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Title: From Snotty to Sub
Author: Forester, Wolstan Beaumont Charles Weld
Language: English
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FROM SNOTTY TO SUB.



THE LATEST WAR BOOKS


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        Cr. 8vo. 6s. net


London: William Heinemann



FROM SNOTTY
TO SUB.

BY

THE AUTHORS OF "FROM DARTMOUTH
TO THE DARDANELLES"



LONDON


WILLIAM HEINEMANN



_London: William Heinemann, 1918_



TO
"FREDDIE"



FOREWORD


In the writing of this little book so many difficulties have arisen
that, but for the repeated requests of a generous public for further
news of the Midshipman whose earlier adventures are recorded in "From
Dartmouth to the Dardanelles," we had been tempted to defer publication
until the advent of that longed-for time which "Tommy" speaks of as
"Good old après la guerre!"

Naval officers on active service are not allowed to keep diaries,
and this narrative has been compiled solely from rough notes of
conversations with my son, hurriedly set down on the rare occasions
during the last two and a half years when we have had the good fortune
to be together. Much of the material eventually available we have
omitted from motives of discretion. Still more has been eliminated
by drastic but absolutely necessary censorship. What remains makes
but a slender volume. Nevertheless I trust it will prove not wholly
uninteresting to all those unknown friends in England, Australia,
India, New Zealand, and last, but by no means least, the United States
of America, who have taken the trouble to write me such exceedingly
kind letters in respect of the former book. Let me here gratefully
assure them that their sympathy and the generous impulse which prompted
its expression has done _much_ to help me through years naturally
heavy-laden with anxiety and suspense.

Thanks, above all, to my American correspondents: theirs was a
difficult and delicate position in view of the loyalty they owed to
their country's neutrality; but while yet certain issues were in doubt
their letters seemed to whisper: "Only wait—trust us—we shall yet be
with you in deed as we are with you in heart."

To-day that prophecy is gloriously fulfilled. Sacrifice and sacrament
are consummated: the Stars and Stripes are unfurled in the cause of
true liberty, and Old Glory waves side by side with the banners of the
Allies! Who dares doubt the end?


A word of explanation as to the title of the book may be desired by
readers unacquainted with naval slang. "Snotty" is a dreadful word of,
I am sure, libellous origin! But it is pure navalese. "Middy" is not a
Service term at all, and the curly-haired "Middy" so dear to writers of
fiction and comic opera has no existence in fact—he is a regular "Mrs.
Harris"!

For all their youth, our Snotties are men in the best sense of the
word, and right loyally do they cling to every tradition—written or
unwritten—of that splendid Service to which it is their pride and
privilege to belong.

      His Mother



CONTENTS


CHAP.                                        PAGE

    I. Of a Picnic and a Tragedy                1

   II. Of a Hospital Ship and Sick Leave       12

  III. Fog                                     21

   IV. Naval Theatricals                       30

    V. The Battle of Jutland                   44

   VI. "And Afterwards ... What Then?"         66

  VII. Of Various Incidents                    70

 VIII. Submarines                              80

   IX. Of Examinations                         89

    X. Of Shadow and Sunshine                 110

   XI. Of My First Experiences as a Sub.      120



CHAPTER I

OF A PICNIC AND A TRAGEDY


On August 26, 1915, I went up to the Admiralty for medical survey,
was passed fit for active service, and on September 1 I received
my appointment to H.M.S. _C——_, a super-Dreadnought in the Grand
Fleet. Although I knew her to be a very fine ship, I was nevertheless
disappointed, as I had been hoping to again see service in a T.B.D.—the
few weeks I had spent in one of those craft in the Dardanelles after my
last ship was sunk having convinced me that the life was far freer and
more exciting than that in a big ship.

However, the Powers had decreed otherwise, and so on September 2 I left
home and the same night went straight through from King's Cross to
Inverness. Arrived in that town I duly reported myself to the Senior
Naval Officer at the Admiralty Office, and was told to return at 9
A.M. the next morning. I thereupon took the first train I could catch
to Dingwall, and went up to call upon some friends at Tulloch. I had
the good luck to find them at home, and they very kindly invited me to
stay the night and so saved me from a dull evening alone at an hotel.
I spent a very cheery time with Mr. and Mrs. D——, and the next morning
got up at 7 A.M., had an early breakfast, and motored down to the
station and caught the 7.35 train back to Inverness. On my reporting at
9 o'clock to the S.N.O. he gave me a railway pass to ——, and told me to
proceed thither by the 11.15. The name of my destination it would not,
at this time, be permissible for me to mention. Enough that in company
with some other N.O.'s with whom I had travelled I eventually reached
it, and the mail steamer took us alongside H.M.S. ——, the Fleet mail
ship, where we waited until one by one my fellow-travellers were taken
off by various odd craft—varying from drifters to picket-boats—which
conveyed them to their respective ships. I was the last left aboard
the —— and lunched there—and a very nasty lunch it was too! At about
2.39 a drifter came alongside to fetch the mails for the First Battle
Squadron, and having transferred myself and gear to her she took me
to H.M.S. ——, alongside which ship she remained for a good half-hour
before a picket-boat from my new ship turned up, called for her mail,
and conveyed me to my final destination.

On my arrival I found coaling just finished and washing down still
in progress. On my way forward to report to the officer of the watch
I met some Snotties just going ashore, and among their number I
was glad to recognize several of my old term mates at Osborne and
Dartmouth, with whom I exchanged greetings. After I had duly reported
myself, the Snotty of the watch showed me the way down to the gunroom,
where he left me to make the acquaintance of some half-dozen of my
new messmates, who, not being on duty, were variously occupied in
"caulking" (a naval slang term for dozing), reading, writing letters,
etc.

 _The —— boasts a fairly large and roomy gunroom. Down one side of it
 is the long narrow mess-table covered with a red and black cloth,
 and on the left centre a stove with an open fireplace, before which
 is placed a settee sacred to the use of the senior members of the
 mess, and woe betide the presumptuous junior who ventures to make use
 of it without express permission. True, it is a battered piece of
 furniture, having suffered severely in many a guest-night "rag," and
 its springs recall the story of the British matron who, after seating
 herself majestically in a Paris fiacre, jumped up with the agonized
 cry: "Cochon! Cochon! Arrêté! Arrêté! Sortez-moi! Vos printemps sont
 cassé!" Nevertheless it is symbolical of the privileges of seniority,
 and as such to be regarded and treated with respect. Almost equally
 sacrosanct are the two deep arm-chairs flanking the fireplace; the
 remainder of the furniture consists of a motley collection of other
 chairs, a sideboard in which the Mids keep their private stores of
 jam, potted meat, etc., some hanging bookcases, and a funny little old
 piano. The whole is lighted by three large scuttles or port-holes._

Presently, his watch over, the Senior Midshipman came down again and I
went with him to see the Commander—commonly known as "The Bloke." After
asking me a few questions about my previous experiences, he took me to
see the Captain, who received me very kindly and also inquired about
my active service adventures. These interviews over, I returned to the
gunroom, where I was told the name of my servant, and how to get hold
of him when wanted. I was given the usual twenty-four hours in which to
"sling my hammock," or, in other words, settle down to the customary
routine, and I was not expected to enter on my new duties until the
following day. So I sent for the bandsman who had been told off to
valet me and arranged with him where my gear, etc., should be stowed.
Tea in the gunroom followed, after which the Senior Snotty showed me
round the ship.

That night I slept with five others in the Chief of Staff's cabin,
which, not being in use at the moment, had been allotted to us as a
school place and sleeping apartment.

The next morning dawned calm and misty. The others went up at 6.45
to turret drill in accordance with usual routine, but as I was still
"slinging my hammock" I was not required to turn out until 7, when I
repaired to the bathroom, had a bath, dressed, and subsequently joined
my messmates at breakfast. I may here admit that I felt a bit "out of
it" at first, as most of the mess had been working together for the
best part of a year, and the position of a newly joined Snotty is not
unlike that of a new boy at school. However, I soon settled down and
adapted myself to the rigid discipline prevailing.

After breakfast we got under way and steamed over to the northern shore
to carry out some gunnery tests.

In the afternoon I went ashore with some of the others and visited the
little town of ——, which is the only approach to civilization of which
this wild and remote spot can boast.

An account of the following weeks' routine would be of little
interest to any but Service readers, and the majority of these will
be already but too intimately acquainted with the same. The monotony
was pleasantly broken on the fourteenth, on which day the Captain gave
a picnic to the gunroom. We all, with the exception of the Acting
Sub-Lieutenant, who had to keep the afternoon watch, "cleaned" into
picnic rig, which consisted of sea-boots, flannel trousers, sweaters,
and various forms of weird and unorthodox headgear. ("Cleaning" is
naval phraseology for shifting and is always used even when the said
shift is into coaling rig.) Having supplied ourselves with large
quantities of cigarettes and tobacco, as well as pistols and shot-guns,
fishing tackle, etc., we embarked in the cutter, in which the hampers
provided by the Captain had already been placed, and so, at about 1
P.M., set sail for a point on the shore previously decided upon. As
soon as we were well clear of the ship, those who had fishing tackle
put out their lines, while the rest settled down in the bottom of
the boat, and pipes and cigarettes were soon in full blast. Several
mackerel were caught on the way over, and half an hour after leaving
the ship we grounded. Then every one jumped out, and we anchored the
cutter in the shallow water by the shore.

Scattering in various directions we ragged about until tea-time. Some
tried their hand at tickling trout in a small stream; some bathed;
others set up targets of bottles and practised shooting. When the time
came to open the hampers it was found that Captain ——'s hospitality
knew no bounds. They proved to contain sandwiches of every sort
and description, also cakes, sardines, chocolates, and an unending
variety of other delicacies, as well as some tins of superlatively
good cigarettes such as rarely fall to the lot of the notoriously
impecunious midshipman.... Such a blow-out was not conducive to any
more active exercise, and most of us relapsed into the slumber of
repletion.

At 4.30 we began to pack up, and by 5 had collected all our gear into
the cutter, weighed anchor, and set sail for the ship. More mackerel
were caught on the way back, and we eventually drew alongside just as
the Acting Sub. was setting off in the picket-boat with confidential
papers for sundry ships in the Fleet.

We gave him a commiserating hail, for the wind had shifted to an evilly
inspired quarter, and it looked like being rather a dirty night, and
then we went light-heartedly below to have our baths and shift into
proper uniform.... How little we dreamed then that the joyous memory of
the Captain's picnic was destined to be linked for ever in our minds
with the saddest of tragedies.... We never saw poor De B. again....
While he was away a heavy sea got up, and when the boat drew alongside
again he was found to be missing. All the coxswain could tell was
that half-way through the return trip and when about a mile and a half
from our ship, he had come up to speak to him for a few minutes, and
then, as he (the coxswain) supposed, returned to the stern-sheets.
It can only be assumed that a sudden lurch of the boat caused him to
miss his footing and so fall overboard. Of course in heavy sea-boots
and overcoat he would have little chance in a roughish sea. It was
pitch-dark, and no cry was heard, and the crew never even suspected
that anything was wrong until the boat came alongside and it was found
that he had disappeared.

All our searchlights were immediately switched on, and we made a signal
to the neighbouring cruisers, telling them to switch on theirs and
sweep the sea all around. All boats were called away, and a minute
search was instituted, but it was of no avail, and at midnight had to
be reluctantly abandoned as hopeless. Next morning boats were sent out
to sweep for his body and search the neighbouring shores; but no trace
was discovered until a week later, when H.M.S. —— picked up his cap.

 _The picket-boats, in which so much essential work is done, have
 neither stanchions nor rails, and the space between the top of the
 cabin and the side is so narrow that if there is a bit of a sea on the
 chance of such an accident as happened to poor De B. is obvious—though
 naturally the Service never gives it a thought—it is all in the day's
 or the night's work. But should these lines ever be read by his
 people, let them for their comfort remember that he died for England
 as surely as if he had passed in the crash and roar of battle ...
 and his shipmates hold him for all time in honoured and regretful
 memory...._

 "On him be the Peace and the Blessing; for he was great-hearted."



CHAPTER II

OF A HOSPITAL SHIP AND SICK LEAVE


Three days after that picnic and its sad ending we weighed and returned
to the winter anchorage. Of the weeks that followed there is little
to tell, as of the few incidents which broke the monotony of ordinary
routine discretion forbids mention.

Some time in November we proceeded to ——, which same, although a very
one-horse place in ordinary circumstances, was a step beyond the more
northerly district in point of civilization. But we had only been
there about two weeks when I was knocked out by a chill which refused
to yield to ordinary remedies. My previous winter, spent mainly in
tropical climes, had rather unfitted me for the semi-arctic conditions
obtaining in the North Sea.

After a couple of days spent in the dignified seclusion of a cabin,
the Fleet Surgeon packed me off to the hospital ship _China_. This was
real jam, for I was not so ill but that I was able to highly appreciate
the comfort and luxury provided by a paternal Government for the sick
N.O. Moreover, the Captain of the hospital ship proved to be an old
acquaintance who had often entertained me and my former messmates on
his ship when she and the _Goliath_ were lying together at Mombasa a
year before. I was put into the officers' ward, which was empty at
this time, and the nurses were most awfully kind and attentive. One
does appreciate feminine ministrations after living for so long in the
exclusive society of the mere man.

It was with great glee that from my luxurious idleness I watched the
Fleet depart once more for the northern base, hugging the knowledge
that the medical powers had decreed that I was to go south in a few
days' time.

On December 2 I said "good-bye" to the staff of the _China_ and
embarked in a drifter for the beach. On arrival I walked to the station
and there waited for the ambulance with the doctor and the other
patients. When they turned up, I strolled up and down with Dr. —— for
about three-quarters of an hour until the hospital train came in.
This train was magnificently appointed, with big coaches—rather like
Pullman-cars, fitted up with swinging cots. The officers' sleeping
compartment consisted of one of these cars divided by a curtain
from the men's half, and containing about six cots. For some four
hours—except when the two medical officers attached to the train staff
came in to bear me company—I had this compartment to myself. When the
train stopped at Queensferry I was joined by a Sub-Lieutenant R.N. and
a Sub. of the R.N.R.—both "sitting cases," i.e. not very seriously ill.
As soon as we got under way again, dinner was served, and about 9 P.M.
we all turned in. Personally I slept very soundly, only waking up once
at some station—York, I think—where a gunner who was a "stretcher case"
was put aboard.

At eight next morning we arrived in London, where we stopped
for some hours, and from whence we proceeded to Chatham. Here a
Lieut.-Commander—also a "sitting case"—was added to our party, and at
four o'clock in the afternoon we started back to London again, and
there we once more spent a long time waiting for—Heaven knows what! On
the following day we arrived at Devonport, where the Lieut.-Commander
left us. By this time the journey had begun to assume the vague
irresponsibility of a dream, and, as in a dream, there seemed to be
no reason why it should ever come to an end. We seemed destined to
just go on—and on—and on—wandering around the various railway systems
of England and Scotland, and stopping aimlessly for an indefinite
period at whatever spot caught the engine-driver's errant fancy! But
it really did not matter, for it was very warm and comfortable in the
train, so—let the dream go on!

However, it ended at Portsmouth at 6.30 P.M. on the third day of my
journeying. Portsmouth was my final destination as well as that of all
the other cases in the train. Large ambulance cars were in waiting, and
these eventually deposited us at Haslar Hospital about seven o'clock.
Here our first interview was with the matron, then we proceeded to the
doctor on duty for the day, who took down particulars of our respective
maladies. Dinner in the officers' mess followed, after which we again
saw the matron, who then told us in which cabins we were billeted.
Mine was situated in B Block, and a long way from the officers' mess,
and so, as the R.N.R. Sub. who had been one of my fellow-travellers
was also located in that block, as soon as I had settled my gear in my
cabin I went along to his and smoked and chatted with him for about
half an hour before turning in.

Next morning I had my breakfast in bed, and had to remain there until
I had been visited by the doctor, after which I got up. By the time I
was dressed my spirits had drooped to a very low ebb. The cabin was
a most comfortless apartment, sparsely furnished and with its only
window giving on to a gloomy enclosed courtyard where the rain pattered
dismally down from a leaden square of sky. I felt as though I was in
prison "doing time" for some sordid and wholly uninteresting crime.

However, about four o'clock came a joyful surprise in the shape of a
telegram from my mother, saying that she was coming over to see me
and would arrive next day. On the moment depression vanished, for I
felt certain that she would devise some means to relieve the tedium of
my confinement. Sure enough, as soon as she arrived she interviewed
the doctor and soon persuaded him that I was quite well enough to go
home, and after she had signed the requisite form undertaking to be
responsible for any further medical treatment I might require, she
returned to Portsmouth, where I joined her on the following day.

That night, December 8, we crossed over to our island, and I
recollect a rather funny episode on that journey. Some swollen-headed
Jack-in-office in the passport department at Southampton said he
could not pass me because I had no document from the hospital
authorities showing that I was on sick leave. The Lord only knows if
the fool thought I was a deserter, or if he was merely a confirmed
obstructionist making trouble for the fun of the thing. Anyway he
was sullenly obstinate, entrenched in his "little brief authority,"
and declared that he could not and would not pass me! It looked like
being a pretty muddle, for it was 10 P.M. and raining cats and dogs.
Then mother came to the rescue with a perfectly gorgeous piece of
"bluff." Declaring that she had not the smallest intention of remaining
indefinitely at Southampton, or of going on without me, she calmly
requested him to ring up the _Admiralty_, when she would get him orders
from headquarters. He could not have looked more amazed if she had
demanded a trunk call to Heaven. But she was as firm as if she knew
she held a royal flush to his pair of knaves, and so he hurriedly
climbed down, and said he would take the responsibility of passing me,
and we proceeded in triumph aboard the L.S.W.R.'s steamer which was
lying alongside the quay, and so reached home the next morning without
further incident.

 _I may here remark that I was perfectly certain that the man was
 wrong, for if any such document had been really required, the hospital
 authorities would have provided it. The Navy does not neglect detail._

I had been granted sick leave to extend over Christmas, which was a
tremendous stroke of luck, but the time passed all too quickly, and on
January 4, 1916, we went to London for my medical survey. I was passed
fit on the 5th, and expected to have to rejoin at once. However, to my
intense surprise and delight, I ran into one of our Snotties in Bond
Street that afternoon, and he told me that our ship was in dock and
they had all been granted ten days' leave, so I had that extra time in
London, where we did some theatres and enjoyed ourselves royally.



CHAPTER III

FOG

    When the water's countenance
    Blurs 'twixt glance and second glance;
    When our tattered smokes forerun,
    Ashen 'neath a silvered sun;
    When the curtain of the haze
    Shuts upon our helpless ways—
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea;
        _Libera nos Dominie_.

    .     .     .     .     .     .

    When the treble thickness spread
    Swallows up our next ahead;
    When her siren's frightened whine
    Shows her sheering out of line;
    When, her passage undiscerned
    We must turn where she has turned,
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea:
        _Libera nos Dominie_.

              KIPLING


It was on January 15, 1916, that I finally rejoined my ship. She was
then in floating dock at ——. That night the dock was flooded, and next
morning we warped out and proceeded to our billet in the harbour.
About a week later we left ——, and once more the northern mists closed
down upon us.

The deadly monotony of the work of the Grand Fleet will probably never
be fully realized by any but those whose fate it was to wait day after
day, and week after week, for the longed-for encounter with the enemy.
Only that ever-present hope carried us through that dreary second
winter of war. An occasional interval at sea for manœuvres was the
sole relief, and such was our cussedness that even these were greeted
by most of us with moans and groans, for we were reduced to a state of
irritability and boredom which only the prospect of "action" or "leave"
could mitigate. Perhaps, however, to the non-Service reader, an account
of one of these periodical trips may not be too uninteresting.

After a period of swinging at anchor at the northern base, we received
the customary signals preparatory to going to sea, and about 6 P.M.
on the same day we weighed and proceeded in the wake of the Second
Battle Squadron. That particular month I had been detailed for a course
of engineering instruction and consequently did not have to take any
night watches—a stroke of luck since night watch in mid-winter in the
North Sea is not a job to be coveted by even the most enthusiastic.
The weather was quite calm and no change seemed imminent, although
it is not really possible to tell in these latitudes what conditions
may obtain from hour to hour. As a proof whereof, the next morning
showed a rapidly falling barometer, accompanied by a rising sea, which
increased to such an extent that it was not possible to carry out any
exercises with the Fleet in the forenoon. However, we held on our
course in hopes that the weather would mend, but by lunch-time the sea
was running so high that we were forced to turn for home. The main deck
was already six inches deep in water, in which floated the usual medley
of debris: the gunroom skylight was leaking like a sieve; and even the
engine-rooms and boiler-rooms held their unwelcome quota of sea water,
which poured down the ventilating shafts.

At one time the Flagship made a signal for all destroyers to close in
on her, and of course a rumour started—as rumours will—that she had
been mined or torpedoed. But it was happily a totally false alarm, and
her signal was only a precautionary measure to enable the C.-in-C. to
keep an eye on the small craft, which were making very heavy weather of
it indeed. Even our 20,000-ton Dreadnought was creaking and groaning
under the impact of the waves, and fenders and life-buoys had broken
loose and were sweeping back and forth across the decks, and crashing
against the turrets and superstructures.

Suddenly, in the middle of the afternoon, a destroyer sighted a mine
and hoisted Numeral I flag. (It must be understood that when signals
such as these are mentioned, the numbers given are fictitious, as
for obvious reasons we cannot give the correct hoists.) Now Numeral
I pendant denotes a mine in sight, but Numeral I flag denotes "Flag
officers have time for the next meal." ... Of course the signalman in
his haste had muddled his flags, and had intended hoisting Numeral I
pendant, but "Flags" (the Flag Lieutenant), seeing in the incident a
momentary chance of lightening the prevailing boredom and gloom, at
once asked the Admiral's permission to inquire sarcastically by signal
whether the meal referred to was lunch or tea, and the destroyer's
signalman, in obvious confusion, hauled down his signal and substituted
the correct hoist. The C.-in-C. then detailed the light cruiser —— to
go and sink the mine. It being now some distance astern, she turned
16 points to starboard and steamed towards it. We all watched for the
explosion, and as time went on wondered why she had not opened fire.
She seemed to be circling round it; but the mystery was explained when
her searchlights flashed out the message: "Supposed mine is a Reindeer
buoy." She was then ordered to resume station.

Trivial enough, I admit! But oh, you readers who imagine the sailor's
life in war-time as one continuous round of blood-curdling excitement,
try to realize something of its almost unmitigated dullness—a dullness
so overwhelming that even such an incident as the above is welcomed as
a slight relief.

In the evening the violence of the storm abated, and when I woke the
next morning there was scarcely any motion on the ship at all. When I
went up on deck I found that there was a thick haze on the water which
almost hid the ships on either side of us. By ten o'clock this fog had
so increased in density that it completely blotted out our next ahead,
and, to his great disgust, the Snotty of the watch was ordered forward
to the fo'c'sle head to keep lookout. The fog continued to thicken
until the bridge was scarcely visible from the eyes of the ship. (The
eyes of the ship means right forward in the bow.) On all sides the
sirens kept up a dismal wail of warning. Presently the Snotty of the
watch noticed that we were passing along the bubbling wake of another
ship which must have been perilously close, and shortly afterwards the
stern of a destroyer loomed ahead and scarcely a hundred yards away.
Through his megaphone the lookout reported: "Destroyer right ahead."
We instantly slowed down and at the same moment the T.B.D., seeing her
danger, put her helm hard over and rapidly drew away into the mist to
starboard.

The fog did not clear away until the afternoon, but we anchored at our
base late that evening, and coaling was soon in progress.

Of all the dangers and inconveniences with which sailors have to
contend, fog is perhaps the most trying and exasperating. I remember
an occasion when Campbell and I were bidden to dine in H.M.S. ——, and
as "Torps" happened also to be dining out, though in another ship, we
managed to get a steamboat to convey us to our respective destinations,
but "The Bloke" could not give us one to bring us back. We therefore
arranged with various other Snotties that a gunroom whaler's crew
should come and pick us all up about 9.30. As we were the junior
officers they called first at the ship where we had been dining,
and came inboard for a few minutes for a drink and a cigarette. We
eventually shoved off about 9.40, arriving alongside the ship which was
entertaining "Torps" some five minutes later. As he was not quite ready
we went inboard for more drinks and smokes. When we finally embarked
for our own ship we found that a thick fog had come down. The inference
that will here be drawn by the evil-minded, if logical, is incorrect!
The fog in question was _not_ in our heads, but very much upon the
water! In a very few seconds H.M.S. —— had vanished from our sight and
we found ourselves shut in by a dense white wall, with nothing but
the fog-bells to guide us. After pulling hard for what seemed like a
considerable time we sighted a ship dimly outlined upon our starboard
bow, but she proved to be not, as we had fondly expected, our happy
home, but the hospitable vessel we had left ten minutes before. So we
turned our boat round, carefully took our bearings, and set out anew.
After another quarter of an hour or so we sighted H.M.S. ——, but she
was not our objective either; and so the game of blind man's buff went
on until there really seemed no reason to suppose that we should ever
succeed in finding our own ship. Finally, however, by dint of strenuous
effort, sheer pertinacity, and a blind clutching to the skirts of happy
chance, we made her at last, after more than an hour of heavy pulling.

"Torps," in common gratitude, invited the weary crew into the wardroom
and administered refreshment in various forms, after which we repaired
to our own quarters and thankfully turned in.



CHAPTER IV

NAVAL THEATRICALS


His Majesty's ship ——, suddenly seized with the hospitable desire to
entertain her sister ships, decided forthwith on theatricals. Nothing
so banal as any already familiar piece by a "pukka" playwright was
contemplated.... A combination of fertile naval brains produced the
book of the words crammed with topical and cryptic allusions; the
music was borrowed from the latest comic operas and revues, and the
actors were recruited mainly from the ranks of junior officers. Then
in due course the following signal appeared in our gunroom: "Captain
and Officers of H.M.S. —— request the pleasure of the company of Flag
Officers, Captains, and Officers of the 4th B.S. at their Theatricals
on board _Gourko_ at 2000 (8 P.M.) to-night. Boats to be alongside at
2130 (11.30)."

_Gourko_ was the ship in which all such entertainments were held, and
the above was the usual form of invitation issued to the Grand Fleet.

Accordingly at 7.45 that evening two "G's" sounded, indicating that our
boat was ready alongside to take such of us as were off duty to the
show in question. About a dozen were able to avail themselves of the
invite. The night was cloudy and a stiff breeze was blowing when we
embarked. It was not at all the sort of evening when dwellers on the
"beach" would be tempted to set out in open picket-boats to witness an
amateur theatrical performance, but from long experience the Navy is
inured to climatic conditions which would prove decidedly damping to
the enthusiasm of their brethren ashore. As Hamlet says: "The play's
the thing"—and Gott strafe the weather!

In about five minutes we drew alongside the gangway of H.M.S. ——, and
having boarded her with due ceremony we were escorted down to her
gunroom and there hospitably entertained with cigarettes and liquid
refreshment until the time appointed for the fun to commence. Then we
were piloted across to the _Gourko_, which was lying alongside. The
forward hold of this ship serves as a theatre for the Fleet. A stage is
erected at its after end, immediately in front of which are placed the
arm-chairs sacred to Flag Officers and Captains. On the left is a small
dais occupied by the band, and behind the arm-chairs are several tiers
of very hard benches on which the less exalted ranks are accommodated.

When we arrived, the auditorium was already more than half filled with
N.O.'s of varied ranks, and the atmosphere was thick with tobacco
smoke. The band was playing selections from a well-known revue, and a
confused buzz and drone of conversation greeted our entrance.

As soon as the Admirals and four-stripers (Captains) had taken their
seats, the band stopped playing and the curtain went up revealing the
stage occupied by an agitated Lieutenant (he was a Midshipman in real
life) pacing up and down what apparently represented the smoking-room
of a very second-rate hotel, and anathematizing the exploits of a
German spy, who, it would seem, laboured under the appalling cognomen
of Stinkenstein!

Presently the Lieutenant was joined by his sweetheart—a lady designed
to be beautiful—but the illusion was somewhat marred by the deep
bass voice and blue shaven chin of the Snotty who had been cast for
the part—presumably with more regard for his histrionic ability than
for his physical fitness. In the best traditional stage manner the
distracted lover confides his troubles to the sympathetic ear of the
beauteous (?) maiden, with the additional information that he must
shortly leave her and vanish once more behind the northern mists.
Thereupon she informs him of her fixed determination to follow him, if
needs be to the world's end—and in the meantime to obtain a position as
V.A.D. in the officers' tea pavilion situated on one of the islands at
the northern base! He greets this heroic resolve with a singular lack
of enthusiasm, but the lady is not to be turned from her purpose, so
they proceed to sing a highly sentimental duet, after which they leave
the stage with arms lovingly intertwined.

Enter from the wings a smartly dressed marine, who informs the audience
that he is on ten days' leave—and then from the left centre advances
a lady's maid. They, too, prove to be lovers and promptly fall into
each other's embrace. More sentimental business follows, until they are
driven from the stage by a number of sandwichmen, who sing an amusing
part-song about "Jenks's Vegetable Compound." Enter their foreman,
who bustles them off to work, and the marine and lady's maid reappear
and resume their amatory intercourse. They are soon again disturbed,
this time by the Lieutenant's fiancée, who is also the lady's maid's
mistress. Covered with confusion, the marine endeavours to hide under
a quite inadequate arm-chair, while the maid mendaciously explains
that he is merely a man come to hang pictures. Seizing this clue, he
proceeds to remove all the pictures from the walls with much zeal and
clatter, and then exit.

Now the lady confides to her maid her plan for keeping in touch
with her lover, and invites her co-operation. The maid jumps at the
idea, for is not the marine—by happy chance—in charge of those same
ridiculous and preposterous tea-rooms! And the curtain falls on the
first act.

After a short interval the stage is once more revealed, and now shows
the aforesaid island at dawn. The tea-house is on the left, and in the
foreground a group of pirates of the good old-fashioned melodramatic
kind are lying noisily asleep. Their sentry goes around waking them
by vigorous kicks. Then they breakfast on rum, and a heated argument
takes place over the question of calling their formidable Chief. He, it
appears, is afflicted in the morning hours with a shortness of temper
highly dangerous to the health of any one to whose lot it falls to
arouse him. Eventually one of them undertakes the job, and, having
carefully removed a gigantic knobkerrie to a safe distance from his
Chief's side, deals him a resounding smack on the most prominent part
of his person. The pirate springs to his feet with a volley of strange
oaths, kicks every one within reach, and shouts for his breakfast of
rum. Refreshed and soothed thereby he calls for his Chief of Staff,
Cuthbert Cut-throat, a lanky, pasty-faced villain, and together they
go through a list of booty captured that month. This comprises many
weird items, and its recital invokes roars of laughter from the
audience. Then the pirate calls for his children, and there enter from
the wings a Marine Lieutenant fearfully and wonderfully arrayed in a
short, light blue pinafore, revealing bare and unmistakably masculine
legs. This vision wears a tow-coloured wig and has its face heavily
painted in imitation of a cheap doll. It is followed by an exceedingly
small boy in a sailor suit, and also with bare legs, and we are
given to understand that this is "her" twin brother. The Pirate Chief
greets them with loud smacking kisses, but soon becoming bored with
his prodigious offspring, he once more summons Cuthbert Cut-throat,
and to him discourses in maudlin sentimentality of the virtues and
graces of his last wife, whom he apparently murdered about a month
before! Life without a wife he declares to be impossible, and announces
his intention of filling the vacancy with the first likely looking
"little bit of skirt" he comes across. Then the pirates strike camp,
and disappear into a cave on the right of the stage. (No explanation
forthcoming!)

(Isn't it silly! But it amuses us vastly all the same!)


ACT III. _Same Scene_

Two naval Captains (Midshipmen in real life) are discovered seated at
a table in front of the tea-house. From their conversation we gather
that four important personages have arrived on a visit of inspection
to the Fleet. They are the Rev. Reuben Reubenstein, and three Eastern
Potentates—namely, the Jam of Butteria, the Nabob of Nowhere, and the
Maharajah of Marmaladia!

Now enter two golf maniacs, in one of whom we recognize the Lieutenant
of the first act. After the maddening manner of their kind they proceed
to play their game over again, stroke for stroke, in conversation,
to the infinite disgust and boredom of the naval Captains. Presently
they shout for tea, and are served, to the utter dismay of her lover,
by the beauteous fiancée. On recognizing her he completely loses his
head, upsets the tea-table, reproaches her in agitated whispers, refers
to the Captains as "silly old fools," and commits various other stage
indiscretions. She wisely retires—and he continues to walk around
soliloquizing, and apparently appealing to the audience for help and
advice in the awkward predicament in which the too ardent lady has
placed him! Finally he goes out, after having several times saluted the
Captains first with one hand and then with the other.

Enter the Eminent Divine—a lanky, meek-looking person in spectacles. He
is closely followed by the Eastern Potentates in flowing white robes.
One of them wears a head-dress of bastard Turkish design; another
has his face blackened and surmounted by a pointed black hat, rather
like a witch's; and the third is crowned by a Parisian (?) confection
profusely adorned with feathers. They greet the Captains with weird
salutations, presumably Oriental in origin, and jabber to them in
unintelligible tongues, and finally with them retire, apparently in
complete agreement.

The stage is left to the Rev. Reuben Reubenstein, whose soliloquy soon
reveals him as the Spy Stinkenstein. After indulging in a "Gott strafe"
against England he yodels "Life in the Alps," and dances a breakdown in
fine style, finally in his frenzy smashing his umbrella and both the
tea-tables! Curtain.


ACT IV. _Same Scene_

Evening: the lady is discovered sitting outside the tea-house with
her maid. After a few moments of desultory conversation the maid is
dismissed, and the lady awaits her lover.

Enter Stinkenstein, singing. The lady does not take the trouble
to look round, but assumes—quite unwarrantably and regardless of
grammar—"That's _him_." Stinkenstein comes up behind her, puts his arms
round her neck, and is about to embrace her, when she discovers her
mistake, and proceeds to tell him in nervous English exactly what she
thinks of him.

Pirates emerge from the cave and surround them. The maid rushes out to
rescue her mistress and is also captured. The pirates drag them into
the cave. Enter the Lieutenant with a landing party to capture the
pirates. He finds his fiancée's handkerchief on the ground, and asks
Ordinary Seaman Gorblimey, in charge of landing party, if he has a
detective among his men. A Hostility O.D. with a huge black moustache
steps forward, lights an enormous pipe, and demands an overcoat and a
bowler hat. Producing a gigantic magnifying-glass he detects stains of
rum on the ground and deduces—_pirates_! The landing party then storms
the cave with drawn cutlasses, and a fierce fight ensues, in which, of
course, the sailors are triumphant and the pirates are captured. The
sweethearts are reunited, and the Lieutenant recognizes Reubenstein
as Stinkenstein the spy. The pirates are then liberated on the score
of having been instrumental in the capture of Stinkenstein, and the
leaders are decorated by the C.-in-C.! Grand finale to the tune of "The
Bing Boys are here." Prolonged applause. Curtain.

The audience stands to "Attention" as the band plays "God Save the
King"—and the show is over.


Then we all return to H.M.S. ——, where in wardroom and gunroom
refreshments are provided. By this time it has turned out a very dirty
night, a nasty sea is running, and it is too rough for picket-boats.
Presently the stentorian voice of the quartermaster is heard in the
officers' messes: "Fourth Battle Squadron's drifter alongside." And
out of the warmth and light we all troop to the dark and cold upper
deck, and make our way over to the theatre ship. Several drifters are
alongside, and these are groaning and creaking under the impact of
heavy seas. Icy spray is flying before the wind, and there is only
a rope ladder to descend by. Time after time our drifter parts her
securing lines and is blown away from the ship's side, or crashes into
another astern. At last every one is safely aboard, but there is no
shelter from the wind and spray, and ours is the last ship to be called
at. Wet and shivering, we curse the weather, and question ruefully
if it was really worth while to have gone to the show at all. But at
last the drifter draws alongside and we hastily scramble up the rope
ladder and make a bolt for the gunroom. A raid on the pantry results
in a tin of mixed biscuits, for which we all scramble, and then, very
thankfully, turn in.

Well, there you are! How would _you_ like to go out to an amateur
theatrical performance in an open picket-boat in wind and rain, and
return in a drifter through raging seas in a full gale? What a life!
Never mind! There's a good time coming, and as A. M. M. says in _Punch_:

    When the war is over and the Kaiser's out of print,
    I'm going to buy some tortoises and watch the beggars sprint;
    When the war is over and the sword at last we sheathe,
    I'm going to keep a jelly-fish and listen to it breathe.

         .     .     .     .     .     .

    When the war is over and the battle has been won,
    I'm going to buy a barnacle and take it for a run;
    When the war is over and the German fleet we sink,
    I'm going to keep a silkworm's egg and listen to it think.

         .     .     .     .     .     .

    When the war is over and we've done the Belgians proud,
    I'm going to keep a chrysalis and read to it aloud;
    When the war is over and we've finished up the show,
    I'm going to plant a lemon-pip and listen to it grow.



CHAPTER V

THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND

    Youth's passion, manhood's fierce intent,
        With age's judgment wise,
    They spent, and counted not they spent,
        At daily sacrifice.

         .     .     .     .     .     .

    Refraining e'en from lawful things,
        They bowed the neck to bear
    The unadornèd yoke that brings
        Stark toil and sternest care.
    Wherefore through them is Freedom sure;
        Wherefore through them we stand
    From all but sloth and pride secure,
        In a delightsome land.

              KIPLING


On Tuesday, May 30, 1916, we were at our northern base lying quietly
at anchor, when in the course of the afternoon a signal was received
from the Flagship ordering steam. From this we presumed that we should
shortly depart for one of our periodical trips to sea for the purpose
of executing manœuvres.

An hour or so later some of the light cruisers got under way, and on
our ship the bugle-call "Special Duty Men" was sounded off. The first
part of the watch on deck went on to the fo'c'sle to shorten in to
three shackles: that means to heave in the port or starboard cable, as
the case may be, to three shackles, preparatory to weighing anchor.

The Second Battle Squadron having got under way, we weighed and
proceeded to sea in their wake. It was a calm evening: my first watch
(8 to 12 P.M.) was uneventful, and when it was over I turned in. Next
morning I had my bath at 6.45, and when dressed repaired to the gunroom
in the hope that my seven-bell (naval phraseology for 7.30) breakfast,
which I had ordered overnight, would be ready for me.... Vain hope
triumphing over experience, and doomed to disappointment. As usual the
said breakfast did not materialize until five minutes to eight, which
left me exactly two minutes in which to consume it ... very bad for
digestion and temper!

That hurried meal over, I went up to the bridge to relieve the
officer in charge of submarine lookouts for the morning watch. It was
a glorious day, with a foretaste of summer in the air. The sea was
calm, and visibility rather below normal. The Fleet was proceeding
leisurely in usual formation. In accordance with custom, at 9.15
"General Quarters" was sounded off by the bugler, and the succeeding
two and a half hours at control stations passed without incident. This
over, the Commander (N.), i.e. navigator, sent down a chit to the
Senior Midshipman, which chit read as follows: "I consider this a good
opportunity for all Midshipmen to take sights." This, of course, raised
a moan, but collecting our sextants we paired off and went up to the
signal deck. On this occasion I was paired with Campbell.

"After you with the deck watch," I said to the Snotty who was using it.
He handed it over to me a minute later, and my partner and I compared
it with my watch, and then took up a good position for taking a sight.
I levelled my sextant at the sun. "Got it?" queried Campbell. "No,
blast the beastly thing. Why on earth do they provide us with upside
down telescopes. I can't get it—half a mo' though, there it is."

I moved the arm of the instrument along the arc to bring the sun down
to the horizon—in doing so, lost old Sol again about three times, but
eventually got it down, and then the horizon was promptly obliterated
by smoke from our funnels. No sooner had that cleared off than the ship
altered course to starboard, so the elusive orb once more disappeared,
this time obscured by the funnel, and we had to change to the other
side of the deck and start all over again. At last I managed to get my
reading, and after my partner had got his, we went off to the gunroom
to have lunch. That meal disposed of, we set to and worked out our
sights. Mine proved to be miles out, so after reworking it three times,
I came to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with my
sextant. I took it down from the shelf, and going to the scuttle,
proceeded to check all the usual errors. The index adjustment was
all right, but there were about three degrees of side error in the
instrument. I tried to take it out, but only succeeded in putting in
about double the amount of index error. After spending a considerable
amount of time in fiddling about, I shouted for help from any one who
felt capable of giving it. Campbell promptly volunteered, and we went
up on deck, where we began to try and adjust the sextant. We had only
been up there a few minutes when I saw a two-flag signal flutter to the
yard-arm of the Flagship.

"_Hallo_," I cried, "there's an _action_ signal from the Flag," and
picking up one of the telescopes belonging to the sextant I tried to
make out the hoist. It was—well, let us call it "X Y" since it would
not be permissible to give the real letters—and it indicated "Raise
steam for full speed with the utmost dispatch."

We wondered considerably what so unlooked for a signal might portend,
and after waiting a few minutes to see if anything more was coming
through, we went down to the gunroom to give the news to the others.

The more energetic spirits at once dashed up on deck to see if anything
further had transpired, and shortly afterwards returned with the
thrilling information that the signal "B N" had been hoisted.

Here was news indeed, for that signal meant that action with the enemy
was imminent, and this was the first time during the war that the Grand
Fleet (as distinct from the Battle Cruiser Fleet) had hoisted it.

There was, however, no time for discussion just then, as "Control
Parties" was immediately sounded off, and we all hurried to our
appointed "action" stations.

I was stationed in the conning-tower with a Lieutenant and two other
Mids, and here also were the chief quartermaster, who manipulates the
wheel in action, a telegraph operator, and one or two other seaman
ratings. Presently a signalman came down and showed us a signal which
read: "Commodore T. [the Commodore in command of all unattached torpedo
craft] in the light cruiser —— reports in touch with the enemy light
forces."

This naturally caused some excitement, but, in our long months of
monotonous watching and waiting, hope had been so often deferred that
we had grown sceptical of ever having the good fortune to really engage
the enemy. By this time the whole Fleet was proceeding at 18 knots,
great clouds of smoke pouring from all funnels. This smoke, however,
ceased as soon as the fires had been made up sufficiently to give the
necessary head of steam, and as in our modern battleships with their
marvellous turbine engines vibration is practically non-existent, only
the swift rush of the wind through the slits in the conning-tower
enabled us to realize the speed the Fleet had now attained.

About twenty minutes later (3.45 P.M.) a signal came from the
Vice-Admiral commanding the battle cruisers, stating that he was in
action with the enemy Battle-Cruiser Fleet. This was shortly followed
by another which said that he was now engaging the enemy High Sea Fleet
in latitude ——, longitude ——. The position indicated was barely fifty
miles on our starboard bow. On receipt we further increased speed,
holding on our original course, as the engaging ships were proceeding
in a north-westerly direction. All this being eminently satisfactory,
we then went to tea.

That is to say, half of our number went, the rest remaining at
their posts until the first batch had finished. The foretop and
conning-tower's crews being told off to relieve each other for meals,
and the senior officer "Guns" being in the foretop, they went first,
and as usual took more than their fair share of the allotted time. When
they had at last satisfied their voracious appetites and our turn came,
we found nearly all peace lights out between deck and in the gunroom
mess. During tea much speculation was rife, but we dared hardly hope
even now that we should indeed get into touch with the enemy.

We stayed below as long as we possibly could, and eventually returned
to our "action" stations about five o'clock.

Encountering the Yeoman of Signals just outside the conning-tower, I
asked for the latest news, but nothing fresh had been received.

Half an hour later we sighted a sailing ship right ahead. She seemed
to draw near with uncanny speed, and when we were able to make out her
colours she proved to be Norwegian. It was when she was nearly abreast
of us that we first heard the dull far-away boom of guns. The sound
rapidly increased in volume and intensity, but as yet nothing could
be seen of the action taking place just beyond the horizon, and the
sailing ship gliding quietly along, her canvas, spread to the summer
breeze, and the wide expanse of still blue water together formed a
picture so emblematic of all the peaceful, everyday things of seafaring
life that it seemed almost impossible to realize that within so short
a time we should be in the thick of the greatest naval battle the world
had ever known.

But scarcely had the Norwegian passed astern when the yellowish haze
on our starboard bow was broken by lurid red flashes, while here and
there the sun glinted momentarily on the pale grey hulls of the battle
cruisers which loomed up like great ghosts in the midst of the cordite
smoke.

Now our light cruisers and destroyers dashed ahead belching forth
clouds of black smoke, the water churning and foaming in their wake.
The battle cruisers, by this time a bare half-mile away, the bow waves
raised by their swift passage creaming to their fo'c'sles, were firing
rapidly with all guns. From the deck of their Flagship, just abreast
her foremost turrets, a thin wisp of blue smoke and little flickers of
greenish flame showed where an enemy shell had found its mark. Under
her 'midship funnel a gaping rent was torn in her side, revealing a
mass of twisted metal where another projectile had burst. One gun of
her 'midship turret, thrown out of action, drooped towards the deck
licked by hungry tongues of flame—but her remaining armament was still
firing doggedly.

Away to starboard the enemy's guns flashed continuously through the
battle haze. Our light craft swung 8 points to port, heeling right over
under pressure of the helm. Close beside us a small cruiser of the ——
class lay hove to and awaiting a chance to dash through the lines. She
was so close that we could see her crew standing laughing and joking
round their guns—plainly exulting in the longed-for chance of action.

A moment later the enemy opened on our destroyers, their shells
flinging columns of white spray high in the air—but, as yet, our ships
held their fire.

Now the Flagship hoisted the signal:

 "_Remember the glorious First of June and avenge Belgium._"

This was passed down to all quarters with the added message from our
Captain:

 "_Keep calm. Remember the traditions of the British Navy._"

Now our Admiral and his staff came down to the conning-tower. First
came the Flag Lieutenant, followed shortly by the Admiral's legs.
But here, I regret to say, a slight hitch occurred, for his "lammy"
coat so hampered his usual agile movements that the remainder of
his person stuck fast in the manhole, and he was left incontinently
suspended in mid-air. From above the Captain pushed vigorously at his
shoulders, while "Flags" hauled at his august lower limbs. It was a
comic interlude, but the combined efforts of his subordinates finally
prevailed, and a few seconds later he stood safely on the deck.

In a very few minutes the Captain found that the conning-tower did not
give him a sufficiently comprehensive view of the proceedings, and,
disdaining this place of comparative safety, dashed away to the bridge,
in which exposed position he remained for the greater part of the
action.

Now the air filled with the drone and shriek of shells of every size
which began to burst round us. One huge projectile—a ricochet—went
lolloping over our fo'c'sle head, its yellow colour and the dark bands
on its body being plainly visible.

The blast from our first salvo swept the Admiral's cap from his head,
and confusion reigned in the crowded area of the tower while "Flags"
pursued the errant headgear, finally retrieving it, and handing it back
politely to his Chief, who rammed it resentfully down over his eyes.
But at the next salvo it again flew off, this time disappearing through
a slit in the conning-tower and landing on the deck outside, where it
remained till the end of the action. "Flags," who seemed to feel in
some obscure way responsible for its vagaries being thereby reduced to
absolute frenzy!

Another of the enemy's funnels went overboard ere the mist closed
down and hid her. But we had the satisfaction of seeing that she was
stopped, and on fire fore and aft.

Some time later, there being no more enemy craft in sight, I left my
instrument and went to one of the slits in the conning-tower to see
what there was to be seen.

Close on our starboard beam the British destroyer —— could be seen
with a jagged shell-hole in her starboard quarter, another on her port
bow, and one of her 4-inch guns dismounted and lying on the deck with
dead and wounded all around. A portion of her crew was busy getting
out the collision-mats, but paused in their work to give us a cheer as
we forged past. Her gunner (T.), who had only been transferred to her
from our ship a week before, waved and shouted greetings to us from her
quarter-deck. Away on our port beam could be seen the stern and bow of
a big ship which had been split clean in half. A destroyer was lying
off ready to rescue survivors, but only three figures were visible
standing on the stern of the wreck just by the huge propellers.

About this time I recollect that the C.-in-C. made the signal to turn
two points towards the enemy together. By now the whole of our main
armament was firing at the Hun destroyers, and they, finding it a good
deal too hot for them, turned away. One had already been blown up, and
as I watched another was sunk by our fire.

H.M.S. ——, having got somewhat out of station, was firing across our
fo'c'sle, which made things very unpleasant in the conning-tower, as we
got the full benefit of the blast from each of her salvos. One of her
shells severed our forestay and it fell on the head of the Snotty on
the forebridge, causing him to express himself in sanguinary terms, but
not really injuring him at all.

At this juncture there came a yell from "Torps": "_Look._ There's a
d——d great Hun Dreadnought over there!" And, sure enough, there emerged
through the fog the bow of a huge ship not more than 8000 yards away.

Hurriedly we got the main armament trained on her, and instantly
opened fire. She had already opened on us. Through the glasses of my
instrument I could plainly see every detail of the German's hull and
superstructure—she was of the _Derflinger_ class. Our first salvo was
"over," and no sooner had it fallen than I saw the right gun of every
one of her turrets fire simultaneously. There was an anxious moment as
we waited for the fall of the shells. In about twenty seconds came a
roar and a crash of rending steel, accompanied by a vivid green flash.
For a moment the heat in the conning-tower was intense, and it filled
with the stifling fumes of the high explosive. On our gun deck a fierce
fire flared up, followed by a cry for stretcher parties and water for
the wounded, and the Torpedo Lieutenant was dispatched to endeavour to
extinguish the blaze. Two of the enemy shells had hit us, but one did
no harm bar taking the sounding platform overboard.

Our next salvo hit—and gaping rents appeared in the Hun's sides.
However, this apparently did not seriously affect her fighting
efficiency, as she instantly fired at us again, but now, happily, her
range was out and the shells pitched short, bursting on the water and
enveloping the fore part of our ship in a cloud of spray.

A few minutes later "Torps" returned, having with the aid of the guns'
crews successfully dealt with the fire, and he reported to the Captain
that all danger from that cause was now over.

By this time we had twice fired again and secured several more hits
on the enemy and a dull red glow appeared in the holes in her sides,
showing that fire was getting a hold on her vitals. Great clouds
of smoke and long tongues of flame shot up from her quarter-deck.
Most of her guns appeared to be out of action, but a few still fired
spasmodically.

Now some German destroyers hurried up and made a smoke-screen between
us and our prey as she turned eight points to port, and listing heavily
fled into the mist.... But we knew she was done for.

The visibility on our bow had now slightly increased, and we could see
the whole of the High Sea Fleet steaming on a course parallel to our
own and firing at our battle line. We at once got the guns trained on
their leaders and gave them a few salvos, but they were too far away
for our shooting to be effective. The sun was already sinking below the
horizon, and, whereas we were silhouetted against the western sky, the
enemy were fast disappearing in the gathering twilight, and in another
five minutes they were entirely lost to view.... It is maddening to
think of what we might have achieved had Fate but granted us another
hour of daylight. As it was, our part in the battle here ended.


Periodical bursts of firing were still audible from ahead, where our
battle cruisers were harrying the rear of the fast retreating enemy.

We remained at our action stations for another half-hour, and then
"Hands to Night Defence" was sounded off. After packing up in the
conning-tower we all rushed off to see what damage the ship had
sustained.

After my look round I went to the gunroom and managed to get a glass of
very flat beer, a hunk of bread, and a piece of pressed beef. This was
the only food I had between tea and breakfast the next morning. Then I
went up on to the bridge, and had not been there long when the lights
of some strange ship were sighted on our port bow. The 4-in. guns'
crews immediately closed up, but as we drew nearer the suspect proved
to be nothing but an inoffensive trawler.

This incident over, I went aft to my night defence station—a little
platform screened by canvas, barely six feet square, and a good fifty
feet above the water-line. It is commonly known as the "Eiffel Tower,"
and in this small space a party of eight had to spend the night.
Obviously there was no room to lie down, and, further, it was bitterly
cold.

All night the Hun destroyers tried to press home an attack on the
Battle Fleet, but our light craft continually beat them off, sinking
many in the process. At intervals the whole sky was lighted up with
a lurid glare as one or other of the enemy ships flared skyward and
crashed to her doom. All around the eastern horizon the flash of guns
was distinctly visible, only dying away in one quarter to blaze up in
another. Had I been less busy—or less cold—I might have thought of
Tennyson's lines in "The Revenge":

    Ship after ship the whole night long
    With her battle-thunder and flame,
    Ship after ship the whole night long
    Drew back with her dead and her shame.
    For some were sunk and many were crippled
    And so could fight us no more.
    God of Battles! was ever a battle like this in the world before?

But, as a matter of fact, nothing was farther from my mind than poetry.

The sounding off of "General Quarters" at 2.30 came with a mighty
relief, as this meant that we could return to our more comfortable
"action stations," and our spell at "night defence" was over.

About 4 A.M. we sighted a Zeppelin, which passed over astern of us.
Those ships within range opened fire on her, but at every flash from
the salvos she dipped, dropping about 200 feet, and thus avoided the
shells. For a long time she was visible—a dark body against the eastern
sky—but she finally disappeared in the direction of Heligoland just as
the sun was rising.

At six o'clock next morning, Friday, June 2, we entered harbour and
dropped anchor without further incident.

Coaling started immediately, and as soon as the collier had shoved
off we were invaded by dockyard "mateys," and the cracked boat booms
were shored up. We had hoped that the necessary repairs would take
long enough to ensure our getting some leave, but in this we were
disappointed, for the damage we had sustained in the battle was not
considered sufficiently serious to necessitate docking. As we were the
only ship in the Grand Fleet that had been hit, we were naturally an
object of great interest, and very proud of ourselves in consequence.
We really had marvellous luck, for although about seven of the ship's
company were wounded—one poor chap having his arm shattered—we did not
lose a man.

So here ends my personal experience of the famous Battle of Jutland.
It will be readily understood that it is only a fraction of the whole.
As is now well known the Fifth Battle Squadron and the Battle-Cruiser
Fleet did their job so efficiently that the Germans fled to their
base—thus robbing the Grand Fleet of the chance to win a decisive
victory.

The Huns, with that genius for mendacity which they have exhibited
throughout the war, claimed to have defeated the British Navy—a claim
based presumably on the idea that "he who fights and runs away will
live to fight another day." Subsequent events must have convinced even
their own people of the fallacy of that claim, and there remains the
proven fact that with their whole forces in action they refused to face
more than a quarter of our Fleet.



CHAPTER VI

"AND AFTERWARDS ... WHAT THEN?"

    ... They leaped at the sun
      To give it their loving friends to keep;
    Naught man could do have they left undone,
      And you see their harvest, what they reap.

         .     .     .     .     .     .

    In triumphs, people have dropped down dead—
      "Paid by the world, what dost thou owe
    Me?"—God might question; now, instead,
      'Tis God shall repay:—They are safer so.

    (_With apologies to Robert Browning_)


_Those whose men took part in the Battle of Jutland may forgive—I think
they can never forget—the way in which England received the first
tidings of that heroic fight. It is the custom in many quarters to
blame the Admiralty for the wording of their first published report;
but, as my son wrote to me: "They only said that there had been an
engagement, and that we had lost certain ships. Why should people jump
to the conclusion that the enemy's losses were less than ours?"_

_~Why~ indeed! It showed, not only a complete lack of imagination,
but a singular want of faith in the efficiency of the Navy, in which
they had always proclaimed such unbounded confidence. It would appear
that the great majority of the British public had not the faintest
conception of the magnitude of the sacrifices involved in a naval
battle fought under conditions of modern warfare. Were the people
so dazzled and blinded by the century-old memory of Trafalgar as to
forget the fact that at Trafalgar there were neither submarines, nor
mines, nor aircraft, nor 15-inch guns to contend with? It would seem
incredible—if it were not true—that men landing from the ships with the
knowledge that by almost superhuman courage and endurance they had won
the greatest naval fight in the history of the world, were yet greeted
by the public with cold looks—in some cases even with hisses—and by the
Press with a cynical pessimism which could only ask why they had not
done ~more~!—and this, remember, at a moment when they were on the rack
of mourning for so many gallant friends and comrades who had bought
Victory with their lives._

_Well, it taught the Navy, if not a new, certainly a very hard lesson:
the lesson that although "in the performance of plain duty man mounts
to his highest bliss," yet the consciousness of duty done to the
uttermost must be its own reward. From the "man in the street," the
Service may in time win an understanding gratitude and recognition, but
it seems that they are to be denied that instant generous appreciation
which would do so much to atone for the tragic sense of personal loss
inseparable from even the grandest victory._

_Shortly after the battle, one of the greatest of their leaders wrote
to a friend as follows: "Our sacrifices were great, but they were
worth it.... Those who died, died gloriously, in a spirit of great
exaltation, and supremely happy.... And, even if nothing else had been
gained, there is the knowledge that the Old Sea Spirit still lives
in the English Navy—an absolutely unconquerable Spirit, strongly
manifested on the 31st of May."_


_How ~much~ was gained we know to-day. Lest I be betrayed to unbridled
speech, such as they would be the first to deplore and resent ... let
me leave it at that._



CHAPTER VII

OF VARIOUS INCIDENTS


The only damage affecting her fighting efficiency which our ship
sustained in the Battle of Jutland was the damage to her boat booms.
This was repaired within the week, and, had the necessity arisen, we
could have again gone into action seven days after our return to the
northern base. But the Huns were far too busy licking their wounds to
trouble us further at this time. Gradually and grudgingly they were
forced to admit the great losses which they had at first so strenuously
denied and ignored. It was a dilatory and undignified performance, by
no means redeemed by the "military reasons" (!) which they adduced in
excuse, and it certainly did not tend to increase their prestige in
the eyes of the watchful neutral nations. There being, therefore, no
immediate need for our services, we remained in harbour enduring with
what grace we could command the nerve-racking clamour set up by the
dockyard mateys as they meticulously made good all our minor damages.

On the afternoon which saw their work complete down to the last bolt
and rivet, we received the usual signals preparatory to going to sea,
and some time in the first dog watch proceeded out of harbour.

The following day dawned calm and fine, the visibility remaining good
throughout the day. At 9 A.M. we went to "Divisions" on the upper deck,
and were just about to march forward to the quarter-deck for prayers
when H.M.S. —— on our port beam opened fire with her secondary armament
on a Zeppelin which had suddenly appeared from behind a small cloud.
The shells did not take effect, but the Zepp turned tail and fled at
top speed.

Immediately after prayers we went to "Control Parties" for an hour in
order to be ready in case any more airships materialized. However,
nothing occurred and at about 10.30 the "Secure" was sounded. I went
on the bridge at 11 o'clock, as it was my submarine lookout watch, and
there heard that the light cruiser ——, operating some miles ahead of
the Fleet, had hit a Zeppelin which had subsequently disappeared over
the horizon, badly down by the nose, and apparently about to descend to
the water. We were told to keep a sharp lookout, but no sign of her was
seen.

After lunch "General Quarters" was sounded off and every one went to
their "action" stations.

Commodore "T." had reported some time before that he was in touch with
the enemy's heavy forces.

The battle cruisers were now just in sight on the horizon on our
starboard bow, and we rejoiced to think that this time they would not
be able, as at Jutland, to keep nearly all the fun to themselves. We
all strained our eyes ahead for the first glimpse of the "Hoch See
Flotte," but the minutes flew by and at 2.30 there was yet no sign
of them. Then a second communication was received from Commodore "T."
saying that the enemy was flying at full speed towards Heligoland, and
at 3 P.M., as we were getting among the Hun mine-fields, we had to
reluctantly abandon the chase and turn for home.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rumours of that "leave" to which we were all so eagerly looking forward
had been flying about since the beginning of August, but it was not
until September 10 that the Flagship hoisted the signal for us to
raise steam. We weighed at 6.30 P.M. and steamed out to sea, and the
next morning at 8.30 we dropped anchor in ——. Getting under way again
at noon we proceeded into dock, and as soon as the caisson had been
floated into place and sunk, we were free to go on "leave."

I caught the 3.30 dockyard train to Edinburgh, and on arrival there
fell in with the Captain of Marines, the dentist, and one of the
R.N.R.A.P.'s, and had dinner with them at the North British Hotel;
after which I embarked on the 10.30 train for London, where I arrived
at 8 o'clock the next morning.

 _This was the first leave, other than "sick leave" that he had had
 since leaving Dartmouth on August 2, 1914, and it is not surprising
 that he declared it to be the best he had ever spent. Details would,
 however, be of little interest to the reader, and so I will only add
 that I had the great pleasure of taking him down to my bank, and
 there opening an account for him with the first cheque received from
 the publishers on account of "royalties" for "From Dartmouth to the
 Dardanelles," which had appeared the previous June. I remember I
 gave many fussy maternal injunctions as to the necessity of keeping
 "tally," and begged him not to emulate the example of that naive
 lady who, on receiving a courteous intimation from her banker that
 her account was overdrawn, replied indignantly that that was quite
 impossible, because she still had several cheques left in her
 cheque-book!_

On Thursday, September 21, leave was up, and in company with most of
our officers I travelled that night to Edinburgh, arriving in that town
at 7.30 the next morning.

We changed into the special train for ——, where our ship was in dock,
and arrived there at 10 A.M. We had considerable trouble with our
luggage as no vehicles were available, and we had to lug our traps
along as best we could until we met a cart proceeding in the required
direction, the driver of which—for a financial consideration—consented
to relieve us of our burdens.

On reaching the ship we found our quarters still absolutely
uninhabitable. Dockyard hands were working all over the place, and
all gangways and flats were encumbered with a mad medley of iron
plates, stray fittings, and the usual collection of filth which a ship
always manages to accumulate in the course of a refit. After wandering
forlornly about for an hour with nowhere to go and nothing to do,
we got leave from the Commander to quit the ship until 9 A.M. the
following morning. Campbell and I promptly made tracks for the dockyard
gates, where we had the luck to pick up a taxi, which drove us to the
nearest station, and we returned to Edinburgh. On arrival Campbell
telephoned to some of his relations who lived in Ayrshire, and hearing
that they were at home, departed thither by the 1 P.M. train. About
half an hour later the rest of the gunroom mess turned up with the
information that "leave" was granted until the morning of Monday, the
25th.

This intelligence I wired to Campbell, and then repaired to lunch
at the North British Hotel. After lunch, finding that I had run out
of cash, I bethought me of Messrs. Gieves, naval outfitters, and
ever-ready friend in need to the stranded N.O., and repairing to their
Edinburgh establishment explained my dilemma, and requested them to
cash a cheque for me. This, with their unvarying courtesy, they
promptly did, and with a financial crisis thus happily averted, I
returned to the hotel for tea.

I was awfully bored at the thought that I actually had two days of
precious leave on my hands and nowhere decent to spend it, and I was
wondering if in spite of the expense it might not be worth while to go
south again, when I got a wire from Campbell asking me to join him in
Ayrshire, which invite I joyfully accepted. But as there was no train
that night I had to defer my departure until the next morning.

Campbell's relatives proved most kind and hospitable, and after
spending a very pleasant week-end I returned with him to the ship on
the morning of the 25th.

We had hardly arrived before the Captain, who was always great on
sport and exercise, ordered us all to go out hunting with some local
basset hounds. This order was received with a regrettable lack of
enthusiasm. Still, an order is an order, and so at 12.30 I started out
with two of the others. Unfortunately we had omitted to ascertain the
whereabouts of the meet, and when, after walking several miles and
making many fruitless inquiries, we eventually discovered the kennels,
it was only to find that hounds had gone and no one could tell us their
destination. Disconsolately we wandered about for hours, but never a
sign of the hunt did we see.

At 4 P.M. we spotted three of our Snotties in a motor-bus returning
from their equally unsuccessful search, and so we joined them and went
back to the ship. The only three of our mess who succeeded in finding
hounds turned up very cross, footsore, and weary at about 8 P.M., and
accused us—most unwarrantably—of shirking!

By 9 A.M. next morning we were out of dock, and coaling started at
11.30 and finished at 2 P.M.—not a very good average. After coaling we
found the bathroom in a disgusting state—no lights, no water, no steam.
Eventually we managed to procure a mere dribble of cold water with
which we had to remove the coal-dust from our persons as best we could.


After "General Quarters" next morning a hideous rumour arose that we
should be required to go basseting again that afternoon, but mercifully
other affairs intervened, and furthermore it began to rain, so to our
great relief basseting was declared off.

Most of the gunroom mess went to Edinburgh again, but I stayed on board
and spent a quiet hour or so writing letters.



CHAPTER VIII

SUBMARINES

    The ships destroy us above
      And ensnare us beneath;
    We arise, we lie down, and we move
      In the belly of Death.

    The ships have a thousand eyes
      To mark where we come ...
    And the mirth of a seaport dies
      When our blow gets home.

        _From "Fringes of the Fleet,"_
        _by_ KIPLING


On January 15, 1917, we left the base where we had spent Christmas and
proceeded northward again, but nothing worthy of note occurred until
some six weeks later. Then one day we were going to sea for manœuvres,
and soon after we had cleared the harbour some of us Snotties at the
time variously occupied in the gunroom were startled by blasts from
the siren.

We promptly rushed up on deck to find the ship rapidly altering course
to port; at the same moment the forward 4-inch guns fired a salvo,
and we saw the shells fall about 3000 yards away, just short of the
conning-tower of a U-boat awash on the surface. Apparently until
we fired she had been unaware of our approach, for she immediately
submerged, and made no attempt to fire a torpedo at us.

Notwithstanding the fact that submarine warfare has become almost a
commonplace of naval existence, the knowledge of the near presence
of an invisible foe never fails to produce a considerable thrill and
a tightening of the nerves, half hope and half apprehension. This
doubtless is intensified in the case of those who have already been
through the unpleasing experience of having their floating home sunk
beneath their feet. In addition to my own midnight adventure in the
Dardanelles on May 13, 1915, three of the others in the gunroom had
already undergone that ordeal when the _Hogue_ was torpedoed. However,
this particular U-boat must have been suffering from nerves, for, so
far as we know, she made no attempt to attack us. Perhaps the near
presence of our watchful destroyers suggested to her that it was a case
for discretion rather than for valour. Barring this incident manœuvres
on that occasion passed off uneventfully.

 _I regret that this chapter cannot justify its title. On mature
 consideration I have come to the conclusion that to dilate further on
 the very interesting subject of submarines would be indiscreet._

       *       *       *       *       *

A week or two later the Vice-Admiral evolved a scheme for alleviating
the monotony of our lives, and requested the C.-in-C.'s permission to
send each division of his squadron over to the northern shore of the
anchorage for three day's complete rest from routine and in order to
provide officers and men with a chance of getting ashore.

Permission having been duly granted we anchored one evening, having
previously dispatched a working party consisting of A.B.'s, carpenters,
etc., to prepare a field in which to hold some athletic sports.

The next day dawned fine and clear. Owing to the flow of the Gulf
Stream, the temperature in these latitudes is much warmer than dwellers
in the south would imagine, and in this month of April 1917 we were
certainly much more fortunate than our fellows in less northerly
districts.

At 9 A.M. I landed in company with a Lieutenant and two other Snotties,
and we decided to walk the eleven miles to the nearest township in
preference to watching the sports. We reached our destination shortly
after midday, somewhat footsore and weary from the unaccustomed
exercise, but with fine appetites for lunch, which we had in a very
decent little hotel much frequented in piping times of peace by ardent
anglers. Later on we inspected the curious old distillery which is the
chief object of interest in the town. Then we did some shopping, and
started on our return tramp at about 2.30. We got back at 5, had an
excellent tea at a farmhouse, and returned on board our ship at 7.30,
feeling much the better for the change and exercise.

Next morning, to our great disgust, we were detailed to exchange some
ammunition, which occupation took up all the forenoon and robbed us of
time which could have been spent more pleasantly on the beach. However,
by 1.30 I was free and went ashore with another Snotty. Close by was
a high hill which had long been a painfully familiar landmark to us
by reason of range-finding exercises, carried out, with the pole on
its summit as object, while the ship steamed round the land-locked
anchorage in endless monotonous circles. Up this hill we climbed,
passing on our way little groups of officers or men lying about on its
lower slopes, and smoking and chatting in the pale sunshine, the while
they luxuriated in the brief change from shipboard: only a very few
of them emulated our youthful energy and reached the top, from which a
splendid view of our base and its surrounding islands was obtained.

As the afternoon wore on, various fires sprang up, resulting from the
action of careless smokers, and these spread so rapidly that shortly
after we got on board again a call came for volunteers to extinguish
them, since it was feared that if damage to the countryside resulted,
future "joy stunts" in that district would be prohibited. There was
no lack of recruits forthcoming, for this was just such a job as the
"matloe's" soul loves, as it gives him ample scope for the indulgence
of his twin passions of dressing-up and roaring lusty and ribald
choruses to popular tunes! To the dreamy melody of "Keep the' Ome Fires
burning—I _don't_ fink," the fire party embarked in the picket-boat
with launch and cutter in tow, all chock-a-block with men of diverse
ratings. Their costumes were varied and heterodox, and they were all
heavily armed with broomsticks, swabs, etc., with which to combat the
flames. When we reached the pier the men fell in, and Commander "T."
who was in charge divided them into three parties and detailed one
party to deal with each of the main outbreaks.

The party officered by Wilson, Laurence, and myself ran the first mile
at breakneck speed, but the pace flagged when we got among the bogs at
the bottom of the hill, for here every few yards we floundered up to
our waists in mud and water. To our disgusted disappointment, when we
arrived at our special objective it was only to find that we had been
forestalled by a party from another ship and the fire was already out.

It was a weird scene: from all over the hill-side different parties
were signalling with flash-lamps, and bursts of song came from every
quarter. On the summit a group of men from H.M.S. —— were lustily
yodelling "Life in the Alps," and altogether it was a fair old beano
for the ships' companies engaged.

When all the fires had been adequately "strafed," we returned on board,
an uncommonly dirty but very merry crew.

That night the gunroom was entertaining some officers from one of our
submarines which happened to be alongside, and on our entry we were met
by a fog of tobacco smoke you could have cut with a knife, and a chorus
of song which made up in volume what it lacked in melody. Clamouring
for instant drinks, we joined the throng, and only a few minutes later
who should blow in but Commander ——, no less dirty and dishevelled
than the rest of us. Evidently he had found the staid decorum of the
wardroom little to his taste, and with that sublime indifference to
his "exalted rank" which characterized him when "off duty," he joined
in our gunroom "rag" with as much zest as the youngest Snotty—to whom,
notwithstanding his decorations and three stripes, he was in point of
age not more than a dozen years senior.

The uproar was at its height when the ship's corporal came to report
in reproachful tones that "lock up" was long overdue, and I shall
not easily forget his face of amazed dismay when he saw the Acting
Commander (the Commander was away on leave) hobnobbing with the gunroom
in democratic disregard of overwhelming seniority.



CHAPTER IX

OF EXAMINATIONS


From the view-point of the Grand Fleet the summer of 1917 was
uneventful, but for me and for my contemporaries in the gunroom,
the months of June and July held a peculiar and rather apprehensive
interest. Having completed just on three years' service as Midshipmen,
we were faced with the ordeal of exams, which must be passed before we
could get our stripe, i.e. be advanced to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant.

In May we had one of our rare and brief spells of "leave"—just ten days
from the ship—and on our return we suddenly realized with dismay that a
bare four weeks remained to us in which to work up the five essential
subjects. These are gunnery, torpedo work, navigation, seamanship,
and engineering—rather a formidable list. The time for intensive
preparation was further curtailed by a three days' "rest cure" on the
northern shore, such as has been described in the preceding chapter.

We could not forgo this much-prized opportunity for exercise and
recreation, but once it was over we settled down in grim earnest to
"swot" at the subjects referred to, and thenceforward our highly
technical conversation and absorption in abstruse problems became a
source of unmitigated boredom to those of our messmates whose horizon,
by reason of their shorter service, was as yet unclouded by the
prospect of such an ordeal as loomed upon ours.

Now, in peace-time, in order to "ship one's stripe" it is only
necessary to pass an oral examination in navigation, and an oral and
written examination in seamanship. This accomplished, the newly fledged
Acting Sub. automatically retires to the "beach," where he passes
through gunnery, navigation, and torpedo schools undistracted by any
of the executive duties of shipboard life, and able to concentrate his
whole attention on each subject in turn. How beautifully simple! But
in time of war it is a very different proposition. A Midshipman having
served his full term in that rank must pass both oral and written
exams. in all five subjects, and his hours of study may by no means be
allowed to interfere with executive routine. In other words, he must
snatch them how and where he can.

Naturally this involves a considerable strain, and much burning of
midnight oil.

 _It may also be noted that to a Snotty the luxury of solitude
 and silence is unknown, for he sleeps in a hammock in an echoing
 steel-walled flat, has no cabin to retire to, and his only study is
 the gunroom, which he shares with some fifteen or twenty boisterous
 "young gentlemen."... The gramophone may be in full blast—stewards
 bustle about with materials for meals—messengers hurry back and
 forth—and in this uneasy atmosphere he must learn to concentrate on
 the_ _highly difficult tasks before him. Well, it must require, as
 our American Allies would say, some concentration!_

About the middle of June our Admiral and his staff were transferred to
other scenes of activity, and to our great regret the Admiral took in
his train, as Flag Lieutenant, L. F., best of Subs., who had been our
gunroom leader for two years.

On the day following this exodus—in a dismal drizzle of rain—we were
all lined up on the quarter-deck awaiting the arrival of our new
Chief. Presently the barge was seen approaching, and we congratulated
ourselves on the fact that the reception ceremony would soon be over
and we would be able to return to the shelter of the gunroom. But
as the barge drew nearer we saw that she was flying the "negative,"
which indicates that the Admiral is not on board. This was unexpected,
but the comment passed round that in all probability the crew of the
boat had forgotten to ship the "affirmative." Perhaps we should here
mention that the "negative" is—in fact—a flag used in the naval signal
code, but in the case of an Admiral's barge it consists of a round
painted disc having on one side the same markings as the "affirmative,"
and on the other those of the "negative" flag. This disc is shipped in
a small bracket on the foremost side of the funnel, with the object of
indicating to officers of the watches, etc., that the Admiral is on
board, so that they may be prepared to pay the proper marks of respect
as he passes the ships.

However, there was in this case no forgetfulness on the part of the
crew, for as the barge drew alongside it proved to be conveying only
Admiral ——'s steward, in charge of his luggage and furniture. These
safely deposited on board, the barge shoved off again and departed ...
presumably to fetch the Admiral.

Still we waited. Still the rain drifted down from leaden unsummer-like
sky to leaden unsummery sea.... Then a dingy picket-boat was seen to be
coming alongside. More furniture? More luggage? we queried wearily....
But, no! To our infinite astonishment, out stepped the Admiral himself,
unattended by Flag Lieutenant or Secretary, and shaking hands with the
Captain he went forward to his quarters.

The Commander passed the word for all officers to proceed to the
Admiral's lobby, and there we waited until one by one, in order of
seniority, we were called into his cabin and presented. We juniors
of course came last, and on our return to the gunroom there was much
speculation as to what the Admiral would do for a Secretary and Flag
Lieutenant. Presently the Captain sent for C——, one of our mess, and
to our amazement he returned shortly afterwards with the announcement
that until the Flag Lieutenant arrived he had been ordered to perform
the customary duties of that officer! Realizing that he was somewhat
deficient in knowledge of the necessary routine, C—— promptly sent
for the Yeoman of Signals and demanded instruction. Thereafter, and
during his tenure of office, the gunroom was fairly littered with
signal-pads, signals, and confidential books; and he was excused all
other duties by the Snotties' Nurse (i.e. the officer—usually the
Navigator—told off for the general supervision of Midshipmen).

When on the following Sunday the Admiral, on a tour of inspection,
arrived aboard the other ships, accompanied by a Snotty, duly equipped
with telescope and signal pad, to act as Flag Lieutenant, the surprise
of the Captains and officers of the division may be better imagined
than described!

C—— found his temporary promotion no sinecure, for, among other
duties, he had to be continually on the alert to hear the pipe which
indicated that an officer of Captain's rank or above it was coming
over the gangway, as it was his part to receive all such visitors with
proper ceremony and conduct them to the Admiral's cabin. However, in
due course the genuine article arrived in the person of Lieutenant X,
and C——, relieved of the onerous task, which he had really performed
uncommonly well, was once more relegated to the obscure position of a
mere Snotty.

And now the fateful moment for candidates for promotion was imminent.

On the Sunday preceding the first ordeal we decided to take a complete
rest, for we were feeling like a species of Strasburg geese, owing to
the enormous amount of varied information with which we had stuffed
our brains during the preceding month. A relief from the process of
intensive culture was clearly necessary if we would rightly assimilate
even a portion of the stupendous mass of fact and theory we had
absorbed.

It was a splendid blue day, and in the afternoon most of the members
of the gunroom, and the younger and cheerier people from the wardroom,
manned the pinnace, and, equipped with various baskets of provisions,
set sail for a neighbouring island. Once clear of the Fleet we hoisted
the Jolly Roger, and, after a little persuasion from all hands, the
R.N.R. Lieutenant started on his long repertoire of sea songs, in the
choruses of which we all joined lustily, if not tunefully.

On reaching the spot selected for landing the anchor was let go, and we
veered the pinnace astern on her cable until we could leap ashore. As
soon as all the provisions had been taken out, those of the party who
rather fancied themselves in a culinary capacity retired to a sheltered
corner, and there set to work to build a fire as a preliminary to the
frying of "bangers" (sausages) and the scrambling of eggs. The rest of
us flopped down on the heather at the top of the cliffs and began to
smoke and talk. It was not long before some restless person suggested
bathing. "I say, what about a bathe? Who's coming for a swim?"

Some one else cautiously: "You go in first and tell us what it is like."

"No! I'm d——d if I'll go in unless some one comes with me."

"Well, I'll go if you will." Then the original proposer: "I don't know
if it will be worth it. It's beastly cold, I'll bet."

"There you are, backing out of it again! I've a jolly good mind to lead
the way myself now." ... And so on, until at last one brave spirit
takes the plunge, and most of the others follow suit.

The shirkers could not possibly resist the temptation to indulge in
some game at the expense of their fellows, so they formed themselves
into a society for "the prevention of bathers regaining their clothes"!
To this end they collected large piles of peat, and no sooner did the
unfortunate swimmers appear, scrambling naked and shining over the
rocks, than they were greeted by a spread salvo of dirt and earth!
Casting lurid reflections on the manners, characters, and antecedents
of their assailants, they fled to cover. From above came the challenge:
"Out of your dugouts and over the top, or we'll storm the Hindenburg
line!" and another salvo of peat burst in and about the funk-holes,
driving the bathers once more into the open ... Braving a withering
fire they scaled the cliffs, only to be promptly chased all over the
island in their birthday suits!

Fortunately there were no inhabitants to be scandalized by this
spectacle of "British Naval Officers at Play!" The amusement was only
brought to an end by cries of "Tea ready!" from the cooks. Then the
bathers were allowed to resume their garments and soon all were doing
full justice to the good fare provided.

The menu consisted of sausages, scrambled eggs, potted meats, tinned
crab, sardines, oranges, chocolate biscuits, and anything else
indigestible that you can think of.... After a brief interval allowed
for assimilation, trench warfare was instituted and a furious combat
raged up and down the island until both sides were utterly exhausted.

At 6 P.M., pleasantly tired, and very dirty, we all embarked, weighed
anchor to the strains of "Blow the Man down," and still singing set
sail for the ship, and drew alongside to the tune of "When you come to
the End of a Perfect Day," which seemed to us singularly appropriate.

At 9 o'clock the next morning we embarked in the picket-boat and
proceeded to H.M.S. ——, on which ship the seamanship oral exam.
was to be held. As soon as we got aboard we were taken down to the
school place, and there told to wait until summoned. The only seating
accommodation consisted of two hard wooden benches, and some of the
candidates from other ships were already assembled, busily studying
seamanship manuals and signal-books: they _looked_ quite as dejected
and apprehensive as we _felt_!

Presently Captain ——, President of the Examining Board, came in and
summoned the three seniors to his cabin. I was due to go in with the
next three, but it was more than an hour and a half before we were sent
for, and as the minutes crawled by we became more and more downcast and
miserable as we realized the enormous number of questions the examiners
must be asking. At last our time came. There were three officers on
the Board, and I went first to Commander ——. He questioned me on the
duties of officers of the watch in harbour and at sea; and then passed
on to the handling of ships; boat work, anchor work; ships' stores and
construction.

Next I went to our own Commander, who put to me queries about rigging
and more anchor work. Last—and worst of all—I went to the Captain, who
was examining in signals. Luckily he did not himself know very much
about the subject, for there is a lot of specializing in the Service,
and not even a Captain can be a specialist in every branch of naval
work, so he used a printed list of questions and answers made out by
the Yeoman of Signals.

Then, however, he played us a nasty trick, for he had the Chief Yeoman
of Signals down to his cabin to give us Morse and semaphore exercises,
and remained watching us all the time instead of, as is usually done,
sending us up to the bridge. Of course, in the latter case, if the
Chief Yeoman is at all a decent sort, he does the exercises very
slowly, and if you wish him to do so repeats any one you may miss. I
did not get a single word in Morse—and precious little in semaphore—and
I went down to the gunroom ready to bet any money that I had failed.

The Sub. of H.M.S. ——'s gunroom was one of those giddy pessimists who
always predict disaster: "Expect you'll all be Snotties for another
month," was his cheerful verdict! However, he gave us an excellent
lunch, and at 12.30 the boat arrived to take us back to our own ship.
Three of our number were still on the rack, so we went back without
them.

Like myself, G—— and C—— were gloomily certain that they had failed,
and we fairly dreaded the arrival of the boat which would bring
the Commander, our two remaining candidates, and—the result of the
examinations. They did not arrive until 2.30, and then, to my infinite
relief, I found that all but one of us had passed, and—glory be!—that
one wasn't me!

 (_Note by a captious mother: From which remark we may safely assume
 that grammar was not included in the examinations!_)

So far, so good—but the end was not yet.

On the following day the navigation oral was due, and as this did not
take place until the afternoon, we spent the whole morning poring over
navigation manuals. But we might just as well have spared ourselves the
trouble, for you can't get a quart into a pint pot, and we had already
absorbed all the knowledge on this subject that our brains seemed
capable of holding.

When we arrived on board the ship where this particular exam. was being
held we found that candidates from other ships were still in the throes
and so we had to wait. But this was all to the good, for in the brief
pauses between their interviews we were able to glean from them some
valuable tips as to what kind of question to expect.

When at last our turn came I was sent first to the officer who was
examining in chart work. He handed me a chit on which was set out a
problem dealing with the finding of a ship's position when in sight of
land, and left me to tackle it while he questioned another candidate
on chart markings, etc. The problem was as follows: To find the noon
position of an imaginary ship, somewhere in the Channel, her true
course being (so far as I can remember) S. 70° W. From the ship in
question the bearing of Dungeness Light-Vessel at 10.30 was N. 10° E.,
and of Owers Lightship at 11.15, N. 35° W. true. The deviation of the
ship's compass was 9° E., and the tide was setting S. 75° W. true.

Having worked it out as I thought correctly, I asked Commander —— to
look at it. He did so; and then asked me to demonstrate the steps I had
taken to obtain my result. Then I at once perceived that in laying off
the course I had applied the variation the wrong way, and consequently
my explanation took this rather ludicrous form: "Well, sir ... I laid
off the course here.... Oh no!... I see that's wrong ... it should
have been here.... Then I transferred to ... Oh no! That's wrong
again.... I cut the wrong line.... Then I laid off the tide to this
point ... but I see that I should have laid it off to that...." And so
on, correcting myself all along the line. However, by these peculiar
methods I apparently satisfied him that my knowledge of the subject, if
badly expressed, was sufficiently sound, and he eventually passed me.

My next examiner was one of those splendid people who somehow contrive
to put a question in such a way as to closely suggest, if not actually
to convey, the answer, and so I got through without much difficulty.
In all we were examined in navigation by five different officers, but
met with few real stumbling-blocks, and in pleasing contrast to the
previous day returned to our ship in a very optimistic frame of mind.

The whole of the succeeding day was devoted to gunnery. In the
forenoon, turret and 4-inch-gun drill—at which I fear we did not
distinguish ourselves; but the knowledge that the Snotties from another
ship, who were examined with us, had done even worse, gave us some
slight consolation.

In the afternoon came control, ammunition, etc., and for these we had
to repair on board the ill-fated _Vanguard_, which, but three days
later, fell a victim to that disastrous explosion which destroyed her
and so many of her gallant crew. The only one of her officers on the
Board was her Gunnery Commander, who, I am glad to say, was among those
who were saved. Thanks to him, this examination, although commonly
held to be one of the most trying, was rendered comparatively easy,
for he was one of those officers—alas, but too rarely met with in the
Service—who do not believe in expecting too much from a Snotty, and are
inclined to judge him rather in the kindly light of future promise than
in that of present performance.

Two more orals were still before us, namely, torpedo and engineering.
The former was held on board our own ship, and the latter in that
in which the seamanship had taken place. Our Commander, "T.," was
President of the Torpedo Board, and doubtless his verdict was based on
our everyday work as he knew it, rather than on the immediate result of
the examination, for he let us down lightly.

The engineering again was not very stiff, for since it is obviously a
subject for specialization, only a fairly wide general knowledge was
required of us.

I will not enlarge further on a theme which, although of such vital
importance to us Snotties, will probably be of little interest to the
general public. The written exams. which succeeded the oral occupied
four days, and then there remained only to await the results.

From various unofficial sources we soon learned the names of those who
had qualified in four subjects—but the navigation was still in doubt.
Although I was fairly confident of success in everything else, on this
subject I was very nervous, as we already knew that in it four of us
had failed, and I greatly feared that I was included in the number. In
fact, I became so pessimistic that I laid the odds against myself to
the tune of a sovereign, and further promised a friend to stand him a
bottle of champagne in the event of my forebodings being falsified.
However, on July 31, the official information reached the ship, and to
my intense relief I found I had lost my bet.... Never did loser pay up
more willingly!

On August 2 the Captain sent for Campbell, our senior Snotty, and
after having a final "strafe" at him in that capacity, informed him
that he and I had been rated Acting Sub-Lieutenants. Five minutes
later Campbell burst into the gunroom proudly sporting on his sleeves
the newest and brightest of gold stripes, and, on hearing the joyful
news, I promptly dashed off to my chest to don the coat which I,
too, had had prepared in anticipation of this blissful moment! Our
jubilation was only marred by our sympathy with the disappointment of
our two messmates who had not had our luck, and whose promotion was in
consequence deferred for another two months.



CHAPTER X

OF SHADOW AND SUNSHINE

  The wrecks dissolve above us, their dust drops down from afar ...
  Down to the dark, to the utter dark, where the blind white sea-snakes are.
  There is no sound, no echo of sound, in the deserts of the deep,
  Or the great grey level plains of ooze where the shell-burred cables creep.

              KIPLING


Although the disaster to the _Vanguard_ took place when we were in
harbour, and the ill-fated ship was lying only about four cables from
us, I personally was not a witness of her sad end, for it took place
about 11.30 P.M., at which time I was asleep in my hammock, and—strange
as it may seem—I was not even aroused by the noise of the explosion.
However, next morning one of my messmates gave me the following
account of what he had seen. He had been just about to turn in when he
heard the detonation, and dashed up on to the fo'c'sle to see what had
happened. Flames were leaping up to an incredible height, and the air
was thick with fragments of red-hot metal.

Climbing down on to the quarter-deck, he observed that some of our
ship's company were lowering a whaler, but as there was no officer in
charge he jumped in, took the tiller, and headed for the scene of the
disaster. No trace of the _Vanguard_ was to be seen, but where she had
lain the sea was ablaze with burning oil, and there seemed but little
hope of rescuing even such of her crew as might have survived the
explosion. Although the flaming waters were strewn with debris of every
description, they saw no single sign of humanity save only the scorched
and blackened corpse of a stoker, which they lifted into the whaler and
later handed over to a trawler.

On an island, some half a mile away, numerous fires had sprung up,
started apparently by fragments of burning cordite, and such had been
the force of the explosion that a cutter, weighing over two tons, had
passed right between the masts of the next ship in the line.

Our boat remained in the vicinity of the disaster for some time, but
could find no survivors to pick up, and so they had sadly to return to
the ship.

When next morning I was awakened by Campbell and told of the tragedy
which had taken place while I slept, I could hardly believe it. Leaping
out of my hammock, I ran up on deck to see for myself.... Alas, it was
too true, for where only last night the _Vanguard_ had lain, nothing
was now visible but a few patches of oil floating on the calm surface
of the harbour.

Collecting my gear, I went down to the bathroom, where I found five
members of her gunroom, who, having been at one of the Fleet Theatre
shows the night before, had escaped the disaster, and had been sent to
us pending the holding of a court of inquiry. They were naturally the
centre of an excited crowd, who all seemed to expect them to be able
to give some information, in spite of the fact that as they were in
another ship, and more than a mile away at the time of the explosion,
they had both heard and seen rather less than ourselves.

That afternoon they were sent off to an auxiliary cruiser, where they
were confronted with the melancholy task of trying to identify such
portions of human bodies as had been recovered along the foreshore and
floating in the sea. It is not to be wondered at that they returned in
the evening in a very dismal and morbid frame of mind.

During the day, parties from many of the ships were detailed to search
the neighbouring islands for the log, ledger, and other registers kept
on board H.M.'s ships, as these may sometimes afford a clue to the
cause of an accident, and in any case it is obvious that such highly
confidential documents as wireless and signal books must not be
allowed to fall into unauthorized hands.

In the afternoon I saw piled on our quarter-deck a quantity of
salvage, among which were an officer's overcoat, two seamen's bags, an
empty small arms ammunition box, and some Service books; the latter
were so scorched and so covered with oil fuel as to be practically
undecipherable, as was the case with nearly all papers recovered.
Divers were sent down to inspect the wreck, of which, however, little
remained to afford a clue to the cause of the disaster. Of masts and
funnels there was no sign, and only two turrets, minus roofs and
guns, were found at some distance from the rest of the debris. It was
discovered that all magazines except one had blown up.


There was universal rejoicing when some two weeks after the tragic end
of the luckless _Vanguard_, and about a week after the conclusion of
exams., the whole Fleet moved to another base. Here we were much more
in touch with civilization, for a large town with quite respectable
shops was within reach.

On the first opportunity I went ashore, and, in wilful disregard of
the proverb which warns us not to count our chickens before they are
hatched, invested in a nice new pair of gold stripes, and got the
ship's tailor to sew them on to the sleeves of one of my coats, in
hopeful anticipation that I might shortly be entitled to wear them. One
day, before we had received the official intimation of our promotion,
Campbell and I met another of our term who, having already heard of
his success, was duly invested, so to speak. Evidently suffering from
swollen head, he greeted us with the offensive remark: "Hallo! you
_Snotties_!" ... But when we received the joyful news, we too swaggered
into town, feeling as conscious of our arms as though we had been newly
vaccinated and taken well, and hoping to encounter some of our less
fortunate fellows to whom we could pass on that swanky greeting!... But
no luck!

After the exams. we had become Super-Snotties, and as such not
required to do any of an ordinary Midshipman's duties, but the
Commander would not put us on to watch-keeping until we had actually
"shipped our stripes," so we had, in the graceful lingo of the gunroom,
absolutely "stink all" to do for nearly three weeks, and could go
ashore every day if we pleased. Now, however, this blissful period was
at an end, and we had to begin watch-keeping. After our slack time we
thought this dreadfully hard work, although we only had to keep two
watches a day for two days running, and then had three days off—and no
night watches at all! In reality this was, of course, very light work,
and I looked back on it with rueful regret when some two months later,
for three solid weeks, most of which were spent at sea, I had to be on
the bridge for twelve hours out of the twenty-four.

It had long been my cherished ambition to be appointed to one of
the smaller craft, in which my work would be much more varied and
responsible than that of a junior officer in a big ship. So, shortly
after receiving promotion, I applied through the Captain to have my
name forwarded with a view to being appointed to the _Vernon_ for the
torpedo control course, which same is the usual preliminary to work in
a destroyer.

On September 1 I duly received my appointment, and I finally left
H.M.S. —— on the 5th.

I arrived in Portsmouth on the 9th, having spent the previous four days
on leave in London. Some dozen other Subs. were about to undergo the
torpedo course, which commenced on the following morning, and we found
that we were to be billeted at the Central Hotel. We were all delighted
at the prospect of living on the "beach," for we foresaw plenty of
opportunity for going to theatres, etc.

H.M.S. _Vernon_ comprises three old wooden hulks—relics of the days
of Nelson—and they are moored at the head of Portsmouth Harbour, and
connected bow to stern by broad gangways. These ships collectively
form the torpedo school of the Navy, and nearly every N.O. at some
period of his career undergoes a course of instruction here.

When next morning we arrived on board we had to traverse the whole
length of the three ships to reach the bows of the farthest, where
the torpedo control room is situated. A fairly extensive knowledge
of torpedoes is necessary in order to pass for Sub-Lieutenant, and
so we already knew all about a "mouldy" as they are called in naval
vernacular. However, this first forenoon, a Chief Petty Officer was
detailed to run through the main essentials in order to refresh our
memories, but most of us, relying on our recently acquired knowledge,
settled down in comfortable corners and dozed until lunch-time. The
course proper commenced in the afternoon. Much to our disgust, about 2
P.M. a signal was received saying that all officers undergoing torpedo
control course were to be billeted in the _Redoubtable_, a very old
battleship, moored at the northern end of the docks, and used as a
depot ship.

At 3.20, work being over for the day, we caught the 3.30 boat to
the beach, and set about transferring our gear to our new temporary
home. We were, however, much relieved to find on inquiry that the
_Redoubtable's_ last boat did not run until 11.30 P.M., so after all
our liberty would not be much curtailed.



CHAPTER XI

OF MY FIRST EXPERIENCES AS A SUB.

    Where the East wind is brewed fresh and fresh every morning
    And the balmy night-breezes blow straight from the Pole,
    I heard a destroyer sing: "What an enjoyable
    life does one lead on the 'Channel' Patrol.

         .     .     .     .     .     .

    "We warn from disaster the mercantile master
    Who takes in high dudgeon our life-saving rôle,
    For every one's grousing at docking and dowsing
    The marks and the lights on the 'Channel' Patrol."

         .     .     .     .     .     .

    So swept but surviving, half drowned but still driving,
    Watched her head out through the swell off the shoal,
    And I heard her propellers roar: "Write to poor fellers
    Who run such a hell as the 'Channel' Patrol!"

              KIPLING


The course in the _Vernon_ lasted for one week, and when it was
finished we were free to go on leave till we received our new
appointments.

After about seven days' leave I was appointed as second in command of
H.M.S. _P——_, based at Portsmouth, and arriving in that town on the
evening of October 1, in accordance with instructions I reported myself
at the R.N. barracks.

It appeared that nothing was known there as to the movements of ships,
and I was referred to the Commodore's office. There I could glean
little more information, but was advised to go down to Boat House
Jetty, where _P——_ was always berthed when in harbour. However, at the
moment she was not there, so I returned to the Commodore's office to
ask where I could be billeted for the night. They told me I could get a
bed at the Navigation School, and that the first thing in the morning
I should go down to Captain "D.'s" office, as all patrol-boats and
destroyers being under his direct orders, his secretary would be able
to give me definite information as to when my ship was expected in.
Accordingly at 9 A.M. next morning I made my way to the said office and
reported. The A.P.R.N.R., who was Captain "D.'s" secretary, informed
me that _P——_ was out, but would probably be in that afternoon, and
advised me to return about 4 P.M. This I did—but found I had missed her
again, for though she had come in at three o'clock she had only stayed
for half an hour.

That evening I got a note from the Sub. of another boat saying that if
I would come aboard his ship at 11 A.M. next morning I should there
meet the First Lieutenant of _P——_, whom I was relieving. I wondered
what on earth he could be doing on another boat when his own was, I
knew, at sea, but on meeting him I learned that she had unexpectedly
received immediate sailing orders while he was on short leave ashore
and had to leave without him. Having thus missed her (at Devonport), he
had hurried round by train to Portsmouth—only to miss her again!

I lunched on board with the two Subs., and afterwards went with M—— to
the pay office in barracks to draw a month's pay which was due to the
ship's company of _P——_. When we returned, we found that she had come
in, and was lying at a buoy in mid-stream. We made a signal for a boat,
and shortly afterwards a skiff arrived, with my new Skipper, Lieutenant
——, R.N.R., in the stern-sheets. After I had been introduced to him by
the Sub. I was relieving, he went off to Captain "D.'s" office to get
sailing orders and confidential papers, and M—— and I embarked in the
skiff and proceeded to _P——_.

I had left my gear on the "beach," intending to fetch it later, but
very soon the Captain returned with immediate sailing orders, and I had
to go off without it.

M—— and I kept the first watch on that night, which looked like being
quite a dirty one.

The bridge was by no means water-tight, and the spray that poured
through every crack and cranny penetrated also up our sleeves and down
our necks, so that we were soon soaked to the skin. The ship rolled so
violently that presently the topmast snapped off short and came down
with a crash on the chart-house, waking up the Captain, who had been
trying to get some sleep. He at once came out on to the bridge and
took charge, while he ordered us to go and see that the watch secured
the mast as well as possible and refixed the wireless. This was no
easy job in half a gale, and with the boat rolling and pitching to
every point of the compass, but in the end it was accomplished fairly
satisfactorily—although, with the broken mast sticking out at an acute
angle, the ship must have presented rather a drunken appearance. Then
we returned to our post on the bridge, and the Skipper was able to
resume his interrupted slumbers.

All went well until midnight, when we were relieved by the Gunner, and
went aft to try and snatch some sleep before 4 A.M. when we should
again be required to go on watch. Getting aft was a matter of some
difficulty, as waves were sweeping green over the deck, and we had to
cling tightly to the life-lines to avoid being washed overboard, and
by the time we reached the wardroom hatch we hadn't a dry stitch on
us. Even when we got below we had to hang on for dear life to prevent
ourselves from being thrown violently from one bulkhead to the other.

I did not get a wink of sleep that night, for my whole attention was
concentrated on the frantic effort to remain in my bunk. Boots and
other articles slithered back and forth on the deck in a slimy ooze of
oil fuel and sea water, and more than once I had to jump out and rescue
my clothes from the mess. Pandemonium was loose! At one moment the bath
broke away from the three hooks by which it was suspended from the deck
above, and landed with a crash in the narrow space between the chest of
drawers and the bunk.

Altogether it was with positive relief that I greeted the burly
dripping figure in oilskins and sea boots who came to call me for the
morning watch; and shoving on as many clothes as I could over the
pyjamas I had borrowed from the Sub., I once more made my way on to the
bridge.

About an hour later the dawn broke grey and dismal, and I could
just distinguish the faint line of the French coast.... Our mission
accomplished, we set our helm hard aport and proceeded to batter our
way back to Portsmouth with wind and sea full in our faces.

At 8.30 A.M. the Gunner again relieved us, and we went down to the
wardroom in search of breakfast. Here, amid a mad medley of cutlery,
crockery, and cruets, we found a nasty-looking piece of cold bacon
skidding giddily over the table in company with a loathly-looking loaf
of bread. Presently the steward appeared juggling with two brimming
cups of tea, and strenuously endeavouring to keep his balance on the
swaying deck. With pardonable triumph at having brought them from the
pantry without upsetting them, he placed the cups on the table, where
they added to the general confusion by promptly slopping their contents
over everything.

In order to avoid being shot off our chairs we had to hang on with one
hand while we tried to feed ourselves with the other. I had quite an
exciting time trying to spear pieces of bacon with a fork, my plate
always sliding away to the other side of the table at the crucial
moment! In the end I became quite an expert at the job, and managed to
consume really a considerable amount. (_N.B._ Try our new parlour-game:
"Pig-Sticking" on a destroyer in mid-Channel!) Fortunately for me, I
am what is known as a "good sailor," and have never yet experienced
the miseries of seasickness. What service in small craft must mean for
those with less tractable tummies I shudder to think.

We sighted the Isle of Wight about 3 P.M. and were congratulating
ourselves on the fact that within an hour and a half we should be
safely berthed in Portsmouth, and with any luck would get a night in,
as the ship had been running exceptionally hard for a week past.... But
our congratulations were premature, for when we drew near our objective
we received a signal ordering us to anchor as convenient and await the
arrival of another "P." boat which was bringing us our sailing orders.
This meant that yet another night's work was before us. So, having
anchored in accordance with instructions, we promptly turned in to try
and get some sleep before we had to again proceed to sea.

Our sailing orders arrived about two hours later, and their purport
proved particularly annoying for both M—— and me, for it meant that he
would be detained on the ship for another thirty-six hours or so, and
for the like period I should still be without my clothes, etc. It will
be remembered that I had had to come away without my gear, which was
still at Portsmouth. However, we had to make the best of it.

We got under way at about 8 P.M., did our job, and after an uneventful
trip returned to our base, and finally secured alongside Boat House
Jetty at 10 A.M. on a Sunday morning.

The other Sub. went off immediately to take up his new appointment,
and I very thankfully collected my belongings.

It was about 3.30 on that afternoon when we learned that we were
required to take the place of a T.B. which had unexpectedly been
forced to dock, and in company with another patrol-boat execute
certain orders. The T.B. we were replacing was down to remain at the
destination whither we were bound over Monday, but as we were due to
commence our periodical boiler-cleaning that morning, our Captain made
a signal to Captain "D." asking if we were to remain at the place in
question in accordance with these sailing orders, or to return to
Portsmouth as per schedule. His reply was that we were to return.

We left harbour at 4 P.M., and in a howling gale dropped anchor at the
spot indicated in our instructions. Very soon we found that one anchor
would not hold—we had already dragged about half a mile—and I had to go
up on to the fo'c'sle and superintend the letting go of another....

At 8 P.M. we weighed both and proceeded to execute the duty required of
us. I had the first watch: there was a very heavy sea running, and the
wind being on our starboard quarter, I had to take great care that the
ship did not get into the trough of the waves, in which case she would
not have answered to her helm.

About 11.30 course was altered, bringing wind and sea dead on our beam,
and the ship's head had to be continually brought up to meet the waves.

However, nothing untoward occurred, and at midnight I was relieved by
the Gunner. As on the previous night, the violent motion effectually
prevented me from sleeping, and at 4 A.M. I had to go on watch again.
Then I found that we were already on our homeward course.

The ship was steering very badly, and in order to keep her on her
course the port engine had to be kept dead slow, which greatly reduced
our speed. When I had been on the bridge for about half an hour the
steering-gear broke down altogether, which involved conning by engines
alone. With starboard going full ahead, and port slow astern, she
would hardly swing through a degree. I sent for an E.R.A. (engine-room
artificer) to endeavour to repair the steering-gear, and, through the
voice-pipe, informed the Captain, who was sleeping in the chart-house,
of the state of affairs. Owing to the violence of the storm we were
making considerable leeway, and being unable to keep within 20° of our
course, were carried some distance to eastward.

At dawn, the steering-gear having been repaired, we were able to again
make headway in the right direction, and the Captain now tried to work
out our position by dead reckoning. This was a very difficult job, as
there was no possible means of ascertaining how far we had drifted from
our course. However, he proved himself a highly skilled navigator,
for, although the land was completely obscured by heavy rain squalls,
at 11 A.M. we exactly hit off the buoy which marks the entrance to the
Channel.

Owing to the fury of wind and waves we had sustained considerable
damage. The stout iron stanchions supporting the engine-room hatch
were bent; the port foremost Berthon boat had broken adrift from its
securing chains; several ventilators had been unshipped, and every
one of our fenders had been swept overboard. But by 1.30 P.M. we were
safely secured alongside Boat House Jetty, and one watch proceeded on
leave.

I had to remain in charge on board, but dined with the Gunner of _P——_,
which was lying alongside. He was an old friend, as he had been in
charge of the cadets at Dartmouth during the one term I spent there.

A week later, the boiler-cleaning being finished and the damage
aforementioned having been made good, we were once more ready for sea,
and in due course received sailing orders....

We arrived at our first destination at about 3 P.M. T.B. —— made fast
astern of us, and after I had seen her secured I turned in until
7.30, when we once more got under way and proceeded into harbour. Here
we made fast alongside the ——, which was nice and handy for getting
ashore. I was not greatly impressed with —— as a town, but it afforded
an opportunity for some much-needed exercise.

At 5.30, in company with another "P." boat we steamed out of harbour to
find a stiff breeze blowing, and the tide setting strongly against the
wind. This created a nasty chop on the water, but, as the ship we had
to shepherd carried no signalman, in order to facilitate communication
with her in reference to course to be steered, etc., we decided to
secure alongside her until 8 P.M., when she was due to get under way.
When we had made fast, _P——_ secured alongside us, thus bringing the
full strain of two boats on our hawsers. I heard our wire beginning to
strand, so gave the order to ease away and take the strain on the grass
line, but that had no sooner tautened than it parted. Directing the men
to pay out the wire as slowly as possible, I dispatched a messenger
aft to the Captain to inform him that we should not be able to hold
on much longer. Before he had time to give orders to let go aft and
get way on, the wire was all paid out and we had to let the end go
overboard, as, had it parted, it would naturally have flown back, and
probably caused serious injury to those on the fo'c'sle. The remaining
securing lines had then to be let go, and thus we were left, drifting
about the roads with no way on, and still secured to and bumping
_P——_. After considerable trouble we managed to get free and dropped
our anchor. By this time it was 7.30, so we had only half an hour for
dinner, after which we weighed anchor again.

I had the first watch, during which no incident occurred, and I turned
in at midnight. When I returned to the bridge at 4 A.M. I found that
the night was now calm and clear, but it was very dark and there was no
moon. I took over from the Gunner, who went below to turn in. All went
well for about twenty minutes. Then—suddenly—about one point on our
starboard bow, I saw all steaming lights of another vessel switched on!

Now, by rule of the road at sea, as the stranger was on our starboard
hand, we were bound to give way to her and pass under her stern, so I
gave the order, "Hard aport." Unfortunately she was so very close that
there was no time to get full helm on, and seeing that a collision was
inevitable I gave the order, "Stop both," and dashing to the starboard
telegraph myself put it to "Stop." Before I had even let go of the
handle there came a mighty crash ... the ship quivered from stem to
stern and stopped dead.

The Captain was beside me in an instant. "What are we doing?" he
demanded ... meaning what orders had I issued. I replied, "All stopped,
sir."

Then we looked over the canvas screen and saw that the other boat had
her bows locked into our fo'c'sle, and had heeled over to an acute
angle as she struck. For the moment we thought she must sink—but,
hailing her, the Captain requested her Commander to keep her bows
locked in until we had ascertained the extent of the damage. It would
appear, however, that he did not hear the hail, for he promptly went
astern and backed out.

As the water rushed in through the rent in our side we began to go down
by the bows, and for an anxious moment we thought we were done for ...
but by good luck we still floated.

Leaving me to superintend the getting out of the collision-mat, my
Skipper signalled to the ship that had rammed us—which, by the way, was
another "P." boat—asking if we could give her any help. She replied in
the negative, saying that so far as she could ascertain she was not
damaged, and was returning to her base.

After I had reported to the Captain that the collision-mat was in
place, he ordered me to go below and superintend the shoring up of
the bulkheads. The stokers off watch, and the watch below, under the
directions of the Engineer, had already collected all spare balks of
timber, mess stools, etc., for this purpose. The hatch leading to the
coxswain's storeroom had been opened up and it was discovered that we
were making no water abaft the compartment in which we had been holed.

When I had seen the bulkheads shored up to my satisfaction, I reported
to the Captain on the bridge. Every possible precaution for insuring
the safety of the ship having now been taken, he decided that it would
be best to get under way immediately, and endeavour to get back to
Portsmouth without further delay, in case it came on to blow and the
sea got up. At the moment, fortunately for us, it was quite calm. Not
feeling certain that the bulkheads would withstand the strain of going
ahead, and not knowing the extent of the damage the ship had sustained
below the water-line, the Captain decided to proceed stern first until
daylight enabled us to make a more thorough examination.

We had been struck a bare six feet forward of the stoker's mess deck,
the foremost living-space in this class of ship, in view of which fact
we were uncommonly lucky in that no lives were lost, nor had any of the
crew been injured.

We were obliged to proceed dead slow as, owing to her overhanging
counter, the slightest sea jarred the ship horribly, and stern first
at this speed she steered very badly. It was only with the greatest
difficulty that I was able to keep her within five degrees of the
course without having to supplement the helm by continually altering
the revolutions of the engines.

When daylight came, I went with the Captain on to the fo'c'sle, and
then we discovered that the collision-mat was quite inadequate—in fact
it had already carried away and was towing aimlessly alongside. I
ventured to suggest to the Skipper that it might be a good plan to fill
up the hole with fenders, to which he agreed, and leaving me to summon
the watch and get the job duly executed, he returned to the bridge to
give the necessary orders for bringing the ship round, as he considered
that it was now safe to proceed in the orthodox manner—bows first.

Having seen the work on the fo'c'sle accomplished, I once more resumed
my morning watch, and after the Captain had given orders for a stoker
to be posted on the mess deck, with instructions to give immediate
warning in the event of the bulkhead showing any signs of giving, he
retired below.

About 7.30, as everything seemed to be holding well, I ventured to
increase speed to 10 knots. At 8 I was relieved by the Gunner and
went down to breakfast; after which, at the request of the Captain, I
made out a rough report of the orders I had given in respect of helm
and engines in the moments immediately preceding the collision. This,
after revision, would be embodied in the statement he would have to
forward to Captain "D." as soon as we reached harbour. We had already
dispatched a wireless message to the effect that we had been in
collision and were returning to our base.

Finally, at about 3 P.M. we entered harbour and secured at our usual
berth.

I was in a bit of a funk that I should have to appear before a court
of inquiry. However, it must be assumed that on the report sent in by
my Skipper and the Commander of the ship with which we had had the
misfortune to collide, the C.-in-C. was satisfied that everything
possible had been done: that in the circumstances the collision could
not have been avoided, and that no blame attached to the officers on
watch at the time.

Nevertheless, since accidents must be sternly discouraged, the Captains
were admonished, and warned that a still stricter lookout must be
kept in future.... This was very rough on them, as naturally every
precaution is taken to keep as keen a lookout as possible, not only
with a view to avoiding disaster, but also in hope of locating and
perhaps, with luck, strafing a U-boat.

The responsibilities of a Commanding Officer must needs weigh heavily,
for it is obvious that the High Command can take no cognizance of that
occult and fickle factor "luck," and naval discipline in war-time must
be merciless.

Little wonder that the N.O. is inclined to be superstitious, and to
burn incense at the shrine of Joss!

A week later, my ship being in dock, I was able to go home on two
weeks' leave. Oh, most certainly collisions are severely to be
deprecated!... But—the cloud had a silver lining!

 _Here the Midshipman's record ends...._

 _In common with so many of his contemporaries, it has been given him
 to condense into a few short years of extreme youth experience and
 adventure enough for a lifetime ... and who shall say what yet lies
 behind the veil of mystery and wonder that so mercifully shrouds the
 future. Gleaming bright with the gold of our dreams, or darkened by
 futile folly of our fears, no man may lift that veil and live.... But
 Faith shall make of it a thing of Beauty. Our cause is just._ _We
 give it our Best, in the belief that somehow—somewhere—it will be well
 with these our Beloved: and so it must needs be well with us._

 _What matter to-morrow—there's courage enough for to-day._

    "Gay gallant lives so oft at stake,
      Danger and you are such old friends
    That we have learned to mock it for your sake."

          AVE!—ATQUE VALE.


  PRINTED AT THE COMPLETE PRESS
  WEST NORWOOD LONDON



_BY THE SAME AUTHORS_


FROM DARTMOUTH TO THE DARDANELLES

A MIDSHIPMAN'S LOG

Edited by His Mother

Price 1s. 6d. net

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from his going to Dartmouth in May 1914, to his first leave after ten
months' service, when his ship had been torpedoed in the Dardanelles.
It is a picture of life from day to day on active service, written
with an absence of self-consciousness, an ingenuous, boyish eagerness
for new experiences, and an enthusiasm for the Navy that would disarm
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DAILY TELEGRAPH.

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LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN



A DIARY WITHOUT DATES

By ENID BAGNOLD

2s. 6d. net


"'A Diary without Dates' is one of the most moving books that the war
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LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN



_Philip Gibbs' Great War Books_


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Popular Edition. Cloth, 3s. 6d. net.

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LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN


       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Notes

Minor punctuation and printer errors repaired.

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_ and upright text surrounded by
italic text with  ~tildes~.





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