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Title: The British Navy Book
Author: Field, Cyril
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.

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       *       *       *       *       *

_Uniform with this volume_



      "It is full of great deeds sure to fire the
      imagination of any boy."--_Times._

      "Gives a better and more readable account of our army
      than any book we can think of."--_Graphic._

      "A most stirring, as well as informative

      "A glorious story, told in fine racy
      style."--_Sheffield Daily Telegraph._


       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: "BRITAIN'S SURE SHIELD"]




With Full-page Illustrations in Colour and in
Black-and-White and Numerous Illustrations in the Text

Blackie and Son Limited
London Glasgow and Bombay


  CHAP.                                                      Page
  PROLOGUE: THE COMMAND OF THE SEA (A.D. 1915)                  9

      I. A LESSON FROM CÆSAR                                   19

     II. ANCIENT WAR-SHIPS                                     28

    III. FIGHTING-SHIPS OF THE MIDDLE AGES                     38

     IV. MARINERS OF OTHER DAYS                                54

      V. SOME MEDIÆVAL SEA-FIGHTS                              60

     VI. THE NAVY IN TUDOR TIMES                               67

    VII. FROM ELIZABETH TO VICTORIA                            81

   VIII. THE "TURKS" IN THE CHANNEL                            99

     IX. THE HONOUR OF THE FLAG                               115

      X. THE EVOLUTION OF NAVAL GUNNERY                       125



   XIII. NAVAL BRIGADES                                       187

    XIV. WAR-SHIPS OF ALL SORTS                               204

     XV. THE MANNING OF A SHIP                                223

    XVI. BEGINNING OF THE WAR AFLOAT                          242


  XVIII. IN THE OUTER SEAS                                    261

    XIX. A REVERSE AND A VICTORY                              272


    XXI. THE ROYAL NAVAL AIR SERVICE                          292

  CONCLUSION                                                  307



    "BRITAIN'S SURE SHIELD"                           _Frontispiece_

    UNIFORMS OF THE BRITISH NAVY: Midshipman, Admiral,
          Flag-Lieutenant, Secretary (Fleet Paymaster)           96

    UNIFORMS OF THE BRITISH NAVY: A.B. (Marching Order),
          1st Class Petty Officer, Stoker                       188

          Colour-Sergeant, R.M.L.I.; Major, R.M.A               236



    LEARNING TO FIGHT ZEPPELINS                                  16

    A WAR-GALLEY IN THE DAYS OF KING ALFRED                      36

          BRITISH NAVY                                           70

    A SEA-FIGHT IN TUDOR TIMES                                   78

    DESTROYING A STRAGGLER FROM THE ARMADA                       82


          QUIBERON BAY, 1759                                     90

    THE "VICTORY" IN GALA DRESS                                  92

    "THE GLORIOUS 1ST OF JUNE", 1794                             94




          ENGLISH AND DUTCH                                     122

    THE "DULLE GRIETE" AT GHENT                                 130

    THE MAIN GUN DECK ON H.M.S. "VICTORY"                       140

    NAVAL GUNNERY IN THE OLD DAYS                               142

    13.5-INCH GUNS ON H.M.S. "CONQUEROR"                        144


    A MONSTER GUN WHICH IS NOW OBSOLETE                         162



    THE NAVAL BRIGADE IN THE BATTLE OF EL-TEB                   200

    OUR SEAMEN GUNNERS WITH A MAXIM                             202


    THE BRITISH SUBMARINE "E2"                                  216

    THE 13.5-INCH GUN: SOME IDEA OF ITS LENGTH                  238

    6-INCH GUN DRILL: THE BREECH OPEN                           240

    THE SINKING OF THE GERMAN CRUISER "MAINZ"                   248


          G. BRYAN                                              302

          FLIGHT-COMMANDER R. ROSS                              304

Publishers' Note

Just as this book was about to go to press an Admiralty Order was issued
forbidding the publication of any text or illustrations likely to prove
of service to the enemy. Proofs of _The British Navy Book_ were
submitted to the Admiralty, with the result that the book has been
approved. Acting in accordance with instructions from the Lords
Commissioners, we have substituted other illustrations for those more
recent ships previously chosen to represent the Great War by sea.

                                                BLACKIE & SON, LIMITED.



The Command of the Seas

(A.D. 1915)

      "It may truly be said that the Command of the Sea is
      an Abridgement or a Quintessence of an Universal

                                      SIR FRANCIS BACON.

It is a grey morning out on the North Sea, with but little wind. There
is no swell, but considerable movement on the surface of the waters,
with here and there an occasional tossing of the white manes of the
sea-horses. Swimming majestically through the sea comes one of our
monster slate-grey battle-cruisers. She is "stripped to a gantline", and
in complete and instant readiness for action. The red cross of St.
George flutters bravely at her fore-topmast head, for she is the
flagship of the squadron of three or four towering grey ships that are
following in her wake. Aft flies the well-known White Ensign, the
"meteor flag of England" blazing in the corner. Far away on either bow,
but dimly discernible on the wide horizon, are the shadows of other
smaller ships, the light cruisers, which are moving ahead and on the
flanks of the squadron like cavalry covering the advance of an army. On
board is an almost Sabbath-day stillness, save for the wash of the sea,
the dull steady whirr of the giant turbines far down below the armour
deck, the periodical clang of the ship's bell, marking the flight of
time. Now and again comes a whiff of cooking from the galley. As the day
advances the light grows stronger; gleams of sunshine send the purple
shadows of masts and rigging dancing fitfully over the wide deck, which
is practically deserted. There is the marine sentry over the life-buoy
aft, look-outs aloft and at various corners of the superstructures, and
the figures of the officer of the watch, signalmen and others are seen
in movement up in the triangular platform dignified by the name of the
"fore-bridge". Who would imagine that there are seven or eight hundred
souls on board, seamen, marines, stokers, and many other ratings of
whose existence and duties the "man in the street" is profoundly

[Illustration: _Photo. Cribb, Southsea_


But look inside this massive gun-hood, from which protrude forty feet of
two sleek grey monster cannon, each of which is capable of hurling 850
pounds of steel and high explosive a distance of a dozen miles. Grouped
round their guns in various attitudes are the bluejackets forming their
crews. They are tanned and weather-beaten fellows, but there is a
strained and tired look about their eyes. Here in the confined spaces of
their turret they have eaten, slept, and whiled away the watches as best
they might for many, many hours. They have not had the discomforts of
their khaki-clad brethren in their sodden trenches, nor listened to the
constant hiss of hostile bullets and the howl and crash of "Jack
Johnsons" at unexpected moments. But if they have been immune from these
constant and manifest dangers, they have had none of their excitements.
They have had the temptation to boredom, and the less exciting but
always present peril of the dastardly German system of mine-laying in
the open sea. Some are writing letters to chums, to sweethearts, and to
wives. Others are killing time with the light literature that has been
sent to the ship in bundles by the many friends of the fleet on
shore. In one corner is a midshipman writing up his "log", and beside
him sits the lieutenant in charge of the turret reading for the fourth
time a much-folded letter he has taken from an inner pocket.

Look into the next turret and you will see a similar scene, the only
difference being that in this case the guns' crews and their officer are
marines, wearing red-striped trousers and "Brodrick" caps--the latter
not unlike those of the seamen, but with the corps badge in brass on a
semicircular scarlet patch in front, instead of a ribband with the
ship's name. In the casemates housing the smaller guns in the
superstructures and on the deck below are similar though smaller groups.
All are waiting--waiting.

We wend our way below. The clerks and writers are working in their
offices, the cooks are busy at their galleys. Men must eat and accounts
must be kept though the ship should be blown out of existence in the
next ten minutes. We enter a narrow lift and are shot down to the lower
regions, where the sweating stokers handle rake and shovel, the
artificers and engine-room staff ply oil-can and spanner, and the
engineer officers study gauges and dials of all sorts and kinds. There
is more life down here than up above. Work is going on that needs
constant watching and attention. On our return journey to "the upper
air" we glance in at the wireless room. As we do so comes the loud
crackle of the electric spark. The operator is acknowledging a signal. A
message has come in from a scouting cruiser. "The enemy are out. Five
big cruisers, heading north-west." Another Scarborough Raid perhaps.

The ship wakes up, she is alive. The engine-room gongs clang down in her
depths. A few signal flags flutter aloft. The admiral is signalling to
his squadron to alter course to head off the enemy, and to increase
speed by so many revolutions. The big ship gathers way. Her consorts
follow in the curve of her foaming wake, and with every big gun trained
forward the lithe grey leviathans tear over the watery plain in search
of their quarry.

An hour passes. Nothing is seen but the scouting cruisers and a minute
speck in the remote spaces of the sky, which someone thinks is a
sea-plane, but which may well be a grey gull in the middle distance.
Presently, however, a growing darkness along the north-eastern horizon
becomes recognizable as smoke--the smoke of many furnaces. Against its
growing blackness one of our distant light cruisers shows for a moment
as a white ship. Black smoke is pouring from her funnels also, and
amidst it all is a sudden violet-white flash.

After an age comes the dull "thud" of her cannon. Now she turns away to
port. There are more vivid flashes and the "thudding" of her guns grows
continuous. Soon answering flashes sparkle from amidst the smoke-pall on
the horizon, and first one then another nebulous outline of a warship
disintegrates itself. Flashes break from their sides also, and the noise
of the firing swells into a steady roll of sound rising and falling on
the wind. We again increase speed. Black smoke billows from our funnels,
the bow wave rises higher, and now and again a cloud of spray swishes
over our decks. Then "Cra--ash!" The fore-turret has spoken. The ship
trembles from stem to stern. We are striking in to the assistance of our
scouting cruiser. Through the glasses appears what looks like an iceberg
towering over the enemy's nearest cruiser. We've missed her.

But the spotting officer is busy in the control-platform aloft, passing
down corrections for transmission to the various gun-stations, and when
a second explosion roars from the starboard turret, the enemy's cruiser,
after disappearing for some seconds in a black and inky cloud of smoke,
bursts into flames. Her consort and our scouting vessel draw farther and
farther away to the northward, fighting fiercely. We continue driving
through the tumbling waters, till, with a slight freshening of the wind,
the black smoke we are approaching thins off into nothingness, and we
see far down on the horizon four or five separate columns of smoke. With
a good glass we can distinguish masts and funnels as if lightly sketched
in pencil. They have sighted us at the same time, and seem to melt
together into one indistinct mass. They are altering course, turning
their backs to us and heading for the east.

The engine-room gongs clang again, more revolutions are demanded and are
forthcoming, and our four big battle-cruisers rush in pursuit with
renewed energy. A distant humming sound increases quickly to a loud
hissing and roaring--a noise which may be compared to that of a monster
engine letting off steam--and an enormous projectile, passing well over
our heads, plunges into the sea on the starboard beam of our following
ship, the splash rising as high as the mastheads. Others follow fast.
The rearmost ship loses her mainmast, and now the enemy's gunners reduce
their elevation and slap their big shells into the sea just ahead of us.

Our own guns are not idle. One after another gives tongue with a volume
of noise and a concussion that no words can describe. The pen is
powerless to bring before the imagination such a cataclysm of sound. On
a sudden, amidst the crashing of the guns and the continuous dull
booming of the enemy's in the distance, there is a different and a
rending explosion somewhere forward. We have at last been hit. Down on
the forecastle all is smoke, blackness, torn iron plates and girders.
From the midst of the chaos comes the shriek of a man calling on his
Maker, and piteous groanings. Soon the dull red of fire blushes through
the smoke, and a rush of bluejackets and marines with fire-hoses
spouting white streams of water engages this dread enemy and succeeds in
subduing it.

Stretcher-men appear on the scene and remove the wounded, but there is
more than one serge-clad figure that lies heedless of fire or water,
friend or foe. These are they who have fought their last fight and have
laid down their lives and all that they had for their country.

Inside the turrets the aspect of affairs is very different from what we
saw a short time ago. The gun-layers are standing at their sights, the
guns' crews are working levers to and fro, the big breech-blocks are
swinging on one side, the huge pointed projectiles rising on their
hydraulic hoists till they come in line with the bore of the gun.
Another lever is pulled, and the rammer-head, hitherto somewhat in the
background of the turret, advances towards the gun, impelled by what
looks not unlike a monster bicycle chain crawling up from below, and
stiffening itself as it advances along a horizontal trough of steel. The
rammer-head meets the base of the big shell and drives it resistlessly
and with no apparent effort into the gun. It retires; the charges of
explosive, divided into sections and carried in cylinders which come in
turn in line with the breech, are then one after the other pushed into
place by the indefatigable rammer-head, the breech-block is swung to,
turned and locked, and the gun is ready to fire again.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are now in full view of the enemy's squadron, which consists of five
large armoured cruisers. Two of these are in a bad way. One on our
starboard bow has lost two out of her three funnels as well as a mast.
She is barely moving through the water, and has a strong list to port,
which is so pronounced as to prevent her elevating her guns, whose
projectiles all strike the water short of us, though we are at
comparatively close range. Only two or three of her larger pieces are
able to fire at all, and these but at intervals. Her foremost turret is
nothing but a chaos of broken metal from the midst of which a pair of
mutilated cannon point forlornly skyward.

The midships turret nearest to us is in hardly better case. Her
superstructures look like the ruins of a town after an earthquake, and
several large holes gape in her sides. A dense black smoke sweeps
upwards from the midst of the wreckage. About half a mile ahead of her a
consort is also stationary and on fire, the flames driving away in
sheets to leeward. The ship that followed us as second in the line is
very badly damaged also, and is just discernible on the horizon astern
under a pall of smoke. These casualties leave us evenly matched--three
to three--with plenty of fight left in us, but with the volume and
efficiency of our fire considerably reduced. Our own funnels are still
standing, but riddled like collanders, the fore-bridge has been swept
away, and with it our dear old skipper; but his place has been ably
filled by the commander, who is fighting the ship from the
conning-tower, which still stands. Both squadrons--the German in line
ahead, ours in bow and quarter line--are heading due east, but, just as
we are abreast the badly damaged cruiser to which I have referred, the
enemy begins edging away to the north-east. We fail to see the
significance of this manoeuvre at first, and the admiral, who, though
rather badly hurt by the fall of the fore-bridge, is still in the
conning-tower with the commander, may have visions of "crossing their T"
astern, when there is a sudden shout from aloft. A man is leaning over
and gesticulating wildly from the control-platform and pointing towards
our starboard bow. There, not far from the burning enemy ship, the glass
shows three pairs of what look like black cricket-stumps. Simultaneously
there is a gleam in the sea alongside, like the white of a shark's belly
when he turns to seize his prey. The deadly torpedo had missed us by a
couple of feet.

We instantly turn sharply to port, signalling our consorts to do the
same, and all head northwards at our best speed. This brings the enemy's
line, which had been turning more and more to port, on a parallel
course, and all three ships at once concentrate on us--the nearest ship.
We get a worse hammering in the five minutes that follow than we have
sustained during the action. The after turret is jammed, one of the
guns in the starboard turret loses its muzzle, and fire breaks out in
two places amidships, and can only be got under with the most strenuous
efforts and great loss of life.


Gunnery practice on a British war-ship against an aerial target. It is a
difficult matter to get "war conditions", as the ordinary target, such
as a towed kite, is easier to hit than an aeroplane.]

Things are looking ugly. The submarines still follow astern, but are not
near enough to risk a shot. We cannot steam any faster, and we are
baulking the fire of our friends. We slow down, risking the submarines,
to allow our consorts to get ahead of us and enable us to meet the three
enemy ships on equal terms. There are many anxious looks astern while
this manoeuvre is in execution. The periscopes of our submarine foes are
still discernible, but beyond them is a fast-growing smoke-cloud from
which presently emerge the lithe black hulls of our "X" destroyer
flotilla. Apparently the submarines do not observe their approach; their
periscopes are steadily fixed on our ship, reckoning every yard they
gain on us. But the destroyers see _them_, and presently we see also a
warning signal from the enemy flagship. But it is too late. Before the
_Unterseeische Böte_ can dive out of harm's way three or four destroyers
sweep over them and ram them at the speed of an express train. Slowing
down, they circle right and left and open fire. What at we cannot see.
Presently up pops a grey lump some way astern. The light guns on the
superstructure give tongue so quickly that one has hardly time to
recognize it as the conning-tower of a submarine before it is literally
blown to pieces.

For the first time during the fight a cheer rings out fore and aft.
Almost at once the little guns begin banging away again. This time their
long muzzles are nosing about in the air. What are they firing at?
"There they are!" cries someone, pointing to the south-east, where two
big amorphous monsters have appeared high up in the clouds. Zeppelins,
right enough; and the bang, bang, bang of the lighter artillery rises in
crescendo from every ship and destroyer till the air echoes like
Vulcan's forge. Up come the pair of enormous sausages at a high rate of
speed, and as they pass over our destroyer flotilla they begin
dropping their bombs. Dull concussions thud apparently on the ship's
bottom; fountains of white water spout all round the small craft.

But none are hit. The leading "gas-bag" is heading straight for us. She
has probably spotted our damaged condition, and reckons us an easy prey.
But our gunners are getting closer to her every shot, and presently she
turns slowly to starboard, dropping a futile bomb as she goes. She now
presents a fine broadside target as big as a Dreadnought, another shot
gets home somewhere, and she makes off in the direction she came with
her nose down, tail in air, and a pronounced list to port. Her consort
turns too, and scuttles off at top speed. She hopes to "live to fight
another day" over some peaceful English village where there are no
nasty, disagreeable quick-firing guns, shrapnel-shell, and other unkind
greetings from those she would destroy.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day is drawing to a close. We are heading homewards in tow of a
consort. Low down under the tawny sunset that dim purple line is the
coast of "Old England"--the motherland we are engaged in defending from
the assault of the most unscrupulous enemy she has ever encountered. The
wind has fallen, the waves are hardly more than ripples, and evening is
closing down with a soothing hush over land and sea. We have cleared up
after the smashing and racket of the battle as far as possible, but we
can hardly crawl along, and are bound to go into dockyard hands for some
weeks at any rate.

"Are we downhearted?" "No!" For we have given much better than the best
efforts of the Huns could give. Two of their ships are at the bottom,
with most of their crews; though, thanks to the exertions and humanity
of our gallant seamen, a considerable number of them have been saved
from a watery grave. To this bag may be added three if not four
submarines and a badly damaged Zeppelin, so we are not ill-satisfied
with the day's work. We have just passed several "tall ships" on their
way out to relieve us on patrol, and as we begin to get under the land
there is a whirring up aloft in the gathering dusk, and a dozen
sea-planes, like a flight of wild-ducks, come swooping seaward and make
towards the Channel.

Where are they off to? Are they patrolling, or are they bent on a raid
on the enemy's magazines, hangars, and gun positions? We do not know,
but our ignorance does not worry us. We know the kind of man that is
flying down there towards the southern horizon, and are quite satisfied
that he will "make a good job" of whatever he has in hand. Just as the
sun dips, out comes a destroyer from the shadow of the land to pilot us
through the mine-field, and so we are brought "into the harbour where we
would be". We have plenty of hard work before us--some of it very sad
work. There are our poor wounded shipmates down below in the sick-bay
who have to be taken ashore to hospital, and there are the last honours
to be paid to those other gallant comrades and shipmates who have
"fought the good fight" and are now making their last voyage _en route_
for that promised land where "there shall be no more sea".

And now let us consider how this guardian fleet and the men who man it
came into being. In the following pages my object will be not so much to
describe well-known sea-fights as to give a series of pictures of the
sailor and of the navy at different stages of "our island story".


A Lesson from Cæsar

    "Storm and sea were Britain's bulwarks,
       Long ere Britons won their name;
     Mightier far than pikes and halberds
       Wind and wave upheld her fame;
     Storm and sea are Britain's brothers,
       Keep, with her, their sleepless guard;
     Britain's sons, before all others,
       Share with them their watch and ward.


    "'Forward! On!' the sea-king's war-word
       Ages back--to do or die.[1]
     'Ne'er a track but points us forward!'[2]
       Ages on--our lines reply."
           E. H. H. In _Officers' Training Corps and Naval
                                    Cadets' Magazine_, March, 1913.

WHENEVER we want to find out anything about the early history of Great
Britain, we have, almost invariably, to turn to the writings of our old
friend Julius Cæsar. In attempting to trace the beginnings of the Royal
Navy, that magnificent organization "whereon", point out the _Articles
of War_, "under the good Providence of God, the Wealth, Safety, and
Strength of the Kingdom chiefly depend", we have to conform to the same
rule, and consult this authority. From Cæsar's _De Bello Gallico_ we
learn that in his time the Ancient Britons made use of boats with a
wooden frame, supporting wicker-work instead of planking, and rendered
watertight by a covering of skins--just such boats, in fact, though
probably larger--as, under the name of "coracles", are used to this day
on the Wye and some other rivers and estuaries.

The portability and rapid construction of these boats commended them to
Cæsar's military eye, and later on, in one of his Continental wars, he
ordered his soldiers to make some light boats in imitation of those he
had seen in Britain, in order to carry his army across a river. But,
though Cæsar especially mentions these vessels, he does not say that the
British of his day had no other or larger vessels. Though they made use
of hides and wicker, they must have known something of wooden vessels.
There is no doubt that they or their ancestors had large "dug-outs",
hollowed from huge trunks of trees in the same way as Robinson Crusoe
constructed his famous boat. We know this because many of these have
been discovered buried in the mud of our rivers. One of them, found in
the bed of the Rother in 1822, was 60 feet in length and 5 feet wide.
Others have been found in Lincolnshire, Scotland, and Sussex, though
none of them was nearly as long as the Rother boat. We must remember,
too, that the Phoenicians had traded to Cornwall for tin, probably for
centuries, and the Britons must have been familiar with their
comparatively advanced types of shipbuilding.

But many writers on naval matters are of the opinion that our British
ancestors, whose coracles are described by Cæsar, had, even at that
time, really stout and formidable ships. The reason is this. The Veneti,
a race who inhabited western Brittany, and the country at the mouth of
the Loire, were a kindred race, and when attacked by Cæsar received
assistance from Britain. Now the strength of the Veneti seems to have
been in their ships, which gave the Roman galleys considerable trouble,
and it seems more than likely that the British assistance they received
came in the form of a squadron of similar vessels.

According to Cæsar, the ships of the Veneti "were built and fitted out
in this manner: their bottoms were somewhat flatter than ours, the
better to adapt them to the shallows, and to sustain without danger the
ebbing of the tide. Their prows were very high and erect, as likewise
their sterns, to bear the hugeness of the waves and the violence of the
tempests. The hull of the vessel was entirely of oak, to withstand the
shocks and assaults of that stormy ocean. The benches of the rowers were
made of strong beams about a foot wide, and were fastened with iron
bolts an inch in thickness. Instead of cables they used chains of iron,
and for their sails, utilized skins and a sort of thin, pliable leather,
either because they had no canvas and did not know how to make sailcloth
or, more probably, because they thought that canvas sails were not so
suitable to stand the violence of the tempests, the fury and rage of the
winds, and to propel ships of such bulk and burden". It is evident that
these ships were for that period quite up to date. They were strongly
built and iron-bolted, and had already discarded hempen cables for iron

Above all, they were specially constructed to battle with the heavy
weather of the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea, and to take refuge from
its fury in the rivers and creeks of the western coasts of Europe. The
Roman galleys, relying principally on their oars, and therefore
comparatively long and light, were not so seaworthy in Northern waters,
and the same difference, in construction, between the ships of the
Mediterranean and those of the Northern nations may be traced right down
to comparatively modern ages. One gets very bad weather in the
Mediterranean at times, notwithstanding its traditional blue skies and
sapphire seas, but the big Atlantic rollers are absent.

These ships of the Veneti proved a tough morsel for our old school
acquaintance, but his generalship was equal to the task of overcoming
them in the end. As he says, "in agility and a ready command of oars, we
had the advantage", for the Veneti trusted entirely to their sails.
But, against that, the beaks of the Roman galleys could make no
impression on the stout timber of the enemy's ships, they were at a
special disadvantage in bad weather, and the bulwarks of the Venetan
ships towered so high above their heads, even when they erected their
fighting-towers, that the Roman soldiers could not hurl their darts on
board them, while the Venetan enemy showered their missiles down upon
their heads. For the same reason they found it almost impossible to
grapple with and make fast to the big ships, and so carry them by
boarding. However, "there are more ways than one of killing a cat", and
so the Venetans found to their cost. For the Romans, fastening sharp
hooks or sickles to the end of long poles, pulled alongside, hooked them
over the halyards of their yards and sails, and, rowing away for all
they were worth, contrived to cut them through, when down came the
yards, and the Venetan vessels became unmanageable. To make matters
worse, when a flat calm fell they could not get away to their
hiding-places on the coast, and the Romans obtained a complete
victory--probably by boarding and fighting at close quarters, when their
armour and discipline would tell heavily in their favour. It is
interesting to note, by the way, that, according to Vegetius, a
fifteenth-century writer on naval and military matters, they painted
their scouting-vessels blue, masts, sails, and all, and dressed their
crews in the same colour. He adds that Pompey, after defeating Cæsar,
called himself "The Son of Neptune", and "affected to wear the _blue_ or
_marine_ colour". As for the Veneti, we may, perhaps, regard them as the
original "Bluejackets", Veneti being the plural of the Latin _venetus_,
"bluish", "sea-coloured".

[Illustration: Ancient Roman Tile found at Dover

The letters stamped into this tile, and others like it found elsewhere,
are considered to stand for "Classiarii Britannici", i.e. "British
troops trained for sea-warfare".]

We have now to pass over a gap of several hundred years, during which
time there is little or no information available about the ships
belonging to these islands, the greater part of which, as a matter of
fact, had become a province of the Roman Empire. There seems to have
been a "Classis Britannici", or British squadron, but this was entirely
a Roman organization, and had as much to do with the north of France--or
Gaul--as Britain. The remains of an old ship--just the keel and lower
ribs--which were not long ago unearthed on the right bank of the Thames,
just below Westminster Bridge, are considered likely to have belonged to
a galley of this squadron, and we know that there was a legion of what
we may term British Marines, who formed the fighting portion of the
fleet. Tiles have been found at Dover and other known stations of the
Romano-British Fleet which bear the following inscription: "C.L., B.R.",
which the experts in such matters interpret as standing for "Classiarii
Britannici"--that is to say, "British troops trained for sea-warfare".
We are also told by Vegetius, the old writer I have already quoted, that
the badge of these troops was a "circle", which, by the way, is a
somewhat curious coincidence, since that of the Marines of our own day
is a globe. These were the men who defended the shores of our island
against the growing numbers of pirates from northern Europe, for the
rowers of the Roman galleys were merely the machinery of propulsion, and
were probably much less considered than the steam-engines of a modern
battleship. These troops also manned part of the wall built from the
North Sea to the Solway in the vain attempt to keep out the Picts and
Scots, for traces of them are to be found at Bowness at its western
end. The North Sea pirates, then generally referred to as Saxons, became
such a menace that the East Coast received the name of "The Saxon
Shore", and a "count" or high official was specially appointed to take
charge of its defence.

[Illustration: Shield carried by the Soldiers of the "Legio Classis

(_From a coloured drawing in the Bodleian Library_)

The centre of the shield is quartered red and white: the rim is white,
and the remainder green.]

In A.D. 410 the Romans, attacked by the northern nations in their own
country, finally abandoned Britain. The British, who had been
practically a subject race for nearly 400 years, could make no head
against the fierce Picts and Scots, who at once took advantage of the
withdrawal of the Roman garrison and swarmed into the North of England.
In desperation, the British king, Vortigern, offered to buy the
assistance of two Jutish or Saxon pirates--Hengist and Horsa--who were
doing a little raiding on their own account on the southern coast. They
drove off the northern invaders, in accordance with the bargain that was
struck, but, returning home for more of their Danish and Saxon
fellow-countrymen, came back and gradually got the country into their
own hands. According to another theory, many colonies of Saxons had been
established on the East Coast during the time of the Romans, and it was
the special business of the "Count of the Saxon Shore" to rule over
them. However this may have been, England became a Saxon country, the
remnant of the Britons being driven into Wales and Cornwall.

Now the Scandinavian peoples were at this time the finest sailors in the
world. The Jutes and Angles from Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein belonged
to this race, the whole of which became known as "vikings"--that is to
say, "the sons of the creeks", from the Scandinavian word _vik_, a bay,
creek, or fiord. But though there must have been a strong Viking element
among the Saxon conquerors of England--so much so that it became known
as Angle-land, or England, from the Angles--yet the Saxons or English do
not seem to have taken so enthusiastically to the sea as the Norwegians
and Danes, and, except when special efforts to create fighting fleets
were made by King Alfred and Edmund Ironside, were never able to prevent
the incursions of their Danish and Norse kinsmen, who, in process of
time, firmly established themselves in the country. After the Danes came
the Norman Conquest, and during all this period there was little, if
any, change in the types of the ships in which the northern nations
fared the seas.

What were these vessels like? As it happens, we really know more about
them than we do of any between their time and the days of Henry VIII.
For not only have we very definite details of them and their "gear" in
the long "sagas" or historical and traditional poems which have come
down to us, sculptured pictures of them in stone, engravings on rocks
and upon arms and ornaments, but more than one of the actual Viking
vessels have been dug out of the big burial-mounds where they had been
hidden for centuries. For the Viking chieftain loved his ship: he
lavished ornament and decoration upon it, and regarded it almost as a
living thing. When, therefore, the time came for him to take the long
last voyage, from which no man ever returns, it was quite natural that
he should have wished to make it in the cherished "Dragon Ship" or "Long
Serpent", which had so often borne him over the waves on his way to
those hand-to-hand combats and harryings and plunderings in which his
soul delighted. Sometimes a funeral pyre was erected on the ship
herself, and with his favourite sword by his side, his shield and his
helmet, the dead chieftain set out on his final voyage, his sons and
followers watching the well-known long-ship sailing into the west till
she, her sails, and her dead captain disappeared in clouds of fire and
smoke under the sunset. Or, again, a dying sea-king would elect to be
buried in his favourite ship in some spot overlooking the glassy fiord
whence he had so often set out on his piratical exploits. The ship was
run up on shore over the rollers which all Viking vessels carried to
facilitate beaching, the body was laid amidships with his most treasured
earthly possessions, a penthouse of timber was built over him, his
favourite horses were killed and placed round the hull of the vessel,
and the whole was buried in the depths of a huge mound, which was
erected over it.

[Illustration: Noah's Ark, according to a MS. of A.D. 1000

Observe the fullness and apparent capacity of the hull of the
dragon-ship on which the Ark proper is erected, and compare it with that
of the Nydam ship on the opposite page.]

The most famous "finds" of this kind were at Gokstadt, in south Norway,
in 1881, and at Nydam, in Schleswig, in 1863. In the latter case the
ship does not seem to have been used as a sarcophagus, but with another,
which had almost entirely rotted away, was found in a bog. Possibly if
the huge oval mound now utilized as a cemetery at Inverness, and known
as "Tom-na-hurich" ("The Hill of the Fairies"), were tunnelled into,
another Viking ship might be brought to light. In the case of the Nydam
ship, Roman coins found on board fix her date as being somewhere about
A.D. 250. Both from these ships and fragments of others that have been
found in various places it is abundantly evident that their builders
were as skilled shipwrights as ever existed. Space does not allow us to
go into details of their construction, but we may say at once that their
finish was perfect, and that their lines were not only beautiful but
wonderfully well adapted for contending with the stormy waters of the
northern seas. Neither of them appears to have belonged to the largest
type of Viking ships, which may be roughly divided into "Dragon Ships"
or "Drakkars", "Eseneccas" or "Long Serpents", and "Skutas" or small
swift scouting-vessels. It seems just possible, by the way, that our
modern slang expression "skoot"--"get away quickly", "clear out"--may be
derived from this word. We must try in the next chapter to understand
what these Viking ships were like.

[Illustration: Broadside View of the Nydam Ship now in the Kiel Museum.
Observe the horn-like rowlocks and the steer-board]


    "If we go backward we die: if we go forward we die:
     Better go forward and die."--Viking war-call.

[2] "Nulla vestigia retrorsum."--Motto of 5th Dragoon Guards.


Ancient War-ships

      "Piracy was the exercise, the trade, the glory, and
      the virtue of the Scandinavian youth. Impatient of a
      bleak climate and narrow limits, they started from the
      banquet, grasped their arms, sounded their horn,
      ascended their ships, and explored every coast that
      promised either spoil or settlement."         GIBBON.

    "Outlaw and free thief,
       My kinsfolk have left me,
     And no kinsfolk need I
       Till kinsfolk shall need me.
     My sword is my father,
     My shield is my mother,
     My ship is my sister,
     My horse is my brother."
               CHARLES KINGSLEY.

IF we take the dimensions of the actual Viking boats that have been
unearthed, as I have related in the last chapter, we shall have an
excellent foundation upon which to form an idea of the bigger and more
important ones. Now the Gokstadt boat is nearly 80 feet long and 16 feet
6 inches wide at her greatest beam, and carried mast and sail. The Nydam
ship is 75 feet in length, with a beam of 10 feet 6 inches, and had no
mast. Both are very flat amidships, and have very fine or sharp ends,
but it is evident that in proportion to her length the Gokstadt boat had
a much greater beam.

[Illustration: A Viking Double-prowed "Long Serpent" or "Dragon-ship"

Observe the well-supported outer stem, the Dragon Head, the embroidered
sail decorated with a variation of the "Swastika" design, which was much
used by the Vikings on arms and ornaments; the vane at the masthead, the
"shield-row" protecting the rowers, and the steersman guiding the ship
by means of her "steer-board".]

That was because she was a sailing-ship and the Nydam vessel was not.
The latter may fairly be assumed to have been a "Skuta", and the
Gokstadt ship a rather small "Serpent". Now in all the "sagas" that have
come down to us the different war-ships which occupy so prominent a
place in them are distinguished as to size by the number of oars they
pulled. From the Nydam ship, which had fourteen oars a-side, we are
thus able to judge the dimensions of famous Viking war-ships like the
"Long Serpent" of King Olaf and others, if we allow for the slightly
wider space between the rowers' benches necessitated by the greater
length of the oars in the larger vessels. Of course, the whole length of
the ship was not occupied by the benches. In the Nydam ship, for
instance, they took up 46 feet of her length; the remaining 15 feet at
each end were required for fighting- and steering-platforms, stowage of
stores, &c. In this way it has been calculated that the "Long
Serpent"--you must remember that this was a _special_ "Long Serpent",
and probably bigger than the usual run of the war-vessels so-called--was
180 feet long, while the still bigger ship belonging to our King Canute
works out at no less than 300 feet in length. The beam or width it has
not been found possible to estimate exactly, but my own opinion is that
the lines, or contour, of these very much bigger ships were much deeper
and fuller than in the smaller types.

There is an old manuscript in the Bodleian Library, at Oxford, dating
from about A.D. 1000, in which appear three pictures of Noah's Ark (see
p. 26). The house part of the design is frankly impossible--it would
capsize the ship--but the hull in each case--the boat part--is not at
all unlike the well-known Bayeux-tapestry ships, but of a better and
more seaworthy shape, though in some of them the big dragon figure-head
is unduly exaggerated. The space between the benches was called a
"room", and the port and starboard portions of this were known as
"half-rooms". The crew were all told off to these half-rooms as their
stations, except those quartered forward and aft. Thus the "Long
Serpent" had eight men to each "half-room", and from this item of
information it has been estimated that she carried a crew of something
between six and seven hundred men. Goodness knows how many King Canute's
big "Dreadnought" carried.

Some of these Viking ships were very smartly decorated. Armorial
bearings had not then been invented, but their sails were worked with
the most beautiful emblematic and intricate embroidery, and were not
infrequently made of velvet, though generally of a coarse woollen
material called "vadmal." Some of the most elaborate ones were actually
lined with fur. Not only the ships themselves, but also their sails,
like the swords of their warriors, were given poetical sounding names:
"The Cloth of the Wind", "The Beard of the Yard", and "The Tapestry of
the Mast-head", are some of them. Along their gunwales, above the oars,
which worked through holes in the ship's side, ran the "shield-row",
composed of circular wooden shields or targets, with big shining bosses
of brass or other metal in the middle. Each shield overlapped the next
till it touched its boss, and so gave a double protection to the rowers.
This was a very ancient custom, as shields were carried in this way by
Phoenician ships as far back as 450 B.C. As a general rule, the
Norsemen's shields were black and yellow, the Danes' red, and the
Saxons' white with red or blue edges.

[Illustration: A "Dragon" Figure-head

There was a law that ships must not approach the land with their
figure-heads in position with "gaping heads and yawning snouts."]

It is rather curious that, with the exception of black, these colours
are conspicuous in the flags of the corresponding nations of to-day. But
the King of Norway presented our King Athelstan, in 931, with a ship
fitted with a complete row of _golden_ shields.

A whole chapter might be written about the figure-heads of the Viking
ships, for they were much more than mere ornaments. They each had some
special signification, and were certainly connected with a most
extraordinary superstition which prevailed among the Scandinavian
peoples. It is best explained by an example from the saga of which one
Egil was the hero. Pursued by a king answering to the suggestive name of
Blood-axe, he escaped from Norway and took ship to Iceland. Before he
set sail over the North Sea he determined to take it out of his enemy,
Blood-axe, by a species of what we may call "wireless" witchcraft.
Landing on an islet, he erected what was known as a "Nithstang", a
"contraption" considered very pleasing to the Norse gods. The idea
probably had something in common with the "lifting up" of the brazen
serpent in the _Book of Numbers_. His installation was a very simple
one: a hazel pole with a horse's head stuck on the top. He stuck it up
in a crevice of the rocks, saying that he did so "as a curse" on
Blood-axe and his Queen. Then he turned it round so as to point to the
mainland, and announced that he also "fired off" his curse at the
"Guardian Spirits" of the country, who were to get no rest till they had
hustled King Blood-axe out of it. Finally he inscribed his curse in
Runic characters on the pole, and continued his voyage to Iceland as
pleased with himself as a German hero who had dropped a floating mine in
the track of passenger vessels.

[Illustration: A Dragon-head and a Representation of a "Nithstang". From
a Saxon MS.]

Now it appears that these same guardian spirits were extremely
susceptible to this sort of "wireless", not only in Norway, but
everywhere. And it also seems that--how or in what way I am unable to
explain--the figure-heads of the Viking ships had much the same
properties as the "Nithstangs". So it was that in Iceland, at any rate,
there was a law that ships must remove their figure-heads before
approaching the land, "and not approach it with gaping heads and
yawning snouts", lest they might scare the guardian spirits of the
land.[3] Having carried out this regulation, it was customary for the
seamen to hoist a polished shield to the masthead and so flash the
signal that the guardian spirits need not now be alarmed. That some
connection existed between these "heads" and the "Nithstang" is further
shown by a drawing in an old manuscript of that period, which depicts a
human head set on a pole, which is fastened to a dragon figure-head. And
again, in a wall-painting in the church of Tegelsmora in Upland, in
which the famous King Olaf is seen waging a desperate battle with our
old nursery friends the "Trolls", the bowsprit of his ship is adorned
with the skull of an ox.

But we must leave the ships and come to their crews. To begin with, they
were all "soldiers and sailors too"! They were equally at home on the
battle-field ashore and in handling their cherished "long-ships" afloat.
The Scandinavians believed that the soul of a warrior killed in battle
went at once to Valhalla, which represented their idea of heaven.

There they confidently expected that the brave fighter would spend a
happy eternity of fighting and feasting. It is said that their remote
forefathers had brought this weird form of belief from the depths of
Central Asia--but that must be a very old story. But fighting was the
breath of their life. They revelled in it, though they did not despise
the plunder which was generally the reward of victory. Many of these
fierce warriors were subject to and even cultivated a species of
madness, almost amounting to demoniacal possession, which induced them
to tear off their clothes and hurl themselves almost naked into the
fray, feeling endued with the strength of seven men.

These "Berserkers", as they were called from this custom, were doubtless
most dangerous opponents in their "Berserk" fury. Nowadays it is
generally accepted that the braver the man the more modest he is about
his deeds of valour; the boaster is considered likely to be but a broken
reed in the day of battle. But it was quite otherwise with the Viking
warriors. They gloried in boasting aloud of their prowess, of the deeds
they had done, and of those that they were ready to perform.

The tactics of the Vikings, if they failed to ram their opponents, was
to lash the bows of as many friendly and hostile vessels together as
possible, so as to form a floating battle-field. The fighting-platforms
were not, apparently, raised above the bows, as later on in mediæval
times. They were somewhere about the level of the gunwale, and when
several ships were lashed together, all these platforms provided a
battle-ground upon which the Berserker and his emulators could indulge
in the furious hand-to-hand combats which were their delight. If they
could do this they were probably more than pleased that they had failed
to ram their enemy. I doubt if every ship was built with a ram, but, on
the other hand, it is certain that some ships were specially built for
use as rams, and even strengthened by iron plating. So that we see that
the armour-clad is no new invention.

[Illustration: "Showing his Teeth"

Figure of a Berserker from a set of ancient chessmen found in the island
of Lewis. The Berserkers always bit their "shield-rims" on going into

In the larger "long-ships" a fighting-gangway ran along behind the
shield-row, connecting the fore and after platforms. Beneath the latter,
which was somewhat elevated so that the steersman could look ahead, was
the sleeping-place for the commander of the ship. Other sleeping
accommodation was provided under the foremost platform, while, if at
anchor, those of the crew who were not on watch slept under awnings or
tents, set up on framework which could be erected for the purpose in the
centre of the vessel. The men slept in leather bags, which were equally
useful either ashore or afloat. In short, these ancient war-vessels were
so well and scientifically built, so well arranged and equipped, and so
well manned that we cease to wonder at the long voyages they were able
to perform by taking advantage of the summer months.


The Dragon or other figure-head has been unshipped, possibly because the
galley is going into port.]

There is not the slightest doubt that the Vikings discovered the
continent of America long before Columbus did. They went by way of
Iceland, and so were able to touch land more than once on their journey,
but they got there all the same. They established a colony in Greenland
about A.D. 985. From there they made several expeditions to the
southward, and discovered a densely wooded country which is supposed to
have been some portion of Nova Scotia. The climate of Greenland must
have been very different from what it is at present, for the Viking
colony lasted for 400 years, till, in the fifteenth century, an enormous
mass of ice was swept down by the Arctic current, piled itself up along
the coast, and entirely cut off the settlement--which at that time
consisted of thirty villages with their churches and monasteries--from
the rest of the world, so that before long every trace of it

It seems possible that some of you may say: "This is all very
interesting, but I thought we were going to read about the British Navy,
and it seems to me that the Saxons and their ships represented the
British navy of those days". That is a fair argument, but for my part I
do _not_ think that we can accept the Saxon Navy as the ancestor of the
British Navy of to-day.

The Saxons were no seamen, and apparently but poor soldiers. When King
Alfred built a navy of ships, which are stated to have been superior in
every way to those of the Frisians, Scandinavians, and Danes, and by
means of which he succeeded in securing more than one victory, he could
not provide them with seamen. The Saxons were no good, and he had to
hire Frisian pirates to man them. The Saxons fought well at Hastings,
but, though there was a strong infusion of the Danish element by this
time, they lost the battle through lack of discipline and military
experience. It is difficult, therefore, to recognize in these Saxons the
progenitors of men like Lieutenant Holbrook, who navigated his submarine
through and under rows and rows of deadly mines, knowing that the least
touch would bring annihilation, or of Private Pym of the Berkshires,
who, _alone_ and "on his own", rushed into a house held by a detachment
of German soldiers and succeeded in killing the whole of them but three,
who "made their escape".

No. For the ancestors of the British seamen and sailors of Elizabethan
and modern times I think we should rather look to the Danes, who, it
must be remembered, between 870 and the Norman Conquest, were not only
continually invading England, but established themselves in a great part
of it, especially in the east and north, and to those of the Conqueror's
followers who traced their descent directly from the Northmen or
Vikings. It is their spirit which has brought us victory both by land
and by sea, but more especially by sea, and not the spirit of Alfred's
Saxon subjects, who had to pay others to fight for them. Again, take
such pre-eminent commanders as Drake and Nelson. Is not the former name
one which takes us directly back to the "Draakers", the "Dragon-ships"
of the Vikings, and has not Nelson a distinctly Danish sound about it?

The ships of King Alfred "were full-nigh twice as long as the others;
some had sixty oars, and some had more; they were both swifter and
steadier, and also higher, than the others. They were shapen neither
like the Frisian nor the Danish; but so it seemed to him that they would
be most efficient."


[3] I am indebted to the Rev. S. Baring-Gould for the following very
interesting note, which indicates that there was some affinity between
the ancient Grecian and the Viking ideas with regard to figure-heads:
"The Greeks never allowed an image of an entering ship to arrive
un-removed, and then it was conveyed to the shore to salute the Goddess
of the port. The altar 'to the Unknown God' St. Paul saw _was actually
to any unknown Deity of an approaching vessel_."


Fighting-ships of the Middle Ages

    "With grisly sound off go the great guns
     And heartily they crash in all at once,
     And from the top down come the great stones;
     In goes the grapnel so full of crooks,
     Among the ropes run the shearing hooks;
     And with the pole-axe presses one the other;
     Behind the mast begins one to take cover
     And out again, and overboard he driveth
     His foe, whose side his spear-head riveth.
     He rends the sail with hooks just like a scythe;
     He brings the cup, and bids his mate be blithe;
     He showers hard peas to make the hatches slippery.
     With pots full of lime they rush together;
     And thus the live-long day in fight they spend."
               Description of a mediæval sea fight, _Legend of Good Women_
                   (modernized), fifteenth century.

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, like Cortez, the discoverer of Mexico at a later
date, dispelled any thoughts of retreat that might have been lurking in
the minds of his followers by destroying the ships which had brought
them over. He had come to stay. Now the Normans, though of the same
blood as the seafaring Vikings, who had sailed and fought their
Dragon-ships to the very ends of the known earth, had been so long
settled in France that they had adopted not only the French language,
but French ideas, which were not, generally speaking, of a nautical

Among these was the system of feudalism and knight-service. The very
word for knight--_chevalier_ in French--signified a horseman; and the
Norman and other feudal knights of the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth,
and fourteenth centuries looked at war and politics from the point of
view of a cavalier armed cap-à-pie seated in his war-saddle. As for
ships and sailors, they were merely unpleasant means to necessary
ends.[4] But if one wanted to go to fight and plunder and raid across
Channel he had to submit himself and his followers to the cramped
accommodation of a vessel of some kind, and to the care of the rough
shipmaster and his crew--low but necessary persons, in the eyes of the
mediæval knight, just as were the experienced "tarpawlins" in the
estimate of the scented "gentleman-captains" in the days of the
Restoration. So it came about that for some centuries England had no
Royal Navy.

The king and his principal nobles had at times a few galleys or
sailing-vessels of their own--almost, if not entirely, their personal
property--and these they made use of for purposes of transportation or
fighting when required; but during this period the maritime defence of
the realm was carried out--on the whole inefficiently--on the hire
system. The money for this purpose was forthcoming, since William
revived a tax for defence purposes, called the "Heregeld", which had
been not long before abolished by Edward the Confessor, on the pretext
that by it "the people were manifoldly distressed". Had he not listened
to the "little navyites" of his day, perhaps the Norman Invasion would
not have succeeded. In addition to this, William placed the five
principal ports commanding the narrowest part of the Channel on a
special footing, under which, in return for certain privileges, they
were to supply him or his successors with a fleet of fifty-two ships in
cases of emergency. They could only be retained for fifteen days,
however. These ports--Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich--were
then, and for ever afterwards known as the "Cinque Ports", though Dover
is the only one which can still be regarded as a port at all. Rye,
Winchelsea, and Pevensey also became "Cinque Ports" later on.

William's idea with regard to the Cinque Ports was probably not so much
the general defence of the kingdom as the defence of his communications
with Normandy. With their assistance he could be sure of always being
able to move troops either way across Channel as his exigencies
required. Thus, when in 1083 William, who was then in Normandy, heard
rumours of the intention of the Kings of Denmark and Norway and the
Count of Flanders to invade England with a great fleet, he hurried
over-Channel with so great an army that "men wondered how this land
could feed all that force". Without the assistance of the Cinque Ports
he might have had some difficulty in doing this.

Although we really know a great deal about the ships of the Saxon and
Danish periods of our history, we know comparatively little about those
which were built between the Conquest and the accession of Henry VII.
For, while we have had specimens of the actual Viking ships to work
upon, we have for this long period, of over 400 years, little
information beyond that afforded by the seals of maritime towns, the
ships depicted by monkish chroniclers and romancists in their
illuminated manuscripts, and in a few cases old stained-glass windows
and decorative carvings.

Now, to begin with, it is obvious that in each of these cases the artist
was cramped for space. He had to decide between the calls of accuracy
and of decorative effect, and almost invariably he gave way to the

In seals, especially, he was tempted to make the curves of the ship's
hull run parallel to the circumference of the seal. In that which
belonged to the master of the _Sainte Catherine de Cayeux_, which fought
at Sluys in 1340, the exterior curve of the hull of the ship represented
upon it is really concentric with the seal itself. In almost every other
case--up to the fifteenth century at any rate--the hulls of the ships
shown on seals of this description approximate to this shape, and,
generally speaking, are of crescent form, with fighting-stages or
"castles" at the bow and stern. There are a few exceptions, which are
more likely to be correct, as their designers evidently made up their
minds not to be led away from the truth.

In the rather fascinating pictures that appear in mediæval manuscripts,
too, the monkish artists had to work in a small space, in which they
wanted to put a great deal of ornamental and other detail. They probably
knew little or nothing about nautical affairs into the bargain. In the
result their ships present the same crescent-shaped hulls as those in
the seals of the period, and give the impression of being very small
affairs indeed, thanks to the large-sized nobles and men-at-arms with
which they are densely packed.

[Illustration: Seal of Demizel, master of the barque _Sainte Catherine
de Cayeux_, 1340

(From _Histoire de la Marine Française_, by kind permission of the
author, Monsieur C. de la Ronière.)

An example of the impossible ship. Note how the engraver has made the
keel exactly parallel to the circumference of the seal. It makes a
handsome and effective seal, but can hardly be accepted as a picture of
a ship of 1340.]

The reason of this quaint method of representing ships and their crews
or passengers is not far to seek. Who has not seen a child's first
attempts to draw the human face in profile? He outlines the forehead,
the nose, and chin, and puts in the back of the head easily and to his
own satisfaction. Then he pauses and deliberates. The eyes are what he
is puzzling over. He knows that, though everybody has one nose, one
forehead, and one chin, he has _two_ eyes. What about them? He may think
that one eye looks most suitable, but still he doesn't like to leave the
other one out. So, as often as not, he puts in a couple, one about the
right place and the other somewhere towards the back of the head.

[Illustration: Wreck of the White Ship, 1120

Another example of the impossible-ship picture. There were said to be
300 souls on board! Observe the rudder, which proves the date of the
original drawing to be much later than 1120--probably 100 or 150 years.]

The tonsured artist argued very much on the same lines. If he painted a
ship it was not a picture of a special ship. What he wanted to portray
was the saint or hero of his manuscript--very often Alexander the
Great--on a voyage or crossing a river. If he drew him on the same scale
as his vessel he would be a mere dot or blob of paint. He wanted to show
his face, his armour, robes, crown, halo, or what-not. So, though he
could not help knowing that it was inaccurate, he drew him--and,
generally speaking, his companions--on a scale about 500 per cent larger
than that of the ship in which he was depicted as performing a most
cramped and uncomfortable voyage.

We must not therefore accept these brilliantly coloured works of art as
corroborative of the accuracy of the figures of ships appearing on the
seals of Dover, Yarmouth, Poole, and other English and foreign ports,
and in the fifteenth century of various noblemen who held the
appointment of Admiral of England or France. But there are,
nevertheless, a great many useful details to be learned from these
sources of information. From seals we can trace the gradual evolution of
the poop and forecastle from the early platforms or fighting-stages, the
supersession of the steering-oar or "steer-board" by the rudder, the
beginning of cabins, the progress of fighting-tops and action aloft. We
see, too, the mode of wearing banners, streamers, and flags, and gain
some idea of the gradual growth of sail-power, which culminated, we may
say, in the sailing battleship of Trafalgar days.

If we consider the question of mediæval shipbuilding as a whole, we
shall find it difficult to believe that the scientific methods of
construction which distinguished the Viking ships, and the improvements
on them which were made by Alfred the Great, had all been forgotten and
thrown on one side, and that these fine specimens of the shipbuilder's
art had been replaced by anything like the ridiculous little "cocked
hats" that are supposed to represent the shipping of the British and
other Northern nations between 1066 and 1450.

The sea-going ships of these peoples, intended especially for sailing,
would naturally be considerably shorter and broader in the beam than the
Viking class of ship, which relied principally on oars for propulsion,
and was rather too long and narrow to sail well under ordinary
conditions of weather. Moreover, though they carried a single sail, they
were not intended to contend with heavy winter weather.

We have a description of the _Mont-Joie_, in which Louis IX of France
sailed on his last crusade. She was built at Genoa, which then and for
long after shared with Venice the distinction of being the birthplace of
the largest and finest ships in the world. She is worth describing, for
she was one of the precursors of the big Spanish and Genoese carracks
that our fleets encountered off the coasts of France and Flanders from
time to time during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and which
stimulated us to buy or build big ships of our own.

The _Mont-Joie_ was 80 feet long on the keel, but over all, measuring
from the extremity of the forecastle to the highest point of the stern,
she had a length of 120 feet. She is said to have been 26 feet deep
amidships. Twelve feet above the keel was a deck running from right
forward to right aft. Below this was the hold, where lay the ballast,
and in which were stowed water, provisions, and various war materials.
Six feet above the lower deck was another similar deck, which we may
call the upper deck, while above this again a gallery or gangway, six or
seven feet wide, ran along each side of the ship, between the fore and
after castles. The ship's side rose 3-1/2 feet above these fore and aft
bridges and was pierced with loopholes for archery. In action the
bulwarks would be heightened and further protected by shields or
_pavises_.[5] Below the upper deck, aft, was situated the "paradis"
(chambre de parade), or state cabin, which in this case was, of course,
occupied by St. Louis himself.

There was other accommodation provided forward for the rest of the
_Mont-Joie's_ passengers, with the exception of the Queen, who occupied
another "paradis" on the upper deck, immediately over the King's. These
cabins were lighted by ports or scuttles cut in the sides of the ship.
Forward there was further shelter provided under the forecastle, and
both it and the after part of the ship were surmounted by a
_bellatorium_, or fighting-platform, with bulwarks 4 feet in height. The
ship was equipped with two tall masts raking forward and carrying large
lateen sails. At the summit of each was a _gabie_ or fighting-top.
Altogether it will be seen at once that here was a real sea-going ship,
very different from the open boats, manned by giants, of the seals and
manuscripts illustrations.

It is not always easy to convey the impression of size by mere figures,
but if we bear in mind that the famous old _Victory_, now lying in
Portsmouth Harbour, and which many of us have seen at least once, is
only about twice the length of those thirteenth-century ships, we shall
be able to form some idea of their not unimportant dimensions.

Many of the mediæval ships were most gorgeously painted and decorated.
When the French king Charles VI fitted out a great naval armament at
Sluys, in 1386, for the invasion of England--which did not come off, by
the way--Froissart tells us that "gold and silver were no more spared
than though it had rained out of the clouds or been scooped out of the
sea". One young noble covered his mast with gold-leaf. "They made
banners, pennons, and standards of silk, so goodly that it was marvel to
behold them; also they painted the masts of their ships from the one end
to the other, glittering with gold and devices and arms: and specially
it was shewed me", says old Froissart, "that the Lord Guy de la
Tremouille garnished his ship richly; the paintings that were made cost
more than ten thousand francs. Whatsoever any lord could devise for
their pleasure was made on the ships: and the poor people of the realm
paid for all; for the taxes were so great, to furnish this voyage, that
they which were most rich sorrowed for it, and the poor fled for it."

Our own Henry V had rather "loud" tastes in his ship decoration. In the
year 1400 he had a ship painted red, decorated with collars and garters
of gold surrounding fleur-de-lis and leopards, as well as gilded leashes
looped round white greyhounds with golden collars. All these were
selections from the royal badges. Her mast was red also. The _Good Pace
of the Tower_[6] was red too, but her upper works and stern were of a
different colour, and she carried a gilded eagle with a crown in its
mouth on her bowsprit.

The _Trinity of the Tower_ was another red ship, elaborately adorned
with coats of arms, while the _Nicholas of the Tower_ was black,
"powdered" with "Prince of Wales's Feathers", with quills and scrolls in
gold. The King's own particular ship, the "cog" _John_, carried the
royal crest, "the Lion standing on the Crown", at her masthead, besides
other decorations. The Genoese in 1242 painted their war-ships white,
spotted all over with red crosses, so Henry perhaps only followed the
fashion after all; but, generally speaking, red was the favourite
colour, though black at times ran it pretty close in favour as
groundwork for various patterns of ornamentation.

But the continually growing decoration in the way of flags, standards,
pennons, and streamers must by no means be overlooked. They were,
perhaps, the most striking characteristic of the mediæval war-ship.

The standard or pennon of the owner or commander of the ship--and it
must be remembered that he was in those days not a seaman, but always a
soldier--was planted at the foremost corner of the poop or after-castle,
on the starboard side. A ship called after a saint would have, in
addition, the banner of that saint, and in the case of the Cinque Ports
we may be sure that their arms, "three lions with half a galley in place
of tail and hind legs", were displayed on some portion of the vessel. In
royal ships there were other banners with the various royal badges, and
there were hosts of streamers, pendants, and guidons as well. When fully
"dressed", with all her flags flying, the mediæval war-ship must have
made a brave display. Galleys, in addition, had a small staff with a
pendant attached to the loom of every oar on such occasions.

[Illustration: Fifteenth-century Ship

(_From a painting by Carpaccio_)

Observe the capacious hull, the heavy mast, the way the sail is made
fast in the middle as well as by the sheets at the corners, the crane
for hoisting missiles to the top, and the darts ranged round it; also
the way the main-yard is spliced in the middle.]

Nor must we overlook the ornamental nature of the sails in the times of
which we are writing. It was no uncommon thing for the whole of the big
square mainsail of a "cog" to be decorated with the arms of her owner.
This is clearly shown in the well-known manuscript _Life of the Earl of
Warwick_, by John Rous. Generally sails, often themselves of the
richest colouring and material, were adorned with badges or devices, but
sometimes merely with stripes of different colours. Colour ran riot in
the war-vessels of our mediæval ancestors--how different from the sombre
grey war-paint of our modern Leviathans!

[Illustration: Ship of the latter half of the Fifteenth Century (_From
an illuminated MS. of 1480_)

Note the diminutive figure-head, the two shields amidships--probably
placed there for decorative purposes, as the ship appears to be
"dressed" with many pennons and streamers. The smallness of the tops is
unusual, also the square port-hole and the double-gabled cabin.]

The end of the fifteenth century saw the development of the carrack into
the caravel, such a ship as the _Sancta Maria_, in which Columbus sailed
to the West Indies in 1492. As her original plans were found in the
dockyard at Cadiz, and a replica of the famous original was built from
them by Spanish workmen in the arsenal of Carracas in 1892 for the
Chicago Exhibition, which took place in the following year, we know
exactly what she was like. She was just over 60 feet long on her keel,
and had a length over all of 93 feet, with a beam of nearly 6 feet. She
had a displacement of 233 tons when fully laden and equipped. She had
three masts, but only the mainmast had a top-sail. The mizzen carried a
lateen sail. She was considerably smaller than many ships of her day,
but in general appearance and rig she approximated to the smaller ships
of the Elizabethan epoch, and she and her class may well be considered
as forming a connecting-link between the old single-masted "round ships"
and the square-rigged, many-gunned line-of-battleship, which from the
time of Henry VIII to Queen Victoria formed the mainstay of our battle
fleets. There were, of course, many developments and improvements during
this long period, but the type persisted throughout, just as did that of
the modified Viking ship in mediæval ages.

So much for the ships of the Middle Ages. But before we go on to take
stock of their crews it will be as well to attempt some description of
the way they were fought. Nowadays the ship armed with the heaviest and
longest-ranged guns--if her gunners know their work--seems to be able to
"knock out" a slightly less powerfully gunned opponent before she can
get in any effective reply. The present war has given us many
illustrations of this fact. The _Scharnhorst_--a crack gunnery
ship--with her heavier broadside, was able to sink the _Good Hope_ with
little or no damage to herself, and in her turn she was simply
demolished by the heavy guns of the _Inflexible_ and the _Invincible_
off the Falkland Islands.

But in the Middle Ages there was nothing like this. All decisive
fighting was practically hand to hand and man to man, except for the use
of the ram by galleys and the exchange of arrows and stones at
comparatively close quarters. But victory was only achieved, as a
general rule, when the enemy's ship was boarded and her crew defeated
in a bloody tussle, at the end of which no one but the victors remained
alive, unless, perhaps, some knight or noble who was worth preserving
for the value of his ransom. The military portion of the crew, the
archers, men-at-arms, and their knightly leaders, carried the usual arms
of their day. The seamen, who were in the minority, probably used
knives, short swords, and spears, and made themselves very useful in
hurling big stones, heavy javelins called "viretons", unslaked lime, and
other disagreeable missiles from the "top-castles" at the head of the
mast or masts.

We have already mentioned the fore and after fighting-stages, or, as
they later on became, poops and forecastles, that were erected when a
ship was going on the war-path. We may note, in passing, that in the
earlier part of the period we are dealing with, these were so often and
so generally required that "castle-building" afloat became a recognized
trade, until, in the process of evolution, poops and forecastles became
integral parts of the ship.

We may add that, in addition to the fore and after fighting-platforms,
special fighting-towers were not infrequently erected, certainly in the
Mediterranean, and we may therefore assume that they were not altogether
unknown in Northern waters. These towers were generally built up round
the mast, and provided with loopholes and battlements, and sometimes
protected by iron plates or raw hides.

One account of mediæval war-galleys states that in some cases "a castle
was erected of the width of the ship and some twenty feet in length; its
platform being elevated sufficiently to allow of free passage under it
and over the benches". King John introduced the famous Genoese
cross-bowmen--who so signally failed to distinguish themselves at
Crécy--into his navy. The reason most probably was that a cross-bow
could be fired through a loophole by a man crouching under cover of the
bulwarks or shield-row, whereas a long-bow could not be used in this
way. Nevertheless the cross-bow did not succeed in ousting the long-bow
in the British Navy, since, in 1456, in the course of a public
disputation between the heralds of England and France as to the claim of
the former country to the domination of the sea, the French herald
claimed for his countrymen that they were more formidable afloat because
they used the cross-bow. "Our arbalistiers", he asserted, "fire under
cover or from the shelter of the fore and after castles; through little
loopholes they strike their opponents without danger of being wounded
themselves. Your English archers, on the other hand, cannot let fly
their arrows except above-board and standing clear of cover; fear and
the motion of the ship is likely to distract their aim." But there does
not seem to have been much "fear" among the English archers, and as
those that were in the habit of serving afloat doubtless had their
"sea-legs", it must have taken a good deal to disconcert their aim,
world-renowned for its deadliness.

Still, as we shall see in a later chapter, the cross-bow was a most
formidable weapon afloat, and the French herald's argument was a sound
one. In the place of artillery the ships of the earlier Middle Ages were
provided with mangonels, trebuchets, espringalds and other mechanical
instruments for hurling heavy projectiles, which, according to some
authorities, were made or imported as the result of the experiences of
Richard I and his crusading companions in the Mediterranean. Personally,
I should say that they had been known long before that time. A
contemporary chronicle of the siege of Paris by the Northmen in 885-7
mentions that, to cover the Danish stormers, "thousands of leaden balls,
scattered like a thick hail in the air, fall upon the city, and powerful
_catapults_ thunder upon the forts which defend the bridge". The
knowledge of the heavy war-machines of the Ancients had never died out.
The catapult was the old Roman onager, and consisted of a long arm or
beam, of which one end was thrust through the middle of a
tightly-twisted bundle of hair-ropes, fibres, or sinews stretched across
a solid frame. At the other end was either a sling or a spoon-shaped
receptacle for the projectile. This end was drawn back by means of
levers and winches against the twist of the bundle of sinews and held by
a catch. On the catch being released, by pulling on a lanyard attached
to a trigger, the long end of the beam was forced violently forward till
it struck against a strongly-supported transverse baulk of timber
arranged for the purpose. When this occurred the huge stone or other
projectile flew on through the air and struck its target with tremendous

The trebuchet and the mangonel were very like the Roman ballista, and
acted much in the same way as the catapult, except that the motive force
was the fall of a heavy counterweight instead of tension. The springald,
or espringald, was a large-sized steel cross-bow, mounted on a pivot,
hurling heavy iron darts, with great force, which had considerable
penetration. In the battle of Zierksee (1304) one of these heavy
"garots", as they were called, struck the _Orgueileuse_ of Bruges with
such violence that it not only pierced the bulwarks of the forecastle,
but took off the arm of one of the trumpeters who were sounding their
silver trumpets, transfixed another, and finally embedded itself in the
after castle.

One of the most formidable missiles hurled by the mangonels and such
machines was the famous Greek fire, knowledge of which had been brought
to Europe from the Crusades. Sometimes it was projected through
"siphons" or tubes, of which no exact knowledge has come down to us. But
it seems to have ignited the moment it came in contact with the air, and
was spouted forth with the violence of water from a fire-hose. It
destroyed everything that came in its way, and was inextinguishable by
water. It could only be smothered by plenty of earth or sand, a material
not generally available at sea. The mangonels threw it in barrels.

"This was the fashion of the Greek Fire," says De Joinville, the
historian of Louis IX's first Crusade. "It came on as broad in front as
a vinegar cask, and the tail of fire that trailed behind it was as big
as a great spear; and it made such a noise as it came, that it sounded
like the thunder of Heaven. It looked like a dragon in the air. Such a
bright light did it cast, that one could see all over the camp as though
it was day, by reason of the great mass of fire and the brilliance of
the light that it shed. Thrice that night they hurled the Greek Fire at
us, and four times shot it from the tourniquet[7] cross-bow. Every time
that our holy King (St. Louis) heard that they were throwing Greek Fire
at us, he draped his sheet round him, and stretched out his hands to our
Lord, and said, weeping: 'Oh! fair Lord God, protect my people!'" Such
was the terror inspired by this fearful mixture, whose chief ingredient
is supposed to have been naphtha. It does not, however, appear to have
been used to any considerable extent in Western Europe.

In the latter half of the period we are dealing with, cannon--big,
little, and middle-sized--quite superseded the mangonel and other
mechanical projectile-throwers. Few large guns were carried, and those
mostly fixed rigidly on timber beds and fired over the ship's
side--hence the term "gunwale", which we still use in boats, a "wale"
meaning a band of timber. Small breech-loading guns were mounted in
considerable numbers in the fore and after castles, some of these,
generally known as "murderers", being mounted inboard in such a way as
to fire at close quarters on any boarding-parties of the enemy who might
succeed in gaining possession of the waist of the ship. Others were
mounted aloft in the tops, just as they were in our own days until the
tops were required for fire-control platforms. But I propose to give the
quaint ancestors of our modern monster cannon and rapid-fire guns a
chapter to themselves later on.


[4] "No doubt the noblemen of France prefer land to sea warfare, so hard
and so little in accord with nobility ", stated a French Herald in 1456.

[5] Pavises, plural of Pavois. The "Pavois", or "Pavise" as it was
generally termed in English, was a big round-topped shield like a
tombstone. It was set up with a prop on shore or fastened to a ship's
bulwarks, either on going into action or as a decoration. This is why to
this day a French man-of-war when "dressed" with all her colours at a
review, for instance, is said to be "_en grand pavois_".

[6] "Of the Tower": this signifies that she was a royal ship, like
"H.M.S." of to-day.

[7] A strong bow that needed a tourniquet or winch to draw it back.


Mariners of Other Days

    "A shipman was ther ...
     All in a gown of faulding[8] to the knee,
     A dagger hanging by a lace had he
     About his neck under his arm adown;
     The hot summer had made his hue all brown:
     And certainly he was a good fellow;
     Full many a draught of wine had he drawn
     From Bordeaux-ward, while that the chapmen[9] sleep;
     Of nice conscience took he no keep.
     If that he fought and had the higher hand,
     By water he sent them home to every land.[10]

      .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

     He knew well all the havens as they were
     From Gothland to the Cape of Finisterre,
     And every creek in Bretagne and in Spain:
     His barge ycleped[11] was the _Magdelaine_."
                              CHAUCER, _Canterbury Tales_.

WE have yet to give some descriptions of one or two actual battles, but
I think we will commence by trying to picture the seamen themselves.

What were these old "matlows"[12] like, and how were they raised? The
second question is easily answered. As Lord Haldane has stated,
compulsory service was never foreign to the English laws and
constitution. But we may observe that it has never been carried out in
the fair and impartial manner which is now universal on the Continent of
Europe, where "duke's son, cook's son", and everybody else has to serve
his country alike. No; ours has always been a kind of bullying system or
want of system.

In the old days of the Cinque Ports, if more ships were required than
they had to provide, their ships were just sent out to "commandeer" any
suitable craft they could lay hands on. So with men. Certain places and
counties had to provide a regulated quota of soldiers or sailors, or
both. If they were voluntarily forthcoming, well and good; if not, the
magistrates, the port-reeves, or bayliffs had authority to take as many
as they required to make up the number by force, and made no bones about
doing so. So while Jones got off free, Brown and Robinson were pressed.
But it was all a matter of luck--at any rate ostensibly. That was the
hardship of it, not only then, but in the later "press-gang days".

But, once caught, the mediæval seaman had little to complain of in the
way of pay. That, no doubt, made up for a good deal of severe
discomfort. A mariner or seaman in 1277 got 3_d._ a day--a penny more
than an ordinary soldier[13]--and in 1370 it was raised to 4_d._ Now, if
we bear in mind that it has been estimated that money at that time was
worth something like fourteen times what it is to-day, we must admit
that the seaman did not do so badly. The master of the ship at this time
was called the "rector", and received 6_d._ a day, while his second in
command got the same amount. There were no admirals then, but the senior
sea officer of the fleet was termed "captain" and paid 12_d._ per diem.
The knight who was in actual military command of a warship would draw
2_s._ a day if he was paid the same rate afloat as ashore.

Whether there was a regular scale of provisioning before John Redynge
was appointed "Clerk of the Spicery" in 1496, to look after the
victualling of both army and navy, I am unable to say, but it appears
that the usual "sea-stock" laid in for a voyage in mediæval times
consisted of bacon, salt meat, "Poor John" or salted herrings, flour,
eggs, and poultry.

We have little information as to the personality, manners, and customs
of the seamen of mediæval ages. In the earlier period they were pretty
certainly more of the long-shore or fisherman class than deep-sea
sailors. When not engaged in legitimate trading or warfare they
generally took a hand at rank piracy. There was a saying about them that
the British sailors were "good seamen, but better pirates"! Even the
Cinque Ports, which provided the nearest approach to a national navy,
achieved a most scandalous notoriety in this respect. But at the same
time there is no doubt that the Normans, Basques, Flemings, French, and
other seafarers were just as bad, though perhaps not quite so expert. It
was the fashion afloat in those days.

We may gather some small idea of what seamen and sea-going were like in
the Middle Ages from the pen of one Brother Felix Fabri, a Dominican of
Ulm, who went from Venice to Jerusalem somewhere about 1480. Space
forbids as long an extract as could be wished, for his experiences are
both interesting and amusing. The seamen with whom he came in contact
were not Englishmen, but "sea ways" are generally much the same all over
the world. He and his fellow pilgrims chose their berths before
starting, and had their names chalked over them. He gives many warnings,
which those of us who have been to sea can well appreciate. To the
would-be traveller he says: "Let him not sit on any ropes, lest the wind
change of a sudden and he be thrown overboard". And "Let him beware of
getting in the way of the crew, for however noble he may be, nay, were
he a bishop, they will push against him and trample on him". "He should
also be cautious where he sits down, lest he stick to his seat, for
every place is covered with pitch, which becomes soft in the heat of the
sun". Inadvertently to "steal the commander's paint" is a mishap which
may easily overtake the unwary on board His Majesty's ships in these
latter days.

The chronicler explains that the captain's authority is absolute; though
ignorant of navigation, he commands what course the ship will take. He
has under him a master-at-arms, a "caliph" or "ship's husband", and a
"cometa" or "mate", who sets the crew in motion--like the commander
in a modern man-of-war. "The mate's subordinates", says Brother Felix,
"fear him as they would fear the devil." The crew--bar the wretched
slaves who worked the oars, and of whose tortures "he shuddered to
think"--consisted of "compani", nine in number, who were employed on all
dangerous work aloft, and others termed "mariners", who, according to
him, "sing while work is being carried on to those who do it". This
sounds like a "soft job", but the "mariners" probably may be classed
with the so-called "idlers" in our war-ships, who are anything but idle.
There was a "scribe", with the duties of the purser on a mail steamer of
our day, who "arranges disputes about berths, makes men pay their
passage-money, and has many duties. He is, as a rule, hated by all
alike." We must not omit mention of the pilot, or navigating officer,
with whom were associated "certain cunning men, astrologers and
soothsayers, who watch the signs of the stars and the sky". They have a
chart, "an ell long and an ell broad, whereon the whole sea is drawn
with thousands of lines". One of them was always on duty, watching the
compass and chanting "a kind of sweet song, which shows that all is
going well, and in the same tone he chants to him that holdeth the
tiller of the rudder, to which quarter it ought to be moved".

The mention of "astrologers and soothsayers" reminds us that sailors
have always had the reputation of being exceptionally superstitious. I
doubt if this is still true--at any rate as regards the Royal Navy. Take
the proverbial bad luck of sailing on a Friday. My own sea experience,
which goes back for a good many years, is that Friday was a very
favourite day for going to sea. We often left harbour on Fridays. I
think it was because on Saturday we got a good clear day for cleaning up
the ship, then came Sunday--a quiet day--so that everything and
everybody was nicely settled down by Monday morning, and we could start
fair on the weekly routine.

But from what we know of life in the Middle Ages it would have been
indeed strange if seamen had _not_ been superstitious. The wonders and
dangers of the deep were very real and close in those days of cogs and
galleys--veritably mere specks on the ocean. It is to be feared that
seamen of later ages had not the same dread of going to sea in debt as
De Joinville the Crusader,[14] or the expression "to pay with the
fore-topsail" would never have arisen. Like Chaucer's seaman, some of
them "of nice conscience took ... no keep", and were very glad to escape
their creditors by hoisting sail and putting to sea.

"Sailors have ever been superstitious," says a French writer on the
Middle Ages;[15] "their credulous brains are the parents of all the
fantastic beings and animals that they persuade themselves that they
have seen in their wanderings, and with which they have peopled the
mysterious depths of the ocean. The syrens of antiquity, the monsters of
Scylla and Charybdis, have been far surpassed by modern legendary
creations, such as the 'Kraken', a gigantic mass of pulp which attacked
and dragged down the largest ships; the 'Bishop Fish', which, mitre on
head, blessed and then devoured shipwrecked mariners; the 'Black Hand',
which, even in the days of Columbus, was despicted as marking the
entrance to the 'Sunless Ocean'; and the numerous troops of hideous
demons, one of whom, in the sight of the whole French Fleet of
Crusaders, on their way to attack the Island of Mitylene, in the reign
of Louis XII, clutched and swallowed up a profligate sailor who had
'blasphemed and defied the Holy Virgin'."

Strange to say, the St. Elmo's light, or "corposant", was regarded as a
heaven-sent vision prognosticating favour and protection. Knowing
nothing of electricity, and being unaware that the gradual collection of
the electric fluid into the weird luminous balls of light which, during
thunderstorms, sometimes collect at mast-head or yard-arm, is supposed
to render the ship less likely to be struck by lightning, one cannot
help thinking it remarkable that this phenomenon, which certainly has
quite a supernatural appearance, did not inspire more terror than
confidence in the seamen of the Middle Ages. I remember two "corposants"
appearing at the fore-top-mast head and at the yard-arm on board the old
_Nelson_ in a storm of thunder and wind, off the Australian coast. They
remained--occasionally shifting their position a little--for some
considerable time.

It was doubtless something of this kind which William, Earl of
Salisbury, saw one night, in a hard gale of wind, on his way back from
the Holy Land in 1222. The storm was so fierce that he gave up hope of
life, and threw his money and richest apparel overboard. Suddenly, when
the tempest was at its height, all hands saw "a mighty taper of wax
burning brightly at the prow". They also thought they saw the figure of
a celestial being standing beside it, screening it from the wind. The
ship's company were at once reassured of ultimate safety, but the Earl
was the most confident of all, because he felt certain that he was being
repaid for his piety at the time of his initiation into the honour of
knighthood, on which occasion he had brought a taper to the altar, and
arranged for it to be lighted every day in honour of the Holy Virgin.


[8] A coarse woollen stuff.

[9] Innkeepers.

[10] Threw the enemy's survivors overboard and drowned them.

[11] Called.

[12] At one time the "British Blue" was rather fond of calling himself a
"matlow" or "matlo", though it is said the custom is falling into
disuse. It has been stated that it dates from the old comradeship of
French and English in the Crimean War. The French word _matelot_, by the
way, is derived from _matelas_, a mattress. Before hammocks, two men
used a mattress in turn, one being always on watch.

[13] I say "ordinary" advisedly, as an archer got 3_d._ a day in 1346
and probably earlier.

[14] "Hereby would I shew you how foolhardy is he who adventures himself
in such peril, if he be in debt to any man, or is in deadly sin; for one
goes to sleep at night never knowing whether one will awake at the
bottom of the sea."

[15] Paul Lacroix.


Some Mediæval Sea-fights

    "The King's own galley, he called it _Trenchthemer_
     That was first on way, and came the ship full near.
     .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
     The ship cast hooks out, the galley to them to draw;
     The King stood full stoutly, and many of them slew;
     Wild-fire they cast, the King to confound;
     .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
     The King abased him not but stalwartly fought.
     .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
     The ship that was so great, it foundered in the flood;
     They counted fifteen hundred Saracens that drownèd were,
     Forty and six were selected, and were all that were saved there.
     The sum could no man tell of gold that was therein
     And other riches to sell, but all they might not win.
     .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
     It sank soon in the sea, half might they not get.
     Richard bade, 'Haul up your sails, may God us lead,
     Our men at Acre lie, of help they have great need.'"
                PETER OF LANGTOFT (modernized), thirteenth-century poem.

ONE of the most interesting episodes of mediæval war afloat was the
sinking of the great Turkish _Dromon_, off Beyrout, by King Richard I.
After having effected the junction of his fleets off Messina, he had
gone on to Cyprus, where fighting, and other matters with which we need
not concern ourselves, had delayed him for some time. At length he and
his "busses"[16] and galleys set out for Acre. The following day--6th
June, 1191--the British fleet made the Syrian coast, near the Castle of
Margat, and continued their way, pretty close under the land, for the
town of Acre. About noon the day following, when near Beyrout, it was
reported to the King, who led the fleet in his galley _Trench-the-Mer_,
that an enormous ship was in sight. None of the English had ever seen
such a leviathan. "A marvellous ship," says an old chronicler, "a ship
than which, except Noah's ship, none greater was ever read of--the Queen
of Ships!" It was a fine and beautiful summer morning, with but little
wind. The strange ship showed no distinguishing colours, and was putting
on as much sail as she possibly could; but she made little, if any, way
at all:

    "The weather was full soft, the wind held them still,
     The sail was high aloft, they had no wind at will",

to quote an ancient poem dealing with the fight that ensued. The big
ship was of great bulk, painted green on one side and yellow on the
other, probably to render her inconspicuous against either a sandy or a
green background, or at sea, when her green side was towards the enemy.
But in spite of this curious colouring she is said to have presented a
very beautiful appearance, and her decoration was considered "very

The vessel is stated to have carried 1500 men--an enormous
complement--which included 7 Emirs and 80 chosen Turks, for the defence
of Acre. She was equipped with bows, arrows, and other weapons, many
jars filled with the dreaded Greek fire, and "200 most deadly serpents
prepared for the destruction of Christians". Most historians consider
that these "serpents" were some kind of firework used as a missile,
since "serpentine" was an early name for one of the smallest-sized
cannon. Personally, I do not see why we should not accept the word
"serpents" in its everyday meaning. The adjective "deadly" is
suggestive, and in one old account it is particularly stated that "the
200 serpents were _drowned_". There have been instances of hives of bees
being hurled as missiles from war-engines, so why not baskets of deadly
snakes? But it is more probable that these serpents--since none of them
were expended in the battle that took place--were intended to have been
introduced into the camps of the Crusaders after being landed at Acre.

As soon as the big _Dromon_--as she is generally called by old
writers--was sighted, Richard dispatched Peter de Barris in his galley
to find out who she was. The word _Dromon_, by the way, was used at that
time to denote any exceptionally large ship; just as we use
"Dreadnought" in a similar way. But the actual and original meaning of
the word was not a big, but a fast, ship. The word is connected with
speed and racing, and is of Greek origin. We use it in its proper sense
now in hippodrome, velodrome, aerodrome, &c.

As De Barris pulled alongside the _Dromon_, she showed the French king's
colours on a lance, and, on being hailed, stated that she was taking
French Crusaders to Acre. Further interrogated, another story was tried.
She was a Genoese, bound for Tyre. All this was suspicious enough, but
in the meantime one of the men in the King's ship announced that he
recognized her--he had seen her once at Beyrout--and was brought before
Richard. "I will give my head to be cut off, or myself to be hanged,"
asserted this mariner, "if I do not prove that this is a Saracen ship.
Let a galley be sent after them, and give them no salutation; their
intention and trustworthiness will then be discovered." Richard adopted
the suggestion. Another galley shot out from the fleet and surged up
alongside the towering _Dromon_. There was no mistake this time. Down
came whistling flights of arrows, while pots of Greek fire crashed into
flame as they struck the galley. Off dashed Richard in the
_Trench-the-Mer_ to the rescue. "Follow me, and take them," he cried to
the other galleys, "for if they escape, ye lose my love for ever; and if
ye capture them all their goods shall be yours!" The Turk could not get
away, she was practically becalmed, and the oar-propelled galleys of the
Crusaders closed around her.

But the assailants were in the same predicament as were the Romans when
they attacked the lofty ships of the Veneti. The sides of the _Dromon_
towered far over their heads, and do what they would they could not get
on board her. The Turks had thrown a grapnel and made fast to the King's
galley at the very beginning of the fight. Greek fire and missiles of
all kinds rained upon the heads of the English, fully exposed on the
decks and benches of their low galleys. The apparent hopelessness of
their situation began to affect the efforts of the Crusaders. Richard
saw that "something must be done", and he rose to the occasion.

"Will ye now suffer that ship to get off untouched and uninjured?" he
shouted. "Oh, shame! after so many triumphs do ye now give way to sloth
and fear? Know that if this ship escape, every one of you shall be hung
on the cross or put to extreme torture!"

That was _his_ way of bestowing the cross--a wooden one, not an "iron"
one! But it had its effect. The galley-men dived overboard, and,
fastening ropes to the enemy's rudder, "steered her as they pleased". It
is rather difficult to understand the precise advantage gained by his
manoeuvre, unless the wind had sprung up and the big Turkish vessel was
gathering a good deal of way and dragging the whole press of galleys
along with her, and that many were in danger of being swamped. However,
after this they were able to climb up her sides by means of ropes, and a
desperate hand-to-hand conflict took place on her decks. Here the
martial prowess of the Crusaders had full play. Wielding their heavy
trenchant swords, they drove the Saracens right forward into the bows of
the ship; but just when they thought victory was in their grasp, up came
a torrent of fresh assailants from below, and in such overwhelming
numbers that the boarders were hurled back into their galleys.

Things were now very black indeed, but Richard once more showed his
generalship. He ordered the whole of his galleys to cut loose from their
elephantine enemy, to draw off and form line abreast with their bows
towards the foe. Then, at his signal, down went the long oars with a
great splash into the water, and, every rower putting his full strength
into his stroke, the galleys roared through the sea at the big yellow
and green _Dromon_. There was a series of rending crashes as the iron
beaks of the galleys struck her sides, like sword-fish attacking a
whale. The Crusaders backed their oars for all they knew, to get clear,
and, staggering and rolling to her doom, the huge Saracen gradually
foundered as the water poured in cataracts through the gaping holes in
her sides. Only fifty-five of her crew were saved, being men whom the
Crusaders considered would be useful to help them to make the military
engines, for which, it would seem, the Saracens were renowned. The
remainder who had escaped the swords of the English were "sent home by
water", according to the custom of Chaucer's "schipman" at a later date.
This cruel habit would seem to have died hard, for we find one of the
English captains in the Armada fight regretting that they had not "made
water-spaniels" of the crew of a captured Spaniard who were reported to
be short of provisions.

       *       *       *       *       *

We will now forge right ahead through a couple of hundred years, and
take a glimpse at a sea-fight in the days of Richard II. The merchants
of Flanders, La Rochelle, and some other places had agreed to sail
together in considerable force for mutual protection to La Rochelle, in
order to buy wine and other merchandise. The English had wind of this
expedition and had every intention of catching them _en route_. But the
Flemings contrived to elude them and get safely to their destination.
There was nothing for it but to make another attempt, and cut them off
on their return journey.

"The English navy", says Sir John Froissart, "lay at anchor before
Margate at the Thames mouth, toward Sandwich, abiding their adventure,
and specially abiding for the ships that were gone to La Rochelle; for
they thought they would shortly return. And so they did...."

When he saw he would have to fight, Sir John de Bucq, the commander of
the Flemings, made ready his 700 cross-bowmen and his guns.

"The English ships approached," continues Froissart, "and they had
certain galleys furnished with archers, and these came foremost rowing
with oars, and gave the first assault. The archers shot fiercely, and
lost much of their shot; for the Flemings covered them under the decks
and would not appear, but drave ever forward with the wind: and when
they were out of the English archer's shot, then they did let fly their
bolts from the cross-bows, wherewith they hurted many.

"Then approached the great ships of England, the Earl of Arundel with
his company, and the Bishop of Norwich with his; and so the other lords.
They rushed in among the Flemings' ships, and them of La Rochelle: yet
the Flemings and cross-bows defended themselves right valiantly, for
their patron, Sir John de Bucq, did ever support them: he was in a great
strong ship, where he had three guns shooting so great stones, that
wheresoever they lighted they did great damage. And even as they fought
they drew little and little towards Flanders; and some little ships,
with their merchants, took the coasts of Flanders, and the low water,
and thereby saved them, for the great ships could not follow them.

"Thus on the sea they had a hard battle, and ships broken and sunken on
both sides; for out of the tops they cast down great bars of iron,
sharpened so that they went through to the bottom. This was a hard
battle and well fought, for it endured three whole tides; and when the
day failed they withdrew from each other, and cast anchor, and there
rested all night, and there dressed their hurt men: and when the flood
came, they disanchored and drew up sails and returned again to battle.

"With the Englishmen was Peter du Bois of Ghent, with certain archers
and mariners; he gave the Flemings much ado, for he had been a mariner,
therefore he knew the art of the sea, and he was sore displeased that
the Flemings and merchants endured so long. But always the Englishmen
won advantage of the Flemings, and so came between Blankenburgh and
Sluys, against Cadsand; there was the discomfiture, for the Flemings
were not succoured by any creature; and also at that time there were no
ships at Sluys, nor men of war.... By this discomfiture of Sir John de
Bucq, as he came from La Rochelle, the Englishmen had great profit,
specially of wine, for they had a nine thousand tuns of wine; whereby
wine was the dearer all the year after in Flanders, Holland, and
Brabant, and the better cheap in England, as it was reason. Such are the
chances of this world; if one hath damage another hath profit."

There are one or two very interesting points in this account. One, of
course, is the fact that there were three guns mounted on John de Bucq's
ship, which evidently was exceptional at the time, or attention would
not have been so particularly drawn to them. Moreover, they were not
little guns, like those which were mounted in such numbers a few years
later, but of some size, since they fired "_great_ stones". But the most
noteworthy point that emerges from the story of the fight is that not
only were the cross-bowmen able to fire from under cover on the English
without exposing themselves, but their bows had actually outranged the
long-bows. Now we know that a long-bow in expert hands would kill at 400
yards, so that the effective range of the cross-bow must have been


[16] "_Bus_", "ships of the largest size, with triple sails".


The Navy in Tudor Times

    "The various ships that were built of yore,
     And above them all, and strangest of all
     Towered the _Great Harry_, crank and tall,
     Whose picture was hanging on the wall,
     With bows and stern raised high in air,
     And balconies hanging here and there,
     And signal lanterns and flags afloat,
     And eight round towers, like those that frown
     From some old castle, looking down
     Upon the drawbridge and the moat."
             "The Building of the Ship." LONGFELLOW.

THE Tudor period, to which this chapter is devoted, is noteworthy as
witnessing the birth of the Royal Navy as a permanent national
institution. Though we have accounts--probably to a great extent
mythical--of the 3600 "very stout" ships of the Saxon King Edgar (A.D.
975), which are said to have been divided into three squadrons, cruising
on the north, east, and west coasts of Great Britain; though Edward III,
after the victory over the French at Sluys, was dubbed "King of the
Sea"; and though Henry V got together the most formidable navy of his
time, yet at none of these periods was there what we may term a navy of
the realm. Indeed, for the two years, August, 1447, to August, 1449,
there may be said to have been no navy at all, since during the whole of
this time only £8, 9_s._ 7_d._ was expended upon what we now regard as
our first line of defence.

At the death of Henry V, in 1422, the "Little Navy" disease broke out
again, and nearly the whole of his fine fleet was sold. Things went from
bad to worse, till the disgust and uneasiness of the nation found
expression in a little work entitled _The Libel of English Policie_. The
author, who is supposed to have been Bishop Adam de Molyns, exhorted the
nation to "Keepe the Sea and namely the Narrow Sea", and also to secure
both Dover and Calais. "Where bene our shippes", says he, "where bene
our swerdes become?" He went on to point out how much our naval force
had deteriorated since the time when Edward III had caused the famous
Golden Noble to be struck, in which he is represented standing in a
ship, sword in hand and shield on arm, and thus referred to the
signification of the device:

    "Four things our Noble sheweth unto me:
     King, Ship and Sword and Power of the Sea".

That this appeal had some kind of effect is shown by the fact that in
1442 an order was issued "for to have upon the See continuelly, for the
sesons of the yere fro Candlimes to Martymesse, viii Shippes with
forstages; ye wiche Shippes, as it is thought, most have on with an
other eche of hem cl men. Item, every grete Shippe most have attendyng
opon hym a Barge and a Balynger." "Hym" strikes one, by the way, as a
curious way to refer to a ship. These vessels with "iiii Spynes", which
seem to have been what we might call dispatch vessels, were stationed,
one at Bristol, two at Dartmouth, two in the Thames, one at Hull, and
one at "the Newe Castell". The whole fleet combined was manned by 2160
men. It was a poor affair, but still it was better than nothing.

Then came the Wars of the Roses, which, naturally, diverted men's
thoughts from the navy. That Edward IV, when he had established himself
on the throne, had some idea of emulating the naval deeds of the third
Edward may be suspected from his having issued a gold noble, which was
evidently closely copied from the one we have already referred to. But
nothing much was done either by him or by his successor, Richard
Crookback, and it was left to Henry VII to reap the honour of being, to
some extent, the founder of the Royal Navy of which we are all so proud.
Though by some his son, "Bluff King Hal", may be regarded in this light,
on account of the very formidable fleet which he raised and organized
and the improvements which he is said to have made in its ships, yet I
think we must admit that Henry VII laid the foundation-stone upon which
his successor built.

He depended greatly on hired merchantmen--we do not despise this method
of augmenting our navy even at the present day--but he resurrected the
Royal Fleet. Though it was but a very small one, of only about a dozen
ships, yet two of them, at any rate, were finer ships than any the
British Navy had before possessed. These were the _Regent_ and the
_Sovereign_. While we had neglected our shipbuilding, to carry on war
between ourselves, it had progressed abroad, especially in France, and
there is little doubt that the _Regent_, built on the River Rother, was
inspired by the French ship _Columbe_, which, perhaps, was the ship
which had brought Henry to England. The _Regent_ had four masts, the
_Sovereign_ three, and each of them was much more like some of the ships
we are familiar with in pictures of the Spanish Armada fight than the
old cogs of a few years previously, even in their most improved forms.
The armament of the _Regent_ consisted, it is said, of 225
"serpentines". The number is formidable, but not the weapons themselves.
They were merely what might be called breech-loading wall-pieces,
corresponding to Chinese "jingalls", and firing balls weighing from 4 to
6 ounces.

In a contemporary picture of the destruction of this ship in her action
with the _Marie la Cordelière_ in 1512, when both ships caught fire and
blew up, the _Regent_ is shown with very heavy guns firing through
port-holes. Port-holes, by the way, are said to have been invented by
Desharges, a Brest shipbuilder, in 1500. I am inclined to think that
they were known at an earlier date--possibly Desharges invented
port-_lids_. It is, of course, possible that these were cut in the
_Regent_ some time after her original construction, and heavier guns
mounted in place of some of her serpentines. According to some writers
this ship was originally christened the _Great Harry_, while the
_Sovereign_ was built out of the remains of an older ship called the
_Grace Dieu_. As a very large and renowned _Henri Grace à Dieu_ was
launched in 1514, there has been a considerable amount of confusion
between one ship and the other. But if the _Regent_ was called the
_Great Harry_, she had nothing whatever to do with the _Henri_, which is
also sometimes referred to as the _Harry Grace à Dieu_.[17] As a matter
of fact, the latter was built to replace the former, the loss of which
was considered a national disaster, and so much so that an attempt was
made to keep her fate a secret. "At the reverens of God", wrote Cardinal
Wolsey, "kepe these tydyngs to yourselfe." There was probably another
reason for the construction of an exceptionally fine ship, and that was
the desire that the English should not be eclipsed by the Scots in this


For, the year before the _Regent_ was blown up, the King of Scotland,
who was hand in glove with the French, had put afloat what a
contemporary chronicler terms "ane verrie monstrous great schip". This
was the famous _Great Michael_. Her constructor was Jaques Tarret, a
Frenchman, and it has been written that "she was of so great stature and
took so much timber, that except Falkland, she wasted all the woods of
Fife, which were oak wood, with all the timber that was gotten out of
Norway". She took "a year and a day to build", and we are given her
dimensions, which compare favourably in point of size with many much
later line-of-battle ships. "She was 12 score feet in length and 36 feet
within the sides; she was 10 feet thick in the wall, and boarded on
every side so slack and so thick that no cannon could go through
her." It is rather difficult to understand what "slack" means in this

"This great ship", goes on the account, "cumbered Scotland to get her to
sea." By the time she was afloat and fully equipped she was reckoned to
have cost the King from thirty to forty thousand pounds. She carried a
heavy battery, and if her cannon were as formidable as their names, they
must have been most effective in action. "She bore many cannons, six on
every side, with three great Bassils, two behind in her dock, and one
before, with three hundred shot of small Artillerie, that is to say,
Myand and Battered Falcon and Quarter Falcon, Slings, pestilent
Serpentines and Double Dogs, with Hagtar and Culvering, Cross-bows and
Hand-bows. She had three hundred mariners to sail her: she had six score
of gunners to use her artillery, and had a thousand men of war by her,
Captains, Skippers, and Quartermasters." A "basil" or "basilisk", it may
be explained, was a gun throwing a ball of 200 pounds weight, a much
heavier projectile than any used at Trafalgar.

Space forbids further details as to the "menagerie" of other pieces that
armed the decks of the _Great Michael_, but you will find more about
these and other old-fashioned cannon in another chapter. As soon as she
was afloat the King had her fired at to test the resistance of her
tremendously thick sides, but, says our old writer, "the cannon deired
hir not"; that is to say, could not penetrate her. This is the oldest
experiment of the kind of which we have any record. But the most
remarkable thing about the _Great Michael_--at least to my mind--is her
size. According to the old account from which I have quoted, which, by
the way, was written by one Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, she must have
had almost the exact dimensions of the _Duke of Wellington_, one of the
last and finest of our steam three-deckers. Now I have a perfect idea of
_her_ size, because I had the honour of serving on board her for a
couple of years. She was in the "sere and yellow leaf" then, her masts
had gone, her engines had disappeared, and she had a roof which made her
look much more like Noah's Ark than a battleship, but I can remember her
in all her glory when she carried the flag of the commander-in-chief at
Portsmouth. I was only a boy then, but I recollect that her appearance
was fine in the extreme. In reckoning the beam of the _Great Michael_ we
must remember to add 20 feet for the thickness of her sides, since
Pitscottie only gives us her internal width. Having done this, I will
put down the dimensions of the two ships for comparison--

  _Great Michael_, length, 240 feet; beam, 56 feet.
  _Duke of Wellington_, length, 240 feet, 7 inches; beam, 60 feet, 1 inch.

Now if Pitscottie's figures are correct, either the _Michael_ must have
been almost incredibly bigger than any ship of her day, or, as I have
before suggested, the old war-ships of that and earlier centuries were
in reality a good deal larger than contemporary representations and
records of "tunnage" would lead us to expect.

The old Scots writer, however, offers to prove his figures; for he says:
"If any man believe that this ship was not as we have shewn, let him
pass to the place of Tullibardine, where he will find the length and
breadth of her set with hawthorne: as for my author he was Captain
Andrew Wood, principal Captain of hir, and Robert Bartone, who was made
her Skipper".

[Illustration: Rough Diagram, showing Comparative Sizes of Famous Ships
at Different Periods

The sizes of these ships can only be shown approximately, as in some
cases only the length of the keel is known; in others a mean has to be
taken between length of keel and length over-all; while in others the
authority does not say where the length was measured. H.M.S. _Queen
Elizabeth_--650 feet long, with a beam of 94 feet--is bigger than all
the rest put together.]

With regard to the plan of the vessel in hawthorns, I am indebted to
Lady Strathallan for the following interesting items: Tullibardine
Castle has quite disappeared. What little was left of it was used in the
construction of farm buildings from 1830-40. The spot where the
hawthorns were planted to show the dimensions of the _Great Michael_ is
still known, but there is nothing to mark it. When the great ship was
built, the carpenter or "wright" of the castle went down to superintend
the shipwrights. When he got home, as the people at the castle were
very anxious to form some idea of the size of this "Dreadnought" of that
period, he was given orders to have an excavation made of the exact size
of the ship. The hawthorns were, it would appear, planted round the
excavation, which was tilled with water and aquatic plants, and remained
as an ornamental pond till about the time of the battle of Waterloo. In
1837 the shape of the vessel was distinctly perceptible, but three only
remained of the hawthorn-trees that formerly surrounded it. Some time
ago Lady Strathallan, anxious that this curious monument of antiquity
should not disappear altogether, directed the forester to renew the
hawthorn outline of the _Great Michael_. The trees were procured for the
purpose, but the tenant of the farm on which it was situated objected
that it would take up too much room in his field, so that the project
was abandoned. It seems a thousand pities that something cannot, even
now, be done to perpetuate this relic of the famous Scots man-of-war,
which, year by year, is being rendered more and more indistinguishable
by the plough. The field in which traces of the hollow may be looked for
is situated 400 yards from the old parish chapel, which was restored a
good many years ago and used as a burial vault.

The _Great Michael_ did not long remain a Scots ship. The fleet of
Scotland went to France in 1513, and in the following year she was
bought by Louis XII for 40,000 francs, to replace the _Cordelière_,
which, as you will remember, was blown up with the _Regent_. This brings
us back to the _Henri Grace à Dieu_, which was built to replace the
latter ship. But before we turn our attention to her we cannot but note
the difference between the alleged cost of the _Great Michael_ and that
for which she was sold. The bargain does not seem worthy of the Scots
reputation for "canniness". But we must bear in mind that a "pound
Scots" was not at all the same thing as an English pound at that date.
Ever since 1355 its value had been falling, till by 1603 it was only
worth twenty pence instead of twenty shillings. It was, in fact, at the
time of the sale, the kind of "silver pound" that the "chieftain to the
Highlands bound" paid or promised the boatman if he would row Lord
Ullin's daughter and himself "o'er the ferry". But even if we put it at
about a tenth of a pound sterling in 1513, the bargain seems a poor one.
Probably it was more of a political deal than anything else, comparable
to the German sale of the _Goeben_ to Turkey.

The _Henri Grace à Dieu_--I think we may as well call her the _Henri_
for short, and save time and paper--is a ship about which we have the
most extended information in some respects--those dealing with her
decoration and equipment, for instance; but we are left entirely in the
dark as to her size and measurements. The only dimensions I have been
able to find are those indicated on a plan which, on very insufficient
grounds, is claimed to be a copy of the official one on which she was
built, and which is stated to be--or at any rate to have been within the
last century--at Plymouth dockyard. So far this original has not been
traced, and I may remark that anyone who knows anything about the Navy
would not dream of referring to the dockyard in the western port except
as "Devonport Dockyard". However, I give the dimensions for what they
may be worth--not much, I think:

      Length, 145 feet; beam, 35 feet 9 inches; tonnage,

Now if this, by any chance, is anything like correct she must have been
a very much smaller ship than the _Great Michael_, which is not very
likely, since Henry VIII would naturally have wanted "to go one better".
Moreover, she is generally credited as having been of at least a
thousand tons displacement, and carried a battery little, if any,
inferior in weight and numbers to that of the _Michael_.

She was heavily equipped with ordnance, very little of which is apparent
in her pictures. According to her inventories she carried something like
185 guns of all sorts and sizes, but many of these must have been kept
on shore as reserve stores. She is generally credited with carrying 14
heavy guns on the lower and 12 on the main deck, and 46 light cannon on
her upper works. Some of the large and all the smaller ones were
breech-loaders, and as most were provided with at least two "chambers"
or breech-pieces, which contained the powder-charge and could be quickly
substituted one for the other, we may almost call them "quick-firers".
She was gorgeously decorated in the first place, and poop, waist,
forecastle, and tops were hung with shields showing alternately the St.
George's Cross, the Golden Fleur-de-Lis on a blue ground, and the Tudor
Rose on a green and white ground. Her sails were woven with a decorative
design in gold damask, and she carried a lion figure-head, but the lion
was badly executed and a very tame one. Like all Tudor ships she flew a
profusion of flags, standards, and immense streamers bearing the St.
George's Cross, the fly or long-pointed end being half green and half
white. These were the Tudor livery colours. The plain red-cross flag or
"Jack" was well in evidence and generally carried on the fore masthead
as well as among the smaller flags placed on poles at equal distances
along the bulwarks. The royal standard was also carried, but not in
every ship, and sometimes it appears "impaled" with the national
red-cross flag--that is to say, the two were placed side by side on the
same flag.

The national status of the Royal Navy was becoming recognized. Before
this time, though the English "Jack" generally found a place somewhere
on board an English ship, the banners and pennons of the nobles and
knights on board were most in evidence. Now we see nothing but royal and
national emblems. In the war with France in 1455 the ships of the
squadron forming the "van" or leading portion of the fleet carried the
St. George's Cross at the fore, those of the centre at the main, and the
rear squadron at the mizzen.

In describing the _Henri_ we have practically described all the "great
shippes" of her class, of which there were a considerable number, though
none were quite so large, or probably quite so elaborately decorated. Of
course she was what we may call "a show ship", like the _Royal James_
and _Sovereign of the Seas_ of a later date.

But by 1546, if we may accept Anthony Anthony's _Roll_ as correct,
"timber colour" with scarlet masts and spars was uniform for all classes
of ships.

But it is time we turned our attention to the men who manned them. The
changes in this respect were quite as important as those we have noted
in the ships themselves. To begin with, the nobles and gentry of the
kingdom were beginning to wake up to the fact that war afloat offered
them at least equal opportunities of distinction to those they had
hitherto looked for in land warfare. Besides, they had now little or no
chance of that at home, and there was no longer any land frontier over
in France across which they could ride and raid and harry and fight as
their fathers and grandfathers had so often done. Naval strategy was
still confined to cross raiding, but ships were now better
fighting-machines and were not merely used as platforms for hand-to-hand
fighting and as transports; so that men of the class which had hitherto
looked down on ships and sailors began to turn their eyes towards the

[Illustration: Ships of the Time of Henry VIII

(_From a Drawing of 1545_)

Looking at the lofty hulls, the immense mainsails, and the nearness of
the ports to the water-line, we can easily understand how a want of care
wrecked the _Mary Rose_. The ship in the background on the right is
apparently trying to reduce sail, and has had to lower her main-yard.
Her mainsail is almost in the water, to the apparent danger of the

This does not mean that they became seamen. No, they still remained and
considered themselves soldiers, and did not trouble to learn any
seamanship. That was still the special job of the master or skipper. But
they recognized that the command of a fighting-ship was worth having. I
may instance the Carew family.[18] At least three of them were serving
in command of ships in the battle at Spithead in 1545. Sir George Carew
lost his life when his ship, the _Mary Rose_, went down; his brother,
Peter Carew, who had been a year or two before in command of a company
of infantry in the English army in France, commanded a Venetian
ship--probably hired--the _Francisco Bardado_; while their uncle, Sir
Gawen Carew, commanded a third. As for the men, the seamen, thanks to
more seaworthy vessels, had probably improved in their seamanship, while
the navy was formed into a regularly-organized force consisting of
"mariners, soldiers"--or, as we should call them now, marines--"and
gunners". Every ship had her proper complement of each. Thus the _Henri
Grace à Dieu_ carried 260 seamen, 400 soldiers, and 40 gunners; the
_Mary Rose_ 180 seamen, 200 soldiers, and 20 gunners; the _Peter
Pomgranate_ 130 seamen, 150 soldiers, and 20 gunners; and so forth,
according to size.


_Facsimile woodcut from "Holinshed's Chronicles"_

Which particular battle this picture is supposed to represent cannot be
stated, since old Holinshed uses it over and over again for almost every
naval engagement to which he makes reference right back as far as the
Conquest. That cannon were not then in existence does not appear to
trouble him at all. But we may take it as fairly representative of an
action at sea in the times in which the historian lived and wrote.]

Though there are indications of a somewhat similar arrangement in
earlier times, it would appear that the seamen were either paid by the
king or hired with their ship, while the soldiers were paid by some
noble or even bishop who had supplied them as a feudal obligation.

The pay does not seem to have been quite so liberal as in former times,
but it was not bad if we allow for the difference in its value compared
with that of to-day. In the _Gabriel Royal_, for instance, Sir William
Trevellian, the captain--a soldier--got 1_s._ 6_d._ a day. The master
and the rest of her company, officers, seamen, and soldiers, got 5_s._ a
month (of twenty-eight days), but the master and other officers got in
addition what were called "dead shares", in number from six to
one-half. This means that the master got six men's pay besides his
own--altogether 35_s._--a month, and so on in proportion. The gunners
got extra pay, called "rewards"--we might call it "efficiency
pay"--varying from 5_s._ a month for the master gunner to 1_s._ 8_d._
for the private gunners.

The provision allowance was respectable--England was renowned for good
feeding at this period. Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays each man had
1/2 pound of beef and 1/4 pound of bacon for his dinner, and the same
for supper. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays they had to be content
with two herrings and 1/8 pound of cheese for each of these meals, while
on Fridays or "ffishe days beynge ffastinge dayes" they had to go
without supper, but for dinner had either half a cod or half a stock
fish and a pound of butter between four men, or, if they preferred it,
could divide ten herrings and a pound of cheese between them. As for
bread, every man got either a pound of bread or biscuit daily, while
instead of the "grog" or "optional cocoa" of to-day, he got a liberal
allowance either of beer or "beverage" made of two parts water to one of

As for the clothing of the Royal Navy, we have very little information
so far as the Tudor period is concerned. That there was some attempt at
uniformity may be gathered from the constant references to the provision
of coats or jackets of green and white cloth. Some were satin or damask
of the same colouring, presumably for officers. But what these garments
were like we do not know. In Anthony Anthony's drawing of the _Galley
Subtle_ the master of the ship appears in the old "jack" with the red
cross, while the rowers are apparently clad in pink. This may be
intended to represent their bare flesh, for they might be stripped to
the waist for rowing, but it is more probable that it was originally red
and that the colour has faded. It is said that the rowers of Henry
VIII's royal barge wore this colour, and it seems quite possible that
the _Galley Subtle_, the only one of her class and a profusely-decorated
vessel, _was_ regarded as the royal barge.

We know, too, from the costume of the Yeomen of the Guard, or
"Beefeaters", that red was making its appearance as a military colour,
for their uniform is that of Henry VIII's body-guard. The standard under
which Henry VII secured the crown at the battle of Bosworth Field was a
red dragon on a white and green field, and was supposed to represent
that of Cadwallader, the last of the British kings, from whom the victor
claimed descent. The descent, I dare say, was genuine enough, but
Cadwallader must have died before the invention of heraldry. But Wales
has always been associated with a dragon of this kind, which has from
time immemorial been a world-wide emblem of sovereignty. Henry seems to
have adopted the colour of the dragon as the royal livery colour--as it
remains to-day--but at the same time retained the white and green for
the navy. Much in the same way "blue" is accepted as a royal colour, and
as such is worn as the facings of royal regiments and as the uniform of
the Royal Navy and Royal Artillery.

But it seems probable that blue--very possibly from dye of that colour
being easily procurable; the Ancient Britons, we may remember, decorated
themselves with blue woad--had been for centuries a very usual colour
for seamen to wear; and when, in 1553, Sir Hugh Willoughby's North Sea
expedition was fitted out all his crews were provided with "parade
suits" of "Wachett or Skie-coloured cloth". Watchett was a place in
Somersetshire where this special material was made. But these, perhaps,
were not men actually belonging to the Royal Navy. As for the soldiers
or marines, we may suppose that they wore the white "jack" with the red
cross, which was so universal at this time that "whitecoat" was used for
"soldier" just as "redcoat" was at a later date. The "gunners" wore the
white and green and may have been regarded as "seamen gunners".


[17] She was first called the _Gret Carrick_, then _Imperyall Carrick_,
next _Henry Imperiall_. The name _Henri Grace à Dieu_ was written with
all kinds of variations; sometimes she was merely called the _Harry_,
and finally, after King Harry's death, the _Edward_.

[18] Each of the Carews adopted the badge of a ship's "fighting-top",
which still appears as the crest of the family.


From Elizabeth to Victoria

             "Hearts of oak are our ships,
              Gallant tars are our men,
              We always are ready,
              Steady, boys, steady!
    We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again."

WE have now followed the story of our navy, its ships, and its men up to
the time when the three-masted, many-gunned man-of-war with two or three
decks, and relying entirely on sail-power for propulsion, made its
appearance. This class of vessel, with, of course, gradual improvements,
remained the principal fighting-unit, not only in our own, but in all
other navies right up to the time of the introduction of steam power,
and indeed we may almost say later; as, though provided with engines of
no very great horse power, the sails, rigging, and hulls of our
line-of-battle ships at the time of the introduction of the ironclad
were practically the same as those of the ships which fought at
Trafalgar. We are, in fact, entering on the period beginning with the

    "When that great fleet Invincible, against us bore in vain
     The richest spoils of Mexico, the stoutest hearts of Spain",

and ending with the imposing but indecisive operations of the combined
British and French fleets in the Crimean War.

Now this portion of our naval history is as near as possible all plain
sailing, and its course as well known as that from the Mersey Bar to
Sandy Hook to transatlantic travellers. I do not therefore propose to
conduct my readers through the glorious, though, if I may be allowed to
say it, somewhat hackneyed stories of the defeat of the Spanish Armada,
Drake's exploits on the Spanish Main, and the series of wars with the
Dutch, in which we met the toughest opponents we have ever fought with
for the supremacy of the seas. Neither do I intend recounting for the
hundredth time the magnificent record of the Royal Navy in its almost
continuous campaign against those of the French kings, the French
Republic, and the Emperor Napoleon, which, beginning early in the
eighteenth century, was only finally terminated by the downfall of the
great Corsican general at Waterloo. As far as all these are concerned I
have only to say: "Now the rest of the acts of the Royal Navy, and all
that it did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of James
the Naval Historian", and of many other historians for that matter,
good, bad, and indifferent. No, so far I have endeavoured to keep a
little off the beaten track of naval history as generally presented in
books of this class, and until we arrive at our navy of to-day I propose
to keep this principle in view; and it is in accordance with this that,
before finally quitting the Tudor period, I propose to make a brief
reference to our experiences with the Hanseatic League.


_From the painting by C. M. Padday_

The first Spanish ships to meet their fate were the stragglers from the
main body of the Armada. Above is shown one such vessel being engaged by
an English captain. The great Spanish galleon is quite at the mercy of
the smaller but handier vessel, which has got the wind of her enemy, and
is pouring a destructive fire into her prow.]

The adverse influence of this great confederation of German cities upon
our country for two or three centuries has never been sufficiently
emphasized in our histories. Possibly the earlier historians who were
contemporary with the Hanseatics were "got at" by their representatives,
who swarmed in this country and had an organized system of bribery, with
a regulated scale of bribes for all sorts of people, from the Lord Mayor
of London downwards. They seem to have been about the only people in the
later Middle Ages with ready cash in the north of Europe, and they were
glad to lend the Kings of England money to carry on their interminable
wars with France in return for various concessions, which generally
hit British trade pretty hard. They knew how to get good security for
their loans, and in Edward III's time they actually had the British
crown in pawn at Cologne! One proof of their tremendous financial
influence in this country remains to this day in the word "sterling". We
still say "one pound sterling", "sterling gold", &c. Now "sterling" is
nothing but a corrupted form of "easterling"--a man from the eastward,
as these Hanse traders used to be called--when they were not referred to
as "Prussians".

At the Conquest, and for long afterwards, we were a nation of
agriculturists, soldiers, fishermen, and sailors. Our only regular trade
was in wool, therefore known as the "staple" industry--generally "the
staple" for short. It was the desire to get their greedy fingers into
this our only "pie" that first brought the Hanse traders into this
country in force some time in the thirteenth century, though we had not
been free from them since the days of Ethelred. They were allowed to
make their head-quarters in the Steelyard in London (where Cannon Street
Station now stands), to import merchandise on paying a nominal duty of 1
per cent, to be licensed victuallers, keeping inns, hotels, and wine
shops, to have special courts of jurisdiction of their own, which put
them above English law, and actually to hold one of the gates of the
city. Have we not seen this financial, business, trading, and
inn-keeping undermining of British interests in our own day by the
modern easterlings?

Later historians preferred rather to dilate on our victories than to
refer to our encounters at sea with the Hanseatics, in which we did not
always show to advantage. For these traders, like their modern
representatives, were good pirates on occasion, had a considerable
number of fighting-ships at their command, and, according to some
authorities, had complete control of the northern seas. Nor was there
any reciprocity about their trading arrangements. They made a rule that
only their own ships were to carry the goods they dealt in, and sank
any English ship that attempted to break it. At the same time they would
not allow our ships into the Baltic to interfere with their trade with
Russia and Scandinavia, and now and again in return for some real or
pretended grievance attacked our seaboard and hung the crews of our
coasters to their own masts. All the time they were endeavouring to
strangle our trade from their London head-quarters. Like an American
"Trust", they were generally able to ruin individuals or smaller
companies which endeavoured to compete with them.


In this fruitless attempt to invade our shores ten thousand Spaniards
gave up their lives. England lost but one ship and about a hundred men.]

Naturally the "Prussians" were not loved in this country, and it is said
that Wat Tyler's insurrection was to a great extent directed against
these interlopers, the insurgents killing as many of them as they could
get hold of. But their influence with the Government always saved them
till the days of the Tudors, when, in spite of all obstacles, our
merchants began to make headway. Edward VI imposed heavy duties and
restrictions on them, and established an alliance and a trading
connection with Russia by sending a mission to Moscow by way of
Archangel. The marriage of Queen Mary with Philip of Spain gave the
Hanse merchants their chance, since the Prince Consort's father--Charles
V--was Emperor of Germany. The privileges which had been taken away from
the "Prussians" by her brother were restored; but they were not to hold
them long. Queen Elizabeth had an eye to business; she saw how the
Germans were hampering the development of our trade, and reimposed
Edward VI's duty of 20 per cent on the Hanse merchants of the Steelyard.
But she found that she still had to buy gunpowder and other munitions of
war from them, because she could not get them elsewhere, and she did not
like them the better for that. Neither did they like the reimposed
duties, and they were only too glad to assist the Spanish Armada by
sending a fleet laden with provisions and munitions to the Tagus. Drake
and the navy countered by seizing the whole of these ships.

The Hanseatics, who had already before this laboured "to render the
English merchants obnoxious to the other trading nations by various
calumnies", retaliated by turning every Englishman out of Germany. This
did not affect us very much, as, though there were a comparatively small
number of the "merchants of the staple" and the "merchant adventurers"
settled in that country, their trade and interests were not comparable
with that of the merchants of the Steelyard in England. But the
Hanseatics got a "knock out" blow in return from "good Queen Bess", who
turned the whole collection of German merchants out of England, "lock,
stock, and barrel", and so freed the country of a menace which, while
not so obvious, was probably more insidiously dangerous than the Spanish
Armada. Then followed the break-up of Germany in the Thirty Years' War,
and British trade came by its own. It does seem a pity that "once bit"
we were not "twice shy". Our historians are considerably to blame; but,
in any case, we ought not to have so entirely forgotten what a menace
German trade and German immigration might be to this country.

"What has all this to do with the navy?" may perhaps be asked. Possibly
not much at first sight, but in reality a great deal. If, during the
centuries the Hanse merchants were throttling our trade, we had
maintained a formidable and national navy instead of pursuing a
hand-to-mouth policy and utilizing our ships principally as ferry-boats
to take our armies over to France, we might have been in a better
position to deal with the Hanse League. We could have prevented
interference with our ships, forced our way into the Baltic, and
extended our trade. On the other hand, the navy was not a national navy,
but, generally speaking, a personal appanage of the reigning monarch,
who as often as not was very heavily in debt to the "Prussians". Gold is
a very powerful factor, even in naval warfare, if judiciously applied,
and not misapplied, as when some of our feebler Saxon kings bought off
the viking invaders with "Danegelt".

I am tempted, before leaving the Hansa, to relate a story of one of
their smaller naval operations, which, I must premise, is taken from a
German source, so you can believe as much or as little of it as you
please. But it is not a bad story in its way. Our King Edward IV had
fallen out with the King of Denmark, who, in retaliation for a real or
alleged piratical attack made by the traders of Lynn upon his dominions
in Iceland, set to work to capture our merchantmen, using apparently the
ships of his allies, the Hanse League, for the purpose. King Edward, in
his turn, at once closed the Steelyard, and, according to this account,
strangled many of its merchants, and demanded £20,000 compensation for
his captured ships. At this time there were a couple of rather big Hanse
ships lying in a Dutch harbour, the _Mariendrache_ and the _Anholt_.
Hearing of the English preparations for war, Paul Beneke, who was in
command, stood over to Deal under French colours to intercept the Lord
Mayor of London, who was expected to land there on his way back from
Paris in _La Cygne_ of Dieppe. How he discovered this we are not told.

By the use of French colours Paul Beneke succeeded in kidnapping the
Mayor of Deal and various other notabilities, who thought they were
going on board _La Cygne_ to welcome the Lord Mayor. The two Hanseatic
ships then put to sea, intercepted the real French ship and her consort
_La Madeline of Cannes_, took out their distinguished passenger and
whatever goods they had on board, and made for the Dutch harbour they
had started from. The omniscient Beneke knew that it was being blockaded
by thirteen small English ships and one much more powerful than either
of his, the _St. John_, possibly the _John Evangelist of Dartmouth_.
However, thanks to a fog, he got through the blockade undiscovered. Late
at night he, with one other companion, pulled out to sea in a
fishing-boat, and, under the pretence of being Dutch fishermen, went
alongside the big _St. John_ and asked leave to make fast astern while
they boiled their "beer soup" for supper. Permission was granted, and,
as the "beer soup" in question was in reality molten lead, they had not
much difficulty, under cover of the lofty and overhanging stern, in
pouring it into the iron joints of the rudder, so that it became
immovable. Then, "after supper", having thanked the obliging officer of
the watch, Beneke and his confederate made their way back to their own
ship. The following morning the two Germans stood out of harbour and
attacked the English fleet, and, as none of its ships were big enough to
put up any fight against them, with the exception of the _St. John_, and
she was not under control, thanks to Beneke's strategem, they are said
to have won a "glorious victory". Veracious or not, this tale has one
realistic touch about it in the evident desire to win by underhand means
rather than by fair fighting. But we seem to have been blown a bit out
of our course, and must get back to our point of departure.

Although Henry VIII is inseparably connected with the _Henri Grace à
Dieu_, this famous ship was by no means the only improved type of
fighting-ship which dates from his reign. There were, besides the great
ships, such as the _Henri_, the _Jesus of Lubeck_,[19] and others, a
class known as galleasses, without a raised poop and forecastle, with a
single tier of heavy guns, and a protruding spur or "beak" forward. They
had fully-rigged main- and foremasts, a mizen and a bonaventure
mizen--these last two masts very small and carrying a single lateen sail
apiece--and a long bowsprit. There is little doubt that these were an
adaptation of the Mediterranean galleys modified to suit Northern seas.
Ships were longer-lived in those days than at present, and though many
of those in Elizabeth's navy had originally belonged to that of her
father, in the newer vessels their constructors endeavoured to combine
the best qualities of both the great ships and the galleasses. The ships
of this improved type were known as "galleons", a word that is
generally, but erroneously, taken to refer only to Spanish ships. The
battleships of both nations were galleons at this period, but they
differed considerably in their general lines and in their armament.

Generally speaking, the Spanish ships were higher out of the water and
carried lighter cannon than our own. An Elizabethan battleship, then,
was rather longer than earlier great ships, and, though she still had a
comparatively high stern, it was not to be compared in this respect with
that of the _Henri_. The "fore castle" had come down to a very low
affair, the bows finishing with a "beak-head" adopted from the
galleasse, but with the spur at its extremity replaced by a
figurehead--generally a lion, dragon, or unicorn. The general uniformity
in colouring which marked the earlier Tudor men-of-war had been replaced
by a "go as you please" system, under which one ship had her upper works
painted red, another white and green, a third black and white, while a
fourth might retain the old regulation timber colour. Considerable sums
were expended in carving, gilding, and decoration in colour, not only at
the bow and stern, but along the exterior of the bulwarks. As regards
the armament carried afloat, at this and later times, particulars will
be given in a future chapter.

An old writer of the period takes satisfaction in pointing out the
superiority of the English over foreign ships. "As for those of the
Portuguese," he says, "they are the veriest drones on the sea, the
rather because their seeling[20] was dammed up with a certain kind of
mortar to dead the shot." "The French," he goes on to say, "however
dextrous in land battles, are left-handed in sea-fights, whose best
ships are of Dutch building. The Dutch build their ships so floaty and
buoyant, they have little hold in the water in comparison to ours, which
keep the better wind and so out-sail them. The Spanish pride hath
infected their ships with loftiness, which makes them but the fairer
marks to our shot. Besides the wind hath so much power of them in bad
weather, that it drives them two leagues for one of ours to
leeward--which is very dangerous upon a lee-shore." He states further
that the "Turkish frigots", especially those built at Algiers, are much
the best foreign ships; being "built much nearer the English mode", and
they "may hereafter prove mischievous to us, if not seasonably
prevented". The writer was perfectly correct in his last remark, as will
be seen in the next chapter.

Here are a few extracts from Sir Walter Raleigh's directions for
"clearing for action". The captain is to appoint "sufficient company to
assist the gunners", by which it would appear that the number of guns
carried had increased faster than the complement of "gonnars" allotted
to a man-of-war. If necessary, "the cabins between the decks shall be
taken down, all beds and sacks employed for bulwarks". The
"musketiers"[21] were to be distributed between the "fore-castell", the
"mast", and the "poope". The gunners were ordered not to fire except at
point-blank range, that is to say, until pretty close alongside the
enemy. An officer was to be specially detailed to see that there was no
loose powder carried between decks nor near any lighted gun-matches.
About the decks were to be distributed "divers hogsheads" sawn in half
and filled with water. No one was to board the enemy's ship without
orders; special men were told off to each sail; while the carpenter and
his crew were to attend with plugs and sheets of lead, some in the hold,
others on the lower deck, in readiness to plug up shot holes between
wind and water.

In the early Stuart period there were no very great changes in the
construction and appearance of our men-of-war, but they gradually--if we
may judge from their pictures--seem to have acquired a more
"ship-shape" look, and give one the idea of greater roominess. The
bonaventure mizen-mast disappears, so that there are only three masts
instead of four, and the mizen is provided with a topsail in addition to
its lateen. At the end of the bowsprit, too, appears a little top and
top-mast, while a square sail is spread on a yard slung below it. This
sail has a large round hole in each lower corner, to let the water run
out when it is plunged under water as the ship pitches. The _Prince
Royal_ was the show ship of those days, and no less than £441 was spent
on her carved decorations, and £868 on gilding them. She was our first
three-decker, if we include the upper deck, and had a displacement of
1200 tons.


Admiral Hawke in this engagement gained a decisive victory. The _Royal
George_ was the first of an improved type of ship. Her end was a tragic
one, for she capsized and sank at Spithead, taking 900 people with her.]

In 1637 was launched the much more famous _Sovereign of the Seas_. She
was a very handsome vessel, longer and lower in the water than the
_Prince Royal_, and 483 tons bigger. In the _Travels of Cosmo III_, Duke
of Tuscany, through England, about thirty years after she was launched,
the following account is given of her: "This monstrous vessel was built
in the year 1637 by King Charles I at incredible expense; for, besides
the vast size of the ship, which is an hundred and twenty paces in
length, it has cabins roofed with carved work, richly ornamented with
gold, and the outside of the stern is decorated in a similar manner. The
height of the stern is quite extraordinary, and it is hung with seven
magnificent lanthorns, the principal one, which is more elevated than
the rest, being capable of containing six people. The ship carries 106
pieces of brass cannon, and requires a thousand men for its equipment.
His Highness went to the highest part of the stern, and having walked
over the whole length from stern to prow as well above as below, stepped
into the handsomest cabin in the stern, where there were still evident
marks of the sides having been repaired from the effect of cannon-balls,
which sufficiently indicated that it had been more than once in action."
The _Sovereign_ was coloured outside black and gold, and had an
elaborate figure-head representing King Edgar on horseback trampling
on seven kings. During the Commonwealth and Restoration there were
continuous improvements in ship design, due, no doubt, in some measure,
to the constant fighting with the Dutch. Our naval constructors
naturally wanted to build better ships; they had the Dutch prizes to
study, and our sea officers saw a good deal of the French men-of-war,
which during the latter part of the war assisted them against the Dutch.
The _Royal Charles_ of 1673 may be taken as the link between the
_Sovereign_ and the eighteenth-century ships of our navy. She was a
handsome ship, rather smaller than the _Sovereign_, with a rounded stern
at the water-line, instead of its being put in flat like that of an
ordinary boat. This not only made ships built in this way, as they
always were after this time, stronger, but gave them more graceful
lines, as well as better ones for sailing.

The French about this time began to turn out ships on much better lines
than our own, and throughout the eighteenth century and part of the
nineteenth our French prizes were our best-looking and best-sailing
ships. However, a writer at the very end of the seventeenth century
makes the following comparison between the fighting capacity of the
French and British ships of the period: "Our guns, being for the most
part shorter," he says, "are made to carry more shot than a French gun
of like weight, therefore the French guns reach further, and ours make a
bigger hole. By this the French has the advantage to fight at a
distance, and we yard-arm to yard-arm. The like advantage have we over
them in shipping; although they are broader and carry a better sail, our
sides are thicker and better able to receive their shot; by this they
are more subject to be sunk by our gun-shot than we." At the beginning
of the eighteenth century the exterior of the bulwarks of the upper
deck, poop, and forecastle was generally painted blue, though
occasionally red. On this broad band, carved devices, generally
representing trophies of colours, arms, and guns, were placed between
the ports, which on the upper deck were round. Outboard a carved wreath
encircled them, which, with the numerous other ornamental carvings at
bow and stern, was profusely gilded. Below this broad blue band the
sides of the ship were of a yellow tinge, and were finished off, just
above the water-line, with a single or double black wale.

[Illustration: _Photo. Symonds & Co._


Nelson's famous flagship, dressed with flags in honour of the visit of
the French President to Portsmouth.]

The hull below this was painted white. The ship's sides inboard were
usually coloured red, in order, the story goes, that the crew should not
be affected by the sight of blood splashes in action. The gun-carriages
were often the same colour. The beak-head had disappeared, and the stem
curved up at a somewhat abrupt angle, finishing off with a big
figure-head, as often as not a lion. As the century went on it was found
that not only were the French building better ships than our own, but
the Spaniards also. Our ships might possibly have had thicker sides, as
claimed by the old writer already quoted, but towards the middle of the
century there were great complaints of their structural weakness, and in
1746 the first of an improved and stronger type was taken in hand. This
was the _Royal George_, memorable especially from her tragic end at
Spithead, where she capsized and went down, taking 900 men, women, and
children with her. In 1765 Nelson's _Victory_--perhaps the most famous
ship in history--was built. Thenceforward our battleships were
classified by the number of guns they carried. Thus the _Victory_ and
sister ships carried 100 guns. Then came 90-gun ships, 80-gun ships,
"74's", "64's", and 50-gun ships.

As time went on there was naturally a slight increase in size in the
newer ships, but they were not altered in type. Thus the _Hibernia_ of
1795 was of 2508 tons displacement, as against the 1921 tons of the
_Victory_, and mounted ten more guns. Perhaps the finest sailing
three-decker ever built was the _Queen_, begun in 1833 and launched in
1839. This ship had a displacement of 4476 tons, yet a picture of her
would almost pass muster for the _Victory_. The _Duke of Wellington_ was
built as a sailing-ship, but fitted with engines before her launch in
1852, and was very much the same to look at, except that her stern was
more rounded and had two or three projecting balconies or "stern-walks".
The _Duke_ brings us to the end of the epoch of wooden line-of-battle
ships. Iron ships protected with armour took their place, but these will
be dealt with in another chapter.

The external colouring of our men-of-war remained much the same up to
the battle of Trafalgar, though the carving and gilding grew gradually
less. At the Nile in 1797 there were ships of all sorts of colouring.
Thus the _Audacious_ had plain yellow sides, the _Zealous_ red sides
with yellow stripes. Most, however, were yellow, with different numbers
of narrow black stripes. This yellow and black developed into what was
known as "Nelson Mode"--yellow bands on the lines of the gun-ports, with
black bands between. It is this style with which we are most familiar,
on account of the many paintings and engravings of men-of-war in action
at that and more recent periods; for, except that later on the yellow
was changed to white, the fashion lasted till the advent of the

Having glanced in this cursory manner at the ships which flew the
"meteor flag" between the times of our two greatest queens, Elizabeth
and Victoria, it will be well to give some account, however brief, of
the costume of the men who manned them.

We have little or no personal information about the seamen of the
Elizabethan navy, but we know from their doughty deeds that they were
good men and true, and we also know that they, like their predecessors,
were pretty well paid and provisioned. Uniform clothing they probably
had not,[22] but in the reign of James I there is a description of a
masque in which appeared men dressed as "skippers", in red caps, short
cassocks, wide canvas breeches striped with red, and red stockings. The
six "principal masters of the navy" were provided annually with coats of
red cloth, "guarded", or faced, with velvet of the same colour, and
"embroidered with ships, roses, crowns, and other devices". But, though
this fine apparel was provided for the favoured few, the seamen began at
this time to be neglected, poorly paid, badly fed, and ill-treated--thanks
probably to having such greedy officials and incapable officers as the
Duke of Buckingham and other courtiers at the head of the navy. The
Venetian ambassador to James I reports the great falling off of the
British navy as compared to that of Henry VII and VIII.

[Illustration: "THE GLORIOUS 1ST OF JUNE", 1794

On this date Lord Howe achieved a victory over the French which was
considered so important that on the return of the fleet to Spithead the
King presented Howe with a gold chain and a sword valued at 3000

"Now", he writes, "it only numbers thirty-seven ships, many of them old
and rotten and barely fit for service." Never was it in a worse state,
and good men were naturally harder and harder to get. Charles I was
anxious to restore the navy to its former glory and efficiency, but his
persistency in demanding "ship-money" from his subjects led eventually
to the Civil War, which resulted in his downfall. The Commonwealth,
however, did what he had been ambitious of doing himself: it spent large
sums on the navy, and ships and men were once more in good case. With
the Restoration set in rottenness and corruption. Even Charles II,
though he was too careless or too incapable to remedy matters,
recognized the state of affairs. "If ever", said he, at a meeting of the
Council, "you intend to man the fleet without being cheated by the
captains and pursers, you may go to bed and resolve never to have it
manned." His brother James was more keenly interested in the navy, in
which he had himself served against the Dutch, and no doubt improved
matters in various respects, but the lot of a seaman was still a hard
one. It may have been at his suggestion, when Duke of York, that the
maritime regiment, of which he was the first commander, was raised,
possibly with some idea of its being the nucleus of a permanent

[Illustration: A Matchlock and a Firelock, or Fusil (17th Century)

The constantly smouldering match of the former rendered it a very
dangerous weapon in the neighbourhood of cannon; the "snaphaunce", or
"fusil", was fitted with a "fire-lock", in which a spark was struck from
a flint.]

These early marines, who were not infrequently referred to as
"mariners", wore coats of the duke's favourite yellow with red breeches
and stockings, and carried the flag of St. George, with the addition of
the golden rays of the sun issuing from each corner of the
cross--possibly "the glorious sun of York", as Shakespeare has it. It is
interesting to note that they were the first fusiliers, though not in
name. For probably to prevent danger from lighted matches on board a
ship in action, they were armed with "snaphaunce muskets" or
fusils--that is to say, flintlocks instead of the matchlocks usually
carried by the infantry of the period. The 7th Fusiliers, who were
raised as an artillery escort a few years later, were armed in the same
way for a similar reason; and it is curious that, though never called
fusiliers, the marines have almost always followed fusilier customs, as
to uniform, in never having any officers of the rank of ensign, and in
their officers carrying fusils at the time when other infantry officers
carried half-pikes. We begin to find references to the familiar navy
blue about this period as being worn by seamen. In a quaint old work
published in 1682[23] the devil is referred to as having appeared to
someone in Newcastle "in seaman's clothing with a blew cape". And again,
in the description of the supporters of the coat-of-arms granted to the
Earl of Torrington, who died 1689, we read that they are "Two sailors
proper, habited with jackets and caps on their heads _azure_, with white
trowsers striped _gules_," i.e. red. The following is a list of seamen's
clothing or "slops" and prices, as authorized by James, Duke of York,
when Lord High Admiral in 1663:--

                                                       _s._ _d._
    Monmouth caps, each                                 2    6
    Red caps                                            1    1
    Yarn stockings, per pair                            3    0
    Irish stockings                                     1    2
    Blue shirts, each                                   3    6
    White shirts                                        5    0
    Cotton waistcoats                                   3    0
    Cotton drawers, per pair                            3    0
    Neat's leather shoes                                3    6
    Blue neckcloths, each                               0    5
    Canvas suits                                        5    0
    Rugs of one breadth                                 4    0
    Blue suits                                          5    0


Midshipman. Admiral. Flag-Lieutenant. Secretary (Fleet Paymaster).]

A "Monmouth cap" is said to have been worn by both seamen and soldiers,
and to have resembled a "tam-o'-shanter", but there appears to be some
doubt about it. It seems possible that it may equally well have been
what we now call a "fisherman's cap", or a cap like that worn by the
bands of the Household Cavalry, but with the peak turned perpendicularly
upwards. We sometimes see pictures of boats' crews in such caps at about
this period.

In 1706 blue seems to have been superseded by grey, seamen being
directed to wear "grey jackets and red trousers, brass and tin buttons,
blue and white check shirts and drawers, grey woollen stockings,
gloves(!), leather caps faced with red cotton;" also "striped ticken
waistcoats and breeches". Naval officers apparently wore what they
pleased, though there are indications that red was the favourite colour
right up to 1748, when a blue uniform with white facings and gold lace
was ordered by the King. But it is said that naval officers did not take
kindly to it at first, and in some ships tried to evade the order by
having but one or two uniform coats on board, which were only worn by
officers when sent away on duty where questions might be asked.

Red was now the recognized military colour, and, as mentioned
elsewhere,[24] naval officers took a long time to forget the old
military status of the commanders of the royal ships. Blue with white
linings or facings is said to have been the uniform of two regiments of
marines--who were "to be all fuzileers without pikes"--raised in 1690;
but this had no connection with King George's selection, which is stated
to have been due to his having seen the Duchess of Bedford, wife of the
First Lord of the Admiralty, riding in the park in a habit of blue faced
with white, which prodigiously took His Majesty's fancy. The seamen seem
to have worn grey and red up to about this time, when green and blue
baize frocks and trousers were provided for them. The sailor of this
period is described as wearing "a little low cocked hat, a pea-jacket (a
sort of cumbrous Dutch-cut coat), a pair of petticoat trousers, not
unlike a Scotch kilt, tight stockings, with pinchbeck buckles on his
shoes". The "little cocked hat" is elsewhere described as having its
flaps tacked close down to the crown, which made it look like "a
triangular apple pasty". This hat was gradually replaced by a tarpaulin
or straw hat, not a bit like that worn at the present day, but more
nearly resembling a low inverted flowerpot with a narrow curly brim.
Short, open, blue jackets began to be worn--"round jackets" they were
called--showing the check shirt or a red or buff waistcoat. The
trousers were longer than previously, and round the hat was often worn a
bright blue ribband bearing the ship's name. Black, or occasionally
coloured, bandana handkerchiefs were loosely knotted round the neck. In
Nelson's days it was a favourite practice of the seamen to sew strips of
white canvas over the seams of their jackets by way of ornamentation,
and to adorn them with as many buttons as possible. Pigtails were in
full fashion and of a portentous length and stiffness, leading to the
adoption of the square "sailor collar" to protect the cloth jackets from
grease. But though a regulation uniform had been prescribed for officers
there was no strict regulation as to the seaman's dress before 1857, an
exact reversal of the previous state of things.

In the early part of the nineteenth century captains very often dressed
their crews in "fancy rigs", but the short jacket, trousers taut on the
hips and long and loose in the legs, with a straw or tarpaulin hat--now
with a flat brim and lower crown--remained the general costume of the
British sailor until, after the introduction of continuous service, a
regulation uniform was laid down, as mentioned above. The marines, who
had originally been under the War Office, and had worn different facings
in their different regiments, were, in 1755, formed into the present
corps under the Admiralty and dressed in red with white facings, which
were changed to blue in 1802 on the occasion of the distinction "Royal"
being granted them, on the representations of Lord St. Vincent, as a
recognition of their services both in action and in the suppression of
various disorders in the fleet. One more change was made in the uniform
of naval officers, by William IV, who instituted red facings. It was a
temporary one only, for in about ten years the navy was glad to be
allowed to resume the time-honoured blue and white.


[19] Purchased about 1544, probably from the Hansa.

[20] Seeling means literally to "roll from side to side", but it is
evidently here used for the sides themselves.

[21] As guns of these days were called after animals and birds, the
"musket" received its name from "mosquito".

[22] The Elizabethan seamen, and indeed their successors, must have
inherited somewhat of the old Viking Berserkers' dislike of defensive
armour, or any equipment limiting bodily activity. Sir Richard Hawkins
complained in 1593 that though he had with him in his expedition to the
South Seas "great preparation of armour, as well of proofe as of light
corsletts, yet not a man would use them ".

[23] Law's _Memorialls_.

[24] Chapter VI.


The "Turks" in the Channel

  "All, all asleep within each roof, along the rocky street,
   And these must be the lovers' friends, with gently sliding feet--
   A stifled gasp! a dreary noise! 'The roof is in a flame!'
   From out their beds, and to their doors, rush maid, and sire, and dame--
   And meet, upon the threshold stone, the gleaming sabre's fall,
   And o'er each black and bearded face the white or crimson shawl--
   The yell of 'Allah!' breaks above the prayer and shriek and roar--
   Oh, blessed God! The Algerine is lord of Baltimore!"
                         _The Sack of Baltimore_, by THOMAS OSBORNE DAVIS.

YOU may read dozens of English histories, and even histories of the
British Navy, and find little or no mention of the subject of this
chapter. And yet during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and part of the
eighteenth centuries the Algerine pirates, or "Turks" as they were
generally called, were a real menace to our trade, our fishermen, and
even to the dwellers on our coasts. The story is not at all a creditable
one to us as a nation, nor did the Navy itself gain any particular
distinction in fighting with these pests; but this was not so much the
fault of our sea-commanders and their men as of the Government, which
rarely gave them any real opportunity of exterminating the Turkish
pirates that infested even our home waters.

The most discreditable part of all was that played by the British
renegades, who were, more than anyone else, responsible for the Turkish
efficiency at sea. Left to themselves, the corsairs from Algiers, Tunis,
and Salee would never have become formidable. In mediæval times, as has
already been noted, the English had the reputation of being "good
seamen, but better pirates", and piracy (including English piracy),
though scotched, was not killed till some time after the days of "Good
Queen Bess". Why, in the youth of Edward VI, when the country was ruled
by the Regent Somerset, the Regent's own brother--Sir Thomas Seymour,
the Lord High Admiral of England--did not disdain to "do a bit in that
line" himself!

The story is this. He had been married to the Queen Dowager. When she
died, he found himself rather "hard up". From his position he knew all
about the Channel pirates; he had dealt with lots of them, and "executed
justice" on them for their misdeeds. Now, however, he entered into a
surreptitious partnership with them, "winked the other eye" at
complaints, and pocketed half-profits. He did so well that he tried to
start a special mint of his own at Bristol. He still pretended to the
Regent and the Council to be very poor, and eventually succeeded in
getting an addition of 1500 ducats a year to his salary. He was allowed,
moreover, to draw this in a lump sum in advance. But it was not very
long before the Council began to "smell a rat". The pirates naturally
got bolder and bolder, knowing that they could work with impunity, and
Sir Thomas Seymour was asked "why he did not look after these matters?"
"Oh," said he, "I am just sending three ships after these fellows! I'll
soon make things all right." His ships sailed, but only to become the
worst and most successful freebooters in British waters. Their
depredations and his great wealth, which, it seems, he spent openly and
extravagantly, could not long remain a secret, and he was again summoned
before the Council. He still asserted that he was poverty-stricken, but
he could no longer get anyone to believe him, and a piratical captain
who was captured about this time admitted, under examination, that the
admiral had "gone halves" with him. "Brother or no brother, he must be
executed for this," said the Protector Somerset--and he was.

When a man in Sir Thomas Seymour's exalted position could behave in
this manner, one can hardly be surprised that lesser "gentlemen" were
not ashamed to follow in his footsteps--even some years later.

The first appearance of Mohammedan pirates in Northern waters was at a
time very remote from that of which I am now writing, but I think it is
of sufficient interest to deserve a passing reference. It was in the
year 1048--just eighteen years before the Conquest--that news came to
William of Normandy that a band of Moorish or Saracen pirates had
established themselves in a castle which they had built on an eminence
right in the middle of the Island of Guernsey, from which they harassed
and terrorized the inhabitants. A knight, Samson d'Anville, was sent to
destroy "Le Château du Grand Sarrasin", as it was called, and he
apparently succeeded in rooting out the wasps' nest; and when in 1203 a
church was built on the site, the salvation of the islanders was
commemorated by its consecration as "Notre Dame de la Deliverance du
Castel". Catel Church still stands on this historic spot. We hear no
more of Saracen pirates in Northern seas till the sixteenth century,
unless the mysterious ships which were driven ashore near Berwick in
1254 were in any way connected with them. Certainly the ships of any
Northern nation would have been recognizable on our north-east coast.
The ships in question "were large handsome vessels, but unlike anything
ever before seen in this country: well provided with naval stores and
provisions, and laden with coats of mail, shields and weapons of all
kinds, sufficient for an army".[25] Their crews were arrested "as
barbarians, or spies, or even enemies", but as no one understood their
language, nothing whatever could be made of them, and so they were
eventually allowed to depart in peace. Who they were, whence they came,
and whither they went has never been discovered. The incident remains
one of the most impenetrable of the many mysteries of the sea.

The foundation of the piratical States on the north coast of Africa,
which were to be the source of untold misery to European nations, may be
traced to the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain in 1509. Pursued
by the Spaniards to Algiers--or Argier, as it was then usually
called--the Moors called in the assistance of Arouji Barbarossa, a noted
Mediterranean corsair. He succeeded in beating off the invaders and
established himself as first Dey. Tunis, Sallee, and other rover
communities soon sprang up along the African coast, and, beginning by
retaliating on the Spaniards, the "Turks" gradually extended their
sphere of operations till they became a terror to Christendom.

Christendom had itself to blame in a very great measure, since the
Christian nations could never agree long enough between themselves to
stamp out effectively these nests of pirates. Ceasing to be content with
the spoils and slaves they could capture in the Mediterranean, they set
themselves to--

    "Keeping in awe the Bay of Portingale
     And all the ocean by the British Shore".[26]

The churchwardens' accounts of the parish of St. Helen's, Abingdon, bear
curious witness to the pitch at which Turkish piracy had arrived by the
year 1565. An entry in this year runs as follows: "Payde for two bokes
of Common Prayer agaynst invading of the Turke 0_s._ 6_d._" The special
prayer was probably the one that ran thus:

      "O Almighty and Everlasting God, our Heavenly Father,
      we Thy disobedient and rebellious children, now by Thy
      just judgement sore afflicted, and in great danger to
      be oppressed, by Thine and our sworn and most deadly
      enemies, the Turks, &c."

The danger was evidently felt to be imminent. By 1576 the "Turks" of
Argier had no less than 25,000 Christian captives in their cruel
clutches. Most, certainly, came from the southern European countries,
but our turn was to come, and half a dozen years later the miscreants
were boasting as much to their English captives. We still had our own as
well as Flemish, Irish, and French piratical gentlemen in the Channel at
this time, for in 1580 the Council called the attention of the Cinque
Ports to the fact that such robbers were "daily received and harboured
by the inhabitants of the said places, making open sale of their spoils
without interruption".

[Illustration: A Turkish Pirate Ship of 1579 (_From a print of Algiers
of that year_)

Observe the sharp ram, the tower-like forecastle, and the curiously
perched cabin aft. Also the tail-like ornaments at the stern, possibly
reminiscent of the sterns of the old "Dragon-ships" and "Long Serpents".
The big and somewhat triangular openings are probably gun-ports, but no
guns are visible.]

It is probable that the attempts at the suppression of our own
sea-robbers drove some of them into the ranks of the Barbary corsairs.
And among them, it is shameful to relate, were not a few men of good
family. Captain John Smith, who wrote about 1630, explains that at the
accession of James I the "Gentlemen Adventurers" and other seaman who
had long carried on a sort of licensed piracy against the Spanish
possessions and ships on the Spanish Main, found themselves, like
Othello, with their "occupation gone". James wanted to live at peace
with everybody. As an epigram of the time put it:

    "When Elizabeth was England's King,
     That dreadful name thro' Spain did ring;
     How altered is the case ad sa'me,
     These juggling days of good Queen Jamie".

So that, to quote John Smith on the Gentlemen Adventurers, "those that
were rich, rested with what they had; those that were poor, and had
nothing but from hand to mouth, turned pirates; some because they were
slighted of those for whom they had got much wealth; some for that they
could not get their due; some that had lived bravely would not abase
themselves to poverty.... Now because they grew hateful to all Christian
Princes, they retired to Barbary, where altho' there be not many good
harbours, but Tunis, Algier, Sally, Marmora and Tituane, there are many
convenient roads.... Ward, a poor English sailor, and Dansker, a
Dutchman made first here their marts when the Moors scarce knew how to
sail a ship. Bishop was ancient and did little hurt; but Easton got so
much as made himself a Marquess in Savoy, and Ward lived like a Bashaw
in Barbary; those were the first taught the Moors to be men of war." He
gives the names of several other noted English pirates of the time: some
were hung, others were "mercifully pardoned" by King James. Other
villains acted as agents and contrived to give the "Turks" wind of the
sailing of any punitive expedition.

"For there being several Englishmen," writes Sir William Monson, the
celebrated Admiral, "who have been too long in trading with pirates, and
furnishing them with powder and other necessaries, it is to be feared
those same Englishmen will endeavour to give the pirates intelligence,
lest their being taken, their wicked practices should be discovered."
Thanks to such scoundrels as these the "Turks" were able to attack us
in our own waters. By 1616 they had no less than thirty ships north of
the Mediterranean, and in that year a Salee rover was actually captured
in the River Thames. By the year following so many British ships had
been taken by the "Turks" that the merchants of London established a
fund of £40,000--the Trinity House contributing £1068--"for the
merchants and ships of the Port of London as a fund against the Turks".
Four hundred and sixty British ships had already fallen into their

When in 1619 Sir John Killigrew asked permission to erect a lighthouse
on the Lizard the Trinity House refused, on the ground "that it is not
necessary or convenient to erect a lighthouse there, but _per contra_,
inconvenient, having regard to _pirates_ and enemies whom it would
conduct to a safe place of landing". In 1620 James I was at last
persuaded to send an expedition against "Argier". The £40,000 collected
in London, and other sums subscribed, went towards its equipment. It
consisted of six men-of-war and twelve hired merchantmen under Sir
Robert Mansell; but as during the previous sixteen years of the King's
reign, "never a nail had been knocked into any of the Royal ships", and
as their captains "were of little repute", the whole affair turned out
such a dismal failure that the Algerines were encouraged to attack us
with greater determination than ever.

"But too true it is," wrote Monson, "that since that time our poor
English, and especially the people of the West country, who trade that
way daily, fall into the hands of those pirates. It is too lamentable to
hear their complaints, and too intolerable to suffer the misery that has
befallen them."[27]

By 1625 the Turkish pirate ship was "a common object of the seashore" in
the West. There were at least a score of them in the Channel. They
captured the Island of Lundy, and, "Hun-like", threatened to burn
Ilfracombe unless a large sum was paid as indemnity. They landed in
Cornwall one Sunday, surrounded a church while divine service was
proceeding, and carried off sixty men from the congregation into
slavery. Some months earlier it had been officially reported that there
were nearly 1400 Englishmen captive in Salee alone, "all, or greatest
part, taken within 20 or 30 miles of Dartmouth, Plymouth, or Falmouth.
When the winter takes, then the Sally men-of-war go to Flushing and
Holland, where, having supplied all wants, and the winter past, they go
to sea again. If they want men in the places with the Dutch, they are

Perhaps the most celebrated coastal raid was that made by Murad Reis
upon the village of Baltimore, on the Munster coast, on 31st June, 1631.
Piloted by a traitor from Dungarvon--one Flachet by name, who, it is
consoling to learn, expiated his crime on the scaffold--the "Turks"
sailed into the little harbour in the dead of night and descended on the
sleeping village like a "bolt from the blue". Completely surprised, the
Irishmen could oppose no resistance to the dark-skinned demons and their
blacker-hearted renegade comrades. Those who were not fortunate enough
to be slain on their own doorsteps were herded on board the corsairs
with all the weeping women and children of the village, even babies in
arms, and carried off into a captivity worse than death itself. The
total "bag" amounted to 237 men, women, and children. Baltimore was then
a thriving fishing centre, but it has never recovered from this raid.
The south coast of Ireland and the Bristol Channel seem to have been a
favourite hunting-ground at this period. Murad had already been harrying
the English coast before he carried out his coup at Baltimore. The year
before the "Turks" had taken six ships _near Bristol_, and had
something like forty ships operating in English waters. But the
Government of King Charles was so feeble and so incompetent that even
the Sack of Baltimore failed to rouse it to the necessary action.

The navy was willing enough to deal with the pirates, but it was in a
very poor way itself, its men robbed, starved, and stinted, its ships
and many of their commanders anything but efficient. It is even stated
that two of the King's ships lying at Kinsale had word of Murad Reis's
attack, but did not attempt to intercept it. Apparently all that was
done was to set up additional alarm-beacons on the coast. Captain
Richard Plumleigh wrote from Waterford in October of the year following,
reporting an engagement he had had with "the arch-pirate Nutt", and
adds, "Nutt has 2 Turks with him and his consort.... I never saw people
in whom one disaster had settled so deep an impression as the Turks'
last descent hath done in these Irish: every small fleet they see on the
coast puts them into arms, or at least to their heels."

There would appear to have been something like a permanent, though
inefficient, watch in St. George's Channel about this time, for in 1634
Sir John Plumleigh, another naval officer, writes from the Isle of Man,
after "scouring" those waters, "Of the Turks as yet we hear nothing,
though the general bruit runs that they intend hither this year, as some
prisoners from Algiers have written over to their friends". So
enterprising had the pirates become that not long before this it was
represented very strongly to the Mayor of Barnstaple that "unless
vigorous steps are taken for the suppression of these marauders" there
was great danger that "they will fall upon our fishing shippes both at
Newfoundland and Virginea, for they desire both our shippes and men".

The "Turks" were, in fact, insatiable. At this time it was reported that
they had 25,000 Christian slaves in Algiers alone, besides 8000
renegades, among whom were over 1000 women. The petitions to the
Government from coastal towns, from merchants, from the friends and
relations of the unhappy captives, were legion--but nothing practical
was done. The celebrated Robert Boyle writes of his passage from Youghal
to Bristol in 1635, that he accomplished it safely, "though the Irish
coasts were infested with Turkish galleys".


The bold and aggressive Turkish pirates were for long the terror of
merchantmen. So successful were they in their raids that at one time
they were reported to have 25,000 Christian slaves in Algiers alone.]

Two years later a squadron under Captain William Rainsborow was actually
dispatched against Salee. This port was blockaded by four ships, which
were reinforced by four more, and after destroying every Turkish ship
which attempted to break the blockade, the squadron closed in to the
city, and so battered its fortifications that the pirates were glad to
make terms by giving up 400 English slaves. The success of Captain
Rainsborow shows what might have been done had the same process been
applied to other pirate cities on the African coast, but, strange to
say, our forefathers were content merely to "scotch the snake", without
making an end of it once and for all.

By 1640 the Turks were as bold and aggressive as ever. Three Turkish
men-of-war attacked the _Elizabeth_ off the Lizard and burned her, and
shortly afterwards landed at Penzance and carried off sixty men, women,
and children. The Deputy-Lieutenant of Cornwall reported that there were
about sixty Turkish pirates off the coast at this time. In 1645 it is
stated that they landed again at Fowey, and made slaves of 240 persons,
including some ladies.

Occasionally some of our merchant-ships were able to put up a successful
defence against the "Turks".

There were several instances of this in the Mediterranean, and here is a
shipmaster's report of how he did the like in the Channel in 1638: "W.
Nurry, of this town and county of Poole, Mariner and Master under God of
the good ship called the _Concord_ of Poole, burthen, 80 tons, with 6
guns, 12 men, and 2 boys, being about 6 or 7 leagues off Ushant, coming
from Rochelle laden with salt, was set upon by a man-of-war of Algiers
having 15 pieces of ordnance and full of men with the colour of
Holland displayed ... and then put out her Turkey colours and bade him
'amain'[28] for the King of Algiers, whereupon this examinant refusing
to strike their sails at his command, the Turk boarded his ship in his
quarter with great store of men, whereby they continued to fight board
by board together by the space of 3 hours, and the Turk being weary of
the battery took occasion to cut away this examinant's sprit-sail-yard
to clear himself away, and then stood to the northward ... that he
killed a great many of the Turks and beat them out of his top into the
sea with his muskets, and then surprised and brought into this harbour
of Poole, one Turk and three Christians, viz.: a Dutchman, a Frenchman
and a Biscayner." These three men made statements to the effect that the
Turkish ship was of 240 tons displacement, carried 15 guns and 124 men,
of whom 19 were Christians, 6 of them English, and 3 of them renegades,
and that thirty men-of-war from Algiers were "on the war-path" against
Spain, France, and England. The "Dutchman" was one Oliver Megy of
Lübeck, who admitted that he had been acting as pilot. Dutchman was
apparently then used indiscriminately for Dutch or German, as I believe
is still to a great extent the case at sea.

Then Sir John Pennington, in his _Journal_ on board H.M.S. _Vauntguard_,
in 1633, reports falling in with a "fly-boat", which informed him that
he had been "clapt aboard" by two Turks, one of eleven, the other of
seven guns, "betwixt the Gulfe and the Land's End, and hurt 9 or 10 of
his men very dangerously, but at last--God bee praysed--they got from
them and slew 4 of the Turkes--that entered them--outright and drove the
rest overboard". Again, when anchored in the _Swiftsure_, in Stokes Bay,
Pennington notes on 24th September, 1635: "There came in a freebooter,
and in his company a barke of Dartmouth laden with Poore John (dried
fish) which he tooke in the Channel from a Turks man-of-warr". In 1652,
just after the Republican form of government had been established in
England, the _Speaker_ frigate was dispatched to "Argier in Turkey" with
£30,000 to ransom English captives from slavery. But when the strong
hand of the Protector Cromwell had seized the helm of state there was no
more question of ransoms or presents to the barbarians of Algiers. He
dispatched the celebrated Admiral Blake with a dozen men-of-war to deal
with the Turks in the only effective way. Blake stood into the harbour
of Tunis, burned all the shipping there, and knocked their
fortifications to pieces, with the loss of only twenty-five killed and
forty wounded. He then appeared before Algiers, whither the story of his
victory at Tunis had preceded him, and had no difficulty in arranging
for the release of the whole of the British captives. More than this,
the "Turks" gave British waters a wide berth, and there were no more
complaints of their performances in the Narrow Seas during the

But with the re-appearance of the Stuart kings at the Restoration the
old story of outrage and piracy began all over again. The Turks led off
with the sensational capture of Lord Inchiquin, the British Ambassador
to Portugal, who with his whole suite was captured off the Tagus and
publicly sold by auction in the market-place of Algiers. They would
never have dared to act in this manner in the days of Cromwell and
Blake; but they knew well enough that there was mighty little patriotism
about the "Merry Monarch" and his Court and Government. But even Charles
could not stomach the degrading arrangement which was made by the Earl
of Winchelsea, the British Ambassador to Turkey, who had been ordered to
call at Algiers on his way out to negotiate a new treaty with the Dey.
This nobleman actually granted the pirates liberty to search British
vessels and remove all foreigners and their goods. The Earl of Sandwich
and Sir John Lawson were sent with a fleet to Algiers to enforce the
removal of the obnoxious clause from the treaty. They bombarded the
town, but apparently not very effectively. The point was conceded by the
Dey, but as the Algerines, like the modern Huns, regarded all treaties
as "scraps of paper", to be torn up when opportunity offered, the
expedition was practically fruitless.

The Earl of Inchiquin and his son were eventually ransomed for £1500,
and Charles showed his weakness by indulging in the unfortunately
widespread habit of trying to conciliate the "Turks" by presents of arms
and ammunition, which everyone knew would be used against our own ships
and men.

From about this time forward the Turkish pirates seem to have generally
kept farther out in the Atlantic. They were especially on the look-out
for our Newfoundland ships. In 1677 six corsairs destroyed seventeen of
these, but one of the Turks was terribly mauled by a small English
frigate, and only escaped by the aid of a dark and stormy night. Our
watch-dogs were settling down to their work at last. The _Concord_
merchantman bound for America had a stiff fight with a Turkish squadron
in 1678, 120 leagues from the Land's End. One night they fell in with
"The Admiral of Algiers, a new Frigate of 48 guns, called the _Rose_,
and commanded by Canary, a Spanish renegade; the other two Virginiamen,
the one of Plymouth, the one of Dartmouth", evidently captured ships.
There was also a "barque of Ireland". "The Algerian hailed us in
English," says Thomas Grantham, master of the _Concord_, "'From whence?'
We answered, 'From London.' He told us he was the _Rupert_, frigate, and
commanded our boat on board, which our Captain refused, knowing it could
not be the _Rupert_. The Turk kept company with us all night, which gave
us some time to fit our ship, and get our boats out: when it was light
he put abroad his bloody flag[29] at main-topmast head, fires a gun,
and commands us to strike to the King of Algiers and to Admiral Canary.


_Drawn by C. M. Padday_

"His sails, masts, and shrouds were all in a blaze. Then we cut loose,
and his mast went by the board."]

"We gave him a 'What cheer ho', he comes up with us and passes his
broadside upon us, having 13 guns of a side of his lower tier; we
returned him as good a salute as we could; he steered from us, falls
astern, loaded his guns with double head and round partridge,[30] and
then came up again with us, claps us on board, grapples with us on the
quarter, and made fast his spritsail topmast to our main-bowline, our
main-topsail being furled. After 2 or 3 hours dispute, finding he could
not master us, he cut away our boats, and fires us on the quarter, and
our mizzen-yard being shot down, fired our sail which burnt very
vehemently, and immediately set all the after-part of our ship on fire.
Our captain kept the round-house and cuddy, till the fire forced him to
retreat, all that were with him being killed or wounded and being got
down into the great cabin steerage, he sallied out with those that were
there with a resolution rather to be burnt than taken.

"In the interim, the Turk's foresail hanging in the brails over our poop
took fire; then he would fain have got clear of us, but we endeavoured
to keep him fast, and as many as run up to cut him clear, we fetched
down with our small shot, until his sails, masts, shrouds, and yards,
were all in a blaze; then we cut loose, and immediately his mast to the
deck went by the board, with many men in his top and his bloody flag;
several of the men betook themselves to their boats, but at last they
overcame the fire, as, thanks be to God, we did likewise on board our
ship, having our mizzen-mast burnt by the board and all the after-part
of our ship burnt; there was little or no wind. The Turk got his oars,
and rowed till he was out of fear of us.... We had killed or wounded on
board of us in the action with Canary 21 men, but of Turks, according to
the account from aboard them, at least 70 or 80 are killed." If every
merchantman had put up as good a fight as Captain Thomas Grantham, the
Turks would soon have had to retire from their piratical business. As it
was, they were able to continue their depredations for some years
longer, but not in quite the same wholesale way. The British Navy became
more and more active, and in 1681-2 made prizes of a number of Turkish
vessels, among them the _Admiral of Sally_, the _Two Lyons and Crown of
Argiers_, the _Three Half Moons_, the _Golden Lyon_, and--what a name
for a man-of-war!--the _Flowerpott_. These captures had an immediate
effect. The Algerines became "very inclinable to peace" and offered to
release many English captives "gratis". Their last notable exploit in
British waters was the attempt to capture a transport in which the Royal
Irish Regiment was sailing from Ostend to Cork in 1695.

The "Turk" in this case was a Salee rover, like the one that attacked
Robinson Crusoe's ship. She gave chase to the transport and overhauled
her, but when she got near enough to see her decks crowded with redcoats
she considered discretion to be the better part of valour and hauled
off. It is probable that occasional forays were made on our shipping by
such marauders in the early part of the eighteenth century, and we have
a very detailed account of the wreck of the _White Horse_, an Algerine
frigate, near Penzance, in September, 1740. The return of the greater
part of her survivors to Algiers on board the _Blonde_ frigate is an
early instance of our national weakness for too tenderly dealing with
alien enemies. Slavery had not been abolished; we could easily and
legitimately have sold them for slaves to the West Indian planters or to
the Knights of Malta, or exchanged them for some of the hundreds of our
fellow-countrymen the pirate cities of North Africa still held in
bondage. But no, we preferred to set them free and to put them in a
position to murder, rob, and enslave yet more Englishmen.

The very last appearance of the Turkish pirate in our waters I have been
able to find is of so recent a date as 18th May, 1817, when a couple of
Moorish vessels captured a ship coming from Oldenburgh, off the Galloper
Shoal, which is not far from the Goodwin Sands. This must have been a
very exceptional case, though up to the time Lord Exmouth subjected
Algiers to a severe bombardment the "Turks" were still a danger to
merchantmen in southern waters. The pest was not stamped out until the
capture of the famous pirate city by the French in 1830. So confident
and so truculent were the Deys of Algiers as late as the early part of
the nineteenth century that, in 1804, even Nelson, in command of a
powerful fleet, was unable to make the Dey give an interview to Captain
Keats of the _Superb_, whom he had sent as bearer of a letter setting
forth certain British claims. Incredible to relate, no further steps
were taken, and the fleet put to sea and resumed the blockade of Toulon.
We can hardly, therefore, be surprised to read that in the same year the
"Turks" should have had the hardihood to attack the United States
frigate _Philadelphia_, which took the ground off Tripoli when in
pursuit of a pirate. The Americans fought for four hours, but, the ship
being by that time almost on her beam ends, had eventually to strike
their colours, and both officers and men were carried ashore into


[25] Nicholas. _History British Navy._

[26] Massinger.

[27] From the Parish Books of Portishead, Somerset: Acct. of

    "1722.--Gave 5 sailors taken by Pierates            10_d._
     1723.--Gave 1 man that had been in turkey           1_d._
     1726.--Gave 6 poor men tacking by the pirits        6_d._
     1726.--Gave 7 poor sailors burnt                    1_s._"

Mr. Henry Caer of Portishead, who has been good enough to send me these
extracts, thinks that "burnt" in the last entry means that their ship
had been burnt.

[28] i.e. "yield".

[29] This, the old Grecian signal to engage, in 1292 "signified certain
death and mortal strife to all sailors everywhere". In the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries it was constantly used as an emblem of "Defiance"
and "No Quarter". The mutineers at the Nore hoisted it in 1797, as did
the Paris Communists in 1871.

[30] A species of grape-shot.


The Honour of the Flag

    "Ye mariners of England!
       That guard our native seas;
     Whose flag has braved, a thousand years,
       The battle and the breeze!
     Your glorious standard launch again
       To match another foe.
      .    .    .    .    .    .    .
     The meteor flag of England
       Shall yet terrific burn
     Till danger's troubled night depart,
       And the star of peace return."
          "Ye Mariners of England." THOMAS CAMPBELL.

MOST people, as they listen to the inspiring strains of "Rule,
Britannia! Britannia rule the waves", feel a wholesome consciousness of
pride and satisfaction in having the privilege of belonging to a nation
whose sons have almost always been pre-eminent on the ocean; but few
stop to consider what is implied by the expression "rule the waves".

We are not in any doubt at the present moment of at least one meaning of
the words. Had not our fleet instantly asserted its supremacy at the
very outbreak of the great war with Germany we should have found it very
difficult to get along at all, either with the war or with "business as
usual". Does everybody realize, even now, that the war forced us to try
to do two stupendous things at once--to carry on the biggest struggle in
our history and to keep going the biggest trade and commerce in the
world? It is quite certain that if we had not been able to maintain our
"ruling of the waves", we should soon have been in a state of commercial

But in the old days our claim to the empire of the sea was based on
other considerations, and though nothing more important was at stake
than what may be termed a question of precedence, our naval commanders,
even in those periods when our navy was by no means at its best or
strongest, were always prepared to enforce their claims by instant
resort to arms. Strange to say, it is only since our great victory off
Cape Trafalgar that we have abrogated a claim to an extensive watery
kingdom, extending from Cape Van Staten in Norway to Finisterre in
Spain, which for many hundred years we had fought for, generally
maintained, and asserted in the most imperious manner. According to old
writers on the subject, even the Saxon kings had claimed the kingship of
the "Narrow Seas", which then probably meant what is now the English
Channel. This, in the time of our Norman kings, was actually a channel
through their dominions, and when, by his marriage to the daughter of
the Duke of Aquitaine, Henry II eventually succeeded to that duchy, and
extended his dominions to the south-east corner of the Bay of Biscay, he
naturally felt he had a claim to rule the seas still farther to the

"The striking of the sail" (that is, lowering it) "is one of the
ancientest prerogatives of the Crown of England," says an old writer,
"and in the second year of King John, it was declared at Hastings by
that Monarch, for a law and custom of the sea, that if a Lieutenant on
any voyage, being ordained by the King, encounter upon the sea any ship
or vessel, laden or unladen, that will not strike or vail their
bonnets[31] at the commandment of the Lieutenant of the King, or of the
Admiral of the King, or his Lieutenant, but will fight against them of
the fleet, that if they can be taken they shall be reputed as enemies;
their ships, vessels, and goods taken and forfeited as the goods of
enemies; and that the common people being in the same, be chastised by
imprisonment of their bodies." The same writer states that this claim
was formally recognized and accepted in the twenty-sixth year of the
reign of Edward I (1297) "by the Agents and Ambassadors of Genoa,
Catalonia, Spain, Almaigne, Zealand, Holland, Friesland, Denmark,
Norway, and divers other places in the Empire, and by all the States and
Princes of Europe".

There do not seem to have been any definite limitations to our watery
kingdom laid down: it is sometimes convenient not to be too precise. But
the earliest claim was _usque ad finem terrae_, which might mean to the
"Land's End", to "Finisterre" in Brittany, to "Finisterre" in Spain, or
"to the ends of the earth"--all very different things. Certainly the
Spanish Finisterre was regarded as the southern boundary in the
seventeenth century, for in the Rev. H. Teonge's _Diary_, when chaplain
in the _Royal Oak_, we find the following entry written after leaving
Gibraltar for England: "13 May, 1679--An indifferent good gale, and
fayre weather, and at twelve wee are in the King of England's dominions
(_Deo gratia_), that is wee are past Cape Finister and entering on the
Bay of Biscay".

Monarch after monarch asserted his right to be saluted by foreigners
"taking in their flag and striking their topsail" when within "His
Majesty's Seas", and the Protector Cromwell made the same claim on
behalf of the nation. Our men-of-war had also to be saluted in the same
way by our merchant-ships. Any neglect used to be summarily punished.
Captain Pennington of H.M.S. _Vauntguard_ notes in his _Journal_ that on
6th September, 1633, he had "in the Bilbowes" (that is, fastened by the
legs to an iron bar running along the deck) "Richard Eastwood, Master of
a Sandwich hoye, for not striking his topsayle"! He does not say how
long he kept him there, or whether he handed him over to the civil power
to be prosecuted by the Admiralty.

Not only the sea but "all that therein is" was considered the property
of the English monarchs. Foreigners were not allowed to fish without
permission, for which they generally had to pay. This was relaxed under
Henry VI, but reasserted later, and the enforcement of payment from
Dutch fishermen for fishing in the North Sea was one of the prime causes
of the wars between Holland and England in the time of the Commonwealth
and of Charles II. For the Dutch thought they were strong enough to
wrest the trident of Neptune from our grasp. They nearly succeeded, but
not quite, and we find William III asserting our claim to sovereignty
afloat just as particularly and definitely as any of his predecessors.


Philip of Spain, arriving in the Straits of Dover on his journey to
England to espouse Mary, flaunts the flag of Spain without paying the
customary salute. Lord Howard of Effingham, the English admiral, soon
brings him to his senses by firing a round shot across his bows.]

The officers in command of royal ships or fleets were not expected to
refer the matter to higher authority, but were to take action at once,
and made no bones about doing so. Innumerable instances may be
quoted--the only difficulty is to pick out the most interesting cases.
Nor were they respectors of persons. When the gloomy and saturnine
Philip of Spain arrived in British waters, on his way to espouse our
Queen Mary, he came with great pomp and circumstance with a fleet of 100
sail, flaunting the gaudy flag of Spain even in the Straits of Dover.
Lord Howard of Effingham, sent with a guard of honour of 28 men-of-war
to meet the Prince Consort elect, had no idea of allowing that even in
this very special case, and, seeing no disposition on the part of the
Spanish fleet to pay the customary salute, lost no time in sending over
a gentle reminder in the shape of a round shot.

The hint was taken, and not till then did Howard go on board to pay his
respects to King Philip. Not many years later a Spanish fleet which was
on its way to Flanders, to bring Anne of Austria back to Spain, tried it
on again on entering Plymouth. Here they found Admiral Hawkins flying
his flag on board the _Jesus of Lubeck_--a ship, by the way, that had
taken part in the Armada fight. Hawkins was not slow in sending the
usual reminder humming through the Spanish admiral's rigging, and, as he
still hesitated to "take in his flag", a second messenger came crashing
into his ship's side. Still trying to avoid paying the usual
compliment, he went personally on board the _Jesus_ to argue the point.
He might have spared his pains. All the satisfaction he got was a
peremptory order to clear out of our seas within twelve hours as a
penalty for his rudeness to the Queen.

Again, off Calais, the French ambassador was made to render the proper
salute to our admiral of the Narrow Seas, who gave orders to Sir Jerome
Turner, his second in command, to "shoot and strike him", should he
refuse to do so. In 1605 Sir William Monson had a slight difficulty with
a Dutch admiral at the same place. The Dutchmen dipped his flag three
times, but Monson insisted that he should pay the ordained salute and
take it in altogether, or fight the matter out on the spot. The salute
was paid.

Even in the days of James I, when our fleet was in somewhat a poor way,
its captains insisted as firmly as ever on the customary honour being
paid to our flag. Captain Best of the _Guardland_ sends in a report
about two Dutch men-of-war off Aberdeen, and says: "The Admiral of the
Holland men-of-war hath his flag in her main-top, but giveth it out that
he will not take it in for all the Commanders of His Majesty's ships.
Forty years is within the compass of my knowledge, and I never knew but
that all nations forbear to spread their flags in the presence of the
King's ships. That custom shall not be lost by me. When I come into the
road and anchor by him, if the Admiral will not take in his flag when I
shall require it, I will shoot it down, though it grow into a quarrel."
The last expression is delightful. There certainly would have been the
makings of a "quarrel". This was in 1623.

Captain Richard Plumleigh took an even wider view of the obligations of
foreigners to pay honour to the English flag. His idea was that they had
to do so even in foreign harbours. He writes to the Admiralty on 23rd
September, 1631: "It was my fortune to speak with one of these two
merchants from whom the French demanded their flag". That is to say
that the French had what he regarded as the impertinence to expect that
they should have "struck" their topsails to them. He goes on: "They shot
at the English some dozen shots and received from the English the like
entertainment, with the loss of one man, by which they sat down and gave
over their pretences.... It hath always been my principal aim to
preserve His Majesty's Naval honnour both in his own seas and abroad,
and for my part I think that it were better that both I and the ship
under my charge were at the bottom of the sea, than that I should live
to see a Frenchman or any other nation wear a flag aloft in His
Majesty's seas and suffer them to pass unfought withal.... I dare engage
my head that with five of H.M. ships I will always clear the way to all
French flagmasters, yea, and make them strike to him upon those which
they call their own seas.... This summer I was at the Texel in Holland,
where come in divers French, and though the Hollanders bade me domineer
at home in England, yet I forebore not to fetch down their flag with my
ordnance." Evidently the gallant captain had strong views on the
subject, and did not hide them under a bushel. But he was not alone in
his determination to uphold the "honnour of the flag" at all costs.

Pennington, a notable naval officer of that period, has several
incidents of a similar kind to relate in his _Journals_ on board H.M.S.
_Convertive_,[32] _Vauntguard_, and _Swiftsure_, between 1631 and 1636.
He tells us that sailing in the first-mentioned ship, together with the
_Assurance_ and a couple of small vessels known as "whelps"--in search
of "Rovers and Pyrates"--he met a fleet of eleven Dutch men-of-war in
Dover Roads, "whereof two were soe stoute that they would not so much as
settle their topp-sayles untill wee made a shott at each of them,
soe--they doinge their dutyes--wee stood on our course". A few days
later "There came up 4 Dunkerke men-of-warr unto us, who in all
submissive wise, with their topp-sayles and top-gallant sayles lowrd
upon the capp, saluted us accordinge to the custome of the sea"!

All this seems summary and drastic enough for anybody, so that it is
curious to find the celebrated Sir Walter Raleigh not long before
lamenting British decadence in this respect. "But there's no state grown
in haste but that of the United Provinces, and especially in their sea
forces.... For I myself may remember when one ship of Her Majesty's
would have made forty Hollanders strike sail and come to an anchor. They
did not then dispute _De Mare Libero_, but readily acknowledged the
English to be _Domini Maris Britannici_. That we are less powerful than
we were I do hardly believe it; for, although we have not at this time
135 ships belonging to the subject of 500 tons each ship, as it is said
we had in the twenty-fourth year of Queen Elizabeth; at which time also,
upon a general view and muster, there were found in England of able men
fit to bear arms, 1,172,000, yet are our merchant ships now far more
warlike and better appointed than they were, and the Royal Navy double
as strong as it then was."

Possibly Raleigh's words had borne fruit in increased vigilance on the
part of the captains of English men-of-war. But the Hollanders were
determined to put the matter to the test. Possibly they thought that as
there was no King of England after the martyrdom of Charles I there
could be no king of the English seas. They began by forbidding their
captains to pay the usual salute under pain of death. It was not long
before Van Tromp sailed defiantly through Dover Straits with all his
flags aloft. He got what he was asking for, a volley of round shot from
Robert Blake, who was on the look-out for him, and at once both fleets
went for each other "tooth and nail". The Dutch were beaten, but in a
second encounter--for by now English and Dutch were openly at war--Blake
got the worst of it, and was driven into the Thames to refit. "Tromp
meanwhile sailed up and down the Channel as a conqueror, with a broom at
his mast-head, thus braving the English navy in those very seas in
which she claimed unrivalled sovereignty".[33]


But his triumph was short-lived. The British eventually got the upper
hand, and their claims to the sovereignty of their seas were formally
admitted by the Dutch in 1654. Once again the question was fought out in
the days of Charles II, and once again the Dutch were compelled to agree
to strike their sails to even a single ship flying the King's flag. This
was in 1674. Not long before the first Dutch War the Swedes also wished
to question British rights. In 1647 Captain Owen of the _Henrietta
Maria_, having with him only the _Roebuck_, a small craft, with a crew
of forty-five men all told, was refused the salute by a fleet of three
Swedish men-of-war and nine or ten merchant-vessels off the Isle of
Wight. The usual "weighty arguments" were ignored, and the Swedes got
away and anchored in Boulogne Roads. Captain Owen was unable to keep in
touch with them, as they had shot away his tiller, but he got into
Portsmouth and reported the matter, and the Parliament at once ordered
the _St. Andrew_, _Guardland_, _Convertine_, and _Mary Rose_, which were
lying in the Downs, to attend to the matter. Captain Batten, of the
first-named ship, who was in command, at once put to sea, and found the
Swedes still at anchor off Boulogne, but flying no colours at all.
Batten sent for the Swedish commanders to come on board--and they came,
but declared that if their flags _had_ been up they would not have taken
them in, as they had been expressly ordered not to do so. It was rather
a difficult situation. Captain Batten, however, dealt with it by
ordering the Swedish vice-admiral to "come with him", and took him back
to the Downs. He told the remainder to "run away home". However, they
followed the English and their prisoners to the Downs, as their
commanders said that they dare not go home without the vice-admiral. The
affair was then considered by "the Committee of Lords and Commons for
the Admiralty and Cinque Ports", who eventually gave an order for the
release of the culprit.

Other nations from time to time attempted to exact salutes from foreign
ships in certain places, but apparently without much success. Thus the
Spanish demanded that a French fleet under the Duke of Guise when
passing Gibraltar in 1622 should strike their flags. The Duke refused,
though he said that they had told him that British ships were in the
habit of doing so, and he asked Sir E. Herbert to write and ask the Duke
of Buckingham whether this was true or not. But Herbert smelt a rat; and
though he complied with Guise's request, he wrote: "Be well advised what
answer you return, for I believe that he intends that the French king
should exact the same acknowledgements on the coasts of this country,
which you will never permit, as to the prejudice of the sovereignty that
the Kings of England have always kept in the narrow seas." As regards
the Mediterranean, it was laid down by James II, to prevent disputes
with "the most Christian King",[34] "That whensoever His Majesty's ships
of war shall meet any French men-of-war in the Mediterranean, there
shall no salutes at all pass on either side". William III's orders
were--after the usual directions to make foreigners pay the customary
salute in the English seas--"And you are further to take notice, that in
Their Majesties' Seas, Their Majesties' Ships are in no wise to strike
to any; and that in other parts, no ship of Their Majesties' is to
strike her flag or top-sail to any foreigner unless such foreigner shall
have first struck."

A final incident must bring this chapter to a close. It indicates a
slightly farther step towards the evacuation of the original position
which we had taken up. This was in the year 1730. Lieutenant Thomas
Smith, R.N., happened to be in temporary command of H.M.S. _Gosport_,
which was lying in Plymouth Sound. In came a French frigate, which,
either on account of ignorance or of design, omitted to strike her
top-sails. Smith, having so many precedents to guide him, though
possibly not very recent ones, sent the usual intimation by hulling her
with a cannon-ball. It was at a time of profound peace, and on the
demand of the French ambassador he was tried and dismissed the Service.
Plumleigh and Pennington must have turned in their graves! But he was
re-appointed to the Navy on the very next day, with the rank of captain,
and for the rest of his life was known as "Tom of Ten Thousand".

The old regulations remained in force up to the end of the eighteenth
century, but were omitted from those that were published about the
Trafalgar period. The orders given by William III for guidance of
officers when _outside_ English seas were made universal, so that for
some unknown reason we finally abandoned our claims at the very time we
were in a better position to enforce them than we had ever been before.
The old system rather partook of the way the proverbial Irishman in
search of "divarsion" asks "if any gintleman will be good enough to
thread on the tail of his coat", but it had its advantages. Had it been
now in force it is practically certain that some German commander would
have challenged it long before the German fleet had reached its present
proportions, after which there would have been no German fleet. Again,
there could have been no difficulties with neutral nations about
contraband or conditional contraband. As the whole sea from Norway to
Finisterre would have been recognized as British, no one could have
disputed our right to close it to anybody or anything that suited our
book. When it comes to fighting, other nations do not thank us for
having played "Uriah Heep" beforehand. It has possibly induced them to
fight instead of settling the dispute in some other way.

"Striking the sail" is now a thing of the past, but it is customary for
merchant-vessels to "dip" their flags to kings' ships. As for
men-of-war, they no longer exchange salutes of this kind when they meet
at sea.


[31] "Bonnet", an extra piece of canvas laced to a sail to enlarge it.
"Vail", to lower.

[32] Or _Convertine_, originally the _Destiny_.

[33] Guizot, _Cromwell, and the English Commonwealth_.

[34] Louis XIV of France.


The Evolution of Naval Gunnery

                     "It was great pity, so it was,
    That villanous salt-petre should be digg'd
    Out of the bowels of the harmless earth,
    Which many a good tall fellow had destroy'd
    So cowardly; and, but for those vile guns,
    He would himself have been a soldier."
       Hotspur describing his meeting with a "popinjay" after a battle.
                     SHAKESPEARE. _King Henry IV._ Act I, Scene iii.

                 "Earth and air were badly shaken
     By thy humane discovery, Friar Bacon."
                                  BYRON. _Don Juan._ VIII, 33.

    "The hand-spikes, sponges, rammers, crows,
       Were well arranged about;
     And to annoy Old England's foes,
       The Great Guns were run out."
                        --_Old Verses._

"WHO invented gunpowder?" There is only one definite and reliable answer
to this question, and that is that nobody knows. It has been stated, but
I think that it may be dismissed as a "galley yarn", that the first
mention of artillery is to be found in an account of a naval engagement
between the Phoenicians and Iberians in the year 1100 B.C.--just
eighty-seven years after the siege of Troy.

The Phoenician war-vessels, it is said, came out of Cadiz--or Gades, as
it was then called--with what their opponents took to be brazen lions at
their bows. These turned out to be some kind of machine from which
enormous flames of fire were projected by explosives, to consume and
destroy the ships of the Iberians. But the most generally accepted
theory now is that gunpowder was invented in China some centuries
before the Christian era and gradually found its way to Europe by way of
India, Arabia, and Africa. As for the stories that it was invented
either by Roger Bacon (1214-92) or by the German monk, Barthold
Schwartz, in 1320, they must be certainly rejected, since there is
evidence that cannon of some kind were in use long previous to Roger
Bacon's birth. Doubtless he wrote something about the composition of
gunpowder, but so might anyone to-day. That would not make him its

Much less, then, can this invention be attributed to the German monk. It
is probably correct that, in pounding certain ingredients in a mortar,
he nearly blew himself "into the middle of next week"--as very many
would-be chemical investigators have done at a much more recent
date--and it may be that the sight of his pestle flying through the
ceiling suggested to him that a mortar might be made of military
use.[35] He may possibly, on this account, be credited with the
invention of the muzzle-loading cannon, for it seems probable that the
guns in use previous to 1320 were merely _cannae_, or tubes open at each
end. The famous battery of three guns, which is said by some historians
to have been used by the English at Crécy, was probably of this kind.
Whether the guns were used there or not, it would not have been the
first time such weapons made their appearance in European warfare, as
seems to be assumed by some writers.

More than 100 years previously cannon were employed by the Moors at the
siege of Saragossa, in 1118. The Spaniards were not slow to adopt the
invention, and in 1132 they built what is stated to have been a
"culverin" throwing a 4-pound shot. "Culverin", which is a term,
belonging to Tudor times, for a special type of gun, is evidently used
as a general term for "cannon". Like the "Joe Chamberlain" and "Bloody
Mary",[36] manned by the Naval Brigade in the Boer War, and other
prominent specimens of the gun-maker's art, this first European cannon
received a special name. It was christened "Salamonica". I have said
that the Spaniards "built" this weapon. I wrote this advisedly, for all
the earlier cannon were "built up" of staves of iron, or even wood,
strongly hooped together with wrought-iron rings.

It was a long time before cannon were "founded" or "cast", and now,
strange to say, we have gone back to the original method of manufacture,
which, thanks to modern science and workmanship, has absolutely ousted
what was at its inception considered a wonderful advance in the art of
cannon-making. The early guns, open at both ends, were probably loaded
at the breech, which was then closed by a block of stone or big stake
driven into the ground, close to which the gun itself was fixed in some
kind of a framework. Such guns are to be seen in a picture in
Froissart's _Chronicles_ representing the siege of Tunis by the
Crusaders in 1390, and it is from this that the often-reproduced drawing
of the guns said to have been used at Crécy in 1346 would appear to have
been taken.

What is said to be the earliest representation of a cannon in England is
to be found in a manuscript of 1326 in the Christ Church Library at
Oxford. It is of quite a different appearance from those just described.
It is in the shape of a fat vase or bottle, and could not well have been
a breech-loader. It is loaded with a big "garot" or dart fitted with a
wooden haft which seems to fit tightly into the neck of the weird
"cannon", which lies on a very rickety looking table. The gunner, clad
in what looks like a suit of Crusader's chain-mail, is an unwary person
who is holding a lighted match to the touch-hole while standing directly
behind the gun. As there is not the slightest indication of anything
whatever to stop the recoil, it seems about three to one that the
discharge would be more disastrous to him than to the enemy. It is
noteworthy that "metal cannons" and "iron balls" were ordered to be
made in this same year at Florence, and in 1331 _vase_ appears to have
been the usual term for the cannon made in Italy, while in France they
were termed _pots de fer_.

[Illustration: A "Vase" or "Pot-de-fer"

The "garot", or heavy dart, to be fired from this early gun was provided
with a wooden plug made to fit the bore. The type of "garot" shown on
the right was intended to be fired from a large cross-bow on a stand.]

This brings us to the earliest indication that I can find of the use of
guns afloat. It is a document dated 1338, in which Guillaume du Moulin,
of Boulogne, acknowledges to have received from Thomas Fouques, the
custodian of the enclosure for the King's galleys at Rouen, a
_pot-de-fer_ to throw "fire garots", together with forty-eight garots in
two cases, 1 pound of saltpetre, and 1/2 pound of sulphur "to make
powder to fire the said garots". Now it seems more than probable that
this _pot-de-fer_ or _vase_ was very similar to that in the Oxford
manuscript and that it was intended for use afloat, or it would not have
been among the stores belonging to the galleys. The recipient being at
Boulogne, we may fairly assume that it was required by him for use on
shipboard. "Garots", we know, were very commonly used in naval actions
at this date, either thrown by hand from the tops or propelled from
espringalds. Moreover, it is evident that the gun open at both ends
would be a great source of danger on board ship. The system of
breech-closing on shore was singularly rough and ineffective; there must
have been nearly as much "back-fire" at the breech as flames from the
muzzle. This would be a constant danger afloat, and, unless a few
_vases_ like those described were sometimes used, it is probable that
cannon were not adopted for sea service until some more regular and
effective breech-closing apparatus had been evolved. But for this seamen
had not very long to wait.

The progress of gun-making was now proceeding apace, especially in
Germany and Flanders. At first, and for some time, there do not seem to
have been any what we may call "moderate-sized" cannon, or, at any rate,
they are not so much in evidence as the very large ones and the very
small ones. The latter were not bigger than very heavy muskets, and it
was with weapons of this kind that the many-gunned ships of the late
fifteenth and early sixteenth century were principally equipped, though,
as time went on, heavier pieces were added. To show how very small these
little cannon were, it is only necessary to quote from Monstrelet's
_Chronicles_, in which he tells us that, in 1418: "The Lord of Cornwall
... crossed the Seine ... having with him in a _skiff_ a _horse loaded
with small cannons_". When one reads of the extraordinary numbers of
guns which are said to have been used in some mediæval battles and
sieges, one should always bear this passage in mind.

[Illustration: _Photo by the Author_


This gun dates from 1384, and is very similar to the "marvellous great
bombard" mentioned by Froissart as employed by the men of Ghent to
attack Oudenarde.]

As for the big guns, they were giants when compared with their smaller
brothers. Old Froissart, whom I have already quoted more than once,
tells of a very notable specimen employed by the "men of Ghent" to
attack Oudenarde: "A marvellous great bombarde, which was fifty feet
long, and threw great heavy stones of a wonderful bigness; when this
bombarde was discharged, it might be heard five leagues by day, and ten
at night, making so great a noise in going off, that it seemed as if all
the devils in hell were abroad". All traces of this monster have
disappeared, but an 18-feet gun of probably an exactly similar type is
still to be seen at Ghent--unless the Germans have stolen it. This gun
dates from about 1384, and has a bore something like 25 inches in
diameter. As perhaps none of us are likely to be in Ghent for some time,
we can see a rather smaller but almost duplicate weapon in
Edinburgh--the celebrated "Mons Meg". Though she is supposed to have
been built 100 years later, it is quite possible that both were turned
out at the same manufactory. The Scots gun evidently came from Mons in
Flanders, and the Flemish gun is also called "Meg", i.e. the _Dulle
Griete_ or "Mad Margery" or "Meg". Another bigger and more handsomely
finished gun of the same type, dating from 1464, is to be seen at the
Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich. This is a Turkish piece, and is said
to have been "cast", while "Mons Meg" and her sisters are all built-up
guns, as can be at once seen on inspection by the most amateur eyes.
There are several others on the Continent, notably the two "Michelets"
which were left at Mont St. Michael when the siege of that place was
abandoned by the English in 1427. The siege began in 1423, so they may
date from a good many years earlier. As the English batteries were
erected on the Isle of Tombelaine, which is 3000 yards distant from the
mount, some idea may be obtained of the distance to which these early
cannon could hurl their granite projectiles.

[Illustration: The Gun with which we won the Great War with France

Observe the heavy breeching-rope attaching the gun to the ship's side;
the tackle and block for running in and out; the wooden wheels, and the
"quoins" or wedges for elevating the gun.]

Such cannon were all built up of long rectangular bars of iron upon
which heavy rings of the same material were shrunk, the whole weapon, on
completion, forming a heavy and extremely tough cylinder of wrought
iron. The chambers, or breech-pieces, for the reception of the
powder-charge, were built separately, with much thicker sides and
smaller bores than the rest of the gun, into which they were screwed.
The guns must not, I think, be therefore considered breech-loaders; for
though it may be possible that they were screwed in and out at each
discharge, I think it more probable that, as they were such heavy masses
of metal, the breech-pieces were left screwed up and the charges
inserted at the muzzle. But when cannon came to be made of more moderate
dimensions--big enough to be effective against walls and the sides of
ships, and small enough to be transported with reasonable facility--some
system of breech-loading was almost universal. I say "almost", because
guns began to be cast in brass in Germany at a comparatively early date,
and such guns were probably often muzzle-loaders, since cast brass would
not have been strong enough for the breech-closing methods in vogue.
These were comparatively simple. The breech of the gun, which was built
up much in the same way as Mons Meg and others of the same kidney,
terminated in a species of trough. Into this trough fitted an iron
cylinder which contained the charge of powder and was called a
"chamber". The muzzle of the chamber was bevelled off or turned down so
as to fit into the breech end of the bore of the gun itself, and was
held in position by iron wedges, generally at the rear end, but
sometimes across the top. In some of the larger types the trough was
made in the huge block of tough oak to which the gun was fastened. In
the Tower of London you can see a gun of this kind that was fished up
from the wreck of the _Mary Rose_. As most guns were provided with at
least two "chambers", one would imagine that a fairly rapid fire could
have been kept up, at any rate with the smaller guns. This, however,
would not seem to have been the case, for the French account of the
battle off St. Helens (when the _Mary Rose_ capsized), which lasted for
two hours, and in which a considerable number of ships were engaged,
mentions that 300 rounds were fired as a fact indicating the uncommon
fierceness of the fighting. And yet the _Henri Grace à Dieu_ alone
carried over 100 guns of various sizes!

But at first, even at a time when artillery of one kind or another was
in common use on land, very few guns were carried afloat. Very likely
the reason was that few were suitable; they were either too big, too
small, or, as before suggested, could not be safely closed at the
breech. Thus in the reign of Henry IV, 1399-1413, the _Christopher_, a
rather important man-of-war, only carried "three iron guns with five
chambers, one hand-gun, and one small barrel of powder". The barge
_Mary_ (_Marie de la Tour_) carried one iron gun with two chambers and
one brass gun with one chamber. Another _Mary_ (of Weymouth) had also
one brass and one iron gun, the _Bernard_ had two iron guns, and a ship
referred to as the _Carrake_ one. The _Christopher's_ guns are said to
have been "stoked". This may possibly mean fitted with "stocks" or oaken
beds, like those previously referred to, in which case her guns were
probably larger and heavier than those in the other ships. The invention
of port-holes was probably coincident with the adoption of really heavy
artillery afloat. Before then it would not have been safe to have
carried such heavy weights on the upper decks of the kind of ship then
existing. The _Great Michael_ may possibly be taken as an exception, for
she could hardly have had port-holes cut in her 10-foot thick sides. At
the same time, since her heavy guns were probably breech-loaders, they
may have been practically built into her sides, since at that time there
was no such thing as training a heavy gun right or left on board ship.

With the numerous batteries of small guns also carried on board ships of
this period, it was quite a different matter. They were mounted on
swivels on the gunwale, or in openings or ports in the fore- and
after-castles as well as in the tops. Others, and among them certain
wide-mouthed pieces known as "murderers", were distributed in what were
known as the "cubbridge heads", or those sides of the fore- and
after-castles which faced inboard and commanded the waist of the ship.
Here it was to be expected an enemy's boarders would make their assault,
and here--the crew having retired fore and aft--they would be mowed down
by charges of all sorts of iron fragments from the "murderers". The same
system of dealing with boarders lasted some time after the disappearance
of the lofty "castles" at bow and stern; strong athwart-ships bulkheads
being provided at bow and stern both on the upper and main decks.

It was in Henry VIII's time that the manufacture of cast-iron guns, for
which England soon became famous, began in this country. One Ralph
Hogge,[37] at Buxted, in Sussex, cast the first iron cannon. This is
said to have been in 1543, and it is stated that the house in which this
was done is still standing near the church of that village, and that it
has the figure of a hog with the date 1581 carved over the door. There
is another story to the effect that this early gunfounder's name was
John Howe, and that there is the following distich, cut in stone, still
extant in Buxted:--

    "I, John Howe, and my man John,
     We two cast the first cannon".

This invention may be said to have sealed the fate of the heavy
breech-loading gun for some centuries, though the system remained in
vogue for small pieces for another 200 years. A cast-iron or brass
muzzle-loading gun could be made so much more easily, rapidly, and
cheaply than a built-up wrought-iron breech-loader of the same calibre
that with the growing demand for guns afloat there is little wonder that
the former drove the more expensive weapon clean out of the field. It
must be remembered, too, that the casting of bronze guns had already
reached great perfection on the Continent. What is known as "Queen
Elizabeth's pocket pistol" at Dover is a standing witness to this. It is
supposed to have been cast at Utrecht, and to have been presented to
Henry VIII by the Emperor Charles V in 1544. It is 24 feet long, and is
a very fine piece of workmanship. Its bore is 58 calibres long--that is
to say, it is fifty-eight times as long as its diameter, a proportion
not very unlike that upon which some of our most modern weapons are

[Illustration: Early Breech-loading Cannon

The first was an Armada weapon. This type of gun remained in use afloat
well into the eighteenth century]

But to return to our early naval cannon. As I have already pointed out,
the casting of bronze guns in Germany and Flanders had reached a great
pitch of perfection long before anything of the sort was made in
England. Germany, in fact, may be said to have led in gunnery for a
considerable period. The master gunners in most armies seem to have
been Germans, and at the accession of Queen Elizabeth we were buying our
powder from the German Hansa Company established in the Steel Yard in
London, instead of making sufficient for ourselves. There were many
brass guns afloat in Henry VIII's navy besides the wrought-iron
breech-loaders. Some of fine workmanship were found in the wreck of the
_Mary Rose_, as well as those of the latter class which have been
already mentioned. As an indication of the cost and labour expended on
such weapons, it may be instanced that a bronze gun cast in Germany in
1406 took from Whitsuntide to Michaelmas to finish, and required 52-1/2
hundredweight of copper and 3-1/2 hundredweight of tin. The metal cost
422 florins, while the master gun-founder received 86 florins for his

The heaviest weapon afloat in Tudor times was the curtall or curtow,
generally of brass, and firing a 60-pound shot. The culverin was rather
lighter and longer. There were a whole host of fancy names--and
doubtless fancy types--for ordnance at this time, several of which have
already been referred to as forming the armament of the _Great Michael_.
Space forbids further enumeration or description, which, in any case,
would be impossible on account of the very different guns which are
called indiscriminately by the same name. But by the Armada days the
following were the principal guns used afloat:--

        Name.                 Bore.         Weight of Shot.
    Double cannon       8-1/2 inches         66  pounds
    Whole cannon        8       "            60     "
    Demi-cannon         6-1/2   "            32     "
    Whole culverin      5-1/2   "            17     "
    Demi-culverin       4-1/2   "             9     "
    Saker               3-1/2   "            51     "
    Minion              3       "             4     "
    Falcon              2-1/2   "             2     "
    Falconet            2       "             1-1/2 "
    Robinet             1       "             1     "[38]

The "double cannon" is sometimes called a "cannon royal" or a
"carthoun". The "saker" is often spelt "sacre". The "culverin"--a name
that occurs rather more frequently than any other at this time--was so
called from the lugs or handles for hoisting it in and out of its
carriage, which were made in the form of an ornamental serpent.[39]

Although the English cast-iron cannon almost at once achieved such a
reputation that they sold in Amsterdam for £40 a ton, for £60 in France,
and for no less than £80 in Spain, though costing only £12 a ton in this
country; and though they were bought so freely at these high prices by
foreigners that in 1574 their export was totally forbidden, yet it would
appear that the Royal Navy was then using nothing but brass guns, except
perhaps in the case of the smaller pieces. But the merchantmen used iron
guns. Thus when James I sent an expedition of six men-of-war and a dozen
armed merchant-ships against the Algerines in 1620, all the former
carried brass and all the latter iron guns. The men-of-war were heavily
gunned, so much so, indeed, that it was not unusual for their captains
to dismount a few of their heaviest pieces and stow them as ballast for
the safety of the ship. The _Prince Royal_, for instance, carried a
battery of two "cannon perriers" (i.e. throwing stone shot), six
demi-cannon, twelve culverins, thirteen sakers, and four light pieces.
The famous _Sovereign of the Seas_ in the next reign mounted twenty
cannon, eight demi-cannon, thirty-two culverins, and forty-two
demi-culverins--all brass guns--and probably some small iron falconets
as well. On each gun was engraved the rose and crown, the sceptre and
trident, anchor and cable. The engraving cost £3 per gun, but we must
remember that the _Sovereign_ was a "show ship".

According to an artilleryman who wrote in the first half of the
seventeenth century, three shots an hour was about as much as an
ordinary gun would stand, "always provided that after 40 shots you
refresh and cool the piece[40] and let her rest an houre, for fear lest
80 shots should break the piece". But I think we may credit our seamen
with being able to fire their guns a bit faster than that. Constant
running out of powder seems to have been the great trouble in the
English fleet engaged in the discomfiture of the "Invincible" Armada.
And not only did the English ships carry heavier ordnance and fire
heavier broadsides than the Spaniards, so that the British cannon
"lacked them through and through", but our gunners are said to have
fired their pieces three times to the Spaniards' one. This is a Spanish
estimate, and it is abundantly evident that our gunnery proved at least
as superior as it did over that of the Germans in Sir David Beatty's
victory off the Friesland coast in January, 1915. Later on, at the
battle of La Hogue (1692) the British ships were able to fire three
broadsides to every two of the French.

[Illustration: Early Attempts at Maxim Guns

In all probability each barrel of the first gun had to be loaded
separately and fired by hand, one after another. In the second case, the
eight little cannon are apparently secured to a kind of turntable, to be
revolved by hand.]

Coming to the navy of the Commonwealth, we find the same curiously named
guns in use. Here is the battery of the _Naseby_: Nineteen cannon, nine
demi-cannon, twenty-eight culverins, thirty demi-culverins, and five
sakers. The same classification lasted till the time of George I, when
it became the custom to designate guns by the weights of their
projectiles. Thenceforward we find ship-armaments reckoned in
42-pounders, 32-pounders, 24-pounders, 12-pounders, and 6-pounders. The
old 60-pounder had disappeared, and before long the 42-pounder followed
it into temporary oblivion, so that at Trafalgar our heaviest gun was a
32-pounder.[41] It was not until nearly 1840 that it reappeared, and was
followed by a 68-pounder.

During the period between Elizabeth and Trafalgar there were innumerable
attempts to invent and introduce improved forms of ordnance, including
shell-guns and machine-guns. The idea of the latter was extremely
ancient. There are several manuscript illuminations and old wood-cuts
of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries showing attempts at a "Maxim"
gun. The "orgue", consisting of a large number of very small guns or
musket-barrels fixed in rows, or revolving rings, or bundles, was a
common weapon in those centuries--at least on shore. Then there was
something of the kind for which William Drummond was given a patent in
1625, and which he termed a "thunder carriage". Again, there was one
Puckle, who in 1781 invented a regular revolving gun mounted on a
tripod. It was made in two patterns--one to fire ordinary round bullets,
the other to fire square ones--against the "unspeakable Turk". Puckle
thought these infidels ought to get as nasty a wound as possible. With
his specification he issued a doggerel which ran as follows:--


    "Defending King George, your country and Lawes
     Is defending yourselves and Protestant Cause".

The invention did not "catch on", and under a picture of the weapon
which appeared on the eight of spades in a pack of cards of the period
was another attempt at poetry:

    "A rare Invention to destroy the Crowd
     Of Fools at Home, instead of Foes Abroad.
     Fear not, my Friends, this terrible Machine;
     They're only wounded that have Shares therein".

Neither machine-guns nor shell-guns were to appear before the Victorian
Era, the reason probably being that there was no machinery capable of
turning them and their component parts out in payable quantities. As for
shell-guns, mortars were found to answer very well; no navy wanted to
introduce a form of warfare that would be absolutely destructive of
wooden shipping, and so we find that they did not long precede the
appearance of the modern ironclad. But towards the end of the eighteenth
century a new and practical weapon was invented by General Melville with
the idea of producing a gun which should fire a comparatively large
projectile for its weight. To effect this, something, of course, had to
be sacrificed, and this was length, both of the gun itself and of its
range and also penetration. But, as naval actions then took place at
close quarters, this did not count for much, and what was lost in
penetration was more than made up for by the smashing effect of the
heavy shot. In fact, the gun itself was at first termed a "smasher",
but, from the fact that most of them were cast at the famous Carron
foundry in Scotland, they soon became universally known as "carronades".

In the days of wooden ships the "carronade" became a most useful weapon.
The smaller kind were light, took up little space, and were just the
things for merchant-men and small craft; while the bigger
class--generally 68-pounders--were valuable auxiliaries to the batteries
of our line-of-battle ships. The carronade was essentially a British
gun, and its efficiency was never more conspicuous than in the fight
between H.M.S. _Glatton_, a converted East Indiaman, and a French
squadron of four frigates and two corvettes, which took place off the
coast of Flanders on 15th July, 1796.

[Illustration: _Photo. Symonds & Co._


Typical of a ship's battery in the palmiest days of our Wooden Walls.
The thick rope "breechings", the blocks and tackles for running the guns
in or out, and securing them for sea, are clearly shown. So also are the
"trucks" or wheels, and the "quoins" or wedges for elevating or
depressing the guns. Overhead are suspended the Sponge, Rammer, and
Worm, for each gun. The latter is the implement with a double corkscrew
for withdrawing a cartridge.]

The British ship, whose armament consisted of a main battery of
68-pounder carronades, with 32-pounders on her upper deck--fifty guns in
all--completely defeated and drove off her six assailants, who retreated
to Flushing with their decks ripped up, besides other terrible damages,
one of them being so badly mauled that she sank on arrival in port. Had
not the _Glatton_ been a very slow sailer she could have destroyed the
lot. As it was, she effected her victory with only two casualties--Captain
Strangeways of the Marines mortally, and a private marine slightly

It may be interesting to note the armament carried by Nelson's _Victory_
at the Battle of Trafalgar, in order that it may be compared with that
of some earlier ships of which particulars have been given and with
those of our modern battleships, which will be found in a later chapter.

On that memorable day the famous old three-decker which still swings at
her buoy in Portsmouth harbour mounted--

    On her lower deck, thirty 32-pounders;
    On her middle deck, thirty 24-pounders;
    On her main deck, thirty-two 12-pounders;
    On her upper deck, eight 12-pounders, and four 32-pounder carronades.

The upper-deck 12-pounders were 2 feet shorter than those on the main
deck, and only weighed 21 cwt., as against their 34, but the 32-pounder
carronades only weighed 17 cwt. This will give an idea of the
comparative lightness of these weapons. The guns at this period, and
indeed since Elizabethan times, were mounted on carriages formed of two
wooden sides or cheeks strongly connected together by timber
cross-pieces or "transoms", and placed on four solid wooden wheels or
"trucks". They were secured to the ship's side by thick ropes or
"breechings" passing round the breech of the gun, and long enough to
allow of a certain recoil on being fired. The gun was run out again
by blocks and tackles, which could also be used to haul it inboard
without its being fired, in order to secure it for sea and close the
port. It was trained from side to side by means of hand-spikes or levers
placed under the rear of the carriage, and elevated in a similar manner,
the hand-spikes being used to raise or lower the breech of the gun,
while the "quoin", or wedge, supporting it was being adjusted. Similar
carriages remained in use in our navy far into the 'eighties of last
century, being used for the "converted 64-pounder", which was the old
smooth-bore 68-pounder lined with a rifled steel tube. I have drilled at
such guns myself. It was fine exercise, and it was necessary to be
pretty smart and have all one's wits about one to get outside the
breeching, if a loading number, before the gun was run out. The
13·5-inch gun of to-day is, thanks to hydraulics, manipulated with a
tithe of the exertion required to serve a truck gun. Here are the orders
for "Exercise at the Great Guns" which obtained in 1781, and are
considerably simpler than those previously in vogue:

     1. "Silence."
     2. "Cast loose your guns."
     3. "Level your guns."
     4. "Take out your tompions."
     5. "Run out your guns."
     6. "Prime."
     7. "Point your guns."
     8. "Fire."
     9. "Sponge your guns."
    10. "Load with cartridge."
    11. "Shot your guns."
    12. "Put in your tompions."
    13. "House your guns."
    14. "Secure your guns."

"Tompions" are a species of plug used to close the muzzle of a gun when
not in action. In the "days of wood and hemp" they were usually painted
red, but in modern guns they are generally faced with gun-metal,
decorated in some cases with the badge of the ship. "Prime" means to
place loose powder in the pan after having pierced the cartridge with a
"priming wire" thrust through the touch-hole or vent. To "house" was to
haul the gun inboard ready for securing.

The smooth-bore gun remained the naval weapon right up to the Crimean
War, though explosive shells gradually began to be used as well as the
old solid round shot. The rifling of muskets and cannon had often been
suggested by inventors as far back as Tudor times, and occasionally a
few experimental rifled muskets were made. But in the war with Russia,
in which most of the combatants were armed with muzzle-loading rifles,
rifled cannon began to make their appearance. The Lancaster gun, with a
twisted oval bore, was the first rifled naval gun, and was thought a
great deal of in its day. Then came the breech-loading Armstrong guns.
These were very finely turned out weapons with poly-groove rifling, and
closed at the breech by a species of block which lifted in and out and
had somewhat the appearance of a carriage clock. It was held in position
by a hollow screw through which the charge and projectile were loaded
into the gun, and which was screwed up tight against the breech-block
before firing. This was not a very satisfactory system, since, if not
properly screwed taut, the block had a habit of blowing out, sometimes
with unfortunate results. It was probably for this reason that none of
these guns was made bigger than a 100-pounder. The projectiles for the
Armstrong gun were covered with leaden jackets in order to take the
rifling. This jacket every now and again flew off, which rendered these
guns very unsafe to use over the heads of our own troops.


An 18-ton gun in action at the bombardment of Alexandria. The gun has
just recoiled after firing. No. 1 is "serving the vent". The sponge end
is being passed to be thrust out of the small scuttle in the middle of
the port (which is closed as soon as the gun is fired), so that the big
wet end can be placed in the gun.]

The consequence was that while the Germans went in for the Krupp
breech-loading system, in which the breech is closed by a sliding block
across it, and the French for the interrupted-screw breech-closing plug,
the prototype of our present system, we gave up breech-loaders and went
in for built-up, muzzle-loading guns. Their advocates claimed for them
simplicity, comparative cheapness, and other virtues, but, as a matter
of fact, we were entirely on "the wrong tack" and were gradually being
left behind in gun-construction by other nations. These big
muzzle-loaders were formed by shrinking successive jackets over a
steel tube which formed the bore. They were rifled with a few wide,
shallow grooves, their projectiles being fitted with gun-metal studs
intended to travel along the rifling and so give them the spinning
movement requisite for accuracy. The biggest guns of this class
constructed in this country were the 80-ton guns carried by the
_Inflexible_ at the bombardment of Alexandria, though the Italians, who
followed us in sticking to muzzle-loaders for a time, had guns of 100
tons. Of course the biggest guns had special hydraulic mountings, but
the broadside guns of 7-, 8-, 9-, or 10-inch bore were mounted on
carriages invented by a Captain Scott. These consisted of a pair of iron
brackets, or sides, supporting the gun, which ran in and out on slides
made of iron girders that could be trained to the right or left by means
of tackles, or in most cases by cog wheels working on curved and cogged
racers. The carriage on which the gun was mounted had rollers beneath it
with eccentric axles, so that, unless these were raised by levers
supplied for the purpose, the carriage itself rested on the slide. This
helped to check the recoil, further restrained by a system of
interlocking plates on the carriage and slide which could be compressed
together by a hand-wheel and screw.

After the gun had recoiled inboard and had been reloaded, the
compressors were slackened and the gun-carriage put on its rollers, so
that it ran down the slightly-sloping slide to its firing-position. But
for all its simplicity there were very many disadvantages attendant on
the muzzle-loader. One very important one was the impossibility of
preventing the gases caused by the explosion of the powder from escaping
past the projectile, so that part of the force of the explosion was
wasted. In breech-loading guns the projectile fits the rifling
closely--it could not be forced through the gun by the rammer from the
rear--being provided with a copper driving-band of slightly bigger
circumference than the bore. When the gun is fired, this is driven into
the grooves of the rifling, rotates the shot, and at the same time stops
any escape of gas and consequently of energy. Thus, size for size, a
breech-loading gun must have greater range and penetration than a
muzzle-loader. A breech-loader can be made much longer than a
muzzle-loader into the bargain, as it is not necessary to get to the
muzzle to load it. This also makes for accuracy and penetration.

[Illustration: _Photo. Cribb, Southsea_


The muzzles of the monster cannon are closed by plugs or "tompions" with
handsome designs in burnished gun-metal. Above the higher turret is seen
a "Barr & Stroud" range-finder in a canvas case.]

It was a considerable time before those in this country who had stuck to
the muzzle-loading system through thick and thin could be brought to see
the error of their ways, but after 1880 breech-loaders much of the
French type were introduced into the navy, till we reached the monster
110-ton guns carried in the _Benbow_, _Sanspareil_, and the ill-fated
_Victoria_. As I have already mentioned, the French guns were closed at
the breech by an "interrupted screw". What this is may be shortly
explained. Imagine a screw plug about one and a half times as long as
its diameter, with a close thread to it. Now, to screw this in and out
of the breech of the gun would be a matter taking an appreciable time.
Suppose, now, that we take this screw plug and divide the outside of
it--the screw part--perpendicularly into six equal parts. Then, if we
cut away the thread of the screw on every other sixth, we shall have
three-sixths smooth and the other three-sixths with the screw-thread
still standing out upon them. If now we treat the corresponding
screw-thread in the breech of the gun itself in a similar manner, and
then insert the plug with the three threaded portions in line with the
three smooth portions cut in the gun, we can push it directly in to its
full length, after which a sixth of a turn will lock the threaded parts
together and securely close the breech. This has proved amply strong
enough to resist the immense strain imposed by the explosion of the
charge; but while the principle has been retained in all our
cannon--except the small 3- and 6-pounder Hotchkiss guns, which have a
sliding block--it has been so improved that the locking of the breech
is still stronger, and in all but our very big guns it can be opened and
closed with just about as much ease as a cupboard door. Of course, in
monsters like the 12-, 13·5-, and 15-inch guns, hydraulic machinery is
brought into play, by means of which their immense breech-blocks are
manipulated with the greatest ease by the movement of various levers.

Machine-guns at one period were introduced into the naval service for
the special purpose of defence against torpedo-boats, but smaller
rifle-calibre weapons were also supplied for use in the tops, boats, and
in landing operations. The first-mentioned were "Nordenfeldt" guns,
firing steel projectiles of 1 inch diameter in volleys of two or five.
These proved too small to deal with the torpedo-boat, which grew bigger
and bigger and was superseded by the destroyer; and were replaced
successively by 3-, 6-, and 12-pounder rapid-fire guns. But at the
present time a 4- or 6-inch shell is required to be really effective
against the big destroyers which are now in commission. The
rifle-calibre guns were at first Gatlings with revolving barrels, then
Gardner and Nordenfeldt volley-firing guns, and lastly the well-known
Maxim. Some of these are still carried on board ship but are not now of
use in a naval action, though they are most valuable when bluejackets
and marines are landed for shore service, and, upon occasion, in the


[35] In the Civil War, according to Warburton's _Memoirs of Prince
Rupert_, apothecaries' mortars were sometimes used in emergencies.

[36] In Henry V's expedition to Harfleur he took with him, among others,
two big guns known as the "London" and "the King's Daughter".

[37] Sometimes called Hugget.

[38] Compiled from five authorities, who differ slightly.

[39] Lat., _coluber_, a serpent.

[40] In 1586 "gunners were provided with milk and vinegar to cool their

[41] There may have been some 68-pounder _carronades_ in action.


Evolution of the Ironclad Battleship

    "Our ironclads and torpedo-boats
       Have never met the foe,
     But times of peace don't alter us,
       Our hearts are right, you know;
     As right and tight as in the days
       When glorious fights were won,
     And if duty call, we'll on them fall
       With torpedo, ram, and gun, my boys,
           With torpedo, ram, and gun.
         They may blow us up,
         They may blow us down,
         They may blow us every way;
         But we'll sink or win,
         And ne'er give in,
     Though they blow us right away, my boys,
           Though they blow us right away!"
                       "Sink or Win" (Joe the Marine). From "Per Mare",
                              Jane's _Naval Annual_, 1895.

WE are accustomed to think of the armour-clad war-ship as entirely a
thing of to-day, or at any rate of the last fifty or sixty years. This
is, however, not altogether correct. Armour is not necessarily steel or
iron--witness the derivation of "cuirass" from the French _cuir_, i.e.
"leather". A French battleship is called _cuirassé_.

Protective devices of various kinds and materials have been used for
hundreds, nay thousands, of years for the defence of ships specially
designed for fighting purposes, though never, it must be admitted, so
generally and extensively as at the present day. Raw hides were
constantly used in ancient and mediæval times to protect ships and the
wooden towers used in sieges on shore. Thick felt was also utilized for
this purpose. The Normans hung their galleys with this material in a
battle with the Saracens off Palermo in 1071, and it played not only a
defensive but a decorative part in the equipment of the big "dromons" of
the Saracens and Byzantines, which were covered with thick woollen cloth
soaked in vinegar to render it fire-proof, and hung with mantlets of red
and yellow felt--a rather gaudier war-jacket than the slate-grey of our

Whatever the advantages of felt, there were naval constructors who stood
fast by the old "adage", "There's nothing like leather". Thus, at the
siege of Tyre in 1171 and the forcing of the entrance of the Nile in
1218, an extensive use was made of a species of small craft known as
"barbots" or "duck-backs", whose crews were protected by a strong domed
deck or roof covered with leather. Again, in 1276, Pedro III of Aragon
_cuirassed_ two of his biggest ships with leather--probably raw
hides--before sending them to engage the fleet of Charles of Anjou. Lead
was also used for ship armour in mediæval times. It is said that the
great dromon captured by Richard I off Beyrout had some kind of leaden
plating. Later on, this heavy metal preceded copper as a sheathing for
the under-water portions of ships: the _Grande Françoise_, launched in
1527, was lead-sheathed from her keel to the first wale above her
water-line. Three years later than this date a regular "lead-clad" was
launched at Nice, where she had been built to the order of the Knights
of Malta, who had not very long before been driven out of Rhodes by the

This big vessel, the _Santa Anna_, was a regular "Dreadnought" in her
day. While as fast as other unprotected vessels of her time, she was
heavily plated with lead, fastened to her sides with brazen bolts, from
her upper deck down to her keel; and this armour was so strengthened by
the thick backing of her timbers that, "having been many times engaged,
and received much cannonading, she was never pierced below the
bulwarks". She carried fifty heavy guns, besides numerous smaller
pieces, of which not a few were carried aloft in her many fighting-tops.

It is interesting to note that she had a large armoury, a chapel,
forges, a bakery, and a band. "She had various lodges and galleries
round the poop, and chests and boxes full of earth, wherein were planted
cypresses and divers other trees and flowering shrubs, after the fashion
of a garden, small but beautiful." This is about the only garden I have
ever heard of afloat, except the mythical "garden in the main-top",
where are said to be grown any vegetables, "tin-bag" or other, which
arouse the inquisitiveness of ship-visitors. But the main-top has now
gone, and I suppose the "garden" with it.

It has been stated, but without any authority being quoted for the
statement, that "chain-netting of iron was suspended to the sides of
men-of-war, which were also strengthened by plates in the time of Henry
VIII and Elizabeth". I should say this is very doubtful, since Sir
William Monson, in his _Naval Tracts_, published at that period, does
not mention this practice, although he refers to a number of other
protective devices. But, as we have already seen, iron was used as a
protection--probably against ramming--by the Viking ships of many
centuries before this time.

The first regular ironclad ship armed with cannon appears to be that
quaint craft christened the _Finis Belli_, which was constructed by the
burghers of Antwerp what time they were closely besieged by the
redoubtable Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, in the year 1585. With
this floating battery, for it was little else, the besieged hoped to be
able to break the Spanish blockade. There are various accounts of her.
One states that she was protected by iron plates, another that her sides
were from 5 to 10 feet thick, "filled with rotten nets, well rammed in,
which made them firm and almost impenetrable". Probably the hull proper,
which was very low in the water, was protected in this way, and the
built-up battery or casemate, which she had amidships, was covered more
or less with iron. She mounted twenty heavy guns, besides lighter
pieces, and carried a large number of musketeers, some in her
fighting-tops, some behind a loopholed bulwark over her battery, and
others, "which could not be hurt, being lodged lower than the cannon
could batter".

[Illustration: The _Finis Belli_, the first regular Ironclad Ship armed
with Cannon

The funnel on the poop is presumably the galley funnel, though placed in
an unusual position.]

Unfortunately for _les braves Belges_ the _Finis Belli_ was a total
failure. In spite of her three rudders she was "very troublesome to
govern", and eventually ran aground and had to be abandoned. The Spanish
besiegers laughed prodigiously at this effort, and nicknamed the
abandoned ironclad the _Caramanjula_ or "Bogey-bogey". As for her
designers, they re-named her _Perditæ Expensæ_, or "Money thrown away".

[Illustration: Japanese Ironclad of about 1600 A.D.

(_From a drawing by a Japanese Naval Officer_)

With hull covered with plates of copper and iron, two rudders, one at
the bow and one at the stern; and a paddle-wheel as her propelling
machinery, fitted inside.]

The Dutch patriots struggling for freedom from Spanish tyranny had
tried their hands at a somewhat similar contrivance about ten years
earlier, which was known as _The Ark of Delft_. This seems to have been
a double-hulled arrangement, with three hand-turned paddle-wheels placed
between the two hulls. The _Ark_ only rose 5 feet above the water-line,
was 110 feet long and 46 feet broad. She mounted twenty guns, and "a
large gallery was suspended from her three military masts"--whatever
that may mean. It is a curious but generally accepted fact that a great
many more or less modern "inventions" have been forestalled in the Far
East. Gunpowder was first made in China; water-tight compartments were
commonly used in the ships of that country hundreds of years before they
found a place in our men-of-war. It is not altogether strange,
therefore, that the Japanese should have been in possession of what may
well have been a pretty formidable armour-clad so far back as the year
1600--a remarkable-looking craft, more like a big turtle than anything
else. She was cased with hexagonal plates of iron and copper, fitted
closely together. She had a rudder at both bow and stern, and was
propelled by a paddle-wheel amidships, something like the _Ark of
Delft_. A Captain Saris, who made a voyage to Japan in 1613, mentions
that he there saw a junk of from 800 to 1000 tons, sheathed all over
with iron. This was probably the one just described, which, by the way,
is stated to have carried a battery of cannon.

It is hardly necessary to point out that impenetrability does not
necessarily imply armoured protection. An earthen rampart may well be
impenetrable, as may a thick-sided wooden ship, as was the _Great
Michael_ to the artillery of her day; yet, while affording protection to
those behind it, neither the one nor the other is armoured. Between 1600
and 1800 there were many attempts at special forms of protection, from
the floating batteries employed by the English in the mismanaged
expedition to La Rochelle to the famous Spanish floating batteries
destroyed at the Siege of Gibraltar in 1781; but iron ship-armour does
not appear again till the year of Trafalgar.

In the _Naval Chronicle_ for that year we have an account of a vessel
designed by a son of the General Congreve who is famous as being the
inventor of the "Congreve rocket", once a somewhat highly esteemed
missile. The ship--it does not appear whether it was actually built or
not--was intended for the attack of the French invasion flotillas which
were blockaded inside their ports by our fleets. It was to have sloping
sides covered with iron plates and bars, proof against any gun of the
period, and was to be armed with four big mortars and the same number of
42-pound carronades. Her rudder, anchors, and cables were to be entirely
under water, and so not exposed to hostile artillery, while she was to
be rigged in such a way that masts, yards, and sails could be lowered or
erected in a quarter of an hour. When these were "struck" and housed
under the armour she could be moved--probably at a very slow pace--by
oars pulled by forty men, worked entirely under cover.

Fulton, the famous American inventor, who built a submarine boat, and
invented mines and torpedoes and other weapons of war, turned his
attention to the protection of war-vessels. He was probably responsible
for a little paddle-wheel-propelled vessel for towing torpedoes, which
is described as being covered with 1/2-inch iron plates, "not to be
injured by shot". Later on he built a steam frigate, which he called the
_Demologos_, or "Voice of the People". This relied on 13-feet-thick
sides to protect her crew, but was not armour-plated. She was blown up
by accident in 1829, and replaced by the _Fulton the Second_, which
seems to have been to some extent protected by iron armour.

But it was not till towards the end of the Crimean War that real
steam-propelled armour-clad ships appeared, in the shape of a series of
slow and unwieldy floating batteries, specially designed for the attack
of the massive Russian fortifications. If anyone would like to see what
these were like--that is, as regards their hulls, for the masts have
long since disappeared--he has only to travel as far as Chatham Dockyard
and ask the policeman on duty at the main gate to direct him to the
_Thunderbolt_ pier.

The _Thunderbolt_ is one of these old ironclads which has come down to
the useful but inglorious duty of acting as a landing-stage in the River
Medway. Neither she nor any of her English sisters was ever in action;
they were too late in the field--or rather the water. But several of the
French floating batteries, almost precisely similar vessels, took a
prominent part in the bombardment of the Russian fortress of Kinburn,
where their fire proved most effective. As for the shot and shell from
the Russian forts, they rebounded from their sloping iron sides like so
many tennis-balls. These armoured batteries were, however, slow, clumsy,
flat-bottomed affairs, with no speed under steam or sail and but
moderately seaworthy. It remained for the French--whose models in the
"days of wood and hemp" were generally better than our own--to go
another step forward and produce a regular sea-going ironclad.

This was the famous _La Gloire_. She was no beauty. She had an extremely
ugly bow and was very short in proportion to her beam. She was not a new
ship, but the old two-decker _Napoleon_ cut down, lengthened, and
covered along her whole side with iron plating 5 inches in thickness.
She took two years to finish, and was not ready till the end of 1859.
She naturally created a good deal of excitement, and it was at once seen
that we must follow suit.

But our naval men did not see why they need be content with so unsightly
a war-ship. They had been much impressed, a year or two before, by the
_Niagara_, a fine United States frigate which had visited the Thames,
and which had what was then regarded as the immense length of 337 feet.
Our constructors, therefore, were rather inclined to follow her lines
than those of _La Gloire_, and turned out the _Warrior_, a
magnificent-looking vessel, not improvised out of an old wooden ship,
but entirely built of iron. Her armour-plating, however, did not extend
from bow to stern, but only covered her battery amidships, which
occupied somewhere about two-thirds of her total length. The _Warrior_
was 382 feet long, and fitted with a not very obtrusive ram. As a matter
of fact, it was not perceptible at all, since the stem was finished off
with a very graceful swan bow adorned with one of the finest
figure-heads ever executed. She was fully rigged, did 14-1/2 knots under
steam at her trials, and carried an armament of thirty-eight
68-pounders, then the heaviest guns afloat. In short, the _Warrior_ was
a triumph of British shipbuilding, and a worthy ancestor of the
magnificent armour-clad fleet which has played such an important part in
the history of the nation. She had one sister, the _Black Prince_, after
which a few smaller ironclads were built, the _Defence_, _Resistance_,
_Hector_, and _Valiant_. Next came four bigger ships, the _Achilles_,
_Minotaur_, _Northumberland_, and _Agincourt_. These were all improved
_Warriors_, armoured along their whole length, with ram bows, a heavier
armament, and no less than five masts. They were imposing-looking ships,
though, of course, to-day about as obsolete as the _Henri Grace à Dieu_.


She was a very efficient reply to the French _La Gloire_, which was a
wooden ship converted into an ironclad. Observe the Red-and-blue Ensign.
The White Ensign with St. George's Cross did not become universal in the
Royal Navy till 1864.]

I have a vivid recollection of a visit to the _Minotaur_ when a boy.
Possibly a few extracts from notes made at the time may be of interest.
"She has five masts and is a tremendous length. Her upper deck is
furnished with a good many small guns for repelling boat attacks. Round
the masts are placed some of the shot and shell for the large guns
below, painted white, and the knobs (i.e. studs to fit the rifling) and
points gilded. Were here shown a Gatling gun for service on shore or for
clearing the decks of boarders, &c. On going below we saw a couple of
rocket-tubes burnished like a looking-glass.... In the steerage we saw a
7- or 9-pounder boat gun polished beautifully (as was all the metalwork
in the ship) which had an arrangement for reducing the recoil by a
cylinder full of oil. The main-deck battery consisted of 12-ton guns,
lacquered to look like jet." The carriages, I remember, were painted
white and the slides under them scarlet, which, with their burnished
gun-metal machinery, gave them a most brilliant appearance, very
different from the slate-coloured monsters of to-day. These guns were
some which had replaced her original armament of more numerous but
lighter cannon, and in consequence every other port in the battery was
vacant. But the long line of guns presented a most imposing appearance.
"Between the guns were field-guns, boat-guns, &c. Round the hatchways
were ranged shot, shell, and canister, which also appeared in every
available corner."

Among other notes, too long to be transcribed, I find that the Whitehead
torpedoes in the _Minotaur_ were made of copper, a material which has
long since been superseded by steel, and that I was shown "the Rumpf
coil for generating the electric light which can be shown in three
places". Compare this very modest installation with the numbers of
powerful search-lights which a battleship carries to-day, to say nothing
of the thousands of incandescent lamps which light her interior. The
"cylinder full of oil" for checking the recoil of a small boat-gun,
which is referred to above, is noteworthy as the prototype of the almost
universal system now in use both ashore and afloat, though in the
_Minotaur_ none of the big guns were fitted with this very effective

As guns grew more powerful, and, in consequence, armour increased in
thickness and weight, the amount of side protection had perforce to be
reduced, so that as time went on the battleship's cuirass was cut down
to a comparatively narrow water-line belt, with a "box-battery"
containing her heavy guns amidships. In later types the foremost and
aftermost guns in these batteries were placed at an angle and the port
"recessed" in the ship's side, so that these guns could fire on the
broadside and nearly ahead as well. In some ships, such as the _Sultan_,
_Alexandra_--which, by the way, was long flagship of the Mediterranean
fleet and a notable ship in her day--_Triumph_, and _Iron Duke_, the
box-battery was arranged in two tiers, one above the other. All these
were broadside ships and fully rigged. If they could not get along very
fast under sail alone, the sails, under some circumstances, were useful
in "easing the engines" and getting a little more speed out of the ship.

But in any case naval officers had not then brought themselves to accept
the idea of relying on their engines alone; they liked to have a second
string to their bow. Besides, the work and evolutions aloft were
undeniably a splendid thing for the seamen; it rendered them quick,
smart, and self-reliant, and kept them in excellent physical training.

The reverse side of the picture was the weight of yards, rigging, and
sails, the resistance they offered to the wind when the ship was
steaming against it, the danger in action to those quartered on the
upper deck from the fall of yards, blocks, and spars from aloft, and
the time taken in preparing them for action. The top-gallant masts were
sent down on deck as well as the upper yards, the top-masts were
generally lowered till they only showed a few feet above the heads of
the lower masts, extra slings had to be put in place to secure the lower
yards, the shrouds supporting the masts on either side had to be "snaked
down", by coiling wire hawsers in a species of zigzag from top to
bottom, so that if one or more shrouds were cut the whole would hang
together, and many other precautions taken which occupied valuable time
and were, perhaps, after all of a merely negative nature--that is to
say, the rigging was more of a danger in action than a useful asset. The
tops were the only part of it that were of use. As in ancient days they
afforded stations for archers and stone-throwers, and later on for
musketry, swivel-guns, and grenade-throwers, so they were at this time
utilized for mounting machine-guns to fire down upon an enemy's decks.

For at that period "close action" was always expected. Boarders were
told off when the ship "went to quarters for action", and boarding-pikes
and cutlasses were provided for their use, while the small upper-deck
guns--usually breech-loading Armstrongs--were mounted on carriages which
enabled them to be fired downward to repel a boat attack or the rush of
a steamboat with a spar torpedo. The ideas of an action at sea were
practically the same as those which obtained in the days of Nelson.
"Masts and yards" were the source of yet another danger. The "smartness"
of a ship was still generally gauged by her "smartness" aloft. All
evolutions in the Navy are done "against time", and for a ship to get
her "royal yards across" some seconds before any other ship in the
squadron was a notable feat of which every soul on board was proud to a
degree. These ideas were those of the old sailing navy, and in spite of
the advent of steam, ironclads, rifled guns, and torpedoes, the
conservatism of our great sea service rendered them still paramount, so
that even gunnery took a second place. There were regulation quantities
of ammunition to be fired--"expended" was the usual term--at regulated
periods, there were orders that torpedoes were to be run at stated
intervals, that bluejackets and marines should be landed for drill
ashore every week when in harbour. But in most ships these things were
regarded as secondary and annoying performances, to be got over and done
with as soon as possible, if they could not be avoided altogether, so
that all hands might be set to their "games with sticks and string", as,
in course of time, irreverent observers began to call the cherished
evolutions with mast and yards, and the important business of cleaning
paintwork, burnishing "brightwork", and generally making the ship as
spick and span as possible.

"Spit and polish" were the idols worshipped in those days by captains
and more especially commanders, for it was almost universally recognized
that their promotion depended more on the brilliant appearance of their
ships at an inspection than on any other earthly matter. But for all
that the days of "sticks and string" were numbered, as were those of
broadside ironclads and box batteries.

The prime cause of the approaching change was the appearance of a
queer-looking little craft in the Civil War in America between 1861 and
1864. The United States Government had a fine fleet of wooden steamships
at the outbreak of hostilities, but the naval authorities of the
seceding Southern States, having raised the _Merrimac_, a 40-gun frigate
which had been sunk at the Norfolk navy yard, cut her down, built a
battery amidships armoured with two or three thicknesses of railway
iron, and attacked the Federal fleet. The _Merrimac_ had it all her own
way, rammed and sank the frigate _Cumberland_, set the bigger _Congress_
on fire and compelled her to surrender, and withdrew with all the
honours of war. But she was yet to meet her match. John Ericsson, a
Swedish engineer, was commissioned by the United States Government to
construct a small ironclad of his own designing. While the _Merrimac_
was engaged in defeating the wooden ships of the Federals in Hampton
Roads, the _Monitor_, as the new vessel was called, was on her way south
from New York. She joined the Federal fleet the very night before the
_Merrimac_ made a second sortie. On this occasion, as she came out into
the Roads and opened up the fleet she intended to attack, the _Merrimac_
spotted what someone described as looking "like a cheese-box on a raft".
It was an excellent description of the little _Monitor_, which was built
with a very low freeboard and had nothing on her deck but a cylindrical
revolving turret containing a couple of guns, no masts, and but the
merest apology for a funnel. Yet she proved one too many for the
_Merrimac_ with her more numerous battery of guns. She was unable
actually to pierce her sides, as her commander had received the most
peremptory orders not to use more than 15 pounds of powder to load his
guns, but the _Merrimac_ got so "rattled" that she had to sheer off.

[Illustration: The _Monitor_, the famous little ship that revolutionized
warship design

The upper figure is a broadside view, the lower one a transverse section
amidships. The upper portion of the hull was very like a raft, and was
heavily armoured all over, as was the turret and the little pilot-box

This first duel between ironclad vessels attracted an enormous amount
of attention, as is only to be supposed. The net result in this country
was that Captain Cowper Coles, R.N., was allowed to have a cupola- or
turret-ship built which he had designed some years before. The _Royal
Sovereign_, a wooden three-decker, was cut down to within a few feet of
the water-line, plated with 5-1/2-inch iron, and fitted with four
turrets. The foremost one carried two guns, the remainder one apiece.
She had very light pole masts and light, hinged iron bulwarks, which
gave her 3-1/3 feet more freeboard at sea but had to be lowered before
she could fight her guns. Captain Coles, however, had the usual
hankering after "masts and yards", and, the _Royal Sovereign_ having
proved moderately successful, induced the Admiralty to build a fully
rigged turret-ship. This was the unfortunate _Captain_, whose low
freeboard, heavy turrets, superstructures, and fully-rigged tripod masts
caused her to turn turtle in a squall off Cape Finisterre on the night
of 6th September, 1870. Her inventor went down in her. Her gunner and
seventeen men were the sole survivors. One other full-rigged turret-ship
was built--the _Monarch_. As she had a very considerable freeboard she
proved a seaworthy ship, but she was the last of her kind.[42]

In the meantime several small coast-defence turret-vessels had been
built, such as the _Scorpion_ and _Wyvern_ in 1865, the _Abyssinia_,
_Magdala_, and _Cerberus_ in 1870, and the _Glatton_, _Gorgon_,
_Cyclops_, and others a year or so later. They had one or two masts, but
were not rigged ships. These little turret-ships developed into the
battleships _Devastation_, _Dreadnought_, and _Thunderer_, launched
between 1873 and 1877. Each had two turrets containing a couple of heavy
guns apiece. Their hulls were heavily armoured, and they had but one
mast fitted with a military top for machine-guns. It is from this branch
of our earlier armour-clad construction that our modern "Dreadnoughts"
derive their descent rather than from the broadside type.

To explain further developments it must be noted that while in this
country the success of the _Monitor_ induced us to experiment with
placing guns in revolving armoured turrets, in France the tendency was
to build a fixed armoured tower in the ship, and place the guns inside
on a turntable _en barbette_--that is to say, so mounted that they could
fire over the top of the armour in any direction. We tried to go one
better in the _Temeraire_ (1877). She was a broadside ship, with a
"box-battery" amidships, but forward and aft two pear-shaped armoured
barbettes were built into her, the tops of which rose about 1 foot or 18
inches above her upper deck. In each of these was placed a 25-ton
gun--we classified guns by weight in those days, and not by inches of
calibre as we do now--on a mounting, which enabled it to sink down on
being fired, and to be raised up again into its firing-position when
loaded. The _Temeraire_, it may be said, was an experimental ship in
many ways. Though heavily rigged, she had only two masts, so was like an
enormous brig. I believe I am right in saying that her mainyard was the
longest and heaviest in the Service. At one time, too, she was painted
grey, instead of the black which was then universal, except when ships
were in hot climates, when it was generally changed to white. Yellow
funnels were regulation, as was "mast-colour"--a sort of deep-yellow
ochre with a reddish tinge--for all masts and spars. Ships were, and had
been for very many years, painted white withinboard instead of the old
eighteenth-century red. Outboard the black sides were finished off
generally with a white water-line, and a broad white band along the
upper part of the bulwarks, known as a "boot-top". Sometimes another
white line was painted on the black side a few inches below it.

There was a good deal of controversy about this time as to the relative
merits of "broadside" fire and "end-on" fire. Space forbids us from
entering further into this question, but, generally speaking, if a
British ship carried four guns heavier than the rest, they were so
arranged that two could be fired ahead or astern, and all four on either
broadside. But in a French ship the four corresponding guns would be
each mounted singly in barbettes arranged diamond-fashion, so that three
could be fired either ahead, astern, or on either broadside. A couple of
armoured cruisers, the _Imperieuse_ and _Warspite_, were built, probably
as an experiment, on these lines, on the latter of which I had the
honour of serving for something like twelve months. They were originally
brig-rigged, like the _Temeraire_, but this was done away with later and
replaced by a single military mast. Personally I do not think they were
a success. The _Warspite_, at any rate, was a very wet ship. When
steaming against quite a moderate sea the water ran all over her, into
the barbettes and down below, and she was much cramped in many ways by
the arrangement of her guns. The _Devastation_ and her sisters proved
very formidable and successful ships, but with the idea of getting a
heavier fire ahead or astern a new departure was made in the
_Inflexible_--the biggest ironclad we had yet constructed--by placing
her turrets, not one forward and the other aft on the centre line of the
ship, but _en echelon_--that is to say, diagonally amidships.
Theoretically this arrangement, which had been copied from the big
Italian ships _Duilio_ and _Dandolo_, had a good deal to recommend it,
but practically there is more to be said against it than for it.
Nevertheless, four other smaller ships were built on these lines, the
_Ajax_ and _Agamemnon_--which gained notoriety as being almost
impossible to steer--and the _Edinburgh_ and _Colossus_. The last two
were armed with breech-loading guns, which were now superseding the old
muzzle-loaders to which the ordnance authorities had clung with such
obstinacy long after every other nation had consigned them to the scrap

Meanwhile a smaller single-turret ship, the _Conqueror_, had been
built, an unwieldy-looking craft which went by the name of the
"half-boot" from the resemblance her general outline had to that useful
article of military equipment. But she seems to have met with the
approval of the Admiralty, since an improved sister-ship, the _Hero_,
was launched about five years later. These ships probably suggested the
very much larger ones, _Victoria_ and _Sans Pareil_, each of which, on a
displacement of 10,470 tons only, carried a couple of 111-ton guns of
16·25-inch bore in a single turret--that is to say, as their main
armament. They had also a 10-inch gun aft, and a dozen 6-inch
breech-loading guns. These formed what is called her "secondary
battery". The provision of such batteries marks a step in the evolution
of war-ship construction which is very noteworthy. The bigger and bigger
guns carried by battleships necessitated stronger and stronger armour.
In spite of improvements in quality and manufacture the weight of armour
tended constantly to increase. The area covered had therefore to be more
and more restricted. To carry all this weight of guns and armour
comparatively large ships were necessary, and a great part of their
sides had to go without any protection at all. Their flotation might be
preserved--against attack by gun-fire--by the combination of armoured
belt and sloping armoured decks which had by now become almost
universal. But it was obvious that the unarmoured portions of the ship
above water could be torn to pieces by the fire of comparatively light
weapons. This led to the installation of "secondary batteries" of 4-,
5-, and 6-inch guns, for the purpose of attacking an enemy's ship in
this way and of neutralizing his attack by keeping down the fire of
_his_ secondary batteries.

[Illustration: _Photo. West & Son, Southsea_


The 111-ton gun on the old _Benbow_, which was very slow of fire and
whose life was estimated at little more than 70 rounds.]

The development of torpedo-attack brought about the Whitehead automobile
torpedo, and the improvements in the speed and construction of
destroyers and torpedo-boats caused also the introduction of "auxiliary
batteries" of rapid-firing 3- and 6-pounder-shell guns. The machine-guns
firing rifle bullets, and, later on, small steel shot, were found to
have no "stopping-power" against torpedo-craft, and more powerful
weapons became imperative.

The tragic end of the _Victoria_, which cost the nation, not only a fine
ship, but the lives of the greater portion of her crew, and that very
talented naval commander, Sir George Tryon, is a well-known tragedy of
the sea, and there is little doubt that the enormous weight forward of
her huge turret and guns, with nothing aft to counterbalance it, was one
of the causes contributing to the completeness of the catastrophe.

No more ships were built on such lines, but about this period an
important innovation was made by the introduction of a class of ships in
which the four heavy guns were carried in a couple of high barbettes
with sloping sides, instead of in turrets. The whole gun was exposed,
but not its mountings or crew, since the top of the barbette was closed
in by a flat shield which revolved with the guns. These were the
_Collingwood_, _Camperdown_, _Howe_, _Rodney_, _Anson_, and _Benbow_.
The last-named had one 111-ton gun in each barbette, instead of a pair
of rather smaller cannon. Amidships, between the barbettes, were
secondary batteries of half a dozen 6-inch guns (the _Benbow_ had ten).
These were entirely unprotected except from fire coming from ahead or
astern, from which they were covered by armoured bulkheads reaching
across the ship immediately behind each barbette.

I well recollect my first sight of these ships, which had all been
completed during four years I had been away on a distant station,
though, as a matter of fact, I had seen the _Rodney_ launched before I
left England. I was on board H.M.S. _Aurora_, a new cruiser which had
been specially commissioned for the naval manoeuvres. We left Plymouth
and proceeded to Spithead, where a large fleet had been assembled to do
honour to the Kaiser--with whom we were then on rather more friendly
terms than latterly, and who came over at the head of a squadron of his
war-ships. He was much more anxious to exhibit German war-ships to the
British fleet than his naval commanders seem to have been during the
Great War. We got into Spithead about six on a morning when there was a
thick drizzle almost amounting to a fog, and as one after another of
these monsters--as we thought them then--loomed up out of the mist and
vanished astern, they presented a most impressive picture of strength
and solidity. They really did look in the dim light like "castles

But they were not by any means among our most successful efforts. No one
liked the unprotected secondary batteries, and thought of the
well-armoured _Devastation_ and her sisters. _They_ had no secondary
batteries--but they were so well armoured that these were not necessary,
except for purposes of offence. This consideration doubtless led to the
building of the _Nile_ and _Trafalgar_, in which the four big guns were
carried in turrets and the secondary armament in an armoured battery
amidships. They were extremely well-protected ships and would have given
a very good account of any ship of their day. But the tendency was ever
for bigger ships, which allowed, generally speaking, for greater speed,
greater radius of action, greater seaworthiness, and afforded a steadier
gun platform.

This produced the "Royal Sovereign" class, of over 14,000 tons
displacement, a great advance in size on any ships which had preceded
them. They created a considerable sensation at the time of their
appearance, especially the _Royal Sovereign_ herself, the first of them.
My own first sight of her was somewhere in the Irish Sea, not far from
the Isle of Man. I was serving on board H.M.S. _Triumph_ in the naval
manoeuvres of 1892. The _Royal Sovereign_ passed us just at the time tea
was going on in the wardroom, which would be between half-past three and
four, and I remember how everybody rushed up on deck to get a look at
the new marvel in shipbuilding.

The _Royal Sovereign_ became practically the regulation type of
battleship until the advent of the "Dreadnoughts", though of course each
successive batch was an improvement on the preceding one in speed,
protection, and gun-power. All had four heavy guns in low barbettes,
covered with armoured hoods which revolved with the guns--so they may be
said to have been a combination of turret and barbette. The single
exception was the _Hood_ in the "Royal Sovereign" batch, which carried
her four heavy guns in two regular turrets. All had secondary batteries,
whose guns were distributed in armoured casemates at considerable
intervals from each other, and all had a couple of military masts, with
one or two fighting-tops on each, armed with light rapid-fire guns. This
fine series of battleships amounted to forty in all, and formed a
homogeneous and magnificent fleet, the like of which the world had never
seen. Nearly all had a displacement of from 14,000 to 15,000 tons, and a
speed of from 17 to 18 knots. Most are still in service, and though they
have been put rather in the background by our "Dreadnoughts" and
"Super-Dreadnoughts", we may still be very proud of them.

There were two intermediate steps between them and the epoch-making
_Dreadnought_. The first was the creation of the "King Edward" class of
five ships, dating from 1902-3. These were very similar to their
predecessors, but had over 1000 tons more displacement, were more
thoroughly armoured, and, in addition to the four 12-inch and ten or a
dozen 6-inch guns which formed their armament, were provided with four
guns of 9·2 inches calibre, each placed singly in a turret at the
corners of the superstructure. The final type before the _Dreadnought_
made her sensational appearance was the "Lord Nelson" class, which,
however, only comprised two ships--the _Lord Nelson_ herself and the
_Agamemnon_.[43] They were very little bigger than the "King Edwards",
but in their case the 6-inch guns were replaced by ten guns of 9·2-inch
calibre, a most formidable secondary battery, capable of penetrating a
considerable thickness of armour. The Battle of Tsushima, between the
Japanese and Russians, led to the temporary abandonment of the secondary
battery. It was considered that battles would in future be fought at
such immense ranges that a decision, one way or another, would be
reached before the smaller guns could be brought within effective range
of the enemy, and the events of the European War go to confirm this
theory. So it was that we once more arrived at the "all-big-gun ship",
and in the _Dreadnought_, launched in 1906, went back to the principle
followed in the armament of her namesake of 1875, and confined her
armament--except for a few small anti-torpedo-boat guns--to cannon of
the largest size. A comparison of the two _Dreadnoughts_ will form an
appropriate termination to this chapter, which has already occupied more
pages than I intended.

      1875--H.M.S. _Dreadnought_. Displacement, 10,820 tons;
        speed, 14 knots; guns, four muzzle-loaders; armour,
        10, 11, 13, and 14 inches; weight of projectiles, 809
        pounds; penetration of wrought iron at 1000 yards,
        17-1/2 inches.

      1906--H.M.S. _Dreadnought_. Displacement, 17,900 tons;
        speed, 21 knots; guns, ten breech-loaders; armour, 6,
        7, 9, and 12 inches; weight of projectiles, 850
        pounds; penetration of wrought iron at 1000 yards, 36


[42] If we except the _Neptune_, which was built by a foreign Government
and eventually acquired by the Royal Navy.

[43] It would perhaps be more correct to call the _Lord Nelson_ and
_Agamemnon_ contemporaries of the _Dreadnought_. They were practically
experimental ships offering an alternative type. The cost of thirty of
these ships would have been the same as that of twenty-nine
_Dreadnoughts_. The annual upkeep of twenty-nine _Dreadnoughts_ would be
less by £15,000 than that of thirty _Lord Nelsons_.


The Evolution of the Submarine and Submarine Mine

      _Thomas._ They write here one Corneilius'[44] son
    Hath made the Hollanders an invisible eel
    To swim the Haven at Dunkirk and sink all
    The shipping there.

      _Pennyboy._ But how is't done?

      _Cymbal._ I'll show you, Sir.
    It's an automa, runs under water
    With a snug nose, and has a nimble tail
    Made like an auger, with which tail she wriggles
    Betwixt the costs[45] of a ship and sinks it straight.

      _Pennyboy._ A most brave device
    To murder their flat bottoms!
                         _The Staple of News._ BEN JONSON.

"PITT", said the famous Admiral Lord St. Vincent, in the course of an
interview with the American inventor Fulton, "is the greatest fool that
ever existed, to encourage a mode of war which they who commanded the
seas did not want, and which, if successful, would deprive them of it."
Truer words were never spoken. Fulton had invented floating mines or
torpedoes--"infernals" as they were then called--and even an ingenious
form of submarine boat. The French, to whom he first offered them, to
their honour be it spoken, would have nothing to do with them even
though hard put to it to hold their own against the British fleet.
Admiral Decrès reported that Fulton's inventions were "fit only for
Algerines and pirates". The Maritime Prefect at Brest refused to allow
him to attack an English frigate off the coast with his submarine,
"because this type of warfare carries with it the objection that those
who undertake it and those against whom it is made will all be lost.
This cannot be called a gallant death", he said. Finally, Admiral
Pléville le Pelly, the Minister of War, stated that it appeared to him
to be "impossible to serve a Commission for Belligerency to men who
employ such a method of destroying the fleet of an enemy".

It is a sad reflection that after a century of much-boasted "advance in
civilization", we none of us appear to have any chivalric scruples of
this kind. But, in spite of our tremendous ascendancy at sea,
Pitt--being a politician and not a naval officer--was, as St. Vincent
said, "fool" enough to listen to Fulton when, repulsed from France, he
took the name of Francis and brought his schemes over to this country.
Experiments were made in the Downs, and Lieutenant Robinson of the Royal
Marines carried out a demonstration before Pitt with some of Fulton's
torpedoes, or "carcasses" as they were called, by blowing up a brig
anchored off Walmer Castle.

The famous Sir Sydney Smith was an aider and abettor of Fulton, though a
naval officer, but his attitude may have been due to a desire to stand
well with Mr. Pitt rather than to a conviction that the adoption of his
proposed methods of warfare would be of real service to the navy. What
doubtless attracted both men was the hope of destroying the French
invasion flotillas at Boulogne and in the Basque Roads, which our fleet
could not get at. Attempts were made, but ended in dismal failures. The
public generally was dead against the employment of what were regarded
as dastardly and underhand apparatus, and so were most naval officers.
An officer, in a diary made at the time, describes[46] "six copper
submarine carcasses, some to hold 540 pounds of powder and others 405
pounds" that were sent on board his ship for the purpose of being
employed against the enemy's vessels. He says further that "Johnstone
the smuggler laid one down near the gates of the new harbour before
Flushing surrendered, but we never heard of any damage being done by it.
As for our part we never tried them--indeed, _our Admiral said it was
not a fair proceeding_."

The idea of attacking an enemy under water was, however, by no means a
novel one. Attempts in this direction have been made almost from time
immemorial. Swimming under water and diving seem to have been often
resorted to in order to cut ships' cables, and even for the purpose of
boring holes in their bottoms; but the latter would appear to be rather
an impossible performance.[47] The Romans are said to have had a corps
or society of divers known as _Urinatores_. Then there are legends of
diving-apparatus employed by Alexander the Great, who himself is
frequently depicted in mediæval manuscripts being lowered to the bottom
of the sea in a glass barrel.

In manuscripts and woodcuts of the Middle Ages there are to be found
several pictures representing men in a species of diver's costume,
supposed to have been made of leather, with air-tubes leading to the
surface of the water, where they are buoyed by bladders. Some, instead
of tubes, are provided with flasks of air. Personally I should doubt
whether such dresses ever had any actual existence. I fancy they are
originally derived from a species of swimming-jacket or life-belt which
is depicted in a fourteenth-century manuscript in the Imperial
Historical Museum at Vienna.[48]

[Illustration: Diver Salving a Gun

(_From a print of 1613_)]

A comparison between the two sketches over page will, I think, go far to
prove me right, since the so-called "Diver's Helmet" is taken from
Vegetius' _De Re Militari_, not published before 1511. The earliest
picture of a diving-helmet of this kind I have been able to find is in a
German work published in 1500: both are therefore of a later date than
the "Swimming Jacket". This "jacket" was intended to be worn as follows:
The lower rectangular part was to be placed at the back, the oval
portion to the front of the body. When the swimmer wished to remain at
the surface he inflated his jacket by means of the tube; when he
required to dive out of sight he would let the air out. Look at the
position of the buckles and straps in the two drawings and you will see
that there is a strong presumption that the later artist deliberately
made the alteration in order to support his bogus picture of a

[Illustration: Swimming Jacket

(from a fourteenth-century MS.)

Diver's Helmet from Vegetius

(sixteenth century)

Observe the close similarity between these two nominally very different
articles. The shape of the earlier drawing has suggested a helmet to the
illustrator of _De Re Militari_ by Vegetius, and he has therefore done
away with two straps and buckles and altered the positions of the other
two. It is not clear how they are to be fastened together; but the use
of the straps and buckles on the jacket is apparent.]

The earliest mention of a submarine boat occurs in "Salman[49] and
Morolf", a German poem of 1190. This was, of course, an imaginary one,
like the famous _Nautilus_ in Jules Verne's _20,000 Leagues under the
Sea_; but in the days of "good Queen Bess" one William Bourne, a naval
gunner, published a detailed description of how to make "a shippe or
boate that may goe under the water unto the bottome, and so to come up
againe at your pleasure". The "device", as he calls it, had some quite
practical points.[50]

In the following reign a Dutchman, Corneilius Van Drebbel by name, seems
actually to have built a submarine vessel, which is stated to have gone
under water from Westminster to Greenwich, and with which James I was so
pleased that he not only had a duplicate one built, sending it as a
present to the Tsar of Russia, but so far overcame his constitutional
timidity as to adventure his precious and royal person in a submarine
trip in the Dutchman's invention. Then followed many suggestions for
submarines, but between Van Drebbel's boat in 1620 and Fulton's in 1800
probably not more than half a dozen were actually constructed.

Van Drebbel was probably responsible for the "water mines, water
petards, forged cases to be shot with fireworks, and _boates to goe
under water_" which Buckingham took with his fleet on the ill-managed
and inglorious expedition to La Rochelle in 1626. The water-petards or
floating mines were of a very feeble description. The following is a
French contemporary account of what they were like.

"The composition of these petards was of Lattin (i.e. Brass) filled with
powder, laid upon certain pieces of timber, crosse which there was a
spring, which touching any vessel would flie off and give fire to the
petards, but only one took effect, which did no great hurt, only cast
water into the ship, and that was all, the rest being taken by the
King's boats."

About 1771 David Bushnell, a native of Maine, built a curious little
submarine not unlike a walnut in shape, if you imagine a walnut floating
with the point downwards. It was propelled by a hand-turned screw and
carried a case of powder provided with a clockwork apparatus for
exploding it at the required moment. There was an ingenious arrangement
for screwing this mine to the bottom of a ship, and by its means the
navigator of Bushnell's submarine very nearly succeeded in blowing up
H.M.S. _Eagle_ when lying in the Hudson River in charge of a convoy of
transports bringing troops for the campaign against the revolted
American colonists. Other attempts were made by the Americans to blow up
our men-of-war in the course of the war, but without success. In the war
with the United States (1812-14) the Americans again attacked our ships
in a similar manner. The _Ramillies_ in particular seems to have been
singled out for these attempts. She was attacked both by a submarine
boat and by various explosive contrivances. The British retaliated by
embarking in her 100 American prisoners and notifying their presence on
board to the United States Government. They also bombarded the town of
Stonington for being "conspicuous in preparing and harbouring

Between this time and the latter portion of the century innumerable
submarine boats were designed and a considerable number of experimental
ones actually built. A few of them promised very well, though most were
failures, the principal reason of their non-success being the want of a
suitable means of propulsion. Every conceivable method was attempted,
but it was not till the advent of the internal-combustion engine that
the submarine became a really practical proposition. Space forbids
mention of even a tithe of these inventions, but among the most notable
was that invented by the German Bauer, between 1850 and 1860, when he
made a futile attempt to blow up a Danish man-of-war. Then there were
the _Davids_, used by the Confederates in the Civil War in America.
Most of these drowned their crews. One, however, succeeded in torpedoing
the Federal sloop _Housatonic_, but accompanied her to "Davy Jones's
locker". A Swede, Mr. Nordenfeldt, built about half a dozen submarines
between 1880 and 1890, one for this country, one--his first experimental
one--which was eventually purchased by Greece, two for the Turkish
Government, and, lastly, two or three for the German Admiralty. All of
these may be regarded as experimental craft, but they are noteworthy as
being the first submarines to be equipped with Whitehead torpedoes, and
certainly marked a step forward in the science of underwater navigation.

The French navy was the first to tackle the problem of submarine
navigation with any real enthusiasm. French inventors had been
responsible for a very large proportion of the designs for submarines,
which had continually increased in numbers as the nineteenth century
progressed. After extensive experiments with the _Gymnote_ (launched
1888), _Gustave Zèdé_ (1893), and _Morse_ (1899), France set about the
construction of a regular submarine flotilla of considerable size,
launching nearly thirty boats between 1900 and 1903. Other Powers,
except perhaps Russia, held back from the new departure, and it is not
impossible that it would have been politic for the British Government to
have maintained that attitude, in accordance with the views of Lord St.
Vincent, and to have announced that it would refuse to recognize the
crews of submarines as legitimate belligerents. To have done this would
not have been to enunciate any new theory, for from time immemorial this
was the attitude adopted by all navies towards the crews of fire-ships,
and that it was later on accepted to apply to those who made use of
torpedoes and floating mines is evident by the following quotation from
the naval officer's diary which has already been referred to.

He states that on the occasion of the attack on the French ships in the
Basque Roads by Lord Cochrane, when _explosion-ships_ as well as
fire-ships were used, volunteers were called for to take them in, and
"no one was compelled to go, as the enemy by the laws of war can put
anyone to death who is taken belonging to a fire-ship". Had we refrained
from following the example of the French most probably the Germans would
have done so also, first because the French submarines sustained many
accidents and did not appear very likely, to experts such as the German
naval officers, to become a very valuable arm; and, secondly, because in
naval matters they have always tried to follow our lead. But the
newspaper "experts" and other laymen in this country to whom the idea of
submarine navigation was most captivating as something mysterious, new,
and strange, with great potentialities, not only for warfare but for
"copy", clamoured in the Press for submarines. The Admiralty eventually
ordered four "Holland" boats for "experimental purposes".

John P. Holland was an American inventor, and his first boat, built in
1875, "was a tiny affair with just enough room in her for one man to sit
down amidships and work the pedals that turned the propeller. It was
only 16 feet long, 2 feet deep, and 20 inches wide, and it is probably
the smallest submarine ever constructed. The 'crew' had to wear a
diving-dress, and drew air from reservoirs at either end of the vessel.
Five little torpedoes were carried, which could be put out through the
dome and fired from a distance by electricity."[51] Between this time
and 1902 Holland was responsible for six more submarines and the design
for another which was never built. The earlier ones were small, but the
last two or three of considerable size.

The _Holland VIII_ deserves some description, as she may be regarded as
the prototype of the British earlier submarine vessels from which nearly
all of our larger and later types have been evolved. "She was a
porpoise-like vessel 65 feet long, nearly 11 feet in diameter, and of 75
tons displacement. Her single propeller was driven by a gas-engine when
at the surface and by an electric motor when below, both being placed on
the same shaft and connected or disconnected as required. She carried a
torpedo-tube, a tube for throwing aerial torpedoes, and a submarine gun,
the latter being placed aft and inclined upwards, as was the aerial
torpedo-tube forward".[52] This vessel, after very considerable
alterations had been made in her, was re-named the _Holland IX_ and
purchased for the United States navy.


Observe the _Victory_ in the background. If Nelson were standing on the
poop with his glass, what would he think and say of these "microbes of
the sea"?]

The First Lord of the Admiralty, in reply to a question asked in the
House of Parliament in 1900, had replied "that the Admiralty had _not_
designed a submarine boat, and did not propose to design one, because
such a boat would be the weapon of an inferior power". Whether he was
right or wrong, the statement was a straightforward and an
understandable one. Possibly it struck the First Lord as being too
straightforward for a politician, so he at once began to "hedge", and
qualified what he had said by adding: "But if it could be produced as a
working article, the Power which possessed such an article would no
longer be an inferior but a superior Power". It is hard to reconcile the
two statements; for if a submarine was an unworkable proposition it
would be no good to any Power, strong or weak.

However, a couple of years later, as I have already mentioned, the
Admiralty determined to acquire a few submarine boats, nominally with
the view of finding out how their use by an enemy could be rendered
abortive. First one and then four other practically similar ones, to be
built on Holland's designs, were ordered from Vickers of
Barrow-in-Furness. Their displacement--submerged--was 120 tons. It must
be remembered that a submarine's surface displacement is always less
than when she has filled her tanks to sink her deeper in the water. They
were 63 feet 4 inches long and 11 feet 9 inches wide at their greatest
beam; steamed from 8 to 10 knots above and 5 to 7 knots below water,
carried a crew of seven men, and had a single torpedo-tube. Many
experiments were carried out with these little vessels, the net result
being that series after series of larger and larger submarines were
constructed, each batch an improvement on the preceding one. Thus we
had, after the first five "Hollands", the A, B, C, D, and E classes, and
are now turning out the "F" class. The description of our latest
submarines must be postponed till the chapter dealing with the
fighting-ships of to-day; but it may be noted that up to 1914 all had
been improved "Hollands". That is to say, that while some other naval
powers, notably Germany, were building their submarines more and more on
the lines of surface vessels with flat tops or decks, we remained
faithful to the "porpoise" or "fat cigar" type, only modifying them by
increasing their size and length, and by adding to the length of the
narrow superstructure, which formed a deck and eventually a cut-water
for use at the surface, but which was independent of the actual
watertight hull or body of the vessel, since the water was allowed free
access below the platform.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is time now to give some description of the evolution of that
terrible instrument of destruction, the Submarine Mine, under which head
may be included both those that are placed below water and those that
float or drift at the surface. The utilization of explosives for the
attack of shipping has been attempted by belligerents for centuries, but
I am not aware that they have ever been employed against peaceful
traders and fishermen before the Great War. The Germans may attempt to
excuse themselves by alleging that some merchantmen carry guns for
defence; but that has been the universal practice for centuries, and no
merchantmen were more heavily armed than the old trading-ships of the
Hansa League. Such ships were entirely different from the privateers,
provided with Letters of Marque which entitled them to attack and
capture enemy vessels if they could. On principles of self-defence,
merchantmen were always entitled to beat off an attack if they could,
and such action exposed other merchantmen to no reprisals. It is only of
late years, when civilization was supposed to be so far advanced as to
render the sinking of merchantmen "on their lawful occasions" an
impossibility, that they ceased to carry guns.

Probably the first inventor of a floating mine--in the shape of an
explosion-ship, as distinguished from a fire-ship--was an Italian
engineer, who in contemporary accounts is variously referred to as
"Gianibelli", "Gedevilo", "Genebelli", "Gienily", "Jenabel", and
"Innibel", who, by means of a couple of small vessels filled with
powder, which was built over with tons of bricks, gravestones,
millstones, and "everything heavy, hooked, and sharp which 'this wicked
witty man thought most damageable'", blew to absolute "smithereens" the
great bridge which the Duke of Parma had built across the Scheldt in
order to complete the blockade of Antwerp in 1585. It is rather
interesting to note in passing that Gianibelli seems to have spent some
time in this country. He had a good deal to do with the building of
Tilbury Fort, and brought forward extended proposals for the reopening
of Rye Harbour, which had become silted up. This he does not seem to
have effected satisfactorily, and payment of £821, 9_s._, which he
demanded of the Mayor and jurats of that famous town, was refused. He
may have had something to do with the preparation of the fire-ships sent
against the Spanish Armada in Calais Roads. At any rate the Spaniards on
board thought so, for they, considering them "to be of those kind of
dreadful Powder-Ships, which that famous Enginier Frederick Innibel had
devised not long before in the River of Skeld", cried "the Fire
Antwerp", cut their cables, and put to sea in the confusion that proved
their ruin.

We have already mentioned the attempts made by the British at La
Rochelle with floating mines and devices of that kind, and, coming to
the time of William III, we find "Honest Benbow" employing an
explosion-ship, evidently modelled on those of Gianibelli, against the
town of St. Malo. It did a lot of damage and unroofed a great number of
houses, but effected nothing of any military value. One Meesters, a
Dutchman, was the leading spirit in this kind of warfare. Whether he was
any connection of Van Drebbel and Dr. Kuffler I cannot say, but he
induced the Government to use his explosion-ships, or "machines" as they
were termed, probably with the view of emulating these two nautical Guy
Fawkeses who had succeeded in getting good incomes and considerable sums
of money out of the British Government for their ideas and inventions,
although, as far as can be ascertained, none of them had proved of the
slightest value or efficiency. Explosion-ships or machines became for a
time recognized units in the British navy, and were employed against
Dunkirk, Dieppe, and various French ports without much effect. "At the
former, the machine-ships, as they are called, did nothing but blow up
themselves, and the credit of their inventor, as some say; but he being
come hither, complains he was not seconded with ships as he ought to
have been."[53] Very possibly he was not, for this class of warfare did
not meet with much appreciation in the Royal Navy. On the other hand,
the naval commanders complained that Mr. Meesters "had not his
machine-ships in readiness when they had a fair opportunity of wind and
weather to attack the forts at Dunkirk, and that he had trifled all the
time and put the Government to great expense only to enrich himself,
when the whole matter was impracticable". It is not surprising,
therefore, that we hear no more of explosion-ships for a very long
time.[54] The attempts made against the British ships by the Americans,
and those we ourselves carried out with indifferent success against the
French Invasion flotillas, have been already referred to. Though this
form of attack was not again employed by the navy for many years, the
following description in Müller's _Elements of the Science of War_
(1811) shows that something like a floating mine was used in armies for
the destruction of bridges. It consisted of a chest fitted with a rudder
and filled with powder, and fired by means of two gun-locks, which were
set in action by a stick protruding from the water and attached to their

[Illustration: Submarine Mine laid by the Russians in the Crimean War

Made of staves about 3 in. thick, and containing an inner case filled
with flue gunpowder.]

In 1844 some attention was attracted to an alleged invention of a
Captain Warner for blowing up ships. The _John of Gaunt_, a
sailing-ship, was taken in tow by a steamer and blown up off Brighton in
the presence of an immense crowd of spectators; but as the inventor
wanted the Admiralty to pay him £400,000 for it before he showed them
what it was like, his secret naturally remained a secret. It would seem
to have been merely a mine floating just beneath the surface of the
water, with some arrangement to explode it on contact. The Crimean War
gave us some little experience of underwater mines, for several were
employed by the Russians in the Baltic and the Black Sea. They were
feeble affairs, and did no damage worth mentioning. One was fished up
and exploded on board one of our ships, but no one was seriously hurt.
Some were made of copper, others of wood fastened together like the
staves of a barrel. But the rumour of these mines, which were stated to
contain 700 pounds of powder and to explode either on contact or by what
was then called a "galvanic current"--that is to say, electricity--caused
the allied French and British fleets in the Baltic to exercise great
care in their movements. As at the present day, a system of trawling for
them was instituted, and no less than fifty were picked up off Cronstadt
in ten days.

[Illustration: Russian Mine laid in the Baltic in the Crimean War

A B, Close-fitting copper cases containing powder. C, Leather tube
containing electric wire. D, Mooring weight. E, Small white wooden ball
showing position of mine. F, Openings to load mine. G, Iron framework
supporting mine. K, Iron ring-part of frame. L, Mooring rope.]

"The angling for this dangerous kind of prey was thus managed: two boats
took between them a long rope, which was sunk by heavy weights to a
depth of ten or twelve feet, and held suspended at that depth by empty
casks as floats; the boats then separated as far as the rope would
allow, and rowed onwards at right angles to the length of the rope; it
was a species of trawl fishing in which the agitation of the floats
showed that a prey had been caught, which prey was then hauled up
carefully."[55] Mines were also fished up off Kertch and other Black Sea
ports, showing that the Russians had gone in extensively for submarine
defence, and only failed in causing us serious loss on account of the
primitive character of the mines and the precautions which we took
against them. On our part we had some idea of using a so-called
submarine invented by Mr. Scott Russell, a noted engineer; but it seems
to have been merely an elongated diving-bell which could not carry out a
satisfactory trial. Two attempts were made by Boatswain John Shepherd,
R.N., to blow up Russian ships in the harbour of Sebastopol, but
apparently without success. He went in alone in a punt, taking with him
some kind of an explosive apparatus, and for his "bold and gallantly
executed" exploits he received the Victoria Cross.

[Illustration: A, Wires to catch side of ship. B, Lead weight. C, Jars
of Gunpowder. D, Case with side broken away to show jars. E, Raft.]

[Illustration: A, Can buoy containing powder. B, Box containing lighted
match and punk below. C, Lid or slide between match and punk. D, String
for pulling out slide, to allow match to ignite punk.


At the end of the 'fifties we were engaged in war with China for a
considerable period, and the wily Celestials tried all sorts of dodges
to blow up our ships by means of floating mines, or "infernal machines"
as they were still called. They were ingenious apparatus, some of them.
The following extracts from a letter written by an officer on board the
_Encounter_, off Canton, give a good idea of the means employed. Three
attempts were made to blow her up.

[Illustration: Chinese Floating Mine

One of two, tied together, with which an attempt was made to blow up
H.M.S. _Encounter_.]

"The first was a sampan", he writes, "towed by a canoe on 24th December,
1856, and captured close under the bow by our second gig rowing guard.
The fuse was lighted in the bamboo tubes at the side. The second attempt
was on the morning of 5th January, 1857, about 2.30. Two rafts, moored
together, with about 20 fathom of line buoyed up, with hooks to catch
cables or anything else, and, on the wires touching the ship's side, to
break by the little lead weight the lighted fuse on the top of the
bamboo, which communicated with the powder. These were lighted and all
ready, but fortunately observed by our guard-boat and towed clear of
ship. Being only a raft it was just awash, and in each caisson at least
17 cwt. of gunpowder in open tubs and jars. The raft itself was made of
6-inch plank well bound together, and caulked. The third attempt was on
the morning of the 7th January, 1857, at 4.30. A pair of vessels in the
shape of a can-buoy with a flag on the top, about 8 inches long; the
fuse, with a tin box containing punk[56] over the fuse, then a cover
with lighted match on top; this had a string to it, which, when pulled,
drew out the centre partition and communicated the fire to the punk, to
allow the fellows who swam off with them towards the ship to make their
escape; but they got frightened at some stir with the boats, and by
accident one went off with a fearful explosion on the starboard bow,
about 60 yards, and the other, being deserted, floated down on our
booms. One of the men was caught and brought on board here, and had his
brains blown out at the port gangway. The buoy-shaped vessel was capable
of holding about 10 cwt. of gunpowder." The _Encounter_ was afterwards
attacked by two floating mines coupled together by a length of rope,
each containing half a ton of powder. They were towed by a Chinaman in a
small boat, who was shot by the look-outs and the mines destroyed. The
_Niger_, however, had a small junk exploded alongside her which had, on
the top of the powder in her hold, a cargo of the most evil-smelling
filth that could be found even in a Chinese city. No damage was done to
her hull, but she was absolutely smothered with this poisonous muck,
and for years afterwards the crew of the _Niger_ was subject to the
annoyance of being reminded of this malodorous incident, for whenever a
man belonging to another ship met a _Niger_, he made a point of holding
his nose!

[Illustration: Barrel Torpedo used at Charleston, made of an ordinary
barrel with ends of solid wood; fired by electricity]

[Illustration: Confederate Torpedo for Rivers

A, Outer shell. B, Air chamber to keep end up. C, Gunpowder. D, Pistol
with trigger connected with rod. E, Rod with prongs to catch vessel
coming up stream. F, Iron bands with rings. G, Weights anchoring


It remained for the mechanical ingenuity of the Americans to establish
the submarine mine as a recognized naval weapon. In the long war between
North and South a considerable use was made of improvised submarine
mines, principally by the Southerners in trying to prevent the ships of
the big Federal Fleet from penetrating their estuaries and harbours.
Space forbids description in detail of these contrivances, but the
sketches on p. 185 will enable you to form some idea of their
construction. The results obtained induced the British Admiralty to
carry out a series of experiments in 1865. The old _Terpsichore_ was
blown up by a "torpedo-shell" charged with 75 pounds of powder, and very
much higher powered mines were tried in various ways. Other European
nations could not afford to overlook this form of warfare, and it was
largely owing to the use of defensive submarine mines that the Germans
kept the powerful French fleet from attacking their coast in the war of
1870. Ten years later mines and their appliances were part of the
equipment of most large war-vessels, which carried two kinds, one
holding 250, the other 500 pounds of gun-cotton. They were perfectly
safe to handle, although fully charged, since the gun-cotton was kept
wet and could only be exploded by inserting a small canister of dry
gun-cotton as a primer. They were intended to be used for countermining
and blowing up an enemy's mine defences, or for defending the ship at
anchor. For harbour defence at home and in our overseas dominions a
special branch of the Royal Engineers was formed, known as the Submarine
Miners, who had charge of everything connected with this part of our
national defences; but with the advent of the submarine this duty was
assumed by the Royal Navy.


[44] i.e. Corneilius Van Drebbel.

[45] Sides.

[46] _A Mariner of England, 1780-1817._ Colonel Spencer Childers.

[47] The Chinese considered this a practical form of warfare even in
comparatively recent times. In _The Voyage of H.M.S. Nemesis_ (1841) an
account is given of the preparations made against the British fleet. At
Canton it was stated that "several hundred divers were said to be in
training who were to go down and bore holes in our ships at night; or
even, as the Chinese privately reported, to carry down with them some
combustible material which would burn under water and destroy our

[48] There is, however, in this MS. a picture of what is probably
intended for a diver wearing a metal helmet without a tube.

[49] i.e. King Solomon.

[50] Included in the ships' companies of the Middle Ages were "seamen
who knew how to swim for a long time under water". These divers "pierced
the ships (of the enemy) in many places so that the water could enter".
In an old work on naval architecture, published in 1629, it is stated in
reference to the Turkish pirates of Barbary that "The Corsairs, indeed,
are very wily in attack and defence, acquainted with many kinds of
projectiles, even _Submarine Torpedoes_, which a diver will attach to an
enemy's keel".

[51] See _The Story of the Submarine_, by Colonel C. Field, R.M.L.I.

[52] _See The Story of the Submarine_, by Colonel C. Field, R.M.L.I.

[53] Letter from Mr. Ellis to Lord Lexington, 9th August, 1695.

[54] In the Civil War in America the _Louisiana_ was filled with 430,000
pounds of powder, and exploded against Fort Fisher on Christmas Eve,
1864, with little or no effect. This is the last recorded case of an
explosion-ship, unless we reckon the four fireships in the form of rafts
that in April, 1915, were sent by the Germans against a fort at Osowiec.
Some never arrived; the others were blown up by the guns of the fort.

[55] _War with Russia_, by H. Tyrell.

[56] i.e. tinder.


Naval Brigades

    "The sailor who ploughs on the watery main,
     To war and to danger and shipwreck a brother,
     And the soldier who firmly stands out the campaign,
     Do they fight for two men who make war on each other?
             Oh no, 'tis well known,
             The same loyal throne
     Fires their bosoms with ardour and noble endeavour;
             And that each with his lass,
             As he drinks a full glass,
     Toasts the Army and Navy of Britain for ever."
               _Chorus_--"And that each, &c."

WHAT is a "Naval Brigade"? "Brigade" is a military term, and in our
service an infantry brigade now consists of four battalions, with their
head-quarters staff. Not long ago two battalions constituted a brigade.
So that we see a brigade is the combination of a small number of
complete units. In like manner a naval brigade is either, in the case of
a single ship, a landing-force composed of her bluejackets and marines
brigaded together, or, in the case of a fleet or squadron, of its
various ships' companies. In a fleet of any size the naval brigade
available for landing--if there was no chance of an attack by sea--might
amount to two or three battalions formed out of seamen and stokers, and
one of marines. It has frequently fallen to the lot of naval brigades to
carry on a small campaign "on their own", but very often a naval brigade
has been attached to an army on active service. A big book might be
written on the services of British naval brigades, so that we cannot
hope to do more than glance at a very few instances of their work in
"soldiering on shore".

"Naval Brigade", by the way, is not a very ancient term, though in the
sixteenth, seventeenth, and early eighteenth centuries we often find
references to the employment of a "regiment" or "battalion" of seamen.
This may possibly be because, although embarked as part complement of
our men-of-war, the marines, who were in those times organized in
regiments and not in one large corps, did not actually belong to the
Admiralty, but to the War Office. They were landed together, if
possible, in their own regiments, and became for the time being a part
of the army, to which, in addition, a battalion of seamen--which, it is
rather confusing to find, is sometimes referred to as a "marine
regiment"--might often be attached. But seamen and marines were not in
those times generally brigaded together, as they so frequently have been
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


A. B. (Marching Order). 1st Class Petty Officer. Stoker.]

Though for many a long day the sailor proper "had no use for
soldiering", which he contemned as an inferior profession to his own, he
was always a pretty useful man with the heavy gun. Naturally, if a man
can make decent shooting with a weapon tossing about on an unstable
platform, he finds it comparatively easy to hit his target on terra
firma. One of the earliest references to the employment of seamen in
operations on shore is at the siege of Leith--then held by French
troops--in 1560. The town was beleaguered from seaward by the English
fleet under Admiral Winter, and on the shore side by a combined English
and Scots army; and in the list of troops detailed for an assault--which
unfortunately proved unsuccessful--we find that the "Vyce-Admyralle of
the Quene's Majestye's Schippes" was to furnish 500 men.

Drake's men in his expeditions to the Spanish coast were formed into
regiments and fought on shore, and after the Restoration a battalion of
seamen took part in the severe fighting with the Moors at Tangier. It
does not seem quite clear whether this included marines or not.[57]
Anyway, it was under the command of Admiral Herbert and had been put
through a special course of exercise "by an expert old soldier--Captain
Barclay", who, after the first engagement, was reproved by the Admiral
"for suffering too forward and furious advancement, lest thereby they
might fall into the enemy's ambushments". Captain Barclay retorted that
"he could lead them on, but the furies could not bring them off"!

At the siege of Cork by the Duke of Marlborough, in 1690, besides the
two marine regiments of the Earls of Torrington and Pembroke, a naval
brigade of 600 seamen and marines[58] was landed from the fleet, with as
many carpenters and gunners as could be spared, to assist in the
construction of the siege-batteries and gun-platforms. The brigade was
under the command of the Duke of Grafton, then captain of one of the
ships, though previously in command of the 1st Foot Guards. The
readiness and cheerfulness with which both seamen and marines dragged
their heavy guns into position in the face of the enemy's opposition is
specially recorded. The capture of the "Cat", an important outwork
covering the approaches to the city, is set down to the credit of two of
the seamen. These worthies, with or without leave, were cruising about
in front of the outposts in the early morning in the neighbourhood of
the "Cat", and, seeing no sign of life or movement, crept cautiously up
to its formidable ramparts and found that it had been deserted by the
Irish garrison. They installed themselves in possession and signalled
the state of affairs to their friends, on which 200 men of Colonel
Hale's regiment were sent to occupy it.

In the expedition to Flanders in 1694 it is stated that 6000 seamen were
"mixed with our land forces, and each of them on landing" was to receive
"a guinea a man".[59]

In the capture of Gibraltar in 1704 the seamen played a prominent part.
The marines were all landed together under the Prince of Hesse, to cut
off communication with the mainland, while the seamen, under Captains
Hicks and Jumper--Jumper's Bastion commemorates his name at the present
day--stormed its defences at the southern end. The marine regiments
played such a distinguished part in the gallant defence against
overwhelming odds which followed that the corps bears the word
"Gibraltar"[60] on its colours and accoutrements to the present day; but
at one part of the siege a force of seamen and guns was landed from the
fleet and did most useful service.

One of them[61] has left a very interesting account of his experiences
on this occasion. "On the morning we got thither", he says, "the
Spaniards were discovered that came up the back of the hill. Then there
was a command for twenty of our men to go ashore with fire-arms.... We
were all in high spirits and fit to do execution, not being at all
daunted at their numbers, for they were like swarms of bees upon the
hill and in great confusion, and we like lions in the valley seeking
whom we might devour; as our duty required. At it we went, loading and
firing as fast as we could. Our men had a great advantage of the
Spaniards in firing uphill, and it was a very great advantage they were
not obliged to wade, for the water often overflows that part where we
were obliged to engage them. We were happy enough in missing the tide;
had it been otherwise, we had been but in a bad situation. The Spaniards
rolled pieces of rocks down the hill and wounded a great many of our
men, but our advantage in firing was more than all they could do. When
they found they could do no good they laid down their fire-arms.... We
stayed ashore all night, and in the morning returned to our ship. They
found the duty too hard for the soldiers, and then there were orders
sent for ten men of a ship to go ashore again.... When we went over we
found that the works were very much demolished, for there was not a gun
that we could fire one day without its being unfit for service on the
next, for the Spaniards would dismount them.... We found the duty
extremely hard, for what they beat down by day we were obliged to clear
away at night."

After a further description of their work, the writer speaks of the
Spanish bombardment and tells how he just escaped a "Jack Johnson" of
the period by throwing himself flat on the ground. "Had I been so
unwise", he says, "as to have stood up when it fell, I should have been
lifted up on its wings. I was hardened in that employment, and a great
many of our men ran in a terrible fright, thinking that I was blown up.
They said, when they saw me, we are glad to see you alive. I thanked
them for their regard for me, and told them I never minded a bomb at
all, only to observe its falling and step out of the way and fall with
my face to the ground.... We continued making our works by night and in
the daytime we were employed in drawing guns from the New Mole to
Wills's Battery. We had very indifferent ground some part of the way,
therefore we were obliged to draw in gears, in the same manner as horses
do. But when we came among the rocks we were obliged to lay deal spars,
and parbuckle them up with hawsers, and by these means we haled them up
to the Battery."

It is in this kind of work that our seamen have ever proved so
invaluable to the sister service on shore. A military officer, writing
of the taking of Martinique in 1762, writes: "The cannon and other
warlike stores were landed as soon as possible, and dragged by the
'Jacks' to any point thought proper. You may fancy you know the spirit
of these fellows; but to see them in action exceeds any idea that can be
formed of them. A hundred or two of them, with ropes and pulleys, will
do more than all your dray horses in London. Let but their tackle hold
and they will draw you a cannon or mortar on its proper carriage up to
any height, though the weight be ever so great. It is droll enough to
see them tugging along with a good 24-pounder at their heels; on they go
huzzaing, hallooing, sometimes uphill, sometimes downhill, now sticking
fast in the brakes, presently floundering in mud and mire ... and as
careless of everything but the matter committed to their charge as if
death or danger had nothing to do with them. We had a thousand of these
brave fellows sent to our assistance by the Admiral; and the service
they did us, both on shore and on the water, is incredible."[62]


Seamen and marines constantly worked together on shore during numerous
expeditions in the course of the long series of wars which only
terminated with the Battle of Waterloo.]

Two or three years previously the seamen of the fleet had performed a
similar duty at the siege of Quebec, and it is related that after
bringing up the guns they met a battalion of soldiers about to go into
action and insisted in falling-in alongside them, some armed with
cutlasses, some with sticks, and others with no weapons at all. General
Wolfe, coming up, thanked them for their spirit, but urged them to
continue on their way to their ships, as they were both unarmed and
unacquainted with military discipline and manoeuvres. He said that it
would be of more service to their country if they did so than for them
to lose their lives for no result. To this address some of them called
out: "God bless your Honour, pray let us stay and see fair play between
the English and the French". Wolfe again urged them to go on board. Some
followed his advice, but others, as soon as his back was turned, swore
that the soldiers should not have all the fighting to themselves. They
contrived to remain with the redcoats, and whenever one of the latter
fell a seaman put on his accoutrements, seized his musket, and charged
with the battalion. Seamen and marines constantly worked together on
shore during the numerous expeditions that were directed against the
enemy's possessions in the course of the long series of wars which
only terminated with the Battle of Waterloo, not so very often in
regular brigades but in landing-parties from their own ships, notably at
the defence of Acre by Sir Sidney Smith, Captain of the _Tigre_,
assisted by Colonel Douglas of the Marines and by Colonel Philpoteaux,
an engineer officer and a French Royalist refugee. A very usual
operation was for one or two of our ships to set about the capture of a
number of the enemy's merchantmen and small craft that had sought refuge
in some harbour on the Mediterranean coast. If there was a battery
defending the entrance the ship would engage it, and after its guns were
silenced, it would be stormed by the bluejackets and marines. After this
the latter would take up a covering position while the seamen brought
out the shipping.

We have a somewhat amusing account of a naval brigade of seamen which
was put on shore during the unfortunate Walcheron Expedition of 1808. It
was written by a soldier, so perhaps may have been a bit overdrawn, but
it must be remembered that there was no attempt to teach seamen infantry
drill in those days, and none of them was enlisted for longer than a
ship's commission. "These extraordinary fellows", says the writer,
"delighted in hunting the 'Munseers', as they called the French, and a
more formidable pack was never unkennelled. Armed with a long pole, a
pike, a cutlass, and a pistol, they annoyed the French skirmishers in
all directions by their irregular and unexpected attacks. They usually
went out in parties as if they were going to hunt a wild beast, and no
huntsman ever followed the chase with more delight.... They might be
seen leaping the dykes by the aid of their poles or swimming across
others, like Newfoundland dogs; and if a few French riflemen appeared in
sight, they ran at them helter-skelter, and pistol, cutlass, or pike
went to work in good earnest. The French soldiers did not at all relish
such opponents--and no wonder, for the very appearance of them was
terrific, and quite out of the usual order of things. Each man seemed a
sort of Paul Jones, tarred, belted, and cutlassed as they were. Had we
had occasion to storm Flushing I have no doubt they would have carried
the breach themselves."

The writer gives a humorous description of their drill, of which they
wisely only attempted enough to assist them in moving from place to
place. "'Heads up, you beggar of a corporal, there', a little
slang-going Jack would cry out from the rear rank, well knowing that his
diminutive size prevented his being seen by his officers. Then, perhaps,
the man immediately before the wit, in order to show his sense of
decorum, would turn round and remark: 'I say, who made you fugleman,[63]
Master Billy? Can't you behave like a sodger afore the commander, eh?'"

Drill was looked upon merely as an amusing interlude in the serious
business of war and appreciated accordingly. It was an exhibition of the
same spirit of cheerfulness which has made us so proud of our Tommies
for "sticking it out" so heroically in the trenches. This spirit never
left these gallant seamen till the last, for the account above quoted
tells how, when one of them was brought to the ground by a bullet which
broke the bones of his leg, while pursuing some of the enemy's riflemen,
he "took off his tarpaulin hat and flung it with all his might after
them, adding a wish, 'that it was an 18-pounder for their sakes!' The
poor fellow was carried off by his comrades and taken to the hospital,
where he died. Such were the men who fought our battles."

At the landing in Aboukir Bay in 1801 a body of seamen under Sir Sidney
Smith were of great assistance to our army--very badly provided with
artillery with which to reply to the numerous French field-pieces. The
seamen, however, landed some guns, dragged them to a good position among
the sand-hills, and by their fire materially contributed to the victory
which ensued. It was in the same part of the world--to be exact, on the
coast of Syria--that some years afterwards, in 1840-1, a naval brigade
from the Mediterranean fleet, under Sir Charles Napier, assisted by a
reinforcement of the Royal Marines sent out from England, carried on a
campaign against Mehemet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, who had revolted from
the Sultan and forcibly occupied Syria. There were Turkish troops also
engaged and a small detachment from one or two Austrian ships, but Sir
Charles Napier was in charge of the operations, and no British soldiers,
other than the few marines, took part in the campaign.

Sir Charles, though a sailor, always thought that he was a soldier
spoiled, and was very proud of the rank of Major-General which had been
given him by the Portuguese Government about ten years before. He had
seen a little fighting on shore in the Peninsula, and entered into this
shore-going campaign with the greatest zest. The marines, who were
formed into two battalions, did the greater part of the fighting on
land, as the seamen were required to man the guns of their ships, which
constantly co-operated with the land forces by bombarding the enemy's
towns and positions; but the bluejackets took part in the storming of
Tortosa--where they preceded the marines as a pioneer party to remove
obstacles--the assault of a castle near Acre, the occupation of Tyre,
and the capture of Acre and Sidon. The seamen and marines of the fleet
engaged in the Chinese war of 1840-1 also did a considerable amount of
shore work of which space precludes any account, the operations they
were engaged in being so numerous and so scattered. But we may say that,
generally speaking, the seamen acted as gunners, while the marines were
employed as infantry.

Naval guns mounted in shore batteries played a most distinguished part
in the Crimean War. They were manned both by seamen and by marines, and
were employed at the bombardment and capture of Bomarsund in the Baltic
and in the trenches before Sebastopol. At the latter place, although a
brigade of the Royal Marines had been encamped on the heights above
Balaclava, and though they and the Royal Marine Artillery manned the
guns in the redoubts built to secure our right flank from a Russian
attack, it had not been intended to place naval guns in the
siege-batteries. But when our siege-train found that they had all they
could do to contend with the unexpected efficiency of the Russian guns,
it was hurriedly determined to call on the navy for assistance. Fifty
heavy guns were at once landed, with 35 officers and 732 seamen under
Captain Stephen Lushington. The reinforcement was most valuable. The
guns were powerful and the seamen's fire most accurate. The brigade did
"yeoman service", and sustained by the end of the siege the loss of 7
officers and 95 men killed, and 39 officers and 432 men wounded.

Perhaps the most famous naval brigade in history is the _Shannon's_
brigade, under Captain Peel, which made such a glorious record in the
strenuous days of the Indian Mutiny. Although nearly all accounts would
lead the reader to believe that it was entirely composed of seamen, it
consisted, in point of fact, of 450 seamen, 140 marines, and 15 marine
artillerymen, drawn from both the _Shannon_ and the _Pearl_. The guns
which they took with them and which did such invaluable service were
twelve in number--ten 8-inch guns--pretty heavy pieces to haul
along--and a couple of brass field-pieces. The brigade participated in
the action at Kajwa, 1st November, 1857, when Peel took charge of the
operations on the death of Colonel Powell of the 53rd, and brought them
to a victorious conclusion. On the 13th of the same month eight heavy
guns and 250 of the brigade, with Peel himself, arrived before Lucknow,
where they formed part of the army under Sir Colin Campbell which had
advanced to the relief of the Europeans besieged in the Residency. After
the capture of the Sikander Bagh, the relieving-force was checked in a
narrow way by the desperate resistance offered by the garrison of the
Shah Najif, "which was wreathed in volumes of smoke from the burning
buildings in front but sparkled all over with the bright flash of
small-arms".[64] The guns could make little or no impression on it;
retreat was impossible along the narrow crowded lane by which the
advance had been made. Desperate measures were necessary. Peel was equal
to the occasion. While his marines and the Highlanders did their best to
keep down the fire from the rebel loopholes, his seamen man-handled two
of their big guns to within a few feet of the walls. But they had to be
drawn off again under cover of the fire from a couple of rocket tubes,
which were brought into action for the purpose. Still their gunners had
made a small breach, which they had not even noticed themselves, and by
this breach fifty men of the 93rd Highlanders, under Colonel Adrian Hope
and Sergeant Paton--who received the V.C. for this service--later on
effected an entry and expelled the garrison. The naval guns were of the
greatest service during the withdrawal of the hardly pressed garrison of
the Residency, since they kept down the fire from the Kaisar Bagh, the
principal stronghold of the rebel sepoys. At Cawnpore and at the battle
of Futtygurh, and in the final relief of Lucknow, the _Shannon_ and
_Pearl_ brigades distinguished themselves time after time; but we must
leave further details, to deal with later naval brigades.

Passing over the operations in China in 1858-9-60, and the attack on
Simomosaki in Japan, in all of which both seamen and marines were
engaged, we come to the Ashanti War of 1873. The opening operations were
entirely carried out by the navy, with the assistance of a few black
troops. The invading army of Ashantis was forced back over the River
Prah by the marines and seamen of the squadron, reinforced by a small
force of the former sent especially from England, Cape Coast Castle and
Elmina were saved, and time was gained for the arrival of the
expeditionary force from England under Sir Garnet Wolseley. A small
naval brigade of 200 seamen, and 60 marines, with a rocket train,
accompanied the army on its advance to Kumassi and played a conspicuous
part in the battle of Amoaful, suffering a loss of six officers and
forty men wounded.

A little naval brigade of 3 officers and 121 men with two rocket-tubes,
six 12-pounders, and a Gatling gun participated in the fighting with the
Kafirs in South Africa in 1877-8; while in the Zulu War of a year or so
later the _Shah_, _Active_, _Boadicea_, and _Tenedos_ landed a brigade
of seamen and marines of the strength of 41 officers and 812 men, with
several guns. It was employed in somewhat scattered detachments. In 1881
a small naval brigade took part in the inglorious Boer War and suffered
heavily at the unfortunate battle on Majuba Hill, where it lost more
than half its strength. It is to one of the seamen present that the
following terse summary of that disastrous day is attributed. "We took
three mortal hours to get up that bloomin' hill," he said, "but we come
down in three bloomin' strides."

The navy and marines played a considerable part in the shore operations
which followed on the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882. After the fire
of Sir "Breach'em" Seymour's fleet had driven Arabi and his soldiers out
of the city, the mob gave itself up to murder, looting, and
incendiarism. No troops had yet arrived, and the only thing to do was to
land the naval brigade to keep order and save the city and its European
inhabitants. The bluejackets, with their Gatling guns, supported by the
marines with their rifles, lost no time in clearing the streets of the
murderous rabble. The work was done in a thorough and effective manner,
and as soon as possible a rough-and-ready tribunal was established to
deal with special cases. In addition to these duties the naval brigade
had to find detachments to hold a line of outposts round the landward
side of the city, ready to check a very probable attempt of Arabi to
recapture the city. In a day or so the hardly-worked seamen and marines
were strengthened by the arrival of a battalion of the Royal Marines
which had been specially sent out from England in the _Tamar_ in view
of possible hostilities. It could easily have arrived at Alexandria two
or three days earlier but for a series of orders and counter-orders from
home which delayed it at Gibraltar, Malta, and finally sent it out of
the way to Cyprus, where it was greeted with news of the bombardment,
and the _Tamar_ steamed straight out of Limasol harbour without letting
go her anchor. When the army began to arrive, the naval brigade was
gradually withdrawn on board its ships, but shortly afterwards was
employed in seizing Port Said, Ismailia, and other points on the canal.

In the advance along the Sweet-water Canal, which culminated in the
victory of Tel-el-Kebir, only a very small naval contingent from the
ships took part, but a battalion of the Royal Marine Light Infantry and
another of Royal Marine Artillery were attached to the army, the latter
being told off as a body-guard to Lord Wolseley. But we must not omit to
mention Lieutenant Rawson of the Royal Navy, to whom was committed the
important task of guiding the night march of the army against the
Egyptian lines of Tel-el-Kebir by the aid of the stars, and who fell in
the moment of victory. "No man more gallant fell on that occasion,"
reported Lord Wolseley.

Naval brigades were well to the fore in the fighting which took place in
the Sudan in 1884-5. At the Battle of El Teb 13 naval officers and 150
seamen, with six machine-guns, were present, as well as a battalion of
400 marines. It was in this action that Captain A. K. Wilson--now
Admiral of the Fleet, Sir A. K. Wilson, V.C., G.C.B., O.M.,
G.C.V.O.--gained the V.C. for the gallant way in which he,
single-handed, engaged no less than six of the enemy who had endeavoured
to capture one of his machine-guns. The naval brigade suffered heavy
casualties at the Battle of Tamaii, which took place not long
afterwards. In the Gordon Relief Expedition the naval brigade was
naturally of great use on the Nile, and a small detachment of
fifty-eight seamen under Lord Charles Beresford accompanied the Camel
Corps in its dash across the desert and took part in the
fiercely-contested fights of Abu Klea and Abu Kru. The marines formed
the fourth company of the Guards Camel Corps on this occasion. In the
operations on the upper Nile which preceded the fall of Khartoum there
were a few naval and one marine officer in command of the Egyptian
gunboats, whose fire proved such a useful auxiliary to the advance of
the Anglo-Egyptian Army, while about a dozen non-commissioned officers
of the Royal Marine Artillery were responsible for the instruction of
their Egyptian gunners and the direction of their fire.


Naval brigades were very much in evidence in the South African War. No
special squadron and no battalions of marines were sent out, because it
was necessary to keep our main fleet and its personnel ready to hand in
case of complications with European powers. The big cruisers _Terrible_
and _Powerful_, however, appeared on the scene, and their crews assisted
in the formation of the naval brigades. In October, 1899, one of these
was formed at Simonstown from the _Doris_, _Terrible_, _Powerful_, and

It is noteworthy that for the first time on record both seamen and
marines were provided with khaki uniform in place of their usual
blue-serge service-dress. This brigade was sent to Stormberg, on to
Queenstown, and then, to its intense disappointment, back to Simonstown
by sea from East London. That is, with the exception of the _Terribles_,
who sailed for Durban. However, the very day the brigade arrived at
Simonstown it was ordered off again to join Lord Methuen's force on the
Modder River. The khaki-clad bluejackets, with their straw hats covered
with the same coloured material, were rather a puzzle to the soldiers.
During one of the engagements which took place, some of the Scots
Guards, passing them standing by their guns, said to each other: "Blimy,
Tommy, there's them Boer guns we've took!"

At the Battle of Graspan the naval brigade particularly distinguished
itself. Captain Protheroe was in command, Commander Ethelston commanding
the seamen, and Major Plumbe the marines. In the course of the action
Captain Protheroe was wounded and both the other officers mentioned were
killed, the brigade being brought out of action by Captain Marchant of
the Royal Marines.[65] The Boers were strongly posted on a pair of
kopjes. The eastern kopje was attacked by a force distributed as

_Firing Line._--One company bluejackets, 50 strong; three companies
Royal Marines, 190 strong in all; one company King's Own Yorkshire Light

_Supports._--Seven companies King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

_Reserve._--Half a battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

The remainder of the seamen belonging to the naval brigade--about 150 in
number--helped to cover the attack by bringing their guns into action at
about 2800 yards range. The kopje was taken, but a heavy price was paid
by the naval brigade. There were 2 naval and 2 marine officers killed
and one of each wounded, 2 seamen and 6 marines killed, and 13 seamen
and 82 marines wounded. During the farther advance on our western flank
the guns of the naval brigade were constantly in action. One of the big
4·7 guns, mounted on the travelling carriage suggested by Captain (now
Admiral) Sir Percy Scott of the _Terrible_, and put into practical form
by one of her engineer officers, arrived in time for the naval brigade
to use it at Magersfontein with considerable effect. At Paardeberg they
had four of these weapons in action, besides smaller guns. Manned either
by bluejackets or marines, and hauled along either by teams of oxen or
by the men of the brigade themselves, they again and again proved most
effective during the operations which followed.

[Illustration: _Photo. Cribb, Southsea_


Meanwhile the _Powerfuls_ had formed a naval brigade of their own, and
in response to the appeal made by Sir George White, the defender of
Ladysmith, for more guns, Captain the Hon. Hedworth Lambton of that ship
rushed up 17 officers and 267 men with two 4·7 guns, four 12-pounders,
and four Maxims, just managing to get into the beleaguered town in time.
On the very first day the 12-pounders managed to put the Boer "Long
Tom", which was lobbing its big projectiles into the place, out of
action, and their presence undoubtedly saved the situation. Another
naval brigade formed part of the relieving force and fought at Colenso.
This force comprised 20 officers and 403 bluejackets and marines, to
whom must be added 2 officers and 50 men belonging to the Natal Naval
Volunteers. A formidable battery of one 6-inch, five 4·7-inch, and
eighteen long 12-pounders accompanied this brigade, which was of the
greatest possible assistance to the army.

About this time the Boxer outbreak in China led to the formation of
other naval brigades. Though hardly to be termed a naval brigade, it may
be noted that the British portion of the small international force which
so stoutly defended the Pekin Legations consisted of 79 Royal Marines
and 3 officers, together with a leading signalman, an armourer's mate,
and a sick-berth steward. But the relief column, under Vice-Admiral Sir
E. H. Seymour, was a big naval brigade of various nationalities, of
which about half were British--62 officers, 640 seamen, and 218 marines.
The British were under the immediate command of Captain J. R. Jellicoe,
C.B., C.V.O.,[66] the marines being under Major J. R. Johnstone,
R.M.L.I.[67] A determined attempt was made to advance along the railway
line to Pekin, but the Chinese troops, who were exceedingly well armed,
having thrown in their lot with the Boxers, the brigade was unable to
get farther than An-tung, which was occupied by Major Johnstone with
sixty men, while preparations were made to fall back on Tien-tsin.
The force had come up in a series of trains, but, the railway having
been broken behind it in more than one place, a great part of the return
journey had to be carried out on foot. Village after village had to be
stormed, and not far from Tien-tsin the retreating column had to pass
close under the walls of the important Chinese arsenal of Hsi-ku, which
stood on the opposite bank of the river. From this big fortified
enclosure a heavy fire was poured upon the Europeans at short range. It
was a regular death-trap. However, the principal part of the column
sought what cover the rather high bank of the river afforded, while
Major Johnstone, with the British marines and half a company of
bluejackets, contrived to get across in junks a little higher up, and,
forming under cover of a small village, fixed bayonets and stormed the
enclosure in flank with a tremendous rush, driving out the garrison
before him. The column halted for the night and for the next day or two
inside the arsenal, where it was attacked again and again till a relief
column moved out from Tien-tsin and brought off the harassed naval
brigade. In the meanwhile Admiral Seymour's brigade were fighting
fiercely in Tien-tsin itself. The Pei-Yang Arsenal held by the Chinese
had to be stormed, the European quarter defended, and finally the
high-walled native city had to be taken by assault, an operation in
which the British seamen and marines suffered very heavily.

This is the last important occasion on which a naval brigade was in
action until the European War. So far no naval brigade, in the sense of
a force of bluejackets and marines disembarked from their ships, has
taken part in the fighting, except perhaps at the Dardanelles. The Naval
Division which went to Antwerp was composed of marines and reservists
from their head-quarters and of naval reservists and volunteers, but we
have so little reliable information of what happened on that occasion
that it would be very inadvisable to attempt to give any account of its
performances at the present time.


[57] Possibly not, as there was a composite battalion at Tangier
composed of companies from various regiments, including one of marines.

[58] "Five or six hundred seamen and others of the Marine
Regiment."--_Reminiscences of Cork_, by Crofton Croker (MS.).

[59] Lutterell.

[60] Several years ago the Kaiser bestowed this distinction on a Hessian
Regiment on account of its ancestors--so it is stated--having
participated in the capture. I have studied the taking of Gibraltar
pretty thoroughly, but have never found any mention of a German regiment
taking part in it.

[61] _Life and Adventures of Matthew Bishop_. London, 1744.

[62] Quoted in Cassell's _British Sea Kings and Sea Fights_.

[63] A soldier who used to be placed in front of a regiment, by whose
motions the movements of the exercises with arms were directed. In some
regiments at the present day the right-hand man steps a pace forward on
the order "Fix bayonets", to give the time and ensure all moving

[64] _Blackwood's Magazine_, October, 1858.

[65] Now Brigadier-General Marchant, C.B., A.D.C.

[66] Now Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., the famous
commander of our Grand Fleet.

[67] Now Major-General Johnstone, C.B.


War-ships of all Sorts

      "The King's Navy exceeds all others in the World for
      three things, viz.: Beauty, Strength, and Safety. For
      Beauty, they are so many Royal Palaces; for Strength,
      so many moving Castles and Barbicans; and for Safety,
      they are the Most Defensive Walls of the Realm.
      Amongst the Ships of other Nations, they are like
      Lions amongst silly Beasts, or Falcons, amongst
      fearful Fowle."--_Lord Cokes Fourth Institute._

IN a previous chapter was set forth the story of the evolution of our
battleships, up to and including the famous _Dreadnought_ of 1907, the
so-called "first all-big-gun type". As there had been several
"all-big-gun ships" among our earlier ironclads, this description seems
hardly warranted. However, the _Dreadnought_ stands pre-eminent as the
first of the modern type of battleship, though in power, speed, tonnage,
and general efficiency she has been far out-classed by the successive
batches of Super-Dreadnoughts which have followed her, which are
represented by the _Bellerophon_, _St. Vincent_, _Colossus_, _Orion_,
_King George V_, _Iron Duke_, and, last of all, the monster _Queen
Elizabeth_, or "_Lizzie_" as she is irreverently called. To describe
this latest product of the naval designer's art is the best way of
explaining what a really modern battleship is like.

The _Queen Elizabeth_, then, is 600 feet in length--that is to say, just
200 yards. Think of the distance you have often seen measured off for a
hundred-yards' race, multiply it by two, and you will have some idea of
what this means. Or, if you have ever done any shooting on the range,
try to remember how far off the 200-yard target looked, and you will
realize what must be the size of a ship long enough to cover all the
ground between it and the firing-point. (The _Dreadnought_, by the way,
was only 490 feet in length.) The beam of the _Queen Elizabeth_ is 92
feet--10 feet more than that of the _Dreadnought_. You may well imagine
that the tonnage, or weight of water displaced, by a ship of these
dimensions is enormous, and so it is, being no less than 27,500 tons!
So, also, is the horse-power of her engines--58,000! But when we know
that they have to be able to drive this leviathan through the water at a
speed of 25 knots an hour, we can well understand the necessity for
powerful engines. To feed their furnaces 4000 tons of fuel are carried.
It is not coal, but what is known as "heavy oil", arrangements having
been made by the Admiralty for an immense quantity of this fuel, which
is considered to have many advantages over coal. Earlier ships carry a
proportion of both coal and oil. The engines are, of course, of the
turbine type, which has entirely superseded the old reciprocating
engines in the Royal Navy.

"The introduction of the turbine engine", writes a naval officer, "has
revolutionized the appearance of the engine-room. The flashing
piston-rods and revolving cranks have vanished. All the driving-power of
the ship is hidden in some mahogany-sheathed horizontal cylinders, and
there is nothing to indicate that the engines are in movement but a
small external dial and needle no larger than a mantelpiece clock,
attached to each of the shafts, of which there are two in each

The _Queen Elizabeth_ can hardly be called an "all-big-gun ship", since
besides the eight huge 15-inch guns which form her principal armament
she carries sixteen 6-inch quick-firing guns, firing projectiles of 100
pounds weight, and about a dozen little cannon specially mounted for
firing up at Zeppelins or aeroplanes. But her 15-inch guns are the
biggest and most powerful cannon now afloat. Not only do they fire huge
elongated shells of 1950 pounds weight, but their range and accuracy is
most remarkable. We have seen a little of what they can do in the
Dardanelles, when the ship, steaming well out at sea, pitched these
terrible projectiles right over the peninsula of Gallipoli, to descend
like a combination earthquake and avalanche upon the Turkish forts in
the straits. The _Dreadnought_ had 12-inch guns firing 850-pound
projectiles, but she carried ten to the four of all her predecessors.
But though the _Queen Elizabeth_ had to give up one turret,[69] and
therefore two guns, in order to make room for more boiler-power for the
production of greater speed, her broadside totals 15,600 pounds of metal
as against the 8500 of the earlier war-ship, or the 12,500 pounds of
later Super-Dreadnoughts armed with ten 13-1/2-inch big guns. But the
ability to throw heavier projectiles was by no means the only reason for
increasing the calibre of our big guns. The fact was that gradual
improvements in the 12-inch gun had made it so long in proportion to its
calibre that there was an imperceptible sort of "whip" at the muzzle on
discharge that was yet quite enough to interfere with its accuracy.[70]
So we brought out the 13.5-inch, a most formidable weapon, and, later
on, the 15-inch gun. With each of these the difficulty of making sure of
hitting at long range decreased, and the encounters in the war that have
taken place between our ships and those of the Germans which have had
the temerity to put their noses outside their harbour defences have all
gone to prove the previously-advanced theory that the battles of the
immediate future will take place at immense ranges, at which the smaller
guns and torpedoes cannot be effectively used.


It would be superfluous to describe the general appearance of the _Queen
Elizabeth_ in words, the photograph opposite presenting it better than
the most detailed description: but it may be fairly said that while in
picturesque beauty modern battleships cannot compete with the
masterpieces of "the days of wood and hemp", there is yet an appearance
of power, proportion, and impressiveness about them which forms a
combination that may be almost called a beauty in itself. In the same
way we may compare the plain, severe beauty of the Parthenon at Athens
with the elaborately carved, gilded, and painted workmanship of a
Japanese temple. Both are attractive to the eye in their own peculiar
and far differing ways. In the old wooden ships an appreciable
proportion of their cost went in decoration alone, but out of the
£2,400,000 expended on the "_Lizzie_" such expenditure may be set down
practically as _nil_. A plain slate-coloured coat of paint, extending
from truck to water-line, is all the painter has had to do with her
external appearance.

The turrets in which the _Queen Elizabeth's_ big guns are carried are
four in number, and are placed on the centre line of the ship--two
forward and two aft. Each turret contains a pair of guns, and the two
innermost turrets are perched up on a species of protected tower or
pedestal in such a way that they can fire directly over the foremost and
aftermost turrets. By this arrangement four guns can be discharged dead
ahead, four astern, and the whole eight on either broadside. We have
been some time evolving this arrangement of turrets--in point of fact
some foreign "Dreadnoughts" were the first to adopt it.

Our original _Dreadnought_ had five turrets, three on the centre line of
the ship and one on either broadside. The same arrangement was carried
out in the _Bellerophon_ and _St. Vincent_ classes, which followed her,
but in the _Colossus_ class, which succeeded them, the position of the
five turrets was altered. There was one right forward on the centre line
of the ship, then one on the port side, and farther aft another on the
starboard side. In fact, these two turrets were arranged _en echelon_,
just as they were in the earlier _Colossus_ and other ships. The fourth
and fifth turrets were on the centre line, and the fourth was able to
fire over the fifth, just as the second can fire over the first in the
_Queen Elizabeth_. In the _Orion_ class, which came next, the same
arrangement as in the _Queen Elizabeth_ was followed, but as there was
an additional turret it was placed by itself right amidships. No change
in this respect was made in the _King Georges_.

We must not leave our typical modern battleship without some reference
to the way in which she is protected by armour. As in all such ships,
the armour-plating is distributed (_a_) to protect her flotation and
(_b_) to protect her guns. With the former object in view she has a
broad water-line belt of the finest and strongest 13-1/2-inch armour
procurable, which is supplemented by an armoured deck of considerable
thickness. Each turret stands on a species of armoured tower, going
right down to the armoured deck, and is itself made of 13-1/2-inch
armour. Her flotation is further safeguarded by minute subdivision below
the water-line.

"Long experience of naval war has established a belief, shown by the
practice of maritime powers to be unanimous, that a navy should comprise
three great classes of ships, these classes admitting of much internal
subdivision. In the period of the great naval wars there were ships of
the line, frigates, and small craft. These are now represented by
battleships, cruisers, and smaller and special-service vessels.
Individuals of the first-mentioned class are intended to fight in large
groups, that is to say, in fleet actions; those of the second class are
intended for solitary service, or, at any rate, to fight only in small
groups; while those of the third are intended, according to the
subdivision to which they belong, for a variety of special purposes." So
writes Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge in his _Art of Naval Warfare_, and his
definitions are clear and compact.

With the battleship class we have already dealt, both as regards its
evolution and present-day pitch of perfection; but want of space has
precluded any attempt to trace the evolution of the cruiser in the same
way. It is therefore necessary, before going on to describe the cruisers
of our modern navy, to glance, in the briefest possible manner, at
their predecessors of days gone by. Perhaps we may take the viking
_skuta_, or fast scouting vessel, as its first prototype, scouting being
one of the most important duties of a cruiser. Possibly the galleys and
balingers of mediæval times may be regarded as the _skuta's_ successors,
while the low-lying _Tiger_ and other ships of her class in Tudor reigns
may be considered as the immediate precursors of the famous frigates and
corvettes which figured so largely and did such yeoman service in our
eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century maritime campaigns. Our first
frigates were the _Satisfaction_, _Adventure_, _Nonsuch_, _Assurance_,
and _Constant Warwick_, all built in the year 1646; and from that time
up to about 1870 a constant succession of ships of this useful type were
added to the navy, the latest ones being, of course, steam frigates.

A frigate, according to an old work of 1771, was defined as "a light
nimble ship built for the purposes of sailing swiftly. These vessels
mount from twenty to thirty-eight guns, and are esteemed excellent
_cruisers_." The name was derived from _fregata_, a Mediterranean vessel
propelled both by sails and by oars. It is said the British navy was the
first to adopt frigates for use in war, but the French, and afterwards
the Americans, were generally successful in building the finest vessels
of this class. These ships were full-rigged, with three masts, and
carried all their principal guns in one battery on the main deck. The
corvette may be regarded as a smaller frigate, but was not square-rigged
on her mizzen-mast, and carried her main battery on her upper deck. This
later type of cruiser outlasted the frigate by some years, and the last
of them, such as the _Opal_ and other corvettes of the "Jewel" class,
were very handsome vessels, though by no means so formidable as the
pole-rigged cruisers which took their place.

The frigates in the old French War were considered "the eyes and ears of
the fleet". They sought out and reported the enemy, they attacked his
cruisers and commerce and protected our own, and fully justified their
name and the general reputation for smartness which they were accorded.
The duties of our cruisers of to-day are of a very similar kind,
although the invention of wireless telegraphy and the aeroplane has
supplemented and to some extent superseded their scouting work.

As for what they have actually done, we have only to recollect the
various incidents of the Great War as regards its aspects at sea. Acting
in unison with those of France and Japan, they have swept German
commerce and German cruisers from the face of the ocean, and so far,
except for shore bombardments and submarine attacks, have been the only
war-vessels engaged on either side. At the time of writing no
battleships have as yet been in action against one another, for we may
regard all those ships which have been reported in action at sea as
cruisers, from the big battle-cruiser _Lion_ down to the destroyers--and
even, perhaps, our submarines, which are very useful scouts.

Cruisers proper in our navy are now officially classed in three main
divisions--"battle-cruisers", "cruisers", and "light cruisers", though a
very short time ago they were subdivided into "armoured cruisers",
"first-class protected cruisers", "second-class protected cruisers",
"third-class protected cruisers", "unarmoured cruisers",
"lightly-armoured cruisers", and "scouts".

The battle-cruiser is a hybrid and, as this war has proved, a most
useful war-vessel. She is not so heavily armed or armoured as a
battleship of equivalent age, but has much greater speed. She is as big
or bigger, and costs just about as much. Thus the _Lion_ was launched in
the same year as the battleship _Orion_--1910. Note the comparison

       Displacement.        Guns.          Speed.    Armour.    Cost.
    _Orion_    22,300     Ten 13·5 in.    21 knots   12 in.   £1,900,000
    _Lion_     26,350     Eight 13·5 in.  28 knots   10 in.    2,100,000

Thus it will be seen that of these two contemporary ships the
battle-cruiser is the bigger, cost £200,000 more, has two less big guns,
2 inches less protection, but steams at least 7 knots faster than the
battleship. Indeed, it is hard to say whether she is or is not, on the
whole, the more useful ship, even as a battleship. The Admiralty and
naval constructors would seem to incline to this opinion, for, as we
have seen in the latest battleship--the _Queen Elizabeth_--two guns have
been sacrificed for the sake of 4 knots more speed than the _Orion_.

The cruiser-battleship or battle-cruiser, then, not only has almost
precisely the same appearance as a battleship, though probably of rather
greater length, but has special battle duties as well as cruiser duties.
Thus, if working with battleships, it is her business to pursue an
enemy's battle squadron in retreat, and, by bringing its rearmost ships
to action, try to induce their consorts to stand by them till her own
slower but more powerfully gunned consorts can come up and take a hand.
As for her cruising duties, we have had conspicuous examples during the
course of the war, both as to the right and wrong way of such ships'
employment. The unexpected and opportune intervention of the
_Inflexible_ and _Invincible_ in the Falkland Islands battle, whose mere
appearance convinced von Spee that his "game was up"; and the way in
which Sir David Beatty was "on the spot" and swooped down on the German
North Sea raiders, are both excellent examples of the way these
formidable fighting-cruisers should be used. If you want to see "how not
to do it" you have only got to consider the misuse of the _Goeben_ in
the Mediterranean, where, after a useless bombardment of one or two not
very important Algerian towns, she fled for shelter to the Dardanelles,
instead of trying to break out into the Atlantic. It is claimed, of
course, that, but for her appearance at Constantinople, Turkey would not
have been drawn into the war on the side of Germany, but it is hard to
believe that the long-pursued German intrigues in Turkey would have all
gone for nothing without the arrival of the somewhat discredited
_Goeben_. Nor was the use of battle-cruisers to bombard a few
defenceless coast towns a sound method of strategy. As it was, they were
within an ace of being lost--and for what result? Absolutely _nil_ from
a military point of view. The battle-cruiser has a great future before
it, and it does not seem unlikely that, now that the enormous advantages
of high speed have been so clearly demonstrated, it will altogether
supersede the slower and heavier armed and armoured battleship proper.

After battle-cruisers we come to cruisers. Our typical modern cruisers
may be taken to be represented by the "_Defence_" and "_Achilles_"
classes, the latest of which dates from 1909. The former class have a
displacement of 14,600 tons apiece, and carry four 9·2 and ten 7·5 guns.
The latter are about 1000 tons smaller, and have an armament of six 9·2
and four 7·5 guns. Both types have 6- to 8-inch armour, and about 23
knots speed. They are exceedingly smart-looking vessels, with their
numerous turrets or gun-houses, four funnels, and two lightly-rigged
masts. They sit comparatively low in the water, and present an
appearance of both speed and war-like efficiency.

The "County" class of cruisers, which immediately preceded those just
mentioned, are considerably smaller, though to some minds but weakly
gunned for their size. None of them have heavier guns than 7·5-inch, and
most only 6-inch weapons. Neither have they a great deal of armour
protection or an extraordinary high rate of speed. As none have been
built within recent years, we may fairly assume that they are not
considered quite what we want at the present time, though many or most
of them have done excellent work in the present war. You will remember
how the _Kent_ and _Cornwall_ fought at the battle off the Falklands.

The "Town" class, of not much more than half the size, would appear to
have superseded the "Counties", and they, too, have been very much in
evidence in the hostilities which have been carried on afloat. The
biggest of these are of 5400 tons displacement, and carry eight 6-inch
guns, and as these are the latest cruisers built, with the exception of
the monster battle-cruisers, it seems likely that it is not intended to
have any cruisers of intermediate size. Big sparsely-armoured cruisers,
like the unfortunate _Good Hope_, which did not steam faster than
smaller ones, and which carried but a poor armament considering her size
and cost, cannot be considered a good investment. The "Town" class have
done splendidly in the war at sea. The _Birmingham_ had the distinction
of sinking the first German submarine; the plucky little _Gloucester_
hung closely on the heels of the giant _Goeben_ and her consort the
_Breslau_ during their flight to Constantinople, though one
well-directed shot from the former would have put her out of action and
probably sent her to the bottom. The _Glasgow_, _Carnarvon_, and
_Bristol_ were of great use in the Falklands fight, the first-named
having already fought against the heavy batteries of the _Scharnhorst_
and _Gneisenau_ off the coast of Chile, while later on she sank the
Dresden; while the _Sydney_ won undying fame by defeating and driving on
shore the notorious commerce-destroyer _Emden_.

Another distinctly modern type of cruiser is the "light cruiser", a fast
unprotected vessel with light guns of 4-inch calibre, which has proved
of immense value in the area of "liveliness" in the North Sea. The
_Amphion_ opened the ball by sinking the German mine-layer _Königin
Luise_ at the very opening of hostilities, but was very soon after
herself blown up by a mine the latter had laid. She, like her sisters,
was almost exactly like a big destroyer in appearance. The "Saucy"
_Arethusa_ has proved a worthy descendant of the famous frigate after
which she was named, and has more than once particularly distinguished
herself, notably in the fight off Heligoland. But space forbids more
than the mere mention of the smallest class of cruiser, the "scouts", of
just under 3000 tons, which are also extremely useful little vessels,
since it is necessary to give some account of destroyers and

The destroyer was originally built to "destroy" the torpedo-boat, which,
from its small size, had its limitations in anything of a sea-way. The
earliest torpedo-boats were ordinary steamboats, such as are carried by
most ships of any size, fitted with a long spar with a tin of gun-cotton
at the end of it, which could be run out some way over the bows. The
idea was to approach an enemy's ship under cover of the darkness, lower
the outer end of the spar with its "torpedo" below the water-line, place
it in contact with the enemy's ship, and explode the charge by means of
an electric current. This seems a crude way of going to work, but
several ships have been sunk by its means, notably the Confederate ram
_Albemarle_, which was attacked by Lieutenant Cushing of the United
States navy in this way in the course of the Civil War in America.
Special boats were then made for this purpose, but the advent of the
"Whitehead" automobile torpedo provided them with a much more formidable
weapon. Naval powers built these "torpedo-boats" in considerable
numbers, and they were considered such a menace to bigger ships that the
destroyer, an almost exactly similar boat, but of larger size, was
designed to cope with them. In point of fact it did destroy them, for it
was found to be so much better an "all-round craft", not only for
attacking torpedo-boats, but to act as one itself, that the smaller
craft before long were entirely superseded by the destroyers. Beginning
about 1897 with boats of about 180 tons, armed with 6-pounder guns, we
have now improved our destroyers till at the present day our latest
types are more than twice as big, and are armed with 4-inch guns, which
give them a decided advantage over less heavily-gunned destroyers, as
has been amply demonstrated in more than one encounter with German
destroyers. The destroyer is used, generally speaking, for scouting
purposes, and especially to attack an enemy's submarines, which, if
caught at the surface, may be approached in a swift destroyer and sunk
by gun-fire before they are able to dive, or, with luck, may even be
rammed. Destroyers, too, may be used to attack at night as
torpedo-boats, or even in the course of a naval action if a favourable
opportunity offers; it will be remembered that the _Goliath_ was
torpedoed by a Turkish destroyer.

"Vessels of stealth", as submarines have been called, have now taken the
place of the obsolete torpedo-boat. The latter relied on torpedoing her
enemy under cover of the darkness, but the submarine is most dangerous
in day-time. At night it is almost impossible for her to find her target
or to estimate the speed at which she is travelling if under way,
without which knowledge it is extremely difficult to arrange for a
torpedo to intercept her course unless fired at very close quarters
indeed. As the particulars of our submarines are wisely kept secret, no
more can be said about them than is already public property.

The "E" class, our latest improved "Hollands", are 176 feet long, with a
beam of a little over 22 feet, and have a displacement--when
submerged--of 800 tons. When at the surface their heavy oil-engines, of
something like 2000 horse-power, enable them to travel at a speed of
from 16 to 20 knots. When under water the electric engines are brought
into play, but owing to the increased friction and larger area of the
vessel to be forced through the water the speed of the boat drops to 10
knots. Moreover, travelling at the most economical rate of speed, not
more than 140 knots can be negotiated when submerged, while at the
surface an "E" submarine can travel for no less than 5000 miles without
refilling her oil-tanks.

These boats preserve the "porpoise" shape, are equipped with wireless
apparatus, and provided with panoramic periscopes to enable them to
sight their target when submerged. There is no necessity nowadays to
describe the principle of a periscope, since little portable patterns of
this optical instrument, of various types, made for use in the trenches,
can be seen exposed for sale almost anywhere. But, of course, those in
use on a submarine are of a large and highly perfected type. The
conning-tower of the "E" boats is armoured, and they carry a couple of
quick-firing guns of 3 inches calibre in recesses on their decks, closed
in by folding doors. These little weapons can be quickly raised into
position by an arrangement of hydraulic machinery, and by merely
pressing a lever they sink down and are boxed in again in a second or
two.[71] They are so mounted as to be able to fire at a very high
elevation, in order to defend the boat against bomb-dropping air-ships
or aeroplanes, but, of course, can be used against surface vessels in
the same way as those of the German submarines, which have made several
attempts to sink merchantmen. As a modern Whitehead has a range of
something like 3 miles, travels at a speed of 50 miles an hour, and
carries a heavy charge of high explosive in its head, we need not dwell
on its formidable nature, which has been amply proved in the course of
the war. It has also been equally proved that it is almost impossible
for a submarine to torpedo a fast and well-handled vessel once it has
located the position of its attacker.

[Illustration: _Photo. Cribb, Southsea_


It was a boat of this class, _E9_, by which the German cruiser _Hela_
and a destroyer were sunk by Lieutenant Max Horton; and another, _E11_,
specially distinguished herself at the Dardanelles.]

"The modern submarine has every comfort commensurate with the size and
service of the vessel. The principal item making for comfort is, of
course, properly-prepared food.... As time passed, electric
cooking-apparatus was installed. This was always subject to the many
troubles inherent in early electrical heating-apparatus. However, the
idea was a step in advance. To-day there is installed a well-arranged
oven, four or five independent plates for cooking meats and vegetables,
and an urn for keeping coffee constantly hot and on tap when cruising.
All of these things, though small in themselves, make for contentment in
the crew."[72] Whether or not such cooking appliances are installed in
our own submarines I am unable to say, but there is no doubt that
everything necessary for the comfort of their crews has been provided by
the Admiralty, and the boats themselves are very like the American
submarines which are referred to above.

"Monitors" are novel vessels in our navy, and at present we have only
three of them--the _Humber_, _Mersey_, and _Severn_--which were
originally built for Brazil, but were acquired from their builders,
Vickers, Maxim, & Co., immediately on the outbreak of war. They proved
their usefulness by standing close inshore and attacking the flank of
the German advance on Nieuport in the fighting between that place and
Ostend which took place in the autumn of 1914. Their light draught of
water--under 9 feet--enabled them to do this, and rendered them very
difficult targets for the German submarines, which, moreover, could not
operate in such shoal water.

The appearance of the original _Monitor_ in the Civil War in America has
already been referred to. The United States Navy had a considerable
number of such vessels during and after that campaign. Russia also
purchased several of a similar type. But for many years, if we except a
few of an improved type which were built for the United States Navy
between 1885 and 1895, they fell quite into disuse, except for river
work. The Austrians have a small flotilla of such vessels on the Danube,
and Brazil has had others for use on the Amazon before the ones we took
over were ordered. It is, however, one would imagine, not without the
bounds of probability that there may be some return to the
shallow-draught "Monitor" type among the battleships of the future, as
being less vulnerable to torpedo attack. A battleship design put forward
some years ago by a Russian inventor, which he claimed to be nearly
torpedo-proof, certainly approximated somewhat to a "Monitor".

The three "Monitors" which were added to our own navy as described, are
of only 1200 tons displacement apiece. They are 265 feet long, with a
beam of 49 feet, and have a speed of 11-1/2 knots only. But it is
obvious that speed was of very secondary consideration for the purposes
for which they were designed. They have thin armour-plating on their
sides, and carry two 6-inch guns in a turret at the bows. Aft are a
couple of 4·7-inch howitzers under revolving shields, while half a dozen
machine-guns are mounted on their upper works. They are smart-looking
little craft, with one funnel and a single military mast with a
search-light platform.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having described the various classes of our fighting-ships, we may for a
moment or two consider the subject of fighting tactics afloat. In the
old sailing-ship days it was the object of the commander of a
fighting-ship to get what was known as the "weather-gage" of his
opponent. Put into shore-going English, this meant that, as far as
possible, he kept his own ship between the direction of the wind and his
enemy, which enabled him to manoeuvre more easily, close in upon him or
not as he considered more advantageous to himself. The French were not
so keen in seeking for the weather-gage, since in that position it was
not so easy to break off the engagement and get away. This remark must
not be necessarily taken as imputing any want of courage to our then
gallant enemy, for whereas the Admiralty orders to our captains were to
find the enemy and "sink, burn, or destroy" him, those given to the
French naval officers impressed upon them that it was their first duty
to save their ships. The result was that though as a general rule our
sea-captains took the weather-gage whenever they could get it, there
were some of them who, according to a pamphlet published in 1766, were
fond of "engaging to leeward", to prevent an enemy from running away!

In fleet actions in Nelsonian times our object was to break the enemy's
line in one or more places, and, having effected this, to set upon the
broken portions with all the strength available and defeat them in
detail. This was the principle followed so successfully at Trafalgar.
Of course the leading ships of our two lines suffered severely from the
broadsides of the enemy as they approached him at right angles, but it
must be remembered that the range and efficiency of the guns of those
days was so limited that the leading and rear ships of the combined
French and Spanish fleets could not damage any of our rear ships very
much, nor even our leading ones. As for our own ships, we were prepared
to take this preliminary pounding and not really to begin our offensive
till we had broken their line and got within close range of that portion
of their fleet we intended to destroy first. If, as at the Nile, the
enemy foolishly chose to await our attack at anchor, it simplified
matters for us pretty considerably. We could, as we did, move towards
one end of their line at an angle on which we could exchange broadsides
as we advanced on equal terms, and as soon as one-half of our ships had
passed the flank selected for attack, both halves altered course so as
to move parallel to the line of anchored Frenchmen and engage half their
line with a superiority of two to one. Each French ship had to fight two
British ones, one on either side. The ships farther down the line could
do nothing to assist them unless they weighed anchor, made sail, and
broke their formation, and so simply lay there waiting their turn to be
dealt with.

Steam has, of course, put all this class of manoeuvring long out of
date, though as long as naval warfare endures on this earth the main
principle of attempting to take the enemy at a disadvantage must always
remain. In the early days of ironclads there were various theories as to
the best fighting-formations. There were advocates of "line ahead", that
is to say, each ship following the other in "Indian file"; of "line
abreast", in which ships advanced like a line of soldiers in "extended
order", and which necessitated that each ship should have a very
powerful "right ahead" fire; and various group formations. At the battle
of Lissa, in 1866, practically the only fleet engagement during the
ironclad period prior to the Chino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars,
the victorious Austrians attacked the Italian fleet in a wedge-shaped
formation; but they intended to use their rams and to fight at
absolutely close quarters, a procedure which in the present days of
long-range guns of tremendous power and extraordinary accuracy would be
almost, if not quite, impossible. The ram, moreover, is now practically
obsolete. In the naval actions in the Far East, to which reference has
been made, the generally adopted battle-formation was that of "line
ahead", the first of those explained above, and the ideal manoeuvre was
considered to be what was known as "crossing the T"--that is to say, to
get one's line of ships into such a position with regard to the enemy's
line that, while his represented the perpendicular part of the "T",
one's own would be in the place of the horizontal line forming the top
of the letter: in fact, to be in the same relative position as were the
enemy's fleet at Trafalgar to our advancing lines. With modern guns and
gunnery the whole fleet could concentrate on and smash up the leading
ships one after the other, those following in rear not being able to do
very much to assist them. Obviously it is the object of every fleet
commander to avoid being caught in this way. If he sees the enemy's line
are steering so as to cross his course at right angles, he will alter
course to one parallel to theirs. If within range, broadsides will
doubtless be exchanged while passing, but each opposing line will then
try to turn and cross the enemy's "T" for him by passing in rear of his
line. Both will be awake to this manoeuvre, so that if the manoeuvre
continues on normal lines the battle will resolve itself into two curved
lines of ships chasing each other round the circumference of a circle.

But varieties of speed, the disabling of some ships, and the menace of
destroyers or submarines will probably throw any such regular sequence
entirely out of gear, and, other things being equal, victory will
incline to the fleet whose commander is quickest to adapt its formation
to meet the sudden emergencies of the fighting and to turn them to his
own advantage. But he will not be able to do this unless his fleet is
well drilled in manoeuvre, and at least as capable of carrying out his
orders and signals with smartness and efficiency as that of the enemy.

[Illustration: Squadron in "Line on a Bearing" or "Bow and Quarter Line"

Observe the first position of the five battleships A, B, C, D, E
(shaded). Each can fire right ahead, right astern, and on both
broadsides. They are steering due west. Now suppose they all turn
directly south. They will then be in similar formation, as indicated by
a, b, c, d, e (unshaded).]

At the present time, perhaps what is known as the "line on a
bearing"--i.e. compass bearing--or "bow and quarter line" as it is
sometimes called, is the favourite formation, and there is a very great
deal to be said in its favour. It is what is known as an "echelon"
formation when applied to the manoeuvres of soldiers. The word "echelon"
is derived from the French _echelle_, a ladder, and the ships in this
case are disposed in a way suggestive of the steps of a ladder or stair.
Thus, suppose the flagship leading, the next ship would follow her on a
parallel course, not immediately in her wake but some way astern on her
port or starboard quarter, the next in a corresponding position with
regard to the second ship, and so on, as indicated in the annexed

If you look at this you will at once see its advantages over "line
ahead". Every ship can bring its broadside to bear either to port or
starboard, as in that formation, but, in addition, every ship can fire
directly ahead or astern as well. If ships in "line ahead" all turn
together to the right or left, or, to use the correct wording, alter
course together eight points to starboard or port, only the leading and
rear ship could use their broadsides, and only one of them at that. But
a similar turn in "bow and quarter line" can be made without any loss of
fire effect.

In the Great War we have not, at the time of writing, yet had a fleet
action. The German Navy has shown itself most determined--to take no
risks. It seems to be imbued with the principles impressed by the French
Government on its sea commanders in the old wars with us.[73] Never, on
any account, are ships to be hazarded against superior force, or, in
other words, the ships of the "admiral of the Atlantic" are not to fight
unless in very superior force to their antagonists, as was the case in
the action off Chile. The German squadron, starting out on the second
raid on our coasts, no sooner clapped eyes on Admiral Beatty's
ships--which only numbered one more ship than the German squadron--than
it turned tail and made off for all it was worth. So the British had no
chance of crossing the "T", or of any manoeuvre other than a stern
chase. Such a chase is proverbially a long one, but in this case it was
long enough to enable our seamen and marines to sink one German and
badly damage at least two others, who only got away "by the skin of
their teeth", thanks to the intervention of their mine-fields and


[68] Engineer-Commander Chas. E. Eldred, R.N., _Everybody's Book of the

[69] "The Progress of Dreadnoughts", _Journal of Commerce_, 4th March,

[70] "Your Navy as a Fighting Machine." Fred. T. Jane.

[71] Particulars from _Submarines, Mines, and Torpedoes in the War_. C.
W. Domville Fife.

[72] Paper by Lieutenant C. N. Hinkamp, United States Navy, reprinted in
_Journal of Commerce_, 29th April, 1915.

[73] German ships, by the way, are often provided with a heavier astern
fire than a forward one, so that apparently they have long decided to
fight a retreating action. The opposite system is pursued in our navy.


The Manning of a Ship

    "We're sober men and true,
     And quite devoid of fe-ar.
     In all the Royal N.
     There are none so smart as we are.
     When the wind whistles free
     O'er the bright blue sea
     We stand to our guns all da-ay;
     When at anchor we ride
     By the starboard side,
     We've plenty of time for play."
                --_H.M.S. "Pinafore"._ W. S. Gilbert.

AT the beginning of our naval story we found our fleets composed of
rowing-vessels, fought and commanded by soldiers. Then came a time--the
viking period--when fighting-ships were manned and fought by warriors
who were emphatically "soldiers and sailors too". In battle their
dragons and long-serpents relied mainly on their oars, but the sail
began to take a much more important position than before, and the oars
were not pulled by slaves but by the crew proper, all of whom were
fighters. In the period that followed, the sail--in northern waters at
any rate--continued to grow in importance, till in the biggest ships it
entirely ousted the oars.

Then arose the professional sailor. Ships carried but a few sails, so
that comparatively few men were required to handle them, and the
fighting-men on board and the commanders of ships and squadrons were
once more soldiers. When the fully rigged ship arrived--in Tudor
times--the sailor element naturally was considerably increased, and, the
heavy gun making its appearance on shipboard at about the same time,
the "gunners" seem to have been taken from that class rather than from
the soldiers, who formed about half the ship's company. But in the royal
ships the supreme command was always in the hands of a military officer,
till the successes gained by the privately-equipped ships commanded by
men like Drake and Frobisher introduced a new type of distinctly naval
officer. But he did not supersede the military ship-commander much
before the time of William III. Up to that time ships seem to have had
sometimes a soldier, like Blake, in command and sometimes a sailor, like
Sir George Rooke and others.

The latter is a good example of what may be called the transition
period, because he, like Sir Cloudesley Shovel and many other
sea-commanders, had a commission in the Duke of York and Albany's
Maritime Regiment, instituted in 1664 and generally accepted as being
the ancestor of the present corps of Royal Marines. But it seems
possible that there must have been an idea underlying the institution of
this regiment of sea-soldiers that has never been explained. The key to
it may perhaps be found in the oft-repeated reference to marine
regiments at this period as "nurseries for the fleet". The idea did not
work, as the men trained as soldiers did not volunteer to become sailors
to an appreciable extent; but in my own opinion there was more in the
idea than this. It must be remembered that at this time there was a
great controversy as to the most suitable officers to command our
war-ships. The "gentleman captains", who were in many cases soldiers,
but often merely courtiers, clung tenaciously to their position, and the
Court influence at their back enabled them to stand their ground. But at
the same time the claims of the real sailors--the "tarpawlins", as they
were called--who were neither soldiers nor gentlemen, were being more
and more recognized by the public, and grew stronger and stronger. And
they certainly had a very strong case. They could themselves sail,
navigate, and fight their ships, while the other class had to have
"masters" to do everything but the fighting for them.

It seems possible that the intention of those responsible for the
raising of the "Maritime Regiment", the men of which were indifferently
referred to as "marines" or as "mariners", was not only to provide the
nucleus of a disciplined personnel, but to produce a corps of officers
who, while retaining a military status, would yet be professional
seamen. It was an experiment, but not on a sufficiently comprehensive
scale, to transform the ill-paid, ill-treated, and ill-fed seamen of the
day into a loyal, contented and disciplined body, or to supply a
sufficient number of "gentleman-tarpawlins" to command our ships and
fleets. A large number of these officers did do so, but quite as many
continued to serve as soldiers, some afloat in command of marines, and
many others in the army.

As time went on, things adjusted themselves, and before the eighteenth
century had progressed very far the sailor came into his own. The "days
of oak and hemp" were at their zenith. Our men-of-war were commanded by
officers who were thorough seamen, able to handle their ships under sail
themselves, though masters who were navigation experts still remained.
Their crews were composed of two distinct classes--seamen and
marines.[74] The former were, as before, still recruited for the
commission only, while the latter were enlisted for a fixed period of
service.[75] The best seamen, nevertheless, made a regular profession of
the navy, going from one ship to another as they were paid off and
commissioned. If they made an occasional trip to sea in a merchantman or
privateer between whiles, that by no means impaired their professional
ability, and the "prime seamen" of those days were the finest sailors in
history. Unfortunately their number, for various reasons, was somewhat
limited, and a ship's company, especially if she or her commander bore a
bad name afloat, had to be completed by all kinds of people. Even the
marines, regularly enlisted men as they were, were by no means always of
the same calibre.

According to our apparently interminable national practice, we always
began our wars shorthanded in this as well as in every other militant
service, and recruits had on these occasions to be sent on board in the
rawest stages of their training. Yet, in spite of all these drawbacks,
look at the victories our navy won in those glorious days! Good, bad, or
indifferent, sailor or marine, the men were all true Britons when the
time came to "strike home" for King and Country, just as their gallant
descendants have proved themselves in the Great European War. As the
nineteenth century progressed, and our navy had no big wars on hand, the
seaman element by no means deteriorated. The professional sailor was
forthcoming in sufficient numbers to man our navy in peace-time or in
minor operations, and there was no necessity to send untrained marines
afloat. Steam had made its appearance, but it was far from superseding
sail-power. The executive were still sailors, heart and soul, and had no
hankering after soldiering and drill ashore. All the same, the
sailing-masters were still retained, and seemed to be indispensable.
Admiral John Moresby, in his interesting work entitled _Two Admirals_,
which relates his own and his father's naval experiences from 1786 to
1877, gives the following account of the naval officers of 1847:--

"The officers, with few exceptions, were content to be practical seamen
only. They had nothing whatever to do with the navigation of the ship or
the rating of the chronometers. That was entirely in the hands of the
master, and no other had any real experience or responsibility in the
matter. I may instance the case of a captain whose ship was at Spithead.
He was ordered by signal to go to the assistance of a ship on shore at
the back of the Isle of Wight. In reply he hoisted the signal of
'Inability: the master is on shore.' 'Are the other officers on board?'
he was asked. He answered 'Yes,' and to the repeated order, 'Proceed
immediately,' he again hoisted 'Inability', and remained entrenched in
his determination until a pilot was sent to his assistance."

If a "practical seaman" was so dependent on his master as this he would
not appear to have been much of an improvement on the soldier-captains
of earlier times. It seems a most extraordinary position, and it is
almost as extraordinary that now, when sailoring proper is a thing of
the past, we may be quite certain that no captain in His Majesty's
service would hesitate to get under way on receipt of an order to go to
the assistance of a ship in distress, whether the navigating officer was
on board or not. But, probably on account of the long period of peace
which had followed after Waterloo, neither our navy nor army was in such
a high state of efficiency as it had been earlier in the century or is
at the present minute. The Crimean War broke like a thunder-clap on our
peace-organized forces. We know what terrible times our gallant soldiers
went through before Sebastopol on account of deficiency of commissariat,
equipment, and every other aid to efficiency which ought to have been in
readiness, but which, in fact, had no existence. We commissioned a fine
fleet for the Baltic, but it practically effected nothing, and we had
the greatest difficulty in manning it.

"Public opinion", writes Admiral Moresby, "resented the revival of the
press-gang; therefore the only alternative was the offer of a large
bounty, and by this means the ships were filled with counter-jumpers and
riff-raff of all sorts, and rarely a sailor amongst them. What this
meant only those who had to do the necessary slave-driving can tell....
In the _Driver_ ... we may have had twenty seamen as a nucleus. The rest
were long-shore fellows, and when Admiral Berkley came on board and told
us that the Russians were at sea, and probably in a few days we should
be in action, there was a strong dash of anxiety in our satisfaction."

So short were we of men that I have been told by an officer who served
in that fleet that had it not been for the coast-guardsmen and marines
it would never have been ready for sea. "On board the _St. Jean
d'Acre_," said this officer, "we had a splendid crew, thanks to the
popularity of Harry Keppel: the work of fitting out from a mere hulk was
done by the Royal Marines with a small number of seamen-gunners from the
_Excellent_ and some boys. The officers at Portsmouth and other places
raised men _who would not join until the hard work was over_." But good
arose out of this evil, which was so patent that it could not be
overlooked by anyone. The usefulness of the seamen-gunners and Royal
Marines pointed the way to a remedy. The marines were a permanent force;
the seamen-gunners were on the spot and under naval discipline. It was
determined to institute an equally permanent establishment of
bluejackets. The creation of this force was the most momentous and
beneficial step ever taken by the Admiralty, and to it we owe the
magnificent body of trained seamen who have done such yeoman service to
the country during the war. Where should we have been without it?
Imagine the disasters which would have befallen us if, as at the
outbreak of the Crimean War, we had had to hunt up crews for our fleet
after the 4th of August, 1914! As it was, everything went "on wheels",
as the saying is. The Grand Fleet was ready and other ships were put
into commission without the least delay or hitch in the smooth running
of our mobilization for war. Reserves were so plentiful that a residuum
of both bluejackets and marines was available as the nucleus of the
Royal Naval Division, which was soon recruited up to a high figure.

It is not too much to say that the end of the Crimean War saw the
beginning of our modern naval forces, with the exception of the Royal
Marines, who had been in existence as a naval force under the Admiralty
ever since 1755, and the later instituted Royal Naval Reserve, Royal
Fleet Reserve, and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. It may be noted, in
passing, that the first-mentioned reserve consists of men in the
merchant service, who, seamen by profession, receive a training in
gunnery and other matters connected with naval warfare, and are paid an
annual retaining-fee, which renders them liable to be called up for
service when required.

The Royal Fleet Reserve consists of both bluejackets and marines, who,
having served for twelve years on the active list, are permitted to
transfer to this force. They receive a small daily rate of pay, and have
to undergo a short revision of their drills annually. The last-mentioned
reserve has been in existence on and off under one name or other for a
considerable number of years. In 1861 Captain Vernon of the 4th Cinque
Ports Artillery Volunteers at Hastings instituted a so-called "marine
company" in his regiment, which wore a semi-naval uniform and was
drilled at naval guns. From this small beginning grew in time the Royal
Naval Artillery Volunteers, first formed in 1873, which assumed
considerable proportions and had branches at every important seaport.
This corps was eventually abolished because the naval authorities did
not quite see how men who in very many cases had at most but "a bowing
acquaintance" with Father Neptune could well be utilized afloat. This
decision was a great blow to its members, who were very proud of their
voluntary duties, and after a time the Admiralty was strongly pressed by
those interested in the movement to resuscitate it. Hence the Royal
Naval Volunteer Reserve was created.[76]

The bluejacket of the present day is better termed a seaman than a
sailor, since sails are non-existent in the navy except in boats.[77]
Besides, his official rating is seaman--ordinary seaman, able seaman,
&c. Some writers in journals dealing with naval matters have coined the,
to me, objectionable-sounding name of "fleetman". This may answer for a
comprehensive term, including seamen, marines, and stokers, writers and
other auxiliary branches of the service, but they might all be equally
well classed together as seamen or mariners, since there is little if
any difference nowadays between the time each branch spends afloat.
There are big naval barracks now at our ports as well as marine
barracks, and bluejackets often spend there as much time as, or more
time than the marine does in his barracks.

The outstanding difference between the ship's company of to-day and of
past centuries is that it is composed entirely of trained men. There are
no "landsmen" and odds and ends of humanity pitchforked on board to
complete the number of the company. Seamen, marines, and stokers all are
specially instructed in their own line of business before they appear on
board a ship in commission. The same holds good in the case of their
officers. No more boys of nineteen are appointed captains on account of
family connections; no more are officers of marines appointed from line
regiments or even from the cavalry, as they were in days gone by. It is
only fair to say that we must go back a long way to find cases of this
sort, for as regards its officers the navy has been a permanent
profession for centuries, though its seamanhood was not in the same
position before the middle of the last century.

What our naval officers and men are to-day in their work and duties is
best demonstrated by a glance at the crew of a modern man-of-war in
commission. First and foremost, of course, is the captain, not
infrequently referred to by those under his command as the "skipper",
"the Old Man", or sometimes as the "Owner". His rule may be termed a
benevolent despotism. He can no longer be the tyrant that he
occasionally was "in the days of wood and hemp", and has no desire to be
anything of the kind. He is far too much of a gentleman and a good
fellow. But there can be little limitation to his monarchy or the
machine would not work. He lives somewhat apart from his subjects,
having his meals in lonely state, and only occasionally comes into the
ward-room, in which most of the ship's commissioned officers live and
move and have their being. The sub-lieutenant's, midshipmen's, junior
engineer officers', assistant paymasters', and clerks' mess is known as
the gun-room. In the old days what is now the ward-room was called the
gun-room, and what is now the gun-room, the midshipmen's berth. It is
probable that this enforced seclusion is one of the worst trials of the
captain's greatness, since he has spent the whole of his previous
service afloat in the _camaraderie_ and good-fellowship of the ward-room
and gun-room. At sea he passes a great portion of his time on the
bridge, and in most ships has a special sea-cabin in its close
proximity. He is the supreme court of justice on board, and as he can
dispense punishment up to ninety days' imprisonment with hard labour
"off his own bat", it must be a pretty bad case, or one in which an
officer is concerned, that he has to send before a court martial.

This should be remembered when, as is sometimes the case, comparisons
are drawn in the Press between the numbers of courts martial in the
naval and military services, or between those held on the men of the
navy and on those of the marines. A naval court martial is a very big
affair, only resorted to on rare occasions, while in the army, besides
the general court martial, which may be ranked with the naval court,
there are district and even regimental courts martial, the latter very
small affairs, composed of three junior officers, which deal with
offences which in the navy would probably be settled off-hand, if not
by the commander, at any rate by the captain. When marines are serving
ashore in their barracks they come under army rules, so that the
proportion of courts martial held on a given number of marines must
always be expected to be greater than in the case of a similar number of
bluejackets or stokers. No comparison as to good conduct or otherwise
can therefore be instituted along these lines.

The captain of a ship, being in supreme command, exercises a general
supervision over his ship and all that it contains, and is, of course,
directly responsible to the admiral under whom he is serving and to the
Admiralty for its condition both as to material and personnel. But the
second in command--the "commander"--addressed by the courtesy title of
"captain" also--may be regarded as the managing man. He lives, or rather
has his meals, in the ward-room. As to where he actually _lives_, it may
be said to be everywhere on board except in his own cabin. He is perhaps
the hardest-worked man in the ship. Up at daylight, he is engaged in
running the whole show till he goes the rounds at 9 p.m. to see that
everything and everybody is properly settled down for the night. He
draws up a regular daily and weekly routine, which he personally sees is
regularly carried out. He "tells off" the "hands" for this, that, and
the other duties, and sees that everyone is at his proper station at
"general quarters" for action, fire quarters, collision stations, and
many another "evolution". He holds a daily court of justice, and either
deals with the defaulters who have been "shoved in the rattle", i.e. put
in his report, himself, or in more serious cases passes them on to the
higher court--the captain. In most ships there is yet a minor court,
held by the senior officer of marines on his own men. His powers are yet
more limited, and if after investigation he finds that they will not
admit a sufficient punishment for an offence, he takes the offender
before the commander. In some ships he is empowered by the captain to
bring such cases directly to him.

In spite of the commander's hard work, he has little to grumble at, nor,
I believe, does he ever do so, except in the ordinary conversational way
we all do at times, when we "let off steam". For he knows that, unless
he is very unfortunate in his "skipper", he has his promotion in his own
hands. He is showing what he is made of, and once he succeeds in
negotiating the big jump to captain's rank he is assured of going right
on to admiral, even if he is not fortunate enough to "hoist his flag" in
command of a squadron or fleet. He has the relative rank of a
lieutenant-colonel in the army, and is almost invariably a much younger
man, probably from thirty to thirty-five years of age, and can take and
bear the strain of his position.

After the commander the lieutenants. Of these in a battleship three or
four are lieutenant-commanders, and five or six lieutenants. The senior
of these is known as the first lieutenant, or, less officially, as "No.
1". In smaller ships they are, of course, fewer. One of these will be
the gunnery lieutenant, another navigating lieutenant, and a third
torpedo lieutenant. The remainder are classed as watch-keepers, in which
duty they are now assisted when in harbour by the officers of marines
belonging to the ship. As everyone knows, the day and night on board
ship are divided into periods of four hours, known as "watches", except
for the "dog watches" of two hours apiece. They run as follows:--

        NAME.                    TIME.               BELLS.
    Middle watch     ...   Midnight to 4 a.m.  ...   8 to 8
    Morning watch    ...   4 a.m. to 8 a.m.    ...   8 to 8
    Forenoon watch   ...   8 a.m. to noon      ...   8 to 8
    Afternoon watch  ...   noon to 4 p.m.      ...   8 to 8
    1st Dog watch    ...   4 p.m. to 6 p.m.    ...   8 to 4
    2nd Dog watch    ...   6 p.m. to 8 p.m.    ...   4 to 8
    First watch      ...   8 p.m. to midnight  ...   8 to 8

The bell is struck, generally by the marine sentry posted nearest to it,
or the corporal of the gangway, every half-hour, after reporting the
time to the officer of the watch, and being instructed to "make it so".
Thus at 8.30 in the morning he strikes it once, at 9 twice--two strokes
quickly following each other; at 9.30 three times--two quick strokes, an
interval, and a single stroke--and so on up to eight bells struck in a
succession of double strokes. There is also "little one bell", a gentle
stroke five minutes after midnight for the watch to "fall in". The dog
watches have stood from time immemorial, in order to change the men of
the night watches every twenty-four hours. Otherwise the same men would
always be keeping the same watches. Some men would always be on at night
and others in the daytime. By dividing the 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. watches into
two halves--the "first" and "second" dog watches--the rotation is
changed, so that men come on watch at fresh periods. There is said to be
a tradition that the origin of the word "dog" is "dodge", and that they
were originally known as "dodge watches", the reason being obvious. But
I should be sorry to vouch for the accuracy of this statement.

The officer of the watch is practically in command of the ship for the
time being. He has to deal with any sudden emergency himself; there may
very probably be no time to refer to the captain, even if it is
advisable to do so. He keeps his watch on the fore-bridge, and sees that
the quartermaster at the wheel keeps the ship upon her proper course. He
takes observations from time to time, and is entirely responsible--under
the captain--for the safety of the ship and all on board. All sorts of
reports have to be made to him from time to time, and he makes or sends
any necessary reports to the captain.

The lieutenants have charge of their "divisions", which may be said to
correspond to the companies of a regiment; have to inspect them at
morning and evening parades, known respectively as "divisions" and
"evening quarters", and are responsible for their men's clothing being
uniform and kept up to the regulation quantities. They have many other
incidental duties, such as boarding ships coming into harbour as
"officer of the guard", going ashore in charge of men for drill,
musketry, and other miscellaneous work of which space precludes the
merest mention.

The gunnery lieutenant is, of course, responsible for the guns and
gunnery of the ship, which includes the musketry and infantry drill of
the seamen and stokers. The torpedo lieutenant, as his name implies, has
charge of the torpedoes and their tubes and the mining gear, and it is
his business to see that they are all kept in proper working order and
in instant readiness for action. In addition, he has entire charge of
the electric lighting and wireless telegraphy.

The navigating lieutenant has taken the place of the old "master", but
is not, as he was, outside the executive line. His duty is to lay off
the course for the ship, take her position at various times during the
day by "shooting the sun" with his sextant, keep the chronometers wound
up, and take general charge of the navigation of the ship. Following the
order taken in the Navy List of the officers of a ship, we come to that
very important personage the engineer commander. In some sort he
occupies a similar position to the old sailing-masters in the days when
ships were commanded by soldiers. The ship couldn't get along without
the special engineering knowledge of this officer and his understudies
any more than William the Conqueror could have got across Channel
without Stephen FitzErard, his sailing-master.

We may note, in passing, that to this day the executive ranks of the
navy always call themselves the "military branch". They are, of course,
the "militant" branch, though in one sense no one on board a ship in
action can help being a militant too.

The engineering branch, at any rate, stands as good a chance of
casualties as even the executive or marine portions of the ship's
complement, and it is perhaps partly for this reason that its officers
have recently been allowed to wear the much-prized executive "curl" of
gold lace on their sleeves. The engineer commander has charge of all the
engines on board, the number of which runs to several dozen, for besides
the big main engines for propelling the ship there are smaller engines
for almost every conceivable purpose. There are engines to work the
steering-gear, the winches and hoists, the dynamos to produce electric
light, for the magazine refrigerating machinery, and many others, to say
nothing of those in the steamboats belonging to the ship. He and the
carpenter are also responsible for the hull of the ship, the expenditure
and replenishment of coal and oil, and goodness knows how many other
things! To assist him in all this mass of work and responsibility he has
two or three engineer lieutenants and a number of artificer engineers,
engine-room artificers, mechanicians, chief stokers, and, in a big ship,
hundreds of stokers.


Gunner, R.M.A. Colour-Sergeant, R.M.L.I. Major, R.M.A.]

The duty of senior engineer lieutenant is no sinecure either, since he
occupies much the same position in regard to his chief as the commander
does to the captain of the ship. The remaining engineer lieutenants keep
watch down in the engine-room in the same way as the other lieutenants
do on deck.

Still following the order of the Navy List, we come to the officers of
marines. In the old days there were, perhaps, five or six of these in a
line-of-battleship, but the biggest "Dreadnought" of to-day never
carries more than two, unless, perhaps, there is another one attached to
the admiral's staff--supposing it to be a flagship--for special duties
in connection with the Intelligence Department, &c. Generally in a
flagship there is a major and a subaltern. Of the two, one, probably,
will be a marine artilleryman. Other big ships will have a captain and a
subaltern, and in smaller ones a captain or subaltern alone. Their
duties are considerably more onerous than they used to be, since they
are wisely made of much more use in the general work of the ship,
instead of being relegated to the unsatisfactory rôle of being "lookers
on at life".

The major is, of course, responsible for the conduct, drill, and
military efficiency of his detachment, which may number about 100 men,
but he has, in addition, to inspect those of other ships in the squadron
or fleet from time to time, and to command and drill the marines of the
fleet when landed together for drill or tactical instruction. He or the
captain of marines in another ship has charge also of the gunnery of his
men, who are told off to man some of the guns in the ship, and may very
possibly be himself stationed in one of the control-positions in time of
action. He also commands the detachment when drawn up as a guard of
honour to receive the admiral or any distinguished visitor who is
entitled to this mark of distinction. His subaltern assists him
generally with the detachment, visits the sentries from time to time
during the night and day, keeps his turn of watch in harbour and of
officer of the guard, drills and looks after the marine guns, and not
infrequently acts as assistant gunnery or torpedo officer. All this is
very different from the old days, when the captain or major of marines
was popularly supposed to spend his time on the stern lockers practising
the flute, and when on arrival in harbour it was considered to be a near
thing as to whether he or the "killick"[78] touched the ground first.

The Church takes the next place, in the shape of the chaplain, generally
a great acquisition to the mess. The "padre" or "sky pilot" requires to
be a man of considerable tact, and generally speaking he is. He has to
be on more or less friendly terms with everyone fore and aft, or he
would find it difficult to carry out his spiritual duties effectively.
On the other hand, I may fairly say that it is his own fault if, in this
respect, he is not met more than half-way both by his messmates in the
ward-room and by the "lower deck".[79] He reads prayers at divisions or
morning parade, visits the sick-bay and cells, superintends the
instruction given by the ship's schoolmaster, and, of course, carries
out divine service on Sundays. Sometimes he occupies the post of naval
instructor in addition to his strictly clerical duties, and in that
capacity instructs the midshipmen in various more or less scientific
subjects, such as applied mathematics and navigation, &c., and generally
musters his pupils on deck with their sextants at noon to take their
observations and work out the exact position of the ship. He and the
paymaster often look after the men's savings-bank, and make themselves
useful in other small matters connected with the interior domestic
economy of the ship and her ward-room mess.

[Illustration: _Photo. Cribb, Southsea_


Thirteen midshipmen seated upon this monster naval gun seem to emphasize
its length. Sixteen of our super-Dreadnoughts each carry eight or ten
13.5-inch guns. They settled the fate of the _Blücher_ in the Dogger
Bank fight, and sent the other German ships back to port shattered and
on fire.]

The fleet surgeon, with one or two surgeons, has entire charge of the
health of both officers and men. His special domain is the "sick-bay",
generally situated forward, so that the sick get the freshest air, and
he is assisted in his duties by a staff of sick-berth stewards and
sick-berth attendants. He is an autocrat in his way, as not even the
captain can traverse his decisions as to health or disease. He makes a
daily report of the officers and men on the sick-list to the captain,
and arranges that one of his surgeons is always at hand in case of
accidents. In action he and his staff and what extra assistants can be
spared arrange a place down below the armoured deck where they can do
what is possible for the wounded that are passed down to them. But in
these days, when guns are closed up in separate turrets and casemates,
it is not too easy a business to arrange for the transport of these poor

The fleet paymaster is another non-combatant--so far as it is possible
for anyone to be so classed on a ship-of-war--and has the responsible
duty of looking after the pay, accountant, and clerical work of the
ship, stores of all kinds, and many other matters of a like nature,
including "slops" or clothes for the ship's company. The paymaster line
has no curl on the sleeve and wears white cloth between the gold stripes
of rank. The surgeons also have plain stripes, but with scarlet cloth
between them. The engineers wear purple between their stripes, and the
naval instructors sky-blue, but this is rarely seen, since most naval
instructors are also chaplains and wear the ordinary clerical rig.
Personally I have never set eyes on the sky-blue.

This about finishes the list of ward-room officers, but those in the
gun-room are at least as numerous. The autocrat of the gun-room is the
senior sub-lieutenant, who is supposed to rule his subjects with a rod
of iron, or, to be more exact, a leather dirk scabbard, which at times
forms a useful and effective instrument of justice. In the gun-room live
the midshipmen, clerks, and assistant-engineer officers, and their
duties have, generally speaking, been already indicated in describing
those of the senior officers of the various branches to whom they are
assistants and understudies. But a word or two about the midshipmen--the
"young gentlemen" as they are generally called--will not be out of
place. They have plenty to do. They have to keep watch like their
seniors, and one important, though unofficial, part of a watch-keeping
midshipman's duties used to be to brew and bring up a cup of cocoa to
the officer on the bridge in the middle watch. But this is probably now
an exploded custom. A midshipman generally has charge of one of the
boats, and takes great pride in keeping it and its crew well up to the
mark. The "young gentlemen" drill under the gunnery lieutenant before
breakfast, work with the chaplain or naval instructor during the
forenoon, and at any moment must be ready to go away in charge of their
boats. Every midshipman is expected to keep a daily "log", which is
periodically inspected by the captain. Some of them take the greatest
pains not only to make their logs models of neatness, but to decorate
them with sketches, drawings, and plans, often of considerable merit and
interest. This is but a very partial and fragmentary account of the
duties of the boys from whom our future admirals and commanders-in-chief
will be recruited, but it is time this chapter was drawing to a close,
and we cannot leave our ship without at least mentioning a few other
people who, though not commissioned officers, are yet of very great
importance in her interior economy.

[Illustration: _Photo. Cribb, Southsea_


First and foremost there are the warrant officers, pre-eminent among
whom are the boatswain, gunner, and carpenter, three time-honoured
titles. The first-named may be regarded as the commander's right-hand
man, and has multifarious duties and responsibilities. The duties of the
other two are sufficiently indicated by their titles. Then there are
engineer warrant officers, and of late years marine warrant officers
known as "Royal Marine gunners". The "sergeant-major" of marines, which
is the courtesy title borne by the senior non-commissioned officer of
the corps on board, is also a man of considerable importance on a
man-of-war. Then there are the chief petty officers, and petty officers
such as the yeoman of signals, the chief quartermaster, chief
boatswain's mate, and many others, together with sailmaker, blacksmiths,
armourers, electricians, coopers, cooks, bandsmen, plumbers, and all
kinds of ratings whose presence on board His Majesty's ships and vessels
of war is little suspected by the man in the street. Then there is the
ship's police, headed by the master-at-arms or "jaundy".[80] These men
are recruited from all branches of the navy, and perform much the same
duties as the "bobby" on shore, look after the prisoners in cells, and
are supposed to detect all irregularities that may take place on board
and to bring the delinquents to justice.

If a ship is a flagship there is naturally a more important personage on
board than any of the officers whose ranks and duties have been
detailed--the admiral in command of the fleet or squadron. He may be
a full admiral--the highest rank employed afloat--a vice-admiral, or a
rear-admiral, the difference in rank being indicated by the number of
stripes on the cuff of his coat, placed above the lower very wide stripe
of gold lace. Thus a rear-admiral has one narrow stripe above it, with
the executive curl, a vice-admiral two additional narrow ones, and an
admiral three. The admiral lives in a regular suite of cabins, generally
right aft, consisting of a dining-room or fore-cabin, a sitting-room or
after-cabin, and two or three sleeping cabins. The captain of a flagship
is known as the flag-captain, and he, with the flag-lieutenant,
secretary, and sometimes an officer of marines, form the admiral's
staff. All these officers are distinguished from the rest of the
officers in the squadron by wearing aiguillettes. The captain, of
course, has to command his ship like other captains, but the secretary,
who is a staff-paymaster or paymaster told off for this special duty, is
the admiral's right-hand man as regards the tremendous amount of paper
work connected with the command of a fleet or squadron. The
flag-lieutenant is the admiral's personal aide-de-camp and so is
specially to the fore, both in the big man's inspections of ships and
naval establishments and in social duties and functions. He is also an
authority in connection with signalling in its various branches, and
necessarily and generally a smart young man all round. He and the
secretary mess at the admiral's table and not in the ward-room. A
man-of-war, it will be realized, even from this necessarily very brief
attempt to describe those who make their "home on the rolling deep" on
board her, is a little world in herself.


[74] Except between 1713 and 1739, when there were no marines.

[75] "Fixed" is, perhaps, not the right word to use. Up to and including
part of the nineteenth century, marines and soldiers seem to have been
enlisted for an indefinite period--for as long or short a time as the
Government chose to keep them.

[76] The Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers were disbanded in 1892 on the
report of a Committee of which the late Admiral Sir George Tryon was
president. The report said: "The corps of Royal Naval Artillery
Volunteers is composed of men who have not, as a rule, practical
acquaintance with the sea, but are attracted by sympathy and aspiration.
The Committee suggest that there are grounds for maintaining that a
Volunteer Force affiliated to the Royal Marine Artillery--from the
system of training and discipline that would be established--would be a
far more permanently valuable force than any so-termed naval force in
which are enrolled men not inured to sea-life and who have no sufficient
practical experience at sea, which experience cannot be given by
Government under any volunteer system we can devise."

[77] The bluejacket of to-day, by the way, often refers to himself as a
"Matlow" or a "Flat-foot", while the marines are often termed

[78] i.e. the anchor

[79] i.e. the ship's company.

[80] Said to be a corruption of _gendarme_.


Beginning of the War Afloat

    "Hark! I hear the cannon's roar
     Echoing from the German shore."
                     Old Nautical Ballad (in Huth Collection).

    "Come all ye jolly sailors bold,
     Whose hearts are cast in honour's mould,
     While English glory I unfold.
           Huzza for the _Arethusa_!
           Her men are staunch
           To their fav'rite launch,
     And when the foe shall meet our fire,
     Sooner than strike we'll all expire
           On board of the _Arethusa_.

    "And, now we've driven the foe ashore
     Never to fight with Britons more,
           Let each fill his glass
           To his fav'rite lass;
     A health to our captain and officers true,
     And all that belong to the jovial crew
           On board of the _Arethusa_."
                                  Old Naval Song.

      Ordered by the Admiralty to be engraved upon a brass
      plate and fixed in a conspicuous position on board
      H.M.S. _Arethusa_, after the Battle of the Bight, 28th
      August, 1914.

IN July, 1914, it was determined to have a "test mobilization" of the
British fleet. "Mobilization" means, in connection with either the navy
or the army, the calling up of reserves and filling up regiments or
ships till they have the numbers necessary to complete them for war
service. In previous years it was usual to have a series of naval
manoeuvres during the summer or autumn, to practise our fleets in
working together or to work out strategical problems. This generally
entailed a partial mobilization, but in 1914 it was determined to see
how the machinery for mobilization would work at full power.

On the 19th and 20th July the magnificent naval force formed by the
assembly of the first, second, and third fleets, with various flotillas
of destroyers and submarines, was inspected at Spithead by King George.
After a few days' fleet exercises in the Channel the great armament
dispersed, the first fleet going to Portland, the remainder to their
home ports to give manoeuvre leave. But in the meanwhile affairs on the
Continent became so threatening that it was deemed a wise precaution to
keep the first fleet in readiness where it was, and to defer giving
leave. On the 27th July Austria declared war against Serbia. Two days
later the first fleet steamed out of Portland and disappeared from
sight. Where it went we do not know, but in a short time it and all our
other fleets were swallowed up in "the fog of war", from which some of
their ships have from time to time made dramatic entrances upon the
scene of conflict, generally attended with unpleasant consequences to
the enemy.

Events now moved with the greatest rapidity. Germany declared war on
Russia on 1st August, and on the day following her troops violated the
neutrality not only of Luxembourg but of Belgium, although she--equally
with Great Britain and France--had guaranteed the neutrality of the
latter country by a formal treaty. On 3rd August the action of Germany
automatically brought France into the war, and on the same day the
mobilization of the British fleet was completed at four o'clock in the
morning. On the 4th the British ultimatum was dispatched. It was
summarily rejected, and by 11 p.m. the two countries were at war.

The next morning the first shots were fired by the British Navy. H.M.S.
_Amphion_, a smart four-funnelled vessel of the light-cruiser class,
which, with a flotilla of destroyers, was on patrol duty in the North
Sea, was spoken by a trawler about 9 a.m., who reported having recently
seen a suspicious steamer "throwing things overboard". The skipper
described her position as nearly as he could. It was easy to guess what
the "things" in question were. Germany had made little or no secret of
her intention to pursue a policy of strewing mines in the open sea,
though she had a fine fleet, only second to our own, both in numbers and
discipline. (Nelson, it may be pointed out, won the battle of St.
Vincent with 15 line-of-battle ships, 4 frigates, a brig and a cutter,
although he attacked an enemy fleet consisting of 27 line-of-battle
ships, 7 of which carried more guns than any English ship, and 13
frigates.) We may well imagine the zest with which our little squadron
set off to punish the naval "dynamitards", and it was not long before a
mercantile-looking steamer hove in sight, which proved to be the
_Königin Luise_, of 2000 tons, belonging to the Hamburg-Amerika Line.
She was steering east, and four destroyers shot after her like
greyhounds unleashed. The chase was good for about twenty knots, but
after a thirty-mile run the _Amphion_ and destroyers opened fire, which
the German returned. The destroyer _Lance_ now crept up abreast of her
on the port hand and fired[81] at comparatively close quarters. Four
shots did the trick. The first absolutely wrecked her fore-bridge, the
second got her fair amidships between the funnels, while the last two
made such a mess of her stern that she began to founder.

With true British sportsmanship and humanity, every attempt was at once
made to rescue her crew, with the result that twenty-eight escaped a
watery grave. The _Amphion_ and her satellites, having disposed of the
mine-layer, proceeded with their work until about 6.30 the following
morning. The flotilla was at this time in the neighbourhood of the spot
where the _Königin Luise_ had been dropping her mines. Every precaution
was taken to avoid what was supposed to be the dangerous area, but
suddenly, without any warning, the _Amphion_ struck a mine and the
catastrophe occurred. "A sheet of flame instantly enveloped the bridge,
rendered the captain insensible, and he fell on the fore-and-aft bridge.
As soon as he recovered consciousness he ran to the engine-room to stop
the engines, which were still going at revolutions for 20 knots. As all
the fore part was on fire, it proved impossible to reach the bridge or
to flood the fore magazine. The ship's back appeared to be broken, and
she was already settling down by the bows. All efforts were therefore
directed to placing the wounded in a place of safety, in case of
explosion, and towards getting her in tow by the stern. By the time the
destroyers closed, it was clearly time to abandon the ship. They fell in
for this purpose with the same composure that had marked their behaviour
throughout. All was done without hurry or confusion, and twenty minutes
after the mine was struck the men, officers, and captain left the

It was not long before the corner of the curtain shrouding the North Sea
was again raised for a moment to give us a fleeting glimpse of the
destruction of the German submarine U15 by the cruiser _Birmingham_.
There have been one or two versions of this event. According to one
account, the look-outs on board the cruiser "spotted" the periscope of a
German submarine rather over a mile distant and opened fire; and so good
was the marksmanship of her gunners that, small as was the target
offered by the periscope, it was carried away at the first shot. The
submarine dived, but, being unable to see where she was going, came to
the surface, only to have her conning-tower wrecked by another
projectile, which did so much damage that the U15 sank like a stone.
According to a well-known writer on naval matters[83] this story,
however, is "entirely fictitious, except in so far that the
_Birmingham_ did sink the U 15; but the real truth of the matter is that
the U 15 fired at a certain British ship and missed her. Thereafter the
U 15 might have got home in safety had not her captain imagined that he
had succeeded, and come to the surface to shout 'Deutschland über
alles'. That little incident settled the fate of the U 15, as she came
up alongside the _Birmingham_ and was sunk at once."

This incident took place on the 9th August, and for the next fortnight
or so the "fog of war" rolled very thick over the North Sea. There is
reason to believe that things were not exactly peaceful during all this
time, since on the 19th there was an official reference to some
"desultory fighting", resulting in no loss to either side. Between the
24th and 28th the Germans sank twenty-two fishing-boats. Immediately
after, a well-planned move by the British Navy resulted in what is known
as the "Battle of the Bight". The rocky, cliff-bound islet known as
Heligoland--the German Gibraltar of the North Sea covering the
approaches to Cuxhaven and the Kiel Canal--was not so long ago a British
possession. It had been ours for over a century when we exchanged it for
Zanzibar, because we thought "there was more money in it". We had never
made any use of it when we had it. Had we fortified it, as the Germans
have now done, its value in the war would have been priceless. That we
did not do so may be set down to our fear of offending German
susceptibilities and to our fixed resolve not to contemplate a war with
Germany as being in the plane of practical politics. If any Government
had attempted to make an advanced naval base of it, what an outcry there
would have been!

It has been described by a German naval writer as "the strategical basis
of the German fleet, distant about 40 miles from the mouths of the Elbe,
the Weser, and the Jadhe. It is a fortress of the most modern kind,
furnished with the newest weapons, and fortified with the utmost
technical skill. Its guns, contained in armour-plated revolving towers
and bomb-proof casemates, dominate the sea over a circle from 20 to 25
miles in diameter. Powerful moles, some 650 feet long, protect the
flotillas of torpedo-boats and submarines, and great stores of
ammunition and supplies facilitate the provisioning of our ships."[84]

Over and around this rock-bound fortress in the early hours of the
morning of 28th August hung a thick mist--almost a light fog. Now and
again the watchers on duty caught sight of the phantom shapes of the
German destroyers and torpedo-boats as they carried out their
never-ending sentry-go over the approaches to the Elbe. Presently out at
sea there were ruddy glimmers through the haze, followed by the slam of
small cannon. Away to the westward, in a lift of the mist, the German
patrols suddenly "spotted" the porpoise-like forms of three big
submarines brazenly exposing themselves on the surface, and a general
dash was made in the direction of this splendid "bag".

But they were too late. The intruders had dived, and were out of sight
or hearing. Then suddenly broke out a rapid banging all round in the

What was happening? As a matter of fact, our First and Third Destroyer
Flotillas, supported by the First Light-cruiser Squadron, and with the
First Battle-cruiser Squadron in reserve, were carrying out an ingenious
plan which was described as "a scooping movement" against the German
war-craft known to be in the neighbourhood of Heligoland. Some of our
submarines were also playing their part, and it is probable that the
"scoop" was planned on information previously gained by these little
craft, since it was officially announced by the Press Bureau, after the
battle, that "the success of this operation was due in the first
instance to the information brought to the admiral by the submarine
officers, who have, during the past three weeks, shown extraordinary
daring and enterprise in penetrating the enemy's waters".


A snapshot from one of the British war-ships engaged in the fight off

The three submarines were a decoy to draw the enemy's flotillas to the
westward. Then down came the saucy _Arethusa_, looking not unlike a big
destroyer herself, flying the broad pennant of Commodore R. Y. Tyrwhitt,
and the destroyers of the Third Flotilla. The new-comers immediately
attacked the German Flotilla, which was now making for Heligoland. The
_Arethusa_, in her turn, was attacked by two German cruisers, and there
was something in the nature of a general mêlée, in which the _Fearless_
and the First Destroyer Flotilla very shortly took a hand. Our gunnery
seems to have been the more effective, but all the same our flotillas
were somewhat hardly pressed until the Light Cruiser Squadron, and
finally the battle-cruisers, with their enormous guns, came looming
colossal out of the mist and gave the German cruisers the _coup de
grâce_. The _Köln_ and _Mainz_ were set on fire and sunk outright, the
third cruiser, subsequently understood to have been the _Ariadne_,
disappeared blazing into the fog, only to founder shortly afterwards,
while two destroyers were also accounted for. The _Arethusa_ was
somewhat damaged, and was towed out of the fight by the _Fearless_. Of
course, with the arrival of our reinforcements, we were in overwhelming
superiority, and our principal risk lay in the enemy submarines, which
attempted an attack that was balked by the high speed of our ships and
the alertness of our destroyers.

A thrilling account of the engagement is contained in a letter[85],
written by a naval officer who evidently was serving on board one of our
destroyers. I do not think I can do better than quote from it: "We
destroyers went in and lured the enemy out and had lots of excitement.
The big fellows then came up and did some excellent target practice, and
we were very glad to see them come; but they ought not to consider we
had a fight, because it was a massacre, not a fight. It was superb
generalship having overwhelming forces on the spot, but there was really
nothing for them to do except shoot the enemy, even as Pa shoots
pheasants. For us who put up the quarry in its lair, there was no doubt
more to do than 'shoot the enemy', for in our case the shooting was
passive and not active only! For that very reason the fight did us of
the destroyers more good than it did our big fellows, for my humble
opinion, based on limited observation, is that no ship is really herself
until she has been under fire. The second time she goes into action you
may judge her character; she is not likely to do normally well the first
time. We all need to be stiffened and then given a week or two to take
it all in. After that we are 'set'. A ship will always do better in her
second action. To see the old _Fearless_ charging around the field of
fight (it was her second engagement) seeking fresh foes was most
inspiriting. Until the big brothers came up she was absolutely all in
all to us, and she has no bigger guns than we have. I also learn that
there is all the difference in the world between a 4-inch gun in a
cruiser and a 4-inch gun in a destroyer. I would regard a cruiser armed
with a 3-inch as about a match for a destroyer with a 4-inch; but then I
have personally only looked at it from a destroyer point of view. But it
must be more unpleasant to have half a dozen plumped accurately and
together at you, with a well-arranged 'fire-control' guiding them,
watching their fall, and applying corrections to the range
scientifically and dispassionately, rather than to have isolated shots
banged off from a vibrating pulsating destroyer, turning this way and
that, with no one to look where the shot falls, except, perhaps, the
captain, who has a lot of other things to attend to....

"Have you ever watched a dog rush in on a flock of sheep and scatter
them? He goes for the nearest and barks at it, goes so much faster than
the flock that it bunches up with its companions; the dog then barks at
another and the sheep spread out fanwise, so that all round in front of
the dog is a semicircle of sheep and behind him none. That was much what
we did at 7 a.m. on the 28th. The sheep were the German torpedo-craft,
who fell back just on the limits of range and tried to lure us within
fire of the Heligoland forts. _Pas si bête!_ But a cruiser came out and
engaged our _Arethusa_; they had a real heart-to-heart talk while we
looked on, and a few of us tried to shoot at the enemy too, though it
was beyond our distance. We were getting nearer and nearer Heligoland
all the time; there was a thick mist, and I expected every minute to
find the forts on the island bombarding us; so _Arethusa_ presently drew
off after landing at least one good shell on the enemy.

"Seeing our papers admit it, so may I--our fellows got quite a nasty
'tummy-ache'. The enemy gave every bit as good as he got there. We then
re-formed, but a strong destroyer belonging to the submarines got
chased, and _Arethusa_ and _Fearless_ went back to look after her, and
we presently heard a hot action astern. So the captain, who was in
command of the flotilla, turned us round and we went back to help, but
they had driven the enemy off, and on our arrival told us to form up on
the _Arethusa_.

"When we had partly formed and were very much bunched together, a fine
target, suddenly out of the 'everywhere' arrived five shells not 150
yards away. We gazed at whence they came, and again five or six stabs of
fire pierced the mist, and we made out a four-funnelled cruiser of the
'Breslau' class. These five stabs were her guns going off, of course. We
waited fifteen seconds and the shots and the noise of the guns arrived
pretty simultaneously fifty yards away. Her next salvo went over us, and
I, personally, ducked as they whirred overhead like a covey of fast
partridges. You would have supposed the captain had done this sort of
thing all his life; he gives me the impression of a Nelson officer who
has lived in a state of suspended animation since, but yet has kept pace
with the times, and is nowise perturbed at finding his frigate a
destroyer. He went full speed ahead at the first salvo to string the
bunch out and thus offer less target, and the commodore from the
_Arethusa_ made a signal to us to attack with torpedoes.

"So we swung round at right angles and charged full speed at the enemy,
like a hussar attack. We got away at the start magnificently and led the
field, so that all the enemy's fire was aimed at us for the next ten
minutes. When we got so close that the debris of their shells fell on
board, we altered our course and so threw them out in their reckoning of
our speed, and they had all their work to do over again. You follow that
with a destroyer coming at you at 30 knots it means that the range is
decreasing at the rate of about 150 yards per ten seconds. When you see
that your last shot fell, say, 100 yards short, you put up 100 extra
yards on your sights; but this takes five seconds to do. When you have
in this way discovered his speed you put that correction in
automatically; a cruiser can do this, a destroyer has not room for the
complicated apparatus involved. Humanly speaking, therefore, the
captain, by twisting and turning at the psychological moment, saved us;
actually I feel we are in God's keeping these days.

"After ten minutes we got near enough to fire our torpedo, and then
turned back to the _Arethusa_. Next our follower arrived just where we
had been and fired his torpedo, and of course the enemy fired at him,
instead of at us. What a blessed relief! It was like coming out of a
really hot and oppressive orchid house into the cool air of a summer
garden. A 'hot' fire is properly descriptive; it seems actually to be
hot! After the destroyers came the _Fearless_, and she stayed on the
scene, and soon we found she was engaging a three-funneller, the
_Mainz_. So off we started again to go for the _Mainz_, the situation
being, I take it, that crippled _Arethusa_ was too 'tummy'-aching to do
anything but be defended by us, her children.

"Scarcely, however, had we started (I did not feel the least like
another gruelling) when from out the mist and across our front in
furious pursuit came the First Cruiser Squadron, the Town class,
_Birmingham_, &c., each unit a match for three _Mainz_, and as we looked
and reduced speed they opened fire, and the clear 'bang! bang!' of their
guns was just a cooling drink! To see a real big four-funneller spouting
flame, which flame denoted shells starting, and those shells not aimed
at us but for us, was the most cheerful thing possible. Even as
Kipling's infantryman, under heavy fire, cries 'The Guns, thank Gawd,
the Guns', when his own artillery has come into action over his head, so
did I feel as those 'Big Brothers' came careering across.

"Once we were in safety I hated it. We had just been having our own
imaginations stimulated on the subject of shells striking us, and now, a
few minutes later, to see another ship not three miles away reduced to a
piteous mass of unrecognizability, wreathed in black fumes, from which
flared out angry gouts of fire like Vesuvius in eruption, as an unending
stream of 100-pound shells burst on board; it just pointed the moral and
showed us what might have been! The _Mainz_ was immensely gallant. The
last I saw of her, absolutely wrecked alow and aloft, her whole midships
a fuming inferno, she had one gun forward and one aft still spitting
forth fury and defiance, 'like a wild cat mad with wounds'. Our own
four-funnelled friend recommenced at this juncture with a couple of
salvos, but rather half-heartedly; and we really did not care a ----,
for there, straight ahead of us in lordly procession, like elephants
walking through a pack of 'pi-dogs', came the _Lion_, _Queen Mary_,
_Invincible_, and _New Zealand_, our battle-cruisers. Great and grim and
uncouth as some antediluvian monsters, how solid they looked, how
utterly earth-quaking.

"We pointed out our latest aggressor to them, whom they could not see
from where they were, and they passed down the field of battle with the
little destroyers on their left and the destroyed on their right, and we
went west while they went east, and turned north between poor
four-funnels and her home, and just a little later we heard the thunder
of their guns for a space, then all silence, and we knew. Then wireless:
'_Lion_ to all ships and destroyers; retire'. That was all.

"Remains only little details, only one of which I will tell you. The
most romantic, dramatic, and piquant episode that modern war can ever
show. The _Defender_, having sunk an enemy, lowered a whaler to pick up
her swimming survivors; before the whaler got back an enemy's cruiser
came up and chased the _Defender_, and thus she abandoned her whaler.
Imagine their feelings; alone in an open boat without food, twenty-five
miles from the nearest land, and that land the enemy's fortress, with
nothing but fog and sea around them. Suddenly a swirl alongside, and up,
if you please, pops His Britannic Majesty's submarine E 4, opens his
conning-tower, takes them all on board, shuts up again, dives, and
brings them home 250 miles! Is not that magnificent? No novel would dare
face the critics with an episode like that in it, except, perhaps, Jules
Verne--and all true!"


[81] The first shot, probably from the _Amphion_--thus the first shot of
the war afloat--was fired by Private J. B. King, R.M.L.I. (Plymouth),
who died of wounds in Netley Hospital soon after the sinking of the

[82] Official account.

[83] Fred. T. Jane, _Your Navy as a Fighting-machine_.

[84] _Naval and Military Record._

[85] In the _Morning Post_.


Operations in the North Sea and Channel

    "Grey and solemn on the wave,
       Vast of beam, immense of length;
     Coldly scorning death and grave--
       Citadel of monster strength.

    "Darkened sky and troubled sea,
       Thunder-crashing sound in air;
     Massive citadel--was she
       Such a thing as founders there."
            "Submarined." (From _The Battleship_, by Walter Wood, 1912.)

THE next phase of the naval operations in the Channel and North Sea does
not afford quite such satisfactory reading as the "Battle of the Bight",
for the loss of several of our cruisers and smaller vessels by mine and
torpedo has to be recorded. At the same time the very fact that our
ships were at sea, and so offering a target to the German submarines,
while their ships were hiding under the fortifications of Kiel and
Heligoland, must not be lost sight of.

If we claim command of the sea we must face the risks of the position.
The sinking of a few men-of-war by mines or submarines will not transfer
the "trident of Neptune" to a fleet which only plays for safety, any
more than the destruction of one or two public buildings by a dynamitard
will give him the reins of government. The "silver lining" to the cloud
of our losses in men and material is the magnificent bravery and
discipline displayed by the crews of the vessels attacked, officers,
seamen, and marines alike. Space forbids a detailed account of each of
these losses, but it is as well to mention them.

Thus the _Speedy_ and _Pathfinder_, small cruisers of mature age, were
blown up, the first by a mine, the second by a submarine, during
September. In the month of October the cruiser _Hawke_, when in company
with the _Theseus_ in the North Sea, was attacked and torpedoed by a
German submarine, while the _Hermes_, fitted as a tender for aeroplanes,
was sunk in a similar way in the Channel, where, on the 27th, the German
submarine service went so far as to torpedo the French steamer _Amiral
Ganteaume_, crowded as she was with 2500 refugees. The biggest and most
dramatic of the losses occasioned by the enemy submarines was the
torpedoing of the three big cruisers _Aboukir_, _Cressy_, and _Hogue_ on
the morning of 22nd September. The ships were by no means new, and their
loss is not to be compared with that of the many gallant men who formed
their crews.

To quote the official statement issued to the Press: "The duty on which
these vessels were engaged was an essential part of the arrangements by
which the control of the seas and the safety of the country are
maintained, and the lives lost are as usefully, as necessarily, and as
gloriously devoted to the requirements of His Majesty's Service as if
the loss had been incurred in a general action." The ships were in the
neighbourhood of the Hook of Holland when they were attacked by the U
9--alone, according to the German story, though some of the survivors
think there were more, and claim that one was sunk. The _Aboukir_ was
the first victim, and the other ships, seeing her plight, stopped, or at
any rate reduced their speed, to lower their boats to pick up her men,
thus giving the enemy an opportunity of torpedoing them also which he
was not slow to take advantage of.

"The natural promptings of humanity have in this case led to heavy
losses which would have been avoided by a strict adherence to military
considerations," remarked the authorized statement published by the
Press Bureau, which went on to point out the necessity of this rule
being observed, especially in the case of large ships.

The material loss inflicted on the navy by the loss of the _Aboukir_,
_Cressy_, and _Hogue_ was not great. The three ships were all designed
as far back as 1898, which may perhaps account for the rapidity with
which they foundered, since the torpedo at that time was by no means so
formidable, either as regards range, accuracy, or explosive effect, as
those of to-day. It is probable, therefore, that the precautions against
these weapons, in the shape of internal subdivision, were not so
extensive as in our more modern ships of war. The _Aboukir_, _Cressy_,
and _Hogue_ were among our very oldest armoured cruisers, and, big as
they were, had a comparatively light armament considering their 12,000
tons of displacement.

Considering the extremely limited opportunities afforded by the coyness
of the German so-called "High Seas Fleet", our submarines and destroyers
retaliated fairly effectively. The E 9, one of our newest submarines,
commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Max K. Horton, R.N., torpedoed the
_Hela_, a light 2000-ton cruiser of an old type, on 13th September. The
ship was not a great loss to the German Navy, as she was quite an old
stager, dating from 1895, but the exploit was a notable one, being
carried out, as it was, well behind the Island of Heligoland, that very
formidable German naval fortress.

The same boat scored another success on 6th October, when she sighted
two German destroyers patrolling off the mouth of the Ems, not far from
the island of Borkum, and managed to torpedo one of them--the S 126, of
420 tons. "It was an easier case than that of the _Hela_," said one of
the E9's crew on her return to Harwich, "but luck was with us."

"When we rose," he said, "we saw two German destroyers travelling at a
speed of some 30 knots. Our commander was at the periscope, and ordered
the forward tubes to be fired." They then rose to the surface, and the
commander said: "Look at her; the beggar is going down." Then they saw
the German rise perpendicularly, and men rushed up to her stern and
dived into the water. The submarine then submerged and made her way

"I don't want to boast," continued the narrator, "but we got our
'rooties'[86] home. It was not a bad performance."[87]

Again, a smart little action was fought on the afternoon of 17th October
between the light cruiser _Undaunted_, commanded by Captain Fox, who was
blown up in the _Amphion_--with the destroyers _Lance_, _Lennox_,
_Legion_, and _Loyal_, and four German destroyers, all of which were

"We steamed out of Harwich," wrote an officer who was engaged, "with all
the ships' companies jubilant and eager to get into the danger zone, as
it was reported that a 'certain amount of liveliness' prevailed in the
North Sea.[88] All was quiet till two o'clock, when, heading up
northwards and skirting the Dutch coast-line, we sighted the smoke of
four vessels. Our captain immediately cleared for action, and signalled
the order to chase. We steamed at top speed, with two destroyers
disposed on either side of us. It was a never-to-be-forgotten
sight--nerves strained to their utmost tension, and everybody as keen as
mustard. Sea and spray flew all over us, and covered us fore and aft.
The German destroyers turned about and fled, but we had the advantage in
speed, soon got within range with our 6-inch bow gun, and opened
fire.... Once within effective range our 4-inch semi-automatic guns
blazed away, the destroyers acting independently. The Germans, seeing
themselves cornered, altered course, with the intention of obtaining a
better strategic position. Most of their shooting was aimed at the
destroyers. Lusty cheers rang from our ships as the first German
destroyer disappeared. A 6-inch lyddite shell struck her just below the
bridge. She toppled over on her beam-ends like a wounded bird, then
righted herself level with the surface, and finally plunged, bow first,
all in about two minutes.


This picture illustrates an incident which has frequently occurred in
the patrol flotillas when destroyers have been hunting down submarines
and the latter have retaliated by firing torpedoes. Clever manoeuvring
in combination with good gunnery is the war-ship's best protection
against attack by submarine.]

"We had by this time closed, and the enemy commenced firing their
torpedoes. They must have discharged at least eight, one missing our
stern by only a few yards. Fortunately for us, we caught sight of the
bubbles on the surface denoting its track, and just missed the fate of
the _Aboukir_, _Cressy_, _Hogue_, and _Hawke_ by a hairbreadth. At 2·55
p.m. the second of the enemy's vessels was seen to be out of action,
being ablaze fore and aft, showing the fearful havoc our lyddite shells
were making. As each shell hit its mark, funnels, bridge, torpedo-tubes,
and all the deck fittings disappeared like magic, dense fumes from the
explosive covering the vessels fore and aft. We actually passed over the
spot where the first vessel had sunk, and just for the space of a couple
of seconds, as we were tearing through the water at over 30 knots an
hour, we caught sight of scores of poor wretches floating about and
clinging to charred and blackened debris and wreckage. This was truly a
pitiable sight, but as we had two more combatants to put out of action,
to stop at such close range, even to save life, would have been courting
disaster. We should have been merely exposing ourselves to torpedoes. We
had to tear along and try and forget the gruesome result of our work.
The second ship, now a mass of seething flame, sank quite level with the
water, and we soon had the remaining two literally holed and maimed.
Their firing was very poor and inaccurate, although several shells flew
around, throwing shrapnel bullets about. It was a marvel that none
struck us. The _Loyal_ and _Lennox_ got quite near one of the German
vessels. The surviving German fired her last torpedo, which, however,
went wide of the mark. During these activities we had closed in with the
last of the Kaiser's destroyers, and placed her _hors de combat_. The
_Legion_ had two wounded. By 3·30 the action was over, and the German
fleet had been reduced by four units. Then came the order to get out
boats and save life. Altogether we saved 2 officers and 29 men.... Those
wretched Teutons made a good fight. They were, of course, completely

A few days afterwards the destroyer _Badger_ did a smart piece of work
in ramming and destroying a German submarine off the Dutch coast. The
Admiralty wired to her commanding officer--Commander C. A.
Fremantle--that they were "very pleased with your good service". But
about the same time our submarine E 3 was reported to have been lost in
the North Sea. The navy made rather a surprise appearance on the Belgian
coast towards the end of October, enfilading the right of the German
attack on Nieuport, which was being stoutly defended by the Belgians,
and formed the extreme left of the "far-flung battle line" of the
Allies. Three "Monitors"--novel craft in our service--which had been
building for Brazil, but had been taken up by the Admiralty at the
outbreak of war, played the leading part to begin with, but later on
other heavier ships took a hand in the proceedings. The "Monitors" were
especially well adapted for work in the shallow waters between Dunkirk
and Zeebrügge. Their appearance was unexpected by the Germans, who
suffered severely from their fire, and were unable to press their attack
against Nieuport. The "Monitors" _Mersey_, _Severn_, and _Humber_,
assisted by destroyers and a French flotilla, steamed within a couple of
miles of the shore and were in action from 6 a.m. till 6 p.m. on the
first day. Their fire was incessant, one vessel alone firing 1000
lyddite and shrapnel shells. The German trenches, which were about 3
miles inland, were especially aimed at, and the most terrible execution
was done upon the troops in them. The German batteries among the big
sand-dunes along the beach also came in for a good deal of attention.
One battery of field-guns was entirely wiped out, a train collected to
force the passage of the Yser was totally dispersed, an ammunition
column blown up, and General von Tripp and the whole of his staff, who
were near Westende, were killed.

The Germans seemed unable to make an effective reply, and even an
aeroplane sent up to signal the ranges by smoke-balls proved a failure.
By the end of the day the Germans had lost 4000 men and had been driven
from the coast, where nothing was visible but dense masses of black
smoke and lurid patches of flame. The British fire was extremely rapid,
some of the guns firing no less than fourteen rounds a minute at times.
A few casualties were suffered by the British, but no material damage of
a serious nature was sustained, although exposed both to gun-fire and,
it is stated, to submarine attacks, which were warded off by the
attendant destroyers.

The British Navy continued to do valuable work on the Belgian coast for
a considerable time. The _Venerable_, a pre-Dreadnought battleship, did
great execution with her big 12-inch guns, which outranged the German
batteries. In November, Zeebrügge, where the enemy had established a
submarine station, was heavily bombarded and considerable damage done.
The British casualties during these coastal operations were but slight.
The destroyer _Falcon_, however, received one very destructive shell,
which killed 1 officer and 8 men and wounded 1 officer and 15 men.


[86] i.e. torpedoes.

[87] _Naval and Military Record._

[88] _Ibid._


In the Outer Seas

      "The idea that an inferior power, keeping its
      battleships in port and declining fleet actions, can,
      nevertheless, bring the trade of an enemy to a
      standstill, has no basis either in reason or

                            SIR GEORGE SYDENHAM CLARKE.

IT had been generally understood that the German programme of
hostilities against this country--when the "selected moment"
arrived--was to deliver a sudden blow with the full force of their fleet
against ours, before the declaration of war and during a time of
"strained relations". The first move would probably have been made by
submarines and destroyers, and it was hoped that after a successful
surprise attack, before war was declared, the German High Seas Fleet
would be stronger than the residuum of our own.

For various reasons, which we have not room to discuss here, the Germans
had made up their minds that in August, 1914, Great Britain would _not_
fight, and that they would be able to carry out their programme against
France, Russia, and Belgium, after which they would decide exactly their
selected moment to attack us. At the outbreak of war their High Seas
Fleet was apparently lying in different deep fiords on the Norwegian
coast. What it was doing there, goodness only knows; but we may be sure
it was not for anybody's good, except, possibly, Germany's.

Anyway, these ships were not in a position to carry out the programme
laid down for war with England, and so scurried back to the security of
their fortified bases. So, also, they were not quite ready for raiding
our commerce. Still, they were able to put a good many cruisers, regular
and auxiliary, on the ocean highways, and for a time gave us a good deal
of trouble. In the Mediterranean they had the big battle-cruiser
_Goeben_ and the small cruiser _Breslau_, and on the morning of 4th
August these two ships bombarded Bona and Philippeville on the Algerian
coast. They did but little damage; in fact, it was merely a "runaway
knock". The next morning they arrived at Messina, a neutral port, where
they had either to remain indefinitely and be disarmed or leave within a
prescribed period. The German officers decided to leave, and after a
theatrical business of devoting themselves to death, and depositing
their wills and private papers with the German Consul--taking good care
to report this to the Berlin Press, which published glowing accounts of
the "mad daring" of their devoted seamen--they got under way and steamed
out, with colours flying and bands playing.

Soon after midnight--6th-7th August--the look-outs on board the
_Gloucester_, a light cruiser carrying no heavier gun than a 6-inch,
"spotted" them moving along under cover of the land. After steering a
parallel course for some time she crossed their sterns to get between
them and the land in order to see them better, and hung closely to them
all night and morning. "We let the two ships go on under cover of the
darkness," wrote one of the crew, "and they were moving without lights
at about 23 knots, and then followed almost at full speed. The _Goeben_
went on ahead, and the _Breslau_ not far behind her. Just about two
o'clock the _Breslau_ slowed down.... As far as we could tell she fired
two torpedoes ... and then discharged several salvoes from her 4-inch
guns. We at once replied with our fore 6-inch gun, and, although it was
dark, we found that with the second shell we cleared her
quarter-deck.... Neither the torpedoes nor shells from the _Breslau_ hit
their mark.... Although they were slightly faster vessels, we kept our
distance from them without losing anything all day, and in the
afternoon sighted the Greek coast after having made the fastest run
across that open bit of water that ever was made. The weather was fine,
and there was not a sight of another war-ship except the Germans....
When they were off Cape Matapan, the most southerly point of the Greek
mainland, the _Breslau_ stopped again, as she had done in the night, and
waited for us to come on. This time we did not wait for her to open
fire, but discharged our fore 6-inch gun directly we got within

"After the first shot," wrote another _Gloucester_, "our lads were quite
happy, and they kept firing as quickly as possible. One chap near
swallowed his 'chew of 'baccy' when the first shot fell short. The next
one he spat on for luck, and it took half the _Breslau's_ funnel away.
He repeated the operation on the next shot, which cleared her
quarter-deck and put her after-gun out of action. Then he began to

This interchange of compliments lasted nearly five-and-twenty minutes.
The _Breslau_ fired heavily, but, though her gunnery was good, she had
nothing bigger than a 4-inch gun, and the _Gloucester_ was so well
handled by her captain--W. A. H. Kelly, M.V.O.--that every salvo arrived
just after she had left the spot where it arrived. At last the big
_Goeben_ turned slowly round and approached the plucky little British
cruiser and opened fire, but without effect. As a single shot from her
heavy guns would have put the _Gloucester_ out of action, and probably
sunk her, she withdrew in accordance with her instructions. The _Goeben_
and _Breslau_ eventually arrived at Constantinople, where the farce of a
sale to Turkey was carried out; but they left behind a good deal of the
prestige of the German Navy and a new phrase for our bluejackets'
vocabulary--the "_Goeben_ glide"--that is, to "skedaddle rather than

About five German cruisers were known to be in the Atlantic, and a
considerable force of both our own and the French cruisers set to work
to "round them up". The _König Wilhelm der Grosse_, a big armed
mercantile cruiser of 14,000 tons and ten 4-inch guns, was "bagged" by
the _Highflyer_ off the Oro River on the West African coast on 26th
August. She had sunk three of our merchantmen, and was holding up a
couple more when the _Highflyer_ hove in sight. The German, a much
faster vessel, was made fast to a captured collier, from which she was
coaling, which enabled the _Highflyer_, which dated from 1900, to get
within range with her heavier guns. "If all British ships shoot as
straight as the _Highflyer_," said the captain of _König Wilhelm der
Grosse_, "I shall be sorry for our poor fellows in the North Sea."
Nearly a month later the _Carmania_, a big armed liner, sank the _Cap
Trafalgar_, a similar vessel--which was disguised as a "Castle" liner
with grey hull and red funnels--off the Island of Trinidad to the
eastward of Rio de Janeiro.

"We sighted the German", wrote an officer on board the _Carmania_,
"about 10 a.m. on 14th September, in the South Atlantic. She was coaling
from a collier, and two others were standing off. On sighting us the
_Cap Trafalgar_ hurried off, smothering the colliers, and soon after the
latter steered to the eastward and the _Cap Trafalgar_ to the
southwards. We steamed after her at top speed, and when about 4 miles
off, she turned and steered towards us. We were cleared for action, and
had been standing by our guns for some time, all strangely fascinated by
the movements of our enemy. When about 3-1/2 miles off we fired our
challenge shot across her bows, and immediately after this she displayed
her colours at the masthead, and fired her first shot from her starboard
after-guns. This shot came right close over our heads, dropping in the
water. Then the firing from both ships became fast and furious.
Projectiles and splinters from bursting shells showered around us. The
engagement began at 12.10 midday and lasted hot until about 1.10 p.m.,
when she showed signs of having been badly hit, and was taking a heavy
list to starboard, and was on fire fore and aft. We were also on fire
on our fore-bridge. Our bridge-telegraphs and steering-gear were
completely wrecked, and the captain's cabin, the chart-house, and a
number of officers' quarters were gutted. We were also badly holed by
her fire. When we found we had crippled our enemy, and that she was
sinking, we ceased firing, although her colours were still flying. She
gradually listed over till her funnels nearly touched the water. Then
she settled down forward till her second funnel almost disappeared. At
last she rolled over, showing her keel and propellers, stood up on end,
and gradually assumed a perpendicular position and dived out of sight.

"We could make out some boats with survivors, and one of the colliers
rendered assistance. We had to clear away, because low down on the
horizon the signalman saw smoke and what appeared to be the _Dresden_.
We steered away south, and then doubled on our course. By that time
darkness was setting in, and we thus escaped her clutches."

An auxiliary cruiser, of course, would not stand much chance in a duel
with a man-of-war cruiser, as was shown by that between the _Highflyer_
and the _König Wilhelm der Grosse_, a much newer, larger, and faster
ship. Rather later in the year the _Navarra_, another German auxiliary
cruiser of the Hamburg-Amerika line, was sunk also in South Atlantic
waters by the British auxiliary cruiser _Orama_, an Orient liner. The
Germans do not appear to have put up much of a fight, and the British
gunnery proved much superior, but details are wanting.[91]

If space permitted, a good deal more might be written about the cruiser
operations in the Atlantic, but we have now to turn our attention to the
Indian Ocean. The first incident to be noticed is an adverse one to the
British. The _Pegasus_, a small cruiser dating from 1899, after having
in conjunction with the _Astrea_ destroyed the German wireless station
at Dar-es-Salem, and sunk the gunboat _Möwe_ and a floating-dock, was
caught while overhauling her machinery in the harbour of Zanzibar by the
German light cruiser _Königsberg_, a much newer vessel.

The _Königsberg_ approached at full speed at five o'clock on Sunday
morning, 20th September, and, having sunk the British patrol boat by
three shots, opened fire on the _Pegasus_ from 5 miles distance, closing
to 7000 yards. The _Pegasus_, being at anchor, presented an easy target,
and the German fire was so well directed that in a quarter of an hour
the only guns she could bring to bear were put out of action.

After an interval the German re-opened fire for another fifteen minutes,
after which she stood out to sea. The British crew, caught under such
disadvantageous circumstances, showed true heroism, though, as may be
supposed, they suffered very severely. The ensign was twice shot away,
but afterwards held up proudly by hand by two men of the detachment of
Royal Marines, who stationed themselves in the most conspicuous place
they could find. One was killed by a shell and his place was at once
taken by another comrade. The _Pegasus_ was holed badly on the
water-line, her fires had to be put out, and she was run aground in
shallow water but subsequently driven by wind and tide into deeper
water, where she sank.

It was at about this time that the German light cruiser _Emden_ began to
gain notoriety. She had belonged to the German squadron in China, but
had slipped away south, and now began to sink one after another of our
merchantmen in the Indian Ocean. This was in contravention of
international law, but as, generally speaking, her commander, Captain
Müller, saved their crews, and showed both dash and humanity, the
British public were more or less inclined to look with a lenient eye on
his semi-piratical proceedings. He fired a few shots at Madras and
destroyed an oil-tank, and at Singapore torpedoed the _Jemtchug_, a
Russian gunboat, and the _Mousquet_, a French destroyer. The _Emden_ was
enabled to approach unsuspected on account of having rigged up an extra
funnel and hoisted Japanese colours. However, her day was yet to come.

By this time British, Russian, Japanese, and French cruisers in the East
were on the qui vive, as well as those belonging to the newly-formed
fleet of the Australian Commonwealth, and it is to one of the Australian
cruisers, the _Sydney_, that the honour of ridding the seas of the
"wanted" _Emden_ belongs. On 9th November the raiding German arrived at
the Cocos Keeling Islands, an isolated group in the Indian Ocean, and,
landing a party of men, set about destroying the British wireless
station. Luckily the operators were suspicious of the strange craft, and
managed to get off a message which reached the cruisers _Melbourne_ and
_Sydney_ in a somewhat broken condition. "Strange warship--off entrance"
it ran. This was about seven in the morning, when they were 50 miles to
the eastward of the islands, and in charge of a convoy. The _Melbourne_,
as senior officer, ordered the _Sydney_ off at full speed to
investigate. Before half-past nine the tops of the _Emden's_ funnels
were made out close to the feathery palm tops denoting the position of
the Cocos. She was 10 or 14 miles distant, but she "spotted" the
_Sydney_, and very soon opened fire at a tremendous range.

"Shortly after, we started in on her," wrote one of the _Sydney's_
officers.[92] "The Australian opened fire from her port guns. Before
long a shot from the _Emden_ knocked out nearly the whole gun's crew of
No. 2 gun on the starboard side."

"There was a lot of 'Whee-oo, whee-oo, whee-oo'," continued the officer
above quoted, "and the 'But-but-but' of the shell striking the water
beyond, and, as the range was pretty big, this was quite possible, as
the angle of descent would be pretty steep. Coming aft, I heard a shot
graze the top of No. 1 Starboard. A petty-officer now came up limping
from aft, and said that he had just carried an officer below (he was
not dangerously hit) and that the after-control position had been
knocked right out, and everyone wounded (they were marvellously lucky).
I told him if he was really able to carry on to go aft to No. 2
Starboard and see there was no fire, and, if there was, that any charges
about were to be thrown overboard at once. He was very game and limped
away aft. He got aft to find a very bad cordite fire just starting. He,
with others, got this put out. I later noticed some smoke rising aft,
and ran aft to find it was but the remnant of what they had put out, but
found two men, one with a pretty badly wounded foot, sitting on the
gun-platform, and a petty-officer lying on the deck a little farther aft
with a nasty wound in his back. I found one of the men was unwounded but
badly shaken. However, he pulled himself together when I spoke to him,
and told him I wanted him to do what he could for the wounded. I then
ran back to my group.[93]

"All the time we were going at 25 and sometimes as much as 26 knots. We
had the speed of the _Emden_ and fought as suited ourselves.... Best of
all was to see the gun-crews fighting their guns quite unconcerned. When
we were last in Sydney, we took on board three boys from the
training-ship _Tingira_ who had volunteered. The captain said: 'I don't
really want them, but as they are keen, I'll take them'. Now the action
was only a week or two afterwards, but the two out of the three who were
directly under my notice were perfectly splendid. One little slip of a
boy did not turn a hair, and worked splendidly. The other boy, a very
sturdy youngster, carried projectiles from the hoist to his gun
throughout the action without so much as thinking of cover. I do think
that for two boys absolutely new to their work they were splendid....
Coming aft the port side from the forecastle gun, I was met by a lot of
men cheering and waving their caps. I said: 'What's happened?' 'She's
gone, sir, she's gone!' I ran to the ship's side and no sign of a ship
could I see. If one could have seen a dark cloud of smoke it would have
been different. But I could see no sign of anything. So I called out:
'All hands turn out the life-boats; there will be men in the water'.
They were just starting to do this when someone called out: 'She's still
firing, sir,' and everyone ran back to the guns.

"What had happened was, a cloud of yellow or very light-coloured smoke
had obscured her from view, so that looking in her direction one's
impression was that she had totally disappeared. Later we turned again
and engaged her on the other broadside. By now her three funnels and her
foremast had been shot away, and she was on fire aft. We turned again,
and after giving her a salvo or two with the starboard guns, saw her run
ashore on North Keeling Island. So at 11.20 a.m. we ceased firing, the
action having lasted one hour forty minutes. Our hits were not very
serious. We were 'hulled' in about three places. The shell that exploded
in the boys' mess-deck, apart from ruining the poor little beggars'
clothes, provided a magnificent stock of trophies. For two or three days
they kept finding fresh pieces. The only important damage was the after
control-platform, which is one mass of gaping holes and tangled iron,
and the foremost range-finder shot away. Other hits, though
'interesting', don't signify." As for the _Emden_, she was a perfect
shambles. Her voice-pipes had been shot away early in the action, and,
with the exception of the forecastle, everything was wrecked on the
upper deck. The German party on shore seized a schooner, the _Ayesha_,
and contrived to escape to sea.

Thus ended the adventurous career of the _Emden_, by far the most
successful of the German commerce-raiders. In seven weeks she had
destroyed something like 70,000 tons of British shipping, so that the
news of her suppression was most welcome in Great Britain. But no one
who has not been in Australia will be able to realize the delight and
exultation the news of the _Sydney's_ exploit brought to the people of
that island continent. That one of their own ships, out of the many that
were looking out for the _Emden_, should so effectively have disposed of
her was the most magnificent and acceptable news that could be imagined,
and it is hoped that her guns will be salved and placed as trophies in
the big Australian cities.

Almost simultaneously another sea-wasp, the _Königsberg_, the same
vessel which had so mauled the _Pegasus_, besides doing other mischief
among our merchant-shipping, was "cornered" by the cruiser _Chatham_ in
the Rufigi River on the East Coast of Africa. Harried this way and that
by our cruisers, she at last took refuge so far up the river that she
was out of range from the _Chatham's_ guns. At the same time she landed
a party of her men on an island at the mouth of the river with Maxims
and quick-firing guns. Here they entrenched themselves. The British at
once sent secretly to Zanzibar and procured a steamer--the
_Newbridge_--loaded with 1500 tons of coal, which, upon arrival, they
deliberately anchored across the river channel, in spite of the fire
directed upon them by the German detachment on the island. When all was
ready, her crew took to their boats, blew three holes in her bottom, and
sank her, effectually "bottling up" the _Königsberg_. Several casualties
were incurred during this operation. The German cruiser after this
contrived to conceal her exact position for some time, by fastening the
tops of palm-trees to her masts, but an aeroplane, being brought down
the coast in the _Kinfauns Castle_, flew over her and indicated her
position by means of smoke bombs, enabling her to be fired at, at long
range, by the 12-inch guns of the battleship _Goliath_, which had now
arrived on the scene.

Powerful as were the battleship's guns, they were unable to effect her
destruction. It was not until several months had elapsed that the
British Navy was able to finish off the German cruiser. The work was
eventually carried out by the little monitors _Severn_ and _Mersey_,
which had made their _debut_ on the Belgian coast. While the _Weymouth_
and _Pioneer_ engaged the guns on the island and others which had been
mounted on the river bank, the two monitors steamed up the river and
engaged the _Königsberg_. The battle lasted for a long time, as the
raider was so ensconced in jungle that the airmen who were "spotting"
for the British found the greatest difficulty in seeing where their shot
fell. Most of the time the German got six guns to bear on the monitors,
and generally fired salvoes. After six hours her masts were still
standing, but shortly afterwards she was set on fire by a salvo from the
monitors. Her effective guns were reduced to one, and before long she
ceased fire altogether.


[89] _Naval and Military Record._

[90] _Ibid._

[91] _Journal of Commerce_, Weekly Edition, 14th April, 1915.

[92] In the _Times_.

[93] i.e. of guns.


A Reverse and a Victory

    "Through the fog of the fight we could dimly see,
     As ever the flame from the big guns flashed,
     That Cradock was doomed, yet his men and he,
     With their plates shot to junk and their turrets smashed,
     Their ship heeled over, her funnels gone,
     Were fearlessly, doggedly, fighting on.

      .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

    "We could see by the flashes, the dull, dark loom
     Of their hull as it bore toward the Port of Doom,
     Away on the water's misty rim--
     Cradock and his few hundred men,
     Never, in time, to be seen again.

    "While into the darkness their great shells screamed,
     Little the valiant Germans dreamed
     That Cradock was teaching them how to go
     When the fate their daring, itself, had sealed,
     Waiting, as yet, o'er the ocean's verge,
     To their eyes undaunted would stand revealed;
     And snared by a stronger, swifter foe,
     Out-classed, out-metalled, out-ranged, out-shot
     By heavier guns, but not out-fought,
     They, too, would sink in the sheltering surge."
                         JOHN E. DOLSON. (In an American Newspaper.)

A SAD but glorious day in the annals of the British Navy has now to be
referred to--the defeat of Sir Christopher Cradock's squadron off the
coast of Chile, with the loss of the _Good Hope_ and _Monmouth_ with all
hands. Sad because of the defeat and the loss of so many gallant
officers and men--glorious on account of the way they fought and met
their deaths. It is the only thing approaching a naval victory scored by
the Germans up to the time of writing.

The German squadron, which was commanded by Admiral Graf von Spee,
consisted of the _Scharnhorst_, _Gneisenau_, _Dresden_, _Nürnberg_, and
_Leipzig_. The two former had been on the Chinese station and were big
armoured cruisers of 11,600 tons, dating from 1907. They were sister
ships, each mounting eight 8·2-inch, six 6-inch, and several smaller
guns. The _Scharnhorst_ (flag) was the crack gunnery ship of the German
fleet. The other three ships were third-class cruisers of between 3000
and 4000 tons, similar to the _Emden_, and carried ten 4·1-inch guns
apiece, firing 34-pound projectiles. They had been carrying on various
separate commerce-raiding operations in the Pacific, had bombarded the
French port of Papeete in Tahiti, and now, when the numerous cruisers of
the allied Powers were beginning to make the Pacific Ocean "unhealthy"
for them, had apparently concentrated off the Chilian coast with the
view of slipping out of it into the Atlantic in hopes of doing further
mischief, after capturing the Falkland Islands as a base, or possibly of
eventually attempting to find their way back to a German port.

On 1st November at 2 p.m. a British squadron consisting of the _Good
Hope_ (14,100 tons), _Monmouth_ (9800 tons), _Glasgow_ (4800 tons), and
_Otranto_ (12,100 tons) were at sea to the westward of Coronel, in
Chile, when it was reported that there were enemy's ships in the
neighbourhood. The two first-named ships were armoured cruisers of large
size, but not too well gunned for their displacement. The _Good Hope_
had a couple of 9·2-inch guns and sixteen 6-inch guns, the _Monmouth_
fourteen 6-inch guns. The _Glasgow_ was a light cruiser with two 6-inch
and ten 4-inch guns, while the _Otranto_ was merely a big mail-boat,
belonging to the Orient line, armed as a mercantile auxiliary.

At 4.20 the smoke of hostile ships was made out on the horizon, and
about a quarter to six the British squadron was formed in line ahead in
the order in which their names have been already noted. The enemy came
in sight about this time at 12 miles distance, but kept away as long as
the sun was above the horizon, as it showed them up well to our gunners
and was in the eyes of their own. As soon as it dipped, the light was
entirely in their favour. The grey forms of their ships were but dimly
discernible, whilst ours were silhouetted black against the ruddy glow
of the sunset.

The following account of the action is from the pen of one of the crew
of the _Glasgow_:[94] "By 6 p.m. we were steaming abreast each other.
The _Monmouth_, as she passed us close on our port side, gave us a few
cheers, which were readily returned. Everyone was stripped and ready,
and all seemed satisfied to think that we had found the enemy after
searching for nearly three months. The sea was still very rough, and the
ships were washing down forward. The enemy's squadron seemed to be going
faster than we were, and were getting on our port bow. The sun was
setting in the west, and we must have made very nice targets for the
Germans, as we were between them and the sun. They had some dark clouds
behind them and were difficult to see even then. As soon as the sun had
set they altered course towards us, and we turned slightly towards them,
the _Otranto_ going away off our starboard quarter and taking no part in
the action. As soon as the enemy were within 14,000 yards they opened
fire, each of the armoured ships firing at the _Good Hope_ and
_Monmouth_, while the two smaller ships concentrated their fire on the
_Glasgow_, although they did not open fire until the fourth ship had
joined them and they had got much closer than when the armoured ships
opened fire.

"The _Good Hope_ and _Monmouth_ returned the enemy's fire, and soon the
action became general. We were very close to each other on the British
side, but the Germans were much farther apart. The enemy soon got the
range of our ships and were hitting the _Good Hope_ and the _Monmouth_
very often, and it was not long before the _Good Hope_ was on fire. Soon
after the _Monmouth_ took fire, but this was kept under.

"After about forty minutes the _Good Hope_ seemed to break out of the
line and close towards the enemy, and she was not seen again (although
some state that she was still firing her after-turret)." According to
the official report made by the captain of the _Glasgow_: "At 7.50 p.m.
an immense explosion occurred on board _Good Hope_ amidships, flames
reaching 200 feet high. Total destruction must have followed. It was now
quite dark."

The _Monmouth_ and _Glasgow_ still fought on gamely, both sides firing
at the flashes, the Germans firing salvoes. "The _Monmouth_ was very
badly damaged by this time", continues the account we have already
quoted, "and she hauled off to starboard, followed by the _Glasgow_, as
the big ships had now commenced to fire on us as well as the small ones.
It was very dark now, but owing to the fire on the _Monmouth_ no doubt
the enemy had a good mark to aim at. The enemy's fire ceased as soon as
we turned away to starboard. It could easily be seen as we passed the
_Monmouth_ that she had suffered heavily, and it appeared to me that she
was still on fire. She also had a list to port and was down by the head.

"Our captain made a signal to her, asking if she was all right, and was
told that she was making water badly forward and was trying to get her
stern to the sea. He then asked him if he could steer north-west, but
received no reply. The enemy were now coming towards us, and we thought
that we might have drawn them away from the _Monmouth_, but in a few
minutes we could see search-lights and gun-flashes, and we knew that it
was the _Monmouth_ they were firing on." Under the growing light of a
full moon, which was now rising slowly in the stormy heavens, the
practically undamaged German squadron was seen bearing down directly on
the little _Glasgow_, which, as she could by no possibility be of any
assistance to the _Monmouth_, made off at full speed to avoid
annihilation, and by 8.50 had run the enemy out of sight. About half an
hour later a number of flashes were seen afar off, which, without doubt,
marked the death throes of the gallant _Monmouth_. The _Glasgow_ was
badly knocked about. She had an enormous gash in her side 9 feet long
and 3 feet wide, besides minor injuries. But she lived not only to fight
another day, but to take signal revenge on her opponents.

"Nothing could have been more admirable than the conduct of the officers
and men throughout. Though it was most trying to receive a great volume
of fire without chance of returning it adequately, all kept perfectly
cool, there was no wild firing, and discipline was the same as at
battle-practice. When target ceased to be visible, gunlayers
spontaneously ceased fire."[95]

It must be borne in mind that the only guns in the British squadron
equal in power to the sixteen 8·2-inch much more modern weapons of the
two big German armoured cruisers were the two 9·2-inch guns carried by
the _Good Hope_, one of which was knocked out ten minutes after the
battle began.

The _Glasgow_, on the second day after her escape, had a curious
experience, if we are to believe the story of one of her men, as she ran
plump into a sleeping whale! "That was another shock for us. The ship
trembled and we all rushed up on deck to find out what had happened."
The _Glasgow_ picked up the pre-Dreadnought battleship _Canopus_, which
at the time of the fight was unfortunately 200 miles away to the
southward, and both ships proceeded in company to Port Stanley in the
Falkland Islands. The German ships do not appear to have followed them,
but went to Valparaiso, presumably to send home news of their victory.
The news of the disaster to Sir Christopher Cradock's squadron naturally
created great enthusiasm in Germany and corresponding grief in this
country. But the naval authorities, in dead secrecy, at once prepared to
settle accounts with Von Spee and his ships. On the 8th December, just
over a month after the catastrophe off Coronel, their efforts bore the
fullest fruit. On the previous day a squadron consisting of the
battle-cruisers _Invincible_ and _Inflexible_ and the cruisers
_Carnarvon_, _Cornwall_, _Bristol_, and _Kent_, under the command of Sir
F. C. Doveton Sturdee, had arrived at Port Stanley in the Falkland
Islands, their crews greeting the _Glasgow_, which was lying there in
company with the _Canopus_, with round after round of cheering.

The inhabitants of these remote islands were unfeignedly glad to see the
new arrivals, since they had received warning that they might expect a
German raid. At 8 a.m. the look-outs on Sapper Hill to the south-west of
Port Stanley reported columns of smoke coming up over the south-west
horizon. Soon afterwards a two-funnelled ship and a four-funneller were
made out, and the _Kent_ was ordered out to the harbour mouth and orders
given for all ships to raise steam for full speed. The _Kent_, it is
interesting to note, went into action this day flying the silken ensign
and jack which had been presented by the ladies of Kent on her first
commission. To conceal the presence of the two big battle-cruisers,
which might be spotted by their tripod masts, these two ships were
ordered to stoke up with oil fuel, and the thick black greasy smoke
billowing from their funnels soon shrouded the harbour with a dusky
veil. Twenty minutes later other smoke columns were reported more to the

The two ships first observed, which proved to be the _Gneisenau_ and
_Nürnberg_, continued to advance steadily towards the island, training
their guns on the wireless station, and about an hour and a half after
they had first been sighted came within 11,000 yards of the _Canopus_,
which let fly at them with her big guns, firing over the low-lying land
between the south side of the harbour and the open sea. The Germans at
once hoisted their colours and turned away. Then, seeing the _Kent_ at
the harbour mouth, they turned towards her, but very shortly afterwards
turned away again and went off at full speed towards their consorts, who
were now coming up. It is thought that they must have got a glimpse of
the "surprise packet", in the shape of the _Invincible_ and
_Inflexible_, that was awaiting their advent.

At a quarter to ten the _Carnarvon_, _Inflexible_, _Invincible_, and
_Cornwall_ weighed and stood out to sea in the order named, and overtook
the _Kent_ and the _Glasgow_, which had gone out and joined her a few
minutes earlier. The German ships were now in full sight to the
south-east--hull down, and doing the "_Goeben_ glide" for all they were
worth. In the British ships the stokers were working furiously, the
smoke belching in thick volumes from the funnels; and, with every man at
his post, their decks flooded with water as a preventive against fire,
and hoses ready, the vessels gradually gathered way.

At 10.25 the big ships were making 23 knots, and gradually drew ahead of
their consorts. The _Invincible_ led, the _Inflexible_ followed at some
little distance on her starboard quarter. The _Glasgow_--all on board
burning with eagerness to avenge their late squadron-mates--was ordered
to keep at 2 miles distance from the flagship. It was a fine, clear,
bright day, comparatively warm for those latitudes, and it was easy to
keep the enemy in sight.

Shortly before one o'clock the two battle-cruisers opened fire with
their big guns, presently concentrating on the light cruiser _Leipzig_.
She was not hit, but the big shots crept closer and closer, till after
about a quarter of an hour she turned away to the south-west, followed
by the _Dresden_ and _Nürnberg_. At the same time the remaining German
ships, the two big armoured cruisers, turned slightly to port and began
to return the fire of our battle-cruisers. Thenceforward the fighting
resolved itself into two battles, one between the big ships, the other
between the smaller cruisers.

As soon as the German light cruisers turned off to their starboard hand
the _Kent_, _Glasgow_, and _Cornwall_ started after them in accordance
with the orders they had received from Admiral Sturdee. The _Bristol_
had previously signalled that three more Germans, looking like colliers
or transports, had appeared off the Falklands, and, having received
orders to take the armed auxiliary cruiser _Macedonia_ with her and
destroy them, had proceeded to chase them to the westward. The strangers
turned out to be two and not three ships, the _Baden_ and _St. Isabel_.
Both were captured and sunk after the removal of their crews.

Meanwhile the _Invincible_ and _Inflexible_ were pressing closer and
closer on the _Scharnhorst_ and _Gneisenau_. "Suddenly we altered
course", wrote a midshipman on board the _Invincible_ to his father,[96]
"and made for the enemy. I had not noticed we were closing, and when
their first salvo went off I was still on the top of the turret. I could
see all the shells coming at us, and I felt they were all coming
straight at me. However, they all missed except one, which hit the side
of the ship near the ward-room, and made a great green flash, and sent
splinters flying all round. I hopped below armour quickly and started
working again. We were nearing the _Scharnhorst_ and began firing for
all we were worth. We hit again and again. First our left gun sent her
big crane spinning over the side. Then our right gun blew her funnel to
atoms, and then another shot from the left gun sent her bridge and part
of the forecastle sky-high.

"We were not escaping free, however. Shots were hitting us repeatedly,
and the spray from the splashes of their shells was hiding the
_Scharnhorst_ from us. Suddenly a great livid flame rushed through the
gun-ports, and splinters flew all round, and we felt the whole 150 or
200 tons of the turret going up in the air. We thought we were going
over the side and would get drowned like rats in a trap. However, we
came down again with a crash that shook the turret dreadfully, and
continued firing as hard as ever. Nothing in the turret was out of order
at all. The range continued to come down, and the whistles of the shells
that flew over us grew into a regular shriek. Down came the range,
11,000, 10,000, 9000, 8800 yards. We were hitting the _Scharnhorst_
nearly every time. One beauty from our right gun got one of their
turrets fair and square and sent it whizzing over the side." By 3.30 the
_Scharnhorst_ was in a bad way. She was on fire, smoke and steam poured
out of her in many places, and when a shell would knock a big hole in
her side a dull furnace-like glow was seen within. Several of her guns
were out of action and she now turned partially to starboard, apparently
with the idea of getting her starboard guns to bear.

Just after four o'clock she was observed to give a heavy roll to port.
She slowly listed farther and farther over, till she lay on her
beam-ends, and at 4.17 disappeared below the waves in a dense cloud of
smoke and steam. The _Gneisenau_, passing on the far side of the mass of
scattered debris marking the grave of her consort, still spat out
defiance from her guns. But her hours were numbered, and everyone on
board must have known that it was only a matter of minutes before her
two huge opponents settled accounts with her. She put up a first-rate
fight for nearly two hours longer. She ranged her guns well and hit her
adversaries again and again. But each of them was much more than her
match, and their great 850-pound projectiles got her time after time.

"5.10. Hit, hit!" wrote one of the _Gneisenau's_ officers in a pocket
diary.[97] "5.12. Hit! 5.14. Hit, hit, hit! again! 5.20. After-turret
gone. 5.40. Hit, hit! On fire everywhere. 5.41. Hit, hit! burning
everywhere and sinking. 5.45. Hit! men dying everywhere. 5.46. Hit,
hit!" The ship must have been an inferno. At last she could only fire a
single gun at intervals, and at 5.40 the _Invincible_, _Inflexible_, and
_Carnarvon_ closed in on the stricken leviathan and the "cease fire" was
sounded. At six o'clock she turned slowly, slowly, over to port till
only her rounded side was visible lying in the water like a great whale,
with those of her crew who survived walking and crawling over it. Then,
suddenly, down she went amid a swirl of waters, leaving those of her
crew who were not sucked down with her struggling amid the waves. During
the fighting the weather had changed for the worse, the sea had begun to
rise, and now a cold drizzle was falling.

"Out boats," was the order on board the British ships, and no pains were
spared to rescue their late enemies. Some of them had their heads quite
turned and tried to kill their rescuers, or jumped into the sea again
and drowned themselves. "One officer tried to shoot us with an automatic
pistol, but it was wrenched from his hand and we escaped," wrote the
midshipman before quoted. It is thought that before she sank 600 of the
_Gneisenau's_ ship's company had been killed or wounded. The British
seamen, working indefatigably, were only able to save less than 200,
fourteen of whom subsequently died from the effects of cold and

We must now return to the other running fight which had been proceeding
between the smaller ships on both sides. The Germans had no notion of
fighting if they could avoid it, and seem to have gone off
"helter-skelter" without assuming any definite formation. The _Glasgow_
was our fastest cruiser and was ordered to head off the _Nürnberg_ and
_Leipzig_. As for the _Dresden_, she seems to have got a very long start
from the first and was never overtaken. The _Glasgow_ opened fire on the
_Leipzig_ and _Nürnberg_ with her 6-inch guns about three o'clock, and
succeeded in making them alter course. The former turned to meet the
_Glasgow_, while the latter was obliged to turn in a direction which
rendered it easier for the _Kent_ to come up with her. The _Kent_, an
older and slower ship than the _Nürnberg_, made a record spurt and
succeeded in getting within range of the German. She had but little coal
on board. "The old _Kent_ set off and her engines worked up to 22
knots--more than she had ever done on her trials. Then the word was
passed that there was hardly any coal left. 'Well,' said the captain,
'have a go at the boats.' So they broke up all the boats, smeared them
with oil, and put them in the furnaces. Then in went all the armchairs
from the ward-room and the chests from the officers' cabins. They next
burnt the ladders and all. Every bit of wood was sent to the stokehold.
The result was that the _Kent's_ speed became 24 knots."[98] But it was
five o'clock before she could get within range and both ships went at it
hammer and tongs for an hour, by which time the _Nürnberg_ was evidently
on fire. The sea was by now rather choppy and the atmosphere somewhat
misty. Just after half-past six the _Nürnberg_, well alight forward,
ceased firing. The _Kent_ thereupon ceased fire also and closed in to
3300 yards; but, as the German still kept her colours flying, she once
more set her guns to work. Five minutes of this and down fluttered the
German ensign, and the _Kent_ set herself to save as many of her late
opponents as she could; but she was, of course, handicapped by having
burnt her boats, and only twelve could be rescued with the assistance of
the _Cornwall_. It was nearly half-past seven before the _Nürnberg_ took
her final plunge.

The _Kent_ was hit a considerable number of times and lost four killed
and a dozen wounded, nearly all by one shell. She had, moreover, a very
narrow escape from destruction, from which she was only saved by the
heroism of Sergeant Charles Mayes of the Royal Marines. In the words of
the notification awarding him the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal: "A shell
burst and ignited some cordite charges in the casemate. Sergeant Mayes
picked up a charge of cordite and threw it away. He then got hold of a
fire-hose and flooded the compartment, extinguishing the fire in some
empty shell-bags which were burning. The extinction of this fire saved a
disaster which might have led to the loss of the ship."

While the _Kent_ was disposing of the _Nürnberg_, the _Glasgow_ and
afterwards the _Cornwall_ tackled the _Leipzig_. "We continued to fight
the _Leipzig_," writes one[99] of the _Glasgows_," and the _Cornwall_
was now coming up to help us, so she hauled off again, and we followed.
We soon got close enough to open fire again, and this time we had begun
to make good shooting though it was at a long range. She had then turned
slightly towards us, and we began to get her range; but she was altering
her course so much that it made it extremely difficult to hit her. We
got one shell through our control and the splinters killed one man and
injured several others. This was the only shell that did much damage. We
were getting much closer now and our shells were hitting her as her fire
slackened, but we had to be careful owing to the enemy throwing mines
over the side. As we got closer ... our fire became even more effective,
she turned to port and we had to cease fire for a while. Then the other
battery had a chance and they made some very good shooting. By this time
she had altered course again and this allowed the _Cornwall_ to open
fire on her, but it looked to us as if her fire was going very short.
The _Leipzig_ now fired at the _Cornwall_ and we got up fairly close and
poured in a heavy fire. She then took fire on her stern, and her mast
and funnel went over the side. Then she was smoking amidships and a
shell knocked away the upper half of her second funnel. She was now
beaten but she refused to answer our signal to surrender, and after a
while we opened fire on her again, and, as it was by this time quite
dusk, we could see the shells strike and burst. She was lying quite
helpless now and burning fiercely from amidships to the after end. The
smoke which came from her in dense clouds, came across us and we could
smell the faint burning.

"Then she fired one of her guns, and this was a signal for a fresh
outburst from us. We kept steaming round near the burning ship, and then
we saw them fire a white rocket. We and the _Cornwall_ then lowered
boats and went nearer to the now sinking ship." "When we went right
close to", says another eyewitness, "she looked just like a
night-watchman's bucket--all holes and fire. She was a mass of white
heat. You would not think an iron ship would blaze like that." To
continue to quote the previous narrator: "Our boats had just arrived
near the ship, when she rolled gently over and then sank. Our boats
picked up ten of them and the _Cornwall's_ four.... Everyone seemed
overjoyed to think we had avenged the loss of the _Good Hope_ and
_Monmouth_, and especially so later on when we heard that the _Kent_ had
sunk the _Nürnberg_!"

The _Glasgow_, which had fought and escaped at Coronel, and participated
in the signal revenge taken upon Von Spee and his squadron off the
Falklands, was lucky enough to assist in the final act of retribution
when the _Dresden_, which had got away for a time, was caught and sunk
off Juan Fernandez--Robinson Crusoe's island. The _Glasgow_ and _Orama_
came up from the south-west, and presently the _Kent_ appeared hurrying
up from the south-east. After the exchange of some shots the _Dresden_
appeared to be on fire and hoisted a very large white flag, while many
of her crew jumped overboard and made for her boats, which were in the
water at a little distance off. "As soon as it was clear she did not
intend to fight again, we lowered boats and sent medical aid, and
several of the wounded were brought alongside the ship for treatment."
Eventually the magazine seems to have been blown up--possibly
intentionally by her officers, as just previously the German ensign was
re-hoisted, and she sank with it and the white flag of surrender both

With the sinking of the _Dresden_ the German Navy disappeared from the
ocean. Not a man-of-war of German nationality floated in the "Seven
Seas", and only in the security of their own fortified harbours and in
the mine-defended area of the Baltic dared the "black, white, and red
flag" show itself.


[94] Lance-Sergeant H. Blanchard, R.M.L.I., in _The Globe and Laurel_.

[95] Captain Luce of the _Glasgow_ in his official report.

[96] Mr. Esmonde, published in _Penny Pictorial Magazine_.

[97] Quoted by Mr. Esmonde in his letter.

[98] Mr. Esmonde's letter.

[99] Lance-Sergeant H. Blanchard.


German Raids and their Signal Punishment

    "I saw a mast abaft the light
       In the tail of the offshore breeze,
     A beacon flared on Dover Head,
       A lean hull slipped the quays;
     And out of the mist beyond the Fore,
       Hell howled across the seas.

    "Sudden and terrible, in one night,
       A fleet had sprung to grips;
     Nor' and nor'-east the signal sped
       To the scattered scouts and the ships;
     And racking the Channel fog the war
       Roared in apocalypse."
                    LEWIS HASTINGS in the _Navy_.

EARLY in November, 1914, a German squadron of considerable force made
what the Germans proudly termed a "hussar stroke", a number of big ships
approaching the English coast, driving off the _Halcyon_, an antiquated
gunboat, and firing a few futile shots at long range at Yarmouth.
Suddenly they turned tail and made off. They strewed mines behind them,
one of which blew up the submarine D5; but the so-called raid was a case
of "much cry, little wool", and finally ended by the _Yorck_, a very big
cruiser, running into a German mine defending the entrance to the Jahde
and being blown up with great loss of life.

On the 23rd November a patrol vessel rammed the German submarine U 18
off the north coast of Scotland. She was badly damaged and shortly
afterwards foundered. Five days later the navy suffered a severe loss in
the blowing up of the pre-Dreadnought battleship _Bulwark_ as she lay
at her buoy off Sheerness. The cause of this catastrophe was, of course,
impossible to ascertain with any certainty, as the ship was sunk and
destroyed with almost every soul on board.

Encouraged by what they seem to have considered the success of their
vaunted "hussar stroke" at Yarmouth, the Germans thought they might as
well have another. This time their raid resulted in the deaths of a
large number of civilians, men, women, and children, at East and West
Hartlepool, Whitby, and Scarborough, upon which undefended places they
opened fire with their heavy artillery. Another "famous victory!" To
make it look more like an operation of war, and to excuse themselves to
neutrals, they tried to make out that these towns were fortified
positions. It is not very likely that anyone believed them, since these
places are well known to be nothing of the kind.

As a matter of fact, it was a carefully-planned affair. "Practically the
whole fast-cruiser force of the German Navy, including some great ships
vital to their fleet and utterly irreplaceable," wrote Mr. Winston
Churchill to the Mayor of Scarborough, "has been risked for the passing
pleasure of killing as many English people as possible, irrespective of
sex, age, or condition, in the limited time available to this military
and political folly. They were impelled by the violence of feelings
which could find no other vent."

There is little doubt that the First Lord's diagnosis of the cause of
the raid was absolutely correct, though it was perhaps more generally
considered that it had the ulterior motive of "frightening" the British
nation. So far from doing anything of the kind, it produced a perfect
rush to enlist. Men wanted to take a personal hand in the payment due
for such violence. The few British destroyers and patrolling vessels
that were encountered opened fire on the big German leviathans, but were
naturally in no position to put up anything of a fight against such
overwhelming odds. That the Germans were unable to sink them goes to
prove that they were in too great a hurry to fire carefully, as all they
wanted to do was to escape, for, to quote the official announcement, "on
being sighted by British vessels the Germans retired at full speed, and,
favoured by the mist, succeeded in making good their escape". What a
pity that mist intervened! But it merely postponed the evil day for the
raiders after all.

Our men-of-war about this time set to work to give the German positions
along the Belgian coast another shaking up, and the year finished by a
brilliantly executed naval air raid on Cuxhaven and the German war-ships
lying in the Elbe, in the process of which their escorting flotilla had
a somewhat unique scrap with German submarines and Zeppelins, an account
of which will be found in a later chapter.

The year 1915 opened badly for us with the loss of the _Formidable_--a
sister-ship to the _Bulwark_--which was torpedoed, it is supposed, by a
German submarine well down the Channel. At two o'clock in the morning
there was a heavy explosion, and the ship began to settle down to
starboard. There was no panic, the boats were got out, and some were
already in the water when there was a second explosion and a mass of
debris was shot into the air. The sea was rough, and the survivors, who
numbered less than a hundred, endured severe hardships. Some were
rescued by a Brixham trawler, and others managed to row ashore at Lyme
Regis. "The discipline was splendid," said a bluejacket survivor.[100]
"The last that I saw of Captain Loxley"--who was in command of the
ship--"was that he was on the bridge calmly smoking a cigarette.
Lieutenant Simmonds superintended the launching of the boats, and as he
got the last away I heard the Captain say: 'You have done well,
Simmonds'. The stokers must have done magnificently, as they drew all
the fires, and, steam being shut off, there was no boiler explosion when
the _Formidable_ sank.

"Captain Loxley was as cool as a cucumber. He gave his orders calmly and
coolly, just as though the ship was riding in harbour with anchors down.
I thought nothing was amiss. The last words I heard him say were:
'Steady, men, it's all right. No panic, keep cool; be British. There's
life in the old ship yet!' Captain Loxley's old terrier 'Bruce' was
standing on duty at his side on the fore-bridge at the last."

One of the few stokers who were saved said that they were expecting to
be relieved, and to have gone back to port, in about another hour. "An
officer passed down by us. He stopped and explained in a matter-of-fact
way that the ship had been struck, was sinking fast, and it was now a
question of saving as many lives as possible. He advised us to go on
deck and lay hold of anything we could." One of the finest examples of
self-sacrifice was given by Bugler S. C. Reed of the Royal Marines, a
mere boy, who, when advised to use his drum to keep himself afloat,
replied that he had thought of it, but had given it to one of the
bluejacket boys for that purpose, as the lad had nothing to keep himself
afloat in the heavy seas then prevailing, and _that he did not feel very
nervous_. Surely the cool courage in the face of death, superlative
bravery, and absolute self-devotion that have been displayed during the
last few months by officers and men--yes, and boys too--of navy and army
alike, have equalled, if not eclipsed, the finest deeds of our
forefathers "in the brave days of old".

At last, on 24th January, our eager navy had its chance of castigating
the evasive enemy. The Battle-cruiser Squadron, consisting of the
_Lion_, _Princess Royal_, _Tiger_, _New Zealand_, and _Indomitable_,
under the command of Sir David Beatty, who flew his flag on the _Lion_,
in company with Commodore Goodenough's Light Squadron, comprising the
_Southampton_, _Nottingham_, _Birmingham_, and _Lowestoft_, was
patrolling in the North Sea, preceded some way ahead by the _Undaunted_,
_Arethusa_, and _Aurora_, with destroyer flotillas, when about half-past
seven in the morning the flashing of guns was observed to the
south-south-east. Presently came a message to the flagship from the
_Aurora_ that she was in action with the enemy.

Speed was increased, and the British squadrons rushed at full speed
towards the scene of conflict. Other messages came in from the ships in
advance reporting that the enemy's force, consisting of the _Blücher_,
three battle-cruisers, and six light cruisers, had altered course to
south-east, while a number of destroyers were heading to the north-west.
The main body of the enemy very shortly came in sight, but they were at
a great distance, and making off as fast as they knew how. After them
ploughed the British leviathans and their satellites, but it was not
till nine minutes after nine that the _Lion_ got in her first hit on the
_Blücher_ at something like 10 miles distance!

The enemy were in "line ahead", the _Blücher_ being the rearmost ship.
Their light cruisers were away ahead and their destroyers on their port
flank, apparently meditating a dash against the advancing British. Our
flotillas, with their attendant cruisers, were at this time away on the
port quarter of the battle-cruisers, where they had been placed so as
not to obstruct the aim of the big guns by their smoke, but the "M"
division of destroyers was now sent ahead in order to attend to the
German flotilla.

By this time the leading German ship--supposed to be the _Seydlitz_--was
on fire, and so was the third ship in their line. The enemy's destroyers
now began to stoke up, and threw out thick black clouds of smoke, under
cover of which their big ships altered course to the northward. As soon
as this manoeuvre was apparent, the British ships, which by now were
tearing through the water at tremendous speed, turned to follow,
whereupon their destroyers again evinced a disposition to attack. But
upon the _Lion_ and _Tiger_ turning their guns upon them they thought
better of it, and returned to their former position. Our light cruisers
kept station on the port quarter of the enemy, ready to pounce upon any
cripples. Just after a quarter to eleven the _Blücher_, which had been
gradually falling astern, turned out of the line to port. She was on
fire, had a heavy list, and was evidently very badly mauled. A few
minutes later the periscopes of a number of submarines were noticed on
the starboard bow of our battle-cruisers, which at once turned to port
to avoid them.

At the pace at which our ships were travelling these insidious foes
would soon be left behind. Soon afterwards the flagship, having received
damage which could not be at once repaired, was ordered to go off to the
north-west, the admiral calling the destroyer _Attack_ alongside and
going in her to the _Princess Royal_, on board of which he rehoisted his
flag. On arrival he was informed that the _Blücher_ had been sunk, and
that the remainder of the enemy's ships were making off to the eastward
in a badly-damaged condition.

The _Seydlitz_ and _Derflinger_, particularly, were said to have been
desperately knocked about. But as the battle had now approached the area
of the German mine-fields, it was wisely determined to break it off and
return to English waters, the _Lion_, which had received a shot in her
condensers, being taken in tow by the _Indomitable_. The only ships on
our side that were hit were the _Lion_ and the _Tiger_, and the little
_Meteor_, which led the destroyers interposed between the German
destroyers and our main line; and the total casualties were only
fourteen officers and men killed and twenty-nine wounded. The German
losses must have been terrible.

One of the survivors of the _Blücher_ gave a vivid account of the
effects of our gunnery.[101] "The British guns were ranging. Those
deadly waterspouts crept nearer and nearer. The men on deck watched them
with a strange fascination. Soon one pitched close to the ship, and a
vast watery pillar, a hundred metres high, fell lashing on the deck. The
range had been found. Now the shells came thick and fast, with a
horrible droning hum. At once they did terrible execution. The electric
plant was soon destroyed, and the ship plunged in a darkness that could
be felt. Down below there was horror and confusion, mingled with gasping
shouts and moans as the shells plunged through the decks. At first they
came dropping from the sky. They penetrated the decks, they bored their
way even to the stokehold. The coal in the bunkers was set on fire.
Since the bunkers were half-empty the fire burned merrily. In the
engine-room a shell licked up the oil, and sprayed it around in flames
of blue and green, scarring its victims and blazing where it fell. Men
huddled together in dark compartments, but the shells sought them out,
and there death had a rich harvest.

"The terrific air-pressure resulting from explosion in a confined space
left a deep impression on the minds of the men of the _Blücher_. The
air, it would seem, roars through every opening and tears its way
through every weak spot. All loose or insecure fittings were transformed
into moving instruments of destruction. Open doors bang to and jamb, and
closed iron doors bend outwards like tin plates, and through it all the
bodies of men are whirled about like dead leaves in a winter blast, to
be battered to death against the iron walls." Has Dante beaten this
description of an Inferno?


[100] _Globe and Laurel._

[101] _Times._


The Royal Naval Air Service

      "The human bird shall take his first flight, filling
      the world with amazement, all writings with his fame,
      and bringing eternal glory to the nest whence he

                                      LEONARDO DA VINCI.

    "The feathered race on pinions skim the air,
     Not so the mackerel, and still less the bear;
     Ah! who hath seen the mailèd lobster rise,
     Clap her broad wings, and claim the equal skies?"
                                 Poem in _The Anti-Jacobin_.

    "The French are all coming, for so they declare;
       Of their floats and balloons all the papers advise us;
     They're to swim through the ocean and ride on the air,
       On some foggy evening to land and surprise us."
                                 _The Invasion._ DIBDIN.

WE have had a good many surprises during the Great War, and so also have
the enemy; but the fine record of the British air service is not the
least of them. It is not that we had not every confidence in the pluck
and resourcefulness of our gallant British flying-men, but, if we may
trust available sources of information, we began the war miles behind
our French friends and our German foes, both in numbers and

Of course no exact figures can be quoted, but, according to an authority
on aeronautic matters,[102] Germany alone was in possession of a
thoroughly organized and equipped fleet of 1300 aeroplanes. According to
the same authority, Austria had about 100, France 800, and Russia 300,
while we ourselves are credited with 100 machines belonging to the
military wing of the air service, besides those in the naval wing, whose
number is not forthcoming, but which, I think, may fairly be put down
at well below a hundred. Neither we nor our allies had more than three
or four air-ships or dirigible balloons, while Germany had a fleet of
nearly twenty, most being of the famous Zeppelin type, from which very
great things were expected. The naval and military authorities in this
country either did not or would not believe in these "gas-bags", and, so
far, events seem to have proved that they were correct in their views.

In every estimate of the strength of navies we must not only make
comparisons of material, but of personnel. "The man behind the gun" is a
factor of the highest importance, and it is here that we "came in",
handicapped as we were in other respects. I do not think that I can do
better than again quote the same authority on this point. As regards the
enemy, his estimate of the German air personnel is that its pilots were
"mediocre, with a few brilliant exceptions". The Austrians were "brave
and skilful pilots badly organized". As to our allies, he considers the
French to have had "a very uneven air service". "Many magnificent
fliers, many very bad"; while the Russians possessed "numerous skilful
and daring aviators, but not very well equipped". We must not overlook
the little Belgian squadron of five-and-twenty aeroplanes, which he
assesses as "good", both in men and machines. We may, without vanity,
accept his estimate of our own aerial establishment as "a small but
highly efficient flying corps", since its efficiency has been proved
over and over again.

The "Royal Flying Corps" only dates from a few years ago, and we are
principally indebted to Major-General--then Lieutenant-Colonel--Sir
David Henderson, K.C.B., D.S.O., for its formation. He had no easy job
before him when he took the matter in hand, since neither Admiralty nor
War Office appeared to be in any hurry to attain a commanding position
in the novel arm, in spite of the great efforts being made by France,
and more especially by Germany. However, nothing daunted, he made the
very best possible of the small beginnings he was able to deal with,
and we are now reaping the harvest he sowed. For a time naval and
military officers and men worked together, but gradually, as numbers
increased, drew rather more apart, and the naval wing had its own
flying-schools at Eastchurch, near Sheerness, and at Upavon, near
Salisbury, its central air office at Sheerness, an establishment at
Hendon, and nine or ten air stations on the coast.

At the beginning of the war, confident in their numbers and
organization, the German aviators showed considerable boldness, and
their skilfulness in picking out our guns and positions, and signalling
them by flares, strips of glittering tinsel, circling movements, and
other devices to their gunners, rendered the fire of their
artillery--which at first greatly outnumbered that of the Allies--very
deadly indeed. Our own airmen were by no means such adepts at this
particular work to begin with, but, few as they were, they soon proved
themselves the better men. They worked on the old principle that so
often brought us victory afloat in Nelsonian days. "Directly you see an
enemy go for him." This system of fighting enabled Sir John French to
report, quite early in the campaign, that "The British Flying Corps has
succeeded in establishing an individual ascendancy which is as
serviceable to us as it is damaging to the enemy.... Something in the
direction of the mastery of the air has already been gained." The fact
was that the very qualities of preciseness, method, painstaking, and
avoidance of risk which make the German so formidable in some respects
do not fit in where such warfare is concerned.

The German cavalry was the same. It worked by the book. If it could mass
against ours at a strength of three to one, then by all the rules of the
game we ought to have retired or waited for their ponderous squadrons to
ride us down and overwhelm us by sheer weight of flesh and bone. But
when our dashing horsemen whirled into their masses in their
shirt-sleeves, and plied sabre and lance in a way that showed they meant
business, and then turned round and cut their way home again in the
same way, they did not like it. They have never dared to "take on" our
cavalrymen on anything approaching equal terms. Brave as we must admit
the Germans have shown themselves, they have not the same individual
dash and self-reliance as the British races.

No German would ever attack single-handed like Sergeant O'Leary, V.C. If
any proof were wanted of this, one has only to consider that the mass
attack formations, which have proved so deadly to our enemies, were
deliberately designed by the German military experts, with full
knowledge of the growing power of modern guns and rifles, because from
their experience of the war of 1870 they had formed the reasoned opinion
that in no other formation could they keep their "cannon fodder" up to
the scratch. All their views are well set forth in a German pamphlet
published some years ago, entitled _A Summer Night's Dream_. It has been
translated into English, and is well worth perusal at the present time.

Now look at our own men. Here is what Viscount Castlereagh wrote of them
from the front to his wife last autumn. "The thing that has impressed me
most here has been the aeroplane service; a splendid lot of boys who
really do not know what fear is."[103] The German army was provided with
a large quantity of guns especially designed for bringing down hostile
airmen; but they proved singularly ineffective, and our flying-men
simply laughed at them. And yet, with all their talk of air-raids and
the effect they were supposed to have on this country, the German fliers
have never attempted to attack any place over here where they thought
there might be any guns in waiting to receive them.

The Naval Air Service, primarily intended for scouting at sea, not only
for hostile ships but for submarines--for from high up these deadly
craft are visible deep under water, just in the same way that one can
see fish from a bridge that are invisible from the bank--was originally
equipped with water-planes, fitted with floats instead of wheels, so
that the naval aeronauts could rise from or alight on the water.

But though these machines proved of the greatest service in guarding and
watching the Channel and the Straits of Dover, the enterprising spirit
of the naval and marine officers who acted as air pilots, squadron
commanders, &c., was not content to devote itself entirely to such
necessary but perhaps rather monotonous work. The Naval Air Service
after the outbreak of war went ahead by leaps and bounds. Not only were
the numbers of sea-planes increased, but wheeled aeroplanes were
purchased as fast as they could be obtained, and supported by a whole
fleet of armoured motors fitted with machine-guns, a regular naval air
contingent appeared on the Continent ready to assist the army by raiding
in any direction likely to be of service. All sorts of mechanics,
motor-drivers, and other men were enlisted for special service with this
new organization, which lost no time in proving its great value and

The leading spirit and commanding officer was Commander Samson, R.N.,
and by 4th September, 1914, he was able to report that bombs had been
dropped on four German officers and forty men who had got rather too
near Dunkirk. Then, about a fortnight later, came the first raid in
force against the enemy's country, which created quite a scare in the
German frontier cities, since, judging our gallant airmen by their own
low-down standards, they feared for the lives and property of civilian

After carefully and successfully assisting in covering the transit of
the Expeditionary Force to France, a temporary base for the naval wing
was established at Ostend. It was to assist in establishing this base
that the three battalions of Royal Marines were dispatched to that place
in the early part of the war. Other outlying bases were gradually
established in Belgium. The naval motors, acting in conjunction with the
Belgians, made things very warm for the prowling Uhlans, and eventually
a regularly organized combined expedition of motors and aeroplanes was
directed against Cologne and Düsseldorf, with the object of destroying
the Zeppelin sheds at these places and, haply, any Zeppelins that might
be taking their repose within.

It fell to Flight-Lieutenant Collet of the Royal Marine Artillery to
score the first "bull's-eye". This officer had attracted some attention
by the way he had handled a heavy German-built biplane which the
Admiralty had bought from a Leipzig firm in 1913. In the hands of the
German pilot who came over with her the new machine appeared but a slow
and lumbering affair, but flown by Collet she became endued with a new
life, and was made to perform all sorts of startling manoeuvres. "To see
him descend for a thousand feet or so," says an eye-witness, "in a
closely wound spiral, with the machine standing vertically on one
wing-tip, was an education in the handling of big aeroplanes."

Accompanied by other aviators, Lieutenant Collet set out from their base
on 22nd September, and made for Düsseldorf, about 100 miles distant from
Antwerp. Here, flying very low, he dropped four bombs on the Zeppelin
shed which was the special object of attack. What damage was done was
not ascertained. The attacking machine was only struck by a single
bullet, which did no damage, and Collet and his companions regained
their base without difficulty.

About a fortnight later another raid was made against the same sheds and
also against those at Cologne.

The aviators on this occasion were Squadron-Commander Spencer-Grey and
Flight-Lieutenants Marix and Sippe, all belonging to the Royal Navy. The
last-named had trouble with his engine shortly after starting and had to
drop out, but the remaining two rushed along through the growing
light--the start had been made at the first streak of dawn--Grey making
for Cologne and Marix for Düsseldorf. There was a good deal of fog,
which, while it served them to a certain extent by concealing their
approach, at the same time made it no easy job to steer a correct
course. Travelling at 80 miles an hour Grey reached Cologne, but had no
luck. Owing to the fog he was unable to locate the Zeppelin shed of
which he was in search, and would not drop a bomb without a definite and
legitimate objective, for fear of harming women and children. He,
however, was able to do some damage to the railway station.

As for Marix, he found his way to the shed already struck by Collet.
Rising to a great height, he made a spiral dive at the tremendous speed
of 140 miles an hour. He had been seen some time before, and was greeted
with a tremendous fusillade from machine-guns, anti-aeroplane guns, and
rifles. His machine was struck several times, but he descended to within
500 feet of the shed to which a Zeppelin had been recently removed from
that damaged by Collet, let go his bombs, and shot upwards again with
marvellous velocity. As he went he saw that at least one of his
projectiles had scored a success, for a volcano of flame was spouting
500 feet into the air. There was one Zeppelin the less. His "mount" had
been hit no less than twenty times and two of his control-wires cut, but
by the exercise of great judgment and skill he contrived to travel for
10 miles on his way back and to get across the frontier, where he was
met by a Belgian car and taken safely to Antwerp.

A correspondent of the _Globe_ who was at Düsseldorf at the time gives
the following account of what an eyewitness saw of Flight-Lieutenant
Marix's exploit and its effect. "A friend of mine saw an aeroplane one
day near Düsseldorf. He followed its movements with great anxiety, and
saw that it dropped when it was close by the Zeppelin shed. He had an
idea that something was wrong, but about 200 metres from the ground the
machine turned again and disappeared. Almost at the same moment he heard
two explosions, and a few moments after saw big flames of a light
colour, giving him the impression that the whole shed was on fire. My
friend went down to the place as quickly as he could, but at a distance
of a few hundred metres the people who had already run to the spot were
kept away by a ring of soldiers. A few minutes later a rumour spread
through the crowd that two more enemy aeroplanes were reported from
Cologne, and immediately all the soldiers were ordered near the shed to
be ready for firing at the new-comers. My friend followed the soldiers,
and came quite near the place where he had seen the flames. He saw that
the contents of the shed had been entirely burnt out, and only the walls
of the building were erect. In the shed was the carcass of a Zeppelin,
burned and broken to pieces. It was one big heap of aluminium."

The next exploit of the Naval Air Service was the attack on the Zeppelin
sheds at Friedrichshafen, on the Lake of Constance. There are three or
four big sheds here close together, with workshops and all appliances
for building and fitting out these monster air-ships. The newspapers had
for some time previously been publishing paragraphs giving accounts of
Zeppelin experiments at this place. Some may have been more or less
correct, while others bore the stamp of the usual "bogey-bogey" stories
set about by the Germans with the somewhat childish idea of frightening
us. Anyway the naval airmen made up their minds to go and see for
themselves. Of course their departure from the usual scene of their
activities in the north was made "without beat of drum", and, as
Friedrichshafen was something like 150 miles from the French frontier,
their visit was entirely unexpected.

The raiders were Squadron-Commander Briggs, Flight-Commander Babbington,
and Flight-Lieutenant Sippe, all of the Royal Navy. They are supposed to
have started from the neighbourhood of Belfort, that very strongly
fortified town on the eastern frontier of France. They were mounted on
similar machines--Avro biplanes. Heading almost due east, they struck
the Rhine in the vicinity of Basle--where it turns almost at a right
angle from east to north--flew upstream as far as Schaffhausen with its
picturesque falls, and then struck across country to Ludwigshafen, at
the western extremity of Lake Constance, or the Boden See as the Germans
term it. Thence they steered directly down the lake at their objective,
the cluster of hangars and workshops on the lakeside, just east of the
town of Friedrichshafen. Their advent was both seen and heard, and the
whirr of their propellers was at once answered by the stutter of Maxims,
the banging of guns, and the popping of musketry. But it is not easy to
disable an aeroplane unless you are successful in damaging it in a vital
part; so, regardless of this very warm reception, the naval airmen
swooped down one after the other from the high altitudes at which they
were travelling, and, passing over their target at a height of about
1200 feet, discharged their cargoes of bombs.

Commander Briggs was the first to arrive and drop his bombs, but his
petrol tank being pierced by a bullet the petrol ran out and he was
brought to the ground, where he was made prisoner and taken off to
hospital, having received some injuries from his fall. Babbington and
Sippe, following in his tracks, bombarded first the hangars and
afterwards the Zeppelin factory, and, circling round, flew off down the
Rhine and arrived safely at their starting-point, though their machines
had suffered some minor damages. Both were decorated on their return
with the Cross of the Legion of Honour, which was pinned on their
breasts by General Thevenet, the Governor of Belfort. All three, too,
appeared as recipients of the Distinguished Service Order in the New
Year's Honours List. And they had well earned their distinctions.
Putting on one side the risks inseparable from such an enterprise, they
had flown right into the enemy's country for a very considerable
distance, over a mountainous district and in quite unfavourable weather
conditions, and had created a tremendous moral effect in the enemy
nations. They had probably done a considerable amount of material
damage to the hangars and workshops, possibly to one or more Zeppelins
as well, but no certain details as to the extent have yet become

The Germans had been taught to expect great things from their
well-organized and numerous fleets of air-ships and aeroplanes. They
were to bombard London, defeat our fleets, and terrorize the whole of
our "right little, tight little island" with these monster gas-bags.
And, lo and behold! before anything of the kind had happened, here were
these pestilent English flying-men attacking them in their own country.
Not blindly dropping bombs just anywhere in haste to get rid of them,
frighten civilians, and get away as fast as possible, but deliberately
attacking--and hitting--selected targets. German opinion was profoundly
moved. No wonder that their airmen felt that it "was up to them" to show
their fellow-countrymen what _they_ could do. But what a poor show it
was! On 5th December one gallant airman got within sight of Dover, but
turned round and made off again. On the 24th this one, or another,
actually flew over the town and dropped a bomb into a cabbage-patch. He
was in too much of a hurry to select a more important target, much less
hit it. The British reply, if such an unimportant exploit could be
deemed worthy of receiving a reply, was prompt and effective. The very
next day--Christmas Day--the Naval Air Wing, working in conjunction with
its own branch of the service, carried out an extremely well-organized
attack upon Cuxhaven, the strongly-fortified port at the mouth of the
Elbe which protects the approaches to Hamburg. The following officers
participated in this exploit: Flight-Commanders Oliver, Hewlett, and
Ross, R.N., and Kilner, R.M.L.I., Flight-Lieutenants Miley and Edmonds,
R.N., and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Blackburn, R.N.

The aeroplanes were all of an identical type--Shorts--just as those used
against Friedrichshafen were "Avros" and against Düsseldorf "Sopwiths".
They were carried on three very fast Channel steamers that had been
"taken up" by the Admiralty, each of which was commanded by a naval
officer belonging to the air service. It is interesting to note that the
navigating officer of one of these vessels was Mr. Erskine Childers, a
lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the author of that
fascinating novel _The Riddle of the Sands_, which deals most minutely
with the navigation of the German coastal waters between the Elbe and
the Zuyder Zee. The little expedition was convoyed by the _Undaunted_
and the "saucy" _Arethusa_--a pair of new light cruisers which have
proved themselves a most effective type of war-vessel--and a cordon of
submarines and destroyers. Everything had been worked out in detail.


_Drawn by John de G. Bryan_]

On approaching Heligoland, that German Gibraltar with which we so
foolishly parted some years ago, the sea-planes were hoisted out and
sped away on their errand of destruction. It was a misty morning, and on
arrival at Cuxhaven the aviators were much hampered by a fog which lay
in shallow patches over the town and harbour, but it is thought that
they succeeded in destroying a Parseval air-ship in its shed and in
badly knocking about some of the Zeppelin sheds. According to the German
account they also dropped bombs on a gasometer and on some men-of-war
lying in the river, of course "without doing any damage". The fog was,
however, much closer and thicker over the Elbe than over the town, so
that ships were in any case difficult targets.

But while our aviators were carrying out their mission, under fire from
guns of all sorts and kinds, there was a most remarkable fight going on
outside--a battle unprecedented in the annals of warfare.

The aviators left the flotilla sharp at daybreak, and it would seem that
neither they nor their escort were seen. But as the light grew, the
British ships were picked up by the look-outs on Heligoland, and an
instant attack was made upon them by submarines, sea-planes, and a
couple of the redoubtable Zeppelins. But the high speed of the
British vessels and the consummate seamanship and gunnery of their crews
defeated every attempt made to injure them. For three hours they fought
while waiting the return of the aviators. The white flash made by the
German torpedoes in the water was detected by sharp eyes, ships and
boats dodged and turned and cleared the "lurking death" by the "skin of
their teeth". The sea-planes whirred overhead and dropped their deadly
bombs, which exploded in fire, smoke, and fountains of water; but though
they often fell close alongside, none of the flotilla was touched. The
big bluffing Zeppelins also dropped a few, but they soon felt "they
could no longer stay", since the 100-pound shells from the _Arethusa_
and _Undaunted_ were coming closer and closer, and their crews
knew--none better--that one fair hit would mean annihilation. So, as the
official report stated, they "were easily put to flight". None of the
German surface vessels dared to show their noses outside, or, perhaps,
were able to disentangle themselves from their elaborate defences in
time, and after three of the daring raiders had been safely re-embarked
with their machines, the flotilla stood out to sea again, leaving a
detachment of submarines to look out for the remainder. Three of the
four remaining airmen were rescued by this means, though their machines
had to be sunk. The seventh--Flight-Commander Hewlett, son of the famous
novelist--after dropping bombs on some of the German ships, one of
which, at any rate, he felt certain he had hit, lost his way in the fog,
missed the flotilla, and, having trouble with his engine, descended to
the sea not far from Heligoland. Here he was picked up by a Dutch
trawler. He destroyed his engine and sank his machine, and after
experiencing two or three days of very heavy weather on board the
fishing-vessel was landed safely at Ymuiden, in Holland.

Curiously enough, the same day was selected for a somewhat feeble raid
up the Thames by a German Taube, which, apparently, was working
independently. The hostile air-craft was seen, fired on, and, after
harmlessly dropping a bomb here and there, was chased away by three of
our own airmen, and there is reason to believe that its return journey
ended at the bottom of the North Sea.

[Illustration: _Photo. Cribb, Southsea_


Seaplane 151, which was flown by Flight-Commander R. Ross in the raid
which shook up the Germans and gave them a dose of their own medicine.]

The day before the big expedition to Cuxhaven a dashing attack was made
by Squadron-Commander R. B. Davies, R.N., on a hangar which the Germans
had erected at Etterbeek, a suburb of Brussels, probably on the
manoeuvre-ground of the crack Belgian cavalry regiments, the Guides.
This officer travelled on a Maurice-Farman biplane and dropped eight
bombs on a shed which was supposed to contain a Parseval air-ship,
circled round, and dropped four more on his return journey. He was
unable to see exactly what damage he had effected, on account of the
clouds of smoke which arose from the hangar. His machine was recognized
by the citizens of Brussels as belonging to the Allies, and his exploit
created great enthusiasm among them.

At last the German airmen determined to have a raid of their own. A nice
quiet little trip this was to be, out of the way of nasty, unpleasant
guns and Maxims. And so we had the "great Zeppelin raid" on Yarmouth and
on a few quiet out-of-the-way villages in Norfolk, and the slaughter of
men, women, and children. The German aviators, however, did more
respectable work when considerable squadrons of aeroplanes twice
attacked Dunkirk in January, 1915. The first attempt would appear to
have been originally directed against Dover or some other place on this
side the Channel, as sixteen German aeroplanes were sighted hovering
over the Channel. But either by reason of the good look-out kept by our
own airmen and gunners, or on account of unfavourable weather
conditions, the "Boches" changed the direction of their flight and a
dozen of them attacked Dunkirk and dropped about thirty bombs. As usual,
most of the victims were civilians, but Dunkirk was a fortified town and
an important position of the allied armies, so that, but for the fact
that on one occasion the market-place seemed to be selected for an
especial target, we may consider these raids as legitimate military
operations. But the Germans were not able to carry them out at their
leisure. Belgian, French, and British airmen rushed their machines aloft
and engaged and drove off the raiders with the loss of one of their
machines, while a couple of our naval officers flew off and countered at
Zeebrugge, dropping twenty-seven bombs on a couple of submarines and on
the guns mounted on the mole. One of them, Squadron-Commander Davies,
R.N., was attacked during his approach by no less than seven hostile
aeroplanes, but got away from them with a slight wound and delivered his
bombs at their destination.

The following letter, written shortly before, and referring to the first
German raid on Dunkirk, is interesting as showing the consciousness of
superiority in the minds of our airmen:--

"I must tell you something about the beano we had yesterday. It _was_ a
day! Engaged with three Taubes in the morning and in the afternoon--and
I went and dropped 18 bombs and 6 grenades on various works and the
railway at Ostend, with incidentally another scrap with a German
machine. Hope we tickled them up and gave them ---- at Ostend. We've got
'em scared stiff--absolutely. It's a great game entirely. I hope we get
to hear about what damage we did at Ostend, though I'm afraid it's
impossible. I know I got the railway with one bomb--a clinking shot
right in the middle. I tell you they let us have it. The machine was hit
in nine places."[104]

The writer was evidently "keen as mustard", and against such airmen the
German air service could make no headway.

The biggest air raid on record took place on Tuesday, 16th February,
1915, when no less than thirty-four sea-planes and aeroplanes belonging
to the Naval Wing made a combined attack on the German positions on the
Belgian littoral. They were assisted by eight French airmen, who made a
determined attack on the German aeroplane depot at Ghistelles, situated
inland and south of Ostend, thereby preventing the German airmen from
intercepting our main attack. This big "flight"--a regular "aery
navy"--was commanded by the redoubtable Wing-Commander Samson, R.N., who
had made things so hot for the Germans in Belgium that a price of £1000
was set on his head; Wing-Commander Longmore, R.N., and
Squadron-Commanders Porte, R.N., and Courtney and Rathbone of the Royal
Marine Light Infantry.

It was a great performance. Most of the British aeroplanes crossed the
Channel in the teeth of very violent winds, flying in the bitter cold of
high altitudes and obstructed by not infrequent "flurries" of snow. Once
over the water, they flew down over Ostend, Middelkirke, and Zeebrugge.
Bombs were dropped on the German guns hidden from the view of our ships
at all three places: the stations at Ostend and Blankenberghe were
either destroyed or much damaged, as well as the power-station and
mine-sweeping vessels at Zeebrugge and a Zeppelin shed. Unfortunately no
submarines were seen. All this was carried out in the face of a very
heavy gun-fire from every class of weapon that the Germans could get to
bear on our "wild ducks". But all got away without loss of life or limb,
and with only a couple of machines damaged. The celebrated airman
Grahame-White, who served in the expedition as a flight-commander, fell
into the sea off Nieuport, but was rescued by a French vessel. This is
the last big air raid carried out by the Naval Wing up to the time of
writing, and space forbids any mention of the hundred-and-one smaller
exploits carried out by its fliers, either aloft in the air or working
on the ground in their armoured motor-cars. The price set on Commander
Samson's head by the exasperated "Boches" sufficiently indicates what a
thorn in the side they proved to the German desecrators of Belgium and


[102] Editor _Aeronautical Journal_.

[103] Published in _The Sphere_.

[104] _Naval and Military Record._


    "The Fleet of England is her all in all:
     Her fleet is in your hands,
     And in her Fleet her fate."

HAVING now traced the beginnings of the Royal Navy, glanced at some
little-known episodes of the naval history of Great Britain, sketched
the development of our men-of-war and their weapons, and finally
endeavoured to portray--in a very inadequate way, I am afraid--the
gallant men who man them, and some of their deeds in the greatest and
most terrible war that has ever been known in the history of the world,
I have arrived at the time when I must hoist the signal "Permission to
part company" with my readers.

But I cannot leave the subject of this book without some reference to
the part played by the navy in the Dardanelles. The outstanding points
in regard to the navy's participation in these operations were without
doubt the tremendous effect of the monster guns of the _Queen
Elizabeth_, the severe fighting which fell to the lot of the Naval and
Marine Brigades in the attack of the Turkish shore positions, and last,
but not least, the wonderful exploits of our submarines. The
achievements of Lieutenant Norman D. Holbrook, who, in the B11, crept
under five rows of mines and blew up the Turkish ironclad _Messudiyeh_;
and of Lieutenant Commander Martin Nasmith, who, in the E11, penetrated
right into the Sea of Marmora, torpedoing transports and creating a
scare in Constantinople itself, are examples of that brilliant daring
which has been exemplified again and again during the war.

The operations against the Dardanelles forts opened on the 3rd November
last year, when an allied British and French squadron bombarded those
nearest to the entrance. Operations were then practically suspended
until the 19th February, when the allied fleets returned to the attack
in greater force, and made a resolute attempt to break down the defence
of the narrow waterway leading to Constantinople. The outer forts having
been silenced, the _Queen Elizabeth_, with four other battleships,
entered the Dardanelles and bombarded the defences of what are known as
the Narrows. But they were unable to advance farther, partly on account
of the heavy mobile batteries of the Turco-Germans, but more especially
from the great danger of floating mines and of torpedoes launched from
stations on shore. These submarine weapons began to take heavy toll of
the allied ships. The British battleships _Irresistible_, _Ocean_, and
_Goliath_ were all sunk--the two first on the same day. With them, too,
went down the French battleship _Bouvet_, and, later on, the _Triumph_
and _Majestic_ succumbed to torpedoes said to have been fired from one
of two submarines which are supposed to have made their way to the scene
of action from Germany. Space forbids any further account of these
operations, which are still being continued; but, in order to give some
idea of what they were like, I cannot do better than quote from a letter
just written to his chum by a midshipman on board one of the ships
engaged in the Straits, so vivid an account does he give of the fighting
as it presented itself to his eyes:

"Since we have been out we have been in four or five big actions and a
large number of small ones. I think the hottest one that this ship
personally has been in was on Sunday, ----. This ship and one other were
ordered to reduce, or attempt to reduce, two of the most powerful forts
going. The action commenced just when you--if you were a good boy--were
going to church. As usual we cleared for 'immediate action' on the way
in. I must say before the action I felt rather as if I was going to the
dentist to have a bad tooth out, but once the show started and we were
fighting I felt as happy as a lark, despite the infernal noise and

"My action station is in No. -- turret, two -- guns. I wear the
officer's telepads, and have to sing out all the orders, ranges, &c.,
that come down from the controls, and work all the voice pipes, &c. If
the lieutenant of the turret gets knocked out I am supposed to take
charge. The forts opened a heavy fire as soon as we were in range, and
as we were the leading ship we had the concentrated fire of _both_ forts
on us for the first quarter of an hour, one fort shifting to the second
ship later. The water round both ships soon became like an animated
moving fountain, with the ships as the centre, from the splashes made by
the falling shell, most of the splashes reaching as high as the foretop
(about 110 feet). We really had a most miraculous time, considering the
large amount of shells fired at us and the comparatively small number of
hits we received. Also the way we managed to avoid getting any
casualties was a miracle, some of the men having most marvellous
escapes. However, we let them have it pretty hot as well, and it was
absolutely ripping to feel the ship lurch and stop on her course as we
let rip broadside after broadside at them. After two and a half hours
the forts ceased firing altogether, and we drew off, having done our

"About the most exciting show I have had myself was when I had to go
away sweeping up the Straits one night in a picket-boat. Our objective
was to locate and blow up an electric cable which was connected to a
long row of mines at a certain point in the Dardanelles. We started off
at about 7.30 p.m., and it was an absolutely pitch-black night. There
were five other boats with us, and of course we could show absolutely no
lights. I was steering the boat, and it was hard to see anything at
all.... We arrived at about 10 p.m., and at the position for commencing
the sweep at about 11.15. The Turks had a lot of beastly search-lights
going. The first sweep up they did not discover us, but the second time
they fairly caught us and let rip with all sorts of things--Nordenfeldts,
rifles, pom-poms, and a few howitzers. It was beastly uncanny hearing
the shells shrieking and whizzing about in the still air of the
night--much worse than in daytime. However, a picket-boat is a very
difficult thing to hit even at the best of times, and in a pitch-black
night it wants a lot of luck despite all the search-lights. As soon as
they started firing I commenced zigzagging all over the place, and the
nearest we had was about ten yards away, although a lot of rifle bullets
went whistling overhead. I was never more pleased than when we turned
round and started back to the fleet. We blew up something, but whether
it was the cable or not I don't know. The boat next to us got into the
middle of a bunch of mines, and we had to stand by her; however, by
great luck she managed to clear, blowing up two mines with rifles. We
got back to the ship about 5 a.m., after quite an exciting night. I
really thought I looked quite ferocious that night; life-saving
waistcoat, overcoat, sea-boots, muffler, a huge revolver with 60 rounds
of ammunition, both my pockets full of sandwiches, and a Thermos flask
full of cocoa, which I kept on spilling all over myself in the dark.

"We have been covering the landing and supporting the advance of the
troops. It is a pretty strenuous time, as we are at action stations on
and off from 5 or 6 a.m. till 7 or 8 p.m., with a night watch to keep as
well, so we are kept pretty busy. We also live in a constant state of
'immediate action'."

But as it had been decided to supplement the naval attack by the landing
of an army, a disembarkation was effected towards the end of April at
five points on the Gallipoli Peninsula and one on the Asiatic shore. The
latter was carried out by the French, but it was only intended to be a
temporary measure to assist the British landings on the western shore.
The troops, which were composed of British, Australians, and New
Zealanders, effected their landing in the face of the most tremendous
opposition, making their way through masses of wire entanglements under
a terrible fire from all kinds of weapons. Their losses were very great,
but they effected their object and established themselves on shore, and
set about a series of operations against the Turkish positions which are
still continuing. The navy's share was to cover the landing with the
fire of its big guns, and to transport the soldiers to the shore. Its
work was magnificent. The Turkish entrenchments were plastered with
high-explosive shell, while the bluejackets and marines employed in the
actual business of landing the troops behaved with a coolness, energy,
and gallantry which has never been surpassed. Nor must it be forgotten
that the navy was represented in the landing force by the newly-formed
Naval Division, under the command of Brigadier-General Paris of the
Royal Marine Artillery, consisting of several battalions of the Royal
Marines and a number of others formed from the R.N.V.R. and other
reserves, and distinguished one from the other by bearing the names of
celebrated naval commanders--such as "The Drake Battalion". These had
all been organized and trained by the staff of the Royal Marines under
the Adjutant-General, Sir William Nicholls, and were commanded by naval,
marine, or in some cases army officers. As for their work in the
campaign, we have, so far, little or no information. Beyond extensive
mention in the casualty lists, the press seems to have overlooked them.
But their very losses prove that they have been well to the front, and
we may be sure that they have given a very good account of themselves.

Everywhere the Royal Navy has proved itself worthy, nay, more than
worthy, of its gallant ancestors and their gallant deeds. To quote Lord
Charles Beresford, in a letter written to the London Chamber of
Commerce: "The brilliant work of the Navy in clearing the North Sea and
providing safety for the transport to France of their comrades in the
sister service will be gratefully appreciated by the country. Such work
could only have been effective by superb organization, loyalty to duty,
and discipline, requiring not only caution but courage. The watching
fleets of the present day have none of the charm and change to occupy
their mind which accompanied the sailing-ship navy, making and
shortening sail, trimming sails, tacking, and wearing, necessary for
cruising on the look-out. There were no air-vessels, mines, submarines,
or torpedoes in the old days, no under-water warfare. The strain upon
officers and men of the sea-going fleet in these days is terrific:
nothing to occupy their thoughts as in the days of sailing-ships."

But with all this we know what the navy has done, and we know that it
will never be found wanting. Only let us all try to emulate the spirit
of thoroughness and devotion to duty which has made our navy what it is;
let us all try to "do our bit", however small, and, in those inspired
words of our great poet Shakespeare which we should always bear in

    "Nought shall England rue,
     If England to herself do prove but true".

    _At the Villafield Press, Glasgow, Scotland_

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Obvious punctuation errors were corrected.

The text uses both warships and war-ships. This, and other varied
hyphenation, was retained.

The text uses both Zeebrügge and Zeebrugge.

The remaining corrections made are listed below.

Page 6 and also on actual illustration near 192, the hyphen was removed
from BLUE-JACKETS to reflect the many uses in the text.

Page 44, "Mont-joie's" changed to "Mont-Joie's" (of the _Mont-Joie's_

Page 105, "intollerable" changed to "intolerable" (too intolerable to
suffer the)

Page 107, "ther" changed to "their" (written over to their)

Page 130, "Greite" changed to "Griete" (_Dulle Griete_ or "Mad Marjery")

Page 172, "fforged" changed to "forged" (forged cases to be shot)

Page 182, "cassion" changed to "caisson" (caisson at least 17)

Page 238, illustration caption, "Blucher" changed to "Blücher" (fate of
the _Blücher_ in)

Page 245, "markmanship" changed to "marksmanship" (was the marksmanship
of her)

Page 295, footnote 103, number of footnote added to citation. Footnote
text: (Published in _The Sphere_)

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The British Navy Book" ***

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