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Title: From Dartmouth to the Dardanelles - A Midshipman's Log
Author: Forester, Wolstan Beaumont Charles Weld
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            FROM DARTMOUTH
                          TO THE DARDANELLES



SOLDIERS’ TALES OF THE GREAT WAR

Each volume cr. 8vo, cloth. 3_s._ 6_d._ net.


 I. WITH MY REGIMENT. By “PLATOON COMMANDER.”

 II. DIXMUDE. The Epic of the French Marines. Oct.-Nov. 1914. By
 CHARLES LE GOFFIC.

  _Illustrated_

 III. IN THE FIELD (1914-15). The Impressions of an Officer of Light
 Cavalry.

 IV. UNCENSORED LETTERS FROM THE DARDANELLES. Notes of a French Army
 Doctor.

  _Illustrated_

 V. PRISONER OF WAR. By ANDRÉ WARNOD.

  _Illustrated_

 VI. “CONTEMPTIBLE.” By “CASUALTY.”

 VII. ON THE ANZAC TRAIL. By “ANZAC.”

 VIII. IN GERMAN HANDS. By CHARLES HENNEBOIS.


  LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
  21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.



                            FROM DARTMOUTH
                          TO THE DARDANELLES

                          A MIDSHIPMAN’S LOG


                               EDITED BY
                              HIS MOTHER


                                LONDON

[Illustration: LOGO]

  WILLIAM HEINEMANN



  _First Published June 1916._
  _New Impressions July, September, October 1916._


_London: William Heinemann, 1916._



                              _FOREWORD_


_THE responsibility for the publication of this book lies with me, and
with me alone. I trust that that great “Silent Service,” one of whose
finest traditions is to “do” and not to “talk,” will see in it no
indiscretion._

_To state that these pages make no claim to literary merit seems almost
superfluous, since they are simply a boy’s story of ten months of the
Great War as he saw it. In deference to the said tradition the names
of officers and ships concerned have been suppressed—those of the
midshipmen mentioned are all fictitious._

_The story has been compiled from a narrative written by my son during
a short spell of sick leave in December 1915. Considering that all his
diaries were lost when his ship was sunk, it may at least be considered
a not inconsiderable feat of memory. Originally it was intended only
for private circulation, but many who have read it have urged me
to put it into print; and I have decided to do so in the hope that
their prediction that it would prove of interest to the public may be
justified._

_In so far as was practicable, I have tried to tell the story in my
son’s own words; but it may possibly be argued that at times words
and phrases are such as would not normally be used by a boy of barely
sixteen. To that charge I can only reply that in the main even the
words are his own, and I have faithfully reproduced his ideas and
opinions._

_Those who have come in contact with the boys who left us as children,
and returned to us dowered by their tremendous experiences with
knowledge and insight so far in advance of their years, will find
nothing incongruous in reflections commonly foreign to such extreme
youth. It is one of the logical results of the fiery crucible of War._

_Let it be remembered that these boys have looked Death in the
face—not once only, but many times; and that, like our soldiers in
the trenches—who no longer say of their “pals” “He is dead,” but only
“He has gone west”—they have learned to see in the Great Deliverer not
a horror, not an_ end, _but a mighty and glorious Angel, setting
on the brows of their comrades the crown of immortality; and so when
the call comes they, like Sir Richard Grenville of old, “with a joyful
spirit die.”_

_What would be unnatural is that their stupendous initiation could
leave them only the careless children of a few months back._

_The mobilisation of the Dartmouth Cadets came with a shock of rather
horrified surprise to a certain section of the public, who could not
imagine that boys so young could be of any practical utility in the
grim business of War. There was, indeed, after the tragic loss of
so many of them in the_ Cressy, _the_ Aboukir, _and the
_Hogue, _an outburst of protest in Parliament and the Press. In
the first shock of grief and dismay at the sacrifice of such young
lives, it was perhaps not unnatural; but it argued a limited vision.
Did those who agitated for these Cadets to be removed from the post of
danger forget, or did they never realise, that on every battle-ship
there is a large number of boys, sons of the working classes, whose
service is indispensable?_

_It seemed to me that if my son was too young to be exposed to such
danger, the principle must apply equally to the son of my cook, or my
butcher, or my gardener, whose boys were no less precious to them than
mine was to me._

_In the great band of Brothers who are fighting for their country and
for the triumph of Right and Justice there can be no class distinction
of values. Those who belong to the so-called “privileged classes” can
lay claim only to the privilege of being_ leaders—_first in the
field and foremost at the post of danger. It is the only possible
justification of their existence; and at the post of danger they have
found their claim to priority hotly and gloriously contested by the
splendid heroes of the rank and file._

_Presumably the Navy took our boys because they were needed, and no
one to-day will feel inclined to deny that those Dartmouth Cadets have
abundantly proved their worth._

_For the rest, if there be any merit in this record, the credit lies
with the boy who provided the material from which it has been written:
for any feebleness, inadequacy, or indiscretion the blame must fall on
that imperfect chronicler—_

  _HIS MOTHER_



                     CONTENTS


 CHAP.                                        PAGE

    I DARTMOUTH COLLEGE                          1

   II MANŒUVRES                                 12

  III THE BEGINNING OF THE “REAL THING”         24

   IV WE JOIN OUR SHIP                          34

    V ALARUMS AND EXCURSIONS                    49

   VI WE LEAVE HOME WATERS                      65

  VII FROM EGYPT TO MOMBASA                     88

 VIII THE BOMBARDMENT OF DAR-ES-SALAAM         118

   IX ORDERED TO THE DARDANELLES               130

    X IN ACTION                                140

   XI THE SINKING OF THE SHIP                  152

  XII HOME                                     165



CHAPTER I

DARTMOUTH COLLEGE


MY first term at Dartmouth commenced on the 7th of May 1914—previously
I had, of course, been through the regulation two years at Osborne
College in the Isle of Wight.

Most of my term-mates came down from London by the special cadet train,
and I should have greatly preferred to have travelled with them, but my
home was so far away that I had to do the journey in solitary state,
and when I arrived at Kingswear Station at 9.30 on that beautiful
spring evening, I found myself a belated last comer.

A servant had been sent to meet me, and when he had collected my
luggage we embarked on the _Otter_, one of the steamboats belonging to
the College, which was lying alongside the pontoon. The passage of the
river Dart only took a few minutes, and we landed at Sandquay, where
are situated the engineering shops, in which no small proportion of my
brief time at Dartmouth was destined to be spent. Compared with the
collection of low, one-storied, bungalow-like buildings which comprise
the Osborne premises, the College, standing high upon a hill above
the river, appeared to me a very imposing structure, and pleasantly
suggestive of a distinct advance towards the goal of my ambitions—a
goal destined to be reached so swiftly, and by such unexpected paths,
as I at that moment little dreamed of.

A long flight of stone steps leads up through the grounds from
the workshops, and after climbing these I found myself in the big
entrance-hall of the College, where I was met by a warrant officer, who
took me to his office, and, after filing my health certificate, showed
me the way to the vast mess-room where the five hundred or so of cadets
in residence have all their meals. Here I had supper, consisting of
cold meat and bread-and-cheese; and when I had finished, the gunner
took me to my dormitory, pointed out my sea-chest and bed, and then
left me to turn in.

By this time it was about 10.30, my messmates were all asleep, and the
long room was only dimly illuminated by the “dead lights” which are
kept burning all night, as no matches or candles are allowed. Removing
my boots, I tiptoed round the chests adjoining mine to see by the
nameplates who my immediate neighbours might be, and then, folding up
my clothes in regulation fashion, I jumped into bed and was soon fast
asleep.

At 6 o’clock next morning we were all awakened by the réveillé, and
trooped down in a body to the bath-rooms for the cold plunge with
which, unless excused by doctor’s orders, every cadet must begin the
day. Then, having been informed by the senior cadets who were placed in
authority over us that if we were not dressed in one and a half minutes
the consequences would be unpleasant, we threw on as many clothes as
possible, and ran out of the dormitory surreptitiously carrying boots,
ties and collars, and finished dressing in the gun-room. Then we waited
about, greeted friends, and exchanged reminiscences of the past “leave”
until summoned to breakfast at 7.30.

This meal was served in the mess-room in which I had had my supper the
night before, and we all scrambled and fought our way up some stairs to
a gallery where were situated the four long tables reserved for the use
of the junior term.

Breakfast over, the cadet captains (who correspond to the monitors of
our public schools) showed us over the College grounds, and drew our
attention to the various rules, regulations, and notices posted up
at different points. We also paid a visit to the canteen, where may
be purchased ices, buns, sweets, and similar delicacies dear to all
schoolboys. As a more detailed description of my first day would not
be particularly interesting, I will just describe one in mid-term as
fairly typical of the College routine.

At 6 o’clock, roused by the réveillé, we scurry to the bath-room,
take the prescribed cold plunge, and then dress. Hot cocoa and ship’s
biscuit are served in the mess-room and followed by an hour’s study.
At 7.30 “fall in” in the long corridor called the “covered way,” which
leads from the dormitories to the mess-room. All the other terms having
gone in to breakfast, our particular batch of cadets is called to
“attention.” Then comes the order: “Right turn! Double march!”—and
helter-skelter, as fast as we can lay foot to the ground, we rush along
the hundred yards of corridor to the mess-room door and fight our way
through that narrow opening. Woe betide the unfortunate who falls in
the _mêlée_! He will get trampled on by all behind, and when finally he
is able to rise to his feet, dazed and bruised, after the rush has gone
by, he will be assisted on his way by the unsympathetic toes of the
cadet captain’s boots. Moral: Keep your footing!

After a brief grace we fall to and devour porridge with brown sugar and
fresh, creamy, Devon milk, rolls and butter, supplemented by kippers,
bacon and eggs, or some similar fare.

As no grace is said after breakfast, each cadet is at liberty to leave
as soon as he has finished, and to repair to his own gun-room until
the bugle sounds for divisions at 9 o’clock. At the call we all “fall
in” by terms in the big hall which is called the quarter-deck. The
Lieutenant of each term then inspects his cadets and reports to the
Commander that they are “correct,” after which the Commander in his
turn reports the whole six terms to the Captain. Then the Chaplain
comes in, the Commander calls all present to “attention,” and gives the
order “Off caps.” The Padre gives out the number of some familiar hymn,
and, after a few verses have been sung, he reads some short prayers.

Then caps are replaced, and, in obedience to the word of command, the
respective terms in order of seniority march off to the studies.

Let it be supposed that my term has to go to the engineering works at
Sandquay on this particular morning.

Procedure is as follows: “Divisions” over, we fall in on a path
outside the College and the Engineer Lieutenant marches us down to the
workshops. Dismissed from marching order we go into the lobby and shift
into overalls, after which we repair in batches to the various shops.
Here we construct and fit together parts of the many different types of
marine engines; dealing in the process with such work as the casting,
forging, and turning of steel and brass.

After two hours of this practical work we shift out of our overalls,
resume our uniform jackets and caps, and go to one of the lecture-rooms
where, for the remaining hour an engineer officer instructs us in
the theory of motors, and turbines, and various other engineering
technicalities. Then we are again fallen in outside the shops and
marched up to the College, where we have a “break” of a quarter of an
hour in which to collect the books required for the succeeding hour of
ordinary school work.

One o’clock finds us once more assembled in the covered way to double
along to the mess-room for lunch.

After this meal every one must stay in his place until grace is said,
when each term rises in order of seniority and doubles out of the
mess-room to the different gun-rooms.

It may be here noted that everything at Dartmouth is done at the
“double,” _i.e._ at a run. Strolling around with your hands in your
pockets after the fashion of most public schools is of course not
allowed in an establishment where naval discipline prevails.

After half an hour allowed for digestion we collect our books and go to
the studies for another two hours’ work.

At 4 o’clock we are mustered again for “quarters” as at “divisions” in
the morning, and when dismissed double away to shift into flannels for
recreation.

The choice of play and exercise is very varied, but no one is allowed
to “loaf.” Every cadet must do what is called a “log,” and the manner
in which he has spent his recreation time is duly entered against his
name each day. The “log” in question may consist of a game of cricket,
a two-mile row on the river, two hours’ practice at the nets followed
by the swimming of sixty yards in the baths, or a set of tennis or
fives.

Any cadet who cannot swim must learn without delay. The bath, eight
feet deep at one end and three feet at the other, is thirty yards long.
It is opened at 6 p.m., and there is always a large attendance. A
spring board for diving is provided, as well as various ropes suspended
six feet above the water by means of which the more agile spirits swing
themselves along, as monkeys swing from tree to tree.

All exercise is purposely strenuous, for the four years’ preparation
is a test of physical as much as of mental strength, and every year
some boys are “chucked,” to their bitter disappointment, because they
cannot attain to the standard of physical fitness indispensable for the
work they, as naval officers, would be expected to perform. Defective
eyesight is one of the commonest causes of rejection, for it is obvious
that full normal vision is essential for the Navy.

On the river there is the choice of two kinds of boat—five-oared gigs
and skiffs. A long and muddy creek, known as Mill Creek, branches off
from the river just above the College. Great trees overhang its banks
on either side and, if one cares to risk disobedience to orders, a very
pleasant way of passing an afternoon is to tie up one’s boat in the
shade and settle down with a book and some smuggled cigarettes. But it
is well to remember that the tide here is very treacherous. Once I saw
three cadets marooned on a mud-bank quite forty yards from the water’s
edge.

At 6.30 every one must be within the College buildings, and by a
quarter to 7 all cadets must have shifted into proper uniform and be
ready for tea.

At 7.30 there is “prep.,” which lasts till 8.30, when the “cease fire”
bugle sounds. Then the band plays on the quarter-deck, and there is
dancing till 9, after which every one “falls in” for five minutes’
prayer. Then the terms double away to their dormitories. At 9.30 the
Commander goes “rounds,” and every one must be in bed. As soon as he
has passed lights are put out and the day is over.



CHAPTER II

MANŒUVRES


THIS summer term of 1914, destined surely to be the most momentous
in the whole history of the College, nevertheless pursued its normal
course until July 18, on which date began the great test mobilisation
of the “Fleet in being,” to which we had all been eagerly looking
forward for some weeks.

It is, perhaps, too soon to speculate on the influence which this most
opportune concentration of sea power brought to bear on the course
of the War. Was it due to foresight? Was it a deliberate warning to
trespassers not to tread on Great Britain’s toes? Or was it just a
gorgeous piece of luck? Who shall say? Certainly not a mere “snottie”!
Anyway, it is a matter of history that after manœuvres the Fleet was
not demobilised, with the result that the swift, murderous assault on
our open sea-coast towns which, judging by the light of subsequent
events, was even then in preparation, was happily averted.

The cadets were all sent to Portsmouth, from where they embarked on
the various ships to which they had been respectively appointed. As a
description of my personal experiences I think I will insert here the
copy of a letter I wrote to my mother on my return to the College,
omitting only some personal details of no interest to the public.

  “Dartmouth College, Devon: _July 25, 1914_.

  “DARLING MOTHER—

 “Thanks so much for your letter and enclosures.... Now to describe the
 mobilisation. It was the finest thing I’ve ever seen! I _did_ enjoy
 myself. When we were just coming into Gosport in the train, we saw an
 airship and two aeroplanes above us. We went on board the tank-ship
 _Provider_, which took us to our respective ships. While we were
 waiting to start we saw flights of aeroplanes like birds chasing each
 other through the air, and a big airship was slowly hovering about
 low down on the horizon. The harbour was teeming with dashing little
 launches rushing about commanded by ‘snotties’! Outside the sight
 was wonderful. Simply _miles_ of stately battle-ships, and swarms of
 little torpedo craft. As we steamed out the _Astra Torres_, a huge
 airship, hovered over us. Just as we got abreast the line they fired
 a salute of 12-pounders to the King. It was lovely seeing the little
 white spurts of smoke from the sides of the huge ships. We went
 alongside the _Irresistible_, and soon afterwards saw the _Formidable_
 signalling to us a message from my ship—the _Lord Nelson_.

 “Almost directly afterwards her launch steamed alongside towing a
 boat for our luggage. There were no ‘snotties’ on board my ship and
 we had to take their duty, and were treated just like midshipmen. It
 was absolutely ripping! When we got on board we went down to the
 gun-room flat and deposited our bags and ‘macks.’ Then we went up on
 deck and a Petty Officer showed us the 9·2 and 12 inch turrets, and
 how they worked. Then we set to and started to explore the ship. Then
 came supper of sardines and bread-and-butter and ginger-beer in the
 gun-room.

 “Then we went on deck and looked at everything and climbed up to the
 searchlight platforms till the searchlight display began. That was
 splendid. The beams seemed to pierce everywhere. They described arcs
 and circles in the sky and swept up and down, and round and round, and
 from right forward to right aft. This went on for about an hour, and
 then we turned into our hammocks. At first I couldn’t get into mine,
 but when I had succeeded, and as soon as I had kicked the foot out as
 the hammock was too short for me, I found that it was more comfortable
 than a bed. The only thing that kept me awake was the ship’s company
 ‘sing-song,’ but I did not mind as it was all very lovely and novel,
 and they sang such topping sea-songs.

 “We turned out in the morning and had a bath and dressed, and had a
 topping breakfast, and then went on deck. We had to officer parties of
 seamen at ‘divisions.’ I was in charge of the ship’s boys. After that
 we had church, which was on the men’s mess-deck. I sat just opposite
 the galley whence emerged an odour of varied foods cooking, and I was
 so far away from the Padre that I never heard a word and nearly went
 to sleep. After church we shifted from our best clothes and started
 exploring again. We looked in the engine-room and went up a mast,
 etc. Then we had lunch. After lunch we went all round the Fleet in a
 little steam launch, and as the _Lord Nelson_ was flagship of the 2nd
 Fleet we conveyed instructions to a lot of ships. When we came back we
 had tea, and then went on deck and ragged about for some time. Having
 had supper we went on deck and got into conversation with a sporting
 Lieutenant, who told us all sorts of things about the Navy. While
 he was talking to us the ‘liberty’ men came off from the shore, and
 one bandsman was so drunk he fell in the sea trying to get out of the
 boat. Then we turned in and I fell asleep almost at once. Next morning
 we got up early and watched them weighing anchor. Then we saw the 1st
 Fleet slowly get under way. When they had all passed we got under way
 and steamed down Spithead at the head of our line. When we got near
 the royal yacht, ship was lined and we fell in on the after turret to
 cheer the King. That was grand! To see the stately ships steam by and
 hear their ship’s companies cheering for their King!

 “Then we went below and shifted into flannels and put on our overalls
 and had to get down into the engine-room and boiler-room to be shown
 round. In the upper part of the boiler-room the temperature was about
 110° Fahrenheit, I should think! The rails of the steps were so hot
 that they blistered my hands. Then the 1st Fleet fought us in a sham
 fight out in mid-channel, and there was a beastly row when each ship
 started firing her 12-pounders.

 “In the middle of it the 1st Fleet Destroyer flotilla dashed up
 to within 400 yards, intending to torpedo us, and we fired our
 12-pounders as fast as we could load them. The flotilla then turned
 round and steamed away as fast as they could. I think we were supposed
 to have beaten them off. At 4 o’clock the battle ended and our Fleet
 remained at sea all that night. We arrived at Portland at 8 in the
 morning, and after breakfast we disembarked and returned to the
 College by train. I must stop now as it is time for prayers. Fuller
 details in the leave. Best love from

  ——

 “P.S. My shirts haven’t come yet, I’ve just looked.”

       *       *       *       *       *

That “leave” never came. How little we dreamed at the time of the
mobilisation that we were so near to the “real thing”! But I must not
anticipate.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 25th July, three days after the events just recorded, the
examinations began.

The diplomatic struggle in Europe resulting from Austria’s note to
Serbia formed the chief topic of discussion in the College, but no
particular excitement prevailed until Tuesday the 28th of July, when we
learned that Austria had declared war on Serbia, and Russia had ordered
a partial mobilisation of her army.

That afternoon when we were all fallen in at “quarters,” and after
the terms had been reported by their officers to the Commander, and
were awaiting the customary dismissal, the Captain came on to the
quarter-deck, and, going up to the Commander, said a few words to him
in an undertone. The Commander saluted, and, turning to the ranks, gave
the order, “Cadets, ’shun!”

Every one sprang to “attention,” all eyes fixed upon the Captain. He
said: “I have just received this telegram from the Admiralty.” Then in
a clear, ringing voice he read the dispatch, which, to the best of my
recollection, ran as follows—

“In the event of war, prepare to mobilise at a moment’s notice.”

After a short pause during which a universal murmur of excitement
rippled through the ranks, he continued:

“If I receive the order to mobilise the College, all cadets will be
recalled immediately whatever they may be doing. You will proceed at
once to your dormitories, where you will pack your chests, and move
them out of the dormitories to the nearest pathway, and stand by to
load them on the carts and wagons which will convey them down to the
pier. You will then fall in in terms on the quarter-deck to draw your
pay. I will have lists of the ships to which cadets are appointed
posted up in the gun-rooms as soon as they are made out. The Hawke
and Drake terms will go to Portsmouth; the Grenville and Blakes to
Chatham, and the Exmouth and St. Vincents with the ships’ company to
Devonport. The Chatham batch will leave the College first, followed by
the Portsmouth batch. Those going to Devonport will leave last. A year
ago I promised the Admiralty to clear the College of all cadets and
active service ratings in eight hours. I trust to _you_ to make this
promise good.”

Then with a word to the Commander he left the quarter-deck.

The Commander turned to the ranks and gave the order “Stand at ease,”
and then to the officer of the sixth term he said: “Carry on, please.”

On the way to the dormitories and while shifting wild speculation was
rife. Very little cricket was played that afternoon. Groups of excited
cadets collected about the playgrounds and discussed in all their
bearings the two absorbing questions—“_Would_ England declare war?
SHOULD we be mobilised?”

Luckily for our education only two more exams remained to be done,
since we were far too excited to give them much attention. What after
all were examinations compared with the possibility of such tremendous
adventures as had suddenly loomed up on our horizon!

At this time, as the reader will no doubt remember, portentous events
followed each other in such quick succession that more excitement was
crammed into a single day than into any ordinary week or even month.
On the Wednesday morning when we assembled in the gun-room a rush was
made for the notice board, on which had been posted the list of ships
to which in the event of war we had been appointed. These were eagerly
scanned, and excitement rose to fever pitch. To see one’s name in print
as appointed to a real definite ship seemed to bring it all so much
nearer: to materialise what up till then had seemed more like some wild
and exciting dream of adventure than a sober fact.

However, by Thursday morning no order to mobilise had been received and
hope died down again, and by Friday, after the manner of the fox in
the fable, we were all consoling one another for the unattainable by
such remarks as: “After all, it will be much better fun to go on leave
next Tuesday than to fight any beastly Germans.”



CHAPTER III

THE BEGINNING OF THE “REAL THING”


“MOBILISE!” On Saturday the 1st of August, the Captain, standing at
the main entrance to the College, opened the fateful telegram which
contained only that one momentous word. It had come at last! Our dreams
were realised: it was _war_! But—did _one_ of us I wonder even dimly
imagine the stern and terrible business that war would be?

The news reached me as I was leaning against the balcony of the
gymnasium talking to a friend after a bout at the punch-ball. A
dishevelled fifth-termer burst through the swing doors and shouted at
the top of his voice “Mobilise!”

At first all were incredulous. Murmurs of “Only a scare”—“I _don’t_
think!” etc., etc., rose on all sides; but, after the messenger had
kicked two or three junior cadets through the door with emphatic
injunctions to “get a move on _quick_”—the rest of us were convinced,
and we hurled ourselves out of the building and away to the College.

Already an excited crowd was surging through the grounds: some with
mouths still full from the canteen, others clutching cricket-pads and
bats, and yet others but half-dressed, with hair still dripping from
the swimming bath.

Masters and officers on motor bikes and “push” bikes were careering
over the surrounding country to recall the cadets who had gone out on
leave, and to commandeer every kind of vehicle capable of carrying the
big sea-chests down to the river.

In gun-room and dormitory clothes, books, and boots were thrown
pell-mell into these same chests, which, when crammed to their utmost
capacity, were closed with a series of bangs which rang out like the
sound of pistol shots. Perspiring cadets, with uniform thrown on
anyhow, dragged and pushed them through doors and passages with sublime
disregard of the damage to both.

Once outside willing hands loaded them into every conceivable vehicle,
from motor lorries to brewers’ drays, and these conveyed them post
haste to the pier, where they were loaded on the steamer _Mew_, and
ferried across the river to Kingswear Station.

For two hours the work of transportation went on, and then all cadets
turned to and strapped together such games, gear, and books as were to
be sent home.

At 5.30 every one fell in on the quarter-deck, and as each received his
pay went off to the mess-room to get something to eat before setting
out on the train journey. After this we all repaired to the gunner’s
office to telegraph to our homes that we were ordered away on active
service. My wire was as follows: “General mobilisation. Embarked
_H.M.S. ‘——,’_ Chatham. Will write at once”—and when received was
a terrible shock to my poor mother, who had not had the faintest idea
that we “first termers” would in any eventuality be sent to sea.

I belonged to the first, or Blake, term, which it will be remembered
was due to go to Chatham, and consequently ours was the first batch to
leave.

At 6.30 we “fell in” in two ranks outside the College, and our
messmates gave us a parting cheer as we marched off down to Dartmouth.
Here we had a sort of triumphal progress through crowds of cheering
townsfolk to the quay. Embarked on the _Mew_ we were quickly ferried
across to the station, where a long train was in waiting. Ten of
us, who had been appointed to the same ship, secured two carriages
adjoining one another, and then scrambled hurriedly to the bookstalls
for newspapers, magazines, and cigarettes. These secured, we took our
seats and shortly afterwards the train drew out of the station, and our
long journey had begun.

Thus it was that, three weeks before my fifteenth birthday, I went to
war!

The journey to Chatham was likely to be long and tedious. After all the
excitement of the last few hours a reaction soon set in and we longed
for sleep, so we settled ourselves as best we might on the floor, on
the seats, and even on the racks.

At first I shared a seat with another cadet, sitting feet to feet and
resting our backs against the windows; but this position did not prove
very conducive to slumber, and at 1 o’clock I changed places with the
boy in the rack. This was little better, for I found it awfully narrow,
and whenever I raised my head even an inch or two, _bump_ it went
against the ceiling of the carriage.

At 2 a.m. I changed round again and tried the floor, where I managed
to get an hour and a half’s broken sleep till 3.30, when we arrived at
Chatham.

Three-thirty a.m. is a horrid hour, chilly and shivery even on an
August night. The train drew up at a place where the lines ran along
the road close to the Royal Naval Barracks.

Yawning, and trying to rub the sleepiness out of our eyes, we proceeded
to drag our chests out of the luggage vans and pile them on the road,
while the officer in charge of us went to find out what arrangements
had been made for getting us to our ships.

In about twenty minutes he returned with another officer and informed
us that none of the ships in question were then at Chatham, and we
would have to stay at the barracks until further instructions were
received.

For the moment enthusiasm had vanished. We were tired and hungry,
and, after the perfection of clockwork routine to which we had been
accustomed, this “war” seemed a muddlesome business. However, there
was no good grousing. We left our chests in the road and proceeded to
the barracks, where we were provided with hammocks and told to spread
them in the gymnasium. This done, we took off our boots, coats, and
trousers and were soon fast asleep.

Of course, things looked a bit brighter in the morning—they always do.
We were called at 7.30, told to dress and wash in the washing-place
just outside the gym., and to lash up our hammocks and stow them away,
after which we would be shown the way to the officers’ mess.

Lashing up the hammocks was a job that took some time to accomplish,
since it was one in which none of us was particularly proficient, and,
moreover, there was no place to sling them. I eventually managed mine
by lashing the head to the wall bars while I got a friend to hold the
foot, which done, I performed the same office for him, and then we went
to the officers’ mess for breakfast. It was Sunday, so in the forenoon
we went to service in the Naval Chapel. Here we had to listen to a most
lugubrious sermon from a parson who seemed under the impression that
we should all be at the bottom of the sea within six months, and had
better prepare ourselves accordingly! Of the note, _Dulce et decorum
est pro patria mori_, which, however hackneyed, cannot fail to bring
courage to those setting out to battle, there was not the faintest
echo, so the whole thing was in no wise calculated to raise our spirits.

This depressing episode ended, we fell in outside the barracks and were
marched off to lunch.

We spent the afternoon exploring the vicinity, and I, with two friends,
climbed up to the roof of a sort of tower, where we indulged in
forbidden but soothing cigarettes.

That night we again slept in the gym., and next morning we were
considerably annoyed to find that we should not be allowed to take our
chests to sea. We were given canvas kit-bags, into which we had to cram
as many necessaries as they would hold; but they certainly seemed, and
eventually proved to be, most inadequate provision for a naval campaign
of indefinite length, conducted in climatic conditions varying from
tropical to semi-arctic.

The rest of that day was uneventful and rather boring. We wrote
letters home and indulged in more surreptitious smoking: the latter
with somewhat disastrous results, for one of our number having rashly
embarked on a pipe, was speedily overtaken by rebellion from within,
and further, our Lieutenant, having detected us in this breach of Naval
Regulations, threatened us with the direst penalties if we did not mend
our ways.

Bright and early next morning (Tuesday the 4th of August) we were
informed that half our number were to proceed to Devonport to join our
ships; so at 9 o’clock we marched down to the station to set out on yet
another long and weary train-journey. We had to change at Paddington,
and arrived at Devonport at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, considerably
bucked up by the thought that at last we should be in real war-ships,
and, as genuine, though _very_ junior, officers of His Majesty’s Navy,
be privileged to play our small part in what, even then, we dimly
realised would be the greatest war in the history of our nation.

From the station we marched through the town and embarked on an
Admiralty tug, which took us to the various ships to which we had
been appointed. Our batch was the last to reach its destination, but
eventually the tug drew alongside the gangway of _H.M.S.“——”_ and was
secured there by ropes.



CHAPTER IV

WE JOIN OUR SHIP

  THERE are grey old Admirals in our land
  Who never have stood where now _you_ stand:
  Here on your feet, in His Majesty’s fleet,
  With a real live enemy close at hand!

  _Punch_: Sept. 1914.


HASTILY we scrambled aboard, in the excitement of the moment nearly
forgetting to salute the quarter-deck. Fortunately all recollected
that ceremony in time with the exception only of one, who was promptly
dropped on by the Commander—much to his confusion and dismay.

In obedience to the order of the cadet captain in charge we “fell
in” on the quarter-deck while the Commander went below to report to
the Captain. As we were awaiting further instructions the first
Lieutenant, who was also the Torpedo Lieutenant (commonly known in
naval slang as “Torps”), came up and spoke to us. He told us he would
probably have to look after us, and said he hoped we should like the
life on board. We all thought he seemed to be a very nice officer—an
opinion we found no occasion to change, and we were all sincerely sorry
when, three months later, he had the misfortune to fall into the hands
of the enemy.

The Commander then reappeared and told us to go down to the Captain’s
cabin. We ran down the gangway he had just come up, and our cadet
captain knocked at the door of the after cabin. A voice said “Come
in”—and Carey entered, leaving us standing outside. In a few seconds
he returned and beckoned to us to follow him. We did so, and came to
“attention” facing the Captain, who was seated at a knee-hole writing
desk.

He was a small man of middle-age, inclining to stoutness, clean shaven,
slightly bald, with deep-set eyes, which appeared dark in the shadow
of heavy overhanging eyebrows.

He eyed us keenly until we were all assembled, and then, leaning
forward towards us, he rapped sharply on his desk with a ruler, and
said in a deep bass voice—

“Young gentlemen, it is war-time, and you have been sent to sea as
officers in His Majesty’s Navy!”

He then continued, so far as I can remember, to express the hope that
we might worthily uphold the traditions of a great service. Further he
informed us that all our letters would be strictly censored; that our
relatives and friends would only be able to write to us “Care of the
General Post Office, London”; and that on no account must we write them
one single word indicative of the whereabouts or work of the ship; for,
under the Official Secrets Act, any infringement of this rule rendered
us liable in the words of the Articles of War to “_Death_—or some such
other punishment hereinafter mentioned!”

Then having asked our names, and chosen the two seniors—Carey, the
cadet captain, and Baker—to be signal midshipman and his own messenger
respectively, he curtly dismissed us. The almost complete severance
from all home ties which the above prohibition implied came as a
rather unforeseen blow. We knew how anxiously our people would be
awaiting news of our doings; and to be able to tell them practically
nothing seemed a hard condition. We went away feeling very small and
rather crestfallen, and I am afraid we thought our new Captain rather
unnecessarily stern and severe, though it was not long before we
recognised the absolute necessity for such restrictions. It must be
remembered that at that time we were only raw inexperienced boys and
most of us barely fifteen years old. Later on, when we had worked under
Captain—— ‘s command—above all, when we came to know of the letters
he, in spite of his many and onerous duties, had found time to write to
our mothers—letters so kindly in their sympathy and understanding,
so generous in their recognition of our efforts to do our duty—we
appraised him at his true worth; and when he, together with so many of
our ship’s company, gave up his life for England in that disaster in
which our ship was lost, those of us who survived mourned the loss of a
true friend, and carry in our hearts for all time the honoured memory
of “a very gallant gentleman.”

       *       *       *       *       *

When we once more found ourselves on deck, we were met by a petty
officer, who escorted us down the ward-room hatch, and showed us the
gun-room, which was then being stripped of all light woodwork which
might catch fire or splinter in an action, and having the bulkheads
shored up with heavy pieces of timber.

We placed our overcoats in a corner, and then went up on deck for a
look round.

We were anchored in the centre of the Hamoaze, and the tide being at
flood, our bow pointed down the harbour to Plymouth Sound. Various
war-ships were dotted about, some, like us, in mid-channel, some
alongside the wharfs. To port the town of Devonport could be seen
through a mist of masts and ropes. To starboard wooded banks, clothed
with the dense foliage of midsummer, rose steeply from the water. The
hulls of several ancient battle-ships, dating from the time of Nelson,
and some from even farther back, were moored close to the shore. Three
old four-funnelled cruisers, painted black with yellow upper works
in the fashion of war-ships towards the close of the Victorian Era,
contrasted oddly with the sombre grey outline of the more modern ships
preparing for action.

At 7.30 we had dinner in the ward-room, as the gun-room was not yet
ready for occupation, and at 9 o’clock we turned in.

Next morning after breakfast the chief petty officer, who had shown us
the gun-room the night before, took us round the ship, naming each flat
and pointing out the various stores, etc.

By lunch-time the gun-room was ready for us, and, that meal over,
we “fell in” on the quarter-deck and the Commander appointed us to
our several duties. Carey and Baker having already received their
appointments from the Captain as afore-mentioned, Jones, the next
senior, was now told off to the Torpedo Lieutenant as his messenger.
Browne became the Gunnery Lieutenant’s A.D.C., and McAlister the
Commander’s “doggie.” Wenton was “Tanky,” _i.e._ the navigator’s
assistant, and Barton, Fane, Cunninghame, and myself were appointed
watch-keepers.

As we were not expected to take up our duties until the following
morning, we spent the rest of that afternoon watching the cutting away
of such portions of the forebridge as were not absolutely indispensable
for purposes of navigation, the removal of the forward searchlights
to the shelter deck, and the pitching—literally _pitching_—of the
ward-room and gun-room furniture into lighters alongside. This, I may
mention, was performed without the slightest consideration for damage
to the articles in question, for time pressed and every minute was of
greater value than much fine furniture! It was _War_.

On the next morning (Thursday) we entered upon our respective duties,
and I took my first “dog-watch.”

In the forenoon the Gunnery Lieutenant had us all assembled in the
gun-room and informed us that we should all be in the fore transmitting
station (hereafter called the Fore T.S.) for action; that is, all
except Carey, who would be in attendance on the Captain. Then he told
us our different jobs and showed us how to work the various instruments
for controlling the guns, after which he showed us the way down to the
Fore T.S., and, having placed us in position before our instruments,
gave us a trial run of ranges, deflections, and the various controls
under which the guns could be operated in the event of the primary
control position being shot away or the communications cut.

Then came lunch, followed by another two hours’ practice in the Fore
T.S., and after tea more of the same instruction.

At 5 a.m. on Friday we got under way to proceed into dry dock. At about
ten yards from the mouth of the dock both engines were stopped, and our
first and second cutters lowered. The ends of wire hawsers were then
conveyed by the cutters from capstans, dotted at intervals round the
dock, to the ship, where they were made fast inboard. These capstans
had already been manned by parties of seamen attached to the dockyard,
who were commanded by warrant officers. They stood by to back up the
wire as soon as we gave the signal for the capstans to heave round, and
in this manner the great ship was hauled into the dry dock. This seemed
a ticklish business to the uninitiated, it being essential to get the
ship exactly central in the dock, but the Captain controlled operations
by signalling from the forebridge, and in due time it was accomplished.
The ship floated motionless in the centre, the great caisson was
hauled into place, sunk and locked, and the powerful centrifugal pumps
began to drain the water away.

After these two hours of hard work we went to breakfast with hearty
appetites.

On looking out of a scuttle a little later I saw that the water had
already dropped some six feet and the ship was resting on the bottom
with about four feet of her sides visible below the usual water-line.
As she had been lying up in Milford Haven for a year before the
outbreak of war, she was in a filthy state, and her sides were thickly
coated with that long ribbon-like seaweed often seen thrown up in
masses on the shore after a storm. Already the dockyard men were
placing large pieces of timber between the ship’s sides and the sides
of the dock, wedging them tightly so that she would remain upright when
all the water had been pumped out.

At 9 o’clock we had to go to “divisions.” Each of the watch-keepers
had a division, and the messengers accompanied their officers on the
rounds of their different departments. “Divisions” over, a lecture
on first-aid was given by the Fleet-surgeon and occupied us until
lunch-time.

By 2 o’clock three-quarters of the water was out of the dock, and those
of us who were not on duty went over the brow (_i.e._ the gangway) and
down into the basin to explore and have a look at the bottom of the
ship.

A dry dock is constructed with two galleries at the top built into the
stone-work, and is reached by a flight of steps usually standing back
about twenty feet from the edge.

Below these galleries comes a series of ledges, each one about three
feet high and two feet deep, leading down to the bottom, which is about
ten yards in width. On the centre of the dock are a number of wooden
blocks, each about two feet high and four feet broad, and distant about
three feet one from the other; on these the keel of the ship rests. A
gutter just below the ledges drains off any water that may leak in.
One end of the dock is rounded off in a semi-circle, the other narrows
into a neck where an iron caisson, or hollow water gate, locks the
entrance and keeps the water out. When this gate is to be moved, the
water is pumped out of its interior, and it then rises to the surface
and is hauled out of the way by ropes. Near this gate are two big,
square holes, by means of which the dock is reflooded when the ship is
ready to go out again. Parties of seamen on rafts were already at work
scraping away the weed from the ship’s sides, and others were painting
the cleared spaces with red lead to prevent rust.

The next day was Sunday, but as we had no padre on board there was no
church parade, and since it was war-time, and we’d got to join our
Fleet, which had sailed the night before, as quickly as possible, the
work of scraping and painting was continued without intermission.

During the afternoon we inspected a new light cruiser which was in
process of construction in an adjoining dock.

At 2 o’clock the following day, the work being finished, the water was
let in. It came rushing through the square opening in a solid green
mass, to fall with a dull roar into the rapidly filling dock. Two
hours later the ship’s keel gradually lifted, and as she rose higher
and higher the timber props floated free, grinding and jostling each
other in a manner somewhat reminiscent of a Canadian lumber river.
Then the caisson was pumped dry and towed out of the way, and by 4.30
we commenced to warp out and went alongside a neighbouring wharf, to
which by 6.30 we were safely secured by ropes. I remember that _H.M.S.
“——,”_ England’s latest Dreadnought, which had just been launched,
was lying in the basin, being fitted with engines, guns, etc. With her
two enormous oval funnels standing out against a group of workshops and
towering high above them, her huge turret guns which still lay along
the wharf amid a litter of smaller guns, searchlights, and armoured
plates, she made an impressive picture of Britain’s sea power.

A new navigator and two Royal Naval Reserve lieutenants joined that
night, and their arrival completed our full complement of officers.

It was 6 in the evening when finally our warps were cast off, and,
running alongside, we coaled for half-an-hour, in that time taking
in seventy tons, and then proceeded to sea with coal still stacked
high on our decks. Through Plymouth Harbour the ship slid like a
grey ghost—all dead-lights down, and in total darkness save for the
occasional flashes from the shaded arc-lamp which replied to the
challenges of the torpedo-boat patrol and boom vessels.

Once outside we met the Channel swell, and the ship, burying her
nose in a huge roller, lifted a ton of green swirling water on to
the fo’c’sle, where it broke into creaming cascades at the foot of
the fore-turret, smothering the guns in white foam and rushing aft
on either side, until, thrown back from the closed battery doors, it
sluiced overboard with a baffled roar.

All hands turned to and stowed the coal in the bunkers, after which
the decks were washed down with hoses and we went below for much-needed
baths.

Then came dinner, after which we went to night-defence stations.



CHAPTER V

ALARUMS AND EXCURSIONS


AS we turned out next morning the white cliffs of Portland loomed
faintly through the mist ahead, and when we were within half a mile
of the Shambles lightship the seven other ships of the fourth battle
squadron of the 3rd Fleet, to which we also belonged, hove in sight.

We joined up in station as the third ship of the first division, and
the whole squadron proceeded out to sea in single line.

When we were about two miles out the Admiral signalled from his
flagship: “Form divisions in line ahead. Columns disposed to port.”

So the leading ship of the second division drew out of line followed
by her consorts, and crept slowly upon our port quarter till the two
lines were steaming parallel at a distance of five cables.

At 4 o’clock we arrived off Cherbourg, and a signal was received
ordering the second division to turn sixteen points and proceed down
Channel to take up their patrolling positions, while the first four
ships went up Channel to theirs.

Thus we formed an unbroken line from the Straits of Dover to the mouth
of the Channel, each ship steaming slowly in a circle of five miles
radius, and keeping always within sight of the next ship on either side.

That evening a beautiful August half-moon shone down on the heaving
waters and the sky was studded with stars. The great arc of the Milky
Way hung above us, and on the horizon the lighthouses of Cherbourg and
the Channel Islands flashed their intermittent rays, at one moment
throwing everything into high relief, and at the next passing on like
great fingers of light across the sea before they faded to total
eclipse.

Next day excitement ran high, for a rumour reached us that the great
German liner, _Vaterland_, was going to try and rush the Channel under
escort of five cruisers; but she never came; and after five days’
patrolling the whole fleet reassembled, and forming divisions in line
ahead, steamed into Portland, arriving there in the evening.

We started coaling at 6 o’clock the following morning and finished just
before breakfast.

In the afternoon when I was on watch the officer of the watch sent me
away in the picket boat with dispatches to _H.M.S. “——.”_ It was
the first time I had been in command of one of these steamboats, so,
thinking discretion the better part of valour, I didn’t try to steer
her alongside, but just took the wheel in the open and let my cox’un do
the rest.

The whole of our squadron weighed anchor next day and put to sea for
sub-calibre firing just outside the harbour. Sub-calibre firing is done
by shipping a small gun (which fires a shell filled with salt) inside
the bore of the big turret and battery guns. This necessitates the
training and laying of the big guns to fire the small guns inside them,
and gives practice to the gun layers and trainers without wasting the
large shells and charges, which cost a considerable amount of money.
We spent the whole of that morning in the Fore T.S. working out the
ranges and deflections received by telephone from the control position,
and passing these through to the gunners to set the sights by. After
lunch it was assumed that the control position was shot away and the
guns went into local control. This means that the officer of each group
of guns, and of each turret, fires at his own discretion, and corrects
the range and deflection after watching through his glasses the fall of
the shells. When the Fore T.S. staff receives the order to go to local
control, or can get no reply from the main control which is presumably
damaged, they pass through the telephones to the guns the message
“local control.” Then they hurry up the hatch from the Fore T.S. to the
ammunition passages above, their range clocks slung round their necks,
and are hoisted up the ammunition hoist to the particular group of guns
to which they have been stationed in the event of this emergency.

Firing practice over we returned to harbour and anchored, and the
following afternoon those of us who were not on duty were allowed to go
ashore on three hours’ leave.

Next morning the squadron received a signal ordering all ships to
complete with coal immediately, and to proceed to sea without delay.
By 4 o’clock all had weighed and left harbour, forming into line in
sequence of fleet numbers as they cleared the boom.

That night we steamed at full speed to an unknown destination.
Everything quivered and shook with the pounding of the engines and
the throbbing of the screws, as we ploughed our way through the dark
waters, following the little white patch where our next ahead’s shaded
stern lamp lit up her creaming wake with a dim radiance for about a
square yard.

The next morning we were up betimes, to find the whole squadron just
entering Plymouth Harbour.

As soon as we were anchored we filled up with coal again, and the
collier had hardly shoved off when up came a tug crowded with marines
in landing kit, and laden with entrenching tools, barbed wire,
ammunition, rifles, field guns, and all the varied paraphernalia of a
land campaign.

No sooner had we got this party, consisting of 400 men with their
officers and equipment, safely on board, and stowed all their gear
away in the batteries, than a provision ship came alongside and was
quickly secured fore and aft. The stump derricks were swung outboard,
and soon the deck was littered with biscuit barrels, sugar casks, cases
of bully beef, etc., etc.—not forgetting the inevitable jam. Willing
hands rolled and carried all this stuff to hastily rigged derricks
and davits, whence it was lowered down hatches, and thrown through
skylights to men below, who caught each case as it came, and passed
it on to others, who stowed it all away in the gun-room, the ward-room
flat, the Captain’s cabin, and in fact anywhere and everywhere that
space was to be found. Even so it was impossible to cope immediately
with the steady stream which poured on deck from the capacious hold of
the store-ship, although officers worked side by side with the men,
issuing orders at the same time. Finally, when at last the store-ship
was empty and had shoved off, and we weighed anchor and put to sea with
the remainder of the fleet, our decks were still piled high with cases,
and the work of stowing them away went on until 9 o’clock that night.
There was no time for dinner, and while still working we ate ship’s
biscuit from a barrel that had been accidentally broken open.

Once everything was safely bestowed below, we all went to night-defence
stations.

The whole fleet was proceeding at top speed, leaving a gleaming
phosphorescent track in its wake. Great clouds of luminous spray were
flung aft from the fo’c’sle head as our ship buried her nose in the
waves. The decks throbbed and rang to the stamping, pounding clang of
the engines, and the stern quivered and shook with the throb, throb,
_thrash_ of the racing screws.

All next day we dashed up the English Channel, and early the following
morning passed up the Straits of Dover.

A little before noon on the succeeding day, the 22nd of August, we
passed the United States cruiser _Carolina_ returning from Antwerp with
citizens of the States, flying from the oncoming Huns, and at 8 o’clock
we dropped anchor in Ostend outer roads.

Half an hour later a Belgian steamer, a big two-funnelled,
cross-channel boat, came alongside. Our party of marines, with their
officers and equipment, were transferred to her, and she shoved off for
the shore.

In the inner roads were lying at this time a squadron of battle-ships
from the 2nd Fleet, an aeroplane base ship, and a flotilla of
destroyers. This squadron weighed anchor next morning and proceeded to
sea, and shortly afterwards we weighed and moved into the inner roads.
An airship was sighted at about 11 o’clock low down on the horizon,
and our anti-aerial firing party fell in with loaded rifles on the
quarter-deck, and the anti-aerial three-pounder was manned.

Tense excitement prevailed for about half-an-hour, while the imagined
Zeppelin grew gradually larger and larger, and nearer and nearer;
but it turned out to be our own _Astra Torres_, so the firing party
dismissed and the ordinary routine was carried on, while the airship
flew above us, and came to rest in a field to the left of Ostend.

In the afternoon an aeroplane, flying no flag, appeared over the town,
and was promptly fired at.

Subsequently it transpired that this, too, was one of our own, though
I cannot imagine why she carried no distinguishing mark, and her
celebrated pilot was reported to have used some very strong language
about the marines who had forced him to a hasty and undignified
descent. It was his own fault, anyway—and, luckily, neither machine
nor airman sustained any serious damage.

Later on one of our destroyers came alongside for provisions and oil,
and remained alongside all that night.

Next morning a flotilla of enemy submarines and destroyers appeared
upon the horizon. All our ships got ready to weigh, and our destroyers
and light cruisers went out post haste to drive them off. The enemy
squadron at once turned tail and fled! All of us midshipmen and cadets,
who were not on duty, climbed up to the foretop with telescopes, and
watched the pursuit, but only a few shots were exchanged, and neither
side sustained any damage. The enemy made all haste in the direction of
Heligoland, and our flotilla returned after a fruitless chase.

On that afternoon I remember that I witnessed, from the quarter-deck,
a sad accident. Our picket boat had gone out with those of the other
ships to sweep for any mines that might have been laid. In the evening
the boat returned, and came alongside the port side amidships. There
was a heavy sea running, and, as a wave lifted the boat, a reel of wire
hawser used for mine sweeping, which had been placed in the bows, got
caught in the net shelf, and was left fixed there as the boat descended
into the trough of the sea. Next time she rose one of the bowmen got
his leg caught under the reel, and it broke just above the ankle. He
fell to the deck, but before he could be snatched out of danger, the
sharp edge of the reel again caught his leg three inches above the
break and half severed it, and the next time the boat rose it caught
him again in the same place, and cut his leg right through.

A stretcher was lowered over the side and the injured man was carried
quickly and carefully down to the sick bay, where it was found on
examination that the limb was so mangled that it was necessary to
amputate it just above the knee. Poor chap! that was the end of his
war-service. It was a tragic and sickening thing to witness, but it was
no one’s fault. In fact, the court of inquiry subsequently held brought
in a verdict of “accidental injury,” and absolved all concerned from
any blame in the matter.

The following afternoon we took on board a detachment of 800 marines
with their equipment, and shortly afterwards weighed anchor and steamed
out of Ostend roads.

When we went to night-defence stations at 8 o’clock that night there
were marines all over the place—sleeping on the deck, and in the
battery, and, in fact, anywhere there was room to lie down. We came
across two sergeants who had been drill-instructors at Osborne College
when we were there, and had a yarn with them over old times.

About 9 o’clock rapid firing was heard on our starboard bow.

I was then stationed at my searchlight on the port side just abaft the
bridge, and I ran up the short gangway and across to the forward end of
the shelter-deck to see what was happening. At first it sounded like
big guns over the horizon, and I thought we had run into an action; but
when I got on the bridge I saw that it was the flagship that had fired,
and was now turning four points to starboard to give the other ships a
clear range. Our helm was now put to port, and we swung off in the wake
of the flagship.

Then I heard the captain give the order to switch on No. 1 searchlight,
which was in charge of Cunninghame, our junior cadet. This light was
just forward of mine, and I nipped back in a hurry in case mine should
switch on. No. 1 failed to pick up the object the flagship had fired
at—which, by the _lights_ it was showing, should by rights have been
a fishing-smack—and his beam was very badly focussed. I knew my beam
was all right, as I had tested it when preparing for night defence,
and, as I had trained on the lights in question as soon as I had seen
them, when the captain ordered me to switch on, my beam revealed the
object at once. It proved to be two German destroyers: one showing the
lights usually shown by a fishing-smack, the other showing no lights at
all! Now the other searchlights quickly focussed on the enemy, and one
of our 12-pounders fired two shots in swift succession. A few seconds
later I saw two flashes in the beam of the searchlights where the
shells struck the water close to their objective, and two white columns
of water were flung high into the air. Then came a blinding flash,
followed immediately by the sound of an explosion: a blast of hot air,
smelling strongly of cordite, caught me unprepared and threw me off my
balance. The six-inch gun immediately below me had fired without any
warning. I never saw the fall of that shell although, as soon as I had
recovered myself, I watched the enemy ships carefully. Only a minute
later one of them fired a torpedo at us. For some way we could follow
the track of bubbles in the gleam of the searchlights—then it passed
out of the light, and there came a moment of breathless suspense.
Had they got us? No! the brute passed harmlessly between us and the
flagship.

Then our aftermost six-inch gun fired, but this time I was
prepared, and, bracing myself against the blast, watched eagerly
for the fall of the shot. It pitched some hundred yards from the
torpedo-boats—ricochetted like a stone—hit the second of them right
amidships and exploded: and the enemy craft simply vanished from the
face of the waters! A jolly lucky shot! The other destroyer evidently
thought so anyway, for, extinguishing her lights on the moment, she
dashed away at full speed and was lost to sight in the darkness.

Presumably pursuit was useless, for shortly afterwards we extinguished
our searchlights and proceeded on our way without encountering any more
excitement.

The next day, which we spent at sea, was quite uneventful, and on the
following evening we entered Spithead.

Here, with the last rays of the setting sun illuminating their pale
grey hulls, lay the whole of the 2nd Fleet at anchor off Portsmouth.
We had parted company with the two last ships of our division just
outside, they having gone on to Portland and Plymouth respectively,
and we entered Portsmouth in the wake of the flagship, lining ship
and dipping our ensign as we passed the old _Victory_, and shortly
afterwards dropping anchor in the harbour.

That night we disembarked all the marines.



CHAPTER VI

WE LEAVE HOME WATERS

  Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the north-west died away;
  Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
  Bluish ’mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
  In the dimmest north-east distance, dawned Gibraltar grand and gray;
  “Here and here did England help me,—how can I help England?—say.”

  R. BROWNING.


NEXT day we took on 400 tons of coal, and in the evening weighed and
proceeded to Portland, where we arrived next morning.

That evening the whole of the 2nd Fleet arrived and anchored, and on
the following morning the second division of our squadron went out
again for sub-calibre firing, the first division remaining at anchor.
In the evening the Padre came on board to join. The second division
returned to harbour at 4 o’clock, and at about 7 p.m. we received a
signal ordering all ships in harbour to raise steam for fifteen knots
and proceed to sea as soon as they were ready.

On our ship the hoisting in of all boats was commenced at once. The
picket boat came in without a hitch, but, when the pinnace was hoisted
clear of the water the after leg of the slings parted and she had to
be lowered back. As we were in a hurry the Commander then took control
of operations, and had a 3½-inch wire hawser rove three times round
the stern of the boat, and then made fast to the ring at the head of
the slings. When she was once more lifted clear of the water her stern
was heard to crack, but we were already delaying the fleet and no time
could be spared to lower her down again and readjust the hawser, so,
though the stern continued to crack and give, and finally crushed in
like an egghell, the boat was hoisted and lowered into the crutches,
and we proceeded to sea with the others.

This incident was pure bad luck and not due to faulty seamanship—had
the pinnace been a new boat the stern would easily have withstood
the strain, but she was nearly twenty years old and her planks were
weakened by age.

On the next day the whole fleet did big gun practice in the Channel.
Down in the Fore T.S. the sound was considerably deadened, but the
violent vibrations and the increase of air pressure following on each
discharge had a most jarring and unpleasant effect on the ear-drums.
The ships did not fire all together, but each in succession had a
“run” of one hour. When we had finished our “run” all of us midshipmen
and cadets went on deck to watch the firing of the flagship of our
division, which was just ahead of us. Although the actual cordite
charge is practically smokeless, the silk bag in which the sticks of
explosive are encased gives off a dense light-brown smoke, which often
hides the whole turret from view, and the flash of the explosion, even
in daylight, causes a vivid glare almost like lightning. The gases do
not burst into flame until they have passed some ten feet from the
muzzle and come in contact with the oxygen in the atmosphere, when they
flare up in a fraction of a second. Occasionally a gun will blow a huge
smoke ring which, gyrating rapidly, ascends to a considerable height,
gradually expanding until it is dispersed by the air. This phenomenon
was very noticeable later on in the Dardanelles.

The following day we did fleet tactics (pronounced “Tattics”) off the
Isle of Wight. These consist of manœuvres executed in columns. Each
successive evolution is signalled by the flagship and is performed as
soon as the whole fleet has repeated the signal and the flagship has
hauled down the flags indicating the same. Throughout each operation
the ships must keep within a specified number of cables’ lengths of
each other.

That evening found us off Beachy Head, and having finished tactics we
headed for Portland, proceeding in divisions in line ahead, columns
disposed abeam to starboard. We dropped anchor in Portland the
following day. Then the colliers came alongside and the whole fleet
coaled.

As we had not yet done our second run of sub-calibre firing we left
harbour next morning, and spent the day at sea for purposes of same.
During our absence the whole _personnel_ of the 2nd Fleet and the
remaining division of our squadron went for a route march.

At 4 o’clock we returned to harbour, anchored, and took in coal until
our bunkers were filled to 97 per cent. Next morning our division
landed its ships’ companies for a route march at the Camber. The men
fell in in marching kit under their respective officers, and according
to the seniority of their ships in the Fleet. (Seniority of ships is
determined by the seniority of their commanding officers.) When all
were present, and had been duly reported to the officer in command,
the band of the flagship led off with a lively march tune, closely
followed by her ship’s company. Then the other ships’ companies
followed in succession, and soon the whole 1500 men were proceeding
along the white dusty road from Portland to Weymouth. Presently an
order to “March at ease!” and “Carry on smoking!” was passed down the
line, and the men produced their pipes, lit up, and were soon laughing,
chattering, and singing as they marched, keeping, however, always
in correct sections of four. On entering Weymouth the order “‘Shun!
Out pipes!” was given, and the whole column swung along in absolute
silence, broken only by an occasional order, and the tramp, tramp,
tramp of the heavy marching boots on the dusty road.

We marched through the town to the pier, where we embarked on penny
steamboats, commandeered for the purpose, which conveyed us back to the
Fleet in Portland.

On the following day special steamers were run to Weymouth for the
convenience of those who wished to go ashore; and, our leave-book
having been signed, all of us junior officers who were not on duty
forthwith donned our best clothes and embarked for the beach.
On arrival the first thing we did was to storm the well-known
establishment of Messrs. Gieve, Matthews, and Seagrove, Naval
Outfitters (better known perhaps as just “Gieves’s”), and there order
tin uniform cases, as already those silly kit-bags had proved most
inadequate, as well as highly destructive to clothes. Not much chance
of a swanky crease down your best trousers if you have to keep them in
a kit-bag! You’ll get the creases all right—plenty of them, but they
won’t be in the right place. The Navy is particular about these things,
and does not allow slackness in detail even in war-time. It’s the same
in the Army—our men’s anxiety to wash and shave whenever possible
has been a source of some astonishment to our Allies; but somehow
cleanliness and neatness seem to be an essential part of a Briton’s
makeup—the outward and visible sign of a heart for any fate.

When we had finished our business at Gieves’s we went round the town;
looked in at cinema shows, bought many small necessaries we needed, and
devoured eggs, cakes, and cups of chocolate at various confectioners’.
Leave was up at 8 o’clock and we reembarked on the steamer. Several
of the seamen had imbibed more strong drink than they could carry,
and three marines had a free fight on deck surrounded by sympathetic
friends. One of the combatants on being “downed” violated Queensberry
rules by kicking his opponents in the stomach, whereupon the victims of
this outrage determined to throw him in the “ditch.” (“Ditch” or “pond”
is naval slang for the sea.)

This resolution was heartily applauded by the audience, and would
undoubtedly have been put into execution had not the steamer just at
this juncture run alongside their ship. Still fighting they disappeared
up the gangway. Five minutes later we drew alongside our own ship, and,
having reported ourselves to the officer of the watch, we went down to
dinner.

Two more days were spent in harbour, and several of the uniform cases
arrived, but as yet no sign of mine. On the evening of the second
day we weighed anchor and proceeded to Devonport, arriving there
next morning. By this time our damaged pinnace had been sufficiently
patched up for a short journey, and it was hoisted out and towed ashore
carrying a demand for another.

We then coaled.

The light cruiser “——,” which we had previously seen in dry dock,
being now completed, was lying alongside one of the wharves, looking
very workmanlike in her fresh grey paint.

Presently our new pinnace arrived, and as soon as she was hoisted
inboard we went to sea again.

Sunset on the following evening found us off Falmouth, where we sighted
five old two-funnelled cruisers. We stopped and waited while the
flagship sent her steamboat to the cruiser’s flagship for dispatches,
and then we relieved them on the Lizard patrol.

Soon the cruisers were on the horizon steaming towards Devonport, and,
spreading out from the rest of our division, we took the second billet
from Land’s End, and patrolled up and down all that night. From time to
time we caught a glimpse of the loom of the Lizard light, and on this
we kept station, being unable to see any of our consorts.

Our present duty was to stop any ships proceeding up Channel and to
examine their papers and cargo. Any ships containing contraband of war
of whatever description were promptly escorted into Falmouth Harbour
and handed over to the port authorities, who detained or confiscated
them according to the requirements of the case. Fane, one of our
midshipmen, was one of the boarding officers, and very quaint and
warlike he looked! He was quite a little chap, and was armed with a
huge cutlass and a revolver nearly as big as himself!

On the next day we stopped several tramps and cargo-boats, but
discovered nothing suspicious. Two days later, however, the boarding
officers were summoned at 4 a.m. and disappeared on deck armed to the
teeth, and at 6, when the rest of us were just turning out, they came
clattering down the hatchway with the news that we had caught a big
Dutch liner called the _Gebria_, and that she had 400 German reservists
on board.

As soon as we were dressed we dashed up on deck to have a look at her.
She was a large ship with two yellow funnels, with a light blue band
round each, and must have displaced quite 20,000 tons. She was lying
about a mile away on our starboard quarter. We put a prize crew on
board and proudly escorted her into Falmouth, where we handed her over
to the port authorities.

After this we coaled, and the same evening put to sea. Just as we
were clearing the harbour a torpedo-boat signalled us asking to
come alongside, and stating that she had on board a subaltern of
marines for us. We stopped both engines, and a few seconds later the
torpedo-boat lay-to about a hundred yards off. The second cutter was
lowered and pulled across to her and returned shortly afterwards with
the marine officer. Then the cutter was hoisted to the davits, the ship
got under way again and we went to night-defence stations.

When we were about two miles clear of the harbour we sighted on our
starboard quarter the lights of a steamer which was rapidly overhauling
us.

We challenged twice according to code, and then signalled her to stop.
She returned no reply, but continued on her course. As by this time she
had passed us and was some way ahead, the Captain gave the order to
fire a 12-pounder blank cartridge. The first gun misfired and the crew
moved away to the second and loaded it, leaving the cartridge that had
misfired in the other gun in case it should go off later. Sure enough,
just as the second gun fired, the first went off on its own, and the
two together produced a row almost like a turret-gun firing. This,
however, only made the suspect increase her speed, so our Captain rang
down to the engine-room “Full speed ahead!” and we again gave chase.
But she had the legs of us. As we did not overhaul her the Captain
ordered another blank to be fired, and telephoned the engine-room to
get every possible ounce of speed out of our old ship. The third blank
failed to stop the runaway and a shell was then fired across her bows,
but _still_ she did not stop, and since she was now out of range we
were reluctantly compelled to abandon the chase.

At this time all we midshipmen and cadets were not doing night watches,
and at 10 o’clock we had turned in as usual, but at 11.30 we were
awakened by Browne, who told us all to get on deck at once as Night
Action had been sounded off half-an-hour before, and he wanted to
know why on earth we hadn’t turned out at 11 when the sentry had
called him. As a matter of fact the sentry had only awakened half of
us, and those had gone up on deck leaving the rest still sleeping in
blissful ignorance of the summons. However we were all feeling very
tired, and after consulting among ourselves decided that we were not
going up on deck for _anybody_—and, as they had managed without us
for half-an-hour, they could jolly well manage without us for the
remainder of the watch! With which incipient mutiny we turned over
and went to sleep again. But not for _long_! In a very few minutes
the Gunnery Lieutenant appeared on the scene, and brusquely rousing
us up told us to dress at once, fall in on the quarter-deck, and wait
there till he came. A few minutes after we were fallen in he came aft
through the battery and asked us what the devil we meant by not turning
out when Browne told us to, and went on to give us a proper dressing
down, ending with the disquieting remark that he would probably have to
report us to the Commander. Then telling us we were to keep the whole
of the middle watch as a punishment, he sent us off to our searchlights.

We were all somewhat nervous as to what might be the consequence of
our silly little show of independence, but it is to be presumed that
“Guns,” in consideration of our youth and inexperience, kept the matter
to himself. Anyway we heard no more about it, and having duly kept
the middle watch, went back to our interrupted slumbers—a thoroughly
chastened quintette. In the light of a fuller knowledge of the
strictness of naval discipline I know we were jolly lucky to get off so
lightly.

The following day was spent at sea, and, save for the stopping of an
occasional tramp or small sailing vessel, passed without incident; but
the next evening we sighted a large German four-masted barque and gave
chase at once, and we were just drawing within signalling distance of
her when we received a wireless message ordering us to proceed at once
to Gibraltar.

Reluctantly abandoning the chase of our prize we signalled to _H.M.S.
“——,”_ which was patrolling on our starboard side, to capture her,
after which we went south full speed ahead for Gib.

I know I should here give dates, but since all my diaries lie with the
good ship “——” at the bottom of the sea, and I am reconstructing this
narrative from memory, I find it a little difficult to be certain of
actual dates. However, it would be on, or about, the 9th of September,
or thereabouts, when we were ordered abroad.

Great excitement prevailed in the gun-room, as this was our first trip
out of home waters.

The dreaded Bay of Biscay belied its sinister reputation, for we had a
very calm passage, and two days later sighted Cape St. Vincent. Here
we saw several whales frolicking about and blowing quite close to the
ship. We passed so near to the Cape that we could distinguish the
figures of the lighthouse keepers on the roof of their house.

In the afternoon we sighted the smoke of several steamers right ahead
of us, and prepared forthwith to go to action stations in case they
should prove to be hostile war-ships. However, on closer inspection,
they turned out to be a convoy of our own troops from India, bound for
Southampton.

The following noon we entered the Straits, and soon afterwards turned
into the Bay of Gibraltar. Warping through the narrow entrance by means
of wire hawsers, we arrived in the outer basin, where we were secured
head and stern alongside one of the coaling wharves.

The sun was sinking, and the town was already grey in the shadow, but
the summit of the famous Rock was flooded with rosy light.

On the afternoon of the next day the captain of marines kindly
volunteered to take us to a good shop he knew of where we could buy
some white-duck suits, which we were likely to need in the near future.

Arrived at the shop in question, the proprietor thereof informed
us, with much shrugging of shoulders, waving of hands, and similar
gesticulations expressive of regret, that he had no ducks in stock, but
that at another shop a little farther on we might be able to obtain
them. The owner of the place indicated could only produce some very
badly cut civilian duck suits, and asked exorbitant prices for the
same. With these we had to make shift, and after much bargaining each
of us managed to procure two pairs of trousers and three coats for the
sum of £4.

We then proceeded to the barracks, where after some delay we managed to
secure fairly cheap sun helmets.

It being now only just 3 o’clock we decided to ring up the ship from
the dockyard gate, and ask for leave for the rest of the afternoon.

After trying for half-an-hour to get on, and then to drive the nature
of our request into the thick head of the signalman at the other end
of the ’phone, we thought it would be best to return to the ship to
obtain the required permission. On the way, however, we were lucky
enough to meet our Captain, who asked if we had managed to get our
white suits, and on our replying in the affirmative he inquired what we
intended doing with ourselves for the rest of the afternoon. We told
him that we were on our way back to the ship to ask the Commander for
leave, whereupon he at once told us we might have leave until 7, and
having advised us to try a bathe in Rosia Bay, he passed on.

Joyfully returning to the town, we hired three of the funny little
cabriolets, which are practically the only public vehicles to be had,
and drove off to the bathing-place.

Rosia Bay is a small inlet with very deep water, and is surrounded by
walls to keep out sharks. It is reached by a long spiral staircase
which winds round an old tower and through an ancient stone archway.
A broad stone promenade runs round the bay, and at the extreme
end of this, on the left-hand side, are situated the gentlemen’s
dressing-rooms. Here an old Spaniard, locally known as “José,” hires
out towels and bathing-dresses. Several wooden rafts are moored in
the bay for the convenience of bathers, and there are also two or
three spring-boards as well as a water-chute. The water is cold, even
in September; but the sun was so hot that we were able to lie on the
stone and bask in its rays until we got warm again and were ready for
another plunge. After an hour’s swimming we split up into parties of
twos and threes and returned to the town for tea. Fruit hawkers dogged
our steps, and but little persuasion was required to induce us to buy
the delicious grapes, pears, and peaches they pressed upon our notice.
After tea we walked through the town and bought curios at the quaint
little native stalls and shops.

That night forty boys from the Naval Barracks joined the ship, and,
there being nowhere else for them to sleep, they were told to sling
their hammocks in the gun-room flat, while we, its rightful occupants,
were ordered to go up above to the ward-room flat and the Captain’s
lobby. At first we were mightily indignant at thus being turned out
of our sleeping quarters, but later on, when we got into the Tropics,
we saw that we had the advantage, for it was ever so much cooler up
there, and we were correspondingly thankful. After dinner we went
over the brow on to the wharf, and thence on to the sea-wall, which
was hidden from the ship by a high brick parapet, which ran along
behind the coaling sheds, and here we settled down to smoke and fish.
Presently two sentries came along. On seeing us they stopped and
palavered together for some minutes. Then one of them advanced towards
us and shouted out, “Halt! Who goes there?” Considering that we were
all quietly sitting down, this seemed remarkably silly; but I suppose
he was a raw recruit, and just brought out the regular challenge which
he had learned by heart, and never thought of varying it to suit the
occasion! However, we informed him that we were naval officers and not
German spies, and he retired seemingly much relieved in his mind.

Leave was given again on the following afternoon, and after another
bathe in Rosia Bay we had a look at the surrounding country, went a
little way up the Rock, returned to the town for tea, and so on board
again at 7.

Early next morning we bathed from the ship’s side, and, after
breakfast, coaled; and that afternoon we warped out.

After rounding Europa Point our course was set parallel to the African
coast; and then we steamed away, our wake crimsoned by the rays of the
setting sun.

The morning found us still in sight of land, but gradually it faded
away on our starboard bow until, on the following morning, the
coast-line had vanished and we steamed along on a glassy sea and
beneath a cloudless sky. I remember I had the forenoon watch, and from
my post on the bridge I could see the flying fish leaping away on
either side as our ship forged her way through the deep blue waters,
and a shark appeared on our port bow, swimming lazily alongside, his
dorsal fin every now and then breaking the surface into tiny ripples.
The water was so clear that every detail of his long, wicked-looking
body was distinctly visible.

That evening we sighted Cape Blanco, and shortly after dark passed
between the lights of Cape Bon and the southern point of Sicily.



CHAPTER VII

FROM EGYPT TO MOMBASA


AT 2 a.m. on the following morning we stopped both engines just outside
Valetta Harbour; the guard-boat came alongside and gave us instructions
to proceed to Port Said, and there, after an uneventful voyage, we duly
arrived three days later.

Entering the harbour at sunrise, and passing between the long
breakwaters which run out into the sea to mark the dredged channel, we
anchored close to the eastern shore. Then lighters, filled with coal
and manned by natives, came alongside and were secured four to each
side of the ship. Presently gang-planks were placed between the inboard
lighters and the deck, and the natives filled little baskets with
coal, balanced them on their heads, ran up the gang-planks and tipped
the coal into the bunkers. It was our first experience of Eastern
methods—frankly we thought them rather finicky! However they got the
coaling finished by 2 o’clock and we asked the Commander for leave to
go ashore. This, however, he firmly refused, and made us draw a section
of the ship instead, which seemed adding insult to injury!

 Note by Mother: _Half-a-score of wild middies on the loose at Port
 Said of all places!_ What _a wise commander!_

In the evening we weighed anchor and, taking on a pilot, proceeded
through the Canal. Great expanses of open water, broken occasionally by
long sand-spits, stretched away on either side. The banks of the Canal
are raised some six feet above the water level and are about twenty
feet wide. On our starboard, or the Egyptian side, ran a caravan road
overshadowed by plane and palm trees, and we saw several camels being
driven along by Arabs in picturesque flowing garments. Presently the
sun dipped below the horizon and turned the wide expanse of water to
the colour of blood. Gradually this faded away and slowly disappeared,
and only a beautiful rosy glow was left in the sky above us.

Little signal stations connected with each other by telephone are
placed every mile or so along the Canal, and at each of these it has
been widened to allow of two ships passing each other, but in order to
do this it is necessary for one of the ships to tie up to the bank. We,
being on special duty, were allowed to go straight through, and any
craft we encountered was obliged to tie up and make way for us.

At this time we had taken to sleeping on deck because of the heat, and
in the middle of that night I woke up just as we were passing three
Indian troopships which were tied up to the eastern bank of the Canal.

A gorgeous full moon was shining down on the desert, silvering the
sand, and making everything almost as clear as in daylight. There was
no sound to break the silence save the gentle lippety-lap of our wash
against the banks. I got up and leant over the shelter deck watching
the desert as we slipped by. I used to imagine somehow that the desert
was flat, but of course it isn’t!

Every now and then we would pass a tall palm tree showing up in deep
relief against the rolling sand-hills, and sometimes a sleeping Arab
and his camel. Presently we passed into the Bitter Lakes, when all
around us stretched placid water, the channel being marked out with
red and green lights dwindling away in dim perspective to the horizon.
Towards dawn a little chill, sighing breeze sprang up, and I returned
to my slumbers.

Next morning, as we drew near Suez, the view was glorious. Mile on mile
of billowing sand, golden now in the fierce rays of the sun, stretched
away on either side, the banks being clothed with sparse vegetation.

Soon after breakfast we passed out of the Canal and into Suez Bay,
where a large convoy lay at anchor waiting to proceed to Port Said.

That evening found us far down the Gulf of Suez, and Mount Sinai
appeared on our starboard beam. Next day we were in the Red Sea, where
we found it appallingly hot. Every morning we used to bathe in a canvas
bath which was rigged up on the quarter-deck and filled with sea-water.
We had our first experience of that most objectionable thing called
“prickly heat” here, and did not like it at all!

Three days later we received a wireless message saying that it was
believed that the _Koenigsberg_, a German raiding cruiser, was coaling
in Jidda, a port in Arabia, on the banks of the Red Sea. At the time
that we received this message, Jidda bore about six points on our
starboard bow, so setting our course straight for it, we arrived off
this little harbour about 4 p.m. It is the port for Mecca, and is very
difficult to navigate owing to its many shifting sandbanks.

By 5 o’clock, having worked our way in as far as it was advisable to
go, we lowered our pinnace, which, under the command of one of our
lieutenants who was accompanied by a subaltern of marines, proceeded
into the harbour. All eyes were eagerly fixed on the one steamer
visible in the harbour, but even the most sanguine among us could see
that it was not a war-ship of any description. However, we all hoped
for some definite news from the British Consul as to the whereabouts
of the German cruiser. But we were doomed to disappointment, for soon
after dark the pinnace returned, and the Lieutenant reported that the
said Consul—a rather sly Arab—denied that the German ship had been
there. The Lieutenant had also interviewed the port authorities, but
they could—or would—give no news, and he had examined the solitary
steamer, which proved to be a British cargo-boat which had come in the
day before. So we hoisted the pinnace, weighed anchor, and proceeded on
our way, horribly disappointed and rather disheartened. We felt it was
high time that something other than mere voyaging, however pleasant,
should come our way.

Two days later we sighted _H.M.S. “——,”_ and shortly after passing
Perim Island we went through the “Gates of Hell” in her company.

The narrow straits bearing this sulphurous nickname, and properly
called the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, are situated at the end of the Red
Sea and at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden.

When we got clear into the gulf we sighted a steamer and our consort
went in chase of it, leaving us to continue our course for Aden, which
we reached at 5 o’clock.

Here we had to anchor by the bows and moor our stern to a buoy, but by
the time we had lowered the cutter, which was to take the wire hawser
to the buoy in question, our stern had swung round and was nearly half
a mile away from it, and the crew could not pull against the long
length of sagging wire behind them.

The picket boat was lowered as quickly as possible and took the cutter
in tow, but by this time our stern had nearly drifted aground. Rapid
orders were passed from the bridge to the quarter-deck, and at last
we saw one of the cutter’s crew leap on to the buoy and shackle the
hawser to the ring. Then the after capstan began to heave round, and
slowly the wire rose out of the water and tautened. Very gradually the
stern began to swing back; but it was a long, slow job, as much care
was needed to prevent the hawser from parting. By 9 o’clock, however,
everything was secured, the ship lay peacefully on the still waters of
the harbour, and we all went down to dinner.

We were up early next morning for our first good look at Aden. What
an arid place! Great mountains tower above the town to a height of
several thousand feet. Not a leaf, not a tree to be seen—no crap of
vegetation, no glimpse of green save only a small patch of some kind
of grass, just opposite the landing stage. Truly the place is suitably
immortalised in the name of that famous pipe-tune, “The Barren Rocks
of Aden!”

In the afternoon we went ashore to have a look at the town. The
streets are very dusty and camels provide practically the only means
of transport. The houses are mostly built of stone quarried out of
the mountains behind, and in the native quarter the architecture is
somewhat after the pagoda style. We returned to the ship to find
natives already busy coaling her, and that night, as the wind was
blowing the right way to carry the coal-dust over the bow, we thought
we might safely sleep on the quarter-deck.

Coaling went on all night and the wind must have shifted, for, when I
woke in the morning, the first thing I saw was my next-door neighbour
with a face like a sweep’s! He looked most awfully funny, and I started
roaring with laughter at him before suddenly realising that I was
myself in a similar plight! So, indeed, were we all. You never saw such
a disreputable, dirty-looking lot of ruffians in your life! Hair,
hands, faces and clothes simply smothered in coal-dust; and amid much
mutual chaff and laughter we went below to wash.

That afternoon we weighed anchor and sailed for Bombay, arrived there
about a week later, and dropped anchor in the early morning while it
was still dark; and coaling by native labour began again at once.

Daylight revealed a huge convoy of over sixty ships assembled in the
harbour and shepherded by one of our battle-ships.

In the afternoon native merchants came aboard bringing deck-chairs,
mosquito-nets and other less useful things for sale. By the advice of
the surgeons we all supplied ourselves with mosquito-nets, and many of
us also bought deck-chairs and mats.

That evening the whole of the convoy mentioned above got under way, and
we, together with _H.M.S. “——,”_ formed their escort. After a voyage
of little more than a week we sighted _H.M.S. “——,”_ who took our
place, while we, separating from the main body, took half the convoy
down towards Tanga. One of the troopships was very slow and could only
do about seven-and-a-half knots, which delayed the convoy a lot.

Four days later we crossed the Equator, and here the time-honoured
ceremony of “crossing the line” took place. All who have not been
over the line before, officers and men alike, have to be ducked and
submitted to various other indignities before they can be considered
“freemen” of the Sea King’s domain.

On the previous night officers and men impersonating Neptune and his
Court had paraded the ship with an impromptu band, and in the morning a
huge canvas bath was rigged up on the fo’c’sle, with a rude throne for
Neptune at one end. After lunch the fun began. The bears were already
splashing about in the bath ready to duck the neophytes when Neptune
and his staff had finished with them. One of our lieutenants was
the first victim. The Sea King, gorgeously arrayed in red and yellow
bunting, with a cardboard crown set on his hempen wig, asks each in
turn if he has ever crossed the line before, but no sooner does the
unfortunate open his mouth to reply, than a large brush dripping with
whitewash is slapped in his face! He is then liberally whitewashed all
over by Neptune’s merry men and tipped over backwards into the bath.

Here the bears seize upon him and pass him along to the other end, each
one ducking him as he goes, after which his ordeal is finished, and he
can watch his messmates being served in the same way.

Our Gunnery Lieutenant at first hid, but he was soon routed out and
carried, kicking and struggling, before the tribunal. He had reason
to regret his attempt to shirk, for by this time the whitewash had
run out, so he was treated to a plastering of black paint, sand, and
water instead; and, further, given a spoonful of “medicine” made up
of mustard, pepper, salt, oil, and sea-water all mixed together, after
which he was duly tipped backwards into the bath!

       *       *       *       *       *

_Maybe sober-minded people will think all this very
silly—childish—almost improper in view of the serious business on
which they were engaged. But let it be remembered that, in the words
of Kipling: “The Navy is very old and very wise.” She cherishes her
traditions, and knows well that the observance of an old ceremony in
which officers and men take part without distinction of class tends to
foster that immortal spirit of comradeship which is one of the most
valuable assets of the service, and by no means the least important
secret of our sea-power. For the rest, time enough to think of War when
the call to “action” has been sounded off. They work best who know how
to play._

       *       *       *       *       *

The performance lasted until 4 o’clock, when we all went below,
changed, and had tea.

We had now been at sea for a little over a fortnight, and fresh water
was getting very scarce. By order of the Commander all washing of
clothes had already been forbidden; but on the next day the rain came.
It was practically the first since we left Bombay, and it rained in a
truly tropical manner, coming down literally in sheets.

All officers who were not on duty turned up on the quarter-deck in a
state of nature, with large bundles of dirty clothes under their arms,
which they promptly set to work to scrub and wash. Our quarter-deck
awning was spread, and soon quite a lot of water collected in it. When
I had finished washing my clothes it occurred to me that the awning
would be a good place for an impromptu bath. I had just finished and
surrendered my place to Wenton when the Commander came through the
battery door, and was considerably annoyed at finding the awning being
put to this use, and he promptly gave orders that no one else should
bathe there.

The welcome downpour lasted for a little over an hour, and was greatly
appreciated.

On the following day our starboard condenser developed several leaky
tubes, and for that day we had to draw out of line to port and paddle
along with only one engine while it was repaired. Unfortunately, no
sooner was this completed than the other condenser gave out, and we had
to haul out of line again on the other side, with only our starboard
engine working. This left us with only two days’ boiler, and three
days’ drinking-water, and we were still a good four days from Tanga, so
we sent out a wireless message to _H.M.S. “——,”_ a cruiser which we
knew was in the vicinity, to come and relieve us.

As the Captain had to go over on business to the s.s. _Karmala_, one
of the convoy, we were lowering a cutter to take him there when the
forward falls parted and the boat promptly swung down perpendicularly,
hurling the crew out. All but one of the men managed to grab hold of
the life-lines and haul themselves into safety; but for the one in
question the life-buoys were immediately let go, and the other cutter
in charge of the navigator was hastily lowered. However, after all, the
man had managed to grab one of the bottom lines, and clambered up the
side of the ship, safe and sound; but it took us a long time to recover
all our life-buoys!

Next morning the cruiser to which we had wired appeared on the horizon
in answer to our summons, and steamed towards us. She lay to about
half-a-mile away, and our Captain, with the captain of marines, went
away in a boat to the _Karmala_, to confer with her captain and the
captain of the cruiser. They returned about 11.30 a.m., and that
evening we got under way and proceeded to Mombasa, which was two days’
voyage distant, the convoy being left in charge of the cruiser.

On the following morning Barton and I were fallen in on the
quarter-deck, and the Captain rated us midshipmen, which entitled us
to wear the coveted white patches, indicative of that rank, on the
collars of our uniform. Up till then we had only been rated as naval
cadets, though some of the seniors had received their step earlier. It
also entitled us to a slight—very slight—increase in the rate of our
not too munificent pay! On that day, too, we all changed round duties,
the messengers becoming watch-keepers, and _vice versa_.

I was appointed messenger to the Gunnery Lieutenant, who sent for me
next morning and told me that our ship was going to act as defence ship
to the harbour while she was in Mombasa, and, since it was impossible
to see anything of the open sea from the port, it had been decided to
send three officers out to Ras Kilmain, the lighthouse point, and that
they should camp there and set up a range-finder and dumaresque. They
would be able to communicate with the ship by telephone to Kilindini,
the landing-place in the harbour, where signalmen would be posted to
pass on any messages. “Guns” said he was sending the assistant gunnery
lieutenant on this job, as well as Browne, who had been his messenger
for the first three months of the cruise, and myself. I was delighted
with this information, as it promised to be an interesting job, and
camp-life would in any case be a very pleasant change after the long
weeks we had been on board ship. Then he told me to help him to make
a large map of the island. The plan was that one of us should take
the range and bearing of any enemy ship that appeared, another should
plot it on the chart, which was divided into squares, while the third
telephoned through to our ship, saying what square the enemy vessel was
in. Each square was lettered, and one spread salvo from our ship’s guns
would cover its area, so that at least one of the shells was bound to
hit.

That evening we entered Mombasa. The approach is exceedingly difficult
to navigate owing to two large reefs which run out on either side of
the island, having only a narrow passage of deep water, forty yards
wide, lying between them. Along this channel we advanced until we
were within little more than a stone’s-throw of the lighthouse; then,
turning sharply to port, we went along parallel with the shore of the
island, keeping so close in that we could see every pebble on the
beach. After continuing on this course for about four hundred yards we
turned to starboard and steamed between the mainland and the island.
On both sides the shore was fringed with palm trees right down to the
water’s edge. Beautiful little bays opened out, revealing still, deep,
blue water; and as the channel gradually twisted to starboard, the open
sea was soon completely lost to view.

When we had gone about a quarter of a mile, the banks slowly receded,
and we entered the harbour, which in its widest part is about
half-a-mile across. Another large harbour, which is about a mile wide
and two miles long, opens out further on and stretches away inland.
The channel surrounding the island is not navigable all the way for
big ships, but small ones can quite easily go right round it. Further
on there are two more islands, called respectively Port Tudor and
Port Mombasa, but H.M.’s ships rarely make use of these ports. Port
Kilindini consists only of the Customs House, one or two railway
offices, and a large coal-shed.

The day after our arrival the three of us who were to be stationed at
the lighthouse packed our tin cases and disembarked, taking with us a
portable range-finder, a dumaresque, and some cooking utensils. Having
piled all the luggage on a taxi which had been hired for us, we started
for the lighthouse, which was on the other side of the island.

At first the road, bounded on one side by a high embankment and on the
other by the harbour, was slightly uphill, but presently we passed into
a grove of trees and then under the Uganda railway bridge, and so along
a straight and level road bordered by palm and various other tropical
trees. Then came a native village composed of mud huts set back in a
clearing to the left. Here a foolish ostrich, which I imagine belonged
to the natives, fled across the road in front of the car and narrowly
escaped being run over. A little later we reached the outskirts of the
town, and after passing through it for a short distance turned to the
right, and leaving the native barracks and the prison on our left,
proceeded along a level track raised above the surrounding scrub,
and flanked by trees wherein hundreds of birds’-nests hung, until we
came to the hospital. Here we again turned to the right, and shortly
afterwards we arrived at the lighthouse, where we unloaded our luggage
and dismissed the taxi.

Finding that the tent in which we were to live was still in possession
of the soldiers who had lived in it hitherto, we left a message with
the native look-out boy, requesting them to remove themselves before
nightfall, and we went off to the town for some tea. After tea the
Lieutenant and Browne went to buy a stove and a kettle and one or two
other things we required, while I walked back to the camp to look
after our gear. I found the soldiers had gone and the tent was ready
for us, so I set about moving in our things. Presently the Gunnery
Lieutenant came up to see the camping place and to arrange with us
where we should set up the range-finder, etc. I told him the others
were shopping in the town, and we sat down and talked until they
turned up. Then it was decided to set up our instruments on top of the
look-out house, and to carry the flexible voice-pipe from there through
the window below to the plotting-table where the chart was. This done
“Guns” departed, and we set to and arranged our beds and made the tent
ship-shape and habitable.

When in town Browne and the Lieutenant had bought some shorts and some
navy-blue putties, which they thought would be much cooler and more
serviceable than duck suits; so during our time in camp our uniform
consisted of shorts, putties, and shirts, and of course sun helmets,
which are indispensable in that climate. At half-past seven we cooked
some eggs we had brought with us and got our supper ready. Browne
caused us much amusement, as his only idea of cooking eggs was to put
them all into a saucepan full of _cold_ water and stir them vigorously
until they boiled! However, I must admit that none of us knew _much_
about cooking, and we conducted some fearful and wonderful experiments
in that line while we were in camp! After supper we were quite ready
for bed, so we turned in.

Next morning there was much to be done, so we were up by 6 o’clock;
and before breakfast we fixed up our range-finder and dumaresque on
the roof of the observation hut and rigged up the flexible voice-pipe.
After breakfast we repitched the tent a little further round, where
the prevailing breeze would blow through it and keep it a bit cooler.
Apparently the “Tommies” who preceded us were a stuffy lot with no
undue craving for fresh air!

Then we contrived a pantry in the back of the tent on a wooden table,
and here we installed the filter we had brought from the ship, as well
as all our plates and dishes and the stove. Further, we engaged a
native boy as general factotum to help with our _ménage_ and do such
cooking as we could not manage on the stove.

We also hired a bike from the ordnance officer at the port.

When all this was accomplished a trial run of ranges and deflections
with the ship occupied us until lunch-time.

During the day a native kept the look-out from the watch-hut, reporting
to us as soon as anything was sighted at sea.

Next morning I was sent to the pier on the bicycle to catch the 11.30
boat and to go to our ship and obtain from the bo’sun a broom and one
or two other things we needed. I caught the boat all right, lunched on
the “——” after putting in a “chit” for the broom, etc., and returned
to the shore in the 1.30 boat.

The broom proved a most awkward thing to convey by bike, and it was
horribly in the way of my knees. When I was about halfway to the camp I
got so tied up with the beastly thing that I fell off, bike and broom
on top of me! When I picked myself up I found that the crank of the
left pedal had been bent in the fall. However, the machine, though more
wobbly than ever, was still ridable, so I finished the journey gingerly
and without further accident.

Perhaps it might be well here to describe the camp and its surroundings
more minutely. It was pitched about two hundred yards back from the
cliffs; and the watch-house, past which the road ran, was about ten
yards in front of our tent. The lighthouse was situated some three
hundred yards from the cliff’s edge to our left; and right opposite it,
on a small point running out into the sea, stood a green beacon some
fifteen feet high. Our native boy had built his kitchen of sand-bags on
the cliffs just in front of the watch-hut.

The soldiers were now encamped in tents some hundred yards away to
the right, and immediately behind our tent was a sort of large stone
reservoir for water, with, in front of it, the flagstaff. Rough paths
connected the beacon with the lighthouse and the watch-hut.

On our third morning in camp we received a telephone message from
a port a long way up the coast, saying that a hostile war-ship was
coming down in our direction. We did not attach much importance to
this information until the following day, when the enemy was again
reported—this time off Kismayne; and as the next morning she was
stated to be passing Malindi, we calculated that she ought to be in
sight by 3 p.m. Sure enough, almost exactly at 3 I saw smoke on the
horizon, and immediately telephoned our ship.

Now we were all three eagerly watching the smoke, and presently
the stranger’s masts came into view. They certainly appeared to
have “tops,” so she might well be a war-ship of some kind, and our
excitement grew until a single funnel hove in sight, whereat our
spirits drooped a little, for very few ships of war have only one
funnel. Still, as the lower parts of her masts lifted above the
horizon, they looked at the distance so like tripods that hope rose
high again. Very slowly her hull emerged, and in another ten minutes
she was wholly visible. Then the powerful magnifying lens of the
range-finder revealed her as unmistakably a collier.

We telephoned the information through to our ship, and very shortly
afterwards saw our picket boat manned by an armed crew, and with a
3-pounder in her bows, coming at full speed out of the harbour.

Despite the fact that she was seventeen years old the picket was a very
fast boat, and as we watched through our telescopes we soon saw her run
alongside the collier, and several figures in duck suits jumped out and
ran up the stranger’s gangway. Then our boat shoved off again, and they
both came steaming towards the harbour. Shortly afterwards the collier
hoisted the code-flag for the day, thereby proving that she was not
after all an enemy, and she asked permission to proceed into Kilindini.
What a sell! After all our excitement, too! But one gets accustomed
to that sort of disappointment; and, after all, there was always the
chance that the next alarm would prove genuine.

The collier could not be allowed into Kilindini for some time, as there
were already at the moment two ships in the channel on their way out,
but as soon as the course was clear she rounded the curve of the island
and anchored in the harbour—and _that_ incident was ingloriously
closed.

We tried that night, I remember, to communicate with our ship by means
of an electric flash-lamp fixed to the top of the flagstaff, but it was
not a success, for the key was so badly insulated that after getting
many violent shocks we had to give it up.

We had heard from the soldiers that somewhere to the left of the
watch-hut there was a cave containing a deep pool of water in which it
was quite safe to bathe, so Browne and I, being off duty, one morning
went down to try and find it. We crossed the road, and going downhill
for a bit over long grass and through various stunted shrubs, came
presently to a large rectangular hole in the ground, which, by a long
slope, very slippery and covered with loose stones, communicated with
the said cave. At the end of the slope was a very small hole, through
which we crawled on hands and knees, and found, when our eyes had grown
accustomed to the darkness, that we were standing on a little ledge
of rocks. At our feet lay a small sandy cove, which extended for some
fifty yards to the mouth of the cave, across which stretched a reef
about three feet high. As the waves rolled in the water every now and
then poured over this reef into a large pool, and the ledge on which we
were standing ran round the cave at a height of about three feet above
the sand.

We soon stripped and had a delightful bathe in the pool.

About a quarter of a mile away we could see a large French liner
stranded on the reef. I don’t know how long she had been there, but
there is something awfully forlorn and desolate-looking about a wrecked
vessel. Her stern had broken away and fallen off into deep water; and
there was a great hole in her side through which every now and then the
waves splashed, as though purposely deriding her and mocking at her
downfall.

On the following day the whole convoy came in from Tanga after having
disembarked the troops. It was my morning watch, and I saw them on the
horizon just as the dawn was breaking.



CHAPTER VIII

THE BOMBARDMENT OF DAR-ES-SALAAM

  Your troth was broken ere the trumpets blew;
    Into the fight with unclean hands you rode:
  Your spurs were sullied, and the sword you drew
    Bore stain of outrage done to honour’s code.

  And you have played your game as you began,
    Witness the white flag raised ...

         *       *       *       *       *

  And the swift stroke of traitor steel for thanks.

         *       *       *       *       *

  The world (no fool) will know where lies the blame
    If England lets your pleadings go unheard;
  To grace of chivalry you’ve lost your claim;
    We’ve grown too wise to trust a Bosche’s word.

  O.S.

  _Punch_: February 16, 1916.


IN all we were about three weeks at the camp, and we spent some very
happy days there; but the end came rather unexpectedly one evening,
when we suddenly received an order from the ship to pack all our gear
and get on board by 9 the following morning. We were a little sorry,
and yet in a sense relieved, for after all we were out to fight, not to
picnic—and we had hardly seen a shot fired since we left home waters.

We telephoned to the port officer to have a car ready to take us and
our effects down to Kilindini Harbour by 8 a.m., and that night we were
busy packing up all our cooking utensils, our range-finder, clothes,
etc.

Next morning we were up early, packed our bedding, had a good look
round to see that nothing had been forgotten, dismissed our native
servant, and then awaited the car we had ordered.

But time went on, and there was no sign of any car, so at 8.15 I was
sent off on the same old bike to commandeer the first taxi I came
across. Fortunately I managed to get one just inside the town, and went
back with it as quickly as possible. We loaded up in a frantic hurry,
and got down to the pier just in time, and so on board our ship.

By noon we were clear of the harbour, and steaming at full speed
southwards.

Now we learned that we were under orders to destroy all the shipping in
the harbour of Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of German East Africa, which
lies about twenty miles south of Zanzibar. It appeared that the Huns in
that port had been surreptitiously supplying food, etc. to the crew of
the _Koenigsberg_, that German raider which had been safely bottled up
in the Rufigi river some weeks previously, and it was designed to cut
their claws by disabling such merchant shipping as they possessed.

That evening we dropped anchor in Zanzibar, and started coaling by
native labour. Here we saw the masts of _H.M.S. Pegasus_ sticking up
forlornly out of the water half-a-mile on our port bow. They were very
much battered and smashed, for she had been sunk by the _Koenigsberg_
in September.

Early next morning we weighed anchor, and proceeded out of the harbour
in company with _H.M.S. “——.”_

At 8 a.m. we sighted Dar-es-Salaam, and all hands went to general
quarters. Half-an-hour later we dropped anchor in the roads outside
Dar-es-Salaam, and when all the guns were cleared away, and ready for
instant action, we were allowed to go on deck for a few minutes.

The town, with the Governor’s house, a handsome building, standing out
prominently on the foreshore, looked very peaceful and harmless in the
brilliant tropical sunshine. It was rather an awful thought that we
might have to shatter and destroy those quiet-looking houses in which
lived women, and worst of all—children. War _is_ a ghastly thing, and
it seems so wantonly _stupid_.

A large white flag was hoisted at our fore-mast. _We_ meant to play a
square game anyway, and give them a fair chance. Then we signalled to
the Governor of the town to come on board and receive our ultimatum.

The said ultimatum was as follows—

 If our boats were allowed to go unmolested into the harbour, there
 to destroy the shipping in accordance with our orders, we would not
 bombard the town. But—in the event of hostile action against our
 expedition we should open fire on the town without further warning.

The Governor, in reply, said that he could not accede to our demands
without orders from the commander-in-chief of the military forces,
and he then returned under safe conduct to the shore. Shortly
afterwards another boat appeared with a German military officer in the
stern-sheets. He came on board and stated that our boats would not be
molested, but he asked us in the event of our finding it necessary
to bombard, not to fire on the Protestant Mission House, or on the
Cathedral, as all the women and children would be sheltered in those
buildings. This looked a bit suspicious, but of course we agreed,
without demur, not in any case to fire on those particular buildings,
an agreement which I need hardly say was faithfully adhered to.

The German then returned to the shore, and shortly afterwards our
picket boat was lowered. The demolition party was on board in charge
of the Commander, who was accompanied by the Torpedo and Engineer
lieutenants, and she proceeded towards the shore.

Unfortunately she ran aground, so the pinnace was hoisted out and sent
to take off the officers and men, after which they proceeded into the
harbour under a white flag as agreed upon. _H.M.S. “——“‘s_ steamboat,
and a steam tug commanded by one of our lieutenants, also went in under
the white flag.

General quarters was then sounded off, and we all went to our action
stations.

At this time all of us midshipmen, together with the A.P. (Assistant
Paymaster), were stationed in the Fore T.S., which was our appointed
action station, so we could see nothing of what was happening, and
were dependent on the telephone for news. In about ten minutes the
officer in charge of one of the batteries telephoned through to us that
rapid firing had broken out from the shore, although the Germans were
still flying the white flag!

The treacherous, dishonourable devils!!!

Almost immediately the order came through from the control
position: “Range 4500, deflection 3 left—both turrets load with
common—object—the Governor’s house”—followed quickly by “Commence!”
The A.P. who worked the turret telephone gave the order “Stand
by—Fire!” And about one minute later we heard from the battery that
the Governor’s house had been hit and totally destroyed! Jolly good
shot! Hurrah!

Now all guns which could be brought to bear on the town were firing
rapidly.

About noon we heard that the tug had reappeared in the mouth of the
harbour and was heading for _H.M.S. “——.”_ She had a bad escape of
steam from her boiler, and had signalled for assistance, reporting
at the same time several wounded on board as well as twenty German
prisoners. The bombardment continued the whole afternoon. Down in the
Fore T.S. the heat was stifling—we were all stripped to the waist and
streaming with perspiration.

At 4·30 we heard that the remaining steamboats were making for the
ships under heavy fire from Maxims, pom-poms, and rifles.

Shortly afterwards the “Cease fire” sounded, and, hastily changing, we
ran up on deck to see what damage had been done.

The town was on fire in two places, and the Governor’s house, which
had stood out so conspicuously only a few short hours before, was now
nothing but a mass of blackened ruins. But there was no time for any
feeling of compunction or regret _then_, for a few minutes later our
pinnace ran alongside with the Commander and the coxswain lying on the
deck simply smothered in blood and barely conscious. They had both
been hit no less than eight times in various places, and had stuck to
their posts until they collapsed from loss of blood. Three others of
the crew were wounded, though able to walk; and there was no sign of
the demolition party and the other three officers. The wounded were
carefully hoisted on board, and carried down to the sick bay, and we at
once put to sea.

At 2 next morning we anchored in Zanzibar Harbour, and the wounded were
transferred to the hospital.

By this time we had learned what had taken place while our boats were
in the enemy’s harbour. They had no sooner entered the mouth than,
despite the _white flags_, a heavy fire broke out from the shore.
Nevertheless, gallantly proceeding with their duty, they had managed to
destroy two ships, and had then run alongside a large hospital ship.
Three of our officers, accompanied by the demolition party, had hardly
boarded her before three Maxims were unmasked on her deck, opening a
murderous fire on the boat, which was forced to retire.

One of our party—the surgeon—managed to fight his way back to the
gangway; and, leaping into a small boat alongside, presented his
revolver at the heads of two natives who were in it, and ordered them
to row him back to the pinnace. They had only pulled a few strokes when
the surgeon was hit in the head and fell down in the bottom of the
boat, apparently dead. The natives at once turned the boat round and in
terror of their lives rowed back to the treacherous hospital ship.

The pinnace was then forced to abandon all hope of recovering the
prisoners, and with much difficulty fought her way out of the harbour
and back to the ships.

For his gallantry on this occasion our Commander eventually received
the V.C. The cox’un was awarded the C.G.M., and the lieutenant in
command of the tug, who was also wounded, received the D.S.C.

At 6 next morning we put out from Zanzibar and proceeded again to
Dar-es-Salaam, where we demanded the surrender of the prisoners,
threatening in the event of a refusal to again bombard the town. The
Germans, however, had no intention of relinquishing their captives,
so at 9 a.m. we commenced fire. I think I forgot to mention that the
Torpedo Lieutenant who had greeted us boys so kindly when we first
arrived on the ship from Dartmouth was one of those taken prisoner on
this occasion, to our very deep regret.

We ceased fire at 2 p.m. and put to sea for the night in case an
attempt should be made to torpedo us. This second bombardment was not
quite so successful as the first, but it started two more serious fires
in the town—so we had our revenge all right!

That evening it was decided that on the following morning a party
should be sent to attack and demolish the lighthouse, which was
situated on a small island at the entrance to the harbour. For this
purpose there was detailed a landing party, consisting of seamen
and marines, officered by a lieutenant and the subaltern of marines.
Browne, one of the “snotties,” was also to accompany this expedition.
However, much to the general disappointment, the sea on the next
morning proved too rough to allow of any boats being lowered, and we
had to abandon the project and return to Zanzibar.



CHAPTER IX

ORDERED TO THE DARDANELLES


WE left the Cape about the 16th of February 1915. For several days
previous to our departure we were busy taking in a quantity of stores
suggestive of a land campaign.

These included hand-grenades, entrenching tools, water troughs and
tanks, provisions of every description, and a whole lot of empty
biscuit-tins, the eventual usefulness of which I, for one, failed to
fathom. When finally we weighed anchor and steamed out, having the
Vice-Admiral and his staff on board, we encountered some very heavy
weather. A stiff south-easter had been blowing for some days past, and
off Cape Agulhas and in False Bay it was very rough indeed; but, save
for the general discomfort which such weather always brings in its
train, our voyage was without accident or incident, and a week later we
dropped anchor in Port Natal—the port of Durban.

Leave was given in the afternoon, but as half of us had to stay on
board, and as it was improbable that we should get leave again in this
particular place, we cast lots in the gun-room to determine who should
go ashore. Baker and I were among the lucky ones, and we went off
together and took the tram into Durban.

We got down at the town station and walked along the main street,
looking into all the shops. It was jolly being in such a very European
place again. The quaintest feature of Durban seemed to us the native
rickshaw-boys, who paint their faces and wear head-dresses of enormous
many-coloured feathers, gaudy dresses sown with beads, and huge copper
rings on their wrists and ankles.

Presently we took another tram, and were looking out for an attractive
tea-shop as we went along, when a lady and gentleman got into the
tram, and the lady at once introduced herself to us, saying that she
had a son at Osborne, so could not help being interested in us. After a
little conversation she very kindly asked us to have tea with her. We
very gladly accepted the invitation, and a little later we all got out
of the tram and went to a hotel by the sea. Here we had a ripping tea,
and at 6 o’clock said “good-bye” to our kind hosts, and then did some
shopping in the town until 7 o’clock, when we were due to return on
board.

Next day we still remained in harbour, so the others got their leave
after all. During the day, much to our curiosity, we took on board
three rickshaws. No one could imagine what they could be wanted for!
Further, we accumulated some more biscuit-boxes and some tins of petrol.

That evening we weighed anchor and proceeded out to sea. Just at the
mouth of the harbour we were confronted by a big bar which—as the tide
was running the same way as the river, _i.e._ ebbing—had not been
there when we came in, and consequently it took us unawares. It was
nearly dark, so the bar was not noticed until we were almost on top
of it. The Captain yelled a warning to the first part of the watch on
deck, who were still on the fo’c’sle securing the anchor, telling them
to hang on tight, and the next moment we dipped our bow and shipped an
enormous sea. Messengers had been hurriedly dispatched to give orders
for all scuttles and dead-lights to be closed immediately, and for the
crockery in the pantries and messes to be secured firmly; but some of
the scuttles could not be closed in time, and many cabins were flooded
as the sea passed aft. The lieutenant-commander in charge of the party
on the fo’c’sle just grabbed one man in time to prevent his being
washed overboard. Four of these huge rollers came before we were safely
out in the open sea, but no real damage was done, although the owners
of the flooded cabins were mightily indignant and disgusted.

We now discovered that we were under orders to blockade the
_Koenigsberg_, that German commerce raider which had been trapped in
the Rufigi river some two or three months before, and whose crew,
entrenched on the banks, had hitherto defied capture. It was now
rumoured that in all probability troops would try and attack her by
land, and that there would also be a landing-party of seamen and
marines from our ship. The petrol we had taken on board would be needed
for a seaplane which was to assist in the operations; but the use of
those fantastic rickshaws was still “wropped in mystery”!

During the voyage up the coast, the Admiral had us all in turn to
breakfast with him. This was a great treat to us, for not only was
Vice-Admiral—— a most kindly and genial host, but the fare at his
table, though not, perhaps, luxurious according to shore and _peace_
standards, was a vast improvement on the bully beef, liquefied
margarine, and very nasty bread which was all that was to be had in
the gun-room. Perhaps this sounds rather greedy, but it is really
extraordinary how awfully important quite ordinarily nice food becomes
when it is no longer an every-day matter-of-course!

Ten days after leaving Durban we sighted Mafia Island, and stopped
for two hours to communicate with various ships stationed there,
after which we went on to Zanzibar. Here we stayed for twenty-four
hours; were allowed to go ashore, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The
following day, the 1st of March, we put to sea again, and proceeded to
the mouth of the Rufigi river, where we anchored.

For reasons, naturally not confided to junior “snotties,” we got under
way again a few hours later, and went back to Mafia Island. Here the
cutter was lowered, and Fane took the captain of marines, who was
our intelligence officer, in to the beach to try and obtain from the
natives information of the _Koenigsberg_. On their return we found that
Fane had managed to procure a quantity of fresh coconuts and mangoes,
which were greatly appreciated in the gun-room.

A curious optical illusion, caused by heat and the vibration of the
atmosphere, was very noticeable in these latitudes. The horizon line
seemed completely obliterated, and ships and islands appeared as though
floating in the air.

Some days later _H.M.S. “——”_ made the discovery that a German
officer, accompanied by ten native German infantry, were encamped on
an outlying island; so she lowered her cutter, and landed a party of
marines on the island in question. The Germans surrendered after a
half-hearted opposition, and the following day the officer was sent to
our ship as a prisoner, and we took him to Zanzibar and handed him over
to the military authorities.

When we returned, the Admiral having decided to hoist his flag in
his former flagship, he and his staff were transferred to _H.M.S.
“——.”_ Carey, our senior mid, was appointed to that ship, and two
sub-lieutenants came to us in his stead. All boats were lowered to
convey the Admiral and his party, and a consignment of small arms,
which we had on board, was transhipped at the same time.

A few days later we went down the coast to Lindi, a German town, and
threatened them with a bombardment unless they surrendered 400 black
and 200 white troops. They refused to comply with our demand, and so at
2 p.m. we went to action stations and commenced fire.

At 6 o’clock, the town being on fire in several places, we considered
we had “strafed” them sufficiently, and also the light was beginning
to fail, so we ceased the bombardment and weighed anchor. Just at this
moment a cruiser appeared in the offing, and for some minutes it was
thought she might be a hostile craft; however, on being challenged in
code by searchlight, she proved by her reply to be British, so we went
back to Mafia.

Three days later we learned that we were not after all to be “in at
the death” of the _Koenigsberg_. Bigger, far bigger work was in store
for us. We had received orders to proceed at once to the Dardanelles.

Immense excitement prevailed in the gun-room, for we guessed this
new move predicted action which would throw all we had hitherto
experienced into the shade—and subsequent events more than justified
our conjecture.

First we went to Zanzibar, where we arrived in the morning. All that
day was spent in disembarking the extraneous ammunition, petrol,
and so on and so forth (not forgetting those mysterious rickshaws),
which we had taken on board for the purposes of the _Koenigsberg_
operations. Then in the evening we weighed anchor, and as we passed
slowly out the Flagship gave us a right royal send-off. Her band
played _Tipperary_—that pretty music-hall tune which, by the curious
psychology of the British soldier, has been raised to the dignity of a
battle hymn, and then followed it up with _Auld Lang Syne_, while the
Admiral from the stern-walk wished us “Good luck,” and waved a parting
farewell; and the old ship steamed away on what for her, and most of
her ship’s company, was to prove the last long voyage.



CHAPTER X

IN ACTION


TWO days after leaving Zanzibar we reached Mombasa, and since no
native labour was available, and the heat was too great to allow of
our working by day, we commenced coaling at 4 p.m., and coaled all
night, taking in about 1200 tons. Early next morning we were under
way again, and a fortnight later we dropped anchor at Aden. We went
ashore on leave while the ship was being coaled by native labour, and
in the evening proceeded again to sea. Next day we sighted the coast of
Somaliland, where a furious sand-storm was raging, and a huge wall of
red sand hung above the cliffs, extending some distance over the water.
Little more than a week later we arrived at Suez, having accomplished
the passage of the Red Sea without any incident worth recording. We
stayed the day at Suez, and in the evening got under way and traversed
the Canal by night, dropping anchor at Port Said on the following
morning. Again we went on leave while coaling was in progress, and next
morning resumed our journey. Two days later we received a wireless
message ordering us to put back to Port Said and there prepare to repel
an expected attack by Turkish infantry on the Canal; and, further,
we were instructed to make preparation to receive the Admiral of the
port, who intended to hoist his flag in our ship. We at once set to
work to protect our bridge and tops by means of sand-bags, hammocks,
and grass ropes; and all the Captain’s furniture was removed from
the after-cabin. Also the 12-pounders and searchlight positions were
screened with thin steel plates. However, before we sighted land all
these orders were cancelled, as, apparently, the Turkish attack was no
longer anticipated.

We now spent three days in Port Said, and while there I distinguished
(?) myself by running our steam-pinnace aground!! It happened in this
way: I had offered to relieve Barton in charge of the said pinnace,
and owing to imperfect knowledge of the harbour, a very tricky one, I
steered the boat firmly on to a sand-bank which lay within a biscuit’s
throw of the ship. Three native boys endeavoured to assist me by
jumping into the water and shoving at the boat, but they only made
matters worse. Eventually, after going full speed astern for a good
five minutes, I got her off, and went alongside the ship. I was greeted
by the Commander with a proper slanging, and ordered to pay the native
boys, who were clamouring for _backsheesh_ in reward of their fancied
assistance. In my agitation I grossly overpaid the interfering brutes,
and the Commander then told me to do penance for my carelessness
by keeping the dog-watch. As a matter of fact it was my dog-watch
_anyway_; but I did not feel called upon to tell him so!

       *       *       *       *       *

On the morning of the fourth day we again got under way for the
Dardanelles, and arrived there on the 25th of April.

We steamed round the island of Tenedos, and took up our station at the
end of a line of some ten or more ships already anchored there. During
the voyage over I had been appointed in charge of the picket boat, and
as soon as we had anchored my boat was lowered to take some officers
to a cruiser which was going to take them over to the Dardanelles to
have a look at the positions we were going to attack on the following
morning. There was a considerable sea running, and as soon as the
slings were slackened, and the boat began to ride to the waves, the
starboard funnel, which was hinged to allow of its being laid flat
when she was in the crutches, and had not yet been raised and secured,
was so shaken by the violent motion of the boat that it snapped off
close to the deck and rolled overboard. This made steering with a head
wind very difficult, as the smoke all went into the steersman’s eyes
instead of being carried over his head; but I was not the sufferer on
this occasion, as I did not take this particular trip, being busy on
some important work in another part of the ship, and a substitute was
sent in my place.

By this time a change had been made in our routine, and none of us
were now officers’ messengers, with the exception of Cunninghame and
Baker, who were A.D.C.s to the Captain and the navigator respectively.
The remaining seven were watch-keepers, and in this way there were two
“snotties” to every watch but one.

Soon after my boat had gone away, having on board the Captain,
Commander, captain of marines, and officers of turrets, a collier came
alongside and we commenced coaling. My boat being duty steamboat (known
in the vernacular as D.S.B.), I did not have to assist in coaling, and
as soon as she returned from the cruiser “——,” I was sent away in
her with dispatches for the Flagship. One of my bowmen did not turn
up when the boat’s crew was piped, and when he eventually appeared
the silly fool went and fell into the ditch! He was soon pulled out,
however, and we started down the line. On the horizon I could see the
mouth of the Dardanelles and one or two ships firing at intervals. As
we passed down the Fleet I noticed one ship with half her funnel-casing
blown off and another with a bit of her stern-walk missing, which
showed we didn’t always get it all our own way with the Turk.

After I had delivered my dispatches I returned to the ship and
was promptly sent away again to take the gunner to the store-ship
_Fauvette_ to get some gunnery instruments. By this time the sea was
very big for a small steamboat, and was almost dead on the beam. We
were rolling nearly 60° each side, and constantly shipping seas, which
poured down the stump of the broken funnel and nearly put the furnace
out. The store-ship was a good two miles away, and it took us nearly
half-an-hour to reach her. At last we got within about twenty yards
of her, and I ran my boat down the leeside, looking for a ladder or
gangway; seeing none, I ran under her stern and went alongside to
windward of her. Here the seas were enormous, and as we rose on a
huge wave the gunner leaped for the ladder, missed his footing, hung
on for a second, and then dropped into the sea between the boat and
the ship’s side. We managed to haul him out at once, but it was a bit
of luck that the boat was not carried in towards the ship’s side by
a wave, as it would most certainly have crushed, and probably killed
him. Once he was safe on board again I hailed the ship and asked them
to put out a ladder on the leeside, as I could see it was much too
dangerous work going alongside to windward, and I didn’t care to risk
it again. Eventually the gunner’s mission was safely accomplished, and
we returned to our own ship without further incident.

After lunch I had to get my boat coaled and watered, and at about 5
p.m. the cruiser with our officers on board came back to her moorings,
and I was sent to bring them off to our ship again. Then at 6.30. I
had to take the Torpedo Lieutenant and the gunner (T.) over to _H.M.S.
“——,”_ and to wait an hour for them, lying off in the dark with a
big sea running. Thank goodness I am a good sailor—don’t know what it
is to be sea-sick; but anyone less fortunate in their interior economy
would have had an uncommonly miserable time! As it was I was only
rather cold, very hungry, and very bored. At last they reembarked and I
returned on board and got my dinner, which I was much in need of.

That night we put to sea, and at 2 on the following morning “Action”
sounded—the great landing at Gallipoli had begun. All water-tight
doors were hastily closed and all electric light cut off.

We had to go up on deck to get to the Fore T.S., and away to the right
could be seen the first faint streaks of dawn, and the land showing
very faintly against the sky.

Down in the Fore T.S. we worked by candlelight, eagerly awaiting the
sunrise when the great bombardment would begin.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Of that bombardment he spoke but little, and wrote not at all. I think
he felt it too big a thing to tackle._

_The epic of the Gallipoli landings will, let us hope, one day be
written by a pen worthy to depict that immortal tale of heroism, but I
doubt if the whole truth can ever be spoken or written. There are some
things of which men cannot and will not speak. A word, a sentence here
and there, may lift for a moment a corner of the veil, but only those
who went through that inferno will ever fully realise its horror._

_Of my boy’s own small part in it all I know a little—but only a_
very _little. The ship was concerned in the landing at—— Beach,
and at 10 o’clock one morning he was sent away in his boat to fetch
the wounded from the beach in question. Of course other midshipmen were
doing the same thing in other boats._

_Batch after batch of men horribly wounded, hideously mutilated,
were rescued under fire, and conveyed to the hospital ships. He
spoke—brokenly—of the terrible wounds, the all-pervading stench of
blood rising up beneath the fierce rays of the sun from his reeking
boat; of the magnificent, indescribable heroism and patience of men
mangled, and shattered, and torn._

_Once for a time the ship had to go away down the straits for two
miles, and he had to read the signals giving orders where to convey the
rescued—and so—work on. One day he was on that duty from 10 in the
morning until half-past 1 at night._

_”What did you do for food?” I asked—perhaps foolishly._

“_Oh, they threw me down a lump of cheese and a ship’s biscuit,
somewhere about midday, when I happened to be alongside._”

“_And was that_ all _you had in all those hours? Surely they
might have seen you had at least something to eat!_”

“_Eat—” he exclaimed scornfully, and then very patiently: “Don’t you
see, Mother, it was a question of_men’s lives! _Some were bleeding to
death; every second counted—— How could we think of_ eating!”

_So—shamed—I held my peace, hearing only that “it was a question of
men’s_lives.”

_And these were the boys of whom a certain well-meaning but hysterical
Member of Parliament wrote to the papers just after the sinking of the_
Aboukir, _the_ Cressy, _and the_ Hogue._ He said it was monstrous to
send such mere children to war, and that in point of fact they were
of no use on the ships, and only a source of worry to their superior
officers! One could wish that he had been present at Gallipoli. Some
of those same boys won decorations which they may well wear proudly
to-day, for they won them by deeds of magnificent fortitude and
valour. Others again gave all they had—their health and their youth,
and in some cases their lives, and I think the names of all those
“children” are written in letters of flame on the Roll of England’s
Honour—England’s Glory._

       *       *       *       *       *

_Some days later they were once more in comparative security. How
comparative only those who have realised a fraction of that hell will
recognise._

_The ship was guarding the French flank when the end came—but—let it
be told in his own words._



CHAPTER XI

THE SINKING OF THE SHIP


CRASH!—Bang!—Cr-r-r-ash! I woke with a start, and sitting up in my
hammock gazed around to see what had so suddenly roused me. Some of the
midshipmen were already standing on the deck in their pyjamas—others,
like me, were sitting up half dazed with sleep. A party of ship’s
boys crowded up the ladder from the gun-room flat, followed by three
officers; one of these, a sub-lieutenant R.N.R., called out: “Keep
calm, and you’ll all be saved.”

Up to that moment it had never dawned upon me that the ship was
sinking, and even then I thought it improbable until I noticed that
we were already listing to starboard. Then I got up and walked up the
hatch to the quarter-deck. The ship was now heeling about five degrees
to starboard, and I climbed up to the port side. It was nearly pitch
dark. A seaman rushing to help lower the boats charged into me, and I
turned and swore at him.

Gradually a crowd gathered along the port side. “Boat ahoy! Boat ahoy!”
they yelled; but, as the ship listed more and more, and there was no
sign or sound of any approaching vessel, the men’s voices seemed to
get a bit hopeless. The Commander was urging on a gang who were trying
to get some heavy timber overboard; but, as we listed further and
further over, they found it impossible to get it up on the port side
and couldn’t get round to starboard, as the capstan and the Captain’s
hatch and skylight were in the way. At last they gave it up, and going
to the side joined their voices to those of the crew, who were trying
to attract the attention of any vessel that might be in the vicinity.

Inside the ship everything which was not secured was sliding about and
bringing up against the bulkheads with a series of crashes. Crockery
was smashing—boats falling out of their crutches—broken funnel-guys
swinging against the funnel casings. She had heeled over to about
twenty degrees, then she stopped and remained steady for a few seconds.
In the momentary lull the voice of one of our officers rang out steady
and clear as at “divisions”: “Keep calm, men. Be British!”

Then the ship started to heel rapidly again, and I felt sure there was
no chance of saving her. I turned to jump overboard. The Commander, who
was standing a few paces away on my right, went over a second before
me. Raising my arms above my head I sprang well out board and dived.
Just before I struck the water my face hit the side of the ship. It was
a horrid feeling sliding on my face down the slimy side, and a second
later I splashed in with tremendous force, having dived about thirty
feet.

Just as I was rising to the surface again a heavy body came down on
top of me. I fought clear and rose rather breathless and bruised. I
swam about fifty yards away, to get clear of the suction when the ship
went down; then, turning round and treading water, I watched her last
moments. The noise of crashing furniture and smashing crockery was
continuous. Slowly her stern lifted until it was dimly outlined against
the deep midnight sky. Slowly her bows slid further and further under
until, with a final lurch, she turned completely over and disappeared
bottom upwards in a mass of bubbles.

She had been our home for nearly ten months—she was gone—vanished—in
less than four minutes.

Turning over and swimming a slow side-stroke I made for _H.M.S.
Cornwallis_, which I could discern faintly silhouetted against the
sky about two-and-a-half miles distant. Suddenly something touched my
leg, and the thought of the sharks we had watched from the bridge the
previous afternoon flashed shudderingly across my mind—but it was
only a floating potato! Soon the shrieks of the drowning grew faint
in the distance and I swam on with three others near me. When I had
been in the water for about twenty minutes I looked up and saw what I
thought to be a boat. I shouted out, “Boat ahoy!”—and turning on my
side swam for some time a fast side-stroke. When at last I rested and
looked for the imagined boat, which ought to have been quite near by
now, I discovered that I had somehow misfocussed the _Cornwallis_, and
so come to imagine she was a small steamboat quite close instead of a
battle-ship a mile and a half away. However, I felt quite confident
of reaching her if only I persevered, so I continued to swim a slow
side-stroke. Soon after this my pyjama jacket came undone, and I took
it off as it hindered me. A few minutes later I sighted a huge spar
about twenty feet long, probably the topgallant mast or lower boom
from our ship. It must have been thrown a tremendous way by the force
of the explosion to be so far down the channel. The current was very
strong, and of course that was a great help to those who were swimming.
I hung on to the spar for a minute or two to get my breath back a bit,
and rubbed myself all over in order to restore the circulation, as by
that time I was getting very cold. After a short rest I started off
again to try and reach _H.M.S. Cornwallis_. Presently it seemed to me
that I was not approaching her as rapidly as before, and almost at the
same moment she switched on her searchlights, when I saw by their light
that she was out of the main stream of the current, and that to reach
her I should have to swim half a mile absolutely unaided by the flow of
the tide. I tried to get in the beam of her searchlight, thinking she
would be sure to have some boats out and that they would see me; but I
found I was unable to manage this, and after about five minutes I gave
up trying. Then I turned round and looked about for some other ship to
essay and make for. About a quarter of a mile behind me, and slightly
up stream, I saw another ship with all her searchlights going and I
determined to try and reach her. I swam towards her, and presently saw
two steamboats push off from her bow and make off up stream for the
scene of the disaster, but they were too far off to hail. Five minutes
later I heard the welcome plash of oars, and looking to my left saw
a cutter approaching with a man in the bows sweeping the surrounding
water with a hand lantern. I yelled out, “Boat ahoy!” and back came the
cheering answer: “All right, we’re coming. Hang on!”

A minute later the lantern flashed in my face, a pair of strong arms
grasped me by the shoulders and hauled me clear of the water.

I must have fainted then, for I remember nothing more until I became
dimly conscious as in a dream that I was in the stern sheets of a
boat lying alongside some other vessel. A man’s voice said, “Here’s a
midshipman, sir,” and next moment I was picked up and set down on the
deck.

Barely conscious as yet of my surroundings, I was taken into a sort of
cabin, where I was given some neat rum. It was very fiery and nearly
choked me, but it bucked me up a bit all the same. Then I was conducted
down to the boiler-room, where some one stripped off my pyjama trousers
(my one remaining garment), and I sat down on a locker before the
furnace and soon got a degree of warmth back into my body.

Presently I heard the voice of one of our lieutenants speaking up
above, and called out to him to know how he’d come off. Then I was
helped up the gangway again and into a small sort of saloon in the
stern. Here I was given some more rum, a very large sweater, and a pair
of blue serge trousers belonging to one of the crew, and when I had put
them on I lay down in a bunk and immediately fell asleep. About an hour
later I woke up and found the saloon full of officers and men.

The Lieutenant to whom I had spoken in the boiler-room was sitting at
the table. He was dressed in a jersey and a seaman’s duck trousers.
Two other survivors, a marine and an armourer, were also at the table,
and across the saloon in the bunk opposite mine lay a gunner’s mate.
I asked the Lieutenant what time our ship was struck. He said his
watch had stopped at 1·29 a.m., when he jumped into the sea, and so he
presumed we were torpedoed at about 1·27, as the ship only took _three
and a half minutes_ to go down. She had been struck on the starboard
side by three torpedoes fired from a Turkish torpedo-boat, which had
drifted down the straits keeping close inshore, and thus eluded our
destroyer patrol. To give the enemy his due it was a jolly smart piece
of work.

It was now somewhere about 3·30 a.m., and, as I did not feel
inclined to sleep any more, they gave me some hot cocoa and some
bread-and-cheese. I drank the former, but the bread-and-cheese was more
than I felt equal to just then. About 6 o’clock the Lieutenant was
transferred to another ship for medical treatment, as his back was
badly bruised by drifting wreckage; and half-an-hour later the rest of
the survivors were reembarked in _H.M.S. Lord Nelson’s_ cutter, the
same that had picked us up; and leaving the trawler she took us to the
_Lord Nelson_.

When we got on board I was at once taken down to the gun-room, where I
found four more of our “snotties” who had also been rescued. One more
was reported as having safely swum ashore; but there was no news of the
other three, and subsequently it transpired that they had been lost.

The survivors were mostly sleeping—the sleep of exhaustion. We had all
had a pretty tough fight for it, and I realised then how uncommonly
lucky we had been in escaping not only alive, but for the most part
uninjured. Cunninghame had a nasty cut on his head, but the rest of
us were only suffering from minor bruises, and of course to a certain
extent from shock.

One of the _Lord Nelson’s_ middies kindly lent me some old uniform, and
after I had dressed I made a parcel of the clothes I had been lent on
the trawler and took them to the ship’s corporal, and asked him to see
that they were returned to their owner.

I remembered, with an odd sense of unreality, that the last time I had
been in the _Lord Nelson_ was at the manœuvres the previous July!

On my way up to the deck I met three more of our lieutenants, and we
exchanged accounts of our experiences. From them I learned that our
Commander had been saved, and was also on board; but there was no news
of the Captain. Some days later I heard that his body had been picked
up, and it was thought that he had been killed by the falling of the
pinnace when the ship turned over just before she sank.

At 7·30 we put to sea and proceeded to Port Mudros. On the way,
and after divisions, the lower deck was cleared, the whole ship’s
company, together with the survivors from our ship, mustered on
the quarter-deck, and then took place a mournful ceremony, which
poignantly brought home to us the fate we had so narrowly escaped.

Through the battery—very softly—came the sound of muffled drums,
growing gradually louder as the band advanced. Then appeared a
procession of seamen from our lost ship, headed by the _Lord Nelson’s_
chaplain, and carrying three stretchers, on each of which lay a body
covered with the Union Jack. The first was that of our Fleet paymaster,
and the other two those of a seaman and marine respectively. The bodies
were lifted from the stretchers and laid reverently on a platform
slanting towards the water, which had been erected on the port side.
Clearly and solemnly the chaplain recited the beautiful Burial Service,
and as he uttered the words “we therefore commit their bodies to the
deep,” the staging was tilted and the weighted corpses slid feet
foremost into the sea.

The service ended with three volleys fired over the side and then the
long sobbing wail of the “Last Post” rang out across the still waters
in final farewell.

When we were dismissed we went below in silence, awed by the solemnity
of this last committal to the deep of those with whom we had lived and
worked side by side for ten long months.



CHAPTER XII

HOME


AT 4 o’clock that afternoon the _Lord Nelson_ anchored in Mudros
Harbour, and shortly afterwards we were mustered on deck and then
disembarked and taken to the store-ship _Fauvette_, where cabins were
allotted to each two of us midshipmen.

The following day two torpedo-boats came alongside, and the
Lieutenant-Commander of the whole squadron of T.B.s based at Malta came
aboard to lunch. It was the great ambition of each of us “snotties”
to get appointed to one of these sporting little craft; but we feared
there was but little chance of such a stroke of luck, as they do not,
as a rule, carry midshipmen. However, there was no harm in hoping!

Next forenoon one of our lieutenants told us that two of our number
were to go to an armoured liner which was lying in the harbour, and
suggested that we should draw lots to determine which of us it should
be. Browne was away somewhere at the moment, and, as there was no time
to be lost, we had to do the drawing without him. Baker and I seemed
to be rather lucky at lotteries, for, as once before, we drew the
winning numbers. I was not, however, particularly elated as I was still
secretly hankering after service on a T.B.

We packed up the few articles of clothing we had obtained from the
_Lord Nelson_, and, together with the Lieutenant, who was also going
to the auxiliary cruiser, we were just embarking in the cutter, when,
as we were about to shove off, Browne came alongside in another boat.
Hastily we drew lots again, but the result was the same, and we went
off to our appointed ship.

When we got on board we were asked our names, and then the Captain
informed me he had orders to take Browne instead of me; so I returned
to the _Fauvette_ and told him he was to take my place. No sooner had
I lost this billet than, with human cussedness, I began to regret it.
After all, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and the job
would have been quite a good one.

However, my discontent was short-lived, for I soon found that, after
all, my luck was “in.” That afternoon I was leaning over the stanchions
looking at the shipping in the harbour, and wondering what fate might
have in store for me, when the Lieutenant-Commander of the T.B.s and
the Captain of the _Fauvette_ came along the deck and stopped close to
where I was standing, and I heard the former say that he intended—if
he could get the Admiral’s permission—to take one of the rescued
midshipmen to act as second in command of his torpedo-boat. I pricked
up my ears at that, and, a few minutes later, when Captain—— had gone
below, I summoned up all my courage (call it cheek, if you like), and,
regardless of the snub I was undoubtedly asking for, I went boldly up
to the Lieutenant-Commander and told him I had overheard what he had
said, and asked him if he would not take me if he could, as I was most
awfully keen to serve on a T.B.

He was frightfully kind, and did not seem a bit annoyed or surprised,
nor did he hand me the snubbing I had invited; but he explained that,
although at the moment the job I coveted was pleasant enough and not
too strenuous, it was likely to be a very stiff service later on, and
he asked if I really felt I should be equal to it.

Of course I declared that I felt perfectly fit and equal to anything,
and would do my level best if only I could get the billet; so then he
said he would ask for me.

As soon as he had left me I dashed below to tell the others of the
glorious luck which might be in store for me.

Next morning Lieutenant-Commander—— came aboard again, and to my
intense delight told me I was duly appointed to his T.B. and could
join that afternoon! Further, he invited me there and then to go off
with him and have a look round the boat. I found it a very different
proposition to the big ship to which I had been accustomed. To begin
with, there was only one tiny cabin, called by courtesy the ward-room,
in which we would live and eat and sleep, and my new skipper warned me
that when we were at sea it would often be three feet deep in water.
However, I felt it would require much more water than that to damp my
ardour for this new and exciting work.

Then he gave me a brief explanation of the duty on which the T.B.s
were then engaged. That night, he said, we would in all probability go
out on patrol duty just outside the boom until relieved at 6 the next
morning. Then we might proceed to sea and patrol the waters surrounding
the island of Lemnos. Doubtless we should anchor in some small bay for
the night, and early next morning return to harbour, when we should
have a day off, and so on and so forth. Twenty-four hours’ patrol and
then twenty-four hours’ rest. Forty-eight hours’ rest was the general
rule, but, as one of the T.B.s had run aground the week before, and had
had to be sent to Malta for repairs, we were short-handed.

Presently I returned to the _Fauvette_ to get what necessaries I could
obtain from the steward in charge of the stores. All he managed to
provide me with was a set of pants and vest, of the coarsest and most
horsehairy description, a pound of yellow soap, and a pair of enormous
and most dreadfully ugly boots. However, even these were better than
nothing, and, with the borrowed plumes in which I stood up, they had to
serve; and, moderately thankful for small mercies, I said “good-bye” to
my former messmates and went off to my new ship.

That night I slept on one of the settees which served the single cabin
for seats and lockers by day as well as for bunks by night, and early
the next morning we put to sea on patrol duty, carrying a crew of
sixteen in addition to the Commander and myself.

When we got outside the harbour the engines were stopped, and all hands
bathed. No particular incident occurred during our patrol, and the next
morning, after being relieved by another T.B., we proceeded for duty
off the island.

My enjoyment of the three weeks I spent in this service was due in no
little measure to the personal charm of my skipper, who was not only
the most considerate and tactful officer to serve under, but a most
charming and interesting companion. The work was mainly routine on the
lines indicated above, and although there was plenty of variety, and at
times no little excitement, to enlarge further on our doings would be
waste of pen and ink, as any more detailed account would probably be
“omitted by order of the censor”!

It had not occurred to me that those august, and occasionally
paternally minded, powers who preside over the sailor-man’s earthly
destiny, would think it necessary to send me home on leave. “Leave” had
long since been relegated in my mind to that dim and distant future
“after the war.” Doubtless the said powers in their wisdom realised—as
at that time I certainly did not—the inevitable strain following on my
narrow escape from the sinking ship.

It was, however, with some surprise and much regret that I heard from
the Commander on the 1st of June, that he had been ordered to send me
at once to the auxiliary cruiser _Carmania_, on which ship I was to
proceed to England.

Very reluctantly I took leave of the T.B. and her genial Commander,
and went on board the armed liner, where I found most of the survivors
from my old ship. Alas! they were tragically few, for out of a ship’s
company of 760, only 160 men and 20 officers had been saved.

The _Carmania_, which still bore scars resulting from her tremendous
battle with the Cap Trafalgar earlier in the war, weighed anchor on the
following day, and four days later reached Malta, where she coaled.
Here I went ashore and managed to buy a ready-made reefer suit and
other necessary garments; and I was uncommonly glad to feel once more
respectably clad.

Our voyage was uneventful. Now that there was no duty to be performed
I think most of us began to feel a bit slack, but our spirits rose as
they turned homewards. We had not seen our people for nearly thirteen
months, and the necessarily strict censorship of all our letters had of
course increased the sense of separation.

On June 12 we arrived at Devonport, and our Commander went ashore and
shortly afterwards returned with the welcome information that we had
all been granted a fortnight’s leave.

Leave! Cheer-o! We wasted no time in getting ashore, and I at once
wired to my home telling my mother that I had arrived, and was going
straight to London to the house of some cousins who had offered me
hospitality whenever I might need it, and that I would there await
instructions as I did not know where she might be. A fast train landed
us at Paddington about 5 o’clock, and I took a taxi to S—— Place.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Admiralty had informed me that he had sailed for England on the
2nd, and I knew he would go to London according to instruction, so I
was able to be there to meet him._

_I had not seen him since he left for Dartmouth, nearly fourteen months
before. Then he was a round-faced, rosy boy...._

_Up the steps, dragging a seaman’s canvas kit-bag, came a tall, thin
figure, white of face, drawn, haggard—incredibly old. I had not quite
realised_ this. _For a second my heart stood still—— Where was my
boy?_

_Then he saw me waiting in the hall, and his face lighted with
half-incredulous joyous wonder: “Mother!_ You here!”

       *       *       *       *       *

_My_ boy _was gone for ever—but my_ son _had come home._


Te Deum Laudamus.



                      PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY
                     RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LIMITED,
                  BRUNSWICK ST., STAMFORD ST., S.E.,
                         AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.



                             SOLDIERS’ TALES

                                 OF THE

                                GREAT WAR

              _Each Volume Cr. 8vo, Cloth, 3s. 6d. net._


   I. WITH MY REGIMENT. By “Platoon Commander.”

 “To read it is to share every experience (almost) in the life of a
 lieutenant on active service.”—_Punch._

  II. DIXMUDE. A chapter in the history of the Naval Brigade, Oct.-Nov.,
1914. By Charles le Goffic.

  _Illustrated_

 “A great and fascinating story which stands by itself in the huge epic
 cycle of the war.”—_Times._

 III. IN THE FIELD (1914-15). The impressions of an Officer of Light
Cavalry.

 “Dumas himself could not have bettered most of these pages.”—_Evening
 Standard._

  IV. PRISONER OF WAR. By André Warnod.

 “A vivid picture of a prisoner’s life in a camp of mixed
 nationalities.”—_Times Lit. Sup._

   V. UNCENSORED LETTERS FROM THE DARDANELLES. Notes of a French Army
Doctor.

  _Illustrated_

  VI. “CONTEMPTIBLE.” By “Casualty.”

 VII. ON THE ANZAC TRAIL. By “Anzac.”

VIII. IN GERMAN HANDS. By Charles Hennebois.



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.





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