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Title: Q-Ships and Their Story
Author: Chatterton, E. Keble (Edward Keble)
Language: English
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Q-SHIPS AND THEIR STORY


      *      *      *      *      *      *

  BOOKS ON THE SEA BY
  E. KEBLE CHATTERTON


_HISTORICAL_

  SAILING SHIPS AND THEIR STORY

  SHIPS AND WAYS OF OTHER DAYS

  FORE AND AFT: THE STORY OF THE FORE AND AFT RIG

  STEAMSHIPS AND THEIR STORY

  THE ROMANCE OF THE SHIP

  THE STORY OF THE BRITISH NAVY

  KING’s CUTTERS AND SMUGGLERS

  THE ROMANCE OF PIRACY

  THE OLD EAST INDIAMEN


_CRUISES_

  DOWN CHANNEL IN THE “VIVETTE”

  THROUGH HOLLAND IN THE “VIVETTE”

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: Q-SAILING SHIP “MITCHELL”

This was one of the most famous of all the Q-ships and rendered
splendid service. The dummy deck-house on the poop concealed the after
gun (see p. 67).

_Frontispiece._]


Q-SHIPS AND THEIR STORY

by

E. KEBLE CHATTERTON

Author of “Sailing Ships and Their Story,”
Late Lieutenant-Commander R.N.V.R.



London
Sidgwick and Jackson, Ltd.
3, Adam Street, Adelphi, W.C.
1922



TO

  ADMIRAL SIR LEWIS BAYLY,
  C.V.O., K.C.B., K.C.M.G.,


  COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE IRISH COAST DURING THE STRENUOUS YEARS OF
  THE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN, WHO BY HIS ENCOURAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT OF
  THE Q-SHIP SERVICE DID SO MUCH TO THWART THE OPERATIONS OF THE ENEMY
  AND TO PROTECT OUR MERCANTILE MARINE



PREFACE


The wonderful and brave story of ships and men here presented needs
but the briefest introduction. The deeds will forever remain one of
the most glorious chapters in the chronicles of the sea. No excuse is
offered for adding another volume to the literature of the war, for
the subject is deserving of greater attention than has hitherto been
possible. Lord Jellicoe once remarked that he did not think English
people realized the wonderful work which these mystery ships had done
in the war, and that in these vessels there had been displayed a spirit
of endurance, discipline, and courage the like of which the world had
never before seen.

To few naval historians, I believe, has it ever been permitted to
enjoy such complete opportunities for acquiring authentic information
as is here presented. Unquestionably the greatest sphere of Q-ship
operations was off the south-west coast of Ireland, owing to the fact
that the enemy submarines from the summer of 1915 to 1918 concentrated
their attacks, with certain intervals, on the shipping in the western
approaches to the British Isles. It was my good fortune during most of
this period to be at sea patrolling off that part of Ireland. These
Q-ships were therefore familiar in their various disguises at sea or
in harbour at Berehaven and Queenstown during their well-earned rest.
Throughout this time I kept a diary, and noted down much that would
otherwise have been forgotten. Many of the Q-ship officers were my
personal friends, and I have enjoyed the hospitality of their ships.
Valuable data, too, were obtained from officers of merchant ships who
witnessed Q-ships engaging submarines.

A considerable number of authentic manuscripts has been examined. By
the courtesy of commanding officers I have been lent documents of
priceless historical value, such as copies of official reports and
private diaries, plans, sketches, photographs, and so on. All this
information has been further augmented by personal conversation,
correspondence, and valuable criticism. I submit, therefore, that with
all these sources of information available, and with knowledge of much
that has been published from the German side, it is possible to offer a
monograph that is at once accurate in detail and correct in perspective.

‘With respect to single-ship actions,’ wrote James in his monumental
Naval History a hundred years ago, ‘the official documents of them
are also very imperfect. The letters are generally written an hour or
so after the termination of the contest, and, of course, before the
captain has well recovered from the fatigue and flurry it occasioned.
Many captains are far more expert at the sword than at the pen, and
would sooner fight an action than write the particulars of one.’
That statement is true to-day of the Q-ships, and it would have been
negligent not to have availed oneself now of the calm and considered
version of the chief actors in the great mystery-ship drama while they
are still alive. Although the time for secrecy has long since passed,
nothing has here been included of a confidential nature that can be of
assistance to enemies past or potential. In one instance, for political
reasons and in the interests of the service, I have made a certain
omission. Those concerned will recognize this and understand: the rest
will not notice it.

Among those who have rendered me the greatest assistance in regard to
information, advice, criticism, the loan of manuscripts, illustrations,
and in other ways, I desire especially to return thanks to Admiral Sir
Lewis Bayly, C.V.O., K.C.B., K.C.M.G., and Miss Voysey, C.B.E.; to
Captain F. H. Grenfell, D.S.O., R.N., Captain Gordon Campbell, V.C.,
D.S.O., R.N., Captain W. C. O’G. Cochrane, R.N., Commander Godfrey
Herbert, D.S.O., R.N., Commander Stopford C. Douglas, R.N., and to
Lieutenant G. H. P. Muhlhauser, R.N.R.

  E. KEBLE CHATTERTON.
  _March, 1922._



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                          PAGE

      I. THE HOUR AND THE NEED                        1

     II. THE BEGINNING OF SUCCESS                    13

    III. Q-SHIP ENTERPRISE                           26

     IV. THE STORY OF THE ‘FARNBOROUGH’              39

      V. THE ‘MYSTERY’ SAILING SHIPS                 52

     VI. THE ‘MARY B. MITCHELL’                      67

    VII. MORE SAILING SHIPS                          77

   VIII. SUBMARINES AND Q-SHIP TACTICS               92

     IX. THE SPLENDID ‘PENSHURST’                   109

      X. FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS                       132

     XI. THE GOOD SHIP ‘PRIZE’                      143

    XII. SHIPS AND ADVENTURES                       158

   XIII. MORE SAILING-SHIP FIGHTS                   177

    XIV. THE SUMMIT OF Q-SHIP SERVICE               192

     XV. LIFE ON BOARD A Q-SHIP                     213

    XVI. Q-SHIPS EVERYWHERE                         228

   XVII. SHIPS OF ALL SIZES                         242

  XVIII. THE LAST PHASE                             255

         INDEX                                      273



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  Q-Sailing-Ship _Mitchell_                  _Frontispiece_

                                               TO FACE PAGE

  An Early Q-Ship (_Antwerp_)                             6

  Q-Ship _Antwerp_                                        6

  Commander S. C. Douglas, R.N.                           8

  Commander G. Herbert, D.S.O., R.N.                      8

  Q-Ship _Antwerp_                                       12

  Gun’s Crew of Q-Ship _Antwerp_                         12

  Q-Ship _Redbreast_                                     22

  Q-Ship _Baralong_                                      22

  Q-Ship _Baralong_ (Two Illustrations)                  28

  Officers of Q-Ship _Farnborough_                       42

  Captain Gordon Campbell and Lieutenant C. G. Bonner    42

  Q-Sailing-Ship _Mitchell_                              68

  Q-Ship _Penshurst_                                    114

  Q-Ship _Penshurst_ (Two Illustrations)                116

  Q-Ship _Penshurst_ (Two Illustrations)                120

  Captain and Officers of Q-Ship _Penshurst_            124

  Men of Q-Ship _Penshurst_                             124

  Q-Ship _Tulip_                                        138

  Q-Ship _Tamarisk_                                     138

  Q-Ship _Candytuft_                                    174

  Q-Ship _Candytuft_                                    176

  Q-Sailing-Ship _Fresh Hope_                           188

  Q-Ship _Record Reign_                                 188

  Q-Sailing-Ship _Rentoul_                              190

  Q-Sailing-Ship _Rentoul_ (Gun Crew)                   190

  The Master of the Collier _Farnborough_               192

  Q-Ship _Farnborough_                                  192

  Q-Ship _Farnborough_                                  194

  Q-Ship _Farnborough_                                  196

  S.S. _Lodorer_                                        196

  Q-Ship _Pargust_                                      198

  Q-Ship _Sarah Jones_                                  198

  Q-Ship _Dunraven_                                     200

  Bridge of Q-Ship _Dunraven_                           202

  After the Battle                                      204

  _Dunraven_ Doomed                                     206

  Q-Ship _Dunraven_                                     208

  Q-Ship _Dunraven_                                     212

  Q-Ship _Dunraven_                                     214

  Officers and Crew of the Q-Ship _Dunraven_            216

  Q-Ship _Barranca_ (Two Illustrations)                 220

  Q-Ship _Barranca_ (Two Illustrations)                 222

  Q-Ship Transformation                                 234

  Q-Ship _Barranca_ at Sea                              234


DIAGRAMS, ETC., IN THE TEXT.

  FIG.                                                 PAGE

   1. Action of _Baralong_ on August 19, 1915            21

   2. Action of _Baralong_ on September 24, 1915         27

   3. Action of _Margit_ on January 17, 1916             34

   4. Action of _Werribee_ on February 9, 1916           37

   5. Action of _Farnborough_ on April 15, 1916          45

   6. Action of _Helgoland_ on October 24, 1916          63

   7. Action of _Salvia_ on October 20, 1916             99

   8. Action of _Saros_ on November 3, 1916             103

   9. Action of _Penshurst_ on November 29, 1916        110

  10. Action of _Penshurst_ on November 30, 1916        113

  11. Action of _Penshurst_ on January 14, 1917         118

  12. The Humorous Side of Q-Ship Warfare               127

  13. _Farnborough’s_ Farewell                          196

  14. Action of _Pargust_ on June 7, 1917               201

  15. The Great Decision                                208

  16. Letter from the First Lord of the Admiralty
        to Captain Gordon Campbell                      210



  ‘The necessitie of a Historie is, as of a Sworne Witnesse, to say the
  truth (in just discretion) and nothing but the truth.’

  SAMUEL PURCHAS in ‘_Purchas His Pilgrimes_,’ 1625.



Q-SHIPS AND THEIR STORY



CHAPTER I

THE HOUR AND THE NEED


All warfare is merely a contest. In any struggle you see the clashing
of will and will, of force against force, of brain against brain. For
the impersonal reader it is this contest which has a never-ending
interest. A neutral is just as keenly entertained as the playgoer who
sits watching the swaying fortunes of the hero in the struggle of the
drama. No human being endowed with sympathetic interest, who himself
has had to contend with difficulties, fails to be moved by the success
or disaster of the contestants in a struggle of which the spectator
has no part or lot. If this were not so, neutral newspapers would
cease to chronicle the wars of other nations, novels would cease to be
published, and plays to be produced.

Human nature, then, being what it is, man loves to watch his fellow-man
fighting, struggling against men or fate or circumstances. The harder
the fight and the nearer he is to losing, so much the more is the
spectator thrilled. This instinct is developed most clearly in youth:
hence juvenile fiction is one mass of struggles, adventures, and narrow
escapes. But the instinct never dies, and how few of us can resist
the temptation to read the exciting experiences of some entirely
fictional character who rushes from one perilous situation to another?
Is there a human being who, going along the street, would not stop to
watch a burglar being chased over roofs and chimney-pots by police? If
you have once become interested in a certain trial at the law courts,
are you not eager to know whether the prisoner has been acquitted or
convicted? You despise him for his character, yet you are fascinated
by his adventures, his struggles, his share in the particular drama,
his fight against heavy odds; and, contrary to your own inherent sense
of justice, you almost hope he will be acquitted. In a word, then, we
delight in having before us the adventures of our fellow humanity,
partly for the exciting pleasure which these arouse in us, but partly
also because they make us wonder what we should have done in a similar
set of circumstances. In such vital, critical moments should we have
played the hero, or should we have fallen somehow a little short?

The following pages are an attempt to place before the reader a series
of sea struggles which are unique, in that they had no precedent in
naval history. If you consider all the major and minor sea fights
from the earliest times to the present day; if you think of fleet
actions, and single-ship contests, you cannot surpass the golden story
of the Q-ships. As long as people take any interest in the untamed
sea, so will these exploits live, not rivalling but surpassing the
greatest deeds of even the Elizabethan seamen. During the late war
their exploits were, for very necessary reasons, withheld from the
knowledge of the public. The need for secrecy has long since passed,
and it is high time that a complete account of these so-called ‘mystery
ships’ should be published, not merely for the perpetuation of their
wonderful achievements, but for the inspiration of the new race of
seamen whose duty it will be to hand on the great tradition of the sea.
For, be it remembered, the Q-ship service was representative of every
species of seamen. There were officers and men of the Royal Navy both
active and retired, of the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer
Reserve, and men from the Royal Fleet Reserve. From warship, barracks,
office, colony, pleasure yacht, fishing vessel, liner, sailing ship,
tramp steamer, and elsewhere these seafarers went forth in unarmoured,
slow-moving, lightly-armed vessels to perform the desperate adventure
of acting as live-bait for a merciless enemy. It was an exploit
calling for supreme bravery, combined with great fighting skill, sound
seamanship, and a highly developed imagination. The successes which
were attained were brought about by just this combination, so that
the officers, especially the commanding officers, and the men had
to be hand-picked. The slow-reasoning, hesitating type of being was
useless in a Q-ship; equally out of place would have been the wild,
hare-brained, dashing individual whose excess of gallantry would
simply mean the loss of ship and lives. In the ideal Q-ship captain
was found something of the virtues of the cleverest angler, the most
patient stalker, the most enterprising big-game hunter, together with
the attributes of a cool, unperturbed seaman, the imagination of a
sensational novelist, and the plain horse-sense of a hard business man.
In two words, the necessary endowment was brains and bravery. It was
easy enough to find at least one of these in hundreds of officers, but
it was difficult to find among the many volunteers a plucky fighter
with a brilliant intellect. It is, of course, one of the happy results
of sea training that officer or man learns to think and act quickly
without doing foolish things. The handling of a ship in bad weather,
or in crowded channels, or a strong tideway, or in going alongside
a quay or other ship—all this practice makes a sailor of the man,
makes him do the one and only right thing at the right second. But it
needed ‘something plus’ in the Q-ship service. For six months, for a
year, she might have wandered up and down the Atlantic, all over the
submarine zone, with never a sight of the enemy, and then, all of a
sudden, a torpedo is seen rushing straight for the ship. The look-out
man has reported it, and the officer of the watch has caused the man at
the wheel to port his helm just in time to allow the torpedo to pass
harmlessly under the ship’s counter. It was the never-ceasing vigilance
and the cool appreciation of the situation which had saved the ship.

But the incident is only beginning. The next stage is to lure the
enemy on, to entice him, using your own ship as the bait. It may be
one hour or one day later, perhaps at dusk, or when the moon gets up,
or at dawn, but it is very probable that the submarine will invisibly
follow you and attack at the most awkward time. The hours of suspense
are trying; watch has succeeded watch, yet nothing happens. The weather
changes from good to bad; it comes on thick, it clears up again, and
the clouds cease to obliterate the sun. Then, apparently from nowhere,
shells come whizzing by, and begin to hit. At last in the distance
you see the low-lying enemy engaging you with both his guns, firing
rapidly, and keeping discreetly out of your own guns’ range. Already
some of your men have been knocked out; the ship has a couple of bad
holes below the water-line, and the sea is pouring through. To add
to the anxiety a fire is reported in the forecastle, and the next
shell has made rather a mess of the funnel. What are you going to do?
Are you going to keep on the bluff of pretending you are an innocent
merchantman, or are you going to run up the White Ensign, let down the
bulwarks, and fire your guns the moment the enemy comes within range
and bearing? How much longer is it possible to play with him in the
hope that he will be fooled into doing just what you would like him
to do? If your ship is sinking, will she keep afloat just long enough
to enable you to give the knock-out blow as the inquiring enemy comes
alongside? These are the crucial questions which have to be answered by
that one man in command of the ship, who all the time finds his bridge
being steadily smashed to pieces by the enemy’s fire.

  ‘If you can keep your head when all about you
  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
  If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  But make allowance for their doubting too;
  If you can wait and not be tired by waiting ...’

then, one may definitely assert, you have in you much that goes to the
making of an ideal Q-ship captain and a brave warrior. As such you
might make a first-class commanding officer of a destroyer, a light
cruiser, or even a battleship; but something more is required. The
enemy is artful; you must be super-artful. You must be able to look
across the tumbling sea into his mind behind the conning tower. What
are his intentions? What will be his next move? Take in by a quick
mental calculation the conditions of wind, wave, and sun. Pretend to
run away from him, so that you get these just right. Put your ship
head on to sea, so that the enemy with his sparse freeboard is being
badly washed down and his guns’ crews are thinking more of their
wet feet and legs than of accurate shooting. Then, when you see him
submerging, alter course quickly, reckon his probable position by the
time you have steadied your ship on her course, and drop a series of
depth-charges over his track. ‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute
with sixty seconds’ worth of distance, run’; if you have acted with
true seamanship and sound imagination, you will presently see bits of
broken wreckage, the boil of water, quantities of oil, perhaps a couple
of corpses; and yours is the U-boat below, my son, and a D.S.O.; and a
thousand pounds in cash to be divided amongst the crew; and you’re a
man, my son!

That, in a few phrases, is the kind of work, and shows the
circumstances of the Q-ship in her busiest period. As we set forth
her wonderful story, so gallant, so sad, so victorious, and yet so
nerve-trying, we shall see all manner of types engaged in this great
adventure; but we cannot appreciate either the successes or losses
until we have seen the birth and growth of the Q-ship idea. As this
volume is the first effort to present the subject historically, we
shall begin at the beginning by showing the causes which created
the Q-ship. We shall see the consecutive stages of development and
improvement, the evolution of new methods, and, indeed we may at once
say it, of a new type of super-seamen. How did it all begin?


[Illustration: AN EARLY Q-SHIP

Q-ship “Antwerp” entering Harwich harbour.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “ANTWERP”

Commander Herbert is on the port side of the bridge, the Mercantile
Chief Officer and Quartermaster being in the foreground.

  To face p. 6]

Turn your attention back to the autumn of 1914. It was the sinking of
the three _Cressys_ on September 22 by U 9 that taught Germany what a
wonderful weapon of offence she had in the submarine. Five days later
the first German submarine penetrated the Dover Straits. This was
U 18, who actually attacked the light cruiser _Attentive_. But it
was not until October 20 that the first merchant ship, the British
S.S. _Glitra_ in the North Sea, was sunk by a submarine. Six days
later the French S.S. _Amiral Ganteaume_, with Belgian refugees, was
attacked by a German submarine. A month passed, and on November 23
the S.S. _Malachite_ was attacked by U 21, and after being on fire
sank. Three days later the S.S. _Primo_ was sunk also by U 21. It was
thus perfectly clear that we had before us a most difficult submarine
campaign to contend with, and that merchant ships would not be immune.
On the last day of October H.M.S. _Hermes_ was torpedoed off Calais,
and on November 11 H.M.S. _Niger_ had a similar fate near Deal.


[Illustration: COMMANDER S. C. DOUGLAS, R. N.

When serving in the Q-ship “Antwerp,” wearing a false moustache and
disguised as an English commercial traveller.]

[Illustration: COMMANDER G. HERBERT, D.S.O., R.N.

Taken on the bridge of the Q-ship “Antwerp,” disguised as a Dutch pilot
with a wig.

  To face p. 8]

What was to be done? The creation of what eventually became known as
the Auxiliary Patrol, with its ever increasing force of armed yachts,
trawlers, drifters, and motor craft; the use of destroyers and our own
submarines formed part of the scheme. But even at this early stage
the Q-ship idea came into being, though not actually under that name.
Officially she was a special-service ship, whose goings and comings
were so mysterious that even among service men such craft were spoken
of in great secrecy as mystery ships. This first mystery ship was the
S.S. _Vittoria_, who was commissioned on November 29, 1914. She had
all the appearance of an ordinary merchant ship, but she was armed,
and went on patrol in the area where submarines had been reported. It
was an entirely novel idea, and very few people knew anything about
her. She never had any luck, and was paid off early in January, 1915,
without ever having so much as sighted a submarine. The idea of decoy
ships suggested itself to various naval officers during December,
1914, and their suggestions reached the Admiralty. The basic plan
was for the Admiralty to take up a number of merchantmen and fishing
craft, arm them with a few light quick-firing guns, and then send them
forth to cruise in likely submarine areas, flying neutral colours.
This was perfectly legitimate under International Law, provided that
before opening fire on the enemy the neutral colours were lowered and
the White Ensign was hoisted. Seeing that the enemy was determined
to sink merchantmen, the obvious reply was to send against them
armed merchantmen, properly commissioned and armed, but outwardly
resembling anything but a warship. Thus it came about that on January
27, 1915, the second decoy ship was commissioned. This was the Great
Eastern Railway S.S. _Antwerp_ (originally called _Vienna_), which
operated in the English Channel. She was placed under the command of
Lieut.-Commander Godfrey Herbert, R.N., one of the most experienced and
able officers of our submarine service. The choice was a happy one, for
a submarine officer would naturally in his stalking be able to realize
at once the limitations and possibilities of his opponent. It was a
most difficult task, for the U-boats at this time were still very shy,
and only took on certainties. Neither in boats nor in personnel had
Germany yet any to spare, and there were periods when the submarine
campaign fluctuated. Thus, day after day, week after week, went by,
and _Antwerp_ never had any chance. The enemy was now beginning to
operate further afield, and at the end of January, 1915, for the first
time, a U-boat made its way up the Irish Sea as far as off Liverpool,
and then, on February 18, was inaugurated the German Submarine
Blockade. Shipping began to be sunk in various places, but the western
end of the English Channel was now a favourite zone, especially in the
neighbourhood of the Scillies; and it was with the hope of being taken
for a merchant ship that _Antwerp_ had come out from Falmouth and made
her way westward. Thus, on March 12, we see her, about three o’clock
in the afternoon, twelve miles north of the Bishop Rock Lighthouse.
A submarine[1] was sighted steering in a northerly direction for a
steamer on the horizon. Here, at length, was a chance. Twenty minutes
later, _Antwerp_ came up to a sailing ship, and found she had on
board the officers and crew of the Ellerman liner _Andalusian_, which
had been captured and scuttled 25 miles W.N.W. of the Bishop Rock.
_Antwerp_ continued her chase, and got within four miles of the
_Andalusian_, still afloat, but then the submarine dived and was never
sighted again. So _Antwerp_ was never able to sink a submarine, and she
was paid off on April 5, 1915.

During the summer of 1915 there was a small steamer called the _Lyons_,
which one used to see in various naval ports, and under various
disguises. Her primary object was to carry naval stores from one port
to another, but it was always her hope to fall in with a submarine.
I remember seeing her one day alongside Pembroke Naval Dockyard,
painted a certain colour and with one funnel. A little later I saw
her elsewhere with a different coat of paint and a dummy funnel added
to her, so that she resembled an ocean-going tug. _Lyons_ also was
unable to entrap the enemy, and terminated her decoy-ship period at the
beginning of November of the same year.


Thus the war had gone on for several months, and an apparently sound
idea had failed to produce a single good result. All kinds of shipping
were being sunk, and yet the German submarines somehow could not be
persuaded to attack these disguised ships. How was it? Was there
something in the disguise which gave the steamers away? Was it purely
hard luck? We cannot say definitely, but the fact remained, and it
was rather disappointing. Of course the idea of disguise had been
employed almost from the very first days of the war; for, in August,
1914, Admiral Jellicoe had requested that the armed trawlers, though
commissioned, should not be painted grey like other warships, but
retain their fishing numbers and funnel markings just as in peace time.
In the early summer of 1915, a number of disguised armed trawlers
were also sent out to the Dogger Bank in the hope of catching an
unsuspecting submarine, who might think they were fishing. The idea had
been further developed by a clever scheme involving the co-operation of
a disguised armed trawler towing a submerged British submarine. This
began in May; on June 23 it was the means of sinking U 40, and on July
20 it brought about the loss of U 23; but a few months later this idea
was thought to be played out, and came to an end in October, 1915,
though it was eventually revived in the following summer.

Another variation of the decoy-ship principle at this time was that
employed by Admiral Startin, who was in charge of the naval base at
Granton. In view of enemy submarines having recently held up neutral
merchant steamers in the North Sea, he disguised two big trawlers so
as to resemble small neutral merchant ships. This was in July, 1915.
So successfully was this done that one of them actually deceived
British destroyers, who took her for a Danish cargo steamer. The
next development was further to disguise them by adding a false deck
cargo of timber, boats, and other details, so as to resemble closely
a Norwegian cargo ship, with Norwegian colours hoisted at the mizzen,
two derricks placed on the trawler’s foremast, and Norwegian colours
painted on prepared slips of canvas placed on each side of the hull
amidships. Those who were at sea in those days will recollect that
it was customary for neutral ships to have their national colours
painted on each side of the hull in the hope that the enemy would
not mistake the ships for Allies’. Thus cleverly disguised, the two
Granton trawlers _Quickly_ and _Gunner_ went into the North Sea, armed
with nothing more powerful than a 12-pounder, Admiral Startin being
himself aboard one of the ships. A large submarine was actually sighted
on July 20, and at 1,000 yards the enemy began the action. _Quickly_
thereupon lowered her Norwegian flag, ran up the White Ensign, removed
the painted canvas, replied with her 12-pounder, and then with her
6-pounder. A fine, lucky shot was seen to strike the submarine, and
much smoke was seen to issue. Although the enemy made off and was not
sunk, yet it showed that it was possible to fool German submarines by
this disguise. The decoy-ship idea was not merely sound in principle,
but it was practicable and was capable of being used as a valuable
offensive weapon. Most of a year had passed since the beginning of
war, and there were no decoy ship results to show except those which
had been obtained by British submarines working in conjunction with
disguised trawlers. However, just as the seaman often finds the dawn
preceded by a calm and followed by a breeze, so it was to be with
the decoy ships. The dawn of a new period was about to take place,
and this was followed by such a wind of events that if anyone had
dared to doubt the value of this specialized naval warfare it was not
long before such hesitation vanished. Disguised trawlers had in the
meantime been further successful, but there were obviously greater
possibilities for the disguised merchant ship, the collier and tramp
types especially. But this all depended on three things: First, the
right type of ship had to be selected very carefully and with regard to
the trade route on which she would normally in the present conditions
be likely to be found. For instance, it would have been utterly foolish
to have sent a P. and O. liner to cruise up and down the waters of the
Irish Channel or an Atlantic liner up and down the North Sea. Secondly,
having once selected the right ship, much depended on the dock-yard
authorities responsible for seeing that she was fitted out adequately
as to her fighting capabilities, yet externally never losing any of
her essential mercantile appearance. This meant much clever designing,
much engineering and constructive skill, and absolute secrecy. Thirdly,
the right type of keen, subtle, patient, tough officer had to be
found, full of initiative, full of resource, with a live, eager crew.
Slackers, ‘grousers,’ and ‘King’s-hard-bargains’ were useless.

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “ANTWERP”

Showing the collapsible dummy life-raft which concealed the two
12-pounders.]

[Illustration: GUN’S CREW OF Q-SHIP “ANTWERP”

Gun’s crew of “Antwerp” ready to fire on a submarine. The sides of the
dummy life-raft have been collapsed to allow gun to come into action.

  To face p. 12]


[Footnote 1: This was U 29, which on March 18 was sunk in the North
Sea by H.M.S. _Dreadnought_.]



CHAPTER II

THE BEGINNING OF SUCCESS


We turn now to the northern mists of the Orkneys, where the comings
and goings of the Grand Fleet were wrapped in mystery from the eyes
of the world. In order to keep the fleet in stores—coal, oil, gear,
and hundreds of other requisite items—small colliers and tramp
steamers brought their cargoes northward to Scapa Flow. In order to
avoid the North Sea submarines, these coal and store ships used the
west-coast passage as much as possible. Now, for that reason, and also
because German submarines were already proceeding in earnest, via the
north-west of Scotland, to the south-west Irish coast, ever since the
successful sinking of the _Lusitania_, it was sound strategy on our
part to send a collier to operate off the north-western Scottish coast.
That is to say, these looked the kinds of ships a suspecting U-boat
officer would expect to meet in that particular locality.

Under the direction of Admiral Sir Stanley Colville, a handful of
these little ships was, during the summer of 1915, being fitted out
for decoy work. One of these was the collier S.S. _Prince Charles_, a
little vessel of only 373 tons. In peace-time she was commanded by her
master, Mr. F. N. Maxwell, and manned by five deckhands, two engineers,
and two firemen. These men all volunteered for what was known to be
a hazardous job, and were accepted. In command was placed Lieutenant
Mark Wardlaw, R.N., and with him went Lieutenant J. G. Spencer, R.N.R.,
and nine active-service ratings to man the guns and use the rifles.
She carried the weakest of armament—only a 3-pounder and a 6-pounder,
with rifles forward and aft. Having completed her fitting out with
great secrecy, the _Prince Charles_ left Longhope in the evening of
July 21 with orders to cruise on routes where submarines had recently
been seen. Proceeding to the westward at her slow gait, she saw very
few vessels until July 24. It was just 6.20 p.m. when, about ten miles
W.N.W. of North Rona Island, she sighted a three-masted vessel with one
funnel, apparently stopped. A quarter of an hour later she observed a
submarine lying close to the steamer. Here was the steel fish _Prince
Charles_ was hoping to bait.

Pretending not to see the submarine, and keeping on her course like a
real collier, Lieutenant Wardlaw’s ship jogged quietly along, but he
was closing up his gun’s crews behind their screens and the mercantile
crew were standing by ready to hoist out the ship’s boats when
required. The German now started up his oil-engines and came on at full
speed towards the _Prince Charles_. It had just gone seven o’clock and
the submarine was 3 miles off. The collier had hoisted her colours and
the enemy was about five points on the bow when a German shell came
whizzing across. This fell 1,000 yards over. Lieutenant Wardlaw now
stopped his engines, put his ship head on to the Atlantic swell, blew
three blasts, and then ordered the crew to get the boats out, in order
to simulate the movements of an ordinary merchant ship in the presence
of an attacking submarine.

In the meantime the enemy was approaching rapidly and fired a second
shot, which fell between the funnel and the foremast, but landed 50
yards over. When the range was down to 600 yards the enemy turned her
broadside on to the collier and continued firing; and this was now
the time for the Q-ship’s captain to make the big decision. Should he
maintain his pretence and continue to receive punishment, with the
possibility of losing ship and lives in the hope that the submarine
would come nearer? Or should he reveal his identity and risk everything
on the chance of winning all? This was always the critical moment when
the Q-ship captain held in his judgment the whole fate of the fight, of
the ship, and his men.

Lieutenant Wardlaw, seeing that the enemy could not be enticed to
come any nearer, took the second alternative, and opened fire with
his port guns. The effect of this on the German was remarkable and
instantaneous; for her gun’s crew at once deserted the gun and darted
down into the conning-tower. But whilst they were so doing, one of
_Prince Charles’s_ shells struck the submarine 20 feet abaft the
conning-tower. The enemy then came round and showed her opposite
broadside, having attempted to dive. She now began to rise again as the
collier closed to 300 yards, and frequent hits were being scored by
the British guns. By this time the surprised Germans had had more than
enough, and were observed to be coming out of the conning-tower, whilst
the submarine was settling down by the stern. Still the British fire
continued, and when the submarine’s bows were a long way out of the
water, she took a sudden plunge and disappeared. A large number of men
were then seen swimming about, and the _Prince Charles_ at once made
every effort to pick them up, fifteen officers and men being thus saved
out of thirty-three.

So ended the career of U 36. She had left Heligoland on July 19 for
a cruise of several weeks via the North Sea, and, up till the day of
meeting with _Prince Charles_, had had a most successful time; for she
had sunk eight trawlers and one steamer, and had stopped the Danish
S.S. _Louise_ when the _Prince Charles_ came up. It was not until the
submarine closed the latter that U 36 saw the Englishmen clearing away
some tarpaulins on deck, and the next moment the Germans were under
fire, and the captain gave orders to dive. By this time the submarine
had been hit several times, and as she could not be saved, she was
brought to the surface by blowing out her tanks. The crew then took to
the sea, and the engineer officer opened the valves to sink her, and
was the last to leave. Inside, the submarine was wrecked by _Prince
Charles’s_ shells and three men were killed, the accurate and rapid
fire having immensely impressed the Germans. Thus the first Q-ship
engagement had been everything that could be desired, and in spite
of the submarine being armed with a 14-pounder and carrying seven
torpedoes, the U-boat had been beaten in a fair fight. Lieutenant Mark
Wardlaw received a D.S.O., two of the crew the D.S.M., and the sum of
£1,000 was awarded to be divided among the mercantile crew.

Another of the ships fitted out under similar auspices was the _Vala_,
who commissioned on August 7, 1915. She was of 609 tons, and could
steam at nothing better than 8 knots. In March of the following year
she was transferred from Scapa to Pembroke, and her career was long and
eventful. In April of 1917 she was in action with a submarine, and she
believed that one shell hit the enemy, but the latter then submerged.
One day in the middle of August _Vala_ left Milford Haven to cruise
between the Fastnet and the Scillies, and was last heard of in the
early hours of the following day. She was due to arrive at Queenstown,
but, as she did not return, the Q-ship _Heather_ was ordered to search
for her in the Bay of Biscay. For a whole week there had been a series
of gales, and it was thought that the little steamer had foundered in
the bad weather, but on September 7 the German Government wireless
announced that ‘the U-boat trap, the former English steamer _Vala_,’
had been sunk by a U-boat.

Besides the _Vala_ and _Prince Charles_, three other Q-ships were
fitted out in the north. These were the _Glen Isla_, of 786 tons; the
_Duncombe_, 830 tons; and the _Penshurst_, 740 tons, and they all
performed excellent work. But before we go any further we have to
consider still another novelty in naval warfare, or rather a strange
revival. Who would have thought that the sailing-ship would, in
these days of steam, steel, and motor, come back in the service as a
man-of-war? At first it seems almost ludicrous to send sail-driven
craft to fight against steel, mechanically propelled vessels. But, as
we have seen, this submarine warfare was not so much a matter of force
as of cleverness. It was the enemy’s unimaginative policy which brought
about this reintroduction of sail into our Navy, and this is how it all
happened.

During the summer of 1915 German submarines in the North Sea had either
attacked or destroyed a number of neutral schooners which used to come
across with cargoes of pit-props. One used to see these fine little
ships by the dozen arriving in the Forth, for the neutral was getting
an excellent return for his trading. It annoyed the enemy that this
timber should be able to enter a British port, and so the submarines
endeavoured to terrorize the neutral by burning or sinking the ships
on voyage. It was therefore decided to take up the 179-ton schooner
_Thirza_, which was lying in the Tyne. Her purchase had to be carried
out with great secrecy, lest the enemy should be able to recognize her
at sea. She was an old vessel, having been built as far back as 1865
at Prince Edward Island, but registered at Whitstable. She changed her
name to _Ready_, and began her Q-ship service at the end of August,
1915, when soon after midnight she sailed down the Forth. Armed with
a couple of 12-pounders, having also a motor, carrying a small deck
cargo of pit-props, and suitably disguised to resemble a neutral, this
schooner, manned by a hardy volunteer crew, used to pretend she was
coming across the North Sea, though at first she never went many miles
away from the land. Under the various aliases of _Thirza_, _Ready_,
_Probus_, _Elixir_, and Q 30, this old ship did splendid work, which
did not end until Armistice. We shall have occasion to refer to her
again.

Who can avoid a feeling of intense admiration for the men who, year
after year, were willing and eager to roll about the sea in a small
sailing ship looking for the enemy, well knowing that the enemy had
all the advantage of speed, handiness, and armament? Even the motor
was not powerful, and would give her not much more than steerage way
in a calm. The submarine could always creep up submerged, using his
periscope but now and then: the schooner, however, was a conspicuous
target all the time, and her masts and sails advertised her presence
from the horizon. These Q-ship sailing men deserve much for what
they voluntarily endured. Quite apart from the bad weather, the
uncomfortable quarters on board, the constant trimming of sheets
and alteration of course off an unlit coast, there was always the
possibility that some U-boat’s crew would, after sinking the schooner,
cut the throats of these British seamen. The Q-ship crews knew this,
and on certain occasions when U-boat prisoners were taken by our ships
the Germans did not conceal this fact. Life in these sailing craft
was something quite different from that in a battleship with its
wardroom, its cheery society, and a comfortable cabin to turn into.
In the latter, with powerful turbines and all the latest navigational
instruments, bad weather meant little inconvenience. After all it
is the human element which is the deciding factor, and the Q-ship
service certainly wore out officers and men at a great pace. It is
indeed difficult to imagine any kind of seafaring more exacting both
physically and nervously.

But the Navy pressed into its use also sailing smacks, and sent
them out to sea. This began at Lowestoft in August, 1915. In that
neighbourhood submarines had been doing a great deal of damage to the
local fishing ketches, so it was decided to commission four of these
smacks, arm them, strengthen their fishing crew with a few active
service ratings for working the gun, and let the craft resume their
fishing among the other smacks. With any luck at all a German submarine
should come along, and then would follow the surprise. The original
fishermen crews were only too delighted to have an opportunity of
getting their own back, and these excellent fellows certainly were
afforded some good sport. So well did the idea work that within a
very few days the smack _G. and E._ engaged one submarine, and the
_Inverlyon_ sank UB 4. During the same month the smack _Pet_ fought a
submarine, and on September 7 _Inverlyon_ had a fight with another.

And still the Admiralty were not over optimistic as to the capabilities
of the decoy ship, and had to be convinced of the real worth of this
novel idea. However, an incident happened on August 19 which was so
successful and so significant that it entirely changed the official
mind, and all kinds of craft were suggested as suitable decoys. Some
thought that oil-tankers would have made ideal bait: so they would,
but such ships were few in number and too valuable. Others suggested
yachts, and actually these were used for intelligence work in the Bay
of Biscay. Many other schemes, too, were brought forward, but they were
not always practicable, or had to be discarded for particular reasons.


[Illustration:

  FIG. 1.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF ‘BARALONG’
  WHEN SHE SANK U 27 ON AUGUST 19, 1915. THE NUMERALS INDICATE
  SIMULTANEOUS POSITIONS OF DECOY AND SUBMARINE.]


[Illustration: Q-SHIP “BARALONG”

Heroine of two famous victories over submarines. Photograph taken in
Malta harbour after the ship had been transferred to the Mediterranean.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “REDBREAST”

This vessel was commissioned as a Q-ship at the end of March, 1916, but
six months later had concluded her service in this capacity.

  To face p. 22]

In March, 1915, the Admiralty had taken up the S.S. _Baralong_, a
typical ‘three-island’ tramp, as a decoy. For nearly six months she had
been cruising about and had already steamed 12,000 miles, but during
the afternoon of August 19 she was at last to have her chance. This was
an historic day in the submarine campaign, for in that area between the
south-west coast of Ireland and the western end of the English Channel
eight British steamers were sunk, including the 15,801-ton White Star
liner _Arabic_. It is quite certain that there was more than one
submarine operating, and they had reaped a good harvest on the 17th. In
the hope of falling in with one of these U-boats, the _Baralong_ found
herself in Lat. 50.22 N., Long. 8.7 W. (that is, about a hundred miles
south of Queenstown), steering on an easterly course. She was disguised
as a United States cargo ship with American colours painted on boards
on her sides. These boards were made so that they could be hauled in,
and the ensign staff would fall away as soon as the ship should go
into action with the White Ensign hoisted. At three in the afternoon
_Baralong_ sighted a steamer manœuvring rather strangely, and almost
immediately picked up a wireless ‘S.O.S.’ signal from her. _Baralong_
therefore now altered course towards her, and the two ships were soon
steering so that they would presently meet. Then a submarine was
sighted about seven miles off heading towards the steamer, whom she was
shelling. By this time the crew of the steamer, which was the Leyland
liner _Nicosian_, were rowing about in the ship’s boats, and towards
these the _Baralong_ was seen to be approaching, but the submarine U
27, which had a 22-pounder forward of the high conning-tower, and a
similar gun aft, steered so as to come along _Nicosian’s_ port side and
towards the latter’s boats, apparently to prevent _Baralong_ rescuing
the men. One who was present told me the full story, and I made notes
and a sketch at the time. This is what happened:

As soon as the submarine was blanketed by _Nicosian_, the _Baralong_,
who was now roughly parallel with the other two craft, struck her
American colours, hoisted the White Ensign, and trained her guns
ready for the moment when the submarine should show herself ahead
of _Nicosian’s_ bows. In a few seconds U 27 came along, and had the
greatest of all surprises. The range was only 600 yards, and 12-pounder
shells, accompanied by rifle fire, came hurtling along, penetrating
the craft on the waterline below the conning-tower before the enemy
could reply. The conning-tower went up in the air, panic-stricken
Germans jumped into the sea, the submarine heeled over, and in about
another minute sank for good and all. The whole incident had happened
so quickly that _Nicosian’s_ people were as surprised as they were
amused. The whole of _Baralong’s_ tactics had been so simple yet so
clever and effective; deliverance from the enemy had followed the
sudden attack so dramatically, that it was not easy to realize quite
all that had happened. _Nicosian_ had been holed by the German shells,
but _Baralong_ took her in tow and headed for Avonmouth. She was down
by the head and the tow-rope parted during the night, but she managed
to get to port all right.

The sinking of this U 27 was a most useful piece of work, for her
captain, Lieut.-Commander Wegener, was one of Germany’s best submarine
commanders; she had left Germany a fortnight before. This incident,
with many of its details, reached Germany via the U.S.A.; for
_Nicosian_ was carrying a cargo of mules from across the Atlantic to
be used by our army, and some of the muleteers were American citizens.
On their arrival back home the news came out, and was published in
the newspapers, causing considerable sensation. The German nation was
furious and made some bitter accusations, forgetting all the time that
on this very day they had fired on and killed fourteen of the crew of
the British submarine E 13, which had grounded on the Danish island of
Saltholm. All the officers, with one exception, and most of the crew of
_Baralong_ were of the Royal Naval Reserve. A number of decorations was
made and the sum of £1,000 was awarded.

This great success in the midst of a terrible tale of shipping losses
finally convinced the authorities of the value of the Q-ship. There
was a great shortage of tonnage at this time, for ships were being
required for carrying mules and munitions from America, munitions to
Russia, and every kind of stores across to our armies. However, it was
decided to take up some more steamers as decoys and fit them out in a
similar manner. Thus the two tramp steamers _Zylpha_ (2,917 tons) and
the _Lodorer_ (3,207 tons) were assigned to Queenstown. The former,
after doing excellent work, was sunk on June 15, 1917; the latter,
commanded by the officer who eventually became Captain Gordon Campbell,
V.C., D.S.O., made history. Under the aliases of _Farnborough_ and Q 5
she became the most famous of all the decoy ships. Tramp steamer though
she may be, she has a career which, for adventurous fights, honourable
wounds, and imperishable glory cannot be approached by any ship in the
world, with the solitary exception, perhaps, of the _Vindictive_, for,
in spite of everything, _Lodorer_ was able at the end of the war to
resume her work in the Merchant Service. In another place we shall soon
see her exploits as a warship.

In addition to these two a few small coasting steamers were taken up
and a couple of transports, and the work of selecting officers of dash
and enterprise had to be undertaken with great secrecy and discretion.
Unquestionably the most suitable type of Q-ship was the tramp, and the
worst was the cross-Channel railway steamer. The first was slow, but
could keep at sea a long time without coaling; the latter was fast,
but wasteful of coal and had limited bunker space. Of these railway
steamers we have already mentioned the G.E.R. Co.’s S.S. _Vienna_
(alias _Antwerp_). Another decoy ship was the L.& S.W.R. Co.’s S.S.
_Princess Ena_, which was built to run between the Channel Islands and
Southampton. She had been commissioned in May, 1915, armed with three
12-pounders, and could steam at 15 knots, but she ceased her decoy work
in the following August. The _Lyons_, already referred to, was really a
salvage steamer, but much resembled a tug, especially when she hoisted
her dummy funnel. She was of 537 tons, could steam at 11 knots, and was
armed with four 12-pounders. But it was the ‘three-island’ tramp type
of the _Baralong_ breed, which was so ordinary and seen at any time in
any sea, that made the ideal Q-ship. She was of 4,192 tons, built in
1901, speed 10 knots, armed with three 12-pounders, and fitted with a
single wireless aerial which could excite no suspicion. So skilfully
was the armament of these ships concealed that they frequently lay in
harbour close to foreign ships without revealing their true nature. I
have myself been all over such a ship, commanded by one of the greatest
Q-ship officers, and entirely failed to find where he mounted his
guns, and yet they were on board ready for immediate use. How much
more likely would the German submarine, lying lower down to the water,
be deceived! As time went on and these much-feared ‘trap-ships’ were
scrutinized more closely, several minor but fatal characteristics
had to be remembered; for instance, the crew sometimes would be too
smart or the signal-man was too good with his semaphore. But these and
similar points were rectified as soon as they were realized.



CHAPTER III

Q-SHIP ENTERPRISE


Within five weeks of her victorious fight _Baralong_ had done it
again. After the war it was definitely announced in the public Press
that U 27 had been sunk by H.M.S. _Wyandra_ on August 19. Under this
name the ship’s crew were awarded the sum of £185 as prize bounty, and
in the same court _Wyandra_, her commanding officer this time being
Lieut.-Commander A. Wilmot-Smith, R.N., was awarded £170 prize bounty
for sinking U 41 on September 24, 1915. It was an open secret that
_Baralong_ and _Wyandra_ were one and the same ship, so we may as well
get this matter quite clear. Already we have seen the manner in which
this decoy sank U 27, and we shall now be able to note very similar
tactics in almost the same locality attaining a like result under her
new captain.


[Illustration:

  FIG. 2.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF ‘BARALONG’
  WHEN SHE SANK U 41 ON SEPTEMBER 24, 1915. THE LETTERS INDICATE
  SIMULTANEOUS POSITIONS OF DECOY AND SUBMARINE.]

U 41 had left Wilhelmshaven on September 12, this being her fourth
trip. She was under the command of Lieut.-Commander Hansen, and on
the 23rd had sunk three British steamers, each of about 4,000 tons,
in a position roughly eighty miles south-east of the Fastnet. The
first of these ships was the _Anglo-Columbian_, which was sunk at 9.45
a.m., followed by the _Chancellor_ at 3 p.m., and the _Hesione_ about
four hours later. The news of the first sinking reached _Baralong_
(henceforth officially known as _Wyandra_) in Falmouth, so this decoy
put to sea, and after rounding the Lizard steered a course that would,
with luck, intercept the submarine if she were operating towards
Ushant, as seemed probable. So the night passed. About 9 o’clock next
morning the British S.S. _Urbino_ (6,651 tons), of the Wilson Line, was
attacked by this U 41 in a position roughly sixty-seven miles S.W. by
W. of the Bishop rock. At 9.45 a.m. up came the _Baralong_, and sighted
the _Urbino_ about eight miles ahead, on fire, stopped, with a heavy
list, and blowing off steam. It was a fine, clear morning; a steady
course was maintained, and the Q-ship made ready for action. Already
the _Urbino’s_ crew had been compelled to take to their boats, and the
submarine, at a range of 200 yards, had put five shells into her.


[Illustration: Q-SHIP “BARALONG”

Showing gun on port side of the poop and disguised crew.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “BARALONG”

Showing disguised marines and method of concealing the gun.

  To face p. 28]

_Baralong_ now sighted the submarine’s conning-tower, and when about
five miles away the submarine dived, so _Baralong_ altered course to
the southward, so as to compel the enemy, if she meant to attack, to
rise to the surface and use her oil-engines. This ruse succeeded, for
presently U 41 came to the surface and proceeded at full speed to head
the Englishman off. _Baralong_ now hoisted United States colours,
whereupon the German hoisted ‘Stop instantly!’ The former obeyed, but
by using the engines now and again cleverly manœuvred so as to close
the range. The next order from the enemy was for the Englishman to send
his papers aboard the submarine, the two craft being now about two and
a half miles apart. _Baralong_ answered the signal, steamed slowly
ahead, altering very gradually towards the enemy, and pretended to be
hoisting out a boat on the side visible to the submarine. On board
the latter the forward gun was already manned, Ober-Leutnant Crompton
being on deck in charge of the firing. But Hansen had already been
outmanœuvred by Wilmot-Smith, just as in the olden days the sailing
man-of-war sought to win the weather-gage. For, having got the
submarine 2 points on the starboard bow, _Baralong_ so steered as to
keep her in that position, and the two approached until the range was
down to 700 yards.

All this time, though every man in _Baralong_ was at his station,
there was not a movement that in any way caused the enemy to suspect.
The latter was concerned rather with the details of making quite sure
she was a neutral. It was then that _Baralong_ starboarded her helm
so that it might appear as if she were just swinging in order to give
the ship’s boat a lee while being lowered, a perfectly natural and
sea-manlike piece of tactics. But when she had swung sufficiently
for the starboard and stern guns to bear, down came the disguise, up
went the fluttering White Ensign, and a heavy fire at only 500 yards
came pouring forth, accompanied by rifle fire from the marines in the
well-deck aft. The enemy was taken so completely by surprise that he
got off only one round, and this was a long way out. So smartly had
_Baralong’s_ men begun the attack that the second round scored a direct
hit at the base of the conning-tower, and several other shells got home
with deadly precision. The Germans on deck became panic-stricken, left
their guns, and made for the conning-tower hatch, but whilst they were
doing this another direct hit struck the conning-tower, blowing Hansen
and six men to pieces. After several more hits, U 41 listed to port
with a heavy inclination and dived. This submersion was useless, as she
was leaking very badly, and the main bilge-pump ceased to function.
Down she dropped to a terrible depth, the diving tanks were blown by
the compressed air, and with a great sense of relief the Germans who
were still alive found their craft coming to the surface. First came
the bows, and then the top of the conning-tower showed above water, a
large volume of smoke and steam escaping, and then she disappeared for
the last time very rapidly, stern first, Ober-Leutnant Crompton and the
helmsman escaping through an open hatchway.

After she had sunk finally a large burst of air and oil-fuel rose to
the surface, the submarine’s bulkheads having apparently burst owing
to the pressure due to the deep water, which here was 75 fathoms.
Only Crompton and the helmsman were saved, the former having been
badly wounded whilst entering the conning-tower. All the others,
consisting of five officers and twenty-five men, were lost. In the
meantime _Urbino_ had sunk, too, from her shell-holes, and _Baralong_
picked the whole crew up from their boats to the number of forty-two
officers and men, her master, Captain Allanson Hick, stating that his
ship was on her way from New York to Hull. _Baralong_, conscious of
having obtained another brilliant and brave victory, now proceeded with
her survivors to Falmouth, where she arrived in the early hours of
the following morning. Lieut.-Commander Wilmot-Smith was awarded the
D.S.O., and Temporary Engineer J. M. Dowie, R.N.R., received a D.S.C.,
a well-deserved decoration; for much depended on the engineers in these
ships, and they had much to suffer. Two of the crew received a D.S.M.
each, and the sum of £1,000 was also awarded, this being additional to
the bounty subsequently awarded in the Prize Court.

At this stage in the world’s history there is no intention of exulting
in the discomfiture and pain of the enemy. Day after day during this
period the writer used to see the sad sight of our survivors without
ship or belongings other than the clothes on their backs. It is
difficult altogether to forget these incidents or the unchivalrous
behaviour of the enemy. Without wishing to be vindictive, it is well
to place on record that the nineteen German sailors on the deck of
U 41 all jeered at Captain Hick in his distress, and yet although a
callous enemy had been sunk in a fair fight, this second _Baralong_
incident aroused in Germany a wave of horrified indignation akin to the
decoy’s former exploit. The German Press referred to the sinking of
U 41 as a murderous act, but if this were so there were to be plenty
more to follow. Happily, at last, we had found a real, effective means
of grappling with the submarine problem. Against us were contending
the finest brains of the German Navy, and these determined officers
were not over anxious to save life, as we knew from their behaviour at
the sinking of _Falaba_ and _Lusitania_. Such craft as U 41, over 200
feet long, with a maximum surface speed of 14 knots, but an endurance
of 5,500 miles at 10 knots, armed with a couple of guns and eight
torpedoes, were formidable foes, and any clever stratagem that could
be used against them, without infringing International Law, was surely
entirely justified. Thus, very wisely, four colliers were fitted
out that same autumn as Q-ships, these being the _Thornhill_ (alias
_Werribee_, _Wellholme_, and _Wonganella_); the _Remembrance_ (alias
_Lammeroo_); _Bradford City_ (alias _Saros_); and the _Penhallow_
(alias _Century_). These, together with _Baralong_, were sent to
operate in the Mediterranean, for here the submarine campaign became
very serious just at the time when it temporarily died down in North
European waters. Diplomatic relations between Germany and the United
States, consequent on the sinking of the _Lusitania_ and then _Arabic_,
were becoming strained, so that Germany had to accept the American
demands for the limitation of submarine activity. The result was that
from September 24, 1915, up to December 20, 1915, no ships were sunk by
German submarines in North European waters, though the Mediterranean
had a different story to tell. At the end of December a short, sharp
submarine campaign was carried out off Ireland by U-boats, and then
there was quiet again until Germany began her extended submarine
campaign on March 1, 1916. This in turn lasted only to May 8, and was
not resumed until July 5, 1916.

It is as well to bear these periods in mind, for otherwise we cannot
appreciate the dull, monotonous weeks and months of cruising spent
by the Q-ships when they saw no submarine, received nothing but
vague, inaccurate reports, and had to keep their crews from getting
disappointed or eventually wondering whether they were really doing
any good in this particular service. But as the winter passed and
the U-boats displayed their usual spring activity, the Q-ships had
their opportunities again. Before we come to see these, let us take a
glance at the work which they were performing during the winter in the
Mediterranean, where the enemy sought to cut our lines of communication
to the Dardanelles.

In December, 1915, the steamship _Margit_ had been fitted out as a
decoy, and on January 17, 1916, in Lat. 35.34 N., Long. 17.38 E.,
she was steering west for Malta, when she received S.O.S. signals on
her wireless. The time was 9.30 a.m., and presently shots were seen
falling close to the S.S. _Baron Napier_, who was about five miles to
the southward. The captain of the _Margit_ was Lieut.-Commander G. L.
Hodson, R.N., who then hoisted the Dutch ensign and altered course
towards the _Baron Napier_. The latter kept making signals that she was
being shelled and that the submarine was approaching; but when _Margit_
got within a couple of miles the submarine transferred the shelling to
her. _Margit’s_ captain conned his ship, lying prone on the bridge and
peering through the chinks in the bridge screen. In order to lure the
enemy on he pretended to abandon ship, hoisted the international signal
‘I am stopped,’ and sent away the ship’s lifeboat with Sub-Lieutenant
McClure, R.N.R., in charge. The ship now had every appearance of
having been abandoned, but in addition to the captain lying unseen on
the bridge, the guns’ crews, under Lieutenant Tweedie, R.N.R., and a
sub-lieutenant, were remaining hidden at their stations. Riflemen were
similarly placed on the foredeck and aft.

[Illustration:

  FIG. 3.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF ‘MARGIT’ IN
  HER ENGAGEMENT WITH SUBMARINE ON JANUARY 17, 1916.]

After the ‘panic party’ had been sent away in the boat the enemy seemed
fairly satisfied, ceased shelling, dived, and then reappeared a quarter
of an hour later 800 yards away, with a couple of feet of his periscope
showing. He was now going to make quite sure this was no trap, so,
still submerged, he came within 50 yards of _Margit’s_ port side and
then right round the ship, scrutinizing her carefully. At length, being
apparently quite convinced that all was well, he steered for _Margit’s_
boat about a thousand yards away and came to the surface. Three men
then appeared on the submarine’s deck, the German ensign was hoisted,
and one of them waved _Margit’s_ boat to come alongside. This was as
far as Lieut.-Commander Hodson deemed it advisable to let matters
go. Giving the orders to down screens, open fire, and hoist the White
Ensign, the enemy now came under attack. One shot seemed to hit abaft
the conning-tower, and the submarine submerged. so fire was ceased and
_Margit_ proceeded to pick up her boat. The davit-falls had only just
been hooked on when the submarine showed her conning-tower 70 yards
off, apparently in difficulties. The Q-ship therefore opened fire once
more, but the enemy again submerged. Unfortunately the submarine had
not been sunk, although no effort had been neglected. From 9.30 a.m. to
about midday officers and crew had been compelled to keep in cramped,
tiring attitudes, with very little knowledge of what was going on;
and after he had finally disappeared _Margit_ had remained for about
three hours in the hope that he might return. By a curious coincidence,
at the time when _Baron Napier_ was being attacked, another steamer,
the _Baron Ardrossan_, belonging to the same owners, happened to be
passing and saw the shells dropping around, but as she could steam
nothing better than 3 knots slower than _Baron Napier_ she could not go
to her assistance. However, if the submarine had not been destroyed,
_Margit_ had saved the _Baron Napier_ and caused the enemy to break off
the engagement.

Mention was made just now of the _Werribee_ (alias _Wonganella_, etc.).
On February 3, 1916, this ship, which had been fitted out at Gibraltar,
under the command of Lieut.-Commander B. J. D. Guy, R.N., left Port
Said to cruise on the Malta to Egypt trade route. She was a steamer
of 3,848 tons, and had taken in 2,600 tons of sand as ballast. About
9 o’clock on the morning of February 9, _Werribee_ was steaming along
when she picked up a signal on her wireless to the effect that the S.S.
_Springwell_, of 5,593 tons, was torpedoed and sinking by the head.
The vessel was soon sighted, and the last boats could be seen already
leaving the ship, the position being about sixty miles from Crete. The
weather was perfect, with a flat, calm sea and extreme visibility—an
ideal day, in fact, for good gunnery.

But it was to be a most difficult experience, and the incident well
illustrates the problems which had to be dealt with. About 10.15 a.m.,
as no submarine could be seen, _Werribee_ turned towards the four
boats already in the water, and hailed them for information, then
examined the condition of _Springwell_, and presently turned again.
All of a sudden, a great submarine, painted like the Mediterranean
pirate-ships of ancient times, a brownish green, emerged from the sea
about 5,000 yards away on _Werribee’s_ starboard bow, and came close
up to _Springwell_, possibly to prevent _Werribee_ from salving her.
Alarm stations were sounded in the Q-ship, but the submarine’s men
were already running to their two guns, and opened fire. _Werribee_
then decided to haul round and pretend to run away. The third shot
from the enemy hit, and it was at first feared that the explosion had
disabled one gun’s crew, but fortunately the hit was a little further
aft. It was immediately evident to _Werribee’s_ captain that to-day the
enemy was not going to allow him to play the abandon-ship game, but
was intending to sink him straight away. The submarine’s accurate and
rapid fire was clearly aimed at _Werribee’s_ boats, and two of them
were soon riddled. It was for Lieut.-Commander Guy to make up his mind
quickly what tactics now to pursue, and he decided to reveal the ship’s
true character and open fire. This was done, and within ten seconds his
4-inch quick-firer was in action, range 4,000 yards. After six rounds
from the Q-ship the enemy ceased firing, and the eighth seemed to hit
abaft the conning-tower. Then she submerged in a cloud of smoke, about
11.10 a.m., this smoke screen being a favourite ruse for escaping, and
she was never seen again that day. _Werribee_ now turned her attention
to the torpedoed ship, but the latter was too far gone, and foundered
at 5.45 that afternoon. The men in _Springwell’s_ boats were then
picked up, and about 6 o’clock the ship made for Malta. It was again
sheer bad luck; a combination of difficult circumstances, and the
tactics of an astute German captain, had now prevented success coming
to the decoy. There was no question about her disguise, and the captain
of a merchantman who witnessed the fight accurately spoke of _Werribee_
as ‘an old tramp with a few patches of paint, firing at the submarine.’
Before the war we should have thought no ship in His Majesty’s Service
could possibly merit such a description as this, but strange things
were happening on the seas at this time, and it was the highest
compliment so to be described.

[Illustration:

  FIG. 4.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF ‘WERRIBEE’ IN
  ACTION WITH SUBMARINE ON FEBRUARY 9, 1916.]

With the experience which had been gained from all these engagements
in various areas it was possible to form some idea of the requisite
standardized equipment with which Q-ships should be supplied. First of
all, inasmuch as the enemy was being better armed, at least one modern
4-inch gun was necessary, in addition to any 12-pounder. Long-range
action, especially in the Mediterranean, was probable at times, for
the enemy would not always consent to engage close to. Secondly,
it was highly important that the ship should remain afloat, even
though seriously holed. It might happen—and later on it actually did
occur—that the enemy might suppose the ship was just about to founder,
thus making it quite safe to close her in order to read her name. Then
would come the one great chance for the Q-ship to destroy the enemy.
Therefore, to this end, it became certain that these ships should be
given cargoes of barrels, or timber, carefully stowed, so that it would
be no easy task to sink her, and she might perhaps even be salved.



CHAPTER IV

THE STORY OF THE ‘FARNBOROUGH’


Two days before the end of February, 1916, I happened to be returning
from leave in England to my ship, which was in Queenstown for
boiler-cleaning. In the Holyhead-Kingstown steamer I found myself in
conversation with a junior lieutenant-commander, R.N., who also was
returning to his ship at Queenstown. We talked of many things all the
way down across Ireland, but this quiet, taciturn officer impressed
me less by what he said than by what he left unsaid, and it took me a
long time to guess the name of his ship. I thought I knew most of the
commanding officers of sloops and trawlers and drifters, and so on, at
work off the south and south-west coasts of Ireland, but I had neither
seen this officer nor heard his name before. At the beginning of the
war he was unknown to the public; in fact, not until three weeks after
the end of this February did he win distinction, but to-day his name
is known and respected in every navy of the world, and his career as a
naval officer is different from anything ever recorded in the pages of
history.

This was Lieut.-Commander Gordon Campbell, who just before the
war was a lieutenant in command of an old-fashioned destroyer
based on Devonport. On October 21, 1915—the date is particularly
fortunate as having been the 110th anniversary of the Battle of
Trafalgar—Lieutenant Campbell commissioned the tramp steamer
_Lodorer_ at Devonport as a Q-ship, but on passage thence to Queenstown
changed her name to _Farnborough_, as it had become gossip that she had
been armed for special service. Through that trying winter the little
_Farnborough_ endured gale after gale, and her young captain, attired
in the rig of a typical tramp skipper, with his smart crew trained now
to look slovenly yet be mentally alert all the time, never for a moment
wavered in the belief that one day would come his opportunity. He had
organized his ship to a pitch of perfection, and nothing was lacking
except the appearance of a U-boat.

On March 1, 1916, the enemy renewed its submarine campaign after lying
dormant since the day when _Baralong_ had sunk her U 41, except for
the Christmas-time temporary outburst. During the first three weeks of
March one, or more, submarine had sunk shipping off the Irish coast
to the extent of three steamers and one sailing craft. On the morning
of March 22, _Farnborough_, who had come from Queenstown, was now
cruising up the west coast of Ireland, the exact position being Lat.
51.54 N., Long. 10.53 W., and the time 6.40 a.m. Steaming along at 8
knots, a submarine awash was suddenly sighted by one of the crew named
Kaye, an A.B. of the Royal Naval Reserve, about five miles away on the
port bow. After a few minutes it dived, and _Farnborough_ coolly took
no notice but kept jogging along the same course. The submarine had
evidently determined to sink the old tramp, for twenty minutes later
she fired a torpedo which passed so close ahead of _Farnborough_ that
bubbles were seen under the forecastle. Still she pretended to take
no notice, and a few minutes later the submarine broke surface about
1,000 yards astern, passing from starboard to port, then, having got on
the Q-ship’s port quarter, fired a shell across the latter’s bows and
partly submerged.

_Farnborough_ now stopped her engines, blew off steam, and the panic
party, consisting of stokers and spare men, were ordered to abandon
ship; so away they rowed under Temporary Engineer Sub-Lieutenant J.
S. Smith, R.N.R. The enemy then came closer until he was but 800
yards off. Not a human being was visible aboard the ‘abandoned’
ship, but everyone was lying concealed in expectant readiness, yet
Lieut.-Commander Campbell was quietly watching every move of the enemy.
A few minutes later the latter, intending to sink the deserted ship,
fired a shell, but this fell 50 yards short. Here was _Farnborough’s_
big opportunity that had been awaited and longed for ever since last
Trafalgar Day; now was the time—or never. Thus the collier tramp
declared herself a man-of-war, armed as she was with five 12-pounders,
two 6-pounders, and one Maxim gun. One of the two ships must certainly
go to her doom, and her fate would be settled in a few terrible
moments: there would be no drawn-out engagement, but just a violent
blow, and then finish. Lieut.-Commander Campbell, in his place of
concealment, knew that his men could be trusted to do the right thing,
knew that they were waiting only for the word from him. True, the
guns’ crews were not the kind of expert men you find in battleship or
cruiser. They had joined the Service after the declaration of war,
but had been trained up splendidly by one of the ship’s officers,
Lieutenant W. Beswick, R.N.R. On them much depended. If they fired too
soon, became excited, made a movement, or bungled their work, they
would give the whole show away, and the sinking ship would not be the
submarine.

‘Open fire!’ came the order as the White Ensign was hoisted, and then
from the three 12-pounders which could bear came a hail of shells,
whilst Maxim and rifle fire also rained down. The light this morning
was bad, but the shooting from these newly trained men was so good
that the submarine was badly holed by the rapid fire; thus, slowly
the enemy began to sink. Observing this, Campbell then endeavoured
to give her the knock-out blow, so steamed full speed over the spot
and dropped a depth charge. This fairly shook the submarine, who next
appeared about ten yards away in an almost perpendicular position, that
portion of the craft from the bows to the conning-tower being out of
the water. A large rent was discerned in her bow; she was certainly
doomed, and one periscope had been hit. Wasting none of the golden
opportunity, _Farnborough_ reopened fire with her after gun, which put
five rounds into the base of the conning-tower at point-blank range,
so that the German sank for the last time. Again _Farnborough_ steamed
over the spot, and let go two more depth charges, and presently up
came a large quantity of oil and bits of wood which covered the sea
for some distance around. So quickly perished U 68, one of the latest
submarines—a 17-knot boat, armed with one 4·1-inch, one 22-pounder,
a machine gun, eleven torpedoes, and with a cruising radius of 11,000
miles.

[Illustration: OFFICERS OF Q-SHIP “FARNBOROUGH”

Captain Campbell with his officers, disguised as a mercantile captain.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP HEROES

Captain Gordon Campbell, V.C., D.S.O., R.N., and Lieutenant C. G.
Bonner, V.C., D.S.C., of Q-ship “Dunraven,” each wearing the Victoria
Cross, at the King’s Garden Party for V.C.’s. (see Chapter XIV.)

  To face p. 42]

This brilliant success had a most cheering effect on all the patrol
vessels working off the Irish coast. With careful reserve the story was
breathed in wardrooms, and it percolated through to other stations,
inspiring even the most bored officer to go forth and do likewise.
This victory had a most important bearing on the future of the Q-ship
service, and officers and men were eager to take on a job which
afforded them so much sport. It meant something more, too. For, junior
though he was, Lieutenant-Commander became Commander Gordon Campbell,
D.S.O.; Lieutenant W. Beswick, R.N.R., who had trained the guns’ crew
so well, and the Engineer-Lieutenant Loveless received each a D.S.C.,
and three of the crew the coveted D.S.M. There followed also the usual
£1,000 in addition to prize bounty. Of the ship’s complement seven
of the officers belonged to the Royal Naval Reserve, and many of the
ratings were either of that service or the Royal Naval Volunteer
Reserve.

Adventures are to the adventurous. In less than a month from this
event _Farnborough_ was again engaged with a submarine, under
circumstances more difficult than the last. One who was present at
the engagement described it to me, and though the submarine managed
afterwards to reach Germany, she was wounded, and only just escaped
total destruction. However, this in no way detracts from the merits of
the story, which is as follows: The scene was similar to that of the
previous incident, the exact position being Lat. 51.57 N., Long. 11.2
W.—that is to say, off the west coast of Ireland. The time was 6.30
in the afternoon of April 15, 1916, and _Farnborough_ was proceeding
northward, doing 5 knots, for Commander Campbell was hoping to
intercept a German submarine which had been reported off the Orkneys on
the 13th, and was probably coming down the west Irish coast.

At the time mentioned the sea was calm and it was misty, but about two
miles off on the starboard quarter could be seen a steamer. Suddenly,
without warning, between the two ships a submarine broke surface,
but Commander Campbell pretended to ignore her until she hoisted the
international signal TAF (‘Bring your papers on board’). Owing to
the mist it was impossible to distinguish the flags clearly enough
to read them. However, Commander Campbell stopped his ship like a
terrified tramp, blew off steam, but quietly kept her jogging ahead
so as to edge towards the enemy and avoid falling into the trough of
the heavy Atlantic swell. There was the submarine lying full length
on the surface, about 300 feet long, with a very large conning-tower
amidships, one gun forward, one aft, and most of the hull painted a
light grey. In reply to the German’s signal _Farnborough_ now kept
her answering pennant at the dip and hoisted ‘Cannot understand your
signal.’ All this delay was valuable to the Q-ship, for it allowed her
to close the range stealthily; and now the submarine also came closer,
with her foremost gun already manned. In the meantime, the ‘tramp’ did
what she was expected to do—hoisted the signal ‘I am sending boat with
ship’s papers,’ and at the same time the bridge boat was turned out
(again in command of Sub-Lieutenant J. S. Smith, R.N.R.), and Commander
Campbell was seen to hand his papers to this officer to take over to
the submarine. It was now 6.40 p.m., and the German fired a shot which
passed over the ship, doing no direct harm, but incidentally spoiling
the whole affair. The best laid schemes of Q-ship captains, and the
most efficient crews, occasionally go astray. One of _Farnborough’s_
people, hearing this gun, thought that _Farnborough_ had opened fire,
so accordingly fired also. It was unfortunate, but there it was. This
mistake forced Commander Campbell’s hand; he at once hoisted the White
Ensign and gave the general order to fire. The range was now about
1,000 yards, and he proceeded at full speed so as to bring his after
gun to bear, the ships becoming about in this position:

[Illustration: FIG. 5.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE POSITIONS OF
‘FARNBOROUGH’ AND SUBMARINE IN THE ACTION OF APRIL 15, 1916.]

The enemy had been about a point before the _Farnborough’s_ starboard
beam, but when the action commenced the former had been brought
successfully on the beam. The Q-ship’s 12-pounders quickly got off a
score of rounds, accompanied by the 6-pounder and the Maxim and rifles.
Quite early the enemy became damaged, and eventually she submerged
under the screen of smoke, a remarkably near escape which must have
made a great impression on her crew. After dropping depth charges,
_Farnborough_ closed the strange steamer which had been stopped about
500 yards off, and found her to be the Dutch S.S. _Soerakarta_. With
true seamanlike chivalry the Dutch captain, pitying the shabby-looking
tramp steamship, actually offered Commander Campbell assistance.
This neutral was bound from the Dutch East Indies to Rotterdam, via
Falmouth and Kirkwall, and on sighting him the submarine had hoisted
the usual ‘Bring your papers on board.’ The Dutchman had just lowered
his boat, and was about to row off to the German, when up came the
unkempt collier _Farnborough_ with a white band on her funnel, and
then, to the amazement of all beholders, from her blazed shell after
shell. It was a splendid free show, and one shell was distinctly seen
to hit the conning-tower. Two miles away from the scene was the armed
trawler _Ina Williams_ on patrol, and as soon as she heard the firing
she went to action stations and came along at full speed. Ten minutes
later she felt a couple of shocks, so that her captain thought she had
struck something. These were, in fact, the concussions of the two depth
charges which _Farnborough_ had dropped.

If the submarine had escaped, at least he would be able to warn his
superiors at home that they could never tell the difference between a
‘trap-ship’ and a genuine merchantman, and it would be safer not to
attack steamers unless they were perfectly sure. During the rest of
that year Commander Campbell continued to cruise in _Farnborough_, but
the summer and autumn passed and no further luck offered itself.

Winter followed and was almost merging into spring, and then again this
ship made history. In another chapter this thrilling episode will be
told. In the meantime much else had happened.

One of the greatest enthusiasts of the Q-ship idea was Vice-Admiral
Sir Lewis Bayly, who was in command of the Irish coast. No Q-ship
officer serving under this admiral could ever complain that anything
was left undone by assistance that could have been performed by the
sagacity or advice of this Commander-in-Chief. It was he who made
repeated visits to the Q-ships as they lay in Haulbowline Dockyard,
in order to see that not the smallest important detail for efficiency
was lacking. The positions of the guns, the collapsing of the screens,
the erection of the dummy deckhouses concealing the guns, the comfort
of the personnel—nothing was too trivial for his attention provided
it aimed at the one end of sinking the enemy. As with ships, so with
officers. With his vast knowledge of human nature, and his glance
which penetrated into a man’s very soul, he could size up the right
type of volunteer for decoy work; then, having once selected him and
sent him to sea, he assisted him all the time whenever wireless was
advisable, and on their return to port encouraged, advised, and rested
the captains, while the Haulbowline Dockyard paid every attention to
improving the Q-ship’s fighting power. No keen, capable officer on
this station who did his job ever failed to get his reward; and the
result of all this, and the certain knowledge that if _in extremis_
a Queenstown naval ship would at once be sent to his rescue, created
such a fine spirit that an officer would almost sooner die than
return to port after making a blunder of an engagement. By reason of
this, the Queenstown Q-ships became famous for their high standard
and achievements. In the spring of 1916 the four experienced decoys
_Farnborough_, _Zylpha_, _Vala_, and _Penshurst_, were operating from
that port. They cruised off the south and south-west Irish coasts;
between Milford Haven and the Scillies; off the western approach to
the English Channel; up the Irish Sea as far as the north of Ireland.
In a few weeks four more decoys were added to that station, so that
there were eight of them by July. They cruised along the merchant ship
courses as far out into the Atlantic as 17° W., as far south as the
middle of the Bay of Biscay, as far east as the Isle of Wight, and as
far north as the Hebrides—in other words, just where U-boats were
likely to attack. One of these eight was the S.S. _Carrigan Head_,
which was commanded by Lieut.-Commander Godfrey Herbert, D.S.O., R.N.,
late in command of the _Antwerp_. _Carrigan Head_ was a fine ship of
4,201 tons, and, in order to make her practically unsinkable, she was
sent to Portsmouth, where she was filled with empty casks and timber.
As may be expected from her commander, this was a very efficient ship.
Below, the timber had been stowed in the holds with great cleverness
so that it would have been a considerable time before she could ever
founder. I well remember on one occasion wandering all over the decks
of this ship, but it was quite impossible to see where her big 4-inch
and two 12-pounders were located.

That being so, it was not surprising that a submarine never suspected
on September 9, 1916, that this was another ‘trap-ship.’ It was just
before 6.30 in the evening that this steamer was sixty miles south-west
of the Lizard, when a submarine was sighted about 2,000 yards off on
the starboard bow. The enemy had hoisted some flag signals, but they
were too small to be read. It was presumed that it was the usual order
to stop, so the steamer hove-to and the captain called up the stokers
who were off watch to stand by the lifeboats, for all this time the
submarine, who had two guns, was firing at the ship. Having lowered
the starboard lifeboat halfway down to the water, the Q-ship pretended
to try and escape, so went full speed ahead, turned to port, and
brought the enemy right astern. The German maintained a rapid fire,
many shots coming unpleasantly across the bridge, one entering the
forecastle and wounding two men, of whom one afterwards died. Another
shell entered the engineers’ messroom and slightly injured Temporary
Engineer Sub-Lieutenant James Purdy, R.N.R. This same shell also cut
the leads to the wireless room just above.

As several shells fell within a few feet of the ship, Commander Herbert
decided to feign surrender, hoisted the International Code pennant
close up, turned eight points to port, but with the real intention
of firing on the submarine, which had now risen to the surface with
complete buoyancy and presented a good target. But in turning to port,
_Carrigan Head_ was thus brought broadside on to the swell, so that
the ship began to roll heavily and helm had to be altered to get her
head on to the sea. At 6.50 p.m. the enemy was about 1,500 yards away,
and while both lifeboats were being lowered the submarine kept up an
intermittent fire. Three minutes later Commander Herbert decided to
reveal the character of his ship and attack; therefore, going full
speed ahead, he fired seven rounds, one of which seemed to hit. The
submarine was considerably surprised and at once dived, so having
arrived near the spot _Carrigan Head_ dropped depth charges. The enemy
was not sunk, but she did not reappear, such was her fright, until an
hour and a half later when she sank the Norwegian S. S. _Lodsen_ off
the Scillies. The enemy’s behaviour was typical: as soon as he was
attacked he broke off the engagement and took to flight by submerging,
and it was only on the rarest occasions that he was willing to fight,
as were the Q-ships, to a finish.

By reason of their service, Q-ship officers became a race apart. Their
arrival and departure were kept a profound secret, night-time or early
morning being usually selected. The ships were worked as separate
units, not as squadrons, and their cruising ground was always being
changed. They went to sea in strange garments, and when they came
ashore they usually wore ‘plain clothes,’ the naval equivalent for
the soldiers’ expression ‘mufti.’ At a time when all the nation was
in arms and for a healthy man to be seen out of uniform was to excite
derisive anger, some of the Q-ship officers had amusing and awkward
experiences. Arrived in port at the end of a trying cruise, and rather
looking forward to a pleasant respite for a few days, they would run
against some old friend in a public place, and be greeted by some such
remark as, ‘Why aren’t you in uniform?’ or ‘What ship are you serving
in? I didn’t know _you_ were on this station; come and have a drink.’
It was difficult to preserve secrecy when such questions were asked
direct by old shipmates. Who knew but that the man two paces away was a
spy, who would endanger the lives of the Q-ship and crew the next time
they put to sea? Surely, if there be occasions when it is legitimate to
tell a lie, this was a justifiable one. Thus the life in this special
service was one that called for all the ability which is usually latent
in any one man. I do not ever remember a Q-ship officer who was not
something more than able. Some were killed, some were taken prisoners
by submarines, some broke down in health; but in no case did you ever
find one who failed to realize the intense seriousness of his job or
neglected any means of keeping himself in perfect physical health and
the highest possible condition of mental alertness. Not once could he
be caught off his guard; the habit was ingrained in him.



CHAPTER V

THE ‘MYSTERY’ SAILING SHIPS


Most people would have thought that the sail-driven decoys would have
had a very short life, and that they would speedily have succumbed.
On the contrary, though their work was more trying and demanded a
different kind of seamanship, these ‘mystery’ ships went on bravely
tackling the enemy.

The Lowestoft armed smacks, for instance, during 1916 had some pretty
stiff tussles, and we know now that they thoroughly infuriated the
Germans, who threatened to have their revenge. Looked at from the
enemy’s aspect, it certainly was annoying to see a number of sailing
smacks spread off the coast, each obviously trawling, but not to know
which of them would in a moment cut her gear and sink the submarine
with her gun. It was just that element of suspense which made a
cautious German officer very chary of going near these craft, whereas
he might have sunk the whole fishing fleet if he dared. It was not
merely annoying; it was humiliating that a small sailing craft should
have the impertinence to contend with the super-modern ship of a German
naval officer. That, of course, was not the way to look at the matter;
for it was a contest, as we have seen, in which brains and bravery
were factors more decisive than anything else. The average British
fisherman is ignorant of many things which are learnt only in nautical
academies, but the last you could accuse him of being is a fool or a
funk. His navigation in these sailing smacks is quaint and primitive,
but he relies in thick weather chiefly on the nature of the sea-bed. He
can almost smell his way, and a cast of the lead confirms his surmise;
he finds he is just where he expected to be. So with his character.
Hardened by years of fishing in all weathers, and angered to extreme
indignation during the war by the loss of good ships and lives of his
relatives and friends, this type of man, so long as his decoy smack had
any sort of gun, was the keenest of the keen.

One of these smacks was the _Telesia_, armed only with a 3-pounder,
and commanded by Skipper W. S. Wharton, who did extraordinarily well
in this dangerous service. On March 23, 1916, he was trawling roughly
thirty-five miles S.E. of Lowestoft, when about midday he sighted a
submarine three miles off, steering to the north-east. At 1.30 p.m.
the German, who was evidently one of the cautious type, and having
a careful scrutiny before attacking, approached within 50 yards of
the _Telesia’s_ starboard bow, and submerged with her periscope just
showing. She came back an hour later to have another look, and again
disappeared until 4.30 p.m., when she approached from the north-east.
Having got about 300 yards away she attacked, but she had not the
courage to fight on the surface a little sailing craft built of wood.
Instead, she remained submerged and fired a torpedo. Had that hit,
_Telesia_ and her men would have been blown to pieces; but it just
missed the smack’s bows by four feet. Skipper Wharton at once brought
his gun into action, and fired fifteen rounds at the periscope, which
was the only part of her that could be seen, and an almost impossible
target. The enemy disappeared, but arrived back in half an hour,
and this time the periscope showed on the starboard quarter, coming
straight for the smack, and rising out of the water at the same time.
Again she fired a torpedo, and it seemed certain to hit, but happily
it passed 40 feet astern. At a range of only 75 yards the smack now
fired a couple of shots as the enemy showed her deck. The first shot
seemed to hit the conning-tower, and then the fore part of the hull was
observed coming out of the water. The second shot struck between the
conning-tower and the hatch, whereupon the enemy went down by the bows,
showing her propeller. She was a big craft, judging by the size of
her conning-tower, and certainly larger than those which had recently
been sinking Lowestoft smacks. Skipper Wharton, whilst fishing, had
himself been chased, so he was fairly familiar with their appearance.
Whether the enemy was actually sunk is a matter of doubt. Perhaps she
was not destroyed, although UB 13 was lost this month; how and where
are unknown. One thing is certain, however, that the little _Telesia_
caused her to break off the engagement and disappear. The smack could
do no more, for the wind had now died right away, and this fact
demonstrated the importance of these decoy smacks being fitted with
motors, so that the craft would be able to manœuvre in the absence of
wind; and this improved equipment was now in certain cases adopted.
Skipper Wharton well deserved his D.S.C. for this incident, and two of
the ship’s company also received the D.S.M. The whole crew numbered
eight, consisting of Skipper Wharton, a naval chief petty officer, a
leading seaman, a marine, an A.B., and three fishermen.

On the following April 23 _Telesia_—this time under the name of
_Hobbyhawk_ and under the command of Lieutenant H. W. Harvey,
R.N.V.R.—together with a similar smack named the _Cheero_, commanded
by Lieutenant W. F. Scott, R.N.R., put to sea from Lowestoft. They
had recently been fitted with specially designed nets, to which were
attached mines. It had been found that with 600 yards of these nets
towing astern the smack could still sail ahead at a speed of 3 knots.
A bridle made out of a trawler’s warp was stopped down the towing wire
and from forward of the smack, so that she would look exactly like
a genuine smack when fishing with the ordinary trawl. All that was
required was that the submarine should foul these nets astern, when, if
everything worked as it should, destruction to the enemy would follow.

At 5.45 that afternoon, when 10 miles N.E. of the Smith’s Knoll
Pillar Buoy, the nets were shot and the batteries connected up to
the net-mines. The wind was light, so _Cheero_, towing away to the
south-east, was going ahead very slowly. Each of these two smacks was
fitted with a hydrophone by means of which the beat of a vessel’s
engines could be heard, the noise of a submarine’s being very different
from that of reciprocating engines in a steamer. About 7 p.m. _Cheero_
distinctly heard on her instrument the steady, quick, buzzing,
unmistakable noise of a submarine, and the noise gradually increased.
About three-quarters of an hour later the wire leading to the nets
suddenly became tight and stretched along the smack’s rail. The strain
eased up a little, became tight again, then an explosion followed in
the nets, and the sounds of the submarine’s engines were never heard
again. The sea was blown by the explosion 20 feet high, and as the
water was settling down another upheaval took place, followed by
oil. The crew remained at their stations for a few minutes awaiting
further developments, and then were ordered to haul the nets, but a
great strain was now felt, so that instead of two men it required
six. As the second net was coming in, the whole fleet of nets took a
sharp angle down, and a small piece of steel was brought on board.
Other pieces of steel came adrift and fell into the sea. As the third
net was being hauled in, the whole of the nets suddenly became free
and were got in quite easily, whilst the crew remarked on the strong
smell of oil. It was found that one mine had exploded, and when the
nets were eventually further examined ashore in Lowestoft there could
be no doubt but that a submarine had been blown up, and more pieces
of steel, some of considerable size, dropped out. Thus UC 3, with all
hands, was destroyed. She was one of the small mine-layers which used
to come across from Zeebrugge fouling the shipping tracks along the
East Anglian coast with her deadly cargoes, and causing the destruction
of merchant shipping, Allied and neutral alike. On May 18 of the same
year _Hobbyhawk_ (_Telesia_) and a similar smack, the _Revenge_ (alias
_Fame_), had a stiff encounter with a submarine in about the same
place, but there is reason to suppose that in this case the enemy was
not sunk.

This idea of commissioning sailing smacks as Q-ships now began to be
adopted in other areas. Obviously only that kind of fishing craft could
be employed which ordinarily were wont to fish those particular waters;
otherwise the submarine would at once have become suspicious. Thus, at
the end of May, a couple of Brixham smacks, which usually fished out
of Milford, were fitted out at Falmouth, armed each with a 12-pounder,
and then sent round to operate in the Milford district. These were the
_Kermes_ and _Strumbles_ respectively. They were manned by a specially
selected crew, and the two commanding officers were Lieutenant E. L.
Hughes, R.N.R., and Sub-Lieutenant J. Hayes, R.N.R. But although they
were given a good trial, these craft were not suitable as soon as the
autumn bad weather came on. Their freeboard was too low, they heeled
over too much in the strong prevailing winds, so that it was difficult
to get the gun to bear either to windward or leeward; and, except when
on the top of a sea, their range of vision was limited, so before
November was out these ships ceased to be men-of-war and were returned
to their owners.

Along the Yorkshire coast is found a type of open boat which is never
seen farther north than Northumberland and never farther south than
Lincolnshire. This is the cobble, a peculiar and rather tricky kind
of craft used by the fishermen of Whitby, Scarborough, Bridlington,
Filey, and elsewhere. They carry one lug-sail and can be rowed, a
single thole-pin taking the place of a rowlock. The smaller type of
cobble measures 28 feet long by 2-1/4 feet deep, but the larger type,
capable of carrying nine tons, is just under 34 feet long by 4-3/4 feet
deep. Here, then, was a boat which, with her shallow draught, could
with safety sail about in the numerous minefields off the Yorkshire
coast. No submarine would ever suspect these as being anything but
fishermen trying to snatch a living. In the early summer of 1916 two of
these boats, the _Thalia_ and _Blessing_, were commissioned. They were
sailing cobbles fitted with auxiliary motors, and were sent to work
south-east of the Humber in the Silver Pit area. Here they pretended
to fish, towing 300 yards of mine-nets, 30 feet deep, in the hope that,
as had happened off Lowestoft, the submarine would come along and be
blown up. However, they had no luck, and after a few months’ service
these boats also were returned to their owners. But in spite of this,
Q-sailing-ships were still being taken up, the difficulty being to
select the right type. Even in the Mediterranean the idea was employed.
Enemy submarines had been destroying a number of sailing vessels, so
the Admiralty purchased one local craft, gave her a small auxiliary
motor, and towed her to Mudros, where she could be armed and equipped
in secrecy. One day she set forth from Malta in company with a British
submarine, and two days later was off the coast of Sicily. Here the
sailing craft attracted a large enemy submarine, the British submarine
of course watching, but submerged. Unfortunately, just when the enemy
might have been torpedoed, the heavy swell caused the British submarine
to break surface. The enemy was quick to observe this, dived for his
life, and disappeared. The rest of the story is rather ludicrous. The
British submarine remained submerged in the hope that the enemy would
presently come to the surface, while the sailing craft lost touch
with her consort and turned towards Malta, using her motor. The next
incident was that she sighted 6 miles astern an unmistakable submarine,
which was at once taken for the enemy. Being without his own submarine,
the somewhat inexperienced R.N.V.R. officer in command made an error of
judgment, and, abandoning the ship, destroyed her, being subsequently
picked up by a Japanese destroyer. It was afterwards discovered that
this was our own submarine who had been working with the sailing
craft, and was now on her way back to Malta!

The other day, laid up hidden away at the top of a sheltered creek
in Cornwall, I came upon an interesting brigantine. Somehow I felt
we had met before, but she was looking a little forlorn; there was
no life in the ship, yet she seemed in that curious way, which ships
have in common with human beings, to possess a powerful personality.
Freights were bad, the miners were on strike, and here was this good
little vessel lying idle, and not so much as noticed by those who
passed. Then I found out who she was. Here was an historic ship, the
famous _Helgoland_, which served right through to the end of the war
from the summer of 1916. Now she was back in the Merchant Service, and
no one seemed to care; yet hundreds of years hence people will write
and talk of her, as they still do of Grenville’s _Revenge_ or the old
clipper-ships _Cutty Sark_ and _Thermopylæ_.

_Helgoland_ had been built in 1895 of steel and iron at Martenshoek
in Holland, where they specialize in this kind of construction, but
she was now British owned and registered at Plymouth. She measured 122
feet 9 inches long, 23 feet 3 inches beam, drew 8 feet aft, and her
tonnage was 310 burthen and 182 net. In July, 1916, this ship was lying
in Liverpool undergoing an extensive overhaul, and here she was taken
over from her owners and sent to Falmouth, where she was fitted out
forthwith as a Q-ship. Armed with four 12-pounders and one Maxim, she
was known officially in future under the various names of _Helgoland_,
_Horley_, _Brig_ 10, and Q 17. Her crew were carefully chosen from the
personnel serving in Auxiliary Patrol vessels at Falmouth, with the
exception of the guns’ crews; the ship’s complement consisting of two
R.N.R. officers, one skipper, one second hand, two petty officers, six
Royal Navy gunnery ratings, eight deckhands of the Trawler Reserve, one
carpenter, one steward, and one cook, the last three being mercantile
ratings. Of her two officers one was Temporary Sub-Lieutenant W. E. L.
Sanders, R.N.R., who, by reason of his sailing-ship experience, was
appointed as mate. This was that gallant New Zealander who had come
across the ocean to help the Motherland, performed amazing service
in Q-ships, fought like a gentleman, won the Victoria Cross, and
eventually, with his ship and all his crew, went to the bottom like the
true hero that he was. The story must be told in a subsequent chapter.

When we consider the actions fought by these topsail schooners and
brigantines in the Great War we appear almost to be dreaming, to be
sent right back to the sixteenth century, and modernity seems to have
been swept clean away. While the Grand Fleet was unable, these sailing
ships were carrying on the warfare for which they had never been
built. In the whole of the Royal Navy there were hardly any suitable
officers nowadays who possessed practical experience in handling
schooners. This was where the officer from the Mercantile Marine, the
amateur yachtsman, the coasting skipper, and the fisherman became so
invaluable. In these days of decaying seamanship, when steam and motors
are dominant, it is well to set these facts down lest we forget. The
last of the naval training brigs has long since gone, and few officers
or men, even in the Merchant Service, serve an apprenticeship under
sail.

_Helgoland_ left Falmouth after dark, September 6, 1916, on her
first cruise as a man-of-war, and she had but a few hours to wait
before her first engagement took place. Commanded by Lieutenant A. D.
Blair, R.N.R., she was on her way to Milford, and at 1.30 p.m. on the
following day was only 10 miles south of the Lizard when she sighted
a submarine on the surface 3 points on the starboard quarter. There
was an alarm bell fitted up in _Helgoland_ which was rung only for
action stations, and, as it now sounded, each man crept stealthily to
his appointed place. Under the command of Lieutenant W. E. L. Sanders,
R.N.R., and following his example of perfect calmness, the guns’ crews
carried out their work without flurry or excitement.

Within five minutes the enemy, from a distance of 2,000 yards, had
begun shelling the brigantine. The first shot fell 10 yards short,
but the second and third struck the foretopsail yard—how strange
it seems to use the time-honoured phrases of naval warfare for a
twentieth-century fight—one shell going right through the yard. It
happened that on this fine summer’s day there was no wind; so here was
the unlucky _Helgoland_ becalmed and unable to manœuvre so as to bring
her guns to bear as required. It seemed as if the enemy intended to lie
off and shell this perfect target with impunity, directing the fire
from ahead and astern, which was just the way the brigantine’s guns
would not bear. However, after the second shot from the submarine, the
_Helgoland’s_ guns would just bear, so Lieutenant Blair dropped his
screens and opened fire whilst still there was a chance. The fourth
round from the after gun seemed to hit the enemy, and she immediately
lurched and dived. Lieutenant Blair then sent two of his hands aloft
to look for periscopes, and in a few minutes one was sighted on the
starboard quarter 200 yards away and closing. Two rounds from each of
the starboard guns were therefore fired, one striking the water very
close to the periscope, which again disappeared.

Nothing further happened until half an hour later, when a larger
submarine with sail set, about the size of a drifter’s mizzen, was
sighted right aft. As soon as this U-boat bore 3 points on the port
quarter, she also was attacked, and dived under cover of her smoke
screen. The afternoon passed, and at dusk (7 p.m.), when there was
still no wind, the sound of a submarine’s motors was heard as if
circling around the brigantine. An hour later _Helgoland_ bent her new
foretopsail, and just before 9.30 a submarine was seen right ahead,
so in the calm the Q-ship could not get her guns to bear. Half an
hour later, as there was still no wind, _Helgoland_ spoke an armed
trawler, who towed her back to Falmouth. Just as the two ships were
communicating, the enemy fired a couple of torpedoes which, thanks to
_Helgoland’s_ shallow draught, passed under her amidships. So ended the
brigantine’s first cruise. It was unfortunate that at long range she
had been compelled to open fire and disclose her identity, but that was
owing to the calm, and subsequently she was fitted with an auxiliary
motor.


[Illustration: FIG. 6.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF
‘HELGOLAND’ AND SUBMARINE ON OCTOBER 24, 1916.]

Her next fight was in much the same position, about 20 miles S.W.
of the Lizard. At 6.20 a.m. on October 24, 1916, _Helgoland_, now
commanded by Lieutenant G. G. Westmore, R.N.R., was on an E.S.E.
course, the wind being S.W., force 4, and there was a moderate sea.
About a mile off on the starboard bow was a large tramp steamer
steering a westerly course, and presently was seen a submarine
following astern of the tramp. Lieutenant Westmore at once sent his
crew to quarters, keeping all of them out of sight, with the exception
of the ratings who represented the watch that ordinarily would be seen
on the deck of such a coaster. In order to pass close to the German,
the brigantine hauled to the wind, and at 6.42 the submarine opened
fire on the steamer. As the enemy was now abeam, and only 1,000 yards
to windward of the _Helgoland_, Lieutenant Westmore determined that
this was the opportune moment. To wait longer would only have meant an
increase in the range; so down went the screens and fire was opened
with the starboard guns. The second and third shots seemed to strike
the enemy amidships, and she then dived, after firing only one round,
which passed well astern. Everything had worked well except that the
screen had jammed at the critical moment, but Lieutenant Sanders,
who was seeing that guns and crew were ready, soon cleared it. While
he was looking after his men, and Lieutenant Westmore was generally
looking after the ship, Skipper William Smith, R.N.R., was at the wheel
steering with marked coolness, and Skipper R. W. Hannaford, R.N.R.,
was in charge of the sails, handling them and trimming the yards as
required.

The first submarine was painted a dark colour, with a brown sail set
aft, so that at first she resembled one of our drifters. And now a
second U-boat, painted a light colour with no sail, was seen two
miles away heading for the tramp steamer. The latter happened to be
the Admiralty transport _Bagdale_, whose crew had by now abandoned
her, the ship’s boats being close to the submarine. _Helgoland_ went
about on the other tack and stood towards the enemy, so as to save the
_Bagdale_, and at 4,000 yards fired at the submarine. The latter was
not hit, dived, came to the surface and made off to the south-west,
not being seen after this. The brigantine stood by the abandoned
_Bagdale_, tacking ship at frequent intervals, so as to prevent the
submarine resuming her onslaught. Soon after nine two trawlers were
observed, and summoned by gunfire and rockets. They were sent to
pick up the crew and to tow the transport into Falmouth. Thus, if no
submarine had been sunk, this sailing ship had saved the steamer by
frightening away the enemy, and there were more engagements still to
follow.

By this—October, 1916—the Q-ship service had increased to such an
extent that there were actually forty-seven decoy craft operating.
These comprised almost every kind of vessel, from motor drifters to
medium-sized steamers. Their success or failure depended partly on
captain and crew, but partly on luck. Some Q-ships, as we have seen,
never sighted a U-boat; others were in action as soon as they got out
of port. The advantage of these Q-sailing-ships was that they could
keep the sea independent of the shore for periods much longer than
the trawlers or tramps. Owing to their roomy decks, these coasters
were well suited for the erection of dummy deckhouses to conceal the
armament, and another advantage was that, not utilizing engines or a
propeller—except when used occasionally—there was no noise to prevent
constant listening on the hydrophones. There was always the chance that
during the dark hours, when the enemy on his hydrophones could not hear
the sailing ship approaching, the schooner or brigantine might suddenly
surprise and sink a submarine lying on the surface charging its
batteries. The result was that in the first week of November another
sailing craft was requisitioned. This was the three-masted barquentine
_Gaelic_, which was then lying at Swansea loaded with 300 tons of
coal. _Gaelic_, who was known officially afterwards also under the
names of _Gobo_, _Brig_ 11, and Q 22, was 126 feet 8 inches long and 21
feet in the beam. She had been built of iron in 1898, was registered at
Beaumaris, and remained in service throughout the rest of the war. In
August, 1918, she was operating in the Bay of Biscay, and then returned
to Gibraltar. At the end of November she left ‘the Rock,’ reached
Falmouth by the middle of December, and then was towed to Milford to be
paid off, reconditioned, and returned to commercial work. But before
then, as we shall presently see, she was to carry out some first-class
work.

There is no person more conservative than the seafaring man; the whole
history of the sailing ship shows this clearly enough, and it is
curious how one generation is much the same as another. It was Lord
Melville who, in the early years of the nineteenth century, stated
that it was the duty of the Admiralty to discourage, to the utmost of
their ability, the employment of steam vessels, as they considered
the introduction of steam was calculated to strike a fatal blow to
the naval supremacy of Great Britain. A hundred years later, although
the Q-sailing-ship had justified herself, yet there was a sort of
conservative prejudice against her development. ‘The small sailing
vessel,’ complained a distinguished admiral, ‘will develop into a
sailing line-of-battle ship with an electric-light party reefing
topsails and a seaplane hidden in the foretopmen’s washdeck locker, and
everybody seasick.’

Yes: there was much in common between this flag-officer and the noble
lord, in spite of the intervening century.



CHAPTER VI

THE ‘MARY B. MITCHELL’


It was the activities and successes of the submarines in the western
end of the English Channel that had made these small Q-sailing-ships so
desirable. The first of these to be used in that area was the _Mary B.
Mitchell_. She was a three-masted topsail steel schooner owned by Lord
Penrhyn. Built at Carrickfergus in 1892 and registered at Beaumaris,
she was 129 feet in length, and of 210 tons gross. In the middle of
April, 1916, she happened to be lying in Falmouth with a cargo of china
clay, and it was decided to requisition her. The difficulty always was
to preserve secrecy during her fitting out, but in this case, luckily,
she had recently suffered some damage, and this afforded an excellent
excuse for paying off the mercantile crew. A new crew was selected for
her and was trained specially for the work while she was being got
ready for her special service. She was commissioned on May 5, and left
Falmouth for her first cruise on June 26, and then operated for a month
on end in the western approaches between Ushant, the Irish coast, and
Milford.

Her captain was Lieutenant M. Armstrong, R.N.R., and she was known
officially as the _Mitchell_ and Q 9. During her cruising she sailed
also under three different neutral flags, as convenient. Armed with
three guns, her 12-pounder was hidden in a dummy collapsible house on
the poop, and under each of the two hatches was a 6-pounder mounted on
a swinging pedestal. There were also a couple of Lewis guns, some small
arms and Mills hand-grenades. In spite of the thoroughness with which
the guns were concealed, the collapsible arrangements had been made
so ingeniously that all guns could be brought into action under three
seconds. Before leaving Falmouth she was painted black with a yellow
streak and bore the name

  MARY Y. JOSE
  VIGO

on her hull, so as to look like a neutral. But until she had got clear
of Falmouth this inscription was covered over with a plate bearing her
real name. In order to be able to pick up signals at sea she was fitted
with a small wireless receiving set, the wire being easily disguised in
the rigging. Rolling about in the swell of the Atlantic or the chops
of the English Channel for four weeks at a time is apt to get on the
nerves of a crew unable to have a stretch ashore: so in order to keep
everyone on board fit and cheery, boxing-gloves and gymnastic apparatus
were provided.


[Illustration:

  [_Photo, Opie_

Q SAILING-SHIP “MITCHELL”

Notice the after gun disclosed on the poop.

  To face p. 68]

No one could deny that she was an efficient ship. During her first
cruise she used to carry out gun-trials at night; hatches sliding
smoothly off, guns swinging splendidly into position, and a broadside
fired as soon as the bell for action sounded. Until that bell was
pressed, none of the crew was allowed to be visible on deck other than
the normal watch. One of the difficulties in these ships was that the
decks might be damaged with the shock of firing, but in the _Mitchell_
they had been so strengthened that not a seam was sprung nor so
much as a glass cracked. You may guess how perfect was her disguise
from the following incident. Pretending she was a Spaniard, she was
one day boarded at sea and examined by some of the Falmouth patrol
trawlers. These were completely deceived, for even though their crews
had watched her fitting out, yet she had painted herself a different
colour the night before leaving that port. Even in the Bay of Biscay
several British transports on sighting the ‘Spaniard’ altered course
and steamed away, evidently suspecting she was co-operating with a
submarine.

She was back from her first cruise on July 25 just before midnight
and left again at midnight on August 3-4. This time she impersonated
the French three-masted schooner _Jeannette_, a vessel of 226 tons,
registered at La Houle, for _Mitchell_ now made a cruise in the
neighbourhood of the Channel Islands and the western channel. During
the next few months she continued to sail about the last-mentioned
area, in the Bristol Channel near Lundy Island, and in the Bay of
Biscay, sometimes as _Jeannette_, sometimes as the _Brine_, of St.
Malo, and sometimes as the Russian _Neptun_, of Riga.

It was in January, 1917, that she had an experience which showed the
fine seamanship and sound judgment which were essential in the captain
of such a secret ship. His name was Lieutenant John Lawrie, R.N.R., a
man of strong personality, a real sailor, and possessed of valuable
initiative. On the evening of January 7, _Mitchell_ was off Berry Head,
just east of Dartmouth, when bad weather came on, and this developed
into a strong winter’s gale. There was every reason why a Q-ship
should not run into the nearest port for shelter, as her presence
would lead to awkward questions, whereas secrecy was the essence
of her existence. The gale blew its fiercest, and by the following
night _Mitchell_ was having an alarming time. Just after 9.30 p.m the
foremast and spars crashed over the side, carrying away her mainmast
too. She then lay-to under close-reefed mizzen. A jurymast was rigged
on the stump of the foremast, and the wind, having veered from W.
through N.W. to N.E., she was able to set a reefed stay-sail. It was
still blowing a strong gale, with what Lieutenant Lawrie described
as a ‘mountainous sea’ running, and she drifted before the gale in a
south-west direction towards Ushant.

In this predicament it was time to get assistance if possible, and
about 9.15 on the morning of the 9th she signalled a large cargo
steamer, who endeavoured to take _Mitchell_ in tow, but eventually had
to signal that this was impossible, and continued steaming on her way
up Channel. The schooner was now about ten miles north of Ushant, an
anxious position for any navigator going to leeward, but Lieutenant
Lawrie considered she would drift clear. The north-east gale showed
no sign of easing up during that evening. Signals of distress were
made, a gun being fired every few minutes as well as rocket distress
signals, and flares were kept burning; but no answering signal came
from the shore. By this time the schooner was getting dangerously
near to Ushant, and it could not be long before she and her crew
would inevitably perish. However, she never struck, and at 9.30 p.m.
the Norwegian S.S. _Sardinia_ spoke her and stood by throughout the
terrible night until 7 a.m. of the 10th. Then ensued a nice piece
of seamanship when the steamer lowered into the sea a buoy with a
small line attached. This _Mitchell_ managed to pick up, and the
tow-line was made fast. _Sardinia_ then went ahead and towed her from
a position 10 miles west (True) of Creach Point until 11.15 a.m. when
near Les Pierres Light. Here a French torpedo-boat came towards them,
so Lieutenant Lawrie hoisted the Red Ensign; but having done that he
was clever enough also to show the White Ensign over the stern and in
such a manner that the Norwegian was unable to see it. The captain of
the French torpedo-boat at once understood, signalled to the Norwegian
to cast off and that the torpedo-boat would take the schooner in tow.
This was done at noon, and the _Sardinia_ was informed that the name of
the ship was the _Mary B. Mitchell_ of Beaumaris, Falmouth to Bristol
Channel with general cargo. It was a clever, ready answer on the part
of the British captain. The torpedo-boat took the schooner into Brest,
and at length, after being remasted and refitted she went back to carry
on her work as a Q-ship. I submit that throughout the whole of that
gale it was a fine achievement, not merely to have brought her through
in safety, but without revealing her identity as a warship.

A different kind of adventure was now awaiting her. During June, 1917,
she cruised about first as the French _Marie Thérèse_, of Cette, then
as the French _Eider_, of St. Malo, her sphere of operation being,
as before, in the western end of the English Channel, the Bay of
Biscay, and near the Channel Islands. _Mitchell_ was now fitted with a
motor, but this was never used during daylight except when absolutely
necessary. It was on the twentieth of that month, at 11.30 a.m., that
she was in a position Lat. 47.13 N., Long. 7.23 W., when she sighted
the conning-tower of a submarine 3 miles away on the port bow. The
German began firing, so _Mitchell_ was run up into the wind, hove-to,
and ‘abandoned.’ By this time the enemy was on the starboard bow and
continued firing for some time after the schooner’s boat had left the
ship. Unsuspectingly the submarine came closer and closer, and more
and more on the beam. Then after a short delay he proceeded parallel
with the ship, and, altering course, made as if to go towards the
_Mitchell’s_ boat lying away on the port quarter. Suddenly he began
to fire again, and being now not more than 800 yards off and in a
suitable position, the schooner also opened fire, the first round from
the 12-pounder appearing to hit. Altogether seventeen rounds were
fired, seven seeming to be direct hits. The enemy did not reply, and
within three minutes of being hit disappeared. Fortunately none of his
score of rounds had struck the schooner, though they burst overhead in
unpleasant proximity.

A further engagement with what was probably the same enemy occurred
later on the same day. It was a favourite tactic for a submarine to
follow a ship after disappearing for a while, and then, having got her
hours later in a suitable position, to attack her again. I used to hear
commanding officers say that they had certainly noticed this in regard
to their own ships, and there are not lacking actual records of these
methods, especially in the case of the slow-moving sailing Q-ships who
could be seen across the sea for a long time; and it was part of these
tactics to carry out this second attack just before night came on. Thus
at 6.10 p.m., being now in Lat. 47.37 N., Long. 6.38 W., _Mitchell_
again sighted a submarine, this time 4 miles away on the port quarter.
The schooner kept her course, the submarine overtook her, and at 6.35
again shelled the ship. After the U-boat had fired half a dozen rapid
rounds, _Mitchell_ was hove-to and ‘abandoned,’ the enemy taking up a
position well out on the port beam and firing until the boat was quite
clear of the ship. Then the German stopped, exactly on the beam, 800
yards away, and waited for a long time before making any move. Suddenly
he turned end on, came full speed towards the ship, dived, and when 400
yards away showed his periscope on the port side. Having got to within
50 yards he went full speed ahead, starboarded his helm, and began to
rise quickly. As soon as the top of the conning-tower appeared and a
couple of feet of hull were showing _Mitchell_ cleared away and shelled
him with the after 6-pounder. This seemed to pierce the conning-tower,
a large blue flash and a volume of yellow vapour coming from the hole.
Almost simultaneously the 12-pounder hit the enemy in the bows, but
after this the enemy was too far forward for the schooner’s guns to
bear. In a cloud of black smoke, yellow smoke, steam, and spray, she
dived and was not seen again until 8.7 p.m. on the surface 5 miles to
the westward, just as the ‘panic party’ were coming back on board the
schooner. All speed was made, and the boat towed astern on an easterly
course for the French coast. For a time the submarine followed, but
then went off to the north-eastward and remained in sight until dark.
The reader may wonder how a submarine, having once been holed, could
remain afloat: but there are cases of undoubted authenticity where,
in spite of being seriously injured, the submarine did get back to
Germany. A remarkable instance of one thus damaged by a Q-sailing-ship
will be given in a later chapter. But in the present case of the
_Mitchell_, even if she had not sunk her submarine, she had fought two
plucky engagements, in the opinion of the Admiralty, and the captain,
Lieutenant John Lawrie, R.N.R., already the possessor of a D.S.C., was
now awarded the D.S.O.—his two officers, Lieutenant John Kerr, R.N.R.,
and Lieutenant T. Hughes, R.N.R., being given each a D.S.C.

On the following August 3, when 20 miles south of the Start, _Mitchell_
had yet another engagement. She had left Falmouth two days before as
the _Arius_, of Riga, then as the French _Cancalais_, of La Houle,
and cruised between the Lizard and the Owers, to Guernsey, and in the
neighbourhood of Ushant. At 1.45 p.m. she was sailing close-hauled on
the starboard tack, steering west; there was a fresh breeze, rather
a rough sea, and a slight haze. Three miles away on the starboard
beam appeared a submarine, who five minutes later began shelling the
schooner. Lawrie let his ship fall off the wind, and the shells came
bursting around, passing through sails and rigging, so after ten
minutes of this the schooner hove-to and ‘abandoned’ ship. Slowly and
cautiously the submarine approached, and when about 3,000 yards off
stopped his engines, but continued to fire. Then he came up on the
decoy’s starboard beam, about 1,000 yards away; but after fifteen
minutes of shelling from this position, Lawrie decided that he could
tempt the enemy no nearer. It was now 4 p.m., so _Mitchell_ started
her motor, cleared away all disguises, put the helm hard aport, and so
brought the enemy well on the beam, allowing all four guns to bear.
Over twenty shells were fired, of which three or four hit the base of
the conning-tower; but the submarine, having replied with four shots,
dived, and made off. For two hours and a quarter had this engagement
been prolonged, and the enemy must have been considerably annoyed to
have wasted seventy of his shells in this manner. There was every
reason to suppose that he had received injuries, and though there were
no fatalities aboard the schooner, yet the latter’s windlass, sails,
rigging, and deck fittings had been damaged, and two of her men had
been wounded. Lieutenant Lawrie received for this gallant fight a bar
to his D.S.C., and a similar award was made to Lieutenant T. Hughes.

Such, briefly, was the kind of life that was spent month after month
in these mystery sailing ships. It was an extraordinary mixture of
monotony and the keenest excitement. From one hour to another no
man knew whether he would be alive or dead, and the one essential
thing consisted in absolute preparedness and mental alertness. To
be surprised by the enemy was almost criminal; to escape narrowly
from shipwreck, to remain unmoved under shell-fire, to see the spars
crashing down and your shipmates laid out in great pain, to be hit and
yet refusing to hit back until the right moment, to keep a clear head
and a watchful eye, and all the time handle your ship so that the most
was got out of the wind—all this was a part of your duty as a Q-ship
man. Officers and men believed that if their Q-ship were torpedoed and
any of them were captured, they would be shot as _francs-tireurs_.
German prisoners had not hesitated to make this statement, although I
do not remember an instance where this was carried out.

There can be no doubt but that these sailing ships had the most
strenuous and arduous task of all. They suffered by being so useful,
for the Q-steamships, as a rule, did not spend more than eight days
at sea out of twelve, and then they had to come in for coal. The
schooners, as we have seen, could keep the sea for a month, so long
as they had sufficient water and provisions. Several more were added
to the list during 1917 and 1918, and there was never any lack of
volunteers for them. The only difficulty was, in these days of steam,
in choosing those who had had experience in sailing craft. The revival
of the sailing man-of-war was certainly one of the many remarkable
features in the naval campaign.



CHAPTER VII

MORE SAILING SHIPS


During the ensuing months many demands were made on the sailing-ship
man-of-war. There were pressed into the service such vessels as the
schooner _Result_, the 220-ton lugger _Bayard_, the three-masted
schooner _Prize_, the motor drifter _Betsy Jameson_, the ketch _Sarah
Colebrooke_, the auxiliary schooner _Glen_ (alias _Sidney_), the
brigantine _Dargle_, the _Brown Mouse_ yacht, built on the lines of a
Brixham trawler, and so on. The barquentine _Merops_, otherwise known
as _Maracaio_ and Q 28, began decoy work in February, 1917. She was
fitted out in the Firth of Forth with a couple of 12-pounders and
a 4-inch gun. At the end of May she had a severe engagement with a
submarine, and was considerably damaged aloft. In March the 158-ton
Rye motor ketch _Sarah Colebrooke_ was requisitioned, and sent to
Portsmouth to be fitted out, appearing in May as the _Bolham_. A
month later, 20 miles south of Beachy Head, she fought a submarine,
and had quite an unpleasant time. One of the enemy’s shells exploded
under the port quarter, lifting the ketch’s stern high out of the
water, another exploded under the port leeboard, sending a column of
water on board, and swamping the boat; whilst a third burst on board,
doing considerable damage. She fought the submarine until the latter
disappeared, but the _Bolham’s_ motor was by this time so choked with
splinters and glass that she could not proceed to the spot where the
submarine had last been seen, and of course it so happened that there
was no wind.

On June 8 four fishing smacks were captured and sunk off the Start in
full view of the Q-smack _Prevalent_, a Brixham trawler armed with
a 12-pounder. Again it happened to be a calm, so _Prevalent_, being
too far away, was unable to render assistance. After this incident
it was decided to fit an auxiliary motor in the trawler-yacht _Brown
Mouse_, which was doing similar service and was specially suitable
for an engine. On the following day our friend _Helgoland_ had
another encounter, this time off the north coast of Ireland, the
exact spot being 8 miles N. by W. of Tory Island. The fight began at
7.25 a.m., and half an hour later the submarine obtained a direct hit
on the after-gun house of the brigantine, killing one man, wounding
four ratings, and stunning the whole of the after-guns’ crews. But
_Helgoland_, with her charmed life, was not sunk, and she shelled the
submarine so fiercely that the U-boat had to dive and disappear.

Even a private yacht was taken up for this work in June. This was the
116-ton topsail schooner _Lisette_, which had formerly belonged to
the Duke of Sutherland. She had been built as far back as 1873 with a
standing bowsprit and jibboom. She was taken from Cowes to Falmouth,
where she was commissioned in August, and armed with three 6-pounders.
But this old yacht was found to leak so much through her seams, and
her construction was so light, that she was never a success, and
was paid off in the following spring. In April, 1917, the auxiliary
schooner _Sidney_ (alias _Glen_) began service as a decoy, having been
requisitioned from her owners and fitted out at Portsmouth. A crew was
selected from the Trawler Reserve, but the guns’ crews were naval.
Armed with a 12-pounder and a 3-pounder, she was fitted with wireless,
and cruised about in the English Channel, her complement consisting
of Lieutenant R. J. Turnbull (R.N.R.), in command, one sub-lieutenant
(R.N.R.), one skipper (R.N.R.), two R.N.R. seamen, one R.N.R. stoker to
run the motor, a signal rating, a wireless operator, four R.N. ratings
for the big gun, and three for the smaller one. During the afternoon of
July 10, 1917, _Glen_ was in combat with a submarine of the UC type,
and had lowered her boat in the customary manner. A German officer from
the conning-tower hailed the boat, and in good English ordered her to
come alongside. This was being obeyed, when something seemed to startle
the officer, who suddenly disappeared into the conning-tower, and the
submarine began to dive. _Glen_ therefore opened fire, and distinctly
saw two holes abaft the conning-tower as the UC-boat rolled in the
swell. She was not seen again, and the Admiralty rewarded _Glen’s_
captain and Sub-Lieutenant K. Morris, R.N.R., with a D.S.C. each.

During the month of January, 1917, the naval base at Lowestoft called
for volunteers for work described as ‘dangerous, at times rather
monotonous, and not free from discomfort.’ Everyone, of course, knew
that this meant life in a Q-ship. The vessel selected was the 122-ton
three-masted topsail schooner _Result_, which was owned at Barnstaple,
and had in December come round to Lowestoft from the Bristol Channel.
Here she was fitted out and commissioned at the beginning of February,
being armed with a couple of 12-pounders, but also with torpedo-tubes.
As a sailing craft she was slow, unhandy, and practically unmanageable
in light winds. At the best she would lie no nearer to the wind than
5-1/2 points, and in bad weather she was like a half-tide rock. True,
she had a Bolinders motor, but the best speed they could thus get out
of her was 2-1/2 knots. The result was that her officers had great
difficulty in keeping her out of the East Coast minefields, and did
not always succeed. She took in 100 tons of sand as ballast, and a
rough cabin was fashioned out of the hold for the two officers. In
command was appointed Lieutenant P. J. Mack, R.N. (retired), a young
officer who had seen service at the Dardanelles in the battleship
_Lord Nelson_ and in the historic _River Clyde_, whence he had been
invalided home. As he was not an expert in the art of sailing, there
was selected to accompany him as second in command Lieutenant G.
H. P. Muhlhauser, R.N.R., who was not a professional seaman, but a
keen amateur yachtsman of considerable experience, who had made some
excellent cruises in his small yacht across the North Sea and had
passed the Board of Trade examination as master of his own yacht. The
sailing master who volunteered was an ex-schooner sailor, and her mate
also was an old blue-water seaman. The motor man was a motor mechanic
out of one of the Lowestoft M.L.’s, and there was a trimmer from the
Trawler Reserve. She carried also a wireless operator, a cook, a
chief petty officer, deckhands, and some Royal Naval ratings for the
armament. All the crew, consisting of twenty-two, had seen considerable
service during the war in various craft, and one of the deckhands
was in the drifter _Linsdell_, which was blown up on an East Coast
minefield at the commencement of the war. He had been then picked up
by H.M.S. _Speedy_, who in turn was immediately blown up. This man
survived again, and was now a volunteer in a Q-ship. _Result’s_ crew
were trained to go to their ‘panic stations’ at the given signal, when
the bulwarks were let down and the tarpaulins removed from the guns,
the engineer on those occasions standing at the hatchway amusingly
disguised as a woman passenger, arrayed in a pink blouse and a
tasselled cap which had been kindly provided by a lady ashore.

On February 9 _Result_ was all ready as a warship, and motored out
of Lowestoft. She then disguised herself as a neutral, affixed Dutch
colours to her topsides, and proceeded via Yarmouth Roads to the
neighbourhood of the North Hinder, the other side of the North Sea,
where the enemy was very fond of operating. On the fifteenth of the
following month _Result_ was cruising off the south-west end of the
Dogger Bank when she encountered UC 45 in the morning. Lieutenant
Muhlhauser, who was kind enough to give me his account of the incident,
has described it with such vividness that I cannot do better than
present the version in his own words. It should be added that at the
time _Result_ was steering E.S.E., and was now in the position Lat.
54.19 N., Long. 1.45 E. The submarine was sighted 2-1/2 miles astern,
the wind was northerly, force 5 to 6, the sea being 4 to 5 and rapidly
rising. In other words, it was a nasty, cold North Sea day, and one in
which it would have been most unpleasant to have been torpedoed. The
engagement was a difficult one, as the ship had to be manœuvred so that
her guns would bear, and careful seamanship had to be used to prevent
her lying in the trough of the sea. As it was, with bulwarks down, the
decks and gun-wells were awash and frequently full of water, while the
submarine, being only occasionally visible when _Result_ was on the top
of the sea, made a target that was anything but easy.

‘By 7 a.m.,’ says Lieutenant Muhlhauser, ‘we had got all the topsails
off her, and at this moment the C.O. appeared on deck and, looking
aft, said, “Why, there is a submarine!” and at the same moment it was
reported from aloft. Word was passed to the watches below to stand by.
In a few minutes came the report of a gun. I do not know where the
shell went. The men ran to their stations, or crawled there according
to what their job was, and the ship was brought on the wind. The
submarine continued firing at the rate of a shell every minute or
thereabouts. The C.O. then ordered the jibs to be run down, and while
this was being done a shell stranded the foretopmast forestay, but
luckily did not burst. It went off whistling. Some of the shells were
fairly well aimed, but the bulk were either 50 or 60 yards short or
over, and at times more than that. As the submarine kept about 2,000
yards off, the C.O. ordered the boat away, with the skipper in charge.
Four hands went with him. He was reluctant to go, I think, though, as
a matter of fact, he ran quite as much risk as did those remaining
on board, if not more, as he would have been in an awkward position
if by any chance the ship worked away from him and the submarine got
him. It would have been a hard job to persuade the submariners that
he was anything but British. However, off he went in a nasty sea.
In lowering the boat we made efforts to capsize her, but she was
difficult to upset, and as the sub. was some way off and unlikely to
see the “accident,” we did not waste much time on it, but let her go
down right side up. Away went the skipper and his crew, and he admits
feeling lonely with a hostile submarine near by and the ship and her
guns working away from him. He says he was struck with the beauty of
her lines, and she never appeared more attractive to him. As a matter
of fact, his was a rotten position, which was not improved by the sub.
firing at him two or three shells, which went over and short. Evidently
the submarine, which by the way had closed to 1,000 yards as soon as
the boat left the ship, wanted him to pull towards it, instead of which
he was digging out after us manfully. Meanwhile the ship appeared quite
deserted. Everyone was concealed. The C.O. prowled around the deck on
his hands and knees, peering through cracks and rivet holes in the
bulwarks to see how the submarine was getting on. All I could see of
him was the stern position of his body and the soles of an enormous
pair of clogs. I sat on deck at the wheel, trying to get and keep the
ship in the wind, so as not to get too far from the boat. All this
time the submarine was firing steadily, and one shell went through the
mizzen, while others, as the C.O. reported from time to time, burst
short, some of them close. Splinters from the latter went through the
stay- and fore-sails. At 1,000 yards the ship is a fairly big target,
and the shooting of the Huns must be put down as bad.

‘It is all very well serving as a target at 1,000 yards, but it is an
experience which must not be too long continued in case a lucky shot
disables one. In the present case, moreover, the wind and sea were
rapidly increasing, and we were leaving the boat in spite of all our
efforts to stop. The submarine seemed quite determined not to come any
nearer, and the C.O. decided that the moment had come for our side to
begin. Just before this one of the bulwarks, luckily on the side away
from the sub., had fallen down, and let a deluge of water on to the
decks, but this did not affect things as far as we know.

‘At the word, down fell the bulwarks, round came the guns, and up
went the White Ensign. Only the after 12-pounder gun would bear. The
first shell struck the submarine at the junction of the conning-tower
and deck forward. The 6-pounder also fired one shell, and hit the
conning-tower. The second shell from the big gun burst short. By the
time the smoke had cleared away the submarine had disappeared. Had we
sunk her or had she dipped? This is the point which is exercising our
minds. The C.O. thinks the evidence of sinking her is not conclusive,
but most of us think she has gone down for ever.

‘We then made for the boat, which was still labouring after us, and got
it hooked on and hoisted. There was quite a decent-sized sea, and the
hoisting process was not very pleasant for those left in to hook on,
not to mention that they got wet from the exhaust.

‘At the time the sub. was firing, one of the officers or crew was
standing on the conning-tower rails, probably spotting for the
gunners. He was there when the first shell struck, but was not noticed
afterwards. Very likely he had fallen into the tower, but he may have
fallen into the water.

‘We certainly gave them a lesson in gunnery, two hits out of three
shots. Compare that with their performance. Moreover, our guns had to
be swung into position, while theirs was already pointed.

‘Having picked up the boat, we made for the spot where the sub. had
disappeared, but could not be sure that we had reached it. Anyway, we
saw no traces of it. We did not spend much time in searching, but put
the ship back on her course. The wind and sea were by this time strong
and heavy, and after running out for half an hour we turned and headed
west, with the idea of being near shelter if a north-east gale, which
I had predicted, came along. As a matter of fact it did not, and my
reputation as a weather-prophet is tarnished. Our alteration of course
was made solely from weather conditions, but it must have seemed very
suspicious to a second submarine which now arrived on the scene, and
which had probably been chasing us without our knowing it. Instead of
it chasing us, it suddenly found us coming to meet it, and must have
been puzzled. By way of clearing the air it fired a torpedo from a
distance of about 2,000 yards, and missed us by about 200 yards—a bad
effort. It then fired three shells at us, which also went wide. There
is no doubt that this was another, and smaller, submarine from the
first, but we did not grasp this at first, and so without more ado we
let drive at it, but unluckily the gun missed fire twice. Fleet then
opened the breech, at some risk to himself, and drew out the cartridge
and threw it away. But this wasted time, and when he did fire the shell
went short. The submarine had taken advantage of the pause to get ready
to dive, and did not wait for another shot, but went under as soon as
we fired.

‘It was no use waiting about, as we should very likely have been
torpedoed, so we went on towards the land.

‘And so ended what the skipper calls the “Battle of the Silver Pit,”
from the name of the fishing ground where it took place. As far as
it went it was satisfactory, but we should like to be sure that we
sank the first. The two engagements took about two hours. Possibly by
waiting we might have done better, but, on the other hand, we might
have done worse.’

It was eventually known that the first submarine was UC 45, who paid
the _Result_ the compliment of describing this ship’s gunfire as
well-controlled. She got back safely to Germany. For the manner in
which the fighting had been conducted, Lieutenant Mack and the skipper
were both mentioned in despatches.

After the return to Lowestoft, _Result_ was altered in appearance and
was sent off to the area where this encounter had taken place. This
time she used Swedish colours, and called herself the _Dag_. On this
voyage, whilst in the vicinity north of the North Hinder Bank, on April
4, about 4 a.m., a submarine was seen on the port bow, but disappeared.
It was so big that at first it resembled a steamer or destroyer.
Presently a periscope was seen about 4 points on the bow, resembling
a topmast, as it had a rake. The lower portion was about 6 inches in
diameter, and a narrower stem protruded from this, terminating in a
ball, and whilst officers and crew watched it, wondering whether it was
the mast of a wreck or not, it slowly dipped and vanished. This was
the submarine in the act of taking a photograph. She then retired to a
distance convenient for shelling. There was a light westerly breeze,
and the enemy now bobbed up at intervals all round the _Dag_, examining
her very carefully. Lieutenant Muhlhauser writes of this incident:

‘Then followed a pause of nearly half an hour without our seeing
anything of him. The cook was sent to the galley to get on with
breakfast and we started the engine. It is hardly necessary to say that
as it was particularly wanted it ran very badly, and, indeed, could
hardly be kept going at all. Suddenly a shell burst near us, followed
by another and another. We could not at first tell the direction from
which they came, and thought it was from astern, but found that the
submarine had cunningly moved away towards the sun, and had emerged in
the mist behind the path of the sun, where he was practically invisible
from our ship, while we were lit up and must have offered a splendid
target with our white hull and sails. His shooting was very good,
and none of the shells missed us by much. He fired rapidly, and was
probably using a 4·1-inch semi-automatic gun. The shells all burst on
striking the water, and the explosions had a vicious sound. They seemed
to come at a terrific speed, suggesting a high-velocity gun. The C.O.
calmly walked the deck, the skipper took the wheel, and I sat at the
top of the cabin hatchway and noted the times and numbers of shells
fired and anything else of interest. The rest of the crew were at their
stations, but keeping below the bulwarks, except those who launched the
boat and let it tow astern. The eleventh shell struck us just above
the water-line, and soused us all with spray which flew up above the
peak of the mainsail. It tore a hole in the side and burst in the sand
ballast, reducing the skipper’s cabin to matchwood, and destroying the
wireless instrument. It also knocked down the sides of the magazine and
set fire to the wood, starting some of the rockets smouldering. It also
smashed up the patent fire extinguishers, and possibly the fumes from
these prevented the fire from spreading. Anyway, it was out when we
had time to see what was happening.

‘In the meantime we could not afford to be hit again, and the C.O.
gave the word to open fire. Down went the bulwarks and round swung the
guns, but where was the target? Hidden in the mist behind the sun’s
path it was invisible to the gun-layers looking through telescopes,
and they were obliged to fire into the gloom at a venture. The poor
little 6-pounder was quite outranged, and it is doubtful if the shells
went more than two-thirds of the way. The other guns had sufficient
range, but it was impossible to judge the distance or observe the fall
of the shots. However, they made a glorious and cheering noise, and
Fritz dived as soon as he could. There is not the least reason for
thinking that we hit him. The skipper, deceived by the low freeboard
revealed when the bulwarks were down, at this stage quickly announced
the conviction that she was sinking. Smoke was also pouring out of the
hatches, and we had two wounded men to see to: Ryder, who was in the
magazine and who was hit in the arm, sustaining a compound fracture,
and Morris, also in the magazine, bruised in the back and suffering
from shock. We were not, therefore, in a position to continue the
battle, and things looked a bit blue. Fritz might be expected to be
along in a few minutes submerged, and he would have little difficulty
in torpedoing us, as we were very nearly a stationary target. We had
no means of warding him off except by a depth charge. That might
inconvenience him, but it would hardly delay him long, and he could
then either torpedo us or retire out of range of our guns and pound us
to pieces, as his gun had a range of about 5,000 yards more than ours.
Sure enough he was soon after us, as we crawled along at our 4-knot
gait, and raised his periscope right astern about 200 yards off.

‘We then slung over a depth charge, and had just got our 10-feet
clearance when it went off, and made quite a creditable stir for a
little ‘un. Fritz promptly disappeared to think things over, and we
were relieved of the sight of the sinister-looking periscope. But we
had only delayed things a little. He would soon recover and adopt fresh
tactics. Still, for ten minutes we should have peace to attend to our
wounded and the damage. The C.O. supervised the bandaging of Ryder, who
had been lying on deck since he had been drawn out of the magazine.
I had passed him—passed over him, in fact—once or twice in going
forward, and thought he was dead, as he lay so still. Then the hole
in the side wanted attention, and also the fire below. Just then the
look-outs reported the _Halcyon_[2] and two P-boats ahead coming our
way. We were extremely glad to hear them shout out, as it meant all the
difference between being sunk and not being sunk. When the skipper had
called out “She is sinking, sir,” I thought of the number our little
boat would hold, and the number of the crew, and had reflected that
my number was up. The arrival of the _Halcyon_ and her attendants put
a different complexion on things, and while efforts were being made
by guns to attract their attention, I set about plugging our hole and
trying to find the fire.

‘Stringer warned me that he had tried to get below, but had found the
fumes too much. By the time I got there they must have cleared, as I
did not find them too bad. The place was full of smoke, but though
I pulled things about blindly, as it was impossible to see anything,
I could not see any glow to indicate a fire. Ultimately I did see a
light, but on making for it I found it was Dawes and an electric light.
He had entered from the mess-deck. There appearing to be no immediate
danger from fire, I crawled round to the shot-hole and found water
coming in through rivet holes. The main hole had been plugged from the
outside by two coal-bags and a shot-hole plug. I got tools and cut up
some wood, while Wreford cut up a coal-bag into 6-inch squares. These
Dawes and I hammered home, and made her fairly tight.

‘Meanwhile great efforts were being made to communicate with the
_Halcyon_, to let them know that a submarine was about, and to ask for
a doctor. We could not get the _Halcyon_, but one of the P-boats came
rushing by at full speed, and asked where we were from! They had not
recognized us! We could get nothing out of these ships. They rushed
about the horizon at full speed and disappeared into the mist and came
out of it again somewhere else, but generally kept away from us, though
occasionally a P-boat tore past going “all out.”

‘While this circus was going on, a number of T.B.D.’s were reported on
our starboard quarter, and three light cruisers and then T.B.D.’s swept
into sight and seemed to fill the whole horizon. They went on, ignoring
our request for a doctor, and disappeared in the mist, but their place
was taken by other T.B.D.’s. The place seemed full of them. Where they
all came from I do not know, or what they were doing, but everywhere
one looked one could see some of these beautiful vessels rushing along.
It was a fine, stirring sight. Finally we got one of them to stop and
lower a whaler with a doctor. While she was stopped her companion ships
steamed round to ward off attack. The doctor came on board, and decided
that Ryder ought to go in at once, and the T.B.D. _Torrent_ agreed to
take him in when asked by signal. So away went poor Ryder in great
pain, I fear, in spite of two morphia pills which we gave him. The C.O.
was afraid that we had given him too much, but one did not seem to do
him much good, so we gave him another one.

‘While we were transshipping him, the _Halcyon_ came tearing past, and
shouted that there was a hostile submarine 3 miles to the southward.
This, however, did not worry us with all these T.B.D.’s around. We were
in a scene of tremendous, even feverish, activity. There were sweepers,
T.B.D.’s, P-boats, and our own submarines all about. At 6 a.m. the
world held us and a very nasty, large, hostile submarine, which could
both outrange and outmanœuvre us, and the game seemed up. At 6.30 a.m.
we were as safe as one could wish to be, with a considerable portion of
England’s light forces around us. “Some change!”’


[Footnote 2: H.M.S. _Halcyon_, torpedo-gunboat, 1,070 tons.]



CHAPTER VIII

SUBMARINES AND Q-SHIP TACTICS


In order properly to appreciate the difficulties of the Q-ships,
it is necessary to understand something of the possibilities and
limitations of the U-boats. No one could hope to be successful with
his Q-ship unless he realized what the submarine could not do, and how
he could attack the U-boat in her weakest feature. If the submarine’s
greatest capability lay in the power of rendering herself invisible,
her greatest weakness consisted in remaining thus submerged for a
comparatively short time. On the surface she could do about 16 knots;
submerged, her best speed was about 10 knots. As the heart is the vital
portion of the human anatomy, so the battery was the vital part of the
submarine’s invisibility. At the end of a couple of hours, at the most,
it was as essential for her to rise to the surface, open her hatches,
and charge her batteries as it is for a whale or a porpoise to come up
and breathe. It was the aim, then, of all anti-submarine craft to use
every endeavour to keep the U-boat submerged as long as possible. Those
Q-ships who could steam at 10 knots and over had a good chance then of
following the submarine’s submerged wake and despatching her with depth
charges. If she elected not to dive, there was nothing for it but to
tempt her within range and bearing of your guns and then shell her. To
ram was an almost impossible task, though more than one submarine was
in this way destroyed.

The difficulty of anti-submarine warfare was increased when the enemy
became so wary that he preferred to remain shelling the ship at long
range, and this led to our Q-ships having to be armed with at least one
4-inch against his 4·1-inch gun. The famous Arnauld de la Périère, who,
in spite of his semi-French ancestry, was the ablest German submarine
captain in the Mediterranean, was especially devoted to this form of
tactics. Most of the German submarines were double-hulled, the space
between the outer and inner hulls being occupied by water ballast and
oil fuel. The conning-tower was literally a superstructure imposed over
the hull, and not an essential part of the ship. That is why, as we
have already seen, the Q-ship could shell holes into the tower and yet
the U-boat was not destroyed. Similarly, a shell would often pierce the
outer hull and do no very serious damage other than causing a certain
amount of oil to escape. Only those who have been in British and German
submarines, and have seen a submarine under construction, realize what
a strong craft she actually is.

The ideal submarine would weigh about the same amount as the water
surrounding her. That being a practical impossibility, before she
submerges she is trimmed down by means of water ballast, but then
starts her engines and uses her planes for descent in the same way
as an aeroplane. The flooding tanks, as we have seen, are between
the two hulls, and the hydroplanes are in pairs both forward and
aft. The U-boat has been running on the surface propelled by her
internal-combustion motors. Obviously these cannot be used when she
is submerged, or the air in the ship would speedily be used up.
When about to submerge, the German captain trimmed his ship until
just afloat; actually he frequently cruised in this trim when in the
presence of shipping, ready to dive if attacked. The alarm was then
pressed, the engineer pulled out the clutch, the coxswain controlling
the forward hydroplane put his helm down, the captain entered the
conning-tower, the hatch was closed, and away the steel fish cruised
about beneath the surface.

The U-boat was now running on her electric batteries. By means of two
periscopes a view was obtained not merely of the sea above, but also
of the sky, so that surface craft and aircraft might be visible. The
order would be given to submerge to say 10 metres. Alongside each of
the two coxswains was a huge dial marked in metres, and it was the
sole duty of these two men to watch the dials, and by operating a big
wheel controlling each hydroplane maintain the submarine at such a
depth. Horizontal steering was done also by a wheel, and course kept
by means of a gyroscope compass, a magnetic compass in this steel ship
with so much electricity about being out of the question. The batteries
were charged while the submarine was on the surface by turning the oil
engines into a dynamo by means of the clutch, the hour before dawn and
the hour after sunset being favourable times for so charging.

The reader will have noted the preliminary methods of attack on the
part of the submarine and his manner of varying his position. He
divided his attack into two. The first was the approach, the second
was the attack proper. The former was made at a distance of 12,000
yards, and during this time he was using his high-power, long-range
periscope, manœuvring into position, and ascertaining the course and
speed of the on-coming Q-ship. The attack proper was made at 800 or
400 yards, and for this purpose the short-range periscope was used.
Now watch the U-boat in his attempt to kill. He is to rely this time
not on long-range shelling, but on the knock-out blow by means of his
torpedo: he has endeavoured, therefore, to get about four points on
the Q-ship’s bow, for this is the very best position, and he has dived
to about 60 feet. During the approach his torpedo-tubes have been got
ready, the safety-pins have been removed, and the bow caps of the tubes
opened. The captain has already ascertained the enemy’s speed and the
deflection or angle at which the torpedo-tube must point ahead of the
Q-ship at the moment of firing. When the enemy bears the correct number
of degrees of deflection the tube is fired, the periscope lowered,
speed increased, and, if the torpedo has hit the Q-ship, the concussion
will be felt in the submarine. This depends entirely on whether the
Q-ship’s speed and course have been accurately ascertained. The torpedo
has travelled at a speed of 36 knots, so, knowing the distance to be
run, the captain has only to look at his stop-watch and reckon the
time when his torpedo should have hit. If the German was successful
he usually hoisted his periscope and cruised under the stern of the
ship to obtain her name. If he were an experienced officer he never
came near her, after torpedoing, unless he was quite certain she was
abandoned and that she was not a trap. During 1917 and onwards, having
sunk the Q-ship, the submarine would endeavour to take the captain
prisoner, and one Q-ship captain, whose ship sank underneath him, found
himself swimming about and heard the U-boat’s officer shouting to the
survivors, ‘Vere is der kapitan?’ but the men had the good sense
to lie and pretend their skipper was dead. After this the submarine
shoved off, and my friend took refuge with others in a small raft.
But frequently a submarine would wait a considerable time cruising
round the sinking ship, scrutinizing her, examining the fittings, and
expecting to find badly hinged bulwarks, a carelessly fitted wireless
aerial, a suspicious move of a ‘deckhouse’ or piece of tarpaulin hiding
the gun. This was the suspense which tried the nerves of most Q-ship
crews, especially when it was followed by shelling.

We have seen that the U-boat sought to disguise herself by putting
up a sail when in the vicinity of fishing craft or patrol vessels.
The submarine which torpedoed one ship disguised her periscope by
a soap box, so that it was not realized till too late that this
innocent-looking box was floating _against_ the tide. At the best the
submarine was an unhandy craft, and it took her from three to six
minutes to make a big alteration of course, inasmuch as she had to
dive deeper lest she should break surface or disturb the surface of
the water. Again, when running submerged, if she wished to turn 16
points—_e.g._, from north to south—the pressure on her hull made it
very difficult.

It may definitely be stated that those who went to their doom in
U-boats had no pleasant death. When the Q-ship caused the enemy to be
holed so that he could not rise and the water poured in, this water,
as it moved forward in the submarine, was all the time compressing
the air, and those of the crew who had not already committed suicide
suffered agonies. Moreover, even if a little of the sea got into
the bilges where the batteries were placed there was trouble also.
Sea-water in contact with the sulphuric acid generated chlorine, a very
deadly gas, which asphyxiated the crew. There is at least one case on
record of a U-boat surrendering to a patrol boat in consequence of
his crew having become incapacitated by this gas; and on pulling up
the floorboards of a British submarine, one has noticed the chlorine
smell very distinctly. The dropping by the decoy ship of depth charges
sometimes totally destroyed the submarine, but even if this was not
accomplished straight away, it had frequently a most salutary effect:
for, at the least, it would start some of the U-boat’s rivets, smash
all the electric bulbs in the ship, and put her in total darkness. The
nasty jar which this and the explosion gave to the submarine’s crew
had a great moral effect. A month’s cruise in a submarine in wintry
Atlantic weather, hunted and chased most of the way from Heligoland
to the Fastnet and back, is calculated to try any human nerves: but
to be depth-charged periodically, or surprised and shelled by an
innocent-looking tramp or schooner, does not improve the enthusiasm of
the men. Frequently it happened that the decoy ship’s depth charges
merely put the hydroplanes out of gear so that they jammed badly.
The U-boat would then make a crash-dive towards the bottom. At 100
feet matters became serious, at 200 feet they became desperate; and
presently, owing to pressure, the hull would start buckling and
leaking. Then, by sheer physical strength, the hydroplanes had to be
coaxed hard over, and then up would come the U-boat to the surface,
revealing herself, and an easy prey for the Q-ship’s guns, who would
finish her off in a few fierce minutes. Life in a U-boat was no picnic,
but death was the worst form of torture, and such as could be conveyed
to the imagination only by means of a Théâtre Guignol play.

It was the obvious duty of the Q-ships to make the life of a U-boat as
nearly as possible unbearable, and thus save the lives of our ships
and men of the Mercantile Marine. It was no easy task, and even with
perfect organization, well-thought-out tactics, and well-trained crews,
it would happen that something would rob the decoy of her victory.
On October 20, 1916, for instance, the Q-ship _Salvia_, one of the
sloop-class partially reconstructed with a false counter-stern to
resemble a 1,000-ton tramp, was off the west coast of Ireland when a
submarine appeared astern, immediately opened fire, and began to chase.
_Salvia_ stopped her engines to allow the enemy to close more rapidly,
but the U-boat, observing this, hauled out on to the Salvia’s starboard
quarter, and kept up her firing without shortening the range of 2,000
yards. _Salvia_ next endeavoured to close the range by going slow ahead
and altering slightly towards the enemy, but the latter’s fire was
now becoming so accurate that _Salvia_ was soon hit on the starboard
side by a 4·1-inch high-explosive shell. This burst through in nine
places in the engine-room bulkhead, smashing an auxiliary steam-pipe
and causing a large escape of steam. The engines were now put full
ahead, and course was made for the enemy, who sheered away and shortly
afterwards dived.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF
‘SALVIA’ IN HER ACTION WITH SUBMARINE ON OCTOBER 20, 1916.]

That being so, _Salvia_ deemed it prudent to pretend to run away, but
in the middle of the evolution her steering gear unfortunately broke
down, and before control was established again with hand-steering
gear, the ship had swung 90 degrees past her course, and the submarine
reappeared on the port beam about 1,500 yards away, but presently
disappeared. The breakdown had been most unfortunate, for otherwise
a short, sharp action at about 700 yards would have been possible,
followed by an excellent chance of dropping a depth charge very close
to the enemy. In that misty weather, with a rough sea and a fairly
strong breeze, it had been difficult to see any part of the U-boat’s
hull, for she had trimmed herself so as to have little buoyancy, and
only her conning-tower could be discerned. Below, in the Q-ship, the
engine-room staff found themselves up against difficulties; for it was
an awkward job repairing the leaking steam-pipe, as the cylinder tops
and the engine-room were full of live steam and lyddite fumes. The
chief artificer and a leading stoker were overcome by the fumes, but
the job was tackled so that steam could be kept up in the boilers.

A few months later _Salvia_ (alias Q 15) ended her career. Just before
seven o’clock on the morning of June 20, 1917, when in Lat. 52.15
N., Long. 16.18 W.—that is to say, well out in the Atlantic—she
was struck on the starboard side abreast the break of the poop by a
submarine’s torpedo. Troubles did not come singly, for this caused
the depth charge aft to explode by concussion, completely wrecking
the poop, blowing the 4-inch gun overboard, and putting the engines
totally out of action. Here was a nice predicament miles from the Irish
coast. At 7.15 a.m., as the after part of the ship was breaking up,
her captain sent away in the boats all the ship’s company except the
crews of the remaining guns and others required in case the ship should
be saved. The submarine now began to shell _Salvia_ heavily from long
range, taking care to keep directly astern. The shells fell close to
the boats, so these were rowed farther to the eastward. A shell then
struck the wheelhouse and started a fire, which spread rapidly to the
upper bridge. It was now time for the remainder of the crew to leave
in Carley rafts, and temporarily the submarine ceased fire; but when
one boat started to go back to the ship the enemy at once reopened his
attack. He then closed the rafts and took prisoner _Salvia’s_ captain,
who arrived safely in Germany, and was released at the end of the
war. At 9.15 a.m. the ship sank, and ten minutes later the submarine
disappeared. Thus _Salvia’s_ people were suddenly bereft of ship and
skipper, with the broad Atlantic to row about in, boisterous weather,
and a heavy sea. The boat which had endeavoured to return to the ship
then proceeded to search for the men in the Carley rafts, but could see
nothing of them. After about an hour this boat sighted what looked like
a tramp steamer, so hoisted sail and ran down to meet her. At 11.20
a.m. this steamer picked them up: she happened to be another disguised
sloop, the Q-ship _Aubrietia_, commanded by Admiral Marx, a gallant
admiral who had come back to sea from his retirement, and as Captain,
R.N.R., was now taking a hand in the great adventure. Search was then
made, and within two hours the men in the rafts were picked up, and
a little later the other three boat-loads were located: but five men
had been killed, three by the first explosion in _Salvia_ and two by
shell-fire. It had been a sad, difficult day.

In the Mediterranean the enemy was showing an increased caution against
likely decoys, and by the beginning of December, 1916, had already
sunk a couple of Q-ships. The Q-ship _Saros_ (Lieut.-Commander R. C.
C. Smart) was operating in this sea, and had an engagement on October
30, thirteen miles from Cape San Sebastian. The engine-room was ordered
to make smoke, as though the stokers were endeavouring to get the
utmost speed out of the ship: at the same time the engines were rung
down to ‘slow.’ But the enemy realized the ruse and slowed down, too.
Lieut.-Commander Smart endeavoured to make the enemy think a panic
had seized the ship. So the firemen off watch were sent below to put
on lifebelts and then to man the boats. Stewards ran about, placing
stores and blankets in the boats, but the enemy insisted on shelling,
so _Saros_ had to do the same, whereupon the submarine’s guns’ crews
made a bolt for the inside of the U-boat, and then made off. As soon
as she had got out of sight, _Saros_ changed her disguise, taking the
two white hands off the funnel, hoisting Spanish colours, and altering
course for the Spanish coast.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF
‘SAROS’ IN HER ACTION WITH SUBMARINE ON NOVEMBER 3, 1916.]

Three days later _Saros_ was returning to the Gibraltar-Malta shipping
track, heading for the Cani Rocks, after carrying out firing exercises.
At half-past four in the afternoon, the officer of the watch heard a
shot, and saw a submarine 7,000 yards off on the starboard beam. She
was not trimmed for diving, and was apparently trimmed to cruise like
this during the night on the surface. She seemed quite careless and
slow about her movements, evidently never suspecting _Saros’_ true
character. _Saros_ altered course towards the enemy, who was firing
all the time, one round exploding and falling on board and several
coming close over the bridge. The U-boat, after going on an opposite
course, very slowly turned to starboard to get on a parallel course,
and men were seen hoisting up ammunition on deck. The light was bad,
and it was becoming late, but _Saros_ had manœuvred to get the German
in a suitable position as regards the sun, so at 5,500 yards range
opened fire with her 4-inch and 12-pounder at 4.44 p.m. This shocked
the Teuton, so that the crew which had been sitting around smoking, and
apparently criticizing the old ‘merchantman,’ suddenly became active,
lowered the wireless masts and disappeared below. By the tenth round,
the enemy, who appeared to have been hit, dived, and at 4.50 p.m.
_Saros_ ceased fire. Course was then altered to where she had last been
seen, and just before turning, the enemy for a moment showed himself,
but as the gun-layer was ready the German disappeared, and then
artfully cruised about submerged, so as to get in a good position. She
was never seen again, but at 5.15 p.m. a torpedo passed just ahead of
the _Saros_, and thereafter the latter zigzagged at her utmost speed.
During the night there was a moon until midnight, and an anxious time
was spent. Owing to the amount of sea, _Saros_ was not doing more
than 8-1/2 knots, but no further attack took place. It had been one
able captain against another, and no actual result had been made. So
the warfare went on in the Mediterranean. _Baralong_, now called
_Wyandra_, who had been sent to the Mediterranean, had an engagement
earlier in the year with a submarine, on the evening of April 13, 1916,
and probably hit the enemy.

In the spring of 1917 three more Q-ships, Nos. 24, 25, and 26, had been
taken up to be fitted out and serve under Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly,
at Queenstown. These were respectively the _Laggan_ (alias _Pladda_),
_Paxton_ (alias _Lady Patricia_), and the _Mavis_ (alias _Nyroca_),
being small steamers of 1,200 or 1,300 tons, each armed with one 4-inch
and two 12-pounders. Q 18 (alias _Lady Olive_) had begun her work in
January. Now, of these four ships two had very short lives. On May 20
Q 25 was sunk in the Atlantic, her commanding officer and engineer
officer being taken prisoners by the submarine. Twenty-two survivors
were picked up by a trawler, and four were picked up by an American
steamer and taken to Manchester. Three officers and eight men were
found by the United States destroyer _Wadsworth_, who had arrived only
a few days before from America.

The fate of Q 18 was as follows: At 6.35, on the morning of February
19, 1917, she was at the western end of the English Channel, when she
was attacked by a submarine who was coming up from 3 miles astern
shelling her. After the usual panic party had been sent away and the
others had concealed themselves, the submarine came close under the
stern, evidently so as to read the ship’s name. At 7.10 _Lady Olive_
opened fire, the first two shots hitting the base of the conning-tower,
the other shot putting the enemy’s gun out of action and killing the
man at the gun, the range being only 100 yards. Six more effectual
shots were fired, the man in the conning-tower being also killed. The
submarine then submerged. Lieutenant F. A. Frank, R.N.R., the captain
of the Q-ship, now rang down for full speed ahead, with the intention
of dropping depth charges. No answer was made to his telegraph, so he
waited and rang again. Still no answer. He then left the bridge, went
below to the engine-room, and found it full of steam, with the sea
rising rapidly. Engine-room, stokehold, and the after ’tween deck were
filling up, the dynamo was out of action, it was impossible to use the
wireless, and the steam-pipe had burst owing to the enemy having landed
two shots into the engine-room.

As the ship was sinking, the only thing to do was to leave her. Boats
and rafts were provisioned, the steel chest, containing confidential
documents, was thrown overboard, the ship was this time _really_
abandoned in earnest, and all took to the three boats and two rafts at
9.30 a.m. Thus they proceeded in single line. Fortunately the weather
was fine, and Lieutenant Frank decided to make for the French coast,
which was to the southward, and an hour later he despatched an officer
and half a dozen hands in the small boat to seek for assistance. So
the day went on, but only the slowest progress was made. At 5 p.m.
Lieutenant Frank decided to leave the rafts and take the men into
the boats, as some were beginning to faint through immersion in the
cold February sea, and it was impossible to make headway towing those
ungainly floats with the strong tide setting them at this time towards
the Atlantic. The accommodation in each boat was for seventeen, but
twenty-three had been crowded into each.

With Lieutenant Frank’s boat leading, the two little craft pulled
towards the southward, and about 9 p.m. a light was sighted, but soon
lost through the mist and rain. An hour later another light showed up,
and about this time Lieutenant Frank lost sight of his other boat, but
at eleven o’clock a bright light was seen, evidently on the mainland,
and this was steered for. Mist and rain again obscured everything,
but by rowing through the night it was hoped to sight it by daylight.
Night, however, was followed by a hopeless dawn, for no land was
visible. It was heart-breaking after all these long hours. The men had
now become very tired and sleepy, and were feeling downhearted, as well
they might, with the cold, wet, and fatigue, and, to make matters no
better, the wind freshened from the south-west, and a nasty, curling
sea had got up. Lieutenant Frank put the boat’s head on to the sea,
did all he could to cheer his men up, and insisted that he could see
the land. Everyone did a turn at pulling, and the sub-lieutenant, the
sergeant-major of marines, the coxswain, and Lieutenant Frank each
steered by turns. Happily by noon of the twentieth the wind eased up,
the sea moderated, and Lieutenant Frank had a straight talk to his men,
telling them their only chance was to make the land, and to put their
hearts into getting there, for land in sight there was. Exhorting these
worn-out mariners to put their weight on to the oars, he reminded them
that everyone would do ‘spell about,’ for the land must be made that
night.

Every man of this forlorn boat-load buckled to and did his best,
but, owing to the crowded condition, and the weakness of them all,
progress was pathetically slow. Thus passed another morning and another
afternoon. But at 5.15 p.m. a steamer was sighted. Alas! she ignored
them and turned away to the westward, and apparently was not coming
near them. Then presently she was seen to alter course to the east,
and began to circle towards them. This was the French destroyer,
_Dunois_, who had seen a submarine actually following this English
rowing boat. The destroyer, which had to be handled smartly, came
alongside the boat, and shouted to the men to come aboard quickly, as
she feared she might lose the submarine. Here was rest at last; but,
just as the boat had got alongside, _Dunois_ again caught sight of the
Hun, had to leave the boat and begin circling round and firing on the
pest. At six o’clock the destroyer once more closed the boat, and got
sixteen of the men out, when she suddenly saw the U-boat, fired on her,
and went full speed ahead, the port propeller guard crashing against
the boat, so that it ripped out the latter’s starboard side.

There were still seven men in the boat, and it seemed as if they were
destined never to be rescued after their long vigil, and moreover the
boat was now nearly full of water. _Dunois_ came down again; some of
the Q-ship’s seven jumped into the water, the destroyer lowering her
cutter and picking up the rest. The submarine was not seen again;
the destroyer arrived safely in Cherbourg, where the Englishmen were
landed, and next morning they met a trawler with the crew of the second
cutter on board.

Such, then, were action and counter-action of Q-ship and submarine;
such were the hardships and suffering which our men were called upon
to endure when by bad luck, error of judgment, or superior cleverness
of the enemy, the combat ended unfavourably for the mystery ship. Not
all our contests were indecisive or victorious, and some of these
subsequent passages in open boats are most harrowing tales of the sea.
Men became hysterical, went mad, died, and had to be consigned to the
depths, after suffering the terrors of thirst, hunger, fatigue, and
prolonged suspense. It was a favourite ruse for the U-boat, having seen
the survivors row off, to remain in the vicinity until the rescuing
ship should come along, so that, whilst the latter was stopped and
getting the wretched victims on board, Fritz could, from the other
side, send her to the bottom with an easily-aimed torpedo. There can be
no doubt that, but for the smartness of _Dunois’_ captain, she, too,
would have suffered the fate of the Q-ship, and then neither British
nor French would have survived. It is such incidents as these which
make it impossible to forget our late enemies, even if some day we
forgive.



CHAPTER IX

THE SPLENDID ‘PENSHURST’


On November 9, 1915, the Admiralty, who had taken up the steamer
_Penshurst_ (1,191 gross tons), commissioned her at Longhope as a
Q-ship, her aliases being Q 7 and _Manford_. This inconspicuous-looking
vessel thus began a life far more adventurous than ever her designers
or builders had contemplated. Indeed, if we were to select the three
Q-ships which had the longest and most exciting career, we should
bracket _Penshurst_ with _Farnborough_ and _Baralong_.

The following incidents illustrate that no particular rule could be
laid down as to when a Q-ship could get in touch with the enemy. We
have seen that _Baralong_ set forth for a particular locality to
look for a definite submarine and found her. Other decoys searched
for submarines but never so much as sighted one; others, again, when
everything seemed quiet, suddenly found themselves torpedoed and
sinking. Others, too, had an engagement to-day, but their next fight
did not come until a year later. The case of _Penshurst_ is interesting
in that on two consecutive days she fought a submarine, but she is
further interesting as having been commanded by an officer who, with
Captain Gordon Campbell, will always remain the greatest of all Q-ship
captains.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF
‘PENSHURST’ IN HER ENGAGEMENT WITH SUBMARINE ON NOVEMBER 29, 1916.]

Commander F. H. Grenfell, R.N., was a retired officer who, like so many
others, had come back to the service after the outbreak of war. After
serving for a year in the 10th Cruiser Squadron as second-in-command
of _Cedric_, he was appointed to command _Penshurst_, cruised up and
down first off the north of Scotland, then off Ireland, and in the
English Channel for nearly a year without any luck. On November 29,
1916, a year after her advent into this special service, _Penshurst_,
who, with her three masts, low freeboard, and funnel aft, resembled
an oil-tanker, was steaming down the English Channel at 8 knots. The
time was 7.45 a.m., and her course was S. 81 W. (Mag.), her position
at this time being Lat. 49.45 N., Long. 4.40 W. She was definitely on
the look-out for a certain submarine which had been reported at 4.30
the previous afternoon in Lat. 50.03 N., Long. 3.38 W. As _Penshurst_
went jogging along, picture a smooth sea, a light south-west wind,
and the sun just rising. Fine on the port bow 7 miles away was the
British merchant steamer _Wileyside_, armed, as many ships were at this
time, defensively with one gun aft; while hull down on _Penshurst’s_
starboard bow was a sailing ship of sorts. Then, of a sudden, a small
object was sighted on the port beam against the glare of the horizon,
so that it was difficult to make out either its nature or its distance.
However, at 7.52 a.m. this was settled by the object firing a shot and
disclosing herself as a submarine. The shot fell 60 yards short, but a
few minutes later came another which passed over the mainmast without
hitting. The range was about five miles, but owing to the bad light
Captain Grenfell could not see whether the enemy was closing. In order
to induce her so to do, at 8 a.m. he altered course to N. 45 W.

This brought the enemy nearly astern, and at the same time _Penshurst_
slowed down to half speed. By this time the sun was above the horizon,
and the light was worse than before, but the submarine was apparently
altering course to cut off the _Wileyside_, and ignoring _Penshurst_.
Therefore, at 8.6 a.m. the latter altered course so as again to bring
the submarine abeam. This had the desired effect, for at 8.10 a.m.
the submarine fired a third shot, which fell about 200 yards short of
_Penshurst_, and this proved that Q-ship and submarine were closing.
Two minutes later _Penshurst_ stopped her engines and the usual ‘panic’
evolution was carried out, by which time the submarine had closed to
within 3,000 yards, and turned on a course parallel with the Q-ship,
reducing to slow speed and being just abaft the _Penshurst’s_ port beam
and silhouetted against the glare of the sun, three Germans being
seen standing in the conning-tower. In order to spin out the time,
the Q-ship’s boats were being turned out and lowered as clumsily as
possible, and now the U-boat sent along a couple more shots, one of
which fell over and the other short.

Thus far it had been a contest of brain, and Captain Grenfell had
succeeded in making the enemy conform to the British will. At 8.20
a.m., as there seemed no possibility of inducing the submarine to come
any closer, _Penshurst_ opened fire, but there was time to fire only
a couple of rounds from the 12-pounder and 6-pounder and three rounds
from the 3-pounder before the German hurriedly dived, for all three
guns had dropped their shots pretty close to the target. The shooting
had been done under difficult circumstances, for it was at a black spot
against a strong glare. When once the enemy submerged, _Penshurst_ went
full speed to the spot and dropped a depth charge, but the German had
escaped, and she would live to warn her sister submarines about the
Q-ship which had surprised her.

For this U-boat had had a careful look at _Penshurst_, and Captain
Grenfell could hardly hope to surprise the submarine again and bring
her to action, so he altered course to the eastward with the object of
intercepting another U-boat, whose presence had been reported at 11.15
that forenoon 5 miles north of Alderney. Very likely the submarine
with whom he had just been engaged would send out by her _telefunken_
wireless a full description of the Q-ship, so, as she steamed along,
_Penshurst_ now altered her appearance by painting herself a different
colour and by lowering the mizzen-mast during the night. Thus, when the
sun rose on November 30, on what was to be _Penshurst’s_ lucky day, she
seemed to be a totally different ship.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF
‘PENSHURST’ IN HER ACTION WITH SUBMARINE ON NOVEMBER 30, 1916.]

During the forenoon of November 30 we should have seen this transformed
_Penshurst_ going down Channel again well south of the Dorset chalk
cliffs. At noon she was in the position Lat. 50.11 N., Long. 2.31 W.
(see track chart), steering N. 89 W., when she intercepted a wireless
signal from the Weymouth-Guernsey S.S. _Ibex_ that a submarine had been
seen at 11.44 a.m. 20 miles N.W. of the Casquets; so the Q-ship altered
course towards this position, and at 1.50 p.m. the conning-tower
of a submarine was observed 5 miles to the southward, apparently
chasing a steamer to the westward. A few minutes later the German
turned eastward and then submerged. It was then that _Penshurst_ saw
a seaplane, which had come across the Channel from the Portland base,
fly over the submarine’s position and drop a bomb without effect. This
caused Captain Grenfell to reconstruct his plans, for it was hopeless
now to expect that the submarine would engage on the surface. On the
other hand, the Q-ship with her speed would be superior to this type
of submarine, which, when submerged, could not do better than 6 knots
at her maximum, but would probably be doing less than this. The weapon
should, therefore, be the depth charge, and not the gun. He decided to
co-operate with the seaplane, and ran down towards her.


[Illustration: Q SHIP “PENSHURST”

Showing bridge-screen dropped on port side and bridge gun ready for
action.

  To face p. 114]

It was necessary first to get in touch with the airman and explain who
the ship was, so at 2.22 p.m., being now in Lat. 50 N., Long. 2.48
W., Captain Grenfell stopped his engines, and after some attempts at
communication by signal, the seaplane alighted on the water alongside.
Captain Grenfell was thus able to arrange with the pilot to direct
the Q-ship and fire a signal-light when the ship should be over the
submarine; a depth charge could then be let go. But the best-laid
schemes of seamen and airmen sometimes went wrong: for, just after the
seaplane had risen into the air, she crashed on to the water, broke a
wing, knocked off her floats and began to sink. This was annoying at a
time when the Q-ship wanted to be thinking of nothing except the enemy;
but _Penshurst_ lowered her gig and rescued the airmen, then went
alongside the injured seaplane, grappled it, and was preparing to hoist
it on board when at 3.14 p.m. a shell dropped into the sea 200 yards
ahead of the ship. Other shots quickly followed, and then the submarine
was sighted about 6,000 yards on the port quarter. How the enemy must
have laughed as, through his periscope, he saw the aircraft which so
recently had been the aggressor, now a wreck! How certain a victim the
innocent-looking steamer seemed to him!

Captain Grenfell, by change of circumstances, had once more to modify
his plans, stop all salvage work, cast off the seaplane and swing in
his derrick, which was to have hoisted the latter in. The men in the
gig could not be left, and he was faced with two alternatives. Either
he could hoist the gig on the port quarter in full view of the enemy,
or he could tow her alongside to starboard, and risk her being seen. He
chose the latter, and at 3.24 p.m. proceeded on a south-westerly course
at slow speed. The submarine now came up right astern, so course had to
be altered gradually to keep the German on the port quarter and out of
sight of the gig.

Slowly the submarine overhauled the Q-ship, firing at intervals, and
at 4.12 p.m., when she was within 1,000 yards, _Penshurst_ stopped
her engines, the panic party ‘abandoned’ ship, and the two boat-loads
pulled away to starboard. The German now sheered out to port, swept
round on _Penshurst’s_ port beam, and passed close under the stern of
her with the object of securing the ship’s papers from the captain,
whom the enemy supposed to be in the boats. A party of Germans
would then have boarded the ship and sunk her with bombs. But these
intentions were suddenly frustrated at 4.26 p.m., when, the submarine
being on _Penshurst’s_ starboard quarter and all the latter’s guns
bearing, the British ship opened fire at the delightfully convenient
range of only 250 yards. This was the last thing the enemy was
expecting. No one was standing by her 8·8-centimetre gun forward of the
conning-tower, the attention of all the Germans on deck being directed
towards the Q-ship’s boats rowing about. Thus completely and utterly
surprised, the Germans never made any attempt to return the fire. The
second shot, fired from _Penshurst’s_ starboard 3-pounder, penetrated
right through into the engine-room and prevented the submarine from
submerging. At this ridiculous range the British guns were able to be
worked at their maximum rapidity, so that over eighty rounds were fired
and almost every shot took effect. Very soon the submarine’s hull was
fairly riddled with holes, and large parts of the conning-tower and
hull plating were blown away by the shells from the 12-pounder.


[Illustration: Q-SHIP “PENSHURST”

  This shows a dress rehearsal. The “panic party” are seen rowing away
  in one of the ship’s boats, the White Ensign is being hoisted on the
  foremast and the guns are about to open fire. In this picture she has
  her mizzen mast up.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “PENSHURST” AT SEA

  Seen with only two masts, the mizzen having been lowered. The crew’s
  washing is displayed as in a tramp steamer. The funnel has been
  painted a different colour. But behind the white wind screen on the
  lower bridge is a 6-pounder gun—one each side—which can fire from
  ahead to astern. Inside the boat on the main hatch just forward of
  the funnel is the dummy boat in which a 12-pounder is concealed. Two
  3-pounders are in the after deck-house. Depth charges were released
  through ports in the counter.

  To face p. 116]

After only ten minutes’ engagement the submarine foundered, bows
first, but not before _Penshurst’s_ boats had taken off the survivors
and also those who had leapt into the sea. These survivors included
Ober-Leutnant Erich Noodt, Leutnant Karl Bartel, Ingenieur-Aspirant
Eigler, and thirteen of the crew; but seven had been killed. Thus
perished UB 19, who had left Zeebrugge on November 22, having come via
the Straits of Dover. She was about 118 feet long, painted grey, had
the one gun, two periscopes, and had been built the year previous.
She was of the smaller class of submarines belonging to the Flanders
flotilla which operated for three weeks on end in the waters of the
English Channel, carrying only three torpedoes, one of which had
already been used to sink a Norwegian ship. It was learned from her
crew that her submerged speed was about 4 knots; so Captain Grenfell,
but for the accident to the sea-plane, would have been able to get
right over her and destroy her by depth charge.

Thus, at length, after a year of hard work, disappointment, and all
kinds of weather, Commander Grenfell, by his doggedness and downright
skill, had scored his first success. The King rewarded him with a
D.S.O., another officer received the D.S.C., and one of the crew the
D.S.M. The ship’s complement consisted of Commander Grenfell, three
temporary (acting) R.N.R. lieutenants, and one assistant paymaster,
who was engaged during the action in taking notes. The crew numbered
fifty-six, which included R.N.R. and R.N.V.R. ratings. The sum of
£1,000 was awarded to the ship, and, after the war, Lord Sterndale in
the Prize Court awarded a further sum as prize bounty.

The gallant _Penshurst_ had not long to wait for her next adventure.
December passed, and on January 14, 1917, there was another and newer
UB boat ready for her. It was ten minutes to four in the afternoon,
and the Q-ship was in Lat. 50.9 N., Long. 1.46 W.—that is to say,
between the Isle of Wight and Alderney, when she saw a submarine
heading towards her. Five minutes later, the German, when 3,000 yards
off, fired, but the shot fell short. The Q-ship then stopped her
engines, went to ‘panic’ stations, and sent away her boats with the
‘abandon ship’ party. _Penshurst_ then gradually fell off to port,
and lay with her head about W.N.W., bringing the submarine on the
starboard bow. Closing rapidly on this bearing, the UB boat kept firing
at intervals, and when about 700 yards off turned as though to cross
Captain Grenfell’s bows. The latter withheld his fire, thinking the
enemy was going round to the boats on the port quarter, and he would
be able to get her at close range. But the German stopped in this
position, exposing her broadside, and quickened her rate of fire,
hitting the steamer twice in succession. It was this kind of experience
which always tested the discipline and training of the Q-ship, as a
well-trained boxer can receive punishment without losing his temper,
knowing his chance will come presently.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF
‘PENSHURST’ IN HER ACTION WITH SUBMARINE ON JANUARY 14, 1917.]

The first hit broke an awning ridge-pole on _Penshurst’s_ bridge,
the second shell struck the angle of the lower bridge, severing
the engine-room telegraph connections and the pipe connecting the
hydraulic release gear, by means of which the depth charge aft could
be let go from the bridge. This shell also killed the gun-layer and
loading-number of the 6-pounder, wounding its breech-worker and the
signalman who was standing by to hoist the White Ensign. So at 4.24
p.m. _Penshurst_ opened fire, her first shot from the 12-pounder
hitting the base of the enemy’s conning-tower and causing a large
explosion, as though the ammunition had been exploded. Large parts of
the conning-tower were seen to be blown away, and a big volume of black
smoke arose. The second British shot from this gun hit the enemy a
little abaft the conning-tower and also visibly damaged the hull. The
starboard 3-pounder hit the lower part of the conning-tower at least
four times, and then the enemy sank by the stern. _Penshurst_ wanted to
make sure, so steamed ahead and dropped depth charges over her, then
picked up her boats and made for Portland, where she arrived at ten
o’clock that evening and sent her wounded to the Naval Hospital. It
had been another excellent day’s work, for UB 37, one of those modern
craft fitted with net-cutters forward for the purpose of cutting a
way through the Dover Straits barrage, had been definitely destroyed
without a single survivor. More rewards followed, and, later on, more
prize bounty.

_Penshurst_ resumed her cruising, and just about a month later she
was in the western approach to the English Channel, the exact date
being February 20, and the position Lat. 49.21 N., Long. 6.16 W. At
12.36 p.m. a German submarine rose to the surface, and a quarter of
an hour later began firing at a range of 3,000 yards. _Penshurst_
then ‘abandoned’ ship, and at 1.4 p.m. opened fire and scored a hit
with her 6-pounder. At 100 yards range the other guns came into
action, and the enemy was hit above the waterline in the centre of the
conning-tower and abaft this superstructure. She then submerged and was
depth-charged; yet this submarine, in spite of all this, was not sunk.
This again illustrated the statement already made that a submarine
could be severely holed and yet be able to get back home. A still more
illuminating example is to be found in the following incident.

Only two days had elapsed and _Penshurst_ was again busily engaged. It
was at 11.34 a.m., February 22, and the ship was off the south coast
of Ireland, the exact position being Lat. 51.56 N., Long. 6.46 W.
_Penshurst_ was steering S. 89 W. when she saw a submarine steering
west. The steam-ship therefore steamed at her utmost speed, but could
not get up to her, for we may as well mention that this was U 84, a
very up-to-date submarine which had a surface speed of 16 knots and
could do her 9 knots submerged for a whole hour. It is not to be
wondered, therefore, that she could run away from this slow steamer and
at 11.55 a.m. disappear. At this time there was in sight 8 miles away
H.M.S. _Alyssum_, one of Admiral Bayly’s sloops based on Queenstown,
who was escorting the large four-masted S.S. _Canadian_. As _Penshurst_
proceeded, she sighted at 12.18 p.m. a boat with men in it, these being
from the torpedoed sailing ship _Invercauld_, which had been sunk 22
miles S.E. of Mine Head, Ireland, that same day. A few minutes later
and _Penshurst_ observed the keel of this ship floating bottom up. At
12.35 the periscopes of U 84 were seen to emerge 400 yards on the port
beam, and the track of a torpedo making straight for the midships of
_Penshurst_. By at once starboarding the helm, disaster was avoided,
but the torpedo passed as close as 15 feet.


[Illustration: Q-SHIP “PENSHURST”

In this dummy boat mounted on the main hatch is seen hidden the
12-pounder gun. The sides of the boat were movable. The voice pipe from
the bridge to the two after guns was lashed to the derrick and thus
hidden from the enemy.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “PENSHURST”

This shows how the concealed 12-pounder gun could be brought into
action by removing the boat’s sides. The bow end of the boat has been
moved to the far side of the gun, where Captain Grenfell, attired in
his “mystery” rig of a master mariner, is seen standing. As will be
seen from the other photograph, the sides of the boat when in position
were a perfect fit. The coil of rope was intended to hide the gun’s
pedestal from observation by the enemy.

  To face p. 120]

The Q-ship then altered course to E. 1/2 S. as though running away,
and reduced to half speed to allow the enemy to come up. Boats were
turned out, the panic party stood by with lifebelts on, and just after
one o’clock, at 3,500 yards range, the U-boat opened fire, whereupon
the Q-ship ‘abandoned’ ship. Then the enemy closed to 1,500 yards on
the starboard bow, but cautiously submerged, and then, closely and
leisurely, inspected the ship from the periscope. Having done that,
and apparently been quite satisfied that this was no trap-ship, the
submarine emerged on the port quarter, 600 yards away and broadside on.
One German officer then came out of the conning-tower and two other
men looked out of the hatch. The first then shouted for the captain to
come alongside with the ship’s papers, but the British petty officer in
charge of the boat party, in order to gain valuable time, ingeniously
pretended not to understand. The German then repeated his order, so
the petty officer replied he would bring the boat round by the stern,
the intention, of course, secretly being for the purpose of affording
_Penshurst_ a clear range.

The petty officer’s crew had not rowed more than three strokes when
bang went _Penshurst’s_ guns, at which the German officer leapt through
the hatch of his conning-tower, a shot hitting the after part of
this superstructure just as the officer disappeared. Two more shells
got home in the centre, another hit the hull abaft the conning-tower
and burst, one holing the hull below the conning-tower’s base. The
submarine dived, but after a few minutes her bows came up out of the
water at a steep angle. Fire was then reopened at her, and one shot
was seen to go through her side, and then once more she submerged. Two
depth charges were dropped near the spot and exploded, and then again
the bows of the enemy broke surface at a steep angle, but 3,000 yards
to the westward. Next the after deck came to the surface, and all the
crew came out and lined the deck. _Penshurst_ resumed shelling, hit
her again, but U 84 now returned the fire. She was a big submarine,
230 feet long, armed with a 4·1-inch and a 22-pounder, and a dozen
torpedoes which could be fired from six tubes.

But now approached H.M.S. _Alyssum_ from the north and began to shell
the enemy, so that the latter made off to the southward. The speed of
_Penshurst_ was 8 knots—that is to say, about half that of the enemy.
Nor could the sloop overtake the latter, who, after being chased for
three hours, disappeared at 5.12 p.m. These sloops had been built
for mine-sweeping work, and not as anti-submarine ships, and it was
only because of the shortage of destroyers—thanks largely to the
demands in this respect by the Grand Fleet—that these single-screwed,
comparatively slow vessels were engaged on escort and patrol duties.

In this engagement between the Q-ship and submarine everything had
been done that could have been brought about by a most experienced,
skilful, and determined British officer. His guns had kept on hitting,
and yet the enemy had escaped. Fortunately we now know the story
from the enemy’s side, as an account of this incident was published
in the German Press, and bears out all that has been said above. The
German version mentions that U 84 took the British ship for a tank
steamer. This is not in the least surprising, for the _Penshurst_ was
one of those small ships with her engines aft just as you see in an
‘oil-tanker,’ and such a craft was sure enough bait for any submarine.
The Germans say the torpedo was fired at 765 yards range, and missed
because the British ship was going ‘faster than we supposed.’ The
Q-ship’s disguise was perfect, for it was not until she opened
fire that she was suspected of being a ‘trap.’ As to the latter’s
shelling, the German account admits that the superstructure abaft the
conning-tower was at once penetrated, and that hardly had the hatch
been closed than ‘there is a sharp report in the conning-tower, a
yellow flash, and explosive gases fill the air. A shell has penetrated
the side of the conning-tower and exploded inside.’ The result was
that one man was injured. She then dived, and at 65·6 feet they felt
the two depth charges, which made the boat tremble and put out some of
the electric lights. The forward hydroplane jammed, and this was the
reason she came to the surface at such a steep angle. The gyro compass,
the main rudder, the trimming pump, and all the control apparatus also
broke down. But what about the leaks made by the shells? These were
plugged, the tricolour flag of the French sailing ship _Bayonne_, which
they had sunk on February 17 in the English Channel, being also used
for that purpose.

The German account goes on to say this submarine was now compelled to
proceed on the surface and run away, and the numerous men then seen on
her deck were engaged in bringing up ammunition, ‘all the men who are
not occupied below’ being thus employed. The submarine at first took
_Alyssum_ for a destroyer, and certainly bow on she was not unlike
one. It needs little imagination to realize how narrowly the enemy had
escaped, and the moral effect which was made on the German crew. We
know now that a German petty officer was killed and an officer wounded.
It mattered little that the conning-tower was holed, for, as has been
already pointed out, this is not an essential part of the submarine’s
construction. By closing the hatch on deck no water could get down
into the hull from here; and the other holes being also plugged, U 84
could thus get back home by keeping out to sea during daylight hours,
avoiding our patrols, and passing headlands under cover of night.

A month later _Penshurst_ again fought a sharp action under Commander
Grenfell at the eastern end of the English Channel, the position being
in Lat. 50.28 N., Long. 0.12 W. In this engagement she did not sink the
enemy, but was herself badly damaged and so seriously holed that she
had to be towed to Portsmouth the following day. Here she underwent
a long refit, and then went forth to fight again and to fight, as
ever, splendidly. She had a new commanding officer, Lieutenant Cedric
Naylor, R.N.R., who had been second-in-command to Captain Grenfell, now
invalided ashore, and this lieutenant well maintained the traditions
of the Q-service, and added to the distinctions won by this wonderful
ship. Oft in danger, but always emerging from the tightest of corners,
leaving the enemy seriously wounded, the gallant _Penshurst_ carried
on.


[Illustration: THE GALLANT CAPTAIN AND OFFICERS OF Q-SHIP “PENSHURST”

From left to right: Paymaster-Lieut. W. R. Ashton, R.N.R.; Lieut. S. P.
R. White, R.N.R.; Sub-Lieut. J. R. Stenhouse, R.N.R. (in command of the
“Aurora” in Sir E. Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, 1914-15); Captain
F. H. Grenfell, R.N.; Lieut. C. Naylor, R.N.R. (First Lieut.); and
Lieut. W. S. Harrison, R.N.R. (Navigating Officer).]

[Illustration: MEN OF THE Q SHIP “PENSHURST”

The ship’s gunlayers and carpenter. The man in the centre wearing
service uniform was the gunlayer of the bridge 6-pounder who was killed
in the action of January 14, 1917. The others are wearing their Q-ship
“rig.”

  To face p. 124]

On July 2 she was steaming her 8 knots, as usual, and was in the
western approaches (Lat. 49.10 N., Long. 8.25 W.), when at 1.30 p.m. a
submarine was seen crossing the ship’s bows 6,000 yards away. She dived
and waited for _Penshurst_ to approach in the manner of attack outlined
in a previous chapter as being the tactics of a submarine. Then, after
a while, the periscope was sighted 500 yards away on the port beam, so
_Penshurst_, knowing a torpedo was imminent, waited, and, the torpedo
having been sent, altered course to avoid it, just missing by a matter
of 10 feet. The ship’s company then went to ‘panic’ stations and the
ship was ‘abandoned.’ At 3.35 p.m. the enemy came to the surface
5,000 yards away on the starboard quarter, at 3.39 p.m. opened fire
and continued until 4.13 p.m., when _Penshurst_ herself started firing
at 4,500 yards, succeeding in hitting the enemy sixteen times, and
undoubtedly seriously damaging him. The submarine managed to pass out
of range and was not sunk. Three destroyers now came on the scene and
gave chase, but the German got away. For this engagement Lieutenant
Naylor received the D.S.O.

In accordance with _Penshurst’s_ previous experience, not many weeks
elapsed before she was again in combat. It was the following August 19,
and she was cruising again in the western approaches. That morning a
steamship had sighted a submarine, and _Penshurst_, who was now in Lat.
47.45 N., Long. 8.35 W., was steering S. 50 W., doing 8 knots, when she
saw the enemy 6 miles ahead steering across the bows, evidently making
the ‘approach’ in his tactics. There was little north-west wind, a
moderate westerly swell, and the sky was clear, but there was a strong
glare from the sun. At 5.8 p.m. the enemy dived, and Lieutenant Naylor
estimated that she would probably attack with torpedo about 5.45 p.m.
Exactly at 5.44 a torpedo was observed to break water 1,000 yards from
the ship, 3 points on the starboard bow, just forward of the sun’s
rays. _Penshurst_ put her helm hard aport, and at 5.45 the torpedo
struck her—but fortunately it was only a glancing blow immediately
below the bridge. The smart handling of the ship had thus saved her
from being struck further aft, where the consequences would have been
even more serious. As it was, the explosion caused a high volume of
water to rise in such quantities that upper and lower bridges and after
deck were flooded, overwhelming the gun’s crew concealed there, and
filling the starboard boat hanging in the davits over 70 feet away from
the point of impact. Furthermore, it caused the ship to take a heavy
list to starboard so that the sea poured in over the bulwarks, and she
afterwards rolled to port, the water then pouring in on this side also.

Some of the crew were hurled with force against the ceiling of the
cabins, but perfect discipline still continued, as might well be
expected with such a well-tried crew. She had been torpedoed in No. 2
hold, the starboard side of the lower bridge had been stripped, and
unfortunately the 12-pounder there kept screened was thus exposed.
Unfortunately, too, the sides of the dummy boat amidships, which hid
another 12-pounder, were thrown down by the explosion, thus exposing
this gun, flooding the magazine, putting out of action all controls
from the bridge as well as the ship’s compasses and so on. What was to
be done now? Lieutenant Naylor wisely decided not to ‘abandon’ ship
since the guns had been disclosed; the ship could not be manœuvred so
as to hide this side, and the enemy would probably make another attack.
She was therefore kept under way, the steering gear was connected up
with the main steering engines, the wireless repaired, and at 5.58 a
general signal was sent out to H.M. ships requesting assistance.


[Illustration: FIG. 12.—THE HUMOROUS SIDE OF Q-SHIP WARFARE.

  This amusing sketch of _Penshurst_, by one of her officers, shows
  her being shelled by a submarine and the panic party in two boats
  rowing off. In the bows of each boat one of the crew is semaphoring.
  BILL (_in boat No. 1_): ‘’Arry!’ ’ARRY (_in boat No. 2_): ‘What?’
  BILL (_anxiously_): ‘Did yer make the tea afore we left ‘er?’ ’ARRY:
  ‘Nar!’ BILL (_much relieved_): ‘Good!’]

At five minutes past six the submarine showed herself on the port
quarter 6,000 yards away. This made things better, for if the enemy
had not already observed the exposed guns she could still be kept
in ignorance, as the sides of the false boat had in the meantime
been replaced in position. Therefore the 3-pounder on the top of the
gunhouse aft opened fire at 5,000 yards. This was quite a normal
happening, for many a small mercantile steamer was thus armed
defensively. The enemy replied, and at 6.21, as the latter showed no
intention of decreasing the range, _Penshurst_ opened fire with all
guns on the port side, and appeared to hit, so that at 6.24 the enemy
submerged. Meanwhile the _Penshurst_ was not under control and steamed
round in circles, but help was approaching, for at 6.50 p.m. H.M.S.
_Leonidas_ wirelessed saying she would reach _Penshurst_ at 7.30 p.m.
At 7.5 the submarine was 7 miles astern, waiting stationary to see
what would happen, but at 7.26 she dived on observing the approaching
destroyer. Nightfall came, and as the water was still gaining in
the Q-ship, all the men who could be spared were transferred to the
_Leonidas_. _Penshurst_ then shaped a course E.N.E. for Plymouth, and
next day at 1.30 p.m. was taken in tow by a tug which had been sent out
with two armed trawlers from the Scillies Naval Base. Thus, wounded yet
not beaten, she passed through Plymouth Sound, and on August 21 made
fast to a Devonport jetty, happily having suffered no casualties to any
of her personnel. Lieutenant Naylor received a bar to his D.S.O., the
ship had a thorough refit, and in place of a 12-pounder she was now
given a 4-inch gun, which would enable her to fight the 4·1-inch U-boat
gun on more equal terms.

Then, still commanded by Lieutenant Naylor, she went forth again. We
can pass over the intervening weeks and come to Christmas Eve, 1917. At
a time when most non-combatants ashore were about to take part in the
great festival, this most gallant ship, heroine of so many fights, was
in the direst straits. At midday she was approaching the southern end
of the Irish Sea, shaping a course to intercept a submarine operating
off the Smalls, when ten minutes later she sighted a U-boat two points
on the port bow, in Lat. 51.31 N., Long. 5.33 W., about 5 miles ahead,
steering at right angles to _Penshurst_ and beginning the ‘approach’ of
her attacking tactics. _Penshurst_ was making her usual 8 knots, and at
12.12 p.m. the enemy, as was expected, submerged. Although the Q-ship
zigzagged and tried to make the enemy break surface astern and attack
by gunfire, the German was too good at his own job, and at 1.31 p.m.
came the torpedo, fired from 300 yards away, half a point forward of
the port beam. Only the track of the torpedo was seen, the ship’s helm
was put hard aport, but the torpedo could not be avoided and struck the
ship between the boilers and engine-room.

Violent was the explosion, great was the damage, so that the ship
stopped dead and began to settle by the stern. The sides of the dummy
boat amidships had fallen down, thus exposing the midships 4-inch gun,
and the after gunhouse had also collapsed, revealing the guns here
placed, though the 12-pounder guns on the bridge remained intact and
concealed, with the guns’ crews close up and out of sight. The ship was
now ‘abandoned,’ and panic parties were sent away in the one remaining
boat and two rafts. The enemy, still submerged, proceeded to circle the
ship, inspect her closely, approach the boat and rafts, and then at
2.40 p.m. rose to the surface on the port bow 250 yards off and began
shelling _Penshurst_ with her after gun. The Q-ship was about to open
fire, but, owing to having settled down so much by the stern, the gun
there could not be sufficiently depressed to bear. It was only when
the ship rolled or pitched enough that advantage was taken of such
movement and the enemy fired at. Six rounds were fired, the second
hitting the submarine on the starboard side of the deck forward, the
fourth hitting abaft the conning-tower. The enemy dived, and at 3.47
p.m. reappeared on the starboard beam 5 miles away. But now one of H.M.
P-boats, those low-lying, specially constructed anti-submarine craft,
rather like a torpedo-boat, arrived on the scene, so that the submarine
was frightened away and not sighted again on that day, though she was
probably the one sunk by a P-boat on Christmas Day.

As for _Penshurst_, help had come too late. The crew were saved, but
the ship herself sank at 8.5 p.m. on December 24, 1917. Lieutenant
Cedric Naylor, who already possessed the decorations of D.S.O. and bar
and D.S.C., and had for his gallantry been transferred from R.N.R. to
the Royal Navy, now received a second bar to his D.S.O., and Lieutenant
E. Hutchison, R.N.R., received a D.S.O. Thus after two years of the
most strenuous service, full of honours, this _Penshurst_ ended
her glorious life as a man-of-war. Wounded, scar-stained, repaired
and refitted, her gallant crew, so splendidly trained by Captain
Grenfell, had kept taking her to sea along the lanes of enemy activity.
Insignificant to look at, when you passed her on patrol you would
never have guessed the amount of romance and history contained in her
hull. Naval history has no use for hysteria and for the sensational
exaggeration of ‘stunt’ journalism, but it is difficult to write calmly
of the great deeds performed in these most unheroic-looking ships.
To-day some Q-ship officers and men are walking about looking for jobs,
and there are not ships in commission to employ them. But yesterday
they were breaking the spirit of the U-boat personnel, risking their
lives to the uttermost limits in the endeavour to render ineffectual
the submarine blockade and the starvation of the nation.

Bravery such as we have seen in this and other chapters was greater
than even appears: for, having once revealed the identity of your ship
as a man-of-war, the wounded submarine would remember you, however
much you might disguise yourself; and the next time he returned, as
he usually did, to the same station, he would do his best to get you,
even if he spent hours and days over the effort. That officers and men
willingly, eagerly, went to sea in the same Q-ships, time after time,
when they might have obtained, and would certainly have deserved, a
less trying appointment afloat or ashore, is surely a positive proof
that we rightly pride ourselves on our British seamanhood. Through the
centuries we have bred and fostered and even discouraged this spirit.
In half-decked boats, in carracks, galleons, wooden walls, fishing
boats, lifeboats, pleasure craft; in steam, and steel-hulled motor,
cargo ships, in liner and tramp and small coaster, this seamanlike
character has been trained, developed, and kept alive, and now in the
Q-ship service it reaches its apotheosis. For all that is courageous,
enduring, and inspiring among the stories of the sea in any period, can
you beat it? Can you even equal it?



CHAPTER X

FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS


One of the great lessons of the Great War was the inter-relation of
international politics and warfare. It was an old lesson indeed, but
modern conditions emphasized it once more. We have already seen that
the torpedoing in 1915 of the Atlantic liners _Lusitania_ and _Arabic_
caused pressure to be put on the German Government by the United States
of America. In the spring of 1916 the submarine campaign, for the
Germans, was proceeding very satisfactorily. In February they had sunk
24,059 tons of British merchant shipping, in March they sank 83,492
tons, in April 120,540 tons; but in May this dropped suddenly to 42,165
tons. What was the reason for this sudden fall?

The answer is as follows: On March 24, 1916, the cross-Channel S.S.
_Sussex_ was torpedoed by a German submarine, and it happened that
many citizens of the U.S.A. were on board at the time and several were
killed. This again raised the question of relations between the U.S.A.
and Germany, the _New York World_ going so far as to ask, ‘Whether
anything is to be gained by maintaining any longer the ghastly pretence
of friendly diplomatic correspondence with a Power notoriously lacking
in truth and honour.’ On April 20, therefore, the U.S.A. presented
a very sharp note to the German Government, protesting against the
wrongfulness of the submarine campaign waged versus commerce, and
threatened to break off diplomatic relations. The result of this was
that Germany had to give way, and sent orders to her naval staff to
the effect that submarine warfare henceforth was to be carried on in
accordance with Prize Law: that is to say, the U-boats—so Admiral
Scheer interpreted it—were ‘to rise to the surface and stop ships,
examine papers, and all passengers and crew to leave the ship before
sinking her.’

Now this did not appeal to the German mind at all. ‘As war waged
according to Prize Law by U-boats,’ wrote Admiral Scheer,[3] ‘in the
waters around England could not possibly have any success, but, on the
contrary, must expose the boats to the greatest dangers, I recalled
all the U-boats by wireless, and announced that the U-boat campaign
against British commerce had ceased.’ Thus we find that after April
26 the sinkings of British merchant ships became low until they began
to increase in September, 1916, and then rapidly mounted up until in
April, 1917, they had reached their maximum for the whole war with
516,394 tons. It is to be noted that after May 8, until July 5, 1916,
no sinkings by U-boats occurred in home waters, although the sinkings
went on in the Mediterranean, where risk of collision with American
interests was less likely to occur.

Having regard to the increasing utility and efficiency of the Q-ships,
we can well understand Admiral Scheer’s objection to U-boats rising
to the surface, examining the ship’s papers, and allowing everyone to
leave the ship before sinking her. This was the recognized law, and
entirely within its rights the Q-ship made full use of this until she
hoisted the White Ensign and became suddenly a warship. It shows the
curious mental temper of the German that he would gamble only when he
had the dice loaded in his favour. He had his Q-ships, which, under
other names, endeavoured and indeed were able to pass through our
blockade, and go raiding round the world; but until his submarines
could go at it ruthlessly, he had not the same keenness. It was on
February 1, 1917, that his Unrestricted Submarine Campaign began,
and this was a convenient date, seeing that Germany had by this time
109 submarines. We know these facts beyond dispute, for a year after
the signing of Armistice Germany held a ‘General National Assembly
Committee of Inquiry’ into the war, and long accounts were published
in the Press. One of the most interesting witnesses was Admiral von
Capelle, who, in March, 1916, had succeeded von Tirpitz as Minister
of Marine; and from the former’s lips it was learned that one of the
main reasons why Germany in 1916 built so few submarines was the
Battle of Jutland; for the damage inflicted on the High Sea Fleet
necessitated taking workmen away from submarine construction to do
repairs on the big ships. The number and intensity of the minefields
laid by the British in German waters in that year caused Germany to
build many minesweepers to keep clear the harbour exits. This also,
he says, took men away from submarine building. It needed a couple of
years to build the larger U-boats and a year to build the smaller ones;
and though at the beginning of the Unrestricted Campaign in February,
1917, there were on paper 109 German submarines, and before the end
of the war, in spite of sinkings by Allied forces, the number even
averaged 127, yet there were never more than 76 actually in service
at one time, and frequently the number was half this amount. For the
Germans divided the seas up into so many stations, and for each station
five submarines were required, thus: one actually at work in the area,
one just relieved on her way home for rest and refit, a third on her
way out from refit to relieve number one, while two others were being
overhauled by dockyard hands. Geographically Germany was unfortunately
situated for attacking the shipping reaching the British Isles from the
Atlantic and Bay of Biscay. Before the submarines could get into the
Atlantic they had either to negotiate the Dover Straits or go round the
North of Scotland. The first was risky, especially for the bigger and
more valuable submarines, and during 1918 became even highly dangerous;
but the second, especially during the boisterous winter months, knocked
the submarines about to such an extent that they kept the dockyards
busier than otherwise.

All this variation of U-boat activity reacted on the rise, development,
and wane of the Q-ship. In the early part of 1917, when the submarine
campaign was at its height, the Q-ships were at the top of their
utility. It was no longer any hole-and-corner service, relying on a
few keen, ingenious brains at one or two naval bases, but became a
special department in the Admiralty, who selected the ships, arranged
for the requisite disguises, and chose the personnel. The menace
to the country’s food had by this time become so serious—a matter
of a very few weeks, as we have since learned, separated us from
starvation—that every anti-submarine method had to be carried out
with vigour, and at that time no method promised greater success than
these mystery ships. Altogether about 180 vessels of various sorts
were taken up and commissioned as Q-ships. Apart from the usual tramp
steamers and colliers and disguised trawlers, thirty-four sloops
and sixteen converted P-boats, named now ‘PQ’s,’ were equipped. The
P-boat, as mentioned on a previous page, was a low-lying craft rather
like a torpedo-boat; but her great feature was her underwater design.
She was so handy and had a special forefoot that if once she got near
to a submarine the latter would certainly be rammed; in one case the
P-boat went clean through the submarine’s hull. The next stage, then,
was to build a suitable superstructure on this handy hull, so that the
ship had all the appearance of a small merchant ship. Because of her
shallow, deceptive draught she was not likely to be torpedoed, whereas
her extreme mobility was very valuable.

In every port all over the country numerous passenger and tramp
steamers and sailing ships were inspected and found unsuitable owing
to their peculiar structure or the impossibility of effective disguise
combined with a sufficient bearing of the disguised guns. All this
meant a great deal of thought and inventive genius, the tonnage as
a rule ranging from 200 to 4,000, and the ships being sent to work
from Queenstown, Longhope, Peterhead, Granton, Lowestoft, Portsmouth,
Plymouth, Falmouth, Milford, Malta, and Gibraltar. And when you ask
what was the net result of these Q-ships, the whole answer cannot be
given in mere figures. Generally they greatly assisted the merchantman,
for it made the U-boat captain very cautious, and there are instances
where he desisted from attacking a real merchant ship for the reason
that something about her suggested a Q-ship. In over eighty cases
Q-ships damaged German submarines and thus sent them home licking their
wounds, anxious only to be left alone for a while. This accounts for
some of those instances when a merchant ship, on seeing a submarine
proceeding on the surface, was surprised to find that the German did
not attack. Thus the Q-ship had temporarily put a stop to sinkings by
that submarine. But apart from these indirect, yet no less valuable,
results, no fewer than eleven submarines were directly sent to their
doom of all the 203 German U-craft sunk during the war from various
causes, including mines and accidents.

But as time went on it became inevitable that the more a Q-ship
operated the more likely would she be recognized and the less useful
would be her work. By August, 1917, Q-ships were having a most
difficult time, and during that month alone six Q-ships were lost.
By September their success, broadly speaking, was on the wane. This,
however, does not mean that their service had ceased to be productive
or that they were no longer deemed worth while. On the contrary, as
we shall see presently, they were to perform more wonderful work, and
the number of Q-ships was actually increased, especially in respect
of sailing ships in home waters; but those which happened to make an
unsuccessful attack were at once ordered to return to their base and
alter both rig and disguise. Similarly, in the Mediterranean, where
the submarines were doing us so much harm, the number of Q-ships was
increased, and one was cleverly included in the outward-bound convoys,
to drop astern as soon as in the danger zone, after the manner of many
a lame-duck merchantman whose engines had caused him to straggle. Then
would come the Q-ship’s chance, when she revealed herself as a warship
and fooled the submarine from attacking the convoy, which had just
disappeared over the horizon in safety.

The converted ‘flower’ class sloops, originally built as minesweepers,
but by the able work of the naval dockyard staff now made to resemble
little merchantmen, were having a busy time. _Tulip_ (Q 12), for
instance, which had begun her Q-ship service at the end of August,
1916, was sunk eight months later by a submarine in the Atlantic and
her captain taken prisoner, though eighty survivors were picked up by
the British destroyer _Mary Rose_ and landed in Queenstown.[4] The
sloop _Viola_ began this special work towards the end of September,
1916, and a month later was shelled by a submarine, who suddenly gave
up the attack and made off to the northward, having evidently realized
the sloop’s disguise, which none but an expert seafarer could have
penetrated. Now, in each submarine there was usually carried as warrant
navigating officer a man who had served in German liners and freighters
and would be familiar with the shipping normally to be found in the
area to which each U-boat was assigned. In this particular incident
his practised eye had evidently been struck by the position of the
above-water discharge being vertically under the imitation cargo hatch
and derrick forward of the mainmast. These were important details which
had to be watched if the disguise was to be successful.


[Illustration: Q-SHIP “TULIP”

This vessel was originally built as a sloop, but was given a false
stern and generally altered to resemble a merchantman.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “TAMARISK”

Like the “Tulip,” this vessel was originally built as a warship. She
was cleverly altered so that both in hull and upperworks she resembled
a merchant steamer.

  To face p. 138]

Another converted sloop was _Tamarisk_, who began that rôle at the end
of July, 1916, and was commanded by Lieutenant John W. Williams, R.N.R.
Towards the end of November she was shelled by a submarine at long
range, so that the Q-ship had to declare herself and reply, whereupon
the enemy beat a retreat and dived. Hitherto the excellent Q-ship
gunnery had depended on the fact that first-class men had been selected
who would be able at short range to score hits with the first or second
rounds. But this incident of the _Tamarisk_, involving at least 6,000
yards range, showed that a small range-finder would be very useful, and
this was accordingly supplied. Other sloops thus converted to resemble
merchantmen were the _Begonia_, _Aubrietia_, _Salvia_, _Heather_, and
so on.

The Q-ships operated not merely in the North Atlantic, English Channel,
North Sea, and Mediterranean, but in such areas as off Lapland and the
other side of the North and South Atlantic. For instance, the S.S.
_Intaba_ (Q 2), under Commander Frank Powell, on December 8, 1916, was
in action with a submarine not far from the Kola Inlet, and had been
sent to these northern latitudes inasmuch as German submarines for
some time had been sinking our merchant ships off that coast. Another
Q-ship operated with a British E-class submarine near Madeira and the
Canaries; and another Q-ship was in the South Atlantic looking for a
German raider, At other times there were the ocean-going submarines
_Deutschland_ and _Bremen_ to be looked out for. There was thus plenty
of work to be carried out by these decoy vessels in almost every sea.

But it was especially those Q-ships based on Queenstown who had to
bear the brunt of the submarine warfare. Strategically, Queenstown
was an outpost of the British Isles, and there was scarcely a day in
the week when one Q-ship was not leaving or entering Queenstown, or in
the Haulbowline Dockyard being got ready for her next ‘hush’ cruise.
Bearing in mind that this base was in a country whose inhabitants
were largely anti-British, that there had been a great rising in
Dublin at Eastertide, 1916, and that the German disguised S.S. _Aud_
had made an ineffectual attempt to land a cargo of arms, and that
Sir Roger Casement had arrived, it may well be realized how great
was the responsible task of enshrouding these decoys in secrecy.
Perhaps for weeks a recently requisitioned ship would be alongside
the dockyard quay having her necessary disguises made, and yet the
enemy knew nothing about it until he found himself surprised, and
forced to keep at long range or hide himself in the depths of the sea.
Sound organization, constant personal attention on the part of the
Commander-in-Chief, and loyal, enthusiastic co-operation on the part
of the officers and men, achieved the successes which came to this
difficult work of Q-ships. It was all such a distinctly novel kind
of sea service, which was of too personal and particular a kind to
allow it to be run by mere routine. During the whole of its history
it was experimental, and each cruise, each engagement, almost each
captain added to the general body of knowledge which was being rapidly
accumulated. It seemed for the professional naval officer as if the
whole of his previous life and training had been capsized. Instead of
his smart, fast twin-screw destroyer, he found himself in command of an
awkward, single-screw, disreputable-looking tramp, too slow almost to
get out of her own way. On the other hand, officers of the Mercantile
Marine, fresh from handling freighters or liners, in whom throughout
all their lives had been instilled the maxim ‘Safety first,’ now found
they had to court risks, look for trouble, and pretend they were not
men-of-war. Q-ship work was, in fact, typical of the great upheaval
which had affected the whole world.

In some cases the transition was gradual. Some officers, having come
from other ships to command sloops, found their aspirations satisfied
not even in these ships, whose work went on unceasingly—escorting all
but the fastest Atlantic liners, patrolling, minesweeping, picking up
survivors or salvaging stricken ships, or whatever duty came along.
Transferring as volunteers from sloops to sloops rebuilt as Q-ships,
they had to forget a great deal and acquire much more. One of such
officers was Lieut.-Commander W. W. Hallwright, R.N., who, after doing
very fine work as captain of one of H.M. sloops based on Queenstown,
took over command of the disguised sloop _Heather_ (Q 16). One April
day in 1917, while cruising in the Atlantic about breakfast time,
_Heather_ was suddenly attacked by a submarine, whose sixth shot killed
this keen officer, a piece of shell passing through his head whilst he
was watching the movements of the German through a peep-hole on the
starboard side of the bridge. Lieutenant W. McLeod, R.N.R., then took
command, opened fire, but the submarine dived and made off as usual.

Other Q-ship captains perished, and that is all we know. On a certain
date the ship left harbour; perhaps a couple of days later she had
reported a certain incident in a certain position. After that, silence!
Neither the ship nor any officers or crew ever returned to port, and
one could but assume that the enemy had sent them to the bottom. In
spite of all this, the number of volunteers exceeded the demand. From
retired admirals downwards they competed with each other to get to sea
in Q-ships. Bored young officers from the Grand Fleet yearning for
something exciting; ex-mercantile officers, yachtsmen, and trawler men,
they used every possible means to become acceptable, and great was
their disappointment if they were not chosen.


[Footnote 3: ‘Germany’s High Sea Fleet in the World War,’ p. 242.]

[Footnote 4: _Tulip_ was sunk by U 62, whose captain reported that she
was a very well-disguised trap, having the appearance of a medium-sized
cargo steamer. Suspicion was aroused by the way the merchant flag was
hoisted, and the fact that she appeared to have no defensive gun.]



CHAPTER XI

THE GOOD SHIP ‘PRIZE’


In the summer of 1914 I happened to be on a yachting cruise in the
English Channel. In July we had seen the Grand Fleet, led by _Iron
Duke_, clear out from Weymouth Bay for Spithead. In single line ahead
the battle squadrons weighed and proceeded, then came the light
cruisers, and before the last of these had washed the last ounce
of dirt off her cable and steamed into position, the _Iron Duke_
and _Marlborough_ were hull down over the horizon: it was the most
wonderful sight I had ever witnessed at sea. A week or two later I had
arrived in Falmouth, the war had begun, and yachting came to a sudden
stop. One morning we found a new neighbour had arrived, a typical,
foreign-built, three-masted schooner, who had just been brought in and
anchored. She was destined to be an historic ship in more ways than
one. Actually, she was the first prize to be captured from Germany, and
it was a unique sight then to see the White Ensign flying over German
colours. Within four or five hours of declaration of war this craft had
been captured at the western entrance of the English Channel, and she
never became German again.

But she was to be historic in quite another way. Of all the splendid
little Q-ships during the war, not excepting even the _Mitchell_
mentioned in another chapter, no sailing craft attained such
distinction, and her captain will be remembered as long as British
naval history has any fascination. This German schooner was named the
_Else_, and had been built of steel and iron in 1901 at Westerbrock,
by the firm of Smit and Zoon, but registered at Leer, Germany. She was
112 feet 6 inches long, her net tonnage being 199. I can still see her
disconsolate German skipper standing aft, and it must have grieved
him that his ship was about to be taken from him for ever. For she
was afterwards put up for auction and sold to the Marine Navigation
Company, who, because of her experience already mentioned, changed her
name from _Else_ to _First Prize_. In November, 1916, she was lying in
Swansea, and as the Admiralty was looking out for a suitable vessel to
carry out decoy work after the manner of _Mitchell_ and _Helgoland_,
she was surveyed, found suitable, and requisitioned. A few weeks later
the Managing Director of the Company patriotically decided to waive all
payment for hire, and lent her to the Admiralty without remuneration.

By February, 1917, this auxiliary topsail schooner was ready for sea
as a disguised man-of-war, with a couple of 12-pounders cleverly
concealed on her deck. She had changed her name from _First Prize_
to _Prize_, alias Q 21, and in command of her went Lieutenant W. E.
Sanders, R.N.R., whom we saw behaving with distinction when serving in
the Q-sailing-ship _Helgoland_. No better man could have been found
than this plucky New Zealander, and he had already shown that he had
a genius for this extra special type of Q-ship work. _Prize_ had
been sent to work in the western waters, and on April 26, 1917, she
left Milford Haven for a cruise off the west coast of Ireland, this
being the month when, of all months in the war, German submarines
were the most successful. At 8.35 on the evening of April 30, _Prize_
was in Lat. 49.44 N., Long. 11.42 W. It was fine, clear, spring-like
weather, with a light N.N.E. wind, calm sea, and good visibility.
_Prize_ was under all sail, steering on a north-west course, and
making about 2 knots. Two miles away on her port beam, and steering a
parallel course, was sighted a big submarine. This was U 93, a most
modern craft, commanded by one of Germany’s ablest submarine officers,
Lieut.-Commander Freiherr von Spiegel. She was a powerful vessel,
who had relieved U 43 on this station, and was over 200 feet long,
armed with two 10·5-centimetre guns, 500 rounds of ammunition, and
18 torpedoes, her complement consisting of 37 officers and men. This
latest submarine was on her maiden trip in the Atlantic, having left
Emden on Friday, April 13. For those who are superstitious the day and
the date will be interesting. She had had a most successful cruise,
having sunk eleven merchantmen, and was now on her way back to Germany.
Von Spiegel was anxious to be back home as soon as possible, for, be it
said, he was certainly a sportsman, and he happened to have a couple of
horses running in the Berlin races in the second week of May.

The sighting of this little topsail schooner made him avaricious. He
had sunk eleven: why not make the number a round dozen? So, at 8.45
p.m., he altered course towards the _Prize_, and ordering on deck to
see the fun all his men who could be spared, he opened fire with both
guns. Lieutenant Sanders therefore brought _Prize_ into the wind, and
sent his panic party to row about. This party consisted of six men
in charge of Skipper Brewer, of the Trawler Reserve, who had been
intentionally visible on deck, and now launched their small boat. In
the meantime, at the sounding of the alarm, Lieutenant Sanders and
Skipper Meade (also of the Trawler Reserve) had concealed themselves
inside the steel companion-cover amidships, and the rest of the crew
were hiding under the protection of the bulwarks or crawling to their
respective stations. _Prize’s_ two guns were placed one forward,
concealed by a collapsible deckhouse, and one aft, on an ingenious
disappearing mounting under the hatchway covers of the after hold,
and she carried also a couple of Lewis guns. Lieutenant W. D. Beaton,
R.N.R., who was second in command of the ship, was in charge of the
gunnery forward, and lay at the foot of the foremast with his ear to a
voice-pipe which led back to where Lieutenant Sanders was conning the
ship.

The contest could not fail to be interesting, for it resolved itself
into a duel between one ‘star-turn’ artist and another. Neither was a
novice, both were resourceful, plucky men, and the incident is one of
the most picturesque engagements of all the Q-ship warfare. Taking it
for granted that this little trader out in the Atlantic was what she
appeared to be, von Spiegel closed. _Prize’s_ head had now fallen off
to the eastward, so the submarine followed her round, still punishing
her with his shells, to make sure the abandon-ship evolution had been
genuine. Two of these shells hit _Prize_ on her waterline—you will
remember she was built of iron and steel—penetrating and bursting
inside the hull. One of them put the auxiliary motor out of action and
wounded the motor mechanic: the other destroyed the wireless room and
wounded the operator. That was serious enough, but cabins and mess-room
were wrecked, the mainmast shot through in a couple of places, and the
ship now leaking. Such was the training, such was the discipline of
these men under their gallant New Zealand captain, that, in spite of
this nerve-wracking experience, they still continued to remain on deck,
immobile, unseen, until Lieutenant Sanders should give the longed-for
word. They could see nothing, they could not ease the mental strain by
watching the enemy’s manœuvres or inferring from what direction the
next shot—perhaps the last—would come. This knowledge was shared only
by Lieutenant Sanders and Skipper Meade as they peeped through the
slits of their lair. Several times Sanders crept from this place on
hands and knees along the deck, encouraging his men and impressing on
them the necessity of concealment.

Meanwhile, closer and closer drew the submarine, but the latter
elected to remain dead astern, and this was unfortunate, for not one
of _Prize’s_ guns would thus bear. Then there was a strange sound aft.
Everyone knows that the inboard end of a patent log fits into a small
slide, which is screwed down on to the taffrail of a ship. Suddenly
this slide was wrenched and splintered, for the enemy had got so
close astern that she had fouled and carried away the log-line in her
endeavour to make quite sure of her scrutiny. U 93 then, apparently
convinced that all was correct, sheered out a little and came up on the
schooner’s port quarter only 70 yards away, being about to send her
quickly to the bottom.

Thus had passed twenty long, terrible minutes of suspense on board
the Q-ship, and it was five minutes past nine. But patience, that
great virtue of the really brave, had at length been rewarded. Through
his steel slit Sanders could see that his guns would bear, so ‘Down
screens!’ ‘Open fire!’ and up went the White Ensign. Covers and false
deckhouses were suddenly collapsed, and the _Prize’s_ guns now returned
the fire, as the pent-up feelings of the crew were able to find their
outlet in fierce activity. But even as the White Ensign was being
hoisted, the submarine fired a couple more shots, and the schooner was
twice hit, wounding one of the crew who had rushed below to fetch from
the bottom of the ladder a Lewis gun. Von Spiegel was now evidently
very angered, for putting his helm hard aport he went full speed ahead
to ram the schooner, and with that fine bow he might have made a nasty
hole at the waterline, through which the sea would have poured like
a waterfall. But he realized that he was outside his turning circle,
so put his helm the other way and tried to make off. It was then that
a shell from the _Prize’s_ after gun struck the forward gun of the
submarine, blowing it to pieces, as well as the gun’s crew. The second
shot from the same British gun destroyed the conning-tower, and a
Lewis gun raked the rest of the men on the deck. The third shot from
_Prize’s_ after gun also hit so that she stopped, and as she sank shell
after shell hit, and the glare was seen as of a fire inside the hull.
At 9.9 p.m., after the _Prize_ had fired thirty-six rounds, the enemy
disappeared stern first. Lieutenant Sanders could not use his engines
as they were already out of action, and there was practically no wind,
so he could not go to the spot where she had last been seen.

The darkness was fast falling, and the panic party in the boat rowed
over the scene to search for any survivors, and picked up three. These
were Von Spiegel, the submarine’s captain, the navigating warrant
officer, and a stoker petty officer. Covered by Skipper Brewer’s
pistol, these were now taken on board the schooner. But _Prize_ herself
was in a bad way. Water was pouring through the shell-holes, and, in
spite of efforts to stop it, the sea was gaining all the time. Had it
not been calm, the vessel would certainly have gone to the bottom.
Von Spiegel, on coming aboard, offered his word of honour to make no
attempt to escape, and undertook that he and his men would render all
assistance. His parole being accepted, captors and captives set to work
to save the ship. There was a possibility that another submarine known
to be in the area would come along and finish off the sinking _Prize_,
so all had more than an interest in the proceedings.

As the ship was leaking so badly, the only thing to do was to list her.
This was done by swinging out the small boat on the davits filled with
water; by passing up from below both cables on deck and ranging them
on the starboard side; by shifting coal from port to starboard and by
emptying the port fresh-water tanks. By this means the shot-holes were
almost clear of the water, though the crew had to continue baling night
and day. Troubles never come singly. Here was this gallant little ship
lying out in the Atlantic night, crippled and becalmed. An attempt was
made to start the engines, but owing to sparks from the motor igniting
the oil which had escaped from a damaged tank, a fire broke out in the
engine-room. This was prevented from reaching the living quarters and
magazine, and was eventually put out. Meanwhile, the German navigating
warrant officer had dressed the wounds of _Prize’s_ wounded crew, and
now, at 11.45 p.m., _Prize’s_ wounded stoker petty officer, assisted by
the second motor-man and the German stoker petty officer, succeeded in
starting one engine, and course was shaped for the Irish coast, all
sail being set; but the nearest land was 120 miles to the north-east.

That night passed, and the next day, and the forenoon of the day
following; but on the afternoon of May 2 the Irish coast was sighted,
and _Prize_ was picked up 5 miles west of the Old Head of Kinsale by
H.M.M.L. 161 (Lieutenant Hannah, R.N.V.R.), who towed her into Kinsale,
where the wounded were disembarked. On May 4—that notable sunny
day when the first United States destroyers reached Queenstown from
America—_Prize_, still with her three German prisoners on board, left
Kinsale Harbour, towed by H.M. Drifter _Rival II._, who took her to
Milford. But on the way _Prize_ sighted a German mine-laying submarine
on the surface 2 miles away to the southward. The crew therefore went
to action stations, and for an hour the enemy steered on a parallel
course, but finally the latter drew ahead and disappeared. Arrived in
Milford the prisoners were taken ashore, and the _Prize_ at length came
to rest.

It has been told me by one who ought to know, that when Von Spiegel
came aboard _Prize_, after being picked up out of the water, he
remarked to Sanders: ‘The discipline in the German Navy is wonderful,
but that your men could have quietly endured our shelling without
reply is beyond all belief.’ Before leaving the _Prize_ he said
good-bye to Sanders and extended an invitation to stay with him on
his Schleswig-Holstein estate after the war. No one will deny the
extraordinary gallantry of _Prize’s_ crew and the heroic patience in
withholding their fire until the psychological moment, though the
temptation was very trying. To Lieutenant W. E. Sanders was awarded
the Victoria Cross, and he was promoted to the rank of Temporary
Lieut.-Commander, R.N.R. To Lieutenant W. D. Beaton, R.N.R., was
awarded a D.S.O.; the two skippers each received a D.S.C., and the rest
of the brave ship’s company the D.S.M.

But the ending of this story is yet to be told. U 93 was not sunk,
but got safely back to Germany! Von Spiegel had thought she was sunk,
and the crew of _Prize_ were not less certain. She had been holed
in her starboard ballast tank, in her starboard fuel tank, and her
conning-tower, and she was assuredly in a very bad way. If it had been
daylight she would most certainly have been finally destroyed; as it
was she was unable to dive, and escaped in the darkness deprived of
her wireless. Sub-Lieutenant Ziegler took over the command, with one
of his crew killed, three wounded, and three already taken prisoners.
With the utmost difficulty, and compelled to navigate all the time
on the surface, he managed to get his craft home. It was certainly a
fine achievement; the Kaiser was much impressed, and promoted him to
lieutenant. But, at the time, we in this country had never supposed
that any submarine could stand so much battering. It is interesting to
bear this incident in mind when reading other accounts in this book,
where it seemed so sure that the submarine must have been sunk: yet
the greatest care has been taken to verify every enemy submarine sunk,
and in each case the number has been given. But U 93 was doomed, and
had not much longer to live after her refit. Early in the following
January, one fine clear morning at a quarter past four, the time when
human nature is at its weakest and most collisions occur at sea, this
submarine was rammed by a steamer and sunk for the last time.

After her very necessary refit, Lieut.-Commander Sanders still remained
in the _Prize_. Admiral Jellicoe, First Sea Lord, had sent for him and
offered him command of another ship: he could have had a destroyer, a
P-boat, or any ship within reason, but his undaunted spirit, to which
Lord Jellicoe on arriving in New Zealand after the war paid such high
tribute, refused a safer appointment, and preferred to carry on. I have
been told by an officer who enjoyed Sanders’ friendship and confidence
at this time, that he went out to sea again with the consciousness that
before long he would have played the live-bait game too far, and that
the fish would get away with the bait. If that is true, then we must
admire Sanders still more for his heroism in his devotion to duty. It
is surely of this stuff that the great martyrs of Christendom have been
made.

On June 12, 1917—that is, six weeks after the previous incident, just
time enough to give leave to all the crew, get the ship refitted and
sailed to her new area—_Prize_ left Killybegs (Ireland) to cruise
to the westward of the Irish coast. At 11 a.m. on this day she was
under all sail on a N.N. W. course, doing not more than a knot through
the water, when she sighted a submarine 1-1/2 miles to the E.S.E.
proceeding slowly on the same course as _Prize_. The movements of
this submarine thereafter are worth noting. It is only reasonable to
suppose that on his return to Germany in U 93 Ziegler would give a
full description of the trap-ship which had so nearly destroyed him.
This information would, of course, be passed on to the other submarine
captains who frequented this Irish area, and we may be quite certain
that they would be on the look-out for her, anxious to revenge their
service. Now, in these modern times, and in any twenty-four hours, you
will see far more steamers of all sorts than 200-ton sailing craft: it
certainly was so during the war off the west and south-west coast of
Ireland. During the years I was on patrol there, with the exception
of quite small local fishing craft and an occasional full-rigged ship
making the land after her voyage across the Atlantic, one scarcely
ever sighted a sailing vessel of any kind. Ziegler would have reported
in effect: ‘Look out for a three-masted topsail schooner of about
200 tons. She has a bow like this..., her stern is like this..., and
her sheer is so.... You will probably find she has a dummy deckhouse
placed here...;’ and a rough sketch would afford his comrades a pretty
accurate idea. You cannot ever disguise the appearance of such a
sailing ship altogether, no matter what name you give her, nor what
colour you paint her hull. A three-masted topsail schooner is that
and nothing else, and would henceforth be regarded with the utmost
suspicion. Then, on comparing her with the sketch and examining her
with the eye of seamanlike experience, no astute submarine officer
could have had much doubt in his mind. A British officer who knew this
ship well has told me that in his opinion there was one small detail,
in respect of the wireless, which, to a careful observer, would always
give her character away. This may be so: at any rate, the following
incidents seem to indicate that the enemy were on the look-out for her
during the rest of her career, and persistently attacked her.

On the occasion of June 12, as soon as the submarine came to the
surface and opened fire, _Prize_ as usual, after the necessary
intentional bungling, sent away her boat, which took up a position half
a mile away on the starboard bow. The enemy kept on firing, and at
11.30 the schooner was hit twice, so three minutes later, as the enemy
was turning away to increase the range, Sanders ordered the screens to
be lowered, and opened fire from both starboard guns at 1,800 yards.
One shell seemed to hit, and the enemy immediately dived. But two hours
later a submarine was seen on the surface 4 miles away on the starboard
quarter, and remained in sight for a quarter of an hour. Then next
morning at 6.30 a submarine was sighted stopped, 1-1/2 miles ahead
on the surface. Five minutes later he dived, but came up after four
minutes 1,500 yards off on the starboard bow. At 6.43 he again dived,
and was not seen again. Probably each of these three appearances was
the same submarine. On the first he was repulsed, on the second he
would have a perfect opportunity of making a detailed sketch, on the
third he may have been intending to attack by torpedo, but the westerly
swell from the Atlantic possibly interfered with accurate firing. But,
apart from all surmise, it is absolutely evident that the enemy was
able to obtain a picture of the schooner, which beyond all doubt would
establish her identity on a future occasion. The importance of this
will presently be seen.

For this action of June 12 Lieut.-Commander Sanders was given a D.S.O.
to wear with his V.C. He had had a very trying time. When, at 11.30,
the German shells had hit, the falls of the port davit had been shot
away, and another shot had struck the ship on the starboard side
amidships just on the top of the sheer strake plate. This shell had
exploded and caused the ship to leak. Lieut.-Commander Sanders, who
was lying concealed between the mast and the hatch, put up his arms
to shield his face from the burst fragments and so received a piece
of shell in his right arm above the wrist. In addition, the force
of the explosion knocked him over and hurled him to the other side
of the deck, where he was picked up by Skipper Mead. In spite of the
pain and the shock, Sanders was just sufficiently conscious to give
the order ‘Action’ at 11.33, when screens were downed, White Ensign
run up, and fire was returned. The schooner came back to her base,
her gallant captain recovered from his wound, and two months later we
find her operating in the Atlantic again to the north-west of the N.W.
Irish coast. On this occasion she was cruising with one of our D-class
submarines, the idea being that when the enemy came along _Prize_ would
be attacked and heave-to in the customary manner, while the British
submarine would stealthily make for the enemy and torpedo him whilst,
so to speak, he was not looking.

On the forenoon of August 13, imagine this schooner with her
newly-painted black topsides and red boot-topping, flying the Swedish
flag and heading east. Suddenly UB 48 was sighted to the north, so
Sanders hove-to and signalled the British submarine that there was a
German submarine to port. Shells began to be fired from the enemy, who
closed. The British submarine saw the shots falling but could not see
the enemy until 4.10 p.m., when the German was descried to starboard of
the _Prize_. There was a considerable lop on at the time, and _Prize_
was seen with White Ensign flying at the peak, and her guns manned.
Five hours later the British submarine came to the surface and spoke
_Prize_, who stated that she had opened fire on the enemy at 200 yards,
and had hit him. This we now know from another source was perfectly
true, but the hits were not in a vital part of the German. During the
dark hours UB 48 bided his time, and at midnight fired two torpedoes,
the second of which hit, causing a terrific explosion, so that nothing
more was seen, and the good ship _Prize_, with her gallant captain and
all his brave men, ended her career after one of the most brilliant
periods that can be found in the records of sea achievement. UB 48 was
on her maiden voyage from Germany via the north of Scotland and N.W.
of Ireland to Cattaro in the Adriatic, where she arrived on September
2, sinking merchantmen on the way. This modern type of submarine, with
her 4·1-inch gun and her ten torpedoes, was a difficult craft to sink.
Her second officer had been taken from the German Mercantile Marine,
so we can assume that his critical eye would scrutinize the schooner
and detect something which convinced his captain that this was really
a trap-ship. That the submarine should have been content, whilst on a
long passage, to waste so many hours over a mere sailing craft of quite
small tonnage would have been doubtful; but the _Prize_ having once
shown her White Ensign and used her guns to effect decided the German
that she must be settled with after dark, when she would be a good
target in that August night. It was a fair fight, but the chances were
all in favour of the German, since it is practically impossible to see
a periscope at night, whereas the Q-ship’s sails would loom up and show
in which direction the target was heading; and, further, the submarine
had the advantage of mobility all the time.

The facts which have just been stated are authentic, and it is as well
that they should now be made known. Ignorance always breeds falsehood,
and after the loss of _Prize_ there were all sorts of wild stories
going about both in the Service and in the Mercantile Marine. Some of
them are too ghastly to be related, but a favourite version was that
the brave Sanders had been taken prisoner and lashed to the submarine’s
periscope, which then submerged and so drowned him. Another story,
which was very prevalent, was that he had been cruelly murdered. There
is not a word of truth in these suggestions. Lieut.-Commander Sanders
died as he would have wished, aboard his ship with his men. His body
rests in the Atlantic where the remains of his glorious _Prize_ sank:
but his memorial, unveiled by Lord Jellicoe as Governor of New Zealand,
will inspire generations who come after.

For dogged devotion to dangerous duty, for coolness in peril, for real
leadership of men, for tenacity in ‘sticking it,’ this hero among
those great and gallant gentlemen of the Q-ship service will remain
as a model of what a true British sailor should be. Had he lived, his
influence would have been tremendous, but by his refusing a safe billet
when he was fully entitled to it, and preferring deliberately to court
death because that way duty and honour pointed, his example should be a
great source of strength to every young apprentice beginning his life
in the Merchant Service, every midshipman of His Majesty’s Navy, and
every young man content to learn the lessons which are taught only by
the sea. On land, for their historic exploits at the Dardanelles and
in France we gratefully remember the Australians and New Zealanders.
It is fitting that one of the latter should have bequeathed to us such
distinction on the sea: it is characteristic of the great co-operation
when the children of the Empire flocked to help their mother in her
throes of the World War.



CHAPTER XII

SHIPS AND ADVENTURES


Independence of character is a great asset in any leader of men, but it
is an essential, basic virtue when a man finds himself in command of a
ship: without such an attribute he is dominated either by his officers,
his own emotions, or the vagaries of chance. In the case of a Q-ship
captain, this aloofness was raised to a greater degree of importance
by reason of the special nature of the work. Can you think of any
situation more solitary and lonely than this? There are, of course,
all kinds and conditions of loneliness. There is the loneliness of
the airman gliding through celestial heights; there is the loneliness
of the man in the crowd; there is the loneliness of the sentry, of
the hermit, of the administrator in the desert. But I can conceive of
nothing so solitary as the Q-ship captain lying alone on the planking
of his bridge, patiently waiting and watching through a slit in the
canvas the manœuvres of an artful U-boat.

Such a figure is morally and physically alone. He is the great brain
of the ship; at his word she is transformed from a tramp to a warship.
It is he who has to take the fateful, and perhaps fatal, decision;
and to none other can he depute this responsibility as long as life
lasts. Only a big character, strong and independent, can tackle such a
proposition. Alone, too, he is physically. Most of his men have left
the ship and are over there in the boats, sometimes visible on the
top of the wave, sometimes obliterated in the trough. The rest of his
crew are somewhere below the bridge, under the bulwarks, at their guns,
crouching out of sight. His officers are at their respective stations,
forward, aft, and amidships, connected to him by speaking-tubes, but
otherwise apart. He himself, arbiter of his own fate, his men, and his
ship, has to fight against a dozen contending impulses, and refuse
to be panic-stricken, hasty, or impetuous. This much is expected of
him; his crew are relying on him blindly, absolutely. However, by
long years of experience and moulding of character he has learnt the
power of concentration and of omitting from his imagination the awful
possibilities of failure. Before putting to sea, and whilst on patrol,
he has envisaged every conceivable circumstance and condition likely
to occur. He has mentally allowed for every move of the submarine, for
the wounding of his own ship: and he has had the ship’s action stations
thus worked out. Accidents will, of course, occur to spoil any routine,
though some of these, such as the breakdown of the wireless and the
bursting of a gun, or the jamming of a screen, may be foreseen and
allowed for.

But after all that could be prepared for has been done, there
always remains some awkward possibility which the wit of man can
never foresee. Take the incident of the Q-ship _Ravenstone_, which
was commissioned as a Q-ship on June 26, 1917, under the name of
_Donlevon_. A month later she was torpedoed one afternoon in the
Atlantic, 40 miles south of the Fastnet. Fortunately there were no
casualties, and fortunately, too, the ship did not straight away
founder. There was a heavy sea running, and she was soon down by
the head; but she was also prevented from using her engines, for the
torpedo had struck her in No. 2 hold, and the force of the explosion
had lifted and thrown overboard from the fore well-deck a 7-inch hemp
hawser. This had fallen into the sea, floated aft, and there fouled
the propeller so effectually that the ship could go neither ahead
nor astern. It was a most annoying predicament, but who could have
foreseen it? The submarine apparently ‘hopped it,’ for she made no
further attack, and one of Admiral Bayly’s sloops, H.M.S. _Camelia_,
stood by _Donlevon_, and from Berehaven arrived the tug _Flying Spray_,
who got her in tow. Another sloop, the _Myosotis_, had her in tow for
thirty-one hours, handling her so well in the heavy sea that, in spite
of _Donlevon_ being down by the head and steering like a mad thing,
she safely arrived in Queenstown, and was afterwards paid out of the
Service. Ten thousand pounds’ worth of damage had been done.

In the early summer of 1917, at a time when the United States Navy had
just begun to help us with their destroyers and the enemy was hoping
very shortly to bring us ‘to our knees,’ we had thirteen different
Q-ships based on Queenstown. There was the converted sloop _Aubrietia_,
commanded by Admiral Marx, M.V.O., D.S.O., who, in spite of his years,
had come back to the Service and accepted a commission as captain
R.N.R. For a time he was in command of H.M. armed yacht _Beryl_,
owned by Lord Inverclyde. From this command he transferred to the
more exciting work of decoying submarines, and it is amusing when one
thinks of an admiral pretending to be the skipper of a little tramp. Of
this thirteen there was Captain Grenfell’s _Penshurst_, about which
the reader has already been informed. Captain Gordon Campbell was in
_Pargust_, and Commander Leopold A. Bernays, C.M.G., was in _Vala_. The
latter was one of the most unusual personalities in a unique service.
Before the war he had left the Navy and gone to Canada, where he had
some pretty tough adventures. On the outbreak of war he joined up, and
crossed to England as a soldier, but managed to get transferred quite
early to a mine-sweeping trawler, where he did magnificent work month
after month; first in sweeping up the mine-field laid off Scarborough
at the time of the German raid, December, 1914, and afterwards in
clearing up the difficult Tory Island minefield, which had been laid by
_Berlin_ in October, 1914, but was not rendered safe for many months
afterwards. When in the summer of 1915 a British minesweeping force was
required for Northern Russia, Bernays was sent out with his trawlers.
Here, with his usual thoroughness and enthusiasm, he set to work, and
again performed most valuable service, and buoyed a safe channel for
the ships carrying munitions from England to voyage in safety.

But Bernays was no respecter of persons, especially of those who were
not keen on their job. With Russian dilatoriness and inefficiency,
and in particular with the Russian admiral, he soon found himself
exasperated beyond measure. His own trawlers were working in the most
strenuous fashion, whereas the Russians seemed only to be thwarting
instead of helping, and at any rate were not putting their full weight
into the contest. I do not know whether the yarn about Bernays in
exasperation pulling the beard of the overbearing Russian admiral is
true, but there was a big row, and Bernays came back to England,
though for his good work he received the coveted British order C.M.G.
After further minesweeping off the Scotch coast, where once more he
distinguished himself, he came to Queenstown to serve in his Q-ship.
Here he went about his job in his usual fearless manner, and on one
occasion had played a submarine as he used to play a fish. He had
slowed down, and the U-boat was coming nicely within range, when just
as everything was ready for the bait to be swallowed, up came a United
States destroyer at high speed to ‘rescue’ this ‘tramp.’ The submarine
was frightened away, and _Vala_ lost her fish. Then one day Bernays
took _Vala_ on another cruise. What happened exactly we do not know,
but evidently a submarine got her, and sank her without a trace, for
neither ship nor crew was ever heard of again.

Bernays was just the man for Q-ship work. He was one whom you would
describe as a ‘rough customer,’ who might have stepped out of a Wild
West cinema. A hard swearer in an acquired American accent, in port
also a hard drinker; but on going to sea he kept everything locked up,
and not even his officers were allowed to touch a drop till they got
back to harbour. The first time I met him was at 3 o’clock one bitterly
cold winter’s morning in Grimsby. It was blowing a gale of wind and
it was snowing. Some of his minesweepers had broken adrift and come
down on to the top of my craft, and were doing her no good. There was
nothing for it but to rouse Bernays. His way of handling men, and these
rough North Sea fishermen, was a revelation. It was a mixture of hard
Navy, Prussianism, and Canadian ‘get-to-hell-out-of-this-darned-hole.’
There was no coaxing in his voice; every syllable was a challenge to
a fight. On the forebridge of his trawler he used to keep a bucket
containing lumps of coal, and in giving an order would at times
accentuate his forcible and coloured words by heaving a lump at any of
his slow-thinking crew.

Having said all this, you may wonder there was never a mutiny; but
such a state of affairs was the last thing that could ever happen in
any of Bernays’ ships. From a weak man the crew would not have stood
this treatment a day, but they understood him, they respected him,
they loved him, and in his command of the English tongue they realized
that he was like unto themselves, but more adept. Follow him? They
followed him everywhere—through the North Sea, through Russian and
Irish minefields, and relied on him implicitly. And this regard was
mutual, for in spite of his rugged manner Bernays had a heart, and he
thought the world of his crew. I remember how pleased he was the day
he was ordered to go to the dangerous Tory Island minefield. ‘But I’m
not going without my old crew; they’re the very best in the world.’
Bernays, as an American officer once remarked, ‘certainly was some
tough proposition,’ but he knew no cowardice; he did his brave duty,
and he rests in a sailor’s grave.

Another of these thirteen was the converted sloop _Begonia_, commanded
by Lieut.-Commander Basil S. Noake, R.N., an officer of altogether
different temperament. Keen and able, yet courteous and gentle of
manner, tall, thin, and suffering somewhat from deafness, this gallant
officer, too, paid the great penalty. For _Begonia_ was destined to
have no ordinary career. Built as a minesweeping sloop, she carried
out escort and patrol work until one day she was holed, but managed
to get into Queenstown. Here she was repaired and transformed into a
decoy, with a counter added instead of her cruiser stern, and with
the addition of derricks and so on she was a very clever deception.
During one cruise she was evidently a victim to the enemy, for she
disappeared, too.

The remaining ships of this thirteen were the _Acton_ (Lieut.-Commander
C. N. Rolfe, R.N.), _Zylpha_ (Lieut.-Commander John K. McLeod,
R.N.), _Cullist_ (Lieut.-Commander S. H. Simpson, D.S.O., R.N.),
_Tamarisk_ (Lieut.-Commander John W. Williams, D.S.O., R.N.R.),
_Viola_ (Lieut.-Commander F. A. Frank, D.S.O., R.N.R.), _Salvia_
(Lieut.-Commander W. Olphert, D.S.O., D.S.C., R.N.R.), _Laggan_
(Lieutenant C. J. Alexander, R.N.R.), and _Heather_ (Lieutenant Harold
Auten, R.N.R.). In this list there is scarcely a name that did not
receive before the end of the war at least one D.S.O., while two of
them received the Victoria Cross.

_Acton_ had an indecisive duel with a submarine on August 20, 1917. It
was a fine day with a calm sea when the enemy was sighted, and on being
attacked _Acton_ abandoned ship. In order to make this doubly real,
fire-boxes were started in the well-deck, and steam leakage turned on,
which made the ship look as if she were on fire. The enemy inspected
the ship closely, so closely in fact that he actually collided with
_Acton_, shaking the latter fore and aft. But after he had come to the
surface and _Acton_ opened fire, hitting, loud shouts came from the
conning-tower, and he submerged, thus escaping. _Acton_ went on with
her work until the end of hostilities.

_Zylpha_ and _Cullist_ both had tragic ends to their careers. _Zylpha_
was a 2,917-ton steamer, built at Sunderland in 1894, and had been
commissioned as a Q-ship as far back as October, 1915. Early in June,
1917, she steamed along the south Irish coast and then out into the
Atlantic, as if bound for New York. On June 11, at 9.45 a.m., when
about 200 miles from the Irish coast, she was torpedoed by a submarine
that was never seen again, and totally disabled. Her engines had
stopped for the last time, and the sea had poured in, though her
closely-packed cargo of wood was at present keeping her afloat. Having
‘bleated’ with her wireless, one of the United States destroyers, based
on Queenstown, proceeded to her assistance. This was the _Warrington_,
and she stood by the ship for a whole twenty-four hours—from 2 p.m. of
the eleventh until 2.30 p.m. of the twelfth. By the time _Warrington_
had arrived _Zylpha’s_ engine-room and boiler-rooms were already awash,
Nos. 2 and 3 holds flooded, the wireless out of action, and one man
killed. The _Warrington_ kept patrolling round her, requested a tug by
wireless, and went on zigzagging through the long hours. By the evening
_Zylpha_ was in a bad way, and the Atlantic swell was seriously shaking
the bulkheads, but she was still afloat next morning. By this time the
_Warrington_, who had been some time on patrol, was running short of
oil, so, at 2.30 p.m., regretfully had to return to harbour for fuel.

This was a sad blow to the _Zylpha_ people, but whilst waiting for the
arrival of the U.S. destroyer _Drayton_ and two Queenstown tugs which
were being sent to her, _Zylpha_ actually made sail with what little
canvas she had, and made good at 1-1/2 knots. At noon of the fourteenth
she was picked up by H.M. sloop _Daffodil_, and was then taken in tow.
Next day, at 1 p.m., tugs reached her, but she could not last out
the night, and, after having been towed for most of 200 miles, she
gradually sank when quite near to the west coast, finally disappearing
at 11.20 p.m. near the Great Skelligs. So ended _Zylpha_.

_Cullist_ was commanded by an officer who had served a long time off
this coast in a sloop. Her real name was the _Westphalia_, but she was
also known as the _Jurassic_, _Hayling_, and _Prim_. She was of 1,030
gross tons, and in the spring of 1917 was lying at Calais, when she was
requisitioned and sent to Pembroke Naval Dockyard to be fitted out. She
was commissioned on May 12 by Lieut.-Commander Simpson, and Admiral
Bayly then sent her to cruise along certain trade routes. She was
capable of steaming about 10 knots, and was armed with a 4-inch and two
12-pounder guns, as well as a couple of torpedo-tubes, and all these
had been well concealed. A few weeks later, on July 13, _Cullist_ was
between the Irish and French coasts, and it was just after 1 p.m. when
a submarine appeared on the horizon.

About two minutes later the enemy from very long range opened fire,
but as his shots were falling about 3,000 yards short, he increased
speed towards the _Cullist_. By 1.30 a large merchant ship was seen
coming up from the south, so _Cullist_ hoisted the signal ‘You are
standing into danger,’ whereupon the big steamer altered course away.
_Cullist_ then zigzagged, keeping always between sun and enemy, and by
dropping eight smoke-boxes at various intervals succeeded in enticing
the submarine down to a range of 5,000 yards, a distance which was
maintained for the rest of the action. From 1.45 the enemy continually
straddled _Cullist_ so that the decks were wet with the splashes, and
shell splinters were rattling on masts and deck. By 2.7 the enemy
had fired sixty-eight rounds, but had not hit once. _Cullist_ now
decided to engage, and her third round was seen to hit just below the
submarine’s gun, the remainder hitting regularly along the deck and on
the conning-tower, causing bright red flames which rose higher than
the conning-tower. Three minutes after _Cullist_ had opened fire the
enemy sank by the bows in flames, and then the ship steamed to the spot
and dropped a depth charge. Three of _Cullist’s_ crew saw a corpse
dressed in blue dungarees, floating face upwards, but the submarine was
never seen again. By 3.30 H.M.S. _Christopher_ arrived on the scene
and both ships searched for the enemy. He was evidently seriously
damaged, but he had made his escape. Lieut.-Commander Simpson, for
this engagement, was awarded a D.S.O; Lieutenant G. Spencer, R.N.R., a
D.S.C.; Sub-Lieutenant G. H. D. Doubleday, R.N.R., also a D.S.C.; while
two other officers were ‘mentioned.’

_Cullist’s_ next adventure was on August 20 in the English Channel,
when she was shelled for most of two and a half hours at long range,
during which the submarine expended over eighty rounds with only one
hit. This, however, had penetrated the waterline of the stokehold,
injuring both firemen who happened to be on watch, and causing a large
rush of water into the stokehold. By plugging the hole and shoring it
up this defect was for the present made good. At 7.25 p.m., inasmuch as
the light was fading and the enemy declined to come nearer than 4,000
yards, _Cullist_ started shelling and seemed to make two direct hits on
the base of the conning-tower. This was enough for the German, who then
dived very rapidly and made off. _Cullist_ was practically uninjured,
for the only other hits on her had been that the port depth charge had
been struck with shell splinters and the patent log-line had been shot
away.

But on the eleventh of the following February a much more serious
attack was made, and this illustrates the statement that suddenly
without the slightest warning a Q-ship might find herself in the
twinkling of an eye changed from an efficient man-of-war into a mere
wreck. _Cullist_ at the time was steaming on a southerly course
down the Irish Sea, Kingstown Harbour being to the westward. The
officer of the watch and the look-out men were at their posts,
and Lieut.-Commander Simpson was walking up and down the deck.
Suddenly, from nowhere, the track of a torpedo was seen approaching,
and this struck the ship between the engine-room and No. 3 hold.
Lieut.-Commander Simpson was hurled into the air and came down on to
the edge of the deck with a very painful arm. Realizing the condition
of the _Cullist_, he ordered his men to abandon ship, but such was the
zeal of the crew in remaining at action stations until the last moment
that many of them were drowned: for in less than two minutes _Cullist_
had gone to the bottom. This part of the Irish Sea then consisted of
a number of Englishmen swimming about or keeping alive on a small
Carley float. The submarine when half a mile astern of where _Cullist_
sank, came to the surface and rapidly approached. Then she stopped,
picked up two men, inquired for the captain, examined survivors through
glasses, and having abused them by words and gestures, made off to
the southward. After swimming about for some time, Lieut.-Commander
Simpson was then pulled on to the Carley float, which is a special
kind of raft, very shallow, painted Navy grey, and usually supplied
with a paddle such as you find in a Canadian canoe. It was a bleak
February afternoon, and here were a few men able to keep from death by
joining hands on this crowded raft. As the hours went on, the usual
trying thirst assailed them and the fatal temptation to drink the
sea-water, but the captain wisely and sternly prevented this. How long
they would be left crowded in this ridiculous raft, cold and miserable,
no one knew: it was obvious that human strength could not last out
indefinitely.

But just as it was getting dusk, about 6 p.m., a trawler was seen.
Relief at last! Someone who held the Canadian paddle kept it high to
make it more easy for the trawler to recognize them. It was a patrol
trawler, for the gun was visible; in a few moments they would be
rescued. But just then these sopping-wet survivors were horrified to
see the trawler manning her gun and laying it on to the raft. What
hideous mistake was this? ‘Sing at the top of your voices.’ So they
sang ‘Tipperary’ with all the strength they had left. Then a slight
pause was followed by the trawler dismissing the gun’s crew and coming
towards them as quickly as her engines would go round. The survivors
were picked up and taken into Kingstown, where they landed about 10
p.m., and none too soon for some of them. By the time they were in
hospital they were almost done. But what was the trawler’s explanation?
She had sighted something in the half-light which resembled a
submarine, and on examining it again it still more resembled such a
craft. There was the conning-tower painted grey, and there was the
periscope too. It was only when the unmistakable sound of British
voices chanting ‘Tipperary’ reached their ears that they looked again
and found that the ‘periscope’ was the Canadian paddle, and the
‘conning-tower’ was the men linked together imposed on the grey Carley
float.

But it had been a near thing!

Even more varied was the career of the _Privet_ (alias _Island Queen_,
Q 19, _Swisher_, and _Alcala_). This was a small steamer of 803 tons,
which had begun her service in December, 1916, her captain being
Lieut.-Commander C. G. Matheson, R.N.R. On the following twelfth of
March she was on passage from Land’s End to Alderney, and was steaming
at 9 knots, when just before three in the afternoon a torpedo was seen
to pass under the ship at the engine-room. _Privet_ was presently
shelled by the submarine, who rose to the surface on the starboard
side aft, the first nine rounds hitting _Privet_ five times. One
of these rounds burst among the ‘abandon ship’ party, causing many
casualties and destroying the falls of both boats. _Privet’s_ hull
had been badly holed, and she was compelled to send out a wireless
S.O.S. signal, stating that her engines were disabled, but two minutes
later she opened fire with her port battery—she was armed with four
12-pounders—and during the first seven rounds the enemy received
punishment, being hit abreast the fore part of the conning-tower, and
twice well abaft the conning-tower. The German now tried to escape
by submerging, but evidently he found his hull leaking so badly that
he was seen trying to reach the surface again by using his engines
and hydroplanes. Thus _Privet_ managed to get in a couple more hits
and then the U-boat disappeared stern first at an angle of forty-five
degrees. _Privet_ in this manner had definitely sunk U 85, belonging to
the biggest U-class submarines, 230 feet long, armed with two guns and
twelve torpedoes. The whole incident, from the moment the torpedo was
fired to the destruction of the attacker, had covered forty minutes;
but now, ten minutes later, _Privet’s_ engine-room was reported to be
filling up with water owing to one of the enemy’s shells getting home.
Twenty minutes later the chief engineer reported that the water was now
over the plates and rising. Efforts were made to plug the hole with
hammocks and timber, but this was found impossible, and this small
ship, in spite of her victory, was in great peril. After another few
minutes the men and wounded were ordered into the lifeboat and skiff,
for the engine-room was full of water and the after bulkhead might give
way suddenly any minute. Half an hour later this actually happened, but
by this time the two British destroyers _Christopher_ and _Orestes_ had
arrived on the scene.

_Privet_ was in a pitiable condition, and, after throwing overboard
confidential books and rendering the depth charges safe, she was
finally abandoned, though she did not at once sink. In fact, an hour
and a half later she was still afloat; so Lieut.-Commander Matheson,
his officers, a seaman, and a working party from _Orestes_ went back
on board her, and within an hour _Orestes_ had begun to tow her
under great difficulties. However, everything went fairly well until
they were approaching Plymouth Sound, when _Privet’s_ last bulkheads
collapsed, and she started now to settle down quickly. This was rather
hard luck, having regard to what she had gone through, but there was no
mistake about it, she was sinking fast. Those in charge of her are to
be congratulated, for they were able just in time to get her into shoal
water, and she sank in only 4-1/2 fathoms opposite the Picklecomb Fort,
and that closed chapter one in her not uninteresting career.

From this position she was very soon raised, taken into Devonport, and
recommissioned at the end of April. Thus, having sunk a submarine and
herself being sunk, she returned to the same kind of work, and actually
succeeded in sinking another submarine on the night of November 8-9,
1918, this being the last to be destroyed before Armistice. The
incident occurred in the Mediterranean and the submarine was U 34.
Truly a remarkable career for such a small steamer, but a great tribute
to all those brains and hands who in the first instance fitted her out,
fought in her, got her into Plymouth Sound, salved her, fitted her out
again, took her to sea, and undauntedly vanquished the enemy once more!
In the whole realm of naval history there are not many ships that can
claim such a record against an enemy.

Another trying incident was that which occurred to the 1,295-ton
steamer _Mavis_ (alias Q 26 and _Nyroca_), armed with a 4-inch and two
12-pounders. This vessel had been fitted out at Devonport, her Merchant
Service cranes being landed and replaced by dummy derricks. The hatches
to her holds were plated over, access to the same being provided by
manholes. In order to give her the maximum chance should she ever be
torpedoed, she was ballasted with closely packed firewood; and only
those who have seen torpedoed ships carrying a cargo of timber can
realize for what a long time such an apparently sinking ship will keep
afloat, though necessarily deep in the water. I remember, during the
war, the case of a steamer torpedoed off Brow Head (south-west Ireland)
after she had just arrived from across the Atlantic. She was deserted
by her crew, the sea was over the floors of her upper-deck cabins, and
she was obviously a brute to steer in such an unseaworthy condition,
but with great difficulty and some patience we managed to tow her
into port, where, owing to her sinking condition, she drew so much
water that she touched the ground every low tide. But she was salved
and eventually patched up. It was her timber cargo which had kept her
afloat just long enough, and inasmuch as ship and freight were worth
no less than £250,000, this was more than worth while. So it was with
_Mavis_.

On the last day of May, 1917, under command of Commander Adrian Keyes,
R.N., this Q-ship had left Devonport to cruise in the Atlantic. At
6.45 a.m. on June 2 she sighted a ship’s lifeboat coming along under
sail and found it contained three men who were in a very exhausted
condition. These were the survivors from the Greek S.S. _N. Hadziaka_,
which had been torpedoed and sunk a little further to the westward.
This torpedoing had occurred in a heavy sea, and in lowering away the
boats, one of them had been smashed and the other swamped. The captain
and twenty-two men had clung to the wreckage when the German submarine
broke surface, approached, but made no attempt at rescue, and then went
away. For forty-eight hours these wretched men kept more or less alive
in the water and then gradually dropped off one by one until only three
remained. These then managed to patch one boat, upright her, bale her
out, and make sail. They had been sailing for ten hours during the
night when they had the good luck to be picked up by _Mavis_, having
been fifty-eight hours without food or water.

Having rescued them, _Mavis_ continued on her western course, but
after dark turned east, setting a course to pass 10 miles south of
the Lizard. During the following day she passed through considerable
wreckage. At 9.45 p.m. she was 20 miles south of the Wolf Rock when
a torpedo was seen to break surface 40 yards from the ship on the
starboard beam. It struck _Mavis_ abreast of the engine-room and
penetrated the side, so that the ship stopped at once, and both
engine-room and boiler-room were flooded. It was impossible to send out
a wireless call, as the emergency apparatus had been wrecked too, but
three rockets were fired and eventually the destroyer _Christopher_
came up, followed later by the trawler _Whitefriars_ and several tugs.
Then began the difficult and slow process of towing, and they got her
just inside Plymouth Sound, but by this time she was in such a crank
condition that it was feared she might capsize, so they managed to
beach her in Cawsand Bay on the west side of the Sound. It was her
ballast of firewood that had saved her from total loss, and for this
both British and Greeks must have felt more than thankful.


[Illustration: Q-SHIP “CANDYTUFT”

This Q-ship had the misfortune to be attacked by a submarine who
used torpedoes to blow both the bow and stern off the Q-ship. The
“Candytuft” was afterwards beached on the North African coast.

  To face p. 174]

Another incident, which well illustrates the risks run by these
Q-ships, is now to be related. Among those officers who had retired
from the Service and come back after the outbreak of war was Commander
W. O’G. Cochrane, R.N., who for part of the war was captain of one
of the sloops off the south of Ireland. In the spring of 1917 I well
remember the very excellent sport we had in company, but in separate
ships, exploring and destroying the mine-fields laid by the enemy
submarines right along the whole south coast from Cape Clear to the Old
Head of Kinsale. At the beginning of the following November, Commander
Cochrane left Devonport in command of the Q-ship _Candytuft_, together
with a convoy of merchant ships bound for Gibraltar. _Candytuft_ was
disguised to represent a tramp steamer, and on the eighth, when in
the vicinity of Cape St. Vincent, had an encounter with a submarine, in
which the usual tactics were employed. One of the enemy’s shells struck
the Q-ship’s bridge, exploding under the bunk in Captain Cochrane’s
cabin, wrecking the wireless and steering-gear. _Candytuft_ was able to
fire three shots, but the enemy disappeared, made off, and was never
seen by the Q-ship again.

After having been repaired at Gibraltar, _Candytuft_ left in company
with the merchant ship _Tremayne_ for Malta. This was on November
16. Two days later they were off Cap Sigli, when a torpedo crossed
_Tremayne’s_ bows, but struck _Candytuft_ on the starboard quarter,
entirely blowing off the ship’s stern and killing all the officers
excepting Captain Cochrane and Lieutenant Phillips, R.N.R., who was on
the bridge, but very badly wounding Lieutenant Errington, R.N.R.

With sound judgment and true unselfishness Captain Cochrane now ordered
_Tremayne_ to make for Bougie as fast as she could, and in the meantime
the Q-ship hoisted her foresail to assist the ship to drift inshore.
Most of the ship’s company were sent away in boats, only sufficient
being kept aboard to man the two 4-inch guns, and everyone kept out of
sight. Within half an hour a periscope was seen by Captain Cochrane,
concealed behind the bridge screens. A periscope is a poor target, but
it was fired at, though ineffectually. On came the torpedo, striking
_Candytuft_ just foreward of the bridge, completely wrecking the fore
part of the ship. This explosion wounded several men in a boat, covered
the bridge with coal barrows and other miscellaneous wreckage, blew a
leading-seaman overboard—happily he was picked up unhurt—blew Captain
Cochrane up also, but some of the falling wreckage struck him on the
head, knocked him back inboard, and left him staggering off the bridge.

Presently the ship gave a sudden jerk, and rid herself of her bow,
which now floated away and sank. _Candytuft_ drifted towards the
African shore, and after the captain and one of his crew had gallantly
closed the watertight door at the foreward end of the mess-deck, up to
their middles in water and working in almost complete darkness, with
tables and other articles washing about, it became time for these last
two to leave the ship. They were taken off by a French armed trawler
and landed at Bougie. _Candytuft_, minus bow and stern, drifted ashore
on to a sandy beach, and eventually the two 4-inch guns were salved.
Lieutenant Errington had died before reaching land, and the wounded
had to be left in hospital. But afterwards some of _Candytuft’s_ crew
went to sea in another Q-ship, and so the whole gallant story went on.
Ships may be torpedoed, but, like the soldiers, sailors never die. They
keep on ‘keeping on’ all the time, as a young seaman once was heard to
remark.

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “CANDYTUFT”

This shows some of the damage done by the enemy submarine’s torpedo.
She is lying beached and one of the guns is being salved and lowered
down the side.

  To face p. 176]



CHAPTER XIII

MORE SAILING-SHIP FIGHTS


If, in accordance with the delightful legend, Drake during the
recent war had heard the beating of his drum and had ‘quit the port
o’ Heaven,’ come back to life again in the service of his Sovereign
and country, he would assuredly have gone to sea in command of a
Q-sailing-ship. His would have been the Victoria Cross and D.S.O. with
bars, and we can see him bringing his much battered ship into Plymouth
Sound as did his spiritual descendants in the Great War. And yet, with
all the halo of his name, it is impossible to imagine that, great
seaman as he was, his deeds would be more valiant than those we are now
recording.

If we had, so to speak, put the clock back by the re-introduction
of the fighting sailing ship, it was an anachronism that was well
justified by results. More of these craft and various rigs were still
being taken up. In the spring of 1917 the topsail schooner _Dargle_ was
requisitioned, fitted out at Granton with a 4-inch and two 12-pounders,
and then sent to Lerwick, whence she operated. Similarly the ketch
_George L. Muir_ (alias _G. L. Munro_, _G.L.M._, and _Padre_), which
was accustomed to trade between Kirkwall and the Firth of Forth, was
chartered and armed with a 12-pounder.

On April 22, 1917, the 174-ton auxiliary barquentine _Gaelic_
(otherwise known as _Brig 11_, _Gobo_, and Q 22), which had been taken
up at the end of 1916, and was armed with a couple of 12-pounders, had
a very plucky fight. She had left Falmouth on the nineteenth under
the command of Lieutenant G. Irvine, R.N.R., and at 6.30 p.m. was now
48 miles south of the Old Head of Kinsale, steering S.E. under all
fore-and-aft sail. It was a fine, clear day, the sea was calm, there
was little wind, but the ship was making about 2 knots under sail and
starboard motor. It was a quiet Sunday evening: one of those gentle
spring days which came gladly to the Irish coast after the long nights
and continuous gales of the dark winter. The watch, consisting of four
men, were all aloft getting in the square sails, when one of them
hailed the deck that he could see a submarine about four points on the
starboard bow. She was distant about 5,000 yards to the southward and
steering to the N.W. at slow speed.

Hands were called down from aloft immediately, and action stations
sounded on the alarm gong. The enemy began the tactics of keeping
well away from the ship and firing shell after shell, of which six
hit the _Gaelic_, killing two of the deckhands and wounding four,
besides putting the port motor out of action and seriously damaging the
rigging. For a time both vessels maintained their respective courses,
and when the enemy was bearing a couple of points abaft _Gaelic’s_
starboard beam, the sailing ship unmasked her guns and opened fire. It
was now 6.50; the enemy had already fired twenty rounds, but as soon
as the attack was returned he altered course and despatched a torpedo
at 4,000 yards. This luckily _Gaelic_ was able to avoid in time by
starboarding her helm so that the torpedo missed by about 150 yards,
passing parallel along the starboard side. _Gaelic’s_ forward gun had
now fired three shots, but her fourth hit the submarine. By a piece
of bad luck, soon after this, the firing pin of the port forward gun
broke and the gun was temporarily out of action, so _Gaelic_ had to
be brought round until the starboard guns would bear. Thus the fight
went on until 7.20 p.m., when the enemy came round under port helm
and started to move slowly away to the S.W., still firing. Another
trouble now occurred in the barquentine. One of the shells had caused
the fresh-water tank on deck to leak. This water then came through a
hole in the deck on to the starboard engine, putting it out of action,
and so with both engines useless and no wind the unfortunate _Gaelic_
could not be manœuvred, though the guns continued to bear. Firing was
maintained and two more hits were scored on the German target. About
eight o’clock the submarine ceased fire, ported his helm, headed
towards the barquentine, and ten minutes later, the range being still
4,000 yards, _Gaelic_ hit him again. This was the end of the action,
each craft having fired about 110 rounds. It seems pretty certain
that though the submarine was not sunk she was badly knocked about,
for she broke off the engagement and dived. A hand was sent aloft who
reported that he could distinctly see the submarine below making to the
south-east. _Gaelic_ did her best to follow, but by this time darkness
was rapidly setting in, so with both motors useless, sails and rigging
also in a dreadful condition, she set a course for the Old Head of
Kinsale, and at daybreak, when 10 miles short of that landfall, was
picked up by H.M. sloop _Bluebell_ and towed into Queenstown. She was
then refitted and eventually went out to the Mediterranean, being based
on Gibraltar.

Allusion has been made in another chapter to the auxiliary schooner
_Glen_ (alias _Sidney_ and _Athos_), which began her special service
on April 5, 1917, under Lieutenant R. J. Turnbull, R.N.R. On May 17
she had a most successful duel, in which she managed to sink the small
UB 39, one of those submarines about 121 feet long, and possessing
extreme surface speed of 8-1/2 knots, which, armed with one gun and
four torpedoes, used to come out from Zeebrugge, negotiate the Dover
Straits—for which she was fitted with a net-cutter at the bows—and
then operate in the English Channel. The enemy’s gun was a 22-pounder;
_Glen_ carried a 12-pounder and a 3-pounder. It was six o’clock in the
evening, and _Glen_ was about 35 miles south of the Needles, steering
north-east, close hauled on the starboard tack, the wind being E. by
S., force 4. There was a moderate sea on, and the ship was bowling
along under all sail. Suddenly out of nowhere a shot was heard, and
five minutes later could be seen the flash of a second, and UB 39 was
sighted to the southward, 2-1/2 miles away. _Glen_ therefore backed
her fore-yard, and eased away all sheets, so as to check her way. The
submarine then ceased firing, but her captain must have been one of
those less experienced men, who were characteristic of the later stages
of the war, and did foolish things; for he was indiscreet enough in
this case to close schooner, who then ‘abandoned ship.’ On came the
German and submerged when 800 yards off until only her periscope and
part of her bridge dodger were showing. Still she approached until now
she was only 200 yards distant, steering a course parallel with the
schooner on the latter’s starboard side. All this happened so quickly
that the ‘panic party’ were just leaving the ship, when UB 39 rose to
the surface just abaft the schooner’s beam, and now only 80 yards off.
For such temerity the German, who must have been amazingly credulous,
paid with his life. Lieutenant Turnbull gave the order for ‘action,’
and within five seconds the first shot from the 12-pounder was fired,
which fell over the submarine abaft the conning-tower. The enemy was
evidently quite surprised, for the hatch in the conning-tower was now
opened, and there appeared the head and shoulders of a man who seemed
dazed, and as the second 12-pounder shell came bursting on the hull
under the conning-tower this man apparently fell back down the hatch.

The submarine now commenced to dive, and as the stern rose out of the
water the third and fourth shots from the same gun burst on the after
part of the hull in the middle line, the holes made by these three
shots being plainly visible to those in the schooner. The 3-pounder had
also come into action, and out of six rounds the second shot had hit
the hull on the water-line forward of the conning-tower, the third had
hit her on the water-line under the gun, the fourth and fifth bursting
on the after part of the hull just as she was sinking, and the sixth
bursting on the water as her stern disappeared. Badly holed, leaking
from all these holes, UB 39 listed over to port towards the schooner,
vanished from sight for evermore, and then a large quantity of oil and
bubbles came to the surface. There were no survivors.

Having definitely disposed of the enemy, it would be reasonable for
the crew of the _Glen_ to feel elated; but just as UB 39 was finally
disappearing, another submarine was seen approaching about 4,000 yards
off on the starboard bow. _Glen_ opened fire and the enemy submerged,
only to reappear about 600 yards away on the port bow. _Glen_ fired
once more, and next time the submarine appeared a few minutes later on
the port quarter 1,000 yards off. This was happening while the ‘panic
party’ were being got on board again, and thus there was every risk of
being torpedoed; but _Glen_ then proceeded on a northerly course under
sail and motor, and at 7.30 p.m. a very large submarine was observed 2
miles away on the starboard beam, heading in about the same direction.
After ten minutes this submarine opened fire, then turned to pass
astern, and continued firing with both her guns, which _Glen_ answered
with both of hers. About 8 p.m. the duel ceased; the enemy disappeared
to the west on the look-out evidently for a less obstinate ship. If
you examine the positions on the chart you will realize that the enemy
submarines were evidently concentrated in mid-Channel in order to
entrap shipping coming up and down and across the English Channel. They
were so placed as to cut the lines of communication to Cherbourg and at
the same time have a good chance of bagging some liner bound up along.

This concentration at important centres was noticeable during the
submarine campaign; in fact, but a few weeks later _Glen_ was again
engaged with an enemy in the same vicinity. This was on June 25, the
exact position was 14 miles S. by W. of St. Catherine’s Point, and
the schooner was sailing close hauled on the starboard tack, heading
S.W. by S., doing her 2 knots, when she sighted a vessel apparently
under sail on her port quarter 4 miles distant. Presently this vessel
fired at her, the shot falling 1,000 yards short. This, of course,
was a submarine, and it was a not unusual thing to attempt disguise
by this means; for obviously a low-lying craft on the surface viewed
from a distance would create suspicion. But, parenthetically, it may
be mentioned that this sail device was not always carried out with
common sense, and I remember on one occasion a submarine giving himself
hopelessly away by motoring at good speed in the eye of the wind with
his sail of course shaking wildly. Such an unseamanlike act was at
once spotted by the nearest patrol, and the submarine had to dive so
hurriedly that she left the sail on the water.

In the case of _Glen_ the recognition was obvious as soon as the first
shot was fired. Several minutes later came another, which fell only
60 yards short, so _Glen_ hove-to and ‘abandoned’ ship, the enemy
continuing to fire every few minutes, but the shots fell just over. Her
seventh and eighth shots fell much closer, in fact so near that their
splash flooded the schooner’s deck, and shell splinters struck the
sails and bulwarks. _Glen_ then opened fire with both guns, but this
was a more cautious submarine, who declined to approach nearer than
4,000 yards, fired three more rounds, then submerged and made off.

The activity of the submarines during this week in the neighbourhood
of Portland Bill was most noticeable. Submarines were also stationed
in the western approaches of the English Channel. The reason for this
is not hard to appreciate, for it was on June 26, the day after the
above engagement, that the first contingent of U.S.A. troops landed in
France on the western coast. Whether the transports would be bound up
Channel to Cherbourg or Southampton, the enemy submarines were lying
in wait ready for them. And it is significant that also on June 26 the
Q-sailing-ship _Gaelic_ sighted a submarine at the western entrance of
the English Channel and had a short duel with her.

On July 2 _Gaelic_ had another indecisive duel, and on the tenth _Glen_
(now commanded by Sub-Lieutenant K. Morris, R.N.R.) once more was in
action. This time she was further down Channel, about 45 miles S.W. of
Portland Bill. In this incident the enemy fired several rifle-shots
at the panic party rowing in the boat. An officer appeared at the
conning-tower presently, hailed this rowing boat, and in good English
ordered her to come alongside. The boat began to do so, but just then
something seemed suddenly to startle the officer, and he disappeared
into the conning-tower. _Glen_ opened fire, and the submarine—one of
the UC type—submerged. She was not sunk, but she had been damaged, and
Sub-Lieutenant Morris was awarded the D.S.C.

We saw just now that submarines were very fond of hanging about on
the approach to Cherbourg. There was a sound reason for this. The
coal-fields of France were in the hands of the enemy, consequently
it fell to us to keep France supplied. From February, 1917, a system
was organized which was the real beginning of the convoy method soon
afterwards adopted with such beneficial results to our shipping. This
embryonic organization was known as the ‘F.C.T.’—French Coal-Trade
Traffic. The ships would load coal up the Bristol Channel and then
sail independently round to Weymouth Bay. Having thus collected, they
were sailed across to Cherbourg together in a group, protection being
afforded by trawlers during daylight and moonlight hours only. As one
looked at this heterogeneous collection of craft, some of them of great
age, lying at anchor off Weymouth Harbour, they seemed distinctly a
curious lot; but there was a great dearth of shipping at that time, and
any old vessel that could carry coal and go ahead was worth her weight
in gold. The system was found most successful, and other group sailings
on definite routes, such as Falmouth-Brest and Dover-Dunkirk, were
instituted.

The next development was to have one or two Q-ships among the convoys,
for the most obvious of reasons, and especially well astern of the
convoy, so that the enemy might take them for stragglers and sink them
before any of the escort could turn back and help. Then came a still
further development, which had been in the minds of many naval officers
for a long time. Since there was such a scarcity of tonnage available
for general purposes, why not let the Q-ship, instead of carrying
ballast, be loaded with a proper cargo? She could easily carry this
without interfering with her fighting ability: in fact, she would be
trimmed more normally, and rather increase than decrease her power of
deception. As to the possibility of secrecy being lost whilst loading
in port, the armament was very cleverly concealed and only a little
organization was necessary to prevent her true character being bruited
about. The main difficulty would be when in the presence of neutral
shipping in that particular harbour, but this problem was capable of
solution.

Thus it happened now that in many cases the Q-ship became also a
trader. Be it noted, her character was not that of an armed merchant
ship which is armed only defensively, but a properly commissioned
warship carrying cargo as well as her offensive armament. Now, one of
these craft was the two-masted 179-ton brigantine _Probus_ (alias Q 30,
_Ready_, _Thirza_, _Elixir_). She had been purchased by the Admiralty
in 1915, and fitted with an auxiliary motor. Then, based on Granton,
she had worked as a decoy in the North Sea.

In May, 1917, having done excellent work as a pure decoy, we find her
as a decoy-trader. Having loaded up with coal at Granton, she left
there on May 4, and duly arrived at Treguier. From there she proceeded
to Swansea with a cargo of pit-props, which were much needed by the
Welsh coal mines, seeing that our customary supply from Scandinavia,
via the North Sea, was so endangered at that time. From Swansea
_Probus_, who was armed with two 12-pounders and two 6-pounders, sailed
round to Falmouth, and at 3.30 on the afternoon of June 20 she set sail
for Morlaix in company with twelve sailing ships and the one steamship
escort, the armed trawler _Harlech Castle_. Think of it in these modern
days: a dozen sailing vessels coming out past St. Anthony’s Lighthouse!
Truly this war has shown how history goes on repeating itself. Who
would have thought that sailing-ship convoys, which in other wars used
to assemble and leave Falmouth, would ever be witnessed again?

Now, to control a dozen sail you must have sea-room, so the convoy
was arranged thus: A mile ahead of the first sailing ship steamed the
trawler, then came the twelve ships spread over 3 miles, and then 4
miles astern of the last ship, and looking just as a straggler would
be, sailed the _Probus_. There was thus a distance of 8 miles between
her and the escort trawler. Most of a day passed before anything
occurred. At 2.15 p.m. on June 21 _Probus_, still astern of the convoy,
was about 23 miles south-west of the Start and heading on a course S.E.
by S. The wind was S.W., force 3, and she was doing about 4 knots
through the water, when she observed what appeared to be a ketch-rigged
vessel, steering the same course, 4 miles away on the starboard
quarter; but from the rapidity with which the bearing altered, it was
soon obvious that the ketch was not under sail alone. At 2.30 p.m.
the ‘ketch’ proved her submarine identity by opening fire, the first
shot falling 10 yards clear of the brigantine’s beam. _Probus_ then
hove-to, the crew went to action stations, and the boat was got ready
to be launched, while the submarine kept up a rapid fire from about
4,000 yards, shells falling unpleasantly close. By now _Probus_ was
heading about S.W. with fore-yards aback, and, owing to the light
wind, was making a stern board. Then her head fell round slowly to the
west. The enemy was now bearing about W. to W.S.W., firing rapidly,
and heading to the south-east so as to cross the brigantine’s bows.
It was a beautifully clear summer’s afternoon, and you could see the
convoy and the smoke from the escorting trawler quite easily. After the
submarine had maintained a continuous long-range fire for ten minutes,
_Probus_ ran up the White Ensign, and at 3,500 yards opened fire with
her starboard 12-pounder. The first round fell 500 yards short, but the
crew of the submarine’s gun hurriedly left their station and made for
the conning-tower. The second shot seemed to be a hit, for the enemy,
lying across the brigantine’s bows, stopped, and a large cloud of smoke
went up, and he temporarily ceased fire.

_Probus_ then went about on the other tack, and the enemy took
advantage of this to resume firing, while shots began to fall all
round; but the port 12-pounder of the British ship now came into
action, and the fourth shot was certainly another hit, for it
dismantled the German’s sails and mast, and raised a cloud of smoke
from the fore part of the conning-tower. Shelling continued, and the
enemy was compelled to submerge, _Probus’s_ parting shot hitting him
on the top of the conning-tower. It was now about 3.30 p.m., and
nothing was seen of the German until a quarter of an hour later, when
he was sighted 6 miles away approaching _Probus_. He had probably been
stopping his shell-holes, and was now ready to give the sailing ship
the knock-out blow; but the armed trawler, with its fishermen crew
eager to have a hand in the fight, was by this time making towards the
submarine, and this compelled the German to break off the engagement
and scurry to the north-east.

Unfortunately this duel demonstrated yet again the great weakness
of the sailing ship as a man-of-war. In the olden days, when the
swift-moving galley fought the sailing carrack or caravel, the galley
was able to press home her attack if the weather fell light, and left
the other ship rolling helpless in the calm, with yards and tackle
grievously creaking and chafing. The submarine is the modern galley,
and the Q-sailing-ship is the carrack’s counterpart. As long as there
was a good breeze she could be manœuvred, and if there was a hard
breeze it would make it difficult for the enemy’s gunnery. _Probus_
was practically becalmed, so the submarine could run rings round her,
and the sailing ship could not be worked up to windward. Of course,
on these and similar occasions troubles seldom come singly; for when
the brigantine _Probus_ made a stern board her starboard propeller
had fouled the log-line, so this was out of action. However, _Probus_
resumed her original course, followed the convoy, and in spite of the
light airs duly arrived at Morlaix on June 25.

[Illustration: Q-SAILING SHIP “FRESH HOPE”

This was a 900-ton three-masted schooner which was requisitioned in the
last year of the war. She had previously been the United States “Edith
E. Cummins.”]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “RECORD REIGN”

This apparently peaceful ketch was one of those armed mystery sailing
ships which came into service during the last year of the war.

  To face p. 188]

Although the submarine escaped, _Probus_ had succeeded in luring him
from the convoy, and had sent him right away. These sailing Q-ships
became, in fact, one of the best types of escort for other sailing
vessels in convoy, and thus allowed armed steam patrol vessels to
be employed elsewhere. Looking in no way different from the rest of
the convoy, but fitted with concealed wireless and, later, even with
howitzer armament, they had a much better chance than the armed trawler
or destroyer of enticing the submarine. Apart altogether from these
important considerations, the scheme of carrying freights was a big
financial success, and _Probus_ paid for herself over and over again.
It was nothing unusual for her to earn over £1,000 a month. Naturally
enough, then, we find other sailing ships being taken up for this dual
work. In November, 1917, the 900-ton three-masted fore-and-aft schooner
_Fresh Hope_, lying at Granton, was requisitioned. She had formerly
been the United States’ _Edith E. Cummins_, and in a fresh breeze could
log her 12 knots. Known also as the _Iroquois_, she was fitted out
and commissioned by the first week of April, 1918, and served until
the Armistice. Other sailing vessels were thus commissioned in 1918,
specially selected as being able to carry each at least one 4-inch and
two 12-pounders, and to be fitted with auxiliary engines. These were
the _Rentoul_, _Imogene_, _Viola_, _Cymric_, and _Elizabeth_. They were
actually armed with a 7·5-inch howitzer, in addition to the three guns
just mentioned. _Imogene_ was a barquentine, and had been carrying
china clay from Fowey to St. Malo. _Rentoul_ was also a barquentine,
_Viola_ was a schooner; _Cymric_ was a three-masted schooner.

By the end of September there were no fewer than nineteen decoy ships
which had been fitted out in the one port of Granton, and nine of
these were sailing ships. It will therefore be of interest to show how
in this month such vessels were being employed in their double capacity
of warship plus freighter. The barquentine _Merops_ was discharging a
cargo at Runcorn preparatory to loading coal for Cherbourg. The topsail
schooner _Dargle_ was discharging a cargo at Lerwick, and then loading
herrings for Farnborough. The _Fresh Hope_ was about to leave Liverpool
for Belfast, where she would load with cork ballast for Halifax, Nova
Scotia. The _Baron Rose_, another 900-ton schooner, was about to leave
Newcastle with cork ballast for Halifax also. The barquentine _Rentoul_
was on her way with coal to Cherbourg, the barquentine _Imogene_
was on her way with coal for Lerwick. The topsail schooner _Viola_
(alias _Vereker_) left Granton with coal for St. Valery-en-Caux. The
iron schooner _Cymric_ was taking coal from Granton to Cherbourg.
Another three-masted schooner was carrying coal from Granton to St.
Valery-en-Caux. In addition, there were a dozen steam craft from this
same port acting as Q-ships. In another part of the British Isles our
old friend _Helgoland_ had yet another fight with a submarine. This
was on July 11, 1917, in the neighbourhood of the Scillies, and this
was another occasion when two ships with sails shelled each other,
but unfortunately it was another of those calm days, and hazy. At the
outset the enemy’s shells passed over the _Helgoland’s_ fore-t’gallant
yard as the latter was just drifting with the tide. Then the motors
were started, and at 500 yards both guns and the Lewis guns gave the
submarine a warm time, so that she was seriously damaged and had to
escape by submerging.

[Illustration: Q-SAILING SHIP “RENTOUL”

This barquentine was commissioned as a Q-ship in March, 1918, was well
armed, but was also employed simultaneously in carrying coal to France.]

[Illustration: Q-SAILING SHIP “RENTOUL”

The crew of the 4-inch gun.

  To face p. 190]

Thus, all round our coasts, in the North Sea, English Channel, Irish
Sea, and Atlantic: from as far north as the Orkneys and Shetlands to
as far south as the Bay of Biscay, and as far west as the coast of
North America, these Q-sailing-ships were doing their job of work. The
fitting out, the manning of these craft and of their guns, put a great
strain on our manhood, already greatly diminished by the demands of our
Armies abroad and munition makers at home. Nor could the Navy proper
and the Auxiliary Patrol Force afford to be weakened. On the contrary,
destroyers and light cruisers were being built and commissioned at
a rapid rate: whilst more minesweepers, more trawlers and drifters,
were daily consuming scores of men. Add to this the fact that other
men as gunners were required in great numbers—for practically every
British merchant ship became defensively armed—and one can see how
important to our island nation and the overseas Empire is the existence
of peace-time shipping, with all that it connotes—steamships, liners,
tramps, colliers, trawlers, drifters, yachts, fishing smacks, it does
not matter. From all these, and from the few full-rigged ships and
sailing coasters, we had to draw our supplies of personnel, and it
still takes longer to train a man into a sailor than into a military
unit.

Never before, not even in Armada days, and probably never again, could
such a call come from the fleet in being to the fleet of merchantmen.
The sailing ship has had many centuries of usefulness as a fighting
ship and a cargo carrier, and if she is being gradually killed by the
mechanical ship she is dying hard. Apparently in neither capacity has
she quite finished her fascinating and illustrious history.



CHAPTER XIV

THE SUMMIT OF Q-SHIP SERVICE


It was on February 17, 1917, that Commander Gordon Campbell, still
in command of _Farnborough_, now named Q 5, again sank a submarine,
but in circumstances which, hid from publication at the time, sent a
thrill through the British Navy and especially among those who had the
good fortune to be serving in that area. The scene was again off the
south-west Irish coast, and the enemy at the beginning of the month
had commenced the unrestricted warfare portion of their submarine
campaign. The Germans, as we have since learned, possessed at this
date ninety-five submarines in addition to eight in the Baltic and
thirty-one in the Mediterranean. The orders to their submarine captains
were very drastic and left no uncertainty, and one of these commanding
officers informed one of my friends after the war that unless they were
successful in sinking plenty of shipping they soon were removed from
their command.


[Illustration: THE MASTER OF THE COLLIER “FARNBOROUGH”

Commander Gordon Campbell, V.C., D.S.O., R.N., taken on the bridge of
the “Farnborough” (Q-5), disguised as a master mariner.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “FARNBOROUGH”

The above picture shows her just as she appeared when she destroyed the
U-83. The position of the after gun’s crew can just be seen abaft of
where the sea is breaking over the stern.

  To face p. 192]

Every Allied merchant ship was to be attacked without delay. ‘This form
of warfare is to force England to make peace and thereby to decide
the whole war. _Energetic_ action is required, but above all rapidity
of action.’ ‘Our object is to cut England off from traffic by sea,
and not to achieve occasional results at far-distant points. As far
as possible, therefore, stations must be taken up near the English
coast, where routes converge and where divergence becomes impossible.’
If ever there was a chance of attacking by night, this was to be done.
When a ship had been abandoned by her crew the submarine was to sink
her by gunfire, and approach the ship from aft. Owing to the activity
of the British Q-ships, every ship, even sailing vessels, should be
suspected, and both captain and engineer of merchant ships were to be
taken prisoners.

Of the above numbers of submarines available this month not less than
twenty-five and not more than forty-four could actually be at work on
any given date, for the reasons given in another chapter. The first
stages of this unrestricted warfare were most marked, for whereas
the number of merchant ships sunk by submarines in all waters during
December and January had been respectively thirty-six and thirty-five,
in February the total suddenly rose to eighty-six—these sinkings
occurring in the western approaches, especially off the south coast
of Ireland. On February 14 the sailing ship _Eudora_ (1,991 tons) had
been sunk 30 miles S.S.W. of the Fastnet, and three days later the
S.S. _Iolo_ 40 miles S. by W. of the Fastnet, so orders from Germany
were being carried out to the letter. The seventeenth of February was
the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, and Captain Campbell had taken
_Farnborough_ into the locality just mentioned, the exact position
being Lat. 51.34 N., Long. 11.23 W. It was a quarter to ten in the
forenoon and the steamer was steering an easterly course at 7 knots,
when a torpedo was seen approaching. And then occurred a supreme
instance of Q-ship bravery. In his Order Book Captain Campbell had laid
it down that ‘Should the Officer of the Watch see a torpedo coming, he
is to increase or decrease speed as necessary to ensure it hitting.’
This order was read and signed by all his officers, so that there could
be no misunderstanding. The intention was deliberate, premeditated
self-immolation for the greater object of fooling the submarine and
then sinking him. The Q-ship’s company had all been warned that the
intention would be thus, and every man was given an opportunity to
leave the ship before sailing. Not one man left. Therefore to-day, when
a long way off the torpedo was seen approaching, it could easily have
been avoided, but instead, the helm was put hard aport only at the last
minute, and only so that it should strike the ship elsewhere than in
the engine-room. On came the steel fish and struck the ship abreast
of No. 3 hold, wounding an Engineer Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., causing a
terrific explosion, and making a huge hole in the ship’s side.

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “FARNBOROUGH”

With White Ensign still flying, after her arrival at Berehaven in a
sinking condition.

  To face p. 194]

In the meantime ‘Action’ had been sounded and all hands went to their
stations, the ship being abandoned by every available man with the
exception of those required on board. Thus two lifeboats and one dinghy
full of men were sent to row about, and the fourth boat was partially
lowered. Captain Campbell was lying concealed at one end of the bridge,
watching and waiting in his great isolation. Up through the voice-pipe
came the chief engineer’s report that the engine-room was filling: back
came the captain’s orders that he was to hang on as long as possible
and then hide. This was done. In the meantime _Farnborough’s_ captain
saw the submarine appear on the starboard quarter a couple of hundred
yards away, submerged, but cautiously making a thorough scrutiny of the
ship through his periscope. Then the German—U 83 was her name—came
past the ship on the starboard side only 13 yards away and about 5
yards from the boats. She was so close, in fact, that Captain Campbell,
looking down, could see the whole shape of the submarine below the
water quite distinctly.

Here was the big crisis. Was this the psychological moment? Was this
the right time to make the final gamble? For Captain Campbell the
temptation to open fire was almost unbearable, yet the opportunity was
not yet: he must wait a little longer and live minutes which were like
days. The submarine passed along, then close round _Farnborough’s_
bows, finally breaking surface about 300 yards on the port bow. It was
now five minutes past ten and U 83 motoring along the surface came
past the port side, continuing the scrutiny with less caution born
of satisfaction. The concealed figure on _Farnborough’s_ bridge was
waiting only until all his guns would bear, and as soon as the enemy
thus bore came the great onslaught. It was point-blank range, and the
6-pounder opened the battle, whose first shot hit the conning-tower and
beheaded the German captain.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.—‘FARNBOROUGH’S’ FAREWELL.

  When Q 5 (_Farnborough_) had succeeded in sinking U 83, but was
  herself in a sinking condition and apparently doomed, Captain
  Campbell despatched the above wireless signal to Vice-Admiral Sir
  Lewis Bayly, Commander-in-Chief, Queenstown. It was one of the
  most pathetic and dramatic messages which ever flashed out of the
  Atlantic, but happily Q 5 was salved.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “FARNBOROUGH”

Brought safely into Berehaven after her famous fight and beached in
Mill Cove, with a heavy list.]

[Illustration: S.S. “LODORER”

Having served magnificently as a warship under the names of
“Farnborough” and Q-5, and having been salved, this ship is here seen
ready to be returned to her owners.

  To face p. 196]

The surprise had been instant and effective, for the submarine
never recovered from the shock, but remained on the surface whilst
_Farnborough’s_ guns shattered the hull to pieces, the conning-tower
being continually hit, and some of the shells going clean through.
Over forty rounds had thus been fired, to say nothing of the Maxim
gun. U 83 was beaten, finished, smashed: and she finally sank with her
conning-tower open and her crew pouring out. About eight of her crew
were seen in the water, and one of _Farnborough’s_ lifeboats went to
their assistance and was in time to pick up one officer and one man,
and then rowed back to the ship through sea thick with oil and blood
and bubbles. U 83 was satisfactorily disposed of, but what about the
decoy ship herself? It was now time to inspect her, and she was clearly
in a stricken state. The engine-room and boiler-rooms and both Nos.
3 and 4 after holds were all filling rapidly, and she was sinking by
the stern: the end could not be far away. Captain Campbell therefore
sent a wireless signal for assistance and placed nearly all his hands
in the boats, keeping only a few men on board, and destroying all
confidential books and charts. His signal was picked up, and before
noon a British destroyer arrived, and as by this time _Farnborough_ was
in a critical condition most of the crew were transferred to her.[5]
Presently H.M. sloop _Buttercup_ steamed up, and as there seemed a
chance of saving the ship Captain Campbell with twelve officers and men
then went back on board his ship. She seemed now to have settled to a
definite position, and the water, though rising, was gaining but slowly.

At length _Buttercup_ got her in tow, but there is nothing so hard
to steer as a sinking ship, and the tow parted. At 5 p.m. the sloop
again got her in tow, but it was a disappointing business with the
water steadily gaining below and the Atlantic swell breaking over the
after deck, and thus the ships went on through the night. At 2 a.m. on
the Sunday _Farnborough_ suddenly took an alarming list and the water
gained rapidly, so the crew had to be ordered into the boats once
again. The sloop _Laburnum_, which had also arrived, was ordered to
close her an hour and a half later, but just as Captain Campbell was
walking aft off went one of the depth charges with such an explosion
that _Buttercup_, thinking it was a submarine’s torpedo, slipped her
tow. After remaining aboard _Laburnum_ until daylight, Captain Campbell
went back to his ship, and then _Laburnum_ got her in tow. A course
had been set for Bantry Bay, and as she approached she was an amazing
spectacle, listing over to the extent of twenty degrees and her stern
nearly 8 feet under water. However, the armed trawler _Luneda_ and
the tug _Flying Sportsman_ had been sent out to her, and by their
assistance she was brought up the fjord and beached at Mill Cove,
Berehaven, by half-past nine that Sunday night. Next morning, and for
long after, this very ordinary-looking steamer lay among a number of
other wounded ships, a strange and impressive sight. _Farnborough_ had
fought both submarine and adversity, and had won both times: still, had
it not been for sound seamanship and her holds being packed with timber
she would never have been saved.

There was much work to be done and there were too few salvage experts
and men to cope with the results of the submarines’ attacks: so for
the present _Farnborough_ had to remain idle. Months later she was
repaired temporarily, refloated, taken away from Berehaven and properly
reconditioned, but she had ended her days as a warship. She has now
gone back to the Merchant Service as a cargo carrier, and if you ever
go aboard her you will find a suitable inscription commemorating her
truly wonderful career. As for Commander Campbell, as soon as he
had got his ship safely into Berehaven he was summoned to see his
Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly. After that he was received
by the King, who conferred on him the highest of all awards for heroes.
No details appeared in the Press; only this announcement from the
_London Gazette_:

‘The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the grant of
the Victoria Cross to Commander Gordon Campbell, D.S.O., R.N., in
recognition of his conspicuous gallantry, consummate coolness and skill
in command of one of His Majesty’s ships in action.’

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “PARGUST”

One of Captain Gordon Campbell’s famous commands.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “SARAH JONES”

This craft did not come into the service until about three months
before the end of the war. Her alias was “Margaret Murray.”

  To face p. 198]

Press and public were greatly puzzled, but secrecy was at this time
essential. ‘This,’ commented a well-known London daily, ‘is probably
the first time since the institution of the V.C. that the bestowal of
this coveted honour has been announced without details of the deed for
which it was awarded.’ The popular press named him ‘the Mystery V.C.,’
and the usual crop of rumours and fantastic stories went round. And
while these were being told the gallant commander was busy fitting
out another Q-ship in which to go forth and make his greatest of all
achievements.

This ship was the S.S. _Vittoria_, a collier of 2,817 gross tons. She
was selected whilst lying at Cardiff, whence she was sent to Devonport
to be fitted out as a decoy. Commander Campbell superintended her
alteration, and she began her special service on March 28, 1917. She
was armed with one 4-inch, four 12-pounders, two Maxim guns, and a
couple of 14-inch torpedo tubes. She was a slow creature, 7-1/2 knots
being her speed, but she looked the part she was intended to play. When
Commander Campbell took over the command he was accompanied by his
gallant crew from _Farnborough_. She had been fitted with wireless,
and down in her holds the useful timber had been stowed. On leaving
Devonport she changed her name to _Pargust_, but she was variously
known also as the _Snail_, _Friswell_, and _Pangloss_ at later dates.

She again came under the orders of Sir Lewis Bayly at Queenstown, and
then, being in all respects ready to fight another submarine, _Pargust_
went cruising. She had not long to wait, and on June 7 we find her
out in the Atlantic again, not very far from the scene of her last
encounter. The month of April had been a terrible one for British
shipping; no fewer than 155 of our merchant craft had been sunk by
submarines, representing a loss of over half a million of tonnage.
In May these figures had dropped slightly, but in June they were up
again, though in no month of the war did our losses ever reach the
peak of April again. Nor was it only British ships that so suffered,
and I recollect the U.S.S. _Cushing_ two days previously bringing into
Bantry Bay thirteen survivors, including three wounded, from an Italian
barque. At this time, too, the enemy submarines were laying a number of
dangerous minefields off this part of the world, and as one patrolled
along the south-west Irish coast pieces of wreckage, a meat-safe or a
seaman’s chest, would be seen floating from some victimized steamer.

On the morning, then, of the seventh, picture _Pargust_ in Lat. 51.50
N., Long. 11.50 W., jogging along at her slow speed. At that time
there was scarcely a steamer that was not armed with some sort of a
gun; therefore, if a Q-ship did not display one aft, she would have
looked suspicious. _Pargust_ kept up appearances by having a dummy gun
mounted aft with a man in uniform standing by. I well remember that
day. There was a nasty sea running, and the atmosphere varied from the
typical Irish damp mist to heavy rain. At 8 a.m. out of this thickness
_Pargust_ descried a torpedo, apparently fired at close range, racing
towards her starboard beam. When about 100 yards off it jumped out of
the water and struck the engine-room near the waterline, making a large
tear in the ship’s side, filling the boiler-room, engine-room, and No.
5 hold, and blowing the starboard lifeboat into the air.

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “DUNRAVEN”

Showing forward well-deck and bridge.

  To face p. 200]

[Illustration: FIG. 14.—DIAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE APPROXIMATE MOVEMENTS OF
‘PARGUST’ AND UC 29 ON JUNE 7, 1917.]

Captain Campbell then gave the order to abandon ship, and the panic
party went away in three boats, and just as the last boat was
pushing off a periscope was sighted 400 yards on the port side forward
of the beam. It then turned and made for the ship, and submerged when
close to the lifeboat’s stern, then came on the starboard quarter,
turned towards the ship and, when 50 yards away, partially broke
surface, heading on a course parallel, but opposite, to that of
_Pargust_, the lifeboat meanwhile pulling away round the steamer’s
stern. The submarine followed, and a man was seen on the conning-tower
shouting directions. The lifeboat then rowed towards the ship, and
this apparently annoyed the Hun, who now began semaphoring the boats;
but at 8.36 a.m. the submarine was only 50 yards off, and was bearing
one point before the beam, so all _Pargust’s_ guns were able to bear
nicely. Fire was therefore opened, the first shot from the 4-inch gun
hitting the base of the conning-tower and removing the two periscopes.
Nearly forty more shells followed, most of them being hits in the
conning-tower, so that the submarine quickly listed to port, and
several men came out of the hatch abaft the conning-tower. She was
already obviously in a bad way, with her heavy list and her stern
almost submerged, and oil squirting from her sides.

The Germans now came on deck, held up their hands, and waved; so
Captain Campbell ordered ‘Cease Fire.’ Then a typically unsportsmanlike
trick was played, for as soon as _Pargust_ stopped firing the enemy
began to make off at a fair speed. So there was nothing for it but to
resume shelling her, and this was kept up until 8.40 a.m., when an
explosion occurred in the forward part of the submarine. She sank for
the last time, falling over on her side, and 3 feet of her sharp bow
end up in the air, 300 yards off, was the last that was ever seen of
her. So perished UC 29, and thus one more submarine was added to the
score of this gallant captain and crew. One officer (a sub-lieutenant
of Reserve) and an engine-room petty officer were picked up. The former
had come on to the submarine’s deck with a couple of men to fire
the 22-pounder, but owing to the heavy sea knocked up by the fresh
southerly wind they had been all washed overboard before reaching the
gun.

[Illustration: BRIDGE OF Q-SHIP “DUNRAVEN”

Captain Gordon Campbell, V.C., D.S.O., R.N., inspecting the damage by
the submarine’s shells to his ship.

  To face p. 202]

The captain of UC 29 had been killed by _Pargust’s_ fire. This class
of submarine carried besides her 22-pounder and machine-gun eighteen
mines and three torpedoes. She had left Brunsbüttel on May 25, calling
at Heligoland, and the routine was usually first to lay the mines and
then operate, sinking ships with gun or torpedo. As to her mines, it
is quite possible that she laid the three mines I recollect sinking on
June 12 in the approach to Valentia Harbour, Dingle Bay, and she may
have laid three others off Brow Head, one of which I remember on June
4, for it was customary for these craft to lay their ‘eggs’ in threes.
With regard to her three torpedoes we know that one had penetrated
_Pargust_, another had sunk a sailing ship—probably the Italian barque
already mentioned—and the third had been fired at a destroyer, but
passed underneath.

As to _Pargust_, she fortunately did not sink, thanks to her cargo
of timber. At 12.30 p.m. another of Admiral Bayly’s alert sloops,
who always seemed to be at hand when wanted, arrived. This was
H.M.S. _Crocus_, who took _Pargust_ in tow. The sloop _Zinnia_ and
the United States destroyer _Cushing_ arrived also, and escorted
her to Queenstown, which she reached next afternoon. The prisoners
had been already transferred to _Zinnia_, and in _Pargust_ the only
casualties had been one stoker petty officer killed and the engineer
sub-lieutenant wounded. For _Pargust’s_ splendid victory further
honours were awarded. Captain Campbell, already the possessor of the
V.C. and D.S.O., now received a bar to his D.S.O. To Lieutenant R. N.
Stuart, D.S.O., R.N.R., was given the V.C., and Seaman W. Williams,
R.N.R., also received this highest of all decorations. These two,
one officer and one man, were selected by ballot to receive this
distinction, but every officer and every man had earned it.

Before _Pargust_ could be ready for sea again much would have to be
done to her at Devonport, so Captain Campbell proceeded to look for a
new ship, and this was found in the collier _Dunraven_. She was fitted
out at Devonport under his supervision, just like her predecessor, and
her crew turned over _en bloc_ from _Pargust_. She was commissioned on
July 28, and within a fortnight Captain Campbell, now already promoted
to post-captain at an age which must certainly be a record, was engaged
in the most heroic Q-ship fight of all the long series of duels only a
few days after leaving Devonport.

Just before eleven on the forenoon of August 8 _Dunraven_ was in the
Bay of Biscay, about 130 miles west of Ushant, doing her 8 knots and
disguised as a defensively armed British merchantman, for which reason
she had a small gun aft. In order to conform further with merchant-ship
practice of this time, she was keeping a zigzag course. On the horizon
appeared a submarine, about two points forward of _Dunraven’s_
starboard beam. The German was waiting, you see, in a likely position
for catching homeward-bound steamers making for the western British
ports, and on sighting this ‘tramp’ he must have felt pretty sure she
was bringing home a cargo of commodities useful for winning the war.
Pursuing the more cautious tactics of the time, the enemy, having
apparently ascertained the ‘tramp’s’ speed and mean course, submerged,
but at 11.43 she broke surface 5,000 yards off the starboard quarter
and opened fire. In order to maintain the bluff, Captain Campbell
replied with his defensive gun, made as much smoke as possible, reduced
to 7 knots, and made an occasional zigzag in order to give the enemy
a chance of closing. _Dunraven_ was now steaming head to sea, and the
enemy’s shots were falling over, but after about half an hour of this
the submarine ceased firing, came on at full speed, and a quarter of an
hour later turned broadside on, and reopened fire.

[Illustration: AFTER THE BATTLE

Forebridge of Q-ship “Dunraven” and captain’s cabin as the result of
the submarine’s shells.

  To face p. 204]

In the meantime the decoy was intentionally firing short, and sent
wireless signals _en clair_ so that the enemy could still further
be deceived. Such messages as ‘Submarine chasing and shelling me,’
‘Submarine overtaking me, help, come quickly ... am abandoning ship,’
were flashed forth just as were sent almost daily by stricken ships
in those strenuous days. _Dunraven’s_ next bluff was to pretend his
engines had been hit; so Captain Campbell stopped his ship, which now
made a cloud of steam. The next step was to ‘abandon ship,’ and the
‘tramp’ had enough way on to allow of her being turned broadside on
and let the enemy see that the vessel was being abandoned. Then, to
simulate real panic, one of the boats was let go by the foremost fall,
an incident that somehow seems to happen in every disaster to steamers.
Thus, so far, everything had been carried out just as a submarine would
have expected a genuine ‘tramp’ to behave. Not a thing had been omitted
which ought to have been seen by the enemy, who had already closed and
continued his shelling. From now ensued a most trying time. To receive
punishment with serene stoicism, to be hit and not reply, is the
supreme test; but these officers and men were no novices in the Q-ship
art, and none had had greater or more bitter experience. However, not
all the tactics and devices could prevent the enemy’s shells hitting if
the German insisted, and this had to be endured in order that at length
the submarine might be tempted inside the desired range and bearing.

Thus it happened that one shell penetrated _Dunraven’s_ poop, exploding
a depth charge and blowing Lieutenant C. G. Bonner, D.S.C., R.N.R.,
out of his control position. This was rather bad luck, and two more
shells followed, the poop became on fire, dense clouds of black smoke
issued forth, and the situation was perilous; for in the poop were
the magazine and depth charges, and it was obvious that as the fire
increased an explosion of some magnitude must soon occur. But the main
consideration was to sink the submarine, and it mattered little if
the Q-ship were lost; so Captain Campbell decided to wait until the
submarine got in a suitable position. It was exactly two hours to the
minute since the submarine had been first sighted when, just as he was
passing close to _Dunraven’s_ stern, a terrific explosion took place
in the poop, caused probably by a couple of depth charges and some
cordite. The result was that the 4-inch gun and the whole of its crew
were blown up into the air, the gun vaulting the bridge and alighting
on the well deck forward, while the crew came down in various places,
one man falling into the water, and 4-inch projectiles being blown
about the ship in the most unpleasant manner.

[Illustration: “DUNRAVEN” DOOMED

This picture shows the Q-ship in her last hours. She has been through
an historic duel, she has been torpedoed and shelled, her poop has been
blown up, and the Atlantic seas are breaking over her deck.

  To face p. 206]

That this explosion should have happened at this moment was a
misfortune of the greatest magnitude, for it spoilt the whole tactics.
Captain Campbell was watching the enemy closely, and the latter was
coming on so nicely that he had only to proceed a little further and
_Dunraven’s_ guns would have been bearing at a range of not more
than 400 yards. As it was, the explosion gave the whole game away,
for firstly it frightened the submarine so that he dived, secondly
it set going the ‘open fire’ buzzers at the guns. Thus the time had
come to attack. The only gun in the ship that would bear was the one
on the after bridge, and this began to bark just as the White Ensign
was hoisted. One shot was thought to have succeeded in hitting the
conning-tower just as the enemy was submerging, but if he was damaged
it was not seriously, and Captain Campbell realized that the next
thing to expect was a torpedo. He therefore ordered the doctor to
remove all the wounded, and hoses were turned on to the poop, which
was now one mass of flames, the deck being red-hot. So gallant had
been this well-disciplined crew that even when it was so hot that they
had to lift the boxes of cordite from off the deck the men still had
remained at their posts.[6]

The position now was this: a ship seriously on fire, the magazine
still intact but likely to explode before long with terrible effects,
a torpedo attack imminent, and the White Ensign showing that this
was a ‘trap-ship’ after all. The submarine would certainly fight
now like the expert duellist, and it would be a fight to the finish,
undoubtedly. Realizing all this, and full well knowing what was
inevitable, Captain Campbell made a decision which could have been made
only by a man of consummate moral courage. To a man-of-war who had
answered his call for assistance when the explosion occurred he now
sent a wireless signal requesting him to keep away, as he was already
preparing for the next phase, still concentrating as he was on sinking
the submarine.[7]

[Illustration: FIG. 15.—THE GREAT DECISION.

Captain Campbell’s famous wireless signal refusing assistance when the
Q-ship _Dunraven_ was already crippled and about to be attacked again.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “DUNRAVEN”

Her duel with the submarine being ended, the crippled “Dunraven” is
taken in tow by H.M. Destroyer “Christopher,” who is seen endeavouring
to get her into port.

  To face p. 208]

It was now twenty minutes since that big explosion, and the expected
torpedo arrived, striking _Dunraven_ abaft the engine-room. The enemy
was aware of two facts: he had seen the first ‘abandon ship’ party
and this he now knew was mere bluff, and that there were others still
remaining on board. In order, therefore, to deceive the German,
Captain Campbell now sent away some more of his crew in boats and a
raft. It would then look as if the last man had left the ship. From
1.40 to 2.30 p.m. followed a period of the utmost suspense, during
which the periscope could be seen circling around scrutinizing the
ship to make _quite_ sure, whilst the fire on the poop was still
burning fiercely, and boxes of cordite and 4-inch shells were going
off every few minutes. To control yourself and your men under these
circumstances and to continue thinking coolly of what the next move
shall be, this, surely, is a very wonderful achievement: more than
this could be asked of no captain.

[Illustration:

  22nd August, 1917.

  Dear Captain Campbell

  It is with very great pleasure that I convey to you, by the
  directions of the War Cabinet, an expression of their high
  appreciation of the gallantry, skill, and devotion to duty, which
  have been displayed through many months of arduous service by
  yourself and the officers and men of His Majesty’s ship under your
  command.

  In conveying to you this message of the War Cabinet, which expresses
  the high esteem with which the conduct of your officers and men is
  regarded by His Majesty’s Government, I wish to add on behalf of the
  Board of Admiralty, that they warmly endorse this commendation.

  Will you please convey this message to all ranks and ratings under
  your command?

  closing and signature [see Transcriber’s Note]

  FIG. 16.—LETTER OF APPRECIATION FROM THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
  TO CAPTAIN GORDON CAMPBELL AFTER THE HISTORIC ACTION FOUGHT BY Q-SHIP
  ‘DUNRAVEN.’]

At half-past two the submarine came to the surface directly astern
(where _Dunraven’s_ guns would not bear) and resumed shelling the
steamer at short range, and used her Maxim gun on the men in the boats.
This went on for twenty minutes, and then she dived once more. Captain
Campbell next decided to use his torpedoes, so five minutes later one
was fired which passed just ahead of the submarine’s periscope as the
enemy was motoring 150 yards off on the port side; and seven minutes
afterwards _Dunraven_ fired a second torpedo which passed just astern
of the periscope. The enemy had failed to see the first torpedo, but
evidently he noticed the second. It was obvious that by now it was
useless to continue the contest any further, for the submarine would
go on torpedoing and shelling _Dunraven_ until she sank: so Captain
Campbell signalled for urgent assistance,[8] and almost immediately
the U.S.S. _Noma_ arrived and fired at a periscope seen a few hundred
yards astern of _Dunraven_. Then came the two British destroyers
_Attack_ and _Christopher_. _Dunraven_ then recalled her boats and
the fire was extinguished, but it was found that the poop had been
completely gutted and that all depth charges and ammunition had been
exploded. From _Noma_ and _Christopher_ doctors came over and assisted
in tending the wounded, a couple of the most dangerously injured being
taken on board _Noma_ to be operated on and then landed at Brest.

At 6.45 p.m. _Christopher_ began towing _Dunraven_, but this was no
easy matter, for there was a nasty sea running, the damaged ship would
not steer; her stern went down, the sea broke over it and worked its
way forward. In this way the night passed, and at 10.15 the next
morning _Christopher_ was able to report that she was now only 60 miles
west of Ushant and bringing _Dunraven_ towards Plymouth at 4 knots.
By six that evening the ship was in so bad a condition that she might
sink any moment, so Captain Campbell transferred sixty of his crew
to the trawler _Foss_. About 9 p.m. two tugs arrived, took over the
towing, and carried on during the night until 1.30 a.m. of August 10.
It was time then for the last handful of men to abandon her in all
true earnestness, so the _Christopher_ came alongside, in spite of the
heavy sea running, and the last man was taken off. It was only just
in time, for almost immediately she capsized, and was finally sunk by
_Christopher_ dropping a depth charge and shelling her as a dangerous
derelict soon after 3 a.m. Thus the life of _Dunraven_ as a man-of-war
had been both brief and distinguished.

As to the officers and men, it is difficult to imagine greater and
more persistent bravery under such adverse circumstances, and the King
made the following awards: Captain Gordon Campbell, V.C., D.S.O.,
received a second bar to his D.S.O.; Lieutenant C. G. Bonner, D.S.C.,
R.N.R., received a V.C., as also did Petty Officer E. Pitcher. To
Assistant-Paymaster R. A. Nunn, D.S.C., R.N.R., was awarded a D.S.O.
Three other officers received a D.S.C., whilst Lieutenant P. R.
Hereford, D.S.O., D.S.C., and two engineer officers, all received a bar
to their D.S.C.

Such is the story of Captain Campbell’s last and greatest Q-ship
fight, for after this he was appointed to command a light cruiser
at Queenstown. In these duels we reach the high-water mark of sea
gallantry, and the incidents themselves are so impressive that no
further words are necessary. Let us leave it at that.

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “DUNRAVEN”

This photograph was taken shortly before she finally sank. Already the
stern is awash.

  To face p. 212]


[Footnote 5: Twelve officers and men were selected from a host of
volunteers to try and get the ship in tow. These were placed in a
motor-boat, whilst the Captain boarded the escort to arrange for towage
if possible.]

[Footnote 6: Captain Campbell has been good enough to furnish me with
the following details of this heroic episode:

‘Lieutenant Bonner, having been blown out of his control by the first
explosion, crawled into the gun-hatch with the crew. They there
remained at their posts with a fire raging in the poop below and the
deck getting red-hot. One man tore up his shirt to give pieces to
the gun’s crew to stop the fumes getting into their throats, others
lifted the boxes of cordite off the deck to keep it from exploding, and
all the time they knew that they must be blown up, as the secondary
supply and magazine were immediately below. They told me afterwards
that communication with the bridge was cut off, and although they knew
they would be blown up, they also knew they would spoil the show if
they moved, so they remained until actually blown up with their gun.
Then, when as wounded men they were ordered to remain quiet in various
places during the second action, they had to lie there unattended and
bleeding, with explosions continually going on aboard and splinters
from the shell-fire penetrating their quarters. Lieutenant Bonner,
himself wounded, did what he could for two who were with him in the
wardroom. When I visited them after the action, they thought little of
their wounds, but only expressed their disgust that the enemy had not
been sunk. Surely such bravery is hard to equal. The strain for the men
who remained on board after the ship had been torpedoed, poop set on
fire, cordite and shells exploding, and then the enemy shell-fire, can
easily be imagined.’]

[Footnote 7: See illustration above.]

[Footnote 8: In the meantime he arranged for a further ‘abandon ship’
evolution, having only one gun’s crew on board.]



CHAPTER XV

LIFE ON BOARD A Q-SHIP


In history it is frequently the case that what seems to contemporaries
merely ordinary and commonplace is to posterity of the utmost value and
interest. How little, for example, do we know of the life and routine
in the various stages and development of the sailing ship! In a volume
entitled ‘Ships and Ways of Other Days,’ published before the war, I
endeavoured to collect and present the everyday existence at sea in
bygone years. Some day, in the centuries to come, it may be that the
historical student will require to know something of the organization
and mode of life on board one of the Q-steamships, and because it is
just one of those matters, which at the time seemed so obvious, I have
now thought it advisable here to set down a rough outline. As time goes
on the persons of the drama die, logs and diaries and correspondence
fall into unsympathetic hands and become destroyed; therefore, whilst
it is yet not too late, let us provide for posterity some facts on
which they can base their imagination of Q-ship life.

Elsewhere in the pages of this book the reader will find it possible
to gather some idea of the types, sizes, and appearances of the ships
employed. The following details are chiefly those of one of the most
distinguished Q-ships, the famous _Penshurst_, and as such they have
especial interest as showing the organization of a tiny little tramp
into a valiant and successful man-of-war that sank several powerful
enemy submarines; and it is through the courtesy of her gallant late
commanding officer, Captain F. H. Grenfell, D.S.O., R.N., that I am
able to present these facts.

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “DUNRAVEN”

Showing the damage done to her poop after the action with submarine.
The after-deck is already well awash and presently she foundered.

  To face p. 214]

_Penshurst_ was a three-masted, single-funnelled, single-screw
steamer, owned by a London firm. She had been fitted out as a decoy at
the end of 1915 by Admiral Colville at Longhope. Her length between
perpendiculars was 225 feet, length over all 232 feet, beam 35 feet
2 inches, draught 14 feet 6 inches, depth of hold 13 feet 7 inches.
Her tonnage was 1,191 gross, 740 registered, displacement 2,035
tons. Fitted with four bulkheads, the ship had the maximum amount of
hold, the engines being placed right aft. The crew were berthed in
the forecastle, the engineers’ mess and cabins being aft, whilst the
captain’s and officers’ mess and cabins were adjacent to the bridge
just forward of midships. The engine-room pressure was 180 pounds, and
the maximum speed, with everything working well and a clean bottom, was
10 knots. Her armament consisted of five guns. A 12-pounder (18 cwt.)
was placed on the after hatch, but disguised in the most ingenious
manner by a ship’s boat, which had been purposely sawn through so that
the detached sections could immediately be removed, allowing the gun
to come into action. Originally there were mounted a 3-pounder and
6-pounder on each side of the lower bridge deck. These were hidden
behind wooden screens such as are often found built round the rails
in this kind of ship. These screens were specially hinged so that on
going into action they immediately fell down and revealed the guns.
Thus it was possible always to offer a broadside of three guns. In
the spring of 1916 _Penshurst_ was transferred from Longhope to Milford
and Queenstown, and Admiral Bayly had the arrangement of guns altered
so that the 3-pounders were now concealed in a gunhouse made out of the
engineers’ mess and cabins, the intention being to enable both these
guns to fire right aft. The 6-pounders were then shifted forward into
the positions previously occupied by the 3-pounders on the lower bridge
deck. How successful this arrangement was in action the reader is able
to see for himself in the accounts of _Penshurst’s_ engagements with
submarines. The ship was also supplied with depth charges, rockets, and
Verey’s lights.

The crew consisted of Captain Grenfell and three temporary R.N.R.
officers, an R.N.R. assistant-paymaster, thirteen Royal Navy gunnery
ratings, eight R.N.R. seamen, a couple of stewards, two cooks, a
shipwright, carpenter’s crew, an R.N.R. chief engine-room artificer, an
engine-room artificer, and R.N.R. stokers, bringing the company up to
forty-five.

In arranging action stations in a Q-ship the difficulty was that
internally the vessel had to be organized as a warship, while
externally she must necessarily keep up the character of a merchantman.
In _Penshurst_ Captain Grenfell had arranged for the following signals
to be rung from the bridge on the alarm gong. One long ring meant that
a submarine was in sight and that the crew were to stand by at their
respective stations; if followed by a short ring it denoted the enemy
was on the starboard side; if two short rings the submarine was on
the port side. Two long rings indicated that the crew were to go to
panic stations; three long rings meant that they were to go to action
stations without ‘panic.’ ‘Open fire’ was ordered by a succession of
short rings and whistles.

With regard to the above, in the case of action stations the look-out
men on the bridge proceeded to their gun at the stand-by signal,
keeping out of sight, while the crews who were below, off watch, went
also to their guns, moving by the opposite side of the ship. In order
to simulate the real mercantile crew, the men under the foc’s’le now
came out and showed themselves on the fore well deck. If ‘panic’ was to
be feigned, all the crew of the gun concealed by the collapsible boat
were to hide, the signalman stood by to hoist the White Ensign at the
signal to open fire, and the boat party ran aft, turned out the boats,
lowered them, and ‘abandoned’ ship, pulling away on the opposite bow.
The signal for standing-by to release the depth charge was when the
captain dropped a red flag, and all guns’ crews were to look out to
fire on the enemy if the depth charge brought the U-boat to the surface.

[Illustration:

  [_Photo. Heath and Stoneman_

THE GALLANT OFFICERS AND CREW OF THE Q-SHIP “DUNRAVEN.”

Captain Gordon Campbell is in the second row with Lieutenant C. G.
Bonner on his right.

  To face p. 216]

Special arrangements had been made in the event of casualties. Thus,
if the captain were laid out a certain officer was to carry on and
take over command. Similar arrangements were made in the event of all
officers on the bridge becoming casualties, an eventuality that was
far from improbable. In fact, Captain Grenfell gave orders that if a
shell burst on or near the bridge a certain officer was to be
informed in any case; and if the latter did not receive word of this
explosion he was to assume that everyone on the bridge was a casualty
and he was to be ready to open fire at the right time. One of the
possibilities in the preliminary stages of these attacks was always
that owing to the hitting by the enemy’s shells, or, more likely
still, by the explosion of his torpedo against the side of the ship,
some portion of the screens or dummy deckhouses might have been
damaged, and thus the guns be revealed to the enemy. So, while
_Penshurst’s_ captain was busily engaged watching the movements of
the submarine, the information as to this unfortunate fact might have
been made known. It was therefore a standing rule that the bridge was
to be informed by voice-pipe of such occurrences. Damage received in
the engine-room was reported up the pipe to the bridge. Conversely
there were placed three men at the voice-pipes—one on the bridge, one
in the gunhouse aft, and one at the 12-pounder—whose duty it was to
pass along the messages, the first-mentioned passing down the varying
bearing and range of the submarine and the state of affairs on the
bridge, and when no orders were necessary he was to keep passing
along the comforting remark ‘All right.’ By this means the hidden
officers and guns’ crews were kept informed of the position of
affairs and able to have the guns instantly ready to fire at the very
moment the screens were let down. Obviously victory and the very
lives of every man in the ship could be secured only if the vessel
came into action smartly and effectively without accident or
bungling.

Sometimes victory was conditional only on being torpedoed, so that
the enemy might believe he had got the steamer in a sinking condition
and the vessel was apparently genuinely abandoned. Inasmuch as the
submarine on returning home had to afford some sort of evidence, the
U-boat captain would approach the ship and endeavour to read her
name. It was then that the Q-ship’s opportunity presented itself, and
the guns poured shells into the German. Special drills were therefore
made in case _Penshurst_ should be hit by torpedo, and in this
eventuality the boat ‘panic party’ was to lower away and at once
start rowing off from the ship, whilst the remainder hid themselves
at their respective stations. As for the engineers, their duty was to
stop the engines at once, but to try to keep the dynamo running as
long as possible so that wireless signals could still be sent out.
The engine-room staff were to remain below as long as conditions
would allow, but if the water rose so that these were compelled to
come up, their orders were to crawl out on to the deck on the
disengaged side and there lie down lest the enemy should see them. As
these Q-ships usually carried depth charges and the latter exploded
under certain conditions of pressure from the sea, it was one of the
first duties on being torpedoed that these should be secured.

Now, supposing the Q-ship were actually sunk and the whole crew were
compelled _really_ to abandon ship, what then? The submarine would
certainly come alongside the boats and make inquiries. She would want
to know, for instance, the name of the ship, owners, captain, cargo,
where from, where bound. That was certain. She would also, most
probably, insist on taking the captain prisoner, if the incident
occurred in the last eighteen months of the war. All these officers
and men would, of course, be wearing not smart naval uniform, but be
attired in the manner fitting the _personnel_ of an old tramp. The
captain would be wearing a peaked cap, with the house-flag of his
Company suitably intertwined in the cap badge, while the men would be
attired in guernseys, old suits, and mufflers, with a dirty old cloth
cap. Now, if the U-boat skipper was a live man and really knew his
work he would, of course, become suspicious on seeing so many hands
from one sunken tramp. ‘This,’ he would remark, ‘is no merchant ship,
but a proper trap,’ and would proceed to cross-examine the boats’
crews. It was therefore the daily duty of Q-ship men to learn a
suitable lie which would adequately deceive the German. Here is the
information which _Penshurst_ was, at a certain period of her Q-ship
career, ready to hand out to any inquisitive Hun if the latter had
sunk the ship.

In answer to questions the crew would reply: ‘This is the S.S.
_Penshurst_, owned by the Power Steam Ship Company of London. Her
master was Evan Davies, but he has gone down with the ship, poor man.
Cargo? She was carrying coal, but she was not an Admiralty collier.’
Then the enemy would ask where from and to. If it happened that
_Penshurst_ was in a likely locality the reply would be: ‘From
Cardiff’; otherwise the name of a well distant coal port, such as
Newcastle or Liverpool, was decided upon. For instance, if
_Penshurst_ were sunk in the neighbourhood of Portland Bill whilst
heading west it would be no good to pretend you were from the Mersey
or Bristol Channel. When the German commented on the singularly large
number of the crew, he would get the reply: ‘Yes, these aren’t all
our own chaps. We picked up some blokes two days ago from a torpedoed
ship.’ Then in answer to further questions one of the survivors from
the latter would back up the lie with the statement that they were
the starboard watch of the S.S. _Carron_, owned by the Carron
Company, 2,350 tons, bound with a cargo of coal from Barry (or
Sunderland) to a French port. In this case Captain Grenfell would
pretend to be the master of the _Carron_, and of _Penshurst’s_ four
officers one would pretend he was the first mate of the Carron,
another the first mate of the collier _Penshurst_, another the
_Penshurst’s_ second mate, whilst the assistant-paymaster, not being
a navigator, passed as chief steward. Thus, every little detail was
thought out for every possible _contretemps_. To surprise the enemy
and yet not to let him surprise you was the aim.

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “BARRANCA”

In one form of disguise. Hull painted a light colour, black boot-top
to funnel, funnel painted a light colour, alley ways open. She is here
seen in her original colour as a West Indian fruit-carrier.]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “BARRANCA”

Appearance altered by painting hull black and funnel black with white
band. She is here disguised as a Spaniard, with Spanish colours painted
on the ship’s side just forward of the bridge, though not discernable
in the photograph.

  To face p. 220]

If, by a piece of bad luck, your identity as a Q-ship had been
revealed—and this did occur—so that the enemy got away before you had
time to sink him, there was nothing for it but to get the other side
of the horizon and alter the appearance of the ship. To the landsman
this may seem rather an impossible proposition. I admit at once that
in the case of the Q-sailing-ships this was rather a tall order, for
the plain reason that topsail schooners and brigantines in these modern
days of maritime enterprise are comparatively few in number. But the
greatest part of our sea-borne trade is carried on in small steamers
of more or less standardized type or types. Vessels of the type such
as _Penshurst_ and _Suffolk Coast_ are to be seen almost everywhere in
our narrow seas: except for the markings on their funnels they are as
much like each other as possible. In a fleet of such craft it would
be about as easy for a German to tell one from another as in a Tokio
crowd it would be for an Englishman to tell one Japanese from another.
The points which distinguish these craft the one from the other are of
minor consideration, such as the colour of the hull, the colour of the
funnel, the device on the funnel, the number of masts, the topmast,
derricks, cross-trees, and so on. Thus, in the case of _Penshurst_
there were any amount of disguises which in a few hours would render
her a different ship. For instance, by painting her funnel black, with
red flag and white letters thereon, she might easily be taken for one
of the Carron Company’s steamers, such as the _Forth_. By giving
her a black funnel with a white =V= she might be the _Gloucester
Coast_ of the Powell, Bacon, and Hough Lines, Ltd.; by altering the
funnel to black, white, red, white, and black bands she might have
been the _Streatham_, owned by Messrs. John Harrison, Ltd. Other
similar craft, such as the _Blackburn_ and _Bargang_, had no funnel
marks; so here again were more disguises. _Penshurst_ further altered
her appearance at times by taking down her mizzen-mast altogether,
by filling in the well deck forward, by adding a false steam-pipe to
the funnel, by shortening and levelling the derricks, by removing the
main cross-trees, by painting or varnishing the wood bridge-screen, by
giving the deckhouses a totally different colour, by showing red lead
patches on the hull, and varying the colour of the sides with such hues
as black to-day, next time green or grey or black, and adding a sail on
the forestay.

If you will examine the photos of Commander Douglas’s Q-ship
_Barranca_, you will see how cleverly, by means of a little faking,
even a much bigger ship could be disguised. In one picture you see
her alley-ways covered up by a screen, funnel markings altered, and
so on; whilst in another the conspicuous white upper-works, the white
band on the funnel, and the dark hull make her a different ship, so
that, he tells me, on one occasion after passing a suspicious neutral
steamer and not being quite satisfied, he was able to steam out of
sight, change his ship’s appearance, and then overtake her, get quite
close and make a careful examination without revealing his identity.
To the landsman all this may seem impossible, but inasmuch as the
sea is traversed nowadays by steamers differing merely in minute
details, distinguished only to the practised eye of the sailor, such
deception is possible. I remember on one occasion during the war a
surprising instance of this. Being in command of a steam drifter off
the south-west Irish coast, I obtained Admiral Bayly’s permission at
my next refit to have the ship painted green, the foremast stepped,
the funnel and markings painted differently, and a Dublin fishing
letter and number painted on the bows, a suitable name being found in
the Fisherman’s Almanack. The 6-pounder gun forward was covered with
fishing gear, which could be thrown overboard as soon as the ship
came into action. Discarding naval uniform and wearing old cloth caps
and clothes, we left Queenstown, steamed into Berehaven, and tied up
alongside a patrol trawler with whom we had been working in company for
nearly a year. The latter’s crew never recognized us until they saw our
faces, and even then insisted that we had got a new ship! In fact, one
of them asserted that he knew this Dublin drifter very well, at which
my Scotch crew from the Moray Firth were vastly amused.

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “BARRANCA”

Disguised as a different ship with yellow funnel and black boot-top.]

[Illustration: Q SHIP “BARRANCA”

Appearance changed by closing up alley-ways, painting hull, ship’s
boats, and funnel so as to resemble a freighter of the P. & O. Line.

  To face p. 222]

Routine at sea of course differed in various Q-ships, but it may
be interesting to set down the following, which prevailed in that
well-organized ship _Penshurst_:


SEA ROUTINE.

  Time as   { Call guns’ crew of morning watch; 3-pounder crew
  per Night { lash up and stow. Guns’ crew close up, uncover
  Order     { guns, unship 6-pounder night-sights. Gunlayers
  Book.     { report their crews closed up to officers of the
            { watch.

  5.30 a.m.   Call cooks and stewards.

  6.0 a.m.    12-pounder crew and one of 3-pounder crew to wash
                down bridges and saloon-decks.

  7.0 a.m.    Call guns’ crews of forenoon watch, lash up and
                stow hammocks. Hands to wash.

  7.30 a.m.   Forenoon watch to breakfast.

  8.0 a.m.    Change watches. Morning watch lash up and stow
                hammocks. Breakfast.

  9.0 a.m.    Watch below clean mess-deck, etc.

  11.30 a.m.  Afternoon watch to dinner.

  12.30 p.m.  Change watches. Forenoon watch to dinner.

  1.30 p.m.   Cooks clean up mess-deck.

  3.30 p.m.   Tea.

  4.0 p.m.    Change watches. Afternoon watch to tea.

  6.0 p.m.    Change watches.

  7.0 p.m.    Supper.

  8.0 p.m.    Change watches. Watch below to supper.

  Sunset.     Clean guns, ship 6-pounder night-sights. Cover
                guns. Drill as required.

A few weeks after the war, Lord Jellicoe remarked publicly that in
the ‘mystery ship’ there had been displayed a spirit of endurance,
discipline, and courage, the like of which the world had never seen
before. He added that he did not think the English people realized the
wonderful work which these ships had done in the war. No one who reads
the facts here presented can fail to agree with this statement, which,
indeed, is beyond argument. Discipline, of course, there was, even in
the apparently and externally most slovenly tramp Q-ship; and it must
not be thought that among so many crews of ‘hard cases’ all the hands
were as harmless as china shepherdesses. When ashore, the average
sailor is not always at his best: his qualities are manifest on sea and
in the worst perils pertaining to the sea. The landsman, therefore,
has the opportunity of observing him when the sailor wants to forget
about ships and seas. If some of the Q-ships’ crews occasionally kicked
over the traces in the early days the fault was partly their own, but
partly it was as the result of circumstances. Even Q-ship crews were
human, and after weeks of cruising and pent-up keenness, after being
battered about by seas, shelled by submarines while lying in dreadful
suspense, and then doing all that human nature could be expected to
perform, much may be forgiven them if the attractions of the shore
temporarily overpowered them. In the early stages of the Q-ship the
mistake was made of sending to them the ‘bad hats’ and impossible men
of the depots; but the foolishness of this was soon discovered. Only
the best men were good enough for this special service, and as the men
were well paid and well decorated in return for success, there was no
difficulty in choosing from the forthcoming volunteers an ideal crew.
Any Q-ship captain will bear testimony to the wonderful effect wrought
on a crew by the first encounter with an enemy submarine. The average
seaman has much in him of the simple child, and has to be taught by
plain experience to see the use and necessity of monotonous routine,
of drills and discipline; but having once observed in hard battle the
value of obedience, of organization and the like, he is a different
man—he looks at sea-life, in spite of its boredom, from a totally
different angle. Perfect discipline usually spelled victory over the
enemy. Presently that, in turn, indicated a medal ribbon and ‘a drop
of leaf’ at home, so as to tell his family all about it. Never again
would he overstay his leave: back to the ship for him to give further
evidence of his prowess.

This was the kind of fellow who could be relied upon to maintain at
sea the gallant traditions of British seamanhood, and in their time
of greatest peril the true big-souled character manifested itself, as
real human truth always emerges in periods of crisis. I am thinking
of one man who served loyally and faithfully in a certain Q-ship. In
one engagement this gallant British sailor while in the execution of
his duty was blown literally to pieces except for an arm, a leg in a
sea-boot, and the rest a mere shattered, indescribable mass, his blood
and flesh being scattered everywhere by the enemy’s attack. And yet the
last words of this good fellow, spoken just before it was too late, did
much to help the Q-ship in her success. In a previous engagement this
man’s gun had the misfortune to start with seven missfires. This was
owing to ammunition rendered faulty by having been kept on the deck
too long as ‘ready-use.’ Consequently his gun did not come into action
as quickly as the others. This piece of bad luck greatly upset such a
keen warrior, and he was determined that no such accident should occur
again. Therefore, in the next fight, just as he was crouching with
his gun’s crew behind the bridge-screen, he was heard to say to his
mates: ‘Now, mind. We’re to be the _first_ gun in action this time.’
Immediately afterwards a shell came and killed him instantaneously.

Or, again, consider the little human touch in the case of the Q-ship
commanded by Lieut.-Commander McLeod, which had been ‘done in’ and was
sinking, so that she had really to be abandoned. When all were getting
away in the boats, Lieut.-Commander McLeod’s servant was found to be
missing. At the last moment he suddenly reappeared, carrying with him
a bag which he had gone back to fetch. In it was Lieut.-Commander
McLeod’s best monkey-jacket. ‘I thought as you might want this, sir,
seeing you’ll have to go and see the Admiral when we get back to
Queenstown,’ was his cool explanation. Nothing could crush this kind of
spirit, which prevailed in the trenches, the air, and on sea until the
Armistice was won. It is the spirit of our forefathers, the inheritance
of our island race, which, notwithstanding political and domestic
tribulations, lies silent, dormant, undemonstrative, until the great
hour comes for the best that is in us to show itself. Germany, of
course, had her disguised armed ships, such as the _Moewe_, the _Wolf_,
and so on, and with them our late enemies performed unquestionably
brilliant work all over the world. It is true, also, that a similar
achievement was attained in one disguised sailing ship; nor can we fail
to admire the pluck and enterprise which enabled them to get through
the British blockade. To belittle such first-class work would be to
turn one’s back on plain truth.

But the Q-ship service was not a short series of three or four spasms,
but took its part in the persistent prosecution of the anti-submarine
campaign. It remained a perpetual thorn in the enemy’s side, and it
was a most dangerous thorn. Unlike the U-boat service in its later
stages, it continued to be composed of volunteers, and it was certainly
the means of bringing to light extraordinary talent and courage.
Like other children, the seaman loves dressing up and acting. In the
Q-ship he found this among the other attractions, of which not the
least was the conscious joy of taking a big share in the greatest of
all wars. In one Q-ship alone were earned no fewer than four D.S.O.’s
and three bars, five D.S.C.’s and seven bars, one Croix de Guerre,
and six ‘mentions’ among the officers. Among the men this ship earned
twenty-one D.S.M.’s and four bars, as well as three ‘mentions.’ To-day
as you pass some tired old tramp at sea, or watch a begrimed steamer
taking in a cargo of coals, you may be gazing at a ship as famous as
Grenville’s _Revenge_ or Drake’s _Golden Hind_. At the end of the war
the Admiralty decided to place a memorial tablet on board each merchant
vessel that had acted as a decoy during the war, the tablet being
suitably inscribed with details of the gallant ship’s service, together
with the names of the commanding officer and members of the crew who
received decorations. The first of these ships so to be commemorated
was the _Lodorer_, better known to us as Captain Campbell’s Q-ship
_Farnborough_. After hostilities, in the presence of representatives
of the owners and the Ministry of Shipping, Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander
Duff unveiled _Lodorer’s_ tablet, and those who read it may well think
and reflect.



CHAPTER XVI

Q-SHIPS EVERYWHERE


In the spring of 1917 there was a 2,905-ton steamship, called the
_Bracondale_, in the employment of the Admiralty as a collier. It
was decided that she would make a very useful Q-ship, so at the
beginning of April she was thus commissioned and her name changed to
_Chagford_. She was fitted out at Devonport and armed with a 4-inch,
two 12-pounders, and a couple of torpedo tubes, and was ready for sea
at the end of June. Commanded by Lieutenant D. G. Jeffrey, R.N.R., she
proceeded to Falmouth in order to tune everything up, and then was
based on Buncrana, which she left on August 2 for what was to be her
last cruise, and I think that in the following story we have another
instance of heroism and pertinacity of great distinction.

_Chagford’s_ position on August 5 at 4.10 a.m. was roughly 120 miles
north-west of Tory Island, and she was endeavouring to find two enemy
submarines which had been reported on the previous day. At the time
mentioned she was herself torpedoed just below the bridge, and in
this one explosion was caused very great injury: for it disabled
both her torpedo tubes and her 4-inch gun; it shattered the boats on
the starboard side as well as the captain’s cabin and chart room.
In addition, it also wrecked all the voice-pipe connections to the
torpedo tubes and guns, and it flooded the engine-room and put the
engines out of commission, killing one of the crew. Lieutenant Jeffrey
therefore ‘abandoned’ ship, and just as the boats were getting away
two periscopes and a submarine were sighted on the starboard side 800
yards away. As soon as the enemy came to the surface fire was opened
on her by the two 12-pounders and both Lewis and machine-guns, several
direct hits being observed. The submarine then dived, but at 4.40 a.m.
she fired a second torpedo at _Chagford_, which hit the ship abaft the
bridge on the starboard side.

From the time the first torpedo had hit, the enemy realized that
_Chagford_ was a warship, for the 4-inch gun and torpedo tubes had been
made visible, and now that the second explosion had come Lieutenant
Jeffrey decided to recall his boats so that the ship might genuinely
be abandoned. The lifeboat, dinghy, and a barrel raft were accordingly
filled, and about 5.30 a.m. the enemy fired a third torpedo, which
struck also on the starboard side. Having sent away in the boats and
raft everyone with the exception of himself and a lieutenant, R.N.R.,
two sub-lieutenants, R.N.R., also an assistant-paymaster, R.N.R., and
one petty officer, Lieutenant Jeffrey stationed these in hiding under
cover of the fo’c’sle and poop, keeping a smart look-out, however,
through the scuttles.

Here was another doomed ship rolling about in the Atlantic without her
crew, and only a gallant handful of British seamanhood still standing
by with but a shred of hope. To accentuate their suspense periscopes
were several times seen, and from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. a submarine
frequently appeared on the surface at long range, and almost every
hour a periscope passed round the ship inspecting her cautiously.
During the whole of this time _Chagford_ was settling down gradually
but certainly. At dark Lieutenant Jeffrey, fearing that the enemy
might attempt boarding, placed Lewis and Maxim guns in position and
served out rifles and bayonets to all. Midnight came, and after making
a further examination of the damage, Lieutenant Jeffrey realized that
it was impossible for the _Chagford_ to last much longer, for her main
deck amidships was split from side to side, the bridge deck was badly
buckled, and the whole ship was straining badly. Therefore, just before
half-past midnight, these five abandoned the ship in a small motor-boat
which they had picked up at sea some days previously, but before
quitting _Chagford_ they disabled the guns, all telescopic sights and
strikers being removed.

Having shoved off, they found to their dismay that there were no tanks
in the motor-boat, so she had to be propelled by a couple of oars, and
it will readily be appreciated that this kind of propulsion in the
North Atlantic was not a success. They then thought of going back to
the ship, but before they could do so they were fortunately picked up
at 7.30 a.m. by H.M. trawler _Saxon_, a large submarine having been
seen several times on the horizon between 4 and 7 a.m. The trawler then
proceeded to hunt for the submarine, but, as the latter had now made
off, volunteers were called for and went aboard _Chagford_, so that
by 4 p.m. _Saxon_ had commenced towing her. Bad luck again overcame
their efforts, for wind and sea had been steadily increasing, and of
course there was no steam, so the heavy work of handling cables had all
to be done by hand. Until the evening the ship towed fairly well at 2
knots, but, as she seemed then to be breaking up, the tow-rope had to
be slipped, and just before eight o’clock next morning (August 7) she
took a final plunge and disappeared. The _Saxon_ made for the Scottish
coast and landed the survivors at Oban on the morning of the eighth. In
this encounter, difficult as it was, _Chagford_ had done real service,
for she had damaged the submarine so much that she could not submerge,
and this was probably U 44 which H.M.S. _Oracle_ sighted in the early
hours of August 12 off the north coast of Scotland, evidently bound
to Germany. _Oracle_ chased her; U 44 kept diving and coming to the
surface after a short while. She had disguised herself as a trawler,
and was obviously unable to dive except for short periods. _Oracle_
shelled and then rammed her, so that U 44 was destroyed and _Chagford_
avenged. Nothing more was seen of _Chagford_ except some wreckage found
by a trawler on August 11, who noticed the word _Bracondale_ on the
awnings.

After Lieutenant Jeffrey and crew had returned to their base they
proceeded to fit out the 2,794-ton S.S. _Arvonian_. This was to be a
very powerful Q-ship, for she was armed with three 4-inch guns instead
of one, in addition to three 12-pounders, two Maxim guns, and actually
four 18-inch torpedo tubes. She was, in fact, a light cruiser, except
for speed and appearance, but the _Chagford_ crew were destined to
disappointment, for this is what happened. The reader will recollect
that in her engagement of June 7, 1917, Captain Campbell’s famous ship
_Pargust_ received so much damage that she had to be left in dockyard
hands while he and his crew went to sea in the _Dunraven_. Now, at
the beginning of October Admiral Sims asked the British Admiralty for
a ship to carry out this decoy work, and to be manned by the United
States Navy. The Admiralty therefore selected _Pargust_, and Admiral
Sims then assigned her to the U.S.N. forces based on Queenstown. Her
repairs, however, took rather a longer time than had been hoped; in
fact, she was not finished and commissioned again until the following
May, so it was decided to pay off _Arvonian_ on November 26, 1917,
and she was then recommissioned with a United States crew under
Commander D. C. Hanrahan, U.S.N., and changed her name to _Santee_.
By the time she left Queenstown for her maiden cruise she was a very
wonderful ship. Her 4-inch guns had been disguised by being recessed,
and by such concealments as lifebuoy lockers, hatch covers, and so on.
The 12-pounder gun aft had a tilting mounting, as also had the two
12-pounders forward at the break of the fo’c’sle on either side. Thus
they were concealed, but could be instantly brought into position.
Her four torpedo tubes were arranged so that there was one on each
beam, one to fire right ahead, and one to fire right astern. She also
boasted of a searchlight, a wireless set, and an emergency wireless
apparatus. She had two lifeboats, two skiffs, two Carley floats, and
also a motor-boat. She was thus the last word in Q-ship improvements,
and embodied all the lessons which had been learnt by bitter and tragic
experience. Two days after Christmas, 1917, she left Queenstown at dusk
on her way to Bantry Bay to train her crew, but in less than five hours
she was torpedoed. It was no disgrace, but a sheer bit of hard luck
which might have happened to any other officer, British or American.
Commander Hanrahan was one of the ablest and keenest destroyer captains
of the American Navy, and no one who had ever been aboard his ship
could fail to note his efficiency. He had been one of the early
destroyer arrivals when the United States that summer had begun to send
their destroyer divisions across the Atlantic to Queenstown, and he had
done most excellent work.

But on this night his Q-ship career came to a sudden stop, though not
before everything possible had been done to entrap the enemy. It was
one of those cloudy, moonlight, wintry nights with good visibility.
As might have been expected under such a captain there was a total
absence of confusion; all hands went to their stations, the ‘panic’
party got away in accordance with the best ‘panic’ traditions, while
on board the crews remained at their gun stations for five hours,
hoping and longing for the submarine to show herself. No such good
fortune followed, for the submarine was shy; so just before midnight
Commander Hanrahan sent a wireless message to Admiral Bayly at
Queenstown, and very shortly afterwards the U.S. destroyer _Cummings_
arrived. At 1 a.m. the tug _Paladin_ took _Santee_ in tow, escorted by
four United States destroyers and the two British sloops _Viola_ and
_Bluebell_. _Santee_ got safely into port and was sent to Devonport,
where she was eventually handed back by the U.S.N. to the British
Navy, owing to the time involved in repairs. On June 4, 1918, she
was once more recommissioned in the Royal Navy and took the name of
_Bendish_, the crew having come from the Q-ship _Starmount_. By this
date the conditions of submarine warfare had undergone a modification.
In home waters it was only the quite small Q-ships of the coaster
type, of about 500 tons, which could be expected to have any chance
of successfully engaging a submarine. This class would normally be
expected to be seen within the narrow seas, and the enemy would not
be so shy. But for such vessels as _Bendish_ and _Pargust_ the most
promising sphere was likely to be between Gibraltar and the Azores
and the north-west coast of Africa, where German so-called ‘cruiser’
submarines of the _Deutschland_ type were operating. Therefore a
special force, based on Gibraltar but operating in the Azores area or
wherever submarines were to be expected, was organized, consisting
of four Q-ships. These were the _Bendish_ (late _Santee_), Captain
Campbell’s former ship _Pargust_ but now named the _Pangloss_, the
_Underwing_, and the _Marshfort_, the whole squadron being under
the command of Lieut.-Commander Dane in _Bendish_. After being at
last ready for sea in May, 1918, _Pangloss_, commanded by Lieutenant
Jeffrey, who for his fine work in _Chagford_ had received the D.S.O.,
had then been assigned to serve under the Vice-Admiral Northern Patrols
until she was sent south.


[Illustration: Q-SHIP TRANSFORMATION

Crew painting funnel while at sea (see pp. 220-1).]

[Illustration: Q-SHIP “BARRANCA” AT SEA

The look-out man aft is disguised as one of the Mercantile crew. The
dummy wheel, dummy sky-light, and dummy deck-house are seen. The latter
concealed a 4-inch gun and two 12-pounders.

  To face p. 234]

Under the new scheme just mentioned these four Q-ships were so
worked that they always arrived and sailed from Gibraltar as part
of the convoy of merchant ships, from which class they could not be
distinguished. But already long before this date Q-ships had been
employed in such distant waters. For instance, in the middle of
November, 1916, the _Barranca_ (Lieut.-Commander S. C. Douglas, R.N.)
was sent from Queenstown via Devonport, and proceeded to operate in the
neighbourhood of Madeira and the Canaries, based on Gibraltar. This
ship, known officially as Q 3 (alias _Echunga_), had been taken over
from Messrs. Elders and Fyffes, Ltd. Her registered tonnage was 4,115,
and she had a speed of 14 knots, so she was eminently fitted for this
kind of work. She had been employed as a Q-ship since June, 1916, and
was armed with a 4-inch, two 12-pounders, and two 6-pounders, and
terminated her service in the following May. Her captain had been one
of the earliest officers to be employed in decoy work, having been
second in command to Lieut.-Commander Godfrey Herbert when that officer
commanded the _Antwerp_. Soon after this date the Q-ship _Dunclutha_
left for that part of the Atlantic which is between the north-east
coast of South America and north-west coast of Africa. This ship,
together with _Ooma_, both of them being vessels of between 3,000 and
4,000 tons, had commenced their special service at the end of 1916
and been sent to work under the British Commodore off the east coast
of South America in the hope of falling in with one of the German
raiders, such as the _Moewe_. In May, 1918, both these vessels had to
be withdrawn from such service, as the shortage of tonnage had become
acute, and were required to load general cargo in a Brazilian port.
Another of these overseas Q-ships was the _Bombala_ (alias _Willow
Branch_). She was a 3,314-ton steamer and had left Gibraltar on April
18, 1918, for Sierra Leone. A week later, off the West African coast,
she sighted a submarine off the port quarter, and a few minutes later a
second one off the starboard bow. Both submarines opened their attack
with shells, this class of submarine being armed with a couple of
5·9-inch guns. After about thirty rounds the enemy had found the range,
and then began to hit the ship repeatedly, carrying away the wireless
and causing many casualties. _Bombala_ shortened the range so that
she could use her 4-inch and 14-pounder, and the action went on for
two and a half hours. By that time _Bombala_ was done for, and it was
impossible to save the ship; so the crew were ordered into the boats,
and then the ship foundered, bows first. However, the Q-ship had not
sunk without severely damaging the enemy, for when the submarines came
alongside _Bombala’s_ boats it was found that in one of the submarines
there were seven killed and four wounded.

Q-ships were kept pretty busy, too, in the Mediterranean. On March
11, 1917, when _Wonganella_ (Lieut.-Commander B. J. D. Guy, R.N.) was
on her way from Malta to England via Gibraltar, she was shelled by a
submarine, and while the ‘panic’ party were getting out the boats, a
shell wounded the officer and several of the crew in the starboard
lifeboat. Another shell went through the bulwarks of the ship, wounding
some men and bursting the steam-pipe of the winch, thus rendering
unworkable the derrick used for hoisting out the third boat, and the
port lifeboat was also damaged. Shells burst in the well deck and
holed the big boat, so in this case, as all his boats were ‘done in,’
the captain had to give up the idea of ‘abandoning’ ship. There was
nothing for it but to open fire, though it was not easy for orders to
be heard in that indescribable din when shells were bursting, steam
pouring out from the burst winch-pipe, wounded men in great pain, and
_Wonganella’s_ own boiler-steam blowing off with its annoying roar. As
soon as fire was opened, the submarine dived and then fired a torpedo,
which was avoided by _Wonganella_ going astern with her engines, the
torpedo just missing the ship’s fore-foot by 10 feet. No more was seen
of the enemy, and at dusk the armed steam yacht _Iolanda_ was met, from
whom a doctor was obtained, thus saving the lives of several of the
wounded. In this engagement, whilst the White Ensign was being hoisted,
the signal halyards were shot away, so the ensign had to be carried up
the rigging and secured thereto.

_Wonganella_ was holed on the water-line and hit elsewhere, but she
put into Gibraltar on March 13, and on the evening of June 19 of the
same year we find her out in the Atlantic west of the south-west
Irish coast on her way homeward-bound from Halifax. A submarine bore
down on her from the north, and at the long range of 8,000 yards was
soon straddling _Wonganella_. Now the Q-ship happened to have on
board thirty survivors from a steamer recently sunk, so again it was
impossible to attempt the ‘abandon ship’ deception. She therefore
used her smoke-screen—at this time ships were being supplied with
special smoke-making apparatus—and then ran down the wind at varying
speeds and on various courses, with the hope that the enemy would
chase quickly. _Wonganella_ would then turn in the smoke-cloud and
suddenly emerge and close the enemy at a more suitable range. But the
best-laid schemes of Q-ships are subject to the laws of chance, for
now there appeared another merchant ship heading straight towards this
scene, and thus unwittingly frustrated the further development of the
encounter. This ‘merchant ship’ was the Q-ship _Aubrietia_ (Q 13), who
did, in fact, receive a signal from _Wonganella_ that no assistance was
required; but by that time it was too late to withdraw. The submarine,
after shelling _Wonganella_ through the smoke, abandoned the attack and
withdrew without ever scoring a hit.

During all these months the disguised steam trawlers were continuing
their arduous work. On August 20, 1916, the _Gunner_ from Granton
engaged a submarine during the afternoon, but the German subsequently
dived. _Gunner_ then proceeded on a westerly course whilst she altered
her disguise, and then that same evening encountered this submarine
again, shelled her, but once more the enemy broke off the fight.
The disguised Granton trawler _Speedwell_ was also operating in a
manner similar to _Gunner_, and in the following March the trawler
_Commissioner_ began her decoy work. She was a 161-ton ship armed
with a 12-pounder, her method of working being as follows: Lieutenant
F. W. Charles, R.N.R., was in command of the fighting portion of
the crew, but her fishing skipper was otherwise in charge of the
ship. _Commissioner_ proceeded to join the Granton fishing fleet,
looking like any other steam trawler, and then shot her trawl and
carried on like the rest of the fleet. When a submarine should appear
_Commissioner_ would cut away her fishing gear and then attack the
enemy. Such an occasion actually occurred the very day after she first
joined the fishing fleet, but the submarine was not sunk.

A similar decoy was the Granton steam trawler _Rosskeen_, which left
the Firth of Forth to ‘fish’ about 20 miles east of the Longstone.
Three days later she was just about to shoot her trawl when a shot came
whistling over her wheelhouse, and a large submarine was then seen
8,000 yards away. After twenty minutes, during which the enemy’s shells
fell uncomfortably close, _Rosskeen_ cut away her gear and ‘abandoned’
ship. The submarine then obligingly approached on the surface towards
the rowing boat, and when the range was down to 1,200 yards _Rosskeen_,
who was armed with a 12-pounder and 6-pounder, opened fire from the
former and hit the submarine, the conning-tower being very badly
damaged by the third shot. Two more shells got home, and by this time
the enemy had had enough, and dived.

These trawlers were undoubtedly both a valuable protection to the
fishermen (who had been repeatedly attacked by the enemy) and a subtle
trap for some of the less experienced submarine captains. During May
two more trawlers, the _Strathallan_ and _Strathearn_, were similarly
commissioned, and even steam drifters such as the _Fort George_
(armed with one 6-pounder) were employed in this kind of work. On the
thirteenth of June _Strathearn_ was fishing 19 miles east of the Bell
Rock when five shots were fired at her, presumably by a submarine,
though owing to the hazy weather nothing could be seen. The enemy then
evidently sighted a destroyer and disappeared. On the following day
_Fort George_ was fishing about 35 miles east of May Island, when she
was attacked by submarine at 2,000 yards. It was ten o’clock at night,
and the drifter, after the third round, secured her fishing gear and
returned the fire. The enemy was evidently surprised, for after the
drifter had fired three shells the German broke off the engagement
and submerged, but with his fourth and fifth rounds he had hit _Fort
George_, killing two and wounding another couple.

But on the following twenty-eighth of January _Fort George_ was about
14 miles east of May Island, with the decoy trawler _W. S. Bailey_
(Lieutenant C. H. Hudson, D.S.C., R.N.R.). The two ships were listening
on their hydrophones when a submarine was distinctly heard some
distance away, and it was assumed that the enemy was steering for May
Island, so the _W. S. Bailey_ after proceeding for a quarter of an
hour in that direction listened again, and the sounds were heard more
plainly. For an hour and a half the enemy was determinedly hunted,
and just after 9 p.m. the sounds became very distinct, so the trawler
steamed full speed ahead in the submarine’s direction, dropped a depth
charge, listened, and then, as the enemy was still heard on the
hydrophone, a second charge was dropped. The trawler then went full
speed astern to check her way, and just as she was stopping there were
sighted two periscopes not 20 yards away, on the starboard quarter, and
going full speed. The trawler then dropped a third depth charge over
the spot where the periscopes had disappeared, and nothing further was
heard on the hydrophone, but a fourth charge was then let go to make
sure, and the position was buoyed, and the disguised craft remained
in the vicinity until January 30. A few days later the _W. S. Bailey_
swept with her chain-sweep over the position, and on each occasion the
sweep brought up in the place that had been buoyed, and a quantity of
oil was seen. Local fishermen accustomed to working their gear along
this bottom reported that the obstruction was quite new. In short, the
_W. S. Bailey_ had succeeded in destroying UB 63, a submarine about 180
feet long and well armed with a 4·1-inch gun and torpedoes. For this
useful service Lieutenant Hudson received a bar to his D.S.C., while
Skipper J. H. Lawrence, R.N.R., was awarded the D.S.C.

Thus, in all waters and in all manner of ships wearing every kind of
disguise, the shy submarine was being tempted and sought out, though
every month decoy work was becoming more and more difficult: for though
you might fool the whole German submarine service in the early stages
of Q-ships, it was impossible that you could keep on bluffing all of
them every time. The most that could be expected was that as a reward
for your constant vigilance and perfect organization you might one day
catch him off his guard through his foolishness or lack of experience
or incautiousness. But every indecisive action made it worse for the
Q-ships, for that vessel was a mark for future attack and the enemy’s
intelligence department was thereby enriched, and outgoing submarines
could be warned against such a trawler or such a tramp whose guns had a
dead sector on such a bearing. Thus an inefficient Q-ship captain would
be a danger not merely to himself and his men, but to the rest of the
force. Nothing succeeds like success, and there was nothing so useful
as to make a clean job of the submarine-sinking, so that he could never
get back home and tell the news. Surprise, whether in real life or
fiction, is a factor that begins to lose its power in proportion to its
frequency of use. It was so in the Q-ships, and that is why, after a
certain point had been reached, this novel method became so difficult
and so barren in results.



CHAPTER XVII

SHIPS OF ALL SIZES


The unrestricted phase of submarine warfare instituted in February,
1917, had, apart from other means, been met by an increase in the
number of Q-ships, so that by the end of May there were close upon
eighty steamers and sailing craft either being fitted out as decoys or
already thus employed. By far the greater number of the big Q-ships
were serving under Admiral Bayly, the other large craft being based
on Longhope, Portsmouth, the south-east of England, and Malta. Of
the smaller types, such as trawlers and sailing ships, no fewer than
one-half were based on Granton, under Admiral Startin, the rest of
these little vessels working out of Stornoway, Longhope, Peterhead,
Lowestoft, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Falmouth, Milford Haven, and Malta.

One of the moderate-sized Q-steamers was the 1,680-ton _Stonecrop_,
alias _Glenfoyle_, which was armed with a 4-inch, a 12-pounder, and
four 200-lb. howitzers. She had begun her special service at the end
of May, 1917, under Commander M. B. R. Blackwood, R.N. She was very
slow, and her captain found her practically unmanageable in anything
of a head wind and sea. Her first cruise was in the English Channel,
and she left Portsmouth on August 22. Three days later when 15 miles
south of the Scillies she saw a large steamer torpedoed and sunk.
_Stonecrop_ herself was caught in bad weather, and had to run before
the gale and sea towing an oil bag astern. Arriving back at Portsmouth
she needed a few repairs, and left again on September 11 to cruise off
the western approaches of the British Isles. Six days later she was
off the south-west coast of Ireland steering a westerly course when
a submarine was seen on the surface. This was the U 88, one of the
biggest types, over 200 feet long, armed with a 4·1-inch
and a 22-pounder, plus torpedoes. It was now 4.40 p.m., and though the
enemy was still several miles away he opened fire three minutes later
with both guns. _Stonecrop_ accordingly pretended to flee from his
wrath, turned 16 points, made off at her full speed (which was only 7
knots), made S.O.S. signals on her wireless, followed by ‘Hurry up or
I shall have to abandon ship’—_en clair_ so that the submarine should
read it. And in order further still to simulate a defensively armed
merchant ship she replied with her after gun.

Thus it went on until 5.15 p.m., by which time the submarine had not
registered a hit and was gradually closing: but most of the shells
were falling very near to the steamer, so that the German might easily
have supposed they were hits. In order to fool the enemy further still
Commander Blackwood had his smoke apparatus now lit. This was most
successful, the whole ship becoming enveloped in smoke and seeming to
be on fire. A quarter of an hour later _Stonecrop_ ‘abandoned’ ship,
sending away also a couple of hands in uniform to represent the men
from the deserted defensive gun. The submarine then displayed the
usual tactics: submerged, came slowly towards the ship, passing down
the port side, rounding the stern, and then came to the surface 600
yards off the starboard quarter, displaying the whole of his length.
For three minutes the British and German captains remained looking at
each other, the former, of course, from his position of concealment.
But at ten minutes past six, as there were still no signs of anyone
coming out of the conning-tower hatch, and as the U-boat seemed about
to make for _Stonecrop’s_ boats, Captain Blackwood decided this was
the critical moment and gave the order. From the 4-inch gun and all
howitzers there suddenly poured across the intervening 600 yards a very
hot fire, which had unmistakable effect: for the fourth shot hit the
base of the conning-tower, causing a large explosion and splitting the
conning-tower in two. The fifth shot got her just above the water-line
under the foremost gun, the sixth struck between that gun and the
conning-tower, the seventh hit 30 feet from the end of the hull, the
eighth got her just at the angle of the conning-tower and deck, the
ninth and tenth shells came whizzing on to the water-line between the
after gun and conning-tower, whilst the eleventh hit the deck just
abaft the conning-tower and tearing it up. Good gunnery, certainly!

This was about as much as the stunned submarine could stand, and
forging ahead she suddenly submerged and sank stern first, but a few
seconds later she rose to the surface with a heavy list to starboard,
and then sank for good and all. For, on submerging, she had found
she was leaking so badly that her condition was hopeless, and she
was doubtless intending to surrender, but apparently the fourth shot
from _Stonecrop_ had so damaged the conning-tower hatch that it could
not be opened. Thus there perished U 88, but this was more than the
sinking of an ordinary submarine, for with her there went to his doom
Lieut.-Commander Schwieger, who, when in command of U 20, had sunk
the _Lusitania_ on May 7, 1915, with the loss of over eleven hundred
men, women, and children. Altogether _Stonecrop’s_ action had been very
neat. He had lured the enemy into a short range, utterly fooled him,
and then disabled him before he woke up. For this service Commander
Blackwood received the D.S.O., and three R.N.R. lieutenants and a naval
warrant officer each received a D.S.C. But Q-ship life was always full
of uncertainties, for on the very next day _Stonecrop_ was herself
torpedoed by another submarine at 1 p.m., though fortunately this
was in a position a little nearer the coast. Two officers and twenty
survivors were picked up by a motor-launch of the Auxiliary Patrol
and landed at Berehaven; sixty-four men in one boat and a raft were
remaining behind, but all available craft were sent out to rescue them.

The employment of small coasting steamers was, during the last phase
of the war, more and more developed. What the Q-ship captain liked was
that the enemy should attack him not with torpedoes but with gunfire.
Now, even the biggest German submarines carried usually not more than
ten torpedoes, and inasmuch as his cruise away from any base lasted
weeks, and, in the case of the _Deutschland_ class, even months, it
was obvious that the U-boat had to conserve his torpedoes for those
occasions which were really worth while. From this it follows that
a submarine captain who knew his work, and was anxious to make a
fine haul before ending his cruise, would not, as a rule, waste his
torpedoes on a 500-ton steamer when he might have secured much bigger
tonnage by using the same missile against a 20,000-ton liner.

This suggested an avenue of thought, and as early as January, 1918,
the matter was considered by Admiral Bayly and developed. Already
there were in existence several small vessels acting as Q-ships,
but simultaneously carrying out in all respects the duties of
cargo-carriers from port to port, and thus paying their way. It was
now decided to look for a little steamer which, based on Queenstown,
would work between the Bristol Channel, Irish Sea, and the south coast
of Ireland, where even during the height of the submarine campaign it
was customary to see such craft. As a result of this decision Captain
Gordon Campbell was sent to inspect the S.S. _Wexford Coast_, which
was being repaired at Liverpool. Her gross tonnage was only 423,
she had a well deck, three masts, and engines placed aft: just the
ordinary-looking, innocent steamer that would hardly attract a torpedo.
Owned by Messrs. Powell, Bacon, Hough, and Co., of Liverpool, this
vessel had already done valuable work in the war; for in 1915 she had
been requisitioned for store-carrying in the Dardanelles, where she was
found invaluable in keeping the troops supplied, and when that campaign
came to an end assisted at the evacuation. Returning to England, she
was again sent out as a store-carrier, this time to the White Sea.
_Wexford Coast_ was now taken up as a Q-ship, her fitting-out being
supervised by Lieut.-Commander L. S. Boggs, R.N.R., who had been in
command of the Q-ship _Tamarisk_, and from the last ship came a large
part of her new crew. She was duly armed, and fitted with a cleverly
concealed wireless aerial, to be used only in case of emergency, and
was then commissioned on March 13, 1918, as ‘Store-Carrier No. 80,’
this title being for the purpose of preserving secrecy. She put to sea
in her dual capacity, but on August 31 had the misfortune to be run
into by the French S.S. _Bidart_, six miles south-east of the Start, at
four o’clock in the morning—another instance of this fatal hour for
collisions. The Frenchman grounded on the Skerries and capsized, and
the _Wexford Coast_ had to put in to Devonport. After the sinking of
the Q-ship _Stockforce_ (to be related presently), Admiral Bayly wished
the captain and crew of the latter to be appointed to a coaster similar
to _Wexford Coast_, so the _Suffolk Coast_ was chosen at the beginning
of August whilst she was lying in the Firth of Forth. Before the end
of the month she had arrived at Queenstown, where she was fitted out.
On November 10 she set out from Queenstown, but on the following day
came the Armistice, which spoiled her ambitions. However, in this, the
latest of all Q-ships, we see the development so clearly that it will
not be out of place here to anticipate dates and give her description.

_Suffolk Coast_ was intentionally the most ordinary-looking little
coaster, with three masts, her engines and funnel being placed aft, and
the very last thing she resembled was a man-of-war. But she was heavily
armed for so small a ship. In her were embodied all the concentrated
experience of battle and engineering development. All that could be
learned from actual fighting, from narrow escapes, and from defects
manifested in awkward moments was here taken advantage of. Instead of
a 12-knot 4,000-ton steamer the development had, owing to the trend of
the campaign, been in the direction of a ship one-eighth of the size,
but more cleverly disguised with better ‘gadgets.’ In fact, instead of
being a model of simplicity as in the early days, the Q-ship had become
a veritable box of tricks. It was the triumph of mind over material, of
brain over battle. Coolness and bravery and resolute endurance were
just as requisite in the last as in the first stages of the campaign,
but the qualities of scientific bluff had attained the highest value.
The basic principle was extreme offensive power combined with outward
innocence: the artfulness of the eagle, but the appearance of a dove.

In _Suffolk Coast_ there was one long series of illusions from forward
to aft. On the fo’c’sle head was a quite usual wire reel such as is
used in this class of ship for winding in a wire rope. But this reel
had been hollowed out inside so as to allow the captain to con the
ship. Near by was also a periscope, but this was disguised by being
hidden in a stove-pipe such as would seem to connect with the crew’s
heating arrangements below. Now this was not merely a display of
ingenuity but an improvement based on many a hard case. What frequently
happened after the ‘abandon ship’ party pushed off? As we have seen,
this was often the time when the real fight began, and the enemy would
shell the bridge to make sure no living thing could remain. That
being so, the obvious position for the captain was to be away from
the bridge, though it broke away from all the traditions of the sea.
In _Suffolk Coast_ the enemy could continue sweeping the bridge, but
the captain would be under the shelter of the fo’c’sle head and yet
watching intently. Similarly both he and his men need not, in passing
from the bridge or one end of the ship to another, be exposed to the
enemy’s fire, for an ingenious tunnel was made right into the fo’c’sle
through the hold. In a similar manner, if the forward part of the ship
had been ‘done in,’ there was a periscope aft disguised as a pipe
coming up from the galley stove.

Now, when a submarine started shelling a Q-ship, the latter would
naturally heave-to and then pretend she had been disabled by being
hit in the engine-room. This was achieved by fitting a pipe specially
arranged to let steam issue forth. The importance of wireless in these
death-struggles may well be realized, so not merely was one wireless
cabinet placed below, but another was situated in the fo’c’sle. The
_Suffolk Coast_, with her two 4-inch and two 12-pounders, was armed
in a manner superior to any submarines excepting those of the biggest
classes such as voyaged south to the Canaries and north-west African
coast. This Q-ship’s guns were concealed in the most wonderfully
ingenious manner, so that it would have puzzled even a seaman to
discover their presence. Thus the forward 12-pounder was mounted in
No. 1 hold, the hatch being suitably arranged for collapsing. The
first 4-inch gun was placed further aft, covered by a deck, and the
sides made to fall down when the time came for action. The second
4-inch was mounted still further aft and similarly concealed, whilst
the other 12-pounder was allowed to be conspicuous at the stern so
that all U-craft might believe she was the usual defensively armed
merchant ship. Without this they might have become suspicious. In this
‘mystery ship’ everything was done to render her capable of remaining
afloat for the maximum of time after injury, and, in addition to having
a well-stowed cargo of timber, she had special watertight bulkheads
fitted. With a thorough system of voice-pipes, so that the captain
could keep a perfect control over the ship’s firing—a most essential
consideration, as the reader will already have ascertained—and a
crew of nearly fifty experienced officers and men, such a small
ship represented the apotheosis of the decoy just as the war was
terminating. Every sort of scheme which promised possibilities was
tried, and many clever minds had been at work, but this represented the
standard of success after four long years.

Every new aspect of the submarine advancement had to be thought out
and met, and the variations were most noticeable, but during the last
few months of the war considerable attention had to be concentrated on
the areas of the Azores, the north, south, east, and west of Ireland,
the Bristol Channel, and the approaches to the English Channel in the
west. But by the spring of 1918 the crews of German submarines had
become distinctly inferior. Their commanding officers were often young
and raw, there was a great dearth of trained engineer officers and
experienced petty officers, and this was shown in frequent engine-room
breakdowns. So many submarines had failed to return home, and others
reported such hairbreadth escapes, that the inferior crews became
nervous and were not sorry to be taken prisoners. The fact was that
not only were expert, highly skilled officers hard to find, but the
hands he was compelled to go to sea with were no longer chosen by the
captain; he had to accept whatever recruits were drafted to his craft.
Of the best _personnel_ that remained many had lost their nerve and
had a very real dread of mines, depth charges, and decoy ships. The
institution of our convoy system and of Q-ships as part of the convoy
did not add to the pleasures of the U-boat officers. It is true that
the often excellent shooting of the submarines was due to the fact
that their gun-layers were generally selected from the High Sea Fleet,
but as against this many of our Q-ship expert gunners were out of the
Grand Fleet. It is true that the cruiser submarines with their two
5·9-inch guns, plus torpedoes, were formidable foes even
for the most heavily armed decoy, but as against this they took a long
time to dive, and thus represented a better target.

If we consider these facts in regard to the later tactics of the
submarines in contest with our decoy ships, there is much that becomes
clear. The excellence of our intelligence system has been shown by
various British and German writers since the war, and, as a rule, we
were extraordinarily prepared for the new developments with which our
Q-ships were likely to be faced. On the other hand, the enemy’s supply
of intelligence was bad, and if we put ourselves in the position of an
inexperienced young U-boat captain we can easily see how difficult was
his task toward the end of hostilities. He was sent out to sink ships,
and yet practically every British ship was at least armed defensively,
and there was nothing to indicate which of them might be a well-armed
decoy, save for the fact that he had been informed by his superiors
that trap-ships were seldom of a size greater than 4,000 tons. Sailing
ships, fishing craft, and steamers might be ready to spring a surprise,
so that it was not easy for the German to combine ruthless attack with
reasonable caution: thus, in effect, the battle came down to a matter
of personality. It was not merely a question of the man behind the gun,
nor of the man behind the torpedo, but the man at the periscope of
the submarine versus the man peeping at him from the spy-hole of the
steamer. They were strange tactics, indeed, to be employed in naval
war when we consider the simple, hearty methods of previous campaigns
in history, but even as an impersonal study of two foes this perpetual
battle of wits, of subtleties, and make-believe, must ever remain
both interesting and instructive in spite of the terrible loss of life
accompanying it. Life on board one of the small steam Q-ships was,
apart from its dangers arising through mines and submarines, distinctly
lacking in comfort. The following extracts from the private diary of a
Q-ship’s commanding officer at different dates afford, in the fewest
words, an insight into the life on board:

‘The heavy westerly gale was banking up the west-going tide, and made
the most fierce and dangerous sea that I have ever seen. The ship made
little headway and was tossed about like a small boat. Fortunately we
managed to keep end on to the sea, or I think the old tub would have
gone slick over. As it was she behaved well, though her movements were
pretty violent. Seas broke over the stern and washed away the stern
gratings, one big sea broke right over the forward deck, a tumbling
mass of foam, into the water on the other side of the ship, carrying
away a ventilator and some steam-pipes. I had one spasm of anxiety,
when in the middle of all this the wheel jammed for a few seconds, and
I feared she would broach-to. If we had done so, I think the ship would
at once have been rolled over and smothered. I have never before seen
such enormous breakers....’

‘Had just finished tea and was sitting at the table yarning with the
others when the alarm gong went and we all dashed out.... Immediately
before the gong went, M——, our young R.N.V.R. signalman, who had
never been to sea before, and who was on watch, remarked to W——, the
officer of the watch, “What’s that funny-looking stick sticking out of
the water over there?” W—— cast an eye at the said “funny-looking
stick sticking out of the water” 200 yards on our starboard beam,
and remarked profanely: “Good God, man, why, it’s a periscope!” and
promptly rang the gong.’ It was, indeed, a periscope, and presently the
submarine opened fire and sent a shell through the ship’s engine-room,
which disabled the ship, though she was afterwards towed into port,
where she was repaired and refitted for her next encounter.

‘Completed loading timber at 11 a.m. Total 599 tons. That ought to
keep us afloat if we are torpedoed.... The ship’s behaviour is quite
different to what it was with coal ballast. She moves, but with a much
easier motion, and without that terrible jerkiness she had before....
When off the —— we fell in with a lifeboat under sail, evidently
with survivors from a sunk ship. Stopped and took them on board. They
turned out to be the captain, 2nd officer, purser, 3rd engineer, and
ten men, part of the crew of the S.S. ——, which had been torpedoed at
11.30 a.m. yesterday.... Discussing the daily lie for Fritz with S——:
To-day we are from Cape Coast Castle with kernels, bound for London. I
wonder if it will go down with Fritz....’

And the following entry after successfully sinking a German submarine
notwithstanding many months of monotonous uneventfulness:

‘I then “spliced the main-brace.” We passed the S—— Light at 11.30
p.m., and just before picking up the Examination boat received a
wireless message from [the Commander-in-Chief], which reads: “Very well
done. A year’s perseverance well rewarded.”... We anchored at midnight,
and a boat at once came off with a doctor, who removed the wounded....
A tug brought off the armed guard sent ... to receive our prisoners....
We formally mustered the prisoners and handed them over, with the
signing of receipts for their custody and disposal, etc. It was an
impressive moment when I led the officer in charge to the saloon, and
handed over to him the commanding officer of the submarine. A couple of
bluejackets with rifles fixed promptly closed up at either elbow, and
he was marched out. He had the grace to pause at the door, where I was
standing, and to thank me for my treatment of him. He was no doubt very
much upset by the loss of his ship: we found him extremely glum and did
our best to cheer him up. He had lunch with us, and I think he really
did find that we were human. Similarly the other officers tendered
their thanks (they all went away in a good deal of our clothing),
and when it came to the marching off of the men, —— stepped out of
the ranks and tendered to me their grateful thanks for the excellent
treatment they had received at our hands.’



CHAPTER XVIII

THE LAST PHASE


One of the effects of the British blockade on Germany was to prevent
such valuable war material as iron reaching Germany from Spain. Now
Spanish ores, being of great purity, were in pre-war days imported in
large quantities for the manufacture of the best qualities of steel,
and it was a serious matter for Germany that these importations were
cut off. But luckily for her she had been accustomed to obtain, even
prior to the war, supplies of magnetic ore from Sweden, and it was of
the utmost importance that this should be continued now that the war
would last much longer than she had ever expected.

If you look at a map of Scandinavia inside the Arctic Circle you will
notice the West Fjord, which is between the Lofoten Isles and the
Norwegian mainland. Follow this up and you come to the Ofoten Fjord, at
the head of which is the Norwegian port of Narvik. From here there ran
across the Swedish border to Lulea what was the most northerly railway
in Europe, and Narvik was a great harbour for the export of magnetic
iron ore. Hither German ships came, loaded, and then, by keeping within
the three-mile limit of territorial waters, going inside islands, and
taking every possible advantage of night, managed to get their valuable
cargoes back home for the Teutonic munition makers.

Now it was obviously one of the duties of our Tenth Cruiser Squadron,
entrusted with the interception of shipping in the north, to see that
Germany did not receive this ore. But having regard to the delicacy of
not violating the waters of a neutral nation, and bearing in mind the
pilotage difficulties off a coast studded with islands and half-tide
rocks, this was no easy matter. It was here that the small ships came
in so useful. We can go back to June, 1915, and find the armed trawler
_Tenby Castle_ (Lieutenant J. T. Randell, R.N.R.) attached nominally
to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, but sent to work single-handed, as it
were, off the Norwegian coast intercepting shipping. As a distinguished
admiral remarked, here she lay in a very gallant manner for twenty
days, during which time she sank one enemy ship, very nearly secured
a second, and was able to hand over to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron
a neutral ship with iron ore. It was a most difficult situation
to handle, for it required not merely a quick decision and bold
initiative, but very accurate cross bearings had to be made, as these
offending steamers were on the border-line of territorial waters. That
great enemy of all seamen irrespective of nationality, fog, was in this
case actually to be a very real friend to our trawler; for in thick
weather and the vicinity of a rock-bound coast full of hidden dangers,
skippers of the ore ships would naturally be inclined to play for
safety and stand so far out from the shore as to be in non-territorial
waters. A further consideration was that owing to the effect of the
magnetic ore on their compasses they could not afford to take undue
navigational risks in thick weather. What they preferred was nice clear
weather, so that they could hug the land.

The success of _Tenby Castle_ was such that half a dozen other
trawlers were selected and stationed off that coast except in the wild
wintry months, and this idea, as we shall presently see, was developed
still further, but it will assist our interest if we appreciate first
the difficulties as exemplified in the case of the _Tenby Castle_. On
the last day of June, 1915, this trawler was about five miles N.E.
of the Kya Islet, and it was not quite midday, when she sighted a
steamer coming down from Nero Sound; so she closed her and read her
name, _Pallas_. Inasmuch as the latter was showing no colours, _Tenby
Castle_ now hoisted the White Ensign and the international signal to
stop immediately. This was ignored, so the trawler came round and saw
she was a German ship belonging to Flensburg, and fired a shot across
the enemy’s bow. The German then stopped her engines, ported her helm,
and headed in the direction of the coast, having a certain amount of
way on. The trawler closed and ordered her to show her colours, but the
German declined; so the latter was then told to steer to the westward,
which he also refused to do. Lieutenant Randell, informing him now that
he would give him five minutes in which to make up his mind either to
come with him or be sunk, sent a wireless signal informing H.M. ships
of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, then went alongside the German and
put an armed guard aboard; but the captain of _Pallas_ rang down for
full speed ahead and starboarded his helm, whereupon _Tenby Castle_
fired a couple of shots at the steamer’s steering gear on the poop,
damaging it. The German stopped his engines once more, but the ship was
gradually drawing towards the shore, so that when _Victorian_ arrived
_Pallas_ was about two and a half miles from the land, thus being just
within territorial waters, and had to be released. There had been no
casualties.

The next incident occurred a week later. At ten minutes to six on the
morning of July 7 _Tenby Castle_ was lying off the western entrance
of the West Fjord, the weather being thick and rainy, when a large
steamer was seen to the N.N.W., so _Tenby Castle_ put on full speed
and ordered her to stop. This was the Swedish S.S. _Malmland_, with
about 7,000 tons of magnetic ore. After being ordered to follow the
trawler, Malmland put on full speed and drew ahead; so she was made to
keep right astern at reduced speed, and just before half-past eight
that morning was handed over to H.M.S. _India_ of the above-mentioned
cruiser squadron. The day passed, and it was a few minutes after
midnight when this trawler, again lying off the West Fjord, sighted a
steamer coming down from Narvik. A shot was fired across the steamer’s
bows, and on rounding-to under the steamship’s stern it was observed
that she was the German S.S. _Frederick Arp_, of Hamburg. She was
ordered to stop, then the trawler closed and ordered the steamer to
follow. The German refused to obey and steamed towards the land, so
the _Tenby Castle_ was compelled to fire a shot into his quarter, and
this caused him to stop. After he had several times refused to follow,
Lieutenant Randell gave him five minutes and informed him he would
either have to accompany the trawler or else be sunk. The five minutes
passed, the obstinate German still declined, and two minutes later put
his engines ahead and made towards the shore. It was now an hour since
the ship had first been sighted, so there was nothing for it but for
the trawler to sink her, and she was shelled at the water-line and sunk
four and a half miles away from the nearest land, her crew of thirteen
being handed over a few hours later to H.M.S. _India_. Thus a cargo of
4,000 tons of magnetic ore was prevented from reaching Germany.

Now, it was quite obvious that the information of these incidents would
not be long in reaching Germany from an agent via Norway. The German
Captain Gayer has stated since the war that news reached Germany that
‘an English auxiliary cruiser was permanently stationed’ off West
Fjord, whose task, he says, was ‘to seize and sink the German steamers
coming with minerals from Narvik.’ Therefore, on August 3, Germany
despatched U 22 from Borkum to West Fjord, and this craft had scarcely
taken up her position when she saw the armed merchant cruiser _India_
enter West Fjord and torpedoed her at long range, so that _India_ was
sunk. Gayer, who occupied during the war a high administrative position
in the U-boat service, adds the following statement: ‘It was,’ he
remarks, ‘one of the few instances in which a submarine found with
such precision the object of attack really intended for it, when the
information had been given by an agent.’

We pass over the intervening years and come to February, 1918. On the
nineteenth of that month the Q-ship _Tay and Tyne_ had left Lerwick, in
the Shetlands, to perform similar work off the Norwegian coast, where
she arrived on the twenty-second. This was a little 557-ton steamer,
which had been requisitioned at the end of the previous July and fitted
out at Lowestoft with a 4-inch gun aft, suitably hidden, and a couple
of 12-pounders. She was a single-screw ship, built at Dundee in 1909,
having a funnel, two masts, and the usual derricks. In addition to her
guns she carried one torpedo tube and also smoke-making apparatus.
She was commanded by Lieutenant Mack, R.N., with whom Lieutenant G.
H. P. Muhlhauser, R.N.R., went as second in command, both of these
officers, as the reader will remember, having served together in the
Q-sailing-ship _Result_. Having commissioned the new ship, Lieutenant
Mack then took her from Lowestoft to the secluded area of the Wash in
order to practise gunnery and the ‘panic’ party arrangements. Months
passed, but on February 22 something of interest happened, for some
distance below the Vigten Islands a couple of steamers were sighted,
so course was then altered to cut off the one that was bound to the
southward. When 1,000 yards away the latter hoisted German colours,
so _Tay and Tyne_ (alias _Cheriton_ and _Dundreary_) hoisted the
international signal ‘M.N.’ to stop immediately. This ship was the
_Dusseldorf_, a nine-year-old, typical German flush-decked tramp
of 1,200 tons, with 1,700 tons of magnetic ore on board. As she
disregarded the signal, a shell was fired across her bows, and this
caused her to stop and hoist the answering pennant. Lieutenant Mack
then steamed round the stern, keeping her covered all the time with his
gun, and now took up station inshore of the German.

_Dusseldorf_ had been completely taken by surprise, and never supposed
that this little steamer could possibly be a trap-ship. _Tay and
Tyne_ lowered a boat containing several of the British crew, under
Lieutenant Muhlhauser, armed with revolvers and rifles, and this guard
then boarded the enemy, on board whom were found a couple of Norwegian
Customs House officials and two Norse pilots. Lieutenant Muhlhauser
then ordered the German captain to muster his crew, which he promptly
did, and now the terrified crew were given five minutes to collect
their clothes. The captain handed over the ship’s papers and protested
that the ship was in territorial waters. Eleven Germans and the four
Norwegians were then transferred to the Q-ship, who landed the four
Norwegians in the _Dusseldorf’s_ boat at Sves Fjord, and this boat
they were allowed to keep. The British boarding party had consisted of
a dozen men, but Lieutenant Muhlhauser sent three back to the Q-ship,
and retained three German stokers and the two German engineers in order
to get the prize back to England, these five men working under the
supervision of one of the _Tay and Tyne’s_ crew.

Having received orders to proceed, Lieutenant Muhlhauser then began to
take the _Dusseldorf_ across the North Sea. I am indebted to him for
having allowed me to see his private diary of this voyage, and I think
it well illustrates the unexpected and surprising difficulties with
which Q-ship officers so frequently found themselves confronted. Having
parted company with the _Tay and Tyne_, _Dusseldorf’s_ new captain
proceeded to look for navigational facilities, but in this respect she
was amazingly ill-found. The only chart available showed just a small
portion of the North Sea, and there was no sextant in the ship. This
was a delightful predicament, for with all her magnetic ore it could
be taken for certain that the compass would have serious deviation,
and, having regard to the number of minefields in the North Sea and the
physical dangers of the east coast of Scotland, it was a gloomy prelude
to crossing from one side to the other.

Having been round the ship, it was now possible to ascertain her
character. She was not a thing of beauty, there was no electric light,
the engine-room was in a neglected condition, and round it were the
engineers’ cabins, the skipper and mate being berthed in a deckhouse
under the bridge. However, as the prize dipped to the North Sea swell
it was a joy to realize that all the hundreds of tons of ore would
not reach Germany. At this late stage of the war she was very short
of this commodity, and the loss to her would be felt. The _Tay and
Tyne_ had certainly made a most useful capture. Fortunately there was
found plenty of food in _Dusseldorf_, and enough coal for about three
weeks, so if only a few days’ fine, clear weather could be ensured,
the ship would soon be across and anchored in a British harbour. That,
of course, was always supposing there was no encountering of mines or
torpedoes.

By dusk of the first day the Halten Lighthouse (Lat. 64.10 N., Long.
9.25 E.) was made out, and then the night set in. For some time the
glass had been falling, and before the morning it was blowing a gale
of wind with a heavy sea. Loaded with such a cargo _Dusseldorf_ made
very heavy weather, and was like a half-tide rock most of the time,
and during the next day made only 30 miles in twenty-four hours!
Strictly speaking, this is not the North Sea but the Atlantic Ocean,
and February is as bad a month as you could choose to be off this
Norwegian coast in a ship that could make good only a mile an hour.
By the afternoon of the twenty-fourth the Romsdal Islands had been
sighted, and then, fearing lest the enemy might have received news of
the capture and sent out some of his light forces, the ship was kept
well out from the shore. The Germans should never get this ore, and
arrangements were made to sink her rather than give her up.

With no chart, a doubtful compass, and so few appliances, was there
ever an Atlantic voyage made under more casual circumstances? Bearings
were taken of the Pole Star and Sirius in order to get a check on the
compass, and the ship proceeded roughly on a W.S.W. course. During
the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth it blew a westerly gale, and the
seas crashed over her without mercy. Owing to the cargo being heavy
and stowed low, the _Dusseldorf_ displayed a quick, lively roll, and
already had broken down twice, when for a third time on the evening of
the twenty-sixth she again stopped. She was now four days out, and the
captain was a little anxious as to his position, but it was impossible
to ascertain it. A cast of the lead was taken and bottom was found at
thirty fathoms. From this it was assumed that they were now somewhere
near the Outer Skerries (East of the Shetlands); and inasmuch as it
was believed there was a German minefield, laid this year, not far
away, anxiety was in nowise lessened. As soon as the repairs had been
effected, course was altered to south-east for 16 miles, then south
for the same distance, and north-west in the hope of making the land.
This was done, but no land appeared, and it was blowing a gale from
the north-west. Whether the ship was now in the North Sea or whether
she had overshot the Shetlands and got the other side of Scotland, who
could say? Neither the error of the compass nor the error of the log
could be known. It was now the twenty-seventh, and they might be north,
south, east, or west of the Shetlands, but, on the whole, Lieutenant
Muhlhauser believed he was in the North Sea, so decided to run south
until well clear of the Moray Firth minefields, and then south-west
until the land was picked up.

The twenty-eighth of February passed without land being sighted,
and there was always the horrible possibility that suddenly the ship
might strike the shore in the darkness. It was a long-drawn-out period
of suspense, aggravated by bad weather and the presence of mines and
submarines. But as spring follows winter and dawn comes after night,
so at length there came relief. At six in the morning of the first of
March a light was picked up on the starboard bow, which, on consulting
a nautical almanack, was identified as the Bell Rock (east of the Tay).
Continuing further south, two trawlers and an armed yacht were sighted
off May Island, so a signal was sent through the yacht to Admiral
Startin at Granton reporting the arrival of a prize captured by _Tay
and Tyne_, and, in due course, having steamed up the Firth of Forth,
_Dusseldorf_ at last came to anchor and reported herself. It had been a
plucky voyage made under the worst conditions, and many an officer has
been decorated for an achievement less than this.

As for _Tay and Tyne_, she, too, had passed through a trying period.
After landing the Norwegian pilots and Customs House officials in Sves
Fjord she had steamed out to sea and made bad weather of the gale,
water even pouring into the engine-room; but she had been saved from
foundering by taking shelter in a Norwegian fjord, and next day cruised
about the coast looking for more ore ships, but had no further luck, so
on February 25 shaped a course for Lerwick, where she duly arrived, and
the German prisoners were taken out of the fo’c’sle and handed over to
the naval authorities.

In the following month _Tay and Tyne_, accompanied by another Q-ship
named the _Glendale_, was again off the Norwegian coast on the look-out
for ore ships, just as in Elizabethan days our ancestral seamen were
in a western sea looking out for the Spanish ships with their rich
cargoes. _Glendale_ (alias _Speedwell II._ and Q 23) was a disguised
trawler of 273 tons belonging to Granton, and armed with a couple of
12-pounders, a 6-pounder, and two torpedoes. On the twenty-first of
March, _Glendale_ was off the Oxnaes Lighthouse when she captured the
German S.S. _Valeria_ with 2,200 tons of ore. In vile weather these
three ships then started to cross to Lerwick, but, after they had got
part of the way across, _Valeria’s_ small supply of coal gave out,
so on the twenty-third she had to be abandoned and then sunk by the
shelling from the two Q-ships, the crew having been previously taken
off by boats, while both Q-ships poured oil on to the sea. Although
_Valeria_ never reached a British port this was most useful work; for
not only was the ore prevented from reaching Germany, but they were
deprived of a brand-new 1,000-ton ship. Her captain, who, together with
the rest of the crew, was brought into Lerwick, had only just left the
German Navy, and this was his first trip. Incidents such as these show
what excellent service can be rendered in naval warfare irrespective
of the size of ships and of adverse circumstances, provided only that
the officers have zeal and determination. The risks run by these two
small ships were very great when we consider the manner in which our
Scandinavian convoys had been cut up in spite of destroyer protection.
Conversely, seeing how necessary for the prosecution of the war these
supplies of ore were to Germany, is it not a little surprising that she
did not station a submarine off the Norwegian coast to act as escort,
submerged, and then torpedo the _Tay and Tyne_ as soon as she began to
close the ore ship? One of her smaller submarines could surely have
been spared for such an undertaking, and it would have been, from
their point of view, more than worth while.

Finally, we have to relate the fight of another small coasting steamer
transformed into a Q-ship. This was the _Stockforce_ (alias _Charyce_),
which had been requisitioned at Cardiff at the beginning of 1918, and
then armed with a couple of 4-inch guns, a 12-pounder, and a 3-pounder.
Her captain was Lieutenant Harold Auten, D.S.C., R.N.R., who had had
a great deal of experience in Q-ships under Admiral Bayly, and had
recently commanded the Q-ship _Heather_. On the thirtieth of July,
1918, _Stockforce_ was about 25 miles south-west of the Start, steaming
along a westerly course at 7-1/2 knots, the time being just before five
in the afternoon, when the track of a torpedo was seen on the starboard
beam coming straight on for the ship. The crew were sent to their
stations, the helm was put hard aport and engines full speed astern,
in the hope of avoiding the torpedo; but it was too late. The ship
was struck on the starboard side abreast of No. 1. hatch, putting the
forward gun out of action, entirely wrecking the fore part of the ship,
including the bridge, and wounding three ratings and an officer.

As soon as the torpedo had exploded there came a tremendous shower
of timber, which had been packed in the hold for flotation purposes,
and besides these 12-pounder shells, hatches, and other debris came
falling on to the bridge and fore part of the ship, wounding the first
lieutenant, the navigating officer, two ratings, and adding to the
injuries of the forward gun. All this had happened as the result of one
torpedo. The enemy, perhaps, being homeward bound with a spare torpedo
in his tube, had _not_ hesitated to use such a weapon on a small
coaster instead of employing his guns. _Stockforce_ had been fairly
caught and was settling down by the head. The ‘abandon ship’ party then
cleared away their boat and went through their usual make-believe,
whilst the ship’s surgeon had the wounded taken down to the ’tween
deck, where their injuries could be attended to. Here it was none too
safe, for the bulkheads had been weakened by the explosion so that the
water flowed aft, flooding the magazine and ’tween decks to a depth of
three feet, and thereby rendering the work of the surgeon not merely
difficult but hazardous.

Whilst the ‘panic’ party were rowing ahead of the ship, the rest lay
at their stations on board, behaving with the greatest equanimity and
coolness, while Lieutenant Auten, as the fore-control and bridge were
out of action, exercised his command from the after gunhouse. Five
minutes later the submarine rose to the surface half a mile distant,
and, being very shy, remained there for a quarter of an hour carefully
watching _Stockforce_ for any suspicious move. In accordance with
the training, the ‘panic’ party then began to row down the port side
towards the port quarter so as to draw the enemy on, and this manœuvre
succeeded in fooling the German, who now came down the port side as
required, being only about three hundred yards away. As soon as the
enemy was full on the beam of _Stockforce_, the latter handed him the
surprise packet. It was now 5.40 p.m. as both 4-inch guns opened fire
from the Q-ship. The first round from the after gun passed over the
conning-tower, carrying away the wireless and one of the periscopes,
the second shell hitting the conning-tower in the centre and blowing it
away, sending high into the air a man who was in the conning-tower.

_Stockforce’s_ second 4-inch gun with her first shot hit the enemy on
the water-line at the base where the conning-tower had been, tearing
the submarine right open and blowing out many of the crew. A large
volume of blue smoke began to pour out of the U-boat, and shell after
shell was then poured into the German until she sank by the stern, by
which time twenty direct hits had been obtained. The enemy submerged,
leaving a quantity of debris on the water, and was never seen again.
But in the meantime _Stockforce_ was in a critical condition, and every
attempt now was made to save her from foundering. Having recalled the
‘panic’ party, the engines were put full speed ahead in the effort
to reach the nearest land and beach her, as she was rapidly listing
to starboard and going down by the head. At 6.30 p.m. two trawlers
were sighted who closed the ship, and as _Stockforce_ was already
practically awash forward and along most of the starboard side, all the
wounded and half the men were now transferred to one of these trawlers.

With a volunteer crew the Q-ship then went ahead again, but the
engine-room was leaking badly, and in the stokehold there were several
feet of water, and it was clear that the life of _Stockforce_ was a
matter of a very short while, for the water in both engine-room and
stokehold began now to rise rapidly and the ship was about to sink.
But two British torpedo-boats had now arrived, and at 5.15 p.m.,
when off Bolt Tail, with Plymouth Sound only a few miles off, the
_Stockforce’s_ captain had to send the rest of the ship’s company
from the sinking ship, while he remained on board with only the first
lieutenant. Five minutes later a dinghy from one of the torpedo-boats
fetched them also, and after only another five minutes _Stockforce_
sank. It had been a plucky fight and a fine endeavour to save the
ship, but this was not to be successful. Handsome awards were made in
respect of these efforts, the coveted Victoria Cross being conferred on
Lieutenant Auten, whilst the Distinguished Service Cross was bestowed
on Lieutenant H. F. Rainey, R.N.R., Lieutenant L. E. Workman, R.N.R.,
Lieutenant W. J. Grey, R.N.R., Sub-Lieutenant G. S. Anakin, R.N.R.,
Assistant-Paymaster A. D. Davis, R.N.R., and Surgeon-Probationer G. E.
Strahan, R.N.V.R.

This last fight represents Q-ship warfare at its highest point of
development. We have here the experienced officers of each nation,
knowing all the tricks of their highly specialized profession, fighting
each other in the most cunningly devised craft. Each of these vessels
represented all that could be done by a combination of intellect and
engineering skill, so that when the two should meet in the sea arena
the fight could not fail to be interesting. After the preliminary
moves had been made how would matters stand? The answer is that in
the final appeal it was largely a matter of luck. Now, in the duel we
have just witnessed the first round of the match was undoubtedly won
by the submarine, whose torpedo got home and wrought such damage that
the ship was doomed from the first. Round number two, when the ‘panic’
party succeeded in luring the enemy on to the requisite range and
bearing, was distinctly in favour of _Stockforce_. So also was round
three, in which she managed to shell him so thoroughly. But here the
element of luck enters and characterizes the rest of the day. To all
intents and purposes the submarine was destroyed and sunk; whereas,
in point of fact, notwithstanding her grievous wounds, she managed
to get back home. It was touch-and-go with her, as it had been with
von Spiegel’s submarine after being shelled by the _Prize_, but good
fortune just weighed the scales and prevented a loss. On the other
hand, _Stockforce_ might have had the luck just to keep afloat a few
more miles and get into Plymouth Sound, but as it was she sank a little
too soon, and thus the actual result of the encounter might by some be
called indecisive, or even in favour of the enemy. This is not so. To
us the loss of a small coaster turned temporarily into a man-of-war was
of little consequence. A similar ship, the _Suffolk Coast_, would soon
be picked up and then turned over to the dockyard experts to be fitted
out; but in the case of a submarine there were only limited numbers.
That particular U-boat would now have a long list of defects and be a
non-combatant for a long time, and her crew would morally be seriously
affected by their miraculous escape, and they would not forget to pass
on their impressions to their opposite numbers in other submarines.

It was rather the cumulative effect of Q-ships, destroyers, mines,
auxiliary patrol craft, depth charges, hydrophones, convoys, and good
staff work which broke the spirit of the German submarine menace, so
that if the war had continued much longer U-boats would have been
thwarted except within certain limits of the North Sea. Every weapon
has its rise and fall in the sphere of usefulness; the shell is
repelled by armour-plate, the Zeppelin is destroyed by the aircraft,
and so on. So it was with the Q-ship. It came into being at a time when
no other method seemed likely to deal with submarines adequately. It
became successful, it rose into popularity to its logical peak, and
then began to wane in usefulness as the submarine re-adapted herself
to these new conditions. Afterwards came the period when the mine
barrages in the Heligoland Bight, in the Dover Strait, and across the
northern end of the North Sea, and the hydrophones, in swiftly moving
light craft, made the life of any submarine precarious in his going and
coming. The hydrophone has made such wonderful developments since the
war that in the future within the narrow seas a submarine would find
life a little too thrilling to be pleasant.

But for a long period the Q-ship did wonders, and to the officers and
men of this service for their bravery and endurance we owe much. They
were taking enormous risks, and they turned these risks into successes
of great magnitude as long as ever the game was possible. Most, though
not all, of the ships and officers and men came from the Mercantile
Marine, and in this special force we see the perfect co-operation
between the two branches of our national sea service for the good of
the Empire. The Royal Navy could teach them all that was to be known
about the technicalities of fighting, could provide them with guns and
expert gunners, could give them all the facilities of His Majesty’s
dockyards, whilst at the same time the Mercantile Marine provided the
ships and the _personnel_ who knew what were the normal habits and
appearances of a tramp, a collier, or a coaster. Originally known as
special service ships, as decoys, then as Q-ships, these vessels during
1917 and 1918 were known as H.M.S. So-and-So, but it was under the
designation of Q-ships that they reached their pinnacle of fame, and
as such they will always be known, so it has been thought well thus to
describe them in these pages. But whether we think of them as mystery
ships or as properly commissioned vessels of His Majesty’s Navy, there
will ever remain for them a niche in our great sea story, and the
valour of all ranks and ratings in all kinds of these odd craft, amid
every possible condition of difficulty and danger, should be to those
who come after an immortal lesson and a standard of duty to the rising
race of British seamanhood. Otherwise these men toiled and endured and
died in vain.



INDEX

⁂ The names of Q-ships are in heavy-faced type.


  =Acton=, 164

  =Alcala.= See _Q 19

  Alexander, C. J., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 164

  _Alyssum, H.M.S._, 120, 122-3

  _Amiral Ganteaume_, 7

  Anakin, G. S., Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., 269

  _Andalusian_, 9

  _Anglo-Columbian_, 26

  =Antwerp= (formerly _Vienna_), 8, 9, 24, 235

  _Arabic_, 20, 32, 132

  Armstrong, M., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 67

  =Arvonian= (_Santee_, _Bendish_), 231-4

  =Athos.= See _Glen_

  _Attack, H.M.S._, 211

  _Attentive, H.M.S._, 7

  =Aubrietia.= See _Q 13_

  _Aud_, 140

  Auten, Harold, Lieutenant, R.N.R., 164, 266-9


  _Bagdale, H.M.T._ 64-5

  =Baralong= (_Wyandra_), 20-3, 25, 26-31, 41, 104, 109

  _Baron Ardrossan_, 34

  _Baron Napier_, 33-5

  =Baron Rose=, 190

  =Barranca=. See _Q 3_

  Bartel, Leutnant Karl, 116

  =Bayard=, 77

  Bayly, Admiral Sir Lewis, 46, 104, 198, 203, 215, 233, 246, 247, 266

  _Bayonne_, 123

  Beaton, W. D., Lieutenant, R.N.R. 146

  =Begonia=, 139, 163

  =Bendish.= See _Arvonian_

  _Berlin_, 161

  Bernays, Leopold A., Commander R.N., 161-3

  _Beryl, H.M.Y._ 160

  Beswick, W., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 41, 43

  =Betsy Jameson=, 77

  _Bidart_, 247

  Blackwood, M. B. R., Commander, R.N., 242, 245

  Blair, A. D., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 61

  =Blessing=, 57

  _Bluebell, H.M.S._, 179, 233

  Boggs, L. S., Lieut.-Commander, R.N.R., 246

  =Bolham.= See _Sarah Colebrooke_

  =Bombala= (_Willow Branch_), 235-6

  Bonner, C. G., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 205, 207, 212

  =Bracondale.= See _Chagford_

  =Bradford City= (_Saros_), 31, 101

  _Bremen_, 139

  Brewer, Skipper, R.N.R., 145, 149

  =Brig 10.= See _Q 17_

  =Brig 11.= See _Q 22_

  =Brown Mouse=, 77, 78

  _Buttercup, H.M.S._, 197


  _Camelia, H.M.S._, 160

  Campbell, Captain Gordon, R.N., 24, 39-46, 109, 161, 192-208, 246

  _Canadian_, 120

  =Candytuft=, 174-6

  Capelle, Admiral von, 134

  =Carrigan Head=, 48-9

  Casement, Sir R., 140

  _Cedric, H.M.S._, 110

  =Century.= See _Penhallow_

  =Chagford= (_Bracondale_), 228-31

  _Chancellor_, 26

  Charles, F. W., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 238

  =Charyce.= See _Stockforce_

  =Cheero=, 55-6

  =Cheriton.= See _Tay and Tyne_

  _Christopher, H.M.S._, 167, 171, 174, 211

  Cochrane, W. O’G., Captain, R.N., 174-5

  Colville, Admiral Sir Stanley, 13, 214

  =Commissioner=, 238

  _Crocus, H.M.S._, 203

  Crompton, Ober-Leutnant, 28, 30

  =Cullist= ( _Westphalia_, _Jurassic_, _Hayling_, _Prim_), 164, 166-8

  _Cummings, U.S.S._, 233

  _Cushing, U.S.S._, 200, 203

  =Cymric=, 189-90


  _Daffodil, H.M.S._, 165

  =Dag.= See _Result_

  Dane, Commander, R.N., 234

  =Dargle=, 77, 177, 190

  Davis, A. D., Assistant-Paymaster, R.N.R., 269

  _Deutschland_, 139, 234

  =Donlevon= (_Ravenstone_), 159, 160

  Doubleday, G. H. D., Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., 167

  Douglas, S. C., Commander, R.N., 234

  Dowie, J. M., Temporary Engineer, R.N.R., 30

  _Drayton, U.S.S._, 165

  _Dreadnought, H.M.S._, 9

  Duff, Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander, 227

  =Dunclutha=, 235

  =Duncombe=, 17

  =Dundreary.= See _Tay and Tyne_

  _Dunois_, 107-8

  =Dunraven=, 203-12

  _Dusseldorf_, 260-4


  _E 13, H.M. Submarine_, 23

  =Echunga.= See _Q 3_

  =Edith E. Cummins.= See _Fresh Hope_

  Eigler, Ingenieur-Aspirant, 116

  =Elixir.= See _Q 30_

  =Elizabeth=, 189

  =Else.= See _Q 21_

  Errington, Lieutenant, R.N.R., 175-6

  _Eudora_, 193


  _Falaba_, 31

  =Fame.= See _Revenge_

  =First Prize.= See _Q 21_

  _Flying Sportsman, H.M. Tug_, 198

  _Flying Spray, H.M. Tug_, 160

  =Fort George=, 239

  _Foss_, 211

  Frank, F. A., Lieut.-Commander, R.N.R., 105-6, 164

  _Frederich Arp_, 258

  =Fresh Hope= (_Edith E. Cummins_, _Iroquois_), 189-90

  =Friswell.= See _Pargust_


  =G and E=, 20

  =G.L.M.= See _George L. Muir_

  =G. L. Munro.= See _George L. Muir_

  =Gaelic.= See _Q 22_

  Gayer, Captain, 259

  =George L. Muir= (_G. L. Munro_, _G.L.M._, _Padre_), 177

  =Glen= (_Sidney_, _Athos_), 77-9, 180-4

  =Glendale.= See _Q 23_

  =Glenfoyle.= See _Stonecrop_

  =Glen Isla=, 17

  _Glitra_, 7

  =Gobo.= See _Q 22_

  Grenfell, F. H., Captain, R.N., 109-17, 124, 160, 214-6

  Grey, W. J., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 269

  =Gunner=, 11, 237

  Guy, B. J. D., Lieut.-Commander, R.N., 35-6, 236


  _Hadziaka_, 173

  _Halcyon, H.M.S._, 90

  Hallwright, W. W., Lieut.-Commander, R.N., 141

  Hannaford, Skipper R. W., R.N.R., 64

  Hannah, Lieutenant, R.N.V.R., 150

  Hanrahan, D. C., Commander, U.S.N., 232-3

  Hansen, Lieut.-Commander, 26, 29

  _Harlech Castle, H.M. Trawler_, 186

  Harvey, H. W., Lieutenant, R.N.V.R., 55

  Hayes, J., Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., 57

  =Hayling.= See _Cullist_

  =Heather.= See _Q 16_

  =Helgoland.= See _Q 17_

  Herbert, Godfrey, Commander, R.N., 8, 48-9, 235

  Hereford, P. R., Lieutenant, 212

  _Hermes, H.M.S._, 7

  _Hesione_, 26

  Hick, Captain Allanson, 30-1

  =Hobbyhawk.= See _Telesia_

  Hodson, G. L., Lieut.-Commander, R.N., 33-4

  =Horley.= See _Q 17_

  Hudson, C. H., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 239-40

  Hughes, E. L., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 57

  Hughes, T., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 74-5

  Hutchinson, E., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 130


  =Imogene=, 189-90

  _Ina Williams, H.M. Trawler_, 46

  _India, H.M.S._, 258-9

  =Intaba=, 139

  _Invercauld_, 120

  =Inverlyon=, 20

  _Iolanda, H.M.Y._, 236

  _Iolo_, 193

  =Iroquois.= See _Fresh Hope_

  Irvine, G., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 178

  =Island Queen.= See _Q 19_


  Jeffrey, D. G., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 228-31, 234

  Jellicoe, Admiral Viscount, 10, 152, 157, 223

  =Jurassic.= See _Cullist_


  Kaye, A.B., R.N.R., 40

  =Kermes=, 57

  Kerr, J., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 74

  Keyes, Adrian, Commander, R.N., 173


  _Laburnum, H.M.S._, 197

  =Lady Olive.= See _Q 18_

  =Lady Patricia.= See _Paxton_

  =Laggan= (_Pladda_), 104, 164

  =Lammeroo.= See _Remembrance_

  Lawrence, Skipper, J. H., R.N.R., 240

  Lawrie, J., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 69-75

  _Leonidas, H.M.S._, 128

  _Linsdell_, 80

  =Lisette=, 78

  =Lodorer.= See _Q 5_

  _Lodsen_, 49

  _Louise_, 16

  Loveless, Engineer-Lieutenant, 43

  _Luneda, H.M. Trawler_, 198

  _Lusitania_, 13, 31, 32, 132, 245

  =Lyons=, 9, 25


  McClure, Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., 33

  Mack, P. J., Lieutenant, R.N., 80, 86, 260

  McLeod, J. K., Lieut.-Commander, R.N., 164, 225

  McLeod, W., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 141

  _Malachite_, 7

  _Malmland_, 258

  =Manford.= See _Q 7_

  =Maracaio.= See _Q 28_

  =Margit=, 32-5

  =Marshfort=, 234

  Marx, Admiral, 101, 160

  =Mary B. Mitchell.= See _Q 9_

  _Mary Rose, H.M.S._, 13

  Matheson, C. G., Lieut.-Commander, R.N.R., 170-1

  =Mavis.= See _Q 26_

  Maxwell, F. N., 13

  Meade, Skipper, R.N.R., 146-7

  Melville, Lord, 66

  =Merops.= See _Q 28_

  =Mitchell.= See _Q 9_

  _Moewe_, 226, 235

  Morris, K., Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., 79, 184

  Muhlhauser, G. H. P., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 80-2, 86, 260-4

  _Myosotis, H.M.S._, 160


  Naylor, Cedric, Lieutenant, R.N.R., 124-5, 128, 130

  _Nicosian_, 22-3

  _Niger, H.M.S._, 7

  Noake, Basil S., Lieut.-Commander, R.N., 163

  _Noma, U.S.S._, 211

  Noodt, Ober-Leutnant Erich, 116

  Nunn, E. A., Assistant-Paymaster, R.N.R., 212

  =Nyroca.= See _Q 26_


  Olphert, W., Lieut.-Commander, R.N.R., 164

  =Ooma=, 235

  _Oracle, H.M.S._, 231

  _Orestes, H.M.S._, 171


  =Padre.= See _George L. Muir_

  _Paladin, H.M. Tug_, 233

  _Pallas_, 257

  =Pangloss.= See _Pargust_

  =Pargust= (_Vittoria_, _Snail_, _Friswell_, _Pangloss_), 161,
    199-204, 231, 234

  =Paxton= (_Lady Patricia_), 104

  =Penhallow= (_Century_), 31

  =Penshurst.= See _Q 7_

  Périère, Arnauld de la, 93

  =Pet=, 20

  Phillips, Lieutenant, R.N.R., 175

  Pitcher, E., Petty Officer, 212

  =Pladda.= See _Laggan_

  Powell, Commander Frank, 139

  =Prevalent=, 78

  =Prim.= See _Cullist_

  _Primo_, 7

  =Prince Charles=, 13-16

  =Princess Ena=, 24

  =Privet.= See _Q 19_

  =Prize.= See _Q 21_

  =Probus.= See _Q 30_

  Purdy, James, Engineer Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., 49


  =Q 3= (_Barranca_, _Echunga_), 221, 234

  =Q 5= (_Lodorer_, _Farnborough_), 24, 40-7, 109, 192-9, 227

  =Q 7= (_Penshurst_, _Manford_), 17, 47, 109-30, 161, 213-22

  =Q 9= (_Mary B. Mitchell_, _Mary Y. Jose_, _Jeannette_, _Brine_,
    _Neptun_, _Marie Thérèse_, _Eider_, _Arius_, _Cancalais_), 67-74

  =Q 12= (_Tulip_), 138

  =Q 13= (_Aubrietia_), 101, 139, 160, 237

  =Q 15= (_Salvia_), 98-101, 139, 164

  =Q 16= (_Heather_), 17, 139, 141, 164, 266

  =Q 17= (_Helgoland_, _Horley_, _Brig 10_), 59-64, 78, 190

  =Q 18= (_Lady Olive_), 104

  =Q 19= (_Privet_, _Island Queen_, _Swisher_, _Alcala_), 170-1

  =Q 21= (_Else_, _First Prize_, _Prize_) 77, 144

  =Q 22= (_Gaelic_, _Gobo_, _Brig 11_), 65-6, 178-9, 183-4

  =Q 23= (_Glendale_, _Speedwell II._), 264-5

  =Q 25=, 104

  =Q 26= (_Mavis_, _Nyroca_), 104, 172-4

  =Q 28= (_Merops_, _Maracaio_), 77, 190

  =Q 30= (_Thirza_, _Beady_, _Probus_, _Elixir_), 18, 185-9

  =Quickly=, 11


  Rainey, H. F., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 269

  Randell, J. T., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 256-8

  =Ravenstone.= See Donlevon

  =Ready.= See _Q 30_

  =Remembrance= (_Lammeroo_), 31

  =Rentoul=, 189, 190

  =Result= (_Dag_), 77, 79, 81-6, 260

  =Revenge= (_Fame_), 56

  _Rival II., H. M. Drifter_, 150

  Rolfe, C. N., Lieut.-Commander, R.N., 164

  =Rosskeen=, 238


  =Salvia.= See _Q 15_

  Sanders, W. E. L., Lieut.-Commander, R.N.R., 60, 61, 144, 157

  =Santee.= See _Arvonian_

  =Sarah Colebrooke= (_Bolham_), 77

  _Sardinia_, 70-1

  =Saros.= See _Bradford City_

  _Saxon, H.M. Trawler_, 230-1

  Scheer, Admiral von, 133

  Schwieger, Lieut.-Commander, 244

  Scott, W. F., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 55

  =Sidney.= See _Glen_

  Simpson, S. H., Commander, R.N., 164, 167, 168

  Sims, Admiral, 231-2

  Smart, R. C. C., Lieut.-Commander, R.N., 101

  Smith, J. S., Temporary Engineer Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., 41, 44

  Smith, Skipper W., R.N.R., 64

  =Snail.= See _Pargust_

  _Soerakarta_, 45

  =Speedwell=, 238

  =Speedwell II.= See _Q 23_

  _Speedy, H.M.S._, 81

  Spence, G., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 167

  Spencer, J. G., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 14

  Spiegel, Lieut.-Commander Freiherr von, 145-8

  _Springwell_, 35-6

  =Starmount=, 233

  Startin, Admiral, 10

  =Stockforce= (_Charyce_), 247, 266-70

  =Stonecrop= (_Glenfoyle_), 242-5

  Strahan, G. E., Surgeon-Probationer, R.N.V.R., 269

  _Strathallan, H.M. Trawler_, 239

  _Strathearn, H.M. Trawler_, 239

  =Strumbles=, 57

  Stuart, R. N., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 203

  =Suffolk Coast=, 220, 247-9

  _Sussex_, 132

  =Swisher.= See _Q 19_


  =Tamarisk=, 139, 164, 246

  =Tay and Tyne= (_Cheriton_, _Dundreary_), 259-62, 264-5

  =Telesia= (_Hobbyhawk_), 53-6

  =Tenby Castle=, 256-8

  =Thalia=, 57

  =Thirza.= See _Q 30_

  =Thornhill.= See _Werribee_

  _Torrent, H.M.S._, 91

  _Tremayne_, 175

  =Tulip.= See _Q 12_

  Turnbull, R. J., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 79, 180-1

  Tweedie, Lieutenant, R.N.R., 33


  _U 9_, 6;
    _U 18_, 7;
    _U 20_, 245;
    _U 21_, 7;
    _U 22_, 259;
    _U 23_, 10;
    _U 27_, 22, 26;
    _U 29_, 9;
    _U 34_, 172;
    _U 36_, 16;
    _U 40_, 10;
    _U 41_, 26, 28-31, 40;
    _U 43_, 145;
    _U 44_, 231;
    _U 62_, 138;
    _U 68_, 42;
    _U 83_, 194-6;
    _U 84_, 120;
    _U 88_, 242-4;
    _U 93_, 145-52

  _UB 4_, 20;
    _UB 13_, 54;
    _UB 19_, 116;
    _UB 37_, 119;
    _UB 39_, 180-1;
    _UB 48_, 155-6;
    _UB 63_, 240

  _UC 3_, 56;
    _UC 29_, 202;
    _UC 45_, 81, 86

  =Underwing=, 234

  _Urbino_, 28, 30


  =Vala=, 16, 17, 47, 161-2

  _Valeria_, 265

  =Vereker.= See _Viola_

  _Victorian, H. M. S._, 257

  =Vienna.= See _Antwerp_

  _Vindictive, H.M.S._, 24

  =Viola= (_Vereker_), 138, 164, 189-90, 233

  =Vittoria=, 7

  =Vittoria.= See _Pargust_


  =W. S. Bailey=, 239-40

  =Wadsworth=, 104

  Wardlaw, Mark, Lieutenant, R.N., 14-16

  _Warrington, U.S.S._, 165

  Wegener, Lieut.-Commander, 23

  =Wellholme.= See _Werribee_

  =Werribee= (_Thornhill_, _Wellholme_, _Wonganella_), 31, 35-6, 236-7

  Westmore, G. G., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 62, 64

  _Westphalia._ See _Cullist_

  =Wexford Coast=, 246

  Wharton, W. S., Skipper, R.N.R, 53-4

  _Whitefriars_, 174

  _Wileyside_, 111

  Williams, J. W., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 139, 164

  Williams, Seaman W., R.N.R., 203

  =Willow Branch.= See _Bombala_

  Wilmot-Smith, A., Lieut.-Commander, R.N., 26, 29, 30

  _Wolf_, 226

  =Wonganella.= See _Werribee_

  Workman, L. E., Lieutenant, R.N.R., 269

  Wreford, 90

  =Wyandra.= See _Baralong_


  Ziegler, Sub-Lieutenant, 151-3

  _Zinnia, H.M.S._, 203

  =Zylpha=, 24, 47, 164-5


PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY BILLING AND SONS, LTD., GUILDFORD AND ESHER



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

The spelling, punctuation and hyphenation from the original has been
retained except for apparent printer’s errors.

The signature in Chapter XIV., FIG. 16.—LETTER OF APPRECIATION is
probably that of Sir Eric Campbell Geddes.





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