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World War 1 at Sea

 

THE MERCHANT NAVY, Volume 3, Spring 1917 to November 1918 (Part 2 of 2)


by Sir Archibald Hurd


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CONTENTS

(continued)

 

 

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 – use Search)

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

DAZZLE PAINT1NG

 

A consequence of the war, entirely unforeseen, was a complete transformation in the appearance of the British Mercantile Marine, hitherto so sombre and austere. The ships sailed the seas with hulls and superstructures, and even funnels, masts, and boats, painted in a variety of strident colours, white, black, green, blue, and grey, either in long streaks or large irregular patches, or chess‑board squares. It might have seemed at first glance that this was the result of madness without method, but, in fact, orderly method was the basis of the whole practice of the deception. The idea was new; it emerged out of the conditions of the war, and particularly of the appearance of the German submarine as a weapon for the destruction of British and Allied ocean­borne commerce.

 

The Admiralty had from time to time experimented with the painting of warships, with the object of reducing their visibility ‑ quite a different problem. It had been noticed at naval festivities, when warships of different nations anchored in company ‑ as at the opening of the Kiel Canal in 1895 ‑ that the attractive peace colouring of the British warships, cream funnels and black hulls, made them much more conspicuous than the French and German warships, which had already adopted a colouring of uniform grey, the shade differing somewhat in the two cases. Many changes were made in the schemes for painting warships, and at the outbreak of war in 1914, an inquiry was made into the whole question of visibility.

 

Large objects obtain their appearance of relief mainly by the contrasts of light and shade, and in every vessel there are areas upon which shadow is thrown. This is especially the case with large passenger ships, built with high promenade and hurricane decks. A distinguished American artist, Mr. Abbott H. Thayer, had propounded what became known as Thayer's Law of Shadow Elimination,

 

RANGE‑FINDING AT SEA

 

and some small measure of success was gained by painting white the undersides of a passenger deck and other areas upon which shadows fall. However, it was found that no paint, which was itself dependent on the sky for light, could overcome the visibility of a shadow of marked density sufficiently to be of practical service. In one instance only was it admittedly a useful means of deception, where a vessel had a marked flare to the bow. By painting the upper portion of the hull white and the lower portion grey or blue, the appearance of a flare was largely neutralised, the effect being a marked flattening of the bows, and consequent alteration in the character of the vessel. This result was due to the strong reflected light cast on the flare of the bow, and consequent illumina­tion of the white paint, and was most conspicuous when the ship was under way.

 

In range‑finding at sea, the factors involved are (a) the determination of distance, and (b) the determination of the rate and direction of relative movement. If by giving a deceptive appearance to a ship, judgment in either of these two factors can be affected, a valuable result is obtained. It is well known that animals, and more frequently insects, receive defensive protection from nature, which has given them colour and markings har­monising with their accustomed surroundings. The Ad­miralty received suggestions from Mr. J. Graham Kerr, Regius Professor of Zoology at the University of Glasgow, who had made exhaustive studies into the obliterative colouring of animals.

 

In seeking to apply those studies to the problems of defence at sea, he came to the conclusion that the simplest of nature's methods of protective concealment, namely the exact matching of tint with the normal background, must be ruled out, and that only two principles could be re­garded as worth adoption. The first and most important of these was the breaking up of the continuity of form by violently contrasting pigments, and the second was the employment of compensative shading on the Thayer principle. By such means Professor Kerr maintained that it was feasible to diminish greatly the conspicuousness of a distant ship and to stultify the enemy's range‑finders by confusing the details, especially all vertical lines. The essential points of his proposals, as finally set forth in a letter to the Admiralty dated September 24th, 1914, were promulgated to the Fleet on November 10th of that year. Unfortunately for any success that might have attended these efforts, no provision was made for the application under skilled supervision of the principles laid down, and in the summer of 1915 the method of parti‑colouring thus tentatively employed was abandoned, the Admiralty arriving at the conclusion that a scheme of uniform colourisation was the most serviceable for His Majesty's ships.

 

Dazzle painting was only developed after three years of war. The scheme as devised and elaborated by Lieu­tenant‑Commander Norman Wilkinson, R.N.V.R., did not aim at invisibility, or even at reducing visibility. It frankly accepted the fact that an invisible ship was an impossibility, even had such a craft been desirable. But to some extent at least it was based upon principles similar to those enunciated by Professor Kerr. As the point became the subject of some public discussion, it may be well to compare two short quotations from Mr. Kerr's letter to the Admiralty‑already mentioned‑with passages from an account by Lieutenant‑Commander Wilkinson (Paper read before the North‑East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, July 10th, 1919.) of his own system. The first‑named quota­tions are as follows:

 

(1) "It is essential to break up the regular continuity of the outline, and this can easily be effected by strongly contrasting shades. The same applies to the surface generally ‑ a continuous uniform shade renders con­spicuous . . . this also can be counteracted by violently contrasting pigments."

 

(2) "The outline more particularly should be broken up by patches of white.... The bow, stern, and upper line should also be broken up by very large patches of white.... The sides of the ship should also be broken up by large patches of white, and what has been said naturally applies also to turrets and other parts of the upper works."

 

The following are the corresponding citations from Lieutenant‑Commander Wilkinson's paper:

 

(1)    "Dazzle painting is a method to produce an effect (by paint) in such a way that all accepted forms of a ship

 

RELATIVE VALUES OF COLOURS

 

are broken up by masses of strongly contrasting colour.... If the accepted form of a vessel could be so completely broken up by contrasting colours and tones of paint as to destroy her outline and general shape, a large point would have been gained towards increasing the difficulties of attack."

 

(2) "For a time, in the early stages of the scheme, I hesitated to use white paint for various reasons, but after considerable experience it was found to be the best colour for those parts of the ship intended to be invisible."

 

The similarity of statement is obvious, and the logical conclusion seems to be that there was to some extent a common basis for the plan of protection partially tested by the Admiralty in the early days of the war and that which was adopted at a much later stage.

 

Not only did dazzle painting accept the fact of visibility, but it had nothing in common with camouflage as practised on land, though often the two parts were confused. The whole object of camouflage was concealment ‑ a battery of artillery, for instance, painted irregularly with green and brown, or covered by branches bearing leaves, took the colour of the surrounding fields and hedges, and was difficult to detect from an aeroplane overhead or an enemy observation‑post in front. Camouflage was an extension of nature's system of protective colouring. Dazzle painting aimed not at concealment, but at a baffling transformation.

 

On land and at sea the conditions of visibility are entirely different. On land the relative values of colours are nearly constant. At sea they change with every change in the light, the sky, and the water. In most cases, a passing vessel is observed from an elevated station, such as the bridge or look‑out of another ship, or a high point ashore, and if the hull is painted in drab tones to assimilate with the background of the sea, visibility is low. A submarine's periscope, however, discloses every vessel with a background of sky and practically no foreground of sea, in which circumstances the vessel appears in the mirror as a dark silhouette. There is no average sky­colour for an ocean‑going trader; in the North Sea the horizon is commonly misty and dull, in the Mediterranean it presents a sharp line, with deep blue sky above, and hour by hour the sky may vary.

 

In addition, smoke rising from the funnel, especially in the presence of a following wind, and the bow wave and stern wash of a ship reveal its position to a vigilant enemy; and even if invisibility beyond a comparatively short distance were possible of attainment, there still remains at an enemy's disposal the Director‑Hydrophone, an instrument which was greatly developed during the war, to disclose to those listening the general direction in which a ship or a convoy is proceeding. Once a ship was seen, it little mattered, for an enemy's purpose, what her degree of visibility might be; but a wide field was offered for deception if by any means a ship could be so transformed in appearance that an enemy submarine commander, wishing to take up a position from which to attack, would have difficulty in deciding upon what course she was steaming.

 

Dazzle painting of ships was developed with the set purpose of causing this confusion, and making it impossible for a submarine to estimate the course of a distant vessel with any accuracy. It gave no concealment, and offered no defence at short range; though as experience was gained and patterns were improved, there was reason to believe that in some cases ships were saved from success­ful torpedo attack by the apparent shift in their true course, the torpedoes passing harmlessly by. The con­fusion sought was gained by:

 

1. Breaking up the surface of a ship by the use of violently contrasting pigments.

 

2. Painting the bow so that its sharp edge appeared to be moved several feet to the sides.

 

3. Providing wide strips of different colours, carried up from the hull over superstructure, funnels, bridge, and boats, thus creating such a medley that a submarine commander at the periscope should be at a loss to know upon what particular part of a ship he was sighting.

 

In May 1917, Lieutenant‑Commander Norman Wilkin­son, an artist who before the war had had experience of sea coloration and atmosphere as a marine painter, laid his scheme of dazzle painting before the Ad­miralty. It was, of course, obvious that successful submarine attack depended largely upon the enemy commander obtaining a favourable position for firing a torpedo. If, by reason of the deception caused, the

 

EXPERIMENTS

 

position obtained was bad, the submarine had little if any likelihood of shortening her range owing to insufficient under‑water speed. Should she come up and attempt to overtake the ship by surface speed, then the attacked ship, if armed, had a good chance of escaping.

 

The first experiment in dazzle painting was made in the summer of 1917, with a ship employed on a regular run between Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Pembroke and Queenstown, and therefore constantly in the danger zone. This was quickly followed by Admiralty orders to paint fifty transports as rapidly as opportunity offered. A different design of painting was adopted in each case. As was to be expected, many designs proved to be in­effective, and there was from the outset a conflict of opinion as to the value of dazzle painting. Other designs, however, succeeded in creating confusion in the minds of observers, both as to the type of ship and the course taken, which was the object sought. This was shown in a number of the reports received, from which the following extracts are made:

 

" H.M.S. Martin, September 27th, 1917.

" Sighted Clam about five miles, four points on starboard bow, and for some time could make nothing of her; when about five miles distant I decided it was a tug towing a lighter with a short drift of tow rope. The lighter, towing badly and working up to the windward, appeared to be steering an opposite course. It was not until she was within half a mile that I could make out she was one ship, steering a course at right angles, crossing from star­board to port. The dark painted stripes on her after‑part made her stern appear her bow, and a broad end of green paint amidships looked like a patch of water. The weather was light and visibility good."

 

A lightship reported of the same vessel that from two to three miles distant the Clam appeared as a wreck on her beam ends, and patches of paint on the bows caused an absence of perspective.

 

"S.N.O. Ardrossan, September 25th, 1917.

"In all cases, more especially when viewed from a dis­tance of about three miles, the vessels (unknown) presented an appearance of being grotesquely out of all proportion.

 

When approaching, it was not until the vessels were quite near that it was possible to see their bows; even when quite close, about half a mile, the bows seemed to be directly under the bridge."

 

"H.M.T. Anzac II, August 15th, 1917.

"Course she was steering was particularly deceptive. At times, principally when viewed from ahead, she appeared to be steering as much as 6 points to port of her actual course. It was difficult to tell what type of ship she was At times she appeared to be only half a ship, i.e., a vessel with her bow and stern cut off. When I was right ahead of her she was heading directly towards me, sun right ahead on her as before, she appeared to be heading 6 points off her course to port. With the sun on her port beam, my position also on port beam, she appeared to be ashore, with a broken back, and a house which stands on her after­deck abaft the engine‑room looked like the top of a rock that she was lying against."

 

"Capt. Bartlett, s.s. Millais, September 25th, 1917.

"Convoy was observed by three destroyers' officers running trials at distances varying from two to four miles. All these officers agreed that the dazzle painting of the Millais was a huge success; they state that it was quite impossible to state her course even approximately, except when the sun lit up her masts. Lieutenant‑Commander Harrison stated that he could not tell her course within 12 points."

 

"H.M.S. Mantua, 13 Q.B. Convoy Section.

"The Ascanius sometimes appears to be going in the opposite direction, and in misty weather her course cannot be judged within 8 points. On a light moonlight night she was invisible at one mile."

 

In October 1917, after a few months' experience, the Admiralty, under powers conferred by the Defence of the Realm Act, decided that the whole of the British Mercantile Marine should be dazzle painted, as well as a number of war vessels employed on convoy or other duty. By that time the dazzle painting section had to be placed on an established footing. The Royal Academy of Arts gave

 

AT BURLINGTON HOUSE

 

accommodation at Burlington House, London, in the lower rooms formerly used by art students, where Lieutenant­Commander Norman Wilkinson acted as officer in charge of the Dazzle Scheme, with a staff which by the following July had increased to twenty‑five R.N.V.R. officers and twenty‑four civilians, the annual charge being approximately £10,500. Officers were appointed to represent the Director of Naval Equipment at all the principal shipping ports, about twenty in number.

 

It had early been found that different types of vessels required different treatment, and the procedure adopted was to classify merchant shipping into, roughly, thirty groups. For each group numbers of designs were from time to time prepared, and these were issued to the officer at the shipping ports for adoption as was most suitable. At Burlington House a large number of models of ships were made and were dazzle painted for experimental purposes, the distortion in appearance being judged by observation through a periscope as the models, placed on a rotating table with surface representing the sea, were headed to different points of the compass.

 

An advantage enjoyed by dazzle painting as a defensive measure was its comparatively small cost. The ships had in any case to be painted at intervals, and it was found that the work could be done satisfactorily during loading and unloading in port, with little delay, and in many cases without any delay at all. The plan selected was laid out on the hull and upper works of the ships. The Government at the outset bore the first cost of painting, and two­thirds of the cost in the case of renewals, for all requisitioned vessels. The extra cost of dazzle painting merchant vessels came approximately to £125 per vessel on an average. On the basis of renewal twice a year, the additional cost was assessed at something between £250 and £800 per ship per annum.

 

For warships, separate designs and models were prepared, though ‑ for reasons to be stated later ‑ the adoption of dazzle painting for His Majesty's ships was much less general than in the case of the merchant service. Up to the end of October 1918, 251 warships and 2,719 merchant vessels had been dazzle painted in addition to a number of foreign merchant ships.

 

In the earlier stages of dazzle painting, the practice was to use large black masses with drab or coloured intervals and in the course of development experiments were made with vivid colourings, red being the most conspicuous. These, however, proved to be less satisfactory, and after a few months were abandoned, and the standard colours became black, white, grey, and various shades of blue and green, one object of the blue and green being to make the lighter parts of the ship melt into the sky at different periods of the day. The first considerable advance in dazzle painting resulted from the adoption of stripe patterns. These, when first used experimentally, were not sufficiently heavy to counteract the solidity of the ship, but with the employment of large and bold designs, the stripes being carried over the hull and the whole of the upper works, the detail of a ship seen at a long range became greatly confused. Stripes broke up all form more effectively than the big patterns of curves.

 

Some of the largest ships afloat were dazzle painted, among them the Cunard liners Mauretania, treated with a rising succession of black and light squares to destroy her perspective, and the Aquitania, whose enormous hull was covered with stripes, irregular areas, and patches. The American Leviathan was also treated.

 

Opinions upon the result of dazzle painting continued to be very divided. In a minute addressed to the Assist­ant Chief of Naval Staff on April 15th, 1918, the First Lord of the Admiralty noted that "no conclusive case for or against this confusional device has been made out," adding that "it seemed hardly possible to arrive at a conclusion unless the actual working of the device is scrutinised over a considerable period, and the results collated after conference. Accordingly a small "Com­mittee on Dazzle Painting" was set up, consisting of the Director of Naval Equipment, the Director of Statis­tics, and representatives of the First Lord and A.C.N.S. It was instructed:

 

(a) To consider in detail the results from dazzle painting so far as then collected;

 

(b) To consider each month the results of dazzle painting as collected;

 

(c) To conduct investigations as to the circumstances under which the various designs give certain results;

 

REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE

 

(d) To report what their conclusions are, and whether, in their opinion, the results justify the time and labour involved.

 

The committee reported on July 31st, 1918, and the collection of statistics of ships attacked and sinkings was continued up till the end of October 1918, within eleven days of the signature of the armistice.

 

It was found that the experience gained in the painting of merchant ships was too short for definite conclusions to be reached. The opinion of the majority of masters and officers of the Mercantile Marine favoured dazzle painting, which they looked upon as a substantial aid against sub­marine attacks. Such a consensus of opinion was a fact of admitted significance, as theirs was the service most affected. A few extracts are given below of later date than those already given:

 

"At a distance of 7 cables by day and 3 cables by night, it is frequently impossible to tell whether vessel (s.s. War Soldier) is approaching or going away."

 

"Unknown dazzle‑painted vessel seen about four miles off Cape Town appeared to be in a mirage. Her direction could not be judged."

 

"S.s. Alban, owing to dazzle painting, frequently appears to be 8 to 12 points from her mean course."

 

"On two occasions have avoided submarine, when an accompanying 'grey' vessel was torpedoed. Consider dazzle‑painting scheme of my ship most effective."

 

" S.s. Bayano seen at sea appeared very much smaller than she really was. Dazzle scheme highly thought of, and mention made of difficulty of telling a vessel's course, and whether she has one or two funnels."

 

The committee stated in their report:

 

"In our opinion, from a careful examination of the whole of the evidence, no definite case on material grounds can be made out for any benefit in this respect from this form (dazzle painting) of camouflage. At the same time the statistics do not prove that it is disadvantageous, and in view of the undoubted increase in the confidence and morale of officers and crews of the Mercantile Marine resulting from this painting, which is a highly important consideration, together with the small extra cost per ship, it may be found advisable to continue the system, though probably not under the present wholesale conditions."

 

As to warships, a series of trials was carried out in the Grand Fleet while the committee had the matter under consideration, with a view to testing the effect of dazzle painting on battleships and light cruisers, the observations being made on both dazzle‑painted and service‑grey war­ships. The Admiral Commanding First Battle Squadron, from reports which reached him, arrived at the conclusion that dazzle painting of a battleship or cruiser rendered attack by submarine more difficult than under ordinary conditions, as it increased the difficulty of judging inclina­tions and speed. At long range, 10,000 yards and over, dazzle painting had no effect on estimation of inclination. It rendered a ship more conspicuous in clear weather at long ranges, and in mists, night, or low visibility at short ranges, this being due to colour contrasts. It was recom­mended that ships in the line should not be dazzle painted, but only those which usually operated alone. The effect of dazzle painting, it was found, was very largely reduced if masts or funnels were widely spaced, or if there was well­defined superstructure at the end of a ship, and when two or more ships were in the line ahead. The Admiral was of opinion that light cruisers should not be dazzle painted, on the lines then adopted for the Fearless and Southampton.

 

In these conclusions the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet concurred, holding that, with ships in line under certain circumstances, dazzle painting might be a positive disadvantage, and that white should as far as possible be eliminated from any colour scheme. The battleships Revenge and the Ramillies, which had been experimentally dazzle painted, were soon afterwards restored to service grey

 

Only in a few cases did the reports of officers of surface warships attribute importance to dazzle painting, except as a means of altering at long ranges the apparent character of a ship. In certain instances it may have lengthened

 

REPORTS BY NAVAL OFFICERS

 

observations, but it did not defeat the accuracy of obser­vations obtained for deciding a ship's course. Of eight destroyers observing at sea, one only reported a difficulty in estimating the inclination of dazzle‑painted ships. Five reported no difference in the dazzle‑painted and normal‑painted types, and considered that, if anything, the white patches on the dazzle‑painted ships made them more conspicuous. Largely as a result of the reports by naval officers, the use of white in dazzle painting was ultimately abandoned.

 

The reports of officers commanding British submarines allowed little value to dazzle painting, chiefly on the grounds that (1) it did not give concealment when a ship was seen (as always in a periscope) against a background of sky; (2) the actual course and speed of a vessel are principally defined at a distance by the masts, funnels, and deck structures, and the assistance in sighting obtained from these is little affected by dazzle painting; (3) by a rough plotting system a submarine commander, having sufficient speed, can ensure that he gets position ahead of the vessel to be attacked.

 

From these reports the following extracts are taken

 

"Dazzle painting has no effect in estimating the course of a vessel with more than one mast. Under certain conditions, the course of a vessel with only one mast may be difficult to estimate."

 

"The general opinion seems to be that a light grey with hinged masts would be more effective. The dazzle painting of H.M.S. Talisman through a periscope gives a slightly distorted appearance, but the course is obtained as usual from her masts and funnels.

"It is of little use for ships in company, but tends to confusion when a single merchant vessel is zigzagging."

 

"Sighted two large dazzle‑painted steamers, but do not consider the camouflage would in any way have handi­capped my attacking them. Visibility fair, light rather bad."

 

"In bright lights, ships are often not found to be dazzle painted until within 2,000 to 3,000 yards, the course having usually by this time been obtained by plotting. In misty weather, or when visibility is small, dazzle painting in light colours is undoubtedly effective, and makes course estimating difficult."

 

"When observing ships with sun shining on them, the dazzle‑painted vessels, movements were more easily distinguished, whilst with sun behind no particular difference was noticeable between the types."

 

"I am convinced that dazzle painting does not increase the difficulties as it is supposed to do, and so long as one has the masts to go by one ignores the hull in estimating the enemy's course. In certain lights dazzle painting may be most conspicuous in picking up a ship."

 

"E 35 has several times carried out dummy attacks on convoys and single merchant ships in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. Most systems of dazzle painting appear to distort only parts of the ships, entirely failing to make the course deceptive.

"In a few instances where a simple type of gradual shading (from white at one end to black at the other) has been applied to the hulls and lower deck houses, etc., the dark end appears much bolder (through a periscope under normal light conditions) and consequently closer, the light end appears less prominent, and so farther away. Thus deception as to course may be arrived at."

 

The evidence of released British Merchant Marine prison­ers taken captive by submarines was that dazzle painting did not appear to worry the submarine commander. More than one German submarine commander inquired what it was for. German submarine prisoners who were examined did not attach any importance to dazzle painting; but their evidence is, of course, open to suspicion. It is wortily of note that experiments with dazzle painting were made in Germany for the instruction of submarine crews, which would appear to indicate that the enemy attached some value to it.

 

 

 

Standard Tramp Steamer Dazzle Painted

 

The statistical evidence proved, unfortunately, unconvincing. Not only was the proportion of casualties among dazzle‑painted and normal‑painted ships so close that it was impossible to draw any conclusions of value from the small discrepancies that occurred in the tables, but so many

 

STATISTICS

 

considerations came into play that no definite significance could be attributed to these discrepancies. Month after month in great detail statistics of attacks on dazzle‑painted and normal‑painted British vessels, of the ratio of attack to the volume of traffic at sea and the proportion of ships sunk, were carefully collected and collated, figures being available from January 1918 to October 1918, on the eve of the signature of the armistice. The following summary is taken from the Report of the Committee on Dazzle Painting:

 

Trade.

I. No. Sailing.

II. Percentage of Sailings Attacked.

III. Percentage of Attacked hit (sunk or damaged).

IV. Percentage of hit Sunk.

 

Dazzle.

Normal.

Dazzle.

Normal.

Dazzle.

Normal.

Dazzle.

Normal.

Oversea Convoyed

2,992

3,410

1.41

0.7

67

71

75

94

Oversea not Convoyed

299

357

31.1

21.8

68

68

67

81

Cross Channel

6,407

8,053

0.61

0.88

54

68

71

87

Coasting

4,973

11,292

0.82

0.77

44

44

72

89

 

Total January to June, 1918

14,671

23,112

1.47

1.12

60

60

70

86

 

Total January to October 1918

33,072

34,302

1.10

0.90

60

59

74

87

 

Incidentally, the one striking result brought out by these figures is the great security which was obtained from the system of convoy introduced somewhat late in the war. While the percentage of oversea vessels sailing free which were subject to attack was as high as 31.1 for dazzle‑painted ships, and 21.8 for normal‑painted ships, the percentage for ships under convoy fell as low as 1.41 and 0.7 respectively. It will be observed that, in the last four months of the period under discussion, the percentage of ships that foundered after being hit was somewhat greater, due probably to the longer experience obtained by enemy submarine com­manders and to improved equipment, but the percentage of sailings attacked was less ‑ a result that may be attributed to the development of the British convoy system.

 

It was pointed out by the committee that the cross­Channel traffic consisted to a considerable extent of troop transports which were strongly escorted, while the coast­ing traffic included a large number of small vessels which did not run the same risks. These two together so far out­numbered the remainder as to affect the total to a large extent.

 

The figures of column II (excluding cross‑Channel traffic) tend to show that dazzle‑painted vessels were more liable to be attacked whether under convoy or not. The larger average size of dazzle‑painted vessels, and the importance of the oversea trade in which they were engaged, made them more liable to be singled out for attack by enemy submarine commanders. This fact vitiates any conclusion that other­wise might be drawn from the comparison of the figures. When sailing under convoy with vessels of various nationalities, normally painted, the dazzle‑painted ship was readily picked out by an enemy submarine com­mander as being British, and for that reason dazzle­painted ships were withdrawn from the Scandinavian convoys.

 

The more valuable statistics are contained in column III. It should be shown, if the claims for the confusional device were to be made good, that the percentage of sailings attacked in which hits were obtained was lower in the case of dazzle‑painted vessels than in that of normal­painted vessels, the aim of the enemy commander being confused by the painting. In fact, for the six months the percentage is exactly the same, and for the full period is one per cent more for the dazzle‑painted vessels. Against this, again, has to be placed the fact that, as dazzle‑painted vessels offered on the average larger targets, it might be suggested that a larger percentage would be hit.

 

In the same way, any conclusions to be drawn from column IV, showing the sinkings of vessels hit, are affected by size. Normal‑painted ships sank in the proportion of 87 per cent. compared, in the case of dazzle‑painted ships, with 74 per cent. But normal‑painted ships, being on the average smaller, would more readily sink after explosion of a torpedo than the larger dazzle‑painted ships, whose bulk would increase their chance of floating. On the other hand, the figures may to some extent be taken to show that the accuracy of aim of the submarine commander is affected by the dazzle painting. An analysis of the figures shows that 25 per cent. of the dazzle‑painted ships attacked were

 

FOREIGN OPINION

 

of 6,000 tons, whereas only 6 per cent. of the normal‑painted ships were of this size.

 

The opinion was held by many naval officers that such advantages as dazzle painting gave were largely defeated by faults in the construction of mercantile vessels, which had been built without thought of war. For instance, the convention of raking masts and stacks was of the greatest assistance to a submarine Commander, indicating at a glance the direction in which a ship was travelling. The use of two masts both in the centre line of the ship and widely spaced, also gave valuable assistance in deciding the course, and to defeat an enemy commander in taking his sightings the practice was adopted by several ships during the war of "staggering" the masts ‑ re‑stepping the fore­mast a few feet to starboard and the main‑mast the same distance to port, or vice versa. Masts also were cut down to the cross‑trees or topmasts housed, and a false crow's­ nest introduced. The ship's bridge, offering in most cases a straight foreside with rectangular ends, was a point much used by submarines for judging inclination, and various modifications were devised.

 

As was to be expected, the adoption of dazzle painting by Great Britain excited considerable interest among the Allied maritime nations. The American navy dazzle painted the United States destroyers operating in European waters. The French Government, having sent naval offi­cers to London for training in the system, instituted a dazzle­painting establishment similar to the one at Burlington House. The Italian Government also took up the scheme; a number of Russian ships were dazzle painted, and many American merchant ships. In this matter, Great Britain set the example for the world, the designs employed for foreign vessels being mostly those which had been evolved by the department in London. The adoption of dazzle painting by foreign nations came, however, too late in the war for any definite conclusions to be drawn from their experiences.

 

The end of the war left dazzle painting still in the experimental stage, with results too meagre for future guidance. From the many conflicting opinions expressed the following results emerge:

 

1. Dazzle painting has certain advantages for merchant ships, and no disadvantages save the very small extra cost.

 

2. Dazzle painting has certain advantages for warships operating alone, but is disadvantageous for others.

 

3. Its efficiency as a means of minimising successful submarine attack to an appreciable extent is not established by the evidence collected during the war.

 

But apart from these considerations, dazzle painting was undoubtedly favoured by officers and men of the Mercantile Marine, and contributed in some degree to support the morale of the service during the most critical phase of the submarine campaign.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

THE AUXILIARY PATROL

 

THE number of mines laid by the enemy in 1917 was about double that for 1916. Practically every important point on the coasts of the British Isles was mined, with the exception of the area between the Humber and Cromer, which was left clear, as the Admiralty concluded, in order to allow the Germans to carry out raids or even an invasion if conditions at any time favoured such an adventure.

 

In the early part of 1917, the enemy concentrated atten­tion on the south and south‑west of Ireland, but by the end of that year the Germans busied themselves in mining the principal convoy ports and certain convoy routes. The aim was, of course, to prevent food and other necessities coming into this country and to hinder the armies from obtaining their essential supplies. In the first part of the year, enemy submarines deposited their mines as soon as possible after reaching their operational area, generally laying them all in one batch. Later on they dropped them off headlands and other navigational marks with greater discretion, which was a return to their practice at the beginning of their submarine minelaying activity in the summer of 1915. The persistency of the enemy craft was most disconcerting to the British minesweeping organisation. As 1917 drew to its close, they made a practice of following the minesweeping vessels and laying mines in waters that had just been swept: and they followed this up by firing torpedoes at the sweepers with a view to disorganising our minesweeping efforts as thoroughly as possible. This development greatly in­creased the strain on the seamen engaged in this arduous duty at a time when the Auxiliary Patrol craft were required more and more for other purposes than mine­sweeping. The enemy realised that the Admiralty had only a limited number of vessels which could be employed in anti‑submarine work and minesweeping. The more vessels he caused us to use against submarines, the fewer could be employed for clearing the mines; and vice versa. In either case, merchant shipping was exposed to attack.

 

The problem for the British naval authorities was thus no easy one. But by this time we had obtained greater experience in minesweeping and the training of the per­sonnel had reached a higher level. Then, too, motor launches, with their shallow draught ‑ less than half that of the trawlers ‑ were being employed with good results for scouting for mines at low water. This innovation led to a gradual reduction in the loss of minesweeping vessels. As to the merchant ships themselves, their movements were being better controlled and in the latter half of the year they were being fitted with the otter, an instrument described in an earlier chapter, which cut the mine adrift and allowed the ship to pass through a minefield in safety. As a result of experimental work, improvements in mine­sweeping material were being made, and so, in spite of the great difficulties which were being experienced, the intensive campaign was kept in cheek.

 

The enemy's almost frenzied activity in the early months of 1917 naturally resulted in heavy demands coming in from the oversea areas for the greatest possible number of minesweeping vessels. Every suitable vessel that could be spared had to be pressed into the service. Ten small tugs, with exceptionally shallow draught and propellers working in tunnels, as in the London river fire­floats and certain of the Royal National Lifeboats, had been built by the War Office for Mesopotamia. These were, however, taken over for minesweeping and were known as the "Dance" class. In addition 80 small paddlers, 18 Scotch motor‑drifters, and a large number of steam­drifters were commissioned. Orders were also given for the construction of 100 new twin‑screw sloops and 300 Admiralty drifters, the idea being that these light craft would be able to relieve the heavy‑draught trawlers, which in turn could then confine their efforts to hunting sub­marines. The building of these craft was necessarily a matter of time, since, owing to the demands of the army, workmen were scarce. But the Admiralty's resources had been steadily increasing. In January 1917 93 sloops,

 

ENEMY MINEFIELDS

 

gunboats, and paddlers, in addition to 130 trawlers, drifters, and motor launches were exclusively employed in mine­sweeping, a total of 523. By January 1918 this number had increased to 631, notwithstanding losses from mines and various causes.

 

From the beginning of the war to the opening of the unrestricted campaign in 1917, the greatest number of German moored mines destroyed by the British forces had been as follows, the statement being of special interest as showing the points of enemy concentration during the first phase of the war:

 

(1) Grimsby Area, 838 mines.

(2) Lowestoft Area, 674 mines.

(3) Sheerness Area, 628 mines.

(4) Dover Area, 511 mines.

(5) Harwich Area, 318 mines.

(6) South Shields Area, 169 mines (in addition to the mines of the Tyne minefield destroyed in August 1914).

 

The heaviest minelaying had occurred on the east coast of England, for the figures of Devonport, Ports­mouth, and Queenstown areas were 37, 38, and 34 mines respectively. The increase of U‑boat activity synchronised with an energetic policy of minelaying. During February 1917 mines were laid in such diverse spots as off Aberdeen, Flamborough Head, in the areas of Lowestoft, Harwich, Sheerness, and Dover, off Gravelines, Royal Sovereign Lightship, Milford Haven, off the Orkneys and Shetlands, off Rattray Head, May Island, at the mouth of the Tay, the Tees, in the neighbourhood of Sunderland, in the war channel between the Shipwash and Sunk, as well as off Queenstown, Havre, Dartmouth, and Folkestone. There was scarcely a part of the British coastline that was not mined at this period, with the result that ships of almost every class, destroyers, oil‑tankers, trawlers, fishing vessels, tramp steamers, liners, and coasters were sunk.

 

But the enemy, for all his cleverness, was frequently stupid, or careless, or unfortunate, and several times German craft blew up on their own mines. During February, UC.32 had been sent from Germany across the North Sea with orders to lay mines in the trade route east and south from the Tyne, sowing a field at the entrance to the Tyne, and off either entrance to Sunderland as well as at the entrance to Seaham, Hartlepool, and Middlesbrough, and three widely separated points in the war channel between Middlesbrough and Flamborough Head. Early on the evening of February 23rd, just as she was about to begin her work off the entrance to Sunderland harbour, UC.32 suddenly blew up whilst on the surface and sank on her own mines. Out of her complement of twenty­five, only the captain and two men were saved, being picked up by an examination vessel. On the following day the vessel was located by a diving party off the Roker Pier lighthouse, who recognised the submarine's gun and mounting, periscope, and conning‑tower. The forehatch was found open. One of the torpedoes was salved with its warhead and pistol complete, and about fourteen mines were discovered still in the tubes.

 

Elsewhere the enemy was more fortunate, for on February 26th the armed trawler St. Germain was mined near Folke­stone, but was towed safely into harbour, and on the same day, and near the same spot, the armed trawler Seagull was mined and sunk. The steamship Swallow was also mined, but she was brought into Folkestone by the trawler Glen­boyne.

 

Even so the enemy found a good deal to discourage him. On the UC.55 returning home in March, after laying eighteen mines off the Orkneys, her captain gave the German authorities a disquieting report of the activities of the British patrols off Kirkwall. "The promptness of the counter­measures taken immediately on sighting the submarine were," he remarked, "astounding. Within one and a half to two hours twelve destroyers, a submarine chaser, and two sweepers were on the spot." Another submarine commander ‑ that of U.57 ‑ recorded that "Trawlers are encountered all over the place, under the land and up to thirty miles from it."

 

The following extract from the modestly worded report of the commanding officer of the trawler Chikara, based on Granton and engaged in sweeping the Firth of Forth, shows the conditions under which such vessels were working at this time for the protection of shipping from the enemy's minelaying:

 

"I followed paddle steamers as directed until orders were received to complete the channel and area between May Island and mainland. The channel was swept west

 

MINESWEEPING

 

and then east, the sweeps being at all times on the bottom, and upon reaching eastern limit the area between May Island and mainland was swept about 3.30 p.m., at which time sweeps were slipped close inshore between Crail and Fifeness. At this time the sea was very high from S.E., and being in shoal water and on a lee‑shore, there was great danger of trawlers broaching‑to before finishing the sweep, as the Chikara at one time submerged her port rail and 'pooped' a sea which filled her cabin. However, the sweep was completed and the chain sweep unshackled without accident . . . .

 

"At 4.30 p.m. received instructions to open fire on two mines on the surface two miles S. by E. from Pittenween. I regret to report that I was unable to secure a hit owing to the weather conditions and heavy seas, which constantly flooded the ship fore and aft. The unit stood by until dark and, disposed between May Island and three miles W. of it, warned incoming vessels. At daylight next day I proceeded to search for the mines, but owing to the low visibility and heavy snow squalls was not successful until 0.30 p.m., at which time mines were located two miles S.S.E. magnetic from Pittenween. The sea was too rough for the gun to be used, so I ordered rifle fire to be concentrated on the mines and exploded one . . . and sank the other. . . . The unit had swept all day on the third, and at 7.0 p.m. was in company with the Northumbria, when that vessel was destroyed, and at 7.15 p.m. the Chikara's boat in a heavy sea returned with a survivor on board." (The trawler foundered on a mine on March 3rd near May Island, vrith the loss of one officer and eight men.)

 

On both sides the fortune of war varied from day to day. Early in March UC.43, which had left Germany to lay mines off the south coast of Ireland, was sighted by our sub­marine G.13, torpedoed and sunk without a single survivor. On the other hand, in two days a couple of sloops were sunk by mines while sweeping off that coast near Galley Head, and a little later a destroyer, which had done much good work from the commencement of the war, struck a mine off the French coast and sank. Mines, too, were found at the entrance of the Mersey. This was a serious matter, seeing that much British tonnage came in and out of Liver­pool. On April 9th the steamship New York, with Admiral Sims, of the United States navy, on board, struck a mine off the Mersey Bar Lightship. As it was essential that the entrance to Liverpool's river should not be closed by the enemy, four paddlers were taken up and two swept channels were maintained with success.

 

From the beginning of the war up to January 1st, 1917, the number of German mines destroyed by the British naval forces was 2,828; but from the first of January 1917 to the middle of April 1917 1,215 had been sunk, the monthly average having risen from 98 to 350. Some conception of the risks faced by the officers and men in frustrating German plans may be formed, when it is stated that 486 vessels, including 170 minesweepers, were lost or damaged by mines between August 4th, 1914, and April 15th, 1917. Week by week the losses continued to mount up, but the nerve of the seamen remained un­broken. On April 6th, 1917, the trawler Strathrannoch, whilst sweeping off St. Abb's Head, struck a mine and was blown completely to pieces. Not a survivor was found, not even a spar ‑ nothing except a life‑belt. On April 20th the paddle minesweeper Nepaulin met a similar fate near Dyck Lightship. She was the second ship in the line when she hit a mine and disappeared. Three officers and fifteen men perished out of a total of forty‑five, her commanding officer, Lieutenant R. J. Carruthers, R.N.V.R., having a miraculous escape.

 

In order to avoid being torpedoed, our shipping had been compelled to hug the English coast, the idea being that vessels would always be within reach of the Auxiliary Patrol ships. Having realised that this precautionary measure had been adopted, enemy submarines proceeded to lay their mines along the inshore tracks, as, for instance, between Eddystone and Bolt Tail, and on the Dartmouth­  Berry Head ‑ Exmouth ‑ Sidmouth ‑ Beer Head ‑ Bridport­  Portland Bill ‑Anvil Point ‑ Needles route, plastering the sea off the headlands and fouling the inshore track thoroughly. This strategy necessitated our sweeping and maintaining swept a channel one mile wide by means of trawlers and M.L.s. During the month of May, the Lyme Bay area came in for especial attention on the part of the enemy, and similar minelaying activity was manifested all round the British Isles, with the result that a heavy toll was taken of armed yachts, trawlers and merchant ships.

 

AN IMPROVISED SWEEP

 

The coolness and daring of the British seamen were in no way affected by the surprises for which the Germans were responsible. On May 1st occurred a most gallant example of British tenacity. The small coasting steam­ship Greenisland had come down from the Clyde and when seven miles off Ailsa Craig sighted what was certainly a mine. Her master (Mr. S. Davison) was an ex‑naval petty officer and a man of resource. He took his vessel close to the object, and when he realised that the mine was moored, he resolved to remove the danger. His ship was, of course, quite unfitted for minesweeping, and he would have fulfilled his role if he had been content to avoid the mine and report its location forthwith. But in the most unselfish spirit, he decided to do more than his bare duty. He rigged up an improvised sweep, made out of a spar weighted with firebars. He towed this and manoeuvred in such a manner that the spar actually struck the mine several times, though the horns were not broken. His next move was to send off a small boat with a wire by which the mine was encircled, and then he shackled the wire to his own craft. The Greenisland steamed ahead so as to tauten the noose, and veered the wire to 100 fathoms. By this means she succeeded in dragging the mine and its mooring. He towed them inshore clear of traffic and actually lay to them all night as if to an anchor! Next day patrol vessels arrived and took charge of the mine. For this fine work, which possibly saved one vessel from being destroyed, the master, who received the D.S.C., and the crew were suitably rewarded.

 

Not merely off England, Scotland, and Ireland, but off the coasts of France, even down the Bay of Biscay off Belle Isle and Ile de Re, were mines being laid. One of the officers of UC.26, Sub‑Lieutenant of Reserve Heinrich Petersen, who was second‑in‑command, kept a faithful diary of his experience early in May when engaged in mining off Havre and Cherbourg. The following extracts reveal the growing dislike of the Germans for the tasks assigned to them:

 

"May 2nd, 12.4 a.m. ‑ Steered for Havre and laid mines just outside the buoys. I slept during this, but it was a painful process. We nearly got caught in a net....

" May 4th . . . 1‑1.35 a.m. ‑ Dived to attack two steamers escorted by a destroyer; but of course we never got a shot in.

" May 6th . . . 8.12. ‑ My opposite number (the second watch‑keeping officer) is fed up. . . .

" May 7th . . . 2 p.m. ‑ Came to surface and again headed for Barfleur. It is a miserable existence. .

" 9 p.m. ‑ Sighted a convoy, which of course we do not bag. Vessels turn away."

 

That was the last entry this officer made in his diary, for within four hours, just as the submarine was about to dive, the destroyer Milne came across her and rammed her conning‑tower at full speed. The UC.26 sank im­mediately. Depth charges were dropped to make sure of her destruction. Only two survivors came to the surface. UC.77 narrowly escaped a like fate. Just before the end of May she left Germany for Aberdeen with orders to bombard that port, but as she was cleared for action on arrival, a British destroyer arrived on the spot, so she dived and made off, contenting herself with laying mines off the Firth of Forth and sinking three ships.

 

As the summer went on, the concentration of the UC mine­layers in certain areas became most marked. Previously they had systematically mined traffic routes and approaches to harbours between the Farne Islands and the Thames: but now for some time they confined their attentions to certain areas only. During July, for instance, they con­centrated especially on the areas of Lowestoft, the Shetlands and the S.W. coast of Ireland. In one month alone the Queenstown minesweepers destroyed as many as 129 mines. But the enemy could not maintain the pace of minelaying with which he had inaugurated his new cam­paign. By July the number of mines laid had begun to decrease, although they were still very numerous, and the cost in British minesweepers and merchant ships continued to be deplorably high.

 

About this time the hydrophone was found to be useful for quite another purpose than that for which it had been designed. By its means Auxiliary Patrol vessels were often able to hear submarines dropping their mines. One night in July off the Needles, a motor launch picked up a sub­marine on her hydrophone, and reported the fact to the authorities. Next morning three pairs of drifters were sent

 

SUBMARINE MINELAYERS

 

to the spot and they swept in the neighbourhood where the sounds had been heard, discovering six mines. The counter­offensive was being developed with increasing success as additional minesweeping craft were pressed into service, even motor lifeboats being utilised in the emergency, and occasionally enemy craft "committed suicide." One instance of this has already been mentioned. On the third anniversary of the British declaration of war another vessel was blown up by a German mine. UC.44, a minelayer, was off Waterford about half‑past ten at night, when she struck a mine and sank like a stone. She had already laid eight mines, subsequently found by our sweepers, but divers who were sent down to the wreck reported that some mines were still on board when she blew up. It appeared that her captain was unaware that mines had recently been laid in that locality.

 

During the later part of 1917, enemy submarines made strenuous minelaying attacks on the channel used by the Anglo‑Dutch traffic. In the same way they did their best to render dangerous the North Channel (round the north of Ireland), where many liners were passing with men and munitions from the United States. Such ports as Lerwick and Kirkwall, where convoys were sure to be moving in and out, received particular attention. Con­sequently if a ship, after hitting a minefield, managed with difficulty to get near an adjacent harbour, she would find the entrance mined. But the Auxiliary Patrol were leaving no efforts untried to make the passage of the mer­chant ships as safe as possible. For instance, in the Har­wich area during the seven months ending September 30th, 1917, the minesweepers destroyed 500 mines with the loss, it is true, of three minesweeping trawlers, one paddler, and one drifter; but without the loss of a single merchant ship.

 

The next variation in the enemy's strategy was to lay his mines as far apart as possible with the object of increasing the work for the sweepers. The efficacy of his mines had been much enhanced since the beginning of the war, and they proved themselves to be deadly weapons when detonated. The results were frequently of the most distressing character. In the early hours of November 28th, the examination vessel off the Mersey Bar unfortunately struck a mine, blew up, and no fewer than twenty‑eight valuable pilots thus lost their lives, and the merchant service was robbed of a group of men whose knowledge and experience were invaluable.

 

Towards the end of December the enemy inaugurated a new departure in minclaying, for he now began to place his fields right out to sea where it was impossible to get any navigational fix, assuming that no mine­sweeping flotillas would venture so far from any base. Thus one submarine was discovered in the North Sea about forty miles out from Peterhead, having laid thirty‑three mines in an irregular line probably with the intention of catching a convoy. On December 28th the 3rd Fleet Sweeping Flotilla, out from Granton, while making an ex­ploratory sweep, dealt with another minefield to seaward of Stonehaven, where thirty mines had been laid in five groups. Thus the enemy was at this period laying his mines both close to the land and well out of sight of the shore. He was exhibiting cunning and daring in his efforts to starve out the people of the British Isles, who depended on food from overseas, and to prevent supplies reaching France. By such means the German seamen were, of course, rendering the greatest assistance to their armies on the Western Front. But the British naval authorities were also taking a long view of the war and doing everything to counteract these enemy measures. The passage of supplies was being protected by means of convoys, and the safe passage through the Narrow Seas was being ensured by minesweepers and patrol craft.

 

It would convey too limited a conception of the extent of the enemy's operations if no reference were made to his activities away to the north in the White Sea, and to the south in the warmer latitudes of the Mediterranean and Otranto Straits.

 

In January 1917 Vice‑Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram was sent to the White Sea in the Kildonan Castle, and on reaching Archangel inquired into the whole question of taking measures to protect merchant vessels in North Russian waters. As a result of this visit it was agreed that the British and Russians should work in separate areas. The British were to buoy and sweep the channel from Cherni to Sosnovetz Island, to maintain the boom at Yukanski, and to control the traffic there. The Russians were to supply six or nine minesweepers to work under

 

IN THE WHITE SEA

 

the British minesweeping officer, and were also to be responsible for the sweeping from Sosnovetz to Archangel as well as the White Sea. The British Admiralty agreed to add six trawlers, four drifters, and one armed yacht to the existing British patrol, thus increasing the British contribution to the defence of Russian waters to four armed boarding steamers, twenty‑three trawlers, four drifters, two yachts, in addition to the battleship Glory and the cruisers Vindictive, Iphigenia, and 1ntrepid already in the White Sea. Orders were also issued for a number of buoys, bringing the total to fifty, to be sent out in the spring.

 

The contribution, therefore, of British ships and men towards solving the difficulties in these waters, at a time when not a single ship or crew could be really spared, was anything but negligible. The impending shortage of food in the British Isles was the dominating factor, and it was essential that all the grain Russia could supply should be given safe conduct. As soon, therefore, as the ice permitted, minesweeping was continued whenever the weather made it possible, and a constant patrol was maintained by the British forces. On April 9th, 1917, a small Russian collier struck a mine in the entrance of Kola Inlet and four mines were found in the western side of the entrance; thus additional evidence was furnished that the Germans were not neglecting northern waters. During April other mines were found and destroyed off the north‑east corner of the Ribachi Peninsula, the trawler Arctic Prince striking one with the loss of six of her crew. She got safely into Kola Inlet, and was subsequently towed back to England. No other mines were found during this year. During the months of June, July, and August all shipping for Archangel came by the outer sea route to Yukanski, where the vessels were assembled in convoys and swept through to Archangel every forty‑eight hours. During September and October all shipping from the United Kingdom proceeded by the Norwegian Inner Leads. They were then met by escorts of trawlers at Vardo or Kirkness every forty‑eight hours and finally escorted and swept the whole way to Archangel Bar. The distance of about 450 miles each way represented most arduous work for the yachts and trawlers employed. At least a thousand ships were safely escorted to Archangel during the year.

 

In April, activity in the White Sea was redoubled, with the arrival of twelve British trawlers, which were followed a month later by five trawlers, four drifters, and two armed yachts. Early in that month a large German U‑boat minelayer had laid the mines just mentioned off Kola Inlet and the Ribachi Peninsula. Two of these fields were swept up by our trawlers, though a field north‑west of Ribachi Peninsula was not discovered until September 1918. These proved to be the last German mines laid in those northern waters during the war, though enemy submarines operated with gun and torpedo most of the year, especially off North Cape and the approach to Kola Inlet.

 

At this period, the whole naval situation, already rendered embarrassing by the difficulty of securing the co‑operation of the Russian naval authorities, underwent a change unfavourable to the Allies owing to the political troubles in Russia itself, which were coming to a head in the early months of 1917. In March the Tsar had abdicated, but it was not until the following November that the Bolsheviks obtained control of the administration. Consequently, during most of that year the British forces were still engaged, with scant assistance from our ally, in maintain­ing free communication with Archangel and Murmansk, as well as in patrolling, escorting and minesweeping duties. In April eight Russian trawlers, and by July a further sixteen, had been added to the force; but by this time demoralisation had set in, following hard on the break‑up of the Imperial regime. On September 3rd the Germans entered Riga and then history was made rapidly. For on November 7th the Bolsheviks defeated the Kerensky adherents, and exactly one month later Lenin, Trotsky, and Tehicherin concluded an armistice with Germany. In the meantime U.46, which had been operating in the Arctic during the previous year, had left Germany for the same area and resumed her operations, sinking the ships Obj and Ilderton on October 24th and the Baron Balfour four days later.

 

In the Otranto Straits the Auxiliary Patrol was still hard at work in its endeavour to deny the passage to German and Austrian submarines making their way to and from Cattaro. In the first week of February 1917, eight steel drifters reached the Adriatic from England.

 

IN THE STRAITS OF OTRANTO

 

The worm was eating into the wooden drifters in those waters, and some vessels had become seriously unseaworthy for that reason. The situation in this area may be briefly summed up. There existed fourteen divisions, of about seven drifters each, and a line was formed across the Otranto Straits daily from three in the afternoon until daylight. Every day at daylight one division left the line for Taranto, and one left Taranto at 3 p.m. on the same duty. In Home Waters usually a vessel began her patrol almost as soon as she was outside the harbour of her base, but in the south the drifters had to steam for about twenty‑four hours before reaching their area. Besides the drifters, M.L.s (motor launches) had arrived from England. These were based on Gallipoli (Italy), and, weather permitting, left at dawn every day to patrol the coast from Tricase to Otranto. More drifters continued to arrive from England by sea and more M.L.s by steamship with a view to strengthening the defensive measures as speedily as possible. Some of the M.L.s were sent on from Taranto under their own power to Malta and Mudros. In the meantime, fifteen wooden drifters had reached Poole from the Mediterranean with their bottom planking very badly holed with worm. The menace of the mine in Italian waters had become serious, and early in 1917 the sweeping of the coastal tracks on the west coast of Italy and Sicily began. By February, 135 mines had been accounted for. German submarines, based in the Adriatic, continued to lay mines off the headlands and in the straits of Bonifacio and Messina, in accordance with the practice adopted in British Home Waters.

 

From the beginning of April, the Otranto drifters, in­stead of netting the straits on a fixed line, began to operate in a given belt stretching from the Italian coast to Fano Island. In this belt the drifters worked in such a manner that the enemy could never be sure exactly where the lines of nets were. M.L.s were allowed to remain at sea by night, painted with white diagonal stripes to prevent their being taken for submarines, and they patrolled about five miles south of the drifter line thereby, as it was hoped, causing the homecoming sub­marines to dive into the nets. At the western end, close by the Italian shore, nets were placed and patrolled at night by M.L.s.

 

The problem of the Adriatic was practically identical with that of the Dover Straits. In spite of all counter-efforts the enemy submarines were succeeding in getting through both of these straits. Neither the Dover nor the Adriatic barrage was proving more than a nuisance to the enemy, although now and again submarines had been caught. For various reasons, too, the anti‑submarine policy in the Mediterranean had been rather defensive than offensive, and it was realised that some more active steps were necessary. The naval authorities had relied for the safety of our merchant shipping on certain fixed trade routes marked by patrol vessels, which, in effect, gave the enemy much the same assistance as signposts do to traffic along a road. The success of the net‑drifters depended on the presence of plenty of craft to oblige the submarine to dive without sighting the drifters, and so run into the nets. Owing, however, to the intensity and extent of our naval warfare, it was not possible to supply more of these craft to the Otranto area. Then, again, in bad weather the nets were either lost or had to be hauled aboard, and the commanding officers of enemy submarines were not slow to choose these favourable occasions for negotiating the straits. The Italian Naval Chief of Staff, Admiral Thaon di Revel, had no faith in the drifter‑net idea, and with his colleagues favoured a big, continuous net extending across the straits from Santa Maria di Leuca to Fano Island. The Italians were anxious that the British Government should supply all the material, with the exception of the mines to be attached to the nets. These mines the French were to be asked to supply. This form of net was now decided upon, and at a conference held at Corfu from April 28th to May 1st when representatives of the navies of Britain, France: Italy, and Japan attended, it was agreed inter alia that night navigation should be largely employed for Medi­terranean merchant traffic, that a number of harbours should be furnished with protecting nets as harbours of refuge, and that vessels on the high seas routes should be in escorted convoys. It was some months, of course, before effect could be given to the new plans. Meanwhile, the conditions favoured the enemy.

 

It must be borne in mind that this was the time when the submarine menace was at its height and that the

 

AUSTRIAN CRUISER RAID

 

sinkings of merchantmen in the Mediterranean were being carried out by submarines whose base was in the Adriatic. Moreover, it was realised that to close the Otranto Straits effectually was at least very much more difficult than to deny the Dover Straits to the enemy. The former are forty­four miles wide, and are very deep, while the drifter base, as has been stated, was twenty‑four hours away.

 

On May 15th the Austrians made a cruiser raid on the drifter line. At 3 a.m. (Central European time), an hour before daylight, two four‑funnelled Austrian cruisers suddenly crossed the drifter line from north to south. Seven divisions, each consisting of seven drifters, lay, with nets out, across the southern end of the Straits offering an easy target for attack. Having surveyed the trend and extent of the line the cruisers began their operations about 4 a.m. One attacked from the western end of the line, a second from the eastern end, and it is believed that a third attacked at the centre of the line. There was no occasion for haste and the cruisers stopped their engines to fire, even taking prisoners at the eastern end from the drifters. About 4.45 a.m. the raiders ceased firing and returned to Cattaro. In a contest between small drifters, each with one tiny gun, and fast cruisers, armed with much superior batteries, the odds were of course ludicrously unequal. That did not deter the British fishermen from fighting. Several of the drifters, in the most gallant manner, engaged the big cruisers, and what is more, obtained some hits. In spite of this gallantry, no fewer than fourteen drifters were sunk and the losses of personnel were heavy, eight officers being taken prisoners to Austria. A couple of M.L.s were on patrol three miles south of the drifter line, but they were not attacked and were of assistance subsequently in com­municating with passing vessels as well as in taking wounded to Gallipoli. On their way home the cruisers were engaged by our light cruisers Dartmouth and Bristol, but at noon the action was broken off, and two hours later the Dartmouth was torpedoed by a submarine. She managed, fortunately, to get into port.

 

The result of this raid was that the drifter line was now shifted a little farther south, and was maintained only during the hours of daylight. Every night the drifters sheltered in Castro, Tricase, Fano, or Merlera. Only in later months, as a temporary measure due to submarine alarm, did the drifters ever ride to their nets again across the straits at night, and on these occasions the line was protected by Italian destroyers. By the end of July orders were issued that drifters were to remain in harbour except when netting the straits, and arrangements were made that warship protection should then be afforded them. The M.L.s, however, went to sea daily so as to be on their patrol line by dark, returning to Tricase at dawn. They operated with engines stopped, listening with their hydrophones.

 

With the abolition of the drifter‑net barrage and the increased importance which was attached to hydrophone work, an entirely new situation was created in the Otranto Straits. By the middle of October a division of Australian destroyers had arrived and took turns with four French destroyers on patrol work, but in the meantime the new Franco‑Italian fixed net barrage had been begun, the drifters being employed in laying the first unit during this month. Supported by buoys, and sixty metres deep with mines attached, the first unit was in situ by November 10th. The strategy in the straits underwent, as a consequence, a change. First of all there was the fixed barrage of mine­nets, stretching east and west. Then, there were the trawlers and drifters and M.L.s as a mobile barrage when required. Destroyers, and sometimes even light cruisers, were utilised as a protective screen, while, for observation purposes, there were aeroplanes and kite‑balloons. Before the end of November some trawlers, drifters, and M.L.'s had joined the British Adriatic force from the Aegean. By the end of the year the Franco‑Italian net barrage was making good progress. Large consignments of hydrophone stores were now arriving in Italy and Auxiliary Patrol craft were being sent for a time to Malta for hydrophone instruction, so that confidence grew with the improving conditions. As in the case of the Dover Straits, experience had evolved entirely new methods for countering the submarine.

 

The position in the Otranto Straits has been examined at some length, inasmuch as these narrow waters were the key to the whole submarine situation in the Mediter­ranean. If the door of the Adriatic could have been closed, the submarine problem in the Middle Sea would

 

MINES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

 

have been solved. This was the weakest link in the defensive chain, and for that reason merchant ships continued to be lost in large numbers in these waters. The problem was so novel in its series of difficulties, that it is small wonder that it remained so long insoluble, and it was complicated by the factors which, though often ignored by people on land, demanded consideration on the part of the British naval authorities. Many of the men in the auxiliary craft had been serving abroad for a long period ‑ cut off from their homes for months on end for the first time in their lives. During the early part of 1917, the Admiralty decided to send to Home Waters twenty‑four skippers and 177 ratings, relieving them by fresh drafts sent from England. This scheme of relief had to be accepted, though there was no slackening in the pressure exerted by the enemy. Mines were still being discovered in many places and submarines continued active. On May 4th the trawler Lord Salisbury foundered on a mine near Eros Island, Salonica, and mines were also found near Mudros, Candia, and off Malta, a big fleet of over fifty trawlers being based on that island.

 

At the beginning of August moored mines were destroyed in the approaches to Alexandria, and in the following month other mines were swept up in the Gulf of Salonica. Evidence of the enemy's activities was also accumulating almost every day. On September 8th the armed yacht Narcissus II was in action with U.49, and apparently damaged her so much that the submarine was compelled three days later to put in to Cadiz. Here she was interned by the Spanish authorities. Her commanding officer gave his word of honour in writing not to attempt to escape. However, on October 6th, at 5.45 p.m., he took his submarine to sea and managed to get to Cattaro. His action as an officer proved no disservice to the Allies, for it was regarded in Spain as an insult to that nation's navy.

 

During October the Malta sweepers discovered seven more mines, and, owing to the vigilance of other auxiliary craft, mines were again found off Salonica and Egypt. As in the northern waters so in the Mediterranean, drifters were needed here, there, and everywhere, for all sorts of purposes. In November, during the bombardment of Gaza, Palestine, by our monitors, torpedo‑boats, and a French battleship, it became necessary to protect the bombarding ships by nets. These nets were towed by British drifters, under Lieutenant C. Brand, R.N.R., and rendered most efficient service, since enemy submarines were then operating off the coast of Palestine. These drifters, as well as some trawlers, were also usefully employed in working off the same coast, while transports were discharging cargoes of ammunition and food for the British army. They escorted ships between Port Said and Palestine, and just before General Allenby's big advance were joined by fourteen more drifters from Taranto. Even after the armistice these craft continued carrying mails, cargoes, and troops up and down the coast, besides main­taining a regular ferry service between Haifa, Beyrout, Tripoli, Alexandretta, and Mersina. They were the hand­maids not merely of the navy, but also of the army.

 

How were matters developing in the meantime in British waters? The concentrated efforts, with the new material which had become available, to deny the enemy use of the Dover Straits, which had been begun before the end of 1917, continued during the final year of hostilities with great success. From January onwards, powerful flares were burnt from surface craft nightly, and so made visible the passage of submarines on the surface. The enemy was then hunted by the patrols, and, if he dived, crashed into the mines awaiting him under water. These cross‑channel minefields were still being laid, and in a similar manner the enemy's tracks near the Belgian coast were being made more and more difficult for him.

 

In the North Sea, owing to the surface attacks on the Scandinavian convoys and the excessive strain on personnel and material, drastic modifications had to be made in the convoy organisation. The new measures enabled a con­tinuous stream of convoys to be maintained to and from Norway. Between January and November 1917 over 2,000 ships were convoyed from Methil to Norway, and a similar number from Norway to the Humber, with the loss of only five ships from submarines operating from under‑water, while none suffered from surface attack. Trawlers played no inconsiderable part in keeping open this essential base of communications. The Scandinavian countries were dependent on the British coal supplies. In exchange for coal we were able to import from Scandinavia iron ore, sulphur, pyrites, nitrates, spelter, aluminium,

 

THE DOVER DRIFTERS

 

timber for making army huts, pit props for coal mines, paper pulp, herrings and so on. In order to prevent a recurrence of surface raids, supporting forces, consisting of battleships and light cruiser squadrons, were regularly maintained from January 1918.

 

Farther south the Dover drifters continued to maintain the fine traditions which they had already established, and did not flinch in face of circumstances which might well have broken their spirit. In the forenoon of January 23rd, 1918, for instance, the drifter Clover Bank (Lieutenant D. T. Webster, R.N.R.), senior ship of the net drifters, while examining the nets off the Belgian coast, was suddenly attacked at short range by a division of enemy destroyers. This drifter was the second of that name, and had been built in the previous year, her namesake having been sunk in action off Zeebrugge on April 24th, 1916. Shells began to fall alongside, so the drifter's crew were sent to action stations and a duel opened. The oncoming destroyers increased the rapidity of their fire, but it was ineffective, though everything favoured the Germans. At 4,000 yards the Clover Bank's third shot was a hit. Then she ignited and dropped overboard a smoke box to screen herself. When the smoke had cleared, it was found that the destroyers were on either side of the drifter's quarters, two being astern. Thinking that his drifter might be boarded or captured, Lieutenant Webster ordered the engineer to be ready to open the sea‑cocks. The confidential books were forthwith thrown overboard. In the meantime the enemy was coming up fast, and now only a mile and a half away was not only firing shells, but using machine guns as well. Just as the end of the Clover Bank seemed to be certain, two British destroyers were sighted three miles away racing up from the westward at full speed, followed by the rest of the patrol like a pack of hounds. This saved the situation, and the enemy altered course and made off to seek the protection of his land batteries. Lieutenant Webster and his ship's company received an expression of the Admiralty's appreciation for their action.

 

How well the new Dover barrage of mines was acting was exemplified by an incident which occurred before this month was ended. At 8 a.m. on January 26th, at the eastern end of the English Channel, the drifter Beryl III was closing Gris Nez fog signal when she sighted an enemy submarine ahead and stationary. The Beryl opened fire, her second shot hitting the base of the enemy's conning­tower forward. The submarine hastily dived, a double explosion followed, and thus U.109, having struck one of the Dover mines, ended her career. Skipper J. H. Bullock, R.N.R., of the Beryl, was awarded some time later a D.S.C. The crew were at the same time awarded the sum of £1,000, but they asked that £500 should be paid to the Mayor of Dover's Fund, earmarked for the widows and children of the drifters' crews who had lost their lives in the raid by German destroyers during the night of February 14th‑15th, in circumstances which will be related in due course.

 

Two days after the sinking of U.109, thanks to the com­bined use of hydrophone and depth charges, UB.63 was destroyed off May Island by two of the Granton armed trawlers. The German submarine crews were liking the life at sea less and less in the conditions created by the new measures of the naval authorities. No longer were they volunteers; no longer were they tempted to the service by the possibility of quickly earned glory. How exhausting and nerve‑wracking life had become for them was revealed by the log of a certain German submarine which started out from Heligoland at 5 a.m. on the last day of January. Owing to the number of British mines which had been laid in the Heligoland Bight, she had to be escorted by a minesweeping division. About four o'clock the next morning, these minesweepers encountered one of the British mine barrages, so that the submarine's commander, realising that he could get no farther, first anchored and then went back to Heligoland. On February 3rd the submarine was compelled to give up all hopes of penetrating the Bight, and made the voyage via the Elbe, Kiel Canal, and Kattegat, with the result that she did not arrive off Hartlepool, her destination, until February 12th. She then made two unsuccessful attacks on shipping, but on the following day had to start for home as she had consumed so much fuel. But this submarine was fortunate in comparison with the UB.38. On February 8th the drifter Gowan II, while patrolling off Dover about half­ past nine at night, saw a submarine in the beam of a trawler's flare. She steamed full speed towards her and the enemy disappeared. A quarter of an hour later a

 

RAID ON THE DOVER BARRAGE

 

heavy triple explosion beneath the surface indicated that the UB.38 had met her fate in the barrage. The sum of £1,000 was awarded to the officers and men of the Dover patrol, who handed it over to the Mayor of Dover's Fund.

 

We must now turn to a dramatic raid of the German destroyers against our vessels of the Dover Patrol, which took place on the night of February 14th‑15th, and caused us heavy losses. It was a tribute, though the fact was not recognised at once, to the efficiency of the Dover Patrol. Since the middle of December, five German sub­marines had been sunk in the Dover area, and several had had very narrow escapes. The enemy's object was to destroy the "light barrier," as they called the British flares, whose effect was, as they have admitted, to make the straits "actually almost impassable." Two half­flotillas of destroyers were employed in the raid. The weather was fine but overcast; the moon had set, and the sea was calm when the attack took place.

 

In order to realise the position, it is necessary to remember that a series of buoys, numbered 2 to 16, existed between Folkestone and Gris Nez to assist the patrols in main­taining their positions. About two and a half miles on either side of this line were stationed trawlers, paddlers, and other small craft, either to burn flares or use search­lights. In addition, fifty‑eight drifters were on this line patrolling so as to deal with any submarine between Folkestone and Gris Nez. They worked in divisions, usually of seven, under a Lieutenant R.N.R., or R.N.V.R. The whole area of the submerged minefield was thus illuminated when the attack took place.

 

The raid consisted of two assaults on the north‑west and on the south‑east. At 12.40 a.m. one half‑flotilla of four destroyers started the north‑west attack by shelling the paddler Newbury, whose revolving searchlight made her an easy target. The destroyers then proceeded slowly down the drifter line and sank the drifters W. Elliot and Veracity. The paddler Lingfield and an M.L. also came under fire, but some drifters managed to make their escape. The enemy then disappeared. The incident had taken about half an hour, by which time the Newbury had become a disabled hulk, with most of her ship's company killed or wounded. The Veracity received the enemy's first shell through her boiler, and the second forward of the wheelhouse, but the skipper continued to steer her until she was sinking, when all the crew got away in the drifter's boat. In the W. Elliot only the skipper, the cook, and one hand were saved.

 

The south‑east attack was made by three destroyers and began about 12.45 a.m. near the Gris Nez end of the barrage. The trawler James Pond was soon on fire. The crew endeavoured to extinguish the flames and beach her, pluckily refusing the offer of a French torpedo boat to be taken off. But finally the vessel had to be abandoned. Proceeding along the line, the enemy shelled the drifter Clover Bank, which took fire, and afterwards sank, only one deckhand surviving. Still coming along the line towards the English coast, the destroyers sank the drifters Cosmos and Jeannie Murray. These three craft were all "flagships" and unhappily only four survivors escaped from them. The next to be shelled were the drifters Golden Gain, Golden Rule, Treasure, and Violet May, which were all damaged. The last‑named vessel was brought into port next day by two engine‑room ratings, who were the only unwounded men left in her. For some reason the enemy missed one division of drifters, but they also sank the Christina Craig with all on board. About 1.30 a.m. the Germans turned back when about half‑way across the Channel and on the return journey met and sank the drifter Silver Queen, which had taken off the survivors of the Cosmos. Finally, after firing on two more drifters, these destroyers also made off.

 

This raid cost the Auxiliary Patrol heavy losses of men and ships. There were sunk one armed trawler and seven drifters. One paddler and six drifters were damaged. Twenty‑two men were killed, fifty‑four drowned, and thirteen wounded. Many of these officers and ratings had done fine service off the Belgian coast and in the Dover Straits, and their death was a grievous blow to the patrol service. If anything was wanting to rouse the fishermen's anger against the Germans, it was this raid by the enemy in overwhelming force; but the seamen realised that the Straits of Dover and Otranto, guarded by drifters, were two of the keys in the submarine struggle, and that the infliction of even heavy casualties was merely an incident in the hard‑fought game.

 

The raid in no way lowered the efficiency of the watch

 

ENEMY SUBMARINES SUNK

 

and ward. On the other hand, the decline in the morale of the crews of the German submarines continued. The Germans were suffering from a shortage of trained engineer officers and experienced petty officers, and the hands were young and inexperienced. Recent losses in submarines had made the crews so nervous that they were often only too pleased to be taken prisoners, very willing to escape further cruising in U‑boats. No longer could a captain pick his crew; he had to go to sea with whatever men were drafted to his boat. As for the experienced hands, some of them had completely lost their nerve, and the others were so scarce that they were treated with a consideration which had been unknown before, and escaped the severe punishment for offences which was meted out to the raw hands.

 

The submarine service had become thoroughly unpopular, and the officers and men of the High Seas Fleet, by reason of the high pay and good food of these "heroes of the nation," regarded it with jealousy. Little was said in Germany of the rising toll of losses which the submarines were suffering, but week by week they continued. The flares had been found so effective that a thousand a day were being manufactured. On March 10th, UB.58 was destroyed in the Dover minefield as the result of having been compelled to dive by an Auxiliary Patrol vessel which had fired on her. There were no survivors. On April 11th, owing to the vigilance of the Dover trawlers and drifters, UB.33 fouled a mine in the barrage, and was blown up. Some weeks later diving operations took place, and a steel box, containing her signal books and codes, was recovered. In other areas the struggle was also being well maintained. On April 17th, off Torr Head (north of Ireland), the drifters once again showed that they could fight a submarine of superior armament but inferior spirit. About half‑past five in the afternoon the drifter Pilot Me sighted a periscope, and she dropped depth charges whilst zigzagging over the course the enemy appeared to be steering. She then stopped and used her hydrophone. Presently UB82 came to the surface between Pilot Me and another drifter, the Young Fred, at an angle of 45 degrees. All the drifters on the scene then opened fire at short range, and the Young Fred proceeded to drop a couple of depth charges right on top of the enemy. This caused so terrific an explosion and such a high column of water that the other drifters believed for a moment that the Young Fred was gone. The sea became covered with German wreckage, such as woodwork fittings, gratings, and seamen's caps bearing the words "Unterseeboots Flotilla." In consequence of the prompt action of the Pilot Me, the submarine had been so damaged by the first depth charge that she broke surface, and remained exposed at a very steep angle until the Young Fred finally dispatched her. The Admiralty considered this "a very creditable and successful opera­tion." A number of D.S.C.s and D.S.M.s were distributed, and the sum of £1,000 was awarded to those who had brought about this happy result.

 

A few days later, on April 22nd, owing especially to the persistence of seven drifters and a trawler ‑ all of whom shared in an award of £1,000 ‑ UB.55 was destroyed in the Dover area. Three live Germans, as well as one dead body, were picked up by one drifter, and three more survivors by another drifter. They had been through the worst of agonies. The rate at which the enemy submarines were being sunk in the Dover area was a proof that vigilance of the patrols and lack of skill on the part of the submarine officers were, in combination, defeating the enemy's plans.

 

And now we come to one of the brightest pages in this country's naval history ‑ the blocking of Zeebrugge and the attempted blocking of Ostend on the night of April 22nd‑23rd, in order to check the activities of the torpedo and submarine craft based on those ports. The force to which this mission was assigned was drawn from the Grand Fleet, the Harwich Force, the Dover Patrol, the Naval Depots, and the Royal Marines, but, so far as our purpose is concerned, interest lies expressly with the part played on this memorable occasion by the men of the Dover Patrol ‑ the merchant seamen, fishermen, and yachtsmen.

 

An unsuccessful start was made on April 11th, and a second on April 13th, but on April 22nd weather and other conditions permitted the whole force to get across to the Belgian coast. The preparation and training for the attack had extended over a long period, and the concentra­tion of the force had to be made within sixty‑three miles from Zeebrugge; but nevertheless secrecy was preserved. The force consisted of 82 officers and 1,698 men; the ships

 

BLOCKING OF ZEEBRUGGE

 

comprised 9 monitors, 8 light cruisers, 7 flotilla leaders, 44 destroyers and torpedo boats, 61 motor launches, 24 coastal motor boats, one picket boat, 2 parent ships, 5 blockships, 2 submarines, one minesweeper, and 3 boarding vessels. After a long search in many ports, the Mersey ferry steamers iris and Daffodil had been selected for the purpose of forcing H.M.S. Vindictive, with her storming party, alongside the mole, and bringing away all the landing parties in case the Vindictive was sunk. Admiral Keyes, who was in command of the operations, realised that an effective smoke screen was necessary, and this important duty was entrusted to the M.L.s and coastal motor boats. To the Vindictive, Iris, and Daffodil were confided the attack on the mole; the Thetis, Intrepid, and Iphigenia were to block Zeebrugge‑Bruges canal; the Sirius and Brilliant were to close the exit from Ostend; submarines were to damage the viaduct connecting the Zeebrugge mole with the shore; and monitors were to bombard the enemy ashore. The hazardous duty of rescuing the officers and men of the blockships was to be carried out by M.L.s.

 

Thus at 4.53 p.m. on April 22nd, the eve of St. George's Day, the main force left a point to the north of the Good­wins, and at 11.20 p.m. the bombardment of Zeebrugge and Ostend began. At 11.40 p.m. the M.L.s and C.M.B.s (coastal motor boats) laid their smoke screen, and one minute after midnight, the Vindictive, followed by the Iris and Daffodil, went alongside the mole and the storming and demolition parties got to work. At 12.15 a.m. the submarine C3 had been wedged, with great skill, under the viaduct, and was blown up. Ten minutes later the blockship Thetis passed the mole, and was sunk at the entrance of the canal. She was followed by the Intrepid and Iphigenia. This blocking was, of course, the principal object of the operation, and all the rest that happened was by way of diversion of the enemy, in order to make the blocking of the canal possible.

 

On either quarter of the Iphigenia followed M.L.282 (Lieutenant P. T. Dean, R.N.V.R.) and M.L. 526 (Lieu­tenant H. A. Littleton, R.N.V.R.). The latter picked up the men from the Thetis and Intrepid, who had launched their boats, and Lieutenant Littleton then took his M.L. out to sea. Lieutenant Dean, under heavy gunfire, then picked up some of the crew of the Intrepid and Iphigenia, who were accommodated aboard his M.L. 282. The ex­ploit of Lieutenant Dean, for which he was afterwards awarded the Victoria Cross, was one of the outstanding features of this daring raid. The motor launches were built only of light thin wood. At first sight it must have seemed madness to send such craft into a harbour so well armed as Zeebrugge, which bristled with guns. The men from the blockships had to be taken off, and it was decided that for this purpose no craft were so suitable as the easily manoeuvred M.L.s. Lieutenant S. S. Bonham‑Carter, R.N., who had taken in the Intrepid, informed Admiral Keyes that Lieutenant Dean's conduct was "simply magnificent." In clearing the canal, the steering‑gear of the M.L., which had the Iphigenia's cutter in tow, jammed, so that Lieu­tenant Dean had to steer his boat with his engines, and he escaped from the inferno in which he had become involved only by keeping as close as possible to the mole. Lieutenant J. C. Keith Wright, R.N.V.R., of M.L. 416, was lying seriously wounded, two of his crew had been killed, and the little ship was a veritable shambles. There were now 101 men in her, and it was necessary for the safety of the survivors to cut adrift the cutter. Having miraculously cleared the end of the mole, and reached the open sea, Lieutenant Dean then shaped a course which brought him in touch with the destroyer Warwick, in which Admiral Keyes was flying his flag.

 

The rest of the story consists of the retirement of the force back across the North Sea. The essential object of blocking the canal had been accomplished. The enemy had been completely surprised, and the boasted impregna­bility of the Belgian coast had received a shock on this historic night. Almost every kind of ship, big and small, had been engaged, and the officers and men had upheld the highest traditions of the sea. The men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines had co‑operated in a spirit of comradeship with the yachtsmen and fishermen and merchantmen to achieve the most daring as well as picturesque raid which had ever been carried out. Well organised and well executed, it had a psychological effect on the armies in Flanders and the people at home at a time when confidence as to the final result of the war needed reinforcing.

 

THE OSTEND OPERATION

 

The Ostend operation did not succeed. The two block­ships Sirius and Brilliant got aground outside the harbour, but the crews were rescued in the most gallant manner, under heavy fire, by Lieutenant R. Bourke, R.N.V.R., in M.L. 276, and Lieutenant K. R. Hoare, R.N.V.R., in M.L. 288. In this operation the M.L.s also did excellent, work with their smoke screens.

 

The net result of the Zeebrugge raid was that for the next three weeks or so the smallest boats alone could enter the channel and then only by day. The Bruges­Ostend canal could be used to some extent by the sub­marines putting to sea, but this was very inconvenient. So firmly and effectually were the blockships sunk in the canal that, after months of effort, first on the part of the Germans, and then, after the war, on the part of a British force, it was not until January 1921 that the Thetis, the last of the blockships, was successfully shifted.

 

On May 10th the Vindictive was gallantly taken into Ostend, and sunk in the fairway, the motor launches again distinguishing themselves by the skill and gallantry exhibited. The outstanding feature was again the rescue of the blockship's crew. Lieutenant G. H. Drummond, R.N.V.R., brought M.L. 254 alongside the Vindictive, and embarked 2 officers and 87 men. Lieutenant Gordon Ross, R.N.V.R., the second‑in‑command of the M.L., and one deck hand had already been killed, and the cox­swain wounded. Lieutenant Drummond himself had also been wounded in three places, but took his ship out of the harbour stern first, followed all the time by heavy machine gun fire. When the M.L. had finally cleared the entrance, she was in a sinking condition, and it was no easy matter to keep her afloat. By making S.O.S. signals continually to seaward, she was located by the destroyer Warwick, and Admiral Keyes ordered a destroyer division to close her. She was found in such a bad condition, with most of her crew and many of the Vindictive's men wounded, that everyone on board had to be transferred to the Warwick, and the M.L. was ordered by Admiral Keyes to be destroyed.

 

M.L. 276 (Lieutenant R. Bourke, R.N.V.R.) had followed the Vindictive into Ostend, and, engaging both piers with machine gun fire, then went alongside the Vindictive after M.L. 254 had shoved off. After much search and shouting Lieutenant Bourke, while still under heavy fire, managed to find Lieutenant Sir John Alleyne, RN, and two ratings, all badly wounded, clinging to a skiff which had capsized in the water. These were the last of the survivors, and, under continued heavy fire, the M.L. came out of the harbour. She was hit in fifty‑five places; three of her crew were killed or wounded, but Lieutenant Bourke managed to steer her to the westward, and she was eventually taken in tow by a monitor. "I cannot speak too highly," remarked Admiral Keyes, "of the bravery of the M.L.'s coming alongside."

 

So closed the efforts to block the Belgian ports. Meanwhile, the submarine warfare was being fought to a standstill, and fresh evidence was being supplied that the determination of the drifters and the declining spirit of the submarine crews were having a marked effect on the cam­paign. An incident which occurred off the north‑east of Ireland in the early morning of April 30th, 1918, may be cited. The drifter Coreopsis (Lieutenant P. S. Peat, R.N.R.), whilst on patrol, sighted the conning‑tower of a submarine about eleven miles E. by N. of the Maidens. The drifter opened fire at point‑blank range, the first and third shots exploding. Accurate shooting was difficult owing to the heavy swell. The enemy rapidly drew away, then stopped suddenly and fired a white Very light. On approaching the submarine, the Coreopsis was amazed to hear all the Germans shouting together, "I will sur­render"; "We are your prisoners." Lieutenant Peat was so surprised that he could but assume the submarine was damaged, for no attempt had been made to respond to the British attack. He passed close astern of the submarine, the Germans continuing to shout that they desired to be taken prisoners. Lieutenant Peat manoeuvred his vessel so as to bring the enemy into the moon's rays and again opened fire, for the Germans' gun was plainly visible, and it was, as a precaution, necessary to put that gun out of action. Four or five British shells hit the target, but still no reply came from the enemy. So approaching within hailing distance, with his gun trained on the sub­marine, Lieutenant Peat informed the enemy that, if the submarine attempted to move, she would be fired on again.

 

At 4 a.m. other patrol craft began to arrive on the scene, and Lieutenant Peat now sent away his boat with

 

THE PRIZE OF THE "COREOPSIS"

 

three hands to approach the submarine, but not to close her. He then told the Germans to jump into the sea and the boat would pick them up. The order was obeyed, and thus nine prisoners were brought on board. But in the meantime the German commanding officer and some of his men remained to sink the submarine. Altogether the boat of the Coreopsis took three officers and twenty­ four men prisoners in the most unexpected circumstances. As they came on board the drifter, Lieutenant Peat searched each one carefully for papers and arms and then signalled the Senior Naval Officer at Larne. Escorted by other auxiliary craft, the little ship subsequently had the privilege of entering Larne with her captures. Perhaps no one was more surprised than Lieutenant Peat. "Why did you not attack me? " he asked Lieutenant‑Com­mander G. Krech, the captain of the submarine. In broken English the German replied, "I had been down two days; my crew were all ill with gas; I could not submerge, as my conning‑tower was damaged, and as I saw you still firing and saw other ships ‑ what was the use? " So this steel ship armed with a 4.1‑inch gun and torpedoes, carrying a crew of thirty‑six, surrendered to a small, slow surface vessel armed with only a 6‑pounder gun, and a crew of twelve. For this exploit Lieutenant Peat received a D.S.O., and his second‑in‑command, Skipper G. E. Stubbs, R.N.R., received a D.S.C. A sum of £1,000 was divided among the crew. The submarine was the UB.85. The prisoners stated that she had left Heligoland on April 16th, but had been compelled by British patrols to keep submerged continually. It was subsequently revealed that Lieutenant‑Commander Krech, with a crew consisting in the main of inexperienced men, had been most unsuccessful in his attacks on merchant ships, having exploded six torpedoes without result. So that when he was confronted with the little drifter, he and his men were well content to surrender and find safety as prisoners.

 

In view of the increased effectiveness of the Dover barrage and the advent of summer, with its longer days, more submarines chose to go north‑about round Scotland, but they were hunted without mercy. Some boats still came through the Dover Straits, but at considerable risk. On May 2nd the drifter Lord Leitrim made UB.31 dive, and she blew up in the minefield. This event occurred five minutes past eight in the morning. Five minutes later in another part of the Dover area UC.78 also was destroyed by the same means. In the course of the same month­ on the 26th ‑ the armed yacht Lorna, at about ten o'clock at night in Lyme Bay, destroyed UB.74 with depth charges. Four survivors shouting "Kamerad" were sighted and one was rescued, but he died three hours later. On the last day of the month UC.49 was sunk. In this case the armed trawler Bombardier, the destroyers Fairy, Medea, and Locust, three other trawlers, drifters, and a motor launch took part and all dropped depth charges. In addition, an aeroplane was aloft giving some aid in spotting, and dropping bombs.

 

The effective mining of the Dover Straits had practically closed the southern end of the North Sea to the Germans. There still remained the exit by the northern end, and this problem was now attacked. On June 18th, 1918, the work began of laying a huge mine barrage right across the North Sea to the Norwegian coast, in accordance with plans, the execution of which had been delayed by a shortage of mines and other material. The mines used in this operation were partly British and partly American. The scheme took months to complete, but even in its initial stages it proved useful. On the very first day two German submarines were damaged by this means, and as time went on the passage became almost as perilous as the Dover Straits. Even when the armistice came the northern barrage was still incomplete.

 

In the meantime the Dover barrage continued to fulfil its purpose, and in this area and elsewhere further toll was taken of the enemy's under‑water craft. On June 20th UC.64 was destroyed, seven Dover drifters and a trawler sending her into the mines. At the beginning of July, Germany had about 87 submarines in north European waters and 33 based on Pola and Cattaro. The first‑mentioned included the so‑called cruiser submarines, which operated across the ocean. On July 10th two Dover drifters accounted by means of depth charges for the loss of UC.77, in charge of a comparatively inex­perienced officer. Nine days later, in the North Sea, UB.110, on her maiden cruise, was sunk primarily owing to the action of M.L.s 263 and 49, assisted by the destroyer

 

THE DOVER AREA

 

Garry and the trawler Strathclunie. On July 27th trawlers and a destroyer also accounted for the UB.107 off the Yorkshire coast. On August 13th came the loss of UB.30 in the North Sea, owing to the efforts of the armed trawler John Gillman, while on August 29th UB.109 was sunk in the Dover barrage on her way home from the Azores.

 

The tide of affairs had now evidently turned, and the German shipyards were finding it no easy matter to keep pace with the losses at sea.

 

On September 9th the northern barrage was responsible for the loss of U.92, and on the sixteenth day of that month UB.103 was destroyed in the Dover area, in the usual manner. This proved to be the last submarine to be sunk in that area. The net result of the Folke­stone‑Gris Nez barrage ‑ that is to say, the combination of rnines below, with drifters, trawlers, M.L.s and other craft on the surface‑had been the destruction of no fewer than ten enemy submarines between December 19th, 1917, and September 16th, 1918. By this date the northern barrage was already very effective. On Sep­tember 19th it caused the loss of UB.104, and on the 25th of U.156, while the losses of U.102, UB.113, and UB.127 were most probably due to the same cause.

 

On October 17th, the final stage of the Belgian coast operations began. Early in the morning Admiral Keyes proceeded into Ostend, though the retreating enemy were not yet clear of the town. A light battery at Le Cocq and a heavy battery near Zeebrugge opened fire on the British ships, and as the presence of the naval forces might, it was thought, endanger the lives of civilians, Admiral Keyes re‑embarked and withdrew his ships, leaving behind four M.L.s as an inshore patrol. In the evening the King and Queen of the Belgians visited Ostend, and next day British minesweepers proceeded to clear the minefield off that port, but, owing to the heavy shelling from Knocke battery, had to withdraw. On the following day the same thing happened, but some of the paddlers and M.L.s managed to get inside the mole at Zeebrugge, and de­stroyed some mines. On the 19th aircraft reported that the Belgian coast was clear of Germans and that Knocke battery had been blown up. Minesweepers then began to work off Ostend, but in the course of the operations the paddler Plumpton struck a mine. Though seriously damaged, she was beached. Thus Ostend, Zeebrugge, and Bruges were reoccupied. On their evacuation, the Germans destroyed four of their submarines, while at this period UB.123 met her fate on a mine in the northern barrage.

 

The danger to the British forces from the mines off the Belgian coast still continued, with the result that the monitor M.21 foundered on a mine off Ostend, and on the following day M.L.561 also struck a mine off that port, her commanding officer losing his life. Bad weather had set in, which prevented sweeping, but by the 26th the area off the entrance had been cleared and work by the salvage section was begun on the sunken craft at Ostend harbour mouth.

 

In the meantime the enemy was recalling submarines from the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The Germans had planned a large concentration of submarines in the North Sea with a view to a big offensive, but knowledge of this intention had reached the British authorities and every trawler and drifter that could be spared was sent from the English Channel to the Firth of Forth. Nothing, however, came of the threat. In fact, by October 26th the whole submarine situation had improved so considerably that the Admiralty allowed outward‑bound steamers from Liverpool to proceed independently and unescorted. Two days later such U‑boats as were ready for sea left Pola and Cattaro for the last time, bound for Germany. One submarine officer, even in these last days of the war, tried to win enduring fame where others had failed. On October 28th UB.116 made another effort to get into Scapa Flow, but vigilance was still being maintained, and she was destroyed by mines. On the last day of that month, the Germans, having evacuated the Adriatic and destroyed their ten remaining submarines at Pola and Cattaro which had not succeeded in getting away, the Austrian Emperor made over the Austro‑Hungarian fleet to the Jugo‑Slav National Council. Thus the curtain dropped on the final act of the naval operations in the Mediterranean except for the torpedoing of the old battleship Britannia Off Cape Trafalgar on November 9th by one of the submarines returning to Germany, and the sinking of the last enemy submarine. This submarine was U.34, which was sighted

 

THE LAST GERMAN MINEFIELD

 

by M.L.s 373 and 155 in the Gibraltar area, both of whom attacked her. The Privet came up and also joined in the attack, and eventually the enemy was destroyed.

 

The narrative of the last phase of the enemy's desperate efforts to sever the sea communications of the Allies would be incomplete were no mention made of the concentrated attacks by means of mines during 1918 on the Anglo­Dutch trade, the Scandinavian convoys, and the transports carrying the American troops to Europe. In addition the enemy attempted to embarrage the Grand Fleet. A great minefield was laid by him in a rough crescent shape off the east coast of Scotland. The essential feature of the scheme was that the mines were laid a long way to seaward beyond the sight of land, the greatest distance being about forty‑five miles off Bell Rock. This barrage was begun in April 1918 and the work went on until October. There can be little doubt but that the great concentration in the latter month of German submarines was part of the scheme. The presumption is that, if the mutiny had not broken out in the High Seas Fleet, it would have put to sea in an endeavour to tempt the Grand Fleet on to this crescent‑shaped barrage and within striking distance of the moveable lines of submarines. Submarine after submarine came across the North Sea during the summer and dumped its load of mines in pre‑arranged positions. But, unfortunately for the enemy, the mines were dis­covered almost as quickly as they were laid, and were secretly swept up. When, on November 15th, 1918, the German Admiral in the Koenigsberg was ordered to meet Admiral Beatty at a rendezvous off the Firth of Forth, he arrived late with the apology that he had proceeded southward to avoid a German minefield. The fact, though he did not know it, was that the British sweepers had cleared it away long ago!

 

The thoroughness of the minesweepers' work was one of the marvels of the war. If a chart of the British Isles be taken and a line be drawn, following the coast from Land's End up the English Channel and North Sea as far as Moray Firth, some conception may be formed of the daily sweeping of "lanes" which these little craft kept safe for shipping practically without a break. But besides these, other daily sweepings were carried out in such areas as the North Channel, the approaches to Liverpool, and, of course, the entrances to all naval bases. Periodical sweeping was also carried out farther to sea­ward. Similar operations had also to be undertaken in the Mediterranean, along the French, Italian and North African coasts, and in the Aegean, where enemy sub­marines laid their mines profusely. On October 30th, 1918, came the signing of the armistice at Mudros between Turkey and the Entente Powers, and on the following day the clearance of the Dardanelles minefield began. Mine­sweepers, trawlers, drifters, and M.L.s commenced this dangerous operation and destroyed over six hundred mines, so that by the twelfth of November the Allied Fleet was able to pass the Dardanelles, reaching Constantinople on the thirteenth.

 

Throughout the war the Germans had laid about 11,000 mines in proximity to the British Isles in 1,860 groups. But so thorough had been the sweeping operations that of these, only two groups had remained undetected. After the armistice, the labours of the minesweepers continued unabated, for both enemy and Allied mines had to be destroyed before the safety of the seas was restored, enabling the merchant shipping of the world to proceed on its lawful occasions. In Home Waters alone this task meant a close search of 60,000 square miles of sea. Bar­rages and ancient enemy minefields, and long‑avoided dangerous areas had to be cleared, and a British sweeping flotilla had even to be based on Holland for months to clear the Scheveningen area and the southern Dutch waters. This work entailed a year's hard active service, but by October, 1919, very few mines were left in any area. The officers and men could take pride, when the last mine had been accounted for, that 28,000 moored mines had been swept up, though not without further loss of life.

 

Some reference must be made to the situation in the Straits of Otranto in the closing months of hostilities. In March 1918 a more vigorous offensive was decided upon. As a mobile barrage, sloops, destroyers, drifters, submarines and M.L.s were operating in this area, and, as already described, a fixed barrage of nets from Otranto to Fano was being constructed. The undertaking was a big one. The average depth of the straits at this point was about 450 fathoms, so that, if only the submarine's hull could stand the pressure, the enemy had all the depth he could desire.

 

THE OTRANTO BARRAGE

 

In order to foil him, it was agreed that the nets should be 150 feet deep, the top of the net being 33 feet from the surface. The barrage began east of a deep minefield laid a few miles to the east of Otranto and continued right across to Fano.

 

These plans meant heavy work for the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol, operating under many difficulties, but the Inonotony was occasionally relieved by cheering news of success. On April 18th M.L.168 sighted a large enemy submarine in the straits, attacked her and probably damaged her. The worm‑eaten drifters were being gradu­ally replaced by steel drifters sent out from England, but these did not arrive any too soon. On May 26th the drifter Clare and Alice sank in the Adriatic in conse­quence of a leak due to the destruction of the bottom planking by worms. Though submarines were still pene­trating the barrage ‑ we know that U.64 left Cattaro on the afternoon of June 9th and passed the Otranto barrage on the surface about 6 a.m. on the 11th ‑ it was becoming a serious menace to the enemy. On August 1st, UB.53 left Pola in the evening. On the 3rd she was proceeding sub­merged, so as to pass through the Otranto area unobserved, when at about 5 p.m. she fouled the mined nets. Two mines exploded and seriously damaged her, so that she came to the surface, where she found that the damage to her hull was too great to be repaired. The crew, therefore, abandoned her, and the survivors were picked up by a British destroyer after being in the water for three and a half hours. It was not until the last day of September that this Otranto net barrage was finally completed, and a few weeks afterwards the German submarines were recalled to the North Sea. As in the case of the Dover Straits, the drifters and other small craft had spent a trying time, continuing month after month until the months became years; when the day arrived for them, too, to be recalled to their home waters no one could begrudge them their well‑earned return to civil life and peaceful fishing.

 

Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, enemy submarines were most active and they were not content with torpedoing and mining ships of all descriptions. Some of them, for instance, U.20 and UC.73, were employed as transports between Austria and the Tripolitanian coast, whither they proceeded frequently, bringing back, among other articles, saddles and sundry leather goods for the use of the armies. During the early part of the summer, the chief submarine spheres of activity were off the east coast of Sicily, the south and east of Malta, the west coast of Sardinia, and the northern African coast. Submarines, numbering upwards of 30, laid their mines in such places as the Messina Straits, off Brindisi, Cape Santa Maria di Leuca, and Gallipoli (Calabria).

 

The great submarine adventure, persisted in month after month, had cost the enemy dearly. From all causes, over 200 German and Austrian submarines had been accounted for; by far the largest number had been sunk in the North Sea, and in most instances by mines and depth charges. The officers and men of the Auxiliary Patrol could take pride in their contribution to this result. No one realised better than the Germans the effective work which they had done. Beginning in August 1914 with a mere handful of men and ships, the "New Navy," im­provised after the war had begun, had increased at the signing of the armistice to over 39,000 ranks and ratings of skippers and fishermen. Large numbers of officers and ratings of the R.N.R. and R.N.V.R. had also been pressed into the service. The number of yachts, patrol gunboats, trawlers, whalers, M.L.s, drifters, motor drifters, motor boats, minesweepers, had reached the enormous total of 3,685 vessels by the end of the war. No other country could have provided so large an auxiliary force of men and ships. And the price of Admiralty had been high. No fewer than 2,304 officers and men had been killed, and 445 vessels had been destroyed, chiefly owing to mines. But by diligently keeping the seas for over four years, in all weathers and despite the enemy's stratagems, this service had succeeded in making an essential contribution to the victory of the Allied cause.

 

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER X

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (III)

 

July 1917‑November 1918

 

THE two months July and August 1917 were marked by a welcome reduction in the amount of damage done to merchant shipping by the intensive submarine campaign. The number of British vessels sunk in July was 88 and in August, 84. These losses were still terribly high, but they compared favourably with the total of 116 for June and 155 for April. They represented a gross tonnage of 319,931 and 310,551 respectively, and they were accompanied by the loss of 401 lives (passengers and crews) in July and 415 in August.

 

On July 3rd the Mongara (3,205 tons) was twice attacked in the Mediterranean. At 9 a.m. her master, Mr. G. Hamlyn, saw a torpedo approaching which had been fired at long range, and by putting his helm over he successfully evaded it. Later in the day, when she was only about ten miles from the port of Messina, a torpedo struck the ship just forward of the engine‑room, and in ten minutes she had sunk. All those on board, both passengers and crew, reached the shore safely in the boats.

 

On the same day the Matador (3,642 tons), with a cargo of grain, cotton, and munitions, from New Orleans, was making for the Irish coast when a torpedo was sighted 200 yards away on the port quarter. The ship was just straightening after a zigzag, and was consequently slow in answering her helm, and the torpedo struck her in the engine‑room. The third engineer was killed outright, and a fireman was terribly injured by escaping steam, and died a few hours later in one of the boats. The master of the Matador (Mr. W. T. Owen) described the submarine, which shortly after came to the surface, as apparently one of a new type. She was, he said, "about 150 feet in length, with one gun mounted aft, and a wire over all which appeared to have wireless aerials rigged to it. She had a semi‑circular steel dodger rather than a conning‑tower, and no periscopes were visible upon her. She had two torpedo tubes fitted in the bows outside the main structure. She was very easy to handle, and was painted a light grey above the water and a chocolate colour below. She had a boat and raft lashed down on the after‑deck. There were eighteen men about her decks. There were no marks or numbers visible upon her, and she flew no flag." After being twenty‑four hours in the boats, and sighting two other submarines besides the one which had torpedoed them, the survivors of the Matador were picked up by an American destroyer, and landed in Bantry Bay.

 

The next day much heavier loss of life occurred through the sinking of the Goathland (3,044 tons), which was tor­pedoed about ten miles from Belle Isle, twenty‑one lives, including that of the master, being sacrificed.

 

On the 8th the Obuasi (4,416 tons) was accompanying the Onitsha (3,921 tons) from the west coast of Africa to Liverpool. Both ships had called at Dakar to be fitted with guns, but as there were not enough to go round, a 12 ­pounder was mounted in the Obuasi, and the two ships made the homeward voyage in company. At noon the Obuasi was struck by a torpedo, which flooded the stoke­hold and put the engines out of action. Simultaneously two submarines were sighted, and the master, Mr. Percy Sola, ordered the crew into the boats. He himself, with the two gunners D. Richardson and R. Bradbeer, remained on board, retaining the gig for their own use, and commenced firing at a submarine which was chasing the Onitsha. They fired five shots, and the Onitsha got away safely. Two more torpedoes were then discharged at the Obuasi, the first one passing under her, and the second striking her and causing her to list considerably. The master and gunners then took to the gig, and the submarine came alongside and made them prisoners; it then fired some shots into the Obuasi, which soon afterwards sank. The self‑sacrifice of Captain Sola and his gunners was highly and deservedly commended, as by remaining on board and firing their gun they diverted the submarines' attack upon themselves, and undoubtedly saved their sister ship. The gunners received mention, and the master the D.S.C. The rest of the crew were picked up the salne evening by a destroyer, and landed at Queenstown.

 

ATTACKED BY SHARKS

 

On the 10th the Seang Choon (5,807 tons) was torpedoed and sunk with a loss of 19 lives, and the Garmoyle (1,229 tons) with a loss of 20, including the master.

 

On the 11th the Muirfield (3,086 tons), from Portland, Oregon, to Dublin, was twice attacked in the Atlantic, and the second time was sunk. From 5.20 to 8.20 a.m. she successfully maintained a running fight with a submarine upon the surface, the enemy firing forty rounds, and the Muirfield twenty‑eight, without a hit on either side. The chase was then abandoned. At 10.45 p.m. she encountered a second submarine, and was torpedoed. The explosion stopped the ship, and killed two men, besides putting the gun out of action. The chief officer and the wireless opera­tor were taken prisoners. After two days in the boats, the rest of the crew were picked up by the Phrygia, and landed at Gibraltar. For the successful three hours' fight which he put up against his first antagonist, Mr. E. G. Sturgeon, master of the Muirfield, was awarded mention.

 

The 15th and 16th of July were both days of disaster, involving the loss of a dozen British vessels. Among those lost on the 15th was the Trelissick (4,168 tons), with a cargo of grain from Boston, U.S.A. She also had on board the crew of the Exford (5,886 tons), whom she had rescued the previous day after their own ship was torpedoed. The master of the Trelissick was taken prisoner, together with his gunners, but the rest of the two crews were rescued by an American patrol boat and brought into Brest.

 

On the same day occurred one of the most gruesome of all the incidents recorded during this barbarous campaign. The Mariston (2,908 tons) was torpedoed and sunk at 3 a.m. Out of a crew of 29, the only survivor was the cook. There were two explosions, and the ship sank very rapidly. The cook secured a hatch, and drifted about on this precarious raft for fifteen hours before he was picked up. When the ship first went down, he counted 17 of his shipmates clinging to various bits of wreckage in the water. The submarine came to the surface, and her officer stood for some minutes looking at his victims struggling for their lives. There was no ship in sight, and he could have rescued them all if he had been so minded. Then something happened which even he did not care to watch, and he closed his conning‑tower, and sub­merged. One by one the cook saw his comrades disappear, each uttering a piercing scream as he was dragged below. A school of man‑eating sharks had completed the ghastly work which the submarine began.

 

Among the vessels sunk on the 16th were the Ribston (3,372 tons) with a loss of twenty‑five lives, including the master, the Valentia (3,242 tons) with a loss of three, and the Tamele (3,932 tons) with a loss of one. Early in the morn­ing the Tamele was shelled for forty minutes by a submarine which kept well out of range of the ship's gun, and escaped from this encounter only to be torpedoed the same evening. The master, Mr. T. H. Beard, with the passengers and crew, spent the whole night and part of the next day in the boats, but were ultimately rescued and landed at Valentia.

 

In the sinking of the Eloby (6,545 tons), which was torpedoed on the 19th, fifty‑six persons, including the master, lost their lives. The City of Florence (5,399 tons) was sunk on the 20th, the master, Mr. J. C. Gray, and crew spending thirty‑six hours in the boats before they were picked up. The same day the Salsette (5,842 tons) was torpedoed and sunk off Portland Bill, and fifteen of the crew lost their lives. There was heavy loss of life again on the 21st, when the Paddington (5,084 tons) and the sailing vessel Harold (1,376 tons) were both sunk. Of the two crews more than forty men were drowned, including in each case the master.

 

 

 

A German Submarine Stops a Sailing Ship

 

The month of July ended with a brutal case of wholesale murder, to which reference has been already made in con­nection with a similar act of barbarity on the 8th of April. The Belgian Prince (4,765 tons) was torpedoed at 8 p.m. on the 31st; the master was taken prisoner by the sub­marine and sent below; and the whole of the crew were ordered on the submarine's deck. There they were robbed of their possessions, their lifebelts were taken away from them, and the submarine submerged. Three only of the forty‑two survived to bear witness to the atrocity committed, the chief engineer, the cook, and a Russian seaman; they had managed to hide lifebelts underneath their coats, and were picked up the next morning by patrol boats.

 

August began badly; twenty‑five lives were lost on the 1st through the sinking of the Karina (4,222 tons) and the Laertes (4,541 tons). On the 4th forty‑two more lives were

 

FIGHTS WITH U‑BOATS

 

sacrificed, about equally divided between the Cairnstrath (2,128 tons) and the Countess Of Mar (2,234 tons). In both these cases the master was among the drowned. On the same day the mate of the Azira (1,144 tons) sighted a periscope, but mistook it for a dan‑buoy, and kept on his course until escape became impossible.

 

Among the vessels lost during the next few days were the Kathleen (3,915 tons), whose master was drowned, although the crew got away safely in the boats, and were picked up by trawlers; the Rosemount (3,044 tons), which was hit eight times by shells, the submarine keeping well out of range of the ship's guns, and was on fire when her master, Mr. S. Cook, himself severely wounded, ordered her to be abandoned; and the Port Curtis (4,710 tons), which was sunk by bombs and gunfire after a fight lasting four hours. Her master, Mr. William Mason, who was also badly wounded, received the D.S.C.

 

The master of the Blagdon (1,996 tons) and eleven of his crew lost their lives when the ship was torpedoed on the 9th, and eleven more lives were lost on the 11th by the sinking of the Sonnie (2,642 tons). A larger vessel, the Turakina (9,920 tons), was sunk with a loss of two lives in the English Channel two days later.

 

Among the many merchant vessels lost during the second half of August was the Elswick Lodge (3,558 tons) on the 20th. Four of her crew were killed when the torpedo exploded, and the remainder, twenty‑three in number, spent eighteen hours in the starboard lifeboat before they were rescued by the Kouang‑Si of Marseilles. On the same day the Incemore (3,060 tons) was torpedoed and sank in four minutes; and fourteen lives were lost through the sinking of the Edernian (3,588 tons) a few miles out from Southwold.

 

On the 21st the Cunard Company's ship Volodia (5,689 tons) was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic. Ten lives were lost at the time of the explosion, but magnificent seamanship was afterwards displayed by the master, Mr. J. A. Wolfe, and by the second officer, Mr. W. A. Line, in bringing their boats safely into port in the English Channel. In very heavy seas, with a gale blowing most of the time, and encountering terrific squalls of rain, hail and wind, during which both boats lost their sea‑anchors and their rudders, they nevertheless covered more than three hundred miles in three and a half days, and reached Plymouth and Falmouth without further tragedy. The latter part of the time the rations in the captain's boat were reduced to one biscuit and one dipper of water a day. Special praise was given to Ah Yee, the Chinese quarter­master, who for many hours steered the second officer's boat without assistance, besides taking charge of the other Chinamen, and seeing that all orders were obeyed.

 

Early on the morning of the 21st nineteen vessels left Lough Swilly in single file, and proceeded to form into con­voy formation of six columns. They were escorted by two cruisers and six destroyers. The Devonian (10,435 tons) was the commodore vessel, and from her the others took their stations. By 11.30 the formation was complete, the Devonian being at the head of the third column, with the Vasari immediately behind her, and the Roscommon (3,238 tons) occupying the second place in the column on her port side. No submarine had been sighted, but a few minutes before noon the Devonian was torpedoed. A second torpedo just missed the Vasari, and a third struck the Roscommon. By this time the periscope of the sub­marine was sighted, but she dived quickly, and had dis­appeared before one of the destroyers reached the spot. She had taken a great risk, and had succeeded in sinking the two largest ships in the convoy, and causing the re­mainder to turn back into Lough Swilly. The master of the Devonian (Mr. A. W. V. Trant) made strong representa­tions about the convoy arrangements, especially as to the unwisdom of assembling the convoy in such an unprotected area. The string of vessels extended for twelve miles, and the manoeuvring necessary to bring them into the required formation occupied from six to seven hours, during which time a hostile submarine could watch the whole proceeding. Captain Trant was afterwards appointed to the convoy section at the Admiralty, and remained there till the end of the war.

 

 

 

The Loss of a British Merchant Ship

 

The British India Company's ship Malda (7,896 tons) had come successfully through five encounters, twice by the use of her gun, once by weather and twice by the excellence of her look‑out, but on August 25th she was torpedoed south‑west of the Scilly Isles, and sank a few hours later, with the loss of 64 lives.

 

On the 26th the Assyria (6,370 tons), like the Devonian

 

MORE ENCOUNTERS

 

a few days earlier, was torpedoed while leading one of the columns of a convoy. Nothing was seen of the submarine at the time, but the torpedo came from the side which had been left unprotected owing to the departure of one of the escorting destroyers. The ship was struck in the bow, the explosion wrecking the forecastle, but No. 2 bulkhead held, and Mr. W. Robertson, the master, decided to try to make the land. An hour later, in spite of the fact that a destroyer had been circling round her, the Assyria was struck again, this time amidships, and shortly afterwards she sank.

 

On the same day the Durango (3,008 tons), belonging to the Furness Withy Company, was attacked by gunfire by two submarines, and for five hours maintained the fight, by which time her ammunition was exhausted, and she was already sinking from the effect of a shell which struck her below the water line. More than once during the encounter she had made good use of smoke screens, and her gunners scored a hit on the conning‑tower of one of her attackers, which gained her half an hour's respite while the other submarine went to the assistance of its consort. The damaged submarine was unable to submerge, and as soon as the Durango sank proceeded at high speed northward, evidently anxious to escape before any other ship arrived in answer to the Durango's calls.

 

On the 28th the Hidalgo (4,271 tons) was making for Archangel when she was torpedoed without warning, and was afterwards sunk by gunfire. All the boats but one were either smashed or swamped, and out of thirty‑five men who left in the remaining lifeboat thirteen died from cold and exposure. The rest of the crew spent five days and four nights in the boat, with a temperature very near to freezing, and finally reached Kamo Fjord.

 

The next day the Treloske (3,071 tons) was attacked three separate times by submarines. Twice her master, Mr. T. Strike, successfully evaded a torpedo, and once very nearly succeeded in ramming the submarine which fired it. The third time, at 10.15 p.m., when the position of the moon rendered the ship a specially good target, a torpedo struck the engine‑room, and the Treloske sank within ten minutes. The D.S.C. was awarded to the master, and the gunlayer received mention.

 

Although the U‑boats were still sinking far too many merchantmen, the two months of July and August were marked by many notable escapes from submarine attack.

 

On July 6th the Glenturret (4,696 tons) with a cargo of wheat from Australia was attacked at a time when she was cleaning fires, and her steam was consequently low. The Chinese crew were at first in a great panic, but afterwards worked well, and increased the speed of the ship from 10 to 11 1/2 knots. The submarine fired fifty shells, without scoring a direct hit, and after two hours the chase was abandoned. The master, Mr. W. H. Baker, was awarded mention.

 

Mr. H. G. Speed, master of the Coblenz (1,338 tons), Mr. Peter Urquhart, master of the Clan Chisholm (2,647 tons), and Mr. Henry Johns, master of the Haslingden (1,934 tons), whose ships came successfully out of action on the 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively, were each awarded the D.S.C.

 

Another narrow escape on July 8th was that of the Plutarch (5,613 tons). One torpedo passed between her rudder and her logline, and a second close alongside. Her escape was mainly due to the skilful handling of the vessel by her master, Mr. F. S. Leicester, but it is probable also that her dazzle painting ‑ she was painted with a stern on her bows and bows on her stern ‑ confused the enemy.

 

The same day the Cavour (3,156 tons) and the Clifflower (3,509 tons) were nearing the Lizard in company, the Cavour only being armed, when a torpedo was fired at the Clifflower and missed its mark. The Cavour at once turned and fired two shots at the submarine, which dived. Shortly afterwards a destroyer and an airship arrived on the scene, and the two merchant ships went on without further molestation.

 

On the 16th Mr. W. P. Purdon, master of the Benguela (5,520 tons), successfully maintained a running fight with a submarine for six hours, during which time the enemy fired one torpedo and upwards of 250 shells. When­ever the submarine came within range, the ship's gun returned the fire; and the master repeatedly altered his course, so as to prevent the submarine bringing two guns into action, or getting between the ship and the sun's glare. He received the D.S.C., and the gunlayer, Lance‑Corporal Adlam, the D.S.M.

 

The advantage of the improved armament with which merchant ships were being fitted was well illustrated on the 18th, when the City of Canton (6,692 tons) was attacked

 

NOTABLE ESCAPES

 

at a range of about 13,000 yards, and was able to reply so effectively with her 4‑inch gun that the submarine sub­merged and gave up the encounter. Mr. Alexander Gardner was the master.

 

Three days later, on the 21st, a similar success was gained by good shooting with a 4.7‑inch gun. The Polyphemus (4,968 tons) was first attacked by a torpedo, which missed her by 200 yards, and then by gunfire. The submarine fired ten rounds, without making a hit, and the ship fired three, the last of which got home. Whether the sub­marine was sunk or only damaged was not known, but it disappeared. The master of the Polyphemus, Mr. E. S. Arrowsmith, and the gunlayer, C. H. Cummings, were both awarded mention.

 

In the last week of July, the Baynyassa (4,937 tons; master, Mr. G. B. Murray), the Livonia (1,879 tons; master, Mr. H. G. Orchard), and the Devona (3,779 tons; master, Mr. D. R. Murray), who had been in action already on June 20th, all turned the tables on their attackers by the accuracy of their gunfire, while the Beacon Grange (4,237 tons) escaped mainly through the skilful navigation of her master, Mr. W. Keslake. In all these cases decora­tions were awarded.

 

On the last day of the month, the Hunsbrook (4,463 tons) narrowly avoided a torpedo by prompt use of her helm, and then kept the submarine at bay with her gun, escap­ing finally under cover of smoke boxes and cowls. Her master, Mr. G. H. Sheppard, was awarded mention. A very similar escape was achieved the same day by the Worsley Hall (3,489 tons), which was attacked by two submarines simultaneously. The ship was missed by a torpedo, and then both submarines opened fire at long range. In this case also the master, Mr. H. E. Oliver, who was awarded the D.S.C., made skilful use of smoke screens, at the same time forcing the submarines to keep out of range of the ship's gun, so that after an hour and a quarter they gave up the chase.

 

On August 1st the Glamorgan (3,539 tons) and the City of Colombo (6,000 tons) were both in action, and came through unscathed. The Glamorgan (master, Mr. A. Balleine) was attacked at very close quarters, a torpedo fired from a distance of 200 feet passing under her stern. The submarine dived, but as soon as its periscope re‑appeared two shots were fired at it, the second of which was believed to be a hit. The Glamorgan proceeded on her course, the gun's crew remaining at their posts all night in case of further trouble, and reached port safely. The City of Colombo (master, Mr. J. S. Meria) was going to the assistance of a sailing ship which was in trouble when she was herself attacked by a submarine. The latter kept up a continuous fire for an hour and three‑quarters, but the shells, though falling very close to the ship, never hit her. The submarine was of a large type, with a greater surface speed than that of the City of Colombo, and before long came within range of the ship's gun, when its commander found his fire returned so accurately that he gave up the chase. Three days later the City of Colombo sighted a second submarine, and fired four shots at it in rapid succession, causing it to submerge and disappear.

 

The same day, August 4th, Mr. T. W. Seurr, master of the Mahronda (7,630 tons), brought his ship success­fully through a sharp encounter with a submarine of this large type, which mounted three powerful guns, and for an hour maintained extremely rapid fire, the shells burst­ing dangerously near the ship most of the time. Good gunnery, combined with skilful handling of the vessel, brought the Mahronda safely through.

 

The largest merchant ship in action during the month was the White Star liner Belgic (24,540 tons), outward bound from Liverpool to New York. On the 11th, early in the afternoon, the periscope of a submarine was sighted on her port bow, and immediately her helm was put over, and she tried, though unsuccessfully, to ram the enemy. A torpedo was then fired, and passed astern. The Belgic's master, Mr. W. E. Ingham, had already had experience in dodging a torpedo, when on board the Haverford the previous June.

 

Two other encounters during August, in each of which the attacking submarine was hit and damaged by the ship's gunfire, were those of the Horseferry (1,812 tons) in the North Sea on the 17th, and the Ardendearg (3,237 tons) on the 29th in the Atlantic. The respective masters, Mr. F. T. Skellern and Mr. J. Begg, each received the D.S.C.

 

During the remaining months of 1917, the heaviest losses

 

LAST MONTHS OF 1917

 

took place in October, when 79 British merchant ships, with a gross tonnage of 261,649, were sunk by submarines, and lives to the number of 578 were sacrificed. In September the number of ships sunk was 68, in November 56, and in December 76.

 

The Peerless (3,112 tons) was torpedoed on September 4th, suffering severe damage below the water‑line, and sank in three or four minutes. Her master and two gunners were made prisoners.

 

The greatest loss of life occurred on the 7th, when the Minnehaha (13,714 tons) was torpedoed without warning twelve miles from the Fastnet, and forty‑three were drowned. Again, on the 11th twenty‑five lives were lost when the Vienna (4,170 tons) was torpedoed, the master being made prisoner.

 

The Chulmleigh (4,911 tons) was sunk on the 14th off the coast of Spain; in her case the entire crew were landed safely, with the help of Spanish fishing boats and the lighthouse keeper at Cape Salou. The next day the Santaren (4,256 tons), with a cargo of coal for Archangel, was struck by two torpedoes, and had to be abandoned. The crew spent six days in the boats, in very heavy weather, before they reached the Norwegian port Bre­manger.

 

Among other vessels sunk with heavy loss of life during September were the Arabis (3,928 tons), the Joseph Chamberlain (3,709 tons), the Saint Ronald (4,387 tons), the Greleen (2,286 tons), the Boynton (2,578 tons), the Kildonan (2,118 tons), and the Heron (885 tons).

 

On September 19th an act of humanity was performed which deserves to be recorded, if only because such acts on the part of the enemy were so exceptional in this in­human and barbarous campaign. When the Arendal (1,387 tons) had been hit three times by shells, the cargo of benzine upon her upper deck caught fire. Her master, Mr. C. Vermulen, and three of the crew were badly burned, while the chief officer and three other men were wounded by the shell‑fire. The surgeon of the submarine attended to their wounds.

 

Among the encounters of the month, out of which the merchant ship succeeded in escaping, were those of the Umgeni (2,622 tons; master, Mr. J. C. Brett), which vas fired on by two submarines on the 3rd, and by her retutn fire kept them at a respectful distance; the St. Edmund (1,223 tons; master, Mr. G. C. L. Hunter), whose gunners hit and damaged the attacking submarine; the Grelfryda (5,136 tons), which was torpedoed and for a time abandoned, but afterwards re‑boarded and brought into Bridlington Bay; and the Brodmead (5,646 tons), whose master and eleven of the crew were killed by gunfire, the ship, in spite of heavy damage, reaching Gibraltar without sinking; the last three all occurred on September 7th.

 

On the 10th the Parana (4,182 tons) almost ran down a submarine, which immediately fired a torpedo from about thirty feet astern. This was avoided, and the submarine opened fire soon afterwards from about 6,000 yards. The Parana, in the course of a long encounter, was hit once by shrapnel, but was saved from worse damage by the good seamanship of her master, Mr. I. J. C. Buret, and by the good shooting of her gun's crew. The master received the D.S.C., and the gunlayer the medal.

 

On the next day a brilliant five hours' action was fought in the Atlantic by the British Transport (4,143 tons), and resulted in the undoubted sinking of the submarine U.49. In the early part of the engagement, the ship's accurate gunnery forced the enemy to drop out of range. About 9 p.m. the luminous tracks of two torpedoes were seen approaching, and the helm was put over, causing them to miss by about twenty feet. At 9.20, the sea being very phosphorescent, a luminous patch revealed the presence of the submarine on the port bow. The ship immediately altered course and rammed it. The sub­marine passed alongside with its bow high in the air, and two final shots from the ship's gun sent it to the bottom. The master of the British Transport, Mr. A. T. Pope, received the D.S.O., and the chief officer, C. M. St. Clair, the second officer, A. H. Bohner, and the chief engineer, D. A. Young, all received the D.S.C., while the wireless operator, J. V. Kininmouth, the second engineer, J. Mackey, and seven others of the crew were mentioned.

 

The Thetis (649 tons; master, Mr. A. F. Blazebrook) was the last ship in a convoy column, when she sighted a submarine only about forty yards away, and fired three shots at it, after which it disappeared. On the same day the Hyndford (4,286 tons; master, Mr. E. W. Rettie) fought a three hours' duel with a submarine, and successfully

 

LOSSES IN OCTOBER

 

prevented it from coming near enough to use tor­pedoes; and the Rossia (4,576 tons; master, Mr. Herbert Lugg) also held off the enemy by the accuracy of her gunfire.

 

On the 15th the Idomeneus (6,692 tons) was torpedoed while under convoy, the fifth engineer and three firemen being killed by the explosion, but she was eventually towed into port.

 

The City of Lincoln (5,867 tons) was similarly torpedoed on the 18th. Mr. D. Jenkins, finding that his ship was still keeping afloat, refused time after time to leave her, and only did so finally on receiving an assurance from the commander of the escorting destroyer that he would be allowed to return on board immediately a tug arrived to take her in tow. Later on the engine‑room bulkhead gave way, but in spite of this on the 21st he anchored the ship safely in Plymouth Sound.

 

The Portaferry (236 tons), a small unarmed ship, was engaged on the 26th in rescuing the crew of a torpedoed vessel, when she was herself attacked. This torpedo happily missed its mark, and Mr. G. H. Hiles, the Portaferry's master, brought his ship and the rescued crew to port in safety.

 

On the last day of the month, the Drake (2,267 tons) was hit by a shell in the starboard bunker, and had to be abandoned when the rising water had put out her fires. Her master, Mr. F. J. Carter, and her entire crew were afterwards picked up by the Cronstadt (1,674 tons), whose master, Mr. Robert Logan, had successfully fought an action lasting about four hours during the same day.

 

October began with the escape of the Copenhagen (4,540 tons), without any casualties, from a gun‑fight in the Atlantic. Her master, Mr. David Jones, used smoke boxes with good result, as well as returning the enemy's fire effectively.

 

The loss of life throughout the month was exceptionally high, ranging from twenty to thirty‑five lives on no less than fourteen separate occasions. In every case the vessel was torpedoed without warning. They were the Forestmoor (2,844 tons) on the 5th, the Aylevarroo (908 tons) on the 7th, the Richard de Larrinaga (5,591 tons), the Memphian (6,305 tons), and the Greldon (3,322 tons), all on the 8th, the Eskmere (2,293 tons) on the 18th, the Semantha (2,847 tons) and the White Head (1,172 tons) on the 14th and 15th, the Manchuria (2,997 tons) and the Hazelwood (3,120 tons) on the 17th and 18th, the Australdale (4,379 tons) and the Britannia (765 tons) on the 19th, the Algarve (1,274 tons) on the 20th, and the Cambric (3,403 tons) on the last day of the month.

 

The case of the Eskmere was one of special tragedy. The ship went down in less than five minutes, and both the lifeboats were capsized. Seven men managed to hold on to the bottom of the starboard boat, and others who were imprisoned underneath it were heard knocking. An appeal was made to the Germans to help to right the boat, but instead they submerged so suddenly as to jerk the survivors off into the water. When these climbed back again, the knocking of their fellows underneath had ceased. Out of a crew of twenty‑eight all told, seven only were rescued the next morning.

 

On October 2nd eleven vessels left Liverpool in convoy, bound for Eastern ports. All went well till they reached Malta, where a relieving escort of two sloops (Clematis and Mimosa) and four trawlers took charge of them. As the speed of the convoy was ten knots, and the trawlers could only make seven, the latter were sent back, and the escort was reduced to the two sloops, a quite inadequate protection for eleven vessels with valuable cargoes. On the morning of the 19th the Pera (7,635 tons), which was the outside ship on the starboard wing, was torpedoed amidships, and sank three hours later. The master, Mr. S. Finch, especially praised the conduct of the third engineer. Mr. Wilkinson, who went down through the stokehold and stopped the engines at great risk to his own life. The Clematis turned back to assist the Pera and pick up her crew, and the convoy proceeded with only one sloop as an escort for ten vessels. The next morning, the 20th, the Collegian (7,520 tons), which had become the outside ship on the starboard side, was torpedoed, and sank in ten minutes. This time the submarine was sighted, and the Collegian's gunners, who remained at their posts until the master, Mr. F. E. Vincent, ordered them to leave the ship, managed to fire five rounds at it. The Clematis had returned to the convoy, but left again to take the crews of the Pera and Collegian into Alexandria. The same

 

CONVOY ATTACKED

 

morning further attacks were made on the convoy, and the Malakuta, which was now outside, only escaped a torpedo by instantaneous action with the helm, and this with risk of collision. Her master, Mr. F. Whitham, said in his report, "Had the ship on my port hand not fallen out of the line and thereby given me more room, should have been torpedoed or collided with her."

 

The torpedo which missed the Malakuta passed on, and was narrowly avoided by the Maidan (8,205 tons), the guide‑ship of the convoy, and almost immediately a second torpedo approached the Maidan from astern, but was deflected from its course by a shot from the ship's gun. Mr. J. Montador, the master of the Maidan, also experienced difficulty in avoiding collision with the ship on his port side while he was escaping the torpedoes. The Burma (7,470 tons) was another ship in this convoy at which a torpedo was discharged; she also narrowly escaped destruction by quick manoeuvring, and her master, Mr. J. Mitchell, reported the danger of collision as an added anxiety at the moment.

 

Certainly two, possibly three, submarines took part in the persistent attacks on this convoy, one of them being almost certainly sunk by a well‑aimed shot from the Maidan. The whole incident illustrates the difficulties under which the convoy system laboured at this period, and it was quite arguable that the vessels would have been safer travelling independently than with so inadequate an escort.

 

Some other notable encounters in October were those of the Alavi (3,627 tons; master, Mr. C. F. Williams), and the Orna (4,788 tons; master, Mr. W. Buswell). Both these ships made unsuccessful attempts to ram the enemy, the Alavi being afterwards sunk by gunfire, with a loss of thirteen lives. The Orna escaped undamaged. The Carmelite (2,583 tons; master, Mr. H. Scott) and the Comeric (3,979 tons; master, Mr. J. R. Ridland) both successfully escaped destruction by prompt use of the helm, the torpedo in each case passing very close.

 

November showed the best results since the intensive submarine campaign began, the number of British ships sunk falling from seventy‑nine to fifty‑six. There were, however, several cases of very heavy loss of life.

 

On November 2nd the Cape Finisterre (4,380 tons) was torpedoed and sunk, with the loss of thirty‑five lives, including that of the master. An even heavier casualty list resulted from the sinking of the Aparima (5,704 tons), just after midnight on the 19th,when fifty‑six were drowned, including seventeen out of twenty‑nine cadets who were on board. The Dunrobin (3,617 tons) had been twice previously in action, and come through with honours, but on November 24th she was torpedoed off the Lizard, and the master and thirty of the crew were lost. But the worst tragedy of the month was the sinking of the Elder Dempster liner, the Apapa (7,832 tons), at 4 a.m. on the 28th, both because no fewer than seventy‑seven lives were lost, about equally divided between passengers and crew, and because most of these deaths were due to the callous and quite unnecessary firing of a second torpedo at the ship just at the moment when the boats had reached the water, and had not had time to pull away.

 

Two vessels which succeeded in coming safely into harbour after being badly damaged by torpedoes were the David Lloyd George (4,764 tons) on the 17th, and the Thornhill (3,848 tons) on the 27th. Three others, the Rodskjaer (2,724 tons; master, Mr. E. G. Sturgeon), the Southgare (818 tons; master, Mr. J. Scott), and the Cavallo (2,086 tons; master, Mr. J. Howgate), owed their escape mainly to prompt and accurate gunfire. The Marie Suzanne (3,106 tons) had on the 19th fallen some distance astern of her convoy owing to her lack of speed, and was attacked in quick succession by two submarines. She forced both of them to submerge, firing ten rounds at the first one, and thirty at the second. The master, Mr. P. E. George, who afterwards received the D.S.C., gave high praise to his gunners for their coolness and good shooting, by which the ship was saved. The Sardinia (6,580 tons) on the 21st avoided a torpedo by a margin of only thirty feet, through the skilful navigation of her master, Mr. F. G. Cadiz.

 

December failed to maintain the improvement of the previous month, and the number of ships sunk by sub­marines went up again to seventy‑six.

 

Four ships were torpedoed on the 1st, and three of then, were sunk, the Molesey (3,218 tons), without loss of life, and the Euphorbia (3,109 tons) and Rydal Hall (3,314 tons), with a loss of thirty‑seven lives between them. The

 

MORE ATTACKS ON CONVOYS

 

fourth, the Helenus (7,555 tons), was the commodore's ship of a large convoy. She was torpedoed when about fifty miles from the Lizard, and after listing ten degrees she righted herself and was able to proceed under her own steam. The wind, however, increased to a moderate gale with a heavy sea, and her master, Mr. C. A. Wilson, displayed fine seamanship in bringing her safely into port.

 

Two other vessels which were safely brought into harbour under great difficulties, and after being badly damaged by torpedoes, were the Chyebassa (6,249 tons), on the 8th in the Mediterranean, and the Nyanza (6,695 tons), on the 9th in the English Channel. The Chyebassa formed one of a convoy of thirteen vessels which left Port Said on December 3rd. When she was torpedoed the boats were manned and lowered, and ordered to stand by, but Mr. A. P. Logan, the master, found that only No. 3 hold had filled with water, and that there was no immediate likelihood of the ship sinking; he, therefore, had the boats re‑hoisted, and eventually brought the vessel into Marsa Scirocco. Shortly after the explosion of the torpedo the Chyebassa had suffered additional damage by collision with the City Of Marseilles, the ship next to her in the convoy; and half an hour after she had got under way again she sighted a submarine about 6,000 yards distant, and fired six rounds at it before her escort came up to protect her.

 

The Nyanza was the rear vessel of the central column of a convoy of twenty‑three, travelling at 7 1/2 knots, under what appeared to be adequate protection, one of H.M. ships leading, and eight destroyers guarding the flanks and rear. The vessel was torpedoed at 8.35 p.m., nothing being seen of the submarine. The master, Mr. C. G. Smith, with Mr. Vaughan, the chief officer, and four others, remained on board till 2 a.m., and then, as the ship seemed to be sinking, they were taken into a destroyer till the tugs arrived at 7 a.m. They then returned on board, and the damaged vessel was towed into Falmouth. The casualties were heavy, five passengers and forty‑four of the crew being reported missing, mainly owing to the heavy sea and the capsizing of one of the boats.

 

On December 8rd the Leafield (2,539 tons) sighted a submarine on her starboard bow and tried unsuccessfully to ram it. The encounter is interesting as being apparently the first occasion on which a submarine put up a smoke screen to cover her retreat from a merchant ship. The Leafield and her master, Mr. W. McCone, had been in action more than once before, and had come through unscathed.

 

From midnight till 3.30 the next morning the Lord Dufferin (4,664 tons) was engaged with a submarine, which fired two torpedoes at her, and also attacked with rapid gunfire. The first intimation of anything unusual was a Morse signal accompanied by a curtain of smoke; the master, Mr. J. Anderson, was suspicious of the signal on account of its blue colour, and did not reply to it. Both torpedoes were very narrowly avoided, and the ship returned the gunfire promptly and escaped without being hit.

 

Some other vessels whose excellent gunnery was their salvation were the Penmount (2,314 tons; master, Mr. S. R. Valler), on the 10th, the Eastern City (5,992 tons; master, Mr. E. Vooght), on the 11th, and on the 20th three ships which were voyaging in company: the Sorrento (2,892 tons; master, Mr. W. Stephens), the Seattle (5,133 tons; master, Mr. J. M. Bell), and the Polaria (3,546 tons; master, Mr. R. M. Innes).

 

At 3.30 p.m. on the 19th the Cunarder Vinovia (7,046 tons) was torpedoed when she was about ten miles from land. At 4 p.m. a small tug arrived, and commenced to tow, but as the ship seemed to be sinking a patrol boat soon afterwards took off those of the crew who had not already left. The master, Mr. S. Gronow, still believed it possible to bring the ship into port, and pluckily remained on board for four hours longer, steering her and from time to time in complete darkness investi­gating her condition. At 8 p.m., in spite of all his efforts, she sank about five miles from the beach, and the master was thrown into the water, to be picked up about two hours afterwards. If more power‑tug assistance had been sent and if Captain Gronow had not been on board alone, he might not improbably have brought the Vinovia to Penzance.

 

While the conduct of the officers and crews of the mercantile marine throughout the long and trying sub­marine campaign was in almost every instance beyond all

 

LAST YEAR OF THE WAR

 

praise, and marked by amazing steadfastness, resource, and loyalty, there were a few occasions ‑ very few ­on which it fell a little short of the general high standard. The case of the Vinovia just related was one instance; a rather similar one occurred on the 24th of the same month, when the Elmleaf (5,948 tons) was torpedoed off the north‑west coast of Scotland. One boat‑load left the ship against the master's orders, while he, with twenty of the crew who stood by him and worked well and loyally, brought the vessel safely into Stornoway.

 

In spite of all counter‑measures, the toll of British merchant shipping taken by the submarines continued to be very serious, although the monthly figures were much lower in 1918 than in 1917. The average number of ships sunk each month from February to December 1917, in­clusive, was 92, while the corresponding average from January to October 1918 was reduced to 52. The greatest amount of tonnage sunk in any month in 1918 was 224,501 in February, but even in September it was still 136,859; while the September toll of lives, 521 (civilian passengers and crews), was exceeded only five times during the whole war.

 

On January Ist the Genesee (2,892 tons) was torpedoed in the North Sea, but righted herself after listing heavily to port. Her master sent the majority of the crew away to the escorting patrol boat, and with the four who remained, one of whom was a sixteen‑year‑old apprentice, brought the ship safely into Hartlepool. The same day the Fleswick (648 tons) exchanged fourteen rounds with a submarine at a distance of two miles, and the master, Mr. J. Hughan, thought he scored one hit. On the 2nd the Kingsley (633 tons) was attacked by a submarine at only 300 yards' distance, and fired six rounds in reply. Five of her crew were killed by shrapnel, and four wounded; but her master, Mr. E. Evans, succeeded in bringing her safely to Penzance. He was awarded the D.S.O., and the chief engineer the D.S.C.

 

The War Song (2,535 tons) was sunk by gunfire on the 15th about twenty‑five miles off Brest; sixteen of her crew were drowned, including the master. The next day the War Thistle (5,166 tons) was torpedoed, and towed into Havre Roads in a greatly damaged condition.

 

On the 23rd Mr. R. W. Briscoe, master of the Nembe (3,855 tons), was chased for five hours with great persistence by a submarine, which was sighted at intervals in the rather misty weather; but by frequent changes of course he succeeded in outwitting the enemy completely. The Nembe made better speed than the submarine, and the latter could not use its gun in the teeth of wind and sea so long as Captain Briscoe kept it on his lee side.

 

The master of the Saint Clair (621 tons) attributed the escape of his ship from an attack by gunfire largely to the use of smoke boxes. About forty rounds were fired by the submarine, the Saint Clair's gunlayer being killed by a shell splinter.

 

The Corton (3,405 tons) was torpedoed on the 22nd, and the master and crew took to the boats; but finding that the vessel did not sink, the master called for volunteers, and returned on board with them. The wounded were transferred to a trawler, and when other help arrived the ship was towed into Stokes Bay. The experience of the Harmonides (3,521 tons) on the 20th was somewhat similar. She had been torpedoed, and the crew were in the boats, when the master found that only No. 1 hold was full of water, though the rudder was destroyed and the propeller was only partly submerged. The starboard boat had left the ship, and its crew were picked up later by a destroyer, but the crew of the port lifeboat returned immediately, and assisted the master until tugs came and took the ship in tow.

 

The Alice M. Craig (916 tons; master, Mr. W. Black) sighted the wake of a torpedo about 100 yards distant, and by a quick turn of the helm evaded it. She then fired five rounds at the submarine with her 90 mm. gun, two of which were thought to hit their mark.

 

On the 31st, Mr. J. W. Carter, master of the Eggesford, had his third experience of being torpedoed. As no escort was in sight, and the ship had taken a heavy list, he and the crew stood by in the boats to see what would occur. They afterwards returned on board, and in spite of some trouble with the firemen, brought the ship into Alexandria under her own steam.

 

On February 4th the Herefordshire (7,198 tons) and the Sardinia (6,580 tons) formed part of a convoy homeward bound in the Mediterranean. Twice on that evening a torpedo was sighted approaching the Herefordshire, and

 

SINKING OF THE "TUSCANIA"

 

both times was avoided by quick action. The master, Mr. G. E. Millsom, used both helm and engines to throw his ship round quickly. Unhappily the first of the two torpedoes, after passing close under the Herefordshire's stern, struck the Sardinia on the starboard bow. The master, Mr. F. G. Cadiz, transferred his passengers and most of his crew to an attendant warship, and with about forty officers and men succeeded in navigating his ship, stern foremost, sixty miles to Oran, the nearest port. The forepeak and forehold were full of water, and at any moment the bulk­head between them and the after‑part were liable to go, in which case she would have sunk immediately. There was also imminent risk in the darkness of further sub­marine attack. Captain Cadiz received the D.S.C.

 

The same day the Treveal (4,160 tons) was torpedoed and sunk with a loss of thirty‑three lives, including the master. The submarine cruised about in the neighbourhood of three survivors clinging to a broken raft, but made no attempt to rescue them. They were picked up eight hours later in a state of great exhaustion.

 

The Tuscania (14,348 tons) was carrying troops and general cargo from Halifax to Liverpool. On February 5th she was torpedoed, and sank about two hours afterwards. The loss of life was heavy, forty‑four of the crew and about a hundred soldiers, but might have been less if the boats had stayed near the ship instead of trying to make land. The master, Mr. P. A. McLean, considered that in narrow waters on a dark night a vessel like the Tuscania, capable of making sixteen knots, would be safer proceeding independently than in convoy.

 

Quite often the time that elapsed between the torpedoing of a vessel and its sinking was terribly short. The Lofoten (942 tons), which was lost on February 3rd, went down in less than sixty seconds, taking crew and boats down with her. The master and three others came up again, and climbed on to an up‑turned boat, on which they clung for nine hours before they were rescued. They were the only survivors out of twenty‑one.

 

The Ventmoor (3,456 tons), the Beacon Light (2,768 tons), the Barrowmore (3,832 tons), the Huntsmoor (4,957 tons), the Rio Verde (4,025 tons), the Cheviot Range (3,691 tons), and the Renfrew (3,830 tons) were all sunk during February with a loss of twenty or more lives in each case.

 

The Philadelphian (5,165 tons) was struck by two torpedoes simultaneously, one before and one abaft the bridge, and capsized and sank in seven minutes. The master, Mr. F. Wood, shared his lifebuoy with the cook, and swam for the nearest boat just as the ship went down. The gun's crew fought their gun until it was level with the water, and several depth charges were got away from the port howitzer before it was submerged. Out of a complement of 120 only four lives were lost, but unhappily three of the devoted gunners were among them.

 

Mr. J. Maddrell, master of the Benedict (3,378 tons), was faced with a difficult choice on the 27th. Astern a submarine was firing at him; immediately ahead was believed to be a minefield. His gun outranged the sub­marine's, and he risked the minefield rather than let the enemy come within close range of him. The ship came safely through to Cardigan Bay.

 

The Glenamoy (7,269 tons), the Ravenshoe (3,592 tons), the General Church (6,600 tons), the Cimbrier (3,905 tons), the Antenor (5,319 tons), the Lackawanna (4,125 tons), the Pikepool (3,683 tons), the Athenic (4,078 tons), the Kerman (4,397 tons), and the Marconi (7,402 tons) all reached port successfully during this bad month after having been torpedoed.

 

While February was the worst month in 1918 reckoned by the amount of tonnage sunk, as well as by the loss of life, March exceeded it in the actual number of vessels which the submarines destroyed.

 

The torpedoing of the Penvearn (3,710 tons), the Ken­mare (1,330 tons), and the Romeo (1,730 tons) on the first three days of the month, of the Clan Macdougall (4,710 tons) and the South Western (674 tons) on the 15th and 16th, of the Yochow (2,127 tons) on the 20th, the Trinidad (2,592 tons) on the 22nd, and the Lady Cory‑Wright (2,516 tons) and the T. R. Thompson (3,538 tous) on the 26th and 29th, were all accompanied by heavy loss of life.

 

Among encounters of outstanding interest was that of the Comrie Castle (5,173 tons) on the 14th in the English Channel (master, Mr. G. Owens). The submarine in this case was disguised as a drifter, with a funnel and a sail set aft, and was showing a red light. She sounded a blast on her whistle, and the Comrie Castle cleared her by about thirty feet. Immediately afterwards the Comrie Castle

 

ENCOUNTERS OF INTEREST

 

was torpedoed, and the "drifter" disappeared. The ship was towed next morning in a sinking condition into St. Helen's Roads, and beached.

 

Great efforts were made to save the Etonian (6,515 tons) which was torpedoed while in convoy on March 23rd. Mr. J. Gardner, her master, called for volunteers to return to the ship after she had been abandoned, and although her list had increased to thirty‑five degrees the third engineer and the donkeyman courageously went down below and made a careful examination of the dam­age. She was towed for some distance, but eventually rolled over and sank in fifty fathoms.

 

On the 24th Mr. M. Harnden, master of the Austrian (3,127 tons), believed he sank a submarine with the second shot from the ship's gun, and was supported in this belief by the commodore of the convoy, who watched the incident.

 

April 1918 was the last month during the campaign in which the tonnage sunk exceeded 200,000. From that time onward the improvement was more marked, both in the number of vessels for which the submarines accounted and in their tonnage. The loss of life (passengers and crews) continued to be high until the end of June, but dropped in July and August to 202 and 217 respectively, rising again in September to the high figure of 521.

 

On April 7th the Cadillac (11,106 tons), an Anglo­American oil ship, was struck in No. 2 tank by a torpedo but remained afloat, and her master, Mr. J. A. Collie, with the help of the ship's engineers, brought her safely into Plymouth. The same day the Eboe (4,866 tons) was shelled by a submarine off the west coast of Africa for an hour and a quarter without being hit, and after using up her smoke boxes the crew burnt mattresses and awnings to make a smoke screen for the vessel. The Eboe had no gun, and the master, Mr. T. H. Beard, was prepared to drive her on to the beach rather than let her be sunk in the open sea. He escaped, however, without damage.

 

The Tainui (9,965 tons) was torpedoed on the 8th, and seemed about to sink immediately, going down thirty feet at her forward end. The passengers were transferred to a destroyer, but the master, Mr. R. A. Kelly, succeeded in navigating the ship 130 miles stern foremost, and bringing her to Falmouth. His feat was the more remarkable, as the ship's compasses had been deranged by the explosion, and there was great difficulty in knowing the right course. He was splendidly backed up by his engineers and crew, who ran great risk by remaining on board at all.

 

The Warwickshire (8,012 tons) was badly damaged by a torpedo, which passed through her bows, on April 10th, but was also brought safely into port under her own steam. Mr. W. J. Sturgess, her master, mustered the crew on deck after the engines had been stopped, and called for volunteers to go below and stoke. A sentence in his report is well worth quoting. "All hands responded immediately, saying they were ready to do anything I ordered provided I gave them a sporting chance to get away. The sporting chance was promised, and the steamer was under way in a few minutes, and headed for Bizerta." The phrase is amazingly typical; again and again the winning of the war depended just upon that willingness to take big chances under trusted leadership.

 

On the same day the Burutu (3,902 tons) was narrowly missed by a torpedo, discharged at her from close quarters, and about ten minutes later was attacked at 8,000 yards by gunfire. The submarine remained broadside on, firing all four of her guns, till the distance was increased to 6,000 or 7,000 yards, when she turned and chased the ship till dusk, still firing one gun, and trying to edge the Burutu nearer to the land. The ship was hit twice, one man being killed and three wounded, and had a heavy list to starboard, but during the night the master, Mr. H. A. Yardley, gave the submarine the slip, and later on reached Sierra Leone.

 

The heaviest loss of life in April in any one disaster was fifty‑nine, through the sinking of the Kut Sang (4,895 tons) on the 29th, while the torpedoing of the Pomeranian (4,241 tons) on the 15th involved a loss of fifty‑five, there being only one survivor. He had gone down with the ship, and on coming up again caught hold of the rigging just below the crow's nest. His joy when he found the vessel was already on the bottom can be imagined, and two and a half hours later he was rescued by a passing vessel.

 

On May 13th the Esperanza de Larrinaga (4,981 tons), when nearing the Irish coast after crossing the Atlantic from Norfolk, Va, was torpedoed, and commenced at once

 

MAY 1918

 

to settle down. She did not, however, sink, and when a tug arrived, the master, Mr. T. H. S. Newton, with several volunteers returned on board. The chief engineer, Mr. H. E. Westthorpe, went below and restarted the engines, and with four firemen kept them going for six hours to assist the tug. The danger involved in this was immensely increased by a steady leakage of oil into the engine‑room from a damaged tank. Captain Newton reported after­wards, "It is entirely due to the chief's efforts that we got the vessel in, as he worked his engines whilst waist­deep in water and oil. Firemen also fired until stoke‑hold plates were washed away." Mr. Westthorpe himself described the position after steaming thirty miles: "The stokehold bulkhead began to bulge, and with the threaten­ing danger of fire we were. forced to abandon the engine­room, leaving the engines and pump running, having control only from the boiler tops. The oil, on reaching the fires, smoked badly, but did not ignite, and eventually smothered the fires, and up to the time of the salvage pump being put aboard, had arisen to ten feet in the engine­room." The whole incident is an excellent illustration of the risks which day after day were being run by unknown heroes of the Merchant Service in simple devotion to their duty.

 

On the 14th the Highland Watch (6,031 tons) opened fire with her howitzer upon a submarine, and with the third round scored a hit. The master, Mr. G. A. Powell, could not tell the extent of the damage done, but saw no more of the enemy.

 

On the 18th the Media (5,437 tons) was torpedoed in the Mediterranean, and in spite of trouble with the foreign crew, who rushed the boats, and left Mr. W. Robertson, the master, with only a dozen men to help him, he managed to bring the ship a distance of over fifty miles to port.

 

Late on the 26th, just before midnight, the quick eyes of Apprentice Frost twice sighted a submarine as it was nearing the moon's track, and enabled Mr. W. W. Stewart, master of the Valacia, to give prompt warning of the enemy's presence and position to the convoy's escort. Destroyers hastened to the spot, and dropped nine depth charges, which exploded with such force that troops on board the Valacia came on deck, under the impression the ship had been torpedoed. It is unlikely that this submarine survived.

 

The Rathlin Head (7,378 tons), struck by two torpedoes, was nevertheless brought safely to Berchaven the next day by her master, Mr. W. J. Campbell. Several depth charges were fired from her howitzers, in a circle round the ship, and helped to keep the submarine at a respectful distance.

 

On the 30th the Ausonia (8,153 tons) was torpedoed 600 miles from land, and afterwards sunk by gunfire, many of the submarine's shots falling dangerously near the boats. For eight days and nine nights Captain R. Capper and his crew, including one stewardess, were exposed to the storms of the Atlantic and rationed to a few spoonfuls of water and a biscuit and a half each meal. Two boats carrying thirty‑six people were missing when the others were picked up, and eight men had been killed on board the ship.

 

June 1918 saw a very substantial reduction in the number of ships sunk by submarines, which for the first time for sixteen months was under fifty, and also in the tonnage which these vessels represented. The loss of life would have been correspondingly reduced but for the sinking of the hospital ship, Llandovery Castle, on the 27th.

 

On the 2nd Mr. T. M. Taylor, master of the Orduna (15,489 tons), tried to ram a submarine which had been sighted on his starboard bow, and missed it by six feet. It was sunk almost immediately afterwards by a good shot from the ship's gun. By heading directly for the submarine when it was sighted, instead of turning from it, he prevented its commander from firing a torpedo.

 

The Vandalia (7,333 tons) was torpedoed while leading the second column of a convoy on the 9th, and had to be abandoned. American destroyers formed the escort, and picked up the crew, except the master, Mr. J. A. Wolfe, and five men who were still with him in the vessel. As the master's boat was carried away, the destroyer O'Brien came alongside in spite of the heavy sea, and Captain Wolfe and the others jumped aboard her just before the ship went down.

 

The Atlantian (9,399 tons) was torpedoed at 10.30 p.m. on the 25th, and immediately began to settle down. She

 

DECLINING LOSSES

 

happened to be the only vessel in her convoy which carried a howitzer for firing depth charges; so Mr. J. Gardner, her master, had charges fired in a circle round the ship, and this undoubtedly prevented the submarine from pursuing the remainder of the convoy. About half an hour later a second torpedo struck the vessel, and she sank in two minutes. The commander and crew of the submarine were in an exceedingly nervous condition as a result of the depth charges, when they came to the surface to interrogate the boats.

 

Apart from the Llandovery Castle, the heaviest loss of life in June was in the Montebello (4,324 tons), torpedoed on the 21st, whose master and forty of the crew were drowned.

 

The Antiope (3,004 tons), the Cento (3,708 tons), the Strombus (6,163 tons), the Cairnmona (4,666 tons), the Kandy (4,921 tons) the Raranga (10,040 tons), and the Wilton (4,281 tons) all reached port during the month after having been torpedoed.

 

Strenuous efforts were made by the master, Mr. W. E. Downing, and the crew of the Origen (3,545 tons), to save their ship, which was torpedoed on the 30th, but although they were ably assisted by a naval working party from their escort, the damage proved to be too great.

 

The month of July 1918 marked a great step forward in improved conditions. Only thirty‑seven ships were sunk, and 202 lives lost, much the lowest figures since the beginning of the previous year. The experience gained in the protection of convoys, the more frequent use of depth charges, and the improved armament of merchant vessels, as well as the skill attained by the merchant officers themselves in evading and outwitting their insidious enemies, had by this time combined to weaken very greatly the menace of the intensive sub­marine campaign.

 

The Branksome Hall (4,262 tons), which had been twice torpedoed during 1917, and both times had been brought into port, met her doom and was sunk, fortunately without loss of life, on July 14th. The Ben Lomond (2,814 tons), the Southborough (3,709 tons), the Kosseir (1,855 tons), and the Mongolian (4,892 tons) were the only vessels sunk this month with the loss of more than twenty lives.

 

The White Star liner Justicia (32,284 tons), of which Commr. H. F. David was master, was sunk on July 20th after a twenty‑four hours' fight for life. The first torpedo struck her at 2 p.m. on the 19th, and ten more were fired at her before she sank. Four of these were exploded on their way towards the ship by good shots from the gun. Several submarines, possibly as many as six, took part in the attack, and one at least was sunk by a destroyer.

 

On the 24th the Defender (8,520 tons) was torpedoed about eighty miles from Queenstown, but Mr. H. Bicker­staff, her master, brought her safely in under her own steam, the engine‑room hands all going below again willingly as soon as he decided it was possible to save her. The Baron Napier (4,943 tons) was attacked by gunfire on the 26th, some thirty rounds being fired at her at distances from 5,000 to 9,000 yards. The submarine submerged hastily after being twice hit by the ship's gun. The master, Mr. D. Reid, received the D.S.C.

 

In the early morning of August 3rd, the ambulance transport WARILDA (master, Mr. James Sim) was attacked by a submarine between Havre and Southampton.

 

The Warilda was on her course of N. 10û E, steaming at a speed of 14 1/2 knots, when at 1.30 a.m. Mr. F. C. Dunn, the second officer, sighted a submarine two points on the starboard bow. The enemy vessel was at a distance of about 100 yards: she was on the surface showing the conning‑tower and the deck fore and aft. Mr. Dulin immediately realised the peril in which the Warilda stood. He ordered, "Hard‑a‑port‑ram," and also instructed the usual signal to be made. It proved impossible to ram the submarine, so he telegraphed to the engine‑room "hard­a‑starboard," with the intention of bringing the submarine astern. An instant later, and before the signal for help could be sent, the look‑out saw the track of an approaching torpedo. The Warilda was a vessel of 7,713 gross tons; she belonged to the Adelaide Steamship Company of Adelaide, South Australia, and mounted one 4‑inch quick­firing gun. The weather was fine although the sky was dark and cloudy, and the sea was smooth, the wind being in the south‑west and the visibility about three‑quarters of a mile. The ship was showing no lights and was accom­panied by two patrol vessels (P.39 and P.45). She had on board no fewer than 614 patients and seventy R.A.M.C. staff, in addition to a crew of 117. The torpedo struck

 

LOSS OF THE "WARILDA"

 

the ship between the engine‑room and No. 4 hold, both the engine‑room and the hold being flooded almost instantaneously, and the engineers and their staff killed. A circumstance which added further horror to the disaster was that this hold was being utilised on this voyage as a ward, and 101 patients were killed by the explosion. Captain Sim had observed the precaution of having all the watertight doors closed, otherwise the vessel might well have sunk within a few minutes.

 

Captain Sim had gone to the chart‑room about a quarter­past one to have a smoke.

 

"I had been sitting there some little time when I heard the order 'hard‑a‑starboard' given. I came up on deck and asked the second officer what was the matter, as I could not see anything. He replied: 'A German submarine on the starboard bow.' I looked on the starboard side, and saw the track of a torpedo coming towards us. We rang the telegraphs 'Stop' as soon as it struck the ship, but it was never answered, so I think those in the engine‑room must have been killed. We then got all the boats lowered down to the promenade deck and started getting the wounded into them. Although the engine‑room was under water, the engines were still going, so we hung on for a long time, expecting that she would run the way off. Someone went aft to find out whether we were sinking, and the chief engineer returned to say that the ship had gone down so far, but did not seem to be going down any more. We continued to hang on for a while, and by and by she began to lose her way, and we lowered the boats. She had then been going for fully an hour. Two destroyers then came alongside, and we put the rest of the people on board them. One of them went round and took up the boats that had left the ship. The commander of the P.39 ‑ I believe it was ‑ asked me if I thought she was sinking, so the chief engineer went aft again to have a look, and came back and told us that the after bollards were below water, and that she was likely to sink. The commander of the P‑boat then said that, if we would put a line over the bow, he would hold on to her for awhile, in case there were a chance of her floating. The chief engineer, the second officer, the third officer, two signalmen, and myself ‑ all that remained on board ‑ then got aboard the P‑boat. We went forward then, and got hold of this tow line, and we towed for about ten minutes. Then we found that she was going down very fast by the stern, so we let her go. About ten minutes after that she sank. She sank stern first, her stern touching the bottom of the channel, and she fell over on her starboard side."

 

The loss of life would have been far heavier but for the timely assistance which was rendered by the escorting vessels and other craft which came on the scene in answer to signals for assistance. The total number of casualties on board the Warilda amounted to 113 patients and seven of the crew, all of whom were either killed by the explosion or drowned. The utmost coolness and courage were shown by the master, officers, and crew of the Warilda, the officers and crew of the rescuing patrol boats, the medical staff, and the large number of wounded men.

 

Among other encounters during August was that of the Waipara (6,994 tons), which was torpedoed on the 4th. When this vessel was struck, the greater part of the crew were transferred to an escorting P‑boat. Among them were a number of cadets, one of whom (Haigh) was killed instantly. As soon as the master, Mr. W. R. Steadman, realised that his ship might be saved, he called for volun­teers to return from the P‑boat; seven of the cadets responded and greatly assisted him in bringing the ship safely to Netley.

 

The Highland Harris (6,032 tons) was less fortunate. She was torpedoed on the 6th, and her master, Mr. W. H. Robinson, decided to stand by in hope of assistance coming. A second torpedo, however, sent her to the bottom. The submarine commander, a young man, was unusually courteous in his subsequent treatment of the master.

 

The City of Adelaide (8,389 tons) left Port Said on the 7th, but owing to a bad outbreak of influenza among her firemen was unable to keep up with the convoy, and her master, Mr. J. W. Haughton, tried instead to take her into Malta. On the 11th she was struck by two tor­pedoes almost simultaneously, and sank within fifteen minutes. The sloop Asphodel arrived and picked up the crew, the submarine being still in sight about seven miles away.

 

 

 

A Convoy Zig-Zagging in the Danger Zone

 

 

NEARING THE END

 

The Diomed (7,523 tons) was on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, and was steaming at sixteen knots within 400 miles of New York on the 21st when she encountered a large submarine armed with two 6‑inch guns. After firing twelve rounds the Diomed's gun was put out of action, and another lucky shot from the submarine dis­abled her steering‑gear, after which she had to be aban­doned. The submarine then came up close, and sank her. Two men were killed, and three others wounded. The submarine commander offered medical assistance, but as the Diomed had her own surgeon available the master, Mr. A. D. Baker, declined help.

 

The Flavia (9,291 tons), from Montreal, was sunk on the 24th when approaching Tory Island. There was some doubt as to whether the two explosions which followed in quick succession were due to torpedoes or to bridled mines. Mr. E. T. Fear, the master, inclined to think the latter.

 

On the last day of August Captain W. H. Smith, who had spent nearly the whole of the war years in the North Atlantic, and had delivered safely close upon 800,000 tons of cargo in the United Kingdom without previous disaster, was in command of the Milwaukee (7,323 tons) when she was torpedoed twice, the second explosion cutting the ship almost in two. Between the firing of the first and second torpedo the track of the submarine was visible less than 200 yards away, and if the Milwaukee had been fitted with a howitzer for firing depth charges she could almost certainly have sunk it. Captain Smith reported of the submarine commander afterwards, "He was fairly decent; asked if we had biscuits and water and gave us a bucket to bale the boat." It would seem that in these last months of the war there was a distinct improvement in enemy behaviour and humanity.

 

September was a bad month again for loss of life, 148 going down with the Galway Castle (7,988 tons) upon the 12th. Another heavy loss of life occurred on the 9th, at the sinking of the Missanabie (12,469 tons; master, Mr. W. P. Hains) when a sudden lurch of the ship dislodged a funnel; this fell overboard among the boats, and increased the number of deaths to forty‑five.

 

Fine seamanship on the part of Captain W. J. Simmons was the means of bringing the Actor (6,082 tons) safely into Milford Haven, after being torpedoed in the bows. Her propeller was partly out of water, and again and again the ship had to be brought right round in a circle in order to regain her course. The Persic (12,042 tons; master, Mr. H. Harvey) also reached port safely after having been torpedoed.

 

On the 13th the Newby Hall (4,391 tons; master, Mr. F. O. Seaborne) was missed by a torpedo, and then attacked by gunfire. The ship's gunners scored three hits, dis­abling the submarine's forward gun, and eventually forcing her to give up the pursuit.

 

A disaster of appalling suddenness occurred when the Serula (1,388 tons) was torpedoed on the 16th off the south‑west coast of Wales. The second officer, one of the few survivors, said, "She just gave a shudder, and sank like a stone, stern first." The master and sixteen of the crew were drowned. Again the submarine commander did what he could afterwards to ameliorate the situation, taking the survivors on board the submarine and con­veying them to a raft some distance off, on which he placed them to await assistance. The Barrister (4,952 tons), which also went down very quickly off the Isle of Man ‑ only three minutes elapsing after she was struck ‑ did not experience similar consideration. Thirty of her crew were drowned, the submarine commander ignoring a request for help which the master, Mr. Lawrence Smith, addressed to him. Another heavy loss this month occurred on the 21st, when the Polesley (4,221 tons) was sunk, and the master and forty‑two of the crew were drowned.

 

In October twenty‑three ships only were destroyed, and two more in November. The heaviest loss during these last weeks was the Leinster (2,646 tons), which was sunk on October 10th with the appalling sacrifice of 176 lives, including the master. Another was the Arca (4,839 tons), torpedoed on the 2nd, with a loss of fifty‑two, one of whom was again the master.

 

Attacks were made unsuccessfully on eighteen merchant vessels in October, and on two during the first week in November; in most cases the approach of the torpedo was sighted in time to enable the helm to be put over and disaster averted.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER XI

 

THE SINKING OF HOSPITAL SHIPS

 

The German attacks on hospital ships constituted the most barbarous feature of the war by sea. As in the case of ordinary merchant vessels, the lives of the seamen were wan­tonly imperilled without the slightest attempt to provide for their safety after their ships had been sunk under them; they were left to fare as best they might on unfriendly seas, often miles away from the nearest shore. Not only were men, wounded in action or suffering from sickness, many of them quite helpless and others mad with delirium, brought face to face with death, but the medical staffs and nurses, specially protected by the Red Cross, the emblem of the conscience of humanity, were murdered in cold blood. Throughout this dastardly campaign neither the seamen, the wounded men, the medical staffs, nor the nurses ‑ women with highly wrought nervous systems - ­flinched from the ordeal. The story of this splendid contempt for danger deserves, above all other incidents of the war, to be set down as an illustration of the heroism in face of unparalleled perils which this struggle developed in the Anglo‑Saxon race. The wounded, as well as the medical and nursing staffs, were under the charge of merchant seamen, and with fine chivalry was that responsibility fulfilled, with the result that the loss of life, though actually heavy, was relatively small.

 

Before the outbreak of war, nothing in International Law had been more clearly defined and safeguarded by written agreement than the status and sanctity of hospital ships. At The Hague Conference of 1899 a Convention (III) was drawn up and adopted, founded upon the principles promul­gated at Geneva in 1864, by which hospital ships were to be respected even during actual engagements at sca, so far as this was possible. It was further laid down that they could neither be captured, nor could their nursing and medical staff be made prisoners of war. To ensure this immunity, it was declared that hospital ships should be distinctly decorated, being painted white with a horizontal band about a metre and a half broad, either of red or green, such decoration to be so lit up at night as to be easily dis­tinguishable. Furthermore, all hospital ships were to fly, in addition to their national flag, the white flag with the Red Cross upon it. No hospital ship was to be used for any belligerent purpose. The deliberate sinking of hos­pital ships was, therefore, entirely opposed to International Law, to say nothing of outraging the natural feelings of all civilised and humane nations, for these vessels carried women who had chivalrously devoted their trained abilities to the care of the sick and wounded, irrespective of nation­ality, class, or religion.

 

But that this was, nevertheless, to be the policy of the German Government was foreshadowed after a few months of war, when the British hospital ship Asturias was unsuc­cessfully attacked by a German submarine. That occurred on February 1st, 1915, and on the 25th of the same month the hospital ship St. Andrew was chased by a submarine off Boulogne. That these two attacks presaged a further development of hostile action against Red Cross ships be­came clear from rumours of German origin that soon gained currency, both in enemy and neutral countries, as to the alleged misuse by the British Government of their hospital ships.

 

On March Ist, 1915, the German Ambassador at Madrid sent a telegram to Berlin stating that "German ship captains, who were interned on the Isle of Wight, have declared that they observed heavily laden hospital ships sailing outwards; they expressed the suspicion that the ships are employed for transport purposes." (Annex to German Memorandum of January 28th, 1917 (Cd. 8692).) It was also stated that a Dutch subject had made a sworn declaration to the German Admiralty Staff that he was told by English sailors that the submarine blockade was useless because the British carried out the transport of troops and munitions by means of hospital ships. In view of the fact that British wounded as well as prisoners of war in Germany were maltreated, this was, he had been told by them, no breach of International Law. On April 16th, 1915, an official report was made by the German Naval Intelligence

 

GERMAN ALLEGATIONS

 

officer at Wesel, on the alleged evidence of a German civilian prisoner returned from England, that he had been interned off the Isle of Wight and had observed British hospital ships sailing from Southampton and Portsmouth, particularly on Sundays, and that all the prisoners, as well as the crew of the ship in which he had been interned, had been convinced that the hospital ships were carrying troops and munitions. It was partly in view of these rumours and of others alleging similar abuse of the status of hospital ships plying to Gallipoli that the Mauretania was inspected at Naples in November, 1915, when the United States, Swiss, and Danish Consuls signed the following statement:‑

 

"We, the undersigned, hereby certify that at the request of the Commanding Officer of the ship, we have this day visited and inspected H.M. Hospital Ship Mauretania and are satisfied that there are no combatant troops or warlike stores in her, and that the rules of the Geneva Convention are being observed in every way. Signed on board H.M. Hospital Ship Mauretania this twenty‑ninth day of November 1915."

 

This emphatic neutral certificate had no effect on the enemy's declared intentions, and early in 1917 a memo­randum was issued by the German Government which practically declared open war upon hospital ships. That matter is fully dealt with on a later page.

 

A few days before the inspection of the Mauretania, the first actual loss of a hospital ship had already occurred. On November 17th, 1915, the Anglia struck a German mine in the Channel off Folkestone and foundered. The Anglia, which was a twin‑screw steel steamer of 1,862 tons, had been requisitioned from the London and North‑Western Railway for use as a hospital ship, and was carrying sick and wounded soldiers at the time of sinking. It was about half an hour after noon that she struck the mine. The actual impact occurred on the port side under the bridge, and one of her three boats was too much damaged by the explosion to be of any use. She sank in somewhat less than an hour, and the difficulties of rescuing the passengers, many of them helpless, were increased by the very heavy list to port,

which the mined vessel took almost at once and by the fact that, owing to the confusion caused by the explosion, the orders given to stop the engines were either not heard or not carried out. This caused the Anglia to continue to make considerable way, thereby rendering the navigation of the torpedo boats and other vessels that soon came to the rescue extremely hazardous; while later on, when she was sinking more rapidly by the head, the racing of her propellers, as her stern rose out of the water, added to the perils of those who were trying to escape by swimming.

 

In these circumstances, the very great daring and skill with which Lieutenant‑Commander H. P. Boxer, of Torpedo Boat No. 4, laid his vessel alongside the Anglia were deservedly commended. Lieutenant Boxer, it appeared, was in the wardroom of the torpedo boat when he heard the explosion, and by the time he had reached the bridge, the officer of the watch had already altered course towards the Anglia, steaming at full speed. The torpedo boat was then about one mile from the Anglia, which already had her head well down, although she was still making considerable way. Several men were struggling in the water astern of the vessel, from which the two undamaged boats had been lowered. Only the foremost of these succeeded in getting clear of the ship, the other drifting astern and being cut up by the racing port propeller. When within two hundred yards of the Anglia, Lieutenant Boxer stopped his vessel and lowered a lifeboat and raft before laying himself alongside. This difficult and perilous operation he accomplished at last, and, during the first period of contact, about 100 men succeeded in jumping from the hospital ship on to his upper deck. The ship was then carried away again by the sea, and Lieutenant Boxer had to manoeuvre alongside a second time, when he took off a few more men; some jumped directly on board, and others were hauled in with life‑lines. Both vessels were at this time steaming alongside of each other at about six knots. With about 140 rescued men on board, Lieutenant Boxer, owing to the imminent danger of the Anglia sinking, had to back away to the stern of the vessel; here he picked up two boat‑loads of wounded and three survivors from a raft, and then proceeded at full speed to Dover. Other survivors were rescued by Lieutenant‑Commander L. A. D. Sturdee, of the gunboat Hazard, who had lowered and manned all his boats and

 

LOSS OF THE "ANGLIA"

 

also sent a motor‑boat to pick up more distant strugglers. Both these officers, together with Lieutenant‑Commander E. H. B. L. Scrivener, of the destroyer Ure, were expressly thanked for their assistance by the Army Council.

 

These vessels were not alone, however, responsible for the saving of life from the Anglia; and the utmost credit was due to the masters and men of the steamships Langdon and Channel Queen, and the small collier Lusitania. The Langdon, which was target towing at the time, slipped her targets and succeeded in saving two officers and twenty‑three soldiers, most of whom were wounded. The Lusitania, which was bound from London to Lisbon, immediately on hearing the explosion and perceiving the Anglia to be in trouble, put off two boats which picked up many survivors. While these boats were on the way back, and just as they were again nearing their ship, another loud explosion occurred, and the Lusitania herself was seen to be sinking. It became necessary, therefore, for these two boats to rescue their own comrades from the collier, and they had hardly done so when the Lusitania turned turtle and sank. The Channel Queen (master, Mr. E. W. Wetherall), a coasting vessel of 327 tons with a crew of twelve, was steaming at about ten knots when she saw the Anglia in difficulty, some three miles away. She immediately headed towards the doomed ship, approached within a quarter of a mile of her, lowered her lifeboat, and rescued seven men. The Channel Queen herself had an extremely narrow escape from a floating mine.

 

That the services of these three vessels of the mercantile marine were highly appreciated was evidenced by the letter sent from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to the owners, expressing their appreciation of the gallant and valuable assistance rendered by the masters and crews to the survivors of the Anglia. With regard to the hospital ship herself, while the Court of Inquiry directed some criticism towards the fact that her engines were not stopped, the general behaviour, discipline, and courage of her captain and crew were commended.

 

Ten of the R.A.M.C. staff, 133 patients, and 25 of the crew of the Anglia lost their lives.

 

There is no evidence to show that the mine on which the Anglia struck was laid deliberately with the object of sinking that vessel; nor can blame be attributed to the Germans for the sinking of the British hospital ship Galeka nearly a year later. (The Russian hospital ships Portugal and Vpered were torpedoed and sunk by submarines in the Black Sea on March 30th and July 8th respectively.)

 

The loss of the Galeka (6,772 tons) with nineteen lives on October 28th, 1916, afforded a tragic illustration of the defects in the system then existing for the examination and protection of vessels calling at the port of Havre. The previous day the Galeka, a Union Castle liner, crossed the Channel from Southampton in a rough sea, having on board sixty‑one R.A.M.C. officers and men and a crew numbering in all 117. Just after seven o'clock in the evening she arrived off Havre at a point about one mile from the whistle buoy. There she sighted the examination boat stationed outside the net barrage. It was part of the duty of the examination boat to show incoming vessels the gateway through the barrage, and the Galeka's acting‑master (Mr. J. Watson Black) lost no time in signalling to her. Getting no response, the acting­master, as he stated in his evidence at the inquiry subsequently held, turned his ship round and stood north with engines dead slow. Throughout the night the Galeka cruised thus in the neighbourhood, returning at intervals to within a mile or so of the whistle buoy to get into communication with the examination vessel, but, though the latter twice threw her searchlights on the hospital ship and it is thought made one attempt to hail her, the Galeka otherwise received no answering signal. The peril of thus cruising in the dark was great. A minefield had been laid by the enemy near the whistle buoy and had been imperfectly swept by the few minesweepers avail­able for that duty. It was obvious that in waters where the currents are very strong and variable a vessel waiting about for hours to enter the barrage ran a very grave risk of encountering a drifting mine.

 

That was the fate which actually befell the Galeka. At daybreak Captain Black was about six miles from the buoy, having Cape La Hve light about five miles to the south‑east, when, about 6.15, a terrific explosion occurred forward, throwing a mass of debris as high as the foremast head and killing outright nineteen R.A.M.C. orderlies. Engines were immediately stopped and the

 

LOSS OF THE "GALEKA"

 

boats were lowered to the promenade deck. The explo­sion brought the examination steamer alongside and in response to the Galeka's hail she made the signal "follow me." No. 1 compartment was by this time flooded, but No. 2 was only slowly making water, and with increasing difficulty owing to the depression of her bow the Galeka was able to follow her guide to a point about a mile inside the barrage. It had then become dangerous to steam farther, and the boats having been lowered to the water all the surviving passengers and the bulk of the crew were embarked, being picked up and landed by a number of rescuing tugs and drifters which speedily reached the spot. Captain Black and the chief officer with several members of the crew remained on board for about two hours after the explosion, being taken off by a boat from the examination vessel. The doomed ship, her bows submerged and her propellers out of the water, drifted with the tide and wind till she grounded on the shore to the north of Cape La Hve. The acting‑master's testimony to the excellent behaviour of all on board was fully upheld by the senior medical officer in charge of the R.A.M.C. units.

 

That the inadequacy of the arrangements made for the safeguarding of shipping at the port of Havre was largely responsible for the disaster the official inquiry made evident. It was clear that minesweepers at the service of the authorities were quite insufficient for their difficult task, and more particularly that the Galeka should have been passed through the barrage without the long delay that was actually incurred. On the other hand it was a matter of doubt how far the apparent failure in initiative on the part of the captain of the examination vessel might have been due to the absence of an English inter­preter on board. The destruction of a fine ship and the sacrifice of a score of valuable lives were not, however, all loss, for, as a result of the official representations made, certain improvements were effected at the port. In communicating this fact to the Admiralty at the end of the year, Captain W. A. H. Kelly, R.N., the British liaison officer at Paris, added that the "delays in the examina­tion service at Havre seem to have been overcome and interpreters have been provided."

 

As we have already stated, there are no grounds for supposing that the loss of the Anglia and Galeka was due to offensive action on the part of the enemy. There appears, however, to be no doubt that the mines encountered by the hospital ships Britannic and Braemar Castle in the Mediterranean in the month following the loss of the Galeka were laid by an enemy submarine in the tracks of those vessels. On November 21st, 1916, the Britannic was on passage from Naples to Mudros, and met her fate at a point about four miles west of Port St. Nikolo in the Zea Channel, between the mainland of Greece and the Cyclades Islands.

 

She was the well‑known White Star liner, which had been requisitioned since the outbreak of war as a hospital ship. She was the largest, as well as one of the most recent and elaborately fitted of the liners under the British flag; launched in 1914, her estimated value was two million pounds, and her tonnage 48,158.

 

It was at 8.12 in the morning that the explosion occurred on the starboard side forward, near the bulkhead between Nos. 2 and 3 holds, breaking the bulkhead and filling both the holds. The bulkhead between holds No. 1 and No. 2 was probably broken by the same explosion, No. 1 hold filling with water. The stokeholds Nos. 5 and 6 were also flooded; and, though the officer‑in‑command (Captain C. A. Bartlett, R.N.R.), with seamanlike resource, at once turned the ship's head towards the Zea Channel in an endeavour to beach her, this was found to be impossible.

 

Fortunately, at the time of the explosion the weather was fine and the sea smooth. Fortunately, also, the Britannic, being on her way to her port of embarkation, had no wounded or sick persons actually on board. She was carrying, however, a large medical staff, including 22 surgeons, 77 nurses, 290 orderlies, with three chap­lains, besides a ship's company of 673. All the necessary regulations as regards the distinguishing marks prescribed by the Geneva Convention had been strictly adhered to, a gigantic Red Cross having been painted on each side, so large that when illuminated at night there were no fewer than 300 powerful electric lights in each separate arm of the cross. When the explosion occurred, the ship, which was travelling at a speed of twenty knots, immedi­ately fell off three points in her course. Emergency quarters were sounded, the engines stopped, water‑tight doors closed, and S.O.S. wireless signals dispatched. At first,

 

LOSS OF THE "BRITANNIC"

 

Captain Bartlett's impression was that the vessel, though seriously damaged, could be saved. He, therefore, gave orders to clear away all the boats, while, as we have said, he headed her towards Zea, in an endeavour to make land. The steering‑gear, however, soon failed, and owing to the rapid filling of the forward holds and boiler rooms navi­gation became impossible. The engines again stopped and all the boats were ordered out, but were directed to stand near the ship. It was now clear that the Britannic could not last very long; she was already, indeed, begin­ning to sink rapidly. When all was clear, Captain Bartlett himself walked off his ship into the water, to be picked up half an hour afterwards by a motor‑boat.

 

When rescued, Captain Bartlett was told that some boats had fouled the propeller on the port side and that a number of men had been thrown into the water and injured, the two motor‑boats having rescued them. After a thorough and careful examination of the whole neigh­bourhood, Captain Bartlett ordered both motor‑boats to proceed to Port St. Nikolo with the injured. There they were given every possible attention, the arrangements for their care being superintended by the French Consul.

 

Throughout this incident, the courage and discipline of everybody on board were beyond praise. The nurses lined up on deck and went to their various stations with calm self‑control. They had an admirable example in their matron, Miss E. A. Dowse, who had joined the Army Nursing Service in 1886, and had endured the perils and privations of the siege of Ladysmith. Almost at once, indeed, the services of the nurses were required, since many members of the crew and R.A.M.C. Staff had been injured by the explosion, and others had been hurt by the propellers when the three boats had been des­troyed. In the emergency, these women revealed courage, resource, and devotion, maintaining the high traditions of their service. The whole situation was handled with admirable coolness and presence of mind by Captain Bart­lett. To this officer the Mercantile Marine Service Asso­ciation, writing afterwards to the Secretary of the Admiralty, paid the following well‑deserved tribute:

 

"In the opinion of my Council, which is comprised of Ship Masters and Officers, Captain Bartlett displayed the highest qualities of a seaman, and it was due to his skilful organisation and foresight that so few of the large com­pany on board lost their lives. Captain Bartlett was the last man to leave the ship, jumping into the water and gallantly refusing assistance until he was sure that there was room in the boats for all survivors."

 

Rescue work was efficiently performed by His Majesty's ships Heroic, Scourge, and Foxhound, and a French tug, which had been sent to the relief of the sinking vessel.

 

At 9 a.m., after an interval of less than an hour, the Britannic finally sank in some sixty‑five fathoms of water. Altogether twenty‑one members of the crew were lost, either as the result of the explosion or by drowning, twenty others being wounded. Of the R.A.M.C. complement, one officer was lost with eight other ranks; while one officer and twenty‑four other ranks were wounded.

 

With regard to the agency by which the Britannic met her end there was at first some doubt. At the subse­quent inquiry three witnesses testified to having seen a periscope and the wake of a torpedo, but there was little to corroborate their impression. Consideration of all the testimony of survivors, in conjunction with other evidence received by the Admiralty, led to the definite conclusion that this hospital ship was sunk by a mine laid by a submarine in her track. Two mines were afterwards dragged and destroyed in the Zea Channel.

 

Two days later ‑ November 23rd ‑ in the same locality, the hospital ship Braemar Castle (6,318 tons) was struck by a mine, in the Mykoni Channel, while bound from Salonica to Malta. This mine, there is good reason to believe, had been laid only an hour before the disaster, probably by the same enemy submarine (U.73) which was held to have been instrumental in destroying the Britannic. Coming straight down through the Skopelos Channel at 11.7 knots, the Braemar Castle had passed Livada Point, about a mile to the east, and rounded the island of Tinos, also at a distance of about a mile. All went well until she had passed Joannis Point, when, at about 11.15 a.m., a violent explosion occurred under the port side of the bridge. The master, who was thrown into the air by the violence of the concussion, immediately ordered the engines to be stopped and all boats to be cleared away. As soon as sufficient

 

LOSS OF THE "BRAEMAR CASTLE"

 

way had been taken off the vessel, the boats were lowered and filled, and a French trawler, the Marie Rose, came alongside and embarked the remainder of the patients. Of these the total number was 376, the hospital staff consisting of 58 persons, and the crew of 130. Fortun­ately only four lives were lost. Three bodies were found in No. 3 hold, where the explosion had occurred, and two members of the crew were injured by the explosion. The ship having been cleared, the captain proceeded at half­speed to beach her at the nearest safe spot. The Braemar Castle was by that time down by the head and making heavy water forward. She took the ground very gently, and both bower anchors were laid out. All available pumps were started, and a stream anchor laid upon the port quarter.

 

In this case also there was, at first, some doubt as to whether the Braemar Castle had been mined or torpedoed. Mines had been suspected in the Mykoni Channel, and it was afterwards found by the Court of Inquiry that certain Admiralty directions had been misunderstood by the master. The quartermaster, in giving evidence, stated that he had seen a periscope, and his impressions as to the cause of the loss were shared by one of the nurses as well as by Lieutenant‑Commander H. H. Tatham, of H.M.S. Honeysuckle, which was in the neighbourhood at the time. The bulk of evidence, however, as in the case of the Britannic, pointed to the Braemar Castle having been mined; and it was ascertained later, as has been stated, that U.73 had laid mines in the track which she followed, but whether the submarine remained in the vicinity watching the effect of its dastardly work remained uncertain.

 

Perhaps the best testimony to the behaviour of those on board was contained in a letter from Lieutenant‑Colonel J. C. B. Statham, R.A.M.C., to Lord Methuen, the Governor of Malta, dated December 4th, 1916, from Intarfa Hospital. All the patients, except those actually killed by the explosion, were speedily got into the ship's boats, the result being due, as Colonel Statham said, not only to the splendid handling of the ship by the com­mander and crew, but also to the efforts of the senior medical officer, Major W. S. Crosthwait, R.A.M.C., who had been in charge of the boat drill preparations, and whose efforts had largely secured that, when the emergency actually occurred, there was no panic whatsoever. The patients were landed at Syra, the Greek and French hospitals being placed at their disposal as well as the French convent school.

 

Up to the end of 1916 every hospital ship destroyed or damaged had met its fate, so far as could be definitely determined, through striking a mine. From this time onwards to the end of the war, of ten vessels of this character which were damaged or sunk, all but three were certainly hit, not by mines, but by torpedoes fired by submarines. The contrast thus presented becomes the more suggestive in the light of the Berlin Declaration of January 28th, 1917, referred to on a previous page. The text of the memorandum issued by the German Government is as follows:

 

"For some time the enemy Governments, especially the British Government, have used their hospital ships not only for the purpose of rendering assistance to the wounded, sick, and shipwrecked, but also for military purposes, and have thereby violated The Hague Conven­tion regarding the application of the Geneva Convention to maritime warfare.

 

"The fact that the British Government during the campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula designated to the Governments of the Central Powers a disproportionately large number of ships as hospital ships, which could not possibly serve exclusively for the transport and care of the sick and wounded, already tended to arouse suspicion. In 1915 alone not less than fifty‑nine ships were notified by them as hospital ships after forty ships had already been notified as hospital ships since the beginning of the war. After the victorious completion of the Gallipoli campaign, the Turkish Government informed neutral Powers in a note of protest that the English commanders had used the hospital ships in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean for the purpose of bringing back troops and military supplies.

 

"Furthermore, the British Government did not, as is the general custom, equip certain ships once and for all as hospital ships for use for the duration of the war, but often placed one and the same ship on the list of hospital

 

BERLIN DECLARATION

 

ships, and then again cancelled it from the list, so that the German Government was hardly able to convey to its naval forces in due time information to the required effect. The steamship Copenhagen, for instance, which was used by the British Government as a transport, was notified as a hospital ship in a note from the American Embassy at Berlin, dated October 14th, 1914; subsequently, on February 6th, 1915, she was notified as having been struck off the list; on January 1st, 1916, again added to the list; and on March 4th, 1916, again struck off the list. This procedure conveyed the impression that uncertainty and confusion were to be aroused regarding the character of the ships used for this purpose, which permitted the display of the peaceful or belligerent character of the ship according to requirements.

 

"Furthermore, in 1915 the German Government received numerous trustworthy reports that the English hospital ships in the Channel, which chiefly served the purpose of fetching the wounded of the British Army fighting on French and Belgian soil from French harbours and transporting them to English harbours, were conspicu­ously heavily laden on the journey from England to France, while on the return journey they had normal draught. This fact led various observers, especially sea captains, to conclude that the ships were being employed on the outward journey to France to transport munitions, and that the Red Cross emblem was being abused.

 

"This presumption was then confirmed by a quantity of unexceptionable testimony. English soldiers frankly admitted the use of hospital ships for such purposes. A French sergeant told a German prisoner that he had closely observed the loading of munitions from many automobiles into the hospital ship La France in the harbour of Marseilles. According to the affidavit of a trustworthy neutral, English sailors have stated that the transport of munitions to France was often effected by means of hospital ships on the part of the English. Finally, there are statements on oath from eye‑witnesses who were present when munitions were being loaded on board hospital ships.

 

"The worst breach of the above‑mentioned Hague Convention, however, is to be found in the fact that the British and French Governments have in numerous cases effected the transport of their troops by means of hospital ships. Apart from the fact that superior officers appear to prefer travelling on hospital ships, a large number of trustworthy reports, including especially sworn statements relative to the transport of bodies of troops, are to hand. Evidently the transport of troops by means of hospital ships is a regular practice in the Channel. Besides this, it has on different occasions been ascertained that these ships are armed.

 

"The reports of trustworthy informants and witnesses, who are mentioned in the annexes, constitute only a small part of the material in the possession of the German Government. The names of several of these persons could not be mentioned, because they are either directly or indirectly within the reach of the enemy's power, and would, therefore, be exposed to severe reprisals if their names were given. In any case, no doubt exists in the mind of the German Government that the enemy Govern­ments have continually, and most seriously, violated by their action The Hague Convention regarding the application of the Geneva Convention to maritime warfare.

 

"In view of the breach of treaty committed by their enemies, the German Government would be entitled to free themselves altogether from the obligations contained in the Convention; for reasons of humanity, however, they desire still to refrain from doing so. On the other hand, they can no longer permit the British Government to dispatch their troop and munition transports to the principal theatre of war under the hypocritical cloak of the Red Cross. They therefore declare that from this moment on they will no longer suffer any enemy hospital ship in the maritime zone which is situated between the lines of Flamborough Head to Terschelling on the one hand, and Ushant to Land's End on the other. Should enemy hospital ships be encountered in this maritime zone, after an appropriate lapse of time, they will be considered as belligerent and will be attacked without further con­sideration. The German Government believe themselves all the more justified in adopting these measures as the route from Western and Southern France to the West of England still remains open for enemy hospital ships, and the transport of English wounded to their homes can

 

FURTHER MEMORANDUM

 

consequently be effected now as heretofore without hindrance."

 

This memorandum was accompanied by twenty‑three annexes in support of the German allegations.

 

A further memorandum was issued on March 29th, 1917, professing to give additional evidence as to the misuse of hospital ships in the Mediterranean and threatening to close this sea also for the navigation of hospital ships subject to the following conditions:

 

1. Hospital ships must touch at the harbour of Kala­mata in the Peloponnese and must proceed between Gib­raltar and Kalamata at a fixed rate of speed, which must be notified beforehand to the German Government.

 

2. The names of the hospital ships, together with the times of their arrivals and departures at Kalamata and Gibraltar, must in each separate case be notified at least six weeks in advance.

 

3. For every journey a representative of the neutral Power protecting German interests in the country whose flag the ship flies, must furnish an explicit assurance that the hospital ship has on board only sick, wounded, and medical nursing staff and further that she is carrying no other cargo than materials for the relief of the sick and wounded."

 

To these allegations, the British Government made the following reply on October 5th, 1917:

 

"The German memorandum of January 28th, 1917, made allegations of misuse of British and Allied hospital ships, and in twenty‑three annexes furnished evidence, chiefly in the shape of reports of officers of the German Government and statements of witnesses, which, in the view of the German Government, proved or pointed to such misuse. A further memorandum, dated March 29th, 1917, repeated these allegations in general terms and quoted further declarations in support of them.

 

"In replying to the accusations brought forward by the German Government, His Majesty's Government desire, before all, to call attention to the remarkable fact that German submarines and other warships have never once exercised the right of inspecting British hospital ships, which is given to them by article 4 of The Hague Convention, for the application of the principles of the Geneva Convention to maritime warfare. So far as can be ascer­tained, they have only once stopped a British hospital ship long enough to examine her papers. This occurred on February 23rd, 1917, when the hospital ship Dunluce Castle was stopped by a German submarine in the Eastern Mediterranean; her papers were found to be in order and the vessel was allowed to proceed. Ii might have been expected that the German Government, seeing that they had reports in their possession, which they profess to regard as reliable, pointing to the misuse of British hospital ships, would not have completely neglected the obvious and well‑recognised method of inspection for the purpose of verifying their suspicions. Instead, they have preferred to appeal for support to their charges to conjectural statements of persons who never had an opportunity of ascertaining whether there was any real foundation for their assumptions, and, on this flimsy basis, without making any attempt to discover the value of the hearsay evidence which they had collected or giving His Majesty's Govern­ment any opportunity of rebutting their allegations, they proceeded to the extreme step of ruthlessly attacking innocent hospital ships engaged in their humane task of serving the sick and wounded.

 

"His Majesty's Government have now made inquiry into the allegations contained in the German memoranda so far as they concern British hospital ships, and so far as the charges made are not in such vague terms as to preclude any possibility of investigating their foundation. Generally, the charges group themselves under four heads, viz.:

 

1. Alleged excessive number of hospital ships in relation to the Gallipoli campaign.

2. Changes in the list of hospital ships, with supposed intention to deceive.

3. Alleged transport of munitions.

4. Alleged transport of troops.

 

"As to (1), the number of hospital ships employed was not excessive, having regard to the number of invalids to be evacuated from Gallipoli. On the contrary, the accommodation on hospital ships proved to be inadequate to meet requirements, and it was necessary to employ ordinary transports, in addition, for the conveyance of

 

BRITISH REJOINDER

 

sick and wounded. These transports were, of course, not protected by The Hague Convention, did not fly the Red Cross flag, and were not fitted out as hospital ships.

 

"As to (2), no rule exists under which a hospital ship, once notified, must remain in hospital service for the duration of the war. It is perfectly true that certain ships were notified as hospital ships and later on were removed from the list. This was due to alterations in the require­ments for various classes of tonnage, caused by the sinkings of ships by submarines and to changes in the military situation.

 

"There is no ground for the somewhat nebulous sugges­tion of the German Government that the aim of the changes was to produce uncertainty and confusion in regard to the character of the ships, and no evidence is adduced to show what military advantages could be gained by such confusion, which, in fact, would probably be disadvan­tageous rather than otherwise, since it would be injurious to the safety of the hospital ships themselves.

 

"As to (3) and (4), alleged conveyance of munitions and troops, to which nearly all the evidence relates, a detailed examination of the particular instances alleged is given below. It may, however, be stated at once that British hospital ships have never been used for the carriage of munitions of war or of combatant troops. Red Cross stores and personnel of the Royal Army Medical Corps (which are protected by the Geneva Convention) have been embarked, and it appears probable that the German Government have been misled by the fallacious deductions of their witnesses, who apparently were unable to verify their assumption that cases of Red Cross stores were really munitions of war and bodies of the Royal Army Medical Corps in khaki uniform detachments of combatant troops.

 

"The statement in the second German memorandum to the effect that, while His Majesty's Government had denied that British hospital ships had carried either troops or munitions, the British Admiralty had merely declared that no troops had been conveyed in such ships, without denying the carriage of munitions, is curiously devoid of point. Both in the statement issued by His Majesty's Government on February 1st, 1917, and in a note addressed to the United States Ambassador in London on January 31st, the allegations of the German Government were contradicted in respect both of troops and of munitions. The discrepancy which the German Government pretend to have discovered between the declarations of His Majesty's Government as a whole, and those of the Admiralty in particular, appears to rest on a statement issued by the Admiralty and published on February 2nd, in which particular notice is given to the allegation of Adalbert Messany, circulated in a German wireless press message, to the effect that 2,500 soldiers, who were not invalids, had been carried by the hospital ship Britannic. With reference to this allegation, the Admiralty stated that no British hospital ship had ever embarked any persons but invalids and hospital staff. There was no occasion in that particular connection to refer to munitions. The play which the German Government make with this imaginary discrepancy is an illustration of their practice of trying to make capital out of infinitesimal points, a practice which has the appearance of being adopted in order to cover up the weakness of their main position."

 

The specific allegations contained in the annexes to the German memorandum of January 28th, and in the memorandum of March 29th, were then dealt with and refuted in each case.

 

In the covering letter from Mr. Balfour to Sir Walter Townley, His Majesty's Ambassador at The Hague, through whose hands the German memoranda had been submitted, the hope was expressed that the German Government "will, after an examination of the contents of the memorandum, withdraw the false charges which they have made regarding the misuse of British hospital ships, and will give unconditional instructions to their naval forces to grant these vessels in the future the immunities which are due to them under the provision of International Law."

 

The first incident of 1917 was the damage, happily not fatal (this vessel was afterwards torpedoed and sunk on February 26th, 1918), to the hospital ship Glenart Castle on March 1st. When she was between Havre and South­ampton, about eight miles north of the Owers Lightship, at 11.40 p.m. a terrific explosion occurred, destroying the dynamo and also the Marconi installation and thus leaving the ship in darkness and without means of signalling. To

 

EXPLOSION IN "GLENART CASTLE"

 

what a test of nerve and courage all on board must have been submitted when the detonation and the rending of the ship's hull were followed by the extinction of the lights.

 

The weather, though hazy, was fine, and the sea smooth. All hands were at once ordered to their stations, and boats were lowered. The whole of the medical staff, patients, and crew, with the exception of a few of the latter who stood by the ship, were placed in boats and trawlers. It was then found that No. 4 hold was filling, as were also the engine‑room and stokehold. At 12.30 a.m. on the 2nd the ship was gradually sinking by the stern. In an effort to salve her, the Government tug Magnet took her in tow at 3.45 a.m., No. 4 hold being already nearly full. At 6.30 a.m. another Government tug, the Grappler, arrived alongside and began pumping, receiving the assistance, an hour and a half later, of the Government tug Sprite.

 

It was now a race against time, for the Glenart Castle was almost on the point of sinking. Owing, however, to the untiring exertion of all hands, she made port at 9.45 a.m., and an hour later entered the dry dock, the pumps from the salvage tugs having just succeeded in keeping her above water. The ship was drawing thirty‑six feet on arrival.

 

In his report on this incident to the Union Castle Company, the master, Mr. E. W. Day, wrote as follows: