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World War 1 at Sea


THE MERCHANT NAVY, Volume 2, Summer 1915 to early 1917 (Part 2 of 2)

by Sir Archibald Hurd

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







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







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







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







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







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







I. The "Mowe"


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


II. The "Seeadler"


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


III The "Wolf"


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





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


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


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



INDEX pp. 444-464

(not included – use Search)









The relation of Zeebrugge to the Dover Straits resembled strategically, as has been stated, that which Cattaro bore to the Straits of Otranto. Happily during the war the enemy never succeeded in capturing the Channel ports, but it was sufficiently embarrassing that Zeebrugge and Ostend remained for practically the whole of the period of hostilities in German hands. Zeebrugge became an important base for U-craft from the spring of 1915 onward. With the introduction of the smaller types of submarines, designated UB and UC, increasingly effective use could be made of the Belgian port. The latter were mine-layers, and from the beginning of June they carried on an almost continuous policy of laying mines off the south-eastern coast of England, selecting well-known lightships, prominent headlands, narrow channels, and certain navigational buoys for their operations. In the course of the early summer, however, the Dover drifters had enforced such a measure of respect on the enemy that submarines were forbidden to attempt the Dover Straits passage. The more valuable U-boats especially were directed to go north-about into the Atlantic, usually through the Fair Island Channel.


The constriction from which the enemy was suffering was so severely felt that on August 20th another effort was made to break through Dover Straits, The submarine selected was the mine-layer UC5, which had reached Zeebrugge from Germany on July 27th and then commenced a series of mine-laying voyages to the southeast coast of England. Eventually, on April 27th, 1916, she got ashore on the Shipwash and was captured; but that is anticipating events. On August 20th, 1915, at 6.40 a.m., she left Bruges, having taken on board her cargo of mines, and proceeded through Zeebrugge lock, thence passing down the Belgian coast. At 10.20 p.m., at her utmost speed, she crossed the Dover net barrage by No. 3 buoy, on the surface, and laid a dozen mines at 6.30 a.m. next day off Boulogne. The Germans in Flanders regarded this as the first actual submarine success beyond the Dover-Calais line. Up to this date no German minelayer had been able to penetrate the Straits. The immediate result was that the s.s. William Dawson got on these mines and blew up.


Had the Germans not been in occupation of the Flemish coast, much of our trouble with submarines would have never existed. Many plans, much effort, a large fleet of various types of ships (especially Auxiliary Patrol craft), and many valuable officers and men were used to checkmate the enemy's operations from these ports, and it could never be said that the door had been effectually closed, shutting in the U-boats there. Two days after UC5 had negotiated Dover Straits, Vice-Admiral Bacon left Dover with a force of seventy-nine ships to attack the harbours and defences of Zeebrugge. In this operation were included such different types as monitors, destroyers, and gunboats, as well as an aeroplane ship, four vessels carrying observation towers for spotting, nine paddle-steamers and many drifters.


The monitors were the bombarding force, the paddlers acted as the mine-sweepers, and the drifters laid their nets round the monitors as a protection against submarine attack. Four of the paddlers, including the Brighton Queen, were drawn from Grimsby; they met Admiral Bacon's fleet off the Galloper Lightship, took station ahead and began sweeping from five miles south-east of North Hinder Lightship to one mile south-west of Thornton Ridge. Two of the observation towers were dropped five miles N. by W. and the other two six miles north-north-east respectively off Zeebrugge pier. The five paddlers from Dover swept ahead of the eastern ships, and the Grimsby paddlers swept ahead of the western ships. When the observation towers had been placed in position and the sweepers were in the middle of turning, the enemy batteries opened fire and continued a fusillade for fifteen minutes. No damage was done to any of the British ships, but three




of the Grimsby paddlers had narrow escapes, their kites being shot away.


All the sweepers then swept round the monitors inside the drift nets until 9 a.m., when course was shaped for the North Hinder Lightship, the paddlers again sweeping ahead of the fleet. These four Grimsby paddlers performed most useful work in sweeping and piloting the observation ships into prearranged positions, and received about a dozen salvoes, several of which straddled the sweepers. The drifters, to the number of about fifty, formed a kind of " zareba " round the monitors and enabled the latter to bombard Zeebrugge from 5.30 a.m. for two and a half hours at 16,000 yards, the scheme being to destroy, if possible, both lock-gates and submarine base. Soon after 8 a.m., all the objectives aimed at having been either damaged or destroyed, the operation ended and the fleet returned to their bases.


On this occasion the Flanders submarines did not attack any vessel of the British force, probably because the enemy feared a landing was about to take place and, therefore, was keeping back his UB boats till a later stage in the proceedings. From the middle of August they were much used by the Germans as advance patrols off the Flanders coast owing to the disturbing effect which Admiral Bacon's continual bombardment was having on the Teuton nerves. To thwart our monitors, the UC boats had to be content to confine themselves to mining the narrow passages between the banks off the Belgian and French coasts.


On September 6th (1915) the Admiral again took his ships over to the Flemish coast. At 11.30 p.m., having reached the appointed position, sweeping operations began and went on throughout the night until five in the morning. Misty weather interfered with the scheme, but at 8 a.m. the paddlers from Grimsby proceeded ahead of the fleet to the anchorage whence the bombardment was to take place. What work for ordinary fishermen! At noon the paddlers were attacked by enemy aircraft, two bombs dropping close to the starboard sponson of one of the vessels. An hour later the fleet weighed again, and proceeded to an area off Ostend, the paddlers sweeping ahead and being subjected to heavy fire from guns of large calibre; two shells fell close under the counter of one paddler, severely jarring the ship. After not quite an hour, the fleet ceased firing and shaped a course for the North Foreland, the paddlers sweeping ahead of them once more. Again the monitors had damaged the submarine workshops and harbour works, and again it was reported that " the assistance rendered by the auxiliary craft was most valuable."


But almost simultaneously UC5 had been at work. At 6.48 a.m. on September 7th she had laid half a dozen mines off Boulogne and another six that night off the " Folkestone Gate," which was used to regulate the traffic passing off that part of the coast. As a result the cable-ship Monarch next day was blown up and sunk. Here, as usual, the armed trawlers were on the spot to do their duty, and by this means seventy-five survivors were brought into Dover. Assisted by the trawler Neptunian, Lieutenant Alfred H. Barnes, R.N.R., commanding officer of the trawler Macfarlane, did excellent work in rescuing the Monarch'' s crew by his coolness and good organisation.


The result of Admiral Bacon's attacks on the Flemish coast was, as has since become known from German sources, that UB boats had to be kept as permanent outposts by Middelkerke and the Thornton Ridge buoy. In this way the UB boats were prevented from operating on the merchant shipping tracks and the enemy had to rely on his mine-laying UC boats. At the end of September severe attacks on the UBs and UCs, both outgoing and homecoming, were made by British craft, one boat of each type being damaged. On September 25th Admiral Bacon again bombarded the enemy's coast, the object being to feign a landing and thereby aid Sir John French, who was about to launch an attack on land farther to the southward. Once more the Auxiliary Patrol craft did their share of the work. The monitors bombarded Knocke, Heyst, Zeebrugge, and Blankenberghe, during which operations drifters used their nets. It was while the drifters were boarding their nets later on that the Hyacinth was shelled, fifteen 6-inch projectiles falling so close that they deluged the drifter with water. Notwithstanding this. Skipper Laurence Scarlett, ably assisted by his second hand, T. J. Prior, and the crew, stuck to the work and safely got all the nets and net-mines aboard before leaving. " I would submit," wrote Admiral Bacon to the Admiralty, " that this skipper's work is worthy of the best traditions of the sea service, more especially as




his instructions admitted of his slipping his nets and retiring without them." This gallant skipper was awarded a D.S.C. and Prior received a D.S.M.


During the winter it was not possible to do much off the Belgian coast owing to unfavourable weather conditions, but operations were resumed in the following April (1916). The total number of vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol serving in the various areas and zones at sea had reached 2,236, and included yachts, whalers, trawlers, drifters, paddlers, " M.L.s," motor-drifters, and motor-boats. Of the craft a considerable proportion were based on Dover, where during the winter Admiral Bacon had been making elaborate plans for a new effort to checkmate the enemy's Flemish submarine flotilla, and his other craft. These plans began to be put into effect on April 24th, 1916, so as to restrict the movements of the Flemish naval forces to one small channel off West Capelle on the Dutch coast. Thus, instead of having to keep watch on the whole coast, the egress and ingress of submarines and other vessels could be checked at this one " gate." To the enemy these measures, it was assumed, would be inconvenient in that 120 miles would be added to the length of a submarine's round trip from Ostend to the English Channel. The barrage, it was realised, would need to be patrolled so as to prevent the enemy from damaging the line of nets, or attacking the drifters who would have to keep the nets in good condition, but that responsibility was accepted.


The mine-nets, then, were to be laid so as to restrict the activities of enemy craft, British destroyers protecting the drifters and their nets. But the enemy's destroyers had a gun-range of 2,000 yards' superiority over that of the British destroyers, mounting 4-inch guns. In these circumstances it was decided to station monitors with a view to their engaging the enemy's destroyers and acting as a rallying-point for the British destroyers. It was recognised that the enemy destroyers could always retreat under the protection of the coast batteries ashore. This would not matter, however, as the purpose in view was the preservation of the barrage. There was, of course, the possibility of the enemy's destroyers trying to rush the monitors, but the British destroyers were charged with the duty of preventing this as well as warding off attacks by submarines. Later on " M.L.s " and coastal motor-boats were also used for patrolling the barrage.


It would have been incorrect to call this arrangement a blockade for the reason that it was not technically effective. The absence of a perpetual night patrol and the existence of an exit by Dutch territorial waters made it not impossible for enemy craft to emerge from Zeebrugge. That the barrage accomplished all that was hoped cannot, with the knowledge which has since become available, be claimed. This much, however, may be said. It caused the enemy to be on the qui vive all the time, interfered with his free navigation, and definitely brought about the loss of several submarines. On the other hand, it employed scores of ships, with their crews numbering hundreds of men, which might have been employed in more active operations. The net-line was examined daily, weather permitting, and whenever possible the 15-inch monitors fired a few rounds at Ostend and Zeebrugge. Our patrols were ordered to keep outside the range of 18,000 yards; the shooting of the shore batteries was excellent up to a much greater range. M.L.s were used to make smoke screens with which to hide the targets. The shore batteries, in turn, used smoke screens to hide themselves from the monitors. The conditions were those of an elaborately staged game of hide-and-seek in which the fishermen stood to suffer most.


It had been intended to lay this barrage on April 8th, but the scheme had to be postponed until April 24th. The plan of the barrage involved the use of mines and net-mines. The mines were to be laid by the minelayers Orvieto, Paris, Princess Margaret, and Biarritz, all being merchant ships taken up for the period of hostilities. The eastern end of the line of mines was to be laid by the trawlers Welbeck, Carmania, Osta, Shackleton, Ostrich, and Russell, which could go into the shoal water which was impossible for the bigger mine-layers and could advance to within four miles of Dutch territorial waters. To seaward of, and covering, the line of mines, the drifters laid their explosive nets, while farther to seaward, still other drifters had been ordered to lay their nets parallel with the West Hinder shoal, about thirty miles from Ostend, in order to catch home-coming U-boats. The last-mentioned were indicator nets, and were not part of




the barrage, which was laid 27,000 yards from the Tirpitz batteries at Ostend. These batteries straddled the monitor General Wolfe at 32,000 yards on the very day the barrage began to be laid, an incident which conveys some idea of the dangers which were run by the men engaged on the barrage.


The preliminaries began on April 21st, when paddlers swept the channel between the Dyck and Inner Ratel, as well as other channels, on the eve of a startling move. This precaution was adopted because it was expected that an enemy mine-ayer had been at work: six German mines were thus accounted for. To assist the navigation of the minelayers, dan buoys were laid by drifters and M.L.s. The bigger mine-layers which have been mentioned laid their 1,421 mines in the line planned, beginning at 5 a.m., April 24th; they steamed at 14 knots in a smooth sea. At 10.30 a.m. the six trawlers began to lay their mines at 6 knots, each trawler laying twenty-four. During the month of May these ex-merchantmen and trawlers prolonged the western end of the double line of mines laid on this day, and filled in the gaps between the shoals southward to the Belgian coast off Furnes. The general effect was thus to make a barrage from La Panne to the Dutch waters. It was a great undertaking — daring and original — but it required a great deal of constant attention to maintain it in an efficient state. The weather was not helpful in this respect, and there was always the possibility of the enemy coming out and tampering with nets or net-mines, so that constant vigilance had to be observed.


Two submarines, UB3 and U10, were destroyed by this means, in addition to UC5, which was caught in a mine but extricated herself. The loss of UB3 was solely and entirely due to the drifters. On April 24th, Sir Reginald Bacon had placed a number of drifters about thirty miles off Ostend, parallel with the West Hinder shoal. Here they anchored with their indicator nets out, flanking the lines of mines and mine-nets which were being laid a little nearer the shore, the intention being to entrap any Flanders submarines that might be making for Ostend or Zeebrugge. At 2.51 p.m. the drifter Gleaner of the Sea was lying at anchor in lat. 51 degrees  31' N., long. 2 degrees  50' 20" E., with her nets out astern. To the north-east and south-west of her were other drifters similarly disposed, the whole line extending about fourteen miles. At this precise moment UB3 endeavoured to get through the line, but fouled the cable of the Gleaner of the Sea, which was riding to fifteen fathoms of chain with twenty-five fathoms of wire shackled on, as drifters often did, the water at this spot being about ten fathoms. Suddenly the watch on deck heard an unusual noise — the sound of something grinding on the wire, and at once went forward to see what was the matter.


Then UB3 was observed on the wire. Skipper R. G. Hurren was called from below and rushed up on deck. He seized a lance-bomb and threw it on the foredeck of the submarine, causing a great explosion, the water flying over the drifter's deck forward. The submarine sank at once down the wire, which parted, and then she went to the bottom, a hole having been blown in her. Skipper Hurren immediately ordered " Full speed ahead " and fired a signal rocket, his idea being to tow his nets round the spot where the submarine had sunk, and thus imprison her. But on looking astern and seeing a large " boil of water," he thought UB3 was coming up to the surface. He therefore ordered the nets to be slipped, as he was going to ram the enemy. On steering over the spot it was obvious that the German had settled down, and that air was coming up. He therefore dropped another lance-bomb and marked the place with a dan buoy.


Presently the drifter E.E.S. (Lieutenant R. J. Harland, R.N.R.) arrived and dropped four more bombs, one of which exploded. After the explosion oil and bubbles came to the surface. At 3.55 p.m. destroyer Afridi arrived on the scene and fired her explosive sweep over the spot where the oil was still coming up. Thus ended the life of another submarine, thanks to the Auxiliary Patrol. The Admiralty awarded Skipper Hurren a D.S.C., and a D.S.M. was given to one of his crew. The sum of £1,000 was also awarded to the fishermen, of which a special share was apportioned to Skipper Hurren for his prompt action. This share amounted to £389.


In addition to the actual destruction of one submarine, the day's operations had been successful, for a double line of mines fifteen miles long had been laid, and thirteen and a half miles of moored nets besides fourteen light buoys which were to define the barrage for the safety of the craft ordered on patrol during the ensuing months.




This Belgian barrage was completed later on. If the officers and men who had been employed in laying and maintaining the barrage required encouragement, they obtained it from the destruction of U10. A fleet of mine-nets had been laid by drifters on May 7th, 1916, reinforcing this barrage line in a position due north of Ostend. There they remained until July 15th, when the drifters were sent to replace them with new ones. While the original mines were being hauled aboard, the eighth net was found to be missing, the mines in it having been fired. It was evident that a submarine had tried to break through, fouled the net, and been blown up by the net-mines. As the drifter's crew went on hauling the remaining nets, there came to the surface the body of a German petty officer, dressed in a double-breasted coat with white metal buttons. He was a naval telegraphist. Together with the body were found the man's pass issued by the harbour-master at Bruges, his identity disk, and so on. The name of the man was thus discovered. Three days after this the German naval casualty list of July 18th contained the name of this man as well as twenty-nine others as " missing, probably dead." It is now known that this submarine was U10, though it is impossible to say on which of the days between May 7th and July 15th she actually succumbed to the drifter's nets.


By May 26th the whole of this barrage had been laid. Thirty little drifters, most of them built of wood and able to steam not more than 8 knots, or 9 at their very best, had gone shooting and repairing these nets within fifteen miles of the enemy's coast with its powerful batteries. It was a great achievement, and one which exactly suited the training and temperament of these fishermen. Losses, of course, there were, both this year and during the preceding autumn. Having regard to the proximity of the enemy's naval forces, his well-placed shore guns, and his mines, this was to be expected; the surprising part is that so few ships were lost. On the occasion of the bombardment of September 25th, 1915, already referred to, the armed yacht Sanda was struck by gunfire and sunk with the loss of four officers and eleven men. Her crew belonged to the Mercantile Service, but her captain was Lieutenant-Commander H. T. Gartside-Tipping, R.N., who had been retired from active service the Navy many years before the opening of the war. In his retirement he had shown an enthusiastic interest in the Royal National Lifeboat service. On the outbreak of war he had come back to sea, in spite of his advanced years, and served in the Auxiliary Patrol in command of this yacht, being the oldest naval officer afloat. Thus perished a very gallant and patriotic gentleman.


The operations off the Belgian coast for 1915 had ended on November 19th. In summing up what had been accomplished, Admiral Bacon remarked:


"... But more remarkable still, in my opinion, is the aptitude shown by the officers and crews of the drifters and trawlers, who in difficult waters, under conditions totally strange to them, have maintained their allotted stations without a single accident. Moreover, these men under fire have exhibited a coolness well worthy of the personnel of a service inured by discipline. The results show how deeply sea adaptability is ingrained in the seafaring race of these islands.... The mine-sweepers under Commander W. G. Rigg, R.N., have indefatigably carried out their dangerous duties."


Such was the verdict upon the part taken by the fishermen in the 1915 campaign. We had lost, unfortunately, the paddler Brighton Queen. At two in the morning of October 6th, 1915, when mine-sweeping off Nieuport, she was about to head for Dunkirk when she struck a mine which exploded under her paddle-box. Boats were at once lowered from all the other ships, but seven lives were lost. Mine-sweeping during the hours of darkness always proved an intensely nerve-wracking and perilous operation. On different occasions long-distance torpedoes were fired at these paddlers while sweeping, and on this particular night several star-shells were discharged from the shore, brilliantly lighting up the ships and rendering them easily recognisable targets.


The loss of the Brighton Queen was a matter of peculiar regret. This excursion steamer had been the first paddler to be taken up in September 1914, and had during the following months assisted in the destruction of mines whose total value was much greater than her own. She had been the means of saving a considerable amount of




shipping as well as many lives, and had been most busily employed in many parts of the North Sea — wherever, indeed, a new mine-field had to be swept up. As the Admiral in charge of the mine-sweepers remarked: " With mine below and bombs from above, in addition to torpedoes from submarines and heavy gunfire from the shore, these sweepers have so far borne somewhat of a charmed life which could hardly be expected to continue indefinitely." The Brighton Queen was called upon to pay the price.


In the laying of the barrage on April 24th, 1916, one drifter was also lost. A division of these craft, under Lieutenant Crafter, R.N.R., had been engaged laying their mine-nets at the eastern end of the line so as to catch any submarines which might try to work round the flank of the light buoys and attack the forces operating. The division consisted of eight drifters which, owing to a mistake, were left during the night at the far end of the line without support. The result was that they had to steam forty-five miles down a hostile coast to Dunkirk. During this passage they were chased by three German destroyers. One of the drifters, the Au Fait, was severely damaged by shell-fire and was captured, the crew being taken prisoners. The drifter Clover Bank, whilst laying nets on the same day, ran over some of the mines which had just been laid, and was blown up. A mistake had been made, for the nets should have been laid half a mile seaward of the lines of mines.


The Belgian coast barrage was maintained until the bad weather set in during October 1916. In the meantime it had been reinforced by mine-fields and mine-nets. It had been patrolled except when weather conditions were unfavourable; but notwithstanding it was a great inconvenience to the enemy, it had not assisted the Allied cause very materially. Admiral Bacon realised this, and in his appreciation of the situation informed the Admiralty:


" The situation on the Belgian coast can be summed up briefly by saying that we can do no real good from the sea until backed up by an advance on land... no permanent damage can be done by gunfire; it can only be looked on as a preparation to assist a force which will permanently occupy the damaged positions."


This lesson in strategy had been expounded years before the war, and the difficulty as perceived afresh off the Belgian coast was identically that which made of no avail the work of our naval forces at the Dardanelles. It is appropriate to add that it had been realised, as soon as the enemy captured the Belgian coastline, that the eventual success of any naval operations depended on the co-operation of the Army. Unfortunately the Army was not free to take its share in the work, and so the auxiliary craft, in association with the vessels of the Dover Patrol, had to do as best they might under adverse conditions. " The drifters," Admiral Bacon remarked, " have laid out, weighed, and dealt with the moored nets off the enemy's coast partially under the range of their batteries, and have watched the nets under conditions when it was possible to afford them little support, but their duties have always been well and promptly carried out."


From October 1916 the barrage remained unpatrolled; the nets were left to look after themselves; and the enemy could, and doubtless did, interfere with it and make gaps for his submarines to pass through. It was not until the summer of 1917 that it was once more rendered efficient. To criticise this campaign off the Flemish coast would be easy enough, and in the light of later study of the plans and operations there are lessons to be learned and faults to be avoided. But the situation was a difficult one and the general outlook was none too hopeful. The Allied armies could not advance along the coast, and therefore the defended base of the enemy submarines could not be destroyed. Even if the barrage had been made of solid concrete instead of more or less frail nets, the submarines could never have been contained within Flemish waters. They had to go a long way out of their way close to the south-western coast of Holland, and these submarine tracks became known to the naval authorities. In the later stages of the war an attempt was made to mine this exit just short of neutral seas; but it was just this neutral stretch of Dutch waterway which made the whole idea of the barrage impracticable.


In pre-submarine days it would not have mattered much. In the case of any surface ship using territorial waters she could have been seen. But the U-boats at Zeebrugge could negotiate the Dutch channels between the sandbanks, either by day or by night. If by day, they would be submerged and unseen; if by




night they would be very difficult to observe, and at any moment could dive to periscope depth and evade the neutral patrol, however vigilant. Thus a German advanced base existed almost at the eastern mouth of the English Channel: it was like bringing Heligoland so many miles nearer England. The base could not be wiped out; it succoured, refitted, revictualled, replenished with mines and ammunition, and refreshed the tired crews of the U-boats, UBs, UCs, just as often as they had orders to come in and out of Zeebrugge and up to Bruges. Strategically this base was well placed for offensive operations, either by mine or torpedo, or by machine-gun or heavier armament upon the swept channel which began at the Downs and extended north to about the Firth of Forth. It was difficult enough to prevent such attacks, for the reason that the naval authorities were short of ships. The demand for destroyers and craft for the Auxiliary Patrol went on incessantly: the most that could be done in those critical times was to carry on with exiguous forces.


The Auxiliary Patrol was concerned with mines as well as submarines. The enemy's mine-laying operations throughout the war may be divided into two periods. From August 1914 until June 1915 all the mines were laid by surface ships. From June 1915 to the end of hostilities practically all the mine-fields were laid by submarines, though there were several important exceptions. The Southwold mine-field had been allowed to remain practically intact except for certain passages through it which were swept, unknown to the enemy, as a matter of convenience. The Humber mine-field continued to exist, though parts of it were swept in the spring and early summer of 1916, the trawlers Orcades and Alberta being mined and sunk in the process. The Tyne mine-field remained as before.


On June 11th, 1915, the Outer Silver Pit minefield was discovered by the foundering of the fishing-trawler Dovey. It was wrongly supposed, at first, that this was part of the Humber mine-field, the north-west portion of which was swept up in June 1915 (The south-east end was swept up a year later, by which time several other fishing-trawlers had been blown up in the field.) The Tory Island mine-field, laid in the autumn of 1914, continued to give a good deal of trouble to the sweepers, and it was not until March 1916 that it was declared clear. The Scarborough mine-field had long since been dealt with, though an odd mine was found off that part of the Yorkshire coast in September 1915. The Swarte Bank mine-field continued in existence during the summer of 1915, but was cleared by the middle of August. The Dogger Bank mine-field, laid fork-shaped in the middle of the North Sea towards the end of May 1915 and discovered by fishing-trawlers, had been defined by the sweepers, and as late as September 1915 the Dutch s.s. Eemdijk foundered on it. Thanks, however, to the work of the trawlers, the enemy's object — the entrapping of the Grand Fleet — had been frustrated.


On either August 7th or 8th, 1915, a big mine-field was laid across the Moray Firth by the German armed auxiliary Meteor, which sank the armed boarding-steamer The Ramsay. Nearly 400 mines were laid in zigzag lines. The mine-field was soon discovered and no harm came to any portion of the Grand Fleet. It involved, of course, heavy and dangerous work for trawlers, paddlers, and sloops, but by the middle of October of the same year 249 mines had been destroyed — a very fin,e record! On New Year's Day 1916 the raider Mowe laid about 200 mines between Sule Skerry and Cape Wrath in a rough semicircle, thus fouling the western approach to Scapa Flow, and causing the loss of the battleship King Edward VII five days later. In this instance also the mine-sweepers had the difficult job of carrying out their work exposed to the full force of the Atlantic, as had been the case off Tory Island. It was a slow, tedious process.


The proceedings of the mine-laying craft became so persistent and thorough, when once they had begun in June 1915, that it is impossible to deal with them in detail. With the regularity almost of a freighter, the UC-boats would load up with mines at Bruges, pass out through the Zeebrugge locks, cross the North Sea, and lay the mines off such positions as the Shipwash, Sunk, South Goodwin, Kentish Knock, Stanford Channel, Elbow Buoy, Le Havre, Boulogne, Black Deep, Edinburgh Lightship, Aldeburgh Napes, and so on. Having deposited their cargoes, they would go back to Bruges and come out with another lot. In this way not only were heavy losses caused to British and neutral shipping, but the demands on the trawler and paddler mine-sweepers rapidly increased. The neighbourhood




of important lightships and headlands had to be swept regularly; long traffic lanes up the coast had to be maintained in a swept condition; and the casualty lists of the sweepers and crews began to mount up. The loss of life came with appalling suddenness. Dutch mail-steamers, Trinity House pilot-ships, British lightships, steamers of all sizes, including the P. & O. liner Maloja, were blown up and many lives sacrificed.


All sections of the Auxiliary Patrol, which were not employed in sweeping, were necessarily engaged in locating these minelayers. Drifters laid their nets in likely areas, and occasionally the enemy would either be destroyed or he would founder on his own mines, as was the case with UC9 in October 1916. Mines are blind; they have no respect for one particular ship more than another. On November 17th, 1915, the hospital ship Anglia foundered on mines laid off Dover by UC5. This had the effect of stopping for a while all cross-Channel traffic, and the enemy thus assisted his own armies. On the same day that the Anglia blew up, a Greek steamer and a Norwegian vessel hit mines off the Galloper Lightship.


The essential effect of all this intensive mine-laying by the enemy was that patrol-trawlers had to be ready to turn over to mine-sweeping when required and thus " work double tides." Gradually the mining areas spread as far north as the Humber and as far west as the Needles. Then from April 1916 there appeared the first U-boat mine -layers, who could go farther afield and carry more mines than the Flanders boats. Mines were now laid off the Firth of Forth, off the Orkneys (causing the loss of H.M.S. Hampshire with Lord Kitchener on board).


Thence onwards the campaign extended to almost every area of the British Isles where shipping was wont to voyage. The north of Scotland, west and south of Ireland, and the Irish Sea were affected; mines were laid off the port of Liverpool; the Isle of Man; in the Bristol Channel; off the various headlands and harbour entrances of the English Channel; the overseas submarines were able to deposit their explosive cargoes even off certain ports in the Bay of Biscay as well as in the Mediterranean, whereas at one time the UC-boats based on Flanders had been limited to the south-eastern ports of the English coast. The latter had begun by carrying only a dozen mines, but the U-boat mine-layers which made their appearance early in 1916 had space for as many as thirty-four. Eventually they were able to lay mines in districts so far apart as the White Sea in the north and the west coast of Africa in the south.


The Admiralty had good reason to commend the persistent work of the mine-sweepers during the first two years of the war; for in this period they succeeded in destroying 3,567 German mines. By the end of the year 1916 the number had been increased to 4,574, figures which indicate sufficiently the thoroughness of the mine-sweepers' operations; but nearly 400 vessels had been sunk or damaged in carrying out the work. Some idea of the enemy's persistency can be formed when it is stated that between the Sunk and Cross Sands Lightships — a regular traffic lane where ships were passing at almost every hour of the day — thirty-one German mines were destroyed.


In the Harwich area the enemy was, of course, aiming, not merely at the merchant shipping, but at Commodore Tyrwhitt's light cruisers and destroyers. The Germans therefore plastered these shallow waters pretty thoroughly as soon as suitable submarine mine-layers were available, and during the year 1916 the sweepers in this area alone destroyed over 400 mines; U-boats during the same year laid exactly seventy-two mines in the White Sea, and all but thirty of them were located by trawlers and destroyed during the same season before the ice froze in. Operations had to cease on December 1st, some of the trawlers and colliers going to Romanoff, while the rest crossed the North Sea to Lerwick. The traffic in the White Sea was heavy at this stage, as the enemy had surmised, and the trawlers well deserved the extra week's leave which was awarded them on their return for their good service.


Before the end of the year, an alteration had been made in the administration of the mine-sweeping. Originally Admiral Charlton had been in charge of the mine-sweeping department at the Admiralty. He had been succeeded by another Admiral; but from December 18th, 1916, these operations were delegated to a Captain of Mine-sweeping under the new Anti-Submarine Division. The title " Captain of Mine-sweeping " was later on altered to " Superintendent of Mine-sweeping," and in October 1917 the mine-sweeping operations came under a " Director of




Mine-sweeping," who controlled all mine-sweeping in home waters, was responsible for the distribution of mine-sweeping vessels, and advised the naval staff at the Admiralty on the subject of mine-sweeping abroad, for during 1916 the enemy submarines had been laying mines off the Italian and French ports, especially off Genoa, Marseilles, Taranto, Gallipoli (Italy), Brindisi, Venice, Valona, Corfu, Bizerta and Oran. Similarly off Cretan ports, off Milo, in the Zea Channel, off Salonika, Mudros, Port Said, Alexandria, and Malta these unwelcome cargoes were deposited with disastrous results to merchant shipping. Paddlers and trawlers and M.L.s, as well as drifters, were being dispatched from England, but the enemy was also replenishing his forces by sending out more submarines from Germany.


At home serious losses of mine-sweeping craft were being sustained. Trawlers are comparatively deep-draught vessels, especially aft, and risks had to be accepted as inevitable. Paddlers were being employed more and more because of the shallowness of their hulls, and they were on the whole not unlucky. But this is not to say that they did not suffer; when the fatal moment came for them it arrived quickly, as in the case of the two paddlers Totnes and Ludlow. Four days after Christmas they were sweeping off the Shipwash Lightship when both were mined within a few minutes of each other. The former had her bows blown off and the latter lost her stern. The Totnes was towed into Harwich, but the Ludlow sank during the night.


The bravery of the mine-sweepers constitutes a fine record of the war. From the moment that the ship put to sea in the early morning before the other craft were allowed to move, she was really in action. When and where or at what depth below the surface mines would be found it was impossible to say. There was no preliminary bombardment to announce the enemy's oncoming; there were no scouting forces to foretell an engagement. The trawlers might sweep for a week and not find a mine, and then of a sudden, in an unusual place, they would come upon a little patch; some of the mines would be caught in the wire sweeps, but others, or perhaps a stray mine, would just be close enough to catch the trawler's heel, and up she would go, and after the column of black smoke had disappeared to leeward, there would be no trawler; only a few bits of wreckage would remain with two or three of the crew in life-saving belts swimming near them; a stray corpse or two would be seen going silently down with the tide.


To see such things happen, and to go out day after day, for months on end, doing the same risky work, perhaps being fired at by a submarine in the distance, required courage and grit. But it did not end there. At times more than this was required, and this little bit more meant a good deal to the winning of the war. In the first part of the campaign the British mines were not satisfactory, and a good deal could be learnt from the enemy. Orders were issued, therefore, that, if possible, a German mine was to be removed whole so that it might be examined by the British experts. The recovery of such a dangerous thing as a mine is a very different thing from merely destroying it, especially as it was known that about the only inefficient thing about a German mine was the safety device. Nevertheless the task had to be done, and the following incident illustrates the way the mine-sweeping personnel furnished knowledge to the Admiralty.


In the course of sweeping the Moray Firth in September 1916, a mine was caught in Cullen Bay and buoyed. The next procedure was to get it into shallow water. This was accomplished by employing rowing-boats, which passed a wire with a long loop of chain round the mine and thus swept it up to the surface. Then, with considerable risk and no little skill, the mine was cut from its moorings and, in spite of a heavy autumn swell, was towed into Burghead Bay and moored. After darkness had set in, the paddler Glen Usk kept her searchlight playing on the mine and warned off approaching vessels. On the following day the mine was safely towed towards the shore by the boats of the two paddlers, St. Elvies and Glen Usk, and beached. The whole operation of lifting the mine on to the shore was very dangerous, especially when it was discovered that the detonator was jammed, but both mine and sinker were recovered complete. This was a notable achievement, inasmuch as many attempts had previously been made to salve sinkers, but without success. The naval authorities, as a result of this successful and plucky operation, were able to carry out some highly satisfactory experiments.




" I beg respectfully," wrote Commander Gervase W. H. Heaton, R.N., who was in charge of these paddlers, " to bring to your notice the magnificent work of the individual boats' crews, who when within feet of the mine carried out their work jokingly — and especially the names of Temporary Lieutenant William Highton, R.N.R., of the St. Elvies, and William Westborough, C.P.O., of the St. Elvies. This officer and petty officer never left the mine for a moment, and by their resource and endeavours were mainly responsible for the safe accomplishment of the undertaking."


" Much ingenuity, pluck, and good seamanship were shown," wrote Admiral Jellicoe to the Admiralty, " and all parts of the mine and sinker were recovered." '' The general tone of those present," reported Captain L. G. Preston, R.N., who was in charge of the Fleet Sweepers, " struck me in the light of a picnic-party." The Admiralty sent a letter of appreciation to these gallant mine-sweepers, who, had they been asked, would have stated that they preferred this sort of dangerous " picnic " every day of the war rather than the uneventful monotony which was the main characteristic of their routine, week after week


The Mine Peril in Home Waters.

(click to enlarge)









In an earlier chapter particulars were given of the development before the war of the Royal Naval Motor-Boat Reserve. By February 1915, 188 of these craft had been pressed into the national service. Scotch motor fishing-boats were also included in the force. With it were associated 272 R.N.V.R. officers and about 450 motor mechanics ratings and skippers. They were employed at such different stations as Scapa Flow, Cromarty, Firth of Forth, Humber, Great Yarmouth, Harwich, Dover, Portsmouth, Plymouth, on the seaward end of the army's line in Flanders (based on Dunkirk), and eventually in Egypt, Malta, and Smyrna. Originally they were intended to examine the coasts and inlets, but it was realised in March 1915 that not in every case were they so employed. Being built originally for summer yachting, they were not seaworthy enough at sea, fast enough for offensive work, nor sufficiently stoutly built to carry armament even if such had been available. For the most part they were being employed during these early months for such duties as dispatch-carrying, harbour-policing, traffic control, boarding, and so on. These amateur sailors had created a most favourable impression and were obviously suited for better craft. In July of this year it was decided that the Royal Naval Motor-Boat Reserve, which had been administered by a separate committee at the Admiralty, should be amalgamated with the organisation known as the Yacht Patrol, which, in turn, presently changed its official name to the Auxiliary Patrol.


The need for more seaworthy, faster, and better-armed motor-craft began to be considered in the spring of 1915 during Lord Fisher's regime as First Sea Lord. The result was that on April 9th, 1915, a contract was signed for fifty motor-launches — to be built on the other side of the North




Atlantic. Three months later the number on order was increased to 550. The pattern boat was built at Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.A., where all the initial work was carried out. The twin sets of engines were also made in the United States, but the assembling of the craft was done at Quebec and Montreal. The later M.L.s (after the first fifty had been begun) were slightly longer, being 80 feet long, and each boat was fitted with a pair of 220-h.p. motors, twin screws. The M.L.s were afterwards put in cradles and shipped to England, four at a time, on the decks of transports. It is a notable fact that the whole 550 M.L.s were built in 488 days. As these craft began to arrive, they found their crews awaiting them. By the end of August 1915 R.N.V.R. officers were being recalled from the R.N. motor-boats for courses of instruction at Portsmouth for service in the M.L.s.


On September 1st (1915) six of these M.L.s reached Portsmouth from the other side of the Atlantic. The engines were overhauled, and a fortnight later the trials of the 13-pounder guns mounted in them took place. Experiments were made with these M.L.s at sea soon after arrival, and it was ascertained that with careful handling they could keep the sea in fair weather, but that with a following sea great caution would be required. Their fine form forward and the flat transom stern aft caused them to bury their bows and broach to. However, the primary aim of the design was speed — to rush towards a submarine — and it is not easy to obtain in an 80-foot boat accommodation for officers and men, extreme mobility, good sea-keeping qualities, and the stoutness requisite for mounting a gun forward.


Like all other ships that have ever been built, the M.L.s were a compromise. They were not ideal craft, but in the hands of trained yachtsmen, with crews of fishermen and others, they performed really excellent work during the war. They were able to sweep up mine-fields where deeper-draught craft dared not venture: they maintained a patrol all round the coast, as well as in the Mediterranean, in the Otranto Straits, in Egyptian waters, in the West Indies, and so on; they assisted in convoying merchant ships; when organised into hydrophone hunting flotillas, they harried the U-boats, and, as is known from enemy sources, were much feared by the German seamen. Apart from contributing indirectly to the destruction of various submarines, the M.L.s on more than one occasion did definitely and directly send enemy submarines to their doom. On October 14th M.L.s 1, 2, and 3 were commissioned at Portsmouth. On the 21st M.L.4 left Portsmouth, reached London the following day, and was inspected off the Thames Embankment by representatives of the Admiralty. During that autumn and the early months of the next year, Portsmouth continued to fit out these craft, and gradually every base in the Auxiliary Patrol areas had its own M.L. flotilla. Some were shipped again aboard transports and sent out to the Suez Canal and Adriatic. Others proceeded on their own power, by way of the French canals, to the Mediterranean. In these various ways a new force was added to the Royal Navy in home as well as distant waters.


In no area were M.L.s more useful than in the Dover Patrol, especially in connection with the Belgian coast barrage and the Dover barrage. During the autumn of 1914 British and French mines had been laid in the southern part of the North Sea for the protection of the Dover Straits and English Channel against possible attack on the cross-Channel transports by means of surface vessels. At that time the British mines were not very satisfactory, and many of these so-called mine-fields had broken adrift owing to the weak character of the mooring wires. In January 1915 Lord Fisher advocated further mining of the Dover Straits, and on the 4th of the following month the laying of the first Dover barrage was begun. The scheme was that mines should stretch irregularly from north of Dunkirk across the Straits to a little east of Elbow Buoy, near Broadstairs. The operation was completed by February 16th.




Drifters Hoisting in a Torpedo


This barrage was well to the north-eastward of the Straits. Nominally it existed until the spring of 1918, but on sweeping over it the barrage was found to be non-existent, and it may be assumed now that, for the reason just mentioned, it existed only on paper except for a very short period. To the south-west of this barrage was the line of Dover drifters riding to their nets across the Straits. Although for a time these nets did actually foil the enemy submarines and deny to them the passage of the Straits, yet, by the autumn of 1915, the enemy had learned the trick of dodging these nets at night; he




succeeded, in fact, in finding gaps, of which he made use. It was all very well to take a chart and draw a line across the Straits and point to the fact that the straight line represented an obstruction of nets. In practice this did not exist. The tides in the Straits are strong, and the nets had to be towed across the tide; therefore, what with this natural disadvantage, and the fouling of nets on submerged wreckage which had existed for many years, in association with the difficulties caused by darkness and bad weather, it was not possible to regard this net barrage as a rigid, inflexible, impenetrable barrier.


The first really effective cross-Channel barrage was that which was laid between December 17th, 1916, and February 8th, 1917. This extended from the South Goodwins to the Snow and consisted of moored mine-nets and deep mines. The mine-nets, instead of being towed by the drifters, were secured to buoys and were thus securely sustained. These buoys were numbered OA, 1A, 2A, and so on, smaller buoys being laid in between them. On the southern side were placed a line of light buoys every three miles, the object being to prevent the patrols getting foul of this barrage. Secret gaps were left to permit craft to go across to the Belgian coast in safety, and these were frequently changed so as to deceive the enemy. The laying and maintaining of this net barrage was the work of the Dover drifters. It was kept patrolled by about twenty-four drifters, by the Dover M.L.s, and by other craft. Thirty more drifters were used for laying the nets. Thus, theoretically, by the use of lines of mines, lines of nets, and patrol-vessels the Dover Straits were rendered impassable to enemy craft.


In actual experience, it should be added, this Dover barrage was not a complete success. Owing to bad weather and the strong tides, the nets could never be maintained in an efficient condition. Moreover, the German submarines were able, by picking their way at night, to cross the nets, usually by drifting over them at high water. Secondly, the mines unfortunately dragged their moorings and fouled the nets, and by the spring of 1917 became a serious danger to our vessels working about the nets. When, eventually, in the early part of 1918, it was established beyond all manner of doubt that this cross-Channel barrage was not stopping the submarines, it was abandoned.


The buoys and nets — or as many as still existed — were left in position and not replaced when they broke adrift. This decision naturally released a large number of small craft for other work. " There is no doubt," Admiral Bacon has stated in The Dover Patrol 1915-17, that " this barrage never stopped submarines passing... it was an undoubted deterrent to destroyers." It may be added that it was not until we became possessed of efficient mines and gear that it was possible to make the straits a terror to German submarines. When improved mines were available, the laying of the Folkestone-Grisnez deep mine-field was undertaken — in the winter of 1917-18. It had not been quite completed by the time the Armistice arrived, but it may be said at once that, owing to this very thorough barrage and the restless activity of the vigilant destroyers and small craft of the Auxiliary Patrol, the passage of the Dover Straits by enemy submarines was made as nearly as possible a superhuman task.


On the other side of the Channel, vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were assisting the French Navy and protecting from submarines transports which were sustaining the Allied armies. The approaches to Le Havre, for very obvious reasons, were a favourite region for German submarines. It was their practice to lie about in this area, lay mines, and attack incoming steamers carrying stores for the Western Front. A number of British drifters had therefore been based on this harbour. Just before 5 o'clock on the morning of April 5th, 1916, Lieutenant J. M'Loughlin, R.N.R., who was in charge of half a dozen British net drifters at Havre, was informed by the French authorities that a submarine had been sighted in the Roads near the Whistling Buoy. He immediately ordered the Endurance, Welcome Star, Stately, Comrades, Pleiades, and Pleasance, to proceed to sea as soon as the tide served. At 7.40 a.m. they left port and at 10.15 a.m. the Pleiades shot her net two miles west of the Whistling Buoy, the other drifters following suit.


Just as the net drifter Endurance was shooting her nets, there were indications that a submarine had fouled the nets. She therefore sent up a rocket distress signal to that effect. Immediately before this incident occurred, the Comrades had felt a shock underneath her hull, accompanied by a bumping on the ship's bottom. It was




evident that a submarine was in trouble, for the next incident was the periscope of a submarine striking the rudder of the Endurance, so heavily as to put the rudder out of action. Still bungling on her way, the submarine ran foul of so much of the Endurance's net as had been shot. Like a skilful angler playing a fish at the end of his line, the skipper of the Endurance now paid out the rest of his nets as rapidly as the submarine was taking them. The result was that the German craft became completely enveloped in the nets, heading off in a north-easterly direction. The Endurance was compelled to let go the last of her nets, as, owing to her damaged rudder, she was unable to manoeuvre.


On hearing the rocket distress signal fired, the rest of the drifters had closed on the Endurance so as to encircle the submarine. The enemy was now caught in a trap and the prisoner of these fishermen. Not all his wiles could avail him, for he had been definitely outmanoeuvred. All that remained was to give the death-blow. The French torpedo-boat Le Trombe was soon on the scene and quickly got into position close to the Endurance. Having sighted the indicator buoy of the net marking the submarine's apparent position, the Le Trombe dropped three bombs, which had the desired effect. The enemy decided to come to the surface and surrender. Some of the German crew jumped overboard, but they were picked up by the Welcome Star and the Le Trombe. The former saved five Germans by means of a line and buoy, and then, launching her boat, took three German officers from the submarine and put them on board the torpedo-boat. Seven more Germans were saved by the drifter Stately. This saving of life of a defeated enemy was, of course, only in accordance with the humane traditions of the brotherhood of the sea, and the action of the Allies in this respect contrasted with the callousness of certain commanders of German submarines in allowing non-combatant passengers as well as crews of merchant ships to perish.


But, to conclude this inspiriting story, after the German prisoners had been accounted for, the Stately and Welcome Star remained with the submarine until French trawlers arrived to take the German prize in tow, assisted by the Comrades. The Endurance, owing to her damaged rudder, had to be towed in by the Pleasance. On the way the submarine sank, but in shoal water, so that that misfortune was of little account. It had been a great day for the drifters, and both the British and the French naval authorities took favourable notice of the exploit. The former highly commended "the excellent work done by the drifters " on this occasion, and referred to the destruction of the submarine as having been due entirely to the promptitude of Lieutenant M'Loughlin and the skill of Skipper T. C. Wylie, who had so handled the Endurance's nets that the submarine could not tear her way through. The Admiralty decorated both these officers with the D.S.C., whilst two ratings received the D.S.M.


In addition, the Admiralty awarded the sum of £1,000 to be divided between the six drifters, to which the French Government contributed a further sum of 8,000 francs. These drifters had arrived on the station but a day or two previously, and were a distinct asset at a most important point along the lines of communications. The submarine sunk was UB26. She had left the Ems in the afternoon of March 19th, kept two or three miles off the Dutch coast, and reached Zeebrugge on the morning of March 21st. At the end of the month, being based on Flanders, she had set out from Zeebrugge and begun operating in the English Channel. In her were found German charts which showed among other things that the enemy knew the position of the net barrage across Dover Straits — from the South Goodwins to the Snow. The submarine had crossed this barrage about midway between the South Goodwins and the Outer Ruytingen.




Armed Trawlers in the North Sea


It must not, however, be assumed that the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were active or efficient only in those areas where they succeeded in fighting and sinking the enemy. " Happy," it might have been declared, " was the patrol area that had no history." For, if the patrols were absolutely and entirely efficient, they should at all times have succeeded in keeping the submarine under water; no ships would have been sunk and none attacked. There were, however, for certain geographical or strategical reasons, certain areas which were bound to come into prominence. The Dover Straits have been specially mentioned, because that was the eastern entrance to the highway leading from Germany to the Atlantic. Another way was across the North Sea and round the north of




Scotland, and for that reason the north-east coast was also a busy sphere. In trying to forestall an enemy's movements and intentions, it has been regarded as a good rule " to put yourself in his place." There was reason, for example, on examining the north-east coast situation, to expect that submarines would operate on or near the Tyne-to-Bergen trade route. That was a reasonable supposition, because the enemy knew well how important in the prosecution of the war this particular trade route was.


In the month of May 1916 Rear-Admiral Simpson, the Senior Naval Officer at Peterhead, was directing his trawlers on patrol to pay especial attention to that area. Thus it occurred that on May 27th, when in lat. 57 degrees  10' N., long. 1 degrees  20' E., half an hour after noon, the trawler Searanger (Lieutenant H. J. Bray, R.N.R.) was patrolling when the commanding officer sighted a sail and smoke to the northward, proceeding eastward. Lieutenant Bray ordered full speed ahead and, on proceeding to investigate, found that the sail and smoke had revealed the presence of a submarine. This stratagem had been tried before, and under certain atmospheric conditions it was successful if the patrols were not particularly watchful and inquisitive. By 12.45 p.m. events had happened so quickly that the Searanger and two accompanying trawlers, the Oku and Rodino, had opened fire on the submarine at a range of 4,000 yards. The sea being smooth, it was not long before the exact distance was found and one shot was seen to strike the submarine aft. She was a big craft, with a large conning-tower and wireless installation.


The submarine presumed that these trawlers belonged to the group of Hull fishing-fleet which had scattered earlier in the day on her approach. In accordance with Admiral Simpson's orders, the patrol unit was cruising in no formation, but was dispersed as if fishing. The enemy, taken by surprise by the gunfire, at once lowered sail and, having one gun forward and one aft, returned the trawlers' fire. The submarine began by concentrating the shells from both guns alternately on a trawler, but all the time the trawlers were closing in upon their prey. In a little while the enemy's after gun had apparently become damaged, for fire ceased and reopened only with the forward gun, the shots falling short. It was observed on board both the Searanger and Rodino that the periscope had been partially shot away. It was soon evident that the enemy was already tired of the engagement, for he ceased fire altogether, and made an effort to escape by submerging.


By this time the unit of trawlers had more than half encircled the submarine and shell after shell was being placed with admirable accuracy. The submarine at length rose well out of the water with a heavy list to port, like a wounded thing, and an endeavour was made to finish her off. Both the Oku and Searanger did their best to ram her, but she was making an erratic course towards the centre of the unit, apparently trying to get alongside the trawler Kimberley, the fourth vessel of the group. As the submarine came within eight feet of the latter, it was impossible to ram, but as she passed the Kimberley fired three shots into her. By this time the submarine was heeling over to port and sinking stern first. Finally, after a shot from the Kimberley, she sank out of sight, leaving a large quantity of oil on the surface.


It was now 1.30 p.m., and the unit continued to cruise about in the vicinity until 3 p.m., when the quantity of oil on the surface had considerably increased. In this way the career was ended of U74; having been seriously damaged by the first three trawlers, she was given the coup de grace by the Kimberley. It was an almost ideal engagement, the fighting trawlers utilising their guns in association with the courage and plain common-sense tactics of the crews against the German U-boat, with her superior gun-power and her torpedoes. It was well, indeed, that U74 had been destroyed, for this was the craft which had but a few weeks before laid a dangerous minefield in the Firth of Forth, and would doubtless have continued her mining warfare at a later date.


This engagement occurred four days before the Battle of Jutland, and it may be asked: Were the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol able, on that historic day, to render any service? Obviously such craft could have no part in a fleet action, nor could they operate so far from their base as the coast of Jutland. The duty of the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were carried out within easy distance of the British coast, and it was just when the Grand Fleet would be making the land on its return from battle, probably with some ships badly wounded, that the smaller




craft might be useful in repelling the attacks of submarines lying in wait. Thus, on June 1st, three armed trawlers from Granton were dispatched on the information that three torpedoes had been fired at an incoming ship. Later in the same day submarines were reported off May Island, and the yacht Mingary sighted a submarine that was trying to intercept H.M.S. Warspite returning with her scars received in the Jutland battle. The Mingary and her unit at once gave chase to the submarine, but it submerged and escaped. On the night of May 31st, in consequence of the news which he had received. Admiral Startin dispatched from Granton every available armed yacht, armed trawler, and mine-sweeping trawler to positions which these craft were ordered to occupy in the event of a fleet action. He sent also fourteen of his drifters up the Forth to Rosyth with cots ready to land the wounded from the men-of-war as soon as they should arrive. So carefully, indeed, had everything been foreseen that during the previous weeks Admiral Startin had instituted special classes at Granton for the instruction of the drifter men in the transport of wounded and in general first aid. Thus a fortnight before the Battle of Jutland forty-four skippers and second hands had qualified for certificates.


The loss of U74 mentioned on the opposite page was important not merely because she was a submarine, but because she was probably the first to operate according to a new plan. At the beginning of the war, as has been stated, enemy mine-laying was done by surface ships. Then came the UC-boats which, based on Flanders, laid their mines off the south-east coast of England. As the commanders of these craft became more daring and efficient, they laid the mines as far north as Flamborough and as far west as Land's End. Such was their success that a bigger type of mine-layer was evolved, which could go farther distances. These were the U-mine -layers and belonged, not to the Flanders Flotilla, but to the High Sea Fleet. From about April 1916 until the end of the war, these U-mine-layers, based on the Elbe, laid their mines off various parts of the British Isles, including even the west of Ireland, but not in the Flamborough-south-east coast-Land's End area, which was reserved for the UC-boats from Flanders. It is not possible to state which was the first mine-field that can be attributed to these U-boats, nor on what date it was laid. But it is certain, however, that the Firth of Forth mine-field was the first and that it was laid on or about April 18th, 1916, by U74.


Other U-boat minefields were laid soon afterwards, as for example that of the Brough of Birsay causing the loss of H.M.S. Hampshire and the death of Lord Kitchener; the Moray Firth, Southern Channel, Tyne, Skerryvore, South of Ireland, Bristol Channel, Clyde approaches, Isle of Man, and off the north-east English ports. The effect of this increased mining activity was to scatter the mine-sweeping forces by causing a unit of mine-sweepers to be located at every port. Seeing that the number of Auxiliary Patrol ships and men was limited, and the more of them were employed in mine-sweeping the fewer could be employed in the purely offensive duty of harrying submarines, this was sound strategy on the part of the enemy. What happened was that a large part of the available force was diverted to defensive duties — into sweeping clear passages for merchant ships; whereas the U-boat, having once deposited her cargo of mines, could begin to torpedo shipping at will and without so much interference by armed trawlers and M.L.s.


How consistently and persistently this policy was carried out in the summer of 1916 is revealed by the bare record of the attacks on fishing-trawlers. During the night of July 5th-6th a German submarine sank no fewer than seven Scotch drifters off the Tyne. During the preceding week a large fleet of Scotch drifters had been working off this coast, following the herrings. On this night the fleet was very much spread when first attacked, and the Senior Naval Officer at the Tyne had allotted every available vessel of the newly armed drifters as well as some armed trawlers of the Auxiliary Patrol to go to sea with the fishermen and bring them home in safety. These methods appeared to be successful in stopping raids on fishing-fleets, but some trawlers and drifters afterwards fell victims to the enemy.


Two torpedo-boats also operated in the fishing area, and visited the fleets every morning and evening. Another fishing-vessel was sunk on July 10th; three days later four more were sunk off Scarborough and Whitby; next day five more off the Tyne; three more on July 27th; six on the day following; and three more on the last day of July. Thus in one month a total of




twenty-five fishing-craft were sunk off the Tyne alone. It was reported that the submarines concerned were large, possessing a couple of wireless masts and a gun. The situation was so serious that at the beginning of August the area had to be patrolled by H.M.S. Active or Lightfoot, with six destroyers of the Fourth Flotilla. In spite of the Active and destroyers, the enemy began by setting fire to a steamer off Coquet Island. On August 6th twelve armed trawlers and twenty-four drifters with mine-nets reached the Tyne. Until their arrival the work of escorting shipping had been so heavy that practically no patrolling could be done by trawlers; whatever armed trawlers were available were sent to protect the drifter fishing-fleets. These newly arrived drifters were at once employed as a disguised fishing-fleet and sent to a position fifteen miles east-north-east of the Tyne, convoyed by armed trawlers. This was about the position where the fishing-drifters had been sunk at the end of July. The attacks now ceased, but began again on September 23rd.


A dead-set was clearly being made on all trawlers and drifters, whether of the fishing-fleets or of the Auxiliary Patrol. Perhaps this development was due to the annoyance of the enemy at the splendid way in which fishermen, enrolled in His Majesty's service, were helping the Navy and fighting the submarine as well as the mine; perhaps it was mere " frightfulness," fed by a desire to intimidate men who had been using the sea all their lives, from leaving port again. In any case, it had no permanent effect. On July 7th, farther up the North Sea, a unit of armed trawlers from Peterhead, consisting of the Martin, Glamis Castle, Ibis, Editor, Albatross, and Consort, were at 7.15 a.m. in lat. 58 degrees  20' N., long. 0 degrees  48' E., when a submarine was sighted to the north-west. Twenty-five minutes later a second submarine was sighted to the north-east. The first was now chased by the Consort and Glamis Castle; whilst the Martin, Albatross, and Editor pursued the second, opening fire on her and causing her to submerge.


At 11.30 a.m. the Consort and Glamis Castle returned from their chase, having lost sight of their quarry after twenty miles. But at 7 p.m. the unit again sighted a submarine about six miles south of the position where the enemy had been fired on during the morning. At 8 o'clock the Albatross, which was ahead, opened fire. The submarine returned the fire, closed the Albatross, and subjected her to a heavy bombardment until the Martin came up and started firing. This caused the submarine to direct her fire on the Martin. She used both guns, the projectiles falling close around both these trawlers. The seventeenth round from the Albatross appeared to strike the enemy craft forward. The submarine then made a black smoke-screen, turned end on, and still firing from the after gun, made off quickly to the eastward and was lost sight of about 9.40 p.m. Next day, not far from that locality, a submarine, with one gun, was sighted with her wireless masts up. This was at 2.30 a.m., but when the unit closed her she made off to the eastward and, when shells from the Martin, Consort, and Editor began to fall around her, she submerged.


Four days later another Peterhead unit, consisting of the armed trawlers Onward, Nellie Nutten, and Era, fought a most gallant fight, a fight against overwhelming strength which ended disastrously. It was, however, a fishermen's battle that will certainly be long remembered. These three trawlers were but poorly armed; the Onward had a 12-pounder gun, the other two had one 3-pounder gun apiece. Events suggested that the enemy had been making a concentration in order to wipe out these Peterhead trawlers which had shown such complete disrespect for the superior armed submarines, causing them to seek flight when encountered separately. For on July 11th, at a quarter-past five in the afternoon, when about 120 miles east-south-east of Girdleness, the Onward (Lieutenant Claude Asquith, R.N.R.), leader of the unit, hoisted her signal that a submarine was in sight. Thereupon the Nellie Nutten (Skipper C. Angus) bore down towards his leader. The Onward had already opened fire, and now the Nellie Nutten began, but after firing a considerable time, her little 3-pounder being utterly outranged by the enemy, she saw a second submarine approaching from the northeast and a third coming up from the south-east. The Onward then altered course to port and the Nellie Nutten to starboard.


The three submarines, which were now keeping to port and starboard of the unit, maintained a fire at long range. After proceeding in a west-south-westerly direction for an hour, the Nellie Nutten received a shot through her stern




and the next shot disabled her altogether. In the distance the Era was seen to be on fire with a couple of submarines alongside her. Owing to the long range, all three trawlers had been firing at the enemy without effect, and the action was rapidly coming to its inevitable conclusion. Finding herself in a helpless condition, the Nellie Nutten steered towards a Dutch lugger, and just as the maimed trawler sank, all the crew jumped overboard and were picked up by the Dutchman.


When last seen the Onward was obviously out of control and in flames. The Era, too, had been sunk, but all three had made an heroic fight. The Dutch lugger (the Doggerbank of Scheveningen) brought the Nellie Nutten into Aberdeen. The Dutch skipper stated that four German submarines, painted grey, and each armed with two guns, had been engaged; and that they opened fire on the trawlers at a distance of three miles. Not even this exhibition on the part of the enemy kept the Peterhead patrols from performing their duty, though they thought that their craft should have been better armed. Admiral Jellicoe suggested that this should be remedied and, as a result, fifty-seven 12-pounder guns were forthwith supplied to East Coast trawlers.


Of the Nellie Nutten' s crew eleven were saved; the chief engineer was killed, and one trimmer seriously wounded. One of the " hands " was also wounded. The whole of the Onward's crew, numbering sixteen, were taken prisoners, including Lieutenant Asquith, who was awarded the D.S.C. for his gallantry during the action. It was evident that in chasing the first submarine he was led into the vicinity of the other three and completely outmatched. Skipper Angus was commended for the skilful and seamanlike manner in which he had manoeuvred his ship when disabled, thus saving practically all his ship's company. The whole of the Era's crew were taken prisoners. In peace-time, both she and the Onward belonged to Hull; the Nellie Nutten was a Grimsby trawler before the war. It is now possible to state that the four submarines were U46, U49, U52, and U69. Of these four U69 was sunk just a year later — on July 12th, 1917 — by H.M.S. Patriot; U49 was sunk by the steamship British Transport on September 11th, 1917; and the other two surrendered at Harwich in November 1918.


At the time when the enemy was sinking the Scotch drifters off the Tyne, another submarine — from Flanders — was operating off Lowestoft. This was UC10. A little before midnight on July 6th a small motor-boat named the Salmon, under the command of Sub-Lieutenant E. T. West, R.N.V.R., was on patrol off Lowestoft. The Salmon was not a M.L., but a day-boat without a cabin. She was 40 feet long with 8-foot beam, with a cockpit aft and a certain amount of space forward of the engine-room where a couple of men could turn in. She had, however, a very powerful Stirling motor, developing 135 h.p., which gave her a speed of 20 knots. The Salmon was one of six boats which had been presented to the Admiralty by Mr. Cochrane, an American yachtsman, who had formerly owned the celebrated schooner Westward. The Salmon was a comparatively new boat, having been built in 1915.


To many it might have seemed that such a frail boat could scarcely expect to be of much use in a naval war. However, there were many things which had to be unlearned during those fateful years, and this was another instance. At this period the Salmon was on the lookout for a submarine, which was suspected of being near the " War Channel." For about an hour she kept hearing buzzing sounds at intervals on her hydrophones. At 1.30 a.m. (July 7th) the buzzing recommenced. It was apparently much nearer and was rapidly approaching, the sound resembling that of a dynamo running. Within a few minutes it seemed to be right under the boat, so the Salmon put her engines full speed ahead and dropped a depth charge, which exploded. Almost immediately a much more violent explosion followed, throwing up a column of water 50 feet high. A large number of bubbles came to the surface together with wreckage, consisting of pieces of wood painted white and a grating. A strong smell of gas was also noticed. What had happened was that the mine-laying UC10 had been bombed and her own mines had then exploded. She and her crew were thus prevented from doing further damage to merchant shipping.


Determined to deal British fishing-craft a heavy blow before the autumn, Germany made a heavy submarine raid on the fleets on September 23rd, 24th, and 25th, 1916. On September 23rd there was an airship raid on the East Coast and London involving serious casualties, and on the morning of that day, about 10.30, began the East Coast




fishing-raid which resulted in the destruction of thirty-craft, a disaster involving a financial loss, to speak of no other, of £100,000. This raid resolved itself into two periods. The first was from 10.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. of September 23rd, during which fishing-vessels were sunk in an area from thirty to sixty-five miles south-east of the Humber. There followed an interval during the night, which was apparently occupied by the submarine steering northwards up the Yorkshire coast, but a good way off the land.


The second period began on September 24th at 8 a.m. and closed at 11 a.m. on the following day. At 8.30 p.m. on the former day the enemy craft captured the steam fishing-trawler Fisher Prince, belonging to Scarborough, the capture taking place about twenty miles to the north-east of that port. A German lieutenant and a prize crew of eight men then boarded her, and the two cruised in company. A number of other fishing-craft were captured, including the Scarborough steam fishing-trawler Otter, the crew being put aboard the Fisher Prince. The submarine continued to sink other craft until 9.50 a.m., when the Norwegian s.s. Tromp came in sight and was stopped. All the fishing crews were put aboard the Norwegian vessel, and the Fisher Prince was sunk, together with the trawler Seal.


In a period of forty-eight hours the raid had taken place over an area between sixty-five miles S.E. by E. of the Humber and thirty-three miles E. by S. of Hartlepool. It is true that on the night of September 24th, whilst escorting a drifter fleet, the trawler Rigoletto heard heavy firing to the eastward, but she rightly decided that her first duty was to stand by her own craft and she refused to be enticed away. It was, indeed, fortunate for the enemy that no destroyers or patrol-craft had been met with, but the misty weather, so typical of the month of September, had assisted him greatly. The whole situation from the British point of view was most difficult. So many patrol-vessels were required now for protecting fishing-fleets, for patrolling on the lookout for lurking submarines, for convoying merchant ships, for sweeping up mines, and for various special services, that it was quite impossible to prevent these raids occurring now and again. To be strong at every point was not practicable, any more than the Grand Fleet could prevent the coast from being bombarded by German battle-cruisers occasionally.


The most that could be done was not to allow the enemy, by his exasperating pin-pricks, to upset the general strategic scheme. Men and ships were being overworked, there was another long, trying winter just beginning, the conditions on the various fronts were not too favourable, but satisfaction was to be extracted from the knowledge that we were grappling with the submarine menace. Enemy craft were being sunk now by all sorts of Auxiliary Patrol vessels, and the depth charges and hydrophones were revealing their usefulness. At the Admiralty fresh schemes were being adopted for intensifying the war against submarines. Fishermen and yachtsmen and men of the Mercantile Marine were showing that they could be depended upon in all emergencies to exhibit undaunted spirit. Fishermen, too old to fight, whose sons and brothers and sons-in-law were either serving afloat or in the trenches, refused to be frightened off the sea even when their ships were taken from them. With this fine British courage animating all ranks and ratings there was ground for confidence.









Some details have been given of the evolution of the Dover barrage, with its mines, its mine-nets, and its system of buoys. It was patrolled by drifters, and each Drifter Division was commanded by a Lieutenant R.N.R. Owing to the shortage of guns at the period, most of these drifters were unarmed, and none had wireless telegraphy, but they were supported by armed yachts and trawlers. Towards the end of October 1916 a German flotilla of destroyers reached Zeebrugge to reinforce the Flanders flotillas. On the night of the 26th-27th these destroyers made a raid on the Dover Straits, which had a serious effect on the drifters. Between Buoys OA and 20A were disposed the eight, tenth, sixteenth, and twelfth divisions of Dover drifters, a total of twenty-three craft. They were supported by the trawler H. E. Stroud, armed with a 3-pounder and fitted with wireless; by the armed yacht Ombra, armed with a couple of 3-pounders; and by the M.L. 103 and M.L. 252, each of which had a 13-pounder Of the twenty-three drifters five alone were armed, each with a 3-pounder. The barrage was, therefore, held entirely by Auxiliary Patrol vessels, the destroyer forces being required to defend the Downs and to protect Dunkirk, an essential reserve force remaining in Dover Harbour for contingencies.


The night of October 26th-27th was very dark, and it was just half an hour before high water in Dover Straits when suddenly the Tenth Drifter Division, at ten minutes past ten, sighted destroyers coming up astern, steering about west-north-west and parallel with the barrage. The first four destroyers passed close to the leader of the Drifter Division. The drifters made the challenge and fired a couple of rifle shots at them, but the four destroyers passed on without reply. But immediately astern came more German destroyers, which opened fire on the Tenth Drifter Division, hitting all the drifters except one, which made off to the north-west. The drifters Spotless Prince, Datum, and Gleaner of the Sea were sunk, and the Waveney set on fire. Later on the Waveney, shattered by shell-fire and a mere derelict, was towed into the Downs, but owing to bad weather coming on could not be salved.


At about 11.10 p.m. the next attack occurred. This was directed against the Eighth Drifter Division, which was off the west end of the barrage. Of these six, the Roburn was sunk and the Pleasants damaged; the rest escaped towards the Goodwins, their leader firing several rockets to give the alarm. Meanwhile the armed yacht Ombra sent wireless signals into Dover and proceeded to get into touch with the Sixteenth Drifter Division, which she ordered into Dover. But shortly afterwards — about 11.15 p.m. — this division ran into the enemy, with the result that the two drifters Ajax and Launch Out were sunk, and the E.B.C. damaged. The Fifteenth Division was not attacked. The transport Queen happened to be on her way at this time from Boulogne, and three of the German destroyers came up on her starboard and another three on her port side, made her stop, boarded her, destroyed her wireless, and caused her to be abandoned, eventually shelling her so that she sank.




Releasing a Depth Charge from a Drifter


The entire German force had consisted probably of eleven destroyers, which when near the north-east end of the barrage had separated into two divisions. Both divisions appear to have found the east end of the net barrage, which at this date extended no farther east than the Ruytingen Shoal. One division of five destroyers then proceeded south-west towards Grisnez, the other going towards Dover. The first division boarded the Queen, and the second attacked the Tenth and Eighth Drifter Divisions, then turned east and met the Sixteenth Division and went off to the north-east. The Ombra' s signal at 10.30 p.m. caused Admiral Bacon to send out six of the Tribal class of destroyers from Dover. Of these six, the Nubian fell in with five German destroyers who at short range shelled the Nubian's port side. In vain the Nubian attempted to ram the last ship of the enemy's line, but was torpedoed and caught on fire. Another of the Dover destroyers, the Amazon, was struck in the




boiler-room by a shell, and a third, the Mohawk, was hit so that her helm jambed.


As for the trawler H. E. Stroud, she had been ordered by wireless to send into Dover all drifters and M.L.s, and was proceeding at full speed to carry out these orders when she met four German destroyers, each enemy craft giving the trawler one round in passing. The H. E. Stroud's commanding officer. Lieutenant J. R. McClory, R.N.R., was killed, as well as the helmsman, two of the crew were wounded and the bridge wrecked. Six drifters had been sunk, three severely damaged, fifty-five officers and men killed or missing, and five wounded. Such was the toll of the enemy's night raid! Of these fifty-five seamen, ten were subsequently found to have been taken prisoners. It was a heavy blow; nevertheless the sudden fierce onslaught, devastating as it had been, in no way disheartened the fishermen crews of the Dover drifters. The most formidable weapon which most of these ships possessed was a rifle with a few rounds of ammunition, but in spite of this disability for a contest against modern destroyers the men were undaunted. A report got about in Dover that in future the drifters would not care about watching their nets at night. Thereupon the drifter skippers. Admiral Bacon has recorded, went in a body to the Captain of the Dover Patrol and stated that, so far from not liking to do night patrolling, they were ready, should the Admiral wish it, to lay their nets and watch them off Zeebrugge.


" I have already had occasion," wrote the Admiral to the Admiralty a few days after this raid, " to call Their Lordships' attention to the steady courage and gallantry with which the men of our little auxiliaries constantly face dangerous positions and difficult situations. The conduct on Thursday night was again a brilliant example."


About a month later, on the night of November 23rd, the enemy, doubtless pleased by his success against the drifters, essayed another raid on the Straits. It was about an hour after high water, there was a south-westerly breeze with mist and slight rain when, at 10.40 p.m., six German destroyers appeared at the northern approach to the Downs, where they were sighted by the armed drifters, who were based on Ramsgate. These craft, with a 6-pounder each, performed the duty of guarding the area from the North Foreland to the North Goodwin Lightship. A division of Dover destroyers was also anchored in the Downs ready for an emergency. The enemy appear to have come on a south-easterly course from a little distance off Broadstairs to between the north-eastern edge of the Downs and North Goodwin Lightship.


They were sighted at 10.50 p.m., when a mile north-east of the Broadstairs Knoll buoy, by the drifter Acceptable (Sub-Lieutenant W. F. Fitzgerald, R.N.R.). The enemy passed under the Acceptable's stern only a hundred and fifty yards away, and the last destroyer fired. So the Acceptable went full speed ahead to the north-west to get clear, but her starboard sidelight and stern light were blown away by the enemy's ten rounds, which smashed the dinghy, damaged the mast, the gallery and engine-room casing, though fortunately there were no casualties. The drifter Buckler was also fired on. The Acceptable sent in a message by her wireless, but, the alarm having been raised by the drifters and a warning rocket fired, the Germans realised that their plan had miscarried and that it would be useless for them to try and break through the Straits that night. They therefore decided to retire before the Downs destroyers could arrive on the spot. Thus the raid was futile, though the enemy claimed to have bombarded Ramsgate. It may be added that no shots fell on shore.


Thus the work of the Auxiliary Patrol went on through another winter. More and still more trawlers were required, and the demand was never completely met. New trawlers were being requisitioned as quickly as they were built, but what with the sinking from mines, submarines, and the ordinary perils of the sea, there was little or no surplus after losses had been made good. In December 1916 began the system of protected sailings for the Scandinavian ships, whose cargoes were so essential at this critical period. These vessels would have refused to cross the North Sea but for protection, and this had to be afforded by vessels of the Shetlands Auxiliary Patrol Area. Owing to the demands on trawlers for mine-sweeping and for patrolling the Fair Island passage (a regular highway for U-boats) and for various other reasons, there remained




few trawlers available for a regular escorting system. The result was that the dispositions of the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol in both the Shetlands and Orkneys areas had to be reorganised in February 1917 so that trawlers and whalers might be available to escort neutral traffic for Scandinavia to three selected rendezvous midway between the Shetlands and Norway. The German response to this arrangement was to concentrate their submarines off the entrances to Norwegian ports. Finally, in April 1917, an escort of destroyers had to be provided right up to Norwegian territorial waters so as further to ensure the safety of merchant shipping.


By December 1916 the peril arising from the destruction brought about by the U-boats had attained such magnitude that the Admiralty were driven to creating a special department called the Anti-submarine Division to co-ordinate existing measures and devise new ones for combating the enemy's campaign. At the head of this section of the naval staff was placed Admiral A. L, Duff. Among other things this organisation sought to increase the supplies of depth-charges, develop the hydrophone, arm defensively the whole Mercantile Marine, and provide ships with trained guns' crews; to extend the supply and use of smoke-screen apparatus; to concentrate the patrols on the traffic routes and reorganise the work of the Auxiliary Patrol throughout all the areas on one system; and later to institute the convoy system. Admiral Duff recognised that the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol had so well protected merchant shipping on coastwise passage and approaching bases that the U-boat had now found it more profitable to operate outside the normal patrol limits. In the northern part of the North Sea, for instance, enemy submarines no longer approached close to the coast, except for mine-laying and to waylay crippled ships returning to their bases after a Fleet action. Trade in the English Channel was confined to a route passing close to the coast, guarded by these patrol-vessels, and the crossing of the English Channel was limited to the hours of darkness. From Queenstown Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly reported that " an immense quantity of traffic to and from the English Channel, Bristol Channel, and Irish Sea is now passing along the south coast of Ireland."


Everywhere round the coasts the trawlers and yachts, the drifters and M.L.s, the paddlers and other craft were hard at it patrolling, sweeping, convoying, salving, and doing a multitude of jobs throughout the third winter of the war. Whilst the small craft and their crews were doing all that could be done, scientific minds on shore were seeking to devise or improve anti-submarine methods. This meant a series of experiments, which in turn meant months of delay before the Auxiliary Patrol could avail themselves of such aids. While in the Mediterranean and Adriatic the patrols were toiling with their peculiar phase of the submarine problem, each area of the British Isles was using its scant forces as best it could.


Irish waters, by reason of the approaches to our western ports being so tempting a bait, were being patrolled by sloops and trawlers, drifters, an armed yacht or two, flotillas of M.L.s, and decoy-ships. The English Channel, in view of its contiguity to France, presented special difficulties. From Le Havre worked six armed trawlers, four mine-sweeping trawlers, and twenty-six net drifters. The last named were eventually based on Trouville and rode to their nets on the flank of the transport channel off the entrance to Le Havre. In the North Sea the routine was adapted to the special needs. Grimsby mine-sweepers, for example, were always at sea sweeping the " War Channel " from the Spurn to Whitby. Every day the paddlers swept the Humber, its approaches, and the Inner Dowsing Channel. Armed trawlers were patrolling from Scarborough to the Haisborough; net drifters with their nets were ten miles seaward of Flamborough to harass submarines making their land-fall thereabout; south of Flamborough head and north of Cromer other armed trawlers were stationed to look out for Zeppelins, and M.L.s were off the Spurn doing their patrol and regulating traffic.


The year 1917 did not open auspiciously for us. Almost as soon as it began a submarine sank by gunfire six fishing-smacks and one Ostend trawler off Trevose Head, Cornwall, and two more smacks were sunk a couple of days later. Off the north-east English coast the enemy still made his assaults on our fishing-fleets and on individual trawlers. Food in the British Isles, but more particularly in Great Britain, was beginning to get scarce, and the importance of fish was increasingly realised day by day. The Germans were not unconscious of the fact and devoted




a good deal of attention to the trawlers, whether commissioned units of His Majesty's Navy or peaceful harvesters of the sea. In the forenoon of January 28th the fishing steam-trawler Alexandra was homeward bound with her cargo of fish and in another five or six hours was expecting to make the land. When she was about sixty miles east of the Longstone, UC32 stopped her, took her skipper prisoner, placed the rest of the fishing crew on board a neutral ship and, having sunk the Alexandra, went on her way. A few hours later this submarine sighted a few more trawlers at their work, amongst them being the Thistle, Petrel, and Mayfly. She waited until daylight and then came close to the Petrel's boat, ordered it alongside, and put Warrant Officer Bernhard Haack into it with some bombs, a revolver, and a bandolier. UC32 proceeded to sink the Thistle, while Haack was rowed off towards the Mayfly two miles to the south-east in order to sink her with his explosives.


In this plan he never succeeded; for with dramatic suddenness there now appeared on the scene the armed trawler Speedwell. The submarine opened fire, and the Speedwell replied vigorously. This was too much for the enemy craft, which hurriedly dived with a heavy list, due, no doubt, to having put her helm hard over. This left Warrant Officer Haack in a most ridiculous plight! He had a bag full of bombs, but his ship had gone without him, and he was left among a lot of trawlermen whose affection he had scarcely won. With Teutonic impudence he requested the trawler skippers to put him on board a certain Scandinavian steamer which was in sight. Needless to say this request was not granted. He was taken below on board one of the trawlers, desperately perturbed as to what fate awaited him, a hearty North Sea skipper following behind him. Then, abandoning his bombs, his revolver, and his bandolier to the Thistle's skipper, he became the prisoner instead of the captor. At four in the afternoon he was handed over to a patrol-boat. His fate was indeed a fortunate one, for about a month later UC32 came to her end and her crew was destroyed with her.









At the beginning of 1916 controversy still raged in Germany as to the advisability of employing submarines against commerce, not only in the Mediterranean, but in British waters, alike ignoring the rules the German Government had promised to observe and the protests of neutrals. The torpedoing under peculiarly distressing circumstances of the Italian liner Ancona on November 7th by a submarine flying the Austrian flag had again roused widespread indignation. In the closing months of 1915 Admiral Bachmann had been succeeded as Chief of the Naval Staff by Admiral von Holtzendorf, who busied himself preparing a series of memoranda, insisting on the necessity of unrestricted submarine operations. On February 1st he assured Admiral Scheer, Commander-in-Chief of the High Seas Fleet, that the unrestricted U-boat campaign would be inaugurated on March 1st. The Germans had been watching the development of British policy of arming merchant ships, and on February 10th the Germans sent a Note to the United States stating that defensively armed merchant ships would from March 1st be regarded as warships.


The argument was quite unsound. For centuries trading ships have always had the right to arm in their own defence without changing their status as merchantmen, and when the German Note was presented there was not a government in the world which would have endorsed its reasoning. British armed liners were at this time visiting the ports of every neutral country in the world, and in no case were they treated like warships. The United States Government a fortnight later informed Germany that she would not in any way




abrogate the right of American citizens in the matter of travelling by sea.


The German Emperor, as well as the Chancellor, still entertained doubts as to the wisdom of the course which it was proposed to adopt, but in the meantime, as events were to show, the submarine commanders were themselves taking action at sea. Early in March a meeting was held at General Headquarters, and, in spite of all the pressure exerted by the naval authorities, decisive action was postponed. Admiral von Tirpitz was ignored by the Emperor during this crisis, and a few days later resigned and was succeeded by Admiral von Capelle.


The month of January had proved a disappointing one for the enemy's submarines in the Mediterranean, and February was little better, but the Germans found some consolation in the early captures which were made by the Mowe off Finisterre. Only four ships besides the Coquet were sunk by enemy submarines during January (1916). Among these was the steamer Marere (6,443 tons). She had been given a 3-pounder Hotchkiss gun, and when a submarine was observed on the morning of January 18th the master (Mr. P. E. Mello) determined to make a fight for his ship. Malta, the nearest landfall, was 236 miles distant. As soon as the enemy was sighted, course was altered to bring the submarine astern; all hands were called to their stations; the gun was manned; instructions were given for the highest possible speed, and a wireless call for assistance was dispatched. Within about a quarter of an hour an answering signal was received from Malta. After the position and course of the Marere had been given, the following reply came: " If you fire you will compel him to dive and you will be safe, as his speed under water is small: you must not surrender." Captain Mello was soon compelled to put this advice to the test.


The submarine had been gaining upon him, and at length dropped a shell one hundred yards astern. The Marere replied immediately with her little gun, but, owing to the superior armament of the enemy, the duel was hopeless. The 3-pounder shells fell far short of the enemy, who maintained a continuous fire. His shells fell all round the merchantman and sent spray over the bridge and deck, but failed to hit her. Immediately the Marere's first shot had been fired, it was noticed that the bolts holding down the Hotchkiss gun were beginning to give. Under this handicap, the Marine gunners fired about ten rounds at the extreme range. With each shot the stability of the gun became worse, and not a single projectile dropped anywhere near the enemy. At last the corporal reported to Captain Mello that the gun was out of action, and at that moment the ship was struck. Nothing more could be done, so the boats were ordered out and every preparation was made to abandon ship. During the few anxious minutes which followed, shells continued to fall on the doomed steamer. " On observing the boats pull away," Captain Mello afterwards stated, "the submarine fired several rounds at the boats, fortunately missing."


The hospital ship Neuralia had by this time come upon the scene, and the loaded boats turned towards her, while the submarine, having fired two torpedoes, both of which missed, dived out of sight. The enemy, however, soon reappeared and fire was again opened on the Marere, which was down by the head and listing badly when last seen by her crew. The loss of this ship revealed the ineffectiveness of the 3-pounder gun when opposed by a well-handled submarine, carrying a more powerful armament. To make matters worse, this particular 3-pounder had, as events showed, a defective mounting. In contrast with the fate of the Marere, seven other defensively armed ships succeeded during January in effecting their escape from submarines. By this time an increasing number of merchant ships had been provided with guns, and experience was showing that an armament, if sufficiently powerful, was of considerable value, apart from its psychological influence in giving confidence to the merchant seamen when suddenly attacked by submarines.


The loss of shipping from the submarine campaign was again comparatively light in the month of February; seven vessels, of 24,059 tons, were sunk with a loss of thirty-four lives, as compared with five, of 27,974 tons, in the preceding month, when the death-roll was twenty-eight. The activities of the enemy raider Mowe, in association with sinkings on mines and the destruction of a small vessel off the Kentish Knock by a Zeppelin, raised the casualties to twenty-six ships, of 75,860 tons, and the death-roll leapt up to 291. For this sudden upward movement, the destruction of the Maloja (12,431 tons)




by a mine two miles south from Dover Pier, with a casualty list of 122, was mainly responsible. The Empress of Fort William (2,181 tons) and the Thornaby (1,732 tons) met a similar fate, the master of the latter ship, as well as eighteen of his crew, being killed.


The manner in which merchant seamen were adapting the laws of the brotherhood of the sea to the novel and unnerving situation which confronted them was illustrated by the plucky action of the master (Mr. R. Buckley) of the small steamship Cedarwood (654 tons). With a crew of twelve hands he was creeping down the East Coast on February 12th with a cargo of pig iron consigned to a French port, and had reached a position off Aldeburgh Napes when his eye lighted on a mine, which gleamed bright red with the rise and fall of the sea. The wind was high and the choppy sea revealed and hid it from time to time. Was this evidence of the existence of an enemy mine-field? Captain Buckley decided that, if he erred, it should be on the safe side. Over a dozen other ships were following in his track, so he hoisted signal flags to warn them of submarine mines and also had his steam whistle sounded. Furthermore, he kept the Cedarwood steaming round the mine he had discovered in the confident expectation that a patrol-boat would come on the scene and destroy it.


In saving the other ships he sealed the fate of the Cedarwood. For suddenly there was an explosion: the fore end of his vessel rose in the air and the upper bridge, on which he was standing with the mate, seemed to fall away from under his feet, and he found himself in the water, clinging to the flagstaff on the stern of the Cedarwood. He must have been carried right aft by the force of the water. He was sucked beneath the waves, but when he reached the surface again managed to reach a hatch which was floating near at hand. Several members of the crew had also secured pieces of wreckage, and eventually six survivors were rescued by boats of the Binavor, which, very fortuitously, reached them before they had succumbed to the cold and exposure. Captain Buckley's prompt signals were probably the means of saving several of the ships astern of him from destruction, and in recognition of his thoughtful action he was presented with a gold watch by the London Group of War


Associations. So much for the mine-fields, which in this month, as has been stated, were responsible for the loss of a good deal of merchant shipping; but, so far as the submarine campaign was concerned, February was a poor month for the enemy.


One incident in the month, however, stands out from the official records — the destruction of the Franz Fischer (970 tons) by a Zeppelin south of the Kentish Knock. It was the first success achieved by an airship operating against a merchant vessel. This little ship — an ex-German collier — was making her way from Hartlepool to Cowes, when on the evening of February 1st, which was very dark, the master was warned by a patrol-boat that there were mines ahead of him. So, as it was difficult to see anything, he decided to anchor for the night. The engines had been stopped by 10 o'clock and the Franz Fischer anchored about eight miles north of the Kentish Knock, where a number of other ships were already lying. The chief engineer (Mr. J. H. Birch), having pumped up his boilers, closed all connections. Satisfied that everything was snug for the night, he joined the captain in his cabin and there the two seamen sat talking. Suddenly a noise was heard overhead, which it was at first thought proceeded from an aeroplane. It gradually increased. As one of the able seamen remarked afterwards, " The sound was like several express trains crossing a bridge together."


The noise attracted the attention of the two officers in the cabin, and then the mate, who had come off the bridge, knocked against the bulkhead and asked the captain if he had heard the strange sounds. " Yes; what is it? " was the reply. The mate did not hazard an opinion, but as the noise increased the master decided to go himself on deck and see what was happening. So, followed by the chief engineer, he left the cabin, but by that time silence reigned once more. The Zeppelin had evidently stopped her engines in order to take a sitting shot. Then a violent explosion occurred, due to a bomb which had hit the Frariz Fischer amidships on the port side. The master and his companion were knocked down by a column of water which fell upon them, but shortly afterwards they succeeded in reaching the bridge deck. The ship had been shaken from end to end, but nothing




suggested that she had been mortally injured. Nevertheless, the chief engineer called the men up from below, and in a few minutes the hands — all, except those who had been on watch, practically naked — had assembled by the boats. The boats were got out, but some difficulty was experienced in cutting away the falls. A man ran to the galley for a knife, but before he returned the ship turned over on her port side and went down by her head " like a stone," everyone being flung into the water.


Owing to the suddenness of the emergency and the darkness, it seemed as though the whole crew must be drowned, and there were indeed only three survivors. When the chief engineer rose to the surf ace, his eyes, piercing the darkness, fell on a lifebelt box, which had usually stood on the bridge; it was floating not far away. He swam towards it and found temporary safety. He was joined on this piece of wreckage by other members of the crew, until there were no fewer than eight of them, including the second mate, hanging on for very life. Some of the men endeavoured to climb on to the top of the box, with the result that it rolled over. This experience was repeated several times, and each time one or more of the men were missing. At last the chief engineer decided to seek some surer means of safety and he swam towards a lifebelt. He secured it, put it around him as best he could and, with this aid, swimming a little now and again, he managed to keep afloat. He afterwards lost consciousness, and when he recovered found that he was in a lifeboat belonging to the Belgian steamer Paul.


In the meantime, the desperate men clinging to the lifebelt box dropped off one after the other until only Able Seaman Hillier and the donkey-man remained. They were in the last stages of exhaustion, and at last Hillier alone remained. Fortunately the Paul's boat reached him just in time. It was not known until afterwards that the Paul had been lying at anchor about a mile away from the Franz Fischer when the bomb exploded on the latter ship. As soon as the cries for help from the distressed seamen struggling in the water were heard, the Paul tried to heave her anchor, but without success. A boat was then lowered and put out into the pitchy darkness. Cries could be heard, but it was impossible to see anything. But at length the Belgians came across the only three survivors — the able seaman desperately clinging to the box, the chief engineer, looking as though he were already dead, and the steward, who had also kept himself afloat by means of a lifebelt, in the last stages of collapse. The troubles of these unfortunate men were not yet ended. For the boat, manned by the mate, the boatswain, a seaman and a fireman of the Paid, was carried out to sea by the tide. Signals convinced the master that the boat could make no headway against the current, and at last, despite a series of mishaps, he got under way. It was still very dark, and not until three hours had passed did he succeed in picking up the boat. By that time the three men of the Franz Fischer appeared more dead than alive, but warm drinks and food soon enabled them to recover.


As a footnote to this record of the end of the Franz Fischer, it is interesting to recall the sequence of events. On January 31st the enemy had carried out an airship raid on England, penetrating farther westward than ever before; on the succeeding day one of the airships — the L19, as was afterwards learnt — had destroyed the Franz Fischer with a loss of thirteen lives, including the master; and early on the morning of February 2nd the L19 herself, a miserable tangle of wreckage, foundered in the North Sea. In this way retribution was exacted for the heavy loss of life which resulted from the raid on shore and the bombing of the defenceless Franz Fischer.


The capture of the Teutonian (4,824 tons) by a submarine, March 4th, was the first evidence that the submarine campaign in home waters was being resumed by the German naval authorities, despite the hesitation of the Kaiser and the Imperial Chancellor. This vessel (master, Mr. R. D. Collins) was on voyage from Sabine, Newport News, to Avonmouth. All had gone well until the morning of the 4th. She was then thirty-six miles S.W. by W. of the Fastnet when the officer on the bridge reported a submarine on the starboard quarter. Judging by the widely advertised orders of the German Government no attack was to be expected, but Captain Collins rang for " Full speed ahead." Thus a chase began, for the submarine gradually overhauled the merchantman. The enemy fired three shots, and in response to this warning the engines of the Teutonian were stopped. The submarine, after taking up a position on the port beam, forthwith submerged,




and without more ado, fired a torpedo which struck the vessel forward. Fortunately the master had already ordered the crew into the boats, and as soon as he realised that his vessel was doomed, he himself slid down the ship's side into the water and swam towards one of the boats, which took him on board. The submarine reappeared on the surface and fired thirty-six shells, which caused the Teutonian to burst into flames, which burnt fiercely until she sank a little short of three and a half hours from the opening of the attack. By a happy chance a patrol-boat soon came on the scene and rescued the crew, landing them in due course at Berehaven, so no one was much the worse for the adventure, though everyone lost all his belongings and the ship had disappeared.


In thus wise the submarine campaign in British waters was reopened, despite restraining influences in Germany, from the Kaiser and the Imperial Chancellor downwards. As the experience of the Teutonian had revealed, the enemy commanders had determined to treat prize law with contempt and to sink merchant vessels out of hand wherever they were encountered, without regard for the safety of the crews on board. On the following day the Rothesay (2,007 tons) was torpedoed thirty miles from the Bishop Rock; on the 8th the Harmatres (6,387 tons) was destroyed without warning near Boulogne breakwater, four men being killed; on the 16th the little sailing-vessel Willie (185 tons) was sunk by gunfire off the Fastnet; two days later the Lowlands (1,789 tons) was torpedoed without warning of any kind eight miles N.E. by E. from the North Foreland, and then occurred the sinking of the Port Dalhousie (1,744 tons), with the loss of eleven of her crew, as well as the master. This vessel was on her way from Middlesbrough to Nantes, and on the advice of the pilot, who had come on board at Yarmouth, the master dropped anchor on the evening of March 18th about two miles N. by E. from the Kentish Knock Light-vessel. Shortly after midnight she was torpedoed. In the words of the chief officer (Mr. W. F, Spurr):


" The Port Dalhousie was lying to her anchor, the sea watch being continued, when a loud hissing was heard by me and I looked to see what it was caused by. Almost immediately the ship was struck by, I believe, a torpedo amidships on the port side. She sank within one minute. Only myself, three seamen, and two firemen were saved by jumping into the water or being washed off the deck as the ship submerged and then seizing floating hatches. We were in the water one and three-quarter hours, and were rescued by the steamer Jessie and transferred to a patrol-boat and landed at Ramsgate at 11 p.m. yesterday (March 19th)."


That is the unadorned record by a seaman of the end of his ship and the deaths of twelve of his fellows. Whatever might be the confusion of policy in Germany, there was no doubt by this time of the character of the acts by sea of the submarine commanders.


An effective contrast to many stories of sinkings which were being received by the Admiralty was provided by the escape of the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company's oil-tanker Turbo (4,782 tons), which gained for the master (Mr. J. Hill) a mention in despatches. This vessel had been given a 12-pounder gun, and though she had a speed of only about 10 knots, she managed to outmanoeuvre the enemy. Early in the morning of March 1st — at 5.45, to be exact — when she was in the Mediterranean, on passage from Port Said to London, a submarine, four miles distant on the port bow, opened fire on her. Altering course in order to bring the enemy astern of him, Captain Hill ordered the fire to be returned. The situation was a trying one, for the Turbo's crew consisted of fifty-three Chinese and only nine British. Soon after the duel opened, the Chinamen almost got out of hand, but owing to the firmness of the master and the influence of British members of the crew, they were induced to keep at their stations. For upwards of half an hour the enemy continued the chase, gradually lessening the distance separating the two vessels and firing intermittently. Fortunately none of the twenty rounds struck the merchantman, while the Turbo's gunners got at last so close to the submarine that she suddenly abandoned the action. Captain Hill completed his voyage in safety, his ship being undamaged and his crew uninjured. In this instance speed and good handling proved the means of salvation of a valuable ship.


Another conspicuous example of pluck and good seamanship, which gained for the master the D.S.C., besides




recognition for other officers and the quartermaster, was the Duendes (4,602 tons). This vessel was homeward bound from St. Johns, N.B., to Plymouth, and was seventy miles west from the Scillies at 5.40 on the morning of March 13th when a shot fell astern of her. The vessel was unarmed and her best speed was only about 10 ½  knots. With hardly a thought of the odds against him, the master (Mr. Albert Chittenden) decided he would resist capture. So he pressed on all speed and brought the enemy astern of him. His efforts were splendidly seconded by the chief officer (Mr. J. Blacklock), the chief engineer (Mr. W. Cameron), Cadet F. Bennion and Quartermasters E. Dobbins and T. Taylor. For an hour the Duendes outmanoeuvred the submarine, which maintained a continuous fire. The vessel was hit nine times, the wireless house, as well as the bridge, was struck and the wireless apparatus put out of action for a time, but otherwise the vessel was uninjured. The submarine commander at length came to the conclusion that his efforts were doomed to failure. So he abandoned the chase and the Duendes reached her destination without further molestation.


In the case of the Cunard steamer Phrygia (3,353 tons), on the 24th, a 6-pounder gun, admirably fought, in combination with a heavy sea, was responsible for a fortunate escape. The submarine could not get on her target, while the gunners of the Phrygia, at a range of 1,500 yards, hit the enemy twice. The first shot caused her to emit a thick cloud of smoke and to list heavily to starboard. She then up-ended, and while in this position was struck again, and nothing more was seen of her. The master (Mr. F. Manley) was mentioned in despatches for saving his ship.


During the latter part of the month the mine peril became very serious. Two of the most conspicuous disasters must be mentioned. The Sea Serpent (902 tons) went down on the 23rd off Folkestone Pier, with the result that the master (Mr, W. Philps) and thirteen of his crew were killed; and on the last day of the month the Alacrity (1,080 tons) disappeared in mysterious circumstances. She sailed in ballast from Le Havre for Seaham Harbour on the 29th, passed through the Downs on the night of the 30th-31st, and then all trace of her was lost. She was an old ship, having been built in 1883, but on the eve of the war she had been thoroughly overhauled by her owners, so that there was every reason to assume that she was seaworthy. Evidence eventually pointed unmistakably to the conclusion that she had struck a mine and had sunk, carrying with her the master (Mr. J. Dickinson) as well as the crew of thirteen hands.


The enemy's submarine operations during March also led to considerable loss of life, the most serious case being that of the Minneapolis (13,543 tons). The depositions of the master (Mr. F. O. Hasker) suggest vividly the conditions which then prevailed at sea. For several weeks past the enemy submarines had met with little success in the Mediterranean, but the usual precautions had been enforced on all masters. The Minneapolis left Marseilles for Alexandria on March 20th. She followed the course given her by the Divisional Naval Transport Officer. All the usual water-tight doors were closed; boats were swung out, lowered half-way, and then frapped in to secure them; and Captain Hasker issued a general caution that a good lookout should be maintained. The Minneapolis was proceeding at full speed on the morning of the 23rd, and zigzagging in accordance with Admiralty instructions, when an explosion occurred in the forward end of the engine-room on the port side. No submarine had been observed. The second officer was in charge on the bridge, an A.B. was stationed on the fo'c'sle head, another A.B. was in the crow's-nest, and there was of course a quartermaster at the wheel. The ship was travelling at between 15 to 15 1/2 knots. The second officer saw a torpedo approaching the vessel at right angles, but it was too late to do anything beyond sounding the whistle for stations before the Minneapolis reeled under the explosion. Captain Hasker, who had been on the lower bridge, then took charge.


On going below, the chief engineer (Mr. R. P. Palmer) found the engine-room flooded, the water having already risen to within two feet of the top of the engines. Measures were immediately taken to close the remaining water-tight doors, which had been left open to enable the ship to be worked. In spite of every precaution, however, the ship gradually sank by the stern, while the engines stopped of their own accord. Nine of the staff who were down below at the time of the explosion were apparently




killed instantly when the vessel was struck. In a comparatively short time, most of the crew had taken to the boats or rafts; the master, with the other officers, engineers, and the carpenter's mate, remained for the time on board the vessel. Fortunately, early in the afternoon two men-of-war came to the assistance of the distressed seamen, and an attempt was made to tow the Minneapolis. For a time the operation was continued with some success, but at 11 o'clock that night the rope parted, and it broke again early the following morning. At last H.M.S. Nasturtium took over the task of towing the ship from H.M.S. Lydiard. Assisted by a trawler made fast on each quarter of the Minneapolis, the Nasturtium stuck to the job until midnight and it was then apparent that the vessel could not remain much longer afloat. Shortly after midnight this anticipation was fulfilled and she sank stern first, three men, in addition to the nine engine-room hands, having lost their lives as the result of the enemy's criminal act. From first to last nothing was seen of the submarine.


This tragedy occurred 195 miles E. ½  N. from Malta, and on the following day the Englishman (5,257 tons) was sunk by a submarine thirty miles north-east from Malin Head, supplying evidence, supported by the sinking on the same day off Dungcness and Bishop Rock respectively of the Salybia (3,352 tons) and the Fenay Bridge (3,838 tons), that the enemy was working simultaneously in British waters as well as in the Mediterranean. The Englishman (master, Mr. W. A. Moorehouse) sailed from Avonmouth for Portland, Maine, on the 22nd, and on the morning of the second day out passed Oversay, Isle of Islay, steering, in accordance with Admiralty instructions, in a north-westerly direction. Shortly after noon Captain Moorehouse sighted a submarine on the surface, one point on the starboard quarter about a mile away. The weather was fine and clear. The enemy was flying flags, evidently attempting to signal, but the master was determined not to sacrifice his ship without making, at any rate, an attempt to escape. So he put his helm to starboard and rang for extra speed, thus bringing the submarine right astern of him. The submarine also altered course and, giving chase, opened a steady fire upon the merchantman.


Captain Moorehouse, realising the desperate position in which he stood, ordered the boats to be lowered to the rail and all the members of the crew who were off duty to stand by them. Within a quarter of an hour of the opening of the chase, the davits of boats Nos. 3 and 5 on the starboard side were shot away, causing the boats to fall into the water, together with about thirty men. The ship was then stopped, and an attempt made to pick up the seamen who were fighting for life in the water. Ten of them were rescued and then the ship was abandoned. The submarine, coming in close, fired two torpedoes into her, one on the starboard and the other on the port side, and continued to fire into her until she sank at 2.30 p.m. Though the Englishman and ten of her crew were destroyed, the enemy expended two torpedoes and about forty shots in the operation, and then, still on the surface, she disappeared. Three days later the Manchester Engineer (4,302 tons) was torpedoed near Coningbeg Light-vessel; on the following day the Eagle Point (5,222 tons) and the Rio Tiete (7,464 tons) were captured in the vicinity of Bishop Rock and Ushant respectively, and then occurred the spirited attempt of the Goldmouth (7,446 tons) to elude capture.


This vessel was bringing home a cargo of oil from Tarakar (sic), Borneo, when she fell in with a submarine while crossing the Bay of Biscay. The Goldmouth had been provided with a small gun, so when the submarine's conning-tower was observed emerging out of the water about three miles away on the starboard beam, the master (Mr. R. L. Allinson) determined to make a fight for his ship, his cargo, and the lives of his crew. As soon as the submarine had reached the surface, she opened fire from her two guns. Everything was in her favour, for she outranged the little gun of the British merchantman, with the result that the two gunners of the Goldmouth fought under a continuous fire to which they could make no effective reply. They continued, however, undaunted. At last one of the enemy's shells struck the bridge, on which the captain was standing; another wrecked the officers' cabin; and yet another, penetrating the deck, exploded in an oil-tank. The main steam-pipe was damaged, and the speed of the Goldmotith, as she struggled through the oil-covered water, fell off to 3 or 4 knots. It seemed hopeless




that she could escape, but the master remained on the bridge with unconquerable pluck, while the wireless operator continued to send out calls for help.


At last an answer in code was received from a distant patrol-vessel, but by that time the master, having given up hope of escape, had, in accordance with Admiralty instructions, thrown the weighted code-book overboard with his other confidential papers. At last the wireless operator had his foot shot away; Captain Allinson also learnt that the gunners had used their last shot, having fired sixty altogether. They had been out-gunned and out-ranged and, though they had succeeded in keeping the enemy at a distance, they had not secured a single hit. Against overwhelming odds — for the enemy fired about 200 shots and hit the vessel twenty times — the master had made a fine attempt to save his ship. His crew consisted of forty-seven Chinese and twelve British seamen, and " all behaved well, especially the British," during an ordeal which lasted for over an hour. Only two boats remained, and into these the crew took their places as soon as the order to abandon ship had been given. The submarine then drew in and the master was called to go on board, where, having been roundly cursed by the German commander, he was made prisoner. In one of the boats was the wounded wireless operator, as well as a Chinaman who had had a finger shot away, but an appeal for first-aid dressings was callously refused. The boats were ordered to clear out, and then two torpedoes were put into the Goldmouth, which was simultaneously submitted to a heavy gunfire. As the ship sank, the submarine disappeared. After three hours' pulling the boats were, by a happy chance, picked up by a trawler. Captain Allinson was awarded the D.S.C. and the chief officer (Mr. D. Pearce) and the wireless operator (Mr. R. C. Older) were mentioned in despatches.


During March an incident occurred which was to have considerable influence on the enemy submarine war. In the late afternoon on March 24th, 1916, the French cross-Channel packet Sussex was making her way between England and France when she was torpedoed in lat. 50 degrees  42' N., long. 1 degrees  11' E. She was hit forward, her bows being blown completely off as far aft as the foremast. A French trawler came on the scene as well as the British destroyer Afridi, and these two vessels took off the survivors. Among the passengers aboard the Sussex were many Americans, of whom several were killed.


The torpedoing of this vessel, in face of German pledges, again roused the United States. The American Government sent to Germany a sharp Note protesting against the wrongfulness of the submarine campaign against commerce and threatening to break off diplomatic relations. The result of this Note, presented on April 20th, was that the German Government capitulated, and ordered the Naval Staff to see that henceforward submarine warfare was carried out in accordance with Prize Law; that is to say, the U-boats would, before sinking a merchant ship, come to the surface, stop the prize, examine her papers, and cause all passengers and crew to leave her. This decision was diametrically opposed to the views of naval officers connected with the submarine service, who realised that, what with the proximity of destroyers, trawlers, motor-launches, decoys, and other craft, they would be exposed to the greatest danger, and the submarine campaign, which was intended to bring Great Britain to her knees, must fail. The U-boats operating against British commerce in British waters were, therefore, recalled on April 25th, though of course the East Coast mine-laying submarines and the submarines in the Mediterranean carried on as before.


Before the new orders reached the commanders at sea, they had been very busy, paying no regard to Prize Law or other considerations. In the month of April fifty-six British merchant vessels were intercepted, and forty-three, of 141,193 tons, were sunk, with a loss of 131 lives, all but six, which struck mines, being the victims of submarines. The spirit of the seamen, in spite of the latest threat of the Germans to treat defensively armed vessels as men-of-war, was unbroken. Indeed, whether a gun was or was not available, several of the masters put up fine fights. One event occurred on the first of the month which attracted the notice of the Admiralty. The Australian Steamship Company's Ashburton (4,445 tons), when on voyage from Wellington, N.Z., to London, was about 180 miles south-east from Land's End when the master (Mr. C. Matthews) was called to the upper bridge. Suspicions had been aroused by a " stick," which appeared




to be attached to a pear-shaped buoy standing vertically about 40 feet distant; it was stationary. Captain Matthews brought the " stick " astern and then stood watching it through his glasses. All doubts as to what it indicated were soon set at rest, for it rose to the surface and it was realised that the Ashburton was confronted with a submarine. A distress call was immediately dispatched, and although the enemy signalled Captain Matthews to stop, he continued on his course at full speed, sending everyone available into the engine-room to help with the fires. The submarine, after a short delay, opened fire; fifteen shots hit the Ashburton. She gradually drew in close and Captain Matthews had to admit that escape was hopeless: the mast and wireless gear had been shot away; the funnel, boats, and deck-house had been badly damaged; and five of the crew had been wounded during the fusillade, which had lasted twenty minutes. The ship was stopped and the usual formalities were observed. A torpedo dispatched the Ashburton, and the crew, in their two boats, were left to fare as best they might. Happily help was at hand and no lives were lost. Captain Matthews was mentioned in despatches for his attempt to save his ship.


On the same day the Perth (653 tons) was torpedoed without warning, with a loss of six lives, when one mile S.E. by E. from Cross Sand Light-vessel, as well as the sailing-vessel Bengairn (2,127 tons), 165 miles west-south-west from the Fastnet. The former vessel was at anchor, when at midnight she was split in two by a torpedo, the fore part sinking at once with the chief engineer and four of the crew. A somewhat similar fate overtook the P. & O. liner Simla (5,884 tons) on the following day. She was acting as an Admiralty transport and had been provided with a gun. This weapon proved valueless, for when she was off Gozo she was struck without warning on the port side, the stokehold being pierced and ten of the engine-room staff killed outright. The survivors were rescued by a French patrol -boat and landed at Malta.


On the following day, April 3rd, the Clan Campbell (5,897 tons), also defensively armed, was destroyed with a similar lack of ceremony and humanity twenty-nine miles south-east of Cape Bon, happily without loss of life; and on the 5th the Chantala (4,951 tons) disappeared fifteen miles north of Cape Bengut, nine of the crew being killed.


A far more grievous sacrifice of human life attended the sinking of the Zent (3,890 tons). This vessel was also torpedoed without warning. She was outward bound in ballast from Liverpool to Santa Marta, and on the night of the 5th, at 10.15, she had reached a position twenty-eight miles W. by S. ½ S. from the Fastnet, when a torpedo penetrated the engine-room, and was followed by a second, which struck the vessel near No. 3 hatch. No ship could withstand such injuries as the Zent had sustained, and in two minutes nothing was to be seen of her; her end came so swiftly that three boats, in which men had already taken their places, capsized as the steamer took her dive. From one cause and another the death-roll mounted to forty-nine; among the lives lost being that of a stowaway, a black, who had thought to cross the sea safely, and at no charge, in this fine ship of the British India Steam Navigation Company.









When the German Government first declared that all vessels found in the war zone round the British Islands would be torpedoed without warning, the route which runs across the southern end of the North Sea, between Parkeston and Rotterdam, was, perhaps, more immediately threatened than any of the approaches to British harbours. Zeebrugge, the base of the Flanders Flotilla, is thirty-five miles to the southward of the central part of the track, which was thus a first point of attack for all submarines on their outward trips; and every vessel plying along the route was in greatest danger when she was in the middle of her voyage, farthest away from land or naval assistance. The duty of maintaining this dangerous service fell, mainly, upon the captains of the Great Eastern Railway Company's steamers, who soon got an accurate picture of the risks involved. Between March and July 1915 the steamship Brussels was attacked five times: once when she was commanded by Captain Fryatt, twice when Captain Hartnell was in charge, and twice when she was under Captain Beeching. The captains were quite unflinching; they carried the extra weight of their responsibilities without complaint; and all the steamers of the company sailed at their appointed times, week after week and month after month.


The service rendered by these men was of the first importance. War against commerce is made effective almost as much by holding up sailings as by sinking or capturing ships, and when the German Government started their war upon sea-borne trade it was feared that one of its most serious consequences would be that of suspended sailings. The spring of 1915 was thus a highly critical time; and during the first months of the campaign communications with Holland were threatened by the fact that a considerable number of neutral vessels refused to sail. The captains of the Great Eastern Railway Company's steamers were not, however, intimidated. Early in April our Consul-General at Rotterdam wrote to the Foreign Office calling attention to the " highly meritorious and courageous conduct " of the captains of the Brussels, the Colchester, the Cromer, and the Wrexham, and added that the regular sailings and arrivals of the steamers had produced a great moral effect locally, at a time when Dutch and other steamships had ceased running owing to the nervousness of their commanders and owners. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Admiralty wrote to the company and asked that their appreciation should be conveyed to all concerned.


This was the second time on which the Admiralty had expressed their admiration; for they had already congratulated Captain Fryatt for his conduct in circumstances which must be closely examined. Early in the afternoon of March 28th, 1915, when the Brussels was approaching the Maas Lightship, on passage from Parkeston to Rotterdam, Captain Fryatt sighted a large submarine on his starboard bow. She was U33, just starting out for the English Channel, under the command of Kapitan-Leutnant Gansser, who signalled to the Brussels, which was unarmed, to stop. It was Captain Fryatt's plain duty to escape capture if he could, and his obligation was the more binding in that the Admiralty had instructed all merchant captains to thwart submarine attacks by every means in their power. Apart from this, Captain Fryatt was quite justified in thinking that Captain Gansser's signals were a treacherous ruse to make torpedoing easier.


In any case he was not the man to hesitate; he had been attacked once before, and his seamanship and knowledge of his vessel told him that, though the danger was great, he might still avoid it. He judged, at once, that he had no time to turn and escape by flight, and so altered course to pass under the submarine's stern. U33 moved across the bows of the approaching ship so as to torpedo her when she opened her port side, after the turn was completed. The two vessels were thus approaching very fast, and the danger to the Brussels increased with every second. Captain Fryatt was quick to see that his first




manoeuvre had been countered, but he had another ready. As the submarine crossed his bows he put his helm hard a-starboard and made straight towards her. Captain Gansser was, apparently, not in the conning-tower at the moment, and the officer in charge gave the order to submerge. It was at once obeyed; the Brussels passed about 50 yards under U33's stern when she was about 25 feet below the water; and Captain Gansser did not break surface again until Captain Fryatt's ship was five miles away. The entry in the Brussels's log is of great importance, as it was made at a moment when Captain Fryatt's recollection of what had happened was still fresh and vivid. It ran thus:


" 1.10 p.m. sighted submarine two points on starboard bow. I altered my course to go under his stern. He then turned round and crossed my bow from starboard to port. When he saw me starboard my helm he started to submerge, and I steered straight for him. At 1.30 his periscope came up under my bows, port side, about 6 feet from the side and passed astern. Although a good lookout was kept, I saw nothing else of him. I was steering an E. by S. course at the time of sighting him, and brought my ship to a north-easterly course when I was over the top of him. The lat. was 51 degrees  08' N., long. 3 degrees  41' E."


It was a modest way of recording the achievement. At the lowest estimate of the risks involved. Captain Fryatt had saved several hundreds of his countrymen from imprisonment or worse and his ship from capture; assuming that Captain Gansser intended to act on the proclamation of his Government, every person in the Brussels had been rescued from imminent danger.


(Captain Gansser's impressions differed from those of Captain Fryatt, as was, perhaps, not unnatural in the circumstances. The entry in U33's log was as follows: " 28. 3. 15. North Sea, light northerly breezes, visibility eight miles. 2.20 p.m. steering for the Noord Hinder Lightship. Sighted a steamer... heading for the Maas Lightship at full speed, and showing no flags. At a distance of four miles I signalled — Stop immediately or I fire! — at the same time altering my course towards the steamer. At a distance of one mile, I cleared one tube for action. The steamer neither altered its course nor speed. U33 making direct for the steamer. At a distance of 500 M (metres), and only a few seconds before the shot was to have been fired, the steamer put her helm over, and came at U33 with the manifest intention of ramming us. In view of her high speed and the large arc described by the steamer, it was not possible for me to make sure of striking her with a torpedo. As observed through the periscope, the steamer passed us at a distance of from twenty to thirty metres, after which she resumed her former course at high speed. Ι. 2.40 came to the surface." The difference in the times recorded by U33 and the Brussels is not a discrepancy between the two accounts. U33 was keeping Mid-European time and the Brussels Greenwich time.)


Four years later Captain Gansser stated on oath that he had seriously thought of taking the Brussels into port as a prize. It was not, however, Captain Fryatt's duty to speculate on the nature of the danger, but to avoid it; and how could he, with several hundreds of utterly defenceless persons under his charge, have trusted to the humanity of a German submarine commander at such a moment? The exact nature of the threat to the Brussels is, moreover, immaterial, for whether it were capture or destruction, Captain Fryatt had an equal right, and an equal duty, to act as he did.


The courage and skill with which the Brussels had been handled did not pass unnoticed. The Admiralty congratulated the master warmly and presented him with a gold watch; and on April 28th his name was mentioned in the House of Commons in answer to a question by Lord Charles Beresford.


During the next year Captain Fryatt continued in command of the Brussels. His record of service would make monotonous reading, but it was by no means uneventful to him. His ship, like the other vessels of the company, was often attacked; and a high testimony to Captain Fryatt and his brother-captains is to be found in the fact that, by June 1916, the Germans had, apparently, given up all hope of interrupting the Rotterdam service by submarines.


Then occurred the incident which led to events that moved the world to indignation. Late in the afternoon of June 22nd, 1916, the Brussels left Rotterdam for Tilbury. Captain Fryatt had orders to stop at the Hook of Holland to pick up mails, which he accordingly did. By 11 o'clock he was under way again, steering for the Thames. There was a large number of escaped Russian prisoners and Belgians on board, and before leaving Rotterdam the British Consul-General, Mr. Maxse, placed an important diplomatic mail in Captain Fryatt's charge. As they left the Hook, both the captain and his first officer, Mr. Hartnell, noticed strange rocket lights in the




direction of the shore; and when twelve miles west of the Maas Lightship they distinctly saw " a very small craft, probably a submarine not submerged," morsing the letter " S." It was clear that the ship was being watched, and Captain Fryatt issued strict orders that all lights were to be put out and the passengers kept below. The enemy was not his only anxiety, for he knew that another steamer was very near him, steering the same course without lights. He could not get a sight of her, in spite of a very sharp lookout, and at half-past twelve he switched on port and starboard lights for a few minutes.


At a quarter to one Captain Fryatt became aware that his ship was surrounded by German destroyers, and stopped her when warned that they were about to fire. He probably hoped to escape to the very last, for Mr. Hartnell, the first officer, seemed surprised that no firing occurred. Captain Fryatt was calm and mindful of his duty. His first care was to have the diplomatic mail destroyed in the engine-room furnaces, after which he warned the passengers to be ready to take to the boats if necessary. As the last mail-bag was reduced to ashes, the Germans came over the side with revolvers and bombs. The crew were pushed into destroyers pretty roughly. Mr. Hartnell refused to follow them and was ordered to the bridge, where he joined Captain Fryatt.


The German officers who took charge of the ship were very nervous and excited. The senior one of them at once put the engine-room telegraph to " Full speed ahead," but as the stokers and engineers were prisoners in the destroyers, the stokeholds were deserted and nothing happened. The German officer then drew his revolver, pointed it at Captain Fryatt, and threatened to shoot him dead if he obstructed the navigation of the ship. The captors were persuaded, very reluctantly, that the fault did not lie with Captain Fryatt, after which they ordered their own men to go down and work the engines. They rushed below and, being unable to read the engine-room telegraph, put the engines to full speed astern.


The Brussels reached the Schouwenbank Lightship some time after daybreak, when the German flag was hoisted. Soon afterwards the Flushing mail-boat passed close by, and Captain Fryatt remarked, as he saw her, that the capture of the Brussels would be reported early. He was evidently thinking of how anxiety and worry would spread at home when once his ship was reported overdue. During the forenoon the Brussels arrived at Zeebrugge, and after a stay of five hours was sent on up the canal to Bruges. Both banks were crowded with Landsturm and soldiers of the Marine Corps as she passed up.


At Bruges the prisoners were landed and distributed at various prison camps, after they had been transported over Germany in cattle-trucks and publicly exhibited in the towns through which they passed.


On June 28th Captain Fryatt and Mr. Hartnell were put into the camp at Ruhleben. Barrack No. 1, to which Captain Fryatt was consigned, was in charge of an Englishman called Turnbull, a man who owned a business in Hamburg, where he had lived for a number of years. He had been dubbed a pro-German by his fellow-prisoners, and rumour credited him with having played a very sinister part in what followed: that of getting Captain Fryatt to talk freely, by being kind and friendly to him, and laying the information so obtained with the German authorities. Of this there is no evidence at all. Turnbull was certainly kind to Fryatt — very likely because he was lonely and dejected at the ostracism to which he was subjected — and it is equally certain that Fryatt never concealed the fact that he had several times saved the Brussels from submarine attacks; but there is no trace at all of any information ever having been lodged by Turnbull with the German authorities.


The Germans had enough information for their purpose without tapping new sources. They had carefully noted the statements made in the House of Commons, when Captain Fryatt's name was mentioned; Captain Gansser's report of what had happened on March 28th, 1915, had been in their hands for over a year; and the High Naval Command was painfully aware of the part which the Merchant Service had played in thwarting their plans. These three things — not one of which gave him the slightest reason to be ashamed — were the cause of Captain Fryatt's subsequent death.


On June 30th Captain Fryatt and Mr. Hartnell were given orders to leave the camp under escort. They were told that they would only be away for a few days; but




the instant they passed the camp gates they were forbidden to speak to one another and treated as ordinary prisoners. Their arrest may, therefore, be said to have taken place at Ruhleben on June 30th, and it will be shown later that this is an important point. On July 2nd the two prisoners arrived at Bruges and were thrown into jail, though no charge was brought against them. What happened to Captain Fryatt during the next three weeks is known only in its barest outlines. He was kept in a cell by himself, although allowed, for a time, to speak to Mr. Hartnell, and was frequently visited and cross-questioned by German officials. During those visits he never concealed the fact that he had been in danger of attack from a German submarine a year before and had escaped by steering straight for her and compelling her to dive.


Never once, as far as is known, was he warned that what he said might be used against him, nor was any legal adviser instructed to act on his behalf and warn him of the consequences of anything that he might say. Did Captain Fryatt, none the less, guess that he was standing into danger? He may have drawn his own conclusions from being treated as an ordinary prisoner and from the repeated cross-questionings. If he did, the fearlessness with which he faced what was coming does him the highest honour, for we can only see, in the frankness with which he supplied the material for his own condemnation, a determination to take all upon himself and a resolute purpose that he, and he only, should be enmeshed in the cowardly and vindictive plot which was maturing.


These long cross-questionings raise another question: Who was the directing genius of this sinister, methodical plan to encompass Captain Fryatt's death? All the evidence available points to Admiral von Schroder, the officer in command of the Marine Corps on the Belgian coast. The laws of the German Empire allowed local commanders, in time of war, to bring foreign enemy subjects before courts martial, without reference to the Central Government or General Headquarters; and Bruges, where the trial took place and where Fryatt was subjected to those interminable cross-questionings, was within the limits of Schroder's command. Years later, moreover, the president of the court — Dr. Zapfel — stated positively that the trial had been ordered by Admiral von Schroder, and added that, in his capacity as Court Martial Officer (Kriegsgerichtsassessor), he recognised no other authority. Nor is this all. The case of Captain Fryatt became engraved on the minds of the local population, and when the German armies finally retired, Schroder's name was the centre of a cycle of ugly stories.


According to one, Dr. Zapfel had expressed regret at what had happened, saying that he was powerless in the matter — a curious remark from a trained lawyer who, as president of the court martial, was responsible that justice should be properly administered. Bad as the stories were, there was a peculiar consistency in them; even the terrible accusation that Admiral von Schroder said openly that, by a certain date, he desired that Captain Fryatt should have ceased to live, assumes a sinister probability in the light of what happened later. Was the proceeding of Schroder's sole planning, or were the high authorities at Berlin consenting parties? This question is not so easy to answer, but such material as we do possess is significant enough.


Towards the middle of July the British Consul-General at Rotterdam informed the Foreign Office that Captain Fryatt would shortly be brought before a court martial, and Lord Grey at once asked the American Ambassador at Berlin to engage a competent counsel. His Excellency, Mr. Gerard, brought the matter to the attention of the Imperial Foreign Office on July 20th. He received no answer, and sent in a further Note verbale, marked " Very Urgent," on July 22nd. Only on the afternoon of the 26th was he told that the trial would take place on the following day. Why was there this delay of six whole days in answering? On July 24th, whilst Mr. Gerard was still pressing for a reply, the two prisoners at Bruges were cross-questioned for the last time, and when the examination was over, Captain Fryatt was warned that he would be tried by court martial. His candour and fearlessness had produced one result: that he alone was charged in the indictment.


But the vindictive diligence of Schroder and his subordinates did not limit itself to amassing material for the trial. They knew, well enough, how their case would be torn in pieces by an experienced counsel who




had been given time to prepare his brief; and, for the next three days, Captain Fryatt was kept in his cell without advice or assistance.


At nine o'clock in the morning of July 27th, Captain Fryatt and Mr. Hartnell were taken to a waiting-room of the prison, where, to their surprise, they met four members of the Brussel's crew. Three hours later they were all taken to a private house near the town hall, where the court had assembled. It was called a Corps Gericht des Marine Corps, and differed from what is known as a field court martial in that its sentence could be appealed against. It consisted of a president. Dr. Zapfel, a trained lawyer, of five officers whose names have not been divulged, and a secretary.


Before the trial opened, each member was sworn in by an oath adapted to the duties of a military court: " I swear by God Almighty that, having given due consideration to the judicial duties imposed upon me, I will administer justice in accordance with my conscientious convictions, so help me God." The formula, therefore, imposed no obligation to administer the law, and showed that Fryatt was not arraigned for any offence against a written criminal code. The enactment of the German Empire which gave the court its jurisdiction was, in fact, one which made certain rules of international law binding upon its officers; and it was by the set of customs and usages known as the law of nations, in that it derived its binding force from the established practice of civilised peoples, that Captain Fryatt was to be tried. Had it been administered he could never have been condemned.


As the prisoner and witnesses entered the court, an officer in uniform told Captain Fryatt that he had been ordered to defend him. This man's name was Major Naumann; he had held a subordinate position in the Imperial Courts before the war, and it should be said of him that he strove conscientiously to do his duty.


The charge against Captain Fryatt was that he was " strongly suspected of having attempted to cause injury to the forces of Germany "; and that his action on March 28th of the previous year came within the meaning of a proclamation issued to the population on land: " All persons, not being members of the enemy forces, including civil servants of the enemy government, render themselves liable to the death penalty if they undertake to advantage the enemy state or to do injury to Germany or her allies."


After the indictment had been read out, the president laid before the court a telegram from the Foreign Office at Berlin, asking that the trial should be postponed. Major Naumann at once seconded the request, by pressing for a stay in the proceedings, and asked that the American Embassy should be allowed to appoint a counsel, in view of the political significance which attached to the trial. Unfortunately, the matter had already been decided. Admiral von Schroder had replied, before the court opened, that the trial could not be delayed, and Dr. Zapfel was not the kind of man to resist him. The court did, it is true, adjourn to consider Major Naumann's plea; but they reassembled after a few minutes and rejected it.


The prosecution relied, in the first place, upon the direct testimony of Lieutenant Wieder and a seaman called Richter, both of whom had been in U33 on March 28th, 1915, and, in the second, upon a written statement by Captain Gansser, who was then serving in the Mediterranean, and upon extracts from certain Dutch and English newspapers. The war diary of U33 was the only document contemporary with the event which was produced in court: the log of the Brussels was not exhibited, although it had been in German hands for more than a month. Captain Fryatt's defence might have been based upon two pleas: it might have been shown, first, that as he had been instructed by the Admiralty to resist submarine attack by steering direct for the submarine if needs be, he was outside the rules relating to those who carry on unauthorised warfare; and it might have been shown, in the second place, that, in every age, merchant captains have had the right to resist capture, and that the defensive arming of merchantmen had been recognised as only an assertion of that general right.


Had these arguments been presented, no court could have resisted them; but it had been the particular care of Admiral von Schroder and Dr. Zapfel to make a defence on such lines impossible. There is no reason to doubt that, given time for preparing such arguments, and facilities for seeing and consulting with the man whom he was called upon to defend, Major Naumann would have made out an




overwhelming case: it was, therefore, carefully arranged that he should have neither the one nor the other.


Still, he did his best. When the court subjected Captain Fryatt to a long cross-questioning, he objected to whatever he thought unfair, and he protested strongly against admitting Captain Gansser's statement — which does not appear to have been an affidavit — when Captain Gansser himself could not be cross-examined. His objections were, in every case, overruled, and Captain Fryatt had to face the trained legal skill of Dr. Zapfel almost unaided. His answers were a perfect reflection of the man's nature: even in the mutilated, shortened form in which they have survived, they echo the undaunted courage which animated him to the last.


He never denied that he had steered straight for the submarine; but he was never tricked into admitting that he had tried to sink her. He saw that there was a difference between thwarting a submarine by compelling her to dive, and attacking her outright, and he clung to it firmly. He spoke with pride of the watch which the Admiralty had given him; but pointed out that it had been given him for saving his ship from a submarine and nothing else. One of the most pathetic things in the trial was the way in which the man's loyalty hampered his defence. Had he shown, as he could easily have done, that he had acted strictly on Admiralty instructions in steering for the submarine, he would probably have been acquitted; for when once he had proved that he had received orders, or something resembling orders, the accusation of being a franc-tireur would have fallen to pieces. But those instructions in which his salvation lay had been issued to him confidentially, and he never so much as hinted at their bare existence.


Several times the Court strove to get answers from him which would have implicated the captains of the Cromer and the Colchester, and presented the prisoner with an extract from the Yarmouth Mercury which must have been disconcerting. Captain Fryatt refused to admit a syllable; and his answer breathed contempt for a Court which could admit matter so irrelevant and untrustworthy: "I heard the Cromer had been close to a U-boat. It is not right that such things should be published. Reporters make mountains out of the most trivial matters." Time and time again Dr. Zapfel tried to make Captain admit responsibility for the stories which were current in Rotterdam: every time he got back the same proud answer: "I never boasted that I had rammed a submarine."


After the last witness had been examined, Major Naumann made his final effort on behalf of the prisoner. There was no proof, he said, that Captain Fryatt had tried to ram the submarine, and in its absence, he was entitled to be acquitted. Should the Court take an opposite view, judgment ought, none the less, to be postponed. The evidence of the two eye-witnesses to the event, Lieutenant Wieder and Seaman Richter, conflicted, for they each described how the submarine had been manoeuvred, in a different way. Until Captain Gansser could attend and clear up the points in dispute, the Court had neither the right nor the material to decide finally. When he had done speaking Captain Fryatt rose and stated firmly, but without defiance, that " he had done no wrong." " I was, and am still, proud of Captain Fryatt's manly behaviour," wrote Mr. Hartnell; " and when he rose to his feet to speak for himself there was not a German present who could face him."


After deliberating for only a few minutes, the Court returned and found Fryatt guilty. It was then about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.


The Court had persistently refused to listen to any plea of postponement; but there was still a loophole of escape open to Captain Fryatt: an appeal for mercy. (There is a certain amount of doubt as to whether Captain Fryatt was ever given a chance of appealing at all. There is no suggestion of an appeal in the minutes of the court martial, and neither Mr. Hartnell nor the Belgian officials at the execution knew anything about it. It is certainly most curious that Captain Fryatt should never have mentioned his reason for not appealing to Mr. Hartnell; but, on the other hand, the German Committee of jurists who inquired into the matter in 1919 stated, positively, that Captain Fryatt was given the chance of appealing and rejected it.) He rejected it, without explaining why; but his reason is clear. There was something so base in asking for pardon from men who, to him, seemed so mean and cowardly that death was preferable: better, a thousand times, to stand by his last proud claim that he had done no wrong, and lay it, intact, before a Higher Tribunal.


Captain Fryatt was taken back to the prison and warned that he would be shot on the following day; but by this




time Admiral von Schroder was getting anxious. The telegram from the Foreign Office showed him, clearly enough, that the American Government was taking steps to secure a fair trial, and having completely thwarted them in this, he was anxious that no further move from high places should come between him and the final accomplishment of the work which he had set himself to do. Orders were therefore issued that Captain Fryatt was to be shot that evening; and not even the committee of German lawyers who, years later, exerted their ingenuity and learning in excusing the whole business, and relieving everybody of blame, could find one shadow of excuse for Schroder's decision.


The findings of this body will be dealt with later; but one of its statements should be noted at once: " In reviewing the case, the commission has gained the impression that the military authorities, though they proceeded rigorously, never failed to respect the manly courage of Captain Fryatt." If that is so, it is the greater shame to them that they denied him the rights of a man about to die, and surrounded his death with brutality and outrage.


After the trial was over, Captain Fryatt was put under the charge of Mr. Vergaelen, the governor of the prison, and was allowed for a few minutes to walk about the prison yard. Mr. Schaloigne, a political prisoner, strove to comfort him, and Mademoiselle Arens de Berteghem, a Belgian lady of noble family, who had earned imprisonment by acts of compassion to prisoners and soldiers, seized his hands and promised that she would remain with him to the end. As they were talking, two German officers entered the yard and walked up to Captain Fryatt: unnerved by the long trial, he clutched Mr. Schaloigne's arm, and asked whether they were going to shoot him outright. But the two officers had come only to watch the nervous tension of a man under sentence of death, and when they started to mock and jibe at him, Captain Fryatt turned away with a gesture of scorn. At 5 o'clock the prisoner was taken back to his cell and Mr. Hartnell was allowed to talk to him.


He had faced death so often, in the course of his life, that he viewed what was coming calmly; but " he was deeply upset," Mr. Hartnell has recorded, " at the unfair and cowardly way in which everything had been done." Captain Fryatt was still under the impression that he would not be shot until the following morning, and it was only towards 6 o'clock that a Lutheran minister entered the cell and told him to prepare for death at once. Naval Chaplain Koehne had half an hour in which to bring comfort to the doomed man; and he seems to have spent a good part of it in trying to persuade him that he had been justly condemned for an offence against the laws of civilised warfare. Fryatt, it is recorded, nodded, and said that he was ready to answer for what he had done. The chaplain did, then, try to perform the solemn duty which had been laid upon him. He read over the twenty-third Psalm with him; and so it was that, during his last hour of life, Captain Fryatt heard words which must have recalled the green woods and pastures of England to his mind, though they were uttered in the accents of his enemies.


Had he wished to be assured of the mercy of God, he would not have gone to Naval Chaplain Koehne for guidance; and his last thoughts were for his family, not for himself. To the harsh, unfeeling stranger who stood beside him he confided the names of his children, and he asked of him where his body would lie; when told that it would be in Bruges cemetery, he begged that a photograph of it should be sent to his wife. He could not know that whilst it lay there it would be tended, and covered with flowers, by Belgian ladies, until the day should come when it would be carried back with honour to the land which he had served so faithfully. Finally he asked the chaplain to write to his wife: a duty which was scrupulously performed in a letter of 400 words, of which nearly half were devoted to explaining that Captain Fryatt had been justly sentenced.


Just before half-past six Captain Fryatt was led away. Mademoiselle Arens de Berteghem was on the watch, and spoke to him as he went out, at the greatest risk to herself, for he was then under an armed escort of German soldiers.


To the very end the Germans strove to insult a courage which they could not break. Captain Fryatt was taken to the Caserne d'Infanterie, up the long avenue of shady trees that passes in front of it, with a brass band playing at the head of the firing party. They led him through the gateway under the two-storied house which stands




on one side of the barrack yard, where the senior officer present— Colonel von Bottelar — stood smoking a cigar, with a sporting dog on a leash beside him, and then tied him to an execution post which had been set up in the filthiest corner of the yard, near a manure heap. Nothing shook the prisoner's composure, and he received twelve bullets in his chest without flinching.


If, in the vast staff which the German Government employed to spread propaganda abroad, there existed some honest and dispassionate-minded man, who traced the impression left on neutrals by German methods of war, the effect of Captain Fryatt's execution must have filled him with grief and shame. In America, the single voice which spoke in defence of the German court martial only served to make the opposite opinion more emphatic. The entire press of the capital condemned what had happened in the severest terms, and the New York Times described it as " a deliberate murder." American opinion was not moved by one of those gusts of feeling which exhaust themselves in the clamour of the daily press. The country was deeply stirred: the case was examined by the most learned and eminent jurists in the land, and their sentence was unanimous.


Dr. Monroe Smith, after weighing every argument that either side could advance, concluded that Germany was " endeavouring to remodel the existing code of naval warfare, in its own immediate interest, and by its sole authority," and that " the state which assumes to be a law to itself puts itself outside the law." Dr. Ellery Stowell was just as impartial in examining the circumstances, and equally firm in his conclusions: " The execution of Captain Fryatt, under the circumstances reported in the press, is an intentional taking of human life without justification in law."


The private leagues and associations of America constitute one of the strongest motive forces of its public opinion: it must, therefore, have been with mixed feelings that German residents in America read a stirring manifesto issued by the American Rights League:


" Although the Fryatt case is not more shocking than many other acts of the German Government, it is a clear reminder that Germany still defies our ideas of law and righteousness... and we believe that American citizens ought to consider the Fryatt case, and take whatever action is within their power to keep it unforgotten in the public conscience. Will you write, or, better, telegraph, to your Congress man at Washington, to your Senator, and to the State Department, protesting against the execution of Captain Fryatt? And will you also, by personal interview or by letter, bring the matter before your local newspaper again? You will be told that its news value has passed; will you answer that its moral challenge has not passed? "


In Holland the Press was unanimous; not even those sections of it which had shown German sympathies could find a word of excuse. The Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant could only say that it would " disgust neutrals and arouse fresh hatred and bitterness in Britain." In Norway and Denmark opinion expressed itself in the same way. What can have been the feelings of those Germans who had seen the brains and treasure expended without stint upon propaganda, as this thunder of disapproval rolled in on their ears from every country in the two hemispheres?


It was possibly Admiral von Schroder's wish to impress the world with the relentless character of German power, when he brought Captain Fryatt to trial by methods which disregarded the form and substance of justice. If so, his advice was singularly unfortunate, for all it did was to spread over the whole German administration a dishonour which should have attached to him and Dr. Zapfel alone. If the trial and execution were intended as a deterrent to British seamen, the plan was as contemptible as it was cruel, for the case of Captain Fryatt, his trial and death, set up a standard of conduct which every British captain strove to copy.


In England the news of Captain Fryatt's death was received with indignation and horror; and we can do him no higher honour than to show that our first feelings have been justified by time and knowledge, and that he earned his death by asserting a principle embedded in our rights as a Sea Power.


The task has been simplified by the German Government. In April 1919 a special Committee of Inquiry




assembled in Berlin to see whether international law had been violated by the trial and sentence of Captain Fryatt. In their opinion it had not: nothing in the whole affair called for the mildest censure, except the haste with which the execution had been carried out. Obviously, then, Captain Fryatt's best defence consists in answering those who have continued to assert that he was justly condemned.


First, the Committee examined the technical procedure of the court martial at Bruges, to see whether it had been competent to try the case. They found that the Court was competent, in that it was empowered, by an Imperial Edict, to try prisoners of war and foreigners not belonging to the armed forces of the enemy, and that the procedure laid down for the arrest and detention of persons about to be brought to trial had been complied with. On the first head the Committee was probably right; but their ruling on the second calls for comment.


Paragraph 4 of the Imperial Edict runs thus; " The first consideration with regard to the competence of an authority is that the accused shall have been arrested by its subordinates." The Committee of Inquiry stated, with regard to this, that Captain Fryatt had been arrested early in July 1916, " within the jurisdiction of the Admiral Commanding the Marine Corps," and that " the competence of this command was not prejudiced in that Captain Fryatt was first taken to the civilian camp at Ruhleben, and thence transferred to Bruges." All available evidence tends to show that this was not so. As far as we can tell, Captain Fryatt was arrested at the gates of Ruhleben Camp — which was not in the jurisdiction of Admiral von Schroder — and there is no proof at all that those who arrested him belonged to the Marine Corps. The Committee's findings are therefore suspect from the start.


The Committee next dealt with the question of Captain Fryatt's defence; but it is not possible to criticise this part of their findings without a brief examination of German procedure. A long preliminary inquiry takes place before anybody can be brought before a German court martial. Those who conduct it are appointed by the local commander-in-chief; and it is their duty to discover whether sufficient material exists to support an indictment and a prosecution. Their powers are very wide; for they can examine witnesses in secret, and have full right of access to the accused man if he is under arrest. When they have finished, an indictment is made out upon their report and a day fixed for trial. Both the indictment and the date of the trial must at once be communicated to the accused person. As the results of this inquiry generally constitute the matter for the prosecution, a prisoner ought, obviously, to be allowed the advice of a counsel whilst it is being conducted; but this the German law denies him. He is only allowed to consult an adviser if witnesses, who will not be present at the court martial, are examined at the preliminary proceedings. In all other cases, he must face the inquisition by himself.


It is not quite clear whether Captain Fryatt should have been given the benefit of this permission. If Captain Gansser was examined by the officers of the preliminary inquiry, he was certainly entitled to it; for Captain Gansser's evidence at the court martial was given in writing. But the minutes of the court martial do not explain how the evidence was originally obtained. All we know for certain is that Major Naumann thought it most suspicious, and maintained stoutly that it ought never to have been admitted. It is therefore not possible to settle the point outright on the available material; but we can say that Captain Fryatt was denied the opportunities of defence which the German law allows. When the preliminary inquiry is over, the prisoner is allowed to choose his own defender; if he does not do so, the local commander-in-chief must appoint one; but, even in this case, he must consult the prisoner's wishes. (German Military Court Regulations {MilitarstraJ Gerichtsordnung), €€ 337, 338, 342.) These regulations were absolutely set at nought by Admiral von Schroder, first, because he never gave Captain Fryatt any opportunity of appointing his own defender, and, secondly, because he never gave him the choice between being defended by Major Naumann or by the counsel whom the American Embassy would have employed.


The German Court of Investigation decided that there was " no rule of International Law " obliging the court martial to accede to the American Embassy's request.




Possibly not, but that does not excuse them for disguising that their own procedure had been violated.


Harsh and rigorous as the German military law seems to us, it assures an accused person a proper means of defending himself. First, a whole week must elapse between the date on which the indictment is communicated to him and the day of the trial, and the period can only be shortened with his consent. Secondly, he must be allowed, during that period, to communicate with his defender by word of mouth and in writing. Thirdly, his defender must have all the documents of the preliminary inquiry sent to him as soon as it is over. Fourthly, if the trial takes place before a week has elapsed since the accused man was first shown the indictment, the president of the court martial must let him know that he has a right to ask for a delay in the proceedings. Fifthly, it is particularly laid down that if the defence of the accused person has been hampered he may appeal.


The accused man is, however, deprived of nearly all these safeguards if the court martial is held " in the field," and, as these words are of great importance, it is made to be quite clear about their meaning. They were defined by a German law of 1898 in the following manner. The regulations governing the procedure of the military criminal courts held in the field hold good: (i) for the duration of the " mobile condition " of the army or navy, or isolated parts of the army or navy, and (ii) for the garrison of a fortified place, threatened by the enemy so long as the beginning and the end of this condition (of being threatened) has been notified by the governor or commandant, and (iii) for prisoners in enemy country, or theatres of operation, depots or sea and coastal war zones. This, then, is the clause upon which so much depends.


So long as Captain Fryatt was at Ruhleben, or the military district in which Ruhleben lies, he could certainly be court martialled, but he would then be protected by all the rules of ordinary procedure. Once he had been removed from thence and carried within the limits of Admiral von Schroder's command, he was deprived of them all. No restrictions would then be imposed upon the Admiral and his subordinates; they could prepare their case as slowly and methodically as they wished, they could hurry on the trial and the sentence as much as they chose, and they could take full advantage of all those rules, which for the sake of ensuring a rapid procedure, make it so easy for the prosecution to obtain a conviction and so hard for an innocent man to prove his innocence.


Captain Fryatt was, as we know, taken from Ruhleben to Bruges, and the Court of Investigation never once asked whether his removal was justified or necessary; that is, they refused to admit any discussion as to whether justice had been administered in the abstract or according to the letter of their own code; for Admiral von Schroder was not content with trying the prisoner by extraordinary martial law, he actually broke its provisions in his eagerness to obtain a conviction.


It cannot be denied that the field procedure cancels all right of appeal and makes it unnecessary that a week should elapse between the indictment and the trial; but it still allows a prisoner the right to choose his counsel, and to consult with him "if circumstances permit.". Circumstances did permit and Captain Fryatt was denied both.


Nor is this all, the court left it on record elsewhere that the court martial procedure laid down in the edict was based on the assumption that it would be put into force under conditions of moving warfare, and was careful to add that due allowance should have been made for the fact that these conditions did not obtain at Bruges. Now, a regulation which lays down that those who defend court-martial prisoners must be on the spot is obviously one which assumes a state of moving warfare; for proceedings cannot be postponed, whilst armies are on the march, in order to allow a prisoner to consult a counsel who has to be sent for from a place several hundreds of miles away. As the court brought forward this argument when they considered the execution, and ignored it when they considered the defence, their findings are both suspect and slovenly.


Next the Committee considered whether the sentence




of the Court Martial at Bruges had been in accordance with the evidence available at the time. The question before them was whether Captain Fryatt's action had been in the nature of an attack or a defence. They decided that, as he had sighted the submarine at a greater distance than he admitted, and that, as he could have escaped by flight, he attacked from the moment when he steered straight for her. In their opinion the judgment agreed with the evidence. That was not a proper way of deciding whether Captain Fryatt attacked the submarine or defended himself.


The heart of the question lies in the German proclamation with regard to submarine war. According to it submarine commanders had orders to attack all merchant vessels at sight, so that the mere appearance of a German submarine was in the nature of an attack, regardless of its distance away; and Captain Fryatt, in command of a defenceless ship, was under no obligation to limit his own means of thwarting it. The Committee never once discussed either the proclamation or its consequences, and stated, merely, that Captain Fryatt's " last manoeuvre, carried out against a totally defenceless opponent, was in the nature of an attack." When a submarine, with torpedoes in the firing position, meets an unarmed merchantman at sea, she may be outmanoeuvred, but she is never wholly defenceless, and a body which uses language of the kind is not impartial.


The Committee then raised a further question: Whether anything which affected the Court Martial's finding had been brought to light since the trial took place. Two documents which had not been produced before were examined: the log of the Brussels and the Admiralty instructions to merchant captains. They decided that the entry in the Brussel's log supported, rather than weakened, the main contention. The essential part of that entry was that the Brussels had been " steered straight for the submarine "; and it is quite reasonable to say that words of the kind imply an intention to attack.


The Admiralty instructions raised a much bigger question: they cut at the very root of the indictment against Captain Fryatt, and cleared him of the charge which had been laid against him. The instructions were in two sections. In the first merchant captains were given a general warning about the areas in which German submarines were likely to be met, and a set of sketches were added, to enable them to be distinguished at sight. Section II dealt with the best means of escaping from an attack, and opened with the sentence, " No British merchant vessel should ever tamely surrender to a submarine, but should do her utmost to escape." There were two ways of doing this: (i) by bringing the submarine astern, and making for the nearest land, and (ii) by steering straight for her if she was sighted ahead.


Now these instructions destroyed the whole case against Captain Fryatt. The German military code states explicitly that civilians who make war under the direction of a " war lord " cannot be regarded as francs-tireurs; so that, even admitting that Captain Fryatt had attacked the submarine when he steered for her, he was justified by the mere fact that he was acting under Admiralty instructions. How did the Committee get over the difficulty? By the simple device of discussing that part of the Admiralty instructions which advised escape by flight; by omitting all mention of the other, and by adding to the findings of the Court a mutilated copy of the instructions, from which every syllable which went against their contention had previously been expunged. (See Appendices A and B.) The Committee was, therefore, as dishonest as it was prejudiced, and its proceedings are the more disgraceful in that they were largely directed by men of high legal position in a country justly famous for the learning of its jurists and the gravity of its Courts.


But Captain Fryatt's defence is not exhausted by the mere exposure of the subterfuges of this Committee. He was justified in acting as he did by the laws of England and the law of nations, and we must now go back to those first principles of reason and justice which establish his innocence.


In one of its last conclusions, the Committee of Inquiry held that the Court Martial at Bruges was right in condemning Captain Fryatt as a " franc-tireur of the seas." There is no such thing. The guilt of a franc-tireur springs from the manner in which land war is carried on, and any attempt to draw analogies from war by land to war at sea breaks down utterly. When the armies of two nations are at war, all belligerent acts are directed against the




regular forces of each side; and a general agreement exists that the civilian population shall be exempted as far as possible. It is quite true that this rule is very often violated; but breaches do not destroy a principle, any more than successful thieves invalidate the law against theft, and this general principle involves certain consequences. The first and most important of these is that, as the lives and property of civilians are to be respected by hostile armies, then civilians must respect the exemption which they enjoy. In other words, they must not take up arms. Those who disregard this obligation are francs-tireurs; and their action is, in a certain sense, similar to that of a man who assaults another without provocation. But if no such convention existed, if a civilian's life and property were threatened from the moment he saw an enemy soldier, there would be no such thing as a franc-tireur. Would anybody suggest that a man who had no choice but to fight, or receive a bayonet in his body, would commit a crime if he chose to fight? Or does any sane person contend that a man would have no right to defend his property if the first enemy soldier he met had the right to destroy or confiscate it? Obviously not; a man so placed might lose his life in defending his house and chattels: he would never be a franc-tireur.


Now it is precisely because sea warfare is governed by no convention similar to the one which obtains in war by land, that the conduct of civilians and non-combatants at sea is subject to a wholly different set of rules. The convention with regard to property at sea is, that an enemy may confiscate it if he finds it, and the natural corollary to this is, that the owners of such property, or the persons into whose hands it has been confided, may defend it by arms if they chose to take the risk. That risk is, either that they may be killed outright, or made prisoners of war if captured. The general law of nations acknowledges this right to resist, but imposes no obligation. The English statute and common law go farther: not only is a master obliged to resist; but he is allowed to compel all passengers on board to assist him, and to punish them if they refuse. (The Master Mariner's Authority," William Senior, Law Quarterly Review.)


There is, none the less, such a thing as illegal sea warfare. If the captain of a merchantman sailed about seizing and overpowering enemy merchant vessels, without any commission from his government, he would be guilty of piracy. But piracy involves the question of robbery, and is possible in war as well as peace: a pirate is not a franc-tireur, and there is no use in suggesting that the offence of the one is the same as the offence of the other (as the Committee of Inquiry did) because the death sentence attaches to both. A franc-tireur of the seas would be a man who, without authority, cruised about the seas in war-time, sinking all enemy ships which he could find, simply for the sake of destroying them and taking life. To suggest that Captain Fryatt's action in March 1915 in any way resembled such a line of conduct was contrary to the known facts.


There is, thus, no rule of reason which forbids a merchant captain to resist capture at sea, and his right to do so has been fully admitted in practice. In the year 1799, a case of salvage claims arising out of the recapture of a prize was argued in the Admiralty Court. The claims themselves do not concern us; but the words of Sir William Scott, afterwards Lord Stowell, upon the right of resistance to capture are very relevant:


" It is a meritorious act to join in such attempts; and if there are any persons who entertain doubts as to whether it ought to be so regarded, I desire not to be considered as one of the persons who entertain any such doubts."


This judgment was no expression of a merely personal opinion nor a statement of the English common law; for, in the very same case. Sir William Scott described the Court over which he presided as a " Court of the law of nations."


In the year 1804, another case, involving the same general principle, was brought up for decision, the question being whether an enemy merchant captain who had seized his captor's ship thereby rendered his entire cargo, whether enemy or neutral, subject to condemnation. After hearing the arguments of both parties. Lord Stowell stated the general principle in the widest and most emphatic terms, and gave judgment accordingly:


" That there is any ground for condemnation of the




cargo in the conduct of the master cannot be maintained. It could only be the hostile act of a hostile person who was a prisoner of war, and who, unless under parole, had a perfect right to emancipate himself by seizing his own vessel.... If a neutral attempts a rescue he violates a duty imposed upon him by the law of nations.... With an enemy master, the case is very different. No duty is violated by such an act on his part."


In other countries, the same question has been decided in the same way. During the Napoleonic wars the case of the Pegou was brought before the Court of Cassation in Paris. The vessel flew the American flag, and had been condemned as a prize in the Court of First Instance at Lorient on the ground that she had been armed for war, without any commission from her Government, with " ten guns of different calibres, musketry, and munitions of war." The case was learnedly and elaborately argued, and, in giving judgment, Portalis was as careful in stating the basic principle involved, as Lord Stowell had been in the British Court. " Defence is a natural right, and means of defence are legitimate in voyages at sea, as in all other dangerous occupations." (Pistoye et Duverdy: Traite de Prises Maritimes, vol. ii, p. 51.)


The Courts of America have been equally firm. In the year 1815 the case of the Nereide was brought before the Supreme Court on appeal. The question for decision was whether neutral goods which had been put on board an armed merchant vessel, flying the flag of a country at war, had thereby been tainted with belligerency. On this point the judges could not agree; but they were quite decided on the question whether resistance to capture was lawful. The majority of the Court, in giving judgment, stated that: "A belligerent [merchant] vessel had a perfect right to arm in his own self-defence," and the judge who disagreed with the general conclusion of the Court was careful to say, in his dissenting judgment, that a belligerent merchant ship " may lawfully resist search." (Moore, Digest of International Law, vol. vii, p. 488.)  This general right has not only been asserted in Prize Courts: it has been regarded as so inherent in every merchant captain engaged in trading and trafficking upon the high seas that it has influenced policy.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the revolt of the Spanish colonies in South America started a desperate guerilla warfare at sea. Being unable to equip ships themselves, the revolutionary Governments encouraged American adventurers to man and arm vessels in their own country, and then to sail for some harbour in the revolted colonies. After receiving letters of marque from the revolutionary Governments, they preyed upon Spanish commerce from one end of the Atlantic to the other. There was, in all this, much that was unlawful; but, although the Supreme Court often refused to admit as prizes vessels which the Courts of the revolted colonies had declared to be so, and though many restitutions were ordered, the American Government never prevented the arming and equipping of these privateers. So long as there was a reasonable chance that the arms and munitions supplied were to be used in defending lawful commerce, the right of self-defence could not be tampered with for reasons of policy. (See Decisions of the Supreme Court of the U.S.A., vol. v, p. 307. )


It would be enough to limit quotations to the cases cited; for the law of nations is a set of customs, and not a written code: it is composed of what has been done and not of what has been written. Still, the opinions of high authorities are valuable, for they may draw from cases and judgments consequences that may not be apparent at a first inspection. In this matter, however, expert opinion neither widens nor restricts the general principle. It merely reasserts it; and Oppenheim sums up the considered opinion of the jurists — British, American, French, and Italian — when he states that —


" Enemy merchant ships may be attacked only if they refuse to submit to visit, after having been duly signalled to do so. No duty exists for an enemy merchantman to submit to visit; on the contrary she may refuse, and defend herself ' against an attack.' "


German opinion was quite as firm. Perels stated the general rule without the least equivocation; Dr. Wehberg repeated it in terms equally emphatic:


" The enemy merchant ship has then the right of defence




against an enemy attack, and this right it can exercise against visitation, for this is, indeed, the first act of capture."


But the German contention is not yet answered: This right of resistance might be admitted, the Committee stated, but only in the case of armed merchantmen; unarmed vessels like the Brussels must submit. There is only one test to this argument: Do modern states divide merchant vessels into two classes, each with its own status, duties, and privileges? If they did, the German plea would be sound; but the question has been most elaborately discussed, and the decision come to is in exactly the opposite sense. Previous to 1914, the British Government had mounted guns for defensive purposes in a number of large liners. As soon as the country was at war, British representatives abroad were instructed to explain to neutral Governments that such armament as might be found on board liners visiting their harbours was for defence alone. Those liners were still merchantmen, and would not be converted into auxiliary cruisers.


The neutral Governments of Europe and America at once examined this declaration. The smaller states of South America made practically no comment on it, and admitted armed merchant vessels to their harbours as ordinary trading-vessels. The Government of the Argentine was more particular, and strictly enforced their port regulations with regard to munitions and explosives when armed merchantmen visited Buenos Aires; but on the general principle they were most explicit:


" Foreign merchantmen, which, without having been officially declared auxiliary cruisers, none the less carry guns for their defence, may not use them within the territorial waters of the State... but, as these vessels have not been given the legal position of men-of-war, any act of hostility which they may commit within the territorial waters of the State will be regarded as a criminal action, falling to be judged by the laws of the nation."


Nothing could be clearer: armed merchantmen are simply merchant vessels. This admirable declaration seems to have guided the other large states of South America; for the Governments of Chile and Brazil informed the British Foreign Office soon after that they were satisfied with the assurance given.


In the United States the British declaration was examined with the greatest care. The question made feeling run high, and, in the House of Representatives, one member after another urged that British armed merchantmen should only be admitted to American ports as auxiliary cruisers. For a time it seemed as though the Secretary of State might bow before the storm; but Senators Sterling and Lodge caused the question to be examined afresh, and when at last the Administration made up its mind, the decision given was singularly emphatic: " Merchantmen of belligerent nationality, armed only for purposes of protection against the enemy, are entitled to enter and leave neutral ports without hindrance in the course of their legitimate trade." That is, a merchantman does not change its character by the mere fact that it is defensively armed, and the rights, privileges, and status of merchantmen are uniform.


The neutral states of Europe decided in the same way; the Spanish Government simply made the captains of armed merchant vessels give assurances that they would not use their weapons for offensive purposes, and treated their ships like ordinary traders; the Scandinavian Government accepted the British declaration without comment. There was, it is true, one exception. The Netherlands Government refused to admit armed merchantmen to their European ports in war-time; but the reasons for that refusal, on examination, leave the basic question quite untouched.


The Netherlands Government never suggested that armed and unarmed merchantmen had a different legal status, but stated simply that the position of Holland in the North Sea made it imperative that the Government should protect its territorial waters from being the theatre of temporary hostilities. The British Government did not like it at the time, but the argument was reasonable. An armed merchantman in the Flanders bight, steaming from a submarine at the top of her speed, might easily be carried over to the Dutch shore. Shots would certainly be exchanged during the pursuit, and all the tiresome consequences of acts of war committed in neutral waters would follow. The rule of the Netherlands Government was therefore based upon policy and convenience,




and, to make its position quite clear, armed merchant vessels were admitted to harbours in the Dutch colonies on the same terms as ordinary trading-vessels. Europe reached the same conclusions as the American states, and the distinction which the German Committee of Inquiry strove to make between armed and unarmed merchantmen was no distinction at all. They only attempted to make it because the German prize code allows the right of an armed merchantman to resist capture, and they did not dare face the consequences of their own rule of war. The right to arm is meaningless unless the wider right of self-defence is admitted, and an impartial body would have confessed outright that Captain Fryatt's action was justified by reason, by practice, and by the laws of the German Empire.


How did the German Committee of Inquiry escape from this cataract of testimony? It argued that a merchant captain's right to resist capture was still undecided, not because Prize Courts had disputed it, or because it had been questioned in practice, but because some writers had asserted the contrary. Upon what writers did they rely? Upon two delegates at the meeting of the Institut du Droit International at Oxford in 1913, whose reservation on the matter disputed could not have been extended to submarine warfare; upon a few isolated writers in the British daily press; upon a contributor to a publication called Concord; and upon Dr. Schramm, who, "as confidential adviser to the German Admiralty, voiced the opinion of the German Naval Staff."


Having confronted the accumulated judgment of centuries with these contrary opinions, the Committee of Inquiry decided that the Court Martial at Bruges committed no breach of international law in following Dr. Schramm upon a point so keenly disputed. If the import and meaning of the law of nations are to be thus expounded; if it is to be open to all who wish to settle a point, to pick out opinions favourable to their own view from the enormous literature of international law, and call them proof of a contention, then, what has hitherto been called the science of international jurisprudence becomes, at once, a vast system of casuistry, which awaits the coming of a second Pascal to fall into universal contempt.


But international law is not built up of " probable opinions," nor is it the product of learned minds. It is the recorded custom of civilised peoples, and the true meaning of those customs may be rightly or wrongly interpreted. Captain Fryatt's innocence is alike attested by British history, by British laws, and by British privileges at sea. He upheld a right which is vital to those who go down to the sea, and defended it with constancy, loyalty, and unflinching courage. His body now rests in the cemetery at Harwich, and a memorial at Bruges commemorates his life and death. He committed no crime in national or international law, and the British people instinctively have paid, and will continue to pay, high honour to his memory as a martyr to a great cause.









When the German Government abandoned what was in fact, if not in name, unrestricted submarine warfare in the spring of 1916, its Ministers and advisers were divided into three groups of opinion. First, the Imperial Chancellor and some of his assistants, like Helfferich, looked upon the concession as a first step towards a general peace to be effected by President Wilson's mediation; secondly, there was a powerful group of military men who, though they did not like submitting to American pressure, none the less admitted that it was the best course to take; thirdly, there was the solid block of naval officers holding high rank who bitterly regretted the Chancellor's concession, and were determined to reverse it if they could.


It was only natural, perhaps, that the officers of the German Navy should have been deeply stirred by the prospect which had opened before their eyes. Early in the year the Chief of the Staff, General von Falkenhayn, had stated that the German Army could not finish the war without naval co-operation; and the assistance for which he craved was an attack on the Allied, and particularly the British, lines of communication so powerful that it would sensibly diminish the volume of military supplies to the chief theatres of war.


Falkenhayn's appeal had produced a remarkable effect on naval opinion, and particularly on the junior officers and no small proportion of the men. He had suggested that the hour had struck for the young German Navy to win lasting glory. It had lived since its birth in humiliating subordination to the other service, and now saw a unique opportunity in the Chief of the Staff's admission. Could they but carry through the task assigned to them, the share of German naval officers would be equal to that of the leaders of the Army; they would rank in fame with the Roman Consul who " had not despaired of the republic " in her darkest hours; they would be raised to an equal place in German history with the Scharnhorsts, the Derfflingers, and the Bluchers; and they would live in future years as the men whom Imperial Germany delighted to honour.


During the ten months between May 1916 and February 1917, two of these currents of opinion struggled for mastery, for the military party, which " pursued the middle course," soon disappeared and was replaced by another which became the chief advocate of the strictly naval standpoint. The Chancellor, striving for a negotiated peace, was thus confronted with a navy, supported in influential quarters, demanding submarine warfare on a scale which would make negotiations impossible. In the end the Navy won; but it was only by a narrow margin.


It is not within the scope of this history to trace the diplomatic negotiations carried on by the Chancellor and Count Bernstorff during this ten months; both men pressed them forward steadily and ably, and, as they worked with the Emperor's full approval, they were able to keep naval pressure in check, so long as they had the smallest hope of success. The naval leaders thus saw the splendid perspective, which had been opened to them by General von Falkenhayn's appreciation, grow fainter and more distant, but they never despaired of reaching their goal, and the history of the submarine campaign between April 1916 and February 1917 is the history of the German Navy's effort to make its will prevail in the Empire's councils.


At the outset they had to secure union amongst themselves, for they were sharply divided. Admiral Scheer, in command of the High Seas Fleet, hoped to force the hand of those with whom the decision lay, by refusing to allow the submarines to operate against commerce like surface cruisers, claiming that the conditions exposed officers and men to risks which they should not be called upon to face, and that, in any event, the limited warfare could not attain its objective. By sullenly adopting an " all or nothing " attitude, and by keeping the submarine flotillas idle at their moorings in the Jade and the Ems, he seems to have hoped that he would raise such




indignation in the hard-pressed Fatherland that the Chancellor would be compelled to give way. Admiral von Holtzendorff was convinced that such an attitude was unwise. He was in favour of keeping the submarines at work in order to make their achievements the basis of a demand for greater latitude. His view prevailed, and the first phase of this new period is the one in which the German submarines adapted themselves to their new orders, and endeavoured to show what results they could achieve in spite of their adherence, more or less strictly, to the restrictions of cruiser warfare. This phase stretched right on into the autumn of the year 1916, by which time the U-boats had crawled down the trade routes and were operating off the Azores, on the track to Archangel, in the White Sea, and on the western side of the Atlantic. The British Naval Staff in Whitehall had watched their progress with the anxiety of a physician who studies the steady, unrelenting spread of a harmful symptom.


In the next phase the U-boats closed up their areas of activity slightly; and in the third and last they steadily and persistently intensified their efforts in the theatres which their experience had shown to be most promising. This final period simply marks an effort on the part of the Navy to break through the restrictions by which they were bound. Its incidents supply proof of what Karl Helfferich had foreseen when he said: "I could never get it out of my mind that when the Lords of the Navy said extended submarine warfare, they meant unrestricted submarine warfare." The remark was true. During the autumn months of 1916 the number of vessels sunk without warning rose steadily, until, at the beginning of the New Year, the pretence of attacking commerce according to the rules of cruiser warfare had worn very thin; and when, in February 1917, the Chancellor announced that Germany was compelled to resume intensive submarine warfare owing to the rejection of her peace proposals, he was announcing what had, to all intents and purposes, become an accomplished fact.


The execution of Captain Fryatt at the end of July, and the indignation which that event aroused throughout the civilised world, was not without its influence, as has been suggested, on the enemy's submarine policy. The result of the Battle of Jutland had prompted Admiral Scheer to renew his representations to the Emperor. " A victorious end to the war at not too distant a date," he wrote, " can only be looked for by the crushing of English economic life through U-boat action against English commerce." The advice of the Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet in favour of intensive warfare was, however, unacceptable at the moment, and the record of ship sinkings during the month of August reflected the confusion of policy which prevailed in the official world of Germany at this period. During August only twenty-two ships, of 42,553 tons, were sunk by submarine, with the loss of five lives. The one vessel which was torpedoed without warning was the Aaro (2,603 tons). A wireless message from Berlin announced, in pursuance with the official German policy of the moment, that the Aaro had been blown up by a " warship," it being added that " there seems to be little hope of anyone being saved." The deliberate misrepresentation was only revealed later on. While on a voyage to Christiania the ship was sunk in the North Sea by a submarine. Only three lives were, in fact, lost, and the remainder, including the master (Mr. Harry Newton), were taken prisoners and interned at Tielmen. On the same day the Heighington (2,800 tons) was captured and torpedoed off Cape Serrat. On succeeding days a number of small ships were secured by the enemy, but in no case were any members of the crew either killed or taken prisoner.


During this period the enemy still continued his activities in the Mediterranean. The remainder of the month supplied only two outstanding incidents — the destruction of the Swedish Prince (3,712 tons) in the Eastern Mediterranean, when on passage to Bizerta, and the loss of the Duart (3,108 tons) off the Algerian coast on the 31st. On the morning of the 17th the former vessel was steaming in company with the Astereas when a submarine was seen. The Swedish Prince, which had a gun on board, immediately warned her unarmed companion of the submarine's presence, and both vessels altered course to southward at full speed. Within a quarter of an hour a duel had developed between the enemy and the defensively armed merchantman, but the 3-pounder gun of the British vessel proved useless at the range selected by the submarine.




Nine or ten shots struck the Swedish Prince, the second officer receiving wounds from which he afterwards died. The contest was a hopeless one, so the master (Mr. J. A. Halloway) at last ordered the engines to be stopped. While preparations were being made to abandon the ship, the submarine continued firing, and then, coming alongside the ship's boats to which the crew had taken refuge, made Captain Halloway, the chief engineer (Mr. William Poole), and the gunner, a Frenchman, prisoners. The chief officer and the remainder of the crew eventually reached Port Pantellaria without further misadventure. The Duart on the last day of the month fell a victim to an Austrian submarine.


Of the thirteen ships, of 34,862 tons, which escaped capture in August, possibly the most notable case was that of the little Hull steamer, the Destro (859 tons). On the afternoon of August 3rd, when nine miles N.E. by E. of Coquet Island, a submarine opened fire from her two guns. The master of the Destro (Mr. Edward B. Johnson) had no defence except his speed, but he at once brought the submarine astern of him. Time and again the Destro was hit. The enemy repeatedly manoeuvred to get on the quarter of the British vessel. At last Captain Johnson thought an opportunity offered to ram the enemy, so he put his helm hard over, but the submarine did the same. As a result of this manoeuvre, the Destro gained an increased lead, but it was not until the unequal action had lasted fifty minutes that the enemy abandoned the chase. By that time the ship's boats had been badly damaged by gunfire and the funnel had been holed, making stoking very difficult, while the bridge and deck-house, as well as the ladders and compass, had all suffered in greater or less degree. Captain Johnson was awarded the D.S.C. for his determined resistance, and the chief engineer (Mr. T, Martin) was mentioned in despatches.


Another illustration of the fine courage which British seamen were exhibiting was furnished by the Strathness (4,345 tons). She was in the Mediterranean when she was attacked at a range of 5,000 yards. The enemy discharged thirty shots without hitting the ship, and the Strathness, with her 15-pounder, replied with twenty-five rounds; one of them struck the submarine and caused a large volume of smoke to rise from her. Her captain evidently concluded that he had met a tartar and made off. For the second time in the course of a short period, the master (Mr. David Thompson) had fought a successful action against submarines, and he was mentioned in despatches.


The losses in September rose; thirty-four ships, of 84,596 tons, were destroyed by submarines and sixteen lives were sacrificed. Nine ships were sunk without warning, supplying an indication of the little respect which some of the German officers operating at sea had for the superior orders which they had received. All these infractions of the rules of cruiser warfare happened in the Mediterranean. The heaviest loss of life occurred in the latter half of the month, when the enemy exhibited a new phase of ruthlessness. Six members of the crew of the Inverbervie (4,309 tons) were killed on the 14th, and three days later the Lord Tredegar (3,856 tons) and the Dewa (3,802 tons) went down off Malta, four lives and three lives respectively being lost. Throughout the month the enemy pursued the new policy of making prisoners, taking off defensively armed ships the gunners as well as the masters.


The story of the circumstances in which the Roddam (3,218 tons) was captured seventy-six miles east-southeast from Barcelona may serve as an example of the conditions in which merchant shipping at this period was carried on. On the morning of September 26th the Roddam was making her way home to England, when a French torpedo-boat destroyer signalled that a submarine had been seen some hours before, making a course which would bring her near the Roddam. The master changed his course and went on his way. A short time afterwards another French destroyer issued another warning, and gave the master a change of course which would, it was thought, ensure the safety of his ship. As soon as she was well away on her new course, a submarine opened fire at long range. The weather was fine and the atmosphere clear, but the captain, though he must have realised the penalty he was incurring at the hands of the enemy — the submarine was flying the Austrian flag — ran up his ensign and replied with the one little gun available. The resistance was, of course, hopeless, but it was characteristic of the spirit in which merchant seamen of this period were confronting the enemy. We




have in the sworn statement of the second officer, Mr. A. A. French, an unadorned record of the way in which the ship met her fate:


" At 4 o'clock p.m. I was relieved from the bridge and went below at about half-past four. I heard a shell come across the bridge, and I then ran up to the bridge and saw the submarine at about 4.35 p.m. The captain gave me the order to keep the ship's stern to the submarine and ordered the gunners to return fire, which was done. We ran for about fifteen minutes until a shell exploded in the chart-house. The captain then ordered the boats to be got ready. The gunners came aft and reported that we were hopelessly outranged. The ship was stopped and the boats pulled away.


" The submarine when first seen was three and a half to four miles away, and remained at that distance; the range of our gun, which was a 6-pounder, was only two miles, and all our shots dropped short. The submarine fired some twenty shots at us and we fired about ten in return. The submarine came up to my boat (the master's boat) and told the captain he was a prisoner for having fired upon him. The commander of the submarine then took the captain on board and sent him below. Noticing that our boat was holed, the submarine towed us back to our ship, allowing us to go on board to get another boat as long as we kept away from the gun platform. We went on board and lowered the motor-boat out, into which I placed eight men. About this time we lost sight of the mate's boat and did not see her again. When we were off the ship the submarine approached and fired four shots into the Roddam; when we last saw her at 7 p.m., when it fell dark, she had a very heavy list and was sinking. We were picked up by the French motor patrol Frippone next day at 1 p.m., and taken to Marseilles.... When I went on board I found the cabin saloon and chart-house all smashed up by the shell which struck us."


Whether any of the officers and men of the Roddam would live to tell the tale of their adventures must have seemed at one time doubtful. Darkness had fallen and a gale had sprung up. The two well-laden boats were thirty-five miles away from the nearest land, and they soon became separated. Mr. French has described how he and his companions were rescued, but it was not until some time later that news reached the Admiralty that the chief officer's boat had been picked up by a neutral vessel and taken into Valentia. That any of the crew survived was due to the fine seamanship exhibited by the chief officer and the second officer as they struggled in conditions of sea and weather which might well have paralysed the initiative and courage of less dauntless men.


If the sinkings during the month were heavy, the number of vessels which escaped — twenty-nine, of 122,933 tons — was also large. The captain of the Bellview (Mr. James S. Churchill) in particular well earned the D.S.C. which was conferred upon him in recognition of the manner in which he saved his ship. When on passage from Malta to Port Said on the 17th, a submarine was sighted on the starboard beam only three miles away. Captain Churchill followed what had now become the well-established routine in the service, putting on full steam and bringing the enemy astern of him. The submarine dived, but ten minutes later came up again on the starboard quarter. Though the range was 6,000 yards, the British vessel opened fire with the one 15-pounder gun which she mounted. By a happy chance the Bellview (3,567 tons) was carrying four motor-launches, and the 13-pounder guns in two of these little ships were brought into action. It was well that the Bellview possessed this additional defence, for after ten rounds had been fired, her 15-pounder became disabled, and the safety of the ship then depended upon the efficient use of the 13-pounders, which continued to fire unremittingly. Three hours after the submarine had been sighted a shell struck one of the motor-launches and, passing through her, penetrated the ship's hold. But events were to show that the Bellview had fired better in the contest than the enemy, who at half-past one, having apparently been hit, turned broadside to the ship and " when last seen appeared to be sinking by the stern."


About a week later another merchant officer, the master (Mr. G. R. Thompson) of the Dunrobin (3,617 tons), also gained the D.S.C. for the manner in which he fought his ship, a vessel capable of steaming only 7 1/2 knots and carrying only one 15-pounder gun. It was on the morning of the 26th when a submarine appeared two miles distant




from the British vessel, and Captain Thompson had barely succeeded in bringing the enemy astern, when a determined duel opened. After an interval of forty-five minutes the submarine appeared to be in difficulties and ceased firing. A high-explosive shell was then discharged by the Dunrobin and it struck the submarine near the conning-tower, causing an explosion; smoke rose in the air to a height of 30 feet. As the smoke cleared away it was seen that the conning-tower had been injured, and three common shells in quick succession were fired, and fired so accurately that each of them found its target. The submarine's stern by this time was high out of the water, and the last that was seen of her was when she was diving in haste at an angle of 45 degrees. Though the Dunrobin was hit once, she emerged from the action triumphant, having suffered no casualties.


Before the month was out the Strathness again came under attack, Captain Thompson having since the last occasion been succeeded by Captain L. Barnett. Once more the value of her 15-pounder gun under efficient control was illustrated. For an hour and a half she was under fire off Dragonera Island, and though she fired only 57 rounds to the enemy's 150 rounds, she won the action.


The German naval authorities, having successfully invaded the Mediterranean, were intent at this stage of the war on demonstrating in the eyes of the world the extended range of their newer and larger type of submarine. In the autumn of 1916, to the unbounded satisfaction of the people of the Fatherland, they were able to produce evidence that these vessels could be employed not merely in the Arctic Ocean, but even as far away as the coast of America. Indications of submarine activity on the route to Archangel — a route of great importance to this country owing to the necessity of importing pit-props — were furnished in the early days of October by the disappearance of the Brantingham (2,617 tons). Of the fate of this ship no positive evidence was ever received. She left Archangel on October 2nd and presumably she was torpedoed without warning, the master and his twenty-three companions being drowned. At this period German submarines were known to be off the coast of Lapland, and several Allied and neutral ships had been attacked and, in some cases, sunk. The state of the weather was not such as to support the belief that the Brantingham had foundered. Other ships, including the Petunia and the Mordant, which subsequently passed over much the same route, saw no vestige of wreckage of any description. All reasonable doubt as to the fate of the Brantingham was subsequently dispelled by the admission of the German wireless that she had been torpedoed on October 4th.


Whether the complete disappearance of this ship and all on board her was part of a deliberate policy which was being pursued by some of the enemy submarines is open to doubt, but at any rate about this time the German charge d'affaires in the Argentine suggested that merchant ships of the friendly country to which he was accredited should be spurlos versenkt — sunk without leaving a trace. This policy had already been recommended by a German professor. Discussing the methods to be adopted by submarines at sea. Professor Flamm, of Charlottenberg, had declared that " the best would be if destroyed neutral ships disappeared without leaving a trace, and with everything on board, because terror would very soon keep seamen and travellers away from the danger zones and thus save a number of lives."


To what extent this advice, which found official expression in the message from Count Luxburg, the charge d'affaires in the Argentine, was acted upon can be judged only by events. That this barbarous policy was pursued in the case of the Rappahannock (3,871 tons) was placed, in any event, beyond question. This vessel sailed from Halifax on October 17th and she was never heard of again. Evidence eventually reached the Admiralty which led to the conviction that the Rappahannock (master, Mr. Richard Garrett) was destroyed on October 26th seventy miles from the Scillies. Of the officers and men on board, including the master, who numbered thirty-seven, not one survived. The Germans in this, as in many other cases, assumed that " dead men tell no tales"; but in fact these men, though dead, continued to bear damning evidence to the methods which the enemy was pursuing at sea, for the Germans admitted, through their wireless, that she had been sunk by a submarine, and the conclusion as to how she had been destroyed was obvious to all Allied and neutral countries.


Towards the end of the month the North Wales (4,072 tons, master, Mr. G. Owen)




also disappeared without trace, and the only evidence of her fate was supplied a month later by the washing ashore of one of her boats at Penzance, and several bodies were also cast up by the sea and identified as those of members of the crew. In this case, as well as in others, these murdered seamen bore damning evidence against the Germans.


The loss of life which accompanied the sinking of the Astoria (4,262 tons) was also heavy. The ship fell in with two submarines on October 9th. Hardly had she stopped in answer to the peremptory signal, when a torpedo was put into her and she disappeared 120 miles from Vardo. The enemy had no consideration for these hapless seamen, and the wonder is that half survived the ordeal to which they were submitted in these Arctic waters.


The month of October (1916) was also notable by reason of the destruction of three British, as well as several neutral, ships off the American coast. The German naval authorities had determined to demonstrate to the American people the long range of action possessed by such a submarine as the U53, with a displacement of 700 tons. If the Americans were thereby frightened into silence regarding the German barbarities at sea, so much the less chance of their intervening in the war. On September 17th Hans Rose, in command of this submarine, was directed to cross the Atlantic and to lie off the American coast in anticipation of the passage to the United States of the merchant submarine Bremen. When the war broke out Germany was building a number of large submarines for the Argentine. They had been designed for operating in the Atlantic, and consequently were considerably larger than the type which was being passed into the German Navy — having a displacement of 1,500 to 2,000 tons. The success with which these vessels had been used by the Germans, in military operations, suggested the fitting out of two of them, the Bremen and the Deutschland, as cargo -carrying craft, in the hope that they might not only bring back to Germany much-needed supplies of various easily transportable materials, but might produce a psychological effect on the minds of neutrals, and particularly of the Americans. The Deutschland made the passage with success, bringing back a limited quantity of dyes, of which the Germans were in great need. She returned home on August 24th, and her running of the blockade, (On setting out on a second voyage across the Atlantic, the Deutschland was sunk by a British patrol.) prompted the fitting out of the Bremen.


The Bremen was dispatched from Germany in the fall of 1916, and U53 was sent in advance in order that she might search for and attack Allied vessels which, it was anticipated, would be waiting off New London with the intention of intercepting the submarine merchantman. The U-boat, when this task was completed, was to proceed to Newport, Rhode Island, and then, after as short a delay as possible, was to return to Germany. The Bremen failed to reach her destination and the Germans had to mourn another serious loss. U53 saw and heard nothing of her, and in due course entered the harbour of Newport. Having paid a number of official visits, she reached Nantucket Lightship early on the morning of October 8th on her way home. Commander Rose calculated that in the clear, calm weather which prevailed, he might give an exhibition of the powers of long-range action which resided in the submarine which he commanded. He was not disappointed. In the course of the day he stopped no fewer than seven steamers, and among them were three British ships, the Strathdene (4,321 tons), the West Point (3,847 tons), and the Stephano (3,449 tons). Happily, owing to the precautions which had been adopted by the American naval authorities, the destruction of these three fine ships was accompanied by no loss of life.


Commander Rose, acting in marked contrast to many of his companions in the German submarine service, behaved with a certain measure of humanity. In the case of the Stephano, the enemy was confronted with the problem of dealing with a well-laden passenger ship. A Paul Jones would have let her pass, even though he were not prompted to that course by political considerations. Commander Rose, however, could not resist the temptation of teaching the Americans a lesson in ruthlessness, for most of the passengers, who numbered ninety-three, were returning to New York from a holiday cruise to Newfoundland. Time was allowed for the passengers and crew to lower the boats and leave the ship, and they were immediately accommodated on board the United States destroyers which were in the vicinity. The American naval authorities





had, indeed, sent out several small craft on the assumption that American men-of-war could at least assist in saving life, though they could not interfere with operations carried on outside the three-mile limit. In the case of the Strathdene (master, Mr. George Wilson), U53, observing another ship to the westward, left the crew to make their way as best they could in their own boat towards Nantucket Lightship, and they were eventually rescued by an American destroyer. Later in the morning, however, when the West Point (master, Mr. F. J. Harnden) was intercepted, U53 showed a greater measure of consideration, though Captain Harnden had given no little trouble before surrendering. After the merchantman had been sunk by gunfire, the submarine took in tow the two lifeboats, and did not leave Captain Harnden and his companions until they were within about six miles of the lightship. That evening they were all taken on board an American destroyer and reached New York in safety.


While these events were occurring in the Arctic Ocean and off the American coast, the enemy was still at work in the waters surrounding the British Isles, as well as in the Mediterranean. In several instances the circumstances in which ships were destroyed exhibited the insubordination of German submarine officers, in relation to the Imperial orders they had received, if, indeed, those orders were intended to be taken literally. In the case of the British India steamship Mombassa (master. Commander R. F. Thomson, R.N.R.) a fine example of life-saving work was supplied. The Mombassa left London on October 11th, and, after calling at Gibraltar for instructions on the 16th, proceeded on her voyage. Early on the morning of the 20th a French destroyer signalled "What ship?" On the signal being answered, the destroyer reduced her speed to that of the liner and proceeded to bear her company. This protection proved of no avail in saving the Mombassa, for a few minutes later an explosion shook the vessel from stem to stern. She had been torpedoed without warning, although she carried nineteen passengers, as well as a crew of 109. A wireless call was sent out, passengers were roused, and the boats were speedily manned. Within five minutes of the Mombassa being struck, all the boats were clear of the ship, which four minutes later disappeared.


Captain Thomson, having directed these operations successfully, was himself the last to leave the vessel; he dived overboard and was picked up by one of the boats. One secunni, who must have hidden himself away, lost his life, but the rest of the crew, as well as the passengers, were taken into Bougie by the French destroyer and received the kindest treatment from the inhabitants, as well as from the Italian Consul, From first to last nothing was seen of the submarine. A Naval Court was afterwards held, and it found that, as the vessel was torpedoed without any warning, no blame attached to Captain Thomson or anyone else, and that everything was done to save life. The expedition with which the ship was cleared was held to have been " a masterly performance." It was added that " particular credit must be given to Mr. Russell, second engineer, who, knowing from the inrush of water into the funnel that the vessel was doomed, used his own discretion to stop the ship before the receipt of orders from the bridge, and was thus undoubtedly instrumental in saving many lives." The Court recorded that " the chief sarang and some members of the native crew appeared to have done their duty. The passengers, men and women alike, behaved in an exemplary manner."


Another vessel which suffered from the complete disregard of the superior German orders, which had been so industriously advertised to the world, was the Marina (5,204 tons). She was on her way from Glasgow to the United States, and was off the Fastnet on the afternoon of October 28th when she was torpedoed without warning. Of the crew of 104, eighteen were drowned. This ship had on board a number of American citizens, and they and the other survivors were in the ship's boats for over thirty hours before they were picked up by a patrol-vessel and landed in Ireland. Nothing was seen of the submarine before the attack. The first intimation that the ship was in danger came when a torpedo struck the Marina amidships on the starboard side. Though the British vessel was defensively armed, she had no chance of putting up a defence. There seemed some hope that she might still survive in spite of the heavy seas that were running, but ten minutes later a second torpedo struck her on the port side and the blow proved mortal, the ship breaking in two and going down almost at once.




The submarine came to the surface, and her officers and men watched impassively the consummation of their deadlywork, and then disappeared without offering succour to the seamen and passengers in the dire emergency which confronted them. As one American passenger afterwards remarked: " They did not give warning, nor did they warn us either when the submarine came round to fire on the port side, while we were in the lifeboats and almost beside the sinking ship. I guess that is not playing the game." The destruction of the Marina attracted the attention, as might be expected, of the American Government, and the unsatisfactory explanation furnished by the enemy of this breaking of the pledge which had been so solemnly given was not without its influence on public opinion in the United States.


With the record of the unhappy fate of the crews of the Cabotia (4,309 tons) and the Marchioness (553 tons) the story of the experiences of British merchant seamen in the month of October must close. Towards the former ship no mercy was shown either by the sea or by the enemy. She fought a gale across the Atlantic on her way to Liverpool, but she fought it with success, though she was continually swept by the angry seas. On October 20th, as she was labouring heavily, a fierce wind blowing from the south-west, a submarine was sighted on the starboard bow, and at once opened fire with her forward gun. The Cabotia was 120 miles from Tory Island, and she possessed no armament with which her crew could attempt to purchase, at however great a risk, immunity from the hardships which the taking to their small boats suggested. They were twelve hours' steaming from the nearest land, and whether they could reach it in such frail craft as they had at their command was the thought which must have passed through the minds of a good many of the little company on board, numbering seventy-four, as the first shot struck the steamer about midship on the starboard side.


There was no possibility of effective defence, but the master nevertheless turned the Cabotia's stern to the submarine and put on full speed. Every five minutes the submarine fired a shot, and she secured four hits. The captain then ordered all the boats to be swung out, though everyone realised that they could not live long in such a sea. In the meantime the Cabotia managed to keep the enemy astern, but gradually the distance between the two vessels was lessening. The position was seen to be hopeless. The engines were stopped and four boats were lowered, manned, and got clear of the steamer without mishap. The submarine, having given the Cabotia another shot, went alongside another steamer which was approaching. The boats proceeded in the same direction, hoping to be picked up; but the stranger, after communicating with the U-boat, blew two blasts on her whistle and continued on her course, without a thought for the mariners fighting for life in the heavy seas which were running.


Two of the boats of the Cabotia were never seen again, and small wonder in view of the storm which was raging. It was little short of a miracle that the other two boats survived. Throughout the night the second officer and his companions pulled steadily with faint hope, for they realised that the nearest land was 120 miles away; but as the dawn was breaking it became possible to set a sail, and a few hours later a patrol-boat appeared and the little group of seamen, drenched to the skin, cold to the marrow, and exhausted by their labours, found safety. A search for the other three boats was then begun, and twenty minutes later the chief officer's boat was sighted and its occupants were also rescued. Throughout that day and all the succeeding night, and on the following day, a patrol-vessel thrashed the waters, hoping against hope to find the master's and third officer's boats, but no trace of them could be discovered. In these circumstances thirty-two more men were murdered as a result of the ruthless policy pursued by the enemy's officers in face of the protestations which had been made in the ears of Americans and other neutrals.


But not a few British ships evaded the enemy during the month of October. Thirty-two, of 125,770 tons, though molested, escaped. It would be to do an injustice to the officers and crews of these ships to omit mention of the fine defence put up by the Ellerman liner Fabian (2,246 tons). This ship (master, Mr. W. J. Price) left Almeria on October 19th bound for Manchester. After passing about fifteen miles to westward of Ushant six days later, a heavy west-north-westerly gale sprang up with very




thick weather. Captain Price thought it too dangerous to pass between the Scillies and Land's End, so the vessel was headed to pass outside the Scillies. The wind continued to back, and the Fabian passed ten miles west of the Bishop Rock at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 26th, making about 6 knots. What happened afterwards Captain Price himself subsequently recorded:


" After passing Bishop Rock the course was shaped for the Smalls, and at 7.10 a.m. on the 26th a shot was fired, which struck the water about fifty yards on the port beam. A submarine was then observed about one and three-quarter miles on the port beam, proceeding on the same course as the Fabian. The helm was at once put hard to port to bring the submarine astern, and whilst the vessel was swinging on her helm a second shot was fired, which passed over the bridge. A third shot was then fired, which struck the ship on the port side in the bunkers. By this time our gun, which was a 3-pounder Vickers-Maxim quick-firer, was able to bear and fire was opened on the submarine at a range of about two miles. The submarine then gave chase to the ship, and an exchange of shots took place, but, owing to the rough state of the sea, aiming was difficult. The ship was manoeuvred to keep the submarine astern as nearly as possible and to avoid the submarine coming up on the beam, which she tried to do. Her fourth shot struck the Fabian on the starboard side in the wake of the main rigging, carrying away the three shrouds and bulwarks, portions of the shell pitting the deck-house. Unfortunately this shell killed the third officer.


The firing was still continued on both sides, but no further shots struck the Fabian. After about fifty minutes' running fight, our thirteenth shot appeared to strike the submarine, which was then distant about two miles. The submarine then submerged; but five minutes later she reappeared on the surface broadside on to the Fabian and stationary, and she fired no further shots. Another shot (the fourteenth) was fired by the Fabian, which appeared to us to strike the submarine, and she disappeared, nothing further being seen of her, though a very careful watch was kept to see if she would come to the surface again. I feel strongly of opinion that either the submarine had been injured by our shots, or she was in too disabled a condition to continue the fight."


The Fabian was then headed for Milford Haven.


" Throughout the whole of the fight," Captain Price added, " the crew behaved very well indeed, each man being at his proper station and carrying out all orders promptly. I wish to express my appreciation of the services of the engineer staff, who all worked well to keep the ship running at her utmost speed."


The month of November provided a curious illustration of the varying methods which enemy craft were employing at sea, and incidentally the commander of one submarine revealed how submarines might be employed without inhumanity. On the morning of November 1st the Seatonia (3,533 tons) discovered, as she was steaming in the North Atlantic swell, that she had become the target of an invisible enemy. For nearly three hours she was kept under fire, her master (Mr. Arthur Pattison) in the meantime zigzagging in the hope of lessening the chance of the Seatonia being hit. Immediately the crew were afloat in the ship's boats, the one in charge of Captain Pattison was hailed alongside the submarine and all the seventeen occupants were taken on board and sent below. In the meantime the chief officer (Mr. Henry Davies) in the other boat shaped a course E. by N., and was picked up by a neutral steamer.


In these circumstances the captain and his sixteen companions found themselves shipmates with the enemy as the submarine, having sunk the Seatonia, left the scene of her triumph. Within the limited space which the U-boat provided, sixty-three men were huddled together, yet room remained for the Germans to go about their business. The prisoners made the best of their misfortune during the night, and on the following morning Captain Pattison was ordered on deck. Three steam trawlers under the British colours were labouring in a heavy sea not far away, and he was directed to visit and search these vessels, and himself sink the two which had least coal in their bunkers. What was he to do but obey? While he was afloat in one of the trawler's boats, the submarine made short work of the Kyoto with a single shell. At this moment another trawler, flying




the Danish ensign, came on the scene. This vessel, the Brigi, had, it appeared, already been captured by the enemy and was under the command of a German officer, who had under him an armed guard. The Brigi had been selected to act as the submarine's consort, so all belonging to the Seatonia, as well as to the three trawlers, were set to work to remove the coal from the Casswell and Harfat Castle. For six hours the British seamen, in a heavy sea, passed to and fro with their burdens, the Germans in the meantime complacently looking on. At last the task was completed and the weary men were ordered to go on board the Brigi, but the master was still kept a prisoner on board the submarine — an undesired distinction.


Within a short time the surviving trawlers, having been gutted of coal and stores, were sunk and the Brigi, with their boats on board, disappeared. One can imagine the feelings of the master of the Seatonia as he realised that he was about to become the enforced observer of German methods of commerce-destruction by sea. If the submarine were destroyed, he would lose his life, but if she carried on her work without mishap he might hope to escape, with his life at least. For nine days he remained in captivity, during which the American s.s, Columbian was sunk, as well as the Norwegian steamer Balto. And then at last, with all the other seamen of the Seatonia, he was sent on board the Swedish steamer Varing, which had been placed in charge of a prize crew. On November 10th the Varing put into a neutral port and her passengers were landed. The master of the Seatonia and his companions were treated with no harshness, as were so many others, at the hands of the enemy, but received a large measure of consideration. In the meantime the Brigi, having fulfilled her mission, was dismissed, and the exciting experiences at the hands of this particular craft, in which so many British and neutral seamen had had to take a part, came to an end.


On the day following the sinking of the Seatonia, the Statesman (6,153 tons) was sunk without warning by a torpedo 200 miles east from Malta, with a loss of six lives, and on the 4th, in practically the same position, the Clan Leslie (3,937 tons) and the Huntsvale (5,398 tons) were also destroyed without warning; in the former case three lives were lost and in the latter seven, including the master. Both these ships were defensively armed, but in the conditions in which they were attacked their guns were valueless. An incident not without psychological interest occurred after the Huntsvale had received the mortal blow which carried away her stern and caused her to sink in a space of two minutes. The sea was strewn with wreckage, to which a number of British seamen were clinging in desperation, and two boats which had been hastily launched were passing to and fro picking up survivors.


The scene would have been a pitiable one to other than German eyes, but two of the officers of the enemy submarine decided that it offered an opportunity of enheartening their fellow-countrymen. So, standing on the deck of their vessel, they took a series of photographs, evidently with a view of placing on record the success with which submarines were not merely sinking ships, but practising the policy of ruthlessness in spite of all the declarations of the German authorities that the campaign was being conducted in accordance with the generally recognised rules of cruiser warfare. These damaging pictures having been secured, the enemy vessel disappeared, leaving the survivors of the Huntsvale afloat in two boats, far distant from the nearest land.


Even in these conditions these British seamen were not unmindful of their obligations to others. The master (Mr. J. Edmondson) had, as has been stated, been killed, but the chief officer, who remained in command of the two boats, casting his eye over the sea, noticed two steamers coming up. So, ignoring the risk that the submarine might return and wreak vengeance on him and his companions, he burnt warning flares and was thus probably responsible for robbing the enemy of two victims. Throughout the night the chief officer and his comrades, soaked to the skin and suffering from the cold, confronted the prospect of death; but early on the following morning, after nine hours' exposure, the hospital ship Valdavia came to their rescue. That they did not all perish, leaving no trace of the enemy's crime, was due to no consideration on the part of the officers of the submarine, who, having secured their photographs, cared not one jot what fate overtook these forty seamen of the great brotherhood of the sea.




Though a certain measure of respect to superior orders was being paid by submarine officers around the British Isles, where there was danger of encountering American citizens, in the Mediterranean the sink-at-sight policy was at this period being applied, not merely to ordinary cargo boats, but even to heavily laden passenger ships. On November 6th the P. & O. liner Arabia (7,933 tons) was homeward bound from Australia and Colombo to London when she was torpedoed without warning, though she had on board 743 persons, for she carried, in addition to the crew, a complement of no fewer than 439 passengers, of whom 169 were women and children. The master (Mr. Walter B. Palmer) was not unconscious of the difficult task which was allotted him of bringing his ship in safety through the Mediterranean, and he took every possible precaution.


On the morning of November 6th this liner was steaming on a zigzag course at a speed of about 17 knots; the chief and third mates were on the bridge, a quartermaster being at the wheel; another quartermaster was on the lookout on the forecastle head, and a lascar was stationed in the crow's-nest; the defensive armament with which the ship had been provided was ready for any emergency. It was all in vain. Though the atmosphere was clear and the sea smooth, not a trace of a submarine was seen until a torpedo had been fired, striking the Arabia on the starboard side. At the moment Captain Palmer was in his cabin; he went instantly to the bridge with the intention of stopping the engines, but he was too late; the explosion had already smashed them, and smoke was issuing from the engine-room skylight. The wireless aerials had also been put out of action, so no signal for help could be sent out.


An adequate explanation of the disaster was provided as the periscope of a submarine appeared about six hundred yards distant. A moment later a second torpedo was fired, without success. Then the enemy made off. Captain Palmer instantly realised the heavy responsibility thrust upon him. He sounded five short blasts on the ship's whistle to announce to passengers and crew that the ship must be instantly abandoned. The boats had already been swung out and, as soon as sufficient way was off the ship, they were lowered safely, and within a few minutes everyone on board had left the Arabia, with the exception of eleven of the engine-room staff — natives — who were presumably killed by the explosion; and then the master himself surrendered his command.


By a fortunate circumstance, within a few minutes three British armed trawlers arrived on the scene, and the Ellerman liner City of Marseilles, outward bound, joined in the work of rescue, in which later on a French man-of-war assisted. Within less than an hour and a half the Arabia had disappeared, and Captain Palmer, though he had lost his ship, could congratulate himself that, owing to the organisation on board which he had instituted and the manner in which passengers, officers, and men had behaved in face of the disaster, every living soul, except the unfortunate natives of the engine-room staff, had been brought out of danger. Many hours' exposure had to be faced, however, before these unhappy people, cold and hungry and exhausted, at last were got ashore.


That enemy submarines were now disregarding more and more the assurances which the German authorities had given to the United States and other neutral Governments became increasingly apparent as the month passed. On November 12th the Kapunda (3,383 tons) was torpedoed without warning 205 miles east-south-east from Malta, and the Brierton (3,255 tons), the City of Birmingham (7,498 tons), the Reapwell (3,417 tons), the King Malcolm (3,351 tons), and the Moresby (1,763 tons) were all surprised and sunk in the Mediterranean before the month was closed. Each of these vessels was defensively armed, as was also the F. Matarazzo (2,823 tons), which was also torpedoed without warning twenty miles south from Littlehampton. That these ships were destroyed without mercy for anyone on board was, of course, a matter not of chance but of deliberate policy.




Vessel Hit by a German Submarine


The story of the sinking of the City of Birmingham is one of the enheartening incidents of this sad record of the submarine war, showing how, in face of danger, delicate women can triumph over their fears in an emergency. Of the 170 passengers on board the ship, no fewer than 100 were women and children; including the crew, the City of Birmingham had on board 317 persons, of whom 115 were native seamen. She was outward bound for Bombay and Karachi. On November 22nd she left




Gibraltar, having received orders as to the course to be followed to Port Said. Five days later a terrific explosion occurred near the bulkhead between Nos. 5 and 6 holds, destroying one of the lifeboats. The master (Mr. Wilfred J. Haughton) had taken every precaution against disaster. He had prevailed upon every passenger to wear a lifebelt at all times; boat lists had been posted about the ship; large numbered indicators had been attached to each boat; and he had introduced a special system of boat-station identification tags. At the moment when the ship was struck, and water and wreckage were flung upwards. Captain Haughton was going round the ship with the chief officer, assured that a good lookout for the enemy was being maintained; the third officer, with a naval cadet on the lookout, was in charge of the bridge, and a lascar was on the forecastle head; a white quartermaster was in the crow's-nest, and a naval cadet and a gunner stood ready by the 4-7-inch gun. The ship was proceeding on zigzag courses at a speed of about 13 ½  knots; the weather was fine and clear, with a heavy north-westerly swell. Those on board were justified in believing that everything possible had been done to ensure the safety of the ship. No submarine, however, was seen; only the explosion gave notice that the vessel had been marked down for destruction.


It was soon apparent that there was little time to lose, for the ship immediately took a heavy list. Captain Haughton was equal to the emergency. The engines were stopped and then reversed, wireless signals for help were sent out, and all on board were ordered to the boats. There was no panic. The captain on the bridge remained in command of the situation, and his coolness and courage were communicated to passengers and crew. Within ten minutes of the explosion all the boats had been got away, though a mishap occurred to one of them owing to the falls jamming. Captain Haughton alone remained on board the doomed vessel as she sank steadily stern first. Another ten minutes elapsed, and then the City of Birmingham took a final plunge, carrying with her this typical British seaman who, having assured the safety of everyone in his charge, determined to retain his command until the seas robbed him of it. As he rose to the surface and struck out towards some floating planks, the sound of women singing an enheartening hymn reached his ears.


In spite of all they had gone through, and regardless of the danger which still threatened them adrift in the Mediterranean in mid-winter, ninety miles from Malta, these women still had heart to raise their voices in song. Although seven boats heavily laden were afloat in the vicinity, half an hour passed before the master was seen and could be rescued. Drenched to the skin and exhausted though he was, Captain Haughton immediately resumed command as soon as he was on board one of the boats. Happily the ordeal of all these passengers and seamen was to prove of comparatively short duration. The City of Birmingham had sunk shortly before noon, and soon after 4 o'clock Captain Haughton, on board the hospital ship Letitia, mustered his crew and called the roll of passengers. Only four failed to answer — the doctor, a man well advanced in years; the barman, who had fallen into the water and been drowned; and two lascars. In the report which he afterwards wrote the master recorded that " the women especially showed a good example by the way in which they took their places in the boats, as calmly as if they were going down to their meals, and when in the boats they began singing."


It would be to convey a wrong impression of the course of the submarine war at this period were nothing said of the thirty-six ships, of 157,633 tons, which, though attacked, managed to escape during this month of November. Month by month, as the intensity of the enemy's attack and the volume of the sinkings of merchant shipping mounted up, the number of vessels which, though interfered with by submarines, managed to escape steadily increased. In September the tonnage which, owing to good seamanship or defensive armament, reached port after molestation had been 122,933 tons. In October the figure was 124,770, and in November reached another high-water mark — 157,633 tons. The defensive armament of merchant shipping had by this time made considerable progress, and of the thirty-six vessels which escaped during November two-thirds had been provided with guns. The success of British seamen in eluding the enemy was all the more remarkable in view of the various stratagems which the submarine commanders were adopting. An example of this resourcefulness was revealed shortly after midnight




on October 1st, when the Lindenhall (4,003 tons) was steaming to the westward of Sicily. The master (Mr, Evan Thomas) saw a vessel three points on the starboard bow — apparently a sailing-craft. There was nothing to arouse suspicion, as sailing-vessels are often encountered in these waters; but the master watched the stranger carefully. Though there was no wind, she was moving through the water at a rapid rate. He came to the conclusion that the sailing-craft was in fact a submarine disguised. Shortly afterwards a live shell plunged into the water about forty yards off the starboard bow of the Lindenhall. In the official record which Captain Thomas afterwards made of the incident he stated that —


" The helm was put hard a-starboard to bring the submarine astern, and when the steamer was broadside on two shells passed over, one of them only just clearing the upper bridge. We then returned her fire, which had the effect of causing the submarine to raise her speed and increase her distance from us. She kept shelling us with two guns for one hour fifty-five minutes. No one counted the number of shells fired by the submarine, but it could not be less than 200, as she was firing two shells for every one we fired, and firing more rapidly. The steamer fired eighty-six shells and had only fourteen left. When we were about seven miles off the island and proceeding direct for it, the submarine submerged and we saw no more of her. Some deck damage was caused, the port lifeboat was holed and the bridge damaged by pieces of shells. The officers, engineers, stewards, carpenter, cook, and gunners deserve credit, as they fought and steamed her without any assistance from the sailors and firemen, they having refused to do anything."


Another not infrequent device of the enemy was to hunt in couples in the expectation that, while the defensively armed ship was engaged with one submarine, the other might succeed in getting in sufficiently close to fire a torpedo with the assurance that the target would be hit. Even this manoeuvre did not always succeed, as the master (Mr. P. Urquhert) proved when the Clan Chisholm was attacked off Finisterre on November 13th. Shortly after 1 o'clock a topsail schooner was sighted one point on the starboard bow; a submarine was alongside her, and another submarine was steering eastward across the bows of the Clan Chisholm. It must have seemed as though this ship was doomed. What happened? We have the modest story of this plucky master, and it well deserves to be placed on permanent record.


" We were zigzagging at the time. The nearer submarine was evidently getting into position for the next southerly course of the Clan Chisholm. I swung the steamer under port helm, whistled to the gunner, and pointed to the submarine, ringing the engine telegraph to an agreed signal, every man rushing to stations. The ship seemed to jump as the engineers opened her out, black smoke pouring from the funnel. The submarines evidently did not realise we were on the turn, so we gained a little on them; however, soon they were round and after us; then they opened fire, and we answered them with our 4.7 gun (at the same time hoisting ensign on triatic stay and kept flying throughout action) — a steady and well-directed fire. They were opening out to get one on each quarter, so I kept one astern, and the gunner attended to the one on the port quarter, the fourth shot at 6,100 yards sending her under; and she must have blown up, as there was a great volume of water. The one astern turned and went in the direction of the sunk submarine, I suppose to pick up any men. We gave her two parting shots, but missed.


" The chase and action only lasted about twenty minutes. We fired six shots to their three, and their nearest shot was about 200 yards short, a column of black smoke rising from where the shots entered the water. I wish to draw your attention to the splendid response Mr. Russel and his engineers gave to my appeal for speed and more speed — a case of burst the engines or be sunk. Also to the two gunners, who were cool and collected, and their gun crew, steward and carpenter, who served them well. These gunners were of the greatest assistance to the chief officer during the night of heavy gale, November 8th and 9th, extricating the horses from underneath broken boxes and leading them over wire lashings and flooded decks to alleyways. The chief and third officers got boats ready and crew under shelter, and then assisted the




second officer and myself on the bridge. The above is a true statement of all that happened."


But even unarmed ships were effecting their escape. The officers and crew of the Palm Branch (3,891 tons) gave an exhibition of courage and dauntlessness on November 21st, the only spectators being the outmanoeuvred crew of the submarine. The Palm Branch was in the English Channel at the time, not far from the French coast, when a submarine arose from the water and opened fire at close range. The master of this unarmed ship determined to see whether his ship, dexterously handled, could be saved. It was a tremendous risk, but he took it. He put his helm over to get the submarine astern of him, and the chief engineer rushed down to the stokehold to encourage the firemen to do their best. Everyone, from the captain downwards, realised that it was a fight for life against heavy odds, but they were not afraid, though shells began to fall round them and some of them hit the ship. The port lifeboat was soon shot away, and the starboard lifeboat holed; the bridge was struck and a seaman wounded. The quarters of the crew aft were wrecked; and a splinter hit the apprentice on the head, but, though blood was streaming down his face, he remained at the wheel. At last fire broke out in the forecastle.


Throughout the ordeal the captain, enheartened by the spirit exhibited by everyone on board, continued to swing his ship first to port and then to starboard so as to prevent the enemy getting broadside on. For half an hour this unarmed ship outmanoeuvred the submarine with her high speed, her guns, and her torpedoes. At last the enemy abandoned the contest, and the Palm Branch, after effecting repairs at a French port, reached the United States to supply the Americans with conclusive evidence that British seamen, though defenceless, were continuing to go about their business.


In the last month of the year enemy submarines, mines, and raiders took heavy toll of British shipping; fifty-six vessels were sunk with a loss of 186 lives, and of these thirty-six ships fell to submarines, the death-roll being ninety-one. The policy of sinking ships without warning was still being pursued, and proved effective in fourteen instances. We have in the story of the Istrar (4,582 tons) an example of the manner in which the naval authorities were continuing to co-operate to ensure the safety of the Merchant Fleet, for the Istrar was defensively armed and the master (Mr. Maxwell M. Jacob) was supplied with all the information which the Admiralty had at its disposal as to the safest course. Captain Jacobs' narrative constitutes a picture of sea conditions at this time which could not well be improved upon.


" I had been eleven and a half years in command of the Istrar when she was sunk. We sailed from Liverpool on November 2nd, 1916, with a crew of seventy-two, of whom fifty-nine were lascars. We ran into very heavy weather shortly after clearing the English coast, and had to put back to Plymouth to repair. We arrived there on November 6th and left again on the 18th for Calcutta. I had obtained instructions as to my route as far as Gibraltar at Liverpool, and at Falmouth I obtained fresh instructions which were sent to me from the Admiralty Office at Plymouth. These instructions were carried out and the vessel arrived safely at Gibraltar on November 24th. I then obtained from the Routing Officer on the Examination Vessel at Gibraltar the route instructions for Port Said.


" All went well until December 2nd. On that day, at 1.15 p.m., when we were in a position lat. 33 degrees  5' N., long. 28 degrees  40' E., the third officer being on watch and the usual men at stations, I heard the explosion, the vessel sustaining a very heavy shock. I went on the bridge at once and stopped the engines. The third officer told me that he had seen the wake of a torpedo about 300 yards away, coming towards the vessel on the starboard side and heading towards midships. He at once ordered the helm hard a-port and, as the vessel answered quickly, the torpedo struck her on the starboard quarter. The vessel at once took a list to port and the crew came up. The crews' quarters were aft, and it was found that one native had been killed and five injured by the flying debris after the explosion. The vessel carried a 4.7-inch gun which was displaced by the explosion. It was fine and clear at the time. We were proceeding at 10 ½

 knots on No. 2 zigzag and were on the appointed course of S. 40 E. There was




not much trouble with the crew, and the boats were lowered safely with the exception of my boat, which remained alongside.


" The first step which I took was to collect all the secret instructions and code-book, and these I threw overside. The loose papers I collected together and put on the galley fire, and then, after searching the vessel to see that all were clear, I got into my boat. The vessel was settling very slowly, no doubt owing to the fact that the hatches and ventilators were sealed and the escape of air was slow. Before the vessel was abandoned, an S.O.S, signal was sent off giving our position, but we did not receive any reply before we left. I ascertained afterwards that the message had been received. Not long after we were clear, the submarine came to the surface on the port quarter and, coming close, put ten shots into the port side. The vessel then commenced to sink very rapidly.


" My boat was on the starboard side and the chief officer's boat on the port side. The submarine first spoke to the chief officer's boat and asked for me. I ordered sail to be made in my boat and tried to get clear, but the submarine caught us up and ordered us alongside. We were first asked for our papers, and the submarine's commander was told that anything that had not been destroyed was on the vessel. The submarine did not attempt to take me prisoner, but asked for the chief engineer, who was in my boat, and on his answering he ordered him on board the submarine, saying that they were taking the chief as they heard that England was getting short of engineers, and added that it did not much matter, because England would not have any ships left soon, as they were sinking three every day. The commander then said: ' You won't be long in the boats; there are plenty of patrol-vessels about.' He then wished us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I thanked him, and then shoved off.


There were two other captains on board the submarine, the captain of the Reapwell and the captain of the King Malcolm. They were allowed, when the chief officer's boat was alongside the submarine, to speak to the chief officer and to give him telegrams to be sent home. We were told that there were two other captains down below. When my chief engineer was sent below, the commander made me promise to send word to his people that he was safe. The submarine had no flag flying and no mark or number showing. We counted thirteen people on her decks, of whom two were officers. The submarine went away to the northward. The Istrar had been settling all the time with an increasing list to port, but very little by the stern, and at 2.25 we saw her capsize, the tops of the masts being the last thing visible. I gave the boats their course and we made sail, being picked up at 5 o'clock by the sloop Asphodel, which was on patrol duty. The sloop communicated by wireless with Alexandria and was told to bring us in, and we were then put on board H.M.S. Hannibal.


" How were the crews of the submarines faring at this period of the war? It would be an error to assume that, because they were meeting with a certain measure of success, they were not suffering great hardships. We have fortunately the narratives of two British captains who were taken prisoners after their ships had been sunk in December which supply evidence of the harassing life which enemy seamen were supporting. As the defensive measures consorted for the protection of British merchant shipping improved, the strain on the enemy crews increased in intensity until at length it became no easy matter to obtain crews, and at last the spirit of the men engaged in this hazardous service broke, as we shall see later on. It is indeed a reasonable hypothesis that, even if the Armistice had not come in November 1918, the intensive submarine campaign would have had to be abandoned owing to the difficulty of securing trained and willing crews to face the risk of death in conditions of horror to which warfare in earlier centuries had provided no parallel. But this is to anticipate the course of events, and we are concerned at this moment with the experiences of the submarine crews in December 1916, when the struggle still had twenty-three months to go.


On December 4th U65 torpedoed without warning the Caledonia (9,223 tons) when she was 125 miles E. by S. from Malta. The defensive armament with which this Anchor liner had been provided proved useless. Out of the nowhere a torpedo struck her a glancing blow on the starboard side of No. 3 hold, and she sank in three-quarters of an hour. The master (Mr. James Blaikie) tried to ram the submarine, and struck her,




but the impact was insufficient to sink her. After the crew were in the boat, the submarine appeared and took off the master as well as two Army officers who were on board.


Some time later Captain Blaikie was able to give some account of his experiences on board this submarine — a large vessel, fitted with four torpedo tubes and carrying eight torpedoes, besides mounting a gun on the fore-deck. Though the submarine was not destroyed when the Caledonia ran over her, she was flattened out on the port side forward for about 130 feet to a depth of 1 ½  feet; the stem had been bent to starboard, the periscope doubled up, and the wireless gear on the port side carried away. These injuries resulted in leakage around some of the plates, and after the submarine had gained the surface she was unable to submerge. Temporary repairs were at once undertaken, and on the following day an experimental dive was tried, but the boat threatened to get out of hand, and the commander decided that his only course was to make his way back to Cattaro on the surface. About three hours before reaching port two Austrian torpedo-boat destroyers came out to act as escort. Though the Caledonia had only succeeded in crippling U65, the damage to the submarine was sufficiently serious to entail repairs which were not completed until the following April.


Another master who had his ship sunk under him, and who was also taken prisoner, subsequently put on record his experiences. The Apsleyhall (3,382 tons) was twenty-eight miles W. by N. from Gozo when she was struck. The ship was going at full speed when a torpedo hit her on the port side. Her case was hopeless. After Captain Higginbottom had stopped the engines and ordered the boats out, another torpedo struck the ship on the port side, and in ten minutes the Apsleyhall had disappeared, but fortunately no lives were lost. As the vessel was going down, submarine UC22 appeared on the surface and ordered Captain Higginbottom on board. He was directed to go below, where he found Captain T. R. Borthwick, of the Glasgow steamer Oronsay (3,761 tons), which had been sunk two days before off Malta. Captain Higginbottom learnt that he was on board a submarine engaged in laying mines round Malta, and that she carried twenty-one mine-tubes.


Each cruise occupied from fifteen to twenty days. She was also armed with a gun on the fore-deck, capable of firing effectively at a six-mile range. She carried five torpedoes, but these were not used until after the mines had been sown, since it was feared that the concussion might fire the mines and thus destroy the submarine. Captain Higginbottom has supplied a picture of the routine followed by this mine-laying submarine.


" Learnt that commanders and crews of all submarines dread the system of nets and trawlers across the Gulf of Otranto, and preferred to have dirty dark nights in that part and to navigate on the surface to submerging so as to pass under the net. When no object was in sight I was allowed on deck twice a day for a few minutes for air, and I noticed that the submarine was zigzagging. She carried two collapsible boats in a casing on the fore-deck, and was fitted with wireless to enable her to remain in touch with Berlin and Cattaro during each cruise.


" A few days later the Baycraig (7,316 tons) was also torpedoed without warning off Malta, and her master (Mr. Bertram Edmonds) joined the other two captains confined in the submarine. The temper of the submarine officers at this stage of the war was illustrated by the conduct of the commander of the UC22 when Captain Edmonds got on board. The commander met him at the conning-tower and, waving a small revolver, which had been thrown overboard in the British master's overcoat, in his face, remarked menacingly, " You remember Captain Fryatt? '' Under all the trials which the submarine crews were supporting, they were, however, encouraged by the belief that their eventual success was certain. Whether this attitude was assumed by the officers in order to encourage the men under them or was genuine must remain a matter of speculation, but at any rate, when the old year died the Kaiser's health was toasted and it was declared that within a few months victory was assured. The men of the submarine service, hard pressed already by the various defensive measures adopted by the Admiralty, and opposed by the invincible spirit of British seamen, did not realise that the worst of their trials still lay ahead.


How invincible was the spirit which British merchant




seamen, on the other hand, were exhibiting, though confronted with terrors of which they had been able to form no conception when in pre-war days conversation had turned to the dangers of war, was shown by the experiences of the officers and men of the Conch (5,620 tons). This vessel was an oil-tanker belonging to the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company. She was off Anvil Point when she was struck by a torpedo on the night of December 7th. The Conch was carrying 7,000 tons of benzine and the explosion caused this oil to ignite, and within a few minutes the water was lighted up by leaping flames which spouted from her port side. The master (Mr. Edwin Slott) did not survive to tell the tale; of the twelve British officers only three, indeed, in addition to twenty-five Chinamen out of the forty-four which were on board, escaped with their lives. Contrary to the normal experience under such conditions, it was the three engineer officers who were spared the worst contagion of fire.


As the Conch was making her way down-Channel in the brilliant moonlight, the routine precautions were adopted. At 8 o'clock the watch had been changed, the master and the third officer going on the bridge; two quartermasters were at the wheel; a lookout man was stationed on the forecastle head, and a gunner with the wireless operator stood by the gun, mounted aft, ready for an emergency. A zigzag course was, of course, steered, but these measures were in vain. At half-past ten the chief engineer (Mr. H. L. Raffray), when in his cabin, felt the ship shake from stem to stern; she listed a little to port and then righted herself. He at once went to the engine-room, where the fourth engineer was on watch. There were no signs there that anything untoward had happened; the telegraph dial still spoke full speed, and the ship was in fact travelling at the rate of 10 knots. What had happened?


The fourth engineer, as he ran to call his two companions, speedily discovered that the ship was on fire. As he passed along the alleyway he was met by flames and smoke. He persevered in spite of burns on his arms and hands, and was soon back in the engine-room with the two other engineers. It soon became apparent that the afterpart of the ship had become a furnace. " The explosion," Mr. Raffray afterwards suggested, " must have either blown up the deck or blown the tank tops off and sent a column of burning oil over the bridge and poop, killing everyone on duty on the bridge." But the officers and their staff in the engine-room were in ignorance of what had happened. They tried to get instructions from the bridge, but could get no reply. So they kept the engines working, as it was assumed if, as seemed evident, the oil was alight, it was better to keep the ship moving so as to prevent the flaming oil collecting round her, rather than to stop her.


Attempts were made to reach the deck, but they were unavailing. An hour passed in vain efforts to ascertain what was happening, and during that period the ship, licked by the flames, continued to steam at 10 knots. At length, half an hour after the clocks had struck midnight ashore, the second engineer managed to reach the deck. His companions shortly afterwards joined him, to discover to their horror that they were imprisoned in a burning charnel-house; the four lifeboats had disappeared, nothing remaining but the davits; the bridge was in ruins, and fore and aft flames were leaping upward, devouring everything they touched.


The Conch had become a great funeral pile, as she still steamed up-Channel in the moonlight, with her pennants of smoke and flame. It was impossible to regain the engine-room in order to stop the engines, for the fire barred the way, and the only hope of safety lay in the dinghy, which still remained on the well deck. What were the thoughts which flashed through the minds of those on board, British officers and Chinamen, as they confronted their fate? Time was pressing if anyone was to survive. Four terrified Chinamen slid down the falls and reached the dinghy, which had been hoisted out, only to fill immediately with water.


They had been followed by the fourth engineer, but he, badly wounded in the hand as he was, dropped into the sea like a stone and was not again seen. A few minutes later the chief engineer succeeded in joining the four Chinamen, and then the dinghy broke adrift before the two other engineer officers could follow; and the ship still steamed ahead, a mass of flames, at a steady 10 knots. Though the unfortunate seamen, as their boat lost distance, did not realise it, a patrol-vessel on duty inshore had noticed the flames and had been chasing the Conch at full speed. The chief engineer and




his companions had all they could do to keep the dinghy afloat by baling. They were still fighting for their lives when the steamer Rattray Head bore down upon them and rescued them from what seemed certain death.


The chief engineer had soon told his tragic story on board the Rattray Head, and the steamer set off in pursuit of the burning ship in the hope that further lives might be saved. But by good fortune a trawler had already rushed to the rescue, and the two engineers, jumping overboard from the Conch, found safety.


Through the early hours of the morning the Conch, still pursuing her course up-Channel, attracted the attention of Lieutenant Grough Scott of the destroyer Nymphe. At great risk to his vessel, he approached the doomed ship, by this time a mass of contagious flame. It would have meant disaster to himself and his crew to try to go alongside the Conch, which had been converted into a furnace. So he threw overboard life-saving rafts, lifebelts, and lifebuoys as he steamed past the stern, and then called to the crowd of terrified Chinamen who stood amid the flames on the forepeak to jump into the water. He repeated this manoeuvre three times, and at last had the satisfaction of picking up all except nine of the Chinamen, who still remained paralysed upon the ship. They would not or could not save themselves, but the naval officer would not abandon them. They were only Chinamen, men of a foreign nation, but he determined to face the risk of going alongside the burning ship, though she was out of control and a danger to any vessel which approached her.


It was a task that demanded seamanship of the highest order, but it was carried out with little injury to the destroyer, and the nine Chinamen were roused to action by the courage and daring exhibited on their behalf, and summoned sufficient energy to drop down one by one on to the deck of the destroyer. By the time these last rescues had been made, the steamer which had picked up the chief engineer and his companions, and two patrol-boats, had rescued other men from the water. And thus it happened that out of a complement of fifty-six seamen, white and yellow, no fewer than half were almost miraculously saved from death in circumstances of terror calculated to rob any men, however brave, of their power of intelligent action. The career of the Conch, without officers and men on board to control her erratic course, came to an end next morning when she foundered.


With the close of 1916, the Germans, rendered desperate by the failure of their methods of terror by land and by sea, were preparing to throw off the pretence that the submarine campaign was being conducted in accordance with the rules governing cruiser warfare. They realised that British merchant seamen were still fighting against heavy odds owing to the inadequacy of the armament which the authorities could spare for their defence, and urged on the German Government that a swift blow should be struck. The crisis of the naval war was at hand.


During January, in spite of all the exhibitions of ruthlessness, a far larger volume of tonnage, though molested, had managed to elude destruction than the enemy succeeded in sinking — 140,722 tons molested as compared with 109,954 tons sunk. But the death-roll of the month was heavy: 245 British seamen were forced to surrender their lives in defence of their King and Country.


At this period the German naval personnel was evidently satisfied that the submarine campaign could, and would, be pressed home and that victory would be achieved. The defensive armament, though quite inadequate, was evidently proving a great embarrassment; of the twenty-nine ships which escaped, all but eight were defensively armed. The practice of taking prisoner the masters of the defensively armed ships which were destroyed was being generally adopted. Under these trying conditions these merchant captains bore themselves with dignity and courage.


For instance, when the master (Mr. James A. Taylor) of the Mohacsfield (3,678 tons) reached the submarine U35, which had destroyed his ship, he was told that he was a prisoner of war. He noticed a small Austrian flag had been placed near him. He regarded that as a misrepresentation, and turning round, he pulled it out of its position, exclaiming, " This is an Austrian flag! You are not Austrians, you are Germans." The commanding officer protested that, though he was a German, the crew were Austrian. This modified statement, however, was also untrue, as Captain Taylor discovered soon afterwards. This ended the conversation for the moment.


" Getting below at the after end of the submarine, close




to the after torpedo-tube," Captain Taylor afterwards recorded, " I found Captain Fry, of the Lesbian, a prisoner of war. (The Lesbian (2,555 tons) had been captured and destroyed two days previously, 125 miles E. by S. from Malta.) He was wounded, and lying on a small locker and some biscuit tins. I had to sit down alongside of him as there was no accommodation in these quarters. All the cooking of the ship was done here. I was given a blanket and had to make the best of the small space allowed to us. That evening the commanding officer called me a pirate and asked me why I fired. In reply I said I was no pirate, but that he was the pirate, and he had fired at me first. ' If a man strikes you, would you not strike him back? ' adding that unfortunately he, the German, had had the upper hand owing to the possession of a larger gun. He declared that he would shoot me. I replied, ' Remember, I have got the British nation behind me.' "


Captain Taylor's bearing evidently impressed the German, and he even permitted him to write a few lines to his home and promised that he would see that the letter was duly dispatched. On the following day the Andoni (3,188 tons) (master, Mr. W. S, Dennis) was dispatched, being torpedoed without warning, and the Lynfield (3,023 tons) shared the same fate. The submarine then turned towards Cattaro. She arrived off the Gulf on the morning of January 13th with her four prisoners, and was received in triumph as she made her way into the port. The ships were manned and a band played. " The four prisoners were placed on her after-deck, with their eight days' dirt upon them, for we had not been allowed to wash." They had had little food, and none of the ordinary conveniences of life; they were forthwith dispatched to a prisoners' camp to endure even worse torments than they had experienced at sea.


The manner in which some of the enemy's submarines were being operated at this stage in the campaign was illustrated by the experiences which fell to the master (Mr. T. H. Stretting) of the Jevington (2,747 tons) and his crew. This ship was crossing the Bay of Biscay on the afternoon of January 23rd, when the chief officer, who was resting in his cabin, was thrown out of his bed by a violent explosion. About two hours earlier in the afternoon Captain Stretting had noticed a little steamer about five miles distant. The Bay was in an angry mood, the weather was misty, and a few minutes later the strange craft disappeared in the driving rain which was falling. Not long afterwards Captain Stretting saw what appeared to be a fishing-vessel, with two lug sails, steering northwards. It occurred to him that she might have been communicating with the strange steamer. She altered course as though to cross the bows of the Jevington. Then she disappeared in a rainstorm. Whether the appearance of this strange steamer in some sort of association with a vessel looking like a fishing-craft had any special significance in the Bay of Biscay, it was difficult to determine.


Nothing occurred for an hour and a half to clear up the mystery, and then a submarine rose to the surface 200 yards on the port bow and fired on the Jevington. The shot hit the ship on the port side. There was nothing for it but to reverse the engines, so as to get way off the ship, and to order all hands into the boats. It was one thing to decide on the abandonment of the ship, and quite another, in the heavy seas which were running, to get the boats away in safety. But at last everyone had left and the ship rode on the heaving waters, a deserted derelict, already sinking by the head.


The forward deck was nearly awash, and the propeller was well out of the water. The two boats were pulled away from the Jevington, but on catching sight of the submarine a mile away, the chief officer (Mr. J. C. Ross) pulled towards her. Struck by the miserable clothes in which some of the crew were dressed, the enemy passed over to the other boat a quantity of clothes. Captain Stretting was afterwards taken on board and cross-examined and then sent back again, being informed that later on he would be made a prisoner. The submarine, with two sails up, which caused her to resemble a fishing-boat, then disappeared.


At this moment the shipwrecked British seamen saw with delight a steamer not far away, so they pulled towards her. She proved to be the Donstad, a Norwegian vessel. Everyone clambered on board, only to discover that the vessel was in charge of an armed party of Germans. She had been captured earlier in the day and was being employed as a decoy. The British seamen recognised her as the vessel which had been lost in the mist soon after the




dinner-hour, while the submarine was evidently the fishing-vessel which had tried to cross the bows of the Jevington. Shortly afterwards the chief officer and his companions were joined on board the Donstad by the master and the men who were with him in his boat. By this time the submarine reappeared, accompanied by a Spanish vessel, the Leonora, which she had intercepted by way of an interlude in the ritual which was to attend the destruction of the Jevington.


Night had fallen by this time. On the heaving waters of the Bay of Biscay the doomed vessel rolled and pitched as though every moment would be her last — a black blot on the seascape. Within sight of her lay the submarine with sidelights burning, keeping guard over the two neutral steamers which, with lights ablaze, she had pressed into her service. The German commander then ordered the master to proceed on board the submarine. He informed him that he had captured the Spanish steamship in order that she might convey the other officers of the Jevington, as well as the crew, to Liverpool, but that in accordance with his latest instructions Captain Stretting himself would be kept on board the submarine and would eventually be sent to a prison camp in Germany. In due course the chief officer and his companions were transferred from the Donstad to the Leonora, which then disappeared into the blackness of night. For some unexplained reason the master had been told to return to the Donstad. While climbing up that ship's side an escape of steam from a leaking pipe scalded his leg. This looked like a misfortune, but it proved a stroke of good luck.


From the deck of the Donstad, Captain Stretting was able during the next few days to study the tactics of the enemy. The steamer cruised about the Bay on the lookout for ships, while the submarine made herself as inconspicuous as possible until her prey was assured. The Donstad each evening had all her lights burning with the evident intention of attracting as much notice as possible. Early on the 27th Captain Stretting was told that he and everyone else in the Norwegian ship were to cross over to the submarine, and as soon as the last boat had left, bombs which had been placed on board by the prize crew were exploded and the Donstad sank.


On reaching the submarine Captain Stretting informed the commanding officer of the injury to his leg, and added that he was in a good deal of pain. Might he lie down? Let it be stated to the credit of this German that his sympathy led him to give instructions that the wound should be dressed and that this British merchant officer should be given the berth of one of his own officers. Lying in this bunk, the British shipmaster watched with fascination the submarine tracking down a strange vessel by the aid of the periscope. The stranger proved to be the Fulton, of Bergen. It was forthwith placed in charge of a prize crew. She had been commandeered by this considerate German in order that she might convey his unwilling guests to a neighbouring Spanish port. The sufferings of the master had appealed to the heart of this naval officer. In any case, so many visitors on board the submarine were proving an inconvenience. It may be that this officer's motives were of a mixed character, but at any rate that evening Captain Stretting and the crew of the Donstad were, to their great joy, landed at Cape Finisterre.


In the last week before the enemy flung political caution to the wind and determined on a ruthless and relentless attack on merchant shipping, without any pretence of respect for the rules governing cruiser warfare, 167 merchant seamen were brought to their deaths.


In two cases — those of the Ava (5,076 tons) and the Lux (2,621 tons) — the exact cause of sinking must always remain a matter of surmise, for no officer or man survived to shed any light on the fate of either ship. They were both well found and they both disappeared. It is to re-create something of the atmosphere of the war to quote the terms of the ominous notice with which members of Lloyd's were to become only too familiar, which was exhibited in " the Room " on May 16th:


" Ava of Glasgow, official No. 124135, Forson master, sailed from Liverpool for Dakar and Rangoon on the 26th January 1917, with a cargo of coal and general, and has not since been heard of.


" (Signed) E. F. Inglefield,

" Secretary.""



Sunk Without Warning





That is the whole story, to which no addition was subsequently made. With ninety-two officers and men, the Ava sailed from Birkenhead in charge of an experienced pilot, who left her inside the Bar Lightship, well satisfied in his own mind she was a trustworthy ship, well equipped and efficiently loaded. No word of her was afterwards received, and at last the presumption was accepted that she had been torpedoed without warning. The story of the Lux (master, Mr. F. H. Robinson) is much the same. She left New York on January 20th, and then the great silence fell upon her, broken only by the discovery early in the following month of two bodies off the Irish coast in the neighbourhood of Cork. One was that of the chief engineer, Vivian Oldry Lawson, and the other that of the chief officer, James Parry Thomas.


In the case of the Artist (3,570 tons) little short of a miracle accounted for the survival of nine of her complement of thirty-five men. January 27th was a dirty day in the North Atlantic, and as the Artist (master, Mr. G. Mills) drew in towards the Fastnet, she encountered the full force of an easterly gale which swept her from stem to stern. She had battled her way across the Atlantic, having been hove to for three nights and two days, and it may well have seemed to Captain Mills and his little company that in weather which had so severely tested the seaworthiness of their big ship no smaller enemy craft could live. But about 8 o'clock in the morning the confused noise of wind and sea was drowned by the sound of an explosion.


A torpedo had torn a great hole in the vessel on the starboard side. It was soon apparent that, in such a sea, the damaged ship could live only a few minutes. It was a desperate situation for all on board, for as they turned to the task of launching the boats water poured over the decks as the Artist began to settle down by the head. But these men were not to be easily daunted, and all three boats were in a few minutes safely in the water and the stricken vessel was deserted.


The master, with the second and third officers and a portion of the crew, was in one boat, the chief engineer was in charge of another, and a cadet was put in control of a third: and it was the last of these boats which survived the ordeal. The chief officer with his companions disappeared almost at once in the raging tumult of the waters. But Captain Mills and the cadet managed to get clear of the