By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Submarine Warfare of To-day - How the Submarine Menace was Met and Vanquished, With - Descriptions of the Inventions and Devices Used, Fast - Boats, Mystery Ships
Author: Domville-Fife, Charles W. (Charles William), 1886-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Submarine Warfare of To-day - How the Submarine Menace was Met and Vanquished, With - Descriptions of the Inventions and Devices Used, Fast - Boats, Mystery Ships" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



The White Ensign is hoisted over the German Eagle.

_British Official Photograph_]


              &c. &c., ALSO DESCRIBING THE SELECTION
                    PERSONNEL USED IN THIS NEW
                       BRANCH OF THE NAVY



  _Lieut. R.N.V.R., late of the Staff of H.M. School of Submarine Mining_

          AUTHOR OF
          "SUBMARINE ENGINEERING OF TO-DAY" _&c._ _&c._ _&c._



Science of To-Day Series


13. Submarine Warfare of To-Day.

By C. W. DOMVILLE-FIFE, Lieut., R.N.V.R., late of the Staff of H.M.
School of Submarine Mining. Author of "Submarines and Sea Power,"
"Submarines of the World's Navies," "Submarine Engineering of To-Day,"
_&c._ _&c._ With many Illustrations and Diagrams. Extra Crown 8vo. 7s.
6d. nett.


          By C. R. GIBSON, F.R.S.E.

          By CECIL G. DOLMAGE, M.A., D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.A.S.

          By C. R. GIBSON.

        4. BOTANY OF TO-DAY.
          By Professor G. F. SCOTT ELLIOT, M.A., B.SC.

          By T. W. CORBIN.

          By WILLMOTT EVANS, M.D.

          By T. W. CORBIN.

          By H. CHAPMAN JONES, F.I.C., F.C.S., F.R.P.S.

          By C. W. DOMVILLE-FIFE.

       11. GEOLOGY OF TO-DAY.
          By Professor J. W. GREGORY, F.R.S.

       12. AIRCRAFT OF TO-DAY.
          By CHARLES C. TURNER, Lieut., R.N.V.R.

SEELEY, SERVICE & CO., LTD., 38 Great Russell St.


                   TO THE MEMORY OF


                  A TRUE FRIEND AND A

                   GALLANT OFFICER


I DESIRE simply to say that I commenced taking an active interest in
submarines in 1904. I wrote my first book on the subject, _Submarines of
the World's Navies_, in 1910, and I have watched and written of the rise
of these and kindred weapons for the past fifteen years of rapid
development in peace and war, finally taking a humble part in the defeat
of the great German submarine armada during the years 1914-1918.

                                                             C. D.-F.



WHILE Great Britain remains an island, with dominion over palm and pine,
it is to the sea that her four hundred millions of people must look for
the key to all that has been achieved in the past and all that the
future promises in the quickening dawn of a new era.

Not only over Great Britain alone, however, does the ocean cast its
spell, for it is the free highway of the world, sailed by the ships of
all nations, without other hindrances than those of stormy nature, and
navigated without restriction from pole to pole by the seamen of all
races. It was the international meeting-place, where ensigns were
"dipped" in friendly greeting, and since the dawn of history there has
been a freemasonry of the sea which knew no distinction of nation or

When the call of humanity boomed across the dark, storm-tossed waters
the answer came readily from beneath whatever flag the sound was heard.
But in August, 1914, there came a change, so dramatic, so sudden, that
maritime nations were stunned. Germany, in an excess of war fever, broke
the sea laws, and laughed while women and children drowned. Crime
followed crime, and the great voice of the Republican West protested in
unison with that of the Imperial East. Still the Black Eagle laughed as
it flew far and wide, carrying death to whomsoever came within its
shadow, regardless of race and sex.

But there was an avenger upon the seas, one who had been rocked in its
cradle from time immemorial, and to whom the world appealed to save the
lives of their seamen. It sailed beneath the White Ensign and the Blue,
and with aid from France, Italy and Japan it fought by day and by night,
in winter gale and snow, and in summer heat and fog, in torrid zone and
regions of perpetual ice to free the seas of the traitorous monster who
had, in the twentieth century, hoisted the black flag of piracy and
murder. For three years this ceaseless war was waged, and then, with her
wonderful patience exhausted, the great sister nation of the mother
tongue joined her fleets and armies with those of the battle-worn Allies
and peace came to a long-suffering world.

In that abyss of war there was romance sufficient for many generations
of novelists and historians. Many were the epic fights, unimportant in
themselves, but which need only a Kingsley or a Stevenson to make them
famous for all time. So with the happenings to be described in this
book, many of them historically unimportant compared with the
epoch-making events of which they formed a decimal part, but told in
plain words; just records of romance on England's sea frontier in the
years 1914-1918.

Although jealous of any encroachment on the space available for the
description of guerrilla war at sea, there are many things which must
first be said regarding the organisation and training of what may
appropriately be termed the "New Navy," which took the sea to combat the
submarine and the mine; also of the novel weapons devised amid the whirl
of war for their use, protection and offensive power. Into this brief
recital of the events leading to the real thing an endeavour will be
made to infuse the life and local colour, which, however, would be more
appropriate in a personal narrative than in a general description of
anti-submarine warfare of to-day, but without which much that is
essential could not be written without dire risk of tiring the reader
before the first few chapters had been passed.

The names of places and ships have necessarily been changed to avoid
anything of a personal character, and all references to existing or dead
officers and men have been rigidly excluded as objectionable and
unnecessary in a book dealing entirely with events.

Many of the incidents described--written while the events stood out in
clear, mental perspective--could no doubt be duplicated and easily
surpassed by many whose fortunes took them into zones of sea war during
the historic years just past. If such is found to be the case, then the
object of this book has been accomplished, for it sets out to tell, not
of great epoch-making events, but of the organisation, men, ships,
weapons and ordinary incidents of life in what, for lack of a better
term, has been called the "New Navy"--a production of the World War.

It may be that an apology is due for placing yet another war book before
a war-weary public, but an effort has been made to make of the following
chapters _a record of British maritime achievement_, more than a
narrative of sea fighting, although to do this without introducing the
human element, the arduous nature of the work, the monotony, the danger
and, finally, the compensating moments of excitement would have been to
falsify the account and belittle the achievement.

There are many books available, full of exciting stories of sea and land
war, but no other, so far as the Author knows, which describes in detail
and in plain phraseology those important "little things"--liable to be
overlooked amid the whirl of war--which go to make an anti-submarine
personnel, fleet and base, together with an account of "how it was


  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE
       I. THE TASK OF THE ALLIED NAVIES                           17


     III. A NAVAL UNIVERSITY IN TIME OF WAR                       47

      IV. THE NEW FLEETS IN BEING                                 50

       V. THE HYDROPHONE AND THE DEPTH CHARGE                     70


     VII. MYSTERY SHIPS                                           96

    VIII. A TYPICAL WAR BASE                                     102

      IX. THE CONVOY SYSTEM                                      116




    XIII. THE MINE BARRAGE                                       179

     XIV. OFF TO THE ZONES OF WAR                                187

      XV. A MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS                                  192

     XVI. THE DERELICT                                           202

    XVII. MINED-IN                                               209

   XVIII. THE CASUALTY                                           220

     XIX. HOW H.M. TRAWLER NO. 6 LOST HER REFIT                  226

      XX. THE RAIDER                                             233

     XXI. THE S.O.S.                                             238

    XXII. IN THE SHADOW OF A BIG SEA FIGHT                       248

   XXIII. A NIGHT ATTACK                                         258

    XXIV. MYSTERIES OF THE GREAT SEA WASTES                      264

     XXV. FROM OUT THE CLOUDS AND THE UNDER-SEAS                 273

    XXVI. ON THE SEA FLANK OF THE ALLIED ARMIES                  286

          INDEX                                                  301

List of Illustrations


  PLAN OF A 55 FEET COASTAL MOTOR BOAT                            16

  LARGE HEAVILY ARMED GERMAN SUBMARINE                            32

  MOTOR LAUNCH HULLS BEING CONSTRUCTED                            56

  A 40 FEET COASTAL MOTOR BOAT AT FULL SPEED                      64


  DROPPING DEPTH CHARGES                                          80

  INNOCENT-LOOKING BUT DEADLY                                     96

  HIDDEN TORPEDO TUBES OF H.M.S. _HYDERABAD_                      96





  MOTOR LAUNCH CLEARED FOR ACTION                                120

  A WRECKED COASTAL MOTOR BOAT                                   136

  CAPTIVE MINE-LAYING SUBMARINE                                  144

  A MINESWEEPER                                                  160

  A PARAVANE                                                     176

  MORSE SIGNALLING                                               184

  MOTOR LAUNCH OF THE NAVAL PATROL                               216

  A MONITOR                                                      280






THE hour was that of the Allies' greatest need--the last months of the
year 1914. On that fateful 4th August the British navy was concentrated
in the North Sea, and the chance for a surprise attack by the German
fleet, or an invasion of England by the Kaiser's armies, vanished for
ever, and with this one chance went also all reasonable possibility of a
crushing German victory.

Although during the years of bitter warfare which followed this silent
_coup de main_ the German fleet many times showed signs of awakening
ambition, it did not, after Jutland, dare to thrust even its vanguard
far into the open sea. Behind its forts, mines and submarines it waited,
growing weaker with the dry-rot of inaction, for the chance that fickle
Fortune might place a single unit of the Allied fleet within easy reach
of its whole mailed-fist.

With a great and modern fleet--the second strongest in the
world--awaiting its chance less than twenty hours' steam from the coast
of Great Britain, it quickly became evident that the old Mistress of
the Seas would have to call upon her islanders to supply a "new navy" to
scour the oceans while her main battle squadrons waited and watched for
the second Trafalgar.

Faced, then, with the problem of a long blockade, a powerful fleet in
readiness to strike at any weak or unduly exposed point of land or
squadron, and with similar problems on a decreasing scale imposed by
Austria in the Adriatic and by Turkey behind the Dardanelles, the work
of the main battle fleets became well defined by the commonest laws of
naval strategy.

All this without taking into account the widespread menace of submarines
and mines, and, in the earlier stages of the war, the rounding-up of
detached enemy squadrons, such as that under Von Spee in South American
waters, and the protection of the transport and food ships from raiders
like the _Wolfe_ and the _Moewe_.

The German High Command realised this as quickly as that of the Allies.
Their oversea commerce was strangled within a few days of the
Declaration of War with Great Britain, and their fleet was confined to
harbour, with the exception of occasional operations against Russia in
the Baltic. From the German standpoint the naval problem resolved itself
into one of how best to strike at the lines of communication of the
Allies, paying special attention, first, to the transport of troops,
and, second, to England's food supply. As they alone knew to what extent
they would violate the laws of war and of humanity, it became apparent
that the submarine and the mine were the only possible weapons which
could be used for this purpose in face of the superior fleets of the
Allies. But the number of these weapons was strictly limited compared
with the immense shipping resources at the command of the Western
Powers, so one submarine must do the work of many, and an effort was
made to accomplish this by a reign of sea terrorism and inhuman conduct
unparalleled in the history of the world. It opened with the sinking of
the _Lusitania_.

The Allies had secured and maintained the command of the sea, and _all
that it implies_, but to do this with the certainty of correct strategy
they had to dedicate almost their entire battle fleet to the purpose for
which battle fleets have always been intended--the checkmating or
annihilation of the opposing navy.

There came a second problem, however, one entirely new to sea warfare,
and unconsidered or provided against in its strategic and tactical
entirety because hitherto deemed too inhuman for modern war. This was
the ruthless use of armed submarines against unarmed passenger and
merchant ships, and the scattering broadcast over the seas, regardless
of the lives and property of neutrals, of thousands of explosive mines.

The type of ship constructed exclusively for open sea warfare against
surface adversaries was not the best answer to the submarine. The
blockading of the hostile surface fleet did not prevent, or even greatly
hinder, the free passage of submarine flotillas, and the building by
Germany of under-water mine-layers enabled fields of these weapons to be
laid anywhere within the carrier's radius of action.

In this way the second, or submarine, phase of the naval war opened, and
it was to supplement the comparatively few fast destroyers and other
suitable ships which could be spared from the main fleets that the "new
navy" was formed.


The area of the North Sea alone exceeds 140,000 square miles, and when
the whole vast stretch of water encompassed by what was known as the
radius of action of hostile submarines, from their bases on the German,
Belgian, Austrian, Turkish and Bulgarian coasts, had to be considered as
a possible zone of operations for German and Austrian under-water
flotillas, much of the water surface of the world was included. Likewise
the network of sea communications on which the Allies depended for the
maintenance of essential transport and communication comprised the
pathways of the seven seas. To patrol all these routes adequately, and
to guard the food and troop ships, hastening in large numbers to the aid
of the Motherland from the most distant corners of the earth; to protect
the 1500 miles sea frontier of the British Isles; to give timely aid to
sinking or hard-pressed units of the mercantile fleet; to hound the
submarine from the under-seas and to sweep clear, almost weekly, several
thousand square miles of sea, from Belle Isle to Cape Town and the
Orkneys to Colombo, required ships, not in tens, but in thousands. To
find these in an incredibly short space of time became the primary naval
need of the moment.

Who that lived through those days will forget the struggle to supply
ships and guns? The searching of every harbour for craft, from motor
boats to old-time sailing-ships, and from fishing craft to liners. The
scouring of the Dominions and Colonies. How blessed was their aid! Help,
generous and spontaneous, came from all quarters, including the most
unexpected. Over five hundred fast patrol boats, or motor launches, in
less than twelve months from Canada and America. Guns from Japan.
Coasting steamers from India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Seaplanes from the Crown Colonies. Rifles from Canada. Machine guns from
the United States. Ambulances from English and Colonial women's leagues.
In fact, contributions to the "new navy" from all corners of the earth.

To patrol the coasts of Britain alone, and to keep its harbours and
coastal trade routes clear of mines, needed over 3500 ships, with at
least an equal number of guns, 30,000 rifles and revolvers, and millions
of shells.

In addition to this huge fleet other smaller squadrons were required for
the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal and Red Sea, the East and West
Indies, the coasts of the Dominions and Colonies, and for the Russian
lines of communication in the White Sea. For these oversea bases just
under 1000 ships were required, exclusive of those locally supplied by
the Dominions and Colonies themselves.

All this without considering the main battle fleets or, in fact, any
portion of the regular navy, and the ships required for the transport of
food, troops and munitions of war, together with their escorts. Some
idea of the numbers engaged in keeping the Allies supplied with the
diverse necessities of life and war may be gathered from the fact that
the average sailings in and out of the harbours of the United Kingdom
alone during the four years of war amounted to over 1200 a week.

The immense fleet forming the new navy was not homogeneous in design,
power, appearance or, in fact, in anything except the spirit of the
personnel and the flag beneath which they fought--and alas! nearly 4000
died. The squadrons, or units, as they were called, consisted of fine
steam yachts, liners from the ocean trade routes, sturdy sea tramps,
deep-sea trawlers, oilers, colliers, drifters, paddle steamers, and the
more uniform and specially built fighting sloops, whalers, motor
launches and coastal motor boats. The latter type of craft was aided by
its great speed, nearly fifty miles an hour; but more about these ships
and their curious armament later.


The great auxiliary navy had to be built or obtained without depleting
the ordinary mercantile fleets, and the shipbuilding and repairing
yards, even in the smallest sea and river ports, worked day and night.
The triumph was as wonderful as it was speedy. In less than fifteen
months from August, 1914, the new navy was a gigantic force, and its
operations extended from the Arctic Sea to the Equator. All units were
armed, manned and linked up by wireless and a common cause.

Before this could be accomplished, however, the problem of maintaining
this vast fleet and adequately controlling its operations had to be
faced and overcome. The seas adjacent to the coasts of the United
Kingdom, the Mediterranean Littoral and Colonial waters were divided
into "patrol areas" on special secret charts, and each "area" had its
own naval base, with harbour, stores, repairing and docking facilities,
intelligence centre, wireless and signal stations, reserve of officers
and men, social headquarters, workshops and medical department.

Each base was under the command of an admiral and staff, many of the
former returning to duty, after several years of well-earned rest, as
captains and commodores, with salaries commensurate with their reduced
rank. Their staffs consisted of some six to twelve officers of the new
navy, with possibly one or two from the "pukka service," and their
command often extended over many hundreds of square miles of submarine
and mine infested sea.

Of these bases, which will be fully described in later chapters, there
were about fifty, excluding the great dockyards and fleet headquarters,
but inclusive of those situated overseas. When it is considered what a
war base needs to make it an efficient rendezvous for some hundreds of
ships and thousands of men, some idea of the gigantic task of
organisation which their establishment, often in poorly equipped
harbours and distant islands, required, not only in the first instance,
but also with regard to maintenance and supplies, will be realised,
perhaps, however, more fully when it is stated that the average ship
needs a month spent in docking and overhauling at least once a year, and
that the delicate and more speedy units of such a fleet need nearly four
times that amount of attention.


One of the first requisites of the auxiliary navy was the creation of a
headquarters staff at the Admiralty, London. This was formed from naval
officers of experience both in the regular service and in the two
reserves (R.N.R. and R.N.V.R.).

Forming an integral part of the great British or Allied armada, all
operations were under the control of the Naval War Staff, but for
purposes of more detailed organisation and administration additional
departments were created which exercised direct jurisdiction over their
respective fleets. The principal of these was known as the "Auxiliary
Patrol Office," under the Fourth Sea Lord and the Department of the
Director of Minesweeping. These formed a part of the General Staff--if a
military term is permissible--and both issued official publications
periodically throughout the war, which served to keep the staffs of all
the different war bases and the commanding officers of the thousands of
ships informed as to current movements and ruses of the enemy.

It is unnecessary to detail more closely the work of these departments,
especially as much has yet to be said before plunging into the maelstrom
of war. A sufficient indication of the colossal nature of the work they
were called upon to perform will be found in a moment's reflection of
what the administration and control of such a large and nondescript
fleet, spread over the world--from the White Sea to the East
Indies--must have meant to the small staff allowed by the exigencies of
an unparalleled war.


The greatest problem in modern naval war is, undoubtedly, the supply of
trained men. For this reason it has been left to the last to describe
how the difficulty was faced and overcome by England and her oversea
Dominions in 1914.

Before doing so, however, it may be of interest to give here a few
extracts from an excellent little official publication, showing how the
British fleet was manned and expanded in bygone days of national

          "In time of war there has always been an intimate
          connection between the Royal Navy and the Merchant
          Service. Latterly, and more especially since the
          Russian War of 1854 to 1856, this fact tended to
          be forgotten, partly because men-of-war developed
          on particular lines and became far more unlike
          merchantmen than they had ever been before, and
          also because, by the introduction of continuous
          service, the personnel of the Navy seemed to have
          developed into a separate caste, distinguished by
          its associations, traditions and _esprit de
          corps_, as much by its special training and
          qualifications, from other seafaring men. This war
          has proved once again, to such as needed proof,
          that the two services cannot exist without each
          other, and that the Sea Power of the Empire is not
          its naval strength alone, but its maritime
          strength. Even at the risk of insisting on the
          obvious, it is necessary to repeat that, for an
          Island Empire, a war at sea cannot be won merely
          by the naval action which defeats the enemy; naval
          successes are of value for the fruit they bear,
          the chief of which is the power that they give to
          the victor to maintain his own sea-borne trade and
          to interrupt that of the enemy.

          "An elementary way of looking at the problems of
          manning the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service
          is to consider that there is in the country a
          common stock of seamen, on which both can draw.
          But this theory, like many others equally obvious
          and tempting, has the disadvantage that it leaves
          important factors out of account and, if worked
          out, results in an absurdity. Thus, shortly before
          war began there were in the country some 420,000
          seamen, of whom one-third were in the Navy and
          two-thirds engaged in merchant ships and fishing
          vessels. There was no considerable body of
          unemployed seamen. During the war the personnel of
          the Navy was expanded to something like the
          420,000 which represents the common stock of
          seamen. Therefore, if the theory met the case,
          there would have been no men left for the Merchant
          Service. But the merchant ships, in spite of
          difficulty and danger, continued to run, employing
          great numbers of men. And we must not forget to
          take into account the number of men, amounting to
          48,000 killed and 4500 prisoners of war, who have
          been lost in the two services during the war. So
          it comes to this, that the common stock of seamen,
          or at least of men fit to man ships, has expanded
          during the war by more than 50 per cent. Whence
          came these extra men? Clearly for the most part
          from the non-seafaring classes.

          "The Navy in November, 1918, employed some 80,000
          officers and men from the Merchant Service--viz.
          20,000 R.N.R. ratings, 36,000 Trawler Reserve, and
          20,000 mercantile seamen and firemen on Transport
          agreements, plus the officers. If the supposition,
          made in the absence of statistics, is correct
          that at this time the number of men in the
          Merchant Service itself had decreased
          proportionately to the loss of tonnage, it would
          seem that the Merchant Service needed no
          considerable inflow of men during the war. In
          other words, most of those added to the stock of
          seamen during the war must have gone into the
          Navy. This corresponds with known fact: the Navy
          has, in addition to the Reserve men already
          mentioned, nearly 200,000 men to demobilise in
          order to put its personnel on the footing on which
          it stood when war broke out.

          "It will be of interest to see how the personnel
          of the Navy expanded in former wars, and how at
          the peace it was invariably reduced to something
          like its pre-war figures. This can readily be done
          in tabular form:

NAVAL PERSONNEL (_Numbers Voted_)

           Year    Name of War    Before War   Maximum    After the
                                              during War    Peace
          1689}                     7,040        --          --
          1697}League of Augsburg    --        40,000        --
          1700}                      --          --         7,000

          1700}                     7,000        --          --
          1712}Spanish Succession    --        40,000        --
          1713}                      --          --        10,000

          1738}Austrian            10,000        --          --
          1748}Succession            --        40,000        --
          1759}                      --          --        10,000

          1754}                    10,000        --          --
          1762}Seven Years' War      --        70,000        --
          1764}                      --          --        16,000

          1775}American            18,000        --          --
          1783}Independence          --       110,000        --
          1785}                      --          --        18,000

          1793}French              16,000        --          --
          1801}Revolution            --       135,000        --
          1803}                      --          --        50,000

          1803}                    50,000        --          --
          1812}Napoleonic War        --       145,000        --
          1817}                      --          --        19,000

          1853}                    45,500        --          --
          1856}Russian War           --        76,000        --
          1857}                      --          --        53,000

          1914}The Present War    146,000        --          --
          1918}                      --       450,000        --

          "It appears at once from these figures that the
          naval expansion during earlier wars was in most
          cases much greater proportionately than it has
          been in this. Roughly the personnel in this war
          has been multiplied by three; in earlier wars it
          was increased six, seven, eight, or even nine
          fold, if we take the difference between the
          figures for 1792 and 1812.

          "It is a common error to suppose that our ships in
          the old wars were manned entirely by seamen. A
          knowledge of how the men were raised shows that
          this cannot have been so; and confirmation can be
          had from a very brief study of ships' muster
          books. Only about a third of the crew of a
          line-of-battle ship were, in the seaman's phrase,
          'prime seamen.' The rest were either only partly
          trained or were frankly not sailor men. The
          _Victory_ at Trafalgar was not an ill-manned
          ship--here is an analysis of her crew: officers,
          commissioned and warrant, 28; petty officers,
          including marines, 63; able seamen, 213; ordinary
          seamen and boys, 225; landsmen, 86; marines, 137;
          artificers, 18; quarter gunners, 12;
          supernumeraries and domestics, 37.

          "During the whole of our naval history down to
          1815 it was the invariable rule that in peace time
          the battle fleets were laid up unmanned, and only
          enough ships were kept in commission to 'show the
          flag' and to police the sea. This accounts for the
          very large increase of the naval personnel which
          immediately became necessary when there was a
          threat of war; and it accounts also for the
          difficulty which was always experienced in raising
          the men. This difficulty was even greater than we
          are apt to suppose, for the Merchant Service has
          never been able to give the navy more than a
          fraction of the total number of men needed, and
          the machinery for raising extra men has, until
          this war, always been of a most primitive nature.

          "When war came the ships were commissioned,
          without crews. This could be done because from the
          latter part of the seventeenth century there was a
          permanent force of officers. Then the officers had
          to find their own crews. They began by drawing
          their proportion of marines, and then proceeded
          to invite seamen to volunteer. In this way they
          got a number of skilled seamen, men who had been
          in the navy before, and came back to it either as
          petty officers or in the hope of becoming so. Then
          warrants to impress seamen would be issued.
          Theoretically the impress was merely a form of
          conscription, the Crown claiming by prerogative
          the right to the services of its seafaring
          subjects. Practically a good deal of violence was
          at times necessary, as many of the men, preferring
          to sail in merchant ships, or wishing to wait for
          a proclamation of bounty, tried to avoid arrest.
          The scuffles that took place on these occasions
          gave the impress service a bad name, not
          altogether deserved, for real efforts were made to
          avoid hardship, and in any case the number of men
          raised in this way was greatly exaggerated by
          popular report."

There was no compulsion during the Great War to join any unit of the
British fleet. Therefore all were either in the regular service,
reservists or volunteers. The need was made known not only throughout
the British Isles, but also from Vancouver to Cape Town, Sydney and
Wellington, and men in all walks of life, but with either the
_Wander-Lust_ or true love of the wide open sea in their blood, rallied
from all parts of the far-flung Empire to the call of the White Ensign.

In order to obtain some 6000 officers and nearly 200,000 trained or
semi-trained men, new sources of supply had to be tapped. Already the
great battle fleets, brought up to full war strength and with adequate
reserves, had absorbed nearly all the Reserve officers who could be
spared from the food and troop transports.[2]

First came the great sea-training establishment of the Empire--the
Mercantile Marine and its retired officers and men--already heavily
depleted. Then the yacht clubs from the Fraser to the Thames and Clyde.
Thousands of professionals and amateurs came overseas to the training
cruisers and the "naval university," Canada alone supplying several
hundred officers.

Doctors came from the hospitals and from lucrative private practices.
The engineering professions and trades supplied the technical staffs and
skilled mechanics. The great banks and city offices yielded the
accountants, and the fishing and pleasure-boating communities, not only
of Great Britain, but also of the Dominions and Colonies, yielded the
men in tens of thousands. In this way the personnel of the new navy was
completed in a very few months.

Before passing on to describe, in the detail of personal acquaintance,
the severe training of this naval force, a general knowledge of its
heterogeneous character is necessary to enable the reader to understand
this great assemblage of the sons of the Empire.


_British Official Photograph_]

In the smoke-filled wardroom and gunroom of the training cruiser, H.M.S.
_Hermione_ one windy March evening in 1916 there were some eighty
officers of the auxiliary fleet, and of this number one hailed from
distant Rhodesia, where he was the owner of thousands of acres of land
and a goodly herd of cattle, but who, some time in the past, had rounded
the Horn in a _wind-jammer_ and taken _sights_ in the "Roaring Forties."
Another was a seascape painter of renown both in England and the United
States. A third was a member of a Pacific coast yacht club. A fourth was
the son of an Irish peer, the owner of a steam yacht. Then came a London
journalist, a barrister, a solicitor and a New Zealand yachtsman, while
sitting at the table was a famous traveller and a _pukka_ commander.

In the neighbouring gunroom, among the crowd of sub-lieutenants--all of
the same great force, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve--was a
grey-haired veteran from the Canadian Lakes, a youngster from the Clyde,
the son of a shipowner from Australia and a bronzed mine manager from
the Witwatersrand.

Among the engineers and mechanics the same diversity. Men from several
of the great engineering establishments, a student from a North Country
university, electrical engineers from the power stations and mechanics
from the bench, with here and there one or two with sea-going

In the forecastle and elsewhere about the old cruiser--now merely a
training establishment--were sailors with years of experience in both
sail and steam. Fishermen from the Hebrides and Newfoundland rubbing
shoulders with yacht hands from the Solent and Clyde.

From this curiously mixed but excellent raw material a naval personnel,
with its essential knowledge and discipline, had to be fashioned in
record time by an incredibly small staff of commissioned and warrant
officers of the permanent service, aided by the more experienced

It must, however, not be thought from this that the amateur was
converted into a professional seaman in the space of a week or two.
Three months of specialised training enabled them to take their place in
the new fleet, but with some it required a much longer period to enable
them to feel that perfect self-confidence when _alone_ in the face of
difficulties and dangers which is the true heritage of the sea.

To describe here the training of officers and men would be to repeat
what will be more fully and personally described in succeeding chapters.
It is sufficient to say that the aim was to bring them all to a
predetermined standard of efficiency, which would enable the officers to
command ships of specific types at sea and in action, and the men to
form efficient engineers and deck hands for almost any ship in the Navy.

The medical branches naturally required no special training and the
accountants merely a knowledge of naval systems of financial and general
administration. These two branches had their own training

When the period of preliminary training in the cruiser _Hermione_ was
over the officers were passed on to the Royal Naval College at
Greenwich, and from there to one or other of the fifty war bases in the
United Kingdom, the Mediterranean or farther afield. Their appointments
were to ships forming the fleets attached to each of these bases and
generally operating in the surrounding seas.

In this way the whole zone of war was covered by an anti-submarine and
minesweeping organisation and general naval patrol, which operated in
conjunction with, but separate from, the battle fleets, squadrons and
flotillas, which were thus left free to perform their true functions in
big naval engagements.


[1] Extract from _Naval Demobilisation_--issued by the Ministry of

[2] The personnel of the new navy consisted of R.N., R.N.R. and R.N.V.R.
officers. The former came mostly from the retired list. The R.N.R.
needed training only in such subjects as gunnery, tactics, etc. The
training of the R.N.V.R. is here described.



HAVING described the _raison d'être_ of the new navy, and how it became
a fleet in being, with its own admirals, captains, staffs, bases and all
the paraphernalia of war, I can pass on to a more intimate description
of the training of the officers and men, preparatory to their being
drafted to the scattered units of this great anti-submarine force.

Lying in the spacious docks at Southampton was the old 4000-ton cruiser
_Hermione_, which had been brought round from her natural base in
Portsmouth dockyard to act as the depot ship and training establishment
for a large section of this new force. Not all the officers and men of
the auxiliary fleet were, however, destined to pass across its decks.
This vessel was reserved for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, from
which a very considerable proportion of the entire personnel of the new
fleet was drawn. Nor was H.M.S. _Hermione_ the first depot ship of the
war-time R.N.V.R. at Southampton, for the Admiralty yacht _Resource II._
had been used for the first few drafts, but was unfortunately burned to
the water's edge. There were also other vessels and establishments at
Portsmouth, Devonport and Chatham. These were, however, mainly for the
reception and brief training of the more experienced Merchant Service
officers, entered in the Royal Naval Reserve for the duration of the
war, and for the surgeons and accountants.

The men of the new force were mostly trained in the naval barracks and
depot ships situated at the big naval centres, such as Portsmouth and
Chatham. After a few weeks all these establishments were drafting, in a
constant stream, the trained human element to the vessels awaiting full
complements at the different war bases, or being constructed in the
hundreds of shipyards of the Empire.

About H.M.S. _Hermione_, which has been selected as being representative
of the training depots of a large section of the auxiliary service,
little need be said, beyond the fact that she was commanded, first, by a
distinguished officer from the Dardanelles, and subsequently by an
equally capable officer, who, by the irony of fate, had in pre-war times
been a member of the British Naval Mission to the Turkish navy--both of
them men whose experience and unfailing tact contributed largely to the
success of the thousands of embryo officers trained under their command.

The ship herself was a rambling old cruiser, but very little of the
actual training was carried out on board. Spacious buildings on the
quayside provided the training grounds for gunnery, drill, signalling,
engineering and all the complicated curricula, of which more anon.
Lying in the still waters of the dock, alongside the comparatively big
grey cruiser, were the trim little hulls of a numerous flotilla of
20-knot motor launches, newly arrived from Canada, with wicked-looking
13-pounder high-angle guns, stumpy torpedo-boat masts and brand-new
White Ensigns and brass-bound decks. These were the advance guard of a
fleet of over 500 similar craft, to the command of which many of the
officers being trained would, after a period of practical experience at
sea, eventually succeed.

There were besides numerous other mosquito craft, which throbbed in and
out of the dock from that vast sheltered arm of the sea called
_Southampton Water_ on mysterious errands, soon to be solved by new
recruits in the chilly winds of winter nights and early mornings.

This, then, was the mother ship and her children. When once the aft
gangway leading up from the dockside to the clean-scrubbed decks had
been crossed, and the sentry's challenge answered, the embryo officer
left civilian life behind and commenced his training for the stern work
of war.

It may not be out of place to give here a closer description of the
training of the officers and men of the new navy, drawn from personal
experience. To do this without the irritating egoism of the personal
narrative it will be necessary, as often in future pages, to adopt the
convenient "third person."

       *       *       *       *       *

The night was fine, but a keen March wind blew from off the sea. The
dock lights were reflected in the still waters of the harbour. Tall
cranes stood out black and clearly defined against the cold night sky.
The shadows were deep around the warehouses, stores and other buildings
of the busy dockside.

Lying in the south-western basin was the big grey hull of the cruiser,
newly painted, and looking very formidable, with its tall masts and
fighting-tops towering into the blue void, and its massive bow rising
high above the dock wall.

Coming from the darkness on board were the tinkling notes of a banjo and
the subdued hum of voices. Then the loud call of the quartermaster and
the ringing of eight bells.

A group of newly appointed officers picked their way carefully among the
tangled mooring ropes on the quayside and as they approached the warship
were duly challenged by the sentries. Two of them had only just arrived
from distant New Zealand. They were all "for training," and on mounting
the quarterdeck gangway were politely requested by the smiling
quartermaster to report at the ship's office.

In order to get from the deck to this abode of paymasters and writers,
except by the tabooed "captain's hatchway," there had to be negotiated a
long passage leading past the wardroom and the gunroom. In normal times
at such an hour this passage would probably have been almost deserted,
with the exception of a sentry, but the training was being speeded up to
meet the demands of war, and with nearly 200 officers, many of whom
fortunately lived ashore, constantly moving to and fro, it became either
a semi-dark, congested thoroughfare, in which everyone was curtly
apologising for knocking against someone else, or else it contained the
steady pressure of a gunroom overflow meeting, with a tobacco-scented
atmosphere peculiarly its own.

When the formality of reporting arrival had been completed, the embryo
officers were taken in tow by the "Officer of the Day," whose duty it
was to introduce them to the gunroom and make them familiar in a general
way with the routine of the ship. The officer who performed this
ceremony on the night in question has since held a highly responsible
post at the Admiralty--such is the fortune of war.

The first shock came when the work for the following day was explained.
It commenced with physical drill on the quayside at 7 A.M. and ended
with instruction in signalling at 6 P.M.!

     .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

The early morning was bitterly cold but fine. Physical "jerks" was not a
dress parade; in fact, some of the early risers on the surrounding
transports and ocean mail boats must have wondered what particular form
of mania the crowd of running, leaping and arm-swinging men, in all
stages of undress on the quayside, really suffered from.

Breakfast and Divisions were the next items on the programme, and the
new-comers looked forward to the day's work with the keen interest of

_Morning Divisions_ and _Evening Quarters_ are events of some importance
in the daily routine of his Majesty's ships. They are parades of the
entire ship's company, with the exception of those on important duty,
marking the beginning and end of the day's work. The crew, or men under
training, are mustered in "Watches," under their respective officers,
and stand to attention at the bugle call. The senior officer taking
divisions then enters, a roll is called and the names of those absent
reported. The chaplain stands between the lines of men; the order "Off
caps!" is given and prayers commence. When these are finished certain
orders of the day are read out to the assembled ship's company and the
parade is over.

At evening quarters, on certain days in the week, the names were read
out of the officers and men detailed for special duties or for draft to
a zone of war.

When morning divisions were over the day's work began. The embryo
officers were attached to the seamanship class, consisting of about
twenty men of all ages. Oilskins were donned, for the sky was overcast
and the wind keen. They climbed down the steel sides of the cruiser on
to the small deck of a tender, which was to convey them out on to the
broad but sheltered waters where much of the preliminary practical
training was to take place during the following weeks.

The instructor, an officer attached for the purpose, then divided his
class into two "watches," one being directed to work out the proposed
course of the ship on the charts in the cabin and to give the necessary
orders to the other watch on deck, who were to carry them into effect as
the ship steamed along, with the aid of sextant, compass, wheel,
engine-room telegraph, lead and log-line. As all possessed some
knowledge of the sea, and had experience in navigating, this work did
not prove as difficult as it undoubtedly would to anyone entirely devoid
of nautical knowledge.

Those in the cabin with the charts worked out the compass courses from
one point to another, making the necessary allowances for tide,
deviation, etc. Others of the same watch received reports from the
"bridge" and made the correct entries in the log-book. All elementary
work, but which needed practice to make perfect, and on the accuracy of
which men's lives would depend in the very near future.

The watch on deck was engaged in the more practical work of coastal
navigation and could see the effect of any mistake made theoretically by
their companions below. At midday the watches were reversed. Those
working at the charts and courses came on deck and the seamen of the
morning became the navigating officers of the afternoon.

On this particular day the second or port watch had the worst of it. A
squally wind and rain had set in, making the work on deck thoroughly wet
and uncomfortable. An hour or so later the small ship was rolling and
pitching and everyone was drenched. The lead was kept going by hands
numb with cold--a foretaste of the long and bitter days and nights to be
afterwards spent in wintry seas.

The training cruises were continued for many days and were interspersed
with lectures on the elements of good seamanship, the more advanced
theory and practice of navigation being left for a later course at the
Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

After seamanship came gunnery. Each of the different types of heavy but
finely made weapons had to be learned in detail--a feat of memory when
it came to the watch-like mechanism of the Maxim. Guns were disabled and
had to be put right. They missed fire and were made by the
instructors--old naval gunners--to play every dastardly trick
conceivable. The final test which had to be successfully passed was the
dismantling of each type of gun used in the auxiliary fleet and the
reassembling of it.

With gunnery came also the marks and uses of the different kinds of
ammunition, the systems of "spotting" and "range-finding." Every gun had
its officer crew and the rapidity of fire was recorded. Each man in turn
was chosen to give the necessary orders and to judge the ranges and
deflections. In this way not only was the practical work learned by
heart, but also the theory of naval gunnery, so far as it related to the
smaller types of weapon.

The use of the depth charge, both mechanically and tactically, was
expounded and practically demonstrated, together with that of the
torpedo, the mine, mine laying and sweeping, and the peculiarities of
various explosives. Rifle and revolver practice was encouraged, and
morse and semaphore signalling formed part of the daily routine.

The training was not entirely preparatory for work afloat. Squad and
company drill, rifle and bayonet exercise, and manoeuvring in extended
order formed a part of the comprehensive training. One day, not many
weeks after their arrival, the officers whose fortunes have been
followed found themselves shouting orders and directing by arm and
whistle lines of dusty _camarades_ advancing over a common in the most
approved military fashion.

The training was not all hard work. The gathering of so many men from
all quarters of the world, with a wealth of experience and adventure
behind them, was in itself a source of mutual interest--and incidentally
an education in modern British Imperialism. Scarcely any part of the
world went for long unrepresented in either the wardroom or gunroom of
the old cruiser _Hermione_ in those days of war, and many were the yarns
told of Alaska days, hunting in Africa, experiences in remote corners of
North America, pearling in the Pacific and life on the Indian frontier,
to say nothing of wild nights on the seven seas. Grey heads and round,
boyish faces, the university and the frontier, with a camaraderie seldom

The period of training in the old cruiser was drawing to a close when
each officer was appointed to "Boat Duty." There were five launches on
duty at a time, and their crews had to be instantly ready day and night.
The most coveted were the two 21-knot boats, used almost exclusively for
the conveyance of pilots to and from the hospital ships and transports.
Then came the patrol boat, a slow old tub with a comfortable cabin, and
work out on Southampton Water at night. The three "duty boats" were for
emergency use and were held at the disposal of the naval transport

The duties on each boat varied and were in the nature of training. The
pilot boat was required to lie alongside the cutter, out beyond the
harbour, and to convey the pilots at high speed to and from the stream
of shipping. It was a pleasant duty which entailed alternate nights in
the generous, breezy company of the old sea-dogs of the cutter, with
occasional races at half-a-mile a minute through the darkness and spray
to the moving leviathans of the ocean.

The patrol ambled up and down the sheltered waterways during the day and
night, examining the "permits" of fishermen and preventing the movement
of small craft during the hours of darkness, when the long lines of
troop-ships were leaving for France.

The work of the duty boats varied from day to day, but there was always
the morning and evening mail to be collected from and delivered to the
ships of the auxiliary fleet lying out in the fair-way.

When this spell of water-police work was over there came a few days'
practice in the handling of the fast sea-going patrol launches, or
"M.L.'s," about which so much has since been written in the daily

After the cramming received in the lecture-rooms, the arduous drill and
the somewhat monotonous work on the slow-moving tenders, the runs
seaward on these new and trim little vessels, the manoeuvring at
nineteen knots, the breeze of passage and the feeling of controlled
power acted as an elixir on both mind and body. Then came firing
practice in the open sea. The sharp crack of cordite, the tongues of
livid flame, the scream of the shells, the white splashes of the
ricochet and the salt sea breezes.

Two days later the preliminary training was over and there loomed ahead
a period of hard study at the Royal Naval College.



BUILT by King Charles I. for the Stuart navy, and used for over two and
a half centuries as the university of the Senior Service, the Royal
Naval College, Greenwich, is a building with an historic past. It has
housed, fed and taught many of England's most illustrious sailors.

It was to cabin and lecture hall in this fine old building that officers
of the new navy went to complete their knowledge of navigation and
kindred subjects when their preliminary sea training came to a close.

There is but little romance in a highly specialised course of study
designed to enable the recipients to find their way with safety, both in
sunshine and storm, over the vast water surface of the world. To
describe here the subjects taught would only be wearisome and
uninteresting. Sufficient to say that the course was a most
comprehensive one and admirably arranged by masters of the mariner's
art. If any fault can be found it is certainly not one of paucity of
information, and the proof of its efficacy can be found in the fact
that, so far as the author knows, there was not a single ship,
afterwards commanded by officers who underwent this training, lost
through insufficient knowledge of the art of navigation.

The days spent in the Naval College were fully occupied by attendance at
lectures and the evenings in private study and the preparation of
elaborate notes and sketches for the final passing-out examination.
There was one moment of each day which was rendered historic by old
custom. It came at the conclusion of dinner in the big white hall, when
the officer whose turn it happened to be rose to his feet and gave the
toast of the navy--"Gentlemen, the King!"

It was in the grounds of this college that many officers saw their first
zeppelin raid. On one occasion it occurred late in the fourth week of
the course. Nearly all were in their respective studies, surrounded by a
mass of papers, charts, drawing instruments and books, making the last
determined attack on various knotty problems previous to the final

Ten P.M. had just been registered by the electric clocks in the famous
observatory overlooking the college, when the sound of running feet came
down the long corridors. A stentorian voice shouted: "All lights out!"

In a moment the whole building, with its labyrinth of corridors, was
plunged into Ethiopian darkness. Doors were opened and a jostling crowd
of men groped their way down passages and stone staircases into the
grounds. Here the Admiral and his staff were making sure that no lights
were visible. Traffic in the near-by thoroughfare had been stopped, and
all around lay the Great Metropolis, oppressively dark and still.

A searchlight flashed heavenwards and was followed by other beams. All
of these suddenly concentrated on the gleaming white hull of a zeppelin,
high in the indigo sky. The ground trembled under the fire of the
anti-aircraft batteries. Shells whistled and moaned over the College and
bright flashes came from little puffs of white smoke high in the central

Dull-sounding but earth-shaking booms came from different points as the
airship dropped her deadly cargo. Shrapnel fell on the congested
house-tops with a peculiar hiss and thud and ambulances rumbled over the
stone-paved high-road.

It was a small incident and scarcely worth the space required for its
recording, but it served a purpose--to steel the heart and steady the
hand for the time to come.



BACK once again on the old cruiser with training completed and awaiting
draft to the zones of war. Then came the sailing orders. The name of
each officer was called in turn and he disappeared into the ship's
office, to return a few minutes later carrying a sheaf of white and blue
Admiralty orders, his face grave or gay according to destination.

Some were for the Spanish Main and bemoaned their fate at being ordered
to a station so remote from the principal zone of war. Others were
destined for the Mediterranean and comforted themselves with hopes that
trouble was brewing elsewhere than in the Adriatic, to which a lucky few
were appointed. The Suez Canal and Egypt claimed their share, but by far
the greater number were bound for the misty northern seas.

About the training given to the 200,000 men little can be said here
because of its diversity. They came as volunteers from all quarters of
the globe, were collected at the great depots in Portsmouth, Chatham and
Devonport, were trained in the art of signalling, squad drill, gunnery,
seamanship and the hundred and one things required by the "handy man,"
then belched forth into the ships.

Some had sailed the sea for years before in vessels of all kinds and
needed little more than the sense of cohesion and unquestioning
obedience imparted by discipline and drill. Others knew more of the
working of a loom, or the extraction of coal, than of seamanship, and
spent a cheerful but arduous few months in training depots and on
special ships completing their education. Cooks there were who could
make little else besides Scotch broth, while others, the engineers--or
motor mechanics, as they were called when appointed to some of the
petrol-driven patrol boats--knew their profession or trade better than
they could be taught, and proved themselves untiring and indomitable
when it came to the real thing--as will be seen later.

Having now described the training of both officers and men, we come to
the ships they were called upon to navigate down to the seas of


To set on record the formation of the ships of the new navy in
divisions, squadrons or units, and to classify them here under separate
headings--an easy enough matter with regular fleets constructed for
definite duties--is a task of considerable difficulty with a
heterogeneous fleet composed of several thousand vessels with seldom two

Beginning with the ocean liners, as the largest and most powerfully
armed of the new fleet: these were mostly grouped for administrative
purposes in one large formation, known as the "Tenth Cruiser Squadron."
But when at sea they operated in smaller units and frequently as single
ship patrols. Their principal zone of activity was the vast stretch of
Arctic sea extending from Norway and North Russia to Iceland, the
Hebrides and Labrador. Their work was arduous in the extreme, as will
easily be realised from the nature of the seas in which they primarily

Strictly speaking, were distinct divisions possible, the Tenth Cruiser
Squadron did not form part of the auxiliary navy in its true sense,
although many of the officers and men were drawn from newly raised
corps. It acted rather as a distinct patrol fleet, filling the wide gap
of sea between Scotland and the Arctic ice.


Next in order of importance came the newly built screw sloops, with
powerful guns and engines. Their numbers varied and they were
continually being added to. Some of these vessels were used for patrol
duties and others for minesweeping. The sloop flotillas had many zones
of activity. One was the North Atlantic, with special care for the coast
of Ireland. Another was the North Sea, with a marked preference for the
east coast of Scotland and the Straits of Dover.

These flotillas also were frequently assigned duties independent of the
auxiliary patrol organisation, but nevertheless formed an important part
of the vast anti-submarine and anti-mine navy.

In the Mediterranean also there were a number of patrol gunboats and
minesweepers similar to the fighting sloops. Their principal base in
this region was on Italian soil.


We now come to that portion of the auxiliary fleet whose special care
was the seas around the United Kingdom and the Colonies. First came the
armed yachts, over 50 in number, with tonnages varying from one to five
hundred. These were obtained from the owners, armed as heavily as their
size and strength permitted, and mostly became the flag-ships of patrol
flotillas. They were nearly always equipped with wireless, hydrophone
listening apparatus, depth charges and all the appliances for
anti-submarine warfare.

Their losses were not heavy considering the dangerous nature of their
work and could almost be counted on the fingers of both hands. This was
due mainly to their good speed and manoeuvring qualities. They made
wonderfully efficient auxiliary warships, maintaining the sea in almost
all weathers and accounting for quite a number of U-boats. These vessels
were, of course, never used for the rougher work of minesweeping.


The whalers were few in number and resembled small destroyers. They were
powerful craft and well armed, but their sea-keeping qualities left
much to be desired. In fact, to use a naval term, they were dirty boats
even in a "lop." It was said that if an officer or man had been for long
in one of these ships he was proof against all forms of sea-sickness. A
big assertion, as even old sailors will admit--but they call it "liver."


About the screw and paddle minesweepers little can be said beyond the
fact that they numbered about 200 and performed some of the most
dangerous work in the war. Many of them were old passenger steamers from
the Clyde, Bristol Channel, Thames and south and east coast resorts, the
famous _Brighton Queen_ being, until her untimely end on a mine off the
Belgian coast, one of their number. The loss among this class of ship
was about 10 per cent.


By far the largest portion of the auxiliary patrol units consisted of
armed and commissioned trawlers. Their numbers far exceeded 1000, and
nearly half were used for the dangerous work of minesweeping. About a
trawler little need be said, for beyond what can be seen in the
accompanying illustrations there is little of interest until we come to
the question of their curious arms and appliances, fit subjects for a
special chapter.

A large number of these units were fitted with wireless and carried
masked batteries of quick-firing guns. To give here their zones of
operation would be to set out in detail not only the seas around the
British Isles, but distant waters such as the Mediterranean and the
White Sea. They had distinct duties to perform, which may be summed up
as follows:--(1) minesweeping; (2) night and day patrols alone or in
company over immense areas of sea; (3) convoy duty; and (4) fishery

Their losses were heavy, both in ships and men, amounting to about 30
per cent. Many were the lonely sea fights engaged in by these vessels. A
few will receive the praise they deserve and the remainder will rest
content with the knowledge of duty done.


If numbers or losses were the dominant factors the armed drifters should
be high in the list. There were engaged considerably over 1000 of these
craft, and the losses amounted to about 20 per cent.

It may be necessary to inform some of my readers that a drifter is not
necessarily a vessel that is content to start out on a voyage and rely
on _drifting_ to its destination, as its name implies. The term is
derived from the drift nets used by these vessels for fishing in time of
peace. They are, in almost all respects, small editions of the deep-sea
trawler--_minus_ the powerful steam-driven winch for hauling in the
trawl nets.


_Yachting Monthly_]

For war purposes the holds of these, and many other types of auxiliary
warships, were converted into officers' cabins, or gun platforms for
masked batteries. A few carried special nets in which to entangle the
wily "Fritz." Others had aboard special types of submarine mines, and
one, commanded by the author, was used for the transport of wounded from
Admiral Sir David Beatty's flag-ship, H.M.S. _Lion_, after the Jutland

These were, as might be expected, good sea boats, and carried out duties
of great danger and value. Several hundred were fitted with wireless.
Their zone of operations was far flung, extending from the Arctic Circle
to the Equator. It was, however, in the unequal fights with German
destroyers in the Straits of Dover and with Austrian torpedo boat
destroyers in the Adriatic that they made a name for valour. In two of
these engagements no less than six and fourteen drifters were sunk in a
few minutes.


About the now famous motor launches, or "movies," as they are called in
the Service, much will be said in later pages. They numbered over 500,
and, with but few exceptions, were a homogeneous flotilla of fast
sea-going patrol boats, heavily armed for their size. Some idea of their
appearance under varying conditions will be gained from a study of the

They were all commanded by R.N.V.R. officers, whose training on H.M.S.
_Hermione_ and elsewhere has been described in an earlier chapter. They
carried a crew of nine men and two officers, and their zones of
operations extended from the icy seas which wash the Orkneys and
Shetlands to the West Indies and the Suez Canal.

It may be of interest to give here an extract from the American journal,
_Rudder_, showing how these vessels came into being.[3] Although the
hulls were constructed in Canada, and much of the assembling was also
carried out on the banks of the St Lawrence, the engines came from the
United States. It was to the organising ability of Mr Henry R. Sutphen,
of the Electric Boat Company, New York, that the delivery of over 500 of
these wonderful little craft in less than a year was due. Here is that
gentleman's story of the "M.L." contract:

          "It was in February, 1915, that we had our initial
          negotiations with the British Naval authorities. A
          well-known English shipbuilder and ordnance expert
          was in this country, presumably on secret business
          for the Admiralty, and I met him one afternoon at
          his hotel. Naturally the menace of the German
          submarine warfare came into discussion; we both
          agreed that the danger was a real one, and that
          steps should be taken to meet it.

          "I suggested the use of a number of small, speedy
          gasolene boats for use in attacking and destroying
          submarines. My idea was to have a mosquito fleet
          big enough to thoroughly patrol the coastal waters
          of Great Britain, each of them carrying a 13-lb.
          rapid-fire gun.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.--Diagram showing principal characteristics of an
armed motor launch. _A._ Wheel-house. _B._ Searchlight. _C._ Chart-room.
_D._ Navigation lights. _E._ 3 or 13 pounder quick-firing gun. _F._
Wheel and indicators in wheel-house. _H._ Hand pumps supplementing power
pumps in engine-room. _I._ Hatchway leading to engine-room. _J._
Hatchway leading to wardroom. _K._ Life-boat. _L._ Officers' cabins.
_M._ Hatchway leading to officers' cabins. _N._ Depth charges (2 or 4).
_O._ Deck box containing life-belts. _P._ Stern petrol tanks (2). _Q._
Officers' sleeping cabin. _R._ Officers' mess-room. _S._ Galley. _T._
Engine-room. _U._ Main petrol engines (2). _V._ Reservoirs of compressed
air for starting main engines. _W._ Foreward petrol tanks. _X._
Forecastle and men's quarters. _Y._ Men's lavatory. _Z._ Forepeak.]

          "I explained that I had in mind two distinct
          types. The first would have an over-all length of
          about 50 feet, and would be fitted with high-speed
          engines; such a boat would show a maximum of 25
          knots. The alternative would be something around
          80 feet in length, with slow turning engines and
          a speed of 19 knots. I added that my preference
          was for the larger and slower type.

          "He asked how many units of that class we could
          build in a year's time, and I told him that I
          could guarantee fifty. He said that he would think
          the matter over, and we parted.

          "A few days later I had another interview and was
          told that the British Government was ready to give
          us a contract for fifty vessels of the larger
          type, the whole lot to be delivered within a
          year's time.

          "On April 9th, 1915, the contract for fifty
          'chasers' was signed.

     .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

          "The _Lusitania_ sailed on her last voyage May
          1st, 1915, and a week later her torpedoing by a
          German U-boat was reported. My English friend was
          sailing that same day from New York, and we were
          giving him a farewell luncheon at Delmonico's.
          When the appalling news was communicated to him he
          appeared much depressed, as indeed was natural
          enough, and also very thoughtful. Before he said
          good-bye he intimated to me that he intended
          advising the Admiralty to increase the number of
          'Chasers'; he asked me if I thought I could take
          care of a bigger order. I told him that I could
          guarantee to build a boat a day for so long a
          period as the Admiralty might care to name.

          "After he reached England we shortly received a
          cablegram ordering five hundred additional
          'Sutphens,' our code word for submarine 'Chaser';
          in other words we were now asked to build five
          hundred and fifty of these boats and deliver them
          in complete running order by November 15th, 1915."

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--Plan of armed motor launch, showing internal
arrangements. _A._ Officers' sleeping cabin. _B.B._ Bunks. _C._
Cupboard. _D._ Lavatory. _E.E._ Stern petrol tanks. _F._ Wardroom. _G._
Table. _H._ Settee. _I._ Galley. _J._ Petrol stove. _K._ Engine-room.
_L.L._ Main engines. _M._ Compressed air reservoirs. _N._ Auxiliary
petrol engine driving dynamo, bilge pumps, fire pumps and air
compressor. _O._ Electric storage batteries, switchboard and electrical
starting arrangements for auxiliary engine. _P._ Chart-room with petrol
tanks below. _Q._ Magazine. _R._ Fresh-water tanks. _S._ Forecastle.
_T._ Bunks for crew. _U._ Forecastle lavatory. _V._ Watertight

The armament of a motor launch consisted of a 13-pounder quick-firing
high-angle gun, capable of throwing a lyddite shell for over four miles,
and was as useful against aircraft as it was against submarines. In
addition to this heavy gun for small craft they carried about 1200 lb.
of high explosive in the form of depth charges for bombing under-water
craft, a Lewis machine gun, rifles and revolvers.

These vessels were driven by twin screws connected to twin engines of
about 500 h.p. They possessed, in addition, an auxiliary petrol engine
of about 60 h.p. for compressing the air required to start the main
engines, for working the fire and bilge pumps, and for driving a dynamo
to recharge the electric storage batteries. The triple tanks carried
over 3000 gallons of petrol, and the consumption, when travelling at
full speed, was a gallon a minute.

Many were fitted with wireless, and all of them had on board the most
approved pattern of hydrophone, with which to listen below the surface
for the movements of hostile submarines. They had electric light in the
cabins and for navigation, fighting and mast-head signalling purposes. A
moderately powerful searchlight, fitted with a Morse signalling shutter,
was also part of their equipment.

These little miniature warships possessed a small wardroom and sleeping
cabin for the officers, a galley with petrol range for cooking, an
engine-room, magazine for the ammunition, chart-room, and ample
forecastle accommodation for the crew of nine men. All parts of the ship
were connected with the bridge by speaking-tubes and electric bells, and
the aft deck accommodated a steel life-boat.

The duties of these craft varied considerably. For over three years they
maintained a constant patrol in the North Sea, Atlantic, English
Channel, Irish Sea, Mediterranean, Adriatic, Suez Canal, Straits of
Gibraltar, and in West Indian waters. Only one who knows by experience
can fully appreciate what work in these northern seas, with their winter
snows and Arctic winds, and their chilly summer fogs, really means to a
mere thirty tons of nautical humanity in as many square leagues of
storm-swept sea infested with mines and hostile submarines. But when
this book has been finished the reader will be in a position to judge
for himself.

The losses of motor launches were not heavy considering the dangerous
nature of their cargoes (3000 gallons of petrol within a few feet of
1500 lb. of high explosive in a wooden hull) and the duties they were
called upon to perform in all weathers short of heavy gales. Several
were blown up with terrible results to those aboard. Others caught fire
and were burned--allowing only just sufficient time to sink the
explosives aboard. A few were smashed to pieces on exposed coasts after
struggling for hours amid heavy seas. One struck a mine off Ostend.
Another was destroyed by shell-fire in the Mediterranean, and the part
they played in the raids on Zeebrugge and Ostend, in which two were lost
and a V.C. gained, is now world famous.


There was, besides M.L.'s, another smaller but faster type of submarine
chaser. These little vessels, of which there were about 80 actually in
commission, possessed no cabin or other accommodation for long cruises.
They were simply thin grey hulls with powerful high-speed engines. They
were known as C.M.B.'s, or, to give them their full title, Coastal Motor
Boats. The purpose for which they were constructed was to operate from
coastal bases, and to be launched from ocean-going ships to chase a
hostile submarine which had been located by seaplanes and reported by
wireless in a given locality. This, however, was what they were
_intended_ for, but bore little relation to the work they actually
accomplished. Their nickname was "Scooters," and they certainly did
"scoot" over the sea.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--Diagram showing principal characteristics of a
coastal motor boat (C.M.B.). Speed 50 miles per hour. _A._ Hydroplane
hull, so constructed as to rise on to surface when travelling at full
speed. _B._ Covered wheel-house. _C._ Navigating well. _D._ Wireless
aerials. _E._ Depth charges (2 small size). _F._ Manhole to

There were three types of C.M.B.'s. One had a length of only 44 feet,
and was intended for carriage on the decks of light cruisers or other
moderate-sized surface ships. The armament was a Lewis machine gun and
two depth charges for anti-submarine warfare. The next class were 55
feet in length and operated from coast bases. These were fitted with one
or more Whitehead torpedoes, launched by an ingenious contrivance from
the stern. Class III. were 70 feet in length, and were commissioned just
before the signing of the Armistice. They were fitted for mine-laying
close up to enemy harbours.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--Plan of coastal motor boat, showing torpedo in
cleft stern. _A._ Whale-back or arched deck. _B._ Wheel-house. _C._
Navigating well. _D._ Engine-room. _E._ Foreward petrol tanks. _F._
Forepeak. _G._ Depth charges. _H._ Cleft stern with torpedo ready for
launching. _I._ Whitehead torpedo, launched stern first.]

The maximum speed of the 55-feet C.M.B.'s, which were the most numerous,
was 40 knots, or nearly a mile a minute. They were driven by twin screws
coupled to twin engines of 350 h.p. each--working at 1350 revolutions
per minute. Being of very shallow draught, some 26 inches, these little
vessels could skim, hydroplane fashion, over any ordinary mine-field,
and a torpedo fired at them would merely pass under their keel. The risk
of destruction from shell-fire was also reduced to a minimum by their
small size and great speed. Their principal enemies were, however,
seaplanes armed with machine guns.


_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]


_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]

It is not difficult to imagine a fight between a C.M.B. travelling at 40
knots, firing with its little Lewis gun at a big seaplane swooping down
from the clouds at the rate of 70 miles an hour, and splashing the water
around the frail little grey-hulled scooter with bullets from its
machine gun. This actually occurred many times off the Belgian coast,
and is a typical picture of guerrilla war at sea in the twentieth

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--Diagram illustrating method of attack by C.M.B.
on surface ship (or submarine on surface). _A._ Object of attack
travelling in direction indicated by arrow _E._ _B._ The position of the
C.M.B. after delivering the attack. _C._ The torpedo, released by the
C.M.B. at point _D_, travelling on course ending at _F_, which, allowing
for movement of ship _A_, is the place where the torpedo should strike
its object of attack. From this it will be seen that the torpedo, when
released, actually follows the ship from which it is fired until the
latter swerves from the straight course, when the torpedo continues
until it strikes or misses the object of attack, the speed of the
torpedo being about the same or a little less than that of the C.M.B.
The total time occupied in such an attack over a course of two miles
would be about 2 1/2 minutes before the torpedo struck its object.]

The C.M.B. was a purely British design, and the firm largely responsible
for the success achieved was Messrs John J. Thornycroft & Company
Limited. There were bases for these sea-gnats at Portsmouth, Dover,
Dunkirk, and in the Thames Estuary at Osea Island. From all of these
points mid-Channel could be reached in less than thirty minutes.
Although useless in rough weather, a trip in a C.M.B., even on a calm
day, was sufficiently exciting. The roar of the engines made speech
impossible, and vision when sitting in the little glass-screened well,
or conning-tower, was limited by the great waves of greenish-white water
which curved upwards from either bow, and rolled astern in a welter of
foam. There was an awe-inspiring fury in the thunder of the 700 h.p.
engines revolving at 1350 per minute, and a feeling of ecstasy in the
stiff breeze of passage and the atomised spray. When waves came the
slap-slap-slap of the water as the sharp bows cleft through the crest
and the little vessel was for a brief moment poised dizzily on the bosom
of the swell caused tremors to pass through the thin grey hull, and, to
complete the review of sensation, there may be added the human thrill of
battle and the indescribable feeling of controlled power beneath one's

The C.M.B.'s record of service, although short, is nevertheless a
brilliant one. Towards the close of the year 1916 four of these little
vessels coming from the base at Dunkirk intercepted five German
destroyers returning from a Channel raid. The scooters raced towards the
enemy in a smother of foam. Every quick-firing gun on the German ships
spouted shells at the mysterious white streaks approaching them with the
speed of lightning. So close did these plucky little ships go to their
giant adversaries that the blast of the German guns was felt aboard, but
no shells struck them. Then the line of C.M.B.'s swerved and their
torpedoes were launched at close range. One of the enemy destroyers was
hit and badly damaged, while two others had narrow shaves.

There was no time for German retaliation. For a brief few minutes the
sea around the scooters was ploughed up by the shells from the Hun
artillery, then the four little attacking craft were five miles distant
from the scene of their victory, and presented almost invisible white
specks to the enemy gunners.

At Zeebrugge these craft ran close in under the guns of the shore
fortifications, and covered the approach of the landing parties and
block-ships with a screen of artificial smoke. At Ostend they entered
the harbour under heavy fire and ignited flares to enable the
block-ships to navigate in the darkness. Others, in the same operations,
torpedoed the piers and silenced the guns mounted thereon.

Their exploits savour of old-time sea romance, as, for example, when the
little _Condor_ ran in under the guns of the fortress of Alexandria, or
further back in our naval history, when sail and round shot took the
place of petrol and torpedoes.

For anti-submarine work these wonderfully fast little chasers were used
in small flotillas. They were fitted with short-range wireless sets, and
when the message came stating that a vessel was being attacked in a
certain position, perhaps twenty miles from the coast, a number were
instantly released from the leash, and in a fraction of the time taken
by larger vessels they were on the scene with torpedoes and Lewis guns
for surface attack and depth charges for submerged bombing.

They were commanded, in many instances, by R.N.V.R. officers of the
auxiliary service, and carried two engineers. No crew was necessary, nor
was space available for them. The plucky dash of these vessels into the
harbours of Zeebrugge and Ostend, their subsequent operations on the
Belgian coast, and their losses in the action at the entrance to the
Heligoland Bight in 1918, when they were launched from a big ship, have
earned for them high renown in naval history.


In addition to all these types of anti-submarine craft there were,
forming part of the auxiliary fleet, over 300 ships, mostly trawlers and
drifters, engaged in maintaining the great lines of boom defences,
closing vast stretches of sheltered waters frequented by the battle
fleets, and a considerable number of examination ships, staffed by
interpreter officers, whose duty it was to examine all neutral shipping
passing through the 10,000 miles of the blockade.

       *       *       *       *       *

These, then, were the ships of the new navy, and their formation into
flotillas, or units, was usually accomplished by grouping four or five
vessels of similar type together under the command of the senior officer
afloat--mostly a lieutenant R.N.R. or R.N.V.R. In the case of
minesweepers the unit nearly always consisted of an even number of
ships, because their work was carried out in pairs, and with M.L.'s it
usually consisted of five boats, as this was the number required for the
intricate tactical work of submarine chasing.

There were, of course, units from the United States, French, Japanese,
Italian and Brazilian navies, in addition to the formidable British

The auxiliary units were all based on one or other of the fifty odd war
stations which encompassed not only the coasts of Great Britain and
Ireland, but also the littoral of every land in our world-wide Empire.
The numbers given here do not include the local fleets of purely
colonial naval bases, nor the large flotillas of destroyers and "P"
boats operating in home and foreign waters in conjunction with the
auxiliary navy. If these were incorporated the anti-submarine fleets
would be almost doubled.

Now that the reader is familiar with the _raison d'être_ of the new
navy, the personnel, the ships and their formation into fleets, the
scope and limitations of their activity, and of the losses they
sustained, the way is clear for a description of the curious weapons
used, the mysteries of anti-submarine warfare, and the bases themselves
before entering the zone of war and seeing something of the actual work
of the auxiliary navy.


[3] _Yachting Monthly_ and _R.N.V.R. Magazine_, August, 1917.



OF all the weapons used in the anti-submarine war the two most important
were the _hydrophone_ and the _depth charge_. They were employed in
conjunction with each other and comprised the surface warship's
principal means of offence against submarines operating beneath the

The hydrophone resembles a delicate telephone. It is so constructed that
when the instrument is lowered over the side of a ship into the sea any
noise, such as the movement of a submarine's propellers, can be heard on
deck by an operator listening at an ordinary telephone receiver
connected to the submerged microphone by an electrified wire.

There were many different types of hydrophone in use during the Great
War. So important was this instrument for the work of submarine hunting
that money was spent in millions, and a corps of naval and civil experts
were engaged for several years, bringing it to a state of efficiency.
Each type introduced into the Service was an improvement on its
predecessor, and there were different patterns for the use of almost
each class of vessel. The fast destroyer required a different
instrument to the slow-moving trawler. The motor launch could only
employ successfully a totally different type to the submarine, and, to
add to the difficulties, the German submarines themselves were
generously supplied with similar instruments. The games of
"hide-and-seek" played on and under the seas with the aid of this
wonderful little instrument would have been distinctly amusing had men's
lives--and often those of women and children--not been dependent upon
the issue.

The portable hydrophone, used by some of the smaller and slower vessels
of the auxiliary fleet, consisted of a microphone, or delicate
mechanical ear, carefully guarded by metal discs from accidental damage,
and connected to ear-pieces or ordinary telephone receivers by an
electric wire which passed through a battery. Where the wire came in
contact with the sea water it was heavily insulated and lightly

When it was required to use this instrument the vessel was stopped and
the microphone lowered overboard to a depth of about 20 feet. This was
the distance down from the surface at which submarine noises could be
heard most distinctly. The operator on deck or in the cabin then
adjusted the ear-pieces and sat listening for any noises coming through
the water. Although the sea is a far better conductor than air, the
range at which sounds could be heard varied considerably. On a calm day
or night the noise of a ship's propellers could frequently be
distinguished at from five to seven miles; whereas on a rough day, with
the sea splashing and the wind roaring, it was often difficult to hear
anything beyond half-a-mile.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--Diagram showing essential parts of a portable
hydrophone. _A._ Head and ear pieces, by means of which a trained
listener hears submarine sounds. _B._ Flexible leads to enable an
officer to verify reports from listener. _C._ Battery box, containing
spare set of cells. _D._ Terminals. _E._ Terminals of spare cells. _F._
Flexible armoured electric cable which is lowered over side of ship.
_G._ Metal case protecting the microphone _H_. _H._ Microphone or
delicate receiver of submarine sounds, which is submerged (when
required, but not when ship is moving) to a depth of about 18 feet, as
in small diagram. The sound is detected by the microphone and
transmitted up the cable _F_ and wires _B_ to the ear-pieces _A_.]

In fine weather a submarine could usually be heard at a distance of
about two or three miles. There were, however, many microscopic noises
of the under-seas which were picked up and magnified by this type of
hydrophone. They were called "water noises," and often made it extremely
difficult to differentiate between them and the sound of a moving
submarine at a great distance. Later types were not so prone to these
disturbing influences.

To describe here the different natural and artificial noises heard on a
portable hydrophone is extremely difficult. One general statement can,
however, be made. It is the noise caused by the rapidly revolving
propellers of both surface ships and submarines that is the guiding
factor in the work of detection by submarine sound. A destroyer
travelling at full speed on a calm sea, when heard on a hydrophone
resembles the roar of a gigantic dynamo. The sound does not alter as the
distance between the _stationary_ listening ship and the _fast-moving_
warship increases or decreases; it continues to be a roar or low hum,
according to distance, until it fades out of hearing altogether. The
same statement applies also to a slow-moving cargo steamer, only in this
case the _single_ propeller is revolving very much slower, and, when
listening on a hydrophone about two or three miles distant, each
successive beat of the engines can be distinctly heard.

The simple movement of a vessel's hull through the water cannot be heard
on a hydrophone. Therefore for detecting the presence in the vicinity of
a _sailing_ ship at night or in a thick fog this instrument is quite
useless. The same drawback applies also to the location of a floating
derelict or iceberg, and restricts the use of the hydrophone to
faithfully reporting the presence of power-driven ships or special sound
signals at a range of a few miles.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--An improved directional hydrophone fitted
through keel of motor launch. The tube _B_, at the lower extremity of
which is the microphone, can be raised or lowered from _C_, the cabin of
the M.L. This instrument is so arranged that the direction from which
the submarine sound is coming can be simply and quickly ascertained.]

A German submarine heard at a range of about a mile on a calm night
presents a curious sound which almost defies description. Its principal
constituent consists of a "clankety clank! clankety clank!" at first
barely distinguishable from the low swish of the water past the face of
the submerged microphone, then louder when the sound has been
distinguished and the human ear is on the alert. But when this sound was
heard in war there was little time for analysing or noting. It was the
call to action. The microphone was hauled to the surface and the chase
began, a halt being made every half-mile or so for a further period of
listening on the hydrophone. If the sound was louder the commander of
the pursuing vessel knew that he was on the right track, and if the
sound came up from the sea more indistinct the course was changed and a
run of a mile made in the opposite direction, when the vessel was again
stopped and the instrument dropped overboard.

Should this manoeuvre have placed the surface ship in close proximity
to the submarine, one or more _depth charges_ were released, and if the
explosion of these damaged the comparatively delicate hull or machinery
of the under-water craft, she had either to rise to the surface and
fight for her life with her two powerful deck guns, or, if badly
damaged, sink helplessly to the bottom, emitting oil in large quantities
from her crushed tanks.

Before entering upon a description of the depth charge, however, there
is more to say of the hydrophone, which has played such an important
part in the defeat of the U-boats.

When the advantages of this instrument had been fully demonstrated in
the stern trial of war, successful efforts were made to improve upon the
original crude appliances. The "water noises" were reduced and, greatest
improvement of all, the hydrophone was made "directional." By this is
meant that when a sound was heard its approximate direction north,
south, east or west of the listening ship could be more or less
accurately determined. What this improvement meant to a vessel hunting a
submarine in a vast stretch of sea will be easily realised. When the
sound came up the wires from the submerged microphone the operator had
simply to turn a small handle in order to determine from which direction
the noise was coming.

If, for example, the sound was first heard away to the east, the
instrument was turned to another quarter of the compass. Then, if the
noise was plainer, the instrument was turned again until the sound
decreased in intensity. In this way the line of maximum sound was
obtained, and this showed the direction from the listening ship in which
the U-boat was operating.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.--Plan showing how microphones or ears _B_ are
fitted in a submarine _A_ to enable it to detect the approach of surface

With the perfection of this invention the hydrophone section of the
naval service came into being. Special courses in the detection of
submarine sounds were instituted for officers and also for seamen
listeners. The actual movements of a submarine under water at varying
distances from a hydrophone were recorded by a phonograph, and records
made so that the sounds might be reproduced at will for the education of
the ear. Surgeons with aural experience estimated the physical
efficiency in this respect of would-be volunteers for the
hydrophone-listening service, and vessels were formed into special
hydrophone flotillas, whose duties consisted of listening in long lines
for submarines and when a discovery was made attacking them in the most
approved tactical formation, with the aid of depth charges and guns.

A considerable measure of success attended these arrangements, and the
author spent many cold hours listening at night for the sound of the
wily submarine. On more than one occasion an exciting chase resulted.

It must, however, be pointed out that there is one great drawback to the
successful use of the hydrophone. It exists in the necessity for the
listening ship to stop before the hydrophone is hoisted outboard, it
being quite impossible to hear anything beyond the roar of the engines
of the carrying ship so long as they are in motion. Furthermore, all
progress through the water must have ceased and the listening ship have
become stationary before artificial sounds, such as the propellers of a
submarine, can be distinguished from the natural noises of the sea

Now it will at once be apparent that not only does a stationary ship
offer a splendid target for under-water attack, but also it allows a
somewhat humorous game of hide-and-seek to be played between a hunting
vessel and a hunted submarine.

Nearly all U-boats were fitted with a number of hydrophones and
therefore were as well able to receive timely warning of an approaching
surface ship as the surface ship was of the presence of the submarine.
But the surface ship had the advantage of speed.

The result of all this was that when a German submarine heard a surface
vessel approaching she dived to the bottom, if the water was not too
deep or the sea-bed too rocky. Then shutting off her engines she
listened. The surface ship, mystified by the sudden cessation of the
noise she had been pursuing, also waited, and this stagnation sometimes
lasted for hours. Then if the surface ship moved, as she was often
compelled to do in order to avoid drifting with the tide away from the
locality, the submarine moved also, and the one that stopped her engines
first detected the other, but could not catch up to her again without
deafening her own listening appliance. In which case the next move would
probably be in favour of her opponent.

All of this is, perhaps, a little complicated, but a moment's pause for
reflection will make this curious situation clear to the reader. And so
the game went on, with decisive advantage to neither the surface ship
nor the submarine. Darkness usually intervened and put an end to further
manoeuvring, frequently allowing the submarine to escape.

A case of this kind occurred to a vessel, of a certain hydrophone
flotilla, commanded by the author. For over four hours the U-boat eluded
the pursuing surface ships by moving only when they moved and stopping
when they too had stopped, darkness and a rising sea eventually
favouring the escape of the submarine, which, a few hours later, was
able to attack (unsuccessfully) a big surface ship less than thirty
miles distant from the scene.

Nevertheless the hydrophone is a submarine instrument with a brilliant
future. It has already been improved out of all resemblance to its
original self, and more will undoubtedly follow. It is, however, purely
an appliance for the detection of submarines when cruising beneath the
surface, and not a weapon for their destruction. It should also be
remembered that any improvement made in the efficiency of the hydrophone
will benefit not only the surface ship, but also the submarine, for it
cannot be supposed that under-water craft will be left without these
wonderful submarine ears when their surface destroyers are equipped with

The alliance between the hydrophone and the depth charge is a natural
one. The former instrument enables the surface ship to discover, first,
the presence of a submarine in the vicinity, and, secondly, its
approximate position. At this point its utility _temporarily_ ceases and
that of the depth charge begins. When a surface ship is hot on the track
of a moving submarine she endeavours to attain a position directly over
the top of her quarry, or even a little ahead, and then releases one or
more depth charges according to whether the chance of a hit is good or
only poor.

From this it will be apparent that whereas the hydrophone is the
instrument used for the initial detection of the submarine, and
afterwards for enabling the surface ship to get to close quarters with
her submerged adversary, it is the depth charge with which the attack is
actually made.

This weapon is really a powerful submarine bomb. It consists of several
hundred pounds of very high explosive encased in a steel shell, with a
special firing device which can quickly be set so that the charge
explodes at almost any depth below the surface after being released from
the above-water vessel.

The methods in use during the war for its release from the decks of
surface ships were very diverse, the most usual being for a number of
these weapons to be fitted on slides and held in place by wire slings
which could be released by simply pulling out a greased pin or bolt.

When the depth charge rolled off the stern of the surface ship it sank
to the "set depth" and then exploded like a submarine mine. The result
was a shattering effect exerted through the water for several hundred
feet around. If the submarine was close to the explosion her
comparatively thin plates were nearly always stove-in. When she was over
a hundred feet away, however, the rivets holding her plates together
were often loosened, and the resulting leak frequently compelled her to
come to the surface, where she could be destroyed by gun-fire.


_British Official Photograph_]

It often happened, however, that neither one nor the other of these
things occurred, but that the submarine's delicate electrical machinery
was thrown out of order by the violence of a depth-charge explosion,
even when a considerable distance away. With the electric engines
used for submerged propulsion no longer available, and possibly the
interior of the vessel in darkness, there were only two courses open.
She could either rise to the surface and endeavour to fight it out with
the aid of her powerful deck guns, or else sink to the bottom and trust
to luck that other depth charges would not be dropped close enough to
seriously damage her hull. In the open sea, however, the latter chance
was denied because of the depth of water. Three hundred feet may be
taken as the greatest depth to which an ordinarily constructed fighting
submarine can safely descend without running a grave risk of having her
plates crushed in by the great water pressure. Even at this depth the
weight on every square foot of hull surface exceeds 8 3/4 tons.

If the damaged submarine rose to the surface the guns of her pursuers
were ready and could generally be relied upon to place her at least
_hors de combat_ before the hatches of the under-water vessel could be
opened and her own guns brought into action.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.--Diagram showing how depth charges are carried on
the stern of a motor launch. _AA._ Depth charges, each containing 300
lb. of high explosive. _B._ Hydrostatic device by means of which the
charge can be made to explode when it has sunk from the surface to a
depth of 40 or 80 feet, and by which it is rendered comparatively safe
while on deck. _C._ Slings holding charges in place on inclined
platform. _D._ Greased bolts which, on being pulled out, allow wire
slings to fly free and depth charge to roll into the sea. Depth charges
can only be released from vessels under way, otherwise the explosion
which occurs a few seconds after release damages surface vessel.]

In shallow water where there was a fairly smooth bottom it generally
happened that a submarine damaged by depth charges elected to sink to
the sea-bed and trust to luck. This was also frequently resorted to as a
means of eluding pursuit even when the U-boat was not damaged by the
first few charges dropped. It was then that the hydrophones carried by
the surface ships were again brought into use to ascertain if the
submarine was still under way. When no sound was heard those on the
surface knew that "Fritz" was lying doggo, or else that he had escaped.
If a number of ships were available a few waited over the spot where it
was considered the U-boat was lying, while the others scoured the
surrounding seas in circles trying to pick up the sound of the runaway's
engines if she had escaped in the mêlée. When nothing further was heard
they returned to the scene and set about the work of systematically
bombing the surrounding sea-bed.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.--Diagram illustrating a depth charge attack on a
submerged submarine. _A._ Motor launch, which has dropped a depth charge
to destroy a submarine _B_ travelling at a depth of 90 feet below the
surface. _C_ is the depth charge sinking as the M.L. steams away from
the danger area. _D_ is the point (80 feet below the surface) at which
it will explode, and _E_ indicates the danger area for the submarine

As many as one hundred depth charges were dropped in quite a small area
of sea and yet a submarine known to have been lying "doggo" in the
locality was not damaged. In cases such as this other means, which will
be described in a succeeding chapter, were then resorted to.

All the foregoing sounds very thorough and hopeful, but in fairness it
must be said that submarine hunting is a heart-breaking task. The
reader may have noticed that the method of depth-charge attack
presupposes the surface vessel to have attained a position almost
directly over the top of her enemy, a manoeuvre extremely difficult of
achievement even with the most efficient hydrophone. Heavy seas, snow
and fog have also to be taken into consideration, to say nothing of
darkness, the presence of a second submarine, a surf-beaten rock or
sandbank and the confusing sounds of passing merchant ships, making a
difficult task more difficult, as will be seen when we come to the
actual fighting.



ALTHOUGH modern war has shown that there exists no certain antidote for
the submarine, it nevertheless brought into being many curious weapons
of attack and defence. It is the purpose of this chapter to describe
some of the anti-submarine devices used with more or less successful
results during the protracted naval operations against the Central


Among the most important of these were the immense meshes of wire known
as "indicator nets," which were used to entangle a submarine and then to
proclaim her movements to surface ships waiting to attack with guns and
depth charges.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.--Diagram showing principal features of a line of
submerged indicator nets. _AA._ Two sections (100 feet in breadth) of
thin wire-netting with a very wide mesh. _B._ Framework of wire rope
holding each section of net in place by means of metal clips _C_. _C._
Metal clips which expand and release netting from rope frame when a pull
of more than 100 lb. is exerted upon them. _D._ Line of invisible glass
balls, or hollow floats, attached to a surface wire _E_, supporting by
wires _F_, the nets which hang down from the surface vertically in long
lines (1/2 to 1 mile in length and 50 feet deep). _G._ Heavy iron
weights or sinkers holding down the nets by their weight when hanging in
water. _H._ Wooden floats, attached to each section of net by wires _I_.
_J._ Canisters of chemical which give off flame and smoke when exposed
to sea-water. _K._ Lanyard attached to surface wire _E_. When a section
of net is pulled out of its wire frame by a submarine passing through
the line the float is dragged along the surface by the wire _I_. The
lanyard is held back by being attached to surface wire _E_, and pulls a
plug out of the canister _J_, exposing the chemical inside to the
sea-water (see Fig. 12).]

These nets were made of specially light but strong wire, with a mesh of
several feet. They were joined together in lengths of 100 feet by metal
clips which opened when a certain strain was exerted on any particular
section. Their depth was usually about 50 feet, and they were laid in
lengths varying from a few hundred yards to two miles. Weights at the
lower end and invisible glass floats along the top held them suspended
vertically from the surface. The floats were kept in place by a wire
hawser running along the top of the nets, and to this were attached, at
intervals, wooden buoys containing tin cases filled with a chemical
compound which, when brought into contact with sea-water, emitted dense
smoke by day and flame by night.

The 100-feet sections were linked together, and to the top and bottom
ropes, by the metal clips. These clips opened when a submarine headed
into that part of the line. The result was that a section of net
enveloped the bow of the under-water craft, was detached from the line
and carried along, dragging its _indicator float_ on the surface behind.

The indicator float, containing the chemical, was attached (1) to the
section of net by a short wire and (2) to the top rope of the whole line
by a lanyard, which, when pulled free, exposed the chemical contents of
the canisters in the float to the sea-water. The float was then dragged
along the surface burning furiously.

As there was nothing to materially impede her progress, a submarine
would consequently be unaware that she had passed through a line of nets
and was actually towing a flaming buoy. Even if she became aware of the
tell-tale appendage it would be extremely difficult to clear herself,
owing to the forward hydroplanes becoming entangled in the wire-netting,
before the fast surface ships, waiting in readiness, had spotted the
flaming buoy being towed along and were hot in pursuit.

Once entangled in such a net, the submarine's chance of avoiding
destruction was small. Not only did the indicator buoy proclaim her
every movement to the pursuing surface ships, so that she could not
avoid them by turning, sinking to the bottom or doubling in her tracks,
but it also enabled depth charges to be literally dropped on her decks.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--Diagram showing a submarine entangled in a
submerged net. The submarine _A_ after passing through a line of nets
emerges with her bows enveloped by one section _B_ which she has carried
out of its wire-rope frame. The flaming buoy _C_, betraying her
movements, is being towed along the surface.]

A considerable measure of success attended the use of this ingenious
device until "Fritz" became shy of waters close inshore, and kept a
careful look-out for possible lines of indicator nets when forced to
pass through narrow channels and waterways. One of the main
disadvantages attending the use of these nets was the impossibility of
laying them--or, when laid, of hauling them inboard again, during even
moderately rough seas. Another difficulty which presented itself when
indicator nets were required to be laid in the open sea was the
screening of the waiting surface ships from observation. Submarines
could not be used on account of their slow speed, and when fast patrol
craft cruised about openly within easy range of the nets "Fritz"
suspected a trap and steered clear. Even this, however, had its uses.


It was sought to overcome this difficulty by attaching small explosive
mines to the nets instead of indicator floats, so that when a submarine
passed through a line she unavoidably struck one or other of the
attached mines, which instantly exploded.

This device also proved fairly successful, but the dangers of handling
mined nets were considerable and disasters resulted. Furthermore, as
such obstructions could not be securely moored in one spot for very
long, owing to the action of gales and strong tides, it became necessary
for the sake of neutral and allied shipping to maintain a vessel in the
vicinity from which warnings could be issued and repairs to the nets
effected. This partly defeated the object of mined nets, except for the
closing of narrow fair-ways, and their scope as a weapon of attack
became strictly limited.


This elaborate and costly anti-submarine device was very widely, but not
altogether successfully, employed by the auxiliary fleet during the
first two years of war. It was nothing more than a long explosive tail
towed submerged by a surface ship, the object being to either drag it
over a submarine resting on the sea-bed, or else, if the under-water
craft was moving, to so manoeuvre the towing surface ship as to swing
the tail close to the U-boat, when the heavy charges of T.N.T. attached
to the armoured electric cable, forming the tail, would be exploded
either by actual contact with the hull of the enemy, or, when
sufficiently close to be effective, by the closing of a firing circuit
on board the surface ship.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.--Diagram showing a vessel towing a modified
sweep. This appliance consists of an armoured electric cable _G_ towed
in vertical loop under the surface. The floats _D_ support the 100-lb.
charges _E_, which have strikers attached. If a submarine _B_ is lying
"doggo" on the sea-bed one or other of these charges may strike her hull
and the whole line then blows up, shattering everything in the
surrounding sea. If the strikers fitted on the charges do not touch the
submarine the whole line can be exploded at will from the surface ship
by closing an electric circuit.]

Excellent in theory but very difficult of accomplishment in actual
practice. The diagram given will explain the details of this elaborate
contrivance, which, however, was soon discarded for more practical
methods, although at least one German submarine is known to have been
destroyed by it.


These little engines of destruction were intended for fighting at close
quarters, and can be described here in a few lines because of their
guileless simplicity. They consisted of conical explosive bombs on the
ends of broom handles! A strong man could whirl one of them round his
head, like a two-handed sword or battle-axe, and, when the momentum was
sufficient, hurl it over the water for about seventy-five feet. On
nose-diving into the sea and hitting the hull of a submarine in the act
of rising or plunging, the little bomb, containing about 7 lb. of
amatol, was exploded by contact.

[Illustration: FIG. 14.--A lance bomb. The wooden handle _A_ enables the
charge _B_ (7 lb. of high explosive) to be whirled round the head and
hurled a distance of about twenty yards.]

The damage inflicted on one of the earlier types of submarines by an
under-water hand-grenade or lance bomb depended entirely upon what part
of the vessel happened to be struck. Their sphere of usefulness was,
from the first, very limited, and the advent of the big cruiser
submarine, with armoured conning-tower and 5-inch guns, rendered them


We now come to a more useful device of the purely defensive type
employed to screen surface ships from submarine attack. The very simple
mechanical and chemical apparatus needed for making the heavy clouds of
smoke needs no description beyond that given in the text, but something
must be said here regarding the methods of use.

It was not until the third year of the Great War had been ushered in by
the unprecedented sinking of Allied merchantmen by German U-boats that
the value of the smoke screen as a means of baffling an under-water
attack was fully realised. Convoy guards were supplied with the
necessary appliances for emitting the fumes with which to cover the
movements of the ships under their protection, and so successful was
this method of blinding attacking submarines that within a few months
thousands of transports, food-ships and warships had been equipped.

When a submarine proclaimed her presence in the vicinity of a convoy
either by showing too much of her periscope or by a misdirected torpedo,
the guard-ships on the flank attacked immediately dropped their smoke
buoys as they continued moving at full speed. By this means an
impenetrable optical barrier was interposed between the attacking
submarine and the fleet of merchantmen under convoy. When thus shielded
from attack--a submarine values her small stock of torpedoes (six to
ten) too highly to risk the loss of one or more on something she cannot
even see--the mercantile fleet altered course so as to present their
sterns to the attacking U-boat, while certain prearranged warships
belonging to the escort proceeded to the attack with guns and depth

This means of masking the movements of ships--by no means new in naval
warfare--was employed with conspicuous success in the operations of
Allied squadrons off Zeebrugge. Individual merchantmen, when attacked by
one or more submarines, often threw out a smoke screen to avoid
destruction by the big surface guns of the more modern German craft, and
its use to cover the movements of transports was very frequently
resorted to.


The use of camouflage, or the deceptive painting and rigging of ships,
came first into being owing to the method employed by submarines for
judging the speed of passing surface ships by the white wave thrown off
from their bows. It is of the utmost importance for the commander of an
under-water warship to correctly judge the speed of the vessel he is
about to attack before discharging a torpedo at her. If the estimated
speed is too high the torpedo will, in all probability, pass ahead of
the moving target, and if it is too low it will run harmlessly astern.

To cause this to happen as frequently as possible, and valuable
torpedoes to be wasted--even if the attacking submarine herself could
not then be discovered and destroyed--it became advisable to paint
imitation white waves on the bows of slow-moving ships in order to give
the appearance of speed.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.--A camouflaged ship. It will be observed that a
vessel so painted would, from a distance of several miles, give the
appearance of a ship sinking while headed in the opposite direction.]

So successful was this simple form of deceptive paint-work that a
special camouflage section of the naval service, with an eminent artist
as its director, was formed, and all kinds of grotesque designs were
painted on the broadsides and superstructures of almost every British
merchantman operating in the submarine danger zone.

There was method and meaning in the seemingly haphazard streaks of
black, green, blue and white. When looked at from close range only a
jumble of colours could at first be seen, but if the distance was
increased the effect became instantly apparent. In some cases the
deceptive decoration caused big ocean liners to appear small and
insignificant. In others it gave the appearance that the vessel was
sinking; while quite a favourite ruse was to cause the vessel to appear
as if she was travelling in the opposite direction to that which she
really was. Two-funnelled ships became single-funnelled, when viewed
from a distance or in a dim light, by the simple expedient of painting
one funnel black and the other light grey. Liners with tiers of
passenger decks had the latter obscured by contrasts of colouring which
were really masterpieces of deceptive art. In fact so deceptive became
almost every ship in the dim light of dawn and dusk that collisions were
often narrowly averted.

It frequently occurred that paint alone was not sufficient to disguise a
ship, and woodwork and canvas were resorted to. Big guns were made of
drain-pipes and shields of the wood from packing-cases. Cargo boats were
given the appearance of cruisers, and cruisers reduced to the appearance
of cargo boats. In this way hostile submarines were induced to attack
ships, thinking them unarmed and helpless, when in reality they were
small floating forts. But at this point simple camouflage ceases and the
famous _Mystery Ship_ begins. Before closing this chapter, however, it
must be pointed out that camouflage only came into being when the German
U-boats commenced their ruthless submarine warfare.



THE "Q" boat, or mystery ship, has been surrounded by so much secrecy
that to most people its very being is an unknown quantity. Yet it is to
these curious vessels of all sizes and types that the destruction of
many hostile submarines was due, and the dangerous work performed by
their intrepid crews equalled anything described in sea romance.

The mystery ship was not a specially constructed war vessel, such as a
destroyer or cruiser, but merely a merchantman converted into a
powerfully armed patrol ship, camouflaged to give the appearance of
genuine innocence, but with masked batteries, hulls stuffed with wood to
render them almost unsinkable, hidden torpedo tubes, picked gunners, a
roving commission and a daring commander and crew. Their work was
performed on the broad highways of the sea, and they hunted singly or in
pairs, often fighting against overwhelming odds with certain death as
the price of failure.


The famous "Mystery Ship," powerfully built to resemble a helpless
merchantman. Sitting almost flat on the surface of the sea the torpedoes
from U-boats ran harmlessly beneath her keel.

_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]


_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]

The number of these vessels was not large, possibly 180, but their
operations extended far and wide. They roamed the North Sea, the
Atlantic, the English Channel, the Mediterranean, the Arctic Ocean
and even the Baltic, but until challenged were quite unknown to all
other vessels of the Allied navies. Theirs was a secret service,
performed amidst great hardships, with no popular applause to spur them

As all "Q" boats--as they were officially called--differed from each
other in size and armament, any description given here can only be taken
as applying to one or more vessels with which the writer was personally
familiar. Some of these so-called mystery ships were old sailing
schooners, others fine steamships, while quite a number were converted
fishing smacks, drifters and trawlers, the method being to give the
prospective commander a free hand in the conversion of his ship from a
peaceable merchantman to a camouflaged man-of-war, and many were the
ingenious devices used.

One vessel fitted out for this desperate duty at a Scottish base was a
steamer of about 400 tons burden. She was armed with a 4.7 quick-firing
gun hidden in a deck-house with imitation glass windows, the sides of
which could be dropped flat on to the deck for the gun to be trained
outboard by simply pressing an electric button on the steamer's bridge.
Two life-boats, one on each side of the aft deck, were bottomless, and
formed covers for two additional 12-pounder guns. A false deck in the
bow shielded a pair of wicked-looking torpedo tubes, each containing an
18-inch Whitehead ready for launching; and the crew for each gun were
able to reach their respective weapons, without appearing on deck, by
means of specially constructed gangways and hatches. The very act of
dropping the sides of the aft gun-house hoisted the White Ensign, and
technically converted this unsuspicious-looking merchantman, which asked
only to be allowed to pursue its lawful vocation on the high seas, into
a heavily armed warship.

This "Q" boat had, when met and challenged by the writer's ship, already
accounted for no less than three German submarines which had opened the
attack from close range, thinking her defenceless.

Another smaller mystery ship was a converted fishing drifter with a
single 12-pounder gun on a specially strengthened platform fitted in the
fish-hold, which had been cleaned, matchboarded and painted to provide
accommodation for the crew of picked gunners. This little ship had no
torpedo tubes and the muzzle of her gun was hidden beneath fishing nets.

There were, however, some very large and elaborately fitted "Q" boats.
These had specially constructed torpedo tubes low down in the hull,
masked 4.7-inch guns in more than one position, special chutes for depth
charges, coal bunkers arranged round the vital machinery to protect it
from shell-fire, and, moreover, were filled with wood to make them
almost unsinkable even if torpedoed.

Each such vessel was provided with a "panic party," whose duty was to
rush to the life-boats when the ship was attacked by a submarine. This
gave the final touch to the disguise, and often induced the submarine to
save further torpedoes by coming to the surface and continuing the
assault with gun-fire.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.--Method of masking a 3, 6, 12 or 13 pounder gun.
_A._ Stern of ship. _B._ Shield constructed to resemble a life-boat
which can be raised or lowered over gun _C_.]

The story of the sinking of the last German submarine in the war by the
"Q 19" will give some idea of how these vessels worked. It occurred in
the Straits of Gibraltar, about twenty-four hours before the signing of
the Armistice. The Q 19 was waiting in the Straits expecting to
intercept three big U-boats on their way back to Heligoland. About
midnight the first of these craft came along, and sighting the
innocent-looking "Q" boat prepared to attack her with gun-fire. For
nearly an hour the mystery ship "played" the submarine by pretending to
make frantic efforts to escape, but all the time allowing the
under-water craft to draw closer and closer.

The "Q" boat was under a heavy fire from the submarine, one shell
wounding eleven out of the crew of sixty, another carrying away the mast
and a portion of the funnel, but no sign of a gun was yet displayed on
board the surface ship. This withholding of fire until the last moment,
when the range has become short and the effect certain, is one of the
great nerve tests imposed on the crews of all mystery ships. It is an
essential of success, for a few wild shots at long range would disclose
the fact that the vessel was heavily armed, and the attacking submarine
would either sheer off or else submerge and use her torpedoes.

When the chase had been on for about fifty minutes, and the submarine
was only 200 yards astern, the "panic party" in the "Q" boat rushed for
the life-boats. The shells were now doing serious damage to both hull
and upper works, and the submarine was creeping close to give the _coup
de grâce_.

At this, the psychological moment, the order to open fire was given. The
collapsible deck-house, shielding the 4.7 gun, fell away on its hinges.
Eleven shots were fired in quick succession, all of which struck the
submarine. One blew the commander off the conning-tower and another rent
a gaping hole in the vessel's hull. In less than fifteen minutes the
fight was over and the last U-boat to be sunk in the Great War of
civilisation had disappeared beneath the waters of the Straits of


[4] One of the remaining U-boats afterwards succeeded in torpedoing the
battleship _Britannia_.



THE last few chapters have dealt mainly with the weapons used in
anti-submarine warfare. We now come to the naval bases on which the
fleets armed with these curious devices were stationed for active

Around the coasts of the British Isles there were about forty of these
war bases, each with its own patrol flotillas, minesweeping units and
hunting squadrons. The harbours, breakwaters and docks had to be
furnished with stores, workshops, wireless stations, quarters for
officers and men, searchlights, oil-storage tanks, coal bunkers,
magazines, fire equipment, guard-rooms, signal stations, hospitals, pay
offices, dry docks, intelligence centres and all the vitally necessary
stores, machinery and equipment of small dockyards.

To do this in the shortest possible time, and to maintain the supplies
of such rapidly consumed materials as oil fuel, coal, food, paint, rope
and shells for perhaps a hundred ships for an indefinite number of
years, it was often necessary to lay down metals and sidings to connect
the base with the nearest railway system. At many bases secure moorings
had also to be laid by divers, and the channels and fair-ways dredged.
The larger bases also required temporary shore defences, and booms
arranged across the harbour entrances to prevent hostile under-water

Then came the problem of finding the personnel. The ships had already
been provided for, but to keep them in fighting condition, and for the
work of administration, it was necessary to have a shore navy behind the
sea-going units. An admiral from the active or retired list was
appointed to each base as the "Senior Naval Officer." Then came
additions to his staff in the persons of executive and engineer
commanders, officers of the Reserve, chaplains, surgeons and paymasters.
With these departmental chiefs came their respective staffs of warrant
officers, petty officers, wireless operators, engine-room artificers,
motor mechanics, shipwrights, carpenters, smiths, naval police,
signalmen, storekeepers, sick berth attendants and parties of seamen.
Finally, a generous supply of printed forms and train-loads of stores.

This then, in brief outline, was the material which went to form the war
bases of the auxiliary, or anti-submarine, fleets. In many cases much
more was required, especially at such important depôts as Dover, Granton
and Queenstown. About the permanent dockyards, like Portsmouth,
Devonport and Rosyth, or the Grand Fleet bases, nothing need be said
here, because they do not come within the scope of this book. The same
may also be said of that desolate but wonderful natural anchorage,
_Scapa Flow_, the headquarters of the Grand Fleet in the misty north.
Each of these mammoth naval bases had an auxiliary base for
anti-submarine and minesweeping divisions.

With a knowledge of these essentials a more detailed description of a
typical war base and the work of its staff may prove of interest. Taking
as an example a large depôt, supplying all the needs of over a hundred
erstwhile warships, and situated in the centre of the danger zone, we
find a central stone pier on which has been erected a perfect maze of
wood and corrugated iron buildings, with the tall antennæ of a wireless
station, a little look-out tower and a gigantic signal mast from which a
line of coloured flags is aflutter in the sea breeze. The shore end of
the pier is shut off from prying eyes by a lofty wooden palisade with
big gates, in one of which is a small wicket. Outside a sentry with
fixed bayonet paces to and fro.


Showing quick-firing gun on disappearing platform.

_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]


Showing gun raised to firing position.

_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]

The first person inside the sacred precincts to greet the stranger is a
keen-eyed "Petty Officer of the Guard." When the credentials have been
examined the visitor is sent under the guidance of a bluejacket to the
"Officer of the Day," whose "cabin" is inside the maze of corrugated
iron and weather-board. The doors flanking the passages traversed
display cryptic lettering, such as I.O. (Intelligence Office), S.R.
(Signal Room), S.N.O. (Senior Naval Officer), "Commander" (usually the
second in command of the base), P.M.S.O. (Port Minesweeping Officer),
C.B.O. (Confidential Book Office), M.L.Com. (Motor Launch Commander),
O.O.W. (Officer of the Watch), "Officers only" (the wardroom and
gunroom combined), and, finally, the O.O.D., or the abode of that
much-worried individual, the Officer of the Day, whose duties happily
terminate when his twenty-four hours of administrative responsibility
are over, only, however, to return in strict rotation.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--The central pier of a typical anti-submarine
naval base. 1. Wardroom. 2. Sec. to senior naval officer. 3. Admiral's
cabin (S.N.O.). 4. Flag commander (or lieutenant). 5. Base intelligence
office. 6. Base commander. 7. Chaplain and gift store. 8. Drafting
officer. 9. Store officer. 10. Chart-issuing office. 11. Cabin of the
officer of the day. 12. Telephone exchange. 13. Warrant officers. 14.
Pay office. 15. Fleet paymaster. 16. Paymasters and asst.-paymasters.
17. Writers and W.R.N.S. 18. Engineer-commander's office. 19. Men's
quarters (for base duties and reserve). 20. Men's recreation room. 21.
Petty officers. 22. Men's mess-room and adjoining galley. 23. Sick-bay.
24. Fleet surgeon. 25. Baths. 26. Baths. 27. Stores. 28. Boom defence
office. 29. King's harbour master. 30. Hull defects office. 31. Police
and cells. 32. Coaling office. 33. Wireless cabin. 34. Guard room. 35.
Railway platform. 36. Sentry box. 37. Cranes. 38. Berths for armed
yachts in harbour. 39. Motor launches in harbour. 40. Drifters. 41.
Patrol trawlers. 42. Minesweepers. 43. Whalers. 44. Coastal motor boats.
Larger ships, such as sloops, destroyers, "P" boats, coaling and
ammunition hulks, lying out in basin.]

Again comes an apologetic examination of credentials, possibly followed
by a few minutes with the admiral commanding, and then the grand tour
commences. First come the ships lying alongside the stone pier, with
their short funnels belching black and very sooty smoke. These are the
"stand-off" units, whose crews are enjoying a brief few hours ashore
after days or weeks out on the dangerous seas beyond. Big drums of oil
are being lowered by ropes on to their decks. The sound of hammering
comes from more than one engine-room, where machinery is being
overhauled. On the decks of several, men with little or no resemblance
to the clean "Jacks" of the naval review are fondly polishing, painting
or greasing the long grey barrels, steel breech mechanism, or the yellow
metal training wheels of guns. Others are cleaning rifles, which have
recently been used with special bullets for sinking floating mines. One
ship is washing down decks after coming in late from night patrol;
another is receiving its three-monthly coat of grey paint; while on to
the deck of a whaler--black and ominous-looking--hundredweights of
provisions in boxes and bags are being lowered from the quay.

Astern of these lie two tiers of light grey spick and span motor
launches, their decks spotlessly white, and their small canvas and glass
screened wheel-houses ill concealing polished brass indicators, Morse
signalling key, electric switches, binnacles and other paraphernalia.
Behind these lie the 40-knot coastal motor boats, like miniature
submarines, with torpedoes in cavities in their aft decks, and little
glass-sheltered steering-wells. Further towards the head of the pier is
a line of big flat Scotch motor drifters, built for rough weather with
9-inch timbers, their decks a maze of wire nets, glass floats and
brick-red chemical canisters.

On the opposite side of the pier, in front of the S.N.O.'s cabin, lies a
big grey yacht with four 12-pounder guns and an anti-aircraft weapon
pointing over the sky-reflecting water. Lying out in the basin are big
minesweepers, looking more like pre-war third-class cruisers, two
slim-looking dark grey destroyers, a dredger and a few nondescript

Inside the first row of iron sheds are stores, with barrels of tar,
drums of paint, immense coils of rope and a naval "William
Whiteley's"--in which anything from a looking-glass to a ball of string,
or a razor to a dish-cloth, can be obtained in exchange for a signed
form from the Naval Store Officer, whose cabin near by is a maze of
similar forms of all colours.

Then a worried-looking man hurries by and the O.O.D. smiles. "He's the
coaling officer, and there's some twenty ships waiting to get alongside
to take the beastly stuff aboard," is the laconic explanation.

A cabin marked I.O. is entered--every room is a cabin in a naval base.
Here the walls are decorated with innumerable charts with mysterious red
lines. A curious device, with the names of all the ships belonging to
the base painted on wooden slides, reaches across one side. It is the
indicator which shows at a glance the ships at sea and those in harbour,
the names of those under repair, the unit to which each vessel belongs
and when she goes out or comes in for "stand-off."

This is the Intelligence Office, and signals and wireless messages from
the patrols and battle fleets are being almost continuously brought in
and carried out by messengers. The Commanding Officer (C.O.) of a
minesweeper is making inquiries about tides and the exact position on
the chart of a newly located mine-field. Another officer is locking a
black patent-leather dispatch-case--he is the King's Messenger or, more
correctly, the "Admiralty Dispatch Bearer," who carries to and from
London and the fleets all the secret correspondence and memoranda of the
Naval War Staff and other important departments. A big safe in the
corner of the cabin contains the secret codes and ciphers used when
transmitting messages, and two overworked officers are busy at near-by
desks translating signals to and from "plain English."

The next cabin contains the admiral's secretary and his staff of
writers. Here a flotilla commander is receiving his "sailing orders,"
without which no ship proceeds on a voyage. Adjoining this is the Pay
Office, in which, with the exception of a newly joined recruit
mortgaging his pay for two weeks ahead--he knows that he will be at sea
for that time--there is a decided air of quietude. The rush in this
abode of paymasters comes at the end of each month, when all the
officers arrive in a body to demand the meagre fruits of their labours.

Sandwiched between the clean and varnished cabin of the Base Commander,
who is "taking" defaulters, and the camp-bedded apartment of the O.O.W.
is a most interesting little combined cabin and store, presided over by
the Chaplain. Here are piles of woollen socks, cardigans, balaclavas,
mitts and other clothes knitted by the thoughtful women of the Empire
for their sailor sons. Here seamen are estimating the cold-resisting
qualities of different garments--for winter in the North Sea is the next
thing to Arctic exploration. Officers are popping in and out to borrow a
pile of books--thrice blessed were the senders of these donations. The
corner of the cabin is piled with fresh vegetables, but alas! the cry is
apples! No exhortations to righteousness adorn the walls, and the
chaplain is joking with a big stoker who is distractedly turning over
the cardigans in search for one large enough to encompass his massive
frame. A signal boy slips in, gets chocolate, gives a breathless thanks
and slips out just in time to avoid the playfully raised hand of the
P.O. of his ship. Two deck hands, covered in coal dust, put their heads
round the door to ask if they can have a bath, and the indefatigable
chaplain hands them the keys of the room provided for the purpose by the

Religion here is more practical than theoretical. If a man swears when
the "Padre" is present he pays a small fine, which goes to the
recreation or other needy fund. The Commander is not immune from this
law at the base under review, and has more than once been "heavily
fined" for giving his true opinion of German sailors and winter weather.

The next cabin is that of the O.O.W., a seething mass of officers
demanding "duty boats" and pinnaces to convey them to and from their
ships lying out in the fair-way. Others are expostulating about being
ordered to sea during their "stand-off," informing everyone what a
rotten service the navy is, crossing-sweeping is a sinecure compared
with it. Then a few pass on to the cabin near the men's quarters. Here
the "Drafting Officer" is trying to palm off a deck hand on the C.O. of
a trawler, who is vainly explaining that he must have a signalman. A
telephone rings and news comes from the "Sick Bay" that an engineer has
been badly burned and will be unable to go to sea with his ship. The
distracted drafting officer searches through his lists of reserves for
some competent man to take the place of the casualty.

Peace reigns in the adjoining department, where a grey-haired veteran is
issuing charts, "Sailing Directions," "Tide Tables" and "Warnings to
Mariners." In the near-by engineer-commander's office worried experts
are wrestling with innumerable problems relating to M.L. motors, steam
capstans, steam steering gear, electric dynamos, damaged propellers,
broken shafts, boiler cleaning and the numerous imperfections of
overworked ships' engines.

The Boom Defence staff is placidly serene. The turn of this department
comes after a heavy gale has damaged the submarine nets, chains and
buoys. The torpedo officers and their "parties" are discussing the best
way of moving four of these steel monsters from a neighbouring depôt
ship to a new "Q" boat with only a rowing-boat at their disposal--soon
the O.O.W. will be called upon to supply a drifter for the purpose.

In the ordnance store a veteran P.O. is trying to make his list of
returned brass shell-cases correspond with the number of shells supplied
to various ships six months before. He knows the sailors' fondness for
shell-cases as ornaments in their little far-away homes, and, failing to
make all the figures agree, decides that some _must_ have been "washed

The Port Minesweeping Officer is discussing with his sea commanders the
clearing of a new mine-field laid by U-C-boats within the past few days,
when a sudden stir is caused by the arrival of a signal from the
wireless room to the effect that one of his vessels has struck a mine in
lat. ---- long. ---- and is sinking. He appeals by telephone to the M.L.
commander and in less than ten minutes a flotilla of fast launches is
racing at 19 knots to the rescue.


_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]


_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]

In the Admiral's cabin there is to be a conference of senior officers
later in the day to decide on the best means of ridding the seas within
that area--and each base has its own area of sea--of a hostile submarine
which has been inflicting undue loss upon shipping, its latest victim
being a Danish barque.

The combined wardroom and gunroom has some twenty occupants, reading the
newspapers and magazines, warming themselves before the two big fires,
or talking in little groups. This base has suffered some heavy losses
lately, but reference to those "gone aloft" is seldom made, except
quietly and a little awkwardly. The talk is of theatres in neighbouring
towns, the respective merits of certain types of ships and weapons, the
prospects of early leave, the dirty warfare of "Fritz" or the "beauties"
of the North Sea in winter.

In this room all questions of rank and precedence are more or less
waived. There are, of course, differences, especially when the wardroom,
or abode of senior officers, does duty also as a gunroom for the
juniors. But here there is camaraderie and an absence of iron
discipline, although a sub-lieutenant would be extremely ill advised
either to drop the prefix "Sir" or to slap the Commander on the back in
an excess of joviality, relying on "neutral territory" to save him from
rebuke. It is, however, no uncommon event to see all ranks of officers
engaged in a heated debate, or groups of juniors laughing round the fire
while their elders are vainly trying to concentrate their minds on
the latest Press dispatches. Games are played and glasses clink merrily,
but in a gunroom there is a very strict limit as to both time and
quantity, though none regarding volume or discordance of sound.

       *       *       *       *       *

Passing on to the organisation of the flotillas for sea, we find in this
large base six minesweeping units, two being composed of fast paddle
sweepers and four of trawlers. The former are used for distant
operations and comprise nine vessels. They work in pairs, but the extra
ship is available to sink mines cut up by the sweeps of the others, and
to be immediately ready to beat off submarine attacks.

The trawlers are engaged in sweeping _daily_ the approaches to the
harbour and a recognised channel up and down the coast. Their work
overlaps with that done by the ships belonging to the neighbouring
bases. In this way the "war channel," about which more will be said
later, was kept free of mines, and afforded a safe route for ships from
the Thames to the Tyne, and in reality to the northernmost limit of

This important duty was seldom left unperformed even for a day, except
during fierce gales. Often the discovery of a distant mine-field caused
many ships to be concentrated on clearing it, and the number available
for the "routine sweeps" was consequently reduced, but longer hours of
this arduous and dangerous work made up the difference, and the work
went on in summer fog and winter snow for over four years.

The anti-submarine patrols were composed of five ships each, under the
command of the senior officer of the unit--frequently a lieutenant with
the responsibility of a captain. Their work lay out on the wastes of sea
lying between England and Germany. It was seldom that the whole five
vessels of each unit cruised together, the usual method being to scatter
over the different "beats" and rendezvous in a given latitude and
longitude at a specified time and date. They were usually able to
communicate with each other and with the base on important matters by
wireless. Their periods at sea varied from ten days to three weeks, with
a four days' "stand off" when they came into harbour. But of this time
one day at least was spent in coaling and provisioning the ship ready
for the next patrol. This ceaseless vigilance on the grey-green seas of
England's frontier was seldom interrupted for more than a few days in
the year by impossible gales. Anything short of literally mountainous
seas did not prevent the trawler patrols from riding out the storm
carefully battened down and with just sufficient speed to keep head to

The drifters were divided into patrol units, boom defence flotillas and
under-water or mine-net units. Their work was thus more varied but
equally as arduous and risky, as the loss of 30 per cent. of the entire
fleet of over 1000 ships affords undeniable proof. The periods of sea
duty were similar to those of the trawlers.

The motor launches at each base had some hundred square miles of sea to
guard, and hunted in fives. The rough weather these plucky little ships
endured in the open sea in mid-winter, the intense cold--for there was
no proper heating appliance--and the state of perpetual wetness made
their duties among the most arduous in the sea war. Later pages of true
narrative will show to the full the work of these gnats of the sea.

In addition to all these flotillas there were convoy ships, whaler
patrols, "Q" boats and a number of special duty ships. The work of the
former was of the most exacting character, and left the crews of these
vessels but little time ashore. In the base under review so arduous were
the duties of the convoy ships that it became a matter of
self-congratulation for patrol and sweeper officers and men that their
ships were not so employed, and this by men who sailed submarine and
mine infested seas for an average of 270 days in each year!

It must not be assumed that when in harbour there were no duties to be
performed by either officers or men of sea-going ships. They had, on the
contrary, to furnish anchor watches, shore sentries, duty crews for
emergency pickets, prisoner guards, working and church parties, to
attend drills, rifle practice, gun practice and instructional parades.
The officers had similar shore duties to perform, which left them little
time to rest from the strain of keeping watch and ward on the
death-strewn seas.



ALTHOUGH the convoy system was employed at the beginning of the war for
the transport of the Imperial armies to France, and subsequently for all
the Allied troop movements overseas, it was some three years later
before it was extended to the entire British Mercantile navy, on which
the United Kingdom depended for too many of the necessities of civilised

The rapid development of submarine piracy, however, compelled the
Admiralty, early in the year 1917, to resort to what was merely a new
form of the old system of protecting sea-borne trade. This comprised the
collection of all merchant ships passing through the danger zones into
nondescript fleets, and the provision of light cruisers, destroyers,
torpedo-boats, trawlers and occasionally (for coastal convoys) of patrol
launches to escort them. Certain types of aircraft were also frequently
used for observation and scouting purposes.

Previous to the adoption of the convoy system a merchantman, whether it
was a fast-moving liner or a sturdy but slow ocean tramp, _zigzagged_
through the danger zones with lights out and life-boats ready. Many were
the exciting runs made in this way, with shells ploughing up the water
around and torpedoes avoided only by the quick use of the helm; but the
courage of our merchant seamen was of that indomitable character
exhibited now for over three centuries, since the days of Drake,
Hawkins, Raleigh and the other sea-dogs of old.

But the danger zones grew wider as the radius of action of newer and
larger German submarines increased. At last no waters were immune, from
the Arctic circle to the Equator, or from Heligoland to New York.

The hour was one of extreme peril for the sea-divided Empire. To lose
several hundred ships, with many thousands of lives and much-needed
cargoes of food and munitions, when the valiant armies of civilisation
were battling with the Teuton hordes, was bad enough; but if the enemy
had been able, by casting aside the laws of humanity and sea war, to
compel British ships to remain in harbour or meet certain destruction on
the high seas, the result could only have been the complete failure of
the Allied cause, the conquest of Europe and the fall of the greatest
political edifice since Imperial Rome.

Between the world and these catastrophes, however, stood the undefeated
Mercantile Marine and the Allied navies. Councils were held in the
historic rooms of Whitehall and the old convoy system emerged from the
archives of Nelson's day. The commerce raiders were no longer the
canvas-pressed privateers of the sixteenth, seventeenth and early
eighteenth centuries, who fought a clean fight, often against great
odds, but were submarine pirates of the mechanical age, who only
appeared from the sea depths when their victims had been placed _hors de

It is an old axiom of war that new weapons of attack are invariably met
by new methods of defence. So it was with the convoy system which gave
the death-blow to German hopes of a submarine victory. In order to
understand this _new_ method it is necessary to study the accompanying
diagram, which, however simple it may appear on paper, is extremely
difficult to carry out in practice.

At each great port there was a convoy officer, who assembled the
merchant ships when they had been loaded and explained to their captains
the exact position each ship was to occupy when the fleet was at sea.
Printed instructions were handed round urging each vessel to keep its
correct station, stating the procedure to be adopted in the event of an
engine breakdown, giving the manoeuvres which were instantly to be
carried into effect when an attack was threatened, and finally the
special signals arranged for communication between the merchantmen and
their escort by day and by night.

The number of vessels composing a convoy varied, but often exceeded
twenty big cargo ships, carrying some 120,000 tons of merchandise, or
six liners, with 20,000 troops on board, while the escorting flotilla
consisted of a light cruiser, acting as flag-ship, six destroyers, two
special vessels ("P" boats) towing observation airships, and some eight
or ten trawlers, with possibly one or more seaplanes and several M.L.'s
for the first few miles of the voyage. The destroyers were spread out
ahead and on the flanks of the fleet, and by using their greatly
superior speed were able to zigzag and circle round the whole convoy.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.--Diagram showing the disposition of a convoy of
troops, munitions or food.]

In the event of an attack the whole fleet turned off from the course
they were steering at a sharp angle, showing only their sterns to the
U-boat. A destroyer acted as rearguard to prevent any of the convoyed
ships from straggling. When the fleet had arrived at a rendezvous far
out in the open sea, where the danger of a submarine attack was much
less, the escort handed over their charges to one or two ocean-going
cruisers, which stayed with the merchant ships throughout the remainder
of their voyage.


_Yachting Monthly_]

The escorting flotilla then cruised about in the vicinity of the
rendezvous until an incoming convoy appeared. These ships were then
taken over from their mid-ocean cruiser guard and escorted back through
the danger zone to port, and so the game of war continued until months
became years.

All this may sound straightforward and quite simple, but there were
difficulties, to say nothing of dangers, which made it a most arduous
operation. First came the speed problem. Every merchant ship differed in
this important respect, so the speed of the slowest unit became the
speed of the entire fleet, and this reduction made an attack by
under-water craft much easier of accomplishment. Hence the call for
"standard ships," which is a point that should be borne in mind by
future generations as a safeguard against blockade. Then came the
question of destination, which increased the number of escorting
flotillas, and especially ocean cruiser guards, required for a given
number of cargo ships. Next there was the loading and unloading to be
considered, involving long hours and hard work by the men on the
quaysides. This great difficulty was one of the reasons for the
formation of docker battalions. Coaling such big fleets by given times
caused many grey hairs to appear where otherwise they would not have
been. Finally there was the danger of mines having been laid in the
fair-ways leading to the port, which necessitated every convoy being met
by special vessels to sweep the seas in front of each incoming and
outgoing fleet.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.--Diagram showing the convoy system.]

All this and more had to be contended with and overcome before each
convoy was able to sail. Then danger and difficulty came hand-in-hand.
On a bright morning, with probably a fresh breeze blowing and a choppy
sea, the work of the escorting flotilla was easy, but with such climatic
conditions the risk of attack was so great in the waters around the
coasts that troopships usually left harbour under cover of night. No
lights were then allowed, and it will not be difficult for readers to
imagine what it meant to be pounding through a black void in a
fast-moving destroyer, against, possibly, a heavy head sea, with some
twenty or thirty big ships in the darkness and spray around. Thick
sea-mists were the cause of endless trouble, for the safety of an
invisible fleet depended on the vigilance of a half-blind escort. Winter
gales scattered the ships and rendered signals invisible. Attacks came
from the most unexpected quarters and often from more than one point of
the compass at the same time. However, relief came at last, on that
never-to-be-forgotten morning when Sir David Beatty and his admirals
accepted the unconditional surrender of the German fleet and its unsunk

Were this chapter to end with the foregoing description of the convoy
system the reader would not be in possession of the full facts from
which to gauge the importance of the work. Something must be said of
what was accomplished. First in order of importance came the transport
of many millions of soldiers not only from England to France, but also
to and from every colony and dominion of the world-wide Empire. By
August, 1915, the British navy had transported, across seas infested
with submarines and mines, a million men without the loss of a single
life or a single troopship.[5] The first Canadian army of 33,000 men
crossed the Atlantic in one big fleet of forty liners, under the escort
of four cruisers and a battleship, in October, 1914, without accident.
Transports to the number of 60 were required to convey the first
Australian army over the 14,000 miles of sea to Europe, and it was while
convoying this huge fleet that the cruiser _Sydney_ chased and destroyed
the German raider _Emden_. The Russian force which rendered valuable
service in France was safely convoyed over the 9000 miles of sea from
Dalny to Marseilles. Never once during the four and a half years of war
was the supply of food, munitions and reinforcements, or the return of
the wounded--to and from the many theatres of land operations--seriously
hindered by the German, Austrian or Turkish navies.

Turning to the gigantic task of guarding England's food supply, we find,
in one notable case, an example of the good work performed almost daily
for nearly five years. Over 4500 merchant ships had been escorted across
the North Sea to Scandinavian ports alone before the disaster of 14th
October 1917 befell the convoy on that route. On that occasion the
anti-submarine escort of three destroyers were intercepted, midway
between the Shetland Islands and Norway, by two heavily armed German
cruisers. The destroyers fought to the last to save their charges, but
unfortunately only three merchant ships succeeded in getting safely
away. Five Norwegian ships, three Swedish and one Danish ship were sunk.
From this it will be observed that not only British merchantmen were
protected by escorts.

The second attack on the Scandinavian convoy occurred on 12th December.
The escort consisted of two destroyers, the _Partridge_ and _Pellew_,
with four armed trawlers. Fortunately the convoy was comparatively a
small one, for it was attacked and almost totally destroyed in the North
Sea by four of the largest German destroyers. H.M.S. _Pellew_, although
badly damaged, succeeded in returning to England.

It may be rightly thought that in both these cases the escorting
flotilla was not strong enough, but it should be remembered that if
heavier ships had been employed they would have been much less able to
cope with a submarine attack. The escort in both cases was purely an
anti-submarine defence, and only on the Scandinavian and Netherlands
routes was a surface attack at all possible, because all exits from the
North Sea were securely closed by the strategic positions occupied by
the Grand Fleet and the battle cruiser squadrons, in conjunction with
subsidiary fleets at Harwich and extensive mine-fields.

When it became apparent that surface as well as submarine attacks on the
North Sea convoys had to be provided against, other means were promptly
adopted, and no further disasters occurred.

The strong escort accompanying the transports bringing to Europe the
first American army were attacked at night by a submarine, but succeeded
in avoiding the torpedoes fired. This was due to the smartness with
which the United States warships were manoeuvred. Three subsequent
attacks on the same convoy route also failed.

The Report of the War Cabinet for the year 1917 gives some remarkable
figures in support of the convoy system. On the Atlantic routes about 90
per cent. of the ships were formed into fleets and escorted. From the
inauguration of this system the loss on these routes from all causes was
0.82 per cent., and if all the trade routes to and from the United
Kingdom are included, the loss was only 0.58 per cent. With these
figures in mind, who will deny that the navy is the surest form of
national as well as Imperial insurance?


[5] When writing of the navy in this connection due praise should be
given to the Mercantile Marine, which this war has proved to be a very
important part of the _true_ sea power of Great Britain.



WHEN all is said and done, anti-submarine warfare is very like big-game
hunting. Success depends entirely on the initiative, skill and resource
of the individual hunter. Contrary to general belief, there is, at
present, no sovereign remedy for the depredations of under-water craft
with their torpedoes and mines. There are, however, several recognised
methods of attack and defence employed by surface ships in this newest
form of naval warfare.

When the new navy took the seas in 1914-1915, bases were established not
only round the coasts of the British Isles, but also in the more distant
seas. The principal danger zones were, however, the North Sea, the
English Channel, the Irish Sea, the Mediterranean and the eastern
portion of the North Atlantic. It was through these waters that every
hostile submarine must pass on its voyage out and home.

This geographical factor restricted the theatre of major operations to
some 180,000 square miles of sea. Minor offensive measures might have to
be adopted against individual U-boats cruising at long distances from
their bases, as actually occurred off the United States coast, but the
fact of Germany possessing large submarine bases only along her own
North Sea coast, and temporary ones on the Flanders littoral, enabled a
concentration of Allied anti-submarine craft to be made in the narrow
seas which afforded the only means of entry and exit to and from those

The same may be said of Austria in the Adriatic and of Turkey behind the

This favourable combination of circumstances would not occur if (however
unthinkable) England, France or the United States were ever to wage a
rigorous war against shipping. The large number of oversea naval bases
possessed by these Powers would cause every sea to become a danger zone
within a few hours of the commencement of hostilities. No effective
concentration of hostile surface craft would be possible with the zone
of operations spread over the water surface of the entire globe, and if
the bases themselves were secured by predominant battle fleets, or
numbers of heavily armed monitors, the seas would quickly become
impossible for purposes of hostile transport.

This geographical restriction of the German and Austrian danger zones
made effective concentration of the Allied anti-submarine fleets and
their devices possible. The 180,000 square miles of sea, forming the
theatre of major operations, was, on special charts, divided into areas,
comprising a few hundred square miles of sea. Each area was given a
distinctive number, and a base was established for its own patrol and
minesweeping fleet.

The areas themselves were again subdivided on special charts into
squares or sections. Each square covered a few leagues of sea and was
known by an alphabetical sign. In this way the waters of the submarine
danger zone were divided into areas, with their bases and protective
fleets, and squares with their respective squadrons or ships.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.--Diagram showing division of sea into
anti-submarine patrol areas.]

Each square of sea was covered once or twice daily by its own patrol
ship or flotilla. Where the danger was less the patrol was not so
frequent and the squares were almost indefinite in size, but where the
chances of successful operations were exceptional, as in the Straits of
Dover, additional offensive measures were employed (see under _Mine

This, then, was the chess-board on which the game of submarine warfare
was played. To facilitate communication between the different patrols
spread over the squares of sea, wireless was fitted in many ships, and
war signal stations were erected on prominent points of land. Each base
was able to communicate by wireless with any of its ships out on patrol
duty, and was also connected by land-line telegraph, telephone and
wireless with _naval centres_.

These latter were head intelligence offices, usually situated at the
great bases of the battle fleets. In this way any concentration of
hostile surface warships noticed by the patrols (sometimes submarines
were employed, especially in the Heligoland Bight) could be communicated
in a few minutes to the admirals commanding the Grand Fleet, the Battle
Cruiser Squadron or other large fighting organisations.

At the naval centres the movements of hostile submarines were recorded
on charts. If, for example, it was reported from a patrol boat that the
U16 had torpedoed a ship in square "C," area 41, at 10 A.M. (G.M.T.[6])
on 4th August, and the patrol had arrived on the scene too late to be of
any service, a warning could be wirelessed to hundreds of vessels on the
seas surrounding the scene of outrage to keep a careful look-out for
the U16.

[Illustration: FIG. 21.--Diagram showing how an area is covered by
patrols. _A_. Unit or flotilla of ships may proceed out from the base on
course indicated by arrows _B_, which would be called the "Northern
Inner Beat," and return to harbour on course _A_, "Northern Outer Beat."
Other units of ships would simultaneously follow the course _E_. These
and adjacent squares of sea would be covered daily by one or more ships
of each unit. The southern half of the area would be patrolled in the
same way. The "Outer Beat" is shown by the arrows _C_, and the "Inner
Beat" by the arrows _D_. The points _+F_ show the possible positions of
armed patrols acting independently of any unit or flotilla.]

Subsequently a further message might come to the naval centre that the
same submarine had been chasing a merchantman in square "D," "E" or "F"
in the adjoining area. A concentration of fast ships, such as
destroyers, M.L.'s or coastal motor boats, could then be made so as to
intercept the raider or enclose her in a circle while other vessels
hunted her down.

In a like manner important convoys coming down the coast, or entering a
danger zone from the open sea, could be met by a local flotilla and
escorted to a _rendezvous_ with a flotilla from the adjoining area. In
this way they were passed through the submarine and mine infested seas
to and from their harbour terminus.

Almost the same methods were employed in dealing with the thousands of
German mines. But to describe that part of anti-submarine warfare here
would be to encroach on the subject of a succeeding chapter.


The _method_ of patrolling the areas and squares of sea was
comparatively simple, though the same cannot be said of the actual work.
The lines of patrol were called "beats," and there was usually an
"inner" and an "outer" beat for each unit or flotilla of ships. If when
a ship (or a unit) reached her allotted square, from which the line of
patrol extended, she elected to proceed on the _inner beat_, she would
generally accomplish the return journey to the point of departure on the
_outer beat_, thus covering her respective zone of patrol, but leaving
the exact route to the discretion of the commanding officer. In this way
no hostile submarine with a knowledge of the system could be sure of
when or where a patrol ship would be met. In the same way it was left to
the commander of a flotilla to either divide his ships into pairs,
single units, or to maintain them as a homogeneous fleet, so that any
combination of hostile submarines could not be made which would be sure
of being able to attack a _single_ patrol. Such an enemy combination
might encounter a single ship, but it might also walk into the arms of a
whole flotilla; or it might attack a single ship only to find itself
surrounded by a following fleet.

[Illustration: FIG. 22.--Diagram illustrating the operations of a
hydrophone flotilla composed of armed motor launches. Each vessel is
given a number, and the flotilla proceeds in line-abreast along the
course shown by the dotted lines. Each vessel is one mile from the
other, and the whole line stops by signal at the point marked with a
cross. Hydrophones are put in operation, and after a period of listening
the flotilla continues on its course, as no submarine sounds are heard.
The flotilla turns to head south, and a stop is again made to listen on
the hydrophones. This time the sound of a hostile submarine is heard by
vessel No. 1, bearing S.W. This report is confirmed by vessel No. 2
hearing the same sound, bearing a few degrees farther W. The two
bearings _A_ and _B_ are then drawn on a chart, and the point where the
two lines cross is the approximate position of the invisible submarine.
The attack with depth charges is then ordered.]

The beats which were most distant from the base were given to the
largest ships. This was done because it was often impossible for the
more distant patrols to reach a place of shelter before one of the
fierce gales which swept the northern seas was upon them. Trawlers,
large steam yachts and converted merchantmen were usually employed on
squares more than one hundred miles distant from a harbour of refuge,
while motor launches kept watch and ward on the seas closer inshore.

The duration of patrols varied according to their position. Some lasted
three weeks and others only a few days or hours. When the ships returned
to their base after a spell at sea they were given a corresponding
"rest" in harbour. A three weeks' patrol meant several days'
"stand-off," while a two or three days' patrol entitled the ship to
twenty-four hours in the comparative comfort of a harbour.

It must not be imagined, however, that a stand-off meant entire idleness
or thorough rest. There were duties to perform which robbed it of much
that it was intended to give. Ships had to be coaled, provisioned,
painted or repaired. Engines had to be overhauled, sentries posted
ashore, a guard to be furnished, and every day one ship in each unit
that was in harbour had to be manned and in readiness for emergencies.


We now come to the actual methods employed by surface craft when
attacking submarines. Although, as previously stated, much was left to
individual initiative, there were, nevertheless, certain recognised

Taking as an example the operations of a hydrophone flotilla of armed
motor launches, the number of vessels forming the unit was usually five.
When out scouting for the enemy they proceeded in line-abreast for about
one sea mile, then stopped their engines and listened on their
hydrophones for the noise of a submarine cruising in the vicinity. If
nothing was heard the mile-long line of miniature warships advanced
another mile and again stopped to listen. This manoeuvre was repeated
until one or other of the ships heard the familiar sound of a U-boat.
Nothing might be visible on the surface of the sea, but if this was the
case and the noise came up from the ocean depths over the electrified
wires of the detector, it was conclusive proof that a submarine was in
the near vicinity.

The M.L. first detecting the noise hoisted a signal (flag by day and
coloured electric light by night), giving the direction from which the
sound came (see Fig. 22). The next ship in the line to receive the
sound on its instruments then hoisted a signal, also giving the
bearing--_i.e._ N.N.W., E.S.E., etc. If the two coincided in regard to
direction, the attack commenced. If, however, they did not agree in this
important respect, the line of patrol ships advanced another mile and
listened again.

The flag-ship of the unit on receiving the direction from one or more
ships marked the lines of sound on a chart (as in Fig. 22), and when
this was substantiated by another ship the point where the two lines
crossed was known to be the position of the hostile submarine, and the
attack was ordered.

As to the exact method of an anti-submarine attack little need be said
here beyond the fact that the ships advanced at full speed,
manoeuvring into a special formation which enabled them to cover about
half a square mile of sea with the explosive force of their collective
depth charges.

When the attack had been completed all vessels engaged resumed their
stations and waited with quick-firing guns ready in case the monster
should rise from the deep to make a dying effort to destroy her

The tactical methods of anti-submarine attack were, of course, numerous,
and they varied according to the speed of the surface ships engaged.
What was possible of accomplishment by fast-moving coastal motor boats
or the larger-sized M.L.'s proved impracticable for the more heavily
armed but slow-moving trawlers and drifters. The tactics of these
latter craft were often of the simplest character, and consisted
principally of either independent attacks with the aid of hydrophones
and depth charges, or, more frequently, the assumption of an innocent
air in order to induce the submarine to open the attack at close range.


A photograph left by the Germans in Ostend showing a coastal motor boat
washed ashore after the great raid.

_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]

In many respects this proved the most effective method of anti-submarine
warfare. Not only did it frequently cause the under-water craft to rise
to the surface and commence the attack by gun-fire, in order not to
expend a valuable torpedo on what appeared to be an unarmed and helpless
ship, but it also produced a _moral_ effect throughout the German
submarine flotillas.

When a few U-boats had been either sunk or damaged in this way the news
that every Allied ship was heavily armed circulated among the enemy
personnel, and they became very nervous of attacking in any position
except totally submerged. This meant the loss of at least one torpedo,
out of from five to ten carried, for every attack made, whether
successful or unsuccessful, and the latter were predominant.

It soon became apparent that either they must risk surface attacks and
so save their torpedoes, or else curtail their cruises to meet the rapid
expenditure of their only submarine weapon. This does not, of course,
cover the activities of under-water mine-layers, whose nefarious purpose
consisted simply of laying their mines wherever they appeared most
likely to catch Allied shipping. These craft were usually armed with
torpedoes as well as mines, to enable them to continue the work of
destruction when the cargo of the latter had been safely laid. In this
way the problem of combating the German submarine offensive resolved
itself into two parts, one being to checkmate the commerce raider and
the other the mine-layer. With the second of these difficulties we shall
deal in a later chapter.

Many merchantmen, both Allied and neutral, owed their escape to this
camouflage warfare, which was brought to a high pitch of perfection and
daring in the now famous mystery ships.

What may be said to form the second method of anti-submarine warfare was
the decoy or camouflage system. Of primary importance in this category
were the mystery ships already described, but there were also
innumerable other _ruses de guerre_ which increased its efficiency.

To describe one of these will enable the reader to draw on his own
imagination for the remainder. A vessel was steaming in from the
Atlantic and was about a hundred miles from the Cornish coast when she
was attacked by a submarine above water. The surface ship was heavily
armed, but instead of using her weapons at once she sent out frantic
wireless signals for assistance. Every few minutes the call went far and
wide in plain Morse.

The shells from the submarine splashed into the sea around, but none
struck the target for some minutes. Had the surface ship desired, she
could in all probability have avoided the under-water craft by using her
superior speed, but instead she dropped back, allowing the submarine to
catch up to her, and the shells began to burst unpleasantly close.

Still the frantic wireless calls went forth. First the simple message:
"I am being attacked by a large German submarine." Then the vehemence
increased to: "I am being heavily shelled." A few minutes elapsed and
then the call: "Help. Submarine gaining on me." And finally: "Abandoning

At this point the submarine was close astern and the liner slowing down
preparatory to lowering her life-boats. The shells were damaging her
superstructure, but a heavy swell interfered with the German
marksmanship. Then came the surprise. A life-boat on the liner's poop
was hoisted clear of the deck and from under its cover there appeared
the lean grey muzzle of a 4.7-inch gun. A few sharp blasts of cordite
and the submarine sagged and disappeared.

The captain of the liner had noticed when first attacked that the
submarine was fitted with wireless and the calls sent out by him were in
_plain Morse code_. On the strength of these the German commander had
saved his torpedoes but lost his ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another form of anti-submarine tactics was the employment of indicator
and mined nets around an apparently disabled ship, or in lines across
narrow channels known to be used by German submarines on their way to
and from their bases. This method has, however, received full mention
in other chapters.

       *       *       *       *       *

What may be termed the third system of anti-submarine warfare was the
use of extensive mine barriers, specially laid to catch submarines
attempting to pass through them under water. The surface of the sea was
patrolled by shallow-draft vessels and the under-seas guarded by mines.
If a submarine was sighted in the vicinity of one of the mine barriers
already described she was attacked and forced to submerge herself in
order to escape destruction from the guns of the pursuing surface
flotilla. From that moment her fate was sealed. By cautious
manoeuvring and using to full advantage their great superiority of
speed (20-40 knots against 6-10 knots) the surface ships were able to
head their quarry into the mine-field. Usually the submarine dived deep
in order to throw her pursuers off the track, and all unconscious of the
deep-laid mines in thousands she plunged to her doom--a heavy rumble,
followed by an upheaval of the surface, and the chase was over.

This method, when carried out on the vast and scientifically sound
principle described in a previous chapter, offers the best possible
antidote to the submarine. Its employment in the Great European War
placed the seal of complete success on the Allied anti-submarine
offensive. It should, however, be remembered that comparatively narrow
seas and a restricted zone of major operations made possible of
accomplishment with some hundreds of thousands of mines (average cost,
£400) what would in many cases and in many seas have been quite
impracticable with as many millions of these difficult weapons.

       *       *       *       *       *

The employment of submarines against submarines also forms a method of
under-sea warfare which gives considerable scope for both daring and
resource. It is of course quite impossible for one of these vessels when
totally submerged to fight another in the same blind condition. But with
just the small periscopic tube--or eye of the submarine--projecting
above the surface, one craft can scout and watch for another to rise to
the surface, thinking no enemy is near, in order to replenish her air
supply for breathing or for recharging the electric storage batteries
which supply the current for submerged propulsion.

When such a position obtains the submarine which comes unknowingly to
the surface stands a grave danger of being torpedoed by her opponent.
This actually occurred to at least one German U-boat during the Great

One or more submarines can also be employed around a slow-moving decoy
ship. In this case they would have the advantage of being invisible
until the actual moment of attack. The result of such a manoeuvre
would be either a gun duel on the surface or the torpedoing of the
attacking submarine by one or other vessel of the decoy's submerged

It was a ruse of this kind which achieved success in the North Sea
during the early stages of the war. A trawler was employed to tow a
submarine by a submerged hawser. This mode of progress was adopted to
enable the submarine to economise the strictly limited supply of
electricity carried for under-water propulsion.

The trawler then cruised very slowly about, dragging the submarine under
the surface behind her. In order to divert any suspicion which might
have been aroused by her slow speed she was rigged so as to give the
impression that a net was being towed, and the area of operations chosen
was well-known fishing-ground.

In this curious way days were spent before the desired consummation was
reached. Then a large U-boat came boldly to the surface and opened fire.
Instantly the submarine astern of the trawler was released from the tow
rope and forged ahead under her own electric engines. The commander of
the surface decoy stopped his ship and commenced lowering the small
life-boat carried. This was done in order to distract the attention of
the Germans from the tiny periscope which was planing through the water
to the attack.

A shell struck the trawler, carrying away her funnel, but did no other
damage, and a few seconds later the water around the U-boat rose up in a
vast upheaval of white. The plan had succeeded, and when the air cleared
of the smoke from the trawler's damaged stack there was nothing afloat
on the surface of the sea around--except an ever-widening patch of oil
and bubbles.

A few minutes later the thin grey line of the British submarine rose
above the swell some five hundred yards distant from the scene of her

Another means by which one subaqueous fleet can attack another is by
laying mines in the seas around the enemy base.

       *       *       *       *       *

These simple methods formed what may be termed the backbone of the
widespread anti-submarine operations during the Great War, but with the
experience gained and the brains of almost every nation focussed on the
problem of providing an effective counterblast to the under-water
warship, there can be little doubt that in the next great naval conflict
new and more scientific means of attacking these pests of the sea will
have been perfected, though what degree of success they will attain in
the stern trial of war the future alone can tell.[7]


[6] Greenwich mean time.

[7] For a careful study of the effect of the submarine on the old
theories of sea power see _Submarines and Sea Power_, by Charles
Domville-Fife (Messrs George Bell & Sons, Ltd., London, and Messrs
Lippincotts, New York.).



TO those unversed in modern war it may have appeared strange that,
although the Allied navies held command of the sea from the opening of
the Great War in 1914 to the signature of Peace in 1919, the Germans
were nevertheless able to lay several thousand mines every year off the
coasts of England, France and even the most distant colonies and
dominions. It often occurred that harbour entrances and narrow fair-ways
were repeatedly mined, notwithstanding a vigilant day-and-night watch
from the bridges, look-outs and decks of many patrol ships cruising or
listening in the vicinity.

The explanation is that the mines were laid by large submarines capable
of approaching the coast, laying their deadly cargo from specially
constructed stern tubes and retreating to comparative safety far out in
the broad ocean, without rising more than momentarily to the surface for
the purpose of observation.


U.C. 5 off Temple Pier, London.

_Sport and General_]

This, it may be said, did not absolve the ships listening on their
hydrophones, who should have been able to detect the approach of a
submarine from the sound of her engines. During the first year of war
the hydrophone was a very imperfect instrument, and although the sound
might be heard it was quite impossible to tell from what direction it
was coming. Later on, when the listening appliances had been greatly
improved, there still remained two detrimental factors. The noise of
breakers beating against rocks, sands or other obstructions destroyed
much of the value of these instruments when used close inshore. On dark
and rough nights the roar of wind and sea and the lurching of the vessel
rendered subaqueous sounds extremely difficult to detect; and in a
fair-way or channel used by surface shipping it was frequently
impossible, even in fine but dark weather, to tell if the sound coming
up from the sea emanated from a surface ship or a submarine.

If, in the latter case, the patrol ship started her own engines and
moved forward in the darkness to ascertain from whence the noise came,
she gave away her presence to the hostile submarine, _also fitted with
listening appliances_. Whereas if she remained still and waited for the
enemy to approach, mines might be laid in the meantime across important
fair-ways which it was her duty to guard.

German mine-laying submarines were designated U-C boats, and often these
vessels would employ a ruse in order to lay their mines in safety.
Sometimes a decoy would draw the patrols away on a fruitless chase while
the mines were being launched from the tubes of another U-C boat. In one
case a big armed steamer was attacked with torpedoes while mines were
being laid across the line of advance by which a flotilla of warships
would be likely to come out to her aid from a near-by base.

In these and other ways over 3000 mines were laid off the British coast
in one year. There were also several raids by surface mine-layers, which
succeeded in eluding the network of patrols in the fogs and snows which
prevail in the North Sea during several months out of every twelve. The
two most important of these were the cruises of the _Wolfe_ and the
_Moewe_. The former vessel left Germany during the November fogs of
1916, and, by skirting the Norwegian coast, succeeded in passing the
British patrol flotillas. She carried 500 mines, and after crossing the
North Sea in high latitudes, proceeded down the mid-Atlantic until off
the Cape of Good Hope, where the first mine-field was laid. She then
crossed the Indian Ocean, laying fields off Bombay and Colombo.

It was in these seas that she succeeded in capturing a British
merchantman. Placing a German crew and a cargo of mines aboard, she sent
the prize to lay a field off Aden, while she herself proceeded to New
Zealand. In these far-distant waters another field was laid, and a few
months later the last of her cargo was discharged off Singapore. From
this time onward she became a commerce raider.

[Illustration: FIG. 23.--A typical German mine and sinker. _A._ The
mine-casing containing about 300 lb. of high explosive, and the electric
firing device which is put in force when the horns _B_ are struck and
bent by a passing ship. _B._ Horns, made of lead and easily bent if
touched by a surface ship, but sufficiently rigid to resist blows by
sea-water. _C._ Hydrostatic device, operated by the pressure of the
water at a given depth, rendering the mine safe until submerged. _D._
Slings holding mine to mooring rope _F_. _F._ Mooring rope to reel in
sinker. _G._ Reel of mooring wire, which unwinds when the mine floats to
the surface. _H._ Iron supports held together (as in small left-hand
diagram) by a band round the mine-casing. The mine goes overboard and
sinks like this to the bottom. The band is then released by a special
device, and the supports drop away, leaving the mine free to float to
the surface (as in small right-hand diagram). _I._ A heavy iron sinker
which acts as an anchor, holding the mine in one position.]

The _Moewe_ left Germany in December, 1916, and crossed the North Sea
amid heavy snow squalls. Proceeding into the North Atlantic, she awaited
a favourable opportunity to approach the British coast. This came one
wild January night with a rising gale and a haze of snow. All her
mines, about 400 in number, were laid off the Scottish coast in the
teeth of a nor'wester. Then, with the "jolly Roger at the fore," she
steamed out on to the wastes of sea lying between the New World and the

[Illustration: FIG. 24.--Diagram illustrating the effect of tide on a
moored mine. A vessel is approaching a mine _D_, moored to the bottom by
a sinker _H_. The distance from the top of the horns of the mine to the
surface of the sea is approximately 5 feet at low tide, and as the
vessel's draught is 7 feet she would strike the mine. If, however, the
same vessel passed over the same mine a few hours later, at high tide,
the level of the sea would have risen 5 feet, and the mine would then be
10 feet below the surface; in which case the ship would just pass over
in safety. This is known as the "tide difficulty." There is, in
addition, the "dip" of the mine due to the strength of the tidal
current. _E_ and _F_ show what is meant by the dip of a mine. It is the
deflection from the vertical caused by the ebb and flow of the tide. It
frequently causes a mine-field to be quite harmless to passing surface
craft except during the period of slack water between tides.]

       *       *       *       *       *

We now come to the mines themselves and the method of laying them both
above and below the surface.

A good idea of the shape, size and general characteristics of these
weapons will be obtained from the accompanying diagrams. On being
discharged into the sea they automatically adjust themselves to float
about ten feet below the surface (according to tide) and are anchored to
the bottom by means of a wire mooring rope attached to a heavy sinker.
To describe here the mechanical details of all the different types of
German submarine mines would occupy many pages with uninteresting
technical formulæ. It is sufficient to say that they carried an
explosive charge (200 to 400 lb. of T.N.T.) sufficient to blow to pieces
vessels of several hundred tons and to seriously damage the largest
warship. They were intended to float a few feet below the surface--being
held down by the mooring rope--but, as there was no means of
compensating for the rise and fall of the tide, many of them often
showed their horns above the surface at low water and were immersed too
deep to be of much use against any but the deepest draught ships at high
tide. A reference to Fig. 24 will make this difficulty clear.

There was scarcely a ship afloat in the zone of operations which did
not, during those years of storm, sight one or more of these hateful
weapons with their horns showing above the surface. Motor launches were
employed to scout for them during the hour before and the hour after low
water. In this way many hundreds were discovered and destroyed almost
as soon as they had been laid. One badly laid mine, which shows on the
surface when the tide ebbs, will often give away a whole field of these
otherwise invisible weapons, and the work of sweeping them up and
destroying them is then rendered comparatively easy.

The effect of strong tides on a moored mine is considerable, and will
render a field quite harmless for several hours out of every
twenty-four. The reason for this is best described with the aid of a

It will be seen from the above that the mine will not remain vertically
above its sinker when there is a tide, but will incline at an angle
determined by the strength of the current, which, if considerable, will
press the weapon down much deeper than the keel of any ship (see Fig.
24). When the tide turns the mine will first regain its true
perpendicular position and then incline in the opposite direction,
accommodating itself to the ebb and flow. From this it will be apparent
that in places where there is a strong current or tide a mine-field is
only dangerous to passing ships of shallow or medium draft for a few
hours (during slack water) out of the twenty-four. Between the ebb and
the flow of a tide there is a short period when the water is almost
still. Then the movement begins to set in from the opposite direction
and gradually gains in speed until about one hour before high or low
tide. This period of what is known as "slack water" varies considerably
in different places and different weather conditions, but plays an
important part in all minesweeping operations.

In this way many a ship has passed over a mine-field all unconscious of
the fate which would have befallen her had she traversed the same area
of sea an hour or so earlier or later.

Mines which break adrift, or are laid without moorings of any kind, are
called _floating mines_. The latter are a direct violation of
International Law, as they cannot be recovered when once they have been
laid, and become a danger to neutral as well as to enemy shipping. The
laws of civilised warfare also require even a moored mine to be fitted
with some mechanical device which renders it safe when once it has
broken adrift from the wire and heavy sinker which holds it in a stated
position. The reason for this humanitarian rule is that neutrals can be
warned not to approach a given area of sea in which there are moored
mines, but if these weapons break adrift--as they frequently do in heavy
weather--and float all over the oceans, they would seriously endanger
the lives and property of neutral states unless something were done to
render them innocuous.

The total disregard of all the laws and customs of civilised warfare by
the Germans in 1914-1919 has now been so well established that it seems
almost unnecessary to give yet another instance of this callousness. In
the case about to be quoted, however, there is, as the reader will
observe, an almost superlative cunning.

Any cursory examination of a German moored mine will show that there is
a device fitted ostensibly to ensure the weapon becoming safe when it
breaks adrift from its moorings and thus complying with The Hague
Convention. For several months after the outbreak of war it puzzled many
minesweeping officers and men why, with this device fitted, every German
_floating_ or _drifting_ mine was dangerous. A few, relying on these
weapons being safe when adrift, had endeavoured to salve one and had
paid for the experiment with the lives of themselves and their comrades.
This caused every mine, whether moored or adrift, to be regarded by
seamen as dangerous, notwithstanding the oft-repeated assurances that
German mines fulfilled all International requirements in this respect.
Then a mine which had broken away from its moorings was successfully
salved, in face of the great danger involved, and the truth came out.

A device _was_ fitted to render it safe, but, with truly Hunnish
ingenuity, the metal out of which an essential part of this appliance
was made was quite unable to bear the strain imposed by its work, and,
to make doubly sure, another part was half filed through. The result was
that, instead of rendering the mine safe when torn from its moorings by
rough seas, the essential parts broke and left the mine fully _alive_.

Any discovery such as this--_only made at the great risk of salving a
live mine_--could be easily explained away by German diplomacy as faulty
workmanship in a particular weapon, reliance being placed on the fact
that not many mines could be salved in this way without heavy loss of
life; but numbers were recovered in spite of the dangers and
extraordinary difficulties of such operations, and the guilt was for
ever established in the minds of those who sail the seas.

Little need be said here regarding the method of laying mines from
surface ships like the _Wolfe_ and _Moewe_. The weapons were arranged to
run along the decks on railway lines and roll off the stern, or through
a large port-hole, into the sea as the vessel steamed along.

With submarine mine-layers or U-C boats the method was, however, much
more complicated and needs full description. Each vessel was fitted with
large expulsion tubes in the stern and carried some eighteen to twenty
mines. These weapons, although similar in their internal mechanism to
the ordinary mine, were specially designed for expulsion from submerged
tubes or chambers.

The mines were stored in the stern compartment of the submarine, between
guide-rails fitted with rollers. They were in two rows and moved easily
on the well-greased wheels. The loading was accomplished through
water-tight hatchways in the deck above. In order to expel these mines
from the interior of the submarine when travelling under the surface
each weapon had to be moved into a short expulsion tube or chamber, the
inner cap of which was closed when a mine was inside, and the outer or
sea-cap opened. A supply of compressed air was then admitted into the
back of the tube and the mine forced out into the open sea, in the same
way as a torpedo is now expelled from a submerged tube.

Before another mine could be launched the sea-cap had to be closed, the
water blown from the tube, the inner cap opened and a second mine placed
ready in the chamber. This, however, did not end the difficulty of
laying mines from submarines. The increase in the buoyancy of the boat,
due to the loss of weight as each mine was discharged into the sea, had
to be instantly and automatically compensated by the admission of
quantities of sea-water of equal weight into special tanks, hitherto
empty, situated below the mine-tubes. If this had been neglected the
submarine would have come quickly to the surface, stern uppermost, owing
to the lightening of the hull by the expulsion therefrom of some fifteen
weapons weighing many hundreds of pounds each.

When the mine was clear of the submarine it sank to the bottom, owing to
the weight of the sinker or anchor. After a short immersion, however, a
special device enabled the top half, containing the charge of explosive
and the contact firing horns, to part company with the heavy lower half,
composed of the iron sinker and the reel of mooring wire. The explosive
section then floated up towards the surface, unwinding the wire from the

Each mine being set, before discharge, to a certain prearranged depth
(obtained by the captain of the U-C boat either by sounding wires or
from special charts showing the depth of water in feet), the weapon
could not rise quite up to the surface, being checked in its ascent,
when ten feet from the top, by the mooring wire refusing to unwind

This may sound a little involved, but a careful study of the
accompanying diagrams will make the various movements of the mine and
its sinker, after leaving the submarine, quite clear to the lay reader.

There were also other types of mines employed. Some were fitted with an
automatic device which was actuated by the pressure of the water at a
set depth. These weapons could be expelled from submarines without the
necessity of knowing and adjusting the depth at which they were to float
below the surface. A mine of this pattern rose up, after discharge from
the tube, until the pressure of water on its casing was reduced to 4 1/2
lb. per square inch (the pressure which obtains at a depth of ten feet
below the surface[8]), and there the weapon stopped, waiting patiently
for its prey.

Another kind of mine was of the floating variety--tabooed by The Hague
Convention--which drifted along under the surface with no moorings to
hold it in one position.

Now that the reader is familiar with the mines themselves and the actual
methods of laying them, we can pass on to a brief review of the German
mine-laying policy during the Great War.

The submarine offensive reached its maximum intensity in 1916-1917,
during which period no less than 7000 mines were destroyed by the
British navy alone.[9] Of this number about 2000 were drifting when
discovered. There was, with one small exception, no portion of the coast
of the United Kingdom which was not mined at least once during those
eventful _two_ years, the unmined area being undoubtedly left clear to
facilitate a raid or invasion. About 200 minesweeping vessels were blown
up or seriously damaged, but the losses among the Mercantile Marine were
kept down to less than 300 ships out of the 5000 sailings which, on an
average, took place weekly.

The heavy losses inflicted on the enemy's submarine fleets in 1917
marked the turning of the tide, and from that date onwards there was a
steady but sure reduction in the number of mines laid.

During the first twelve months of the intensified submarine war the
Germans concentrated their mine-laying on the food routes from the
United States, the sea communications of the Grand Fleet off the east
coast of Scotland and the line of supply to France. Then, when they
commenced to realise the impossibility of starving the sea-girt island,
and the weight of the ever-increasing British armies began to tell in
the land war, the submarine policy changed to conform with the general
strategy of the High Command, and the troop convoy bases and routes were
the objects of special attack.

The arrival in Europe of the advance guard of the United States army
caused another change in the submarine strategy. From that time onwards
the Atlantic routes assumed a fresh importance and became the major zone
of operations.

In the first year of the war the U-C boats discharged their cargoes of
mines as soon as they could reach their respective areas of operation.
The mines were usually laid close together in one field, frequently
situated off some prominent headland, or at a point where trade routes
converged. Then the enemy learned to respect the British minesweeping
and patrol organisation, and endeavoured to lay their "sea-gulls' eggs"
in waters which had been recently swept, or where sweeping forces
appeared to be weak in numbers.

When this failed they played their last card, scattering the mines in
twos and threes over wide areas of sea. To meet this new mode of attack
large numbers of shallow-draught M.L.'s were employed to scout for the
mines at low water.

It was about this time that the great Allied mine barriers across the
entrances and exits to and from the North Sea were completed and the
losses among the U and U-C boats became heavy. A rapid abatement in the
submarine offensive soon became apparent, and utter failure was only a
matter of time.


[8] The question of water pressures and many other problems of submarine
engineering relating to under-water fighting are fully treated in
_Submarine Engineering of To-day_, by the Author.

[9] A few of the 7000 were British mines no longer required in the
positions in which they had been laid.



THE task which confronted the naval minesweeping organisations in the
years succeeding 4th August 1914 was an appalling one. Any square yard
of sea around the 1500 miles of coast-line of the British Isles might be
mined at any moment of any day or night. There were, in addition, the
widely scattered fields laid by surface raiders like the _Wolfe_ and the
_Moewe_, which, as described in a previous chapter, extended their
operations to the uttermost ends of the earth. A wonderfully efficient
patrol of the danger zones had its effect in reducing the number of
submarine mine-layers available to the enemy and in rendering both
difficult and hazardous the successful execution of their work, but
neither a predominant and subsequently victorious fleet, nor an equally
skilful and alert patrol, could guarantee the immunity of any
considerable area of sea from mines.

The Germans laid many thousands of these deadly and invisible weapons in
the 140,000 square miles of sea around the British Isles _alone_ in the
face of over 2000 warships. To search for these patches of death in the
wastes of water may well be likened to exploring for the proverbial
"needle in a haystack." Yet the sweepers, whose sole duty it was to
fill this breach in the gigantic system of Allied naval defence,
explored daily and almost hourly, for over four years, the vast ocean
depths, discovering and destroying some 7000 German mines, with a loss
of 200 vessels of their number. The result of this silent victory over
one of the greatest perils that ever threatened the Sea Empire was that
some 5000 food, munition and troop ships were able to enter and leave
the ports of the United Kingdom _weekly_ with a remarkably small
percentage of loss from a peril which might easily have proved
disastrous to the entire Allied cause.

This, then, in broad outline, was the task which confronted this section
of the naval service, and its successful accomplishment forged a big
link in the steel chain encompassing the glorious victory.

Before passing on to describe the ships and the appliances used it is
first necessary to give a more detailed account of the operations
generally included under the heading of minesweeping. As it was
impossible to tell exactly where mines would be laid from day to day, an
immense area of sea had to be covered by what was known as _exploratory
sweeping_. This consisted of many units of ships emerging from the
different anti-submarine bases almost every day throughout the year and
proceeding to allotted areas of water, where they commenced sweeping
north, south, east or west, in an endeavour to discover if the areas in
question were safe for mercantile traffic. If no mines were discovered
that particular area would be reported safe, but if only one of these
weapons was cut from its mooring by a sweep-wire the area would be
closed to merchant ships until the sea around was definitely cleared of
the hidden danger. This system of open and closed areas entailed an
enormous amount of efficient administrative staff work apart from the
actual sweeping, and its success was partly dependent upon the vigilance
of the patrols employed to divert shipping from dangerous patches of

When a mine-field was discovered which interfered with the free movement
of a large number of ships a big concentration of sweepers from all the
adjacent bases was ordered by telegraph and wireless. The area was
isolated by patrols and the mines swept up. In one field no less than
300-400 mines were known to have been laid. Finally a further
exploratory sweep was made, and if nothing further was discovered the
area was again opened to traffic, and the sweepers turned their
attention either to routine duties or to the clearance of another field.

The entrance to every important harbour was swept once or twice a day,
and all convoys had sweepers ahead of them when they left or entered
such confined waters. The seas adjacent to harbours and naval bases were
searched at low water for mines which might be showing above the
surface. Around the anchorage of the Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow a wide
belt of sea was kept clear of mines so that at any moment the fleet
could reach blue water without risk from these weapons. The same
precautions were taken off the Firth of Forth for the benefit of the
battle cruisers, and outside Harwich for Admiral Tyrwhitt's light


_Thornycroft & Co., Ltd._]

A passage known as the "war channel"--about which more will be said
later--extending from the Downs to Newcastle, was swept daily by relays
of sweepers operating from the anti-submarine bases along this 320 miles
of coast-line. This buoyed and guarded channel formed a line of supply
for the great fleets in the north.

Each big fighting formation was provided with a special flotilla of fast
fleet sweepers, which were capable of clearing the seas ahead of the
battleships and cruisers moving at 20 knots. This was a separate
organisation to what may be described as the routine sweeping of the
trade routes. These vessels were always within call of the fleets they

It has been estimated that over 1000 square miles of sea were swept
daily by the anti-mine fleets of the British navy during the four years
of war. This may not sound a very stupendous figure compared with the
area of the danger zone, but in practice it necessitated terribly hard
work from dawn to dusk by several thousand ships and many thousands of
men in summer heat and winter snow.

There was in addition to all this the clearing of British mine-fields no
longer required in the positions in which they had been originally laid.
This was not entirely an after-the-war problem, for although the
great mine barriers were left until peace was assured, there were fields
of minor importance which had to be cleared to meet new situations as
the years of war passed swiftly by. A notable instance of this was the
destruction of a big field of some 400 mines off the Moray Firth.

The foregoing refers only to the minesweeping in the principal danger
zones in British waters, no account being taken of the work carried out
by Allied vessels in the Mediterranean, off the coasts of France, Italy,
Greece, Gallipoli, and in such distant seas as those washing the shores
of New Zealand, Australia, Hong-Kong, Japan, Singapore, Bombay, Aden,
the Cape of Good Hope, the United States, Eastern Canada, West Africa
and Arctic Russia, in all of which mines were laid by surface raiders
like the _Wolfe_, and afterwards located and cleared by Allied warships.

From the foregoing some idea of the gigantic nature of the task will be
obtained, and we can pass on to a more detailed account of the actual
work. Minesweeping may be divided into eight well-defined sections, as

        (1) _Fleet Sweeping._--Keeping clear the sea
             routes of the battle fleet.

        (2) _Exploratory Sweeping._--Searching the sea for
             isolated groups or fields.

        (3) _Routine Sweeping._--The daily or weekly
             sweeping of areas, channels and coastal trade
             routes, largely used by shipping.

        (4) _Clearing Large Mine-fields._--Big
             concentrations of ships to rapidly clear
             important routes temporarily blocked by large

        (5) _Special Shallow-Water Sweeping._--Such as
             that carried out off the Belgian coast by
             specially constructed shallow-draught ships,
             frequently with single-ship sweeps.

        (6) _Convoy Sweeping._--Precautionary sweeping in
             front of incoming and outgoing convoys. This was
             regularly done even if the fair-way was covered by
             routine sweeping.

        (7) _Harbour Sweeping._--Precautionary sweeping
             usually carried out by small craft at big naval
             bases such as Portsmouth (Spithead) and Rosyth
             (Firth of Forth) inside the submerged defences.

        (8) _Searching at Low Tide._--This was done by
             shallow-draught vessels of the M.L. type in order
             to locate badly laid mines which might project
             above the surface at low water. Several hundred
             were discovered in this way.

In order to carry out these duties efficiently the heterogeneous fleet
of minesweepers was divided into small fleets stationed at the numerous
anti-submarine bases, and these were again subdivided into units of
ships especially adapted for the different classes of work. Each _pair_
of vessels had to be more or less alike in size, draught, speed and
manoeuvring ability to enable them to work efficiently in dual
harness. Consequently there were complete units of vessels specially
constructed for dealing rapidly with discovered mine-fields and for use
with the battle fleets. Shallow-draught vessels of the motor launch type
for work in the shallow water off the Belgian coast. Converted pleasure
steamers of the usual Thames, Mersey and Clyde type for convoy sweeping.
Motor launches for clearing fair-ways and for searching at low water.
Flotillas of trawlers and drifters for the hard and monotonous routine
sweeping on the important coastal trade routes. They comprised in all
several thousand ships engaged solely on this work.

At each important base there was a Port Minesweeping Officer (P.M.S.O.),
with one or more assistants, whose duty it was to administer, under the
command of the S.N.O., the fleets in the attached area, and to furnish
preliminary telegraphic and detailed reports to the Minesweeping Staff
at the Admiralty, who issued a confidential bi-monthly publication to
all commanding officers which was a veritable encyclopædia of valuable
information regarding current operations, events and enemy tactics.
Attached to this department was a section of the Naval School of
Submarine Mining, Portsmouth, where all knotty problems were unravelled
and appliances devised to meet all kinds of emergencies.

Each unit of ships was under the command of a senior officer,
responsible for the operations of these vessels, and where big fleets
were engaged a special minesweeping officer was placed in supreme
command. Only by close co-ordination of effort from the staff at
Whitehall and elsewhere to the units at sea could this gigantic work
have been expeditiously accomplished. It frequently happened that any
delay due to very severe weather in clearing a field or area meant
complete stoppage or chaotic dislocation of the almost continuous stream
of merchant shipping entering and leaving a big harbour, which, in turn,
disorganised the adjacent harbours to which ships had often to be
diverted. It disturbed the railway facilities for the rapid transport of
the food or raw materials from the coast to the manufacturing centres,
from the sugar on the breakfast-table to the shells for the batteries in
France. One hour's delay in unloading a ship may mean three hours'
additional delay on the railways, the loss of a shift at a munition
works and a day's delay in a great offensive. It is a curious anomaly,
made vividly apparent to those in administrative command during the past
years of stress, that the more perfect the organisation the greater the
delay in the event of a breakdown in the system.

There were various methods of minesweeping, but in all of them the
object was to cut the mooring wire of any mine that came within the area
of the sweep and so cause the mine itself to bob up to the surface,
where it could be seen and destroyed by gun-fire. In order to encompass
this many kinds of minesweeping gear were devised and given practical
trial during the war. The one most generally used, however, was the
original but vastly improved sweep. This consisted of a special wire
extended between two ships and held submerged by a device known as a
kite. This apparatus is best described diagrammatically (Fig. 25).

There was, however, another type of sweep used for exploratory work and
also for sweeping in shallow water. It was a one-ship sweep (_i.e._
required only one vessel to drag it), and this can also be best
described by a diagram (Fig. 26).

[Illustration: FIG. 25.--Diagram showing the form of apparatus
principally used by British minesweepers. _AA._ Sweeping vessels. _BB._
Sweep-wire. _CC._ Wires holding kites. _DD._ Kites which hold sweep-wire
at correct depth below the surface by their "kite-like" action when
being towed through the water. _E._ Mine and mooring. _F._ Surface of
the sea. _G._ Sea-bed.]

It will be observed that in all cases the object is to drag a submerged
wire through the water at an angle from the ship's course until it
encounters the mooring wire of a mine. When this takes place it is the
purpose of the sweep-wire to cut the mooring wire and allow the buoyant
mine to float up to the surface free of its sinker (see Fig. 27). In
order to effect this various kinds of hard wire with a cutting capacity
were used as sweep-wires, and also numerous mechanical devices, all of
which are more or less of a secret character; but the object remained
the same--to find and cut the mooring wire.

[Illustration: FIG. 26.--Diagrammatic sketch showing principal parts of
a single-ship sweep. _A._ Towing vessel. _B._ Tail wire. _C._ Kite
holding sweep-wires _D_ at correct depth below the surface. _D._ Light
sweep-wires held at an angle by spars _E_ and surface hydroplane floats
_F_. The dotted lines show how either arm of the sweep swing towards the
centre line when exposed to the pull of a mine. This movement of the
hydroplane floats indicates to those on board the sweeping vessel that a
mine has been caught. The mine _H_ slides down the sweep-wire until the
mooring is cut at _G_, and the mine floats freely to the surface.]

The introduction of what became known as "delayed action mines"--weapons
held down on the sea-bed, after being launched, for varying periods of
time, so that sweeping operations might take place above them without
their being discovered; then, when the time for which the delay was set
had expired, they rose to within ten feet of the surface and became a
great danger to shipping in places recently swept and reported
clear--caused a new form of sweep to be devised and used in waters where
these mines were likely to be sown.

[Illustration: FIG. 27.--Diagram showing mine mooring being cut by
sweep-wire. _A._ Mine-mooring wire. _B._ Hard and cutting face of
sweep-wire. The dotted lines _C_ show how the mine floats to the surface
by its own buoyancy when the mooring wire holding it down has been cut.]

This type of sweep was known as a "bottom sweep," and generally
consisted of a chain fitted into the bight of a sweep-wire and dragged
along the sea-bed, the idea being to overturn the delayed mine and so
upset its mechanism that it would either rise immediately to the surface
or else remain for ever harmless at the bottom of the sea. In many cases
the heavy chain passing over the horns of the mine would bend and make
them useless, so destroying the efficiency of the mine even if it did
eventually rise to the correct firing depth.

Into almost every operation carried out on or under the sea there enters
the tide difficulty, and in all mining and minesweeping operations it is
one of the most important factors to be considered. The effect of the
tide on mine-laying has been dealt with in a previous chapter, and the
same difficulties in reverse order are experienced when sweeping the sea
for these invisible and dangerous weapons. It has already been shown
that a vessel may sometimes pass safely over a mine at high water which
would touch her sides or keel and explode if she passed over it at low
water when the mine was nearer to the surface. All minesweeping vessels,
therefore, need to be of comparatively shallow draught in order to
reduce the risk of touching mines, but against this is the fact that
shallow-draught ships, even if powerfully engined, have but little grip
on the water and experience an undue loss of speed when towing a heavy
sweep-wire. Such vessels can seldom operate in even moderately heavy
weather owing to their rolling and pitching propensities. Therefore a
vessel of medium--bordering on shallow--draught, with a fairly broad
beam, is the best type. Here, again, is a difficulty. Minesweeping is a
type of defensive warfare requiring a vast number of ships successfully
to carry on against an enemy well provided with surface and submarine
mine-layers, and not even the greatest naval power in the world could
seriously contemplate maintaining a peace fleet of, say, 2000 such
vessels in constant readiness. Therefore recourse has to be made, when
war comes, to mercantile craft, which seldom possess all the desired

This is what actually occurred in every maritime country at war during
the years succeeding August, 1914, and in order to meet the danger
attending the use of passenger ships, trawlers and drifters, often with
a considerable draught, minesweeping operations were, whenever possible,
confined to the three hours before and the three hours after high water.
Shallow-draught M.L.'s carried out the scouting for mines at low tide.
It is difficult to see what would be the fate of a nation hemmed in by
mines and devoid of a mercantile fleet sufficiently numerous to provide
powerful sweeping units. The trawlers and pleasure steamers were a
godsend to England in those years of intensive submarine warfare. This
undeniable fact incidentally provides another example--if such is now
needed--of naval power resting not entirely on fleets and dockyards, but
on every branch and twig of maritime activity.

It is difficult to describe in small compass and non-technical language
the various tactical formations employed in minesweeping operations.
They were many and various. The Germans used their vessels in long
lines, the ships being connected together by a light wire-sweep
plentifully supplied with cutting devices, into which the mooring wire
of the mine was expected to obligingly slip. This method suffered from
the serious drawback that if any part of the sweep-wire caught on a
submerged obstacle, such as a projection of rock, the whole line of
ships became disorganised. There were also many other objections to this
system, some of which will doubtless be apparent to the thoughtful

The formation usually adopted by British minesweepers was that shown in
Fig. 28, in which it will be observed that each pair of ships is
actually independent of the others, but is acting in company with them,
and that the pathway swept by one pair is slightly overlapped by the
following pair. In the event of an accident to one ship the next astern
can immediately let go its own end of sweep-wire and go to the rescue of
any survivors. It may be apropos to say here that the smaller class of
minesweeper is usually blown to pieces if she touches a mine.

[Illustration: FIG. 28.--Plan showing the usual formation adopted by
British minesweeping vessels. _A._ Three pairs of sweepers. _B._
Sweep-wires. _C._ A mine entering the sweep of the second pair. _D._ A
vessel following the sweepers for the purpose of sinking by gun-fire the
mines cut up.]

The set of the tide is another important factor which has to be taken
into serious consideration when plotting a sweep. This complication
enters into every operation, and its salient points will be made quite
clear by referring to Fig. 29.

The actual speed at which minesweeping operations are carried out
depends greatly upon the engine-power of the sweepers themselves. In the
case of trawlers and drifters it is seldom possible to drag the 300-600
feet of heavy wire through the water at a greater rate than 4 to 6
knots. M.L.'s can accomplish 8 knots with a lighter wire, while big
fleet sweepers with engines of several thousand horse-power can clear
the seas at 18-23 knots.

[Illustration: FIG. 29.--Diagram illustrating the effect of tide on
minesweeping operations. _A._ The vessels sweeping along the coast-line
_B._ A fast ebb-tide is coming down the estuary _C._ Unless an allowance
was made for this tide and mark-buoys or ships were placed along the
dotted course _D_, the sweepers would unknowingly drift seawards along
course _E_, leaving a space _F_ unswept and possibly dangerous to ships
entering and leaving the estuary _C_.]

Sufficient has now been said to enable the reader to realise fully the
arduous, exciting and often very hazardous nature of the work. Veteran
sweepers listen for the loud hum of the wire which proclaims that a
mine has been caught. Then comes an interval of a few seconds of
suspense. Sometimes the mine bobs up within a few feet of the ship; at
other times it is in the middle or bight of the wire, far astern, and
half-way between the two sweeping vessels. When a mine is cut up a few
shots from a 3-pounder, a shattering roar and the mine is destroyed. All
that remains is a column of smoke reaching from sea to sky.

It frequently happened that the mine became entangled in the sweeping
gear and was unknowingly hauled on board with the sweep. When this
occurred the position was fraught with extreme peril. Any roll of the
ship might cause an explosion which would shatter to fragments
everything and everyone within range. Safety lay in lowering the sweep
gently back into the sea--an extremely difficult operation on a rough


This carefully guarded fair-way consisted of a 320-mile stretch of sea,
extending along the east coast of England from the Downs to Newcastle,
which was marked on the seaward side by a continuous line of gigantic
buoys, two miles apart. It was patrolled day and night by hundreds of
small warships, and swept from end to end by relays of sweepers acting
in conjunction with each other from the different anti-submarine bases
along the coast.

The war channel formed a comparatively safe highway for all coastal
shipping passing north or south through the danger zone, and vessels
from Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden were able to cross the North
Sea at any point under escort and proceed independently and safely along
the British coast to whichever port could most conveniently accommodate
them at the time of their arrival. It also relieved the terrible
congestion on the railway lines between the north and south of England
by enabling a coast-wise traffic to be carried on between the ports of
London, Grimsby, Hull and Newcastle, as well as enabling the numerous
Iceland fishing fleet to pass up and down the coast in comparative
safety on their frequent voyages to and from the fishing grounds of the
far north. From the naval or strategic point of view it more or less
secured a line of supply for the Grand Fleet assembled in the misty
north. Colliers, oilers, ammunition and food ships were able to proceed
through the comparatively narrow section of the danger zone with a
minimum of risk; and, had it been required, there was available a
cleared passage for any squadron from the big fighting formations to
come south at high speed to checkmate a bombardment or attempted landing
on anything like a grand scale.

It may perhaps be wondered why _this_ channel was not extended up the
east coast of Scotland as far as Scapa Flow. In the first place, the
North Sea widens considerably as the higher latitudes are approached,
the coast of Scotland does not lend itself to a clearly defined channel
and the heavy weather which prevails for so many months in the year
made the maintenance of gigantic buoys and their moorings almost
impossible. Secondly, there were various systems of mine defences in
this area, and, although not defined by a chain of buoys, the passage
north from Newcastle to the Scottish islands was, in actual fact,
maintained by a vast organisation of patrols and sweepers, but over this
section of sea supply ships for the Grand Fleet were nearly always under
escort. The area from the Scotch to the German coast was looked upon
more as a possible battle-ground for the fleets at war than as a route
for merchant shipping, owing to the comparatively few big commercial
harbours along the eastern shore.

Laying the moorings of over 150 gigantic buoys in fairly deep water,
exceptionally prone to sudden and violent storms, was in itself a
noteworthy feat of submarine engineering. The chains and anchors had to
be of great strength, and the whole work, which occupied many weeks, was
carried out in waters infested with submarines and mines.

The task of sweeping this vast stretch of sea almost continuously for
four years was by no means either straightforward or without risk. The
Germans, when they discovered the existence and purpose of this channel,
sought to turn it to their own advantage by systematically laying mines
around the moorings of the mark-buoys, where they could only be swept up
with great difficulty, owing to the sweep-wires fouling the moorings of
the buoys. This strategem had to be answered by the creation of "switch
lines," or small sections of false channel marked by buoys, while the
real channel was only outlined on secret charts. In this way the
preservation of the war channel and its use for misleading and
entrapping U and U-C boats became a semi-independent campaign, in the
same way as that which surrounded the great mine barrages and other
activities of the anti-submarine service.


It is an axiom of war that new weapons of attack are invariably met by
new methods of defence. The mine was no exception to this rule, although
up to the present time the various antidotes are in all cases only
partial remedies. During the years of war, with the brains of a maritime
nation focused on the subject, there were naturally many devices
suggested and tried for protecting ships from mines. The great majority
of these suggestions may be classified in two groups: (1) Those which
sought to deflect the mine from the pathway of the ship; and (2) those
which sought to minimise the result of the explosion. One method from
each of these groups was adopted with various modifications to suit
different classes of ships.

In the first group came the _Paravane_, which had as its basis the
suspension of a submerged wire around the bow of a ship, which caught
and deflected the mine-mooring wire before the horns of the mine itself
could reach the sides of the ship. It also cut the mooring and enabled
the mine to rise to the surface and be destroyed by gun-fire.

[Illustration: A PARAVANE

Hoisting in the starboard paravane of the P.V. mine-defence gear.

_Topical Press_]

In order to understand this appliance it is first necessary to know what
is the action of the majority of moored mines on coming in contact with
a ship. It seldom happens that a vessel strikes a mine dead on the bow
or stem-post. The cushion and dislocation of water formed by a big and
fast ship around its bows is usually sufficient to cause the mine to
swing a few inches away from the bow and to return and strike the ship
several feet back on the port or starboard side. A careful study of Fig.
30 will show how this is prevented by the deflecting wires of the

The paravanes themselves are submerged torpedo-shaped bodies which hold
the wires under the surface and away from the ship's side, deriving
their ability to do this from the speed at which they are being towed,
submerged, by the ship itself. A piece of string through the axle hole
of a small wheel, which is then placed on the ground and pulled along,
will give a good idea of the action of the paravane against the passing

It is not possible to give here the exact details of this highly
ingenious device upon which so much scientific and practical attention
was wisely bestowed, but sufficient has been said to enable the reader
to form a clear conception of how the mine was caught and held away from
the ship's side by the deflecting wire of the paravane.

This device, in one of its many forms, was fitted not only to warships,
but also to many hundreds of merchantmen, and was known to have
saved thousands of tons of valuable shipping and cargo.

[Illustration: FIG. 30.--Plan showing the chief characteristics of the
paravane mine defence gear. _A._ The bow of the ship. _B._ The paravanes
being towed submerged at an outward angle. These appliances maintain a
fixed depth below the surface and hold the ends of the deflecting wires
_C_ well away from the ship's sides. _C._ The submerged deflecting
wires, held at one end by a short projection from the ship's stem-post
below the water-line, and at the outer end by the submerged paravanes.
_D._ A mine and its mooring caught by the deflecting wires and held away
from the ship. In such a case it would slide down the deflecting wire
towards the paravane, where the mooring would be cut and the mine would
float to the surface.]

Among those devices which had for their object the minimising of the
result of a mine explosion may be mentioned the "Blister System" so
successfully employed in the construction of monitors and other big
ships, the idea being to surround the inner hull with an outer casing
which received the effect of the explosion of either a mine or torpedo
and left the inner or real hull of the ship water-tight. Its one weak
feature was that it reduced the speed of the ship and the ease with
which she could be manoeuvred. In future types of large and heavily
armed ships this drawback will undoubtedly be largely overcome by an
increase in engine-power made possible by the development of engineering

The "blister," although outwardly forming a continuous structure round
the entire vessel, extending well above and below the water-line,
tapered off towards the bows and stern, and was subdivided into
different compartments. In this way an explosion against one section did
not necessarily damage any other part. The British monitors which so
successfully bombarded the Belgian coast and the fortifications of the
Dardanelles were fitted with blisters, and more than one of them owed
their salvation to this means.



WHAT undoubtedly forms the most effective counter to unrestricted
submarine warfare is the explosive mine barrage, as employed against the
German U-boats in the North Sea and the Straits of Dover.

The practicability of these barrage systems depends, however, very
largely upon the following factors:--(1) the geographical features of
the area of operations; (2) the hydrographical peculiarities of the seas
in which the mines have to be laid; (3) the number of properly equipped
mine-laying vessels available; (4) an adequate and highly trained
personnel; and (5) the mechanical skill and manufacturing power of the
nation employing the system.

There are several forms of mine barrage. One is simply an elongated
mine-field laid across a narrow sea to prevent the safe passage of
hostile surface craft. In this case the mines are laid in the ordinary
manner and at the ordinary depth below the surface. The anti-submarine
barrage, however, consists of an enormous number of mines, laid _at a
considerable depth below the surface_ and in such formation as to ensure
that a submarine attempting to pass through the cordon _while
submerged_ would inevitably collide with one or more of them.

With this latter form of barrage the surface of the sea is quite clear
of mines and is comparatively safe for the unrestricted movement of a
numerous patrol flotilla, which forms part of the system, the under-seas
alone being made dangerous by the mines.

It will be apparent that if a hostile submarine base is enclosed by one
or more of these barrages the under-water craft entering and leaving
that base have the choice of travelling _submerged_ across the danger
zone and thereby risking contact with the mines, or of performing the
passage _on the surface_ and encountering the patrolling ships. In
either case, the result is more likely than not to be the destruction of
the submarine.

In most cases the exact position of the barrage would be unknown to the
hostile submarines, which, even if running on the surface, would dive
immediately on the approach of a patrol ship. The few lucky ones
succeeding in getting safely through the cordon of deep-laid mines, or
passing unnoticed the patrol of surface ships on their outward
journey--as might be the case in fog--would have the same peril to face
on the return to their base, and probably without the aid of thick
weather. This double risk would probably have to be taken by every
submarine in the active flotilla at least once a month, this being
approximately the period they can remain at sea without replenishing
supplies of fuel, torpedoes and food.

The object of the flotillas of shallow-draught patrol vessels operating
in the vicinity of the deep mine barrier is twofold. Primarily their
duty is to prevent the hostile submarines from running the blockade on
the surface and, secondly, to prevent enemy surface craft from emerging
from the base and sweeping clear a passage through the mine-field, or of
laying counter-mines, which, on being exploded, would detonate some of
the blockading deep-laid mines and so destroy a section of the barrier.

From this it will be apparent that a force of hostile submarines hemmed
in in this way would run a double risk of losing a number of vessels on
every occasion on which a sortie was made. This is what actually
occurred to the German under-water flotillas in the years 1917-1919,
and, in combination with the other methods employed by the Allied
navies, was mainly responsible for the failure of the great under-sea

The only bases of the German navy being situated on the North Sea
littoral, it was possible for the Allies to lay a vast mine barrier,
stretching from the coast of Norway to the Scottish islands, and another
smaller one across the Straits of Dover; also to concentrate in the
vicinity of these two submarine "trench systems" a very numerous surface
patrolling force, thus enclosing the thousands of square miles of sea
forming what was sometimes boastfully referred to as the "German Ocean"
in an almost impenetrable ring of steel and T.N.T.

Here let us consider the gigantic nature of the task that was
successfully accomplished. The distance from the Norwegian coast to the
Orkney Islands is approximately 600 miles. It was over this vast expanse
of sea, bent at the eastern end so as to rest on the Heligoland Bight,
that the system known as the "Northern Barrages" extended. No exact
statistics of the actual number of mines used is at present available,
but reckoning at the low rate of one mine to every 750 feet of sea, with
five lines stretching from shore to shore, the number required would be
21,000 of these costly and difficult weapons. The number required
annually to maintain such a barrage would also be very heavy, and it is
safe to assume that _considerably_ over 50,000 mines were employed on
the northern barrages alone. From this rough estimate some idea of the
work of designing, manufacturing, testing, laying, renewing and watching
this one field will be obtained.

[Illustration: FIG. 31.--Diagram illustrating a mine barrage, or
deep-laid mine-field. The submarine _A_, diving to avoid a surface
warship, has become entangled in the mooring of a deep-laid mine which
is being dragged down on top of her. These mines are often moored at a
depth of 60 feet below the surface, which can then be patrolled by
surface warships.]

There were, of course, in the actual barrage several mine-fields placed
strategically, and probably a far greater number of weapons than that
given in the above estimate was needed. There were also the smaller
fields lying between the northern barrage and the one across the Straits
of Dover. These were so placed as to catch hostile submarines operating
off the east coast of England, or a surface raiding squadron, such as
those which in the earlier years of the war bombarded certain British

Finally, when victory had been achieved, there came the cold-blooded
task of clearing these immense areas of sea, not only of German mines,
laid haphazardly, but also of the thousands of British mines laid
methodically and away from neutral traffic.

The English Channel barrage differed from the northern line in several
important respects. Being so much shorter (31 miles against 680), it
could more easily be made perfect. The swift-running tide, however,
greatly increased the difficulty of laying effective mine-fields.


This southern system consisted, on the surface, of a number of vessels
specially built to ride out the heaviest gale at anchor. These were
moored at intervals across the Straits of Dover, forming two lines from
the English to the French coast. The first line extended from Folkestone
to Cape Gris Nez, and the second line about seven miles to the westward
of these points (see Fig. 32). Each vessel was fitted with powerful
searchlights for use at night, and the dark spaces of sea between were
patrolled by large numbers of armed craft.


_From a photo by Stephen Cribb, Southsea_]

[Illustration: FIG. 32.--Diagram illustrating the Dover lighted barrage.
This barrage consisted of two lines of lightships, _E_ and _F_, from
England _A_ to France _B_. The first line extended from Folkestone _C_
to Cape Gris Nez _D_. The second line _F_ was situated seven miles
westwards of the first line. The small top diagram shows how the two
pathways of light, with a numerous patrol between, compelled the U-boats
to dive in order to avoid observation and destruction by gun-fire. The
lower diagram shows the deep-laid mines arranged to receive the U-boats
when they attempted to run the blockade in a submerged condition.]

By this means the only avenues by which hostile submarines could hope to
pass on the surface through the barrage at night were the dark lanes of
water between the lightships. It was these points which were closely
guarded by strong patrol flotillas, whose duty it was to attack
submarines attempting to get through and, with the aid of guns and depth
charges, to force them to dive below the surface.

Here certain destruction awaited them on the submerged mine-fields. If,
however, one line of defence was safely passed by a hostile submarine,
there was another to be negotiated seven miles farther on, and once a
submarine got between the two lines her chances of escape were indeed
small, for whichever way she turned the surface would be covered with
fast patrol craft and at night lighted by the rays of many searchlights,
while the under-seas were almost impassable with mines.

If, however, notwithstanding these defensive systems, a submarine
succeeded in passing through and getting to work on the lines of
communication with the armies in France, there were hydrophone
organisations and patrols all down the Channel from the lighted barrage
to the Scilly Islands. By this means a U-boat would be seldom out of the
hearing of these instruments for more than an hour or so at a time.

The success which attended the perfecting of this vast system was such
that German submarines based on the Flanders coast gave up attempting to
pass down the English Channel. They tried to go to and from their
hunting grounds on the Atlantic trade routes round the north coast of
Scotland. Here the great northern systems took their toll.

During the first nine months of the year 1918 the German submarine
flotillas at Zeebrugge and Ostend lost thirty vessels, and no less than
fifteen of these had, at the time of the signing of the Armistice, been
discovered lying wrecked under the lighted barrage.



HITHERTO I have dealt with the scientific training of the personnel, the
armament and the general organisation of the anti-submarine fleets,
leaving it to the imagination of readers to invest the bare recital of
facts with the due amount of romance. If, however, a true understanding
of this most modern form of naval war is to be obtained, the human
aspect must loom large in future pages.

War, whether it be _on_ the sea, _under_ the sea, on the land or in the
air, is a science in which the human element is of at least equal
importance with that of the purely mechanical. It is a science of both
"blood and iron."

The armed motor launches described in earlier pages, after being built
in Canada to the number of over 500, and engined by the United States,
were transported across the Atlantic on the decks of big ocean-going
steamships--more than one of which was torpedoed on the voyage. On their
arrival in Portsmouth dockyard the guns and depth charges were placed
aboard and the vessels thoroughly equipped and fitted out for active

Officers and men were drafted from the training establishments of the
new navy at Southampton, Portsmouth, Chatham, Greenwich and elsewhere.
Each little vessel was given a number, and within a few weeks of their
arrival from the building yards on the St Lawrence they sailed in
flotillas out past the fortifications of Spithead, _en route_ for their
respective war bases.

Great secrecy had surrounded the construction of these small but
powerful craft, and but few naval men, except those directly engaged in
the anti-submarine service, had either seen or heard much of them until
they commenced arriving at the different rendezvous.

Among the early flotillas to leave Portsmouth dockyard was one of four
ships destined for a base on the east coast of Scotland, and as these
speedy little craft raced away north the expectations of both officers
and men ran high.

It was in the early summer of 1916, and although the air was crisp, the
sea sparkled in the bright sunlight and the sky was a cloudless blue.
Only a heavy-beam sea off Flamborough Head had marred the maiden voyage,
and they were now on the last hundred miles, with the low-lying Farne
Islands fading into the mist astern. By nightfall, if the wind remained
light, they would make the Scottish port which was to form their base of

Hitherto these four brand-new little warships, all white wood, grey
paint and polished metal, had been plodding over the 600 miles of sea
from Portsmouth at what was termed "cruising speed"--a mere 10 knots.
The engines had not been opened out to "full ahead" because these
delicate pieces of mechanism needed time to settle down to their work
before it was safe to drive them to the utmost limit of speed and power,
but now that pistons and bearings had been given time to "run in" it was
considered safe for the flotilla to increase speed in order to make
harbour by nightfall.

A hoist of new, bright-coloured flags fluttered from the squat mast of
the leading ship. The steady throbbing of the engines grew suddenly to a
low staccato roar. The white waves astern rose up almost level with the
counters and clouds of fine spray blew across the decks. This rapid
movement through the sun-lit water, with the breeze of passage and the
tang of the salt sea in every breath, was exhilarating, and the spirits
of those aboard rose with the speed.

Running at nearly half-a-mile a minute, the flotilla forged northwards
through clouds of fine, stinging spray, until at a late hour, when the
sun was dipping below the horizon and the sea was a sheet of golden
light, a smoky line appeared far away to the westward. It was that
section of the Scottish coast which in future it would be the duty of
these boats to patrol, and as the distance lessened those on board gazed
in silence at the gigantic cliffs and black rocks, now tinged with the
rays of the dying sun and encircled by the endless ripples which alone
broke the peaceful surface of the sea, but one and all were picturing
this forbidding coast on the stormy winter nights to come.

Slowly the light faded from the western sky. The cliffs rose up black
and sombre, and when the little flotilla turned westwards up the broad
waterway leading to the base darkness had closed over land and sea. For
some time they picked their way up this sheltered loch. No lights were
visible, but more than once a destroyer appeared out of the blackness to
make sure of their identity, and each time they were inspected very
closely before the guard-ships were satisfied. An armed trawler guided
them past dangerous obstructions and then faded into the night. Mile
after mile of water was then traversed on courses laid down in
confidential orders.

Suddenly a searchlight flashed out from close ahead, followed almost
instantly by other blinding rays, which swept the sea for a few seconds,
and then all the beams concentrated on the little flotilla, showing up
with the clearness of daylight the four low-lying submarine-like hulls
gliding speedily through the water. There was a moment's silence, during
which the Morse signalling lamps of the M.L.'s were being prepared to
flash out their message. A searchlight blinked and there followed
another brief interval of silence, then, without warning, a tongue of
livid flame stabbed the darkness and a shell whistled overhead. It was
followed by other flashes and the sharp reports of quick-firing guns.
Columns of water spouted into the air close to the M.L.'s, whose engines
had, luckily, ceased to throb. The firing stopped as suddenly as it had
commenced. Signals began flashing angrily in many directions. Destroyers
tore out of the darkness around into the broad circle of light. Armed
trawlers nosed their way in and wicked grey tubes were trained on the
now stationary flotilla. Presently the angry flashing of mast
head-lights subsided into the regular dot and dash of respectable
communication. Several destroyers seemed to be having nasty things said
to them, which they answered with a feeble wink, and an armed trawler
made futile flashes of explanation.

A little twinkling star, more lofty and dignified than the rest, called
up the leading M.L. and was answered with an alacrity that evidently
unnerved it, for it flickered and died out. Suddenly it came to life
again and winked away at an alarming rate, but all to no purpose, for,
true to the old axiom that more haste means less speed, it had to stop
and go over the message again, this time sufficiently slow for novices
to understand. What it said is a State secret. It is rumoured, however,
that several officers were "mentioned in dispatches" for the part they
played in this local action, caused by mistaken identity, but alas!
their skill and bravery remained unrewarded by an unsympathetic



NO calling tempers the human steel in so short a period as that of the
sea. At all times and in every part of the world the sailorman wages a
never-ending fight with Nature in her wildest and most dreaded modes.
When to this is added a conflict of nations and their ships, with all
the ingenious death-traps of modern naval science, it merely increases
the odds against him and serves to steady his hand and brain in order to
overcome them.

In a few short weeks the sea had set its stamp on the men of the new
navy. Faces became bronzed by the sun, wind and spindrift. Muscles grew
hard and eyes and nerves more steady. Each time a vessel went forth on
patrol or other duty new difficulties or dangers were met and overcome
without advice or assistance, and the confidence of men in themselves
and in the ships they worked grew apace.

In many of the principal zones of war, such as the North Sea and the
Atlantic, the wind grew colder and the seas more fierce as the short
summer passed. Duffel or Arctic clothing was served out to both officers
and men. Sea-boots and oilskins became necessary. Balaclava helmets,
mufflers and other woollen gear appeared, and men became almost
unrecognisable bundles of clothing. The ascent at 4 A.M. from the cabin
to the cold, wet deck can be likened only to the first plunge of a cold
bathing season. Casualties became more frequent as the enemy intensified
his submarine and mining campaign. The news and sight of sudden death no
longer blanched the faces of men who knew that it might be their turn at
any moment of every day and night. The stir of suppressed excitement
when danger threatened no longer manifested itself in every movement,
but rather in the cool, deliberate action of self-confidence. In a word,
the raw material was being tempered in the furnace of war.

To those in northern seas came the blinding sleet, the slate-grey
combers and the innumerable hardships and dangers of winter patrol. A
better idea of what these really were will be obtained from the
following account of a Christmas spent on a German mine-field.

       *       *       *       *       *

A bitter wind swept the grey wastes of the North Sea and a fine haze of
snow, driven by stinging gusts, obscured all except the long hillocks of
water which rose and fell around the tiny M.L.--a lonely thirty tons of
nautical humanity in as many square leagues of sub-Arctic sea.

Nineteen degrees of frost during the long winter night had flattened the
boisterous, foam-capped waves, and now, in the early December dawn, all
within vision was of that colourless grey so familiar to those who kept
the North Sea on the winter patrol.

It was one bell in the first watch and three shapeless figures clad in
duffel coats with big hoods and wearing heavy sea-boots stood silent in
the draughty, canvas-screened wheel-house as M.L.822 wallowed northwards
through the seas which came in endless succession out of the snowy mist.
It was just the ordinary everyday patrol duty, when nothing was expected
but anything might happen, so eyes were strained seawards in a vain
endeavour to penetrate the icy curtain blowing down from the Pole.
Twelve hours more of half-frozen existence stretched in front of these
silent watchers, as they clung with stiffened limbs to ropes stretched
purposely handy to keep them upright when the little ship lurched more
fiercely in a steeper sea.

Of the three figures in the meagre shelter of the wheel-house there was
little to distinguish who or what they were, except, perhaps, a cleaner
and more yellowish duffel coat and a big white muffler in which the
lieutenant-in-command tried, without success, to keep his teeth from
chattering and the icy draught from finding its way into the seemingly
endless openings of his woollen clothing. What he had been before the
Great War and the North Sea claimed him was a mystery to those on board,
but the people of more than one capital knew his name. Near by stood a
younger man--a boy before the war--who, although pale and dark-eyed, did
not appear to feel the intense cold so much, although the dampness of
the long-past summer fogs had chilled him to the bone. He was the
sub-lieutenant, and hailed from the Great North-West, where Canadian
winters had hardened his skin to the stinging dry cold.

[Illustration: FIG. 33.--Duffel or Arctic clothing.]

The immense bundle of nondescript clothing at the wheel was "Mac," the
coxswain, whose voyages in Arctic seas with the Iceland fishing fleet
numbered more than his years of life, and whose deep-voiced Gaelic roar
could bring the "watch below" on to the cold, wet deck to their action
stations in less time than it would take a new recruit to tumble out of
his hammock.

Although the silence of the sea seems to settle on its watchers in those
northern marches, there was an unduly long absence of comment on the
nature of the weather and the prospects of "something exciting" turning
up out of the icy mist. The reason lay in the subconscious mind of all
on deck, for it was Christmas morning, 1916, and the thoughts of all
were dwelling on past years in the cheery surroundings of English and
Colonial homes--in vivid contrast to the dismal grey of the North Sea.
To break the spell of memory both officers felt would be blasphemy, and
yet a feeble attempt at conversation was made every now and then for the
sake of appearances.

To Mac, from the Orkneys, no such sentiment held sway, for Christmas to
him meant little compared with New Year's Day; but this was a special
Christmas, for a big plum pudding was being boiled on the petrol stove
below, and each roll of the little vessel threatened its useful
existence. Eventually he could keep silent no longer and tentatively
suggested a change of course to ease the violent lurching. The wheel was
spun round with alacrity as the telegraph rang out below and the engines
slowed down to a slow pulsating throb. The sharp bows of the patrol boat
rose dripping from each green-grey mass of sea as it rolled up out of
the white haze ahead and then fell gently back into the trough. The
violent pitching gave place to a more easy see-saw movement, and in
spite of the cold, which seemed to grow keener every minute to the
half-numbed figures on deck, a grunt of satisfaction escaped the
helmsman, and visions of steaming plum duff--a present from the
Admiral's wife--supplanted the more anxious thoughts of war and the
dangers of mine and submarine which lay hidden in the white snow-mists
and grey seas around.

The four hands in the forecastle, who formed the watch below, were lying
on their bunks, for sitting meant holding on, and were discussing orgies
on past Christmas days and planning future ones with a nonchalance bred
of daily rubbing shoulders with danger and death. Snatches of popular
music hall songs penetrated the closed hatchways, but were drowned by
the splash of the sea against the ship's side.

This silent battle with monotony, bitter cold and drenching showers of
spray, with several numbing hours on deck, followed by an equal time
lying on the bunks below--still cold and wet, for fires and dry clothes
were almost unknown in the patrol boats during the long winter months in
the cruel northern seas--might have lasted all day, until darkness and
increasing cold added their quota to the sum of misery, and the day
patrol crept silently into harbour, to be relieved by their brethren of
the night guard.

But such was not to be, for it was a Christmas Day that will live for
ever in the memory of the men on Patrol Launch No. 822, to be recalled
in the peaceful years ahead to eager listeners at many a fireside.

Two bells in the afternoon watch had barely struck when from out of the
haze ahead came a low reverberating boom! The three figures on the
bridge stiffened to alertness and the chilled blood went coursing more
warmly through their veins. A few seconds of strained listening,
rewarded only by the noise of the sea, then the telegraph was moved
forward, a sharp jangle of bells came from the engine-room and
forecastle and the slow pulsating of the motors grew to a loud roar. The
watch below came tumbling on to the wet deck, to be lashed with clouds
of blinding, stinging spray, which now flew high over the little ship as
the 400-horse-power engines drove her at 18 knots through the grey,
misty seas.

Experience had made that dull roar familiar to all on board, and it
needed no order from the now hard-faced C.O. to cause every man to don
his "capuc" life-belt in readiness for the hidden dangers which they
knew to be strewn in the pathways of the sea ahead.

Mines are moored at a given depth below the surface, usually from six to
ten feet. The rise and fall of the tide, therefore, either increases or
decreases the stratum of free water above them. This causes these
invisible submarine weapons to be more dangerous to shallow-draught
vessels, such as motor patrol launches, at low tide, when there is
little water between the tops of their horns and the surface, than at
high tide. More will, however, be said in a later chapter about mines
and the difficulties of laying them.

It so happened that on this occasion the tide was low and the mines
consequently extremely dangerous to even the shallowest draught type of
warship. The speed of the M.L. was increased until the twin engines
were revolving at the rate of 490 a minute.

The snow haze seemed suddenly to grow thicker and all around the
flurries of white blotted out the distant view. The minutes of pounding
through the slate-grey seas seemed interminably long, and the flying
clouds of icy spray stung every exposed part of the human frame.

When about three sea miles had been traversed the engines were stopped
and all on board listened for a cry from the sea ahead. The C.O. pulled
the peak of his drenched cap farther over his eyes and gazed out into
the opaque greyness ahead.

Minutes passed; but little ships cannot rest quietly on the open sea.
The lash of the water and the slapping of the meagre rigging drowned any
faint sound there might have been, and once more the engines throbbed to
the order "Slow ahead!"

Barely had the ship gathered way before a dark object appeared
momentarily in the trough of the sea about two degrees on the starboard
bow and the next instant seemed swallowed up.

A warning cry from the look-out on the tiny sea-washed fo'c'sle head, a
sharp order from the bridge, and, within its own length, the patrol boat
swung rapidly to port. At the same moment a dan-buoy splashed overboard
to mark the position of the floating mine. A few yards more to the
eastward and No. 822 would have appeared in the list of the missing.

Minutes of tense nerve strain followed, for all knew that the ship was
in the midst of a mine-field, and the deadly horns which had been
momentarily visible on the surface were but a single example of the many
which lurked around. Eyes were strained into the grey-green depths, and
yet all knew the impossibility of seeing. Again the look-out's warning
cry and the engines were reversed, but this time it was not a mine, but
the victim of one, holding on to a piece of wreckage.

Willing hands hauled the half-frozen form on board and stanched the
blood that still oozed from cuts on the face and neck. Blankets and
hot-water bottles were soon forthcoming, and the battered remnant--for
both a leg and thigh bone were broken--was placed as carefully as the
lurching of the ship would allow in the aft-cabin bunk. Before this
could be accomplished, however, a cry again rang out from the watch on
the fo'c'sle head and yet another body was hauled aboard, but the shock
or the cold had here taken its toll.

The sea around was searched in vain for further survivors. A few planks,
a signal locker, a broken life-raft and a meat-safe were all that was
left of the trawler _Mayflower_, homeward bound from Iceland to Grimsby.

A silence seemed to brood over the patrol boat as she slowly picked her
way out of the mine-field. The crew went about their tasks without the
usual jests and snatches of song, and the pudding, which but a few short
hours before had seemed the most important event of the day, lay
unheeded on the floor of the galley, where it had been thrown by the
cook in the haste for hot water.

In the failing light of the December afternoon the bow of the patrol
boat was turned shorewards, and, with a rising sea curling up astern,
she raced through the slate-grey water with her burden of living and
dead. It was one of those moments which call for a rapid decision on a
difficult point, when the order had to be given for the course to be
laid for harbour, and the C.O., cold and miserably wet after seven hours
on the bridge, wore an anxious look. He knew not which had the greater
claim, the desperately wounded man in the cabin or other ships which
might bear down on the mine-field during the long bitter night. It was a
point on which the rules of war and the dictates of humanity clashed.

Again the ship was turned into the rapidly darkening east, and all
through that bitter night the field of death was guarded. Stiffened
fingers flashed out the warning signal when black hulls loomed out of
the darkness. Numbed limbs clung for dear life when green seas washed
the tiny decks, and when dawn broke over the waste of tumbling sea the
men on M.L.822 knew that Christmas Day, 1916, would live for ever in
their memory.



THERE are few things more heart-breaking than sea patrol, which forms
the principal duty of anti-submarine fleets. Hours, days and even months
may pass with nothing to relieve the monotony of grey sea and sky, with
occasional glimpses of wave-tossed ships.

There are, of course, intervening periods in harbour, when fierce gales
howl overhead, and guard duty on rain-swept quaysides, or sentry-go in
blinding snowstorms, comes almost as a relief from the sameness of
winter days on northern seas.

It is, however, the unexpected which generally occurs in war, and during
those terrible winters from 1914-1918 it was the ever-present hope of
action that kept the spirits of many a sailorman from sinking below the
Plimsoll line of health.

Sometimes the happenings were grave and at other times gay, but always
they were welcomed eagerly, as providing excitement or change, with
something to talk about in the unknown number of dreary weeks ahead.

An episode of this kind occurred one snowy January night in 1917 on the
quayside of a northern seaport. The commanding officer of one of the
patrol boats in the harbour was going ashore to stay for the night with
some friends. Knowing that his ship was due to proceed to sea early the
following morning, he took the precaution to place a small alarm clock
in the big pocket of his bridge-coat. Groping his way in the darkness
and blinding snow across the gangway leading from the ship to the quay,
he succeeded in reaching the dock wall. Almost instantly he was
challenged by a military sentry on duty and was about to reply when a
loud buzzing noise came from his pocket. He had not thought of
ascertaining at what time the alarm clock had been set for and the
consequences were distinctly unpleasant.

The sentry, hearing the curious buzzing sound coming from the darkness
directly he had given the challenge, and thinking it came from some form
of bomb, lunged smartly with his bayonet at the spot from which the
sound emanated.

Fortunately the officer was near the edge of the dock wall and did not
receive the full effect of the thrust. The bayonet tore his coat and
pushed him violently over the edge into the icy water of the harbour.
His lusty shouts caused searchlights to be turned on and he was rescued
promptly, but the episode, small and unimportant as it was, caused
considerable merriment--except to the principal actor--for many days

All this may sound much like heresy to those who think that naval war
means constant fighting, with all the pomp and circumstance of old-time
battles. There are, it is true, never-to-be-forgotten moments when the
blood surges and pulses beat rapidly, when the months of weary waiting
are atoned for in as many minutes of swift action. Such were Jutland,
Zeebrugge, Heligoland, the Falklands and many an unrecorded fight on
England's sea frontier in the years just past. Such times pass rapidly,
however; they are the milestones of war, leaving the weary leagues
between, in which there is so much that is sordid and even ghastly, as
will be seen from the following.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sea offers but few sights more melancholy than the wave-washed
derelict--the now desolate, helpless and forlorn thing that was once a
_ship_, the home of men--seen in the half-light of a winter dawn, rising
and falling sluggishly on the dirty grey swell--the aftermath of
storm--with white water washing through its broken bulwarks, yards and
sails adrift, a thing without life on the sad sea waves.

A wireless message from a ship passing the derelict on the previous day
had brought an M.L. from the nearest naval base to search the area, and
after a night of wandering over shadowy grey slopes of water the dawn
had revealed it less than two miles distant.

There could be no doubt as to its nationality, for the white cross of
Denmark, on the red ground, was painted on the weather-beaten sides, now
showing just above the sea. Deserted and half-waterlogged, it was being
kept afloat by a cargo of timber, some of which could be seen in chaos
on the deck.

The M.L. approached cautiously, with thick rope fenders over her
rubbing-streak to prevent the frail hull from being damaged. This
coming alongside other ships in the open sea, except in the very calmest
of weather, is a ticklish manoeuvre, and requires considerable skill
in the handling of these small and very fragile craft. What would be
considered quite a light blow on the stout hull of any ordinary ship
would crush in the thin timbers of a patrol launch, for in the
construction of these boats speed and shallow draught were the
predominant factors considered.

When the M.L. had been made fast on the lee-side of the derelict a
boarding party scrambled over the damaged bulwarks on to the sea-washed
deck. Here was a scene of chaos--rigging tangled and swinging loosely
from masts and yards; sails torn and shreds still clinging to ropes and
spars; loose planks of her deck cargo lying all over the place, and a
general air of abandon and desolation difficult to describe.

A mass of broken woodwork in the well of the ship was soon discovered to
be the remains of a deck-house, and this gave the first clue to the
reason for her sorry plight. Pieces of shrapnel were found sticking in
the timbers, and further search revealed shell-holes through the hull
and cut rigging. A signal was flying from the mizen halyards, and the
name on the counter, although spattered with shot, was still, in part,
decipherable--_Rickivik_, Copenhafen.

So the officer in charge of the boarding party commenced his report with
the name of the ship and the port from which she hailed, adding thereto
the evident fact that she had been heavily shelled--just a brief
statement which left to the imagination all the incidents and, alas!
tragedies of an unequal fight.

A high-explosive shell had struck the little raised poop, demolishing
the hatchway leading to the cabins beneath, and some heavy work with axe
and saw would have been necessary to obtain an entry had an easier way
not been available through the shattered skylight. In the low-roofed
cabin all was disorder. Tables and lockers were smashed, and the shell
which had burst overhead had filled the place with heavy broken timbers
from the deck above.

So low was the cabin roof of this small three-masted barque, and so dark
the interior, that it was difficult to see about. A lantern was procured
and a careful search commenced. The yellow light fell on drawers pulled
out and their contents--when worthless--flung on the floor; glasses and
bottles smashed and a quaint old China figure lying intact on the broken
timbers. But of the ship's papers there was no trace, with the single
exception of an old Bill of Health, issued six years previously in
Baltimore. Then the area of search moved from the cupboards and drawers
to the floor--broken by a shell which had evidently penetrated the
ship's stern and passed longitudinally through the cabin, exploding near
the base of the companion-hatch.

Presently a startled exclamation, followed by a call for the light, came
from the gloom around the stairway. Two of the boarding party searching
among the debris had stumbled across something which, instinctively,
sent a cold shiver through them. The light, when moved in that
direction, dimly revealed the body of a man lying face downwards on the
floor. Only the lower half of the figure was, however, visible, a mass
of shattered timbers having collapsed on the head and shoulders. That
life had been extinct for some considerable time was evidenced by the
sickly odour which hung heavily in the less ventilated parts of the
cabin, and the work of extricating the body was not commenced before the
whole ship had been searched for possible survivors.

This work occupied a considerable time, but nothing of importance was
discovered until a slight noise, not unlike the feeble, inarticulate cry
of a child in pain, came through the timbers from some distant part of
the hold. It was repeated several times, and the sailors, without
waiting for orders, set hastily to work to find out the cause.

The hatches were carefully removed, but only floating timber could be
seen. Then the sound came again. This time it was unmistakable and
relieved the tension. A little grim laugh from the searchers was
followed by much poking about with a long piece of wood on the surface
of the flooded hold under the decking, and some minutes later a large
pile of timber floated into the light from the open hatchway, supporting
a big tortoiseshell cat, looking very wet and emaciated. "Ricky"--for
such is her name now--proved to be the only living thing on that
ill-fated ship.

The boarding party returned to the cabin and commenced the objectionable
task of extricating the dead body from the mass of wreckage. The work
proceeded slowly, for the heavy broken timbers pressed mercilessly on
the object beneath, and when at last it lay revealed in the dim lantern
light its ghastly appearance caused all to step back in horror. It was a
headless corpse!



HOW many people realise that, with a single unimportant exception, there
was no part of the English or Scottish coast which was not mined-in at
least once by German submarines during 1914-1918? Harbour entrances,
often less than two miles from the shore, were repeatedly blocked by
lines of hostile mines, laid by U-C boats through their stern tubes, in
which they seldom carried less than fifteen to twenty of these deadly
weapons, without the vessels rising to the surface either when
approaching the coast, laying the mines or effecting their escape.

Many important waterways, such as the Straits of Dover, the mouth of the
Thames, the approaches to Liverpool, the Firth of Forth, Aberdeen,
Lowestoft and Portsmouth, were repeatedly chosen for this form of
submarine attack. At one base alone no less than 400 mines were
destroyed by the attached anti-submarine flotillas in one year, and
round the coasts of the United Kingdom an average of about 3000 of these
invisible weapons were located and destroyed annually.

What this meant to the 24,000,000 tons of mercantile shipping passing to
and fro through the danger zone _every month_ will be better realised
when it is stated that less than 400 merchant ships were blown up by
mines during the three years of intensive submarine warfare.

The losses among the minesweeping and patrol flotillas, which were
mainly responsible for the crushing defeat of this piratical campaign,
were, however, very heavy. They amounted to over 200 ships and several
thousand men. Few will therefore deny to those who lived and to those
who died a share in the glory of the great victory.

Statistics make but uninteresting reading, and from the following
account of what happened off a big Scottish seaport while the
inhabitants ashore slept in peace and safety a better idea will be
obtained of the arduous nature of the work of minesweeping and patrol in
time of war than could possibly be imparted by pages of figures.

       *       *       *       *       *

The early dusk of a winter evening was settling over a white land and a
leaden sea. A mist of sliding snow increased the gloom and blotted out
the vessels ahead and astern as the line of patrol boats left the
comparative warmth and security of one of the largest northern harbours
for twelve hours in the bitter frost on night patrol.

The cold was intense and of that penetrating nature which causes men to
shiver even in the thickest of clothing. Although some eighteen degrees
of frost had flattened the sea, a freezing spray still blew in showers
over the narrow deck and, for just a few minutes, the lead-grey sky
gleamed dully red as the sun dipped below the snow-covered land.

The crew of the M.L. moved about the cramped deck stiffly, for they were
clad in duffel suits, oilskins and sea-boots, and little but their eyes
and hands were visible. The officer on the small canvas-screened bridge
was likewise an almost unrecognisable bundle of yellow and white wool
and black leather. As a contrast, however, to the whitening deck and
snow-clad men, the reflection of a warm yellow light came up through the
wardroom hatchway, and more than one longing glance was cast down into
the snug interior.

These men were not all hardened by long and severe sea training; many of
them formed part of the new navy, gaining experience amid the bitter
cold and dangers of the grey North Sea. A call for the signalman came
from the bridge, and a boy, who had been swinging his arms to warm his
numbed fingers, responded smartly. The lieutenant-in-command wiped the
snow from his eyes as he peered round the canvas side-screen and asked
tersely what the next ship ahead was trying to signal.

The boy seized his semaphore flags and went out on to the spray-swept
fore-deck, steadying himself against the fo'c'sle hatch cover. He
flinched at first when the spray stung the exposed parts of his body,
and then, with straining eyes and dripping oilskins, he managed, after
the words had been repeated several times, to read the signal which was
being sent down the line from the leading ship somewhere in the white
haze ahead.

"Proceed independently to allotted stations for night patrol" was the
order then conveyed to the bridge and afterwards passed on by flag to
the next astern. When the last ship had received the signal each unit of
the flotilla swung out of line and disappeared in the sliding snow.

As the darkness increased the cold strengthened and a little bitter wind
began to moan through the scanty rigging. Men stamped their feet and
swung their arms to increase the circulation in numbed limbs, and every
now and then during the next three hours one member of the watch on deck
would disappear for a few minutes down the galley hatchway to drink a
cup of hot cocoa, which, so far, the cook had succeeded in keeping warm
on the ill-natured petrol stove.

At 9 P.M. the first watch was over and half-frozen men climbed stiffly
down the iron ladder into the tiny fo'c'sle, where the heat and fugg of
oil stoves caused their thawing limbs to throb painfully. The starboard
watch, fresh from the heat of the tiny cabin, whose four hours on deck
now commenced, were shivering in the icy wind and showers of spray.

Glancing at the dimly lit chart on the small table cunningly fitted into
the front of the wheel-house, the commander noted the approximate
position of the ship in the 140,000 square miles of sea and snow around,
and then turning to the coxswain, whose "trick" it was at the wheel, he
gave the necessary orders for the course and speed. The duty of this
vessel was to patrol certain approaches to the great harbour on which
the flotilla was based until relieved at daybreak by another unit, and,
as merchant ships had many times been attacked in these waters, a sharp
look-out was necessary. To carry this out effectively in the darkness
and driving snow was a task calling for all the qualities of dogged
endurance inherent in the British sailor.

For over two hours nothing was seen or heard except the moaning of the
wind and the lash of the sea, but shortly after midnight one of the
look-outs reported the sound of engines away to the starboard.

The M.L.'s propellers were stopped and the watch on deck listened
intently. The splash of the sea and the many noises of a rolling ship
drowned any other sound there might have been, and the patrol was then
continued. Less than half-an-hour later, however, the clank! clank!
clank! of engines again became suddenly audible, and the vessel was
turned in the direction of the sound.

The engines were put to full speed ahead, and as each comber struck the
bows the little ship trembled from stem to stern, and clouds of icy
spray swept high over the mast. The big steel hull of some man-o'-war or
merchantman might suddenly loom up out of the darkness so close ahead
that no skill could avoid a collision, and the eyes of all aboard were
gazing alertly into the blackness of the night.

Five minutes' dash through the blinding, stinging spray and the engines
were once more shut off to listen. The curious clanking noise had,
however, ceased, and although hydrophones were used to again locate the
sound, there was no result, only the ceaseless wash of the sea and the
low moaning of the wind. Another mile or so of pounding through the
waves, followed by an interval of listening, brought the same
discouraging result, and the slow, monotonous routine of patrol was

The stinging frost of the night became the numbing cold of early
morning, and the long hours in the snow and icy spray had left their
mark on all. Limbs were stiff and sore. The edges of wet and half-frozen
sleeves rasped swollen wrists. Faces smarted and eyes ached, but little
was said in the way of complaint, for men grow hard on northern seas or
else succumb to the hardships.

When the first dim light of a winter dawn broke reluctantly over the
grey tumbling sea and whirling snow another night patrol was over, and
the cheering thought came to all that soon the welcome warmth and
shelter of club and recreation room would embrace them for the brief
hours of daylight, while others kept watch upon the seas.

It had been snowing hard for the past twenty-four hours, but as the
light of a new day strengthened it eased somewhat, and away to the
westward the blue outline of the land became visible. The fitful wind of
the night rose to a stiff breeze, but no one paid much attention to the
increasing volume of bitter spray which swept the deck as the grey-green
rollers put on their white caps of foam, for the ship was heading
towards the harbour and their vigil was over until darkness again closed

Few things are more trying to the temper than to be kept waiting for
relief after a bad spell at sea, and but few crimes are more heinous
than to leave the watched area before another patrol takes up the
never-ceasing duties. Therefore, if peace and quietness and an absence
of insulting signals counted for anything, it ill behove any ship in the
day patrol to keep her opposite member of the night guard waiting.

This time the relief was late and the M.L. steamed angrily up and down,
with all eyes strained shorewards. Then the first of the line of armed
trawlers and motor launches crawled out of the harbour in a smother of
black smoke. When barely half-a-mile of sea separated the incoming and
outgoing ships a loud reverberating boom rolled over the sea. So great
was the explosion that the shock of it was felt rather than heard, and a
gigantic column of black smoke, rising over 100 feet into the air,
appeared to engulf the leading unit of the trawler patrol.

Regardless of the danger, the C.O. of the motor launch sent his swift
shallow-draught boat flying over the mine-field into the floating
debris. The only two mangled survivors had, however, been picked up by
the trawler astern of the ill-fated vessel, which had been literally
blown to pieces, nothing remaining afloat when the smoke cleared away
except a signal locker and a few timbers.


_Yachting Monthly_

_Photo by Com. Sir A. Lee Guinness_]

More than one of the other vessels, whose engines had been stopped
immediately the explosion occurred, narrowly escaped drifting down with
the tide on to the field of hidden mines, but with the skill and
presence of mind gained by similar experiences in the past both the
trawler unit and the M.L. flotilla were extricated without further loss.

It was evident from the fact that several of the mines were barely
submerged and could be dimly seen from the decks that the work of laying
them had been done hastily under the cover of night, and a sense of keen
sorrow and disappointment pervaded the vessels of the night guard. Once
again climatic conditions had favoured the enemy. In those long winter
hours of impenetrable blackness and driving snow no watch, however
efficient, could be relied upon to prevent such operations from being
occasionally carried out. It was merely the chance of war, but
nevertheless it was felt keenly, and the sense of responsibility was not
dispelled until some weeks later.

When the _sweepers_ arrived it was soon discovered that the harbour was
temporarily mined-in. Signals were exchanged with the "Senior Naval
Officer" of the base, and the night guard was ordered to assist in
preventing shipping from attempting to enter the harbour before the
approaches had been swept clear and the mines destroyed. Weary ships
with disappointed crews once more turned seawards, but the physical
discomforts of stinging spray and frequent snowstorms passed almost
unnoticed in the efforts of the flotilla to prevent the ceaseless stream
of ocean traffic from approaching the danger zone unnoticed in the
blinding white haze.

Tired limbs were forced to continued efforts and numbed faculties were
goaded afresh. Big ships loomed out of the mists around and were
informed of the dangers and directed into the pathways of safety.
Trawlers returning from the fishing-grounds of the far north had to be
intercepted, local craft piloted round the mine-field in the shallow
water close inshore, signals flashed to the outer patrols, and the hours
of daylight and activity passed quickly by.

By seven bells in the afternoon watch the dusk of the long winter night
began again to settle over the sea, blotting out one patrol from
another. On this as on many other similar nights spent in the bitter
frost, thick sea fog or flying spume, in waters infested with mines and
hostile submarines, certain senses became dulled, though the brain
remained alert and the limbs as active as cramp and cold would allow.
But the little incidents of those long hours are lost in blurred
memories of cries from the look-out, hulls towering out of the
blackness, the flashing of Morse lamps, the ceaseless and violent
pitching and rolling of a small ship, moments of tense excitement,
followed by hours of cold and an utter weariness of the soul.

When the first pale streaks of returning daylight had turned to the
fiery red of a frosty sunrise, dirty and unshaven men moved painfully
about the slippery decks. The sea had flattened in the night and the
snowing had ceased, but twenty degrees of frost had gripped the wet
decks and the soaked clothing. As the vessels stood towards the shore
weary eyes were turned anxiously on the signal station, but not yet was
the recall to be hoisted, for although the seas around had been swept
clear of mines, there was still a careful inspection to be made before
the area could be reported clear, so that ships might come and go.

When at last a line of flags fluttered to the distant mast-head away on
the hill ashore, and the signal-boy read out, "M.L.'s to return to
harbour," there was a feeble cheer.

     .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

On a calm, frosty morning some three weeks later the boats of the old
night guard, now doing their spell of day duty, discovered a long trail
of thick greenish-black oil on the surface leading seawards. It was
evident that a hostile submarine had rested during the previous night on
the sandy bottom in the shallow water close inshore and, rising to the
surface, had made off at daybreak. The trail was followed and
information was quickly received from an Iceland trawler, which had
passed the submarine on the surface some two hours previous. Ships were
concentrated by wireless, and although it did not fall to the lot of the
M.L.'s to give the _coup de grâce_, they had the satisfaction of
returning to harbour with the knowledge that their honour had been
retrieved, and yet another German submarine would never again commit
outrage on the high seas.



THERE were duties performed by the new navy which bore no relationship
to anti-submarine fighting, or, in fact, to warfare at all, unless it
was to the ceaseless battle waged between all who go down to the sea in
ships and the elements they seek to master.

One such as this occurred at a little northern seaport in the late
winter of 1917, unimportant and scarcely worth relating except as an
illustration of the diverse services rendered by men of this great force
during the years of national peril.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gale was at the height of its fury when the March day drew to a
close. The whole east coast of Scotland, from John o' Groats to the
mouth of the Tweed, was a study in black and white--the white of foam
and the black of rocks. All the minesweepers and smaller patrol ships
had been confined to their respective bases for several days, and in a
certain small harbour many of the officers and crews of the imprisoned
ships were spending their time ashore, in the warmth and cheery comfort
of hospitable firesides.

The boisterous day became a wild night. The wind howled and whistled
over the barren moors and through the streets of the small fishing
town. Houses trembled and chimneys rocked under the blasts. Although a
watch on the signal tower and elsewhere was religiously maintained, it
was of little value, as all that could be seen in the darkness to
seawards was a hazy mist of flying spray which the wind whisked from the
surface and carried several miles inland.

Standing back from the sea, and some half-mile from the centre of the
little fishing town, stood a substantially built house, more commodious
and better furnished than many of its neighbours, which had
providentially fallen into the temporary grasp of one of the married
officers of the patrol flotilla, who generously kept open house for his
less fortunate brothers-in-arms.

On this wild winter night the interior looked excessively cosy and
inviting. Before a big blazing fire of logs sat three officers, talking
between copious sips of whisky and soda. Their conversation was subdued
and their inhalations of cigar smoke long. By their side were the
faithful women who had followed them from the comforts of home and the
gaieties of the great southern cities to this remote corner of northern
Scotland. They too were talking among themselves and knitting for the
crews of their husbands' ships.

This quiet domestic scene would have gone on uninterruptedly until a
late hour, for it was seldom that such precious moments of rest and
contentment could be snatched amid the ever-recurring duties and the
turmoil of war, had it not been for one of the officers who glanced
ruefully at his wrist watch and then apologetically informed his host
that it was his turn for night duty on the signal tower.

Scarcely had he risen from the fire and moved towards the door of the
room, however, before the dull boom of a gun was borne on the howling
wind. All stood still and listened. The women ceased their knitting and
looked up apprehensively. Then a minute or so later the boom came again,
this time in a lull of the storm, and it sounded nearer.

The three officers hurried into the hall to get on oilskins and
sea-boots, but almost before this could be done there came a report
which echoed sharply through the little town. They knew the sound only
too well, for the coast was a dangerous one. It was the reply of the
life-boat crew to the call of distress, and with one accord they moved
towards the door. Almost instantly it was thrown violently open and the
rush of wind and rain extinguished the hall light. For the next few
minutes they were struggling against the gale, battling their way to the
lofty little signal station, impeded in every movement by driving rain,
flying scud, intense blackness and flapping oilskins.

When they had reached the coast and mounted the rough stone steps
leading to the elevated look-out tower, a clear sweep of the dark,
foam-crested surface was obtained, and the news was shouted above the
roar of the gale that somewhere out in the night, amid the tormented
waters, a ship was in distress, though the flying spray made it
impossible to locate the exact direction.

Below the signal tower, and built on a mass of rock projecting into the
half-sheltered water inside the concrete pier, was the life-boat house.
From this point the white rays of a chemical flare lighted up the
surface of the sea as far as the harbour bar, which, with its flanking
rocks, resembled a seething cauldron. Into this the life-boat plunged
from its inclined slipway, and was almost instantly swallowed up in the
outer ring of darkness and spray. The flare died out suddenly and the
night seemed even blacker than before.

After a brief struggle with the wind, now blowing at a speed of over
seventy miles an hour, the men who had assembled around the signal
station made their way out on to the spray-swept breakwater, and there
waited for the coloured rocket from the life-boat which would signify
that she had found the wreck.

Nearly an hour passed but no sign came from the darkness and boiling
sea. Then a light appeared momentarily on the harbour bar and was lost
in the smother of white. A few minutes later a grinding crash came from
the rocks less than a hundred yards distant from the end of the

The groups of sailors standing under the lee of the wall, chafing at
their apparent helplessness and gazing anxiously out to sea, were
suddenly electrified into action by a few sharp orders from the
oilskinned commander. A minute or two of seemingly inextricable
confusion resulted in the beams of a portable searchlight flashing out
from the spray-swept breakwater and lighting up rocks, foam, and a big
three-masted Norwegian sailing ship, with sails torn, her fore-mast
broken off short and every sea lifting high her stern and driving her
farther on to the half-hidden tongues of stone. Even as the light played
on her she heeled over to starboard at an angle of about forty-five
degrees with an ominous rending of timbers which sounded above the roar
of wind and surf.

Orders were bellowed through a megaphone, and again men moved quickly in
all directions. This time a fiery rocket, bearing a life-line, soared
from its tube with a loud hiss and sped across the hundred yards of
boiling sea. It straddled the wreck. The thin line it carried was soon
exchanged for a stout hawser--hauled from the breakwater--and this was
made fast to the stump of the mainmast, which had followed the other
"sticks" overboard when the vessel heeled over on the rocks. It was now
floating, wrestling and tugging at the mass of confused rigging, and
pounding dangerously at the ship's side.

One by one the unfortunate Norse crew were hauled over the harbour bar
in the breeches-buoy by fifty willing British sailors, and the first to
come was the captain's wife and little daughter.

There was but one casualty, and that among the rescuers. The stretcher
was lifted from the ambulance at the door of the substantially built
house standing back from the little town. A white-faced woman ran out
into the storm. She had spent a year of nights and days half expecting
such as this, and now that it had come the blood seemed to ebb from her
body, and at first she scarcely heard a familiar voice assuring her that
it was only a cut on the head from a broken wire rope.



AN earlier chapter described the periodical overhauls necessary to keep
the ships of the hard-worked auxiliary navy in proper fighting
condition. These "refits" were needed not only by the ships but also by
the men who worked them. They came about once a year and lasted for two
or three weeks, during which time the crews were able to go home for at
least a few days of much-needed rest.

To describe how everyone, from commander to signal-boy, looked forward
to these spells of leave is unnecessary. Let the reader imagine how he
himself would feel after nine or ten months of the monotony and danger,
to say nothing of the hardships, of life at sea in time of war.

There was, however, another consideration, one seldom referred to but
nevertheless unavoidably present in the minds of all. Each time a refit
came round there were ships which would never be docked again, and
comrades who had missed their leave. Men told themselves that the luck
they had enjoyed for so long could not last, and it is about one of
these, in a fight against overwhelming odds, that the following story

Three of his Majesty's armed trawlers were plunging through the sea on
their lonely beat in the Western Ocean. The Hebrides lay far to the
southward, and less than two days' steam ahead lay the Arctic Circle.
These cheerless surroundings, however, found no echo in the hearts of
the watch below on the leading ship of the unit, who were lounging on
the settees in the oil-smelling fo'c'sle discussing their prospects of
long leave, for their ship was to "blow-down" for a thorough refit when
they returned to harbour in less than three weeks' time.

On the deck of the same vessel two officers, standing in the shelter of
the wheel-house, were sweating and shivering in patches, but also happy
with the thought of the forthcoming reunion with their families and the
brief enjoyment of the comforts of home after seven long winter months'
wandering, with soul-destroying monotony, over the windswept wastes of
England's frontier. The watch on deck, with the exception of the
helmsman and look-out, crouched under the lee of the iron
superstructure, alternately swinging their arms and stamping their
heavily booted feet, but they too were mentally impervious to the dismal

Of the second ship in the line the same cheery story cannot be told. She
was jealous of the first. It would be another two months at least before
she would go in dock for refit; and among the watch below there were
three new hands on their first voyage, two of whom would, just then,
have preferred the peace and stillness of the sea bottom to the
friskiness of the surface.

The third trawler was a happy little ship, for although the junior of
the unit she had been very fortunate in securing a "Fritz" all to her
own cheek less than three months before.

This, then, was one of the units on the Outer Hebrides and Iceland
patrol during the winter of 1915, and they seemed to be the sole
occupants of the leagues of water around.

It was barely eleven o'clock, Greenwich time, when they reached the last
ten miles of their beat, and speed was reduced so that they would not
have to turn about and begin steaming back over the course they had come
until the morning watch went below at midday. This was an artful though
harmless arrangement to enable those going off duty to have a meal and
at least an hour's rest in peace, as on the voyage back both wind and
sea would be astern and the vicious lurching of the small ship reduced
to a minimum.

The time passed slowly, as it generally did on patrol when nothing
exciting was afoot, but a few minutes before the awaited eight bells the
officer on duty snatched up the binoculars, and almost simultaneously
the look-out gave a warning shout which caused the attention of everyone
on deck to suddenly become strained.

Away to port, less than half-a-mile distant, the thin grey tube of a
periscope could be seen planing through the waves, with a fringe of
white foam blowing from its base. There was a hoarse cry down the
fo'c'sle hatch for "All hands on deck!" The telegraph tinkled for "Full
ahead!" A signal was made to the ships astern for concerted action. The
gun was manned, and the leading trawler, now cleared for action, headed
towards her under-water opponent.

The other two vessels of the unit put on speed and spread out until all
three were line-abreast and about two cables apart. In this formation
the chase was maintained for some twenty minutes, when a second
submarine appeared above the surface away to starboard. She appeared to
be a large vessel and would probably have turned the scale at 1000 tons.

It was at this early stage in the action that the mistake was made. The
leading trawler immediately opened fire, but the range was considerable
and the shells fell short. Signalling to the other two trawlers to
continue the chase of the first submarine sighted, she headed straight
for the largest of the two hostile craft to engage her at close range.

While this was in progress the first submarine came to the surface and
proved to be also a larger craft than had been anticipated. The two
trawlers chasing her immediately opened fire, but her superior surface
speed soon placed her out of range of the comparatively small guns then
carried by the trawler patrols.

Now came the surprise. Almost simultaneously the two submarines opened
fire from heavy guns. The shells at first fell wide, but in a moment
the British officers realised that they were outranged, for whereas
their shells were falling short, those from the enemy whistled over
their heads and ploughed up columns of white water over a cable's length

To increase speed and so reduce the range became imperative, and the
steam-pressure in the trawlers' boilers was raised to bursting point by
the simple expedient of screwing down the safety valve. For some minutes
it looked as though the effort would be successful, and then the range
slowly increased again and "short" after "short" was registered by the

At this psychological moment a German shell carried away the funnel of
the leading trawler and smothered her decks with smoke. When a temporary
shield had been rigged it was observed that one of the other patrol
ships had been crippled by a direct hit and was in a sinking condition.

It now became evident that the superior speed and gun-power of the
submarines enabled them to keep out of range of the trawlers' weapons
and to ply their long-range fire with telling effect.

The officer in command of the patrol at once realised the mistake he had
made when opening the action, in betraying the power of his own guns
before he was sufficiently close to the enemy to ensure hits, and he
cursed this want of foresight which looked like costing the life of the
flotilla. Given one direct hit on each of his two powerful opponents and
they would in all probability have been put out of action, but instead
he had only the mortification of seeing every shell fired fall short,
while his own vessels were being battered to pieces by the long-range
guns of an enemy with whom he could not close.

The withholding of fire while hostile shells are bursting around is one
of the many severe strains imposed on the human mind by modern war, and
in anti-submarine tactics it often means the difference between victory
and defeat, which, followed to its logical conclusion, is generally life
or death.

One hope now remained--that by skilful manoeuvring the trawlers could
be kept afloat until help arrived; but in those wastes of sea no vessel
might pass for many hours, and even then not a warship.

Such is the working of Fate: the leading trawler of the unit was to have
been fitted with wireless while under the approaching refit, and with
its aid patrol cruisers or fast destroyers could soon have been brought
to the scene of operations.

Thirty minutes later the crippled ship, the junior member, gave three
defiant shrieks with her syren and slid under the surface with her
colours flying. For over two hours the others manoeuvred to get one on
each side of the submarines to enable them to get the few shells
remaining in their magazines home on the target, but so great was the
disparity of both range and speed that at five in the evening nearly
half their crews were dead or wounded, and a little while later the
ice-cold water closed over the leading ship. Still the other fought on,
but as dusk closed over the sea she too went down in this obscure

No search for possible survivors was made by the submarines, which
glided westwards into the smoky red afterglow, leaving the bitter cold
to finish the work of death.

     .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

A big armed liner of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron had heard the distant
firing and came upon the scene just before darkness finally closed over.
Four bodies were still lashed to a raft, but in all except one life was

When the doctors bent over the half-frozen form in which a flicker still
lingered they shook their heads. Death waged a stern battle even for
this last relic, but life triumphed, and when the agony of returning
animation had ceased the sole survivor told the cruiser's mess how
Trawler No. 1 had lost her refit.



EVERYONE familiar with English history knows that it was a severe gale
which destroyed the scattered and defeated units of the Spanish Armada
in 1588, and that, in more modern times, it was the coming of darkness
which prevented the British Grand Fleet from turning the victory of
Jutland into a decisive rout. Such historical examples of the effect of
the weather, and even ordinary climatic changes, on the course of naval
operations could be multiplied almost indefinitely. Not only are the
movements of the barometer important factors to be considered in the
major operations of naval war but also in minor sea fights.

Comparatively few people are, however, aware that one of the largest and
most destructive of German mine-fields was laid off the British coast
during the Great War by a surface ship which escaped detection through
darkness and storm.

       *       *       *       *       *

The barometer had fallen rapidly, and clouds rolled up from the
north-west in ragged grey banks which scudded ominously over a cold
steely blue sky. For some days the sea had been moderately calm, but it
was mid-winter and quiescence of the elements could not be expected to
last. Slowly the face of the Atlantic grew lined with white. It began
with a moaning wind which soon developed into a stiff gale, accompanied
by heavy storms of sleet and snow.

One of his Majesty's ships coming up the west coast of Ireland found
herself heading into the teeth of the gale. As the afternoon wore on the
wind increased in violence and the ship rolled and plunged heavily,
smothering herself in clouds of flying spume. The driving sleet made it
difficult to see more than a cable's length in any direction, and when
dusk closed over the storm-swept ocean the ship was headed for a
sheltered stretch of water close inshore.

Every stay and shroud whistled its own tune as the gale roared past.
Foam-crested waves hurled themselves in a white fury against the
plunging, dripping sides, piling up on the port bow and racing aft in
cataracts of water which threatened instant death to any luckless sailor
caught in their embrace. The lashings on the movable furniture of the
decks, although of stout rope, were snapped like spun-yarn, and
much-prized, newly painted ventilators, boat-covers, fenders, deck-rails
and other necessary adornments were swept overboard by the ugly rushes
of green sea. The iron superstructure and bridge-supports resounded to
the heavy blows of the water, and the ship trembled as she rose after
each ghastly plunge.

The blasts of wind which struck the vessel with increasing violence had
swept unimpeded over 5000 miles of ocean and carried in their breath
the edge of the Arctic frost. The sleet felt warm compared with it, and
the flying spray lost its sting.

The forty-eight sea miles lying between the ship and the sheltered
strait seemed endless leagues, for the speed had to be considerably
reduced to avoid serious damage from Neptune's guns. The minutes of
twilight grew rapidly less, and with the coming of darkness a new danger
threatened. The ship was approaching a rock-strewn coast with no
friendly lights to guide her, and every now and then lofty masses of
black stone rose up, dimly, from their beds of foam. It was an anxious
half-hour, and ears were strained for the warning thunder from
surf-beaten rocks which sounded at intervals even above the roar of the

Fortunately the entrance to the sheltered waterway was broad, and almost
before it could be realised the sea grew calm. Although the wind still
shrieked and moaned, the waves rose barely three feet high. Great
cliffs, invisible in the darkness and driving sleet, protected the
strait, and as the vessel picked her way to a safe anchorage closer
under the lee of the land the wind lost its giant strength and the
howling receded into the upper air.

Throughout the night the comparatively small warship rode safely at
anchor, innocent of what was taking place out in the blackness and the
storm. When morning broke the gale had lost some of its force, and
streams of pale watery sunlight shone between the low-flying clouds on
to a boisterous sea.

     .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Running before the wind and sea the German raider _Frederick_, carefully
disguised and loaded with several hundred mines, approached the British
coast. The gale was increasing in force as darkness closed down, and
heavy showers of sleet shielded her from the view of any passing craft.
The weather was ideal for her dark purpose, which was to lay a
mine-field over a stretch of sea where it was thought the Anglo-American
trade routes converged.

For the first few days out from Wilhelmshaven the weather had been misty
with heavy snowfalls, conditions enabling the mine-layer (and afterwards
raider) to run the blockade and elude the network of patrols, not,
however, without some very close shaves. On one occasion a large
auxiliary cruiser passed in a snow squall, and during subsequent
movements the raider found herself in the midst of a British fishing
fleet, but passed unrecognised in the darkness. And now that she was
approaching the British coast, and the scene of actual operations, the
barometer again obliged by falling rapidly.

It was a wild night and very dark when the first mine splashed
overboard. A snowstorm set in, and as the work proceeded heavy seas
broke over the vessel, smothering her with spray, but she was
comparatively a large ship, built for ocean trade. Although the darkness
and the snow were conditions favourable to the laying of mines in
secret, and without their aid the danger of discovery would have been
great, the rising gale and the heavy seas rendered the work both
difficult and dangerous, notwithstanding that these deadly weapons were
so arranged as to go automatically overboard.

Before the last of her cargo had been consigned to the deep it was
blowing great guns, and one sea after another was breaking over the
ship. Although sheltered waters lay less than fifty miles distant, to
proceed there would mean certain discovery and destruction, so all
through that wild night, and for many hours afterwards, the raider
sought by every means in her power to battle seawards, away from the
coast and danger, heading into the teeth of the gale and out on to the
broad bosom of the North Atlantic, all unknowing that but for the
severity of the storm she must have been observed, probably in the very
act of laying the mine-field, by the small warship riding out the
north-wester in the more sheltered waters close inshore.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is interesting to note that it was on this mine-field a few days
later that one of the largest transatlantic liners was sunk.



A GREAT work of rescue was carried on throughout the war on all the
seven seas by vessels of both the old and the new navy. This service was
rendered to ally, neutral and enemy alike, but no complete record of the
gallant deeds performed nor even of the numbers and nationalities of
those saved will, in all probability, ever be available, and none is
needed, for it was a duty which brought its own reward.

Typical of the way succour was brought by the naval patrols to those
unhappy victims of both sexes left adrift in open boats in calm and
rough, sunshine and snow, all over the northern seas by the cowardly
_Unterseeboten_ of the kultured race was the rescue of the passengers
and crew of a liner off the wild west coast of Ireland in the winter of

       *       *       *       *       *

It was mid-December, and flurries of snow were being driven before a
stinging north-westerly wind. The sea was moderate, but the heavy
Atlantic swell caused the lonely patrol ship to sink sluggishly into the
watery hollows, with only her aerials showing above the surrounding
slopes of grey-green sea, and a minute or so later to be poised giddily
on the bosoms of acre-wide rollers with nothing but the white mists
obscuring the broad horizon.

It was a wild wintry scene, pregnant with cold and hardship. The officer
who had just come up from the warmth of the wardroom to relieve his
"opposite number" on the bridge pulled the thick wool muffler closer
round his neck and dug mittened hands deep into the pockets of his
duffel coat.

In the Marconi cabin, situated on the deck of the _sloop_, a young
operator was sitting with the receiving instrument fixed to his head and
the clean and bright apparatus all around. He was city born and bred,
and felt keenly the monotony of life at sea, although to him came the
many interesting wireless signals from the vast network of patrols which
covered the Western Ocean--linking the sea-divided units into a more or
less homogeneous fleet.

Presently a message began to spell itself in Morse. Taking a pencil, the
operator scribbled various hieroglyphics on the naval signal paper lying
on the desk in front of him; then after a pause of a few seconds he
pulled forward a tiny lever and began a rhythmic tap on an ebonite key.

It was the "S.O.S." call and the reply that had flashed through the
ether. A minute or so later the written signal, giving the appeal for
help and the position and name of the torpedoed liner, was handed to the
commander. A glance at the chart told that young but experienced
officer that he could not hope to bring his ship to the scene of the
disaster before dusk closed down, and a message was sparked across the
eighty miles of intervening sea asking how long the crippled ship could
be kept afloat.

To this, however, there came no reply, and the engines of the sloop were
put to full speed ahead. A heavy spray now commenced to sweep across the
deck in drenching showers, and the snow haze thickened. The pitching of
the ship increased as she raced over the ocean swell, driving her sharp
bows deep into the masses of sea. The limbs of the watch grew stiff and
numb, and a fine coating of wet salt stung their faces. Eyes ached from
gazing into the bitter wind, and for over four hours the race against
approaching night continued. If darkness closed down before that eighty
miles of sea was covered all on board realised that the chances of
finding any survivors would be greatly diminished. Even the strongest
vitality could not long resist exposure to the intense cold, and there
might be women and children in the sea ahead.

Many of the officers and crew of the sloop had experienced the agonies
of cold, wounds and salt water when cast adrift on wintry seas, and the
memory acted like a whip. As the hours went by the greenish tint of the
sea slowly turned to leaden-grey, and the pure white of the driving snow
contrasted sharply with the quickening dusk of the December night.

It was in the last half-hour of the dog watch that the sloop reached
the scene of the disaster and the speed was reduced. Scattered over the
sea around, and floating southwards in grim procession, was a mass of
wreckage--a broken raft, a number of deck-chairs, spars and cordage, a
life-belt and some oars--but of boats with living freights there was not
a sign.

Steaming slowly round in widening circles, the sloop searched while the
light lasted, but the whirling haze of fine snow blotted out the
distance, and soon the early darkness of a winter night settled over the
sea. The cold became intense. The white beam of a searchlight now
flashed out over the black waters. There was a grave risk in this
betraying light, one not sanctioned by the theory of war. It made the
warship a target for any hostile submarine lurking around, but it seemed
impossible to believe that a 6000-ton liner, with probably several
hundred human beings on board, could have been so completely
obliterated, and to the commander of the sloop the risk seemed

Other ships might have intercepted the S.O.S. call and reached the scene
of the disaster earlier, but the sloop's wireless, although put into
action, could not confirm this, and so the search was continued.

On and off during the bitter night the white beam of light flashed out
through the snow. For a few seconds it swept the sea close around and
was then shut off. In the pall-like blackness which followed ears
listened intently, but could distinguish nothing except the lash of the

The sound-deadening qualities of falling snow would have cut short the
range of any cry, for the human voice at its strongest, and with the
atmospheric conditions favourable, can seldom be heard more than 1000
yards distant. So hour after hour of numbing cold went by with nothing
to show except the occasional pathway of light on the grey slopes of sea
and the low moaning wind.

The snowing ceased, and in the cold stillness which so often precedes
daybreak in the north a faint cry came from the sea, at first so
indistinct and mingled with water noises that it would never have been
heard at all if the engines of the sloop had not been shut off, as they
had been at frequent intervals during the night, to enable those on
board to listen. The cry was quickly followed by the "snore" of a boat's
fog-horn. A few turns of the sloop's propellers and in the grey light of
the December dawn a large ship's life-boat could be dimly seen, away to
starboard, when it rose on the bosom of the swell.

Careful manoeuvring placed the warship alongside the boat-load of
half-frozen castaways and the work of rescue commenced. It was a sad
task. Amongst the thirty-two survivors there were twelve women and
children, seven of whom had died of cold and exposure during that bitter
night. One, a young Canadian wife coming home to her wounded soldier
husband, had been crushed by the explosion of the first torpedo and
suffered agonies in the open boat before sinking into the peace of

To dwell here on the suffering caused by intense cold, exposure, hunger,
thirst, untended wounds, and the mental agony of suspense, often to
delicate women and children, when cast adrift on the open sea, would be
merely to repeat what has so often been written, and which will live for
ever in the memory of sailormen.

When the survivors had all been lifted on board--and many had suffered
badly from frost-bite--the search for two other life-boats which it was
learned had succeeded in getting away from the wrecked liner was

Shortly before midday the snowing began again and the wind moaned
dismally through the rigging. Spurts of icy spray shot upwards from the
bows and were blown back across the fore-deck of the ship, searing the
skin of the tired men on watch. For several hours the sea around was
searched in vain. Flurries of snow obscured everything more than a few
hundred yards distant. Then towards four bells the storm passed and the
air cleared of its white fog, but nothing was visible except the wide
sweep of colourless heaving sea and leaden sky.

It came suddenly--an indescribable explosion with a violent uprush of
water, followed by the hoarse shouting of orders, the low groans of
wounded men and the sharp crack of cordite. The bows of the sloop had
been blown off by a torpedo, and the vessel commenced to rapidly settle

The two undamaged boats were lowered and the survivors from the liner
once again cast adrift to face the horrors of the previous night. Rafts
floated free with all that were left of the crew of the sloop--two
officers and thirty men. Their condition was pitiable. There had been no
time to get either food or extra clothing, and so heavily laden were the
light structures of _capuc_ and wood that the occupants were continually

Barely had the boats and rafts got clear of the ship before she took the
final plunge, going down in a cloud of steam. A few minutes later the
U-boat rose to the surface about 300 yards distant, and after remaining
there for some time, without making any effort to render assistance, she
steamed slowly away.

The boats took the rafts in tow, and the wounded, who suffered terribly
from the cold and the salt water, were all transferred to the former.
One of the women survivors from the torpedoed liner collapsed during the
first hour, and although given extra clothing cheerfully discarded by
the men, she died soon afterwards.

Seas washed over the rafts and sent clouds of stinging spray into the
crowded life-boats. A biting frost stiffened the wet garments, which
rasped the raw and bleeding wrists of the men who tugged at the
oars--partly to increase their circulation and partly to keep the boats
head-on to the sea. The only hope of rescue lay in keeping afloat until
daylight, when the "S.O.S." call sent out before the sloop foundered
might bring them aid. The coast of Ireland lay 300 miles to the
south-east, and so intense was the cold that few expected to live
through the night.

The gloom of a winter afternoon gave place to darkness, and with the
fading of daylight the cold increased. Men became numb and were washed
unnoticed from the rafts. Others were dragged unconscious into the
already overcrowded life-boats, which sank so deep in the water with the
additional weight that green seas now splashed inboard and baling became
necessary. Limbs stiffened in the sharp frost and had to be pounded back
to life by unselfish comrades. Even under cover of the sails the cold
was so intense that only five women and two children were left alive by

Through the long dark hours men struggled under the drenching showers of
bitter spray. When dawn broke, throwing a pale mystic light over the
acre-wide Atlantic swell, each one knew that life depended on the coming
of a ship before the light of day again faded in the west.

The snowing had ceased some hours before darkness lifted, and in the
clear morning cold men stood up painfully and searched the watery
horizon for the sign which would bring them life. Just before three
bells, as the boats rose on the bosom of the swell, a thin blur of smoke
could be seen low down on the eastern horizon. Had there been strength
left in the worn-out bodies there would have been a cheer, but now only
a slight stir of suppressed excitement and many a silent prayer.

The limit of human suffering and endurance had, however, not yet been
reached. Some twenty minutes later it became evident that the ship had
not received the wireless call and was passing too far off to be reached
by any sound signal short of a big gun. Slowly the trail of smoke
disappeared in the haze of great distance without even a glimpse of the
ship itself.

The spirits of all began to sink as hour after hour went by without
sight of the hoped-for sail. Then, about eight bells, one of the men
standing up in the centre of the first officer's boat gave a little
inarticulate cry and some few minutes later the dim outline of a big
ship hove in sight. The suspense was unbearable. Women to whom any sign
of religious emotion was alien knelt openly and prayed, while men who
had suffered similarly before gazed fixedly at the distant object,
knowing how fickle is Fortune to sailormen in distress. But the hull
grew larger and hope shone on the faces of all. Men pulled frantically
at the oars, while others waved pieces of sail or clothing to attract

Now came a surprise. From the pocket of his duffel coat the first
officer produced what he had hitherto kept hidden for just such an
emergency--a Very's pistol, with its small-sized single red rocket. A
hoarse cry of joy went up from all in spite of their exhaustion when
they saw the rocket soar into the air and burst into a blood-red glow.

A short time later keen eyes made out the string of flags which
fluttered from the halyards of the oncoming warship, and although
minutes seemed like hours, none could quite remember what happened
after. Some say that the cruiser came alongside them and others that she
lowered her boats and steamed round in a circle. But forty-eight
survivors were landed in Liverpool three days later, leaving in the
wastes of the Western Ocean a murdered two hundred.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is interesting to note that survivors from torpedoed ships frequently
showed great reluctance to leave their life-boats and go aboard the
rescuing vessel, especially when they were within easy sailing distance
of a harbour. After being torpedoed, rescued and torpedoed again they
often preferred the comparative safety but hardship of the small open
boat to the risk and luxury of the big ship. This applied more
especially to Scandinavian sailors, whose powers in small boats are well

It should, however, be stated that, so far as British and American
seamen were concerned, men sailed again and again, after being torpedoed
or mined six, seven and even eight times. It was this remarkable
fortitude of the Mercantile Marine which saved Europe from starvation.



ON the evening of 30th May 1916 six of his Majesty's drifters were lying
alongside the quay of a Scottish naval base having their few hours'
"stand-off" after weary days patrolling lines of submerged nets. Their
officers and crews, with the exception of one sad-faced company on guard
duty, were enjoying either the comparative luxury of a corrugated-iron
wardroom, situated on a windy stone pier, or a few the more complete
relaxation of a brief visit to a theatre in a neighbouring town. There
were also many other ships coaling, resting and being repaired, for the
base was a large and important one.

In the intelligence office an assistant paymaster, weary of decoding
cypher wireless messages from flotillas, patrols and sweepers spread far
out over the leagues of sea lying between this port and the German
coast, sat talking to the executive officer on night duty.

About 8 P.M. a messenger from the wireless cabin entered with the
familiar signal form and the A.P. spread it out carelessly on the desk
in front of him, taking the sturdy little lead-covered decipher book
from the safe at his side. A few scratches of the pen beneath the secret
signal and the deciphering was complete. He looked up quickly and with
a gesture of keen satisfaction handed the signal to the officer
temporarily in command of the base.

The older man read it and paused for a moment before replying. It was
the brief and now historic statement that an action between Sir David
Beatty's battle cruisers and the German High Seas Fleet was imminent. A
crowd of orders to be executed in the event of all kinds of emergencies
were rapidly reviewed in his active brain. For a brief space the scene
of what was occurring out in the blackness of the North Sea occupied his
thoughts, for he had fought in the battle of the Dogger Bank and knew
what those brief words really meant. It was the evening of the battle of

Rising quickly to his feet, the night duty officer seized the telephone,
rang up the Admiral Commanding, who had gone home to dinner, and
hurriedly left the intelligence office to carry out a host of
prearranged orders.

The "old man," as admirals are invariably called, was evidently ready
for the emergency, for his large grey car tore past the sentries at the
approaches to the base, and in a few minutes he was closeted with his
commanders and other officers in the small matchboarded cabin. Charts
were pinned down on the table in front of him, and for the next
half-hour officers and messengers were kept busy with telephones and
other means of rapid concentration.

In the neighbouring large town the police had received the order for a
"general naval recall" and were active in the streets politely informing
officers and men on short leave that their services were required
immediately at the bases. In the theatres and cinema halls the cryptic
message, "All naval officers and men to return at once to their ships,"
was given out from the stage or thrown on the screen, a replica of the
night before Waterloo.

Men wondered and women grew anxious. Did it mean an invasion or an air
raid? Many were the questions asked as silently seats were left and
files of blue and gold streamed out of the places of amusement.
Taxi-cabs full of officers raced each other along the streets. Civilians
had to give place to sailors on the tram-cars, and then, in less than
thirty minutes, all was quiet again, except for groups of people
discussing possibilities in front of the big public buildings. Even
these soon dispersed when reassuring messages were circulated which
hinted at the reason for the recall, and the level-headed Scottish
citizens went home wondering what the great news would be on the
morrow--for the fate of empires might be decided during the night.

As each officer and man entered the base the gates were closed. The
sentries and the officer of the guard knew nothing "officially," but in
the wardroom at the end of the stone quay the news of the action was
being discussed in imaginative detail. At 11 P.M. orders were received
for certain small ships to get under way with sealed orders. An hour
later came the message that six drifters were to be cleared of all their
war appliances and were to be given stretchers, cots, slings and other
appliances for the carriage of wounded. They were to be ready to proceed
to sea at 2 A.M.

All was ordered hurry. Piles of anti-submarine devices were taken from
the holds of these ships. Other vessels came alongside and unloaded
stretchers, cots and slings, which had been obtained from local naval
hospitals and hospital ships. The officers were grouped round a
commander in the wardroom having typed orders, which had evidently been
prepared long beforehand, carefully explained to them. Red Cross flags
were served out, and by 1.30 A.M. all were ready for sea.

Other ships stole silently out into the blueness of the night to
strengthen patrols and prevent hostile submarines from getting into
position to attack the main battle fleets on their return to harbour.

Wireless messages indicating a concentration of German submarines on the
lines of communication were received. Every armed ship was in great
demand, but over the dark waters, lashed by a stiff easterly breeze, the
gunners of many batteries gazed steadily as the searchlights played
around, investigating everything that moved on the face of the waters.
Beams flashed heavenwards for hostile aerial fleets.

On the dark quaysides and on the decks of the ships hundreds of sailors
moved noiselessly about getting ready for sea. Columns of smoke from
the short funnels of destroyers, trawlers and drifters showed up black
against the indigo void, and ever and anon hoarse voices shouted orders,
unintelligible from the distance. It was quiet preparation rather than
noisy haste, and although an air of suppressed excitement did prevail
when the men were mustered and extra hands told off to the different
ships by the light of battle lanterns, it was more a feeling of hope
than one of satisfaction.

For nearly two years these men had quietly fought the elusive submarine,
the nerve-shattering mine, and endured uncomplainingly the terrible
hardships, arduous work and monotony of patrol, and now their one
fervent hope was a glimpse at least of the real thing.

In the wardroom on the quay about sixty officers of all ranks were
discussing the possibilities of the fight while waiting impatiently for
the last command before the relief of action--"Carry on as ordered."
Conversation centred on the Grand Fleet, under Sir John Jellicoe,
steaming down from the north. Many had seen those miles of gigantic
warships, whose mere existence had preserved for the Entente the command
of the sea and all that it implied. Others had served in ships whose
names have been familiar to Englishmen since the days of Nelson, and now
opined that when at last the "old ship"--perhaps a brand-new
super-dreadnought--was going into action on the great day it was their
luck to be in command of a "one-horse" boat miles from the field of

Four bells had struck when the signal came for all ships under orders
to proceed to sea. Oilskins were rapidly slipped on, for a fine rain had
commenced to fall and the damp wind was penetratingly cold at this early
hour. Almost silently the small grey ships slid out of harbour and were
lost in the blueness of the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

When dawn broke over the choppy tumbling sea the different flotillas
were far apart, each attending to its allotted task. Those engaged in
patrolling the route by which the battle cruisers would return found
themselves acting in conjunction with a division of destroyers, some of
whom had been under refit but a few hours previously, but when the
tocsin of battle rang out had _made themselves_ ready for sea in an
incredibly short time, thereby earning the praise of the

Information had been received, and later in the day was confirmed, that
no less than five hostile submarines were known to be waiting in the
vicinity with the object of attacking any crippled ships from the battle
fleets, and it became the duty of the patrols to clear them away from
the lines of communication. For over twenty hours the seas around were
churned by the keels of a heterogeneous fleet of ships armed with
equally heterogeneous weapons. Guns' crews stayed by their weapons until
their limbs ached and look-outs searched the sea with burning eyes.
Through the short dark hours of a May night in northern latitudes
searchlights swept the near approaches, while in the black void of sea
and sky beyond myriads of mosquito craft moved over the face of the
waters with all lights out and their narrow decks cleared for action.
Alarms were frequent, and the occasional yellow flashes and sharp
reports of cordite, some too far distant to be visible, told their own
tale. In the treacherous light of early dawn the fins of big porpoises
were more than once mistaken for the hunted periscope.

       *       *       *       *       *

With the Red Cross flotilla waiting behind the screen of patrols and
defences things had moved rapidly. Each little ship had been told off to
attend on one or other of the great warships which were hourly expected
from the battle zone. Stretchers, bedding, cots and slings were piled on
the decks, and extra hands had been lent for the work of removing the

Another flotilla was in readiness to replace the casualties with
reinforcements, which had been concentrated by special trains, in order
that the battle fleets and squadrons might be again ready for sea in the
shortest possible time.

At the base trains and big ships were waiting with every known appliance
to alleviate the suffering which was coming in from the sea.

It was a typical May morning, with a light easterly breeze, when the
first of the great line of ships--H.M.S. _Lion_--came into view. A
hurricane of cheers greeted her from the deck of every ship that passed.
Then the gallant _Warspite_, low by the stern and scarred and torn by
tornadoes of shell; the _New Zealand_, scarcely touched by the fiery
ordeal; the plucky little light cruiser _Southampton_, holed and
battered; followed by cruiser after cruiser with attendant destroyers,
some with great bright steel splinters of shell still sticking tight in
the gouged armour-plate; others with holes plugged with wood and
broadsides stained with the bright yellow of high explosives. Gun
shields caught by the gusts of shell were cut out like fretwork; funnels
were blotched with blackened holes; but of them all not one was out of
action. Few, if any, of the heavy guns and armoured barbettes were
damaged, and all except one--the _Warspite_--came in proudly under their
own steam. This was the return of the battle cruiser and light cruiser
squadrons, which, under Sir David Beatty, had met and defeated
practically the entire German navy. Steaming back into the northern mist
was the Grand Fleet--the largest assembly of warships ever known--which,
had it been given the opportunity so eagerly sought, would undoubtedly
have annihilated the remains of Von Hipper's fleet.

An observer from a distance would have found it difficult to believe
that this was the fleet which had just fought the greatest sea fight in
the history of the world. Yet the decks of the seaplane carrier
_Engadine_ were covered with men in motley clothes, a grim reminder of
the severity of the ordeal, for they were the survivors from the
thousands who had manned the _Princess Royal_ and _Invincible_. On the
high poop a fleet chaplain was surrounded by figures in borrowed duffel
suits giving thanks to the God of Battles for their rescue.

As the engines of each great ship came temporarily to rest a vessel of
the Red Cross flotilla ranged alongside and the more sombre work of war
began. A shell through the sick-bay of H.M.S. _Lion_ had caused Sir
David Beatty to have many of the wounded on that ship placed in his own
cabins. The only casualty on the _New Zealand_ was caused by a gust of
bursting steel over the signal bridge. A big shell had passed
longitudinally through the line of officers' cabins in the battered
little _Southampton_, and many were the curious escapes from death. In
modern naval war a heavy casualty list seems unavoidable, and the deadly
nature of a sea fight will perhaps be better realised when it is stated
that on one of the battle cruisers there were just over three hundred
casualties, of which number very nearly two hundred were killed
outright, and this on a ship which still sailed proudly into port in
fighting condition. Where the shells had burst in the steel flats the
fierce heat generated had burnt off the clothes and skin of many who
were untouched by the flying slivers of steel, and the crews of the
secondary batteries of smaller guns suffered severely.

Cot cases were the first to be lowered from the decks of the warships to
the waiting Red Cross boats. The patience and care with which this
difficult operation was carried out may be gauged from the fact that
there were no casualties or deaths during the work of transportation.
Human forms, swathed from head to foot in yellow picric-acid dressings,
were lowered on to the decks or carried down the gangways. By a curious
ordinance of fate, _picric acid_, one of the most deadly explosives
known, also provides a medical dressing for the alleviation of the pain
which in another form it may have caused. The walking wounded, with arms
in slings or heads covered in lint, were helped down the ship's sides by
smoke-blackened comrades in uniforms torn to shreds by the fierce work
of naval war.

All serious cases of shell shock were conveyed at the utmost speed by
special units to the big and lavishly equipped hospital ships. Those
with minor injuries were taken ashore and placed in ambulance trains for
distribution among the big naval hospitals. So perfect was the
organisation that within three hours all the sick-bays had been cleared
and fresh crews placed on board. The squadrons were again ready to give

Twenty-four hours later the patrol flotillas returned to their base to
commence once again the dangerous and monotonous but less spectacular
work of minesweeping and patrol. Their work in preventing a
concentration of German submarines on the line of route of the returning
fleets and in the removal of the wounded received high praise from the
commander-in-chief. In the wardroom on the little stone pier a silent
toast was given that night to those who had gone aloft in the greatest
sea fight since Trafalgar.



TWO drifters, about a mile apart, with no lights to indicate their
presence, were drifting idly with the ebb tide. It was an oppressively
hot night in mid-August. Scarcely a ripple disturbed the surface of the
sea, but the intense darkness and the absence of stars told of the heavy
clouds above. The barometer had been falling rapidly for some hours and
all the conditions seemed to indicate a coming storm.

The duty of these two vessels was to watch lines of cunningly laid
submerged nets (described in an earlier chapter) and to guide the few
merchant ships which passed that way through the labyrinth of these
defences, laid temporarily as a trap for the wily "Fritz" if he should
chance to be cruising in the vicinity.

The drifters were adequately armed with guns and depth charges to attack
any such monster of the deep which betrayed its presence by becoming
entangled in the fine wire mesh and so attaching to itself a flaming
tail, which would then be dragged along the surface, marking it as a
target for all the pleasant surprises lying ready on the decks of the

_Fishing for Fritz_ was a popular sport in the anti-submarine service
until the "fish" became shy and its devotees _blasé_; then the primitive
net was changed for the more scientific devices already described. It
required infinite patience and meant very hard work, with a _soupçon_ of
danger thrown in. For when the tons of steel wire-netting, with its
heavy sinkers and floats, had been laid, days were spent in watching and
repairing, then endless resource employed to induce a submarine to enter
the trap. Occasionally the voyage ended in an exciting chase, with the
flaming buoy as the guiding light.

It was in the early period of the war, when Paris was still threatened
by the Teutonic armies and the Allies waited confidently for the clash
of the great battle fleets. Every dark night on the northern sea eyes
and ears were silently watching and listening for the comings and goings
which would herald the storm. The strain was great though the work was
not spectacular, for all knew that the safety of England, or at least
its freedom from invasion, might, for one brief historical instant,
depend on the vigilance and nerve of that heterogeneous, irregular
horse, the sea patrols.

The great cruiser squadrons were scouring the North Sea. Battle seemed
imminent, and that vague wave of human electricity which passes along
the firing line before the attack at dawn, and even extends to the lines
of communication, was in the air on this dark night in 1915.

Six bells had just struck when a faint, cool breeze swept across the
surface, and a few minutes later the first vivid flash of lightning
forked the eastern sky. There was a scramble for oilskins on Drifter 42
as the rain came hissing down like a flood released. The storm was
severe while it lasted. The thunder rolled over the placid surface.
Lightning darted athwart the sky, illuminating the black void beneath.
For about thirty minutes the sky blazed and roared, then the hiss of the
rain ceased and the storm moved slowly northwards, but one of the final
flashes revealed something low down on the surface moving stealthily
forward. So brief was the glimpse obtained, however, that it seemed
merely a phantom--by no means uncommon occurrences when men have been
watching for years. When the next flash came the surface of the sea
around was clear.

As was usual in such cases, half the watch on deck could swear they had
seen it, while those who were not looking ridiculed the idea, so the
C.O. said nothing and took precautions. The watch below was called and
the powerful little gun on the fore-deck manned. Then all waited in
silence, listening intently for the curious, creaking noise of a
submarine under way.

In those early days of hostilities there were no elaborate hydrophones
for detecting the approach of submarines under the water, and the only
hope of a warning came from the possibility of the under-water vessel
breaking surface momentarily. The uselessness of the periscope for
navigation during darkness, which at present forms the principal
limitation of submarines, made it distinctly likely that she would
cruise on the surface at night, and if forced to dive would be more or
less compelled to quickly rise again in order to ascertain the position
of her enemy before it would be possible to fire a torpedo with any
chance of success.

For these reasons all eyes and ears on the drifter were strained to
catch the first glimpse or sound, and dead silence was maintained. It is
in times like this that one discovers how acute the senses become when
danger lurks in the darkness around. Things undetectable under normal
conditions can be seen or heard distinctly when life depends on the
intelligence so gained.

Long minutes of silence slipped by and nothing occurred; then came the
distant and familiar creaking noise, almost inaudible at first. The
gun's crew braced themselves for the stern work ahead. On the rapidity
and accuracy of their fire not only their own lives, but also those of
their comrades, would probably depend. The gun-layer bent his back and
glanced along the grey tube to the tiny blue glow of the electric night
sight. The shell was placed in the open breech. Then came those
interminable seconds before an action begins.

The tension would have been almost unsupportable had nearly all of the
crew not grown accustomed to life hanging in the balance on the wastes
of sea.

A flicker of light, at first almost spectral, appeared from out of the
darkness some 500 yards to starboard. It grew almost instantly into a
bright white flare, illuminating the surface of the black water as it
moved along. The pungent smell of burning calcium floated over the sea
and the drifter's engines began to throb heavily.

The tension relaxed, a subdued cheer broke from the crew of the drifter
as she gathered speed, and the Morse lamp winked its order for concerted
action to the other drifter somewhere in the darkness around. An
answering dot-dash-dot of light appeared from away to starboard and the
chase commenced in earnest.

A few minutes later the glare from the calcium buoy, now being towed
through the water at several knots, shone on the faces of the crew as
they trained their gun ahead, but the submarine was under the surface
and, although probably quite unaware of the flaming tail which was
betraying her movements, appeared to know that she was being hunted by
surface craft. After running straight ahead for a few minutes she turned
eight points to the eastward in an attempt to baffle pursuit.

The chase was a fairly long one, as the speed of the drifters was not
sufficient to enable them to gain rapidly on their quarry, but the
flexibility of the steam-engine gradually gave the surface ships the
advantage and they crept up level with the light. Then, with their
boilers almost bursting and flames spouting from the funnels, they drew
ahead until over the submarine itself. Depth charges were dropped from
the stern of the drifters. The water boiled with the force of the
explosions and the light on the buoy went out. Still the drifters held
their course in the now pall-like blackness, and other bombs splashed
into the water astern, to explode with a dull vibration a few seconds
after they had sunk from the surface.

The engines of the two small surface ships were shut off and every ear
became alert, but no sound broke the stillness of the summer night,
except the rumble of distant thunder and the gentle lap of the sea
against the sides. Morse signals winked from one ship to the other and
back again. When due precautions had been taken against a further
surprise attack, the chivalry of the sea called for a search to be made
for possible survivors. This was done with the aid of flares, but only
oil and some small debris were found. Dan-buoys were dropped to mark the
spot and soundings taken. Twenty-four fathoms deep was added to the
report of the action, and a few days later a diver reported having found
the wreck of the U-C 00.



THE piratical warfare of German submarines produced many sea mysteries.
Some were solved after the lapse of months and even years, while others
will, in all probability, remain unknown until the sea gives up its

Among the latter may be numbered the curious discovery in the North
Atlantic of a nameless sailing ship, without cargo, identifying papers
or crew, but sound from truck to kelson, and with her two life-boats
stowed neatly inboard and a half-finished meal on the cabin table.
Experts examined this vessel when brought into port, but so far have
been utterly unable to offer any solution or discover any clue, beyond
the fact that she was built and fitted out in some American port and
carried an unusually large crew.

Another similar mystery was the disappearance of a French vessel while
on a voyage to New Orleans and the discovery eleven months afterwards
that she had called for water and food at a small port on the Pacific
coast of South America. No further trace has so far come to light, nor
the reason for her changing course and rounding Cape Horn.

A mystery which remains a mystery to the end of the chapter is likely to
be irritating to the imaginative mind, but to the following occurrence
there came a solution after the lapse of a few weeks.


It was a pitch-black night, with fine rain driving up from the
south-west. The summer gale which had raged for the past twenty-four
hours had blown itself out, and although the steep seas still retained
their night-caps, the wind came only in fitful gusts. Away to starboard
an indistinct blur of white foam stretched athwart the sea and the dull
roar from the maelstrom of the Goodwins rolled across the miles of
intervening water.

The armed trawler _Curlew_ bravely shouldered her way through each green
comber as it rose to meet her, lurching over the seas in a smother of
spray. Oilskinned figures moved warily along the life-lines, for when a
wave struck her tons of water swept across her slanting decks,
submerging the bulwarks and causing the sturdy ship to groan and tremble
from stem to stern.

In the little bridge-house the dim light from the binnacle shone on the
hard wet face of the commanding officer, who watched the seas as they
rose up ahead, giving directions to the man at the wheel, and all the
while keeping a watchful eye on the distant blur of foam covering the
treacherous shoals.

Few except sailormen can realise the dangers and anxieties of navigation
in times of war. The absence not only of the warning lights which in
days of peace flash their signals far out over the seas, marking the
innumerable dangers which lie along treacherous coasts, but also of
warships and merchantmen rushing through the night with not even the
flicker from a port-hole to denote their coming--perhaps at a speed of
nearly three-quarters of a mile a minute; a second's indecision on the
part of the brain and nerve directing each ship, a momentary
forgetfulness of that elusive "right thing to do"--some second danger to
attract a flash of attention from the first--even a blinding cloud of
spray at the psychological moment and, well, two more ships have gone,
with perhaps hundreds of lives. Yet these things but seldom happened,
and the reason was that all that tireless energy, skill and nerve could
do was done on the sea in those years of storm and stress.

Some two hours later, and just before dawn broke over the tumbling sea,
an exceptionally heavy wave struck the trawler full on the port-bow. The
hammer-like blows of the water as it poured on board and struck the base
of the wheel-house and superstructure momentarily drowned all other
sound. When the air had cleared of flying spume a big black hull loomed
out of the darkness ahead and seemed suddenly to grow to an immense
size, towering high above the trawler's forecastle-head. A blast on the
whistle, a sharp order and the trawler swung off to starboard, with the
great black mass perilously near. It was a close shave, and the watch
held their breath while waiting for the crash and shock which for a
brief second seemed inevitable.

There was no time for action or signal. The great ship slid past like
some black phantom framed in the white of flying scud. It faded into the
misty darkness of sea and sky almost as quickly as it had appeared, and,
curiously, no sound of throbbing engines accompanied its passage.

It took the captain of the patrol but a minute to make up his mind what
to do. He gave a quick order to the helmsman and a warning shout to the
watch below on deck. The little ship, as she came about, lurched into
the trough of a sea and rose shivering from end to end. The next moment
an avalanche of white and green water poured over her, flooding the
decks and sending clouds of spray high over the funnel and masts. Then
commenced an exciting chase, with the seas racing up astern and all eyes
trying to penetrate the darkness ahead.

The faint misty light of a new day had brightened the eastern horizon
before the mysterious ship again loomed up ahead. The heavy sea still
running made it difficult, however, to distinguish any national or local
characteristics which might give a clue to her identity or intentions,
and the suspense was keen.

The two guns of the patrol vessel were manned, and a three-flag signal
fluttered from the jumper-stay but received no immediate reply from the
ship ahead. Then, after a few minutes' pause, during which time the
trawler manoeuvred for the advantage of the light from the breaking
dawn, a yellow flash belched from her side and a shell ricochetted off
the water just ahead of the mysterious steamer. Still there was no
response; but it could now be plainly seen that the engines were not
working and that she was drifting before the wind and sea.

Was it merely a _ruse de guerre_ to gain the advantage in the event of
an attack, or was she a vessel disabled by the storm which had raged
during the past forty-eight hours? Neither of these suppositions,
however, satisfactorily explained the total disregard of signals and the
warning shot which had been fired across her bows.

Again a line of flags were hoisted on the trawler's halyards, this time
a well-known signal from the _International Code_, but still no notice
was taken of the peremptory order it conveyed.

After the chase had been on for over an hour another shot was fired from
the trawler. The report echoed across the still boisterous sea and the
splash of the shell just cleared the ship's bow. Still there was no
response, and the trawler's course was altered so that she would soon
close in on her quarry. As the light increased it was seen that a stout
wire hawser was trailing in the water from the starboard bow, and
suspicion of some new evidence of sea _kultur_ increased. When the range
had closed to about 1000 yards she slowly swung round until almost
broadside-on to the trawler, whose guns instantly opened fire in
earnest. The third shell struck the large wheel-house of the mystery
ship, demolishing it completely. When it became evident that the fire
was not going to be returned, the guns of the trawler again ceased, and
the two vessels drew close to each other. A partly defaced name, which
was rendered indecipherable by the splash of the seas as they struck the
counter, could be distinguished with the aid of binoculars in the
quickening light of early morning, but neither officers nor crew could
be seen, the bridge and decks appearing deserted.

Not to be misled by this ruse, however--for on similar occasions ships
had been blown to pieces at close range by concealed batteries--the
_Curlew_ approached cautiously, bows-on, offering the smallest possible
target, and with her guns trained on the quarry. This sea-stalking is
nervy work and must be played slowly. Twice the trawler circled round
the mysterious ship, and the sun had mounted high, penetrating the banks
of cloud which scudded across the summer sky and tingeing the still
boisterous sea with flecks of golden light, before it was considered
safe to relax all precautions. Even then the sea prevented any attempt
being made to board the curious craft, and for six hours the trawler
clung to the heels of her quarry, which was rapidly drifting far out
into the North Sea.

The danger of attack from hostile submarines was great, and the gunners
stood by their weapons although drenched every few seconds by the floods
of heavy spray which still poured over the bows. At last patience and
endurance were rewarded. The sea calmed sufficiently to enable a boat to
be lowered and with difficulty brought up under the lee of the
mysterious ship.

An armed guard, headed by the sub-lieutenant, eagerly scrambled up the
lofty rolling sides. They had scarcely reached the deck before their
only means of retreat was cut off. The two men left in the life-boat
were unable to keep her off the iron sides of the big ship. She rose
like a cork on the crest of a wave until almost level with the top line
of port-holes and then dropped back, catching the edges of the
rolling-stocks. There was a crash of splintering wood and the next
minute two half-drowned men were being hauled up the sides by their
comrades on deck.

It was an anxious moment, for although the decks seemed deserted there
was that curious, uncanny feeling which is ever present when facing an
unknown peril. After all it _might_ prove to be a _ruse de guerre_ or
some new form of frightfulness. There were only six men from the
trawler--a small enough party, however well armed, if it came to a
fight--and great caution was observed while exploring the ship. A signal
had been arranged in the event of treachery, and the _Curlew_, with her
guns _and wireless_, would prove a dangerous antagonist.

All was well, however, for the ship was deserted. A careful inspection
of the cabins showed that the departure of officers and crew had been a
hasty one, but all the ship's papers had been carefully removed. The
forepeak or bow water-tight compartment was full of water, but the
bulk-head had held and kept the vessel afloat. Beyond this no damage
was visible above the water-line and the condition of both hull and
engines was good. She proved to be a Spanish ship, and to make the
mystery deeper her four life-boats were still on the davits, although
swung outboard ready for lowering.

In those troublous days the fact of the life-boats being hoisted out in
readiness for eventualities conveyed little or nothing, but when a
careful search proved that many of the life-belts had gone with the crew
the problem became an interesting one. Had they been taken on to the
deck of a German submarine which had subsequently dived and left them to
drown, as was the case with the crew of a British fishing vessel, or had
they been conveyed as prisoners of war to Germany? Against both of these
surmises was the fact that _all_ the ship's boats remained, and a German
submarine would scarcely be likely to come close alongside even a
neutral ship, especially during the bad weather that had prevailed for
the past few days. Would it remain one of the many mysteries of the
great sea war?

Some few hours later the trawler, with her big "prize"--under her own
steam--entered an eastern naval base and berthed her capture with the
aid of tugs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The explanation came from headquarters several weeks later. The s.s.
----, of Barcelona, had grounded on the Goodwins about three hours
before she nearly ran down the trawler. Her crew, thinking that she
would rapidly break up in the surf, had fired distress signals and been
taken safely ashore in a life-boat. The rising tide and south-westerly
wind had done the rest, freeing her from the dangerous sands.



IT has already been shown that the science of aerial warfare is closely
allied with that of under-sea fighting. Airships and seaplanes play
important parts in all anti-submarine operations. They make very
efficient patrols and can detect the presence of both submarines and
mines under the surface.

During the Great War there were stations for armed aircraft all round
the British coast, and the patrols of the sea and air acted in close
co-operation. It often happened that one was able to render important
service to the other. An occasion such as this took place off an east
coast base in November, 1916.


A big car dashed up the wooden pier of a small seaport regardless of the
violent jolting from the uneven planking. It was pulled up with a jerk
when level with one of the little grey patrol boats known by the generic
name of M.L.'s, which was lying in the calm water alongside with its air
compressor pumping vigorously.

Two officers of the Royal Naval Air Service, with a P.O., carrying a
powerful Morse signalling lamp, jumped from the car and scrambled down
the wooden piles on to the deck of the M.L.

A nod from the commanding officer and the mooring ropes were cast off as
the telegraph was jammed over to "half ahead." Instantly the powerful
engines responded to the order and the little ship began rapidly to
gather way. When the harbour bar had been crossed the order for full
speed was given and the engines settled down to a low staccato roar as
they drove the M.L. over the heaving swell.

No word had yet been spoken between the officers of the sea and air. A
brief telephone message to the little hut on the quayside from the
adjacent naval base to the effect that M.L.A6 was to be ready to embark
two officers from the air station and was to proceed in search of an
airship which was foundering about twenty miles seawards was all that
had been told, and yet not a single second of time was lost in getting
under way. All recognised that it was a race to save the lives of men.

The little ship cleft the seas, smothering herself with foam, and bluish
fumes poured out of the engine-room ventilators. The first half-hour
seemed interminably long, and the horizon was continually searched with
the aid of powerful glasses for a sign of the wrecked airship. At last a
faint speck became visible away to the south-west, and as the distance
slowly lessened--terribly slowly, notwithstanding the speed of nearly
half-a-mile a minute--the crumpled envelope settling on the water could
be distinguished.

It was a question of minutes. Again the order was shouted down the
speaking-tube for more speed, but this time there was no reply. The C.O.
rang the telegraph viciously, but without result. The coxswain at the
wheel looked up quickly and then shouted an order to a deck hand, who
lowered himself down the tiny man-hole in the deck leading to the
engine-room. A few seconds later the second engineer appeared at the top
of the fo'c'sle hatch and, ducking to avoid a heavy shower of spray,
scrambled aft and peered down the man-hole, from which blue fumes,
somewhat thicker and more pungent than usual, were rising. The next
instant he too disappeared below.

The air officers were trying to get into communication with the rapidly
sinking airship by means of the powerful Morse lamp, but without result,
and one of them put his head into the wheel-house and asked anxiously if
more speed was possible.

Just then the second engineer and one of the crew crawled out of the
man-hole, pulling a limp figure behind them. The C.O. turned to
ascertain what had happened, and the men, very white and shaky,
explained in a few gasps that they had found the chief engineer
senseless at the bottom of the iron ladder leading up to the deck, and
had themselves been nearly gassed by the petrol fumes.

Glancing at the blue vapour now pouring up the hatchway and out of the
ventilators, the C.O. realised the risk of fire and explosion he ran by
carrying on at such high speed, but he also knew that men were drowning
in the sea some eight miles ahead, and that the few extra knots might
make the difference between life and death for them.

That the risk must be taken was a foregone conclusion, but how to keep
the engines running at that high speed without attention--for it was
evident that no man could live for many minutes in the poisonous
fumes--was a more difficult problem. This was solved, however, by the
second engineer volunteering to go below with a life-line attached, so
that he could be hauled up to the deck when giddiness came on. More than
once this gallant petty officer had to be pulled up choking and
exhausted. He risked instant death from the explosion of the gas from
the leaking and overheated pipes and engines, as well as suffocation
from the fumes, but he stuck to his post, returning again and again into
the poisonous atmosphere.

Darkness was gradually settling over the sea, and the flickering light
of the Morse lamp--still asking for a reply--made yellow streaks on the
wet fore-deck. Presently a faint speck of light blinked amid the dark
mass of the airship, but almost instantly went out, and for some time
nothing further was seen.

Barely three miles of heaving sea separated the two ships when the
bright glare of a Very's light, fired from a pistol, soared into the
air. A cheer broke from the dark figures on the deck of the M.L., and a
message of hope was eagerly flashed back.

The last knot seemed a voyage in itself, but eventually the great dark
mass of the still floating envelope loomed up ahead, and almost
instantly the clang of the engine-room telegraph, shutting off the leaky
engine, gave relief to the plucky second engineer, who had retained
consciousness and control through that dreadful twenty minutes by
frequently filling his aching lungs above the hatchway.

The sea around was a mass of tangled wires, in which the mast and
rigging of the M.L. was the first to become entangled. Near approach was
impossible, so orders were given to lower away the boat. The sturdy
little steel-built life-boat splashed into the sea alongside, one minute
rising on a wave high above the deck-line and the next disappearing into
the dark void below. Figures slid down the miniature falls to man her
and the next minute were pulling through the tangled wreckage to where
the beam of the M.L.'s searchlight showed six airmen clinging to a
floating but upturned cupola.

Numbed with the cold, they fell rather than jumped into the boat as it
was pulled alongside. One was insensible and the others were too far
gone to utter a word. Nothing but the wonderful vitality necessary to
the airman as to the sailor had enabled them to hold on in that bitter
cold for over two hours after eight hours in the air.

The task of extricating the M.L. from the tangle of wire stays and other
wreckage was a difficult one. A propeller had entwined itself and become
useless (afterwards freed by going astern), the little signal topmast
and yard had been broken off by a loop of wire from the gigantic
envelope and the ensign staff carried away. After about twenty minutes
cutting and manoeuvring, however, she floated free, and a question was
raised as to the possibility of salving the airship.

By this time another M.L., sent out to assist in the work of rescue, had
arrived on the scene, and a conference between the air and sea officers
on the senior ship resulted in the attempt at salving being made. Wires
that were hanging from the nose of the airship were made fast to the
stern of the M.L.'s, and all wreckage was, where possible, cut adrift.
This, to the uninitiated, may sound a comparatively quick and simple
operation, but when it is performed in the darkness, with the doubtful
aid of two small searchlights, on a sea rising and falling under the
influence of a heavy ground swell, it is anything but an easy or rapid
operation, and occupied half the night.

The huge mass of the modern airship towered above the little patrol
boats like some leviathan of the deep. To attempt its towage over twenty
miles of sea seemed almost ludicrous for such small craft, and yet so
light and easy of passage was this aerial monster that progress at the
rate of three knots an hour was made when once the wreckage had been cut
adrift, the weights released and the envelope had risen off the surface
of the water.

Armed trawlers that passed in the night wondered if it was a captive
zeppelin and winked out inquiries from their Morse lamps. A destroyer
came out of the darkness to offer assistance. The cause of much anxiety
had been the likelihood of hostile submarines being attracted to the
scene by the helplessness of the airship, which had been visible, before
darkness closed over, for many miles as she slowly settled down into the
sea. This danger, however, passed away with the arrival of the destroyer
and the armed trawlers, but another arose which threatened to wreck the
whole venture.

About 5 A.M. the wind began to freshen from the north-west and the
M.L.'s towing the huge bag were immediately dragged to leeward. The
combined power of their engines failed to head the airship into the wind
and urgent signals for assistance were made to the destroyer and
trawlers, who had, fortunately, constituted themselves a rear-guard.

A trawler came quickly to the rescue and got hold of an additional wire
hanging down from the envelope. The destroyer, in the masterful way of
these craft, proceeded to take charge of the operations. Her
9000-horse-power engines soon turned the airship into the path of
safety, and with this big addition to the towing power it was less than
half-an-hour later when the great envelope was safely landed on the
quayside, much to the amazement of the townspeople.


There is, however, another side to this co-operation between fleets of
the sea and air. It has more than once occurred that vessels equipped
almost exclusively for submarine hunting have been engaged by
zeppelins, and actions between seaplanes and under-water craft have been

[Illustration: A MONITOR

The bulge of the "blister" will be seen on the water-line near the bow.

_British Official Photograph_]

How a large fleet of unarmed fishing vessels were saved and a zeppelin
raid on the east coast of England prevented by the timely action of an
armed auxiliary proves once again the truth of the old military axiom
that it is the unexpected which always happens in war.

It had been one of the few really hot summer days granted by a grudging
climate. The sea was a sheet of glass, the sky a cloudless blue, except
where tinged with the golden glow of sunset. Lieutenant Smith smiled
somewhat grimly as he mounted the little iron ladder and squeezed
through the narrow doorway into the wheel-house. He nodded to the
skipper--an old trawlerman acting as a chief warrant officer for
navigational duties--as a signal for the mooring ropes to be cast off,
and mechanically rang the engine-room telegraph. He had done all these
things in the same way and at the same time of day for nearly two years.
For a long while he had gone forth hopefully, saying to himself each
cruise, "It's bound to come soon," but as the weeks grew into months,
and the months promised to extend into years, disappointment gained the
mastery and duty became appallingly monotonous and uninteresting.

This, however, did not cause him to work less strenuously or to neglect
to watch the large fishing fleet which he guarded on four nights out of
the seven, but each letter he received from old friends in other
branches of the King's service brought tidings of excitement, rapid
promotion, or at least a little of the pomp and circumstance of war, and
he saw himself at the end of it all with nothing to show for years of
danger, hardship and impaired health. The worry and the lonely monotony,
trivial as he knew them to be, were slowly sapping his nerve and

The trawler glided from the harbour on to the broad expanse of tranquil
sea, now aglow with the lights of a summer sunset. Slowly the coast-line
faded into the blue haze of distance, and all around the watery plain
was mottled with the shadowy patches made by the light evening breeze.

Settling himself in an old deck-chair, which he kept in the wheel-house,
Smith lit his pipe and allowed his thoughts to wander, but every now and
then his eyes would search the sea from slowly darkening east to mellow

Although the summer was well advanced, there were but few hours of
darkness out of the twenty-four in these northern latitudes, and when
the armed trawler came in sight of the widely scattered fishing fleet,
which it was her duty to guard throughout the night, a mystic half-light
subdued all colours to a shadowy grey, but a pale amber afterglow still
lingered in the sky and the stars were pale.

Smith lingered a few minutes on deck to finish a cigar before going
below for his evening meal. Seldom during the past year had all the
elements been so long at peace, and the contrast appealed to him as a
luxury to be enjoyed at leisure. Even the light breeze of sunset had
died away, leaving an unruffled calm, and the sails and stumpy funnels
of the little fishing craft appeared like "painted ships on a painted

For nearly an hour he sat inhaling the fragrant and satisfying smoke
from more than one cigar, preferring the cool of the deck to the stuffy
cabin. Then a dark blot appeared from out of the luminous blueness of
the eastern sky and it travelled rapidly downwards towards his flock.

Smith watched it for several seconds, then it suddenly dawned upon him
that the hand of the destroyer was coming even into this haven of peace,
and a fierce resentment entered his soul. He heard the distant shouting
of fishermen as they cut adrift their nets and prepared to scatter
before the approaching zeppelin, and in a moment he realised that the
long-awaited chance had come. It all seemed too unreal to be true, but
he rose up quickly and in a few terse sentences gave the necessary
orders for the guns' crews and engineers.

The whir of the airship's propellers grew rapidly louder and its bulk
loomed black against the bright sky. Determined, however, to take no
risk of failure, Lieutenant Smith withheld the fire of his guns until
the great aerial monster, now travelling down to less than 1000 feet,
was well within range.

Attracted by the helplessness of a large number of fishing craft
congregated in a comparatively small area of sea, the _destroyer_ dived
to the attack like some giant bird of prey, unable in the gloom which
shrouded the earth to distinguish the presence of an armed escort.

The suspense was painful. Then the muzzles of two high-angle guns rose
up from the well-deck and superstructure of the armed patrol, and in
response to a low-toned order from the C.O., giving the height, time and
deflection, they quickly covered the great black body of their
objective. Tongues of livid flame leapt from their mouths and were
followed by sharp reports. A few minutes of heavy firing and the nose of
the monster appeared to sag.

The men at the guns yelled exultantly, redoubling their efforts, and
shell after shell went shrieking heavenwards. Suddenly the sea around
rose up in huge cascades of foam and a shattering roar, which completely
dwarfed the voice of the guns, shook the small ship from stem to stern.
Everything movable was hurled across the deck. Breaking glass flew in
all directions, and the aerials at the mast-heads snapped and came
tumbling down with a mass of other gear. The cries of injured men arose
from different parts of the ship, but still the guns hurled their
shells, and the zeppelin, now well down by the head, rose high into the
upper air and made off eastwards. After dropping all her bombs in close
proximity to the armed trawler she had lightened herself sufficiently to
rise out of range, but whether or not she would be able to keep up
sufficiently long to reach her base, over 300 miles distant, was
extremely doubtful.

Flames spurted from the short funnel of the patrol as she steamed at
full speed after the retreating zeppelin, endeavouring to keep her
within range as long as possible. It was a question of seconds. Before
she finally disappeared in the increasing darkness another long-range
hit was observed and the zeppelin receded from view, drifting

The disappointment at not being able to give the _coup de grâce_ to the
aerial destroyer was keenly felt by all on board, for a half success is
of little account in the navy. The gunners had done magnificently, the
ship had been manoeuvred correctly and four of the crew had been
wounded by fragments from the bombs dropped _en masse_, but
notwithstanding their exertions and the luck which had brought the
zeppelin down from the security of the skies, they had failed to secure
the prize legitimately theirs. That the attack on the fishing fleet had
been successfully beaten off appeared a minor detail, and the voyage
back to port in the quickening light of a beautiful summer morning was a
sad pilgrimage. Scarcely a word unnecessary for the working of the ship
was spoken, except Lieutenant Smith's brief explanation that it was just
his luck.

     .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

About two weeks later the proverbially "unlucky Smith" was ordered to
report at the office of the Admiral Commanding, and he had a sharp
struggle to maintain a becoming composure when he heard the terse
compliment and the mention of a recommendation from that austere
officer, coupled with the intelligence that the zeppelin had dropped
into the sea off the coast of Norway.

The spell was broken, and the brisk step and gleam in his dark eyes told
their own tale as he walked quickly back to his ship.



IT is a mere truism to say that the sea outflanks all land operations in
warfare. Yet how many people fully realise that the left wing of the
Allied armies in Belgium and France depended for its safety on the naval
command of the North Sea and English Channel? Had this sea flank been
permanently penetrated or forced back by the German fleet, the result
must have been disastrous to a large section of the Allied military
line, which actually extended from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.

Although the security of the North Sea flank did not entirely depend
upon the naval forces based on Dover, Dunkirk and Harwich--as all
operations, whether on land or sea, were overshadowed by the
unchallenged might of the Grand Fleet, which hemmed in the entire German
navy--it was upon these light forces, largely composed of units of the
new navy, that the brunt of the intermittent flank fighting and the
repeated attempts by the enemy to break through--with the aid of all
kinds of ruses and weapons--was borne for four and a half historic

The detailed story of their work on the Belgian coast and in the Straits
of Dover could only be told in a separate volume, but the following
account of a bombardment and its sequel may not be without interest
here. Its relevance to anti-submarine warfare lies in the fact that the
bombardment was carried out with the object of destroying the nests of
these under-water craft established in and around Zeebrugge. Much that
has also been said in former chapters bases its claim to inclusion in
this book almost entirely on the fact that although it did not deal
exclusively with submarine fighting or minesweeping, it nevertheless
formed part of the daily operations of the anti-submarine fleets, and no
account of their work would bear any resemblance to the actual truth in
which such seemingly extraneous episodes were excluded as irrelevant.


There was a flat calm, with the freshness of early summer in the air.
Zeebrugge lay away in the darkness some fifteen miles to the
south-east--awake, watchful, but unsuspecting--when the British
bombarding squadron steamed in towards the coast to take up its allotted
position and wait for daybreak.

It was a heterogeneous fleet, screened by fast-moving destroyers,
torpedo-boats, trawlers, M.L.'s and C.M.B.'s. The great hulls of
monitors loomed black against the paling east, and the long thin lines
of destroyers moved stealthily across the shadowy sea. No lights were
visible, and only the occasional rhythmic thud of propellers and the
call of an awakened sea-bird broke the stillness of the morning calm.

The sky was not yet alive with the whir of seaplanes, and the air
remained undisturbed by the shattering roar of guns and shells. It was
that brief space of time in which even Nature seems to hold her breath
and make ready for the coming storm. The only movement other than the
continued circling of destroyers was towards the shallow water close
inshore, where powerful tugs were towing large barges--flat-bottomed
craft carrying gigantic tripods made of railway metals. At predetermined
places these were dropped overboard into the shallow sea and, with their
legs embedded in the sandy bottom and their apices towering high above
the surface, they formed observation platforms from which, in
conjunction with aerial scouts, the fire of the big ships could be
accurately directed on to the fortifications ashore.

These tripods were laid a distance apart and quite away from the
bombarding ships, but a system of range-finding and signalling had been
organised and an officer chosen as a "spotter" in each trestle.

The post of honour was on one or other of these observation towers,
alone with the necessary instruments. The big shells from the shore
batteries would scream overhead; some would plough up the water close
by, smothering the tripod with spray, and the smaller guns would direct
their fire against these eyes of the bombarding fleet. The chances were
in favour of a hit, then there would be nothing left of the tripod or
the spotter, simply a brief report to the Admiral Commanding that No.
---- observation post had been destroyed and later a fresh name in the
casualty lists. It was, however, accepted as the fortune of war, and
many volunteered.

The sky brightened until a pale yellow glow suffused the east, while
behind the bombarding fleet the western horizon was still a cold, hazy
blue. A flight of seaplanes buzzed overhead and a few minutes later the
dull reports of anti-aircraft guns echoed across the miles of still
water. Tiny bright flashes from white puffs of smoke appeared in the
central blue, and then having got the range the great guns of the
monitors roared away their charges and the scream of shells filled the
air. The calm of the morning vanished, and with it the oppressive
silence which precedes a battle.

It was some time before the German airmen could rise from the ground and
evade the British fighting formations. In the meantime a rain of heavy
projectiles from the fleet was destroying all that was destroyable of
the harbour and works of Zeebrugge. With the aid of glasses huge clouds
of smoke and sand could be seen rising into the air almost every second.
Objects discernible one minute had disappeared when the smoke cloud of
bursting shells had moved to another point of concentration a short time
later. When at last the enemy's planes, in isolated ones and twos,
succeeded in hovering over the fleet the surface of the sea was almost
instantly broken by great spouts of white water, at first far away,
then nearer, and the battle commenced in earnest.

A vast cloud of smoke now hung like a black curtain between the fleet
and the shore. The M.L.'s were emitting their smoke screen to cover the
bombarding ships. Shells splashed into the sea all around. The noise and
vibration of the air seemed to bruise the senses, and lurid flashes came
from the smoking monitors.

It was at this stage of the bombardment that the curious and unexpected
happened. A white wave raced along the surface towards a monitor. It was
too big for the wake of a torpedo and quite unlike the periscope of a
submarine. The small, quick-firing guns of all the ships within range
were trained on it and the sea around was ploughed up with shell. The
white wave swerved to avoid the tornado of shot, but continued to make
direct for the hull of the great floating fort at a considerable speed.
Then, as it drew _very_ near to its objective, a shell went home and the
sea was rent by the force of a gigantic explosion, eclipsing that of any
known weapon of sea warfare.

It was, however, soon discovered that the mysterious wave came from a
fast torpedo-shaped boat which was evidently being controlled by
electric impulses from a shore wireless station some twelve to fourteen
miles distant, the necessary information regarding direction of attack
being transmitted by means of wireless signals from a seaplane hovering
overhead, the abnormal force of the explosion being due to the heavy
charge of high explosive which such a craft was able to carry in her
bow, so arranged as to fire on striking the object of attack.

With the failure of this ingenious but costly method of attack
precautions were at once taken against a repetition and the seaplane
hovering inconveniently overhead was driven off. The bombardment was
carried on for the allotted span, by which time the shore batteries that
still remained in action had found the range, notwithstanding the heavy
smoke screen emitted by the M.L.'s. "Heavies" were ploughing up the
water unpleasantly close to the monitors, one of which was struck,
though but little damaged.

It was now considered time to draw off seawards, and the spotting
officers, perched on their tripods, had to climb down the railway irons
under a heavy fire and swim to the ships sent to rescue them. The
tripods were then pulled over on to their sides by ropes attached to
their summits and left lying in the shallow water.

Under cover of the smoke screen the bombarding fleet withdrew, after
inflicting severe damage on the submarine base of Zeebrugge.

     .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

Some two weeks previous to this bombardment a warship patrolling off the
Belgian coast had reported a curious explosion in the direction of
Nieuport. The night was dark and the stillness of summer rested over the
Pas-de-Calais. Waves lapped gently the distant sand-dunes and war seemed
a thing far away, remote as the icy winds which blow around the Poles.

In the conning-tower and at the gun stations both officers and men
watched keenly, silently, for the predatory Hun. At any moment the thin
blackish-brown hulls of a raiding flotilla from the bases at Zeebrugge
and Ostend might slide out of the blueness of the night. The beams of
searchlights would momentarily cross and recross the intervening sea and
then the guns would mingle their sharp reports with the groans of dying

To the nerve-racking duties of night patrol in the Straits of Dover they
had grown accustomed--indifferent with the contempt born of
familiarity--but this did not cause any relaxation of vigilance. The
element of surprise is too important a factor in modern war to be
treated lightly.

So it happened that when, shortly after eight bells in the middle watch,
a momentary flash of lurid flame stabbed the darkness away over the
Belgian coast, and was followed by the rumble of a great but distant
explosion, no one stood on his head or lost his breath blowing up a
patent waistcoat, but all remained at the "still." Minutes passed and
nothing happened. Slowly the destroyer crept closer inshore, but the
night was dark and no further sound broke its stillness.

For two hours she scouted and listened. Little more than five miles away
lay the German lines, and the theory was that somewhere in that maze of
trenches and batteries an explosion had occurred.

Next day the mystery deepened, for it became known that a large portion
of Nieuport Pier had been blown away during the night. As this little
seaport was, however, inside the German lines, the mystery remained
unexplained until after the bombardment of Zeebrugge, when it became
known, in _divers_ manner, that one of the electrically controlled boats
had been out on a night manoeuvre and, owing to the difficulties of
seaplane observation in the dark, had accidentally struck the breakwater
of Nieuport.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many of the patrol boats guarding the Straits of Dover or minesweeping
under the fire of German coast batteries off the Belgian sand-dunes
spent their days or nights of rest (!) in the French seaport of Dunkirk,
returning to Dover only after considerable periods of work on the
opposite coast.

It may be thought that there was but little difference between life in
the British port and that in the French town, considering the short
stretch of sea between them. The following account of a night in Dunkirk
will, however, give some idea of the advantage gained by having even
thirty miles of blue water between an active enemy and a comfortable


The night seemed uncannily quiet. In time of peace it would have passed
unnoticed as just ideal summer weather, but when the human ear had grown
accustomed to the almost perpetual thunder of the Flanders guns any
cessation of the noise gave a feeling of disquietude, only to be
likened to the hush of great forests before a tropical storm. The little
town of Dunkirk, with its many ruins, was bathed in shadow, unrelieved
by any artificial light, but the narrow, tortuous harbour showed a
silvery streak in the brilliant moonrays. Above the sleeping town, with
its Poilu sentries and English sailors, was the deep indigo sky,
spangled with stars.

Custom had taught the few civilian and the many naval and military
inhabitants of Dunkirk to regard calm moonlight nights with very mixed
feelings. It was seldom indeed that the Boche neglected such an
opportunity for an air raid. Not merely one brief bombardment from the
skies, but a succession of them, lasting from dusk until early morning,
and repeated night after night while the weather remained favourable.

Owing to adequate preparations for such attacks the casualties were
generally few, but the loss of sleep was nearly always great, unless the
individual was so tired with the day's or week's minesweeping, spell in
the trenches, or sea patrol that the "popping" of guns and the thud of
bombs merely caused a semi-return to consciousness, with a mild,
indefinable feeling of vexation at being momentarily disturbed.

To the majority, however, it meant not only the loss of sorely needed
sleep, but also hard work under trying conditions. To realise fully what
it is to be deprived of rest when the brain is reeling and the movement
of every limb is an agony, it is necessary to have worked, marched and
fought for days and nights incessantly, and then the _moral_ as
distinct from the _material_ effect of successive air raids will be duly
appreciated by those fortunate ones who spent the years 1914 to 1918
remote from the menace.

Although Dunkirk on this particular August night seemed uncannily quiet,
the hour was not late. By Greenwich time it was but a few minutes past
nine, and two bells had only just sounded through the many and diverse
ships lying in tiers alongside the quays. So warm were the soft summer
zephyrs, which scarcely stirred the surface of the water, that on the
decks of many of these war-worn sweepers and patrols men lay stretched
out under the sky in the sound sleep of exhaustion, while on the quays
and at other points in the half-wrecked town steel-helmeted French
sentries kept watch.

Of the British naval forces based on this little French seaport few were
ashore, as, without special permission, both officers and men had to
remain on their ships after sunset, and those not playing cards or
reading in the cabins were lounging and smoking on deck. Blot out of the
view the ruined houses, the shell-holes in the streets, the guns, the
dug-outs and the sentries, and few scenes more unlike the popular
conception of a big war base, with the enemy only a few miles distant,
can be imagined.

But Dunkirk in that year of grace, 1917, did not always wear so peaceful
a garb. There were frequent periods when the shells whistled over or on
to the town, when the earth trembled from the concussion of high
explosives, when buildings collapsed or went heavenwards in clouds of
dust, when the streets were illumined with the yellow flash of picric
acid, or were filled with clouds of poisoned gas, when ambulances
clattered over the cobblestones, trains of wounded rolled in from the
firing line and the killed and maimed were landed from the sea.

The first indication of the change from calm to storm came at the early
hour of 10 P.M., when the air raid warning sounded throughout the town.
On the quayside all was ordered haste. Mooring ropes were cast off with
a minimum of shouting, and the larger ships moved slowly down the
harbour towards the open sea. The few small vessels left seemed to
crouch under the dock walls.

Sentries left their posts to take shelter in the great dug-outs,
constructed of heavy timbers and sand-bags. These were situated at
convenient points throughout the battered little town. In the houses
some people descended to the cellars, but many remained wherever they
happened to be, while in the cabins of the few ships which remained in
harbour the games, the reading, the letter-writing and, in a few cases,
even the sleeping went on undisturbed.

After a short interval of oppressive silence, during which time no light
or sound came from the seemingly deserted town, a faint whir of
propellers became just audible in the stillness of the summer night.
Then it died away momentarily. Suddenly a bright glare, like that of a
star-shell, lit up the roofs and streets, and almost simultaneously
came the dull vibrating report of a bomb. It sounded from the direction
of the cathedral. Searchlights flashed out from various points, but
their powerful rays were lost in the luminous vault above. Guns roared
and bright flashes appeared like summer lightning in the sky. Every few
seconds the town trembled from the shock of exploding bombs, first at
one point and then at another, but nothing could be seen of the raiding
squadron. Pieces from the shells bursting overhead and fragments of
bombs and shattered masonry fell like rain into the streets and into the
waters of the harbour.

On the quayside a big aerial torpedo had made a crater large enough to
bury the horse which it had killed in a near-by stable. A few seconds
later another bomb fell close to a minesweeper and a fragment gashed the
decks but did not penetrate them. In the cabins the concussion of almost
every bomb which fell on shore was felt with curious precision. The
glass of wheel-houses and deck cabins was shattered, and the rattle and
thud on the decks and iron sides denoted the storm of falling metal.

The din of the raid went on for some time and then died away with a
final long-range shot from "Loose Lizzie" on the hills behind. When all
was clear heads appeared from hatchways, dug-outs and cellars. People
searched the sky curiously in an endeavour to make sure that there was
"no deception," although from first to last nothing had been seen of
the raiders except by those with the instruments, the searchlights and
the guns. The latest news of the damage caused--two houses, a man and a
horse--went from mouth to mouth. Then the summer night regained its
tranquillity and Dunkirk slept.

     .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

The familiar boom sounded its loudest in the stillness of the night and
the ground seemed to tremble the more violently because of the darkness.
It was 1 A.M. The young moon had sunk beneath the horizon and a light
film of cloud had drifted over the sky.

The old French reservist doing sentry-go on the quay glanced up with a
shrug of indifference and slowly shouldering his rifle walked leisurely
towards a dug-out. Searchlights became busy exploring the sky. This time
their rays were not lost in the opaque blueness above, but went up in
well-defined columns of light until reflected on the lofty clouds.
Presently the beams concentrated and, when the eyes had grown accustomed
to the glare, little white "butterflies" were seen circling in the upper
air. Then the guns opened fire and white puffs, like tiny balls of
cotton-wool, appeared among the butterflies. The earth trembled with the
explosion of falling bombs and the recoil of anti-aircraft batteries. A
little flicker of yellow light appeared in the circle of white. The guns
increased in violence. The yellow light grew in size. It was falling.
The burning machine crashed to earth.

The bombs and the gun-fire lasted for some twenty minutes and then
ceased suddenly, as if by prearranged signal. Allied squadrons were in
the air and the distant crackle of machine guns sounded from the skies.
It died away, however, almost immediately, but the raiders were chased
back to within their own lines minus two of their number.

With the coming of dawn two solitary hostile machines circling at a
fairly low altitude could be seen. They dropped no bombs, but the reason
for their presence was soon apparent. Shells from the long-range guns
behind the German lines began to moan, whistle and burst in and around
the luckless town. A hit was signified by a cloud of smoke, dust and
debris, and ambulances again became busy in the stone-paved streets.

One shell, carrying sufficient explosive to blow up an average-sized
ship, ploughed up the water of the harbour, but did no damage, and by 6
A.M. Allied squadrons had chased away the hostile aerial observers. Once
again the peace of an ideal summer morning reigned over the historic

The few minesweeping and other ships which had remained in the harbour
through the night now commenced to show signs of returning life and
activity. Heavy brown smoke poured from the funnels of some, the
staccato noise of oil engines came from others, and men were busy on the
decks of all. The night's "rest" was over and the vital work of
sweeping, possibly under an irritating fire from shore batteries and
the strain of a necessarily ever-alert patrol, commenced afresh. The
steady barometer promised a fine day for the harvesting of mines and,
for the ships that returned, another night's _rest_ similar to the
previous three!


          ABERDEEN harbour mined, 209

          Aden, mine-field laid off, 145

          Admiralty dispatch bearers, 108

          Aerial attacks, 293-300

          -- bombs, effect of, 297

          -- warfare and submarine fighting, 273

          Aircraft and convoys, 116

          Airship, salving of, 273-279

          Allied navies, 69

          A memorable Christmas, 191-201

          American first army, transport of, 124

          Arctic patrol, 52, 227

          -- seas, work in, 193-201

          Area of sea covered daily by sweepers, 161

          Areas, command of, 23

          -- patrol of, 128-131

          Armed liners, 51

          Armies, transport of, 116

          Atlantic patrol, 226-232

          Australian first army, transport of, 123

          Auxiliary patrol office, 25

          BASES and their fleets, 113-115

          -- war, 23, 24, 102-115

          Battle of Jutland, 248-256

          Beatty, Sir David, 249, 255, 256

          Blister system on monitors, 178

          Blockade, naval, 18

          Boarding parties, 201-208, 270

          Bombardment of Zeebrugge, 287-293

          Bombay, mine-field laid off, 145

          Bombs, submarine, 91

          Boom-defence ships, 68

          -- staff, 111

          _Brighton Queen_, H.M.S., 54

          _Britannia_, H.M.S., torpedoed, 101

          British coast completely mined-in, 145

          -- Empire, dangerous position of, 117

          CALL of the White Ensign, 31, 33

          Camouflaged ships, 73, 95

          Canada, officers from, 44, 195

          Canadian first army, transport of, 123

          Case of mistaken identity, 190-191

          Castaways, 238-247

          Casualties, naval, in Great War, 27, 256

          Casualty, a, 220

          Chaplains, naval, 109-110

          Christmas Day, 1916, 192-201

          Clearing large mine-fields, 161

          Coastal motor boats, 62

          -- construction of, 62-68

          -- method of attack, 65

          -- bases of, 65

          -- _v._ German destroyers, 66

          -- in actions off Zeebrugge and Ostend, 61, 68, 287

          Colombo, mine-field laid off, 145

          Colonial officers, 44-45

          Colonies, aid from, 21

          Concentration of British fleet, August, 1914, 17

          Convoy, composition of, 118-119

          Convoy ships, 115

          Convoy system, 116-125

          Convoying, difficulties of, 122

          Convoys, minesweeping in front of, 121, 162

          Co-operation between fleets of sea and air, 279

          Cruiser Squadron, the Tenth, 51-52

          DAN-BUOYS, 199

          Danish derelict, 202-208

          Decoy system of attack, 137-138

          Deluding patrols, 236

          Demobilisation, naval, 28

          Depth charge, construction of, 80-84

          -- method of use, 80-84

          -- attacks with, 81-84, 262

          Depth charges, 70, 84

          Derelict, a, 201-208

          Destruction of a U-C boat, 209, 218

          Division of sea into patrol areas, 128-131

          Docker battalions, 121

          Dominions, aid from, 21

          Dover lighted barrage, 183-185

          -- naval base, 103

          Dover patrols, 286, 295-300

          Drafting officers, 110

          Drifter units, 54, 55, 114

          Drifters, loss of in Adriatic, 56

          -- -- in Straits of Dover, 56

          Duffel clothing, 195

          Dunkirk, a night spent in, 293-300

          -- patrols, 286, 293-300

          EFFECT of danger on human senses, 261

          Effect of shell fire, 256

          Electrically controlled boats off Zeebrugge, 290-293

          _Engadine_, H.M.S., 255

          England's food supply, 18-19

          Evening quarters in warships, 41

          Examination ships, 68

          Excitement, suppressed, before an action, 259

          Exploratory minesweeping, 158-161

          FIGHT, an epic, 226-232

          Finding the ships, guns and men, 21

          Firth of Forth, mines in, 209

          Fishing fleets, armed guards with, 279-285

          Fleet sweeping, 161

          French ship, mysterious disappearance of, 264

          GERMAN High Sea Fleet, 249

          -- naval position in 1914, 18

          -- submarine bases, 127

          -- mine-laying, 143

          -- raiders, _Wolfe_ and _Moewe_, 145

          -- mines, description of, 145, 148

          -- -- and Hague Convention, 150-152

          -- mine-laying policy, 154-156

          -- submarine offensive, 155

          -- minesweeping, 169

          -- submarines, loss of, 186

          -- mine-field, a Christmas spent on, 192-201

          Grand Fleet, 233, 255, 286

          -- bases, 103

          Granton Naval Base, 103

          Guarding a mine-field, 201

          Gunboats patrol, 53

          Gunnery classes, 43-44

          HARBOUR duties, 115

          -- mines at entrance to, 209-219

          -- sweeping, 162

          Harwich patrols, 286

          _Hermione_, training ship for new navy, 33, 36-49

          Hope of action, 202

          Hydrophone attack, 134-135

          -- branch of naval service, 76

          -- flotillas, 134-135

          Hydrophones, 70-84

          -- object of, 70

          -- portable, 71

          -- -- use of, 71-72

          -- construction of, 72-74

          -- limitations in use of, 77-78

          -- directional, 75

          -- -- use of, 76

          -- fitted in U and U-C boats, 76-77

          ICELAND fishing fleet, 195, 200

          Indian Ocean, mine-fields in, 145

          Indicator nets, 85, 89, 138, 258-263

          Intelligence offices in naval bases, 108, 129

          Interpreter officers, 68

          _Invincible_, H.M.S., 255

          Isolation of mined areas, 159

          JELLICOE, Sir John, 252

          KING'S Messengers, 108

          LANCE bombs, 91

          Life-boat, work of, 222-223

          Lighted barrage, 183

          Lightning reveals U-boat, 260

          _Lion_, H.M.S., after Jutland, 56, 254

          Liverpool harbour mined-in, 209

          Loss of ships, percentage of, 54, 55

          Lowestoft harbour mined-in, 209

          _Lusitania_, sinking of, 18

          MANNING of British ships in past, 20

          Mercantile fleets under convoy, 116

          -- Marine, 122

          -- shipping in danger zone, 209

          Merchant ships, loss of, due to mines, 155

          Methods of attacking submarines, 134-142

          Mine barrages, 129, 139, 156, 179, 286

          Mine-field, Christmas on, 192-200

          Mine-fields, deep-laid, 139, 179-186

          Mine-layers, 233-236

          Mine nets, 39, 138

          Mine-protection devices, 175-178

          Mined areas, isolation of, 159

          Minesweeping, 54, 121, 157, 178, 209, 293-300

          Mine-laying from U-C boats, 152-153, 157

          Mines destroyed by British Navy, 155, 158, 209

          Mines, floating, 150

          Mining School, Portsmouth, 163

          M.L.'s. See under Motor Launches

          Modified sweeps, 96-101

          _Moewe_, German raider, 145

          Monotony, effect of, 280

          Moonlight, effect of on searchlights, 297-298

          Moral effect of air raids, 295

          Moray Firth, mine-field in, 161

          Morning divisions in warships, 41

          Motor launch flotillas, 36, 115, 134-136

          Motor launches, Admiralty contract for, 57

          Motor launches, arrival of, 38

          -- construction of, 58-62

          -- description of, 56

          -- area patrolled by, 61

          -- loss of, 62

          -- in actions off Zeebrugge and Ostend, 62, 287

          Mysteries of sea war, 264-272

          -- of submarine hunting, 126-162

          -- of German mine-laying, 143-156

          -- of minesweeping, 157-178

          Mystery ships, 96, 101

          -- numbers employed, 96

          NATIONAL Insurance, 125

          Naval bases, 102-115

          -- centres, 129

          -- College, Greenwich, 35

          -- policy, British, 31

          -- School of Submarine Mining, 163

          -- situation in 1914, 18

          Navigation, dangers of, in war time, 265-266

          -- training in, 46-49

          Navy, expansion of, in past wars, 28

          Nerve tension before action, 261, 288

          Nets, submarine, 56, 85-89

          New fleets in being, 50-69

          New navy, composition of, 50-69

          -- formation into flotillas, 68-69

          -- growth of, 23

          -- officers and men of, 25, 33-34

          -- _raison d'être_, 18

          _New Zealand_, H.M.S., 255

          New Zealand, officers from, 39

          -- waters, mines in, 145

          Nieuport pier, destruction of, 292

          Night attacks, 258-263

          -- patrol, 209, 292

          North Sea, area of, 20

          -- British naval blockade of, 124

          -- gales, 220

          Northern mine barrage, 182

          OFFICERS, training, 36-49

          Oil trails, 218, 263

          PARAVANES, 175-177

          Patrol areas, 23-24, 128-131

          -- boats, 130-133

          -- -- on lines of communication during Jutland, 257

          Personnel of new navy, 32

          Petrol fumes, danger of, 275-276

          Picric acid, for causing and alleviating pain, 257

          Port minesweeping officers, 111, 163

          _Princess Royal_, H.M.S., 255

          Privateers, old and new, 117-118

          "Q" BOATS, 96-101

          -- description of, 96-99

          -- number employed, 96

          Q19, action of, in Straits of Gibraltar, 99

          Queenstown naval base, 103

          RAIDERS, German, cruises of, 145

          Red Cross work, 248-252

          Refits, 226

          Rescue work, 220-225, 238, 273-279

          Rescued crews, 247

          _Resource II._, H.M.S., 36

          Restriction of submarine danger zone, 126

          Return of fleet from Jutland, 254-256

          Rosyth Dockyard, 103

          Routine sweeping, 161

          Royal Naval Reserve, 37

          -- -- Volunteer Reserve, 36

          Royal Navy and Merchant Service, 26

          -- -- manning of, in past, 26-27

          Russian army, transport of, 123

          -- lines of communication, 22

          -- War of 1854-1856, 26

          SALVING live mines, 151-152

          Scandinavian convoys, 123-124

          -- -- attacks on, 124

          Scapa Flow, 103

          Scottish waters, mine-fields in, 147

          Sea fight, elements of, 255

          -- flanks of armies, 286-300

          -- power, elements of, 26

          -- stalking, 270

          Seamanship classes, 41-43

          Searching for mines, 162

          Shallow-water sweeping, 162

          Shell-shock cases, 257

          Ships of the new navy, 20-22

          Sick bay, shells burst in, 256

          Singapore mine-field, 145

          Sinking of last U-boat, 99

          Sloop flotillas, 52

          Smoke screens, 92-93, 290

          S.O.S., 238

          Sounds, submarine, 70-73

          South African mine-fields, 145

          _Southampton_, H.M.S., 255

          Southampton Water training ground, 38

          Spanish Armada, 233

          Spectre of the Goodwins, 265

          Spotting officers at Zeebrugge, 288-291

          Staff Headquarters, 24

          Standard ships, 120

          _Submarine Engineering of To-day_, 154

          Submarine hide-and-seek, 77-78

          -- nets, 258-263

          -- phase of naval war, 17-20

          -- sounds, 70-73

          -- _v._ submarine, 140

          -- _v._ merchantman, 19

          -- warfare of the future, 127

          Sutphen, Henry R., 57-58

          _Sydney_, H.M.S., 123

          TACTICAL methods, 134-135

          Task of Allied navies, 18-35

          Tenth Cruiser Squadron, 52, 232

          Theatre of war, principal, 20

          Thornycroft, Messrs John T., & Co. Ltd., 65

          Tides, effect of, on moored mines, 149

          -- -- on minesweeping, 171

          Toast of the British Navy, 48

          Tracking U-boats, methods of, 129-131

          Training an anti-submarine force, 36-49

          Transport of Allied armies, 116

          Trawler units, 54, 55, 113

          Treachery, guarding against, 270

          Tripods (for observation) at Zeebrugge, 280

          U-BOATS, fishing for, 87-88, 258-263

          -- sunk, 263

          -- sunk by Q19, 97-100

          U-C boats, 144

          United States, effect on German mine-laying, 156

          -- help from, 21

          -- navy, 69

          -- warships attacked, 125

          University, a naval, 46-49

          Unrecorded sea fights, 204

          VERY'S pistols, 246, 276

          _Victory_, H.M.S., at Trafalgar, 30

          Von Hipper's fleet, 255

          WAR base, a typical, 102

          -- bases, 23, 102, 115

          -- -- description of, 104-115

          -- Cabinet and convoys, 125

          -- Channel, 160, 172-175

          Wardrooms in naval bases, 112

          _Warspite_, H.M.S., 254

          Waterloo, a replica of, 250

          Weapons, curious, 85-95

          Weather, effect of, on naval operations, 233

          Whaler units, 53-54, 115

          William Whiteley's, a naval, 107

          Winter patrol, 209

          _Wolfe_, German raider, 145

          Wounded, transport of, 256-257

          YACHT clubs, officers from, 32

          Yacht, armed, 53

          ZEEBRUGGE, bombardment of, 287-293

          Zeppelin attacks fishing fleet, 282, 285

          Zeppelin raids, 48-49

          Zigzagging to avoid U-boats, 116

          Zones of war, drafting to, 50-51

          -- vessels leaving for, 187


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

On pages 37-51, the original uses "depot." On pages 103 and 104, it uses
"depôt." This was retained.

Page 4, number 5 was missing from the list.

Page 63, FIG. 3., "Hydrophone" changed to "Hydroplane" as it seems to
make more sense in this situation (Hydroplane hull, so constructed)

Page 76, "oral" changed to "aural" (aural experience estimated)

Pages 97, 98, 115, 125 twice,138, the designation of the size of the gun
was originally printed using a high-dot. As that cannot be replicated
here, it has been replaced with a decimal. (with a 4.7 quick-firing)
(masked 4.7-inch guns) (shielding the 4.7 gun) (causes was 0.82) (only
0.58 per cent.) (of a 4.7-inch gun)

Page 152, "he" changed to "the" (to the ordinary mine)

Page 185, "bteween" changed to "between" (submarine got between the)

Page 269, "tinging" changed to "tingeing" (tingeing the still

Page 270, "fore-peak" changed to "forepeak" to match rest of text. (The
forepeak or bow)

Page 287, "auti" changed to "anti" (of the anti-submarine fleets)

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Submarine Warfare of To-day - How the Submarine Menace was Met and Vanquished, With - Descriptions of the Inventions and Devices Used, Fast - Boats, Mystery Ships" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.