. The submarine duly emerged a quarter of an hour later, and her commander, believing that the master had been killed by the explosion, amused himself by taking a photograph of the survivors in the boats, and, after firing a few more shots into the Locksley Hall to ensure her sinking, departed. In the afternoon of the next day the survivors were picked up by a motor launch and landed at Marsa Scirocco.

 

On May 9th the quick eyesight of a cadet named Lewis, who alone of all those on watch perceived the wake of an approaching torpedo, followed by the equally prompt action of the second officer in ordering the helm about and full speed ahead, saved the Malda (7,884 tons), by the narrow margin of a few feet, from being sunk in the North Sea. The master (Mr. W. Buswell) and two other officers were on the bridge, and look‑out men were posted at four points of vantage in the ship, but in the difficult light of the spring day none of these descried the coming peril till it would have been too late to avert it.

 

On the 18th and the 14th respectively, the Neilrose (3,568 tons) and the Volga (4,404 tons) were both attacked by submarines, and both escaped. At 11.15 a.m. on the earlier date, Mr. Joseph Browne, master of the Neilrose,

 

THE "VOLGA" BEACHED

 

sighted the boats of the Jessmore (3,911 tons) which had been torpedoed half an hour before. He picked up the crew, and hoisted in two of the boats, in case they might come in useful later. While doing so, he noticed some more boats, loaded with men, on the horizon. He was about to go to their assistance, when the submarine appeared between the Neilrose and the boats. Fire was immediately opened, and the second round went so close to the submarine that she dived. The rescue of the distant boats, however, had to be abandoned for the time, and the Neilrose pursued her voyage. Half an hour later the periscope of the submarine was sighted, and a torpedo was narrowly avoided by the prompt use of the helm. A shot was fired at the submarine, which was not seen again. The master of the Neilrose reported the position of the boats to a patrol vessel, and reached Liverpool safely with the crew of the Jessmore on board.

 

The Volga (master, Mr. John MaeMillan), on a voyage from Karachi to Marseilles, was struck when near the Straits of Messina by a torpedo on the starboard side amidships. As the water was gaining rapidly, it was decided to try to beach the vessel at the nearest practicable point. At 5.50 a.m. on the 14th the submarine emerged and commenced shelling her. The Volga returned the fire as long as her ammunition lasted, but was hit several times while she was making slowly for the shore. About 6 a.m. she was success­fully beached, and both anchors were let go. The ship was on a sandy bottom, about 300 yards from the shore, hard aground forward but waterborne astern, and she and her cargo were therefore in safety as far as it was possible to put them. The master decided that it could serve no useful purpose to continue exposing his men to the enemy's fire, so he and his officers and crew kept watch on the steamer from the boats and from the shore, until the sub­marine ceased shelling and departed. They then returned on board and retained possession. In the case both of the Neilrose and the Volga the D.S.C. was awarded to the master.

 

On the 16th the Middlesex (8/3,864 tons), a new steamer of the Federal Line, was sunk in the Atlantic without loss of life; and on the same day the Pagenturm (5,000 tons), the Highland Corrie (7,583 tons), and the Kilmaho (2,155 tons) were all torpedoed, with a total loss of thirty lives. The Crown of Leon (3,391 tons) was struck by a torpedo while stranded off Albenga in the Gulf of Genoa. The periscope of the submarine was sighted about 1,200 yards away, and firing was at once commenced from the ship, the second shot apparently taking effect. The submarine approached nearer, and partly emerged, but appeared to list heavily and to be out of control. She dived after a few more shots, and did not reappear. One Italian on board the Crown of Leon was killed, and the chief officer and wireless operator were both wounded, when the torpedo exploded.

 

A fight to a finish, which lasted for two hours, took place on the 20th, between the Caspian (3,606 tons) and a submarine, off the coast of Spain. Unhappily the Caspian's 13‑pounder was outranged by guns of the submarine, and while the ship was hit eight times and suffered heavy damage, she expended all her own ammunition, 100 rounds, without ever reaching her opponent. The master (Mr. Alfred Dowse) and five of the crew were directly killed by gunfire, and altogether twenty‑five lives were lost, including some firemen who died from exposure in the boats. The chief engineer, and second officer and a gunner were made prisoners, and the ship was finally sunk by a torpedo.

 

On the afternoon of the same day two vessels were sunk within a few minutes of one another, in circumstances of even more than usual brutality and callousness. The Tycho (3,216 tons) was torpedoed first, at 5 p.m., and the abandonment of the ship was safely accomplished without casualties. The Porthkerry (1,920 tons) had seen the explo­sion, and was standing by about 200 yards away on the port beam. Just as the Tycho's boats came alongside her, a second torpedo was discharged by the submarine. This blew up one of the boats, killing the master and fourteen men, and capsized the other boat. The Porthkerry was abandoned with eight casualties, the vessel going down three minutes after being struck. The survivors from both ships were picked up by a small coasting steamer, and landed at Newhaven. The U‑boat commander could easily have torpedoed the Porthkerry before the Tycho's lifeboats reached her, but he deliberately waited, and killed fifteen men without either necessity or excuse.

 

In the early hours of the next day the City of Corinth (5,870 tons) passed the Scilly Isles, and by the afternoon

 

SUNK OFF THE LIZARD

 

was within about twelve miles of the Lizard. She was bringing a cargo of rice and other commodities from China and Japan, and was manned by a crew of sixty‑eight all told, of whom thirty‑six were Lascars and eighteen Chinese. In addition to the officer of the watch and the ordinary look‑out, the whole of the deck hands were distributed round the decks, scanning the surface of the sea for any sign of danger. In spite of this watchfulness a torpedo struck her without warning of its approach. Four boats were at once lowered, and the Lascars and Chinese crew were ordered into them. The chief engineer remained below at the engines, and the third engineer went to the gun. The second and fourth engineers, who were both ill, were put into the boats. The master (Mr. C. S. Nelson) decided to make for land. Finding his ring to the engine‑room answered by the chief engineer, he ordered full steam ahead. The chief engineer had meanwhile shut the tunnel door, and started the pumps; and the wireless operator had sent out the position, and received an answering message that help was coming. Before long the engine‑room became flooded, and the chief engineer was forced to come on deck, and was sent to one of the boats. The ship was now sinking, and when the after deck was only a foot above water, the boats were ordered to stand clear, about 200 yards away. Nine men were still on board ‑ the master, the chief officer, the Marconi operator, and the guns' crew. Suddenly the periscope of the submarine was seen quite near the boats. A shot was immediately fired at it, and almost at the same moment a second torpedo struck the vessel in the engine‑room. From his boat the chief engineer quite plainly heard the rush of air as the torpedo left the tube. The nearest boat then went alongside the ship, and took off the master, and the eight men who had stayed with him till the last, and the City of Corinth turned over and sank just as they pulled clear. A patrol arrived later, and landed the whole complement at Falmouth.

 

On the 25th there was heavy loss of life by the torpedoing of the Kohinur (2,265 tons), which took place without warn­ing in the Mediterranean, north of Alexandria. The master and thirty‑six of the officers and crew were sacrificed. The next day, the 26th, was marked by two especially notable outrages, the sinking of a hospital ship, the Dover Castle, and cruel firing on a boat‑load of the Umaria's officers and men, after their ship had been disabled. (For details of attack on the Dover Castle, see pp. 319‑20.)

 

At 6 a.m. on the 26th a submarine fired on the British India Company's Steamship Umaria (5,317 tons), in the Gulf of Policastro, off the coast of Italy. The ship was armed with a 12‑pounder, and at once attempted to reply. After five rounds, the gun was rendered useless by the breaking of its striker, and the ship had only its smoke­bombs to depend on. Soon afterwards the steering gear was disabled by a shell, and the vessel became unmanageable. One of the submarine's first shells had killed a native seaman, and wounded several firemen and a cadet; another destroyed No. 3 lifeboat, and killed a native who was hiding in it. The fourth engineer had his thigh broken, and the master (Mr. G. McT. Symmers) was wounded in the left shoulder. Distress wireless signals produced no reply, and about 7 p.m. it was decided that the ship must be abandoned. The three remaining lifeboats were sent away, and the gig was ordered to keep out of the line of fire till the master and those left in the ship were ready to embark. The submarine commander then deliberately fired on the gig, riddling it with holes, and severely wounding all but one of those on board it, including the fourth engineer, already so badly injured. In spite of this, the gig reached the ship's side, and the master and the rest got in. They were then signalled alongside the submarine, and the chief engineer was made prisoner in lieu of the master, on account of the latter's wounds. The boat was half full of water, red with the blood of wounded men, whose injuries there was no means of dressing, and she had to be continually baled, while only three of those on board her were still capable of handling an oar at all. The sufferings of the wounded were terrible; and it was not till 2.15 p.m. that a small rowing boat of the Italian coast‑guard took them in tow, and brought them to a patrol boat, in whose charge the three lifeboats already were. They were landed at Sapri, and there everything possible was done for them; but meanwhile the fourth engineer and one of the firemen had died of their wounds, and all had endured protracted agonies.

 

One more instance of extreme barbarity, accompanied by great loss of life, occurred in the last week of May.

 

LAST DAYS OF MAY

 

The Clan Murray (4,835 tons) on the 29th was about thirty‑five miles from the south‑east coast of Ireland, when she was torpedoed amidships and sank within five minutes. The whole of the crew of seventy‑eight were in the water, with nothing but floating wreckage to cling to. The submarine circled round them, and picked up the third officer as prisoner, but made no effort to assist the others. One man who actually reached the submarine was kicked off and drowned. A dozen survivors succeeded in keeping themselves afloat till they were rescued six hours later, but sixty‑four lives were lost, including the master.

 

On the 30th the Bathurst (2,821 tons) and the Hanley (3,331 tons) were off the coast of Ireland, homeward bound, in company; the Bathurst being unarmed, and the Hanley carrying a gun. The master of the Bathurst (Mr. J. W. Jones) and his second officer were on the bridge, and all the deck hands were on duty looking out. No submarine was sighted, but at 2.15 p.m. the Hanley was torpedoed and abandoned. At 2.50 p.m., when the dis­tance separating the vessels was about three miles, the submarine emerged, and began firing on the Bathurst from about 2,000 yards. She quickly got the range, and the Bathurst also had to be abandoned. While Captain Jones was alongside the submarine, being interrogated as to the two vessels, the German commander learnt that patrol boats were approaching, and cut short the con­versation. After firing a torpedo each into the Bathurst and the Hanley from close quarters to ensure their sinking, he disappeared, heading for the Atlantic. The patrol boats gave chase for a while, and then picked up the two crews and took them to Penzance.

 

As some set‑off to these disasters the exploits of three merchant vessels during the last days of this month may be recorded. On the 27th the Meaford (1,889 tons) sighted an enemy submarine breaking the surface 300 yards away. The master (Mr. G. C. Dusting) opened fire at once with his 12‑pounder; the second shot carried away the periscope, and the third shot hit the conning­tower. No more was seen of the submarine except a large cloud of thin blue vapour hanging over the spot. (She was not, however, sunk.)

 

On the 29th Mr. G. Moir, the master of the Hyson (6,608 tons), caught sight of a periscope about 1,000 yards distant, and headed for the spot; in a few minutes the periscope was seen about thirty feet from the port bow. As the ship passed over the place a heavy commotion and swirl was observed in the water abreast the bridge but no bump was felt. Two or three minutes afterwards', the conning tower, without periscope, came to the surface about 600 yards astern of the Hyson, the bow of the submarine rising high in the air. Captain Moir received the D.S.C. in recognition of the zeal and determination he displayed, and the submarine was afterwards attacked by a seaplane, but not sunk.

 

Another notable incident at this period of the struggle occurred on the 30th. The San Ricardo (6,465 tons), an Eagle oil transport, was returning in ballast from Liver­pool to Mexico, when a submarine opened fire upon her from a range of nearly five miles. Mr. W. H. Luya, the master, acted with determination and discretion, and withheld the San Ricardo's fire for more than two hours, until the range had been reduced to about 6,600 yards. At 8 p.m. he opened fire, and so accurate was the shooting that after the third round the submarine dropped astern and gave up the pursuit. The gunlayer, W. J. Smith, received the D.S.M., not merely for good shooting, but because twice, when the gun misfired, he cleared every­body else away from it and opened the breach himself at great risk to his own life.

 

The number of British merchant vessels sunk by sub­marines in June 1917 was 116, as against 106 in May, 155 in April, and 103 in March. These were the only four months during the war in which the tale of British losses reached three figures. The gross tonnage which these 116 vessels represented was 391,004; while the toll of lives came down to 384, not much more than a third of the number killed or drowned as the result of submarine attacks in April.

 

It is particularly worthy of note also, that though there was a slight increase in the number of ships sunk in the month of June as compared with May, there was a much greater increase in the number of ships molested but not sunk; 116 merchant ships were lost, but 122 escaped. In other words more than half the submarine attacks in June were wholly or partly unsuccessful. The U‑boat campaign against merchantmen was at its height, but

 

LOSSES IN JUNE

 

the rnerchant captains had profited by past experience; they understood better the limitations of the submarine, and had become adepts at circumventing its attacks.

 

The month began auspiciously. On June 1st only one merchant ship was sunk, the Cavina (6,539 tons), off the south‑west coast of Ireland, and this without loss of life; while five other ships which were attacked by submarines escaped undamaged. In the case of the Kingstonian (6,564 tons) and the Antinous (3,682 tons), torpedoes were discharged and missed their mark; the Turnbridge (2,874 tons) was attacked by gunfire on the surface and escaped by speed; four times a submarine came to the surface to attack the Cymric Vale (3,580 tons), and each time was forced to take hurried refuge under water on the ship threatening to ram her; while the Colovia (4,020 tons) kept up for three hours a running fight upon the surface, controlling her fire carefully, and finally scoring a direct hit, after which the enemy gave up the chase.

 

The 2nd of June, however, proved the most disastrous day of the whole month. Only two ships were torpedoed, but in both cases there was heavy loss of life. The Hollington (4,221 tons) was sunk in the North Atlantic, and thirty persons perished, including the master. The case of the Cameronian (5,861 tons) was even worse. While carrying troops in the Mediterranean, she was struck by a torpedo at 3.30 a.m., fifty miles from Alexandria, and sank within five minutes. The troop‑deck was flooded instantly, and many soldiers woke from sleep only to find themselves drowning. Altogether seventy soldiers lost their lives, besides the master of the ship and ten members of the crew.

 

On the following day the Merioneth (3,004 tons) was sunk by gunfire in the Arctic. A Norwegian fishing smack took her boats in tow, and brought them safely into Tromso. The same day the Greenbank (3,881 tons) was attacked in the Mediterranean, and was hit seven times by the guns of the submarine, which completely outranged the ship's 12‑pounder. The master (Mr. Edward Witten) then abandoned the vessel, but on the arrival of a French patrol boat and the prompt disappearance of the submarine, he and the crew returned on board, and tried to get the Greenbank into Oran. Very shortly, however, the submarine reappeared and torpedoed them, and the ship was finally abandoned. For putting up a good fight under adverse circumstances the D.S.C. was awarded to the master. The Islandmore (3,046 tons), armed with a 6‑pounder only, was attacked at long range off the coast of Algiers. The ship was hit repeatedly, the leading gunner and the second engineer were killed, and the chief officer, chief engineer, and several others of the crew were wounded. When the unequal fight had been maintained for an hour and a half, and the ship was badly on fire, the master surrendered, and was taken prisoner. The ship was then sunk by gunfire. For their gallant defence, the master (Mr. J. M. Eaton), the chief officer, and the chief engineer all received the D.S.C.

 

On June 4th the White Star liner Southland (11,899 tons) was torpedoed off the Irish coast. The submarine was not seen till after the explosion, which killed three firemen, flooded the engine‑room, damaged some of the boats, and smashed the wireless apparatus. The master (Mr. T. Musgrave) ordered the remaining boats to be lowered and manned, and the gunners to fire whenever the sub­marine appeared, and himself went to the bridge to destroy his secret papers. A second torpedo then struck the ship, and she began to sink rapidly by the stern. The master and twenty‑six men got away in the last boat just in time to clear the ship, but shortly afterwards the submarine appeared and rammed them, damaging the boat and almost capsizing it. By disguising himself, the master avoided being taken prisoner, and after spending the whole day in the boats the survivors were all picked up by the Alavedo.

 

On the same day and not far from the same spot the City of Baroda (5,541 tons) suffered the same fate. Nothing was sighted of the submarine till after the explo­sion, but the men aft saw the torpedo a second before it struck. The vessel sank in seven minutes. Six lives were lost ‑ the third officer, the carpenter, one passenger, and three lascars. The water was up to the rail when Mr. Seaborne, the master, left the ship. Among the very last to get into the master's boat were two cadets, both very young, one of whom was on his first voyage, and had only been three days at sea. Captain Seaborne says that, at the last moment, before getting into the boat, these

 

IN THE ATLANTIC

 

lads were asking, "Any further orders, sir? " When the ship had gone down, the submarine came to the surface, and interrogated the crew. Her commander asked for the master and chief engineer, and was told they were last seen on the bridge. The submarine was then steered right into the second officer's boat, and it was only owing to quick action with the oars that the boat was not sunk. As it was she began to leak badly from the blow. Luckily a patrol boat was sighted coming up, and the submarine departed. The crew were landed at Londonderry the next morning.

 

Two merchant vessels which encountered submarines on June 4th, and escaped from them unscathed, were the Manchester Port (4,093 tons) and the Miniota (4,928 tons). Both these encounters took place in the Atlantic. The Manchester Port was attacked by gunfire at a range of 6,000 to 8,000 yards, and fired fourteen rounds in reply. The master, Mr. J. H. Groth, believed that the fourteenth hit the submarine; at all events she retired at that point from the fray. The Miniota sighted a submarine and engaged her first; but the master (Mr. W. P. Harris) found that his shots were falling short, and wisely withheld the rest of his fire till the submarine came nearer. The ship's last two shots were so near the submarine that she submerged, declining further action. A few hours later the Miniota went to the assistance of an American ship, the Norlina, which had been attacked. The following is taken from the official report.

 

"On approaching the Norlina, the periscope of a sub­marine was so placed that he could not come to the surface without exposing himself to the point‑blank fire of the Miniota. The presence of the Miniota appears to have encouraged the Norlina, since she subsequently fought a gun duel with the submarine, and though apparently hit several times, drove off the submarine, and the next day sent out a wireless message to the effect that she had sunk the submarine. The master of the Miniota highly praised his ship's company, especially the shooting of the gun's crew."

 

The gunlayer received special mention, and the master the D.S.C.

 

About this time the enemy was repeatedly reminded that Officers of the British Merchant Service had acquired a high order of skill in evading submarines, and several notable escapes may be quoted. In three cases, the D.S.C. was awarded to the master. These were the Akabo (master, Mr. Daniel Evans), the Loch Lomond (master Mr. R. R. Barker), and the Thessaly (master, Mr. James Lee).

 

The Akabo (3,814 tons) was off the south‑west coast of Ireland on June 8th, when she was attacked and three torpedoes in succession were discharged at her, the first at 9 p.m., the second just before midnight, and the third at 2.30 next morning. By the prompt use of the helm and an extremely good look‑out, all three torpedoes were avoided, and it is believed that the submarine was hit by one of the five shots from the ship's gun. The vessel was carrying seventy‑five passengers, besides a crew of ninety‑seven, and had any of the torpedoes found their mark there would almost certainly have been considerable loss of life.

 

Two days later the Loch Lomond (2,619 tons) was making for the Straits of Gibraltar, and in addition to her own complement had on board twenty of the crew of the American steamship Petrolite, which had been sunk that morning. She was attacked by gunfire, and replied with thirty rounds to about twice as many fired by the sub­marine. She was hit several times, but with her last shot hit the enemy craft, which at that point withdrew from the encounter. This submarine was the UC.52, which very shortly afterwards claimed and received Spanish hospi­tality in the port of Cadiz.

 

The Thessaly (3,128 tons) was attacked by two sub­marines about the same time. The first was not visible, but was estimated to be about three and a half miles distant, and her shots were falling short. A second one began firing a few minutes later from a closer range, and the gunfire from the ship was concentrated on this enemy. The ship was manceuvred to bring both sub­marines astern, and a zigzagging course was steered. At 11.25 p.m. a shot appeared to strike one of the submarines, which ceased fire immediately. Smoke boxes were used with good effect, and ten minutes later all firing ceased, and the ship resumed her course. The ship's cook was killed by a shell.

 

Some other vessels which were attacked by submarines during this same week, and successfully survived the

 

SMOKE SCREENS

 

encounter, were the Fernleaf (5,838 tons), the Dominic (2,966 tons), the Minnie de Larrinaga (5,046 toils), the Pentwyn (3,587 tons), and the Holywell (4,867 tons).

 

On June 10th the master of the Fernleaf (Mr. Stephen Edwards) sighted a submarine on the port bow crossing the ship's course, and made an unsuccessful attempt to ram her. Twenty minutes later the submarine appeared 4,000 yards astern, and the ship opened fire with her 4.7 gun, and caused it to disappear. A fortnight later the Fernleaf was again attacked, this time by gunfire, but though 100 rounds were fired at her, she was only hit once, and there were no casualties.

 

At 6,40 p.m. on the 11th, the Dominic sighted a periscope on her starboard beam. She got the submarine astern, and commenced firing with her 12‑pounder. The sub­marine then came to the surface, and attacked with gunfire. The shots fell very close, and the master of the Dominic (Mr. Frank Scott) used the smoke screen with good eflect, so that about 8 p.m. the submarine was no longer visible. Distress signals were let off, to make be­lieve that the ship's gun was still being fired. At 9.30 p.m. the submarine renewed the attack, and as shrapnel was falling on the deck, the smoke screen was again used. After 10.30 p.m. the submarine was seen no more. This was an exceptionally prolonged encounter, and Captain Scott made full use of all the defensive measures and ruses that were open to him.

 

The Minnie de Larrinaga was on a voyage from Lough Swilly to the United States, and on June lith. was attacked by a submarine, which fired sixty‑eight rounds at her, in the course of a fight lasting two hours and twenty minutes. Her master (Mr. H. F. Nagle) kept the submarine astern, and proceeded at full speed, using a smoke screen. He 0111Y fired five rounds in reply, as the submarine was for Most of the time beyond the range of his 12‑pounder, and he wisely reserved his ammunition. The enemy gave up the chase and submerged, without having scored a hit.

 

The same evening the Pentwyn, bound from Glasgow to Montreal, was attacked by torpedo and by gunfire, and succeeded in escaping both. She was zigzagging, and steaming at 10 knots, when the torpedo passed astern, missing her by twenty yards. The submarine then fired twenty‑five rounds at her in rapid succession, from a range of about five miles, but all the shots fell either wide or short; the Pentwyn's master (Mr. H. A. Motyer) fired three rounds in reply, and the submarine turned off to attack the Thessaly.

 

Of all the experiences of this particular day perhaps that of the Holywell was the most noteworthy. Between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. she was engaged in conflict with three separate submarines, and came through undamaged by any of them. The master (Mr. George Sharpe) sighted the first submarine at 7.15 a.m., and at once opened fire. After two rounds the submarine submerged, and had to slacken speed, so that the Holywell rapidly increased distance. The master reported: "The last I saw of him, he was steering in a north‑westerly direction. Two masts and one periscope were visible. Am unable to say whether this submarine fired a torpedo, but two of the native crew said they saw one pass astern. At the time of attack I zigzagged about sixteen points, putting my helm hard over each way; I think this baffled the submarine." At 2.15 the same day a second submarine appeared on the port side of the ship, abreast of the engine room, and only about a ship's length away. Captain Sharpe at once ordered the helm hard‑a‑port, and directed the gunner to train the gun on the starboard quarter. The torpedo passed about 10 feet astern. The second shot from the ship exploded right over the submarine, and it submerged. This submarine had only one mast visible. While the encounter was still in progress, a third submarine was sighted about five miles away; this one fired twelve rounds at the Holywell, all of which fell short. During the next few hours, the vessel passed through a great quantity of wreckage, but was eventually met by a destroyer, and escorted into Falmouth. The Holywell was on voyage from Calcutta to Dundee; and the following extract from the master's report is in pleasant contrast to some experiences which have been mentioned earlier: "During the attacks the native crew behaved splendidly, firing the steamer, and kept good speed, also passing the ammunition to the gun's crew, and keeping a good look‑out."

 

In two more instances about this time submarine commanders behaved with quite unnecessary brutality to the survivors of ships which they had sunk. The Anglian (5,532 tons) was sunk by torpedo on the 10th. Three

 

ENEMY CALLOUSNESS

 

boats got clear without accident, but the fourth, in which was the master (Mr. Charles J. Lawrence), was damaged. The submarine emerged about two hundred yards away, and pressed her stern against the boat, damaging it still further. All those in the boat were made to hold their hands up, at the point of a revolver, while they were interrogated about the ship.

 

The other case was that of the Alfred, a small sailing vessel (130 tons), which was captured, and sunk by bombs, the submarine commander photographed the crew, and told them they would be shot if he caught them trading again. His men picked their pockets, taking all their money, and looted the vessel before sinking it.

 

On the 13th the Darius (3,426 tons) and the Kelvinbank (4,072 tons) were both torpedoed, the former with a loss of fifteen lives, and the latter of sixteen, including the master.

 

Among the many vessels sunk during the remainder of the month were the Addah (4,397 tons), with a loss of nine lives on the 15th, the Stanhope (2,854 tons), with a loss of twenty‑two lives on the 17th, the Kangaroo, a small sailing vessel (76 tons), on the 18th, with a loss of four, including the master, the Clan Davidson (6,486 tons), with a loss of twelve, and the Don Arturo (3,680 tons), with a loss of thirty‑four, including the master, both on the 24th, the Guildhall (2,609 tons), on the 25th, with a loss of twelve lives, and the Serapis (1,932 tons), on the 26th, with a loss of nineteen lives.

 

The Serapis furnishes another illustration of enemy methods. She sank one minute after the torpedo struck her, so that there was no time to launch the boats, and all on board were thrown into the water. The submarine then came to the surface, and picked up the master and chief officer as prisoners, but made no attempt to help the drowning crew. The second officer managed to collect some wreckage, and with four other survivors made a raft, on which they drifted the whole night. In the morning this capsized, and three of the five men were drowned. Later the fourth man became delirious, and died. The second officer was rescued in the afternoon by a British submarine.

 

Many actions were fought during the second half of June in which the merchant ship came off victorious. In one case at least, that of the Valeria (5,865 tons) on the 20th, the submarine was sunk; this was the U.99 which had been operating in the Atlantic; in other cases' the enemy was driven off, and the attacked vessels escaped without serious damage.

 

On the 19th the Morinier (3,804 tons) was attacked by gunfire from a submarine which fired from 90 to 100 rounds at a range of 4,000 yards, and hit the ship eight times. The Morinier replied with forty‑nine rounds. She mounted a 4.7 gun, but her deck did not appear to be strong enough to support the gunfire properly. In spite of this, she fought the enemy for two hours, and succeeded in driving him away. The master (Mr. Henry Saunders) was awarded the D.S.C.

 

 

 

Torpedoed Merchantman on Fire

 

The master of the Cunarder Valeria (Mr. W. W. Stewart) felt a sudden vibration, as if something had been struck, about 3 a.m., as he was nearing the Irish coast on a voyage from New York. He rushed across the bridge and saw a submarine emerging, its periscope broken by collision with the ship. The gunners saw it at the same instant, and before it was a hundred yards away had depressed the gun, and with the first shot pierced the enemy's hull. Within ten seconds the submarine was hit again, and sank. The Valeria had on board 5,000 tons of wheat besides other foodstuffs, a large quantity of munitions and a number of horses.

 

The master of the Ardens (Mr. H. T. Shilling) had already been a prisoner in Germany for sixteen months. In the late evening of June 30th, his ship was missed by two torpedoes, when he was about twelve miles from Flam­borough Head. The Ardens was only armed with a 6‑pounder, and to give the gunlayer a better chance the master stopped her. The second and third shots both hit their mark, and were followed by explosions, after which the submarine was seen no more.

 

Another successful escape was that of the Alban (5,223 tons), which, when off the Irish coast on the 17th, sighted a torpedo coming towards her, and avoided it by quick action of the helm. She then fired four rounds at the spot where the submarine was thought to be, and the second officer reported oil upon the surface. The master (Mr. A. W. Stoker) highly praised his gunner.

 

The next day the Palma (7,632 tons), a P & O liner

 

THE ENEMY OUTFOUGHT

 

with a valuable cargo from New York, was attacked in the Atlantic by two submarines, one on each beam. In spite of the ship's huge hull and moderate speed, which rendered her a comparatively easy mark, the enemy vessels were completely outmanoeuvred and outfought. The first torpedo was seen approaching off the starboard beam only about fifty yards away. Immediately the helm was put hard‑a‑starboard, and the port engine stopped, and the torpedo passed within a few feet of the rudder. The second submarine then went by, close under the ship's stern, discharging a torpedo as she passed, and this also was narrowly avoided, as was one more fired by the first submarine. As soon as the master of the Palma (Mr. E. B. Bartlett) had got both submarines astern, and a sufficient distance off, he opened fire on them, and after the sixth round they were seen no more.

 

The Devona (3,779 tons) in the Bay of Biscay on the 20th, and the Celia (5,004 tons) in the Atlantic on the 24th, both drove off attacking submarines by the excellent shooting of their guns' crews; and the little Fairmuir (593 tons), which was not even armed, escaped an attack by gunfire in the Arctic on the 30th, by good seamanship and speed. The Fairmuir's master (Mr. N. MeNeill) and the Celia's master (Mr. D. M. Taggart) both received the D.S.C., while Mr. D. R. Murray, master of the Devona, was awarded special mention.

 

One more successful escape occurred in the month of June for which the credit was entirely due to the skill with which the ship was handled. The Nitonian (6,381 tons) had crossed the Atlantic with a valuable cargo of foodstuffs, cotton, and munitions, and was approaching the coast of Ireland on her way to Liverpool. At 11.19 a.m. on the 20th her master (Mr. D. Lawton) sighted a submarine three or four miles away on his starboard bow. Immediately, he altered the ship's course to bring the submarine astern, gave the emergency ring to the engine­room, and sent out distress calls by wireless, giving the exact position. The first shot fired by the enemy fell short, but from then on shots were falling very near the ship on either side, and Captain Lawton was continuously ordering the helm over one way or the other to disconcert the attacker's aim. It would appear to have been solely due to his good seamanship and judgment that throughout the long encounter only one shot hit the vessel. That happened at 11.50, the shell passing through the deck, and setting fire to some bales of cotton sweepings in a hold. It was impossible at the time to put out the fire, as all hands were fully occupied, and the same shell had also broken the steam pipe. When the vessel had come round so that she was heading in a south‑west direction, the master used his smoke screen, and protected himself from the submarine's observation for about half an hour.

 

At the end of that time the submarine was found to be within easy range of the ship's gun, and six shells were immediately fired and fell very close, causing the enemy to make off hastily. After about 2 p.m. she was not seen again, and the Nitonian resumed her proper course. Altogether eighty‑one shells had been fired by the ship and about 120 by the submarine. As the ship only had the usual allowance of 90 shells, she was beginning to run short. At 4.38 p.m. the Nitonian was met by a destroyer, which escorted her into Lough Swilly, where her fire was extinguished. As an illustration of the shortage of patrol vessels at this time, it is noteworthy that all through the encounter wireless messages were sent out, giving the course and position of the ship, and that these were duly received on shore and relayed to the patrols, but no help came till two and a half hours after the attack had been successfully defeated, although the vessel was quite near the Irish coast.

 

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

THE 10TH CRUISER SQUADRON (II) January 1917‑December 1917

(See Plan facing p. 210.)

 

As the year 1916 drew to a close, Germany began to feel seriously the pressure of the Allied blockade, and her food supplies were running short in a way that inflicted real hardship on her people. The 10th Cruiser Squadron was fulfilling its appointed task. Although it was a weak force, the number of neutral or enemy ships that slipped through the patrols without being stopped and identified was inconsiderable.

 

(Vessels intercepted by northern patrols from July 1st to December 31st, 1916:

 

Intercepted and passed

2,265

Sent in under armed guard

813

Vessels calling voluntarily

718

Total

3,796

 

Out of this number the 10th Cruiser Squadron intercepted 2,108 vessels. The total number was calculated as being 95.9 per cent. of the ships passing through the blockade zone, but this included the ships examined in the Downs.)

 

On January Ist, 1917, the Changuinola and Ebro rejoined the "A" Patrol from the "E" Patrol, north of Iceland, and the Virginian, flying the broad pendant of Commodore J. S. Luard, temporarily in command of the squadron during the absence on leave of Admiral Tupper, while the Alsatian was refitting, went to "E," working between 65 and 67 N., 8' and 13 W. The French cruiser Champagne was also sent to join the squadron, and left Brest about January 5th. A chase took place on January 14th which revealed the handicap under which the 10th Cruiser Squadron had sometimes to operate. The Motagua succeeded in over­hauling the British steamship Oswego in 59 57' N., 10 33' W., after following her for three hours. She was on her way from Middlesbrough to New York, in ballast, and steaming without lights. The master reported that he had received orders at Middlesbrough that, after passing longitude 10 W., he was neither to show lights nor stop for anybody. This information was reported to the Admiralty, and it was pointed out that the ship ran considerable risk of being fired on by the patrol.

 

At this period enemy submarines were active in northern waters, and added to the difficulty of maintaining the blockade. At 9.30 a.m. on January 7th the Columbella engaged an enemy submarine in 59 59'N., 7 57'W. The submarine was on the surface, but submerged directly fire was opened, and did not discharge a torpedo. Orders were at once given for the patrols to work at increased speed. There was an idea at this time that submarines were showing a bright white light at intervals, possibly as a signal to their supply ships, but though any vicinity where these lights were shown was searched, nothing further came of the suggested explanation.

 

Submarines were again reported off the West Coast and St. Kilda on January 17th and 18th, and a Swedish ship, the Japan, reported that she had been boarded by a sub­marine in 50 34' N., 12 54' W. on January 17th. On the 21st the armed trawler Walpole was attacked, north­west of St. Kilda, by an enemy submarine, which fired one torpedo, and submerged when the Walpole opened fire on her. The four armed trawlers in the vicinity were ordered to concentrate and search for her, and she was again sighted by the Saxon at 2.30 p.m. at a distance of three miles. The Saxon gave chase, but the submarine dived, and was not seen again. A Danish schooner, the Marden, reported that she had been stopped by an enemy submarine at 8 p.m. on January 20th in 55 N., 10 45' W. The sub­marine then went north. Another submarine was reported off Muckle Flugga on the 22nd.

 

Nor were submarines the only menace to the vessels of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Reports of mining at the entrance to Swarbacks Minn were received on January 21st, a mine having exploded in the sweep, and two of the squadron were kept in harbour, while the Patia, which was due to coal there, went to Loch Ewe instead. Most of the submarines reported were probably laying mines.

 

On January 26th a report was received that the Laurentic was torpedoed off Lough Swilly, and the Columbella and

 

SUBMARINE MENACE

 

Victorian, which were coming from the west, were warned accordingly. (The Laurentic was sunk by a mine on January 25th.) It was decided at the end of January that the ships of the squadron should coal more frequently at their southern bases, instead of at Swarbacks Minn.

 

A submarine was reported in 60 32' N., 1 55'W. on the 28th, and the Motagua, which was due to arrive at Swarbacks Minn on the 29th, was warned, but at 7.30 that morning, when eight miles from Esha Ness (north of the Shetlands), she was fired at and missed by a torpedo, but did not sight the submarine.

 

While the Admiral was dealing with the mine and sub­marine peril, a vigilant look‑out had to be kept for surface raiders. On January 24th the patrols were again spread to intercept a raider, which was thought to have passed the Vyl Lightship on the afternoon of January 23rd, steering north. The 2nd Cruiser Squadron was also sent out to intercept the raider, but without success, and light cruiser squadrons, with armed boarding vessels and destroyers, were detailed to patrol to north of Muckle Flugga and on the Sydero‑Noup Head line. Wireless silence was main­tained, and the next day the Hildebrand and Avenger were sent to Denmark Strait in case the raider had got through to the north of Iceland. Normal patrol was not resumed till the 28th.

 

The Avenger and Hildebrand were recalled from Denmark Strait on the 29th and ordered to join "A" Patrol. Admiral Tupper strongly advocated that two ships should guard the west and north‑west coasts of Iceland, for the express purpose of preventing the passage of raiders, but for the time being too few ships were available.

 

He had already represented to the Admiralty that he had still only six armed trawlers at his command, though ten had been promised, and he considered that ten was the smallest number that could keep guard over waters "in soundings" where the larger ships feared to venture on account of submarines. It was always accepted that his cruisers should remain outside the 100‑fathom line. Admiral Tupper mentioned particularly the trade routes off the coast of Iceland, round the Faeroe Islands, and between St. Kilda and the Rockall Bank. The two trawlers patrolling off the Rockall Bank had already intercepted quite a large number of ships. This was the "broad unwatched passage" west of the Hebrides, now becoming known to the captains of neutral vessels who wanted to slip through the patrols without being stopped.

 

The changed objective of the U‑boats was already being felt, and more frequent attacks on the squadron were expected, but the Admiral had no destroyers or other fast vessels to send out in haste to pick up survivors or otherwise assist a cruiser that had been tor­pedoed. As a rule the patrol lines lay so far from Scapa that even if destroyers were despatched immediately they could not arrive in time either to catch the sub­marine or give effectual help to the ship attacked.

 

The average number of ships sunk each month had risen enormously since the Germans had resumed their "cruiser warfare" on commerce in October 1916, but during Feb­ruary the number of British vessels alone, sunk by sub­marine, had more than doubled the average loss for any one of the five preceding months. It was impossible not to foresee that losses would increase until new measures, already outlined by the Anti‑Submarine Division of the Admiralty War Staff, established in December 1916, could become effective, and that at the same time the Germans would continue to produce submarines in ever‑increasing numbers. They had already eighty submarines fitted for mine‑laying, and the menace from mines was becoming daily more acute.

 

The 10th Cruiser Squadron was affected perhaps more than any other unit of the fleet by the German declaration of unlimited submarine warfare in February 1917. It meant that the days of the squadron as such were num­bered, because all the circumstances of their employment were changed. The blockade of Germany, already largely a matter of rationing the neutrals, generally by agree­ment with the neutrals themselves, could no longer be maintained and supervised by the process of intercepting ships at sea, and either passing them through the patrols, or sending them into British ports under an armed guard, for further examination.

 

Like all other armed merchant ships, the vessels of the squadron were singularly susceptible to under‑water attack. Their speed was inadequate, especially as, when they stopped to carry out their boarding work, any one of them, with the vessel boarded, was an easy prey to the

 

THE BITER BIT

 

prowling submarine, who could fire her torpedoes at both ships and vanish like a fish under water before action could be taken.

 

On February 3rd Admiral Tupper, in the Alsatian, was directed to go to Scapa to see the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet. This was a most anxious moment in the history of the blockade. The 10th Cruiser Squadron was still very much below its estimated strength. Only nine cruisers and three armed trawlers were actually on patrol. No fewer than seven ships were under repair at Liverpool. Three others were on special service. To add to the cur­rent difficulties, Kirkwall was closed owing to mines on February 9th, and all ships with armed guards were sent to Stornoway and Lerwick.

 

The Moldavia, on February 9th, intercepted an Italian ship, the Famiglia, in 58 38' N., 10 8' W. with a German armed guard (officer and 5 ratings) on board. There were also three Englishmen and nine Italians in the ship. To evade capture, the Germans exploded bombs in the engine‑room and fore hold, and the ship sank shortly afterwards. The armed guard and the crew were taken on board the Moldavia, whose captain took possession of the German officer's diary and other papers.

 

On February 10th at 9.40 a.m. the armed trawler Walpole reported that she was chasing a submarine steering north on the surface and throwing off heavy black smoke. She was lost sight of at 10.40 a.m. In the meantime, three more trawlers were ordered to join the chase, and each of them engaged submarines at difierent times. The third trawler, Robert Smith, engaged two submarines at extreme range. It was suggested that a 12‑pounder gun in the Walpole might have settled the fate of the submarine.

 

Soon after the opening of the "unrestricted" campaign, an armed guard, sent on board the Norwegian steamship Stralsund to take her in to Troon for examination, had a narrow escape. They boarded the ship from the Alsatian in 61 24' N., 12 20' W. on February 14th, and proceeded south of St. Kilda, which was sighted on the 15th at 2 p.m. At 4.20 p.m. the Stralsund was stopped by a submarine, which fired at her several times and then submerged. Sub­Lieutenant C. E. Elliott, R.N.R., who was in charge of the armed guard, urged the master to try to escape, but he refused for fear of being torpedoed. Meanwhile, Sub‑Lieutenant Elliott and the guard disguised themselves­. Sub‑Lieutenant Elliott afterwards recorded that "he put on some old clothes he found in a cabin" ‑ and then warned the master not to mention the fact that he had been intercepted by a British man‑of‑war, or to give away the presence of the armed guard on board.

 

The submarine then reappeared, and the master, with three of his men, left the ship in a boat and went on board the submarine with his papers. The submarine then hoisted a signal to abandon ship, and the rest of the crew with the guard got into the two remain­ing boats. Sub‑Lieutenant Elliott managed to drop a bundle of papers and firearms overboard without being observed. Meanwhile the master had reached the submarine, and a German officer with a seaman left in the Stralsund's boat, and went on board her with four bombs. Twenty minutes later there were two explosions, and the vessel sank by the stern. It was then getting dark. The master and his three men left the submarine and joined the others. Sub‑Lieutenant Elliott and three of the guard were in a dinghy, and were taken off by the master of the Stralsund in his lifeboat. The master reported that the presence of the guard had not been discovered. All his papers had been kept, but he was given a sort of receipt for his ship. Apparently the crew were not counted by the submarine's officer, a fortunate circum­stance. The commander of the submarine had questioned the master of the Stralsund very closely as to the latest news from America and opinion there with regard to Germany. He was asked if he knew of Germany's last Declaration as to the prohibited area round Great Britain, and was told that his ship and everything else in the area would be sunk. The submarine commander said that he had been out for forty days and would be out for ten days longer. He admitted that he had intended to hit the Stralsund when he fired at her.

 

The two boats then set sail for St. Kilda, and to keep themselves warm all hands took spells at the oars. on the 16th they were under the lee of St. Kilda, after having made an attempt to pass between the islands, in which the boats nearly capsized. As they could find no oppor­tunity for landing, they decided to make for the Flannan Islands and look out for a patrol boat, and in about an

 

IN THE WAR ZONE

 

hour saw the lights of a vessel. To attract her attention they poured some paraffin on a handkerchief, set light to it, and waved it on the end of a boat‑hook. The vessel was an Auxiliary Patrol trawler, the Rushcoe, and she promptly switched off lights and turned away, but the party all joined in hailing her, and she eventually picked them up at 3.30 p.m. They reached Stornoway that night and the guard rejoined the Alsatian on February 21st.

 

A new difficulty had arisen for the blockading squadron, as the alarm among neutral ships with regard to enemy submarines became more marked. This was illustrated when the Orvieto on February 18th boarded a Norwegian steamer, the Tricolor, in 62 40' N, 11 12' W., bound from Bergen to Newport News in ballast. The vessel had not called at a British port, and had no consular certificate. While waiting for a reply to her first signal, the Orvieto examined another light, which proved to be that of a British trawler. The Tricolor meanwhile extinguished her lights and attempted to get away. She was again intercepted, and an armed guard put on board to take her to Kirkwall. The crew then refused to work the ship, and the master stated that they had been engaged on the understanding that they should not enter the war zone. The matter was referred to the Admiralty, who allowed the vessel to proceed on the master giving an undertaking to call at Halifax. This he agreed to do.

 

This question had become pressing, as the crews of neutral vessels were often not willing to work their ships into British ports. The "war zone" of the Germans, which British seamen regarded almost with contempt, had alarmed them, and among other measures suggested for preventing neutral ships from being sunk while on passage to British ports a system of escort was suggested by Admiral Tupper.

 

The six trawlers working off St. Kilda, and attached to the 10th Cruiser Squadron, had already been used to escort intercepted vessels, until they could be turned over to the Stornoway Patrol, and the Admiralty had decided to give Admiral Tupper twelve more trawlers which might be used for the purpose. It was also decided that ships should be sent to Kirkwall and not to Lerwick, and that they should be escorted by vessels of the Orkneys Patrol from a position twenty miles west of Noup Head. The sailing of men of war (except destroyers) via the North Channel was suspended, and the departure of the Virginian to rejoin the squadron after refitting at Liverpool was delayed in consequence.

 

On February 27th sixteen vessels out of an available twenty‑one were on patrol. Submarines were reported again, on February 28th and March 1st, north of St. Kilda. The armed trawler Robert Smith chased one of them, but without success. A Norwegian barque, the Durban, was escorted into Stornoway on March 3rd by the Walpole. The barque had been fired on and holed by a German submarine, but had managed to escape.

 

The Kildonan Castle, which had been on special service since January 10th, rejoined the squadron on March 5th. On the following day ‑ when, owing to submarine alarms, the patrols were all shifted westward again ‑ Admiral Tupper reported on his year's work with the squadron. During that time 3,478 ships had been intercepted, and 877 sent in with armed guards. Although several ships had been attacked by submarines, no ship had been hit by a torpedo, and in spite of the dangerous work carried out by the squadron ‑ cruising without lights, intercepting ships night and day in all weathers, boarding them, placing armed guards on board, and conducting them in safety to their various destinations ‑ there had been no loss of life, and only one cruiser had been injured, though two officers and one man had been taken as prisoners to Germany by enemy submarines, while performing armed guard duties.

 

Although the declaration of a war zone by Germany might have had, and in some ways had, a deterrent effect on the movements of merchant traffic, the five weeks between January 28th and March 4th showed a slight in­crease over the figures for the corresponding period in 1916 ‑ 180 ships intercepted and 55 sent in against 171 and 47.

 

The position in March 1917 was perhaps the gravest that Great Britain had experienced since 1914. The outstanding question, which eclipsed every other at the time, was the extent to which shipping losses would under­mine the capacity of the Allies to continue the war. In a general review of the naval situation compiled at the Admiralty for the War Cabinet, in March, it was stated that it was "impossible to over‑estimate the gravity of

 

BLOCKADE MEASURES

 

the situation." The shipping available was barely sufficient to carry ordinary requirements ‑ food, munitions, stores, raw material ‑ for the Allied countries.

 

This short consideration of the general position is neces­sary to make clear what was the preoccupation of Admirals and Admiralty when the cry for reinforcement sounded on every side, and with great urgency from the blockade squadron. It was no longer only to guard waters "in soundings" or to escort ships sent in for examination, that Admiral Tupper asked for more armed trawlers and cried aloud for destroyers, but because without some such protection his own ships were in danger of becoming impotent.

 

The declaration of war by the United States in April entirely changed the character of the blockade, a fact sometimes overlooked in arguments based on the success of the more apparently vigorous measures of 1917 and 1918. With the adherence to the Allied cause of the most powerful neutral, against whose trade with Germany it had been impossible to take adequate precautions, the blockade could be easily tightened, and America could and did apply increased pressure on the remaining neutrals to shorten enemy supplies.

As far as the 10th Cruiser Squadron was concerned, the establishment of oversea examination ports, rendered necessary because the majority of merchant captains refused to enter the submarine danger zone near Great Britain, reduced by a very large percentage the number of ships that had to be intercepted and sent in to home ports, even before the registration system for ships and cargoes was so far perfected that the blockade was prac­tically enforced ‑ and very efficiently enforced ‑ ashore.

 

Meanwhile, the Admiral's urgent and reiterated requests for even two destroyers to work with the squadron had to be refused. The trawlers attached to his command were worked to pieces in trying to escort the ships sent in for examination, but they could not do it, and the smaller, slower merchant vessels were frequently sunk, though in many cases the escorting trawlers were in time to rescue the crews and armed guards.

 

It became gradually apparent that the only practicable form of protection against submarines for unarmed or only defensively armed ships was some system of convoy.

 

The position before convoys could be regularly established increased the already numerous difficulties of the blockade squadron. Reports from the Admiral gave a constant string of positions where the enemy's submarines had been sighted; this involved a continuous shifting of patrols. He drew attention to the impossibility of adequate escort; crews saved; and emphasised his great anxiety for the unwatched route west of the Hebrides, as the patrols had to be constantly moved farther westwards. The position is clearly explained in Lord Jellicoe's book, The Crisis of the Naval War. He says that "in the early stages of the convoy system difficulties were experienced from the fact that all the available destroyers and most of the sloops were used as escorts, with the result that the ships not under convoy were left with but little protection."

 

It was recognised at the Admiralty that the larger con­tingent of small vessels for which Admiral Tupper had so urgently pleaded was practically a necessity if the work of the squadron was to be carried out at all; and it was therefore proposed to take up the last remaining twelve Icelandic trawlers, though it would palpably reduce the fish supply of the country. (The Hull owners represented that it would reduce the fish supply by 7,000 tons a year, and cost the port of Hull 300,000 for the same period.) The trawlers that fished off Iceland were naturally large powerful boats, fitted for remaining at sea for long periods, and were there­fore particularly suitable for work with the squadron. It was eventually decided that six of the remaining vessels should be taken up, and six of the same type which were already working for the Rear‑Admiral East Coast should be allotted to Admiral Tupper. Smaller vessels were to be sent to do the work on the east coast.

 

On February 15th, the Admiral heard that he was to have these vessels; but the matter had become more insistent than ever, and on the 13th he had already written again urging that he might be given eighteen, and asking for twenty‑four. The Commander‑in‑Chief wrote a covering letter (February 13th) to emphasise the importance of fitting out more trawlers for the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Admiral Tupper proposed a strength of twenty‑four blockading cruisers and at least an equal number of trawlers. His idea was either to form a very strong anti‑submarine

 

METHOD OF PATROL

 

patrol in the northern channels (between the Orkneys and the Shetlands, the Shetlands and the Faeroes, and westward of the Faeroes), or else to place the trawlers alternately with the cruisers on patrol, steering alternate courses. The Commander‑in‑Chief considered that each ship of the squadron ought to have a trawler attached to her when on patrol. "An attack in force on these ships by submarines," he wrote, "is to be expected in the near future, and I submit that some measure of protection should be provided for these vessels in view of their value, personnel, and the work carried out by them."

 

Clearly these suggestions were not made because the existing blockade was ineffectual, but because the ships had to face a new danger, or, if not actually new, a very much intensified danger. But the resources at the disposal of the Admiralty would not admit of any increase in the number of trawlers lately allotted to the squadron.

 

To understand the peril to which these ships were exposed, the method of their patrols must be explained.

 

Two kinds were in use:

 

(1) The "Cross" Patrol‑vessels steaming backwards and forwards in line ahead across the track of ships.

 

(2) The "In and Out" Patrol‑vessels steaming back­wards and forwards on parallel courses along the track of shipping.

 

The "Cross" Patrol covered the larger area and made it possible to place ships farther apart, as they could keep a look‑out both ways equally, but the whole patrol was upset if vessels had to be boarded. It was the more concentrated form of patrol, and therefore more open to attack. The ships were generally limited to beats of about thirty to forty miles. With the "In and Out" method it was easier to alter quickly the position and locality of the patrol, and to concentrate on ships following any particular route. For instance, in concentrating on east‑bound ships, the patrol­ling vessels steered east during the dark hours, and half‑time east, half‑time west during daylight; vice‑versa for west­bound ships. (This description is taken from Admiral Tupper's lecture, 25.10.22, R.U.S.I. Journal, February 1923.)

 

The "In and Out" Patrol was practically always used in the centre of the patrolled area ‑ the "B" and "C" Patrols. The "A," "D," "E" Patrols, which usually consisted of two or three ships each, were arranged by the senior officer present, according to information. Sometimes they would cruise abreast, sometimes in line ahead, sometimes in quarter‑line.

 

As an example of how the ships were disposed in patrolling the 800 miles of grim grey sea that stretches from the Orkneys to Iceland, the disposition of the squadron at noon on 1st April (1917) may be given

 

"C" Patrol: Proceeding to a line 360 from 59 N. 10 30' W. crossing 0200, steering 80 and 1000 steering 260. Ships 30 miles apart.

Artois, Changuinola, Kildonan Castle.

 

 

"B" Patrol: Crossing line 320 from 62 N. 11 10' W. at 0200, steering 60 and 1000 steering 240. Ships 30 miles apart.

Hildebrand, Champagne, Otway.

 

 

"A" Patrol: Steering 320 and 140 from 6240' N. 15 W. in southern position noon and midnight daily.

Patia.

 

 

Between "B" and "C" Patrols

Avenger.

 

 

"E" Patrol: North‑west of Iceland off Isa Fiord

Gloucestershire, Ebro.

 

 

St. Kilda Patrol:

Armed trawlers Rushcoe and Tenby Castle.

Rejoining patrol from Liverpool

Almanzora, Armadale Castle.

Proceeding to Clyde

Patuca.

Proceeding to Oban

Armed trawlers, Arley and Robert Smith.

At Swarbacks Minn

Motagua.

At Liverpool

Alsatian, Victorian.

At Clyde

Orvieto, Andes, Virginian (while Liverpool was closed to traffic) Moldavia, Hilary, Columbella.

At Oban

Armed trawler Walpole. Special service vessel King Lear.

At Loch Ewe

Arlanza.

At Fleetwood (refitting)

Armed trawler Saxon.

On special service

Orcoma.

 

By this it will be seen that ten ships were actually on patrol; one was at Swarbacks Minn and one at Loch Ewe, coaling; two were on their way to rejoin patrol after refitting; five were at Liverpool and the Clyde to refit;

 

LOSSES IN THE SQUADRON

 

four were on their way to refit; and one was on special service ‑ total, twenty‑four.

 

Two armed trawlers were on the St. Kilda Patrol, one was at Oban, two were on their way to Oban, and one was refitting at Fleetwood ‑ total, six. The extra trawlers promised had not yet arrived.

 

The danger of submarine attack on these blockading cruisers was met, as a rule, by warning the patrols every time and moving them to westward directly a submarine was reported anywhere near the route on which they were working. Nevertheless, submarines were very frequently sighted by ships on patrol, and their rescue work, in picking up boats with crews and passengers who had recently escaped from sunken ships, was incessant. It is also a fact that, particularly on the St. Kilda patrol, a signal of distress was invariably answered by the nearest cruiser going in search, but she was generally recalled if there was any chance of sending armed trawlers to continue the hunt.

 

The days had changed since every merchant ship had attempted to evade the patrols; now they shared the same danger, and the safest course for both watcher and watched was to keep up speed, zigzagging where possible, but always going ahead as fast as they could through dangerous waters. It was no longer a case of stopping trade from going to Germany; the Germans made no distinction. They were out to sink every ship they saw. Nevertheless, it was instinctively realised that submarines had an inherent distrust of ships in company. No fewer than four ships of the squadron were sunk by submarines between May and October 1917, the Hilary, Avenger, Otway, and Champagne, and in each case the ship was alone, either on her way to port to coal or rejoining her patrol. The Virginian was also torpedoed when with a convoy, on August 21st, but was brought into port and claimed to have sunk the submarine. (The Motagua was mined in March but not sunk.)

 

Possibly the original instance, when the cruisers Aboukir, Cressy, and Hogue were sunk almost simul­taneously by a submarine in September 1914, had left so deep an impression on the naval mind that the change brought about by later experience was hardly realised. Then Captain Drummond of the Aboukir believed that he was in a minefield, and made no attempt to warn the sister‑ships of a possible submarine, but in later days mines were almost invariably supposed to be submarines, and pre­cautions were taken accordingly. The captains of our own submarines understood the position better, and a considerable number of the naval protagonists of the convoy system clearly envisaged the fact that the mere sailing of ships in company was a protection against under‑water attack. Admiral Tupper himself advocated a limited system of convoy, in the approaches to the Channel ports or in narrow waters leading to ports. In suggesting that every vessel of the 10th Cruiser Squadron should be accompanied when cruising by an armed trawler, the Commander‑in-Chief advocated the same system, and if it could have been adopted, the four torpedoed cruisers might have been saved.

 

In the case of the Avenger, sunk on her way to Scapa to oil (in June), the Commander‑in‑Chief had detailed two destroyers to screen her into port; they were only thirty miles off when she was attacked, and as she did not sink for some hours, they were able to rescue all her personnel.

 

Safety under escort was, of course, not an absolute cer­tainty. Two British steamers, the Mendip Range and the Queen Adelaide, were intercepted by the Virginian on June 17th, in 58 31' N., 15 20' W., and were sent on to Stornoway under escort of three armed trawlers. About noon on June 18th, while still under escort, the Queen Adelaide was torpedoed and sunk, in 58 44' N., 8 35' W. All her crew but three were saved by one of the trawlers, and the Mendip Range with the other two escorting vessels arrived safely at Stornoway. This was, however, the only occasion during the war when a ship was sunk while under escort of trawlers attached to the 10th Cruiser Squadron.

 

To return to the narrative of the proceedings of the squad­ron, at the beginning of March all sailings of men‑of‑war, with the exception of destroyers, via the North Channel, had been suspended until further orders, on account of submarines, and in consequence the Virginian was kept at Liverpool, where she had been under repair. The Orcoma was still absent, but the Almanzora and Arlanza had rejoined the squadron. The Gloucestershire and Kildonan Castle were on their way back from special service. On March 6th all the patrols ("A," "B," and "C" were moved to W. of 17 W. at 9.30 p.m., in response to an order from the Commander‑in‑Chief. Earlier in the

 

WIRELESS MESSAGES

 

day a supposed submarine had been sighted by the Hilary in 59 22' N., 9 15' W., and by the Kildonan Castle still farther north, so that "C" Patrol had already been ordered, at 6.10 p.m., 60 miles to the westward of 9 15' W.

 

On March 8th at 11.30 p.m., after the message had been delayed by wireless difficulties, orders were again received from the Commander‑in‑Chief, to move the squadron (eleven ships) to "Patrol Line IV," W. of 20 W." (The Patrol Lines, numbered 1 to IV, were frequently changed, the most westerly being No. IV.)

 

As it was assumed that this movement to westward was again caused by reports of submarines, wireless communication was suspended in the squadron, except for urgent messages. On March 9th the patrols got into their new stations during the forenoon, but as communication with the Commander­in‑Chief was still difficult, the Orvieto was used as wireless link, patrolling at high speed on the meridian of 11W. Ordinary wireless communications were resumed the next day.

 

Conclusions have yet to be drawn from the history of wireless messages between the Admiralty and ships at sea, and between the ships themselves. Under normal conditions messages were conveyed successfully and use­fully, but the apparatus sometimes broke down when most urgently needed.

 

On Sunday, March 11th, at 2 p.m., the Armadale Castle, on her way to rejoin patrol, from Swarbacks Minn, in 62 39' N., 1414' W., boarded the Swedish s.s. Helsingborg, from New York to Landscrona with barley. An armed guard was put on board to take the ship to Kirkwall, but the firemen refused to work, and the Armadale Castle stood by, awaiting instructions by wireless. Commander England was ordered to take such firemen as absolutely refused to work on board the Armadale Castle, to put a naval crew on board the Helsingborg and work her into Kirkwall. The master protested against being taken into a United Kingdom port, on account of the German pro­clamation of unrestricted warfare, and both he and his entire crew refused to work the ship. A naval crew was accordingly put on board, but the Swedish crew, which included three women, were not taken off, as Commander England considered that they would eventually consent to manoeuvre their own vessel.

 

It was at this moment that the Armadale Castle's wireless was temporarily put out of action by a small outbreak of fire on board, and she could not recover touch with the Admiral. In the meantime she continued to chase the Helsingborg. Later in the day other vessels were sighted and Commander England felt bound to intercept them. Afterwards he resumed patrol, leaving the Helsingborg to make her own way to Kirkwall, where she arrived safely on the 15th. The Helsingborg was going into the danger zone under very unfavourable conditions. Just about the same time an armed guard from the Alsatian, which was taking the Norwegian motor‑ship Nosted IV to Kirkwall, had to leave her at Thorshavn (March 12th) as her crew refused to work her to a British port. She was intercepted later by the Shannon, but allowed to proceed. (By that date, in certain circumstances, outgoing ships were allowed to give guarantees to call at overseas ports for examination.)

 

On another occasion, an armed guard from the Ebro had been sent on March 4th to take the Norwegian sailing vessel Najade into Kirkwall, and she was known to be much over­due, until on April 20th the German wireless press announced her "capture." It was afterwards discovered that she had been sunk near Fair Island on March 21st, and nothing more was ever heard of her crew or of the armed guard, who were presumably lost with her. The Admiralty then decided that, unless in very exceptional circumstances, an armed guard should not be sent to take charge of a sailing vessel.

 

Before the end of March it was decided as far as pos­sible to send an auxiliary patrol trawler to meet every ship with an armed guard on board, to escort her from the 100‑fathom line to her port of examination. From April 19th to May 6th the trawlers of the squadron, gener­ally only four on patrol, met and escorted into safety twelve ships with armed guards on board. The impor­tance of this precaution was shown a little later, between May 25th and June 7th, when, owing to bad weather and possibly defective navigation, four ships, under the charge of armed guards, failed to meet their escort and were all sunk, though without loss of life. In the case of the Swedish barquentine Ines, sunk on May 29th, the armed guard from the Orcoma were made prisoners by the sub­marine. The crew were picked up later by the armed trawler Saxon.

 

ACTION WITH RAIDER

 

To return to the movements of the squadron, at mid­night on March 12th the patrols were ordered east again, and returned to their Line III" (between 14 and 15 W.). On 26th, "B" and "C" Patrols were moved to "Line II" (between 7 W. and 11 10' W.), one ship being left to intercept vessels which attempted to hug the south coast of Iceland, but during the day several reports were received of submarines in the neighbourhood of St. Kilda (58 40' N., 8 40' W.). (Commodore J. S. Luard relinquished his appointment as second‑in-command of the squadron on March 23rd, and was succeeded by Rear-Admiral Morgan Singer.)

 

As an example of the effect of the more western posi­tion of the patrols on "Line IV," it may be noted that, during the week ending March 11th, only twenty‑three vessels were intercepted and examined. During the week ending April 1st, when the patrols were on the more eastern "Lines II and III," fifty ships were intercepted. As a whole the number of ships sent in for examination during March was very small compared with previous months. In some degree this was due to the adoption of Halifax as an examination port, but also to the fact that neutral vessels were still refusing to sail.

 

On March 16th the Achilles, 2nd Cruiser Squadron, and the armed boarding steamer Dundee were in action with a raider at 4 p.m. in 64 54' N., 0 23' E. The first news was that the raider had escaped, and wireless silence in the 10th Cruiser Squadron was at once ordered, but on the 17th it was reported that the raider had been sunk. (She was the Leopard (ex‑Yarrowdale).)

 

On the same day, 16th, the Motagua reported being struck by a torpedo forward, but it was afterwards found that she had struck a mine 6 1/2 miles S. 35 W. from Esha Ness. Although considerably damaged, she reached Swarbacks Minn, and three mines were found by the sweepers near the position in which she struck. The port was then closed until extensive sweeping operations had been carried out.

 

Admiral Tupper had already asked urgently for more Auxiliary Patrol craft or P‑boats on the 100‑fathom line between St. Kilda and Sulisker, which he called "a high­way for German submarines." During the first week in April submarines were engaged three times by armed trawlers attached to the squadron in this very "highway."

 

On April 5th, at about 5.30 p.m., the Rushcoe and Tenby Castle intercepted a message from St. Kilda to the effect that an enemy submarine had been sighted on the surface about nine miles north of the island. The submarine was evidently preparing to attack a sailing ship, and the trawlers made off at once to her rescue, but on their way encountered another submarine steering north‑east. The Rushcoe opened fire without success, and the submarine fired six shots which did no damage, and then submerged. (Later it was discovered that this was the British submarine E 44.)

 

Meanwhile, the sailing vessel Ebenezer, a Dane, was sighted, but sank before the trawlers could reach her; the Rushcoe afterwards picked up one of her boats with the crew and an armed guard from the Artois, which had been on board the Ebenezer, but they lost sight of the submarine.

 

On the 6th at 5.50 p.m., the Tenby Castle and the Walpole sighted and engaged two submarines on the surface about a mile apart, in 58 22' N., 8 W. The submarines im­mediately submerged, but in about half an hour one of them came to the surface. The Tenby Castle fired, and claimed to have made two hits with her 12‑pounder gun and to have sunk the submarine. The Walpole fired a depth‑charge over the spot where the submarine was last seen, and a thick layer of oil spreading over a large area was noticed. The Admiralty considered the sinking "improbable," but Sub‑Lieutenant J. H. Arnold, R.N.R., of the Tenby Castle, was decorated, and the crew received the usual reward for "sinking an enemy submarine." (The Court of Inquiry held at the time on board the Alsatian was of opinion that the enemy submarine had been destroyed.)

 

On the day of this encounter the Admiralty issued orders that none of the trawlers of the 10th Cruiser Squadron patrol were to go south of 58 30' N. in future, unless for rescue work or on receipt of distress calls. They were, therefore, directed to work between 58 45'N. and 59 15'N. and between 7 W. and 8 W. The object of this order seems to have been the institution of a submarine patrol from Scapa between St. Kilda and the Flannan Islands. The 10th Submarine Flotilla had arrived at Scapa frorn the Tees on April 2nd in order to carry out patrols in northern waters. It was exceedingly difficult to arrive at any system of recognition signals which could be

 

GOOD SHOOTING AT A FRIEND

 

understood by the trawlers, and they constantly opened fire on the British submarines.

 

On the 14th the G 9, off the Flannan Islands, was fired on by the Walpole, and very narrowly missed. The traw­ler just come out of a snowstorm, and at about 1,000 yards' distance she fired ten rounds before the G 9 could dive. One shot fell five yards over and another ten yards short. The G 9 reported that "considering the state of the wind and sea the shooting was excellent." Apparently some destroyers were sighted from the Walpole just before the submarine was seen, but they were too far off to take any action. The Walpole claimed to have sunk an enemy submarine, and for a long time the claim was recognised but considered "improbable."

 

A warning of the presence of British submarines was issued to the trawlers of the 10th Cruiser Squadron (There were still only six trawlers; the additional twelve, promised in February, did not join the squadron until the beginning of May) on April 23rd, but the proposal to keep surface patrol vessels out of the submarines' areas was recognised as manifestly impossible, and the Commander‑in‑Chief, Grand Fleet, decided that the responsibility for keeping themselves clear of patrol vessels lay with the submarine commanders themselves. His idea throughout seems to have been that the submarine flotilla should be used as an auxiliary, not as an alternative, to the surface‑patrol craft.

 

As early as April 20th the Admiralty were able to inform the Commander‑in‑Chief that the enemy knew our submarines were patrolling off St. Kilda (west of the Hebrides), Muckle Flugga (Shetlands), and Udsire Light (coast of Norway), and suggested that the position of the patrols should be shifted. On 23rd some changes were made, but the number of submarines available was very small - only five out of the eleven that formed the flotilla. Two had been sent to the White Sea on the 16th, and practically only two were working in northern waters. No reinforcement was possible at the time.

 

The period between May 25th‑June 7th, already mentioned, when four ships with armed guards on board were sunk, was described by Admiral Tupper as one of almost unprecedented submarine activity." This was before the oversea convoy system came into force, though the first homeward‑bound Atlantic convoy sailed, as an experiment, on May 24th. The German view of ships sailing in company was that it "considerably reduced the opportunities for attack," and also rendered the attack "technically more difficult on account of the escorting destroyers or other craft forming a protective screen." (Gayer, "Summary of German Submarine Operations," in Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, April 1926, p. 655.)

 

It is observable that almost every ship of the squadron encountering a submarine was alone, either going to her base to coal, or refit, or returning thence to her patrol. (The Hildebrand was with the convoy attacked by submarine on October 2nd, when the cruiser Drake was sunk (see p. 207).) This happened fourteen times between May 1st and July 24th, 1917. Besides the three occasions on which ships (Hilary, Avenger, and Otway) were successfully attacked and sunk, the Ebro, Orvieto, and Arlanza (May 26th, June 4th and 24th) were attacked and narrowly missed by the torpedoes fired at them. The Changuinola was also attacked on July 20th, when she was by herself, en route to Loch Ewe. On the other occasions, though submarines were sighted, they did not attack, but the Patuca opened fire on one of them on June 4th, without effect.

 

On May 25th, the Hilary, on her way to Swarbacks Minn for coaling, was torpedoed and sunk in 60 40N., 0-02' W. At 7.30 a.m. her speed had been reduced to ten knots to drop paravanes, and just as it was increased again to 12.5 knots, a torpedo struck the ship on the port side before the boiler room. A minute later the water was up to the furnaces, putting out the fires, and the crew were ordered to take up their "abandon ship " stations. The wireless operator reported his aerial damaged, but man­aged to send an emergency signal to the Gibraltar. The Hilary quickly lost way and boats were lowered, but just as the No. 3 boat was alongside a second torpedo struck the ship on the port side nearly under the boat; four men were killed and three injured. A few shots were fired at the submarine's periscope, but without effect. The periscope could be seen plainly as the submarine cruised round the ship, and Captain Dean, Lieutenant­Commander Wray and Steward Edwards were the only three persons who remained on board by 8.30 a.m. Lieutenant‑Commander Wray fired several shots from a 6‑pounder without hitting the submarine, and at about

 

LOSS OF THE "HILARY"

 

8.30 a third torpedo was fired, which hit the ship on the starboard side of the boiler‑room. The captain described his escape thus:

 

"At about 9.12 a.m. it was apparent that the ship was going down quickly; we then went to the promenade deck, and the water having risen to that level, we got in and swam some twenty yards clear when at 9.15 the ship sank. Lieutenant Harris in a boat somewhat overloaded, having picked up many of those from the torpedoed boat, had kept close by the ship, and after she sank he closed two boats (which had been stowed inboard and floated clear), and by my order he distributed some men into each of them. One went to take the men who had escaped on Carley floats, the other took Lieutenant‑Commander Wray, Steward Edwards and myself on board. The submarine came to the surface soon after the ship sank and hunted amongst the wreckage picking up objects, she then went to the two Carley floats in succession, and obtained from the officers in them particulars of the Hilary's name, tonnage, and armament. The submarine then went off to south‑west, and our boats made their way towards the Shetlands."

 

All the seven boats were eventually rescued by the armed drifter Maggie Bruce and the destroyer Sarpedon.

 

The two officers who were interrogated by the captain of the submarine were the ship's surgeon and one of the lieutenants. The information given was as evasive as it could be with a pistol held to their heads, but Captain Dean was certain that his confidential books had all gone down in the ship, and that his officers could not have refused the information they gave with the submarine's gun ready to blow all their boats out of the water.

 

On June 14th, the Avenger was on her way to Scapa to oil, and with the loss of the Hilary fresh in his mind, Admiral Tupper had asked for two Grand Fleet destroyers to screen her into port. She expected to meet the de­stroyers Noble and Nessus at 3 a.m. on June 14th in 60 N., 4 W., but they were still thirty miles off, when at 2 a.m. in 61 3'N., 3 57'W. the ship was struck by a torpedo on the port side. The conning‑tower and periscope of the submarine were sighted only for a moment before the shock of the torpedo was felt. The Avenger appeared to be settling rapidly, and at about 2.30 Captain A. L. Ashby gave the order to abandon ship, remaining on board himself with four officers and two ratings. (Only one man was lost ‑ killed by the explosion.) At 3.20 the periscope of the submarine was seen coming up astern, but the 6‑inch guns could not be used, and only a few rounds were fired from the port 8‑pounder, unfortunately without success. The submarine then submerged and was not afterwards seen. It could only be supposed that she had no more torpedoes. At about 4 a.m. the Noble and Nessus arrived, took the men off the boats and formed a screen for the ship, which her captain still hoped to save.

 

At about 5.30 the Noble sighted the periscope of the submarine, about a mile on the port beam of the Avenger, and both the destroyers dropped a depth charge, but did not know the result. The submarine was not seen again. In spite of such precautions as could be taken, the water was rising rapidly in the Avenger, and at 8.30 a.m. the captain reluctantly decided to abandon the ship until tugs with working parties could arrive. At the same time the Relentless with three other destroyers came to assist in the screen, but by 10.50 the Avenger was so un­doubtedly sinking that the Noble and Nessus, with the cruiser's officers and crew, left for Swarbacks Minn, and the Relentless reported that she sank altogether at 12.25 p.m.

 

Again Admiral Tupper urged that his ships required the protection of destroyers, sloops, or other vessels of the requisite speed, only to be informed that they were more urgently needed elsewhere.

 

The patrols continued to keep out to the westward, and the number of ships intercepted was noticeably smaller. During July enemy submarines were as active as ever off the west coast of Scotland, and on the 22nd the Otway was torpedoed in 58 54' N., 6 28' W. at 10.25 p.m. She was rejoining her patrol from Loch Ewe and left at 2.45 p.m. The squadron trawlers had been directed to screen her as far as possible, but she does not appear to have reached the area in which they were working. At 10.13 p.m. the signalman on watch observed a peri­scope a little before the port beam; the commodore in command, Philip Colomb, ordered the ship to be turned

 

DEARTH OF DESTROYERS

 

away, and one round was fired by the 6‑pounder gun in the Otway, but without effect. In a few moments a torpedo struck the ship astern, killing ten men and flooding the whole of the ship abaft the engine room. In spite of every effort, the engine room itself was rapidly flooded, and the ship began to sink. Commodore Colomb shaped course for North Rona Island, leaving the submarine astern, and orders were given for the engines to be worked as fast as possible, but the Otway soon became unmanage­able, and orders were given to abandon ship. The Commo­dore, First Lieutenant, and Commodore's steward remained on board, prepared to attack a hostile boarding party from the submarine, and they threw all the secret books overboard. Shortly after midnight the ship appeared to be rapidly settling down, and the three were taken off by one of the boats just in time, as the ship sank by the stern at 12.15 a.m.

 

Boats and rafts remained together, and at 6.15 a.m. on July 23rd they were picked up by the whaler Rorqual, and taken to Stornoway. The loss of life was greater than in either of the two ships recently sunk. Besides ten men killed in the explosion, five were seriously injured.

 

Once more Admiral Tupper wrote, on July 24th, to urge the provision of a destroyer escort for his ships when going to and from their coaling bases, and he added a list of the number of submarines that the cruisers had encountered since May. He was told by the Commander­in‑Chief, Grand Fleet, on August 5th, that he should make arrangements for his incoming vessels to join one of the North Atlantic convoys at a pre‑arranged rendezvous, and that his outgoing vessels should make use of the destroyer escorts leaving Lough Swilly to meet incoming convoys. It was not possible, he was further informed, to detail Grand Fleet destroyers for the particular purpose of escorting ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Twelve Grand Fleet destroyers were already stationed at Buncrana, and the number could not be increased. (On August 20th he received instructions from the Admiralty that his ships going to or from their base ports should join the mercantile convoys.)

 

On September 1st Admiral Tupper wrote that this plan was not altogether satisfactory, as it involved a great waste of time in the case of inward‑bound ships, owing to the large detour and slow speed of the convoys. For the outward‑bound ships the delay was even greater, as the cruisers were obliged to go to the port of assembly for the convoy and were often kept waiting four or five days, in addition to slow speed and the repeated detour of as much as 200 or 300 miles to the westward before they could take up their patrols. He proposed that, unless destroyers could be detailed for escort, or trawlers sent to patrol their route, it would be preferable to accept the risk and allow ships to proceed to their bases as before without escort.

 

He also suggested that, as the patrols were working in a westerly position, Loch Ewe or Lough Swilly would be preferable to Swarbacks Minn as a northern coaling base. His table of time lost by ships joining convoys showed that on August 19th the convoy dispersed almost immedi­ately after leaving Lough Swilly, owing to submarine attack, and that the Changuinola, which was with them, narrowly escaped being torpedoed, and eventually pro­ceeded by herself to her patrol. On August 26th the Patuca, after spending two days picking up a convoy which was then ordered to go south of Ireland, found that she was running short of coal, and was obliged to continue her journey to the Clyde alone. (There were other complications, when the captain of the cruiser in charge of the convoy was found to be junior to the captain of the attached cruiser.) The Admiral was struggling with great difficulties, and to understand the importance he attached to loss of time the sudden drastic reduction of his force must be taken into consideration. In addition to the loss of his three cruisers, it had been decided at a conference held at the Admiralty on June 27th that a great reduction of the force was necessary. Eight ships would be required for the Atlantic convoy. The Andes, Almanzora, Arlanza, Virginian, Kildonan Castle, Armadale Castle, and Columbella were selected. (The Teutonic, after being laid up since December 1916, recommissioned on 2nd October, but was temporarily detached for convoy duty to the White Sea.)

 

By September 20th, besides the eleven ships already detached on convoy service, the Patuca had been detailed to go to Dakar, and the Orcoma to meet vessels from Archangel, both on convoy duty. Eight ships were available for patrol work, but as three of them were due

 

MANY CASUALTIES

 

for docking, only an average of five would be actually on patrol, at all events for two or three weeks to come. (The average number detached for convoy service from July onwards was twelve.)

 

On September 21st the Commander‑in‑Chief and the Admiralty agreed that the ships of the squadron should go to and from their bases without escort, taking advan­tage as far as possible of the dark hours for crossing dangerous zones; and avoiding the period of full moon.

 

On October 2nd the Hildebrand was on her way to the Clyde in company with a convoy, which was attacked by a submarine, and the cruiser Drake, in charge of the convoy, was torpedoed. Two other ships were mined in the vicinity, but the Hildebrand arrived safely at the Clyde. The Drake managed to get in to Rathlin Sound, where she afterwards capsized while at anchor.

 

The tale of casualties was not yet complete. The two French ships attached to the squadron, Artois and Champagne, had been lately recommissioned by British officers and men, and on October 9th, while rejoining her patrol from Liverpool, the Champagne was torpedoed and sunk by an enemy submarine at about 6.30 a.m. in 54 10' N., 50 32' W. (6 miles off St. John's Point, County Down). The boats had hardly got away from the ship after she had been hit by two torpedoes, when a third torpedo broke her in two, about twenty minutes after the first attack. Five officers and fifty‑three men were lost. Owing to the heavy weather, the loaded condition of the boats, and the amount of wreckage, there was great difficulty in picking up survivors. (Apparently the ship had several collapsible boats which could not be got out in time.) All the boats were rescued. One arrived under her own sail at Port Erin, Isle of Man; the others were towed in by trawlers and a life‑boat from the island. Two rafts were picked up by merchant vessels.

 

Between October 5th and 9th, patrols were again disposed to intercept a German raider reported to be outward bound; five ships were sent south of Iceland, and one to the north (65 to 66 40' N., between 11 and 12 W.), but on the 7th this ship was moved to the neigh­bourhood of Revsnaes Light as the 3rd and 4th Light Cruiser Squadrons were patrolling off Langanaes and Stokanaes (Iceland S.E.) respectively. They were withdrawn on the evening of October 9th. No raider was sighted.

 

The fate of the 10th Cruiser Squadron was practically settled at a conference held on board the Queen Elizabeth at Rosyth on August 24th, 1917. Those present at the conference were:

 

Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (First Sea Lord).

Admiral Sir David Beatty (Commander‑in‑Chief, Grand Fleet).

Admiral Sir Charles Madden (Second‑in‑Command Grand Fleet).

Rear‑Admiral Sir Osmond de B. Brock (Chief of Staff to Commander‑in‑Chief, Grand Fleet).

Rear‑Admiral George P. W. Hope (Director of Operations Division).

 

The First Sea Lord referred to the necessity for increasing the number of cruisers available for convoy duty if the Admiralty were to attempt to convoy outward‑bound as well as homeward‑bound traffic. He thought that, if all traffic could come under convoy, the Commander‑in‑Chief would agree that the whole of the 10th Cruiser Squadron would be better employed on convoy work. The chance of catching a surface raider was already very small, owing to the weakness of the patrol line.

 

The Commander‑in‑Chief thought that the squadron was not very efficaciously employed against raiders. He considered that the only chance of catching raiders was to obtain information beforehand and put out patrols, but the First Sea Lord thought that the likelihood of obtaining sufficient information beforehand was very remote; the only thing to depend upon was either the 10th Cruiser Squadron or the periodical light cruiser patrols. He also observed that the Foreign Office would deprecate at the moment the entire withdrawal of the squadron, but that Admiral Mayo, on his arrival in England, might be able to give information to show that there was no longer any necessity to maintain the blockading squadron. It was then decided to wait for the arrival of the American officers, and that, if the measures taken by America were enough in themselves to render the blockade efficient, the

 

BREAK-UP OF THE SQUADRON

 

10th Cruiser Squadron should be withdrawn and employed entirely on convoy duty.

 

An inter‑Allied naval conference was held on September 4th and 5th (Sir Erie Geddes was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty on September 6th, 1917, in succession to Sir Edward Carson, who resigned in July.), after the arrival of Admiral Mayo, and on October 30th an Admiralty memorandum stated that the blockade was rendered practically complete by our agreements with neutral steamship lines, and by the bunker policy of Great Britain and the United States, which made it, humanly speaking, impossible for any neutral vessel to carry out a voyage not approved by the Allies. The last serious attempt to run the blockade had been made in the autumn of 1916 when the Ada got through twice and the Atlanten once; on each occasion from a United States port.

 

The number of vessels intercepted by the squadron, between August 4th and October 14th, 1917, was 147 (including 14 for Belgian relief). Only two vessels were sent in for examination, and one of them had been sunk by a submarine. The remainder had either called already at examination ports, or were on approved voyages. (Over 300 neutral vessels were still detained in U.S. and Canadian Ports, pending agreements.) The average number of ships of the squadron employed on patrol duties during the ten weeks under consideration was five. As the line from the north of Scotland to Iceland was 450 miles long and from Iceland to Greenland 160 miles, it was apparent that so weak a patrol could be avoided without much trouble. In addition, the constant risk from submarine attack run by the cruisers of the squadron had to be taken into consideration.

 

The Admiralty concluded that the squadron was no longer required for blockade duty, but it was considered that some form of patrol in northern waters should be maintained, in order to make wireless signals. The reason was that when the Germans sent out a raider they inter­cepted the position of the patrol given by our wireless signals, and we were generally warned of the presence of a raider by their repeating our signals to the outgoing or incoming vessel. It was, therefore, considered worthwhile to maintain a few ships and trawlers to simulate the old Patrol. On November 2nd the question was discussed at a Staff Meeting at the Admiralty, and on the 11th memorandum was sent to the Commander‑in‑Chief proposing to reduce the squadron to three ships and twelve trawlers, and to combine it with the two remaining "Minotaurs" of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron under one admiral.

 

On the 15th the Commander‑in‑Chief concurred in this suggestion, and proposed that the reconstituted squadron should be based on Scapa and that periodical sweeps should be carried out towards Iceland by two vessels at a time, remaining at sea for about a week. Destroyer escort could be provided as far as the Butt of Lewis. He proposed also that the six trawlers released should be employed on the Lerwick‑Bergen convoy route, where they would be of great value. (The trawlers were also immediately requested for the east coast, the south coast, and in the Irish Sea.)

 

On November 29th the Admiralty approved of the abolition of the 10th Cruiser Squadron and the reconstitution of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, to consist in future of three armed merchant cruisers, the Alsatian, Orvieto, and Teutonic; two cruisers, the Minotaur and Shannon; two armed boarding steamers, the Amsterdam and Duke of Cornwall; under the command of Admiral Sir Reginald Tupper. This came into effect on December 8th, 1917. (Rear‑Admiral Morgan Singer was appointed to assist the Commander­in‑Chief, North America and West Indies Station.)

 

Out of the seventeen armed trawlers then attached to the squadron, twelve were sent to carry out anti‑sub­marine operations and escort duties west of the Hebrides, under the orders of the Rear‑Admiral, Stornoway, and were based on Oban. The remaining five were sent to Lerwick for the Bergen convoy work.

 

So came to no inglorious end the 10th Cruiser Squadron. (Admiral Tupper had already been given a K.C.B. in June 1917, and the list in December of well‑deserved and hardly won honours for the officers and men of the squadron was long. The last of the armed merchant cruisers, Alsatian, Teutonic, and Orvieto, wore allocated to the Atlantic convoy service by the middle of February 1918, and were replaced in the 2nd Cruiser Squadron by the cruisers Achilles and Cochrane from the North America and West Indies Station.) Only an echo of the squadron still survived. On December 14th the Alsatian and Teutonic were ordered to patrol between the Hebrides and Iceland, to intercept expected enemy raiders and to give the enemy the im­pression that the patrol in those waters was being maintained

 

SHADOW SHIPS

 

at full strength. Code messages were to be made from positions representing the patrol line, and were to be similar in form to those ordinarily made by the 10th Cruiser Squadron, including position, course, and speed messages. Call‑signs, note frequency, and operator were to be changed on each occasion, and no call‑sign was to be used in more than one position. One or two dummy messages were to be made for Longhope to answer. The raider was supposed to be the Wolf, and a captured Japanese vessel, the Hitachi Maru, was also expected to make an attempt to get through to Germany about the same time.

 

The Alsatian sailed from Liverpool and the Teutonic from Scapa on December 16th; the rendezvous between them was effected on the 20th, in very bad weather, and the Alsatian was ordered to Scapa on the 21st.

 

It must have been a strange and somewhat uncanny experience for those two ships to be calling to their sisters of the squadron, knowing that they could receive only a simulated reply from ships far out of their reach by wire­less or any other human means. It is not recorded whether the enemy was deceived.

 

Between January 1st and December 8th, 1917, 2,079 vessels were intercepted by the squadron, of which 176 were sent in under armed guard. The reduction in num­bers, compared with those of the two preceding years, was considerable, but easily accounted for by the establishment of overseas examination ports, the methods adopted by the United States to enforce the blockade, the weakening of the squadron by the sinking of four cruisers, and the fact that from the end of July twelve were detached permanently on convoy duty. The squadron with its crews of merchant seamen had earned the gratitude of the nation.

 
 

on to The Merchant Navy, Vol 3, Part 2 of 2

or return to Naval-History.Net

 

revised 30/9/13


 

if any ads offend, please contact Naval-History.Net