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Title: Merchantmen-at-arms : the British merchants' service in the war
Author: Bone, David W. (David William), 1874-1959
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Merchantmen-at-arms : the British merchants' service in the war" ***

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American Merchant Marine, from June 29, 1942-August 15,


[Illustration: _Frontispiece_ MERCHANTMEN AT GUN PRACTICE]







          _All rights reserved_



          SEA SERVICE



          OUR FOUNDATION                       3
          THE STRUCTURE                       14

          JOINING FORCES                      21
          AT SEA                              26
          OUR WAR STAFF                       30

    III THE LONGSHORE VIEW                    44

          TRINITY HOUSE, OUR ALMA MATER       53
          THE BOARD OF TRADE                  61

      V MANNING                               67


          THE HOME TRADE                      77
          PILOTS                              87
          LIGHTSHIPS                          91

    VII 'THE PRICE O' FISH'                   97

   VIII THE RATE OF EXCHANGE                 103

     IX INDEPENDENT SAILINGS                 110


     XI ON SIGNALS AND WIRELESS              120

    XII TRANSPORT SERVICES                   125
          INTERLUDE                          132
          'THE MAN-O'-WAR'S 'ER 'USBAND'     134

          THE TIDEMASTERS                    141
          A DAY ON THE SHOALS                147
          THE DRY DOCK                       156




    XVI THE CONVOY SYSTEM                    177

   XVII OUTWARD BOUND                        184

  XVIII RENDEZVOUS                           190

    XIX CONFERENCE                           198

          FOG, AND THE TURN OF THE TIDE      205

    XXI THE NORTH RIVER                      217

          THE ARGONAUTS                      224
          ON OCEAN PASSAGE                   230
          'ONE LIGHT ON ALL FACES'           236

  XXIII 'DELIVERING THE GOODS'               244

   XXIV CONCLUSION: 'M N'                    252

  APPENDIX                                   255

  INDEX                                      257



  MERCHANTMEN AT GUN PRACTICE              _Frontispiece_

        BUILDINGS                                      xi


  THE BRIDGE OF A MERCHANTMAN                           7

        AND R.M.S. _TUSCANIA_                          15


        MERCHANT OFFICERS                              31

  THE D.A.M.S. GUNWHARF AT GLASGOW                     33

        OFFICERS AT GLASGOW                            39

  THE LOSS OF A LINER                                  44



        CONVOY                                         59

        PASSAGE TO FRANCE                              67

        VOYAGES                                        69

  THE RULER OF PILOTS AT DEAL                          77

  A HEAVILY ARMED COASTING BARGE                       83

  THE LAMPMAN OF THE GULL LIGHTSHIP                    93

  MINESWEEPERS GOING OUT                               97

  SOUTHAMPTON WATER                                   103

  'OUT-BOATS' IN A MERCHANTMAN                        105


  QUEEN'S DOCK, GLASGOW                               116

  THE BRIDGE-BOY REPAIRING FLAGS                      121


  TRANSPORTS IN SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS                     129



        OF THE POWER LEADS                            145

        OFFICERS MAKING A SURVEY                      151

  A TORPEDOED SHIP IN DRY DOCK                        157

  DAZZLE                                              163


  A STANDARD SHIP AT SEA                              177

  BUILDING A STANDARD SHIP                            179

  THE THAMES ESTUARY IN WAR-TIME                      184

  DROPPING THE PILOT                                  187

        STEAMER                                       190


  EVENING: PLYMOUTH HOE                               198

  A CONVOY CONFERENCE                                 201

  THE OLD HARBOUR, PLYMOUTH                           205


  INWARD BOUND                                        217

  A TRANSPORT LOADING                                 219

  A CONVOY IN THE ATLANTIC                            224




  THE STEERSMAN                                       243

  THE WORK OF A TORPEDO                               244


        LANDING-STAGE, LIVERPOOL                      249

  'M N'                                               252



WRITTEN largely between the shipping crisis of 1917 and the surrender of
German undersea arms at Harwich on November 20, 1918, this book is an
effort to record a seaman's impressions of the trial through which the
Merchants' Service has come in the war.

It is necessarily halting and incomplete. The extent of the subject is
perhaps beyond the safe traverse of a mariner's dead reckoning. Policies
of governmental control and of the economics of our management do not
come within the scope of the book except as text to the diary of
seafaring. Out at sea it is not easy to keep the right proportions in
forming an opinion of measures devised on a grand scale, and of the
operation of which we see only a small part. Our slender thread of
communication with longshore happenings is often broken, and
understanding is warped by conjecture.

In pride of his ancient trade, the seaman may perceive an importance and
vital instrumentality in the ships and their voyages that may not be so
evident to the landsman. By this is the mariner constantly impressed:
that, without the merchant's enterprise on the sea--the adventure of his
finance, his ships, his gear, his men--the armed and enlisted resources
of the State could not have prevailed in averting disaster and defeat.

The unique experiences of individual seamen--the trials of seafaring
under less favourable circumstances than was the writer's good
fortune--the plaints and grievances of our internal affairs--are but
lightly sketched. Many brother seamen may feel that the harassing and
often despairing case of the average tramp steamer has not adequately
been dealt with; that--in "Outward Bound," as an instance--the writer
presents a tranquil and idyllic picture which cannot be accepted as
typical. The bitter hardship of proceeding on a voyage under war
conditions, with the same small crew that was found inadequate in
peace-time, is hardly suggested; the extent of the work to be overtaken
is perhaps camouflaged in that description of setting out. Reality would
more frequently show a vessel being hurried out of dock on the top of
the tide, putting to sea into heavy weather, with the hatchways open
over hasty stowage, and all the litter of a week's harbour disroutine
standing to be cleared by a raw and semi-mutinous crew.

Criticism on these grounds is just: but it was ever the seaman's custom
to dismiss heavy weather--when it was past and gone--and recall only the
fine days of smooth sailing. If the hard times of our strain and
labouring are not wholly over, at least we have fallen in with a more
favouring wind from the land. Conditions in the Merchants' Service are
vastly improved since Germany challenged our right to pass freely on our
lawful occasions. Relations between the owner and the seamen are less
strained. Remuneration for sea-service is now more adequate. The sullen
atmosphere of harsh treatment on the one hand, and grudging service on
the other, has been cleared away by the hurricane threat to our common

Throughout the book there are some few extracts--all indicated by
quotation marks--from the works of modern authors. The writer wishes to
acknowledge their use and to mention the following: "Trinity House," by
Walter H. Mayo; "The Sea," by F. Whymper; "The Merchant Seamen in War,"
by L. Cope Cornford; "Fleets behind the Fleet," by W. Macneile Dixon;
"North Sea Fishers and Fighters" and "Fishermen in Wartime," both by
Walter Wood; the pages of the _Nautical Magazine_.

The grateful thanks of writer and artist are tendered to Rear-Admiral
Sir Douglas Brownrigg, Chief Naval Censor, and to Lord Beaverbrook and
Mr. Arnold Bennett, of the Ministry of Information, for facilities and
kindly assistance in preparation of the work. The writer's indebtedness
to his Owners for encouragement and for generous leave of absence
(without which the book could not have been written) is especially

Mr. Muirhead Bone's drawings reproduced in this book were executed
during the war for the Ministry of Information with the co-operation of
the Admiralty. They are now in the possession of the Imperial War
Museum. With the exception of the illustrations on pages 44, 224, and
252, these drawings were made on the spot.

                                                      DAVID W. BONE






ALTHOUGH sea-interest of to-day finds an expression somewhat trite and
familiar, the spell of the ships and the romance of voyaging drew an
instant and wondering recognition from the older chroniclers. With a
sure sense of right emphasis, yet observing an austere simplicity, they
preserved for us an eloquent and adequate impression of the vital power
of the ships. One outstanding fact remains constantly impressed in their
records--that our island gates are set fast on the limits of tide-mark,
leaving no way out but by passage of the misty sea-line; there is no
gangway to a foreign field other than the planking of our vessels.

Grandeur of the fleets, the might of sea-ordnance, the intense dramatic
decision of a landing, stand out in the great pieces the early writers
and painters designed. Brave kingly figures wind in and out against the
predominant background of rude hulls and rigging and weathered sails.
The outline of the ships and the ungainly figures of the mariners are
definitely placed to impel our thoughts to the distant sea-marches.

Happily for us, the passengers of early days included clerks and learned
men on their pilgrimages, else we had known but little of bygone ship
life. With interest narrowed by bounds of the bulwarks, they noted and
recorded a worthy description. In the mystery of unknown seas, as in
detail of the sea-tackle and the forms and usages of the ship, they
penned a perfect register: down to the tunnage of the butts, we know the
ships--to the 'goun of faldying' and the extent of their lodemanage, we
recognize the men.

At later date we come on the seaman and his ships recorded and portrayed
with a loving enthusiasm. Richard Hakluyt--"with great charges and
infinite cares, after many watchings, toiles and travels, and wearying
out" of his weak body--sets out for us a wonderful chronicle of the
shipping to his day. He grew familiarly acquainted with the chiefest
'Captaines,' the greatest merchants, and the best mariners of our
nation, and acquired at first hand somewhat more than common knowledge
of the sea. He saw not only the waving banners of sea-warriors and the
magnificence of their martial encounters, but lauded victory in far
voyages, the opening to commerce of distant lands, the hardihood of the
Merchant Venturers. He realized the value of the seaman to the nation,
not alone to fight battles on the sea, but as skilful navigators to
further trade and intercourse. He was not ignorant "that shippes are to
litle purpose without skillfull Sea-men; and since Sea-men are not bred
up to perfection of skill in much lesse time than in the time of two
prentiships; and since no kinde of men of any profession in the
commonwealth passe their yeres in so great and continuall hazard of
life; and since of so many, so few grow to gray heires; how needful it
is that . . . these ought to have a better education, than hitherto they
have had."

His matchless patience and care and exactitude were only equalled by his
pride in the doings of the seamen and the merchants. With a joyful
humility he exults in the hoisting of our banners in the Caspian
Sea--not as robber marauders, but as peaceful traders under licence and
ambassade--at the station of an English Ligier in the stately porch of
the Grand Signior at Constantinople, at consulates at Tripolis and
Aleppo, in Babylon and Balsara--"and which is more, at English Shippes
coming to anker in the mighty river of Plate." In script and tabulation
he glories in the tale of the ships, and sets out the names and stations
of humble merchant supercargoes with the same meticulous care as the
rank and titles of the Captain-General of the Armada.

Alas! There was none to set a similarly gifted hand to the further
course of his lone furrow. Purchas tried, but there was no great love of
his subject-matter to spread a glamour on the pages. Perhaps the
magnitude of the task, ever growing and gathering, and the minute and
unwearying succession of Hakluyt's "Navigations and Traffiques,"
discouraged and deterred less ardent followers. Of voyages and
expeditions and discoveries there are volumes enough, but few such
intimate records as "the Oathe ministered to the servants of the
Muscovie company," or the instructions given by the Merchant Adventurers
unto Richard Gibbs, William Biggatt, and John Backhouse, masters of
their ships, have been written since Hakluyt turned his last page.

As outposts to our field, roving bands on a frontier that rises and
falls with the tide, the seamen were ever the first to apprehend the
mutterings of war. With but little needed to set spark to the torch,
they came in to foreign seaport or littoral with a fine confidence in
their ships and arms. Truculent perhaps, and overbearing in their pride
of long voyaging over a mysterious and threatening sea, they were hardly
the ambassadors to aid settlement of a dispute by frank goodwill and
prudence. Sailing outwith the confines of ordered government, their
lawless outlook and freebooting found a ready rejoinder in restraint of
trade and arbitrary imprisonment. Long wars had their seed in tavern
brawls, enforcement "to stoope gallant [lower topsail] and vaile their
bonets" for a puissant king or queen, brought a reckoning of strife and

Although military sea-captains, the glory of their victories, the
worthiness of their ships and appurtenances, figure largely on the pages
of subsequent sea-history, not a great deal has been written of the
sailor captains and their mates and crews. Later chroniclers were
concerned that their subjects should be grand and combatant: there was
little room in their text for trading ventures, or for such humble
recitals as the tale and values of hogshead or caisse or bale. A line of
demarcation was slowly but inevitably ruling a division of our
sea-forces. The service of the ships, devoted indifferently to
sea-warfare or oversea trading--as the nation might be at war or
peace--was in process of adjustment to meet the demands of a new
sea-attack. The vessels were no longer merely floating platforms from
which a military leader could direct a plan of rude assault and engage
the arms of his soldiery, leaving to the masters and seamen the duty of
handling the way of the ship. A new aristocracy had arisen from the
decks who saw, in the pull of their sails, a weapon more powerful than
shock ordnance, and resented the dictation of landsmen on their own
sea-province. Sea-warfare had become a contest, more of seamanship and
manoeuvre, less of stunning impact and a weight of military arms.

In division of the ships and their service, it may quite properly be
claimed that the Merchants' Service remained the parent trunk from
which the new Navy--a gallant growing limb--drew sap and sustenance,
perhaps, in turn, improving the growth of the grand old tree. Certainly
their service was an offshoot, for, since Henry VIII ordered laying of
the first especial war keel, the sea-battles to the present day have
been largely joined by the ships and men and furniture of the merchants,
carrying on in the historic traditional manner of a fight when there was
fighting to be done, a return to trade and enterprise when the great
sea-roads were cleared to commerce. Stout old Sir John Hawkins,
Frobisher, Drake, Davis, Amadas, and Barlow were merchant masters,
shrewd at a venture, in intervals of, and combination with, their deeds
of arms. Only a small proportion of State ships were in issue with the
merchants' men to scourge the great Armada from our shores. Perhaps the
existence of such a vast reserve in ships and men delayed the progress
of purely naval construction. Only with the coming of steam was the line
drawn sharply and definitely--the branch outgrowing the interlock of the
parent stem.

With partial severance and division of the ships, the seamen--who had
been for so long of one breed, laying down sail-needle and caulking-iron
to serve ordnance and hand-cutlass or boarding-pike--had reached a
parting of the ways, and become naval or mercantile as their habits lay.
The State war vessels, built and manned and maintained for strictly
military uses, increased in strength and numbers. Their officers and
crews developed a new seamanship and discipline that had little
counterpart on the commercial vessels. For a time the two services
sailed, if not in company, within sight and hail of one another. On
occasion they joined to effect glorious issues, but, with the last
broadside of war, courses were set that quickly swerved the fleets

Longer terms of peace gave opportunity for development on lines that
were as poles apart. The Naval Service perfected and exercised their
engines of war, and drilled and seasoned their men to automaton-like
subservience to their plans. A broadening to democratic freedom,
quickened by familiar intercourse with other nationals, had effect with
the merchantmen in rousing a reluctance to a resort to arms; they
desired but a free continuance of trading relations. Although differing
in their operations and ideals, both services were striving to enhance
the sea-power of the nation. Thomas Cavendish, Middleton, Monson,
Hudson, and Baffin--merchant masters--explored the unknown and extended
a field for mercantile ventures, but that field could have been but
indifferently maintained if naval power had not been advanced to protect
the merchantmen in their voyaging.


As their separation developed, relations grew the more distant between
the seamen. While certainly protecting the traders from any foreign
interference, the new Navy did little to effect a community of
interest with their sea-fellows. Prejudices and distrust grew up. State
jealousies and trade monopolies formed a confusion of interests and made
for strained relations between the merchants and the naval chancelleries
on shore. At sea, the arbitrary exercise of authority by the King's
officers was opposed by revolutionary instincts for a free sea on the
part of the merchants' seamen. Forcible impressment to naval service was
the worst that could befall the traders' men. For want of energy or
ability to carry through the drudgery of early sea-training, the naval
officers took toll of the practised commercial seamen as they came in
from sea. Bitter hardship set wedge to the cleavage. After long and
perilous voyaging, absent from a home port for perhaps two or three
years, the homeward-bound sailor had little chance of being allowed a
term of liberty on shore--a brief landward turn to dissolve the salt
casing of his bones. Within sound of his own church bells, in sight of
the windmills and the fields and the home dwelling he had longed for, he
was haled to hard and rigorous sea-service on vessels of war. The
records of the East India Company have frequent references to this cruel
exercise of naval tyranny.

          "On Thursday morning the Directors received the
          agreeable news of the safe arrival of the
          _Devonshire_, Captain Prince, from Bengal. . . .
          Her men have all been impressed by the Men-of-War
          in the Downs, and other hands were put on board
          to bring her up to her moorings in the River."

          ". . . On Sunday morning the Purser of the
          _William_, Captain Petre, arrived in town, who
          brought advice of the said ship in the Downs,
          richly laden, on Account of the Turkey Company:
          the Ships of War in the Downs impressed all her
          men, and put others on board to bring her up."

          "Notwithstanding the Report spread about, fourteen
          days ago, that no more sailors would be impressed
          out of the homeward-bound ships, several ships
          that arrived last week had all their men taken
          from them in the Downs."

Serving by turns, as his agility to dodge the gangs was rated, on King's
ship for a turn, then hauling bowline on a free vessel; forced and
hunted and impressed, the shipmen had perhaps sorry records to offer the
historian, then busy with the enthralling chronicles of fleet
engagements and veiling with glamour the toll of battles. Perhaps it
was, after all, the better course to preserve a silence on the traders'
doings and leave to romantic conjecture a continuance of Hakluyt's
patient story.

Since the date of naval offgrowth, the chronicles have not often turned
on our commercial path. Lone voyages and encounters with the sea and
storm are minor enterprises to the sack of cities and the clash of arms
at sea. Unlike the Naval Service, we merchants' men hold few recorded
titles to our keystone in the national fabric. The deeds and documents
may exist, but they are lost to us and forgotten in the files of musty
ledgers. The fruits of our efforts stand in the balances of commercial
structure, and are perhaps more enduring than a roll of record. But, if
we are insistent in our search, we may borrow from the naval charters,
and read that not all the glory of our sea-history lies with the thunder
of broadsides and the impact of a close boarding. Engagement with the
elements--a contest with powers more cruel and implacable than keen
steel--efforts to further able navigation, the standard of our
seamanship--drew notable recruits to the humbler sea-life. The small
crews and less lavish gear on the freighters brought the essentials of
the sea-trade to each individual of the ship's company. Idlers and
landsmen learned quickly and bitterly that their only claim to existence
on a merchant's ship lay in a rapid acquisition of a skill in
seamanship. The lessons and the threats and enforcements did not come
wholly from their superiors, to whose tyranny they might expose a sullen
obstinance, and gain, perhaps, a measure of sympathy from their rude
sea-fellows. Then--as later, in the keen sailing days of our clipper
ships--their hardest taskmasters were foremast hands, watchmates, the
men they lived with and ate with and worked with--bitter critics,
unpersuadable, who saw only menace and a threat to their own safety in
the shipping of a man who could not do man's work. On the decks and
about the spars of a merchant vessel, each man of the few seamen carried
two lives--his own and a shipmate's--in his ability to 'hand, reef, and
steer.' There was no place on board for a 'waister,' a 'swabber,'
longshoreman, or sea labourer. Every man had quickly to prove his
ability: the unrelenting sea gave time for few essays.

Fertility of resource, dexterity to serve at all duties, skill at
handling ship and canvas, were the results of sea-ship training. In the
merchantmen great opportunities offered for advancement in all branches
of the seaman's art. Long voyaging was better exercise for a progression
in navigation than the daily pilotage of the war vessels. Blake, in his
early days as a merchant supercargo, learnt his seafaring on rough
trading voyages, and his training could not have been other than sound
to persist, through twenty years shore-dwelling as a merchant at
Bridgwater, until he was called from his counting-house to command our
naval forces. Dampier was a tarry foremast hand in his day: whatever we
may judge of his conduct, we can have nothing but admiration for his
seamanship. Ill-equipped and short-handed, racked by sea-sores and
scurvy, his expeditions were unparalleled as a triumph of merchant
sea-skill. James Cook learned his trade on the grimy hull of an
east-coast collier--to this day we are working on charts of his masterly

In later years the merit of the trading vessels as sterling sea-schools
was equally plain. During intervals of combatant service, or as prelude
to a naval career, training on the merchants' ships was eagerly sought
by ardent naval seamen who saw the value of its resource in practical
seamanship, in navigation, and weather knowledge. Great captains did not
disdain the measure of the instruction. They sent their heirs to sea in
trading vessels to draw an essence in practice from their sea-cunning.
Hardy, Foley, and Berry had borne a hand at the sheets and braces, and
had steered a lading of goods abroad, before they came to high command
of the King's ships. Who knows what actions in the victories of
Copenhagen, the Nile, and Trafalgar (hinged on the cast of the winds)
were governed by Nelson's early sea-lessons, under Master John Rathbone,
on the decks of a West India merchantman?

For long after, relations and interchange between the two Services were
not so intimate. Until coming of the Great War, with a mutual
appreciation, we had little in common. Our friend and peacemaker--the
influence of seafaring under square sail--languished a while, then died.
In steam-power, with its growth of development and intricacy of
application, we found no worthy successor to present as good an office.
In the long span of a hundred years of sea-peace we grew apart. The gulf
between the two great Services widened to a breach that only the rigours
of a world-conflict could reconcile.

As though exhausted by the indefinite sea-campaign of 1812, the Royal
Navy lay on their oars and saw their commercial sea-fellows forge ahead
on a course that revolutionized sea-transport and sea-warfare alike. The
Lords of the Admiralty would listen to no deprecation of their gallant
old wooden walls: steam propulsion was laughed at. To the Merchants'
Service they left the risk and the responsibility of venturing afar in
the rude new ships. In this wise, to us fell the honour of leading the
State service to a new order of seafaring. Iron hulls and steam
propulsion came first under our hands. It was not long before our new
command of the sea was noted. Somewhat grudgingly, the conservative
sea-mandarins were brought to a knowledge that their torpor was fatal.
The Navy stirred and lost little time in traversing the leeway. They
progressed on a path of experiment and probation suited to their needs,
striving to construct mightier vessels and to forge new and greater
arms. Exploring every avenue in their quest for aid and material, every
byway for furtherance of their aims, they drew strange road-fellows
within their ranks, new workmen to the sea. The engines of their
adoption called for crafty hands to serve and adjust them. Steam we knew
in our time and could understand, but auxiliary mechanics outgrew the
limits of our comprehension; naval practice became a science outwith the
bounds of our sea-lore, a new trade, whose only likeness to ours lay in
its service on the same wide sea.

Parted from the need to draw arms, secure in the knowledge of adequate
naval protection, the Merchants' Service developed their ships and
tackle in the ways of a free world trade. By shrewd engagement and
industry in the counting-house, diligence and forethought in the
building-yards, keen sailing and efficiency on the sea, the structure of
our maritime supremacy was built up and maintained. Monopolies and
hindering trade reservations and restrictions barred the way, but
yielded to the spirit of our progress. Vested interests in seas and
continents had to be fought and conquered, and there was room and scope
for lingering combative instincts in the keen competition that arose for
the world's carrying trade. Other nations came on the free seas, secure
in the peace our arms had wrought, and entered the lists against us. The
challenge to our seafaring we met by skill and hardihood--keener and
more polished arms than the weapons of our sea-fathers. The coming of
competitors spurred us to sea-deeds in the handling of our ships and
cargoes, dispatch in the ports, and activity in the yards, that brought
acknowledged victory to our flag. Every sense and thought that was in us
was used to further our supremacy. The craft and workmanship of the
builders and enterprise of the merchants provided us with the most
beautiful of man's creations on the sea--the square-rigged sailing ship
of the nineteenth century. With pride we sailed her. We, too, brought
science to our calling; rude, perhaps, and not readily defined save by a
long, hard pupilage. Not less than the calibre of the new naval ordnance
was the measure of our sail spread, not inferior to ironclad hulls the
speed and beauty of our clippers--we paralleled the roads of their
strategy by the masterly handling of a cloud in sail. With a regularity
and precision as noted as our naval sea-brothers' advance in gunfire, we
served the trade and the mails, and spread the flood of emigration to
the rise and glory of the Empire.

With the decline of square sail, a new way of seafaring opened to us. In
the first of our steam pioneering, we took our yards and canvas with us,
as good part of our sea-kit; a safe provision, as we thought, against
the inevitable failure we looked for in the new navigation. We were
conservatively jealous of our gallant top hamper, and scorned the
promise of a power that only dimly as yet we understood. But--the
promise held. In a few years we became converts to the new order, in
which we found a greater security, a more definite reliance, than in the
angles of our sail plane. There was no longer a need for our precious
'stand by,' and we unrigged the wind tackle and accepted our new
shipmate, the marine engineer, as a worthy brother seaman. It was not
only the spars and the cordage and the sails we put ashore. With all
the gallant litter we unloaded, condemned to the junk-heap, went a part
of our seamanship as closely woven to the canvas as the seams our hands
had sewn.

In steam practice, new problems required to be studied and resolved;
challenges to our vaunted sea-lore came up that called for radical
revision of older methods and ideas. Changes, as wide and drastic as the
evolutions of a decade in sail, were presented in a swift succession of
as many days. With eyes now turned from aloft to ahead, we retyped our
seamanship to meet the altered conditions of the veer in our outlook.
Unhelped, if unhindered, in our efforts, we adapted our calling to the
sudden and revolutionary innovations in construction and power of the
new ships. We grew sensible of gaps in our knowledge, of voids in
education that our earlier handicraft had not revealed. Severed, by
press of our sea-work, from the facilities for study that now offered
advancement to the landsman, we sought in alert and constant practice a
substitute for technical instruction. By step and stride and canter we
jockeyed each new starter from the shipyards, and studied their paces
and behaviour on the vexed testing courses of the open sea. If our
methods were rude in trial, they settled to efficiency in service. We
paced in step with the rapid developments of the shipwright's art, the
not less active contrivance of the engineers. We kept no man waiting for
a sea-controller to his new and untried machine: there was no whistling
for a pilot on the grounds of our reaches. From oversea dredger and
frail harbour tug to the magnitude of an _Aquitania_, we were ever ready
to board her on the launching ways and steer her to the limits of her

A Hakluyt of the day would have a full measure for his enthusiasm in the
shear of our keels on every sea, the flutter of our flags to all the
winds. By virtue of worthy vessels and good seamanship, the Red Ensign
was devoted to a world service; by good guardianship and commercial
rectitude the Merchants' Service held charge of the world's wealth in
transport--the burden of the ships. All nations put trust in us for
sea-carriage. The Spanish onion-grower on the slopes of Valencia, the
Java sugar merchants, the breeders of Plata, looked to their harbours
for sight of our hulls to load their products. Greek boatmen took
payment for their cases on a scrap of dingy paper; the tide-labourers of
the world demanded no earnest of their fees ere setting to work--our
flag was their guarantor. The incoming of our ships brought throng to
the quay-sides of far seaports; the outgoing sent the prospering
merchants to the bank counters, to draw value from our skill in
navigation, our integrity, and sea-care.


THE avalanche of war found us, if unprepared, not unready. The
Merchants' Service was in the most efficient state of all its long
story. Bounteous harvests had set a tide of prosperity to all parts of
the world. Trade had reached the summit of a register in volume and
account. The transport of the world's goods was busied as never before.
With every outward stern wash went a full lading of our manufactures--a
bulk of coal, a mass of wrought steel; foam at the bows--returning,
brought exchange in food and raw materials, grist to the mills of our
toiling artisans--a further provision for continuation of our trading.
There were no idle keels swinging the tides in harbour for want of
profitable employment; no seamen lounging on the dockside streets
awaiting a 'sight' to sign-on for a voyage. Bulk of cargoes exceeded the
tonnage of the ships, and the riverside shipyards resounded to the busy
clamour of new construction. Advanced systems of propulsion had emerged
from tentative stages, were fully tried and proved, and owners were
adding to their fleets the latest and largest vessels that art of
shipwrights and skill of the engineers could supply. We were well built
and well found and well employed in all respects, not unready for any
part that called us to sea.

On such a stage the gage was thrown. Right on the heels of the courier
with challenge accepted, went the ships laden with a new and precious
cargo--our gallant men-at-arms. Before a shot of ours was fired, the
first blow in the conflict was swung by passage of the ships: throughout
the length of it, only by the sea-lanes could the shock be maintained.

Viewing the numbers and tonnage of the ships, the roll and character of
the seamen, we were not uneasy for the sea-front. With the most powerful
war fleet in the world boarding on the coasts of the enemy, we had
little to fear. The transports and war-service vessels could be
adequately safeguarded: the peaceful traders on their lawful occasions
could trust in international law of the civilized seas, on which no
destruction may be effected without cause, prefaced by examination. Of
raiders and detached war units there might be some apprehension, but the
White Ensign was abroad and watchful--it was impossible that the shafts
of the enemy could reach us on the sea. For a time we set out on our
voyages and returned without interference.

[Illustration: THE OLD AND THE NEW


Anon, an amazing circumstance shocked our blythe assurance. In a new
warfare, by traverse of a route we thought was barred, the impossible
became a stern reality! While able, by power of their ships and skill
and gallantry of the men, to keep the surface naval forces of the
enemy doomed to ignoble harbour watch, the mightiest war fleet the seas
had ever carried was impotent wholly to protect us! Our Achilles heel
was exposed to merciless under-water attack, to a new weapon, deadly in
precision and difficult to counter or evade. Throwing to the winds all
shreds of honour and conscionable restraint, all vestiges of a
sea-respect for non-combatants and neutrals, the pacts and bounds of
international law--the humane sea-usages that spared women and children
and stricken wounded--the decivilized German set up the banners of a
stark piracy, an ocean anarchy, to whose lieutenants the sea-wolves of
an earlier age were but feeble enervated weaklings.

Piracy, gloried in and undisguised, faced us. Well and definite! We had
known piracy in the long years of our sea-history: we had dealt with
their trade to a full settlement at yard-arm or gallows. The course of
our seafaring was not to be arrested by even the deep roots and deadly
poison of this not unknown sea-growth: we had scaled the foul barnacles
and cut the rank weeds before in the course of sea-development. If our
ways had become peaceful in the long years of unchallenged trading, our
habits were never less than combatant throughout a life of struggle with
storm and tide. Not while we had a ship and a man to the helm would we
be driven from the sea; our hard-won heritage was not to be delivered
under threat or operation of even the most surpassing frightfulness.
Jealousy for our seafaring, for our name as sailors, forbade that we
should skulk in harbour or linger behind the nets and booms. Our work,
our livelihood, our proud sea-trade, our honour was on the open sea. Our
pride was this--that, in our action, we would be followed by the
seafarers of the world. It was for no idle vaunt we boasted our
supremacy at sea. If we could take first place of the world's seamen in
time of peace, our station was to lead in war. We put out to sea--the
neutrals followed. Had we held to port, German orders would have halted
the sea-traffic of the world. With no shield but our seamanship, no
weapon but the keenness of our eyes, no power of defence or assault
other than the swing of a ready helm, we met the pirates on the sea,
with little pretension in victory and no whining in defeat.

Challenged to stand and submit, the _Vosges_ answered with a cant of the
helm and hoist of her flag, and stood on her way under a merciless hail
of shot. Unarmed, outsped, there was little prospect of escape--only, in
an obstinate sea-pride, lay acceptance of the challenge. With decks
littered by wreckage and wounded, bridge swept by shrapnel, water making
through her torn hull, there was no thought to lay-to and droop the flag
in surrender. When, at length, the ensign was shot away, there were men
enough to hoist another. In hours their agony was measured, until, in
despair of completing his foul work, the enemy gave up the contest.
Reeking of the combat, the _Vosges_ foundered under her wounds. The sea
took her from her gallant crew, but they had not given up the
ship--their flag still fluttered at the peak as she went down.
_Anglo-Californian_ fought a grim, silent fight for four hours, matching
the intensity of the German gunfire by the dogged quality of her mute
defiance. _Palm Branch_ turned away from galling fire at short range,
double-banked the press in the stokehold, and cut and turned on her
course to confuse the ranges. Her stern was shattered by shell, the
lifeboats blown away; the apprentice at the wheel stood to his job with
blood running in his eyes. Fire broke out and added a new terror to the
situation. There was no flinching. Through it all the engines turned
steadily, driven to their utmost speed by the engineers and firemen. A
one-sided affair--a floating hell for seamen to stand by, helpless, and
take a frightful gruelling! But they stood to it, and came to port.

If, under new and treacherous blows, our hearts beat the faster, there
was little pause, no stoppage, in the steady coursing of our
sea-arteries. We fought the menace with the same spirit our old
sea-fathers knew. Undeterred by the ghastly handicap against us--the
galling fetters of a policy that kept us unarmed, we pitted our brains
and seamanship against the murderous mechanics of the enemy. To the new
under-water attack there were few adequate counter-measures in the
records of our old seafaring. We revised the standard manual, drew text
from old games, shield from the cuttlefish, models for our sweeps from
discarded sea-tackle. Special devices, new plans, stern services were
called for; we devised, we specialized--our readiness was never more
instant. Out of our strength we built up a new Service. Instruction and
equipment came from the Royal Navy, but the men were ours. In the throes
of our exertions the Merchants' Service repeated a tradition. The stout
aged tree shot forth another worthy limb--a second Navy--not less ardent
or resourceful than the first offshoot, now grown to be our guardian.

Our branches twined and interlocked in service of a joint endeavour.
Under the fierce blast of war we swayed and weighed together in shield
of our ancient foundation. Within our ranks we had cunning fishers,
keen, resolute sea-fighters of the banks, to whom the coming of a
strange mechanical devil-fish offered a new zest to the chase, a famous
netting. Enrolled to Special Service, they engaged the enemy at his
doorstep and patrolled the areas of his outset. Undaunted by the odds,
deterred by no risk or threat, they ranged and searched the sea-channels
and cleared the lanes for our safe passage. To detect, to warn, to meet
and counter-charge the submarine in his depths, to safeguard the narrow
seas from hazard of the mines, was all in the day's work of the
_Temporary_ R.N.R.

Throughout all the enrolments, the divisions, the changes, and the
training for new and special duties, there was no easing of the engines:
we effected our adjustments and allotments under a full head of steam.
All that the enemy could do could not prevent the steady reinforcement
of our arms, the passage of our men, the transport of our trade. The
long lines of our sea-communications remained unbroken, despite our
losses and the grim spectre of the raft and the open boat. It could not
be otherwise--and Britain stand. There could be no halt in the
sea-traffic. Only from abroad could we draw supplies to raise the new
leaguer of our island garrison; only by way of the sea could we retain
and renew our strength.

In time the intolerable shackles of inactive resistance were struck from
our hands. Somewhat tardily we were supplied with weapons of defence and
instructed in their use and maintainance. We went to school again, under
tutelage of the Naval Service, and drew a helpful assistance from the
tale of their courses since we had parted company. We were heartened by
the new spirit of co-operation with the fighting service. Ungrudgingly
they lent experts to direct our movement. They turned a stream of their
inventive talent in the ways of gear and apparatus to protect our ships.
They shipped our ordnance, and supplied skilled gunners to leaven our
rude crews. More, they helped to strip the veneer of convention that
hampered us--our devotion to standard practice in rules and lights and
equipment. We learned our lessons. Even though the peaceful years had
lessened our fighting spring, we had lost no aptitude for service of the
guns in defence of our rights, nor for measure to deceive or evade.
Armed and alert, we returned to the sea, confident in the discard of a
weight in our handicap. We could strike back, and with no feeble
blow--as the pirates soon learned.

There were scores to settle. _Palm Branch_, belying her tranquil name,
took a payment in full for her shattered stern and the blood running in
the steersman's eyes. Keen eyes sighted a periscope in time. The helm
was put over and the white track raced across the stern, missing by
feet. Baffled in under-water attack, the enemy hove up from his depths
to open surface fire. He never had opportunity. If look-out was good,
gun action was as quick and ready in _Palm Branch_. Her first shot
struck the conning-tower, the second drove home on the submarine, which
sank. While all eyes were focused on the settling wash and spreading
scum of oil, a new challenge came and was as speedily accepted. A shell,
fired by a second submarine at long range, passed over the steamer.
Slewing round to a new target, the gunners kept up a steady return, shot
for shot. The submarine dropped farther astern, fearing the probe of a
bracket: he angled his course to bring both his guns in action. Two
pieces against the steamer's one! At that, he fared no better. Firing
continuously, eighty rounds in less than an hour, he registered not one

At length _Palm Branch's_ steady, methodical search for the range had
effect. Her gunners capped the day's fine shooting by a direct hit on
the submarine's after-gun, shattering the piece. At evens again--the
U-boat ceased fire and drew off, possibly under threat of British
patrols approaching at full speed, more probably for the good and
sufficient reason that he had had enough.

Not all our contests were as happily decided. If--shirking the issue of
the guns, with no zest for a square fight--the German went to his
depths, he had still the deadly torpedo to enforce a toll. The toll we
paid and are paying, but there is no stoppage in the round by which the
nation is fed and her arms served. The burden is heavy and our losses
great, but we have not failed. We dare not fail.





AFTER an interval of a hundred years, we are come to work together
again, banded, as in the days of the Armada, to keep the seas against a
ruthless challenger. In view of a new blood-bond between us, it is
difficult to write coldly of the causes that have kept us apart. Only by
preface of an affirmation can it be made possible. Through all our
differences, prejudices, envies--perhaps jealousies--there ran at least
one clear unsullied thread--our admiration for the Navy, our glory in
its strength and power, our belief in its matchless efficiency.

We seamen, naval or mercantile, are a stout unmovable breed. Tenacity to
our convictions is deeply rooted. The narrow trends of shipboard life
give licence to a conservatism that out-Herods Herod in intensity,
unreason--in utter sophistry. We extend this atmosphere to our
relationships, to the associations with the beach, with other
sea-services, with other ships--to the absurd pretensions of the other
watch. "A sailorman afore a landsman, an' a shipmate afore all," may be
a useful creed, but it engenders a contentious outlook, an intolerance
difficult to reconcile. In the fo'c'sle, the upholding of a 'last ship'
may lead to a broken nose; aft, the officers may quarrel, wordily, over
the grades of their service; ashore, the captain may only reserve his
confidences for a peer of his tonnage; over all, the distance between
the Naval and Merchants' Services was immeasurable and complete.

If it was so to this date, it was perhaps more intense in the old days
when common seafaring had not set as broad a distinction, as widely
divergent a sea-practice, as our modern services shew. That such a
contentious atmosphere existed we have ample witness. After experience
as a merchants' man, Nelson wrote of his re-entry. "I returned a
practical seaman with a horror of the Royal Navy. . . . It was many
weeks before I got the least reconciled to a man-o'-war, so deep was the
prejudice rooted!" We have no such noted record of a merchant seaman
re-entering from the Navy. Doubtless the laxity and indiscipline he
might observe would produce a not dissimilar revulsion.

In the years that have elapsed since Nelson wrote, we have had few
opportunities to compose our differences, to get on better terms with
one another. The course of naval development took the great war fleets
hull down on our commercial horizon, beyond casual intercommunication.
On rare and widely separated occasions we fell into an expedition
together, but the unchallenged power of the naval forces only served to
heighten the barriers that stood between us. At the Crimea, in India, on
the Chinese and Egyptian expeditions, during the Boer War, we were
important links in the venture, but no more important than the cargoes
we ferried. There was no call for any service other than our usual
sea-work. The Navy saw to it that our comings and goings were
unmolested. We were sea-civilians, purely and simply; there was nothing
more to be said about it.

If little was said, it was with no good grace we took such a station.
There were those who saw that seafaring could not thus arbitrarily be
divided. Other nations were stirring and striving to a naval strength
and power, drawing aid and personnel from their mercantile services.
Sea-strength and paramountcy might not wholly come to be measured in
terms of thickness of the armour-plating--in calibre of the great guns.
Auxiliary services would be required. The Navy could no more work
without us than the Army without a Service Corps.

The Royal Naval Reserve came as a link to our intercourse. Certain of
our shipmates left us for a period of naval training. They came back
changed in many particulars. They had acquired a social polish, were
perhaps less 'sailor-like' in their habits. As a rule they were
discontented with the way of things in their old ships; the quiet rounds
bored them after the crowded life in a warship. We were frequently
reminded of how well and differently things were done in _the_ Service.
Perhaps, in return, we took the wrong line. We made no effort to sift
their experiences, to find out how we might improve our ways. Often our
comrade's own particular shrewdness was cited as a reason for the better
ways of naval practice. We were rather irritated by the note of
superiority assumed, perhaps somewhat jealous. Had commissions been
granted on a competitive basis, we might have accepted such a tone, but
we had our own way of assessing sea-values, and saw no reason why we
should stand for these new airs. What was in it, what had wrought the
change, we were never at pains to investigate. It was enough for us to
note that, though his watch-keeping was certainly improved, our
re-entered shipmate did not seem to be as efficient as a navigator or
cargo supervisor as once we had thought him. All his talk of drills and
guns and station-keeping considered, he seemed to have quite forgotten
that groundnuts are thirteen hundredweights to the space ton and ought
not to be stowed near fine goods!

On the other hand, he might reasonably be expected to see his old
shipmates in a new light. Rude, perhaps. Of limited ideas. Tied to the
old round of petty bickerings and small intrigues. He would note the
want of trusty brotherhood. His sojourn among better-educated men may
have roused his ideas to an appreciation of values that deep-sea life
had obscured. The lack of the discipline to which he had become
accustomed would appal and disquiet him. In time he would be worn to the
rut again, but who can say the same rut? Unconsciously, we were
influenced by his quieter manners. In self-study we saw faults that had
been unnoticed before his return. Reviewing our hard sea-life, we
recalled our exclusion from benefits of instruction that went a-begging
on the beach. We stirred. There might yet be time to make up the leeway.

The influence of naval training was never very pronounced among the
seamen and firemen of the Merchants' Service who were attached to the
R.N.R. Their periods of training were too short for them to be
permanently influenced by the discipline of the Navy (or our
indiscipline on their return to us may have blighted a promising
growth!) On short-term training they were rarely allotted to important
work. The governing attitude was rather that they should be used as
auxiliaries, mercantile handymen, in a ship. If there was a stowage of
stores, cleaning up of bilges, chipping and scaling of iron rust--well,
here was mercantile Jack, who was used to that kind of work; who better
for the job? Generally, he returned to his old ways rather tired of Navy
'fashion' and discipline, and one saw but little influence of his
temporary service on a cruiser. Usually, he was a good hand, to begin
with: he sought a post on good ships: with his papers in order we were
very glad to have him back.

In few other ways did we come in touch with the Navy. At times the
misfortune of the sea brought us into a naval port for assistance in our
distress. Certainly, assistance was readily forthcoming, a full measure,
but in a somewhat cold and formal way that left a rankling impression
that we were not--well, we were not perhaps desirable acquaintances. The
naval manner was not unlike that of a courteous prescribing chemist over
his counter. "Have you had the pain--long?" "Is there any--coughing?" We
had always the feeling that they were bored by our custom, were anxious
to get back to the mixing of new pills, to their experiments. We were
not very sorry when our repairs were completed and we could sail for
warmer climates.

With the outbreak of war the R.N.R. was instantly mobilized. Their
outgoing left a sensible gap in our ranks, a more considerable rift than
we had looked for. Example drew others on their trodden path, our
mercantile seamen were keen for fighting service; the unheralded torpedo
had not yet struck home on their own ships. Commissions to a new entry
of officers were still limited and capricious--the _Hochsee Flotte_ had
not definitely retired behind the booms at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, to
weave a web of murder and assassination. For a short term we sailed on
our voyages, on a steady round, differing but little from our normal
peace-time trade.

A short term. The enemy did not leave us long secure in our faith in
civilized sea-usage. Our trust in International Law received a rude and
shattering shock from deadly floating mine and racing torpedo. Paralysed
and impotent to venture a fleet action, the German Navy was to be
matched not only against the commercial fleets of Britain and her
Allies, but against every merchant ship, belligerent or neutral. There
was to be no gigantic clash of sea-arms; action was to be taken on the
lines of Thuggery. The German chose his opponents as he chose his
weapons. Assassins' weapons! The knife in the dark--no warning, no
quarter, sink or swim! The 'sea-civilians' were to be driven from the
sea by exercise of the most appalling frightfulness and savagery that
the seas had ever known.

Under such a threat our sea-services were brought together on a rapid
sheer, a close boarding, in which there was a measure of confusion. It
could not have been otherwise. The only provision for co-operation, the
R.N.R. organization, was directed to augment the forces of the Navy:
there was no anticipation of a circumstance that would sound a recall.
Our machinery was built and constructed to revolve in one direction; it
could not instantly be reversed. Into an ordered service, ruled by the
most minute shades of seniority, the finest influences of precedence and
tradition, there came a need to fit the mixed alloy of the Merchants'
Service. Ready, eager, and willing, as both Services were, to devote
their energies to a joint endeavour, it took time and no small patience
to resolve the maze and puzzle of the jig-saw. Naval officers detailed
for our liaison were of varied moulds. Not many of the Active List could
be spared; our new administrators were mostly recalled from fishing and
farming to take up special duties for which they had few qualifications
other than the gold lace on their sleeves. Some were tactful and clever
in appreciation of other values than a mere readiness to salute, and
those drew our affection and a ready measure of confidence. Others set
up plumed Gessler bonnets, to which we were in no mood to bow. Only our
devotion to the emergency exacted a jerk of our heads. To them we were
doubtless difficult and trying. Our free ways did not fit into their
schemes of proper routine. Accustomed to the lines of their own formal
service, to issuing orders only to their juniors, they had no guide to a
commercial practice whereby there can be a concerted service without the
usages of the guard-room. They made things difficult for us without
easing their own arduous task. They objected to our manners, our
appearance, to the clothes we wore. Our diffidence was deemed
truculence: our reluctance to accept a high doctrine of subservience was
measured as insubordination.

The flames of war made short work of our moods and jealousies,
prejudices, and dislikes. A new Service grew up, the _Temporary_ R.N.R.,
in which we were admitted to a share in our own governance and no small
part in combatant operations at sea. The sea-going section found outlet
for their energy and free scope for a traditional privateering in their
individual ventures against the enemy. Patrolling and hunting gave high
promise for their capacity to work on lines of individual control.
Minesweeping offered a fair field for the peculiar gifts of seamanship
that mercantile practice engenders. Commissioned to lone and perilous
service, they kept the seas in fair weather or foul. Although stationed
largely in the narrow seas, there were set no limits to the latitude and
longitude of their employment. The ice of the Arctic knew them--riding
out the bitter northern gales in their small seaworthy drifters,
thrashing and pitching in the seaway, to hold a post in the chain of our
sea-communications. In the Adriatic warmer tides lapped on their scarred
hulls, but brought no relaxing variance to their keen look-out. For want
of a match of their own size, they had the undying temerity to call
three cheers and engage cruiser ordnance with their pipe-stems! A
service indeed! If but _temporary_ in title, there is permanence in
their record!

Coincident with our actions on the sea--not alone those of our fighting
cubs, but also those of our trading seamen--a better feeling came to
cement our alliance. First in generous enthusiasm for our struggle
against heavy odds, as they came to understand our difficulties, naval
officers themselves set about to create a happier atmosphere. We were
admitted to a voice in the league of our defence. Administration was
adjusted to meet many of our grievances. Our capacity for controlling
much of the machinery of our new movements was no longer denied. The
shreds of old conservatism, the patches of contention and envy were
scattered by a strong free breeze of reasoned service and joint effort.

We meet the naval man on every turn of the shore-end of our seafaring.
We have grown to admire him, to like him, to look forward to his coming
and association in almost the same way that we are pleased at the
boarding of our favoured pilots. He fits into our new scheme of things
as readily as the Port Authorities and the Ship's Husband. The plumed
bonnets are no longer set up to attract our awed regard: by a better way
than caprice and petulant discourtesy, the naval officer has won a high
place in our esteem. We have borrowed from his stock to improve our
store; better methods to control our manning, a more dispassionate
bearing, a ready subordinance to ensure service. His talk, too. We use
his phrases. We 'carry on'; we ask the 'drill' for this or that; we
speak of our sailing orders as 'pictures,' our port-holes are become
'scuttles.' The enemy is a 'Fritz,' a depth-charge a 'pill,' torpedoes
are 'mouldies.' In speaking of our ships we now omit the definite
article. We are getting on famously together.


ALTHOUGH our experience of their assured protection is clear and
definite, our personal acquaintance with the larger vessels of the Navy
is not intimate. Saving the colliers and the oilers and storeships that
serve the Fleet, few of us have seen a 'first-rate' on open sea since
the day the Grand Fleet steered north to battle stations. The strength
and influence of the distant ships was plain to us in the first days of
the war even if we had actually no sight of their grey hulls. While we
were able to proceed on our lawful occasions with not even a warning of
possible interference, the mercantile ships of the enemy--being
abroad--had no course but to seek the protection of a neutral port, not
again to put out to sea under their own colours.

The operation of a threat to shipping--at three thousand miles
distance--was dramatic in intensity under the light of acute contrast.
Entering New York a few days after war had been declared, we berthed
alongside a crack German liner. Her voyage had been abandoned: she lay
at the pier awaiting events. At the first, we stared at one another
curiously. Her silent winches and closed hatchways, deserted decks and
passages, were markedly in contrast to the stir and animation with which
we set about unloading and preparing for the return voyage. The few
sullen seamen about her forecastle leant over the bulwarks and noted the
familiar routine that was no longer theirs. Officers on the bridge-deck
eyed our movements with interest, despite their apparent unconcern. We
were respectfully hostile: submarine atrocities had not yet begun. The
same newsboy served special editions to both ships. The German officers
grouped together, reading of the fall of Liége. Doubtless they confided
to one another that they would soon be at sea again. Five days we lay.
At eight o'clock 'flags,' our bugle-call accompanied the raising of the
ensign: the red, white, and black was hoisted defiantly at the same
time. We unloaded, re-loaded, and embarked passengers, and backed out
into the North River on our way to sea again. The _Fürst_ ranged to the
wash of our sternway as we cleared the piers; her hawsers strained and
creaked, then held her to the bollards of the quay.

Time and again we returned on our regular schedule, to find the German
berthed across the dock, lying as we had left her, with derricks down
and her hatchways closed. . . . We noted the signs of neglect growing on
her; guessed at the indiscipline aboard that inaction would produce. For
a while her men were set to chipping and painting in the way of a good
sea-custom, but the days passed with no release and they relaxed
handwork. Her topsides grew rusty, her once trim and clean paintwork
took on a grimy tint. Our doings were plain to her officers and crew: we
were so near that they could read the tallies on the mailbags we
handled: there were no mails from Germany. Loading operations, that
included the embarkation of war material, went on by night and day: we
were busied as never before. The narrow water space between her hull and
ours was crowded by barges taking and delivering our cargo; the shriek
of steam-tugs and clangour of their engine-bells advertised our stir and
activity. On occasion, the regulations of the port obliged the _Fürst_
to haul astern, to allow working space for the Merritt-Chapman crane to
swing a huge piece of ordnance to our decks. There were rumours of a
concealed activity on the German. "She was coaling silently at night, in
preparation for a dash to sea.". . . "German spies had their headquarters
in her." The evening papers had a new story of her secret doings
whenever copy ran short. All the while she lay quietly at the pier; we
rated her by her draught marks that varied only with the galley coal she

At regular periods her hopeless outlook was emphasized by our sailings.
Officers and crew could not ignore the stir that attended our departure.
They saw the 'blue peter' come fluttering from the masthead, and heard
our syren roar a warning to the river craft as we backed out. We were
laden to our marks and the decks were thronged with young Britons
returning to serve their country. The Fatherland could have no such
help: the _Fürst_ could handle no such cargo. For her there could be no
movement, no canting on the tide and heading under steam for the open
sea: the distant ships of the Grand Fleet held her in fetters at the

While the Battle Fleet opened the oceans to us, we were not wholly safe
from enemy interference on the high seas in the early stages of the war.
German commerce raiders were abroad; there was need for a more tangible
protection to the merchants' ships on the oversea trade routes. The
older cruisers were sent out on distant patrols. They were our first
associates of the huge fleet subsequently detailed for our defence and
assistance. We were somewhat in awe of the naval men at sea on our early
introduction. The White Ensign was unfamiliar. Armed to the teeth, an
officer from the cruiser would board us: the bluejackets of his boat's
crew had each a rifle at hand. "Where were we from . . . where to . . .
our cargo . . . our passengers?" The lieutenant was sternly courteous; he
was engaged on important duties: there was no mood of relaxation. He
returned to his boat and shoved off with not one reassuring grin for the
passengers lining the rails interested in every row-stroke of his
whaler. In time we both grew more cordial: we improved upon
acquaintance. The drudgery and monotony of a lone patrol off a neutral
coast soon brought about a less punctilious boarding. Our
_procès-verbal_ had unofficial intervals. "How were things at home? . . .
Are we getting the men trained quickly? . . . What about the Russians?"
The boarding lieutenants discovered the key to our affections--the
secret sign that overloaded their sea-boat with newspapers and fresh
mess. "A fine ship you've got here, Captain!" We parted company at ease
and with goodwill. The boat would cast off to the cheers of our
passengers. The great cruiser, cleared for action with her guns trained
outboard, would cant in to close her whaler. Often her band assembled on
the upper deck: the favourite selections were 'Auld Lang Syne' and 'Will
ye no' come back again'--as she swung off on her weary patrol.

Submarine activities put an end to these meetings on the sea. Except
while under ocean escort of a cruiser--when our relations by flag signal
are studied and impersonal--we have now little acquaintance with
vessels of that class. Counter-measures of the new warfare demand the
service of smaller vessels. Destroyers and sloops are now our protectors
and co-workers. With them, we are drawn to a familiar intimacy; we are,
perhaps, more at ease in their company, dreading no formal routine.
Admirals are, to us, awesome beings who seclude themselves behind
gold-corded secretaries: commodores (except those who control our
convoys) are rarely sea-going, and we come to regard them as
schoolmasters, tutors who may not be argued with; post-captains in
command of the larger escorts have the brusque assumption of a
super-seamanship that takes no note of a limit in manning. The
commanders and lieutenants of the destroyers and sloops that work with
us are different; they are more to our mind--we look upon them as
brother seamen. Like ourselves, they are 'single-ship' men. They are
neither concerned with serious plans of naval strategy nor overbalanced
by the forms and usages of great ship routine. While 'the bridge' of a
cruiser may be mildly scornful upon receipt of an objection to her
signalled noon position, the destroyer captain is less assured: he is
more likely to request our estimate of the course and speed. His
seamanship is comparable to our own. The relatively small crew he
musters has taught him to be tolerant of an apparent delay in carrying
out certain operations. In harbour he is frequently berthed among the
merchantmen, and has opportunity to visit the ships and acquire more
than a casual knowledge of our gear and appliances. He is ever a welcome
visitor, frank and manly and candid. Even if there is a dispute as to
why we turned north instead of south-east 'when that Fritz came up,' and
we blanked the destroyer's range, there is not the air of superior
reproof that rankles.

In all our relations with the Navy at sea there was ever little, if any,
friction. We saw no empty plumed bonnet in the White Ensign. We were
proud of the companionship and protection of the King's ships. Our ready
service was never grudged or stinted to the men behind the grey guns;
succour in our distress was their return. Incidents of our co-operation
varied, but an unchanging sea-brotherhood was the constant light that
shone out in small occurrences and deathly events.

Dawn in the Channel, a high south gale and a bitter confused sea. Even
with us, in a powerful deep-sea transport, the measure of the weather
was menacing; green seas shattered on board and wrecked our fittings,
half of the weather boats were gone, others were stove and useless. A
bitter gale! Under our lee the destroyer of our escort staggered through
the hurtling masses that burst and curled and swept her fore and aft.
Her mast and one funnel were gone, the bridge wrecked; a few dangling
planks at her davits were all that was left of her service boats. She
lurched and faltered pitifully, as though she had loose water below,
making through the baulks and canvas that formed a makeshift shield over
her smashed skylights. In the grey of the murky dawn there was yet
darkness to flash a message: "_In view of weather probably worse as wind
has backed, suggest you run for Waterford while chance, leaving us to
carry on at full speed._" An answer was ready and immediate: "_Reply.
Thanks. I am instructed escort you to port._"

The Mediterranean. A bright sea and sky disfigured by a ring of curling
black smoke--a death-screen for the last agonies of a torpedoed
troopship. Amid her littering entrails she settles swiftly, the stern
high upreared, the bows deepening in a wash of wreckage. Boats, charged
to inches of freeboard, lie off, the rowers and their freight still and
open-mouthed awaiting her final plunge. On rafts and spars, the upturned
strakes of a lifeboat, remnants of her manning and company grip
safeguard, but turn eyes on the wreck of their parent hull. Into the
ring, recking nothing of entangling gear or risk of suction, taking the
chances of a standing shot from the lurking submarine, a destroyer
thunders up alongside, brings up, and backs at speed on the sinking
transport. Already her decks are jammed to a limit, by press of a
khaki-clad cargo she was never built to carry. This is final, the last
turn of her engagement. The foundering vessel slips quickly and deeper.
"Come along, Skipper! You've got 'em all off! You can do no more!


SOME years before the war we were lying at an East Indian port, employed
in our regular trade. The military students of the Quetta Staff College
were in the district, engaged in practical exercise of their staff
lessons. On a Sunday (our loading being suspended) they boarded us to
work out in detail a question of troop transport. It was assumed that
our ship was requisitioned in an emergency, and their problem was to
estimate the number of men we could carry and to plan arrangement of the
troop decks. Their inspection was to be minute; down to the sufficiency
of our pots and pans they were required to investigate and figure out
the resources of our vessel. The officer students were thirty-four in
number; at least we counted thirty-four who came to us for clue to the
mysteries of gross and register and dead-weight tonnage. In parties they
explored our holds and accommodation, measured in paces for a rough
survey, and prepared their plans. Their Commandant (a very famous
soldier to-day) permitted us to be present when the officers were
assembled and their papers read out and discussed. In general it was
estimated that the work of alteration and fitting the ship for troops
would occupy from eight to ten working days. Our quota--of all
ranks--averaged about eleven hundred men.


The work was sound and no small ingenuity was advanced in planning
adaptations, but the spirit of emergency did not show an evidence in
their careful papers. The proposed voyage was distinctly stated to be
from Newhaven to Dieppe, and it seemed to us that the elaborate
accommodation for a prison, a guard-room, a hospital, were somewhat
ambitious for a six-hour sea-passage. In conversation with the
Commandant, we were of opinion that, to a degree, their work and pains
were rather needless. Carrying passengers (troops and others) was our
business; a trade in which we had been occupied for some few years. He
agreed. He regarded their particular exercise in the same light as the
'herring-and-a-half' problem of the schoolroom: it was good for the
young braves to learn something of their only gangway to a foreign
field. "Of course," he said, "if war comes it will be duty for the Navy
to supervise our sea-transport." We understood that their duty would be
to safeguard our passage, but we had not thought of supervision in
outfit. The Commandant was incredulous when we remarked that we had
never met a naval transport officer, that we knew of no plans to meet
such an emergency as that submitted to his officers. It was evident that
his trained soldierly intendance could not contemplate a situation in
which the seamen of the country had no foreknowledge of a war service;
it was amazing to him that we were not already drilled for duties that
might, at any moment, be thrust upon us. Pointing across the dock to
where two vessels of the Bremen Hansa Line were working in haste to
catch the tide, he affirmed that they would be better prepared: _their_
place in mobilization would be detailed, their duties and services made

We knew of no plans for our employment in war service; we had no
position allotted to us in measures for emergency. We were sufficiently
proud of our seafaring to understand a certain merit in this apparent
lack of prevision: we took it as in compliment to the efficiency and
resource with which our sea-trade was credited. Was it not on our
records that the Isle of Man steamers transported 58,000 people in the
daylight hours of an August Bank Holiday. A seventy-mile passage.
Trippers. Less amenable to ordered direction than disciplined troops. A
day's work, indeed. Unequalled, unbeaten by any record to date in the
amazing statistics of the war. There was no need for supervision and
direction: we knew our business, we could pick up the tune as we

We did. On the outbreak of war we fell into our places in transport of
troops and military material with little more ado than in handling our
peace-time cargoes. The ship on which the Staff students worked their
problems set out on almost the very route they had planned for her, but
with no prison or guard-room or hospital, and sixteen hundred troops
instead of eleven: the time taken to fit her (including discharge of a
cargo) occupied exactly four days. We saw but little of the naval


Later, in our war work, we made the acquaintance of the naval transport
officer. Generally, he was not intimate with the working of merchant
ships. His duties were largely those of interpretation. Through him
Admiralty passed their orders: it devolved on the mercantile shore staff
of the shipping companies to carry these orders into execution. If, in
transport services, our marine superintendents and ships' husbands did
not share in the honours, it was not for want of merit. They could not
complain of lack of work in the early days of the war when the transport
officer was serving his apprenticeship to the trade. The absence of a
keen knowledge and interest in commercial ship-practice at the transport
office made for complex situations; hesitancies and conflicting
orders added to the arduous business. Under feverish pressure a ship
would be unloaded on to quay space already congested, ballast be
contracted for--and delivered; a swarm of carpenters, working day and
night, would fit her for carriage of troops. At the eleventh hour some
one idly fingering a tide-table would discover that the vessel drew too
much water to cross the bar of her intended port of discharge. (The
marine superintendent was frequently kept in ignorance of the vessel's
intended destination.) Telegraph and telephone are handy--"Requisition
cancelled" is easily passed over the wires! _As you were_ is a simple
order in official control, but it creates an atmosphere of misdirection
almost as deadly as German gas. Only our tremendous resources, the sound
ability of our mercantile superintendents, the industry of the
contractors and quay staffs, brought order out of chaos and placed the
vessels in condition for service at disposal of the Admiralty.

Despite all blunders and vacillations our expedition was not unworthy of
the emergency. How much better we could have done had there been a
considered scheme of competent control must ever remain a conjecture.
Four years of war practice have improved on the hasty measures with
which we met the first immediate call. Sea-transport of troops and
munitions of war has become a highly specialized business for naval
directorate and mercantile executant alike. Ripe experience in the
thundering years has sweetened our relations. The naval transport
officer has learnt his trade. He is better served. He has now an
adequate executant staff, recruited largely from the Merchants' Service.
With liberal assistance he relies less on telegraph and telephone to
advance his work: our atmosphere is no longer polluted by the miasma of
indecision, and by the chill airs of the barracks.

Of our Naval War Staff, the transport officer was the first on the
field, but his duties were only concerned with ships requisitioned for
semi-naval service. For long we had no national assistance in our purely
commercial seafaring. Our sea-rulers (if they existed) were unconcerned
with the judicious employment of mercantile tonnage: some of our finest
liners were swinging the tides in harbour, rusting at their
cables--serving as prison hulks for interned enemies. Our service on the
sea was as lightly held. We made our voyages as in peace-time. We had no
means of communication with the naval ships at sea other than the
universally understood International Code of Signals. Any measures we
took to keep out of the way of enemy war vessels, then abroad, were our
own. We had no Intelligence Service to advise us in our choice of
sea-routes, and act as distributors of confidential information. We were
far too 'jack-easy' in our seafaring: we estimated the enemy's sea-power

In time we learned our lesson. Tentative measures were advanced.
Admiralty, through the Trade Division, took an interest in our
employment. Orders and advices took long to reach us. These were first
communicated to the War Risks Associations, who sent them to our owners.
We received them as part of our sailing orders, rather late to allow of
considered efforts on our part to conform with their tenor. There was no
channel of direct communication. When on point of sailing, we projected
our own routes, recorded them in a sealed memorandum which we left with
our owners. If we fell overdue Admiralty could only learn of our route
by application to the holders of the memorandum. A short trial proved
the need for a better system. Shipping Intelligence Officers were
appointed at the principal seaports. At this date some small echo of our
demand for a part in our governance had reached the Admiralty. In
selecting officers for these posts an effort was made to give us men
with some understanding of mercantile practice; a number of those
appointed to our new staff were senior officers of the R.N.R. who were
conversant with our way of business. (If they did, on occasion, project
a route for us clean through the Atlantic ice-field in May, they were
open to accept a criticism and reconsider the voyage.) With them were
officers of the Royal Navy who had specialized in navigation, a branch
of our trade that does not differ greatly from naval practice. They
joined with us in discussion of the common link that held few
opportunities for strained association. Certainly we took kindly to our
new directors from the first; we worked in an atmosphere of confidence.
The earliest officer appointed to the West Coast would blush to know the
high esteem in which he is held, a regard that (perhaps by virtue of his
tact and courtesy) was in course extended to his colleagues of a later

The work of the S.I.O. is varied and extensive. His principal duty is to
plan and set out our oversea route, having regard to his accurate
information of enemy activities. All Admiralty instructions as to our
sea-conduct pass through his hands. He issues our confidential papers
and is, in general, the channel of our communication with the Naval
Service. He may be likened to our signal and interlocking expert. On
receipt of certain advices he orders the arm of the semaphore to be
thrown up against us. The port is closed to the outward-bound. His
offices are quickly crowded by masters seeking information for their
sailings: with post and telephone barred to us in this connection, we
must make an appearance in person to receive our orders. A tide or two
may come and go while we wait for passage. We have opportunity, in the
waiting-room, to meet and become intimate with our fellow-seafarers. It
is good for the captain of a liner to learn how the captain of a North
Wales schooner makes his bread, the difficulties of getting decent yeast
at the salt-ports; how the schooner's boy won't learn ("indeed to
goodness") the proper way his captain shows him to mix the dough!

On telegraphic advice the arm of the semaphore rattles down. The port is
open to traffic again. The waiting-room is emptied and we are off to the
sea, perhaps fortified by the S.I.O.'s confidence that the cause of the
stoppage has been violently removed from the sea-lines.

Under the pressure of ruthless submarine warfare we were armed for
defence. Gunnery experts were added to our war complement. A division
for organization of our ordnance was formed, the Defensively Armed
Merchant Ships Department of the Admiralty. We do not care for long
titles; we know this division as the "Dam Ships." Most of the officers
appointed to this Service are R.N.R. They are perhaps the most familiar
of the war staff detailed to assist us. Their duties bring them
frequently on board our ships, where (on our own ground) relations grow
quickly most intimate and cordial. The many and varied patterns of guns
supplied for our defence made a considerable shore establishment
necessary, not alone for the guns and mountings, but for ammunition of
as many marks as a Geelong wool-bale. In the first stages of our
war-harnessing, the supply of guns was limited to what could be spared
from battlefield and naval armament. The range of patterns varied from
pipe-stems to what was at one time major armament for cruisers; we had
odd weapons--_soixante-quinze_ and Japanese pieces; even captured German
field-guns were adapted to our needs in the efforts of the D.A.M.S. to
arm us. Standardization in mounting and equipment was for long
impossible. Our outcry for guns was cleverly met by the department. We
could not wait for weapons to be forged: by working 'double tides' they
ensured a twenty-four-hour day of service for the guns in issue, by a
system that our ordnance should not remain idle during our stay in port.
Incoming ships were boarded in the river, their guns and ammunition
dismounted and removed to serve the needs of a vessel bound out on the
same tide. The problem of fitting a 12-pounder on a 4.7 emplacement
taxed the department's ingenuity and resource, but few ships were held
in port for failure of their prompt action.

With the near approach to standardization in equipment (a state that
came with increased production of merchant-ship arms) the division was
able to reorganize on more settled lines. New types of armament were
issued to them and there was less adaptation for emplacements to be
considered. With every ship fitted, the pressure on their resource was
eased, the new ships being constructed to carry guns as a regular part
of their equipment. While their activities are now less confused by the
new methods, there is no reduction in their employment. Other defensive
apparatus has been placed in their hands for issue and control, and
their principal port establishments have grown from small temporary
offices to large well-manned depots. To the surface guns have been added
howitzers, bomb-throwers, and depth-charges for under-water action:
smoke-screen fittings and chemicals form a part of their stock in trade:
they issue mine-sinking rifles, and even control the supply of our
zigzag clocks. The range of their work is constantly being extended.
Their duties include inspection to ensure that darkening ship
regulations may not fail for want of preparation in port. Makeshift
screening at sea is dangerous.

Their establishments are at the principal seaports, with branch
connections and transport facilities for reaching the smaller harbours.
The gun-wharves may not present as splendid a spectacle as the huge
store-sheds of our naval bases, but they have at least the busy air of
being well occupied, a brisk appearance of having few 'slow-dealing
lines' on the shelves. Their permanent staff of armourers and
constructional experts are able to undertake all but very major repairs
to the ordnance that comes under their charge. By express
delivery--heavy motor haulage--they can equip a ship on instant
requisition with all that is scheduled for her armament: down to the
waste-box and the gun-layer's sea-boots, they can put a complete
defensive outfit on the road almost before the clamour of a requesting
telephone is stilled.

Another of our staff is the officer in charge of our 'Otter'
installation, an ingenious contrivance to protect us against the menace
of moored mines. For deadly spheres floating on the surface we have a
certain measure of defence in exercise of a keen look-out, but our eyes
avail us not at all in detecting mines under water moored at the level
of our draught. Our 'Otters' may be likened to blind sea-dolphins,
trained to protect our flanks, to run silently aside, fend the explosive
charges from our course, bite the moorings asunder, and throw the
bobbing spheres to the surface.

The 'Otter' expert is invariably an enthusiast. He claims for his pets
every virtue. They run true, they bite surely: they can speak, indeed,
in the complaint of their guide-wires when they are not sympathetically
governed. While it is true that we curse the awkward 'gadgets' in their
multitude of tricks, denounce the insistence with which they dive for a
snug and immovable berth under our bilge keels--those of us who have
come through a hidden minefield share the expert's affection for the
shiny fish-like monsters. We cannot see their operation: we have no
knowledge of our danger till it is past and over, a dark shape with ugly
outpointing horns, turning and spinning in the seawash of our wake.


Adoption of the convoy system has brought a host to our gangways. Our
war staff was more than doubled in the few weeks that followed the
sinister April of 1917. If, at an earlier date, we had reasonable ground
for complaint that our expert knowledge of our business was
studiously ignored by the Admiralty, apparently they did not rate our
ability so lightly when this old form of ship protection was revived.
The additions to our staff included a large proportion of our own
officers, withdrawn from posts where their knowledge of merchant-ship
practice was not of great value. In convoy, measures were called for
that our ordinary routine had not contemplated. The shore division of
our new staff aid us in adapting our commercial sea-gear to the more
instant demands of war service. They 'clear our hawse' from turns and
twists in the chain of our landward connections. Repairs and
adjustments, crew troubles, stores--that on a strict ruling may be
deemed private matters--became public and important when considered as
vital to the sailing of a convoy. In overseeing the ships at the
starting-line, indexing and listing the varying classes and powers of
the vessels, the convoy section have no light task. To the longshore
division, who compose and arrange the integrals of our convoys, we have
added a sea-staff of commodores, R.N. and R.N.R., who go to sea with us
and control the manoeuvres and operations of our ships in station. For
this, not only a knowledge of squadron movements is required: the ruling
of a convoy of merchantmen is complicated as much by the range of
character of individual masters as by the diverse capabilities of the

It was not until the spring of 1917 that Admiralty instituted a scheme
of instruction in anti-submarine measures for officers of the Merchants'
Service. We were finding the defensive tune difficult to pick up as we
marched. The German submarine had grown to be a more complete and deadly
warship. Sinkings had reached an alarming height: a spirit almost of
fatalism was permeating the sea-actions of some of our Service. Our guns
were of little avail against under-water attack. Notwithstanding the
tricks of our zigzag, the torpedoes struck home on our hulls. If our luck
was 'in,' we came through: if we had bad fortune, well, our luck was 'out'!
A considerable school--the bold 'make-a-dash-for-it-and-chance-the-ducks'
section of our fellows--did not wholly conform to naval instructions. In
many cases zigzag was but cursorily maintained; in darkening ship,
measures were makeshift and inadequate.

Schools for our instruction were set up at various centres, in
convenient seaport districts. At the first, attendance was voluntary,
but it was quickly evident to the Admiralty that certain classes of
owners would give few facilities to their officers to attend, when they
might be more profitably employed in keeping gangway or in supervising
cargo stowage. (The fatalistic spirit was not confined to the seagoers
among us.) Attendance at the classes of instruction was made compulsory;
it became part of our qualification for office that we should have
completed the course.

Although our new schooling occupies but five days, it is intensive in
its scope and application. The cold print of our official instructions
has its limitations, and Admiralty circulars are not perhaps famous for
lucidity. More can be done by a skilled interpreter with a blackboard in
a few minutes than could be gathered in half an hour's reading. At first
assembly there is perhaps an atmosphere of boredom. Routine details and
a programme of operations are hardly welcome to masters accustomed to
command. In a way, we have condescended to come among our juniors, to
listen with the mates and second mates to what may be said: we assume,
perhaps, a detached air of constraint.

It is no small tribute to the lecturer that this feeling rarely persists
beyond the opening periods. Only the most perversely immovable can
resist the interest of a practical demonstration. The classes are under
charge of an officer, R.N., who has had deep-sea experience of enemy
submarine activities. Often he is of the 'Q-ship' branch, and can
enliven his lectures with incidents that show us a side of the
sea-contest with which not many are familiar. If we are informed of the
deadly advantage of the submarine, we are equally enlightened as to its
limitations. In a few minutes, by virtue of a plot on the blackboard,
the vantage of a proper zigzag is made clear and convincing. Points of
view--in a literal sense--are expounded, and not a few of us recall our
placing of look-outs and register a better plan. Following the officer
in charge, a lieutenant of the Submarine Service dissects his vessel on
the blackboard, carefully detailing the action in states of weather and
circumstance. The under-water manoeuvres of an attack are plotted out
and explained in a practical way that no handbook could rival. The
personal magnetism of the expert rivets our attention; the routine of
under-seafaring gives us a good inkling of the manner of man we have to
meet and fight at sea; we are given an insight to the mind-working of
our unseen opponent--the brain below the periscope is probed and
examined for our education.

Nothing could be better illustrative of the wide character of our
seafaring than the range of our muster in the lecture-hall. Every type
of our trade appears in the class that assembles weekly to attend the
instructional course. We have no grades of seniority or precedence. We
are sea-republicans when we come to sit together in class. Hardy
coasting masters, commanders of Royal Mail Packets, collier mates,
freighter captains, cross-Channel skippers, we are at ease together in a
common cause; on one bench in the classroom may be seafarers returned
from foreign ports as widely distant as Shanghai and Valparaiso.

For instruction in gunnery and the use of special apparatus we come
under tuition of a type of seaman whom we had not met before. If the
backbone of the Army is the non-commissioned man, the petty officer of
the Royal Navy is no less the marrow of his Service. Unfortunately, we
have no one like him in the Merchants' Service. As Scots is the language
of marine engines, the South of England accent may be that of the guns.
That liquid ü! "Metal adapters, genelmen, lük. Metal adapters is made o'
alüminium bronze. They are bored hoüt t' take a tübe, an' threaded on
th' hoütside t' screw into th' base o' th' cartridge case--like this
'ere. Genelmen, lük. . . ." His intelligent demonstration of the gear
and working of the types of our armament possesses a peculiar quality,
as though he is trying hard to reduce his exposition to our level. (As a
matter of plain fact, he is.)

The instructional course closes on a note of confidence. We learn that
even 'inexorable circumstance' has an opening to skilled evasion. We go
afloat for a day and put into practice some measure of our schooling. At
fire-control, with the guns, we exercise in an atmosphere of din and
burnt cardboard, aiming at a hit with the fifth shot in sequence of our
bracket. (An earlier bull's-eye would be bad application of our
lectures.) A smoke-screen is set up for our benefit, and we turn and
twist in the artificially produced fumes and vapours in a practical
demonstration of defence. A sea-going submarine is in attendance and is
open to our inspection. Her officers augment the class instruction by
actual showing. Every point in the maze of an under-water attack is
emphasized by them in an effort to impress us with the virtue of the
counter-measures advised. It must be hard indeed for the submarine
enthusiast (and they are all enthusiasts) to lay bare the 'weaknesses'
of his loved machine. We feel for them almost as if we heard a man,
under pressure, admit that his last ship was unseaworthy.

[Illustration: THE LOSS OF A LINER]



EARLY in November 1914, on return from the sea, I was invited to join
His Majesty's Forces.

". . . An' I can tell you this, mister," said the sergeant . . . "it
ain't everybody as I asks t' join our corps. . . . Adjutant, 'e ses t'
me this mornin', 'Looka here, Bates,' 'e ses, 'don't you go for to bring
none o' them scallywags 'ere! We don't want 'em! We won't 'ave 'em at
any price,' 'e ses! . . . 'Wot we wants is proper men--men with chests,'
'e ses!"

I felt somewhat commended; I trimmed more upright in carriage; he was
certainly a clever recruiter. I told him I had rather important work to
do. He said, with emphasis, that it must be more than important to keep
a MAN out of the Army--these days! In sound of shrieking
newsboys--"_Ant--werp fallen! British falling back!_"--I agreed.

I asked him what he did with the men recruited. He was somewhat
surprised at my question, but told me that, when trained, they were sent
across to the Front--he was hoping to _return_ himself in the next
draft. He thought all this talk was needless, and grew impatient. I
mentioned that the men couldn't very well swim over there. He glared
scornfully. "Swim? . . . Swim! . . . 'Ere! Wot th' hell ye gettin' at?
You gotta hellova lot t' say about it, anyway!"

I explained that my business was that of putting the troops and the guns
and the gear o' war across; that the drafts couldn't get very far on the
way without our assistance. He glanced at my soft felt hat, at my
rainproof coat, my umbrella, my handbag--said, "_Huh_" and went off in
search of a more promising recruit. His broad back, as he strode off
swinging his cane, expressed an entire disapproval of my appearance and
my alleged business.

Good honest sergeant! His course was a clear and straight one. He would
hold no more truck with one who wouldn't take up a man's job. His "Huh"
and the swing of his arm said plainly to me, "Takin' th' boys across,
eh? A ---- fine excuse, . . . a rare ---- trick! Where's yer uniform? Why
ain't ye in uniform, eh? You can't do me with that story, mister! I'm an
old Service man, I am. I been out t' India. I been on a troopship. I
seen all them gold-lace blokes a-pokin' their noses about an' growsin'
at th' way th' decks wos kep! _Huh!_ A damn slacker, mister! That's wot
I think o' you!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The sergeant's attitude was not unreasonable. Where was our uniform?
Where was any evidence of our calling by which one could recognize a
seaman on shore? A sea-gait, perhaps! But the deep-sea roll has gone out
since bilge-keels came to steady our vessels! Tattoo marks? These
cunning personal adornments are now reserved to the Royal Artillery and
officers of the Indian Army! Tarry hands? Tar is as scarce on a modern
steamer as strawberries in December! Sea-togs? If there be a preference,
we have a fondness for blue serge, but blue serges have quite a vogue
among bankers and merchants and other men of substance! Away from our
ships and the dockside waterfront, we are not readily recognizable; we
join the masses of other workers, we become members of the general
public. As such, we may lay claim to a common liberty, and look at our
seafaring selves from an average point of longshore view.

. . . The sea? Oh, we know a lot about it! It is in us. We pride
ourselves, an island race, we have the sea in our blood, we are born to
it. Circumstances may have brought us to counting-house and ledger, but
our heart is with the sea. We use, unwittingly, many nautical terms in
our everyday life. We had been to sea at times, on a business voyage or
for health or pleasure. We knew the captain and the mates and the
engineers. The chief steward was a friend, the bos'n or quartermaster
had shown us the trick of a sheepshank or a reef-knot or a short splice.
Their ways of it! Port and starboard for left and right, knots for
miles, eight bells, the watches, and all that! We returned from our
sea-trip, parted with our good friends, feeling hearty and refreshed. We
hummed, perhaps, a scrap of a sea-song at the ledgers. We regretted that
our sea-day had come so quickly to an end. Anyway, we felt that we had
got to know the sea-people intimately.

But that was on their ground, on the sea and the ship, where they fitted
to the scheme of things and were as readily understood and appreciated
as the little round port-holes, the narrow bunks, the cunning tip-up
washstands, the rails for hand-grip in a storm. Their atmosphere, their
stories, their habits, were all part of our sea-piece. Taken from their
heaving decks and the round of a blue horizon, they seemed to go out of
our reckoning. On shore? Of course they must at times come on shore, but
somehow one doesn't know much about them there. There are our
neighbours. . . . Yes! Gudgeon's eldest boy, he is at sea--a mate or a
purser. He has given over wearing his brass buttons and a badge cap now:
we see him at long intervals, when he comes home to prepare for
examinations. A hefty sort of lad--shouldn't think he would do much in
the way of study; a bit wild perhaps. Then Mrs. Smith's husband. Isn't
he at sea, a captain or a chief engineer, or something? He comes among
us occasionally; travels to town, now and then, in our carriage. A
hearty man--uses rather strong language, though! Has not a great deal to
say of things--no interest in politics, in the market, in the games.
Never made very much of him. Don't see him at the clubs. Seems to spend
all his time at home. At home! Oh yes; wasn't it only the other day his
small daughter told ours her daddy was _going_ home again on Saturday!

In war, we are learning. There are no more games; contentious politics
are not for these days; the markets and business are difficult and
wayward. We are come to see our dependence on the successful voyages of
Mrs. Smith's husband. His coming among us, from time to time, is proof
that our links with the world overseas are yet unbroken, that there may
still be business to transact when we turn up at the office. Strangely,
in the new clarity of a war vision, we see his broad back in our
harvest-fields, as we had never noticed it before. He is almost one of
our staff. He handles our goods, our letters, our gold, our securities,
our daily bread. His business is now so near to us that----

But no! It cannot properly be done. We recall that there _is_ one way
for our ready recognition when we come on shore these days. We cannot
appropriate a longshore point of view, we cannot conceal our seafaring
and merge into the crowd. There _is_ a mark--our tired eyes, as we come
off the sea! True, there are now, sadly, many tired eyes on the beach,
but few carry the distant focus, the peculiar intentness brought about
by absence of perspective at sea. We cannot adopt a public outlook owing
to this obliquity in our vision, we are barred by the persistence of
that vexed perspective in our views on shore.

Still, the point may be raised that only in our actual seafaring are we
recognized. We are poor citizens, nomads, who have little part with
settled grooves and communal life on shore. The naval seaman is a known
figure on the streets. His trim uniform, the cut of his hair, the swing
of a muscular figure, his high spirits, are all in part with a
stereotyped conception. He is the sailor; Mercantile Jack has lost his
tradition in attire and individuality, he has vanished from the herd
with his high-heeled shoes, coloured silk neckerchief, and sweet-tobacco

In the round of shore communications there is exercise for assessing a
measure of the other man's work: a large proportion of success hinges on
easy fellowship, on an understanding and acquaintance not only with the
technics of another's trade, but with his habits and his pursuits. All
trades, all businesses, all professions have relations, near or distant,
with the sea, but to them our grades and descriptions are dubious and
uncertain. For this we are to blame. We are bad advertisers. We are
content to leave our fraternization with the beach to the far distant
day when we shall retire from the sea-service, 'swallow the anchor,' and
settle down to longshore life. We cannot join and rejoin the guilderies
on shore in the intervals of our voyaging. We preserve a grudging
silence on our seafaring, perhaps tint what pictures we do present in
other lights than verity. The necessary aloofness of our calling makes
for a seclusion in our affairs: we make few efforts to remedy an
estrangement; in a way, we adopt the disciplinary scourge of the
flagellants, we glory in our isolation. If we share few of the
institutions that exist for fellowship ashore, we have made no bid for
admittance: if the tide of intercourse leaves us stranded, we have put
out no steering oar on the drift of the flood. We are somewhat
diffident. Perhaps we are influenced by a certain reputation that is
still attached to us. Are we the prodigals not yet in the mood to turn
unto our fathers?

Stout old Doctor Johnson enlarged on the sea-life--of his day--with a
determination and no small measure of accuracy. "Sir," he said, "a ship
is worse than a gaol. There is in a gaol better air, better company,
better conveniency of every kind; and a ship has the additional
disadvantage of being in danger. When men come to like a sea-life they
are not fit to live on land. . . . Men go to the sea before they know
the unhappiness of that way of life; and when they have come to know it,
they cannot escape from it, because it is then too late to choose
another profession." At least he admitted the possibility of some of us
coming to _like_ a sea-life, though his postulate conveyed no high
opinion of our intelligence in such a preference.

We have travelled far since the worthy Doctor's day. Not all his dicta
may stand. There is still, perhaps, greater danger in a ship than in
gaol, but Johnson himself admitted that "the profession of sailors has
the dignity of danger"! For the rest, our air has become so good that
invalids are ordered to sea; our conveniences are notably improved, our
ships the last word in strength and comfort. Our company? Our company
fits to the heave of our sea. If we have middling men for the trough, we
have bold gallants for the crest. We draw a wide range to our service.
The sea can offer a good career to a prizeman: we can still do
moderately well with the wayward boy, the parents' 'heart-break,' the
lad with whom nothing can be done on shore. Steam has certainly given a
new gentility to our seafaring, but it cannot wholly smooth out the
uneven sea-road. If we lose an amount of polish, of distinguished
association, of education in our recruitment, we may gain just that
essence that fits a man for our calling. Our company is, at any rate,
stout and resolute, and, without that, we had long since been under
German bondage.


The war has brought a new prominence to our sea-trade. The public has
become interested not alone in our sea-ventures, but in our landward
doings. The astonishing fact of our civilian combatance has drawn a
recognition that no years of peace could have uncovered. Not least of
the revelations that the world conflict has imposed is the vital
importance of the ships. Our naval fleets were ever talked of, read of,
gloried in, as the spring of our national power, but not many saw the
core of our sea-strength in the stained hulls of the merchants' ships.
They were accepted without enthusiasm as an existing trade channel; they
were there on a round of business and trade, not dissimilar to other
transport services--the railways, road-carriage, the inland canals, the
moving-van, the messengers. They were ready to hand for service; so near
that their vital proportions were not readily apparent. Perhaps the
greatest compliment the public has paid to the Merchants' Service lay in
this abstract view. One saw an appreciation, perhaps unspoken, in the
consternation that greeted the first irregularity in delivery of the
oversea mails. Then, indeed, the importance of the ships was brought
sharply home. It was incredible: it was unheard of. Mercantile practice
and correspondence had outgrown all duplications and weatherly
precautions; the service was so sure and uninterrupted that no need
existed for a second string to the bow. Bills of exchange, indents,
invoices, the mail-letter, had long been confided to sea-carriage on one
bottom. Pages could be written of the tangled skeins, the complex
situations, the confusion and congestion that were all brought about by
extra mileage of an ocean voyage. Fortunes, not alone in hulls and
cargo, lie with our wreckage on the floor of the channels.

The sea-front suddenly assumed an importance in the general view, as the
drain on our tonnage left vacant shelves in the bakehouse. Commodities
that, so common and plentiful, had been lightly valued, were out of
stock--the ships had not come in! Long queues formed at the shop doors,
seeking and questioning--their topic, the fortunes of the ships! The
table was rearranged in keeping with a depleted larder. Anxious eyes
turned first in the morning to the list of our sea-casualties; the
ships, what of the ships? The valiant deeds of our armies, the tide and
toll of battles, could wait a second glance. Not all the gallantry of
our arms could bring victory if our sea-communications were imperilled
or restrained; on the due arrival of the ships centred the pivot of our

Joined to the fortune of the ships, interest was drawn to the seamen. A
new concern arose. Who were the mariners who had to face these deadly
perils to keep our sea-lines unbroken? Were they trained to arms? How
could they stand to the menace that had so shocked our naval forces?
Daily the toll rose. Savagery, undreamt of, succeeded mere shipwreck:
murder, assassination, mutilation became commonplace on the sea. Who
were the mercantile seamen; of what stock, what generation?

To a degree we were embarrassed at such new attention. The mystery of
sea-life, we felt, had unbalanced the public view. Our stock, our
generation, was the same as that of the tailors and the
candlestick-makers who were standing the enemy on his head on the
Flanders fields; we differed not greatly from the haberdasher and the
baby-linen man who drove the Prussian Guard, the proudest soldier in
Europe, from the reeking shambles of Contalmaison. Indeed, we had
advantage in our education for a fight. Our training, if not military,
was at least directed to mass operations in contest with power of the
elements: torpedo and mine were but additions to the perils of our
regular trade. If the clerk and the grocer could rise from ordered
peaceful ways and set the world ringing with his gallantry and heroism,
we were poltroons indeed to flinch and falter at the familiar conduct of
our seafaring. We felt that our share in warfare was as nothing to the
blaze of fury on the battle-fronts, our sea-life was comparative comfort
in contrast to the grisly horrors of the trenches.

With universal service, opportunity for acquaintance with our life and
our work was extended beyond the numbers of chance passengers. The
exodus oversea of the nation's manhood brought the landsman and the
seaman together as no casual meeting on the streets could have done.
Millions of our country-men, who had never dreamed of outlook on blue
water bounded by line of an unbroken horizon, have found themselves
brought into close contact with us, living our life, assisting in many
of our duties, facing the same dangers. In such a firm fellowship and
communion of interest there cannot but be a bond between us that shall
survive the passage of high-water mark.





OF all trades, seafaring ever required a special governance, a unique
Code of Laws, suited to the seaman's isolation from tribunal and land
court, to the circumstance of his constant voyaging. On sea, the
severance from ordered government, from reward as from penalty, was
irremediable and complete. No common law or enactment could be enforced
on the wandering sea-tribesmen who owned no settled domicile, who
responded only to the weight of a stronger arm than their own, who had
an impenetrable cloak to their doings in the mystery of distant seas.
The spirit and high heart that had called them to the dangers and
vicissitudes of a sea-life would not brook tamely the dominance and
injunction of a power whose authority was, at sea, invisible--and even
under the land, could carry but little distance beyond high-water mark.
To the bold self-enterprise of the early sea-venturers, the unconfined
ocean offered a free field for a standard of strength, for a law of
might alone. Kings and Princes might rule the boundaries of the land,
but the sea was for those who could maintain a holding on the troubled
waters. Were the 'Rectores' not Kings on their own heaving decks, their
province the round of the horizon, their subjects the vulgar
'shippe-men,' their slaves the unfortunate weaker seafarers, whom chance
or the fickle winds had brought within reach of their sea-arms? The
sea-rovers were difficult to bridle or restrain. _Spurlos versenkt_
might well have been their motto--as that of later pirates. No trace!
The sea would tell no tales. They were alone on the breadth of the
ocean, no ordered protection was within hail, the land lay distant under
rim of the sea-line. Blue water would wash over the face of robbery and
crime: the hazards of the sea could well account for a missing ship!

Reverse the setting and the same uncharity could similarly be masked. In
turn, the humanity the seamen contemned was denied to them. Driven on
shore, wrecked or foundered on coast or shoal, the laws they scorned
were powerless to shield or salve the wreckage of their vessels, to save
their weary sea-scarred bodies. 'No trace' was equally a motto for the
dwellers on the coast: blue water would wash as freely over their bloody
evidence, the miserable castaways could be as readily returned to the
pitiless sea: an equal hazard of the deep could as surely account for
missing men!

Only special measures could control a situation of such a desperate
nature, no ordinary governance could effect a settlement; no one but a
powerful and kingly seafarer could frame an adjustment and post wardens
to enforce a law for the sea. When Richard Coeur de Lion established
our first Maritime Code, he had his own rude sea-experience to guide
him. On perilous voyaging to the Holy Land, he must have given more than
passing thought to the trials and dangers of his rough mariners. Sharing
their sea-life and its hardships, he noted the ship-measures and rude
sea-justice with a discerning and humane appreciation. In all the
records of our law-making there are few such intimate revelations of a
minute understanding as his Rôles d'Oléron. The practice of to-day
reflects no small measure of his wisdom; in their basic principles, his
charges still tincture the complex fabric of our modern Sea Codes.
Bottomry--the pledging of ship and tackle to procure funds for provision
or repair; salvage--a just and reasonable apportionment; jettison--the
sharing of another's loss for a common good; damage to ship or
cargo--the account of liability: many of his ordinances stand unaltered
in substance, if varied and amplified in detail.

The spirit of these mediæval Shipping Acts was devoted as well to
restrain the lawless doings of the seamen as to check the inhuman
plunderings of the coast dwellers. The rights and duties of master and
man were clearly defined: in the schedule of penalties, the master's
forfeit was enhanced, as his was assumed to be the better intelligence.
For barratry and major sea-crimes, the penalty was death and
dismemberment. All pilots who wrecked their charges for benefit of the
lords of the sea-coast were to be hung on a gibbet, and so exhibited to
all men, near the spot where the vessels they had misdirected were come
on shore. The lord of the foreshore who connived at their acts was to
suffer a dire fate. He was to be burned on a stake at his own
hearthstone, the walls of his mansion to be razed, and the standing
turned to a market-place for barter of swine! Drastic punishment!
Doubtless kingly Richard drew abhorrence for the wrecker from his own
bitter experience on the inhospitable rocky coast of Istria!

Little detail has come down to us of the means adopted to enforce these
just acts. Of the difficulties of their enforcement we may judge a
little from the character of the seamen as presented by contemporary
chronicles. . . .

          "_Full many a draught of wyn had he drawe
            From Burdeux-ward, whil that the chapman sleep.
            Of nyce conscience took he no keep.
            If that he foughte, and hadde the heigher hand,
            By water he sent hem hoom to every land._"

. . . Thus Chaucer; but Chaucer was a Collector of Customs, and would
possibly assess the stolen draught of Bordeaux as a greater crime than
throwing prisoners overboard! From evidence of the date, Richard's
shipping laws seem to have been but lightly regarded by the lords of the
foreshore. In the reign of King John, wrecking had become a practice so
common that prescriptive rights to the litter of the beaches was
included in manorial charters, despite the Rôle that . . . "the pieces
of the ship still to belong to the original owners, notwithstanding any
custom to the contrary . . . and any participators of the said wrecks,
whether they be bishops, prelates, or clerks, shall be deposed and
deprived of their benefices, and if lay people they are to incur the
penalties previously recited."

It was surely by more than mere chance the churchmen were thus specially
indicted! Perhaps it was by a temporal as well as a spiritual measure
that Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, strove to remove a
reproach to the Church. He founded a Guild of sea-samaritans, a

          "of godly disposed men, who, for the actual
          suppression of evil disposed persons bringing
          ships to destruction by the shewing forth of false
          beacons, do bind themselves together in the Love
          of our Lord Christ, in the name of the Masters and
          Fellows of Trinity Guild to succour from the
          dangers of the sea all who are beset upon the
          coasts of England, to feed them when ahungered and
          athirst, to bind up their wounds, and to build and
          light proper beacons for the guidance of

An earnest and compassionate Charter: a merciful and honourable

In this wise was formed our Alma Mater, the ancient guild of shipmen and
mariners of England. Subsequent charters advanced their titles as they
enlarged their duties and charges. In 1514, Henry VIII confirmed their
foundation under style of . . . "Master, Wardens, and Accistants of the
Guild or Fraternity of the Most Glorious and Undivided Trinity, and of
St. Clement, in the Parish of Deptford Strond, in the County of Kent."
Some years later, the 'accistants' were subdivided as Elder and Younger
Brethren, the Foundation being familiarly referred to as the Corporation
of Trinity House.

In early days, their efforts were directed in charity to stricken
seafarers, in humane dispensation, in erection and maintenance of
sea-marks, in training and provision of competent sea and coast
pilots--a line of endeavour directed by the Godly Primate, in his
Commission. Beacons were built on dangerous points of the coast, keepers
appointed to serve them, watchers detailed to observe the vessels as
they passed and restrain the activities of the wrecker. The magnitude
of the task, the difficulties of their office, the powerful
counter-influences arrayed against their beneficent rôle, may be judged
by an incident that occurred as late as little over a hundred and twenty
years ago. . . . "When Ramsgate Harbour, as a port of refuge from storm
and stress, was intended, and the business was before Parliament, a
petition from the Lord of the Manor tended to accelerate matters. He
represented to the House, while the Bill was depending, that, _as the
wrecks on the coast belonged to him and formed a considerable part of
his property, he prayed that the Bill would not pass_!"

Established in charity for the guardianship of the coasts, the Brethren
of Trinity passed to a supervision of the ships and the seamen. Although
a closely guarded Corporation, qualifications for entry were simply
those of sea-knowledge. The business of shipping, if more hazardous and
difficult on the sea, was less complicated in its landward connections
than is its modern conduct. The merchants were well content to be guided
in their affairs by their sea-partners, the men who actually commanded
and sailed the ships. The voyages, ship construction, refitment and
victualling were matters that could only be advised by the skilled
seamen. Jealous for professional advancement, the Brethren of Trinity
held their ranks open only to skilled master seamen and to kindred
sea-tradesmen--the shipwrights and rope-makers. While attracting leaders
and statesmen to the higher and more ornamental offices, control was
largely vested in the Elder and Younger Brethren--technical advisers,
competent to understand sea-matters.

In no small measure, the rise and supremacy of our shipping is due to
their wise direction and control. They were the sole machinery of the
State for control of the ships and the seaman. Survey and inspection of
sea-stores, planning and supervision of ship construction, registry and
measurement of vessels, had their beginning in the orderly efforts of
the Brethren. Examination of the competence of masters was part of their
duties--as was their arbitration in crew disputes. They licensed and
supplied seafarers of all classes to the 'King's Ships,' tested their
ordnance and examined the ammunition. Their reading of the ancient
charter of their foundation was wide and liberal in its scope--"_to
build, and light proper beacons for the guidance of mariners_" was their
understanding. In construction and equipment and maintenance of
sea-marks, in licence and efficient service of their coastal pilots,
they carried out to the letter the text of their covenant; in spirit,
they understood a guidance that was less material if equally important.
Their beacons were not alone standing structures of stone and lime, but
world-marks in precept and ordinance, in study and research. They held
bright cressets aloft to illuminate the difficult seaways in the paths
of navigation and science of the seafarer. They placed facilities for
the study of seamanship before the mariners and sought to advance the
science of navigation in line with the efforts of our sea-competitors.
The charts and maps of the day--most of them being rude Dutch draft
sheets--were improved and corrected, and new surveys of the coastal
waters were undertaken at charge and patronage of the Brethren. Captain
Greenville Collins, Hydrographer to Charles II, bears witness to their
high ideals in presenting to the Corporation the fruits of his seven
years' labour in survey and charting of the coast. The preface to his
work is made noteworthy by his reference to the practice of the day--the
haphazard alterations on the charts that brought many a fine ship to

         ". . . I then, as in Duty bound (being a Younger
         Brother) did acquaint you with it, and most humbly
         laid the Proposals before you; whereupon you were
         pleased not only to approve of them, but did most
         bountifully advance towards the charge of the work.
         . . . I could heartily wish that it might be so
         ordered by your Corporation, that all Masters of
         Ships, both using Foreign and Home Voyages, might
         be encouraged to bring you in their Journals, and a
         Person appointed to inspect them; which would be a
         great Improvement of Navigation, by imparting
         their Observations and Discoveries of the true Form
         and Prospect of the Sea Coast . . . and other
         dangerous Places. . . . And that those Persons who
         make and sell Sea Charts and Maps, were not allowed
         to alter them upon the single Report of Mariners,
         but with your approbation; by which means our Sea
         Charts would be more correct and the common Scandal
         of their Badness removed."

In all her enactments and activities, our Alma Mater ever preserved a
worthy pride in her sons. Enthusiasm for a gallant profession, patronage
for advancement in sea-skill and learning, a keen and studied interest
in whatever tended to elevate and ennoble the calling of the sea, were
her inspiring sentiment. Even in wise reproof and cautionary advice, her
words were tempered by a brave note of pride--as though, under so many
difficulties and serious dangers, she gloried in our work being worthily
undertaken. In charge to the seaman, Captain Collins continues his
kindly preface:

          "It sometimes happens, and that too frequently,
          that when Ships which have made long and dangerous
          Voyages, and are come Home richly laden, have been
          shipwrecked on their native Coast, whereby both
          Merchants, Owners, and Mariners have been
          impoverished. All our neighbours will acknowledge,
          that no Nation abounds more with skilful and
          experienced Seamen than our own; none meeting a
          Danger with more Courage and Bravery . . . so a
          Master of a ship has a very great Charge, and
          ought to be a sober Man, as well as a skilful
          Mariner: All Helps of Art, Care, and
          Circumspection are to be used by him, that the
          Lives of Mariners (the most useful of their
          Majesties' Subjects at this juncture) and the
          Fortunes of honest Merchants under his Care may be


For over three hundred years, our Alma Mater flourished as the spring of
our seafaring--a noble and venerable Corporation, concerned solely and
alone with the sea and the ships and the seamen. The Brethren saw only
one aim for their endeavours--the supremacy of the sea-trade, the
business by which the nation stood or fell. Nor was theirs an inactive
part in all the long sea-wars and crises that reacted on our commerce.
Before a navy existed, the stout old master-seamen of Deptford Strond
were charged with the sea-defences of the capital. The new naval forces
came under their control at a later date, and we have the record of an
efficiency in administration that showed prevision and thought well in
advance of that of their landward contemporaries. Piracy, privateering,
the restraints of rulers and princes, were dealt with in their day. At
critical turns in the courses of our naval conduct, it was to the
steersmen of Trinity that the Ministers of the State relied for
prompt and seamanlike action. The 'sea to the seamen' was the rule.
Adapting their resources to the needs of the day, the Brethren were held
fast by no conventional restraint. They assisted peaceful developments
in trade in the quieter years, but could as readily mobilize for war
service under threat of invasion, or turn their skilled activities to
removal of the sea-marks to prevent the sailing of a mutinous fleet. In
the long and stormy history of Trinity House there were many precedents
to guide the action of the Brethren on the outbreak of war. As guardians
of the sea-channels and the approaches to our coasts, they manned these
misty sea-trenches on the outbreak of war in 1914. Weaponless, by
exercise of a skill in pilotage and a resolution worthy of great
traditions, the Trinity men have held that menaced line intact. That
little has been said about their great work is perhaps a tradition of
their service.

We are parted now. The Merchants' Service is no longer a studied and
valued interest of the ancient corporation. In an assured position as
arbiters between the State and the shipping industry, the Trinity
Brethren could combine a just regard for the merchants' interest with a
generous and understanding appreciation of the seamen's trials and
difficulties. If for no other reason than the record of past endeavours,
they should still control the personnel of the Merchants' Service, in
regulating the scheme of our education, the scope of our qualification
for office, the grades of our service, the essence of our sea-conduct.
But in the fickle doldrums of the period when steam superseded sail as
our motive power, we drifted apart. Shipping interests have become
complicated with land ventures, as widely different from them as the
marine engine is from our former sail plan. In 1850 the Merchants'
Service was placed under control of the Board of Trade; we were handed
over to a Board that is no Board--a department of the State with little,
if any, sea-sentiment, and that is sternly resolved to repress all our
efforts to regain a voice in the control of our own affairs.


IF we may claim the ancient Corporation of Trinity House as the Alma
Mater of the Merchants' Service, we may liken our comparatively new
directorate, the Board of Trade, to our Alma step-Mater--an austere,
bureaucratic dame, hard-working and earnest, perhaps, but lacking the
kindly spirit of a sea-tradition. She is utterly out of touch and
sympathy with a sea-sense--her arms, overstrained perhaps by the
tremendous burden of charge upon charge that comes to her for
settlement, are never open to the seamen. Sullenly, we resent her
dictation as that of a usurper--a lay impropriator of our professional
heritage. Under her coldly formal direction, we may attend our affairs
in diligence and prudence, but for us there is no motherly licence; she
has no pride in our doings (if one counts not the vicious insistence of
her statistics)--we are only the stepchildren of her adoption, odd men
of the huge and hybrid family over whom she has been set to cast a
suspicious, if guardian, eye. While Trinity House was concerned alone
with the conduct of shipping and sea-affairs, our new controllers of the
Board of Trade have interests in charge as widely apart as the feeding
of draught-horses and the examination of a bankrupt cheesemonger. We are
but a Department. The sea-service of the nation, the key industry of our
island commerce, is governed by a subdivision in a Ministry that has
long outgrown the limits of a central and answerable control. Instead of
settlement by a contained and competent Ministry of Marine, our highly
technical sea-conduct is ruled for us in queue with longshore affairs,
sandwiched, perhaps, between horse-racing and the period of the dinner

          "_The President of the Board of Trade has
          intimated to the Stewards of the National Hunt
          Committee that . . . it is not possible to sanction
          a list of fixtures for the season._"

          "Mr. Peto asked the President of the Board of
          Trade whether his attention has been called to the
          decision of Mr. Justice Rowlatt . . . in which
          judgment was given for the plaintiff company,
          owners of the steamship X----, sunk in collision,
          due to steaming without lights."

          "_The President of the Board of Trade announces
          modifications of the Lighting Order during the
          present week, one effect being that the
          prohibition of the serving of meals in hotels
          after 9.30 p.m. is temporarily suspended._"

Perhaps we were rather spoilt by the pride that was in us when our
seafaring was ruled by the appreciative Brethren of Trinity, and it may
be as a repressive measure of discipline the Board of Trade extends no
particular favour to our sea-trade, and has indeed gone further in being
at pains to belittle our sea-deeds, and disparage a recognition of our
status. Our controllers are anxious that their ruling of award and
reward should suffer no comparison. For gallantry at sea, the grades of
their recognition may vary from the Silver Medal (delivered, perhaps, as
in a recent case, with the morning's milk) to a sextant or a pair of

In 1905 a very gallant rescue was effected by the men of the Liverpool
steamer _Augustine_. The crew of a Greek vessel were taken from their
foundering ship in mid-Atlantic under circumstances of great peril. Not
only was boat service performed in tempestuous weather, but the officers
of _Augustine_ themselves jumped overboard to try to save the Greek
seamen, who were too far exhausted to hold on to the life-lines and
buoys thrown to them. The King of Greece, in recognition of the
gallantry and humanity displayed, signed a decree conferring on the
British master and his officers the Gold Decoration of the Redeemer.

A general view would be that this was an award quite appropriate to the
services rendered, an expression by the Greek Government that they
wished to place the names of the gallant savers of their seamen on the
Roll of their Honour. Our Board of Trade objected. Through the Foreign
Office, they appear to have informed the Greek Government that such
distinguished awards were unusual and might prove a source of
dissatisfaction in future cases. Possibly they viewed the appearance of
a ribbon on the breast of a merchant seaman as an encroachment on the
rights of their own permanent officials. The awards were not made;
silver medals were substituted, which Captain Forbes and his officers,
learning of the Board's action, did not accept. On a later occasion the
same unsympathetic influence was exercised; the Russian Order of St.
Stanislaus was withdrawn and replaced by a gold watch and chain!

In supervision of our qualifications as masters and mates, the Board of
Trade has followed the lines of least resistance. It is true that they
have established certain standards in navigation and seamanship that we
must attain in order to hold certificates, but the training to these
standards has never been an interest of their Department. While our
shipmate, the marine engineer, has opportunity in his apprenticeship on
shore to complete his education, we are debarred from the same facility.
Apprenticed to the sea at from fourteen to sixteen years of age, our
youth bid good-bye to their school books and enter on a life of freedom
from scholarly restraint--a 'kindergarten' in which their toys are
hand-implements of the sea. There is no need to worry; there is no study
required for four years; a week or two at the crammer's will suffice to
satisfy the Board of Trade when apprenticeship days were over. And the
fault does not lie with the 'crammer.' Scholarly and able and competent,
as most of them are, to impart a better and more thorough instruction,
the system of leaving all to the voyage's end offers to them no alternative
but to present the candidate for examination as rapidly as possible.
Sea-apprentices of late years did not often share in a scheme of instruction
afloat. Rarely were they carried as complements to a full crew; for the
most part they were workmen in a scant manning--'greenhorns'--drudges
to the whim of any grown man. In a rough measure, the standard of such
seamanship as they _gathered_ was good--else we had been in ill case
to-day--but it was without method or apprehension--a smattering--the
only saving grace of which lay in the ready resource that only seafaring
engenders. The exactions of a busy working sea-life left little leisure
for self-advancement in study; the short, and ever shortening, intervals
of a stay in port provided small opportunity for exercise of a helping
hand from the shore. By deceptive short cuts that gave small
enlightenment, by rules--largely mnemonic--we passed our tests and
obtained our certificates. On shore, the landward youth fared better.
The spirit of the times provided a free and growing opportunity for the
study of technics and advance of scientific craftsmanship. The Navy took
full advantage of this tide. The Board of Admiralty saw the futility of
the old system of sea-training, having regard to the complete alteration
of the methods in seamanship and navigation. Naval education could no
longer be compensated by a schedule of bugle-calls and the exactitude of
a hammock-lashing. Concurrent with a sound sea-training, general
education was insisted upon. Zealously Admiralty guided their youth on a
path that led to a culture and appreciation of values, wide in scope, to
serve their profession. If it was essential, in the national interest,
that the general education and sea-training of naval officers should be
so closely supervised, it was surely little less important that that of
the merchants' officers should receive some measure of attention. But
for the private efforts of some few shipowners, nothing on the lines of
a considered scheme was done. No assistance or advice or grant in aid
was made by the Board of Trade. While drawing to their coffers huge
sums, accumulations of fines and forfeitures, deserters' wages, fees,
the unclaimed earnings of deceased seamen, they could afford no
assistance to guide the youthful seaman through a course of right
instruction to a better sea-knowledge; they made no advances to place
our education on a less haphazard basis. It may be cited as an evidence
of _their_ indifference that a large proportion of unsuccessful
candidates for the junior certificates fail in a test of _dictation_.

With our entry to the war at sea in 1914, the same indifference was
manifest. There was no mobilization or registration of merchant seamen
to aid a scheme of manning and to control the chaos that was very soon
evident. Despite their intimate knowledge of the gap in our ranks made
by the calling-up of the Naval Reserve--accentuated by the enlistment of
merchant seamen in the Navy--the Board of Trade could see no menace to
the sea-transport service in the military recruitment of our men. It was
apparently no concern of theirs that we sailed on our difficult voyages
short-handed, or with weak crews of inefficient landsmen, while so many
of our skilled seamen and numbers of our sea-officers were marking time
in the ranks of the infantry. Under pressure of events, it was not until
November 1915 they took a somewhat hesitating step. This was their
proclamation; it may be contrasted with Captain Greenville Collins's


          "At the present time the efficient maintenance of
          our Mercantile Marine is of vital national
          interest, and captains, officers, engineers, and
          their crews will be doing as good service for
          their country by continuing to man British ships
          as by joining the army.


"AT the present time"! Possibly our Board was writing in anticipation of
the completion of the Channel tunnel, or of a date when our men-at-arms
and their colossal equipment, the food and furnishings of the nation,
the material aid to our Allies, could be transported by air. "As good
service"! An equality! An option! Was it a matter of simple balance that
a seaman on military service was using his hardily acquired
sea-experience as wisely as in the conduct of his own skilled trade, as
efficiently as in maintaining the lines of our oversea communications?
Events at this date were proving that we had no need to go ashore for
fighting service.

In the first violence of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Board
advanced little, if any, assistance to the victims of German savagery.
Their machinery existed only to repatriate torpedoed crews under warrant
as "distressed British seamen"; they were content to leave destitution,
hunger--the rags and tatters of a body covering--to be relieved and
refitted by the charitable efforts of philanthropic Seamen's Societies.
To them--to the kindly souls who met us at the tide-mark--we give all
honour and gratitude, but it was surely a shirking of responsibility on
part of our Board that placed the burden of our maintenance on the
committee of a Seaman's Bethel. As a tentative measure, our controllers
advanced a scheme of insurance of effects--a business proposition, of
which many took advantage. Later, this was altered to a gratuitous
compensation. Cases occurred in which distressed seamen had a claim
under both schemes: their foresight was not accounted to them. Although
proof might be forthcoming of the loss of an outfit that the small
compensation could not cover, they could claim only on one or the other,
the insurance or the gratuitous compensation. It was evident that the
Board derived some measure of assistance from the examiners in
bankruptcy on their staff.

In certain seaports--notably at Southampton--Sailors' Homes (built and
endowed for the comfort and accommodation of the merchant seamen) were
permitted, without protest, to be requisitioned by Admiralty for the
sole use of their naval ratings. The merchantmen, on service of equal
importance and equal danger, were turned out to the streets, and our
Board took no action, registered no complaint.

To await popular clamour was evidently a guiding principle with our
controllers. Their view was probably that we were private employees in
trading ventures, that their concern was only to see the sea-law carried
out. Sea-law, however, was not in question in the case of the master and
officers of _Augustine_, and, if they could assume the right to
interfere in that personal matter, they accepted a position as curators
of the personnel of the Merchants' Service. They cannot complain if our
understanding of their duties does not agree with theirs. Deliberately,
they have asserted that our sea-conduct is within their province.

An extraordinary matter is the character and calibre of the Board's
marine officials. Unquestionably able and personally sympathetic as they
are, it remains the more incomprehensible that our governance is so
stupidly controlled. Perhaps their submissions fail of acceptance in the
councils of a higher control--that has also to decide on horse-racing
and bankruptcy. Under a less heavily encumbered Ministry, our affairs
should receive the consideration that is their due. It required but
little experience of the new sea-warfare to establish our claim to be
considered a national service with a mission and employment no less
vital and combatant than that of the enlisted arms. Master and man, we
have earned the right to no small voice in the control of our own
affairs. Our sea-interests are large enough to require a separate
Department of the State, a Ministry of Marine, in which we should have a

The Board of Trade has failed us, they have proved unworthy of our
confidence. Quite lately they began to mobilize and register the
mercantile seamen of the country. _Three years and nine months after the
outbreak of war, they sounded the 'assembly' of the Merchants' Service._
Let that be their epitaph!




SEA-LABOUR cannot be likened to employment on shore. Once signed and
boarded and to sea, there can be no dismissal and replacement of the men
such as may be seen any morning at the street gates of a workshop or
shipyard. Good or bad, we are bound as shipmates for a voyage. Ordinary
laws and regulations cannot reach us in our sailing; we are given the
Merchant Shipping Act for our guidance, the longest and wordiest Act on
the Statute Book, a measure that presupposes a discipline that no longer
exists. Our ships, in size and power--our complement, in number and
character--have altered greatly beyond the views of the Act. That
statute, that in its day may have sufficed to set a standard of law and
order to the moderate crews of our sailing ships, is utterly inadequate
to control effectively the large ship's company of our modern steam
vessels. The men, too, are changed--the sailormen, perhaps, not
greatly--but, with the thundering evolution of steam-power, we have
drawn grown men to the fires, ready-made men, uninfluenced by traditions
of sea-service. We had no hand in their making--in the early years when
discipline may be inculcated and character be formed. The drudgery and
uninterest of their heavy work makes for a certain reaction that
frequently finds its expression in violence and criminal disorder. The
short voyage system and the grossly inadequate provisions of the Act
afford no opportunity to guide the reaction in a less vicious direction.
We hailed as a benefactor to the sea the inventor of single topsails;
the statistics of our sea-fatalities give a definite date to their
introduction. Daily we pray for an inventor to emancipate our stokehold

It would be idle to pretend that, as master-seamen, we were not
disquieted by our manning problem, following upon the outbreak of war.
While mobilization of the Army Reserve drew men from all industries in a
proportion that did not affect seriously any one employment, the
calling-up of the Royal Naval Reserve strained our resources in men to
the utmost. Seamen, naval or mercantile, are of one great trade: the
balance of our activities being thrown suddenly and violently to one
side of our engagement could not fail in disorganizing the other. Added
to the outgoing of the retained Reserve seamen, recruitment of a new
Reserve to man Auxiliaries and Special Service vessels was almost
instantly begun. There were many applicants; the choice naturally fell
upon our best men remaining. In and after August 1914, we were
short-handed in the Merchants' Service. We were, indeed more than
short-handed, for the loss of our steadiest men had effect in removing a
certain check upon indiscipline. We missed just that influence upon
which, for want of adequate authoritative powers, we counted to preserve
some measure of subordinance in our ranks.

Large vessels were most seriously affected. The service of troop
transport suffered and was delayed. On occasion, there was the amazing
instance of some 1500 trained and disciplined troops standing by to
await the sobering-up and return to duty of a body of seamen and
firemen. Drunkenness is not yet accounted a crime, but the holding up of
vital reinforcements was no petty fault. Under the Act we were empowered
to inflict a fine of exactly five shillings on each offender. The
offence that held 1500 soldiers in check was met by a mulct of two


The Army and the Naval Authorities were startled, as at a situation they
had not contemplated. Masters and officers, if not actually challenged,
were deemed to be responsible for such a state of insubordination
among their crews. While such an assumption was, to a degree, unjust, it
is true that we were not wholly blameless. For the sake of a quiet
commercial life, we had accepted the difficulties of our manning without
protest. In this we erred. Had we been an independent and economically
fearless body, we would, in the days before the war, have refused to
proceed to sea with any less than the summary powers held by a
magistrate on shore to enforce law and order in his district. It is true
that no magisterial powers will prevent drunkenness, but that condition
on the ships was due directly to the general indiscipline that we were
unable wholly to control.

The state of affairs called for more than a merely temporary measure,
but our controllers advanced no settlement--only they devised an
expedient. The situation was met, not by a firm action that would affect
all merchant ships and seamen alike, but by a Defence of the Realm
regulation that operated only when ships were chartered directly by
Government. The opportunity to make the merchantmen's forecastle a place
for decent men to earn a living was passed by. While admitting, by their
concern, that the matter called for redress, Government could only take
action in cases where their bureaucratic interests were threatened.
Vessels on purely commercial voyages, including carriage of the mails
and millions in the nation's securities, were left without the
regulation: we had to carry on as best we could. It entailed hardship on
the better-disposed members of our ships' companies: in whatever
fashion, the work had to be carried on: we taxed our steady men to the
limit. The effect upon them may be judged when they realized that the
delinquency of their shipmates, whose duty they had undertaken, was
assessed at the price of a pound of 'Fair Maid' tobacco.

While the quality of our men was thus affected, we suffered in their
diminished numbers. Without a protest from our governing body, the Board
of Trade, the army took a toll of our seamen. Thus early, it was not
realized that we merchantmen would have to fight for our ships and our
lives at sea. The drums of field-war set up a note that was heard
outside of six fathoms of blue water; large numbers of our seamen and
many ships' officers joined up for military service. There was a certain
measure of compensation afforded by the industrial situation ashore. As
the magnitude of the world conflict was realized, nervous employers of
labour reduced their staffs. All workmen suffered, the building trades
being perhaps most affected. As needs must, we were open to recruit
able-bodied men: we had to make seamen, and that quickly. Masons,
brick-layers, tilers, slaters--they reached tide-mark in their quest for
employment. We were glad enough to sign them on to make up our
complements. At the first they were not of great value. Unused to the
sea and ship-life, they had to be nursed through stormy weather: a
source of anxiety to the watch-keeper when the seas were up. In time
they became moderately efficient. As good tradesmen, they had a
self-respect that could be encouraged: they were not difficult to

Of these, perhaps 50 per cent. made a second voyage, but not more than
10 per cent. remained at sea permanently. Their reasons for returning to
the beach were always the same. Not the hard work or the seas appalled
them, but the class of men with whom they had to live and work. Some of
our recruits had other objects in view than a desire for a sea-life. At
ports abroad, notably in the United States, they deserted. Strict as the
Federal machinery is for regulating immigration into the United States,
there appeared to be no keen desire on the part of the authorities to
embarrass the improper entry of our men. It was not difficult to assign
a cause for their laxity. Technically, the men were seamen. Our Uncle
Sam was stirring towards true sea-power--the acquisition of large
mercantile fleets. The native American could see no prosperous
commercial career in the forecastle: only from abroad might labour be
obtained for operation of the ships. We had done the same in our time.
Desertions were not confined to the landsmen of our crews. A situation
arose quickly, in which it became profitable for our men to desert
abroad and re-sign on another ship at an enhanced pay. As though to
facilitate their breach of agreement, it was not long before the United
States Seamen's Act came into force. By some international process that
we seamen are not yet able to understand, this Act became operative on
every vessel entering an American port. It establishes, for all seamen,
the 'right to quit.' Strangely, our men did not all abandon ship. Some
stirring of the patriotism that, later, became pronounced among them
must have had effect in restraining wholesale disembarkation.
Short-handed by perhaps an eighth of a full crew, we made our return
voyages. By shift and expedient, we kept a modest head of steam. The
loss was almost wholly at the fires. Stewards were set to deck duties
and the look-out, the released sailormen went below to the stokehold--on
occasion, passengers were recruited on board to bear a hand. Perhaps the
public grumbled at receiving their letters an hour or two behind time.

It is not easy to advance reasons for the new and better spirit that
came to us coincident with the appearance of German savagery at sea.
Restrictions of the supply of drink had effect in enabling us to
commence a voyage under good conditions, without brawling and bloodshed
in the forecastle. An atmosphere of determination was, perhaps,
introduced by the tales of undying heroism in the trenches that reached
us. The losses in ships served partially to supplement the numbers of
men available: a choice could be made in engagement of a crew. Over all,
there was the menace to our seafaring--the threat and challenge to our
sea-pride, as compelling and remedial as the draught of a free breeze.
In his action, the enemy made many miscalculations; not the least was
when he roused a spirit of readiness to service in our merchantmen; he
blew more than the acrid fumes into us with the shattering explosion of
his torpedoes.

If we may claim a patriotic influence acting upon our white seamen as
reason for good service in the war, how shall we assess the lascar's
quiet employment in a conflict that, perhaps, only dimly he understood?
Of its operation he could have no ignorance. _Schrecklichkeit_ was
particularly to be employed against the native seaman. Shell and torpedo
took toll of his numbers, but there was little hesitancy when he was
invited to sign for further voyages. It was ever a point of prophecy
with his detractors in the days of peace that he would be found wanting
under stress. Not boldly or magnificently or in a spirit of vainglory,
but in a manner that is not the less impressive because few have spoken
of it, he has given them the lie.

The attitude of the naval authorities in regard to our manning is
peculiar. They seem to be unable to think of ships' crews in any other
terms than that of their own large complements. There is one part in the
lectures of our instructional course that never fails to arouse rude
merriment among the master-seamen attending--as it produces a shamefaced
attitude on part of the naval lecturer (now intimate with our
difficulties). In instructions for detailing our men to 'action
stations' the phrases occur: "a party to be detached for attention to
wounded," "a party to serve hoses at fire stations," "an ammunition
supply party," "party to put the provisions and blankets in the boats."
In practice, we are also working the guns, attending the navigation,
spotting the fall of shot, keeping post at wheel and look-out. The
average cargo vessel rarely carries more than eight men on deck: we
cannot afford to have many wounded!






          "_We're a North-country ship, an' a deep-water crew.
                   A--way, i-oh!
            Ye can stick t' th' coast, but we're damned if we do.
                   An' we're bound t' Rio Grande!_"

SO we sang--sounding a bravery at the capstan as we hove around and
raised anchor to begin a voyage. We had our ideas. We were foreign-going
sailors, putting out on a far venture. In pride of our seafaring--of
rounding the Horn, of crossing Equator, perhaps of a circumnavigation--we
looked down upon the coaster. He was a hoveller, a tidesman, a
mud-raker--his anchors could shew no coral on the flukes as they came
awash. We carried these ideas to the beach. Deliberately, we produced an
atmosphere that is unjust to the cross-channel man.

The oversea voyage possesses a greater appeal to the imagination. Long
distances, variation of the climes, storm and high ocean seas--a burthen
of goods brought from a far country, all contribute to make an
impression that the tale of a coasting voyage could not produce.
Familiarity, perhaps, has robbed the short-carriers' sea-trip of what
shreds of romance existed. In tide and out, the smaller vessels have
grown to the sight as almost part of the familiar quays and wharves they
frequent. A voyage from Tyne to the Thames or from Glasgow to Liverpool
is so common and everyday that little remark is excited. We are
unconcerned at its incident; the gale that wrecked a collier on the
Black Middens may have blown a tile or two from our roof; the fog that
bound the Antwerp boat for a tide is, perhaps, the same that held us in
the City for an hour over time. We may entertain our friends with
recital of a sea-voyage, but we have not a great deal to say of a
Channel passage.

At war, this focus of the public outlook has persisted. The threat to
our sea-communications, to the source by which the nation gains its
daily bread, has drawn an intense interest to the fortunes of the ships,
but that interest has rarely been extended to the coasting vessels and
the seamen who man them; there is little said of the work of the coastal
pilots, on whose skill and local knowledge so much depends. We are
concerned for our _Britannics_ and _Justitias_, but the fate of the
_Sarah Pritchard_ of Beaumaris, or the escape of _Boy Jacob_ are small
events in relation to the toll of our tonnage. Their utility has not
been brought before us in the same way as the direct service of the
great ocean carriers. It is not difficult to understand that a breakdown
of that source of supply would mean starvation and disaster. Our
dependence on the coasting vessels is not so apparent. The vital needs
served by them are, in part, obscured. We are, perhaps, satisfied that
alternative channels exist for passage of the tonnage they transport:
road and rail are open for inland carriage.

The situation is not quite so clear. Pressure at the rail-heads, at the
collieries, at the steelworks and the manufactories, has thrown a burden
on our island railways that they are unable to bear. But for the service
of the coasters and the resolution of the home-trade seamen, the block
to our traffic could not have been other than fatal. By relieving the
congestion on the lines, they made possible the expansion of our output
of munitions. Millions of tons that would otherwise have been put upon
land transport (and have lain to swell the accumulations), are brought
to tide-mark to be handled and cleared and ferried between home ports
and across the channels by the coasting vessels. The Fleet is coaled
and stored almost entirely by sea. Our men in France and Flanders are
carried and fed and refitted by light-draught steamers. Power is
transmitted to our Allies from British coalfields by our grimy colliers.
Constant voyaging, dispatch at the ports of lading and discharge,
seagoing through all weathers, make huge the total of their tonnage, but
their individual cargoes rank small against the mammoth burdens of the
oversea merchantmen. The sea-ants (however busily they throng the ports)
are seldom remarked; their work is carried on in the shadow of more
spectacular and lengthy voyaging. On occasion, a stray beam of popular
recognition is turned on the smaller craft--as when _Wandle_ steams up
Thames after her gallant fight, or when _Thordis_ (Bell, master) rams
and sinks a U-boat--but the light is quickly slewed again to illuminate
the seafaring of the oversea vessels. Similarly--with the men--interest
has centred on the deep-water mariner; the coasting masters and their
crews, together with the pilots, are little heard of. Their navigations,
steering by the land on a short passage of a tide or two, have not the
compelling emphasis of long voyaging on distant seas. Chroniclers of our
deeds and fates have set out the drawn agony of the raft and the open
boat in mid-Atlantic; they are less insistent on the tragedies (as
bitter and prolonged) of inshore waters. Perhaps they are influenced by
a common misconception that succour is ever ready at hand in the narrow
sea. There are the lifeboats on the coast, patrols on keen look-out in
the channels, vessels are ever passing up and down the fairways; the
land, in any case, is not far distant. Such assurance has but slender
warrant. Gallant, unselfish, and thorough as are the services of the
lifeboatmen, their operations in the main are intended to serve known
wrecks and strandings. A flare in the darkness or a flash of gunfire in
the channels is now no special signal; the new sea-casualty gives little
time or warning for a muster of resources. The ready succour of the
patrols is, perhaps, more instant and alert, but the channel seaways
cover an area that no system could place under a quartered post or
guard. No vigilance could prevent the capture of _Brussels_ and the
martyrdom of Captain Fryatt; the crew of the _Nelson_ smack were for
over thirty hours adrift in the narrow seas ere they were sighted and
rescued. In the busy waters of the Irish Sea, three men of the ketch
_Lady of the Lake_ made ten miles in eight hours under oars, after their
vessel had been sunk by gunfire. A weary progress, with ships passing
near and far, but none daring too close the boat that might, for all
they know, be trap for an enemy mine or torpedo.

It is time we ceased to sing that Rio Grande chanty: an _amende_ is

While we, the foreign-going men, have our 'ins and outs' of the most
dangerous seas--serving our turn in the front-line sea-trenches, then
retiring to a rest in safer and more distant waters--the coastal seaman
has no such relief. His daily duty lies in the storm-centre, in the
very midst of the sea-war. From harbour mouth to the booms of his port
of entry, no course can be steered that does not drive his keel through
minable areas and across the ranges of lurking submarines.

The new sea-warfare has developed a scheme of offence that renders our
inshore waters peculiarly fraught with peril to navigators. The
coast-line is no longer a defence and protection; rather, by limiting
sea-room in manoeuvre, the shoals and rock-bound beach have turned
ally to the enemy. Sea-mark and headland provide a guide in estimating
the run of a torpedo; note of a point definite, on which sea-routes
converge, is of value to a submarine commander. Even in the shallower
waters--depths in which a torpedo attack would be difficult--an equally
deadly offence may be maintained. The run of the sea-bottom in the
channels offering a good hold to slipped mine-moorings, it was not long
before the enemy had adapted submarines to continue the minelaying that
our command of the surface had stopped. While new and larger U-boats are
sent abroad on the trade routes, special submarines, less encumbered by
the stores and equipment that longer passages would demand, make
frequent visits to the fairways to sow a freight of mines. No section of
the channels holds sanctuary for the coaster. Close inshore, as in the
offing, is all a danger area, open to the stealthy visits of the
submarine minelayers. Right on the Mersey Bar, the Liverpool pilot
steamer went up with a loss of forty lives; remote West Highland bays
have echoed to the crash of mines exploded; seaward of the Irish banks,
the deeps are alike dangerous. Counter-measures there are (services as
efficient and resourceful in life-saving as those of the enemy are
cunning and viciously ingenious in murder), but even the gallantry and
skill and untiring efforts of our minesweepers cannot wholly clear the
immense water-spaces. Mechanical contrivances--the Otters--are valuable,
and aid in fending the mines, but (the sea-bottom being foul with
wreckage) they are often a danger to their carriers. There is ever the
harassing uncertainty which no vigilance may allay. The sheer relief of
passing over the hundred-fathom line to the comparative safety of the
deeps of ocean is never experienced by the cross-channel captain.

Favoured by their light draught and smaller proportions, the coasters
are perhaps less exposed to successful torpedo attack than their larger
and deeper ocean sisters. In the early days of submarine activity, the
enemy was loath to use his deadlier and more expensive weapon on the
small craft. He relied on gunfire to produce effects. The channel seas
were not then as well patrolled as now by armed auxiliaries: he could
have a leisurely exercise in frightfulness at little risk to
himself--there was no return to his fire--it was an easy target
practice. _Cottingham_ was shelled at short ranges when off the Bristol
Channel. Unarmed and outdistanced, the master stopped his engines,
lowered the two boats, and abandoned ship. The shelling continued, but
was directed on the sinking ship; the submarine commander evidently
thought the bitter wintry weather would accomplish a more refined
_Schrecklichkeit_ than the summary execution of his shell-bursts. In the
heavy battery of a sou'west gale, the boats drove apart. The master's
boat was sighted by a patrol, and the crew of six rescued after some
hours' exposure. The mate's boat came ashore at Portliskey in Wales,
bottom up and shattered; of the seven men who had manned her there was
no trace. Six of _Cottingham's_ crew survived the bitter weather--six
hardy seamen were spared to return to service afloat. The German became
dissatisfied with a frightfulness that murdered only half a merchant
ship's crew when it was possible to murder all. It was not enough to
destroy the ships and leave the seamen to the wind and sea and bitter
weather. If they were not to be driven from their calling by fear, there
were other measures--sure, definite, final. There was to be no weakness
among the apostles of the new creed, no shrinking, no humanity--British
seamen were to follow their shattered ships to the litter of the channel
bottom. The _Kölnische Zeitung_ set forth that "in future, our German
submarines and aircraft would wage war against British mercantile
vessels without troubling themselves in any way about the fate of the
crews." The _Kölnische Zeitung_ could not have been well informed. Their
submarine commanders troubled themselves greatly about the fate of our
crews. They shelled the boats in many subsequent attacks. They expended
ammunition in efforts to secure that no further seafaring would be
possible to their victims. Sheer individual murder took the place of an
illegal act of war. ". . . We were unarmed, a slow ship. The submarine
hit us with a shot on the bow and then ran up the signal to take to the
lifeboats. We did so, and several shots were fired at the _Palermo_.
They did not take effect, however, and a torpedo was sent into her side.
She sank within a few minutes. Whether the fact that he had to use a
torpedo to send our vessel to the bottom angered the commander I do not
know, but the submarine came directly alongside of our lifeboats. The
commander was on the deck, and yelled, 'Where is the captain of that
ship?' The captain stood up and made his way to the side where the
German was standing. The German held his revolver close to our captain's
head. 'You will never bring _another ship across this ocean_,' he said,
using several oaths, then he pulled the trigger. Our captain fell dead,
and we were permitted to continue."

The new campaign was directed particularly against the coasters and
fishermen. The procedure was simple. No great speed or gun-range was
required. There was no risk, if a good look-out was kept for patrols and
war craft. The helpless, unarmed vessel, outsped and hulled, was
brought-to within easy range, and shelling could be continued to
augment the confusion of boat-lowering in a seaway. If by resolution and
fine seamanship the boats were got away, there was further target
practice with shrapnel or machine-gun. The schooner _Jane Williamson_ of
Arklow was attacked without warning. The first shot smashed one of her
boats, the second killed one of the crew. At shouting distance--a
hundred yards range--point-blank under the submarine's gun--there could
be no question of defence or escape. The remaining five hands put over
the second boat, tumbled into her and shoved clear. To hit the boat the
submarine's gun must have been slewed deliberately from the larger
target: bad shooting could not have occurred. Afloat and helpless, a
shell struck her, killing one man outright, mortally wounding the master
and another, and damaging the frail row-boat. The Germans beckoned the
boat to them, but it was only to laugh at the throes of the dying men.
The U-boat submerged, leaving the three survivors to ship oars and face
the long weary pull towards the distant land. The _William_ was sunk by
gunfire; the gun's crew of the U-boat then loaded shrapnel and turned
the gun on the open boat, wounding a man of the crew. _Redcap_ was
hauling her trawl when without any warning shrapnel burst on board.
There was no challenge, the fishermen had made no attempt to get under
way and escape. Busied with the gear, all hands were grouped together,
when the shell exploded among them. One hand was killed instantly, the
mate's leg was blown off, two seamen were wounded. Under fire, the
survivors put the boat over and removed the wounded; the Germans gave no
thought to their distress, but centred rapid fire on the trawler, sunk
her, and disappeared.


When guns were served to merchant ships, the coasters shared in their
issue. Encounters with enemy submarines were no longer one-sided and
hopeless. Effects could not be secured by the Germans at so small a
cost. Frequently the effects were those that the submarine commander was
most anxious to avoid. _Atalanta_ picked up the crew of _Maréchal de
Villars_, then fought off the U-boat that had sunk that vessel. Watchers
on the coastal headlands saw many a running fight between handy little
home-traders and the under-sea pirates. Nor were the fishermen slow in
action. Once armed for defence, they proved that they could use their
weapons with skill and precision. Off Aberdeen in stormy weather, a
German submarine hove up from his depths for practice on a fleet of
trawlers. It was to be a _Redcap_ diversion: rapid fire, shrapnel, boats
thrown out hastily, common shell on the hulls of the trawlers--wholesale
destruction. But there was a mistake. A 'watch-dog' was among the
fleet--_Commissioner_, armed and alert. At an opportune moment she cut
her gear adrift, canted under speed and helm, returned the U-boat's fire
and sank her in five rounds. Submarine commanders soon realized that
'diversions' were risky, the target could now hit back. It was safer to
submerge when within range of anything larger than a row-boat. Even the
sailing barges acquired a sting. In proportion to her tonnage, _Drei
Geschwister_--a captured German, refitted to our coastal service--is
probably the heaviest armed vessel afloat.

In channel waters, look-outs must not be confined to the round of the
sea. To the U-boat's gunfire and torpedo, to the menace of moored and
drifting mines, is added a danger that rarely threatens the oversea
trader--an attack from the air. Striking distance from enemy bases has
given opportunity for exercise of aircraft. Zeppelin and seaplane have
their turns of activity in the North Sea and the Straits. Steering a
careful course in a sea 'foul with floating mines,' the Cork steamship
_Avocet_ was attacked by three aeroplanes. The action lasted for over
half an hour. Bombs exploded alongside, the bridge and upper decks were
scarred and pitted by a hail of machine-gun bullets. The master and mate
kept the aircraft at a respectful height by using their rifles--the only
arms carried. By skilful handling, Captain Brennell saved his ship. He
is probably the only seaman who has steered a deliberate course between
a 'fall' of bombs; swinging on starboard helm, 'three bombs missed the
starboard bow and three the port quarter by at most seven feet.' The
_Birchgrove_ was attacked by two seaplanes carrying torpedoes--a novel
adaptation. Again the use of ready helm proved a moving ship a difficult
target. Both torpedoes missed. Less fortunate was the _Franz Fischer_,
an ex-German collier. Anchored off the Kentish Knock, the night black
dark, the thunder of a Zeppelin's engines was heard overhead. Before
there was time to extinguish all lights, the huge airship was able to
take up a position for attack. One heavy bomb sufficed. _Franz Fischer_
reeled to a tremendous explosion, heeled over, and sank. Only three
survived of her crew of sixteen.

Constant sea-perils are enhanced by war measures in the channels. On
open sea there is less confusion; the issue is narrowed to contest
between ship and submarine and the hazard of a derelict or floating
mine--there is ample sea-room in which to 'back and fill.' The coaster
has a harder task. His navigational problem is complicated by the eight
hundred odd pages of 'Notices to Mariners'--the amends and addends and
cancellations of Admiralty instructions relating to the seafaring of the
coast. Inner channels are confused by 'friendly' minefields or by
alteration of the buoyage; aids to navigation are suspended or
rearranged on scant notice; coastwise lights are put out or have their
powers reduced to small efficiency in the mists and grey weather.
Unmarked wrecks, growing daily in numbers, litter the sea-bottom; areas
are to be avoided to leave a fair field for the hunters; zigzag courses
in close proximity to the land sustain a constant anxiety. Above all,
navigation without lights increases the danger to all merchantmen and to
the patrols and naval craft that crowd the seaways of the coast.

Through all that the enemy can set against them, the home-trade vessels
proceed on their voyages. Their losses are heavy in numbers (if the sum
of their tonnage be not great), but the press of short sea-carriers that
passes up Channel or down shews no evidence that frightfulness achieves
an effect in holding them, loath, at their moorings. There is freight
enough for all. Every vessel that has a sound keel and a helm to steer
her is actively employed. Old craft and odd are come on the sea to serve
turn in our emergency. Barges and inland watermen, Hudson Bay sloops,
whilom pleasure craft, mud-hoppers reshelled, hulks even, are used; if
they can neither sail nor steam, the ropemakers can supply a
hawser--there is trade and bargain for a tow. After peace-years of
grinding competition with the freight-grabbing steam coasters, the
sailing craft of the smaller ports have found a new prosperity, from
which no risks can daunt them. Sailmakers and rigging-cutters, the block
and spar makers, have taken up their old tools again, and the gallant
little topsail schooners, brigantines, cutters, and ketches are out
under canvas.

The German boast that he can achieve victory by submarine policy could
be nowhere more plainly refuted than in the War Channel that extends
from the Thames to the Tyne. The evidence is there for all to judge. The
seaway is foul with wrecks, foundered on beach and sandbar--the tide
vexed by under-water obstructions. Topmast spars with whitened cordage
whipping in the wind stand out above the swirl of the tides; a shattered
bow-section or gaunt listed shell of a wrecked vessel sets the turn to a
new shoal drift; crazy funnels, twisted and arake by the broken hulls
below, stud the angles of the buoyage that marks the fairway. Disaster
to our shipping is plainly shewn, grouped in a way that no figures or
statistics could rival. But there is other evidence. Daybreak in the
Channel gives light to a progress of seaworthy craft that seems in no
way diminished by the worst that the enemy can do. He has failed,
despite the sinister sea-marks that litter the fairway. Down the river
estuaries and out from the sea-harbour and roadstead, the coasters still
join in company through the channels. An unending procession; the grey
seascape is never free of their whirling smoke-wreaths. Passing and
turning in the deeps, they steam close to the red-rusted, shattered
hulls of their sister ships. The gaunt masses of tortured steel stand
out as monuments to an indomitable spirit--or to an influence that calls
their sea-mates out to steer by the loom of their wreckage.


IF we may count antiquity and precedence a claim, the pilot is the real
senior of our trade. Before the ship and her tackling--the rude coracle,
setting across the river bars or steering on a short passage by
sea-marks on the coast, before the oversea venturer with his guide in
sun and star--the lodesman, who marked the deeps and the shallows.

The pilot's departure and boarding are definite and well-marked
incidents in the course of a voyage, and have a significance and
interest few other ship-happenings claim. He is our last and first
connection with the shore. His leaving is attended by a sober emotion, a
compound of regret and impatience; regret that his sure support is
withdrawn--impatience to go ahead to open sea. He backs over the rail
and lurches down the swaying side-ladder to his dinghy to an
accompaniment of cordial good-byes. Passengers crowd the bulwarks to
watch his small boat go a-bobbing in the stern-wash as we gather way. It
hardly occurs to them that their farewell letters, now in his
weather-stained bag, may be for days or weeks unposted; to them he is
the last post--the link is snapped, the voyage now really begun.

There may be masters who affect a fine aloofness when the pilot boards
them on incoming, others who preserve a detached air--but there are few
who do not feel relief in answering the cheerful hail--'All well aboard,
Captain?'--as the pilot puts a cautious testing foot on the side-ladder.
Here is the voyage practically at an end with the coming of an expert in
local navigation. The anxiety of a landfall is over. The channel buoys,
port hand and starboard, stretch out ahead to mark definite limits to
shoal and sandbank; familiar landmarks loom up through the drift of
distant city haze; the outer lightship curtsies in the swell, beckoning
us into port to resume the brief round of longshore life. After a
lengthy period of silence and detachment, we are again in touch with the
affairs of the beach; the news of the day and of weeks past is told to
us in intervals of steering orders--sailor news, edited by a competent
understanding of our professional interests. The tension of the voyage
is unconsciously relaxed. We are in good hands. The engines turn
steadily and we come in from sea.

If the pilot was ever a welcome attendant in the peaceful days, his
services in the war earn for him an even warmer appreciation. War
measures in their operation have rendered our seaports difficult of
entry. The buoyage has, perhaps, been reset in the interval of a
voyage's absence. Boom defences and examination areas exist, channels
are closed or obstructed; certain of the lightships or floating marks
may be withdrawn on short warning. Amid all our doubts and
uncertainties, we look for the one assured sea-mark on the unfamiliar
bars--the red-and-white emblem of a pilot vessel on her boarding
station. Undeterred by the risk of mine or torpedo while marking time on
their cruising ground, the pilots are constantly on the alert to board
the incoming vessels as they approach from seaward. No state of the
weather drives the cutter from her station to seek shelter in safer
waters. If the seas are too high for boatwork, she steams ahead and
offers a lead to a quieter section of the fairway where boarding may be

Turn and turn of the pilots in service can no longer be effected. The
even balances of their roster (that worked so well in peace-time) have
been rudely disturbed by war. The steady round of duty, in which every
man knew the date of his relief, has given place to a state of 'feast
and famine'; all hands are frequently mustered to meet the sudden and
unheralded demands of an inward-bound convoy, or the limited
accommodation of the cutter is taxed and overloaded by the release of
pilots from an outward mass sailing.

There are grades of pilotage--from that of the rivers and protected
waters to the more hazardous voyages between coastal ports. It is,
perhaps, to the sea-pilots of Trinity we are most intimately drawn.
While the river pilot is with us for the short term of the tide, the
Trinity man is of our ship's company for a day or days. His valued local
knowledge is at our service to set and steer fair courses in the
perplexing tangents of unfamiliar tideways; operations of the
minesweepers and patrols--that alter and multiply beyond counting in the
course of a voyage abroad--are a plain book to him. If we meet disaster
in the channels, we have a prompter at our elbow to advise a favourable
beaching. We have a peer to confide in throughout our difficulties.
After days of anxious watchkeeping on the bridge we are well served by a
competent relief.

Ship movements in the western waters are controlled by the naval
authorities in a manner that allows of independent sailings, but the
Trinity pilots' duties lie in the Channel and the North Sea, where a
more exacting regime is in force. From the Downs to the north, measures
adopted for protection of the ships call for a time-table of sailings
and arrivals that can only be adhered to by the pilot's aid. A 'War
Channel' is established, a sea-lane of some two hundred and eighty miles
that has constantly to be swept and cleared in advance of the traffic.
Navigation in the channel obstructs an efficient search for mines;
sweeping operations interfere with the passage of the ships. No small
amount of control and management is necessary to reconcile conflicting
actions and expedite the safe conduct of the shipping. Latterly,
sailings were restricted to the hours of daylight; a system of sectional
passages is enforced, by which all vessels are scheduled to make a
protected anchorage before nightfall. An effect of this is to group the
vessels in large scattered convoys, forming a pageant of shipping that
even the busiest days of peace-time could not rival.

In all the story of the Downs, the great roadstead can rarely have
presented such a scene as when, on a chill winter morning, we lay at
anchor awaiting passage. Overnight, we had come in under convoy from the
westward, eighteen large ships, to swell the tonnage that had gathered
from the Channel ports. From Kingsdown to the Gull, there was hardly
water-space to turn a wherry. Even in the doubtful holding ground of
Trinity Bay some large ships were anchored, and the fairway through the
Roads was encroached upon by more than one of us--despite the summary
signals from the Guardship. All types were represented in our assembly;
we boasted a combination in dazzle paint to set us out, and our signal
flags carried colour to the mastheads to complete the variegations of
our camouflage. Troop transports from the States, standard cargo ships,
munition carriers come over in the night from the French ports,
high-sided empty colliers returning to the north for further loads,
deep-laden freighters for London, ammunition and store ships for the
Fleet, coasters and barges, made up the mercantile shipping riding at
anchor, while naval patrols and harbour craft under way gave movement to
the spectacle. Snow had fallen, and the uplands above Deal and Walmer
had white drifts in the quartered fields. To seaward, we could see twin
wreaths of smoke blowing low on the water, marking the progress of a
flotilla of minesweepers, on whose operations we waited. A brisk north
wind held out our signal flags, shewing our ports of destination, and
the pilot cutter, busily serving men on the inward bound, took note of
our demands. In time, the punt delivered our pilot, and we hove short,
awaiting a signal from the Guardship that would release the traffic.

The teeth of the Goodwins had bared to a snarl of broken water that
shewed the young flood making when movement began among the ships. Long
experience had accustomed the pilots to the ways of the minesweepers,
and when the clearing signal 'Vessels may proceed' was hoisted at the
yard-arm of the Guardship, there were few anchors still to be raised.
Crowding out towards the northern gateway, we found ourselves in close
formation. Variations of speeds rendered the apparent confusion
difficult to steer through, but the action of a kindred masonry among
the pilots seemed to clear the narrow sea-lane. There was little easing
of speed; with only a few hours of winter daylight to work in, shipping
was being driven at its utmost power to make the most of the precious
time. 'All out,' stoking up and setting a stiff smoke-screen over the
seascape, we thinned out to a more comfortable formation, while the
smaller craft, taking advantage of the rising tide, cut the inner angles
of the channel to keep apace.

With flood tide to help us, we made good progress. The press of shipping
gradually dropped astern till only the troop transport, our
sea-neighbours of the convoy, kept company with us. Satisfied with the
speed made, the pilot reckoned up the mileage and the tide. We were for
Hull and, with luck, he expected to make Yarmouth Roads before darkness
and the Admiralty regulations obliged us to bring up. Like all who serve
the tide, he was prepared for an upset to his plans. "Not much use
figuring things out in these days, Capt'n," he said. "A lot o'
happenings come our way. In spite o' these fellows out there"--he
pointed to a group of destroyers lining out on our seaward beam--"the
U-boat minelayers get in on the channels to lay 'eggs'; as fast as we
can sweep them up, sometimes. But"--cheerfully--"they don't always get
back for another load: saw the bits o' one being towed into Harwich last

Happenings came our way. At the Edinburgh Channel, where the troop
transports parted company and turned away for London, we were halted by
an urgent signal from a spurring torpedo-boat. 'Ships bound north to
anchor instantly,' was the reading of her flags; we rounded to and
obeyed. In groups and straggling units, we were joined by the larger
number of the fleet that had left the Downs with us. Some few were for
the Thames and steamed ahead in wake of the troop-ships, but the most
were bound for east-coast ports and anchored near the Channel Lightship.
Two hours of precious daylight were lost to us as we rode out the last
of the flood. High water came and we swung around on the cant of the
wind. The pilot grew visibly impatient. The traverse of his reckoning
lessened in mileage with every hasty step or two up and down the bridge.
Yarmouth Roads receded into the morrow; Lowestoft (if the chief could
crack her up to thirteen) was possible, but unlikely. Time passed, with
no clearing signal--we were to be 'nipped' on the long stretch with no
prospect but to dodge into Hollesay Bay before black night came.

By some mysterious agency, the coasters developed a foreknowledge of
permission to proceed. Feathers of white steam curled from their
windlasses, and their anchors were awash before the block was signalled
clear. They had start of us. Less handily, we got under way and stood on
into the Black Deep, where the smaller craft were throwing green smoke
in their efforts to get ahead. The tide had now turned ebb to set us on
our way. As we surged past the channel buoys the pilot was reassured.
The prospect of windy Lowestoft Roads beckoned him on with every coaster
we overhauled and passed; the outlook improved as we timed our passage
between the sea-marks. Off the Sunk, we came on the cause of our
stoppage. The pilot noted a new wreck on the sands, one that had not
been there when last he steered over this route. Beached at high water,
he said. She had not been long on. The wreck lay listed on a spit of
the sandbank. Her bows were blown open, exposing the interior of
forecastle and forehold. Neutral colours were painted on her topside;
the boats were gone and dangling boat-falls streamed alongside in the
tideway. There was no sign of life on her, but a patrol drifter was
standing by with a crowd of men on her decks. Out to seaward a flotilla
of minesweepers was busily at work. Turning no more than a curious eye
on the mined neutral, the pilot paid attention to the steering. That we
were over a mined area had no grave concern for him. Relying on the
minesweepers, he kept course and speed--the channel was reported clear.


DEVOTED to the service of humanity, in a bond that linked all seafarers,
lightships and isolated sea-beacons were regarded as exempted from the
operation of warlike acts. The claim of the 'beacons established for the
guidance of mariners' rested upon a high conception of world-wide
service to mankind. Their duties were not directed to military uses or
to favouring alone the nation who manned them. Their upkeep was met by a
universal levy. Their warning beams were not withdrawn from foreign
vessels; no effort was made to establish the nationality of a ship in
distress ere setting portfire to the signal-gun to call out the
lifeboat. On rare occasions sea-rovers interfered with the operation of
the guide-marks. Retribution overtook them; they were outlawed by even
the loose opinion of the period. There is surely more than legend in the
ballad of Sir Ralph the Rover; if death by shipwreck was not actually
his fate, it is at least the penalty adjudged to him by popular acclaim.
Smeaton, in his Folio, records an instance of reparation for a similar

          "Lewis the Fourteenth being at war with England
          during the proceeding with this building, a French
          privateer took the men at work upon the Eddystone
          Rock, together with their tools, and carried them
          to France, and the Captain was in expectation of a
          reward for the achievement. While the captives lay
          in prison, the transaction reached the ears of
          that monarch. He immediately ordered them to be
          released and the captors to be put in their place:
          declaring that though he was at war with England,
          he was not at war with mankind. He therefore
          directed the men to be sent back to their work
          with presents, observing that the Eddystone
          Lighthouse was so situated as to be of equal
          service to all nations having occasion to navigate
          the Channel."

A lightship is as peaceful and immobile as the granite blockstones of a
lighthouse. She requires an even greater protection, exposed as she is
to dangers on the sea that do not threaten the landward structure. She
is incapable of offence or defence. Unarmed, save for the signal-gun
that is only used to warn a vessel from the sands or to summon
assistance to a ship in distress, she can offer no resistance to a show
of force. She is moored to withstand the strongest gales, and cannot
readily disengage her heavy ground-tackle. She has no efficient means of
propulsion; parted from her stout anchors, she would drive helplessly on
to the very shoals she had been set to guard. To all seafarers, in war
as in peace, she should appeal as a sea-mark to be spared and protected;
in the service of humanity, she is exposed to danger enough--to the
furious gales from which she may not run.

Unlike the Grand Monarch, the Germans are bitterly at war with mankind.
As one of their first war acts at sea, they shelled the Ostend
Lightship. Like the Lamb, she was using the water; the Wolf would suffer
no protestation of her innocency. Was she not floating placidly on the
same tides that served the German coast?

In view of his subsequent atrocities in torpedoing hospital ships and
shelling rafts and open boats, it is probable that our light-vessels
would have been similarly destroyed by the enemy, but that his submarine
commanders found under-water navigation required as accurate a check as
in coasting on the surface. The fury of the Wolf was, in his own
interest, tardily suppressed. He recognized that the value of the
lightships in establishing a definite position was an asset to him.
Withal--his 'fix' decided--he had no qualms in sowing mines in the area
of these signposts; nor did he stay his hand in the case of a sea-mark
that was not vital to his plans. Two lightships on the east coast were
blown up by mines; one, off the coast of Ireland, was deliberately


The menace of the German sea-mine remains the greatest war danger to
which the lightships are exposed. Zeppelin and seaplane pay visits to
the coastal waters, but the sea is wide for a chance missile from the
air, and no great success has attended their bombing efforts. But the
enemy mine has no instant aim. Full-charged and deadly, its activity is
not confined--as the British mine is--to the area of the mooring. Their
minelayers, creeping in to the fairways in cloak of the darkness, are
anxious to settle their cargo of high explosive as quickly as possible.
Not all of the mines they sow hold to the hastily slipped 'sinkers' till
disaster to our shipping or the untiring search of the minesweepers
reveals their presence. Many break adrift and surge in the tideways,
moving as the set of the current takes them. Vessels under way, by keen
look-out and ready helm, can sight and avoid the drifting spheres, but
the lightships have no power to steer clear. Moored on the offset of
a shoal or sandbank (their position, indeed, a guide to the minelayer),
their broad bows offer contact to all flotsam that comes down on swirl
of the tide. The authorities were unwilling to expose their men to a
danger that could not be evaded, however gallant the shipmen or skilled
their seamanship. It was not a seagoing risk that could be met; no
adequate protection consistent with the lightship's mission could be
devised. As the submarine war became intensified, the more distant
vessels were withdrawn; new routes were set to divert shipping from the
outer passages; only those floating sea-marks are now maintained whose
removal would entail disaster to the traffic that passes by night and

Holding station in waters that are patrolled and, in part, protected,
the Trinity men who form the crews of the lightships have readjusted
their manning. A large proportion of the able-bodied men have joined the
naval forces, leaving the older hands (and some few who have a physical
disability) to tend the lights. War risks still remain, for the German
minelayers have followed the shipping to the inner channels, but the
greybeards have grown stolid and immovable in a service that was never
at any time a safe and equable calling. They have become sadly familiar
with the new sea-warfare--with disaster to the shipping in the channels.
While they have incident enough, in the movement and activity of patrols
and war craft, in the ceaseless sweeping of the channels, to judge our
sea-power and take pride in its strength, they have all too frequent
experience of the murderous under-water mechanics of the enemy. Living
in the midst of sea-alarms, the old placid tedium of their 'sixty days'
has given place to an excitement that even the monotonous rounds of
their small ship-life cannot suppress. The men on the 'Royal Sovereign'
were observers of the terrific power of the sea-mine; three ships in
sight being blown to small wreckage within an hour. 'Shambles' jarred to
distant torpedoings off the Bill. The 'South Goodwin' saw _Maloja_
brought up in her stately progress by a thundering explosion, then
watched her list and settle in the stormy seaway; a second crash and
upheaval drew the eyes of the watch on deck to the fate of the _Empress
of Fort William_ as she was hastening to succour the people of the
doomed liner. Up Channel and down, the lightshipmen were observers of
the toll exacted by the enemy--the price we paid for the freedom of the

But not all their observations of sea-casualties brought gloom to the
dog-watch reckoning. If there remained no doubt of the intensity and
power of German submarine activity, they were equally assured of the
efficiency of our surface offence, and the deadly precision of our own
under-water counter-measures. On occasion, there were other sea-dramas
enacted under the eyes of the lightshipmen--short, swift engagements
that set an oily scum welling over the clean sea-space of the channel,
or an affair of rapid gunfire that cleared a pest from the narrow
waters. There is at least one instance of a lightship having a
commanding, if uncomfortable, station in an action between our drifters
and a large enemy submarine. The lampman of the 'Gull' had a front view.
. . . "Misty weather, it was. Day was just breakin', about seven o' th'
mornin' when I see him. I see him just over there--a little t' th'
nor'ard o' that wreckage on th' Sands. A big fella, about th' size o'
them oil-barges as passes hereabouts. I didn't make him out at
first--account o' th' mornin' haze, but there was somethin' over there
where no ship didn't oughta be. I calls down th' companion--'Master,' I
says, 'there's somethin' on th' north end o' th' Sands.' He comes up an'
has a look. Then we made 'im out what he was, a big German sub.--but he
hadn't no flag flyin'. Jest then we hears firin', an' th' shells goes
over us an' lands nigh him. They was three drifters jes' come out o' th'
Downs t' start sweepin' an', all three, they goes for him like
billy-o--firin' as they comes. We was right atween them an' th' shots
passes over th' lightship. One as was short just pitches clear an
'undred yards ahead o' us. Two guns he had--th' sub.--an' they didn't
half make a din as they goes at it--_bang-bang-bang!_ Th' drifters
passes us, goin' a full clip. The first one, she got hit a-top th'
wheelhouse, but they didn't stop for nothin'. The' keeps bangin' away
with th' gun. . . . Yes. Some shots landed hereabouts, but we was busy
watchin' th' drifters. . . . I see their shots hittin', too. I see one
blaze up on th' submarine's deck, an' one o' his guns didn't talk back
no more. Th' drifters was steerin' straight for him. I dunno how one o'
them didn't go ashore herself--near it, she was. The sub. was hard on by
this time, an' he stands high--with a list, too, but fightin' away like
he was afloat.

"Two more drifters come up an' they joins in, an' th' shells goes
_who-o-o-o!_ overhead again. Then a destroyer, he comes tearin' along at
full speed, an' he puts th' finishin' touch to him. There was an
explosion on th' submarine, an' th' nex' we see--we see his men tumblin'
out o' him overside t' th' Sands. . . . Them up t' their middles in th'
water an' holdin' their hands up."

The lampman was, of his service, a trained observer. He said nothing of
the scene on the deck of the lightship--the watch tumbling up from
below, their clothing hastily thrown on--the questioning, the alarmed
cries. His concern was directed to the happenings on spit of the Sands.
"Some shots landed hereabouts," he said; but his interest was on the




THE inshore patrol hailed us and reported the channel clear as far as
the Nore, and we stood on at full speed, making the most of the short
winter daylight. Past the Elbow buoy, we met the minesweepers returning
from a sweep of their section. They were steaming in two columns, line
ahead, and we sheered a little to give them room; within the reading of
our Admiralty instructions, they were a 'squadron in formation,' to
whose movements we were advised to give way. They passed close. The
leader of the port column was _Present Help_; we read the name on a gilt
scroll that ornamented her wheelhouse. For the rest, she was trim in a
coat of iron-grey, with her port and number painted over. A small gun--a
six-pounder, perhaps--was mounted on her bows, and she carried a
weather-stained White Ensign aloft. She scurried past us, pitching to
our bow wash in an easy sidling motion that set her wheelhouse glasses
flashing a cheery message. The skipper leaned from an open doorway, in
an attitude of ease that, somehow, assured us of his day's work being
well done--with no untoward happenings. He waved his cap to our
greeting. _Present Help_ and her sisters went by, and we returned to our
course in the fairway.

"These lads," said the pilot, waving his arm towards the fast-receding
flotilla. "If it wasn't for these lads, Capt'n, you and I wouldn't feel
exactly comfortable on the bridge in channel waters. Two went up this
week, and one a little while agone." He turned his palms upward and
raised both arms in an expressive gesture. . . . "Three gone, one with
all hands, but only one merchant ship done in by mines hereabouts in the
last month. (_Starboard, a little, quartermaster!_) . . . I dunno how we
could carry on without them. Out there in all weathers, clearing the
fairways and--Gad!--it takes some doing. . . . I was talking to one of
the skippers in Ramsgate the other day. Saying what I'm
saying--(_Steady, now, steady's you go!_)--what I'm saying now, and all
he said was--'Right, pilot,' he says. 'If you feels that way, remember
it when we gets back to th' fishin' in peace-time, an'--for th' Lord's
sake--keep clear o' our gear when th' nets is down! I lost a tidy lot o'
gear,' he says, 'with tramps an' that bargin' about on th' fishin'
grounds.'. . . He didn't think nothing of this minesweeping. His mind
was bent on his nets and the fish again." A pause, while he conned the
ship on a steady course, then, reflectively, "An' there's some
folks--there's folks ashore growling about the price o' fish!"

Of courage in the war, on land as on sea, there are few records
comparable to the silent devotion of the fishermen. The heat of attack
and fury of battle may call out a reckless heroism that has no bounds to
individual gallantry, but the sustained courage required for a lone
action under heavy odds--every turn of the engagement being assessed and
understood--is of a rarer quality; mere physical health and high spirit
cannot generate it; tradition of a sea-inherence and long self-training
alone can bring it forth. That the fishermen (inured to a life of bold
hazard and hardship) would offer valuable service in emergency was never
doubted, but that the level of their gallantry should reach such
heights, even those who knew them were hardly prepared to assume. And we
were weak in our judgment, for their records held ample evidence by
which we should have been able to predict a bravery in war action no
less notable than their courage in the equally perilous ways of their
trade. For a lifetime at war with the sea, wresting a precarious living
from the grudging depths, their skill and resolution required no
stimulus under the added stress of sea-warfare. In the fury of the
channel gales, shipwreck and disaster called forth the same spirit of
dogged endurance and elevating humanity that marks their new seafaring
under arms. The countless instances of their service to vessels in
distress, to torpedoed merchantmen and warships, in the records of
strife, are but repetitions of their sea-conduct throughout the years of
their trading. When Rozhdestvensky's panic-stricken gunlayers opened
fire on the 'Gamecock' fleet on the Dogger, the story of that outrage
was distinguished by the same heroism of the trawlermen that ennobles
their diary to-day. When the _Crane_ was sinking, the crew of _Gull_,
themselves suffering under fire, boarded her to rescue the survivors. . . .
"When they got on board the _Crane_ they found the living members of the
crew lying about injured. The vessel was in total darkness, and it was
known that at any moment she might founder; yet Costello (the _Gull's_
boatswain) went below to the horrible little forecastle to bring up
Leggatt's dead body. Smith (the second hand), who took charge of the
_Crane_ when the skipper was killed, refused to leave her till every man
had been taken off. Rea (the engineer) showed unyielding courage when,
in spite of the fact that the little ship was actually foundering, he
groped back to the engine-room, which was in total darkness, to reach
the valves. The stokehold was flooded with water, and Rea could do
nothing. He went on deck, where the skipper was lying dead, and all the
survivors, except the boy, were wounded."

In all its bearings, the comradely action of the _Gull_ was but a
foreshadowing of _Gowan Lea's_ assistance to _Floandi_ in the raid by
Austrian cruisers on the drifter line in the Adriatic. The circumstances
were curiously alike--the actual occurrence, the individual deeds. We
have Skipper Nichols refusing to leave until his wounded were embarked,
and Engineman Mobbs groping (as Rea did) through the scalding steam of
_Floandi's_ wrecked engine-room to reach the stokehold and draw the
fires. Then, as in the Russians' sea-panic of October 1904, the
fishermen (fighting seamen now) came under a sudden and murderous
gunfire at close range. Overpowered by heavy armament, there was no
flinching, no surrender. _Gowan Lea_ headed for the enemy with her one
six-pounder spitting viciously. The issue was not considered--though
Skipper Joseph Watt must have had no doubt that he was steering his
drifter towards certain destruction. Her gun was quickly put out of
action. Her funnel and wheelhouse were riddled and shot to pieces. Water
made on her through shot-holes in the hull. On the gun-platform, her
gunlayer struggled to repair the mechanism of the breech--his leg
dangling and shattered. Shell-torn and incapable of further attack, she
drifted out of the line of fire. Bad as was her own condition, there
were others in worse plight. _Floandi_ had come under direct point-blank
fire, and her decks were a shambles. Out of control--her main steam-pipe
being shot through--seven dead or badly wounded, and only three
remaining to work her, she was in dire need of assistance. Skipper Watt
observed the distress of his sea-mate and steered _Gowan Lea_ down to
her to offer the same brotherhood as of the _Gull_ to _Crane_. The
analogy is peculiarly complete: the boarding, the succour to the
wounded, the reverent handling of the dead. Not as a new spirit born of
the stress of war, but as the outcome of an age-old tradition, Gowan Lea
stood by.

After four years of warfare at sea, serving under naval direction and
discipline, one would have expected the fisherman sailing under the
White Ensign to lose at least a certain measure of his former
character--to have become a naval seaman in his habits of thought, in
his actions, his outlook. Four years of constant service! A long term!
He has come under a control that differs as poles apart from the free
days of 'fleeting' and 'single boating.' He is set to service in
unfamiliar waters and abnormal climates, but the habits of the old trade
still cling to him. New gear comes to his hands--sweeps, depth-keepers,
explosive nets, hydrophones, and paravanes--but he regards them all as
adaptations to his fishing service. He is unchanged. He is still
fishing; that his 'catch' may be a huge explosive monster capable of
destroying a Dreadnought does not seem to have imposed a new turn to his
thoughts. He is apart from the regular naval service. The influence of
his familiar little ship, the association of his kindred shipmates, the
technics of a common and unforgettable trade, have proved stronger than
the prestige of a naval uniform. In his terms and way of speech, he
draws no new farrago from his brassbound shipmate. Did not the skipper
of the duty patrol hail _Aquitania_ on her approach to the Clyde booms
and advise the captain? . . . 'Tak' yeer _bit boatie_ up atween thae twa

The devotion and gallantry and humanity of the fishermen is not confined
to the enlisted section who man the patrol craft and minesweepers. The
regular trade, the old trade, works under the same difficulties and
dangers that ever menaced the ingathering of the sea-fishery. Serving on
the sea in certain areas, the older men and the very young still
contrive to shoot the nets and down the trawls. Their contribution to
the diminished food-supply of the country is not gained without loss;
'the price o' fish' is too often death or mutilation or suffering under
bitter exposure in an open boat. The efforts of the enemy to stop our
food-supply are directed with savage insistence towards reducing the
rations drawn from the deeps of the sea; brutality and vengeful fury
increase in intensity as the days pass and the indomitable fishermen
return and return to their grounds. In August 1914, fast German cruisers
and torpedo-boats raided our fleets on the Dogger Bank. Twenty fishing
vessels were sunk, their crews captured. There was no killing. ". . .
The sailors [of the torpedo-boat] gave us something to eat and drink,
and we could talk and were pretty free," said the skipper of _Lobelia_.
Later, on being taken ashore ". . . with German soldiers on each side of
us, and the women and boys and girls shouting at us and running after us
and pelting us, we were marched through the streets of Wilhelmshaven to
a prison." Hardship, abuse! Now ridicule! ". . . The Germans stripped
us of everything we had. . . . But they were not content with that--they
disfigured us by cutting one half of the hair of our heads off and one
half of the moustache, cropping close and leaving the other half on,
making you as ugly as they could. . . . It was a nasty thing to do; but
we made the best of it, and laughed at one another."

Hardship, abuse, ridicule! The fishermen still served their trade at
sea. Now, brutality! The third hand of _Boy Ernie_ details the callous
precision of German methods in September 1915. The smack was unarmed.
". . . It was very heavy and deliberate fire. [There were two enemy
submarines.] The shots . . . were coming on deck and going through the
sails. We threw the boat overboard and tumbled into her. . . . I started
sculling the boat away from the smack, all the time under fire; but the
Germans were not content with firing shells at a helpless craft--they
now turned a machine-gun on to defenceless fishermen in a boat on the
open sea. . . . The boat was getting actually riddled by the machine-gun
fire, and before I knew what was happening, I was struck by a bullet on
the right thigh, and began to bleed dreadfully. . . . The smack was
blown to pieces and went down. This was the work of one of the
submarines--while she was sinking the smack the other was firing on us."

Throughout all the malevolent and calculated campaign of destruction,
the fishermen remain steadfast to their old traditions of humanity. When
_Vanilla_ is torpedoed without warning and vanishes in a welter of
broken gear, her sea-mate, _Fermo_, dodging a second torpedo, steams to
the wreckage to rescue the survivors--but finds none. In a heavy gale,
_Provident_ of Brixham risks her mast and gear, gybing to close the
sinking pinnace of the torpedoed _Formidable_, and rescue the exhausted
seventy-one men who crowded her. The instances of fisher help to
merchantmen in peril are uncounted and uncountable.

In the distant days when the Sea Services were classed apart, each in
its own trade and section--working by a rule that admitted no
co-partnery--we foreign traders had little to do with those whom (in our
arrogance) we deemed the 'humble' fishermen. In the mists of the channel
waters, we came upon them at their trawls or nets. Their floats and
buoys obstructed our course; the small craft, heading up on all angles,
confused the operation of a 'Rule of the Road.' Impatient of an
alteration that took us miles from a direct course, we felt somewhat
resentful of their presence on the sea-route. That they were gathering
and loading a cargo under stress and difficulty that contrasted with
_our_ easy stowage in the shelter of a dock or harbour, did not occur to
us; they were obstructionists, blocking our speedy passage with their
warps and nets and gear. Although most masters grudgingly steered clear,
there were those in our ranks who elected to hold on through the fleets,
unconcerned by the confusion and risk to the fishermen's gear that
their passage would occasion. There were angry shouts and protests; the
gear and nets were often the sole property of the fishermen; serious
losses were sustained.

At war, we have incurred debts. When peace comes and the seas are free
again, we shall have memories of what we owe to the fishermen in all the
varied services they have paid to us. The minesweepers toiling in the
channels, that we may not meet sudden death; patrols riding out bitter
weather in the open to warn us from danger, to succour and assist the
remnants of our manning when a blow goes home. War has purged us of many
old arrogant ways. When next we meet the fishing fleet at peaceful work
in the channels, we shall recall the emotion and relief with which we
sighted their friendly little hulls bearing down to protect us in a
menaced seaway. We shall 'keep clear o' th' gear when th' nets is




THE Bank of England official, who had been a close attendant on the
bridge during the early part of the voyage, seems now to be reassured.
We are nearing land again. Another day should see us safely berthed at
New York, where--his trust discharged--a pleasant interval should open
to him ere returning to England. The gold and securities on board are
reason for his passage; he is with us as our official witness, should
the activity of an enemy raider compel us to throw the millions
overboard. Nothing has happened. The 'danger zone' has been passed
without event. Stormy weather on the Grand Banks has given way to light
airs and a smooth sea as we steer in to make our landfall.

Together on the navigation bridge, we are discussing the shipment.
". . . It is the exchange, Captain," he says. "The exchange is against
us. These huge war purchases in the States cannot be balanced by the
moderate exports we are able to send over. When we left Liverpool the
sovereign was worth four dollars, seventy-one cents in America. I don't
know where it is going to end. We can't make securities. There must be a
lim----" Drumming of the wireless telephone cuts in on his words.
"Operator wishes to know if he can leave the 'phones, sir? Says he has
to see you."

The bridge messenger turns aside inquiringly, holding out the receiver
of the telephone as a context to his words. The request, that would have
aroused an instant disquiet six days ago, now appears trivial and
normal. There may be receipts to be signed. Approaching port the
operator will be completing his accounts. We are unconcerned and resume
our conversation until he arrives.

He is insistent that it cannot be due to atmospherics. "A queer
business, sir. Thought it best to report instead of telephoning. Some
station addressing a message to ABMV [all British merchant vessels], and
another trying to jam it out. Can't get more than the prefix, when
jamming begins. No, not atmospherics. I've taken ABMV, though distant,
twice in this watch, and, looking up the junior's jottings for the last
watch, I see he had traces. Whatever is jamming the message out is
closer to us than the sender. I dunno what to make of it!"

"You mean that a message from a land station to us is being interfered
with, deliberately, from somewhere near at hand?"

He produces the slip of his junior's scribbles. Among the jumble of
noughts and crosses, there is certainly a hastily scrawled ABMV, then
x's and x's. "What else, sir? At first I thought it was
atmospherics--x's were fierce last watch--but x's can't happen that way
twice running!"

"All right! Carry on again. Let me know at once if anything further.
Gear to be manned continuously from now on. Keep your junior at hand."


A queer business! We trim the possibilities in our mind. It is now
nearly dark. As we go, we should make Nantucket Lightship at daybreak;
our usual landfall on the voyage. There is not much to work on. 'A
message being sent, and some one making unusual efforts to prevent
receipt.' A raider? It is now some months since _Kronprinz Wilhelm_ was
driven into Norfolk; she cannot surely, have escaped internment.
_Karlsruhe?_ Nothing has been heard of her for a long term. A submarine?
Perhaps _Deutschland_, with his torpedo-tubes refitted and a gun
mounted? He knows the way; he could carry oil enough to reach the coast,
do a strafe, and sneak into a port for internment. . . . Figuring on the
chart, measuring distance and course and speed, it comes to us that
enemy action would best succeed off Nantucket or the Virginia Capes. We
resolve to cut in between the two, to make the land below Atlantic City,
and take advantage of territorial waters. If there is no serious
intention behind the jamming of the wireless, there will be no great
harm done--we shall only lose ten hours on the passage; if a raider
is out, we shall, at least, be well off the expected route. We pass the

A quiet night. We are steering into the afterglow of a brilliant sunset.
The mast and rigging stand out in clear black outline against lingering
daylight as we swing south four points. The look-out aloft turns from
his post and scans the wake curving to our sheer; anon, he wonders at
the coming of a mate to share his watch. Passengers, on a stroll, note
unusual movement about the boat-deck, where the hands are swinging out
lifeboats and clearing the gear. As the carpenter and his mates go the
rounds, screwing blinds to the ports and darkening ship, other
passengers hurry up from below and join the groups on deck; an
excitement is quickly evident. They had thought all danger over when, in
thirty degrees west, we allowed them to discard the cumbersome
life-jackets that they had worn since leaving the Mersey. And
now--almost on the threshold of security and firm land--again the
enervating restrictions and routine, the sinister preparations, the
atmosphere of sudden danger. Rumours and alarms fly from lip to lip; we
deem it best to publish that the wireless has heard the twitter of a
strange bird.

Before midnight, the bird is identified. Our theories and conjectures
are set at rest. The operator, changing his wave-length suddenly from
600 to 300 metres, succeeds in taking a message. '_From Bermuda_'--of
all places--'_to ABMV German armed submarine left Newport eighth stop
take all precautions ends_.' A submarine! And we had thought the limits
of their activity stopped at thirty degrees west. Even the Atlantic is
not now broad enough! The definite message serves to clear our doubts. A
submarine from Newport will certainly go down off Nantucket. Our course
should now take us ninety miles south of that. There remains the measure
of his activity. A fighting submarine that can navigate such a distance
is new to us. His speed and armament are unknown. We can hardly gauge
his movements by standards of the types we know. We are unarmed; our
seventeen knots top speed may not be fast enough for an unknown
super-submarine. Crowded as we are by civilian passengers, we cannot
stand to gunfire. A hit will be sheer murder. It is a problem! We return
to the deck and make three figures of that ninety miles.

The pulse of the ship beats high in the thrust and tremor of the
engines, now opened out to their utmost speed; the clean-cut bow wave
breaks well aft, shewing level and unhindered progress. In the calm
weather, the whirl of our black smoke hangs low astern, joining the sea
and sky in a dense curtain; we are prompted by it to a wish for misty
weather when day breaks--to make a good screen to our progress. Though
dark, the night is clear. A weak moon stands in the east, shedding
sufficient light to brighten the lift. We overhaul some west-bound
vessels in our passage and warn them by signal. Two have already taken
Bermuda's message and are alert, but one has no wireless, and is heading
up across our course. We speak her; her lights go out quickly, and she
turns south after us.

Daybreak comes with the thin vapours of settled weather that may turn to
a helpful haze under the warm sun. We zigzag in a wide S from the first
grey half-light, for we are now due south of the Lightship. In the
smooth glassy surface of the sea we have an aid to our best defence--the
measure of our eyes. We note a novel vigilance in the watchkeepers, a
suppressed anxiety that was not ours in the infinitely more dangerous
waters of the channels. The unusual circumstance of zigzagging and
straining look-out for a periscope almost in American waters has gripped
us. Every speck of flotsam is scanned in apprehension. The far-thrown
curl of our displacement spitting on the eddy of the zigzag, throws up a
feather that calls for frequent scrutiny. We have no lack of unofficial
assistance in our look-out. From early morning, the passengers are
astir--each one entrammelled in a life-jacket that reminds them
continually of danger. For the children, it is a new game--a source of
merriment--but their elders are gravely concerned. Gazing constantly
outboard and around, they add eyes to our muster. Every hour that passes
without event seems to increase the tension; the size and numbers of
enemy vessels grow with the day. A telegraph-cable ship at work is
hailed as 'a raider in sight'--a Boston sea-tug, towing barges south, is
taken for a supply-ship with submarines in tow.

The wireless operator reports from time to time. The 'humming bird'
(whoever he is) has ceased jamming. The air is full of call and
counter-call. Halifax is working with an unknown sea-station--long
messages in code. Coastal stations are joined in the 'mix-up.' Cape Cod
is offering normal 'traffic' to the American steamer _St. Paul_, as
though there was no word of anything happening within reach of the
radio. It is all very perplexing. Perhaps the Bermuda message was a
hoax; some 'neutral' youth on the coast may have been working an
unofficial outfit, as had been done before. Anon, an intercepted message
comes through. A Hollands steamer sends out '_S.O.S._ . . . _S.O.S._. . .'
but gives no name or position. Then there is silence; nothing working,
but distant mutterings from Arlington.

Throughout the day we swing through calm seas, shying at each crazy
angle of the zigzag in a turn that slows the measured beat of the
engines. Night coming and the haze growing in intensity, we use the
lead--sounding at frequent intervals--and note the lessening depth that
leads us in to the land. At eight, we reach six fathoms--the limit of
American territorial waters. It is with no disguised relief we turn
north and steer a straight course.

Although now less concerned with the possibility of enemy interference,
we have anxiety enough in the navigation of a coastal area in hazy
weather. We reduce speed. The mist has deepened to a vapour that hangs
low in the direction of the shore. House lights glimmer here and there,
but only by the lead are we able to keep our distance. A glow of light
over Atlantic City shews itself mistily through a rift in the haze and
gives an approximation of our latitude, but it is Barnegat's
quick-flashing lighthouse beam that establishes our confidence and
enables us to proceed at better speed. We shew no lights. For all we are
in American waters, we have not forgotten _Gulflight_ and _Nebraskan_
and other international 'situations'; we look for no consideration from
the enemy and preserve a keen look-out. Vessels pass us in the night
bound south with their deck lights ablaze, but we stand on up the coast
with not a glimmer to show our presence. Turning wide out to the
shoal-water off Navesink, we sight the pilot steamer lying to. We switch
on all lights and steer towards her.

It is not often one finds the New York pilots unready, but our sudden
arrival has taken them aback. We have to wait. Daybreak is creeping in
when the yawl comes alongside with our man. He is an old
Swedish-American whom we had long suspected of pro-German leanings, but
the relief and enthusiasm on his honest old face is undisguised. "Gott!
I am glat to see yo, Cabtin," he calls. "Dere vas a rumour dat yo vas
down too! Yoost now, ven yo signal de name of de ship, I vas
glat--glat!" He is full of his news; there are rumours and rumours. 'The
White Star mailboat is down,' 'a Prince liner is overdue,' 'there are
fears for a Lamport and Holt boat.' In view of our safe arrival, he is
prepared to discount the rumours. What is certain is that U 53 has
arrived in these waters, and has already sunk six large ships off

       *       *       *       *       *

A day later we turn to the commercial pages of the _New York Herald_.
Our arrival is reported, and it seems that the sovereign is now worth
$4.72 1/16!



UNTIL nearly three years of war had gone on, we sailed independently as
'single' ships, setting our speeds and courses and conforming only to
the general route instructions of the Admiralty. The submarine menace
did not come upon us in a sudden intensity. Its operation was gradually
unfolded and counter-measures were as methodically advanced to meet it.
The earliest precaution took the form of a wide separation of the ships,
branching the sea-routes apart on the sound theory that submarines would
have voyaging to do to reach their victims. While this was a plan of
value on the high seas, it could not be pursued in the narrower waters
of the channels. Destroyers in sufficient numbers not being available to
patrol these waters, fishing craft--trawlers and drifters--were
commissioned to that service. Being of moderate speed, their activities
were not devoted to a mass operation, by which they could group the
merchantmen together for protection. The custom was still to separate
them as widely as possible, each zigzagging on her own plan. Until the
convoy system was established, measures for our protection did not take
the form of naval escorts sailing in our company: such vessels were only
provided for transports or for ships on military service: vessels on
commercial voyages were largely left to their own resources when clear
of harbour limits.


That all sea-going vessels should carry a wireless installation was one
of the first measures enforced by Admiralty. The magnificent resources
of the Marconi Company, though strained, were equal to the task. There
was a life-labour alone in the technical education of their operators,
but they drilled the essentials of their practice into landward youths
in a few months--blessed them with a probationer's licence--and sent
them to sea. It is idle to speculate on what we could have done without
this communication with the beach: it is inconceivable that we could
have served the sea as we have done. Throughout the length of channel
waters, we were constantly in visual touch with the patrols, but in the
more open seas we relied on the wireless to keep us informed of enemy
activities. At first, we were lavish in its use. The air was scored by
messages--'back chat' was indulged in by the operators. An _S.O.S._ (and
they were frequent) was instant signal for a confusion of
inquiries--a battery of call and counter call--that often prevented the
ready succour of a vessel in distress. We grew wiser. We put a seal on
the switch. Regulations came into force to restrain unnecessary
'sparking'; we sat in to listen and record, and only to speak when we
were spoken to.

Codes were issued by the Admiralty for use at sea. Their early
cryptogram was easily decoded by friend and enemy alike. Knowing that
certain words would assuredly be embodied in the text of a message
(words such as, _from_--_latitude_--_report_--_submarine_--_master_), it
was not difficult to decipher a code of alphabetical sequence. There
were famous stories of traitors and spies, but our authoritative
simplicity was responsible for the occasional leakage of information. At
this date, 1915-16, wireless position-detectors came into use by the
enemy. A spark-group, repeated after an interval, could give a fair
approximation of distance and course and speed. More than ever it was
necessary to maintain silence when at sea. Withal, the air was still in
strong voice. At regular periods the great longshore radios threw out
war warnings to guide us in a choice of routes and warn us away from
mined areas. Patrols and war craft kept up an incessant, linking report.
Distress signals hissed into the atmosphere in urgent sibilance, then
faltered and died away. On occasion, the high note of a _Telefunken_ set
invited a revealing confidence that would lead us, 'chicky-chicky,' to
the block. We were well served by Marconi.

Extension of the power of enemy submarines brought new practice to our
seafaring. We had made the most of a passage by the land, steering so
close that the workers in the fields paused in their toil and waved us
on; but the new under-water craft crept in as close, and mined the
fairways. We were ordered to open sea again, to steer the shortest
course by which we could reach a depth of water that could not be mined.
Zigzag progress now assumed the importance that was ever its right. It
had been but cursorily maintained. The 'shortest distance between two
points' had, for so long, been our rule that many masters were unwilling
to steer in tangents. On passage in the more open sea, they were soon
converted to a belief in the efficacy of a crazy course. Statistics of
our losses proved the virtue of the tangent: of a group of six vessels
sunk in a certain area only one--a very slow vessel--was torpedoed while
maintaining a zigzag. Extracts from the diary of a captured submarine
commander were circulated among us, giving ground for our confidence, in
the frequent admissions of failure--"owing to a sudden and unexpected
alteration of course."

Still, we were unarmed. If, by zigzag and a keen look-out, we were
fortunate in evading torpedo attack, the submarine had by now mounted a
surface armament, and we were exposed to another equally deadly offence.
For our protection, Admiralty placed a new type of warship on the
routes approaching the channels. Built originally for duty as
minesweepers, the sloops were faster and more heavily armed than the
drifters. They patrolled in a chain of five or six over the routes that
we were instructed to use. During the daylight hours we were rarely out
of sight of one or other of the vessels forming the chain. Our route
orders were framed towards a definite point of departure into the high
seas when darkness came. There, the patrol of the sloops ended: we had
the hours of the night to make our offing and, by daybreak again, were
assumed to be clear of the 'danger zone.' But the 'danger zone' was
being extended swiftly; it was not always possible to traverse the area
in the dark hours of a night: only the fast liners could stretch out a
speed that would serve. Profiting by experience that was constantly
growing, the _Reichsmarineamt_ constructed larger submarines capable of
remaining long at sea, and of operating in ocean areas that could not
adequately be patrolled. Twelve, fifteen--then twenty degrees of
longitude marked their activity advancing to the westward: they went
south to thirty-five: in time the Mediterranean became a field for their
efforts. Gunfire being the least expensive, they relied on their deck
armament to destroy unarmed shipping. The patrols were but rarely in
sight; the submarine became a surface destroyer. There was no necessity
for submergence on the ocean routes: under-water tactics were held in
reserve for use against fast ships--the slower merchantmen were
brought-to in a contest that was wholly in favour of the U-boat. In a
heavy Atlantic gale, _Cabotia_ was sunk by gunfire, 120 miles from land.
She had not the speed to escape. Despite the heavy seas that swept over
the submarine and all but washed the gunner from the deck, the enemy was
able to keep up a galling fire that ultimately forced the master to
abandon his ship. _Virginia_ was fired upon at midnight when steering
for the Cerigo Channel. Notwithstanding the courage of Captain Coverley,
who remained on board to the last, there could be but one end to the
contest. _Virginia_ was sunk. A strong ship; the enemy had to expend two
of his torpedoes to destroy her.

Against such attacks only one measure could be advocated--the measure we
had for so long been demanding. It was impossible to patrol adequately
all the areas of our voyaging. Guns were served to us and we derived a
confidence that the enemy quickly appreciated. We did not expect wholly
to reduce his surface action, but we could and did expose him to the
risk he had come so far out to sea to avoid. On countless occasions our
new armament had effect in keeping him to his depths, with the
consequent waste of his mobile battery power. Even in gun action he
could no longer impose his own speed power on a slow ship. Under
conditions that he judged favourable to his gunnery, the submarine
commander still exercised his ordnance--usually after a torpedo had
failed to reach its mark. Many of the hazards were against us, but our
weapons brought the contest to a less unequal balance. If we did present
the larger target, we had--in our steady emplacement--a better platform
from which to direct our fire. From the first it was a competition of
range and calibre. Six-pounders led to twelves; these in turn gave way
to 4.7's. Anon, the enemy mounted a heavier weapon, to which we replied
by a new type of 4-inch, sighted to 13,000 yards.

Thus armed and equipped, we were in better condition to meet the enemy
in our independent sailings. He was again obliged largely to return to
the use of his torpedoes, with all the maze of under-water approach that
that form of attack involved. If outranged in a surface action, we had
our smoke-producing apparatus to set up a screen to his shell-fire, and
that form of defence had the added value of forcing him to proceed at a
high and uneconomical speed to press an attack. Some of our gun actions
resulted in destruction of a sea-pest, but all--however
unsuccessful--contributed to lessen his power of offence. Every torpedo
fired, every hour of submergence, every knot of speed expended in a
chase, was so far a victory for us as to hasten the date when he would
be obliged to head back to his base. His chances of survival in that
passage through the patrols and the nets and mines could not be
considered as good.

[Illustration: QUEEN'S DOCK, GLASGOW]



  "_All vessels are prohibited from approaching within four miles
          of Rathlin Island between sunset and sunrise_"

IN view of Admiralty instructions, we are 'proceeding as
requisite'--turning circles, dodging between Tor Point and Garron
Head--and awaiting daybreak to make a passage through Rathlin Sound.
Steering south from the Clyde, we had reached Skullmartin when the
wireless halted us. Enemy activity off the south coast of Ireland had
become intensified, and all traffic from west-coast ports was ordered to
proceed through the North Channel. In groups and singles, the ships from
Liverpool and the Bristol Channel join us, and we make a busy
channel-way of the usually deserted coastal waters. We show no lights,
but the moon-ray reveals us, sharply defined, as we pass and repass on
the lines of our courses. We keep well within the curve of the coast
until the light grows in the east, then turn finally to the north. The
sun comes up as we reach Fair Head, and we stand on towards the entrance
of the Sound.

In the first hour of official clearance, the North Channel is busy with
the traffic. Outside as well as within, ships have been gathering in
anticipation of Admiralty sunrise. The seaway over by the mainland shore
is scored and lined by passage of the inward-bound vessels, all pressing
on at their best speed to make their ports before nightfall. A strong
ebb tide runs through, favouring our company of outward-bounders. We
swing past Rue Point in a rip and whirl that gives the helmsman cause
for concern, cross the bight of the Bay at a speed our builders never
contemplated, and round the west end of the Island before the sun has
risen high.

It is fine weather in the Atlantic. Only the slight heave of an
under-running swell, and the rips and overfalls of the tide, mark the
smooth surface of the sea: the light north airs that come and go have no
strength to ruffle the glassy patches. Everything promises well for
speedy progress. The engines are opened out to their utmost capacity.
Already we have drawn ahead of the press of shipping that marked time
with us on the other side of the channel. Our only peer, a large Leyland
liner, has opened out abeam of us and the whirl of black smoke at his
funnel-tip shows that he is prepared to make and keep the pace. 'To
proceed at such a time as to reach 56° 40' North, 11° West, by
nightfall'--is the reading of our new route orders. We shall have need
of the favour of the elements if we are to reel off 200 miles between
now and 10 p.m. Anon, we pass Oversay and the Rhynns of Islay and head
for a horizon that has no blue mountain-line to break the level thread
of it. Our sea-mates of the morning are hull down behind us--the slower
vessels already turning west on the inner arms of the fan formation that
is devised to keep us widely separated in the 'danger area.' Only the
Leyland boat remains with us. We steer on a similar mean course, but the
angles of our independent zigzags make our progress irregular in
company. At times we sheer a mile or more apart, then close perceptibly
to crossing courses. She has perhaps the better speed, but her stoking
is irregular. Drawing ahead for a term, she shows us her broad sternwash
in a flurry of disturbed water; then comes the cleaning of the fires--we
pull up and regain a station on her beam.

So, till afternoon, we keep in company--pressing through the calm seas
at a speed that augurs well for our timely arrival in 11° West. We sight
few vessels. A lone drifter on patrol speaks us and reports no enemy
sighted in the area: an auxiliary cruiser with a destroyer escorting her
passes south on the rim of the landward horizon. A drift of smoke astern
of us hangs in the clear air, then resolves to a fast Cunarder that
speedily overhauls and passes us. As though impressed by the mail-boat's
progress, our sea-mate puts a spurt on and maintains a better speed than
any she has shown since morning. She draws ahead and we are left with
clear water to exercise the cantrips of our zigzag.

An _allo_ is intercepted by the wireless in the dog-watch. (We have
coined a new word to report an enemy submarine in sight, a word that
cannot offer a key to our codes.) It comes from the Cunarder, now out of
sight ahead. We figure the radius on the chart, and bear off six points
on a new course to keep well clear of the area. The Leyland liner is by
now well ahead and we note she has turned to steer west. There is a
slight difference in our courses and we draw together again as we steam
on. The wireless operator now reports that a vessel near at hand has
acknowledged the Cunarder's _allo_. Shortly a man-o'-war sloop appears
in sight and passes north at high speed, steering towards the position
we are avoiding.

The second officer keeps a keen look-out. He has had bitter experience
of the power of an enemy submarine and is anxiously desirous that it
should not be repeated. A 'check' on the distant sea-line (that we had
taken for the peak of a drifter's mizen) draws his eye. He reports a
submarine in sight--broad on the port bow. The circle of our telescope
shows the clean-cut horizon ruling a thread on the monotint of sea and
sky. Sweeping the round, a grey pinnacle leaps into the field of view.
It is over-distant for ready recognition. Only by close scrutiny,
observing a hair-line that rises and falls on either side of the grey
upstanding point, are we able to recognize our enemy. He is pressing on
at full speed, trusting to our casual look-out, that he may secure a
favourable position to submerge and attack. Our fine confidence with
which we have anticipated such a meeting gives place to a more sober
mood. Though not yet in actual danger, there is the former _allo_ to be
thought of--the possibilities of a combination. Quick on recognition, we
alter course, steering to the north again. The gun, already manned, is
brought to the 'ready,' and the intermittent crackle of the wireless
sends out an urgent warning. The Leyland steamer starts away at first
sight of our signals: ahead, grey smoke on the horizon marks where the
patrol sloop has gone hull-down.

A spurt of flame throws out from the distant submarine. He has noted our
sudden alteration of course and knows that he has now no prospect of
reaching torpedo range unobserved. His shell falls short by about a
thousand yards. We reply immediately at our extreme elevation, but
cannot reach him. The next exchange is closer--he is evidently
overhauling us at speed. Mindful of our limited fifty rounds, we
telephone to the gun-layer to reserve his fire until he has better
prospect of a hit. Two shots to our one; the enemy persists though he
does not now seem to be closing the range. Our seventh shot pitches
close to him, and ricochets. There is a burst of flame on his
deck--whether from his gun or the impact of our shell we shall never
know; when the spume and spray fall away he has dived.

Suddenly, it is recalled to us that we have been, for over half an hour,
steering into the radius of the Cunarder's _allo_. The patrol sloop has
turned to close us and is rapidly approaching. A decision has quickly to
be made. If we stand on to keep outside torpedo range of our late
antagonist, we may blunder into the sights of number two. North and east
and west are equally dangerous: we may turn south-east, but our course
is for the open sea. The sloop sheers round our stern and thunders up
alongside. Receiving our information, her helm goes over and she swings
out to investigate the area we have come from. We decide to steer to the
north-west as the shortest way to the open sea.

We have the luck of the cast. As we ease helm to our new course, the
ship jars and vibrates--a thundering explosive report comes to our ears.
The Leyland liner close on our starboard quarter has taken a torpedo and
lies over under a cloud of spume and debris.



FOR war conditions our methods and practice of signalling were woefully
deficient. In sailing-ship days the code was good enough; we had no need
for Morse and semaphore. We had time to pick and choose our signals and
send them to the masthead in a gaudy show of reds and blues and yellows.
Our communications, in the main, were brief and stereotyped. "What ship?
Where from? How many days out? Where bound? Good-bye--a pleasant
passage!" Occasionally there was a reference to a coil of rope or a
tierce of beef, but these were garrulous fellows. The ensign was dipped.
We had 'spoken'; we would be reported 'all well!'

Good enough! There were winches to clean and paint, bulwarks to be
chipped and scaled, that new poop 'dodger' to be cut and sewn. "Hurry
up, there, you sodgerin' young idlers! Put the damned flags in the
locker, and get on with the _work_!"

With steam and speed and dispatch increasing, we found need for a
quicker and more instant form of signal correspondence. New queries and
subjects for report grew on us, and we had to clip and abbreviate and
shorthand our methods to meet the lessening flag-sight of a passing
ship. We altered the Code of Signals, adding vowels to our flag
alphabet. We cut out phrases like 'topgallant studding sail boom' and
'main spencer sheet blocks,' and introduced 'fiddley gratings' and
'foo-foo valve.' Even with all our trimming, the book was tiresome and
inadequate. We began to fumble with Morse and semaphore, with
flashlights and wig-wags and hand-flags.

We did it without a proper system. As a titbit to our other 'snippings,'
medicine, the Prayer Book, the law, ship's business, the breeches buoy,
ship-cookery! Fooling about with flags and tappers and that, was all
very well for the watch below, but there was _work_ to be done--the
binnacles to be polished, the sacred _suji-mudji_ to be slapped on and
washed off!

Hesitating and slipshod and inexact as we were, at least we made, of our
own volition, a start; a start that might, under proper and specialized
direction, have made an efficient and accurate addition to the sum of
our sea-lore. But we were wedded to titbits. Late on the tide, as
usual, the Board of Trade woke up to what was going on. They added a
'piece' to our lessons, without thought or worry as to the provision of
facilities for right instruction. We crammed hard for a few days, fired
our shot at the right moment, and forgot all about it.


Withal, in our own amending way, we were enthusiastic. We learned the
trick of _Ak_ and _Beer_ and _Tok_ and _Pip_. We slapped messages at one
another (in the dog-watches), in many of which a guess was as good a
translation as any. Our efforts received tolerating and amused
recognition from naval officers (secure in possession of scores of
highly trained signal ratings). If we came, by chance, across an affable
British warship, she would perhaps masthead an E (exercise), to show
that there was no ill-feeling. Then was the time to turn out our star
man, usually the junior-est officer, and set him up to show that we were
not such duffers, after all! Alas! The handicaps that came against us!
The muddled backgrounds (camouflage, as ever was!), the fatal
backthought to a guess at the last word! The call and interfering
counter-call from reader to writer, and writer to reader, and, finally,
the sad admission--an inevitable _Eye_, _emmer_, _eye_ (I.M.I.--please
repeat), when our scrawl and jumble of conjectural letters would not
make sense! We have yet a mortifying memory of such an incident, in
which a distant signalman spelt out to us, clearly and distinctly, "_Do
you speak English?_"

Under the stress of war we have improved. Fear for the loss of important
information has spurred us to keener appreciation. If you promise not to
flirt the flags backhanded (a most damnably annoying habit of superior,
_flic-flac_ Navy men) we can read you in at ten or twelve words a
minute. For single-ship work, that was good enough; if we had a press of
signalling to attend, we could make up for our busy time in leisurely
intervals. But convoy altered that. In the Naval Service a signalman
has nothing whatever to do in the wide world but attend to signals. It
is his only job: a highly trained speciality. With us the demands of
ship work on our bare minimum crews do not allow of a duty signaller; he
must bear a hand with the rest to straighten out the day's work. In
convoy, with signals flying around like crows at the harvest, we found
our way of it unworkable. It resolved itself to what used to be called a
'grand rally' in pantomime--all hands on the job, and the officer of the
watch neglecting a keen look-out to see that note of the message was
kept properly.

The naval authorities took counsel. The experiment had been a 'try on,'
in which they (with their large staff of special signalmen) had assessed
our ability as greater than their own! It was decided to train
signalmen--R.N.V.R.--for our service. Pending their formation and
development, we were given skilled assistance from the crews of our
ocean escorts. But for our gun ratings, and they mostly R.N.R., we had
no experience of the regular Navy man in our muster. He spun a bit,
trimming the grass, before he found rest and a level. With us only for a
voyage, we did not get to know him very well, but in all he was
competent enough.

One we had, from H.M.S. _Ber--Sharpset_, Private Henry Artful, R.M.L.I.
Drouthy, perhaps, but a good hand. At the end of sailing day, when the
flags were made up and stowed, he came on the bridge.

"Fine night, sir!" We assented, curiously; democratic and all as we are,
it is rather unusual for our men to be so--so sociable. "Larst capt'in I
wos with, sir, 'e allus gimme a drink after th' flag wos stowed."

We stared, incredulous. "What! Do you say the captain of _Sharpset_ gave
you a drink when your work was done?" He started in affright. "Not the
capt'in o' _Sharpset_, sir! Oh no, sir!--Gawd!--No! Th' capt'in o' th'
larst merchant ship wot I wos signallin' in!"

His horror, genuine and unconcealed, at our suggestion of such an
unheard-of transaction, gave illustration alike of the discipline in His
Majesty's ships and, sadly, the lack of it in ours.

In time our quickly trained R.N.V.R.'s joined. They came from Crystal
Palace, these new shipmates. Clean fellows--smart. Bacon-curers,
Cambridge men, lawyers, shopmen, clerks, haberdashers--trimmed and able
and willing to carry on, and lacking only a little ship practice, and a
turn of sea-legs, to fit them for a gallant part in delivering the
goods. With their coming we are introduced to a line of longshore life
that had escaped us. There is talk and ado of metropolitan habits and
styles, of 'Maudlen' and high life, of music scores, the latest revue,
the quips of the music-halls. ("When Pa--says--_turn_" is now the
correct aside, when Commodore gives executive for a new angle on the

At the first we were somewhat concerned at the apparent 'idleness' of
our signalman. He was on our books for but one employment--the business
of flags and signals. In intervals of his special duties he made an odd
picture on the bridge of a merchant ship--a man without a 'job.' The
firemen, on deck to trim ventilators, would take a peep at him as at
some strange alien; seamen, passing fore and aft on their reliefs, would
nod confidently. "Still diggin' wet sand, mate? . . . Wish I 'ad your
job!" There were days when he was busy enough--'windmilling' with the
hand-flags, or passing hours in hoist and rehoist when Commodore was
sharpening the convoy to a precision in manoeuvre, but on open sea his
day was not unduly crowded. There were odd hours of 'stand-by' under
screen of the weather-cloth, intervals of leisure which he might use as
he liked, provided he kept a ready ear for the watch officer's call.
Reading was usual. In this his taste was catholic. _Tit-Bits_ and _My
Dream Novelettes_ found favour; one had back numbers of the _Surveyor
and Municipal and County Engineer_, old volumes of _Good Words_ from the
Bethel box found a way to the bridge; we saw a pocket volume of Greek
verse that belonged to the bold lad who altered our signalled 'will' to

For all his leisured occupation he was quick enough when the call of
"_Signals_" brought him to business. His concentration on the speciality
of the flags brought an accuracy to our somewhat haphazard system of
signalling. We benefited in more than his immediate work by promoting
his instruction of our young seamen. Spurred, perhaps, by the knowledge
of our quondam haberdasher's efficiency, the boys improved rapidly under
his tuition. We paid a modest bonus on results. We are looking forward.
We shall not have our duty signalman with us when there is 'peace bacon'
to be cured.

Another new shipmate who has signed with us is the wireless operator,
the lieutenant of Signor Marconi, our gallant _salvator_ in the war at
sea. If we may claim for our sea-service a foremost place in national
defence, it is only by grace of our wireless we register a demand.
Without it, we were undone. No other system of communication would have
served us in combat with the submarine; _spurlos versenkt_, without
possibility of discovery, would have been the triumph of the enemy. If
to one man we seamen owe a debt unpayable, Marconi holds the bond.

Unthinking, we did not accept our new shipmate with enthusiasm. Before
the war he could be found on the lordly liners, tapping out all sorts of
messages, from the picture-post-card-like greetings of extravagant
passengers to the deathless story of _Titanic_ and _Volturno_. We looked
upon him as a luxury, only suited to the large passenger vessels. We
could see no important work for him in the cargo-carriers; we could get
on very well without a telegraph to the beach. A week of war was
sufficient to alter our views; we were anxious to have him sign with us.
Although he is now an important member of the crew, his reception at
first was none too cordial. The apparent ease and comfort of his office
rankled in contrast to the rigours of the bridge and the hardships of
the engine-room. His duties--specialized to one operation--we deemed
unfairly light in comparison with our jack-of-all-trades routine. In
port, he was a lordling--no man his master--able to come and go as the
mood took him. Frankly, we were jealous. Who was this to come among us
with the airs of a full-blown officer, and yet not a dog-watch at sea?
Messed in the cabin too, and strutted about the decks with his hands in
his pockets, as bold and unconcerned as any first-class passenger! We
were puzzled to place him. He talked airily of ohms and static leaks,
ampere-hours and anchor-gaps, and yet, in an unguarded moment, had he
not told us of his experiences in a Manchester broker's office, that
could have been no more than six months ago? The airs of him! Absurd
assumption of an official confidence between the Old Man and himself, as
if _he_ had the weight of the ship's safety on his narrow shoulders! As
for his baby-brother assistant--that kid with the rosy cheeks--everybody
knows that all he does is to screw up his 'jimmy fixin's' and sit down
good and comfortable to read "The Rosary," with his dam mufflers on his
ears! _Huh!_

But we are wiser now! Here is a text for our conversion. It is a record
of a wireless conversation between a merchantman attacked and a British
destroyer steaming to her assistance from somewhere out of sight.

"Are you torpedoed?"

"Not yet. . . . Shots in plenty hitting. Several wounded. Shrapnel, I
believe. Broken glass all round me."

"Keep men below. Stick it, old man!"

"Yes, you bet. Say, the place stinks of gunpowder. Am lying on the
floor. . . . I have had to leave 'phones. My gear beginning to fly
around with concussion. . . . Captain is dead. . . ."--an
interval--"Submarine has dived! Submarine has dived!"

Yes, we are wiser now! We admit him to full fellowship at sea. And on
land, too! We admit him the right to trip it in Kingsway or the Strand,
with his kid gloves, and his notebook, and his neat uniform, for his
record has shown that it does not require a four-years' apprenticeship
to build up a stout heart; that on his 'jimmy fixin's' and their proper
working depends a large measure of our safety; and if the crack does
come and the air is thick with hurtling debris, broken water and acrid
smoke, our first look will be aloft to see if his aerial still stands.
We do him and baby brother the honour that we shall not concern
ourselves to wonder whether they be ready at their posts!




THE first State control of the merchants' ships began with the
transports employed to convey the Expeditionary Force to France in the
early days of August 1914. Vessels of all sizes and classes were
commandeered at the dockside to serve in the emergency. The
comparatively short distance across the channels did not call for
elaborate preparation and refitment: the times would admit of no delay.
Ships on the point of sailing on their trading voyages were held in
dock, their cargo discharged in quantity to make space for troops and
their equipment. Lining-up on the quays and in the littered dock-sheds,
troops awaited the stoppage of unloading operations. With the last sling
of the 'tween-deck lading passed to the shore, they marched on board. As
the tide served, the vessels steamed out of dock and turned, away from
their normal routes, towards the coast of France.

To serve as ballast weight, the stowage of cargo in the lower holds was
frequently left in place for the term of the vessel's troop service.
Months, perhaps a year later, the merchandise arrived at its
destination. Consignees would wonder at its tardy delivery--they could
see no record of its itinerary as shewn by the bills of lading, unless
they read into the fine prefix--'War: the King's Enemies: restraints of
Rulers and Princes'--the romance of its voyaging with the heroes of

To transport the overseas troops from India and Canada and Australia,
different measures were necessary. The ships requisitioned for this
service had to be specially fitted for the longer voyage. The State was
lavish and extravagant under the sudden pressure of events. The
many-handed control at the ports made for an upheaval and dislocation of
shipyard labour that did not hasten the urgent dispatch of the vessels.
The hysteria of the times gave excuse for a squandering of valuable
ship-tonnage that was without parallel. Large liners, already fitted for
carriage of passengers, were employed as prison and internment ships.
Curious situations arose in the disposal of others. At the north end, a
large vessel might suddenly be requisitioned and taken from her
trade--with all the consequent confusion and relay; by day and night the
work of fitting her would go on. South, a vessel of similar size and
build might be found, having her troop-fittings removed, in preparation
for an ordinary trading voyage. Still, if the end justifies the means,
the ultimate results were not without credit. The garrison troops from
Malta and Egypt and Gibraltar and South Africa were moved with a
celerity that is unexampled; a huge contingent from India was placed on
the field in record time. A convoy of thirty-one merchantmen brought
Canadian arms to our assistance: Australians, in thirty-six ships,
crossed the Indian Ocean to take up station in Egypt. The unsubsidized
and singular enterprise of the merchants was proving its worth: as vital
to the success of our cause as the great war fleet, the merchants' ships
aided to stem the onrush in France and Flanders.

Considerations of economy followed upon the excited measures with which
the first transport of available troops was effected. In the period of
training and preparation for the long offensive, the Transport
Department had opportunity to organize their work on less stressful
lines. It was well that there was breathing-space at this juncture.
Enemy interference, that had so far been almost wholly a surface threat
to our communications, grew rapidly to a serious menace from under
water. The engagement and organization of naval protection underwent an
immediate revisal. Heavily armed cruisers and battleships could afford
little protection against the activity of the German submarines, now at
large in waters that we had thought were overdistant for their peculiar
manoeuvres. Destroyers and swift light craft were needed to sail with
the transports.

The landing at Gallipoli, under the guns of the enemy, was a triumph for
the Transport Service. In the organization and disposal of the ships,
the control and undertaking that placed them in sufficient numbers in
condition for their desperate venture, the Department redeemed any
earlier miscalculations. The efficient service of the merchant masters
and seamen was equally notable. Under heavy fire from the batteries on
shore they carried out the instructions given to them in a manner that
was "astonishingly accurate" and impressed even the firebrands of the
naval service. Strange duties fell to the merchant seamen on that day.
Compelled by the heavy draught of their ships to remain passive
spectators of the deeds of heroism on the beach, they saw ". . . whole
groups swept down like corn before a reaper, and to realize that among
these groups were men who only a short time before had bid us good-bye
with a smile on their lips, was a bitter experience.

"Our vessel was used to re-embark the wounded, and we stood close
inshore to make the work of boating them off less hazardous. We had
three doctors on board, but no nurses or orderlies, and the wounded were
being brought on board in hundreds, so it was a relief to us to doff our
coats and lend a hand. We had to bury the dead in batches; officers and
men were consigned to the deep together. On one occasion the number was
exceptional, and the captain broke down while reading the service. . . ."
It was surely a bond of real brotherhood that brought the shattered
remnants of the complement she had landed earlier in the day to meet
their last discharge at the hands of the troopship's seamen--their
committal to the deep at the broken words of the vessel's master.

While the transport of troops in the Channel and the narrow seas was
not, at any time, seriously interfered with, the movements of the larger
ocean transports were not conducted without loss. _Royal Edward_ was the
first transport to be torpedoed. She went down with the sacrifice of
over a thousand lives. The power of the submarine had been over-lightly
estimated by the authorities: measures of protection were inadequate.
Improved U-boats were, by now, operating in the Mediterranean, and their
commanders had quickly acquired a confidence in their power. More
destroyers were required to escort the troopships.

By a rearrangement of forces a more efficient measure of naval
protection was assured. Although the provision of a swift escort did not
always prevent the destruction of ships, the loss of life on the
occasion of the sinking of a transport was sensibly reduced by the
presence of accompanying destroyers. The skill and high gallantry of
their commanders was largely instrumental in averting complete and
terrible disaster. As the numbers of ships were reduced by enemy action
there came the need to pack the remaining vessels to a point of
overloading. Boat equipment on the ships could not be other than
inadequate when the certified complement of passengers was exceeded by
100 per cent. In any case, the havoc of a torpedo left little time to
put the huge numbers of men afloat. With no thought of their own
hazard--bringing up alongside a torpedoed vessel and abandoning the
safeguard of their speed and manoeuvring power--the destroyer men
accepted all risks in an effort to bring at least the manning of their
charge to port.

Every casualty added grim experience to the sum of our resources in
avoiding a great death-roll. Life-belts that we had thought efficient
were proved faulty of adjustment and were condemned: methods of
boat-lowering were altered to meet the danger of a sudden list: the run
of gangway and passage to the life-apparatus was cleared of impediment.
When on a passage every precaution that could be taken towards a ready
alert was insisted upon. Despite the manly grumbling of the very young
military officers on board, certain irksome regulations were enforced.
Life-belts had to be worn continuously; troops were only allowed below
decks at stated hours; systems of drill, constantly carried through,
left little leisure for the officers and men. Although no formal drill
can wholly meet the abnormal circumstances of the new sea-casualty, we
left nothing undone to prepare for eventualities. That our efforts were
not useless was evident from the comparatively small loss of life that
has resulted from late transport disasters.

The system of escort varies largely in the different seas. Homeward from
Canada and, latterly, from the United States the troopships are formed
in large convoys under the ocean escort of a cruiser. On arrival at a
position in the Atlantic within working distance of the destroyers'
range of steaming, the convoy is met by a flotilla of fast destroyers
who escort the ships to port. For transport work in the Mediterranean no
such arrangement could be operated. Every sea-mile of the great expanse
is equally a danger zone. Usually, vessels of moderate speed are
accompanied by sloops or armed drifters, but the fast troopships require
destroyers for their protection. The long courses call for relays, as
the destroyers cannot carry sufficient fuel. Marseilles to Malta, Malta
to Suda Bay, Suda Bay to Salonika--a familiar voyage of three
stages--required the services of no less than five destroyers. The
numbers of our escorting craft were limited: it called for keen
foresight on the part of the Naval Staff and unwearying sea-service on
that of the war craft to fit their resources to our demands.


In the narrow seas, with the patrols more numerous and closely linked,
the short-voyage transports proceed on a time-table of sailings that
keeps them constantly in touch with armed assistance. The vessels are
mostly of light draught and high speed. Whilom railway and pleasure
craft, they make their voyages with the exactitude of the
rail-connections they served in the peaceful days. Although many of them
are built and maintained (and certificated by the Board of Trade) for
smooth-water limits only, the emergency of the times has given
opportunity of proof that their seaworthy qualities are underestimated
by the authorities. The high gales and dangerous short seas of the
Channel are no deterrent to their voyages; under the pressure of the
continual call for reinforcements on the Western Front, and serving the
line of route from England to the Continent, to Marseilles and beyond,
they stand no hindrance. They are specially the objects of enemy
attention. Their high speed and rapid turning power enables them to run
moderately free of torpedo attack--though the attempts to sink them by
this weapon are frequent enough--but in the German sea-mines they have a
menace that cannot so readily be evaded. Many have fallen victims to
this danger, but the ready succour of the patrols has prevented heavy
loss of life. Though armed for defence, they have not had many
opportunities for gun action. Their keen stems are weapon enough, as
Captain Keith considered when he drove _Queen Alexandra_ at full speed
into an enemy submarine, sinking him, and nipping a piece of his shorn
hull for trophy.

Southampton is the principal base for the smaller transports. Large
vessels--the _Olympic_ and her sisters--come and go from the port, but
it is by the quick turns of the smaller vessels that the huge traffic of
the base is cleared. Tramping through the streets of the ancient town to
turn in at the dock gates, company after company of troops file down the
quayside to embark on the great adventure. The small craft are berthed
at the seaward end of the docks, and the drifting white feathers at
their funnel-tips marks steam up in readiness for departure. The
drab-grey of their hulls and decks is quickly lined by ochre tint of
khaki uniforms. There is no halt to the long lines of marching men, save
on the turn of the stream to another gangway. By long practice, the
Naval Transport Staff and the embarkation officers have brought their
duties to a finished routine. There is not here the muster, the
enumeration, the interminable long-drawn march and counter-march on the
wharf-side, that is the case with the larger ocean transports. Crossing
the gangway, carrying pack and equipment, the troops settle down on the
decks in a closely packed mass.

Anon, with no undue advertisement, the transports unmoor from the quay
and steam down Southampton Water. Off St. Helens, the night covers them
and they steal out swiftly on the Channel crossing.


BUT for the flat-topped dwellings, the domes and minarets, of the town
that stands in the alluvial valley, Suda Bay is not unlike a Highland
loch in its loneliness and rugged grandeur. The high surrounding
mountains, the lofty snow-capped summit of Psiloriti standing up in the
east, the bare hill-side sloping to the water with no wooded country to
break the expanse of rock and heath, the lone roadway by the fringe of
the sea that leads to the wilds, are all in likeness to the prospect of
a remote Sutherland landscape. The darkling shadows on the water, the
play of sun and cloud on the distant uplands, completes the picture;
sheep on the hill-side set up plaintive calls that echo over the Bay.

The heavy westerly gale that was reason for our being signalled in from
sea has blown itself out, and the water of the Bay stands still and
placid. All that is left of the furious squalls of yesterday has not
strength to keep us wind-rode in the anchorage, and we cast about to the
vagaries of the drift.

We were bound down from Salonika to Marseilles when ordered in. We had
expected to meet the relieving escort of destroyers at the Cerigo
Channel, but the bad weather had prevented them from proceeding at any
but a slow speed, and there was no prospect of their arrival at the
rendezvous. So we turned south to seek protection behind the booms at
Suda Bay. We are a packed ship. The shortage of transports has had
effect in crowding the vessels in service to a point far beyond the
limits of their accommodation. We have had to institute a
watch-and-watch system among our huge complement. While a proportion are
seeking rest below, others crowd the upper decks, passing the time as
best they may until their turn of the hammocks comes round.

The fine weather after the late gale has brought every one on deck. The
doings of the ships in the anchorage have interest for the landsmen.
Naval cutters and whalers are out under oars for exercise, and thrash up
and down the Bay with the long steady sweep of practised rowers. Our
escort of two destroyers arrives--their funnels white-crusted from the
heavy weather they have experienced on passage from Malta. They engage
the flagship with signals, then steam alongside an oiler to take fuel
for the return voyage. A message from the senior officer is signalled to
us to have steam raised, to proceed to sea at midnight.

Standing in from the Gateway, a British submarine comes up the Bay. She
moves slowly, as though looking for the least uncomfortable berth in the
anchorage. The oil-ship, having already the two destroyers alongside,
cannot offer her a place: she will have to lie off and await her turn.
We put a signal on her, inviting her people to tie up alongside and
come stretch their legs on our broad decks. Instant compliance. She
turns on a long curve, rounds our stern, and her wires are passed on

The commander of the submarine gazes about curiously as he comes on
board. He confesses that he has had no intimate acquaintance with
merchants' ships. The huge number of our passengers impresses him,
accustomed as he is to the small manning of his own vessel. Standing on
the navigation bridge, we look out over the decks below at the
khaki-clad assembly. The ship seems brimming over with life and
animation. There is no corner but has its group of soldiers. They are
everywhere; in the rigging, astride the derricks, over the top of boats
and rafts they are stretched out to the sun. Mess-cooks with their gear
push their way through the crowds; there is constant movement--the men
from aft barging forward, the fore-end troops blocking the gangways as
they saunter aft. Noisy! Snatches of song, hails, and shouts--the
interminable games of 'ouse with '_Clikety-clik_ and _blind-forty_'
resounding in the many local dialects of the varied troops. High in
spirit! We are the leave-ship, and they are bound home for a
long-desired furlough after the deadly monotony of trench-keeping on the
Doiran Front.

"Gad! What a crowd," he says. "I had no idea you carried so many. They
look so big--and so awkward in a ship. Of course, on a battleship we
muster a lot o' men, twelve hundred in the big 'uns, but--somehow--one
never sees them about the decks unless at divisions or that. Perhaps
it's khaki does it; one gets accustomed to blue in a ship."

A 'diversion' has been arranged for the afternoon. Dinner over, all
troops are mustered to a boat drill that includes the lowering of the
boats. Since leaving Salonika there has been no such opportunity as now
offers. Despite foreknowledge of the time of assembly it is a long
proceeding. Our complement is made up of small details--a handful of men
from every battalion on the Front. Officers set to their control are
drawn from as many varied branches of the service. The valued personal
'grip' of non-commissioned officers is not at our disposal. There is no
such order and discipline as would be the case if we were manned by
complete battalions. The routine of military movements seems dull and
lifeless at sea, however efficient it may prove on land. We are long on
the job.

By dint of check and repetition the grouping of the men at their boat
stations is brought to a moderate proficiency. The seamen at the boats
swing out and lower, and we set the boats afloat, each with a full
complement of troops. Embarked, and left to their own resources--with
only one ship's rating to steer--the men make a better show. The
division of the mass into smaller bodies induces a rivalry and spirit
of competition: they swing the oars sturdily and make progress to and
fro on the calm water of the Bay.

With the boats away full-loaded, we take stock of the numbers still
mustered on the deck. Considerably reduced, they are still a host. The
boat deck, the forecastle head, the poop--are all lined over by the
waiting men: the empty boat-chocks and the dangling falls inspire a mood
of disquiet. Standing at ease, they seem to be facing towards the
bridge. Doubtless they are wondering what we think of it all. The
submarine's commander has been with us at our station during the muster.
We look at one another--thoughtfully.


A SENSE of security is difficult of definition. Largely, it is founded
upon habit and association. It is induced and maintained by familiar
surroundings. On board ship, in a small world of our own, we seem to be
contained by the boundaries of the bulwarks, to be sailing beyond the
influences of the land and of other ships. The sea is the same we have
known for so long. Every item of our ship fitment--the trim arrangement
of the decks, the set and rake of mast and funnel, even the furnishings
of our cabins--has the power of impressing a stable feeling of custom,
normal ship life, safety. It requires an effort of thought to recall
that in their homely presence we are endangered. Relating his
experiences after having been mined and his ship sunk, a master confided
that the point that impressed him most deeply was when he went to his
room for the confidential papers and saw the cabin exactly in everyday
aspect--his longshore clothes suspended from the hooks, his umbrella
standing in a corner as he had placed it on coming aboard.

Soldiers on service are denied this aid to assurance. Unlike us, they
cannot carry their home with them to the battlefield. All their scenes
and surroundings are novel; they may only draw a reliance and comfort
from the familiar presence of their comrades. At sea in a ship there is
a yet greater incitement to their disquiet. The movement, the limitless
sea, the distance from the land, cannot be ignored. The atmosphere that
is so familiar and comforting to us, is to many of them an environment
of dread possibilities.


It is with some small measure of this sense of security--tempered by our
knowledge of enemy activity in these waters--we pace the bridge. Anxiety
is not wholly absent. Some hours past, we saw small flotsam that may
have come from the decks of a French mail steamer, torpedoed three days
ago. The passing of the derelict fittings aroused some disquiet, but
the steady routine of our progress and the constant friendly presence of
familiar surroundings has effect in allaying immediate fears. The rounds
of the bridge go on--the writing of the log, the tapping of the glass,
the small measures that mark the passing of our sea-hours. Two days out
from Marseilles--and all well! In another two days we should be
approaching the Canal, and then--to be clear of 'submarine waters' for a
term. Fine weather! A light wind and sea accompany us for the present,
but the filmy glare of the sun, now low, and a backward movement of the
glass foretells a break ere long. We are steaming at high speed to make
the most of the smooth sea. Ahead, on each bow, our two escorting
destroyers conform to the angles of our zigzag--spurring out and
swerving with the peculiar 'thrown-around' movement of their class.
Look-out is alert and in numbers. Added to the watch of the ship's crew,
military signallers are posted; the boats swung outboard have each a
party of troops on guard.

An alarmed cry from aloft--a half-uttered order to the steersman--an
explosion, low down in the bowels of the ship, that sets her reeling in
her stride!

The upthrow comes swiftly on the moment of impact. Hatches, coal,
shattered debris, a huge column of solid water go skyward in a hurtling
mass to fall in torrent on the bridge. Part of a human body strikes the
awning spars and hangs--watch-keepers are borne to the deck by the
weight of water--the steersman falls limply over the wheel with blood
pouring from a gash on his forehead. . . . Then silence for a stunned
half-minute, with only the thrust of the engines marking the heart-beats
of the stricken ship.

Uproar! Most of our men are young recruits: they have been but two days
on the sea. The torpedo has gone hard home at the very weakest hour of
our calculated drill. The troops are at their evening meal when the blow
comes, the explosion killing many outright. We had counted on a
proportion of the troops being on the deck, a steadying number to
balance the sudden rush from below that we foresaw in emergency.
Hurrying from the mess-decks as enjoined, the quick movement gathers way
and intensity: the decks become jammed by the pressure, the gangways and
passages are blocked in the struggle. There is the making of a
panic--tuned by their outcry, "_God!_ _O God!_ _O Christ!_" The swelling
murmur is neither excited nor agonized--rather the dull, hopeless
expression of despair.

The officer commanding troops has come on the bridge at the first alarm.
His juniors have opportunity to take their stations before the
struggling mass reaches to the boats. The impossibility of getting among
the men on the lower decks makes the military officers' efforts to
restore confidence difficult. They are aided from an unexpected quarter.
The bridge-boy makes unofficial use of our megaphone. "Hey! Steady up
you men doon therr," he shouts. "Ye'll no' dae ony guid fur yersels
croodin' th' ledders!"

We could not have done it as well. The lad is plainly in sight to the
crowd on the decks. A small boy, undersized. "Steady up doon therr!" The
effect is instant. Noise there still is, but the movement is arrested.

The engines are stopped--we are now beyond range of a second
torpedo--and steam thunders in exhaust, making our efforts to control
movements by voice impossible. At the moment of the impact the
destroyers have swung round and are casting here and there like hounds
on the scent: the dull explosion of a depth-charge--then another, rouses
a fierce hope that we are not unavenged. The force of the explosion has
broken connections to the wireless room, but the aerial still holds and,
when a measure of order on the boat-deck allows, we send a message of
our peril broadcast. There is no doubt in our mind of the outcome. Our
bows, drooping visibly, tell that we shall not float long. We have
nearly three thousand on board. There are boats for sixteen
hundred--then rafts. Boats--rafts--and the glass is falling at a rate
that shows bad weather over the western horizon!

Our drill, that provided for lowering the boats with only
half-complements in them, will not serve. We pass orders to lower away
in any condition, however overcrowded. The way is off the ship, and it
is with some apprehension we watch the packed boats that drop away from
the davit heads. The shrill ring of the block-sheaves indicates a
tension that is not far from breaking-point. Many of the life-boats
reach the water safely with their heavy burdens, but the strain on the
tackles--far beyond their working load--is too great for all to stand to
it. Two boats go down by the run. The men in them are thrown violently
to the water, where they float in the wash and shattered planking. A
third dangles from the after fall, having shot her manning out at
parting of the forward tackle. Lowered by the stern, she rights,
disengages, and drifts aft with the men clinging to the life-lines. We
can make no attempt to reach the men in the water. Their life-belts are
sufficient to keep them afloat: the ship is going down rapidly by the
head, and there remains the second line of boats to be hoisted and swung
over. The chief officer, pausing in his quick work, looks to the bridge
inquiringly, as though to ask, "How long?" The fingers of two hands
suffice to mark our estimate.

The decks are now angled to the deepening pitch of the bows. Pumps are
utterly inadequate to make impression on the swift inflow. The chief
engineer comes to the bridge with a hopeless report. It is only a
question of time. How long? Already the water is lapping at a level of
the foredeck. Troops massed there and on the forecastle-head are
apprehensive: it is indeed a wonder that their officers have held them
for so long. The commanding officer sets example by a cool nonchalance
that we envy. Posted with us on the bridge, his quick eyes note the
flood surging in the pent 'tween-decks below, from which his men have
removed the few wounded. The dead are left to the sea.

Help comes as we had expected it would. Leaving _Nemesis_ to steam fast
circles round the sinking ship, _Rifleman_ swings in and brings up
alongside at the forward end. Even in our fear and anxiety and distress,
we cannot but admire the precision of the destroyer captain's
manoeuvre--the skilful avoidance of our crowded life-boats and the men
in the water--the sudden stoppage of her way and the cant that brings
her to a standstill at the lip of our brimming decks. The troops who
have stood so well to orders have their reward in an easy leap to
safety. Quickly the foredeck is cleared. _Rifleman_ spurts ahead in a
rush that sets the surrounding life-boats to eddy in her wash. She takes
up the circling high-speed patrol and allows her sister ship to swing in
and embark a number of our men.

It is when the most of the life-boats are gone we realize fully the
gallant service of the destroyers. There remain the rafts, but many of
these have been launched over to aid the struggling men in the water.
Half an hour has passed since we were struck--thirty minutes of frantic
endeavour to debark our men--yet still the decks are thronged by a
packed mass that seems but little reduced. The coming of the destroyers
alters the outlook. _Rifleman's_ action has taken over six hundred. A
sensible clearance! _Nemesis_ swings in with the precision of an
express, and the thud and clatter of the troops jumping to her deck sets
up a continuous drumming note of deliverance. Alert and confident, the
naval men accept the great risks of their position. The ship's bows are
entered to the water at a steep incline. Every minute the balance is
weighing, casting her stern high in the air. The bulkheads are by now
taking place of keel and bearing the huge weight of her on the water. At
any moment she may go without a warning, to crash into the light hull of
the destroyer and bear her down. For all the circling watch of her
sister ship, the submarine--if still he lives--may get in a shot at the
standing target. It is with a deep relief we signal the captain to bear
off. Her decks are jammed to the limit. She can carry no more. _Nemesis_
lists heavily under her burdened decks as she goes ahead and clears.

Forty minutes! The zigzag clock in the wheelhouse goes on ringing the
angles of time and course as though we were yet under helm and speed.
For a short term we have noted that the ship appears to have reached a
point of arrest in her foundering droop. She remains upright as she has
been since righting herself after the first inrush of water. Like the
lady she always was, she has added no fearsome list to the sum of our
distress. The familiar bridge, on which so many of our safe sea-days
have been spent, is canted at an angle that makes foothold uneasy. She
cannot remain for long afloat. The end will come swiftly, without
warning--a sudden rupture of the bulkhead that is sustaining her weight.
We are not now many left on board. Striving and wrenching to man-handle
the only remaining boat--rendered idle for want of the tackles that have
parted on service of its twin--we succeed in pointing her outboard, and
await a further deepening of the bows ere launching her. Of the
military, the officer commanding, some few of his juniors, a group of
other ranks, stand by. The senior officers of the ship, a muster of
seamen, a few stewards, are banded with us at the last. We expect no
further service of the destroyers. The position of the ship is
over-menacing to any approach. They have all they can carry. Steaming at
a short distance they have the appearance of being heavily overloaded;
each has a staggering list and lies low in the water under their deck
encumbrance. We have only the hazard of a quick out-throw of the
remaining boat and the chances of a grip on floating wreckage to count

On a sudden swift sheer, _Rifleman_ takes the risk. Unheeding our
warning hail, she steams across the bows and backs at a high speed: her
rounded stern jars on our hull plates, a whaler and the davits catch on
a projection and give with the ring of buckling steel--she turns on the
throw of the propellors and closes aboard with a resounding impact that
sets her living deck-load to stagger.

We lose no time. Scrambling down the life-ropes, our small company
endeavours to get foothold on her decks. The destroyer widens off at the
rebound, but by clutch of friendly hands the men are dragged aboard. One
fails to reach safety. A soldier loses grip and goes to the water. The
chief officer follows him. Tired and unstrung as he must be by the
devoted labours of the last half-hour, he is in no condition to effect a
rescue. A sudden deep rumble from within the sinking ship warns the
destroyer captain to go ahead. We are given no chance to aid our
shipmates: the propellors tear the water in a furious race that sweeps
them away, and we draw off swiftly from the side of the ship.

We are little more than clear of the settling fore-end when the last
buoyant breath of _Cameronia_ is overcome. Nobly she has held afloat to
the debarking of the last man. There is no further life in her. Evenly,
steadily, as we had seen her leave the launching ways at Meadowside, she
goes down.





IF Royal Canute, King of England and Denmark, with his train of servile
earls and thanes, could revisit the scene of his famous object-lesson,
he would learn a new value in the tide. Suitably, he might improve his
homily by presentation of the salvage tidemasters, harnessing the rise
and fall of the stubborn element to serve their needs and heave a
foundered vessel to sight and service. He would note the cunning
guidance of strain and effort, their exact timing of the ruled and
ordered habits of the sea. As a moral, he could quote that, if tide may
not be ordered to command, it can at least be governed and impressed to
performance of a mighty service.

Recovery of ships, their gear and cargo, is no longer wholly an
application of practised seamanship. The task is burdened and
complicated by powers and conditions that call for auxiliary arts. It is
true that the salvage officer's ground, his main asset, is the knowledge
and ability to do a seamanlike 'job o' work' when the time and tide are
opportune; he must have a seaman's training in the ways of the wind and
the sea and be able properly to assess the weather conditions under
which alone his precarious work is possible. A scientist of a liberal
and versatile type (not perhaps exhaustive in his scope and range), he
is able to draw the quantum of his needs from a wide and varied summary.
Together with his medical exemplar, he has developed a technique from
crude remedies and imperfect diagnoses to application of fine science.
He must have a sure knowledge of the anatomy of his great steel
patients, be versed in the infinite variety and intricacy of ship
construction, and the valves and arteries of their power; be able to pen
and plan his formulæ for weight-lifting--the stress and strain of it,
down to the calibre of the weakest link. A super-tidesman, he must know
to an inch the run of bottom, the swirl and eddy, the value of flood and
ebb and springs, for the tide--Canute's immutable recalcitrant--is his
greatest assistant, a familiar _Genius maris_ whom he conjures from the
deeps of ocean to do his bidding. Shrewd! He is a keen student of the
psychology of the distressed mariner; again, like the medical man, he
must set himself to extract truth from the tale that is told. His
treatment must be prescribed, not to meet a case as presented, but as
his skilled knowledge of the probabilities warrants. Tactful, if he is
to meet with assistance in his difficult work, he must assume the
sympathy of one seaman to another in distress. What, after all, does it
matter if he agree heartily that "the touch was very light, we were
going dead slow," when, from his divers' reports, he knows that the
whole bottom is 'up'?

In the handling of his own men there must be a combination of rigour and
reason. Salvage crews are a hardy, tempestuous race who have no ordinary
regard for the niceties of law and order; their work is no scheduled and
defined occupation with states and margins; they are servants to tide
and weather alone; they are embarked on a venture, on a hazard, a
lottery. To such men, administering, under his direction, the heroic but
destructive remedies of high explosive and compressed air, there cannot
be a normal allowance for the economic use of gear and material. He must
know the right and judicial discount to be made that will meet the
conflicting demands of the expenses department and the results
committee. Above all, he must be of an infinite patience, of the mettle
that is not readily discouraged. In the great game of seafaring his hand
holds the king of disappointment and the knaves of frustration and
discouragement. But he has other cards; he holds an ace in stability and

Calm days and smooth seas may lure him to surpassing effort, to work
through the tides in feverish energy, making the most of favoured
opportunity. The scattered and interrupted work of months has perhaps
been geared and bound, the tackle rigged and set for a final dead lift.
Buoyancy is figured out and assured; the pumps are in place, throbbing
and droning out, throwing steady streams from the weight of water that
so long has held the foundered wreck in depth. The work has been long
and trying, but an end to difficulty is in sight. Given a day or two of
continued fine weather, the sea and the rocks will have to surrender
their prisoner.

Comes a darkling to windward and the sea stirs uneasily; jets and spurts
of broken water appear over the teeth and spit of rocky ledges. The
salvors look around with calculating eyes and note the signs of a
weather break. Still, there is no slackening of effort; there may be
time to complete the work before the sea rises to interfere; if
anything, the omens only call for another spur to the flank, a new sting
to the lash.

Beaten to the knees, the gear and tackle swaying perilously in breaking
seas, the lifting-barges thundering at their curbs, the pumps groaning
and protesting their inability to overcome the lap of blue water, there
is no alternative but to abandon the work and return to harbour. From
the beach the salvage officer may watch his labour of weeks--or
months--savagely undone in an hour or two of storm and fury of the sea!

It is a great catalogue, that schedule of virtues and accomplishments.
To it must be added, as a supplement, that he must be a 'made' man--made
in a long hard pupilage in a stern school that appraises strictly on
results. It is of little use to show that, in theory, a certain course
was right and proper, when the broad but damning fact remains that the
property is still in Davy Jones his locker, and likely--there to remain.
Many are called, but few are chosen. The salvage service has no room for
the merely mediocre officer: the right man goes inevitably to his proper
place, the wrong one goes back to a junior, and less responsible, post
at sea.

It is doubtful if the Naval Service could produce the type required.
Their candidate would be, to a degree, inelastic. He would be an
excellent theorist, a sound executant, a strict disciplinarian; but his
training and ideas would fit ill to the wide range of conflicting
interests, and the shutting out of all manoeuvre, however skilled and
stimulating--but that of securing a maximum of result by a minimum of
effort. Perhaps it was for these reasons our salvage services before the
war were almost wholly mercantile and commercial. Certainly, most
Admiralty efforts in this direction were confined to ports and harbours
where method could be ordered and controlled by routine; their more
arduous and unmanageable cases on the littoral were frequently handed
over to the merchantmen--not seldom after naval efforts had been
unavailing. Among the protestations of our good faith to the world in
time of peace, it may be cited that we made no serious provision for a
succession of maritime casualties; there was no specially organized and
equipped Naval Salvage Service. True, there were the harbour gear,
divers, a pump or two, and appliances and craft for attending submarine
accidents, but their energies were bent largely to humane purposes--to
marine first aid. Of major gear and a trained personnel to control
equipment and operation there was not even a nucleus. Salvage was valued
at a modest section of the "Manual on Seamanship" (written by a
mercantile expert), and a very occasional lecture at the Naval College.
At war, and the toll of maritime disaster rising, the need grew quickly
for expert and special service. There was no longer a relative and
profitable balance to be struck between value of sea-property and cost
of salvage operations. A ship had become beyond mere money valuation; as
well assess the air we breathe in terms of finance. No cost was high if
a keel could be added to our mercantile fleets in one minute less than
the time the builders would take to construct a new vessel. The call was
for competent ship-surgeons who could front-rank our maritime C Threes.
By whatever skill and daring and exercise of seamanship, the wrecks must
be returned to service. Happily, there was no necessity to go far
afield; the merchants' salvage enterprise, like the merchants' ships and
the merchants' men, was ready at hand for adoption.


The Salvage Section, Admiralty, is a dignified caption and has an almost
imperial address, but, camouflages and all, it is not difficult to see
the hem of old sea-worn garments of our mercantile companies peeping out
below the gold braid. If in peace-time they did wonders, war has made
their greatest and most successful efforts seem but minor actions
compared to their present-day victories. The practice and experience
gained in quick succession of 'cases' has tuned up their operations to
the highest pitch of efficiency. New and more powerful appliances have
come to their hands; a skilled and technical directorate has liberated
initiative. Strandings, torpedo or mine damage, fire, collisions--frequently
a compound of two or three--or all five--provide them with occasion for
every shift of ingenuity, every turn of resource. There is no stint to
the gear, and no limits to invention, or device, if there is a
possibility of a damaged ship being brought to the dry docks. Is it not
on record that an obstinate, stranded ship, driven high on the beach,
was finally relaunched on the crest of an artificially created 'spring'
tide, the wash and suction of a high-speed destroyer, plying and
circling in the shallows?

Many new perils are added to the risks and hazards of their normally
dangerous work. Casualties that call for their service are rarely
located in safe and protected waters; open coast and main channels are
the marches of the Salvage Section, where the enemy has a keen and ready
eye for a 'potting' shot by which he may prevent succour of a previous
victim. The menace of sea-mines is particularly theirs; the run and
swirl of Channel tides has strength to weigh a stealthy mooring and
carry a power of destruction up stream and down. They have a new and
deadly danger to be guarded against in the ammunition and armament of
their stricken wards. Many have gone down at 'action stations,' and
carry 'hair-sprung' explosive charges, the exact condition and activity
of which are usually a matter for conjecture. It calls for a courage of
no ordinary measure to grope and stumble under water amid shattered
wreckage for the safety-clutch of the charges, or grapple in the mud and
litter for torpedo firing-levers. This the pioneer of the divers must
do, as the first and most important of his duties.

With skill enhanced by constant and encouraged practice, they set out to
bind the wounds and raise our damaged ships to a further lease of
sea-activity. So definite and sure are their methods, so skilled and
rapid their execution, they steam ahead of reconstruction and crowd the
waiting-room at the dry-dock gates. Lined up at the anchorage awaiting
their turn, the recovered vessels may be crippled and bent, and showing
torsion and distress in the list, and staggering trim with which they
swing flood and ebb. They may rest, halting, on the inshore shallow
flats, but, laid by for a term of repair, their day is to come again.
The Salvage Section has reclaimed their rent and stranded hulls from the
misty sea-Front; the Repair Section, working day and night, will hammer
and bind and reframe the gaps of their steel; the Sea Section will take
them out on the old stormy road, sound and seaworthy, with the flag at
the peak once more.


THE rigger was engaged at second tucks of a five-inch wire-splicing job,
and hardly looked in the direction we indicated. "Them," he said.
"Them's crocks wot we don't want nothin' more t' do with! Two on 'em's
got frozen mutton. High? Excelsi-bloody-or! . . . an' that feller as is
down by th' 'ead--Gawd! 'e don't 'arf smell 'orrible!" A pause, while he
hammered down the strands and found fault with his assistant, gave us
time to disentangle the negatives of his opening. "Grain, she 'as--an'
of all th' ruddy messes wot I ever see--she gets it! We 'ad four days at
'er--out there 'n th' Padrig Flats, an' she sickened nigh all 'ands! . . .
Now we're well quit o' 'er, an' th' longshore gangs is unloadin' th'
bulk, in nosebags an' gas 'elmets, t' get 'er a-trim for th' dry dock!"

As we passed alee of the grain-carrier there was no doubt of the truth
of the rigger's assurance. Steam-pumps on her fore-deck were forcing a
sickly mixture of liquid batter through hoses to a barge alongside, and
the overpowering stench of the mess blew down to us and set eyes and
noses quickening with instant nausea. The men on the barges were garbed
in odd headgear, high cowls with staring circular eyepieces, and each
carried a knapsack cylinder on his back. Clouds of high-pressure steam
from the winches and pumps threw out in exhaust, and the hooded,
ghost-like figures of the labourers passed and repassed in drifts of
white vapour. To the hiss and rumble of machines, clamour of
block-sheaves and chain and piston joined action to make a setting of
_Inferno_, the scene might well be imagery for a stage of unholy rites.

Past her, we turned to the clean salt breeze again and stood on to the
open sea. The salvage officer, a Commander, R.N.R., joined us at the
rail. "What about that now? Sa--lubrious?" he said.

We wondered how men could be got to work in such an atmosphere, how it
was possible to handle such foul-smelling litter in the confined holds.

"Oh! We go through that all right. A bit inconvenient and troublesome,
perhaps, working in a restricting gas-rig; but now, the chemists have
come to our assistance and we can sweeten things up by a dose of
anti-stink. . . . But you won't see that to-day. Our 'bird' has got no
cargo, only clean stone ballast--a soft job."

The 'soft job' had had a rough time, a combination and chapter of sea
and war hazard. Inward bound from the United States with a big cargo, a
German torpedo had found a mark on her. She settled quickly by the
stern, but the undamaged engines worked her gallantly into a small
seaport where she brought up with her main deck awash. There she was
lightened of her precious load, temporary baulks and patches were
clamped and bolted to her riven shell-plate, and she set off again on a
short coastwise voyage to the nearest port where definite and
satisfactory repair could be effected. Off the Heads, the enemy again
got sights on her. Crippled, and steaming at slow speed to ease strain
on the bulkheads, she made a 'sitting' target for a second torpedo, that
shattered rudder and stern-post and sheared the propellor from the

"We came on her just before dark," said the commander. . . . "Some of
the crew were in the boats, close by, but the captain and a Trinity
pilot and others were still aboard. She was down astern to the counter
and up forward like a ruddy unicorn. We got fast and started to tow.
Tow?--Might as well have taken on the Tower Bridge. There was no way of
steering her, and a strong breeze from the south'ard blew her head down
against all we could do. . . . Anyway, we hung on, and at daylight in
the morning the wind let up on us a bit, and we guided her drift--that's
about all we could do--inshore, till she took the bottom on good ground
a little north of the Westmark Shoal. We filled her up forrard as the
weather was looking bad--a good weight of water to steady her through a
gale. She's lain out there for two months now. We've had a turn or two
at her occasionally--shoring up the after bulkheads and that, while we
had weather chances. _Titan_ has been out at her since yesterday
morning. . . . It looks good and healthy now." He cast an eye around
appreciatively at the calm sea and quiet sky, the gorse-banked cliffs
dimmed by a promising summer haze, at seagulls lazily drifting on the
tide or becking and bowing in the glassy ripples of our wash. "Good and
healthy; I like to see these old 'shellbacks' sitting low and not
shrilling overhead with all sail set. . . . If this weather holds I
shouldn't wonder if we get the old bus afloat on high tide to-day!"

Clear of harbour limits and heading out to the shoals, a brisk rigging
of gear and tackle brings action to the decks of the salvage steamer.
Already we had thought the narrow confines from bulwark to bulwark
congested by the bulk of appliances, but, from hole and corner and
cunning stowage, further coils and shoots and lengths of flexible,
armoured hose are dragged and placed in readiness for operations.
Derricks are topped up and purchases rove for handling the heavy
twelve-inch motor-pumps. Hawsers are uncovered and coiled clear, stout
fenders thrown over in preparation for a grind alongside the wreck.
Mindful of possibilities, the engineer-lieutenant and his artificers go
over the insulation of their power leads in minute search for a leak in
the cables that may occasion a short circuit later on. The terminals and
couplings are buffed and polished with what seems exaggerated and
needless precision--but this is salvage, where sustained effort is only
possible in the rare and all-too-brief union of favourable tide and
weather conditions. A cessation of the steady throw of the pumps,
however instant and skilful the adjustment, may mean the loss of just
that finite measure in buoyancy that could spring the weight of
thousands in tons. Second chances are rarely given by a grudging and
jealous sea; there must be no hitch in the gear, no halt in weighing the

A drift of lazy smoke on the sea-rim ahead marks our rendezvous, where
_Titan_ and a sisterly tug-boat are already at work on the wreck. A
screen of motor-patrols are rounding and lining out in the offing, with
a thrust of white foam astern that shows their speed. Coastwise, a
convoy of merchant ships zigzag in confusing angles on their way to sea,
guarded by spurring destroyers and trawler escort. Seaplanes are out,
hawking with swoop and wheel for sight of strange fish. The seascape is
busy with a shipping that must remind the coastguard and lightkeepers of
old and palmy days when square sail was standard at sea. The Westmark
Shoal lies some distance from the normal peace-time track of direct
steaming courses. It lies in the bight of a bay, where rarely steamers
closed the land. Sailing ships, close-hauled and working a tack inshore,
or fisher craft on their grounds, had long been the only keels to sheer
water in the deeps, but war practice has renewed our acquaintance with
many old sea-routes and by-paths, and we are back now to charts and
courses that have long been out of our reckoning.

The tide is at low-water slack, and whirls and eddies mark the run over
shallows. At easy speed and handing the lead, we approach the wreck. Her
weathered hull, gilt and red-rusted by exposure to sun and wind and sea,
stands high and bold against the deep blue of a summer sky. Masts and
rigging and cordage are bleached white, like tracery of a phantom ship.
The green sea-growth on her underbody fans and waves in the tide,
showing long voyaging in the crust and stage of it. She lies well and
steadily, with only a slight list to seaward that marks the gradient on
which she rests. Through fracture on the stern and counter, the twisted
and shattered frames and beams and angles can be seen plainly. Sunlight,
in slanting rays, shines through the rents and fissures of the upper
deck, and plays on the free flood that washes in and out of the exposed
after hold; seaweed and flotsam surges on the tide, clinging to the
jagged, shattered edges of the plating, and breaking away to lap in the
dark recesses. To eyes that only know the lines and mould of sightly,
seaworthy vessels, she seems a hopeless and distorted mass of standing
iron--a sheer hulk, indeed, fit only for a lone sea-perch to gull and
gannet and cormorant. It appears idle for the salvors to plan and strive
and wrestle for such a prize, but their keen eyes are focused to values
not readily apparent. "A fine ship," says the commander, now happily
assured that his 'soft job' has suffered no worse than a weathering on
the ledge that his skill has secured her. "A job o' work for the
repairers, certainly . . . but they will set her up as good as new in a
third of the time it would take to build a substitute!"


We anchor at a length or two to seaward. There is not yet water
alongside for our draught, but _Titan_, drawing less, is berthed at her
stern and their men are taking advantage of low water to pin and tomp
and strengthen the rearmost bulkhead that must now do duty for the
demolished stern section. A boat from _Titan_ brings the officer
in charge, and he greets his senior with no disguised relief. A serious
leak has developed in one of the compartments that they had counted on
for buoyancy. . . . "Right under the bilge, and ungetatable, with all
that rubble in th' holds. A good job you brought out these extra pumps.
We should manage now, all right!"

Technical measures are discussed and a plan of operations agreed. At
half-flood there will be water for us alongside, and a 'lift' can be
tried. Number one hold is good and tight, but still has a bulk of water
to steady her on the ledge; number two is clear and buoyant; three has
the obstinate leak; the engine-room is undamaged, but water makes
through in moderate quantity. Number four--"the bulkhead is bulged in
like the bilge of a cask, but that cement we put down last week has set
pretty well, and the struts and braces should hold." Number five? There
is no number five, most of it lies on deep bottom off the Heads, some
miles away!

With his colleague, the commander puts off to the wreck, to assess the
prospects, and we have opportunity to note the inboard trim of her
derelict posts and quarters. Davits, swung outboard as when the last of
her crew left her, stand up in unfamiliar dejection, the frayed ends and
bights of the boat-falls dangling overside and thrumming on the rusty
hull. The boat-deck shows haste and urgency in the litter of spars and
tackle thrown violently aside: a seaman's bag with sodden pitiful rags
of apparel lies awry on the skids, marking some cool and forethinking
mariner denied a passage for his goods. Living-rooms and crew quarters
show the indications of sudden call, in open desks--a book or two cast
side, quick-thrown bedspreads, an array of clothing on a line; the
range-guards in the cook's galley have caught the tilt of pots and
mess-kits as they slid alee in the grounding. The bridge, with chart and
wheelhouse open to the wind and spray, and sea-gear adrift and
disordered, strikes the most desolating note in the abandon of it all.
Tenantless and quiet, the same scene would be commonplace and understood
in dock or harbour, with neighbourly shore structures to point a reason
for absence of ship-life, but out here--the clear horizon of an open sea
in view around, with vessels passing on their courses, the desertion of
the main post seems final and complete, with no navigator at the guides
and no hand at the wheel.

The flood tide making over the shoals sets in with a _thrussh_ of broken
water alee of the wreck. The salvors' cutter, from which the mate is
sounding and marking bottom, spins in widening circles in the eddies and
shows the strength of early springs. As yet the stream binds the wreck
hard to the bank, setting broad on from seaward, but relief will come
when the spent water turns east on the last of the flood. Survey
completed, the salvage officers clamber to the deck again. The leak in
number three is their only concern; if that can be overcome, there seems
no bar to a successful programme. The commander questions the mate as to
the depth of water alongside, is assured of draught, and signals his
vessel to heave up and come on. The strength and onrush of the tidal
race makes the manoeuvre difficult, and it is on second attempt, with
a wide sweep and backing on plane of the current, she drives unhandily
to position. The impact of her boarding, for all the guardian fenders,
jars and stirs the wreck, but brings a confident look to the salvors'
faces; as readily shaken as that, they assure themselves the responding
hull will come off with 'a bit of a pinch' on the angle of withdrawal
that they have planned on the tidal chart.

With hawsers and warps barely fast, the great pumps are hove up in air
and swung over the hatchway of the doubtful hold. But for the general
order to carry on, there are few directions and little admonition. Every
man of the busy group of mechanics and riggers has 'a brick for the
wall,' and the wriggling lengths of armoured hose are coupled and
launched over the coamings as quickly as the massive motors are lowered.
Foundering with splash and gurgle, like uncouth sea-monsters in their
appanage of tortuous rubber tentacles, the sheen of their polished bulk
looms through the green translucent flood of solid seawater, the grave
and surely augmented tide that they are trimmed to master. Again, the
seeming hopelessness of the task, the handicap of man against element,
presents a doubt to one's mind. Two shell-like casings of steel, a line
of piping and cab-tyre coils for power leads--to compete with the
infiltration of an ocean; there are even small fish darting in the flood
of it, a radiating Medusa floats in and out the weltering 'tween-decks,
waving loathsome feelers as though in mockery of human efforts!

Like a war-whoop to the onslaught the dynamos of the salvage vessel
start motion, and hum in _crescendo_ to a high tenor tone; the
vibrations of their speed and cycle are joined in conduct to the empty
hull of the wreck, and she quickens with a throb and stir as of her
arteries coursing. There is no preparatory trickle at outboard end of
the hose ejections; with a rush and roar, a clean, solid flood pours
over, an uninterrupted cascade at seven tons from each per minute!

The carpenter sounds the depth with rod and chalked lanyard, then lowers
a tethered float to water-level of the flooded compartment. In this way
he sets a starting mark for the competition, a gauge for the throw of
the pumps. In interest with the issue, the salvage men gather round the
hatchway, and all eyes are turned to the bobbing cork disc to note the
progress of the contest. Stirring and drifting to slack of the line, the
float seems serenely indifferent to its important motion; wayward and
buoyant, it trims, this way and that, then steadies suddenly on a taut
restraint; slowly it seems to rise in the water as though drawn by an
invisible hand. It spins a little to lay of the cord, then hangs,
moisture dropping and forming rings on the glassy surface of the well!
By no seeming effort but the pulse-like quiver of the hose, the level
falls away. A bolt-head on the plating shows under water, then tips an
upper edge above; a minute later the round is exposed and drying in a
slant of the sun.

The tense regard with which we have scanned the guide-mark gives way to
jest and relief when it is seen that drainage is assured; a facetious
mechanic at the hose-end makes motions as of pulling a bar handle to
draw a foaming glass. "Sop it up, old sport!" says the rigger, patting
the pipes. "Sop it up an' spit! Ol' Neptune ain't arf thusty!"

During our engagement, _Titan_ has not been idle. There remains only an
hour or two of flood tide and much has to be done. Leaving steam-pumps
to cope with the more moderate leakage at the after section, she has
hauled forward on the rising tide on the shoal side of the wreck. At the
bows she has applied suction to the prisoned water in the fore holds,
and a new stream pours overside in foaming ejection. The roar and throb
of her power motors adds further volume and vibration to the rousing
treatment by which the nerves of the stranded hulk seem braced. Stirred
by the new life on her, the old ship may well forget she has no stern
and only part a bottom. Already the decks, gaunt and red-rusted as they
are, take on a cheering look of service and animation. The seamen in the
rigging and workmen crowded round the hatchways might be the dockers
boarded for a day's work on the loading, and only the thunder of the
motors and crash of the sluicing torrent remain foreign to a normal

The sun has gone west when the tidal current surging past shows a change
in direction. We throw sightly flotsam overboard and note the drift that
takes the refuse astern. No longer the green slimy plates of the hull
show above water, the tide has lapped their sea-growth and ripples high
on a cleaner surface. With high water approaching we draw near the point
of balance in buoyancy, and the salving tenders tighten up headfasts and
stern ropes in readiness for a slip or drag. The sea-tug that has till
now been a quiet partner in operations, smokes up and backs in astern to
pass a hawser to the wreck. She drops away with a good scope, and lies
handy to tow at orders.

Tirelessly, droning and throbbing with insistent monotony, the pumps
continue their labour and draw the weight of water that holds the wreck
down. At number three hold the flood below is no longer a still and
placid well. The penned and mastered water seethes and whirls in
impotent fury at the suction that draws and churns only to expel. Some
solid matter, seaweed perhaps, has drifted to the leak and stems a
volume of the incoming water; there seems a prospect that a single pump
may keep the level.

In somewhat tense expectancy, we await a crisis in the operations. There
is a feeling that all these masterly movements should lead to a
spectacular resurrection--a stir and tremor in the frame of her,
reviving sea-throes, a lurch, a list, a mighty heave, and a staggering
relaunch to the deeps.

Precise and businesslike, modern salvage avoids such a flourishing end
to their labours. As skilful surgeons, they object strongly to
excitement. Their frail and tortured sea-patients can rarely stand more
than gentle suasion. As surely as the tide they work by, the factors of
weight and displacement and trim have been figured and calculated. . . .
The commander draws our attention to a quiet and steady rise in the
bows, the knightheads perceptibly edging nearer to a wisp of standing
cloud. Without a jar or surge the wreck becomes a floating ship; she
lists a little, as the towing hawser creaks and strains, and we draw off
gently to seaward.


A DOWNPOUR of steady, insistent rain makes quagmire of the paths on the
dockside, and the half-light of a cheerless early morning gives little
guidance to progress among the raffle of discarded ship-gear that lies
about the yard. Stumbling over shores and stagings, skirting gaunt
mounds of damaged plates and angles, we reach the sea-gate where the
ship victims of mine and torpedo are moored in readiness for treatment
in the great sea-hospital. In the uncertain light and under wet lowering
skies, they make a dismal picture. The symmetry of conventional
docking--ships moored in line and heading in the same direction--that is
an orderly feature of the harbours, is not possible in the overcrowded
basin. There is need to pack the vessels closely. They lie at awkward
angles, the stern of one overhanging the bows of another. Masts and
funnels and deck erections, upstanding at varied rakes, emphasize the
confused berthing and draw the eye to the condition of the mass of
damaged shipping. Not all of the vessels are shattered hulks. A number
are here for hull-cleaning or overhaul, but their high sides with the
rust and barnacles and weedy green scum, make as drab a feature in the
combination as the listed hulls of the cripples.


Though nominally daylight, the arc-lamps of the pier-head still splutter
in wet contacts and spread a sickly glow over the oilskin-clad group of
dockmen and officials gathered to enter the ships. A chill breeze from
the sea blows in and carries reek and cinder of north-country coal to
thicken the lash of the rain. The waft comes from heeling dock tugs
that strain at their hawsers, spurring the muddy tide to froth in their
task of moving the helpless vessels in the basin. The long expanse of
flooded dock, brimming to the uppermost ledge, lies open for their
entry; the bruised and shattered stern of a large ship is pointed over
the sill at an awkward angle that marks an absence of steam-power aboard
to control her wayward sheer. The dockmaster, in ill mood with her
cantrips, roars admonition and appeal to the smoking tugs to "lie over
t' s'uth'ard and right her!" By check, and the powerful heave of a shore
capstan, she warps in and straightens to the line of the docks. As she
draws on to her berth the high bows of a second cripple swing over from
the tiers, and the tugs back out to fasten on and drag her to the gate.

With entry of the ships, the glistening pier-head becomes thronged by
tidesmen and their gear; like a drill-yard, with the lusty stamp of the
marching lines of dockmen trailing heavy hawsers and handing check and
hauling ropes. In an hour or so the gangs of the ship-repair section
will be ready to 'turn to' at the new jobs, and the ships must be
settled and ready against the wail of the starting 'buzzer.' Shrill
whistle signals, orders and hails add to the stir of the labourers, and
clatter of the warping capstan joins in with ready chorus. Not least of
the medley is the bull roar of the harassed dockmaster, who finds a need
in the press for more than one pair of hands at the reins to guide and
halt his tandem charges.

The ships are marked in company, to settle bow to stern, with no room to
spare, in the length of the dock. Conduct must be ruled in duplicate to
exact the full measure of utility from every foot of space. On the last
tide a pair of sound ships were floated out to service, braced and bound
and refitted for further duty as stout obverse to the 'Sure Shield.'
Keel-blocks and beds for the new patients have been set up and
rearranged in the brief interval of occupancy, and now, quick on the
wash of the outgoers, are new cases for the shearing plate-cutters and
the swing of hammers.

Mindful to conserve their precious dry-dock space to the limit of good
service, the repair section select the vessels with rare judgment. It is
no haphazard turn of the wheel that brings an American freighter,
shattered in stern section, to the same operating-table as an east-coast
tramp (having her engines in scrap, boilers fractured, and the frames of
her midships blown to sea-bottom). The combined measure of their length
and the similarity of extent in hull damage has brought them to the one
line of blocks. Odd cases, and regular ship-cleaning and minor repairs
may be allotted to single-ship dry docks, but here, in sea-hospital with
a twin-berth, there is a need for parallel treatment. The two ships must
be considered as one, and all efforts be promoted towards refloating
them, when hull repairs are completed, on one opening of the sea-gate.

In this, strangely, they are assisted by the enemy. True, his
accommodation could well be spared, but it does have an influence on
repair procedure. The exact and uniformly graded proportions of the
enemy explosive reproduces a correspondingly like extent and nature in
ship damage. Location and sea-trim may vary the fractures in proportion
to resistance but, with the vessels on the blocks together, working time
may be adjusted to these conditions and a balance be struck that will
further a simultaneous completion.

So the dockmaster ranges his pair on the centre line of the keel-blocks,
sets tight the hawsers that hold them in position, and bars the
sea-entry with a massive caisson. Presently he passes an order to the
pumpman, and the power-house echoes to the easy thrust of his giant

The keel-blocks have been set to meet the general lines of the vessels,
with only a marginal allowance for the contour of damaged plating. To
remedy any error divers, with their gear and escort, are ready on the
dockside, and they go below with first fall in the water-level. The
carpenters straggle out from sheltered corners and bear a hand. Riggers
and dockmen have placed the ships, and it remains for the 'tradesmen' to
bed them down and prop against a list by shores and blocks. They are ill
content with the vile weather and their job in the open, where the rain
lashes down pitilessly, soaking their working clothes. Doubtless they
envy the dry divers their suits of proofed rubber, when they are called
on to manhandle the heavy timber shores from the mud and litter of the
dockside and launch them out towards the steel sides of the settling
vessels. There the tide-workers on deck secure them by lanyards, and the
spars hang in even order, sighted on doublings of the plates, ready to
pin the ships on a steady keel when the water drains away.

With the timbers held in place, the carpenters split up to small parties
and stand by to set a further locking strain by prise of block and
wedge. The dockmaster blows a whistle signal at the far end of the
basin, and casts up his hand as though arresting movement; the thrust of
the main pump stills, and he swings his arm. At the sign, the carpenters
ram home . . . the thunder of their forehammers on the hardwood wedges
rings out in chorus that draws a quavering echo from the empty,
hard-pressed hulls.

Settled and bedded and pinned, the ships are left till the water drains
away and to await the coming of the shipwrights and repairing gangs. The
carpenters shoulder their long-handled top-mauls and scatter to a
shelter from the steady, continuous downpour. Up from the floors with
their work completed, the divers doff their heavy head-gear and sit a
while, _resting_ comfortably under the thrash of the same persistent
rain. Anon, their awkward garb discarded, they walk off, striding with a
crook at the knees, like farmer folk on ploughed land. The great pumps
now pulsate at full speed, drawing water to their sluices in an eddying
current that spins the flotsam and bares ledge after ledge of the solid
dock masonry. From gaping wounds of the crippled vessels a full tide of
seawater gushes and spurts to join the troubled wash below. The beams
and side-planking, and temporary measures of the salvage section,
uncover and come to sight, showing with what patience and laborious care
the divers have striven to stem an inrush.

On the second ship the receding water-line exposes the damage to her
engine- and boiler-rooms. A litter of coal and oily scum showers from
angles of the wrecked bunker and stokehold to the floor of the dock, and
leaves the fractured beams and tubes to stand out in gaunt twist and
deformity. Through the breaches the shattered cylinders and broken
columns of the engines lie distorted in a piled raffle of wrenched pipe
sections, valves and levers, footplates, skeleton ladders, and shafting.
The mass of distorted metal has still a shine and token of polish, and
these signs of late care and attention only serve to make the ruin seem
the more complete and irremediable.

An hour later a strident power syren sounds out from roof of the repair
'shops.' The workmen, hurrying to 'check in' at the gates, scarcely
glance at their new jobs on the blocks of the dry-dock. To them it seems
quite a commonplace that the round of their industry should suffer no
halt, that the two seaworthy ships they completed yesterday should be so
quickly replaced by the same type of casualty for their attention. The
magnitude of the task--the vast extent of plating to be sheared and
rebuilt, the beams to be withdrawn or straightened in place, the litter
to be cleared--holds no misgivings. Short on the stroke of 'turn to'
they straggle down the dockside to start the round anew. With critical
eye, foremen and surveyors chalk off the cypher of their verdicts on the
rusted displaced remnants; the gangs apportion and assemble with tools
and gear; the huge travelling cranes rumble along on their railways, and
lower slings and hooks in readiness for a load of damaged steel.

With the men lined out to the gangways and filing down the dock steps,
chain linking in trial over the crane sheaves, and the bustle of
preparation on ship and shore, everything seems set for an instant
beginning--but no hammer falls as yet. There is, first, a sad freight to
be discharged; not all the crew of the ship with the wrecked engines
have gone to the pay-table. Three sombre closed wagons are waiting by
the dockside, and towards them down the long gangways from the ship, the
bodies of an engineer and some of the stokehold crew are being carried.
The weltering flood that held them has drained to the dock, and busy
hands have searched in the wreckage where they died at their post.

We have no flags to honour, no processional march to accompany our dead.
Their poor bodies, dripping and fouled, are draped in a simple coarse
shroud that hardly conceals the line of their mangled limbs. Awkwardly
the carriers stumble on the sodden planking and rest arms and knees on
the guiding hand-lines. The workmen pause on the ship and gangways and
look respectfully, if curiously, at the limp burdens as they are carried

Here and there a man speaks of the dead, but the most are silent, with
lowering looks, set teeth--a sharp intake of the breath. . . . Who
knows? Perhaps the spirits of the murdered seamen may come by a payment
at the hands of the shipwright gangs. The best monument to their memory
will stand as another keel on the deep--a quick ripost to the enemy, in
his victim repaired and strengthened and returned to sea.

Lowering looks, set teeth, a hissing intake of the breath are the right
accompaniment to a blow struck hard home; the thunder of hammers and
drills, the hiss and sparkle of shearing cutters, that breaks out when
the wagons have gone, marks a start to their monument!

[Illustration: DAZZLE]



EARLY in the war the rappel of 'Business as usual' was as deadly at sea
as elsewhere. Arrogant and super-confident in our pride of sea-place, we
made little effort to trim and adapt our practice to rapidly altering
conditions; there were few visible signs to disquiet us, we hardly
deviated from our peaceful sea-path, and had no concern for
interference. We carried our lights ablaze, advertised our doings in
plain wireless, announced our sailings and arrivals, and even devoted
more than usual attention to keeping our ships as span in brave new
paint and glistening varnish as the hearts of impressionable passengers
could desire.

We had difficulties with our manning. The seamen were off, at first tuck
of drum, to what they reckoned a more active part in the great game of
war--the strictly Naval Service--and we were left with weak crews of new
and raw hands to carry on the sea-trade. So, from the very first of it,
we engaged in a moral camouflage in our efforts to keep up appearances,
and show the neutrals with whom we did business that such a thing as war
could hardly disturb the smooth running of our master machine--the
Merchants' Service!

Some there were among us who saw the peril in such prominence, and took
modest (and somewhat hesitating) steps to keep out of the limelight, by
setting lonely courses on the sea, restraining the comradely gossip of
wireless operators, and toning down appearances from brilliant polish to
the more sombre part suiting a sea in war-time. Deck lights were painted
over and obscured, funnel and masts were allowed to grey to neutral
tints, the brown ash that discomposes fine paint at sea was looked upon
with a new and friendly eye. The bias of chief mates (in a service where
promotion is the due for a clean and tidy ship) was, with difficulty,
overcome, and a new era of keen look-out and sea-trim started.

There was but moderate support for these bold iconoclasts who dared thus
to affront our high fetish. Ship painting and decoration and upkeep were
sacrosanct rites that even masters must conform to; the enactments of
the Medes and Persians were but idle rules, mere by-laws, compared to
the formulæ and prescriptions that governed the tone of our pantry
cupboards and the shades of cunning grain-work. We were peaceful
merchantmen; what was the use of our dressing up like a parish-rigged
man-o'-war? As to the lights--darkening ship would upset the passengers;
there would be rumours and apprehension. They would travel in less
'nervous' vessels!

The mine that shattered _Manchester Commerce_ stirred the base of our
happy conventions; the cruise of the _Emden_ set it swaying perilously;
the torpedoes that sank _Falaba_ and _Lusitania_ blew the whole sham
edifice to the winds, and we began to think of our ships in other terms
than those of freight and passenger rates. Our conceptions of peaceful
merchantmen were not the enemy's!

We set about to make our vessels less conspicuous. Grey! We painted our
hulls and funnels grey. In many colours of grey. The nuances of our
coatings were accidental. Poor quality paint and variable untimely
mixings contributed, but it was mainly by crew troubles (deficiency and
incapacity) that we came by our first camouflage. As needs must, we
painted sections at a time--a patch here, a plate or two there--laid on
in the way that real sailors would call 'inside-out'! We sported suits
of many colours, an infinite variety of shades. Quite suddenly we
realized that grey, in such an ample range--red-greys, blue-greys,
brown-greys, green-greys--intermixed on our hulls, gave an excellent
low-visibility colour that blended into the misty northern landscape.

Bolshevik now in our methods, we worked on other schemes to trick the
murderer's eye. Convention again beset our path. The great god
Symmetry--whom we had worshipped to our undoing--was torn from his high
place. The glamour of Balances, that we had thought so fine and
shipshape, fell from our eyes, and we saw treachery in every regular
disposition. Pairs--in masts, ventilators, rails and stanchions,
boat-groupings, samson posts, even in the shrouds and rigging--were
spies to the enemy, and we rearranged and screened and altered as best
we could, in every way that would serve to give a false indication of
our course and speed. Freighters and colliers (that we had scorned
because of ugly forward rake of mast and funnel) became the leaders of
our fashion. We wedged our masts forward (where we could) and slung a
gaff on the fore side of the foremast; we planked the funnel to look
more or less upright; we painted a curling bow wash over the propellor
and a black elaborate stern on the bows. We trimmed our ships by the
head, and flattered ourselves that, Janus-like, we were heading all

Few, including the enemy, were greatly deceived. At that point where
alterations of apparent course were important--to put the putting Fritz
off his stroke--the deck-houses and erections with their beamwise fronts
or ends would be plainly noted, and a true line of course be readily
deduced. With all our new zeal, we stopped short of altering standing
structures, but we could paint, and we made efforts to shield our
weakness by varied applications. Our device was old enough, a return to
the chequer of ancient sea-forts and the line of painted gun-ports with
which we used to decorate our clipper sailing ships. (That also was a
camouflage of its day--an effort to overawe Chinese and Malay pirates by
the painted resemblance to the gun-deck of a frigate.) We saw the
eye-disturbing value of a bold criss-cross, and those of us who had
paint to spare made a 'Hobson-jobson' of awning spars and transverse

These were our sea-efforts--rude trials effected with great difficulty
in the stress of the new sea-warfare. We could only see ourselves from a
surface point of view, and, in our empirics, we had no official
assistance. During our brief stay in port it was impossible to procure
day-labouring gangs--even the 'gulls' of the dockside were busy at sea.
On a voyage, gun crews and extra look-outs left few hands of the watch
available for experiments; in any case, our rationed paint covered
little more than would keep the rust in check. We were relieved when new
stars of marine coloration arose, competent shore concerns that, on
Government instruction, arrayed us in a novel war paint. Our rough and
amateurish tricks gave way to the ordered schemes of the dockyard; our
ships were armed for us in a protective coat of many colours.

Upon us like an avalanche came this real camouflage. Somewhere behind it
all a genius of pantomimic transformation blazed his rainbow wand and
fixed us. As we came in from sea, dazzle-painters swarmed on us,
bespattered creatures with no bowels of compassion, who painted over our
cherished glass and teakwood and brass port-rims--the last lingering
evidences of our gentility. Hourly we watched our trim ships take on the
hues of a swingman's roundabouts. We learned of fancy colours known only
in high art--alizarin and grey-pink, purple-lake and Hooker's green. The
designs of our mantling held us in a maze of expectation. Bends and
ecartelés, indents and rayons, gyrony and counter-flory, appeared on our
topsides; curves and arrow-heads were figured on boats and davits and
deck fittings; apparently senseless dabs and patches were measured and
imprinted on funnel curve and rounding of the ventilators; inboard and
outboard we were streaked and crossed and curved.

With our arming of guns there was need for instruction in their service
and maintenance; artificial smoke-screens required that we should be
efficient in their use; our Otters called for some measure of seamanship
in adjustment and control. So far all governmental appliances for our
defence relied on our understanding and operation, but this new
protective coloration, held aloof from our confidence, it was quite
self-contained, there was no rule to be learnt; we were to be shipmates
with a new contrivance, to the operation of which we had no control. For
want of point in discussion, we criticized freely. We surpassed
ourselves in adjectival review; we stared in horror and amazement as
each newly bedizened vessel passed down the river. In comparison and
simile we racked memory for text to the gaudy creations. "Water running
under a bridge.". . . "Forced draught on a woolly sheep's back.". . .
"Mural decoration in a busy butcher's shop.". . . "Strike _me_ a rosy
bloody pink!" said one of the hands, "if this 'ere don't remind me o'
jaundice an' malaria an' a touch o' th' sun, an' me in a perishin' dago

While naming the new riot of colour grotesque--a monstrosity, an
outrage, myopic madness--we were ready enough to grasp at anything that
might help us in the fight at sea. We scanned our ships from all points
and angles to unveil the hidden imposition. Fervently we hoped that
there would be more in it than met our eye--that our preposterous livery
was not only an effort to make Gargantuan faces at the Boche! Only the
most splendid results could justify our bewilderment.

Out on the sea we came to a better estimate of the value of our novel
war-paint. In certain lights and positions we seemed to be steering odd
courses--it was very difficult to tell accurately the line of a vessel's
progress. The low visibility that we seamen had sought was sacrificed to
enhance a bold disruption of perspective. While our efforts at
deception, based more or less on a one-colour scheme of greys, may have
rendered our ships less visible against certain favouring backgrounds of
sea and sky, there were other weather conditions in which we would stand
out sharply revealed. Abandoning the effort to cloak a stealthy
sea-passage, our newly constituted Department of Marine Camouflage
decked us out in a bold pattern, skilfully arranged to disrupt our
perspective, and give a false impression of our line of course. With a
torpedo travelling to the limit of its run--striking anything that may
lie in its course, range is of little account. Deflection, on the other
hand, is everything in the torpedo-man's problem--the correct estimation
of a point of contact of two rapidly moving bodies. He relies for a
solution on an accurate judgment of his target's course; it became the
business of the dazzle-painters to complicate his working by a feint in
colour and design. The new camouflage has so distorted our sheer and
disrupted the colour in the mass as to make our vessels less easy to
hit. If not invisible against average backgrounds, the dazzlers have
done their work so well that we are at least partially lost in every

The mystery withheld from us--the system of our decoration--has done
much to ease the rigours of our war-time sea-life. In argument and
discussion on its origin and purpose we have found a topic, almost as
unfailing in its interest as the record day's run of the old sailing
ships. We are agreed that it is a brave martial coat we wear, but are
divided in our theories of production. How is it done? By what shrewd
system are we controlled that no two ships are quite alike in their
splendour? We know that instructions come from a department of the
Admiralty to the dockyard painters, in many cases by telegraph. Is there
a system of abbreviations, a colourist's shorthand, or are there
maritime Heralds in Whitehall who blazon our arms for the guidance of
the rude dockside painters? It can be worked out in fine and sonorous

                         For s.s. CORNCRIX

          _Party per pale, a pale; first, gules, a fesse
          dancette, sable; second, vert, bendy, lozengy,
          purpure cottised with nodules of the first; third,
          sable, three billets bendwise in fesse, or: sur
          tout de tout, a barber's pole cockbilled on a
          sinking gasometer, all proper._ For motto: "_Doing
          them in the eye._"

One wonders if our old conservatism, our clinging to the past, shall
persist long after the time of strife has gone; if, in the years when
war is a memory and the time comes to deck our ships in pre-war symmetry
and grace of black hulls and white-painted deck-work and red funnels and
all the gallant show of it, some old masters among us may object to the

"Well, have it as you like," they may say. "I was brought up in the good
old-fashioned cubist system o' ship painting--fine patterns o' reds an'
greens an' Ricketts' blue, an' brandy-ball stripes an' that! None o'
your damned newfangled ideas of one-colour sections for me! . . .
_Huh!_. . . And black hulls, too! . . . Black! A funeral outfit! . . .
No, sir! I may be wrong, but anyway, I'm too old now to chop and change

If we have become reconciled to the weird patterns of our war-paint,
every instinct of seafaring that is in us rebels against the new naming
of our ships. Is it but another form of camouflage--like the loving
Indian mother abusing her dear children for deception of a malicious
listening Djinn? _War Cowslip_, _War Dance_, _War Dreamer!_ War Hell!
Are our new standard ships being thus badly named, that the enemy may
look upon them as pariahs, unworthy of shell or torpedo? Perhaps, as a
thoughtful war measure, it may be chargeful of pregnant meaning; our new
war names for the ships may be germane to some distant world movement,
the first tender shoot of which we cannot yet recognize! More than
likely, it is the result of the fine war-time frolic of fitting the
cubest of square pegs in the roundest of holes. How is it done? Is
there, in the hutments of St. James's Park, an otherwise estimable and
blameless greengrocer, officially charged with the task of finding names
for vessels, 015537-68 inclusive, presently on the Controller's lists
and due to be launched?

We sailors are jealous for our vessels. Abuse us if you will, but have a
care for what you may say of our ships. We alone are entitled to call
them bitches, wet brutes, stubborn craft, but we will stand for no such
liberties from the beach; strikes have occurred on very much less
sufficient ground. Ridicule in the naming of our ships is intolerable.
If _War_ is to be the prefix, why cannot our greengrocer find suitable
words in the chronicles of strife? Can there be anything less martial
than the _War Rambler_, _War Linnet_, _War Titmouse_, _War Gossamer_?
Why not the _War Teashop_, the _War Picture House_, the--the--the _War
Lollipop_? Are we rationed in ships' names? Is there a Controller of
Marine Nomenclature? The thing is absurd!

If our controllers had sense they would see the danger in thus flouting
our sentiment; they would value the recruiting agency of a good name;
they would recognize that the naming of a ship should be done with as
great care as that of an heir to an earldom. Is the torpedoed bos'n of
the _Eumaeus_ going to boast of a new post on the _War Bandbox_? What
are the feelings of the captain of a _Ruritania_ when he goes to the
yards to take over a _War Whistler_? Why _War_? If sober, businesslike
argument be needed, it is confusing; it introduces a repetition of
initial syllable that makes for dangerous tangles in the scheme of
direction and control.

It is all quite unnecessary. There are names and enough. Fine names!
Seamanlike names! Good names! Names that any sailor would be proud to
have on his worsted jersey! Names that he would shout out in the
market-place! Names that the enemy would read as monuments to his
infamy! Names of ships that we knew and loved and stood by to the bitter



UNLIKE the marches of the land, with guard and counterguard, we had no
frontiers on the sea. There were no bounds to the nations and their
continents outside of seven or ten fathoms of blue water. We all
travelled on the one highway that had few by-paths on which trespassers
might be prosecuted. And our highway was no primrose path, swept and
garnished and safeguarded; it had perils enough in gale and tempest,
fog, ice, blinding snow, dark moonless nights, rock and shoal and
sandbar. Remote from ordered assistance in our necessity, we relied on
favour of a chance passer-by, on a fallible sea-wanderer like ourselves.
So, for our needs, we formed a sea-bond, an International Alliance
against our common hazards of wind and sea and fire, an assurance of
succour and support in emergency and distress. Out of our hunger for
sea-companionship grew a union that had few rules or written compacts,
and no bounds to action other than the simply humane traditions and
customs of the sea. There were no statutory penalties for infringement
of the rules unwritten; we could not, as true seamen, conceive so black
a case. We had no Articles of our Association, no charters, no
covenants; our only documents were the International Code of Signals and
the Rule of the Road at Sea. With these we were content; we understood
faith and a blood-bond as brother seamen, and we put out on our
adventures, stoutly warranted against what might come.

In the Code of Signals we had a language of our own, more immediate and
attractive than Volapük or Esperanto. The dire fate of the builders of
the Tower held no terror for us, for our intercourse was that of sight
and recognition, not of speech. Our code was one of bright colours and
bold striking design--flags and pendants fluttering pleasantly in the
wind or, in calmer weather, drooping at the halyards with a lift for
closer recognition. The symbol of our masonry was a bold red pendant
with two vertical bars of white upon it. We had fine hoists for hail and
farewell; tragic turn of the colours for a serious emergency, hurried
two-flag sets for urgent calls, leisurely symbols of three for finished

'_Can you_' required three flags to itself; _me_ or _I_ or _it_ came all
within our range. We told our names and those of our ports by a long
charge of four; we could cross our _t's_ and dot our _i's_ by beckon of
a single square. We lowered slowly and rehoisted ('knuckles to the
staff, you young fool!') our National Ensign, as we would raise our hat
ashore. It was all an easy, courteous and graceful mode of converse,
linguistically and grammatically correct, for we had no concern with
accent or composition, taking our polished phrases from the book. It
suited well the great family of the sea, for, were we a Turk of Galatz
and you an Iceland brigantine, we could pass the time of day or tell one
another, simply and intelligibly, the details of our ports and ladings.
Distance, within broad limits, was small hindrance to our gossip; there
were few eyes on the round of the sea, to read into our confidences. We
could put a hail ashore, too. Passing within sight of San Miguel, we
could have a message on the home doorsteps on the morrow, by hoisting
our 'numbers'; the naked lightkeeper on the Dædalus could tell us of the
northern winds by a string of colours thrown out from the upper gallery.

Good news, bad news, reports, ice, weather, our food-supply, the wages
of our seamen, the whereabouts of pirates and cannibals, the bank rate,
high politics (we had S.L.R. for Nuncio)--we had them all grouped and
classed and ready for instant reference. Medicine, stocks, the law
(G.F.H., King's Bench; these sharps who never will take a plain seaman's
clear word on salvage or the weather, or the way the fog-whistle was
duly and properly sounded!) Figures! We could measure and weigh and
divide and subtract; we could turn your Greek _Daktylas_ into a Japanese
_Cho_ or _Tcho_, or Turkish _Parmaks_ into the _Draas_ of Tripoli! Some
few world measures had to be appendixed; a _Doppelzentner_ was Z.N.L.
What is a _Doppelzentner_?

As evidence of our brotherly regard, our peaceful intent, we had few
warlike phrases. True, we had hoists to warn of pirates, and we could
beg a loan, by signal, of powder and cannon-balls--to supplement our
four rusty Snyders, with which we could defend our property, but there
was no group in our international vocabulary that could read, "I am
torpedoing you without warning!" Seamanlike and simple, we saw only one
form of warfare at sea, and based our signals on that. "Keep courage! I
am coming to your assistance at utmost speed!". . . "I shall stand by
during the night!". . . "Water is gaining on me! I am sinking!" . . .
"Boat is approaching your quarter!" These, and others alike, were our
war signals, framed to meet our ideas of the greatest peril we might
encounter in our conflict with the elements.


Of all this we write in a sad past tense. Our sea-bond is shattered.
There is no longer a brotherhood on the sea. The latest of our
recruits has betrayed us. The old book is useless, for it contains no
reading of the German's avowal, "Come on the deck of my submarine. I am
about to submerge!" . . . "Stand by, you helpless swine in the boats, while
I shell you and scatter your silly blood and brains!"

No longer will the receipt of a call of distress be the instant signal
(whatever the weather or your own plight) for putting the helm over. We
have shut the book! We are grown hardened and distrustful. S.O.S. may be
the fiend who has just torpedoed a crowded Red Cross, and endeavours by
his lying wireless to lure a Samaritan to the net. A heaving boat, or a
lone raft with a staff and a scrap, may only be closed with fearful
caution; they may be magnets for a minefield.

          ". . . still he called aloud, for he was in the
          track of steamers. And presently he saw a steamer.
          She carried no lights, but he described her form,
          a darker shape upon the sea and sky, and saw the
          sparks volley from her funnel.

          "He shrieked till his voice broke, but the steamer
          went on and vanished. The Irishman was furiously
          enraged, but it was of no use to be angry. He went
          on calling. So did the other four castaways, but
          their cries were growing fainter and less

          "Then there loomed another steamer, and she, too,
          went on. By this time, perhaps, an hour had gone
          by, and the Arab firemen had fallen silent. The
          Irishman could see them no longer. He never saw
          them again. A third steamer hove in sight, and
          she, too, went on. The Irishman cursed her with
          the passionate intensity peculiar to the seaman,
          and went on calling. It was a desperate
          business. . . ."

The shame of it!

_Lusitania_, _Coquet_, _Serapis_, _Thracia_, _Mariston_, _The Belgian
Prince_, _Umaria_ . . .

          ". . . The commanding officer of the submarine,
          leaning on the rail of the conning-tower, looked
          down upon his victims.

          "Crouched upon the thwarts in the sunlight, up to
          their knees in water, which, stained crimson, was
          flowing through the shell-holes in the planking,
          soaked with blood, holding their wounds, staring
          with hunted eyes, was the heap of stricken men.

          "The German ordered the boat away. The shore was
          fifteen miles distant. . . ."

He ordered the boat away! The shame of it! The abasing, dishonouring
shame of it!

Bitterly, tarnished--we realize our portion in the guilt, our share in
this black infamy--that seamen should do this thing!

What of the future? What will be the position of the German on the sea
when peace returns, let the settlement by catholic conclave be what it

Sailorfolk have long memories! Living a life apart from their
land-fellows, they have but scant regard for the round of events that,
on the shore, would be canvassed and discussed, consented--and
forgotten. There is no busy competing commercial intrigue, no fickle
market, no grudging dalliance on the sea. We stand fast to our own old
sea-justice; we have no shades of mercy or condonation, no degrees of
tolerance for this bastard betrayer of our unwritten sea-laws. No
brotherhood of the sea can be conceived to which he may be re-admitted.
Not even the dethronement of the Hohenzollern can purge the deeds of his
marine Satraps, for their crimes are individual and personal and

In the League of Nations a purged and democratic Germany may have a
station, but there is no redemption for a Judas on the sea. There, by
every nation, every seafarer, he will remain a shunned and abhorred
Ishmael for all time.


[Illustration: A STANDARD SHIP AT SEA]



EARLY in 1917 the losses of the merchants' ships and men had assumed a
proportion that called for a radical revision of the systems of naval
protection. Concentrating their energies on but one specific form of sea
offence, the enemy had developed their submarine arm to a high point of
efficiency. Speed and power and lengthy sea-keeping qualities were
attained. To all intents and purposes the U-boats had become surface
destroyers with the added conveniency of being able to disappear at
sight. They conducted their operations at long distance from the land
and from their bases. The immense areas of the high seas offered a
peculiar facility for 'cut-and-run' tactics: the system of independent
sailings of the merchantmen provided them with a succession of victims,
timed in a progression that allowed of solitary disposal.
Notwithstanding the matured experience of submarine methods gained by
masters, the rapid evolution of counter-measures by the Royal Navy, the
courage and determination of all classes of seafarers, our shipping and
that of our Allies and the neutral nations was being destroyed at a rate
that foreshadowed disaster.

Schemes of rapid ship construction were advanced, lavish expenditure
incurred, plans and occupation designed--all to ensure a replacement of
tonnage at a future date. More material in point of prompt effect were
the efforts of the newly formed Ministry of Shipping to conserve
existing tonnage by judicious and closely controlled employment. All but
sternly necessary sea-traffic was eliminated: harbour work in loading
and unloading was expedited: the virtues of a single control enhanced
the active agency of the merchants' ships--now devoted wholly to State
service. Joined to the provisional and economic measures of the bureaux,
Admiralty reorganized their methods of patrol and sea-supervision of the
ships. The entry of the United States into the world war provided a
considerable increase of naval strength to the Allied fleets. Convoy
measures, that before had been deemed impracticable, were now possible.
Destroyers and sloops could be released from fleet duties and were
available as escorts. American flotillas crossed the Atlantic to protect
the sea-routes: Japanese war craft assisted us in the Mediterranean.

In the adoption of the convoy system the Royal Navy was embarking on no
new venture. Modern ships and weapons may have brought a novel
complication to this old form of sea-guardianship, but there is little
in seafaring for which the traditions of the Naval Service cannot offer
text and precedent. The constant of protection by convoy has remained
unaltered by the advance of armament and the evolution of strange war
craft: the high spirit of self-sacrifice is unchanged. When, in October
1917, the destroyers _Strongbow_ and _Mary Rose_ accepted action and
faced three German cruisers, their commanders--undismayed by the
tremendous odds--reacted the parts of the common sea-dramas of the
Napoleonic wars. The same obstinate courage and unconquerable sea-pride
forbade them to desert their convoy of merchantmen and seek the safety
that their speed could offer. H.M.S. _Calgarian_, torpedoed and sinking,
had yet thought for the convoy she escorted. Her last official signal
directed the ships to turn away from the danger.


The convoy system did not spring fully served and equipped from the
earlier and less exacting control. Tentative measures had to be devised
and approved, a large staff to be recruited and trained. The clerical
work of administration was not confined to the home ports; similar
adjustment and preparation had to be conducted in friendly ports abroad.
As naval services were adapted to the new control, the system was
extended. The comparatively simple procedure of sending destroyer
escorts to meet homeward-bound convoys became involved with the timing
and dispatch of a mercantile fleet sailing from a home port. The escorts
were ordered out on a time-table that admitted of little derangement.
Sailing from a British port with a convoy of outward-bound vessels, the
destroyers accompanied that fleet to a point in the Atlantic. There the
convoy was dispersed, and the destroyers swung off to rendezvous with a
similar convoy of inward-bound vessels. While the outgoing merchantmen
were allowed to proceed independently after passing through the most
dangerous area, the homeward-bound vessels were grouped to sail in
company from their port abroad. An ocean escort was provided--usually a
cruiser of the older class--and there was opportunity in the longer
voyage for the senior officer to drill the convoy to some unity and
precision in manoeuvre.

The commander of the ocean escort had no easy task in keeping his
charges together. The age-old difficulty of grouping the ships in the
order of their sailing (now steaming) powers has not diminished since
Lord Cochrane, in command of H.M.S. _Speedy_, complained of the
'fourteen sail of merchantmen' he convoyed from Cagliari to Leghorn. In
the first enthusiasm of a new routine, masters were over-sanguine in
estimation of the speed of their ships. The average of former passages
offered a misleading guide. While it was possible to average ten and a
half knots on a voyage from Cardiff to the Plate, proceeding at a speed
that varied with the weather (and the coal), station could not easily be
kept in a ten-knot convoy when--at the cleaning of the fires--the steam
went 'back.' Swinging to the other extreme (after experience of the
guide-ship's angry signals), we erred in reserving a margin that
retarded the full efficiency of a convoy. Our commodores had no small
difficulty in conforming to the date of their convoy's arrival at a
rendezvous. The 'cruising speed' of ten knots, that we had so blithely
taken up when sailing from an oversea port, frequently toned down to an
average of eight--with all the consequent derangement of the destroyers'
programme at the home end; a declared nine-knot convoy would romp home
at ten, to find no escort at the rendezvous.

In time, we adjusted our estimate to meet the new demands. Efforts of
the Ministry of Shipping to evolve an order in our voyaging that would
reduce irregularities had good results. The skilfully thought-out
appointment of the ships to suitable routes and trades had effect in
producing a homogeneity that furthered the employment of our resources
to the full. The whole conduct of our seafaring speedily came within the
range of governmental control, as affecting the timely dispatch and
arrival of the convoys. The quality of our fuel, the state of the hull,
competence of seamen, formed subject for close investigation. The rate
of loading or discharge, the urgency of repairs and refitment, were no
longer judged on the note of our single needs; like the states of the
weather and the tide, they were weighed and assessed in the formula that
governed our new fleet movements.

The system of convoy protection had instant effect in curbing the
activities of the U-boats. They could no longer work at sea on the lines
that had proved so safe for them and disastrous for us. To get at the
ships they had now to come within range of the destroyers' armament.
Hydrophones and depth-charges reduced their vantage of submersion. The
risks of sudden rupture of their plating by the swiftly moving keel of
an escorting vessel did not tend to facilitate the working of their
torpedo problem. In the coastal areas aircraft patrolled overhead the
convoys, to add their hawk-sight to the ready swerve of the destroyers.
The chances of successful attack diminished as the hazard of discovery
and destruction increased. Still, they were no fainthearts. The German
submarine commanders, brutal and hell-nurtured, are no cowards. The
temptation of a massed target attracted them, and they sought, in the
confusion of the startled ships, a means of escape from the destroyers
when their shot into the 'brown' had run true.

Convoy has added many new duties to the sum of our activities when at
sea. Signals have assumed an importance in the navigation. The flutter
of a single flag may set us off on a new course at any minute of the
day. Failure to read a hoist correctly may result in instant collision
with a sister ship. We have need of all eyes on the bridge to keep apace
with the orders of the commodore. In station-keeping we are brought to
the practice of a branch of seamanship with which not many of us were
familiar. Steaming independently, we had only one order for the engineer
when we had dropped the pilot. 'Full speed ahead,' we said, and rang a
triple jangle of the telegraph to let the engineer on watch know that
there would be no more 'backing and filling'--and that he could now nip
into the stokehold to see to the state of the fires. Gone--our easy
ways! We have now to keep close watch on the guide-ship and fret the
engineer to adjustments of the speed that keep him permanently at the
levers. The fires may clag and grey down through unskilful stoking--the
steam go 'back' without warning: ever and on, he has to jump to the
gaping mouth of the voice-tube: "Whit? Two revolutions? Ach! Ah cannae
gi' her ony mair!"--but he does. Slowly perhaps, but surely, as he
coaxes steam from the errant stokers, we draw ahead and regain our place
in the line. No small measure of the success of convoy is built up in
the engine-rooms of our mercantile fleets.

Steaming in formation at night without lights adds to our 'grey heires.'
The menace of collision is ever present. Frequently, in the darkness, we
have no guide-ship in plain sight to regulate our progress. The
adjustments of speed, that in the daytime kept us moderately well in
station, cannot be made. It is best to turn steadily to the average
revolutions of a former period, and keep a good look-out for the broken
water of a sister ship. On occasion there is the exciting medley of
encountering a convoy bound the opposite way. In the confusion of wide
dispersal and independent alterations of course to avert collision,
there is latitude for the most extraordinary situations. An incident in
the Mediterranean deserves imperishable record: "We left Malta, going
east, and that night it was inky dark and we ran clean through a
west-bound convoy. How there wasn't an accident, God only knows. We had
to go full astern to clear one ship. She afterwards sidled up alongside
of us and steamed east for an hour and a half. Then she hailed us
through a megaphone: 'Steamer ahoy! Hallo! Where are you bound to?'
'Salonika,' we said. 'God Almighty,' he says. 'I'm bound to Gibraltar.
Where the hell's _my_ convoy?'"




CUSTOMS clerks--may their name be blessed--are worth much more than
their mere weight in gold. We do not mean the civil servants at the
Custom House, who listen somewhat boredly to our solemn Oath and
Compearance. Doubtless they, too, are of value, but our concern is with
the owner's shipping clerk who attends our hesitating footsteps in the
walk of ships' business when we come on shore. He greets us on arrival
from overseas, bearing our precious letters and the news of the firm: he
has the devious paths of our entry-day's course mapped out, down to the
train we may catch for home. As an oracle of the port, there is nothing
he does not know: the trains, the week's bill at the 'Olympeambra,' the
quickest and cheapest way to send packages to Backanford, suitable
lodging in an outport, the standing of the ship laundries, the merits of
the hotels--he has information about them all. During our stay in port
he attends to our legal business. He speeds us off to the sea again,
with all our many folios in order.

In peace, we had a settled round that embraced the Custom House for
entry, the Board of Trade for crew affairs, the Notary for 'Protest.'
(". . . and experienced the usual heavy weather!") War has added to our
visiting-list. We must make acquaintance with the many naval authorities
who control our movements; the Consuls of the countries we propose to
visit must see us in person; it would be discourteous to set sail
without a p.p.c. on the Dam-ship and Otter officers. Ever and on, a new
bureau is licensed to put a finger in our pie: we spend the hours of
sailing-day in a round of call and counter-call. The Consul wishes to
_visé_ our Articles--the Articles may not be handed over till we produce
a slip from the Consul, the Consul will grant no slip till we have seen
the S.I.O. "Have we identity papers for every member of the crew, with
photograph duly authenticated?"--"We are instructed not to grant
passports!" Back and forward we trudge while the customs clerk at our
side tells cheerfully of the very much more trying time that fell to
Captain Blank.

By wile and industry and pertinacity he unwinds the tangle of our
longshore connections. He reconciles the enmity of the bureaux, pleads
for us, apologizes for us, fights for us, engages for us. All we have to
do is to sign, and look as though the commercial world stood still,
awaiting the grant of that particular certificate. Undoubtedly the
customs clerk is worth his weight in red, red gold!

On a bright summer afternoon we emerge from the Custom House. We have
completed the round. In the case which the clerk carries we have
authority to proceed on our lawful occasions. Customs have granted
clearance; our manifests are stamped and ordered; the Articles of
Agreement and the ship's Register are in our hands. The health of our
port of departure is guaranteed by an imposing document. Undocking
permit, vouchers for pilotage and light dues, discharge books,
sea-brief, passports, and store-sheets, are all there for lawful
scrutiny. In personal safe-keeping, we have our sea-route ordered and
planned. The hard work is done. There is no more _business_--nothing to
do but to go on board and await the rise of tide that shall float us
through the river channels to sea.

Cargo is stowed and completed; the stevedores are unrigging their gear
when we reach the ship. Our coming is noted, and the hatch foremen (in
anticipation of a 'blessing') rouse the dockside echoes with carefully
phrased orders to their gangs: "T' hell wit' yes, now! Didn't Oi tell
ye, Danny Kilgallen, that _th' Cyaptin_ wants thim tarpolyan sames
turned fore an' aff!" (A shilling or two for him!)--"Beggin' yer pardon,
sir--I don't see th' mate about--will we put them fenders below _for ye_
before we close th' hatch?" (Another _pourboire_!)--Number three has
finished his hatchway, but his smiling regard calls for suitable
acknowledgment. (After all, we shall have no use for British small
coinage out West!) The head foreman, dear old John, is less ambitious.
All he wants is our understanding that he has stowed her tight--and a
shake of the hand for good luck. Firmly we believe in the good luck that
lies in the hand of an old friend. "'Bye, John!"

In groups, as their work is finished, the dockers go on shore, and leave
to the crew the nowise easy task of clearing up the raffle, lashing
down, and getting the lumbered decks in something approaching sea-trim.
Fortunately, there is time for preparation. Usually, we are dragged to
the dock gates with the hatches uncovered, the derricks aloft, and the
stowers still busy blocking off the last slings of the cargo. This time
there will be no hurried (and improper) finish--the stevedores hurling
their gear ashore at the last minute, slipping down the fender lanyards,
scurrying to a 'pier-head jump,' with the ship moving through the lock!
Some happy chance has brought completion within an hour or two of
tide-time. The mate has opportunity to clear ship effectively, and we
have leisure to plot and plan our sea-route (in anticipation of hasty
chart glances when we get outside) before the pier-master hails
us--"Coom along wi' t' _Massilia_!"

Tugs drag us through the inner gates, pinch and angle our heavy hull in
the basin, and enter us into the locks. The massive gates are swung
across, the sluices at the river-end eased to an outflow and, slowly,
the great lock drains to the river level. The wires of our quay-fasts
tauten and ring out to the tension of the outdraft, as we surge in the
pent water-space and drop with the falling level. Our high bridge view
over the docks and the river is pared in inches by our gradual descent;
the deck falls away under cope of the rough masonry; our outlook is
turned upwards to where the dockmaster signals his orders. The ship
seems suddenly to assume the proportions of a canal-boat in her contrast
with the sea-scarred granite walls and the bulk of the towering gates.

At level with the flood, the piermen heave the outer lock-gates open for
our passage. We back out into the river, bring up, then come ahead,
canting to a rudder pressure that sheers us into the fairway. The river
is thronged by vessels at anchor or under way, docking and undocking on
the top of the tide, and their manoeuvres make work for our pilot. At
easy speed we work a traverse through the press at the dock entrances
and head out to seaward.

[Illustration: DROPPING THE PILOT]

Evening is drawing on as we enter the sea-channels--a quiet close to a
fine summer day. Out on the estuary it is hard to think of war at sea.
Shrimpers are drifting up on the tide, the vivid glow of their tanned
canvas standing over a mirrored reflection in the flood. The deep of the
fairway is scored by passage of coasting steamers, an unending
procession that joins lightship to lightship in a chain of transport.
The sea-reaches look in no way different from the peaceful channels we
have known so long, the buoys and the beacons we pass in our courses
seem absurdly tranquil, as though lacking any knowledge that they are
signposts to a newly treacherous sea. Only from the land may one draw a
note of warning--on shore there are visible signs of warfare. The
searchlights of the forts, wheeling over the surface of the channels,
turn on us and steady for a time in inspection. Farther inland, ghostly
shafts and lances are sweeping overhead, in ceaseless scrutiny of the
quiet sky.

At a bend in the fairway we close and speak the channel patrol steamer
and draw no disquieting impression from her answer to our hail. The port
is still open and we may proceed on our passage to join convoy at ----.
An escort will meet us in 1235 and conduct us to 5678. 'Carry on!'

It is quite dark when we round the outer buoy and reduce speed to drop
our pilot. The night is windless and a calm sea gives promise of a good
passage. We bring up close to the cutter, and, shortly, with a stout
'Good-bye,' the pilot swings overside and clambers down the long
side-ladder to his boat. We shut off all lights and steer into the
protecting gloom of the night.




ALMOST hourly they round the Point, turning in from seaward with a fine
swing and thrash of propellors to steer a careful course through the
boom defences. Screaming gulls wheel and poise and dive around them,
exulting to welcome the new-comers in, and the musical clank and rattle
of anchor cables, as the ships bring up in the Roads, mark emphatic
periods to this--the short coasting section of the voyage.

"Safe here!" sing the chains, as they link out over the open hawse.
"Thus far, anyway, in spite of fog and coast danger, of mine and
submarine," and the brown hill-side joins echo to the clamour of the
wheeling gulls, letting all know the ships have come in to join the

The bay, that but a day ago lay broad and silent and empty, now seems to
narrow its proportions as each high-sided merchantman comes in; the
hills draw nearer with every broad hull that anchors, wind-rode, in the
blue of the bay. As if in key with the illusion, the broad expanse of
shallow, inshore water, that before gave distance to the hills, now
sheds its power, cut and furrowed as it becomes by thrash and wake of
tugs and launches all making out to serve the larger vessels.

On the high mound of the harbour-master's look-out, keen eyes note all
movements in the bay. The signal-mast and yard bear a gay setting of
flags and symbols, and rapid changes and successions show the yeoman of
signals and his mates at work, recording and replying, taking mark and
tally of the ships as they arrive. Up and down goes the
red-and-white-barred answering pendant to say that it is duly
noted--"_War Trident_, _Marmion_, and _Pearl Shell_ report arrival"--or
the semaphore arms, swinging smartly, tell H.M.S. _03xyz_ that
permission to enter harbour (she having safely escorted the trio to
port) is approved.

Out near the entrance to the bay, where the 'gateships' of the boom
defences show clear water, the patrol steamer of the Examination Service
lays-to, challenging each incoming vessel to state her name and
particulars. These, in turn, are signalled to the shore and the yeoman
writes: "Begins war trident for norfolk va. speed nine knots is ready
for sea stop marmion for Bahia reports steering engine broken down will
require ten hours complete repairs stop pearl shell nine and half
short-handed one fireman two trimmers report agents stop ends."

If room is scanty, the convoy office has at least an atmosphere in
keeping with its mission. Nestling close under the steep brow of the
harbour-master's look-out, it was, in happier days, the life-boat
coxswain's dwelling, and a constant reminder of sea-menace and emergency
almost blocks the door--the long boat-house and launch-ways of the
life-boat. Four square and solid, the little house only has windows
overlooking the bay, as if attending strictly to affairs at sea and
having no eyes for landward doings; the peering eaves face straight out
towards the 'gateships' as though even the stone and lime were intent on
the sailing of the convoys, whose order and formation are arranged
within their walls. The upper room has a desk or two, a telephone, a
chart table, and a typewriter, and here the port convoy officer and his
assistants trim and index and arrange the ships in order of their
sailing. At the window a seaman-writer is typing out 'pictures' for the
next sailing--signal tables, formation and dispersal diagrams, call
signs, zigzags, constantly impressing that Greenwich Mean Time is the
thing (no Summer Time at sea), and that courses are True, _not_
Magnetic. The clack and release of his machine seem quite a part of
conversation between the convoy officer and his lieutenant; the whole is
so apparently disjointed in references to this ship and that, to repairs
and tides, and shortage of 'hands' and water-supply and turns in the
hawse, and even Spanish influenza! To one accustomed to single-ship
work the whole is mildly bewildering, and one readily understands that
sailing a merchant convoy calls for more than the simple word of

"_War Trident_, nine knots," reads the junior, from a signal slip.
"_Marmion_, a doubtful starter--steering-gear disabled. _Pearl Shell_,
three stokehold hands short."

"_Trident_ only nine! That be damned for a yarn!" says his senior,
reaching for the slip. "Nine will reduce the speed of the whole convoy a
knot. She must be good for more--new ship, isn't she?"

"Yes. One of these new standards--built for eleven knots and chocked up
afterwards with fancy gear and 'gadjets' to rob the boilers."

"Lemme see--nine knots"--turning to the pages of a tide-book, the convoy
officer makes a rough sum of it. "High water at Oysterpool--so--arrived
here--distance--and seventy-one. Why, he's come on from Oysterpool at
ten, no less, and that's not allowing for the zigzag either!"

The lieutenant looks round for his cap. Clearly there is a definite
'drill' for captains who come on from Oysterpool at ten and declare
their speed as nine, and he is ready when the P.C.O. passes orders. "All
right. You go off and see the captain. Try to get him to spring at least
half a knot. I expect he's allowing a bit for 'coming up,' and going
easy till he knows his new ship. . . . I'll 'phone _Pearl Shell's_
agents and warn 'em to hustle round for firemen. _Marmion?_ Yes. Board
_Marmion_ on your way back. Wants ten hours--she should be able to keep
her sailing." A year agone there would have been but moderate and
passive interest in the varying troubles of the ships and their crews,
but much water has flowed over the Red Ensign since then, and we are

The convoy lieutenant goes down a winding path to the boat-slip and
boards his launch to set off for the Roads. The morning, that broke fair
and unclouded, has turned grey; a damp sea-mist is wandering over the
bay in thin wraiths and feathers, but sunlight on the brown of the
distant hills promises a clearing as the day draws on. Fishing-smacks,
delayed by want of wind, are creeping in to the market steps under sweep
of their long oars, and their lazy canvas rustles, and the booms and
sheet-blocks creak as the wash of the picket-launch sets them swaying.
In from the sea channels, with their sweeps still wet and glistening,
come the _Agnes Whitwell_, _Fortuna_, the _Dieudonné_, and _Brother
Fred_, each with a White Ensign aloft and a naked grey gun on their high
bows. They are late in their return, and one can guess at deadly iron
spheres stirred from the depths of the fairways, thrown buoyant in the
wash astern, and destroyed by crack of gunfire. The commodore of the
sisterly pairs, a young lieutenant of Reserve, waves a cheery greeting
as we pass.


And now the Roads, windless and misty, the anchored merchantmen swung at
different angles, in their gay fantasy of dazzle-paint, borrowing
further motley from the mist, and leering grotesquely through the thin
vapours. But for her lines, undeniably fine and graceful, _War Trident_
is the standardest of standards. Dazzle-painters have slapped their
spite at her in lurid swathes and, not content, have draped her sheer in
harlequin crenellations. Her low pipe-funnel upstands in rigid
perpendicular. ("Chief! Pit yer haun' up an' feel if th' kettle's
bilin'!") No masts break the long length of her, saving only a midship
signal-pole that serves her wireless aerials and affords a hod-like
perch for the look-out aloft. She is stark new, smooth of plating, and
showing even the hammer-strokes on her rivets. Through the thin paint on
her sides, marks and symbols of construction appear, the letters of her
strakes painted in firm white, with here and there an unofficial
shipyard embellishment--"Good old Jeemy Quin," or "Tae hell wi' the
Kiser!" She is ready for sea, and life-boats and davits, swung outboard,
tower overhead as the picket-launch draws up at her gaunt side. She is
in ballast trim, and it is evident that her standard carpenters hold
strictly to a rule that ignores a varying freeboard--the side ladder is
short by eight feet, and only by middling the rungs (a leap at the
bottom, a long swaying climb, and a drag at the top) are we able to
clamber on board.

A special 'drill' for conducting affairs with masters of brand-new ships
should be devised immediately by Admiralty, and the mildest of
Low-Church curates (trimmed by previous dire tortures to the utter limit
of exasperation) be provided, on whom officials may be well practised.
Usually the master has been hurried out of port by the last rivet driven
home, with strange officers and the very weakest of new crews, in a ship
jam-full of the newest 'gadjets,' and the least possible reserve of gear
to work them. Quickly and bitterly the fourth sentence of Confession at
Morning Prayer is recalled to him--the things undone crowd round, and
there is nothing in the bare hull to serve as a makeshift. The engines
and _auxiliaries_ (that, with a builder's man at every bearing, worked
well on trials) now develop tricks and turns to keep the chief engineer
and his fledgling juniors on the run; the mate cries "Kamerad" to all
suggestions, pointing to his hopeless watch of one. (Eight deck: four in
a watch, less one helmsman and two look-outs, equals one.) Add to the
sum of difficulties that the captain has probably been ashore since he
lost his last ship, and finds the new tactics and signals and zigzags
unfamiliar; through it all the want of familiar little trifles and
fixings (that go so far to help a ready action), sustains a feeling of

It is little wonder that the convoy lieutenant goes warily, and, indeed,
but for the brilliant inspiration of using the 'last ship,' it seems
probable that the convoy will have to proceed at _Trident's_ modest
nine knots. Bluntly, the captain is in undisguised ill-humour. He has
been on deck practically since leaving the builder's yard, and his weary
eyes suggest a need for prompt sleep. His room, still reeking of new
paint and varnish, is in some disorder, and shows traces of an anxious
passage along the coast. 'Notices to Mariners' lie open at the minefield
sketches, with a half-smoked pipe atop to keep the pages open; chart
upon chart is piled (for want of a rack) on bed and couch; oilskins,
crumpled as when drawn off, hang over the edge of a door--not a peg to
hang them on; an open sextant case, jammed secure by pillows, lies on
the washstand lid; books of sailing directions, a taffrail log, some red
socket-flares, are heaped awry in a corner of the room; the whole an
evidence that lockers and minor ship conveniences are not yet
standardized. Pray goodness he may have a stout honest thief of a chief
mate, able and willing to find a baulk or two of timber, and a few nails
and brass screws and copper tacks and a curtain-rod or two and a bolt of

The convoy lieutenant, unheeding a somewhat surly return of his
greeting, produces Convoy Form No. AX, and starts in cheerfully to fill
the vacant columns. "Tonnage, captain?--register will do. Crew? Guns?
Coal?--consumpt. at speeds. Revolutions per half-knot?" The form
completed, he hands it over for signature, thus tactfully drawing the
captain's attention to the secretarial work he has done for him. "What's
the speed? Nine and a half?" "Speed!" answers the Old Man. "Hell! This
bunch of hair-springs can't keep out of her own way! Speed? The damned
funnel's so low we can't get draught to burn a cigarette-paper; and
these new pumps they've given her! . . . Well, we might do nine, but
only in fine weather, mind you. Nine knots!"

"You'll have to do better for this convoy, captain. There's not a ship
under nine and a half; but there may be a bunch of eight-knotters going
out in five days."

"Nothing under nine and a half! What? Why, there's _Pearl Shell_ came in
with us. She hasn't a kick above nine. When I was in the old _Collonia_,
we. . . ."

"The _Collonia_? A fine ship, Gad! Were you in her, captain, when she
was strafed? Let's see--Mediterranean, wasn't it?" The captain nods
pleasantly, as if accepting a compliment.

"_Umm!_ Mediterranean--troops--a hell of a job to get them off. Lost
some, though"--regretfully.

The convoy lieutenant turns a good card. "Must be a change to come down
to ten knots, captain, after a crack ship like _Collonia_. What could
she do? Sixteen?"

"Oh no. We could get an eighteen-knot clip out of her--more, if we
wanted!" (If _War Trident's_ speed be low and doubtful, the Old Man can
safely pile the knots on his stricken favourite.) "_She_ was a ship, not
a damned parish-rigged barge like this--a poverty-stricken hulk
that. . . ."

"Yes. I heard about her from Benson, of _War Trumpet_. He sailed in last
convoy. Said he was glad he wasn't appointed here."

"Wasn't appointed here, be damned! Didn't have the chance. Why, that
ship of his isn't in the same class at all. The _Trident_ can steer,
anyway, and when we get things fixed up. . . . She has the hull of a
fine ship. If only we could get a decent funnel on her. . . . Here, I'll
try her at your nine and a half knots! I'll bet _War Trumpet_ can't do a
kick above nine!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Be it noted that the convoy officers have the wavy gold lace of the
R.N.R. for their rank stripes; plain half-inch ones of the Royal Navy
might have had to let the convoy sail at nine, after all--not knowing
the 'grip' of the 'last ship.'




"A LAUNCH will be sent off at 3 p.m., S.T., to bring masters on shore
for conference. You are requested to bring"--etc. So reads the notice,
and p.m. finds the coxswain of the convoy office picket-boat steaming
and backing from ship to ship, and making no secret of his disapproval
of a scheme of things that keeps him waiting (tootling, perhaps, an
impatient blast), while leisurely shipmasters give final orders to their
mates at the gangways. ("That damned ship's cat in the chart-room again,

More ships have come in since the clearing of the morning mist, and calm
weather and vagaries of the tide have combined to crowd the ships in the
anchorage into uncomfortably close quarters; perhaps, after all, it
would be rather the counter-swing of that River Plate boat, anchoring
close abeam ("Given me a foul berth, damn him!"), than the insanitary
ways of the ship's cat that kept the captain, one leg over the rail, so
long in talk with his mate.

Never, since the days of sailing ships and the leisurely deep-sea
parliaments in the ship-chandler's back room, have we been brought so
much together. The bustle and dispatch of steamer work, in pre-war days,
kept us apart from our sea-fellows; there were few forgatherings where
we could exchange views and experiences and abuse 'square-heads' and
damn the Board of Trade. Now, the run of German torpedoes has banded us
together again, and in convoy and their conferences, we are coming to
know one another as never before. At first we were rather reserved, shy
perhaps, and diffident, one to another. Careless, in a way, of longshore
criticism and opinion, we were somewhat concerned that conduct among our
peers should be dignified and seaworthy; then, the fine shades of
precedence--largely a matter of the relative speeds of our commands--had
to average out before the 'master' of an east-coast tramp and the
'captain' of an R.M.S. found joint and proper equality. In this again,
the enemy torpedo served a turn, and we are not now surprised to learn
that the 'captain' of a modest nine-knot freighter had been (till she
went down with the colours apeak) 'master' of His Majesty's Transport of
16,000 tons.

So we crowd up together in the convoy launch, and introduce ourselves,
and talk a while of our ships and crews till stoppage of the engines and
clatter of hardwood side-ladders mark another recruit, sprawling his way
down the high wall-side of a ballasted ship. The coxswain sighs relief
as he pockets his list--the names all now ticked off in order of their
boarding--and puts his helm over to swing inshore. "A job o' work," he
says. "Like 'unt th' slipper, this 'ere! 'Ow can I tell wot ships they
is, names all painted hover; an' them as does show their names is only
damn numbers!"

In pairs, colloguing as we go, we mount the jetty steps and find a way
to the conference-room. We make a varied gathering. Some few are in
their company's service uniform, but most of us, misliking an array but
grudgingly tolerated in naval company, wear longshore clothes and, in
our style, affect soft felt hats and rainproof overcoats. Not very
gallant raiment, it is true, but since brave tall hats and plain brass
buttons and fancy waistcoats and Wellingtons went out with the lowering
of the last single topsail, we have had no convention in our attire. In
conference we come by better looks--bareheaded, and in stout blue serge,
we sit a-row facing the blackboard on which our 'drills' are chalked.
Many find a need for eyeglasses, the better to read the small typescript
(uniformly bad) handed round to us, that sets forth our stations and
the order of our sailing, and one wonders if the new look-out has
brought us at last to the hands of the opticians; certainly, our eyes
are 'giving' under the strain.

Of all the novel routine that war has brought to seafaring, convoy work
is, perhaps, the most apart from our normal practice. We have now to
think of concerted action, outboard the limits of our own bulwark; we
have become subject to restriction in our sailing; we conform to
movements whose purpose may not, perhaps, be plainly apparent. Trained
and accustomed to single and undisputed command, it was not easy to
alter the habits of a lifetime at sea. We were autocrats in our small
sea-world, bound only by our owner's instruction to proceed with
prudence and dispatch. We had no super-captain on the sea to rule our
lines and set our courses and define our speeds. We made 'eight bells!'

But the 'bells' we made and the courses we steered and the rate we sped
could not bring all of us safely to port. They gave us guns--and we used
them passing well--but guns could not, at that date, deflect torpedoes,
and ships went down. Then came convoy and its success, and we had to
pocket our declarations of independence, and steer in fleets and
company; and gladly enough, too, we availed ourselves of a union in
strength, though it took time to custom us to a new order at sea.

At first we were resentful of what, ill-judging, we deemed interference.
Were we not master mariners, skilled seamen, able to trim and handle our
ships in any state or case? And if, on our side, the great new machine
revolved a turn or two uneasily, it is true that the naval spur-wheel
was not itself entirely free of grit. The naval officers, who drilled us
down, were at first distant and superior; masters were a class,
forgotten since sail went out, who had now no prototype in His Majesty's
Service; there was no guide to the standard of association. Having
little, if any, knowledge of merchant-ship practice, naval officers
expected the same many-handed efficiency as in their own service. Crew
troubles were practically unknown in their experience; all coal was
'Best Welsh Navigation'; all ships, whatever their lading, turned, under
helm, apace! Gradually we learned--as they did. We saw, in practice,
that team work and not individual smartness was what counted in convoy;
that, be our understanding of a signal as definite and clear as the loom
of the Craig, it was imperative, for our own safety, that the reading of
out-wing and more distant ships should be as ready and accurate. In
this, our convoy education, the chief among our teachers were the
commodores, R.N. and R.N.R., who came to sea with us, blest, by a happy
star, with TACT!


So, we learned, and now sit to listen, attentively and with respect, to
what the King's Harbour Master has to say about our due and timely
movements in forming up in convoy. On him, also, the happy star has
shone, and we are conscious of an undernote that admits we are all good
men and true and know our work. One among us, a junior by his looks,
dissents on a movement, and not all-friendly eyes we turn on him; but he
is right, all the same, and the point he raises is worthy the discussion
that clears it. Our ranks are evidence of a world-wide league of
seafarers against German brutality. While his frightfulness has barred
the enemy for ever from sea-brotherhood, it has had effect in banding
the world's seamen in a closer union. We are not alone belligerents
devising measures of warfare; in our international gathering we
represent a greater movement than a council of arms. British in
majority, with Americans, Frenchmen, a Japanese, a Brazilian--we are at
war and ruling our conduct to the sea-menace, but among us there are
neutrals come to join our convoy; peaceful seamen seeking a place with
us in fair trade on the free seas. Two Scandinavian masters and a
Spaniard listen with intent preoccupation to the lecture--a recital in
English, familiar to them as the Esperanto of the sea.

The K.H.M.'s careful and detailed routine has a significance not
entirely connected with our sailing of the morrow; in a way it impresses
one with the extent of our sea-empire. Most of us have taken station as
he orders, have all the manoeuvres by rote, but even at this late
date, there are those among us, called from distant seas, to whom the
instructions are novel. For them, we say, the emphasis on clearing hawse
overnight, the definition of G.M.T., the exactitude of zigzag, and the
necessity of ready answer to signals. We are old stagers now, _we_ know
all these drills, _we_-- Damn! We, too, are becoming superior! In turn,
the commodore who is to sail with us has his say. Signals and look-out,
the cables of our distance, wireless calls, action guns and
smoke-screen, the rubbish-heap, darkening ship, fog-buoys and
hydroplanes, he deals with in a fine, confident, deep sea-voice. Only on
question of the hearing of sound-signals in fog do we throw our weight
about, and we make reminiscent tangents not wholly connected with the
point at issue. Yarn-spinners, courteously recalled from their
digressions, wind up somewhat lamely, and commodore goes on to deal with
late encounters with the enemy in which a chink in our armour was bared.
Methods approved to meet such emergencies are explained, and his part is
closed by attention to orders detailed for convoy dispersal. The
commander of the destroyer escort has a few words for us; a brief detail
of the power of his under-water armament, a request for a 'fair field in
action.' Conference comes to an end when the shipping intelligence
officer has explained his routes and given us our sailing orders.

Till now we have been actually an hour and a half without smoking, and
our need is great. As one man we fumble for pipes and tobacco (a few
lordly East-Indiamen flaunt cheroots), and in the fumes and at our ease
arrange, in unofficial ways, the small brotherly measures that may help
us at sea.

"Oh yes, _Chelmsford_, you're my next ahead. Well, say, old man, if it
comes fog, give me your brightest cargo 'cluster' to shine
astern--daytime, too--found it a good----" "Fog, egad! What about fog
when we are forming up? Looked none too clear t' the south'ard as we
came ashore!"

Somewhat late, we realize that not a great deal has been said about
weather conditions for the start-off. The port convoy officer is still
about, but all he can offer is a pious hope and the promise that he will
have tugs on hand to help us out. "No use 'making almanacks' till the
time comes," says our Nestor (a stout old greybeard who has been twice
torpedoed). "We shall snake into column all right, and, anyhow, we're
all bound the same way!" "What about towing one another out?" suggests a
junior, and, the matter having been brought to jest, we leave it at

The caretaker jangles his keys and, collecting our 'pictures,' we go out
to the quayside, where thin rain and a mist shroud the harbour basin,
and the dock warehouses loom up like tall clippers under sail. The
coxswain comes, clamping in heavy sea-boots and an oilskin, to tell that
the launch is at the steps, ready to take us off. Two of us have
business to conclude with our agent, and remain on the jetty to see our
fellows crowd into shelter of the hood and the launch back out. We call
cheerfully, one to another, that we shall meet at Bahia or New York or
Calcutta or Miramichi, and the mist takes them.

Up the ancient cobbled street we come on an old church and, the rain
increasing to a torrent, we shelter at the porch. Who knows, curiosity
perhaps, urges us farther and we step quietly down-level to the old
stone-flagged nave. The light is failing, and the tombs and monuments
are dim and austere, the inscriptions faint and difficult to read. A
line of Drakes lie buried here, and tablets to the memory of old
sea-captains (whose bones may lie where tide is) are on the walls. A
sculptured medallion of ships on the sea draws our attention and we
read, with difficulty, for the stone is old and the lines faint and


We looked at one another. A good charge to take to sea in 1918! Quietly
we closed the door and came away.





RAINY weather overnight has turned to fog, and the lighthouse on the
Point greets breaking dawn with raucous half-minute bellows. Less
regular and insistent, comes a jangle of anchor-bells, breaking in from
time to time, ship after ship repeating, then subsiding a while until
the syren of a moving tugboat--as if giving time and chorus to the
din--sounds a blast, and sets the look-outs on the anchored ships to
their clangour again. From the open sea distant reedy notes tell that
the minesweeping flotilla is out and at work, clearing the course for
draught of the out-bound convoy, and searching the misty sea-channels
for all the enemy may have moored there. The 'gateships' of the boom
defences rasp out jarring discords to warn mariners of their bobbling
floats and nets. Inshore the one sustained and solemn toll of bell at
the pier-head measures out time to the sum of a dismal dayspring.

By all the sound of it, it is ill weather for the sailing of a convoy.
In time of peace there would not be a keel moving within harbour limits
through such a pall. "Call me when the weather clears," would be the
easy order, and we would turn the more cosily to blanket-bay, while the
anchor-watch would pace athwart overhead, in good content, to await the
raising of the curtain. Still and all, it is yet early to assess the
rigour of the fog. Sound-signals, started late in the coming of it,
became routine and mechanical, and persist--through clearing--till their
need is more than over. The half-light of breaking day has still to
brighten and diffuse; who knows; perhaps, after all, this may be only
that dear and fond premise of hopeful sailormen--the pride o' the

The elder fishermen (the lads are out after the mines) have no such
optimism. Roused by the habits of half a century, they turn out for a
pipe and, from window and doorway, assure one another that their idle
'stand-by' decreed by harbour-master for outgoing of the convoy, is
little hardship on a morning like this. "'Ark t' them bells," they say,
thumb over shoulder. "All 'ung up. Thick as an 'edge out there, an' no
room t' back an' fill. There won't be no move i' th' Bay till 'arf-ebb,
my oath!"

But they are wrong in that, if right in their estimation of the weather
and congestion in the roads, for we are at war, and the port convoy
officer, hurrying to his launch, is already sniffing for the bearings of
the leader of the line. Prudently he has mapped their berths as they
came in to anchor, and has, at least, a serviceable, if rough, chart to
guide him on his rounds.


So far there are no reports from the sea-patrols that would call for an
instant alteration of the routes, and for that the P.C.O. has a thankful
heart. A 'hurrah's nest,' a panic on Exchange, a block at the Bank
crossing, would be feeble comparison to the confusion he might look for
in a combination of dense fog, counter-mandates, and a congested
roadstead, for, even now, the ships to form up the next convoy are
thrashing their way down the coast and (Article XVI of the Rule of the
Road being lightly held by in war-time) may be expected off the
'gateships' before long. To them, as yet, the port is 'closed,' but
every distant wail from seaward sets him anxiously wondering whether it
be a minesweeper signalling a turn to his twin or a distant
deep-waterman, early on the tide, standing in for the land. The sailor's
morning litany--"Who wouldn't sell a farm and go to sea"--is near to him
as he turns up the collar of his oilskin and gives a rough course to
his coxswain. "South, s'west, and ease her when you hear th' Bell buoy.
_British Standard_ first--she's lying close south of it." Turning out,
the picket-boat sets her bows to the grey wall of mist and her wash and
roundel of the screws (that on a clear busy day would scarce be noted)
sound loud and important in the silence of the bay. The coxswain,
cunning tidesman, steers a good course and reduces speed with the first
toll of the buoy. The clamour of its iron tongue seems out of all
relation to the calm sea and the cause is soon revealed. Silently,
closely in line ahead, four grey destroyers break the mist, fleet
swiftly across the arc of vision ahead, and disappear. "Near it," says
the coxswain (and now sounds a blast of _his_ whistle). "Them fellers
ain't 'arf goin' it!" Cautiously he rounds the buoy, noting the gaslight
crown shining yet, though pale and sickly in the growing day. Out now,
in seven fathoms, the lingering inshore fog has given place to a mist,
through which the ships loom up in sombre grey silhouette. Full speed
for a turn or two brings the launch abeam of a huge oil-tanker that,
sharp to the tick of Greenwich Mean Time, already has her Convoy
Distinguishing Flags hoisted and the windlass panting white steam to
raise anchor. A small flag in the rigging assures the P.C.O. that the
pilots have boarded in good time, and it is with somewhat of growing
satisfaction that he hails the bridge and asks the captain to 'carry

Doubts and hesitancies that may have lingered in the prudent captain's
mind are dispelled by the P.C.O.'s appearance. "It is decided, then,
that the orders stand," and there is at least a certain relief in his
tone as he orders, "Weigh anchor!"

The _British Standard_ is deep-loaded, in contrast to the usual empty
war-time outward bound, but her lading is clean salt water, no less, run
into her compartments on the sound theory that Fritz, by a strafe, may
only 'change the water in the tanks.' Homeward, from the west, there
will be no such fine assurance, for a torpedo may well set her ablaze
from stem to stern, and the enemy takes keen and peculiar delight in
such _Schrecklichkeit_. Still, there is little thought to that; _British
Standard_ is to lead the line, and her anchor comes to the hawse and she
backs, then comes ahead again, swinging slowly under helm towards the
sound of 'gateships'' hand-horns. High on the stern emplacement her men
are uncovering her gun and clearing the ranges, and the long grey barrel
is trained out to what will be the sun-glare side of the first tangent
of her sea-course. Close astern of her comes _War Ordnance_, her pushful
young captain having taken heed of the sounds of _Standard's_ weighing.
"Good work," says the P.C.O. cheerfully, and cons his rough chart for
the whereabouts of Number Three.

As though the devil in the wind had heard him, down comes the fog
again, dense this time, a thick blanket-curtain of it that shuts off
the misty stage on which the prompter had hoped, passably, to complete
his dispatch of the fleet.

The compass again. "East 'll do," and the launch slips through the grey
of it. All around in the roadstead the clank of cable linking over the
spurs, and hiss and thrust of power windlasses are indication that
_British Standard's_ movement has given signal to weigh, that it is
plain to the others--"Convoy will proceed in execution of previous
orders." A propellor, thrashing awash in trial, looms up through the fog
ahead, but 'East' has brought the launch wide of her mark, and
_Massilia_ is answer to the P.C.O.'s hail. _Massilia_ is Number Four,
but needs must when the fog drives, so he advises the captain to get
under way and head out.

Number Three has stalled badly and is hot in a burst of graceless
profanity from bridge to forecastle-head, and (increasing in volume and
blood-red emphasis) from there to the chain-locker. There is a foul
stow. Her nip-cheese builders have pared the locker-space to the
mathematical limit (to swell her carrying tonnage), and the small crew
that her nip-cheese owners have put on her are unable to range the
tiers. Twenty fathoms of chain remain yet under water, the locker is
jammed, and the mate, roughed (and through a megaphone, too), from the
bridge, is calling on strange deities to take note that, 'of all the
damn ships he ever sailed in. . . .' The pilot calls out from the bridge
that they are going to pay out and restow, and the convoy officer,
blessing the forethought that had bade him send off Number Four, swings
off to speed the succession.

High water has made and the tide ebbs, swinging the ships yet anchored
till they head inshore, and adding to the pilots' worry of narrowed
vision the need to turn short round in crowded waters. For this the tugs
have been sent out in readiness, and the convoy launch has a busy
mission in casting about to find and set them to the task of towing the
laggards round. It is nothing easy, in the fog and confusion of moving
ships, to back the _Seahorse_ in and harness her by warp and hawser, but
with every vessel, canted, that straightens to her course, the press is
lightened by so much sea-room cleared. Gradually the hail and
counter-hail, hoarse order and repeat, whistle-signals, protest of
straining tow-ropes, die away with the lessening note of each sea-going

To Number Three again, last of the line and out of her station, the
convoy officer seeks to return. The fog is denser than ever, and the
echoes of the bay, now transferred to seaward, augment the uneasy
short-blast mutterings where the ships, closed up at the narrow
'gateway,' are slowing and backing to drop their pilots. In his traverse
of the anchorage the coxswain has lost bearing of the _Cinderella_ and
steers a zigzag course through the murk. The sun has risen, brightening
the overhead but proving (in sea glare and misty daze) an ally to the
veil. No sound of heaving cable or thunder of escaping steam that would
mark a vessel hurrying to get her anchor and make up for time lost is to
be heard. Frankly puzzled, the coxswain stops his engines. "Must 'a
sailed, sir," he says at length. "There ain't nothin' movin' this end o'
th' bay."

The convoy officer nods. "_Mmm!_ She may have gone on, while we were
dragging _Marmion_ clear of th' stern of that 'blue funnel' boat. A good
job. Well, carry on! Head in--think that was th' pier-head bell we heard

At easy speed the launch turns and coxswain bends to peer at the
swinging compass-card. As one who has held out to a job o' work
completed, the P.C.O. stretches his arms and yawns audibly and
whole-hearted. "A good bath now and a bite o' breakfast and-- Oh, hell!
What's that astern?"

The turn in the wake has drawn his eye to a grey blur in the glare of
the mist. An anchored ship!

Keeping the helm over, the coxswain swings a wide circle and steadies on
the mark. "Damn if it ain't her!" he says, as the launch draws on.

The _Cinderella_ lies quiet with easy harbour smoke rising straight up
from her funnel and no windlass party grouped on the forecastle-head;
quiet, as if fog and convoy and the distant reverberations of her sister
ships held no concern for her. To the P.C.O.'s surprised and somewhat
indignant hail there is returned a short-phrased assurance that the
ruddy anchor is down--and is going to remain down! "Think I'm going out
in this to hunt my place in the pack? No damn fear!" says the captain.
"Why, I can scarce see who's hailing me, less a line o' ships barging

The pilot, in a tone that suggests he has already 'put out an oar'--with
little effect--joins in to reassure. "Clearin' outside now, captain. I
haven't heard th' lighthouse syren for twenty minutes or more! The
fog'll be hangin' here in harbour a bit."

"Aye, aye! But it's here we are, pilot--not outside yet. A clearing out
there doesn't show us th' leading marks, and I'll not risk it. I've no
fancy for nosing into th' nets and booms. I know where I am here, and I
won't stir a turn--unless"--bending over the light screen towards the
launch--"unless you lead ahead!"

The convoy officer is somewhat embarrassed. Certainly the weather is as
thick as a hedge; there is no 'drill' of convoy practice that empowers
him to order risks to be taken--navigation of the ships is not his
province. It is enough for him to arrange and advise and assist. If he
leads out and anything _does_ happen?

Still, it is maddening to think of one hitch in a good
programme--'almost a record, too!' He looks at his watch and notes that
only fifty minutes have elapsed since _British Standard_ weighed.

"Oh, hell! Right, captain," he says. "Heave up and I'll give you a lead
out to clear weather!"


WE are Number Four in the line; _Vick--beer--code_ is our address, and
we steam somewhat faster than the fog warrants to keep touch with our
next ahead. She, in turn, is packing close up on the leader, and if, in
the strict ruling of a 'line ahead,' we are stepping out a trifle wide,
at least we keep in company. The farthest we can see is the thrash of
foam, white in the grey, of _War Ordnance's_ propeller--a good moving
mark, that, though faint, draws the eye by the lead of broken water.
Nearer, we have a steering-guide in her hydroplane, cutting and dancing
under the bows and throwing a sightly feather of spray. The sea is flat
calm, save for our leader's wake--a broad ribbon of troubled water
through which we steer. Our eyes, now limited in range by the fog, seem
to focus readily on trifles; for want of major objects, roving glances
take in driftwood and ship-litter, and turn on minute patches of seaweed
with an interest that a wider range would dissipate. Spurring,
black-crested puffins come at us from under the misty pall, floating
still, as if set in glass, till our bow wash plays out and sets them,
squawking in distress, to an ungainly splutter on the surface, or
dipping swiftly to show white under-feathers and the widening rings of
their dive.

Astern of us, a medley of sound and steering-signals marks the gateway
of the harbour where our followers are striving to drop their pilots and
join in convoy; one loud trumpeter is drawing up at speed and showing,
by the frequency of her whistle-blasts, anxiety to sight our wake. The
lighthouse syren roars a warning of shoal-water out on the landward
beam, a raucous discord of two weird notes. These, with the rare
mournful wail of our leader, are our guiding sounds, but we have sight
now and then of the destroyer escort passing and turning mistily on the
rim of our narrowed vision, like swift sheep-dogs folding the stragglers
of a scattered flock.

The fog, that settled dense and deep as we got under way, shows a little
sign and promise of thinning, a small portent that draws our eyes to the
lift above the funnel. There is no wind, but our smoke-wrack, after
curving with our speed to masthead height, seems turned by light upper
draughts to the eastward. The sun has risen and peers mistily over the
top of the grey curtain that surrounds us. The day is warming up. Pray
fortune, a stout west wind may come out of it all, to clear the muck and
give us one good honest look at one another, when we are due for that
'six-point' turn to the south'ard!

To keep in station on our pacemaker, we call for constant alterations in
the speed--a range of revolutions that rattles up scale and down, like
first lessons on the piano, and sets the engineers below to a plaintive
verge of tears. The junior officer at the voice-pipe looks reflective,
after each order he passes, as though comparing the quality of the reply
with the last sulphurous rejoinder. The fog has added to our starting
vagaries and postponed a happy understanding, but we shall do better
later on when we have gauged and discovered--and pitied--the tiresome
vacillations of the _other_ ships!

Meantime, as best we can, we chase the sheering hydroplane ahead that
seems endowed with every chameleon gift of the classic gods. It
vanishes, invisible, in a drift of fog, and though we con a course as
steady as a cat on eggs, a clearing comes to show us its white feather
broad on the bows and edging off at an angle to dip under the thick of
the mist! It drops down to us; we sheer aside and slow a pace, and it
lingers and dallies sportively abeam. It slips suddenly ahead, with a
rush and a rip, as though, like a child among the daisies, it recalls a
parent in advance.

The trumpeter astern has come up and sighted our wake and fog-buoy, and
the clamour of her questing syren is stilled. She looms up close on our
quarter, a huge menacing bulk of sheering steel with the foam thundering
under her bows and curling and shattering on her grey hull. _They_ have
great difficulty in adjusting to our speed. She slows and fades back
into the mist, grows again from gloomy shadow to threatening detail,
steadies at a point for a few minutes, and resumes the round of her
previous motions in irritating cycle. "Whatever can be the matter with
them?" (We take the stout point of a position as steady as the Rock, and
grow scornful of their clumsy efforts to keep station.) "_Huh!_ These
gold-laced London men! Why can't they steady up a bit? Why can't
they----" We note that our steering-mark and the wash of _War
Ordnance's_ propeller are no longer in sight ahead, and set in to count
the beats of the screw. ". . . t'-one, t'-two, t'-three, t'-- _Hell!_
Didn't we order seventy? Go full speed!" Jumping to the tube, the junior
attends. "_I_ said seven-owe, sir, but he thought I said six-four! Says
th' bl--, th' engines working, sir--can't hear properly!"

Grudgingly, as though loath to give us our sight again, the fog clears.
The first of the tantalizing rift in the curtain is signalled by the
high look-out, who calls that he can see the topmasts of our near
neighbours piercing the low-lying vapours. The sun shines through,
showing now and then a clear-cut limb in place of the luminous misshapen
brightening that has been with us since sunrise. In fits and starts the
fog thins, and thickens again, at the will of wandering airs.

A west wind comes away, freshens, and stirs the vapour till it whips
close overhead in wraiths and streamers, raises here and there a fold on
the distant horizon, then dies again. Growing in vigour, the breeze
returns; a gallant breath that ruffles the smooth of the sea and sweeps
the round of it, routing the lingering flurries that settle, dust-like,
when the mass is cleared.

The clearing of our outlook produces a curious confusion to the eye. We
have become accustomed to a limited range in sight, and the sudden
change to distant vision, in which there is no standard of position, no
mark to judge by, effects an illusion as of a photographer's plate
developing. Fragments, wisps, and sections of the sea-rim appear,
breaking through as the fog lifts, and seeming strangely high and
foreign in position. Topmasts and a funnel-wreath of black smoke loom up
almost in mid-air; the water-line of a ship's hull grows to sight, low
in the plane as though dangerously close. Distant, obscure, and blurred
formations sharpen suddenly to detail and show our destroyer escort as
almost suspended in mirage, floating in air. Piece by piece, the plate
develops in sensible gradation, fitting and joining with exactitude; the
ships ahead take up their true proportions, the sea-horizon runs to a
definite hard line. Mast and funnel and spar stand out against the piled
and shattered fog-bank, whose rear-guard lingers, sinking but slowly and
sullenly, on the rim of the eastern horizon.

The fog cleared, and a busy seascape in sight, we shake ourselves
together and take heed of appearances. Our convoy signal hangs damp and
twisted on the halyards, and needs to be cleared to blow out for
recognition; the mirrored arc-lamp that we turned astern to aid the
trumpeter is switched out. With the fog-buoy we are less urgent; it will
be time enough to haul it aboard when we are assured the new-born breeze
is healthy and likely to remain with us. The press of work about the
decks has lessened with the hawsers and docking gear stowed away.
Sea-trim is the order now--a war sea-trim, in which the boats, swung
outboard and ready for instant use, rafts tilted to a launching angle,
hoses rigged to lead water, and crew at the guns, form a constant
reminder (if that be needed) of lurking under-water peril. In marked
contrast to less exciting days, when we could afford to disregard
whatever might go on behind us, we place look-outs to face all ways. The
enemy may gamble on our occupation with the view ahead, but, with a new
war wariness, we have grown eyes to search the sea astern.

In the clearing weather we become sensitive to the strict and proper
reading of our sailing orders. There must be no more faults in the
voice-tube to let us down from confidence in our right to a sudden
sense of guilt. We adjust our station in the line by sextant angles of
the leader, measuring his height to fractions, and set an ear to the
note of our engine-beats to ensure a steady gait.

Clearing our motes, we turn a purged and critical eye on our fellows,
now all clear of the mist, and steaming in sight. To far astern, where
the land lies and the sun plays on wet roof and flashing window-pane, a
long line of ships snakes out in procession, their smoke blowing and
curling merrily alee to join the cumulus of the foundering fog-banks.
There are gaps and kinks in our formation that would, perhaps, call for
angry signals in a line of battle, but the laggards are closing up in
hasty order to right the wayward tricks of sound and distance in the
fog. If not quite ruled and ordered to figures of our text, at least we
conform to the spirit, and are all at sea together, steering out on our

Our distance run, _British Standard_ puts her helm over and turns out.
Forewarned, all eyes have been focused on the line of her masts, and her
sheer gives signal for a general cut and shuffle. We change partners.
Curtsying to full rudder pressure, we join the dance, and swing to her
measure, adjusting speed to mark time while other important leaders of
columns draw up abeam. The flat bright sea is cut and curved by
thrashing wakes as the convoy turns south. Ahead and abeam, round and
about, the destroyers wheel and turn, fan in graceful formation and
swerve quickly on their patrolling courses.

We are less expert in the figures of our cotillion. It cannot be
pretended that we slip into our convoy stations with anything
approaching their speed and precision. We are too varied in our types,
in turning periods, in the range of our dead-weight, to manoeuvre
alike. Most of us have but a slender margin of speed to draw on, and,
'all bound the same way,' the spurt to an assigned position proves the
stern a long chase. The fog, at starting, has thrown many of us out of
our proper turn, and we zigzag, unofficially, this way and that, to gain
our stations without reduction of speed. In the confusion to our surface
eyes, there is this consoling thought--that the same perplexing
evolutions (calling for frequent appeals to the high gods for
enlightenment as to the 'capers' of the _other_ fellows) have, at least,
no better meaning in the reflected angles of a periscope.

Now the hum and drone that has puzzled us in the fog reveals itself as
the note of a covey of seaplanes searching the waters ahead. They have
come out at first sign of a clearing, and now fly low, trimming and
banking in their flight like gannets at the fishing. A winking electric
helio on one of them spits out a message to the leader of the
destroyers, and she flashes answer and acknowledgment as readily as
though the seaplane were a sister craft. A huge coastal airship thunders
out across the land to join our forces. She grows to the eye as though
expanding visibly, and noses down to almost masthead height in a sharp
and steady-governed decline; abeam, she turns broad on, manoeuvring
with ease and grace, and the sunlight on her silvered sides glints and
sparkles purely, as though to shame the motley camouflage of the ships

The commodore poises the baton as his ship draws up to her station. Till
now we have steamed and steered 'in execution of previous orders' and,
considering the dense fog and the press of ships at the anchorage and
pilot-grounds, we have not been idle or neglectful. Now we are in sea
order, and, with the ships closing up in formation, we attend our senior
officer's signals as to course and speed. A string of flags goes up,
fluttering to the yard of his ship, and we fret at the clumsy fingers
that cannot get a similar hoist as quickly to ours. Anon, on all the
ships, a gay setting of flags repeats the message, and we stand by to
take measure and sheer of a tricky zigzag, at tap of the baton.

The line of colour droops and fades quickly to the signalman's
gathering; the convoy turns and swings into the silver-foil of the

[Illustration: INWARD BOUND]



THE broad surface of the Hudson is scored by passage of craft of all
trades and industries. Tugs and barges crowd the waterway in unending
succession, threading their courses in a maze of harbour traffic;
high-sided ferry-boats surge out from their slips and angle across the
tide--crab-wise--towards the New Jersey shore; laden ocean steamers hold
to the deeps of the fairway on their passage to the sea. Up stream and
down, back and across, sheering in to the piers and wharves, the harbour
traffic seems constantly to be scourged and hurried by the lash of an
unseen taskmaster. The swift outrunning current adds a movement to the
busy plying of the small craft--a hastening sweep to their progress,
that suggests a driving power below the yellow tide. The stir of it! The
thrash of screw and lapping of discoloured water, the shriek of
impatient whistle-blasts, the thunder of escaping steam!

As we approach from seaward, there is need for caution. The railway
tugmen--who live by claims for damages from ocean steamers--are alert
and determined that we shall not pass without a suitable parting of
their hawsers, damage to barges, strain to engines and towing
appliances. Off the Battery, they sidle to us in coy appeal, but we
carry bare steerageway. As the pilot says: "Thar ain't nothin' doin'!"
We disengage their ardent approach, and make a slow progress against the
tide to our loading-berth. There, we drop in towards the pier-head and
angle our bows alongside the guarding fenders. A flotilla of panting
tugboats takes up station on our inshore side and 'punches' into
us--head on--to shove our stern round against the full pressure of the
strong ebb tide. The little vessels seem absurdly small for their task.
They 'gittagoin',' as instructed by the pilot, and wake the dockside
echoes with the strain of their energy. White steam spurts from the
exhausts with every thrust of their power. The ferry-boats turning in to
their slips come through the run of a combined stern wash that sets them
on the boarding with a heavy impact. Power tells. Our stern wavers, then
we commence to bear up-stream in a perceptible measure. The Hudson
throws a curl of eddying water to bar our progress, but we pass
up--marking our progress by the water-side of the west shore. Anon, the
thunder of the tugs' pulsations eases, then stops: they back away, turn,
and speed off on a quest for other employment--while we move ahead, out
of the run of the tide, and make fast at the pier.

Our ship is keenly in demand. The dockers are there, ready with gear and
tackle to board and commence work. The wharf superintendent hails us
from the dockside before the warps are fast. He is anxious to know the
amount of ballast coal to be shifted from the holds before he can
commence loading. "Toosday morning, capt'n," he adds, as reason for his
anxiety--"Toosday morning--an' she's gotta go!" Tuesday, eh! And this is
Saturday morning! They will have to hustle to do it.


'Hustle'--as once he told us--is the superintendent's maiden name.
Already the narrow water-space between us and our neighbour is jammed
tight by laden barges, brought in to await our coming. Billets of steel,
rough-cast shells, copper ingots, bars of lead and zinc are piled ready
for acceptance. The shed on our inshore tide is packed by lighter and
more perishable cargo, all standing to hand for shipment. Preparation
for our rapid dispatch is manifest and complete. Before the pilot is off
the ship with his docket signed, the blocks of our derricks are rattling
and the stevedores are setting up their gear for an immediate start.
Barred, on the sea-passage, from communication by wireless, we have been
unable to give a timely advice of our condition to the dock. The factor
of the coal to be shifted--till now unknown to them--is the first of
many difficulties. We have no cargo to discharge (having crossed in
ballast trim), but--the storms of the North Atlantic calling for a
weight to make us seaworthy--we have a lading of coal sufficient to
steam us back to our home port. This has all to be raised from the holds
and stowed in the bunker spaces: the holds must be cleaned for
food-stuffs: for grain in bulk there is carpenter-work in fitting the
midship boards to ensure that our cargo shall not shift. Tuesday morning
seems absurdly near!

With a thud and jar to clear the stiffening of a voyage's inaction, our
deck winches start in to their long heave that shall only end with the
closing of the hatches on a laden cargo. The barges haul alongside at
the holds that are ready for stowage and loading begins. The slings of
heavy billets pass regularly across the deck and disappear into the void
of the open hatchways. In the swing and steady progression there seems
an assurance that we shall keep the sailing date, but our energy is
measured by the capacity of the larger holds. In them there is the bulk
of fuel to be handled. The superintendent concentrates the efforts of
his gangs on this main issue: the loading of the smaller compartments is
only useful in relieving the congestion of the barges overside.

Under his direction the coalmen set to work at their hoists and stages
and soon have the baskets swinging with loads from the open hatchways.
The coal thunders down the chutes to the waiting barges, and raises a
smother of choking dust. The language of South Italy rings out in the
din and clatter. "Veera, veera," roars the stageman (not knowing that he
is passing an ancient order on a British ship). It is a fine start.
Antonio and Pasquali and their mates are fresh: they curse and praise
one another alternately and impartially: they seem in a fair way to earn
their tonnage bonus by having the holds cleared before the morning.

It is almost like an engagement in arms. Good leadership is needed.
There are grades and classes in the army of dockers; groups as clearly
specialized in their work as the varied units that form an army corps.
Italian labourers handle the coal; coloured men are employed for the
heavy and rough cargo work; the Irish are set to fine stowage. There is
little infringement of the others' work. Artillery and infantry are not
more set apart in their special duties than the grades of the dockers.
Certainly there is a rivalry between the coloured men and the Irish--the
line that divides the cargo is perhaps lightly drawn. "Hey! You nigger!
You gitta hell out o' this," says Mike. The coloured man bides his time.
The thunder of the winches pauses for an instant--he shouts down the
hatchway: "Mike! Ho, Mike!" An answering bellow sounds from below. "Ah
say, Mike! When yo' gwine back hom' t' fight fo' King Gawge?"

Sunday morning, the 'macaroni' gangs knock off work for a term. The
holds are cleared, but our fuel has again to be hove up from the barges
and stowed in the bunkers. That can be done while loading is in
progress. Meantime--red-eyed and exhausted--the coalmen troop ashore and
leave the ship to one solitary hour of Sunday quiet. At seven the
turmoil of what the superintendent calls a 'fair start' begins.
Overnight a floating-tower barge for grain elevation has joined the
waiting list of our attendant lighters. She warps alongside and turns
her long-beaked delivery-pipes on board; yellow grain pours through and
spreads evenly over the floor-space of our gaping holds. Fore and aft we
break into a full measure of activity. The loading of the cargo is not
our only preparation for the voyage. The fittings of the 'tween-decks,
thrown about in disorder by the coal-gangs, have to be reconstructed and
the decks made ready for troops. Cleaning and refitting operations go on
in the confusion of cargo work: conflicting interests have to be
reconciled--the more important issues expedited--the fret of interfering
actions turned to other channels. At the shore end of the gangways there
is riot among the workers. Stores and provisions are delivered by the
truckmen with an utter disregard for any convenience but their own. The
narrow roadway through the shed is blocked and jammed by horse and motor
wagons that, their load delivered, can find no way of egress. Cargo work
on the quayside comes to a halt for want of service. The dockers roar
abuse at the truckmen, the truckmen--in intervals of argument with their
fellows--return the dockers' obloquy with added embellishment. The
'house-that-Jack-built' situation is cleared by the harassed
pier-foreman. The shed gates are drawn across: outside the waiting
charioteers stand by, their line extended to a block on the Twenty-Third
Street cars.

       *       *       *       *       *

The roar and thrust and rattle of the straining winches ceases on Monday
evening. We are fully stowed: even our double-bottom tanks--intended for
water-ballast alone--carry a load of fuel oil to help out the
difficulties of transport. The superintendent goes around with his chest
thrown out and draws our attention to the state of affairs--the ship
drawing but eighteen inches short of her maximum draught, and the
'tween-decks cleared and fitted. "Fifty-four working hours, capt'n," he
says proudly. It is no mean work!

The silence of the ship, after the din and uproar of our busy week-end,
seems uncanny. The dock is cleared of all our attendant craft, and the
still backwater is markedly in contrast to the churned and troubled
basin that we had known. From outside the dock a distant subdued murmur
of traffic on the streets comes to us. Cross-river ferries cant into a
neighbouring slip, and the glow of their brilliant lights sets a
reflection on the high facades of the water-front buildings. Overhead,
the sky is alight with the warm irradiance of the great city. Ship-life
has become quiescent since the seamen bundled and put away their gear
after washing decks. Only the dynamos purr steadily, and an occasional
tattoo on the stokehold plates tells of the firemen on duty to raise
steam. In the unfamiliar quiet of the night and absence of movement in
the dock there is countenance to a mood of expectancy. It seems
unreasonable that we should so lie idle after the past days of strenuous
exertion in preparing for sea. The flood in the North River, dancing
under the waterside lights, invites us out to begin the homeward voyage.
Why wait?

We are not yet ready. In our lading we have store of necessities to
carry across the sea. Food, munitions and furniture of war, copper,
arms, are packed tightly in the holds: power-fuel for our warships lies
in our tanks. There is still a further burthen to be embarked--we wait a
cargo of clear-headed, strong-limbed, young citizens bound east to bear
arms in the Crusade.

They come after midnight. There are no shouts and hurrahs and
flag-waving. A high ferry-boat crosses from the west shore and cants
into the berth alongside of us. The dock shed, now clear of goods, is
used for a final muster. Encumbered by their heavy packs, they line out
to the gangways and march purposely on board. The high-strung mimicry of
jest and light heart that one would have looked for is absent. There is
no boyish call and counter-call to cloak the tension of the moment.
Stolidly they hitch their burdens to an easier posture, say '_yep_' to
the call of their company officer, and embark.

The troops on board, we lose no time in getting under way. Orders are
definite that we should pass through the booms of the Narrows at
daybreak, and join convoy in the Lower Bay with the utmost dispatch. We
back out into the North River, turn to meet the flood-tide, and steer
past the high crown of Manhattan.





THE boat guard (one post, section A) stir and grow restive as the hour
of their relief draws on. Till now they have accepted wet quarters, the
reeling ship, black dark night with fierce squalls of rain and sleet, as
all a part of the unalterable purgatory of an oversea voyage. With a
prospect of an end to two hours' spell of acute discomfort, of hot
'kawfee,' dry clothes, and a snug warm bunk, their spirits rise, and
they show some liveliness. Muffled to the ear-tips in woollens and heavy
sodden greatcoats, their rifles slung awkwardly across the bulge of
ill-fitting cork life-belts, they shift in lumbering movement from foot
to foot, or pace--two steps and a turn--between the boat-chocks of their
post. A thunder of shattering salt spray lashes over from break of a sea
on the foredeck, and they dodge and dive for such poor shelter as the
wing of the bridge affords.

Scraps of their protest to the fates carry to our post in breaks of the
wind "Aw, you guys! Say! Wisha was back 'n li'l old N'yok, ringin' th'
dial 'n a Twanny-Thoid Street car!" "Whaddya mean--a Scotch highball?
Gee! I gotta thoist f'r all th' wet we soak!" "Bettcha Heinie's goin'a
pay _me_ cents an' dallers f'r this!" ". . . an' a job claenin' me
roifle. . . . th' sargint, be damn but, he . . . ."

"Cut it! Less talk 'round there!" orders their duty officer from
somewhere in the darkness; the talk ceases, though stamp and bustle of
expectant relief persist, and we are recalled to survey and reflection
on the gloom ahead.

Midnight now, and no sign of a change! Anxiously we scan sea and sky for
hope or a promise--not a token! A squall of driving sleet has passed
over, and has left the outlook moderately clear, but a quick-rising bank
of hard clouds in the nor'east threatens another, and a heavier, by the
look, soon to follow. A moonless night, not a star shines through the
sullen upper clouds to mark even a flying break in the lift of it. A
hopeless turn for midnight, showing no relief, no prospect!

Ahead, the dark bulk of our column leader sways and thrashes through the
spiteful easterly sea, throwing the wash broad out and taking the spray
high over bow and funnel. In turn, we lurch and drive at the same sea
that has stirred her, and find it with strength enough to lash over and
fill the fore-deck abrim. Weighed down forward, we throw our stern high,
and the mad propeller thrashes in air, jarring every bolt and rivet in
her. We cant to windward, joggling in an uneasy lurch, then throw
swiftly on a sudden list that frees the decks of the encumbering water.
We ease a pace or two as the propeller finds solid sea to churn, steady,
then gather way to meet the next green wall. With it the squall breaks
and lashes furiously over us, driving the icy slants of hard sleet to
our face, cutting at our eyes in vicious persistence. Joined to the
wind-burst, a heavy sea shatters on fore-end of the bridge, and ring of
the steel bulkhead sounds in with the crash of broken water that floods
on us.

In this succession the day and half the night have passed. No 'let-up'
in the round of it. Furious wind-bursts marking time on the face of a
steady gale. Rain--and now sleet. Sleet! Who ever heard of icy sleet in
North Atlantic, this time of the year? Gad! Every cursed thing seems to
weigh in against us on this voyage! The weather seems in league with the
enemy to baulk our passage. Every cursed thing! Head winds and heavy
seas all the way. Fog! These horse transports having to heave-to, and
forcing the rest of the convoy to head up and mark their damned time!
And now this, just when we were looking for a 'slant' to make the land!

The bridge is astir with the change of the watch. A fine job they make
of it! Like a burst of damned schoolboys! Oilskin-clad clumsy ruffians
barging up the ladders, trampling and stumbling in their heavy
sea-boots, across and about, peering to find their mates! Are they all
blind? Why can't they arrange set posts for eight bells? Why can't they
look where--"Th' light, damn you! Dowse that light! _Huh!_ Some blasted
idiot foul of that binnacle-screen again! Th' way things are done on
this ship! Egad! Would think we were safe in th' Ship Canal, instead of
dodging submar----" A slat of driving spray cuts over and we dip quickly
under edge of the weather-screen.

The second officer arrives to stand his watch, and the Third, who goes
below, is as damnably cheerful and annoying as the other is dour.
"North, --ty-four east, th' course. She's turning seven-six just now,
but you'll have to reduce shortly--drawing up on our next ahead.
Seven-three or four sh'd keep her in station. _Neleus_ ahead there, two
cables. Rotten weather all th' watch. Squalls, my hat! There's another
big 'un making up now! Th' Old Man over there--like a bear with a
sore--raisin' hell 'bout----"

"Oh, a--ll right! Needn't make a song and dance of it! North, --ty-four
east? Right!" Picking up binoculars, the Second scans the black of it
ahead, as though now definitely set for business.

The watch is taken over and all seems settled, but the Third is not yet
completely happy. He gloats a while over the Second's gloomy outlook,
and yawns in that irritating _arpeggio_, the foretaste of a good sound
sleep. "Oh, d'ya read in orders 'bout th' zigzag for th' morning
watch?--a new stunt, fours and sixes; start in at----"

"Oh, g'rr out! How can a man keep a watch, you chewin' th' rag? Yes,
I--read--the orders!" _S-snap!_

"_Huh!_ A pair of them!" It comes to us that something will have to be
said about the way the damned bridge is relieved in this ship!

Into the chart-room, to fumble awkwardly for light ('_T'tt!_ That switch
out of order again!') and search for a portent in the jeering glassy
face of the aneroid. _Tip, tip, whap!_ The cursed thing is falling
still. 'Twenty-nine owe two--half an inch since ten o'clock! Whatever
can be behind all this? That damn glass was never right, anyway!'


Drumming of the wireless-cabin telephone sounds out, and we listen to a
brief account of Poldhu's war warning. An S.O.S. has been heard, but a
shore station has accepted it. (They can identify the ship--might be the
harping of a Fritz.) There is a long code message through, and the
quartermaster brings it--a jumble of helplessly ugly consonants that
looks as though the German Fleet, at last, is out--but resolves (after a
wearisome cryptic wrestle) to back-chat that has little of interest for
us. Poldhu has the reports of the day--mines and derelicts, wreckage,
the patrols, and enemy submarines in the channels. Chart work for a
while. The wrecks and the derelicts are figured and placed, and we dally
with the subs, plotting and measuring to find a clue to their movements.
'Fifteen hours at six, and ten to come or go! _Mmm!_ That 'll be the
same swine working to the nor'east. Hope he makes a good course into the
minefield! This one is solo--and that! A ghastly bunch, anyway!' We
project a line of our course, but hesitate at position. 'Not one decent
observation in the last three days. Only a muggy guess at a horizon.
Dead-reckoning? Of course, there is our dead-reckoning, but--but--wonder
where the commodore got his position from? Must have added on th' day of
th' month, or fingers and toes or something! Damned if we can see how,
at twelve knots, we could be where----'

The outspread chart, glaring white under the electric light, with a maze
of heights and soundings, grows strangely indistinct, and it calls for
an effort to set the counts and figures in their places. We realize that
wandering thought and a warm chart-room are not the combination for
wakefulness. So, on deck again, to steady up at the doorway and wonder
why the night has become suddenly as hellish black as the pit!

The second officer has found his composure at the bottom of a cup of
steaming coffee, and seems mildly astonished that we are unable to pick
up _Neleus_ in the darkness ahead. "Quite plain, sir, when these squalls
pass. A bit murky while they blow over, but--see her clear enough, sir.
Reduced two revolutions, and keeping good station on her at that!"
Somewhat slowly (for we have been afoot since six yesterday morning) our
eyes focus to the gloom and line out the sea and sky in their shaded
proportions. _Neleus_ grows out of the sombre opacous curtain--a
definite guide with the sea breaking white in her wake. Dark patches of
smoke-wrack, around and about, mark bearings on the sea-line where our
sisters of the convoy are forging through. The next astern has dropped
badly in cleaning fires, and is now throwing a whirl of green smoke in
the effort to regain her station. The sea seems to have lessened since
last we viewed it. Our hot coffee may have had effect in producing a
more impressionable frame of mind, but certainly the weather is no
worse. The rain and sleet have beaten out a measure of the toppling
sea-crests. We see the forecastle-head, black and upstanding, for longer
periods, and only broken spray flies over, where, but a little ago, were
green whelming seas. A sign of modest content comes from the boat-deck,
where the guards are humming, "_Over there, over there, over there! Th'
Yanks are coming!_"

The duty officer (troops) comes to us to pass the time of the morning.
He salutes with punctilio. (He has not yet learned that we are only a
damn civilian, camouflaged, and not entitled to such respect.) It is
reported to him that one of the ship's boats had been badly damaged by a
sea during the night. "In event of--of an accident, is it in orders that
the troops allocated [his word] to that boat shall not go in any other?"

Good lad! For all that darkness and the gale, he looks very fine and
bold, standing stiffly, if somewhat unsteadily, demanding detail of the
Birkenhead Drill! We assure him that there will be no immediate need for
regrouping the men, that measures have already been taken to repair the
damaged planking, that half an hour of daylight will serve us--and turn
the talk to less disquieting affairs. He is very keen. Till now he has
never been farther out to sea than the Iron Steamboat Company would take
him--to Coney Island or the more subdued delights of the Hook. A
New-Yorker, he tempers quite natural vaunts to be the more in keeping
with the great and impending trial that awaits. For all that, he is
gravely concerned that we should recognize his men as good and
true--"the best ever, yessa!" With a good experience of their conduct,
under trying conditions, we assent.

". . . They kin number us up all they wanna, but we're the--th N' Yok
National Guard--a right good team! Down there on th' Mexican barder, we
sure got trimmed, good and planny! Hot! My! Saay, cap'n, I guess-- Ah
well, a' course you've been through some heat, too--but it was sure some
warm hell down there! Yes--sir!" A bright lad!

His words recall to us a windy afternoon on Fifth Avenue, in the days
when our Uncle Sam was dispassionate and neutral. Flags whipping noisily
in the high breeze, the crowds, the bands, and the long khaki column in
fours winding towards the North River ferries to embark for Mexico, on a
task that called for inhuman restraint. Newsboys were shouting aloud the
peril of Verdun, and the thought came to us then--"Will that stream of
manhood ever march east?" And now, under our feet and in our charge,
fourteen hundred--"the best ever, yessa!"--are bound east by every
thrust of the screw, and out on the heaving waste of water around us are
fifteen thousand more; and the source is sure, and the stream, as yet,
is but trickling.


THE weather has certainly moderated. In but an hour the sea has gone
down considerably. There is no longer height enough in the tumble of it
to throw us about like a Deal lugger. We steam on a more even keel; the
jar and racket of the racing propeller has altered to a steady rhythmic
pulse-beat that thrusts our length steadily through the water. At times
the rain lashes over and shuts out sight of our neighbours, but we have
opportunity to regulate our station in the lengthening intervals between
the squalls. Improvement in the wind and sea has brought our somewhat
scattered fleet into better and closer order. The rear horse-transports
have come up astern and seem to have got over the steering difficulties
that their high topsides and small rudder-immersion effected in the
heavier sea. Only the barometer shows no inclination to move, in keeping
with the better conditions--the rain, perhaps, is keeping the mercury

It seems plain sailing for a while. The Second can look out for her; no
use having too many good men on the bridge. We are only in the way out
here, stamping and turning on the wet foot-spars, or throwing bowlines
in the 'dodger' stops to pass the night. Four bells--two a.m.--the time
goes slowly! We are somewhat footsore. Perhaps, sea-boots off, a seat
for a minute or two in the chart-room may ease our limbs for the long
day that lies before us.

A long day, and the best part of another long day before we reach port!
A wearisome stretch of it! We ought to have some system of relief. Why
not? Why not take a relief? The chief officer is as good a man as the
master. Why not let him run the bus for a spell? Oh, just--just--just a
rotten way we have of doing! In the Navy they make no bones about
turning over to their juniors; why should we make it so hard for our--
"_Says it is hazy, sir! Told me to let you know he hasn't seen any of
the ships for over an hour!_"

Whatever is the man talking about! "_Ships?_" What ships? "_An hour?_"

The quartermaster, in storm-rig of dripping oilskin, stands sheepish in
the doorway. "Aff-past-three, sir," he says.

"_Htt!_" In drowsy mood we don oilskin and sea-boots. Overhead the rain
is drumming, heavy and persistent, on the deck. A glance at the
barometer shows an upward spring. _Tip, tip, tip_--a good glass, that!
Well-balanced! The Second is apologetic, almost as though his was the
hand that had accidentally turned the tap. "Been like this for over an
hour, sir! Was always hoping it would pass off, but there has been no
sign of clearing. Would have called you sooner, but thought it would
lift. I've kept her steady at average revolutions for the last eight
hours' run--seven-three. Haven't seen a thing since shortly after you
went below." A query brings answer that the fog-buoy has been streamed
and gun's crew cautioned to a sharp look-out astern. Not that there is
great need; our sailing experience has been that A---- will drop astern
when 'the gas is turned down!'

The wind has fallen and has hauled to south. It is black dark, with a
heavy continuous downpour of rain. The air is milder, and the sea around
has a glow of luminous milky patches. So, it is to be southerly
weatherly for making the land! It might be worse! At least, this thrash
of heavy rain will 'batten hatches' on a rise of the sea, and make a
good parade-ground for our destroyer escort when they join company. We
should be able to shove along at better speed when daylight comes. The
mist or the haze or whatever combination it may be, is puzzling. From
the outlook it is not easy to gauge the range of our vision. Near us the
wash from our bows is sharply defined by phosphorescence in the broken
water, a white scum churns and curls alongside, brightening suddenly in
patches as though our passage had set spark to the fringe. Outboard the
open sea merges away into the gloomy sky with no horizon, no ruling of a
division. We seem to be steaming into a vertical face of vapour. There
is no sound from the ships around us, not a light glimmers in the
darkness. The eerie atmosphere through which we pass has effect on the
night-life of the ship. On deck there is an inclination to move quietly,
to preserve a silence in keeping with the weird spell that seems to
environ us. There is no longer chatter and small talk among the duty
troops; they sit about, huddled in glistening _ponchos_, peering out at
the ghostly glow on the water. From far down in the bowels of the ship
the rattle of a stoker's shovel on the plates rings out in startling
clamour, and rouses an instant desire to suppress the jarring note. It
seems impossible that there can be ships in our company--vessels moving
with us through mystic seas. We peer around, on all the bearings, but
see nothing on our encircling wall. Smell? We nose at the air, seeking a
waft of coal-smoke, but the rain is beating straight down, basting the
funnel-wraiths on the flat of the sea.

An average of eight hours' steaming, seven-three revolutions, may be no
good guide, considering the racing and the plunging we have gone
through. In proper station we ought to see the loom of _Neleus_ ahead,
or, at least, the wash of her fog-buoy. It is important that we should
be in good touch at daybreak. We go full speed for a turn or two and
post an officer in the bows to scan for our leader.

New and vexing problems come at us as time draws on. We are due to start
a zigzag, 'in execution of previous orders,' before the day breaks. We
see a royal 'hurrah's nest'--a rough house--before us if we lay off
without a proper sight of our fellows. So far there has come no negative
to our orders; we are somewhat concerned. A message cannot have been
missed, surely! "Nothing through yet, sir," is the wakeful assurance
from the wireless operator. "X's fierce with this rain, but should get
any near message all right."

At eight bells we come in sight of one unit of the convoy. She shows
up, broad off on our lee bow, in a position we had hardly looked for.
There is little to see. A darkling patch, a blurred shadow, in the face
of sea and sky, with a luminous curl of broken water astern. We cannot
identify her in the darkness; flashing signals are barred in the
submarine areas; we must wait daylight for recognition. She should be
_Neleus_, but a hair-line on our steering-card may have brought us to
the leader of the outside column. In any case we are in touch, and it is
with some relief we ease speed to a close approximation of hers. Anon,
our anxiety about the zigzag is dispelled by a message from the
commodore, cancelling former orders. He has sat tight on it to nearly
the last minute, hoping for a clearance.


With the coming of the chief officer's watch we feel that the 'day' is
beginning. Twelve to four are unholy hours that belong to no proper
order of our reckoning. They are past the night, and have no kinship
with the day: bitter, tedious, helpless spaces of time that ought only
to be passed in slumber and oblivion. By five, and the lift greying,
there is something in the movement about the decks that suggests an
awakening of the ship to busy life and action, after the sullen torpor
of an uneasy night. The troop 'fatigue men' turn out to their duties,
and traffic to the cooking-galleys goes on, even under the unceasing
downpour that falls on us. The guard get busy on their rounds,
challenging the men as they step out of the companionways, to show their
life-belts in order and properly adjusted. Complaint and discussion are
frequent, but the guard are firm in their insistence. "I should worry!"
is the strange request, appeal, exhortation, demand, reply, aside, that
punctuates each meeting on the decks below. In nowise influenced by the
sinister import of the questioning, the duty troops on the boat-deck
waken up. The spirit of matutinal expression descends on them, despite
the rain, and they whistle cheerful 'harmonic discords,' till barked to
silence by Sergeant 'Jawn.'

The watch on deck trail hoses and deck-scrubbers from the racks and set
about preparations for washing down, bent earnestly on their standard
rites though the heavens fall! The carpenter and his mate are assembling
their gear and tools, awaiting better daylight to get on with their
repairs to the damaged lifeboats. On the bridge we seem congested. Extra
'day' look-outs obstruct our confined gangways and the bulk of their
weather harness, plus life-belts and megaphones, restricts a ready
movement. In preparation for busy daylight, the signalmen put out their
bunting on the lettered hooks, and ease off the halyards that are set
'bar-tight' by the soaking rain. There is, withal, an air of freshness
in the morning bustle that comes in company with the dawn.

With gloom sufficient for our signal needs (and light enough for
protection) we flash a message to our consort. She is _Neleus_, and
answers that she has other vessels of the convoy in sight to leeward. We
sheer into our proper position astern of her and find the outer column
showing through the mist in good station. On our report that we had no
others in sight, _Neleus_ alters course perceptibly to converge on the
commodore, and daylight coming in finds us steaming in misty but visible
touch with the other columns. The horse transports have dropped astern,
and one is bellowing for position. She gets a word or two on the
'buzzer,' comes ahead, and lets go the whistle lanyard.

If commodore's reckoning is right, we should now be on the destroyer
rendezvous, but our wireless operator, who has been listening to the
twitter of the birds, assures us that they are yet some distance off. We
hope for a clearing to enable them to meet us without undue search; it
will not be a simple matter to join company in the prevailing weather
conditions, particularly as we are working on four days of
dead-reckoning. By seven o'clock there is no sign of the small craft,
and we note our ocean escort closing in to engage the commodore with
signals. The rain lessens and turns to a deep Scotch mist, our range of
vision is narrowed to a length or two. Anon, our advance guardship sets
her syren sounding dismal wails at long intervals, as she swings over
from wing to wing of the convoy.

By what mysterious channel does information get about a ship? Is there a
voice in the aerials? Are ears tuned to the many-tongued whisperings of
rivet and shell-plate, that all hands have an inkling of events? The
rendezvous is an official secret; the coming of the destroyers is
supposedly unknown to all but the master, the navigators, and the
wireless operator, but it is not difficult to see a knowing expectancy
in the ranks of our company. Despite the wet and clammy mist, ignoring
the dry comforts of the ''tween-decks,' the troops crowd the upper
passages and hang long over the rails and bulwarks, pointing and
shouting surmise and conjecture to their mates. The crew are equally
sensitive. Never were engine-room and stokehold ventilators so
tirelessly trimmed to the wind. At frequent intervals, one or other of
the grimy firemen ascends to the upper gratings, cranks the cowls an
inch or two this way or that, then stands around peering out through the
mist for first sight of a welcome addition to our numbers. The official
ship look-outs are infected by a new keenness, and every vagary in the
wind that exposes a glimpse of our neighbours is greeted by instant
hails from the crow's nest.

Eight bells again! The watch is changed and, with new faces on the
bridge, the length of our long spell is painfully recalled. With
something of envy we note the posts relieved and the men gone below to
their hours of rest. "What a life!" The wail of the guardship's syren
fits in to our mood--_Wh-o-o-owe!_

Quick on the dying note a new syren throws out a powerful reedy blast,
sounding from astern. Thus far on the voyage, with fog so long our
portion, we have come to know the exact whistle-notes of our neighbours,
down to the cough and steam splutter of the older ships. This is new--a
stranger--a musical chime that recalls the powerful tug-boats on the
Hudson. Our New-Yorker troops are quick to recognize the homely note.
"Aw! Saay!" is the chorus. "Lissen! Th' _Robert E. Lee_!"

The rear ships of the convoy now give tongue--a medley of confused
reverberations. No reply comes to their tumult, but a line of American
destroyers emerges from the mist astern and steams swiftly between the
centre columns. There is still a long swell on the sea and they lie over
to it, showing a broad strake of composition. They are bedizened in
gaudy dazzle schemes, and the mist adds to the weird effect. The Stars
and Stripes flies at each peak, standing out, board-like, from the speed
of their carriers. As they pass, in line ahead, a wild tumult of
enthusiasm breaks out among the troops. They join in a full-voiced
anthem, carried on from ship to ship, "The Star-spangled Banner!"


A SLIGHT lift in the mist, edging from sou'west in a freshening of the
wind, extends our horizon to include all ships of the convoy. With this
modest clearing, the shield of vapour that has cloaked us from
observation since early morning is withdrawn. Although still hazy, there
is sight enough for torpedo range through a periscope, and the
long-delayed zigzag is signalled by the commodore.

There is no time lost in settling to the crazy courses. At rise of the
mist we are steaming through the flat grey sea in parallel columns, our
lines ruled for us by the wakes of our leaders. The contrasts of build
and tonnage, the variegations of our camouflage, are dulled to a drab
uniformity by the lingering mist, and we make a formal set-piece in the
seascape, spaced and ordered and defined. The angle of the zigzag
disturbs our symmetry. As one movement, on the tick of time, we swing
over into an apparent confusion, like the flush of a startled covey. We
make a pattern on the smooth sea with our stern wash. Wave counters wave
and sets up a running break on the surface that draws the eye by its
similarity to a sheering periscope; not for the first time we turn our
glasses on the ripples, and scan the spurt of broken water in

Our escort is now joined by British sloops returning from their deep-sea
patrols. The faster American destroyers spur out on the wings and far
ahead, leaving the less active warships to trudge and turn in rear of
the convoy. With our new additions, ship by ship steering to the east,
we make a formidable international gathering on the high seas, a
powerful fleet bringing the Pilgrim sons back over the weary sea-route
of their fathers' _Mayflower_!

Having far-flung scouts to safeguard our passage, there seems no reason
for concern about our navigation, but the habits of a sea-routine urge
us to establish a position--to right the uncertainty of four days'
dead-reckoning. The mist still hangs persistently about us, but there is
a prospect that the sun may break through. The strength of the wind
keeps the upper vapours moving, but ever there are new banks to close up
where a glimpse of clear vision shows a 'pocket' in the clouds. The
westering sun brightens the lift and plays hide-and-seek behind the
filmy strata. Time and again we stand by for an observation, but, should
a nebulous limb of the sun shine through, the horizon is obscured--when
the sea-line clears to a passable mark, the sun has gone! A vexing round
of trial after trial! We put away the sextant, vowing that no
tantalizing promise shall tempt us. "Bother the sun! 'We should worry!'
We have got an approximation by soundings, we can do without--we-- _Look
out, there!_"--we are hurrying for the instrument again and tapping
'stand by' to the marksman at the chronometer!

At length a useful combination of a clean lower limb and a definite
horizon gives opportunity for contact, and it is with a measure of
satisfaction we figure the result on the chart, and work back to earlier
soundings for a clue to the latitude. Busied with pencil and dividers,
our findings are disturbed by gunfire--the whine of a slow-travelling
shell is stifled by a dull explosion that jars the ship!

On deck again; the men on the bridge have eyes turned to the inner
column. The rearmost transport of that line has a high upheaval of
debris and broken water suspended over her; it settles as we watch, and
leaves only a wreath of lingering dust over the after part of the ship;
she falls out of line, listing heavily; puffs of steam on her whistle
preface the signal-blasts that indicate the direction from which the
blow was struck. From a point astern of us a ruled line of disturbed
water extends to the torpedoed ship--the settling wake of the missile!
The smack and whine of our bomb-thrower speaks out a second time, joined
by other vessels opening fire.

Events have brought our ship's company quickly to their stations. The
chief officer stands, step on the ladder, awaiting orders. "Right! Lay
aft! Cease fire, unless you have a sure target! Look out for the
destroyers blanking the range!" He runs along, struggling through the
mass of troops. The men are strangely quiet; perhaps the steady beat of
our engines measures out assurance to them--as it does to us. Their
white-haired colonel has come to the bridge, and stands about quietly.
Other officers are pushing along to their stations. There is not more
than subdued and controlled excitement in a low murmur. The men below
crowd up the companionways from the troop-decks. In group and mass, the
ship seems packed to overflowing by a drab khaki swarm; the light on all
faces turned on the one cant, arms pointing in one direction, rouses a
haunting disquiet. However gallant and high of heart, they are standing
on unfamiliar ground--at sea, in a ship, caged! If--

Two destroyers converge on us at frantic speed, tearing through the flat
sea with a froth in their teeth. As the nearest thunders past, her
commander yells a message through his megaphone. We cannot understand.
Busied with manoeuvres of the convoy, with the commodore's signal for
a four-point turn, we miss the hail, and can only take the swing and
wave of his arms as a signal to get ahead--"Go full speed!" The jangle
of the telegraph is still sounding, when we reel to a violent shock. The
ship lists heavily, every plate and frame of her ringing out in clamour
with the impact of a vicious sudden blow. She vibrates in passionate
convulsion on recovery, masts oscillate like the spring of a
whip-shaft, the rigging jars and rattles at the bolts, a crash of broken
glass showers from the bridge to the deck below!

The murmur among the troops swells to a higher note, there is a crowding
mass-movement towards the boats. The guard is turned to face inboard.
The colonel is impassive; only his eyes wander over the restless men and
note the post of his officers. He turns towards us, inquiringly. What is
it to be? His orderly bugler is standing by with arm crooked and trumpet
half raised.

Our lips are framing an order, when a second thundering shock jars the
ship, not less in violence and shattering impact than the first. A high
hurtling column of water shoots up skyward close astern of the ship. We
suppress the order that is all but spoken, stifle the words in our
throat. We are not torpedoed! Depth-charges! The destroyers' work! At a
sign, the bugler sounds out "_Still!_" and slowly the tumult on deck is

The commodore's _half-right_ has been instantly acted on, and we are
steadied on a new course, bearing away at full speed, with the torpedoed
horse transport and the racing, circling destroyers astern. Suddenly our
bows begin to swing off to port, falling over towards the outer column.
The helmsman has the wheel hard over against the sheer; we realize that
our steering-gear has gone; the second depth-charge has put us out of
control. We swing on the curve of a gathering impetus--it is evident
that the rudder is held to port; converging on us at full speed, the
rear ship of the outer column steams into the arc of our disorder!

The signalman is instant with his 'not under command' hoist, the crew
are scattered to throw in emergency gear, but there is no time to arrest
the sheer. The first impulse is to stop and go astern. If we arrest the
way of the ship, a collision is inevitably assured, but the impact may
be lessened to a side boarding, to damage that would not be vital; if we
swing as now, we may clear--our eye insists we should clear. If our
tired eyes prove false, if the strain of a long look-out has dulled
perception, our stem will go clean into her--we shall cut her down!
Reason and impulse make a riot of our brain. The instinct to haul back
on the reins, to go full astern on the engines, is maddening. Our hand
curves over the brass hood of the telegraph, fingers tighten vice-like
on the lever; with every nerve in tension, we fight the insane desire to
ring up and end the torturing conflict in our mind!

A confusion of minor issues comes crowding for settlement, small stabs
to jar and goad in their trifling. There is a call to carry on
side-actions. Every bell on the bridge clamours for attention. The
engine-room rings up, the chief officer telephones from aft that the
starboard chain has parted, the rudder jammed hard to port. From the
upper spars, the signalman calls out a message from an approaching
destroyer--"What is the matter? Are you torpedoed?" Through all, we
swing out--swiftly, inexorably!

Troops and look-outs scurry off the forecastle-head, in anticipation of
a wrecking blow. On the other ship, there is outcry and excitement. She
has altered course and her stern throws round towards us, further
encroaching on the arc of our manoeuvre. So near we are, we look
almost into the eyes of her captain as we head for the bridge. Troops,
the boat-guard, are scrambling aboard from the out-swung lifeboats,
their rifles held high. On her gun-platform the gunners slam open their
breech, withdraw the charge, and hurry forward to join the mass of men
amidships. All eyes are centred on the narrowing space of clear water
that separates us, on our high sheering stem that cuts through her
out-flung side-wash.

Strangely the movement seems to be all in our sweeping bow. The other
vessel appears stationary, inert--set motionless against the flat
background of misty cloud; our swinging head passes point upon point of
the chequered camouflage on her broadside; subconsciously we mark the
colours of her scheme--red and green and grey. We clear her line of
boats, and sway through the length of her after-deck--waver at the
stern-house, then cover the grey mounting of her gun-emplacement. In
inches we measure the rails and stanchions on her quarter, as our
upstanding bow drives on. Tensely expectant, our mind trembles on the
crash that seems inevitable.

It does not come. Our eye was right--we clear her counter! With some
fathoms to spare we sheer over the thrash of her propellers, the horizon
runs a line across our stem, we have clear yielding blue water under the

The illusion of our sole movement is reversed as the mass of the other
vessel bears away from us. The unbroken sea-line offers no further mark
to judge our swing; we seem to have become suddenly as immobile as a
pier-head, while our neighbour starts from our forefoot in an apparent
outrush, closing and opening the line of her masts and funnels like
shutting and throwing wide the panels of a door.

With no indecision now we pull the lever over hood of the telegraph. One
case is cleared; there still remains the peril of the lurking submarine.
The destroyers are busy on the chase, manoeuvring at utmost speed and
exploding depth-charges in the area. We are now some distance from them
but the crash of their explosion sends an under-running shock to us
still. Our sheer has brought us broadside on to the position from which
the enemy loosed off his torpedo. At full astern we bring up and swing
over towards the receding convoy. If we are barred from carrying on a
zigzag by the mishap to our helm, we can still put a crazy gait on her
by using the engines. Backing and coming ahead, we make little progress,
but at least we present no sitting target.

Reports come through from aft that the broken chain, springing from a
fractured link, has jammed hard under the quadrant; the engineers are at
work, jacking up to release the links; they will be cleared in ten
minutes! The chief asks for the engines to be stopped; sternway is
putting purchase on the binding pressure of the rudder. Reluctantly we
bring up and lie-to. In no mood to advertise our distress, we lower the
'not under command' signals, and summon what patience may be left to us
to await completion of repairs.

A long 'ten minutes!' Every second's tick seems fraught with a new
anxiety. Fearfully we scan the sea around, probing the line of each
chance ripple for sight of an upstanding pin-point. Anon, steam pressure
rises and thunders through the exhaust, throwing a battery of spurting
white vapour to the sky, and letting even the sea-birds know we are
crippled and helpless.

The torpedoed ship still floats, though with a dangerous list and her
stern low in the water. A sloop is taking her in tow, and we gather
assurance of her state in the transport's boats still hanging from the
davits; they have not abandoned. She falters at the end of the long
tow-rope and sheers wildly in the wake of her salvor. The convoy has
vanished into the grey of the east, and only a lingering smoke-wreath
marks the bearing where they have entered the mist. The sun has gone,
leaving but little afterglow to lengthen twilight; it will soon be dark.
Apparently satisfied with their work the destroyers cease fire; whether
there is oil on their troubled waters we cannot see. They linger a
while, turning, then go on in the wake of the convoy. One turns north
towards us, with a busy windmiller of a signalman a-top the
bridge-house. "_What is the matter? Do you wish to be towed?_" We
explain our case, and receive an answer that she will stand by, "_but
use utmost dispatch effect repair_."

'Use utmost dispatch'! With every minute, as the time passes, goes our
chance of regaining our station in the convoy; we are in ill content to
linger! We have a liking for our chief engineer--a respect, an
admiration--but never such a love as when he comes to the bridge-ladder,
grimy, and handling his scrap of waste. "They're coupling up now! A job
we had! Chain jammed and packed under th' quadrant, like it had been set
by a hydraulic ram! If that one landed near Fritz, he'll trouble us no


With the engines turning merrily, and helm governance under our hand, we
regain composure. Our task is yet none too easy. Even at our utmost
speed we cannot now rejoin the convoy before nightfall; snaking through
the ships in the dark to take up station offers another harassing night
out! Still, it might be worse--much worse! We think of the torpedoed
ship towing so slowly abeam--of the khaki swarm on our decks, 'the
light on all faces turned on one cant.' Surely our luck is in! The
infection of the measured beat in our progress recalls a job unfinished;
we step into the chart-room and take up pencil and dividers.

[Illustration: THE STEERSMAN]

[Illustration: THE WORK OF A TORPEDO]



OCTOBER on the Mersey is properly a month of hazy autumn weather, but
the few clear days seem to gain an added brilliance from their rarity,
and present the wide estuary in a vivid, clear-cut definition. The
distant hills of North Wales draw nearer to the city, and stand over the
slated roofs of the Cheshire shore as though their bases were set in the
peninsula. Seaward the channel buoys and the nearer lightships are
sharply distinct, cutting the distant sea-line like the topmast spars of
ships hull down. Every ripple and swirl of the tide is exaggerated by
the lens of a rare atmosphere; the bow wash of incoming vessels is
thrown upward as by mirage.


On such a day a convoy bears in from the sea, rounding the lightships
under columns of drifting smoke. Heading the merchantmen, the destroyers
and sloops of the escort steam quickly between the channel buoys and
pass in by New Brighton at a clip that shows their eagerness to complete
the voyage. A sloop detaches from the flotilla and rounds-to off the
landing-stage. Her decks are crowded by men not of her crew. Merchant
seamen are grouped together at the stern, and a small body of Uncle
Sam's coloured troops line the bulwarks in attitudes of ease and
comfort. They are a happy crowd, and roar jest and catchword to the
passengers on the crossing ferries. The merchantmen are less boisterous.
They watch the preparations of the bluejackets for mooring at the stage
with a detached professional interest; some of them gaze out to the
nor'ard where the transports of the convoy are approaching. Doubtless
their thoughts are with the one ship missing in the fleet--their ship.
The sloop hauls alongside the stage and a gangway is passed aboard.
Naval transport officers and a major of the U.S. Army staff are waiting,
and engage the commander of the man-of-war in short conversation. The
men are disembarked and stand about in straggling groups. There is
little to be said by the sloop's commander. "A horse transport torpedoed
yesterday. No! No losses. Tried to tow her for a bit, but had to cast
off. She went down by the stern."

The trooper horse-tenders are marshalled in some order and pass over to
the waiting-rooms under charge of the American officer. With a word or
two and a firm handshake to the sloop's commander, the master of the
torpedoed ship comes ashore and joins his men. No word of command! He
jerks his head in the direction of the Liver Buildings and strides off.
The seamen pick up their few bundles of sodden clothing and make after
him, walking in independent and disordered groups. As they straggle
along the planking of the stage, a military band--in full array--comes
marching down from the street-way. They step out in fine swing, carrying
their glittering brasses. "Here, Bill," says one of the seamen, hitching
his shoulder towards the burdened drummers, "who said we was too late
for th' music!"

The transports have come into the river. Every passing tug and
ferry-boat gives _rrr--oot_ on her steam-whistle to welcome them as they
round-to off the docks and landing-stage. Loud bursts of cheer and
answering cheer sound over the water. The wide river, so lately clear of
shipping, seems now narrowed to the breadth of a canal by the huge
proportions of the liners bringing up in the tideway. The bizarre
stripes and curves and the contrasted colours of their dazzle schemes
stand out oddly against the background of the Cheshire shore. It is not
easy to disentangle the lines of the ships in the massed grouping of
funnel and spar and high topsides. They are merged into a bewildering
composition with only the mastheads and the flags flying at the trucks
to guide the eye in attempting a count. Fifteen large ships, brimming at
the bulwarks with a packed mass of troops, all at a deep draught that
marks their load below decks of food and stores and munitions.

The landing-stage becomes rapidly crowded by disembarkation officers and
their staffs. Transport wagons and cars arrive at the south end and run
quietly on the smooth boarding to their allotted stands. A medical unit,
gagged with fearsome disinfectant pads, musters outside their temporary
quarters. Most prominent of all, tall men in their silver and blue, a
sergeant and two constables of the City police stand by--the official
embodiment of law and order.

A flag is posted by the stage-men at the north end, and its flutter
calls an answering whistle-blast from the nearest transport. Steadily
she disengages from the press of ships and closes in towards the shore.
The tugs guiding her sheer strain at the hawsers and lie over in a cant
that shows the tremendous weight of their charge. A row-boat dances in
the wash of their screws as it is backed in to the liner's bows to pass
a hawser to the stage. Sharp, short blasts indicate the pilot's orders
from the bridge: the stage-master keeps up a commentary on the
manoeuvres through a huge megaphone. Stir and bustle and high-spirited
movement! The troops that pack the liner's inshore rails give tongue to
excited gaiety. A milkgirl (slouch hat, trousers and gaiters complete)
passes along the stage on her way to the restaurant and is greeted with
acclaim, "Thatta gel--thatta goil--oh, you kid!" The policemen come in
for it: "Aw, say! Looka th' guys 'n tha lodge trimmings. What's th'
secret sign, anyway!" An embarrassed and red-faced junior of the
Transport Service is forced to tip it and accept three cheers for "th'
Brissh Navy!"

The opening bars of 'The Star-spangled Banner' brings an instant stop to
their clamour. The troops spring to attention in a way that we had not
observed before in their own land. The spirit of patriotism, pronounced
in war! 'God Save the King' keeps them still at attention. As strong as
war and patriotism--the spirit of a new brotherhood in arms!

The transport makes fast and high gantries are linked to a position on
the stage and their extensions passed on board. The stage-men make up
their heaving-lines and move off to berth a second vessel at the south
end. The tide is making swiftly in the river, and there must be no delay
if the troops are to be disembarked and the ships cast off in time to
dock before high water has passed.


Viewed from the low tidal stage, almost at a level with the water, the
ship--that had appeared so delicate of line in the river--assumes a new
and stronger character at close hand. The massive bulk of her, towering
almost overhead, dwarfs the surrounding structures. The shear that gave
her beauty at a distance is lost in the rapid foreshortening of her
length: her weathered plating, strake upon strake bound by a pattern
of close rivet-work, attracts the eye and imposes an instant impression
of strength and seaworthiness. On her high superstructure the figures of
men seem absurdly diminished. The sense of their control of such a
vessel is difficult of realization. Pouring from her in an apparently
endless stream of khaki, her living cargason passes over the gangways.

They move rapidly from the ship to the shore. Waiting-sheds and the
upper platforms are soon littered by their packs and equipment, and the
troops squat on the roadway to await formation of their group. Large
bodies are marched directly to the riverside station to entrain for
camp, but the assortment and enumeration of most of the companies and
detachments is carried through on the broad planking of the stage. In
and out the mustered files of men, transport cars make a noisy
trumpeting progress, piled high with baggage and stores, and each
crowned by a waving party of high-spirited soldiers. A second transport
is brought in at the other end of the stage, and adds her men to the
throng of troops at the water-side. The disembarkation staff have work
with the sheep and the goats. There is the natural desire to learn how
'th' fellers' got on in the other ship, and the two ships' complements
are mixed in a fellowship that makes a tangle of the 'nominal rolls' and
drives the harassed officers to an outburst of profanity. Ever and on, a
block occurs on the gangways where the inevitable 'forgetters' are
struggling back through the press of landing men, to search for the
trifles of their kit.

A prolonged blast of her siren warns the military officers that the
first transport is about to cast off, and the movement of the troops is
accelerated to a hurried rush and the withdrawal of the gangways. The
waiting tugs drag the ship from the stage, and she moves slowly
down-stream to dock at the Sandon entrance, there to discharge the
burden of her packed holds. Another huge vessel takes her place, canting
in at the north end, and shortly sending out more men to the already
congested landing. She carries two full battalions, and they are
disembarked with less confusion than the former varied details. Forming
fours, and headed by their own band, they march off up the long
bridgeway to the city streets.

The tide is approaching high water and the pilots are growing anxious
lest they should lose opportunity of docking on the tide. Already the
dock gates are open, and the smaller vessels of the convoy have dropped
out of the river into the basins. With three ships disembarked and a
fourth drawing alongside, the Naval Transport officers decide that they
can handle no more men on the stage, and send the remaining steamers to
land their men in dock. There, with the troops away, an army of dockers
can get to work to unload the store of their carriage from overseas.

[Illustration: 'M N']


'M N'

SHIMMERING in gilt sunlit threads, the grey North Sea lay calm and
placid, at peace with the whip of the winds after days of storm and
heavy weather. The sun had come up to peer over a low curtain of vapour
that hung in the east. Past the meridian, the moon stood clear-cut in
the motionless upper sky. The ring of quiet sea accepted the presence of
the waiting ships as of friendly incomers, familiar to the round of the
misty horizon. Two British destroyers, a flotilla of motor-vessels,
drifters--the brown sails of Thames barges appearing, then vanishing, in
the wisps of fickle vapour. A breathless dawn. Sun, the silver moon, the
grey flat sea bearing motionless ships, were witness to the drama--the
giving up of the murder craft, the end of piracy.

Growing out of the mist, a squadron of British light cruisers and their
convoy approached the rendezvous where the destroyers lay in readiness
to take over charge of the German submarines. Two enemy transports under
their commercial flags, headed the line of the water-snakes. Aircraft
circled overhead and turned and returned on the line of progress. The
leading ships swung out on approaching the destroyers and engaged them
by signal. The destroyers weighed anchor and proceeded to carry out
their orders. Each carried a number of officers and men to be placed
aboard the submarines, to accept their surrender, to direct their
further passage to within the booms at Harwich.

The commander of _Melampus_ focused his glasses on the eleventh
submarine of the long straggling line. The U-boat had a wash over his
screws and was apparently steaming ahead to overtake his fellows, now
fading into the mist in the direction of their prison gates.

"Our group," he said: then, to the signalman, "Tell him to stop

The bluejacket stood out on the sparring of the bridge and signalled
with his hand-flags. The submarine still moved ahead at speed, his
exhaust panting at pressure. The German commander could not (or would
not) understand, and it was necessary to hoist 'M N' of the
International Code. The two flags were sufficient: he threw his engines
astern and brought up to await further orders. His followers arrived on
the station. Some cast anchor, others slowed and stopped. All took note
of the flags--St. Andrew's cross over blue and white checquers, hoisted
at the destroyer's yard-arm--and obeyed the summary signal.

'M N!' International Code! The old flags of the days when there was
peace on the sea, when the German commercial ensign was known and
familiar and respected in the seaports of the world!

How many of the Germans would understand the full significance of the
hoist that brought them to a standstill--the import of the flags
drooping in the windless air--the beckoning of the coloured fabric that
ended their murder trade. The day had long passed since they had used
this warning signal for a procedure in law and order. No 'M N' to
_Lusitania_ before littering the Irish Sea with wreckage and the pitiful
bodies of women and small children: no signal to _Arabic_ or _Persia_:
no warning to _Belgian Prince_, to _California_, to all the long and
ghastly list: no summons to the hospital ships--alight and blazoned to
advertise their humane mission. And now--their ensign dishonoured, their
name as seamen condemned to the everlasting tale of infamy, their proud
commercial seafaring destroyed--to come in with the blood on their
hands, and render and submit to the mandate of a two-flag hoist!

'M N!' The Code of the Nations! The summons to peaceful seafarers! 'Stop
instantly!' Disobey at your peril! At last, at long last, the Freedom of
the Seas--the security of the ships--the safety of all who pass on their
lawful occasions--completely re-established by the flaunt of the old


COMPELLED by the nature of their work to be long absent from home ports,
seamen are frequently in ignorance of the current of longshore opinion.
Newspapers do not reach out to the sea-routes (as yet), and the media of
Guild Gazettes and Association Reporters come somewhat late on the tide
of an appreciation. The tremendous historical importance of the Nation's
Thanks to its Fighting Forces (in which the Merchants' Service was
included) has not adequately been realized by the merchantmen. Some do
not even know of it. For these reasons--not in a spirit of 'pride above
desert'--the writer quotes the following:

The Resolution of Parliament of October 29, 1917, placed upon record--

          "That the thanks of this House be accorded to the
          officers and men of the Mercantile Marine for the
          devotion to duty with which they have continued to
          carry the vital supplies to the Allies through
          seas infested with deadly perils."

A year later, an equally generous appreciation of the work of the
Merchants' Service was issued by the Board of Admiralty.

          "On the occasion of the first Meeting of the Board
          of Admiralty after the signing of the German
          Armistice, their Lordships desire, on behalf of
          the Royal Navy, to express their admiration and
          thanks to the Owners, Masters, Officers, and Crews
          of the British Mercantile Marine, and to those
          engaged in the Fishing Industry, for the
          incomparable services which they have rendered
          during the War, making possible and complete the
          Victory which is now being celebrated.

          "The work of the Mercantile Marine has been
          inseparably connected with that of the Royal Navy,
          and without the loyal co-operation of the former,
          the enemy's Submarine Campaign must inevitably
          have achieved its object. The Mercantile Marine
          from the beginning met this unprecedented form of
          warfare with indomitable courage, magnificent
          endurance, and a total disregard of danger and
          death, factors which the enemy had failed to take
          into account and which went far towards defeating
          his object.

          "In no small measure also has the success achieved
          against the submarine been due to the interest
          taken by Owners in the defensive equipment of
          their ships, and to the ability, loyalty, and
          technical skill displayed by Masters and Officers
          in carrying out Admiralty regulations which,
          though tending to the safety of the vessels from
          submarine risks, enormously increased the strain
          and anxiety of navigation. The loyal observance of
          these precautions has been the more commendable
          since the need for absolute secrecy, on which
          safety largely depended, has prevented the reasons
          for their adoption being in all cases disclosed.

          "Further, the Convoy System, which has played such
          an important part in frustrating the designs of
          the enemy and securing the safe passage of the
          United States Army, could never have attained its
          success but for the ability and endurance
          displayed by Masters, Officers, and crews of the
          Merchant Service forming these Convoys. This
          system has called for the learning and practising
          of a new science--that of station-keeping--the
          accuracy of which has depended in no small measure
          on the adaptability and skill of the Engineers and
          their Departments.

          "Their Lordships also desire to acknowledge the
          ready response of Owners to the heavy calls made
          on the Merchant Service for Officers and men to
          meet the increasing requirement of the Navy. On
          board our ships of every type, from the largest
          Dreadnought down to the smallest Patrol Boat are
          to be found Officers and men of the Merchant Navy
          who have combined with those of the Royal Navy in
          fighting the enemy and defeating his nefarious
          methods of warfare at sea.

          "The Merchant Service and the Royal Navy have
          never been so closely brought together as during
          this War. In the interests of our glorious Empire
          this connection must prove a lasting one."

The Resolution of Parliament of August 6, 1919, placed upon record--

          "That the thanks of this House be accorded to the
          officers and men of the Mercantile Marine for the
          fine and fearless seamanship by which our people
          have been preserved from want and our cause from



  Admiralty, xiii, 11, 32, 35-37, 41, 42, 64, 110, 113, 144, 178, 195,

  Adriatic, 25, 99

  _Agnes Whitwell_, 192

  Aleppo, 4

  "Allo," 118, 119

  Amadas, 6

  _Anglo-Californian_, 18

  Antwerp, 45, 78

  _Aquitania_, 13, 100

  _Arabic_, 253

  Arctic Ocean, 25

  Arklow, 82

  Arlington, 108

  Armada, The Great, 4, 6

  _Atalanta_, 82

  Atlantic, 107, 117, 128, 178, 218, 224, 225

  Atlantic City, 104, 109

  _Augustine_, 62, 63, 66

  Australia, 126

  Austrian Navy, 99

  _Avocet_, 85


  Backhouse, John, 5

  Baffin, 6

  Bahia, 191, 204

  Balsara, 4

  Barlow, 6

  Barnegat Lighthouse, 109

  Beaumaris, 78

  Beaverbrook, Lord, xiii

  _Belgian Prince_, 173, 253

  Bell, Captain, 79

  Bengal, 9

  Bennett, Arnold, xiii

  Bermuda, 107, 108

  Berry, 11

  Biggatt, William, 5

  _Birchgrove_, 85

  Black Middens, 78

  Blake, 10

  Board of Trade, 61-66, 121, 131, 185

  Boer War, 22

  Boom defences, 100, 191, 206

  Bordeaux, 55

  Boston, 108

  _Boy Ernie_, 101

  _Boy Jacob_, 78

  Bremen Hansa Line, 31

  Brennell, Captain, 85

  Bridgwater, 10

  Bristol Channel, 80, 116

  _Britannic_, 78

  _British Standard_, 209, 210, 211, 215

  Brixham, 101

  _Brother Fred_, 192

  Brownrigg, Rear-Admiral Sir Douglas, xiii

  _Brussels_, 79

  _Cabotia_, 114

  Cagliari, 181

  Calcutta, 204

  _Calgarian_, 178

  _California_, 253

  _Cameronia_, 140

  Canada, 126, 128

  Canute, 141, 142

  Cape Cod, 108

  Cardiff, 181

  Caspian Sea, 4

  Cats, 198-99

  Cavendish, Thomas, 6

  Cerigo Channel, 114, 132

  Channel, The, 88, 89, 95, 96, 131, 147

  Charles II, 57

  Chaucer, 55

  _Chelmsford_, 204

  Cheshire, 244, 247

  China, 22, 165

  _Cinderella_, 210, 211

  Clyde, xi, 100, 116

  Cochrane, Lord, 181

  Collins, Captain Greenville, 57, 58, 64

  _Collonia_, 196

  _Commissioner_, 82

  Coney Island, 230

  Constantinople, 4

  Contalmaison, 51

  Cook, James, 10

  Copenhagen, 11

  _Coquet_, 173

  Cork, 85

  Cornford, L. Cope, xiii

  Costello (boatswain of _Gull_, trawler), 99

  _Cottingham_, 80, 81

  Coverley, Captain, 114

  _Crane_, 99

  Crimea, 22

  Crystal Palace, 122

  Cunard Line, 118, 119

  Custom House, 184, 185

  DÆDALUS Light, 170

  Dampier, 10

  Davis, 6

  Deal, 77, 89, 230

  Deptford, 56, 58

  _Deutschland_, 104

  _Devonshire_ (East Indiaman), 9

  Dieppe, 31

  _Dieudonné_, 192

  Dixon, W. Macneile, xiii

  Dogger Bank, 99

  Doiran, 133

  Downs, The, 9, 88-90, 96

  Drake, 6

  _Drei Geschwister_, 85

  Dublin, 15

  EAST India Company, 9

  Eddystone Lighthouse, 91

  Egypt, 22, 126

  Elbow Buoy, 97

  _Emden_, 164

  _Empress of Fort William_, 95

  Esperanto, 169, 203

  FAIR Head, 117

  _Falaba_, 164

  _Fermo_, 101

  Fishermen, 98-102, 206, 255

  Flanders, 51, 79, 126

  _Floandi_, 99

  Foley, 11

  Forbes, Captain, 63

  Foreign consuls, 185

  _Formidable_, 101

  _Fortuna_, 192

  France, 125, 126

  _Franz Fischer_, 85

  Frobisher, 6

  Fryatt, Captain, 79

  _Fürst_, 27, 28

  GALATZ, 170

  Gallipoli, 127

  "Gamecock" Fleet, 99

  Garron Head, 116

  German Navy, 17, 24, 26, 28, 41, 253
    Crimes on the sea, 170-74, 253
      Fishing-boats, 79, 100, 101
      Hospital ships, 92, 173, 253
      Lightships, 92
      Merchantmen, 17, 81, 82, 85, 114, 164, 173
      Mines, 92, 95
      Rafts and open boats, 92
      Submarine minelayers, 80, 92
      _See under_ Merchants' Service: German _Schrecklichkeit_, and
          Submarine piracy
    Submarines, 17-20, 37, 41-43, 79-86, 95, 96, 107-9, 113-15, 118-19,
      173, 177, 181, 182, 237-40, 252-53, 255-56

  Gibbs, Richard, 5

  Gibraltar, 126, 183

  Glasgow, 33, 39, 78, 116

  Goodwin Sands, 89, 96

  _Gowan Lea_, 99, 100

  Grand Banks, 103

  Gravesend, 3, 59

  Greece, King of, 63

  Greenwich Mean Time, 191

  _Gulflight_, 109

  _Gull_ (trawler), 99

  HAKLUYT, Richard, 4, 5, 9

  Halifax, 108

  Hardy, 11

  Harwich, xi, 90, 253

  Hawkins, Sir John, 6

  Henderson, Algernon C. F., v

  Henry VIII, 6

  Hohenzollern, 174

  Hollesay Bay, 90

  Holy Land, 54

  Horn, Cape, 77

  Hudson, 6

  Hudson Bay, 86

  Hudson River, 217, 218

  Hull, 90

  ICELAND, 170

  Imperial War Museum, xiii

  India, 22, 126

  International Code of Signals, 169

  Islay, 117

  Isle of Man, 32

  Istria, 55

  _Jane Williamson_, 82

  Japan, 178

  Java, 13

  Johnson, Dr., 47-48

  _Justitia_, 78

  _Karlsruhe_, 104

  _Kashmir_, 227

  Keith, Captain, 131

  Kiel, 24

  King John, 55

  Kingsdown, 89

  King's Harbour Master, 203

  Kingsway, 124

  _Kölnische Zeitung_, 81

  _Kronprinz Wilhelm_, 104

  _Lady of the Lake_, 79

  Lamport and Holt Line, 109

  Langton, Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, 55

  Leggatt (of _Crane_), 99

  Leghorn, 181

  _Leviathan_, 135

  Leyland Line, 117, 118, 119

  Liége, 27

  Lightships, 57, 91-96
    Gull Lightship, 53, 89, 93, 96
    Ostend Lightship, 92
    Royal Sovereign Lightship, 95
    Shambles Lightship, 95
    South Goodwin Lightship, 95

  _Linn_ ("frigot"), 204

  Liver Buildings, 49, 247

  Liverpool, 62, 69, 78, 103, 116, 135, 245, 249

  _Lobelia_, 100

  London, 89, 213

  Louis XIV, of France, 91

  Lowestoft, 90

  _Lusitania_, 164, 173, 253

  MALAY pirates, 165

  _Maloja_, 95

  Malta, 126, 128, 132, 182

  Manchester, 124

  _Manchester Commerce_, 164

  Manhattan, 223

  "Manual on Seamanship," 144

  Marconi, 123

  Marconi Company, 110

  _Maréchal de Villars_, 82

  _Margaret_, 15

  _Mariston_, 173

  Maritime Code, 54 _seq._

  _Marmion_, 191, 192, 211

  Marseilles, 128, 131, 132

  _Mary Rose_, 178

  _Massilia_, 186, 210

  _Mayflower_, 236

  Mayo, Walter H., xiii

  Meadowside, 140

  Mediterranean, 30, 114, 127, 128, 178, 182, 196

  _Melampus_, 253

  Merchant Adventurers, 4, 5

  Merchants' Service:
    Growth, 3-5;
    parent of Navy, 6, 18;
    Imperial significance, xii, 10, 12, 14, 15, 126;
    unrecognized work, 10, 46 _seq._;
    educational function, 11;
    introduction of steamships, 11, 12, 13;
    international supremacy, 12, 13;
    outbreak of Great War, 14, 24, 163;
    submarine piracy, 17, 18 _seq._, 51, 177, _passim_;
    arming of, 19, 37 _seq._, 113-5;
    differences with Navy, 7, 21-25;
    reconciliation, 25 _seq._;
    liaison with Navy, 14, 18-19, 21-43, 120-3, 134, 191, 197, 199-203,
      255-6 _passim_;
    commerce-raiders, 28, 51;
    Naval War Staff, 30 _seq._;
    transporting of troops, 14, 30 _seq._, 44, 45, 125-40, 223, 224-51;
    popular recognition of, and the longshore view, 46 _seq._, 254;
    discipline, 64, 68-71;
    wanted, a Ministry of Marine, 66;
    manning, 68-73;
    German _Schrecklichkeit_, 72, 73, 80-85, 92, 173, 203, 209;
    coastal Services, 77-86;
    war-time navigation, 85-6, 87-95;
    traditions, 4, 5, 9-13, 23, 98, 99-100;
    signals and wireless, 110-3, 120-4, 169-70, 191;
    destroyer escort, 29-30, 126-8, 178, 203, 235;
    torpedoing of a transport, 137-40, 237-40;
    camouflage and dazzle, 163-7;
    naming of standard ships, 168;
    owners' customs clerks, 184, 185;
    clearing for sea, 184-9;
    convoy conference, 198-204;
    putting to sea, 205-16;
    unloading and loading, 217-23, 247-51. _See under_ Navy

  Merchant Shipping Act, 67

  Mersey, 49, 80, 107, 241, 244

  Mexico, 230

  Middleton, 6

  Minesweeping, 25, 88, 89, 91, 95, 97-99, 102, 205

  Ministry of Information, xiii

  Ministry of Shipping, 178, 181

  Miramichi, 204

  'M N', 252-53

  Mobbs, Engineman, 99

  Mons, 126

  Monson, 6

  Muscovy Company, 5

  NANTUCKET Lightship, 104, 107, 109

  _Nautical Magazine_, xiii

  Navesink, 109

    Offshoot from Merchants' Service, 6, 18;
    press-gangs, 9;
    naval science, 11;
    arming of merchantmen, 19, 37;
    War Staff, 30 _seq._, 128;
    Naval Transport Officer, 32 _seq._, 131, 247, 251;
    Shipping Intelligence Officer, 36 _seq._, 185;
    D.A.M.S., 37-8, 185;
    'Otters,' 38, 185;
    convoys, 41, 110, 121, 178-83, 189-97, 198-204, 205-12, 255;
    anti-submarine measures, 41-3, 95-6, 110, 113, 203, 255;
    'Q. ships,' 42;
    gunnery, 43;
    wireless on sea-going merchantmen, 110-3;
    Transport Department, 126, 127;
    Salvage Section, 144-7;
    Examination Service, 190. _See under_ Merchants' Service

  _Nebraskan_, 109

  _Neleus_, 226, 229, 232, 233, 234

  Nelson, 11, 22

  _Nelson_, 79

  _Nemesis_, 139

  Neutral shipping, 17, 91, 177, 203

  New Brighton, 247

  Newhaven, 31

  New Jersey, 217

  Newport, U.S.A., 107

  New York, 27, 103, 109, 204

  _New York Herald_, 109

  Nichols, Skipper, 99

  Nile, 11

  Nore, 97

  Norfolk, Va., 104, 191

  North River, 217-23, 230

  North Sea, 85, 88, 252

  _Olympic_, 131

  'Otters,' 38, 80, 166

  Oversay, 117

  PADRIG Flats, 148

  _Palermo_, 81

  _Palm Branch_, 18, 19, 20

  Patrols, 28, 114, 117, 128, 150, 189, 190, 236

  _Pearl Shell_, 191, 192

  _Persia_, 253

  Philanthropic Seamen's Societies, 65

  Pilots, 59, 87-91, 98, 149, 187, 189, 210, 218, 251

  Plymouth, 205, 233
    Hoe, 198
    Sound, 207

  Poldhu, 226

  Portliskey, 81

  _Present Help_, 97, 98

  Prince Line, 109

  _Provident_, 101

  Prussian Guard, 51

  Psiloriti, 132

  Purchas, 5

  _Queen Alexandra_, 131

  Quetta Staff College, 30

  RAMSGATE, 56, 98

  Rate of Exchange, 103, 109

  Rathbone, Master John, 11

  Rathlin Island, 116

  Rathlin Sound, 116

  Rea (of _Crane_), 99

  _Redcap_, 82

  Richard Coeur de Lion, 54, 55

  _Rifleman_, 139

  River Plate, 4, 13, 181, 199

  Rôles d'Oléron, 54 _seq._

  Rowlatt, Mr. Justice, 62

  _Royal Edward_, 127

  Royal Naval Reserve, 23-25, 36-37, 41, 64, 122, 197

  Royal Naval Reserve (_Temporary_), 18, 25, 26

  Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 122

  Rozhdestvensky, 98

  Rue Point, 117

  ST. HELENS, 131

  _St. Paul_, 108

  Salonika, 128, 132, 133, 183

  Salvage, 141-62
    Salving a merchantman, 147-56
    Repairing in dry dock, 156-62

  Sandon, 251

  Sandy Hook, 230

  San Miguel, 170

  _Sarah Pritchard_, 78

  _Seahorse_, 210

  Seaplanes, 85, 92, 150, 182, 215

  Sea-slang, 26

  Selsey Bill, 95

  _Serapis_, 173

  Shanghai, 42

  Sir Ralph the Rover, 91

  Skullmartin, 116

  Smeaton, 91

  Smith (of _Crane_), 99

  South Africa, 126

  Southampton, 65, 67, 129, 131

  Southampton Water, 131

  _Speedy_, 181

  Stevedores, 185, 186, 218

  Straits of Dover, 85

  Strand, 124

  _Strongbow_, 178

  Suda Bay, 128, 132

  Suez Canal, 137

  Sutherland, 132

  THAMES, 78, 79, 86, 184, 252

  _Thordis_, 79

  _Thracia_, 173

  _Titan_, 149-55

  _Titanic_, 123

  Tor Point, 116

  Trafalgar, 11

  Trinity Bay, 89

  Trinity House, 56-61, 88, 95, 149

  Tripolis, 4

  Turkey Company, 9

  _Tuscania_, 15

  Tyne, 78, 86

  _Umaria_, 173

  United States, 72, 89, 103, 128, 178

  United States Seamen's Act, 72

  U 53, 109


  Valparaiso, 42

  _Vanilla_, 101

  Verdun, 230

  Virginia, 104

  _Virginia_, 114

  Volapük, 169

  _Volturno_, 123

  _Vosges_, 17, 18

  WALMER, 89

  _Wandle_, 79

  'War Channel,' 86, 88

  _War Ordnance_, 209, 211, 213

  War Risks Associations, 36

  _War Trident_, 191, 192, 195-97

  Waterford, 30

  Watt, Skipper Joseph, 99

  Westmark Shoal, 149, 150

  White Star Line, 109

  Whymper, F., xiii

  Wilhelmshaven, 24, 100

  _William_, 82

  _William_ (East Indiaman), 9

  Wood, Walter, xiii


  Yarmouth, I. of W., 141

  ZEPPELINS, 85, 92

            PRINTED AT
            WEST NORWOOD

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Text uses both propeller and propellor.

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 47, "hard" changed to "herd" (herd with his high-heeled)

Page 56, "Brethern" changed to "Brethren" (Brethren of Trinity held

Page 78, "vayage" changed to "voyage" (a coasting voyage could not)

Page 86, "upChannel" changed to "up Channel" (that passes up Channel)

Page 92, "Ostende" changed to "Ostend" (they shelled the Ostend

Page 153, "mess-kids" changed to "mess-kits" (of pots and mess-kits)

Page 178, "warcraft" changed to "war craft" to match rest of usage (of
strange war craft)

Page 196, "knoters" changed to "knotters" (bunch of the eight-knotters)

Page 226, "slatt" changed to "slat" (A slat of driving spray)

Page 257, "5 ," changed to "57," (Collins, Captain Greenville, 57,)

Page 258, "254-55" changed to "255-56" (252-53, 255-56)

Page 259, "254" changed to "255" (Fishermen, 98-102, 206, 255)

Page 259, "8" changed to "9" (traditions, 4, 5, 9-13)

Page 259, the reference to page 136 was removed as this is a blank page
following an illustration. The original read (coastal Services, 77-86,

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