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Title: Full Speed Ahead - Tales from the Log of a Correspondent with Our Navy
Author: Beston, Henry B.
Language: English
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[Frontispiece: "A destroyer is by no means a paradise of comfort"]



  FULL SPEED
  AHEAD

  Tales from the Log of a Correspondent
  with Our Navy


  BY

  HENRY B. BESTON



  GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
  DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
  1919



  Copyright, 1919, by
  DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
  All rights reserved, including that of
  translation into foreign languages,
  including the Scandinavian

  Copyright, 1918, by The Atlantic Monthly Company
  Copyright, 1918, by The Curtis Publishing Company
  Copyright, 1918, by The North American Review Pub. Co,
  Copyright, 1918, by The American National Red Cross
  Copyright, 1918, by The Outlook Company



  To
  MAJOR GEORGE MAURICE SHEAHAN
  HARVARD UNIT R.A.M.C.

  A Forerunner of the Great Crusade.



PREFACE

These tales are memories of several months spent as a special
correspondent attached to the forces of the American Navy on foreign
service.  Many of the little stories are personal experiences, though
some are "written up" from the records and others set down after
interviews.  In writing them, I have not sought the laurels of an
official historian, but been content to chronicle the interesting
incidents of the daily life as well as the achievements and heroisms
of the friends who keep the highways of the sea.

To my hosts of the United States Navy one and all, I am under deep
obligation for the courtesy and hospitality everywhere extended to me
on my visit.  But surely the greatest of my obligations is that owed
to Secretary Daniels for the personal permission which made possible
my journey? and for the good will with which he saw me on my way.
And no acknowledgment, no matter how studied or courtly its phrasing,
can express what I owe to Admiral Sims for the friendliness of my
reception, for his care that I be shown all the Navy's activities,
and for his constant and kindly effort to advance my work in every
possible way.  To Admiral Hugh Rodman of the battleship squadron, his
sometime guest here renders thanks for the opportunity given him to
spend some ten days aboard the American flagship and for the welcome
which makes his stay aboard so pleasant a memory.

To the following officers, also, am I much indebted: Captain, now
Admiral Hughes, Captain J. R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff at the
Irish Base, Captain Thomas Hart, Chief of Staff directing submarine
operations, Commander Babcock and Commander Daniels, both of Admiral
Sims' staff, Commander Bryant and Commander Carpender, both of
Captain Pringle's staff, Commander Henry W. Cooke and Commander
Wilson Brown, both of the destroyer flotilla, Lieutenant Horace H.
Jalbert of the U.S.S. Bushnell, Lieutenant Commander Morton L. Deyo,
Chaplain J. L. Neff, Lieutenant F. H. King, Lieutenant Lanman,
Lieutenant Herrick, and Lieutenant Lewis Hancock, Lieutenant George
Hood and Lieutenant Bumpus of our submarines.

I would not end without a word of thanks to the enlisted men for
their unfailing good will and ever courteous behaviour.

To Mr. Ellery Sedgwick of the _Atlantic Monthly_, under whose colours
I had the honour to make my journalistic cruise, I am indebted for
more friendly help, counsel and encouragement than I shall ever be
able to repay.  And I shall not easily forget the kindly offices and
unfailing hospitality of Captain Luke C. Doyle of Washington, D.C.,
and Mr. Sidney A. Mitchell of the London Committee of the United
States Food Administration.

Lucky is the correspondent sent to the Navy!

H. B. B.

TOPSFIELD AND QUINCY, 1919



  CONTENTS

  Preface
  I An Heroic Journey
  II Into the Dark
  III Friend or Foe?
  IV Running Submerged
  V The Return of the Captains
  VI Our Sailors
  VII The Base
  VIII The Destroyer and Her Problem
  IX Torpedoed
  X The End of a Submarine
  XI "Fishing"
  XII Amusements
  XIII Storm
  XIV On Night Patrol
  XV Camouflage
  XVI Tragedy
  XVII "Consolidation not Coöperation"
  XVIII Machine against Machine
  XIX The Legend of Kelley
  XX Sons of the Trident
  XXI The Fleet
  XXII The American Squadron
  XXIII To Sea with the Fleet
  XXIV "Sky Pilots"
  XXV In the Wireless Room
  XXVI Marines
  XXVII Ships of the Air
  XXVIII The Sailor in London
  XXIX The Armed Guard
  XXX Going Aboard
  XXXI Grain
  XXXII Collision
  XXXIII The Raid by the River
  XXXIV On Having been both a Soldier and a Sailor



ILLUSTRATIONS

"A destroyer is by no means a paradise of comfort" . . .
_Frontispiece_

A flock of submarines and the "mother" ship in harbour

American destroyer on patrol

The last of a German U-boat

To enjoy their leisure between watches these officers of an American
destroyer lash themselves into their seats

An American battleship fleet leaving the harbour

Even a super-dreadnought is wet at times

An American gun crew in heavy weather (winter) outfit



FULL SPEED AHEAD


I

AN HEROIC JOURNEY

A London day of soft and smoky skies darkened every now and then by
capricious and intrusive little showers was drawing to a close in a
twilight of gold and grey.  Our table stood in a bay of plate glass
windows over-looking the embankment close by Cleopatra's needle; we
watched the little, double-decked tram cars gliding by, the opposing,
interthreading streams of pedestrians, and a fleet of coal barges
coming up the river solemn as a cloud.  Behind us lay, splendid and
somewhat theatric, the mottled marble, stiff, white napery, and
bright silver of a fashionable dining hall.  Only a few guests were
at hand.  At our little table sat the captain of a submarine who was
then in London for a few days on richly merited leave, a
distinguished young officer of the "mother ship" accompanying our
under water craft, and myself.  It is impossible to be long with
submarine folk without realizing that they are a people apart,
differing from the rest of the Naval personnel even as their vessels
differ.  A man must have something individual to his character to
volunteer for the service, and every officer is a volunteer.  An
extraordinary power of quick decision, a certain keen, resolute look,
a certain carriage; submarine folk are such men as all of us pray to
have by our side in any great trial or crisis of our life.

Guests began to come by twos and threes, girls in pretty shimmering
dresses, young army officers with wound stripes and clumsy limps; a
faint murmur of conversation rose, faint and continuous as the murmur
of a distant stream.

Because I requested him, the captain told me of the crossing of the
submarines.  It was the epic of an heroic journey.

"After each boat had been examined in detail, we began to fill them
with supplies for the voyage.  The crew spent days manoeuvring cases
of condensed milk, cans of butter, meat, and chocolate down the
hatchways, food which the boat swallowed up as if she had been a kind
of steel stomach.  Until we had it all neatly and tightly stowed
away, the Z looked like a corner grocery store.  Then early one
December morning we pulled out of the harbour.  It wasn't very cold,
merely raw and damp, and it was misty dark.  I remember looking at
the winter stars riding high just over the meridian.  The port behind
us was still and dead, but a handful of navy folk had come to one of
the wharves to see us off.  Yes, there was something of a stir, you
know the kind of stir that's made when boats go to sea, shouted
orders, the splash of dropped cables, vagrant noises.  It didn't take
a great time to get under way; we were ready, waiting for the word to
go.  The flotilla, mother-ship, tugs and all, was out to sea long
before the dawn.  You would have liked the picture, the immense
stretch of the greyish, winter-stricken sea, the little covey of
submarines running awash, the grey mother-ship going ahead casually
as an excursion steamer into the featureless dawn.  The weather was
wonderful for two days, a touch of Indian summer on December's ocean,
then on the night of the third day we ran into a blow, the worst I
ever saw in my life.  A storm....  Oh boy!"

He paused for an instant to flick the ashes from his cigarette with a
neat, deliberate gesture.  One could see memories living in the fine,
resolute eyes.  The broken noises of the restaurant which had
seemingly died away while he spoke crept back again to one's ears.  A
waiter dropped a clanging fork.

"A storm.  Never remember anything like it.  A perfect terror.
Everybody realized that any attempt to keep together would be
hopeless.  And night was coming on.  One by one the submarines
disappeared into that fury of wind and driving water; the mothership,
because she was the largest vessel in the flotilla, being the last we
saw.  We snatched her last signal out of the teeth of the gale, and
then she was gone, swallowed up in the storm.  So we were alone.

We got through the night somehow or other.  The next morning the
ocean was a dirty brown-grey, and knots and wisps of cloud were
tearing by close over the water.  Every once in a while a great,
hollow-bellied wave would come rolling out of the hullaballoo and
break thundering over us.  On all the boats the lookout on the bridge
had to be lashed in place, and every once in a while a couple of tons
of water would come tumbling past him.  Nobody at the job stayed dry
for more than three minutes; a bathing suit would have been more to
the point than oilers.  Shaken, you ask?  No, not very bad, a few
assorted bruises and a wrenched thumb, though poor Jonesie on the Z3
had a wave knock him up against the rail and smash in a couple of
ribs.  But no being sick for him, he kept to his feet and carried on
in spite of the pain, in spite of being in a boat which registered a
roll of seventy degrees.  I used to watch the old hooker rolling
under me.  You've never been on a submarine when she's rolling--talk
about rolling--oh boy!  We all say seventy degrees because that's as
far as our instruments register.  There were times when I almost
thought she was on her way to make a complete revolution.  You can
imagine what it was like inside.  To begin with, the oily air was
none too sweet, because every time we opened a hatch we shipped
enough water to make the old hooker look like a start at a swimming
tank, and then she was lurching so continuously and violently that to
move six feet was an expedition.  But the men were wonderful,
wonderful!  Each man at his allotted task, and--what's that English
word, ... carrying on.  Our little cook couldn't do a thing with the
stove, might as well have tried to cook on a miniature earthquake,
but he saw that all of us had something to eat, doing his bit, game
as could be."

He paused again.  The embankment was fading in the dark.  A waiter
appeared, and drew down the thick, light-proof curtains.

"Yes, the men were wonderful--wonderful.  And there wasn't very much
sickness.  Let's see, how far had I got--since it was impossible to
make any headway we lay to for forty-eight hours.  The deck began to
go the second morning, some of the plates being ripped right off.
And blow--well as I told you in the beginning, I never saw anything
like it.  The disk of the sea was just one great, ragged mass of foam
all being hurled through space by a wind screaming by with the voice
and force of a million express trains.  Perhaps you are wondering why
we didn't submerge.  Simply couldn't use up our electricity.  It
takes oil running on the surface to create the electric power, and we
had a long, long journey ahead.  Then ice began to form on the
superstructure, and we had to get out a crew to chop it off.  It was
something of a job; there wasn't much to hang on to, and the waves
were still breaking over us.  But we freed her of the danger, and she
went on.

We used to wonder where the other boys were in the midst of all the
racket.  One was drifting towards the New England coast, her compass
smashed to flinders; others had run for Bermuda, others were still at
sea.

Then we had three days of good easterly wind.  By jingo, but the good
weather was great, were we glad to have it--oh boy!  We had just got
things ship-shape again when we had another blow but this second one
was by no means as bad as the first.  And after that we had another
spell of decent weather.  The crew used to start the phonograph and
keep it going all day long.

The weather was so good that I decided to keep right on to the
harbour which was to be our base over here.  I had enough oil, plenty
of water, the only possible danger was a shortage of provisions.  So
I put us all on a ration, arranging to have the last grand meal on
Christmas day.  Can you imagine Christmas on a little, storm-bumped
submarine some hundred miles off the coast?  A day or two more and we
ran calmly into ... Shall we say deleted harbour?

Hungry, dirty, oh so dirty, we hadn't had any sort of bath or wash
for about three weeks; we all were green looking from having been
cooped up so long, and our unshaven, grease-streaked faces would have
upset a dinosaur.  The authorities were wonderfully kind and looked
after us and our men in the very best style.  I thought we could
never stop eating and a real sleep, ... oh boy!

"Did you fly the flag as you came in?" I asked.

"You bet we did!" answered the captain, his keen, handsome face
lighting at the memory.  "You see," he continued in a practical
spirit, "they would probably have pumped us full of holes if we
hadn't."

And that is the way that the American submarines crossed the Atlantic
to do their share for the Great Cause.



II

INTO THE DARK

I got to the Port of the Submarines just as an uncertain and rainy
afternoon had finally decided to turn into a wild and disagreeable
night.  Short, drenching showers of rain fell one after the other
like the strokes of a lash, a wind came up out of the sea, and one
could hear the thunder of surf on the headlands.  The mother ship lay
moored in a wild, desolate and indescribably romantic bay; she
floated in a sheltered pool a very oasis of modernity, a marvellous
creature of another world and another time.  There was just light
enough for me to see that her lines were those of a giant yacht.
Then a curtain of rain beat hissing down upon the sea, and the ship
and the vague darkening landscape disappeared, disappeared as if it
might have melted away in the shower.  Presently the bulk of the
vessel appeared again: gliding and tossing at once we drew alongside,
and from that moment on, I was the guest of the vessel, recipient of
a hospitality and courtesy for which I here make grateful
acknowledgment to my friends and hosts.

The mother ship of the submarines was a combination of flag ship,
supply station, repair shop and hotel.  The officers of the
submarines had rooms aboard her which they occupied when off patrol,
and the crews off duty slung their hammocks 'tween decks.  The boat
was pretty well crowded, having more submarines to look after than
she had been built to care for, but thanks to the skill of her
officers, everything was going as smoothly as could be.  The vessel
had, so to speak, a submarine atmosphere.  Everybody aboard lived,
worked and would have died for the submarine.  They believed in the
submarine, believed in it with an enthusiasm which rested on pillars
of practical fact.  The Chief of Staff was the youngest captain in
our Navy, a man of hard energy and keen insight, one to whom our
submarine service owes a very genuine debt.  His officers were
specialists.  The surgeon of the vessel had been for years engaged in
studying the hygiene of submarines, and was constantly working to
free the atmosphere of the vessels from deleterious gases and to
improve the living conditions of the crews.  I remember listening one
night to a history of the submarine told by one of the officers of
the staff, and for the first time in my life I came to appreciate at
its full value the heroism of the men who risked their lives in the
first cranky, clumsy, uncertain little vessels, and the imagination
and the faith of the men who believed in the type.  Ten years ago, a
descent in a sub was an adventure to be prefaced by tears and making
of wills; to-day submarines are chasing submarines hundreds of miles
at sea, are crossing the ocean, and have grown from a tube of steel
not much larger than a life boat to underwater cruisers which carry
six-inch guns.  Said an officer to me:

"The future of the submarine?  Why, sir, the submarine is the only
war vessel that's going to have a future!"

[Illustration: A flock of submarines and the "mother" ship in harbor]

On the night of my arrival, once dinner was over, I went on deck and
looked down through the rain at the submarines moored alongside.
They lay close by, one beside the other, in a pool of radiance cast
by a number of electric lights hanging over each open hatchway.
Beyond this pool lay the rain and the dark; within it, their sides
awash in the clear green water of the bay, their grey bridges and
rust-stained superstructures shining in the rain, lay the strange,
bulging, crocodilian shapes of steel.  There was something unearthly,
something not of this world or time in the picture; I might have been
looking at invaders of the sleeping earth.  The wind swept past in
great booming salvoes; rain fell in sloping, liquid rods through the
brilliancy of electric lamps burning with a steadiness that had
something in it of strange, incomprehensible and out of place in the
motion and hullabaloo of the storm.  And then, too, a hand appeared
on the topmost rung of the nearer ladder, and a bulky sailor, a very
human sailor in very human dungarees, poked his head out of the
aperture, surveyed the inhospitable night, and disappeared.

"He's on Branch's boat.  They're going out to-night," said the
officer who was guiding me about.

"To-night?  How on earth will he ever find his way to the open sea?"

"Knows the bay like a book.  However, if the weather gets any worse,
I doubt if the captain will let him go.  George will be wild if they
don't let him out.  Somebody has just reported wreckage off the
coast, so there must be a Hun round."

"But are not our subs sometimes mistaken for Germans?"

"Oh, yes," was the calm answer.

I thought of that ominous phrase I had noted in the British records
"failed to report," and I remembered the stolid British captain who
had said to me, speaking of submarines, "Sometimes nobody knows just
what happened.  Out there in the deep water, whatever happens,
happens in a hurry."  My guide and I went below to the officers'
corridor.  Now and then, through the quiet, a mandolin or guitar
could be heard far off twanging some sentimental island ditty, and
beneath these sweeter sounds lay a monotonous mechanical humming.

"What's that sound?" I asked.

"That's the Filipino mess boys having a little festino in their
quarters.  The humming?  Oh, that's the mother-ship's dynamos
charging the batteries of Branch's boat.  Saves running on the
surface."

My guide knocked at a door.  Within his tidy, little room, the
captain who was to go out on patrol was packing the personal
belongings he needed on the trip.

"Hello, Jally!" he cried cheerily when he saw us.  "Come on in.  I am
only doing a little packing up.  What's it like outside?"

"Raining same as ever, but I don't think it's blowing up any harder."

"Hooray!" cried the young captain with heart-felt sincerity.  "Then
I'll get out to-night.  You know the captain told me that if it got
any worse he'd hold me till to-morrow morning.  I told him I'd rather
go out to-night.  Perfect cinch once you get to the mouth of the bay,
all you have to do is submerge and take it easy.  What do you think
of the news?  Smithie thinks he saw a Hun yesterday....  Got anything
good to read?  Somebody's pinched that magazine I was reading.
Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, that ought to be enough
handkerchiefs....  Hello, there goes the juice."

The humming of the dynamo was dying away slowly, fading with an
effect of lengthening distance.  The guitar orchestra, as if to
celebrate its deliverance, burst into a triumphant rendering of
Sousa's "Stars and Stripes."

My guide and I waited till after midnight to watch the going of
Branch's Z5.  Branch and his second, wearing black oilskins down
whose gleaming surface ran beaded drops of rain, stood on the bridge;
a number of sailors were busy doing various things along the deck.
The electric lights shone in all their calm unearthly brilliance.
Then slowly, very slowly, the Z5 began to gather headway, the clear
water seemed to flow past her green sides, and she rode out of the
pool of light into the darkness waiting close at hand.

"Good-bye!  Good luck!" we cried.

A vagrant shower came roaring down into the shining pool.

"Good-bye!" cried voices through the night.

Three minutes later all trace of the Z5 had disappeared in the dark.



III

FRIEND OR FOE?

Captain Bill of the Z3 was out on patrol.  His vessel was running
submerged.  The air within, they had but recently dived, was new and
sweet, and that raw cold which eats into submerged submarines had not
begun to take the joy out of life.  It was the third day out; the
time, five o'clock in the afternoon.  The outer world, however, did
not penetrate into the submarine.  Night or day, on the surface or
submerged, only one time, a kind of motionless electric high noon
existed within those concave walls of gleaming cream white enamel.
Those of the crew not on watch were taking it easy.  Like unto their
officers, submarine sailors are an unusual lot.  They are real
sailors, or machinist sailors, boys for whose quality the Navy has a
flattering, picturesque and quite unprintable adjective.  A submarine
man, mind you, works harder than perhaps any other man of his grade
in the Navy, because the vessel in which he lives is nothing but a
tremendously intricate machine.  In one of the compartments the
phonograph, the eternal, ubiquitous phonograph of the Navy, was
bawling its raucous rags and mechano-nasal songs, and in the pauses
between records one could just hear the low hum of the distant
dynamos.  A little group in blue dungarees held a conversation in a
corner; a petty officer, blue cap tilted back on his head, was at
work on a letter; the cook, whose genial art was customarily under an
interdict while the vessel was running submerged, was reading an
ancient paper from his own home town.

Captain Bill sat in a retired nook, if a submarine can possibly be
said to have a retired nook, with a chart spread open on his knees.
The night before he had picked up a wireless message saying that a
German had been seen at sundown in a certain spot on the edge of his
patrol.  So Captain Bill had planned to run submerged to the spot in
question, and then pop up suddenly in the hope of potting the Hun.
Some fifteen minutes before sun down, therefore, the Z3 arrived at
the place where the Fritz had been observed.


"I wish I knew just where the bird was," said an intent voice.  "I'd
drop a can right on his neck."

These sentiments were not those of anybody aboard the Z3.  An
American destroyer had also come to the spot looking for the German,
and the gentle thought recorded above was that of her captain.  It
was just sun down, a level train of splendour burned on the ruffled
waters to the west; a light, cheerful breeze was blowing.  The
destroyer, ready for anything, was hurrying along at a smart clip.

"This is the place all right, all right," said the navigator of the
destroyer.  "Come to think of it, that chap's been reported from here
twice."

Keen eyes swept the shining uneasy plain.

Meanwhile, some seventy feet below, the Z3 manoeuvred, killing time.
The phonograph had been hushed, and every man was ready at his post.
The prospect of a go with the enemy had brought with it a keen thrill
of anticipation.  Now a submarine crew is a well trained machine.
There are no shouted orders.  If a submarine captain wants to send
his boat under quickly, he simply touches the button of a Klaxon, the
horn gives a demoniac yell throughout the ship, and each man does
what he ought to do at once.  Such a performance is called a "crash
dive."

"I'd like to see him come up so near that we could ram him," said the
captain, gazing almost directly into the sun.  "Find out what she's
making."

The engineer lieutenant stooped to a voice-tube that almost swallowed
up his face, and yelled a question to the engine room.  An answer
came, quite unheard by the others.

"Twenty-four, sir," said the engineer lieutenant.

"Get her up to twenty-six," said the captain.

The engineer cried again through the voice tube.  The wake of the
vessel roared like a mill race, the white foam tumbling rosily in the
setting sun.

Seventy feet below, Captain Bill was arranging the last little
details with the second in command.

"In about five minutes we'll come up and take a look-see (stick up
the periscope) and if we see the bird, and we're in a good position
to send him a fish (torpedo) we'll let him have one.  If there is
something there, and we're not in a good position, we'll manoeuvre
till we get into one, and then let him have it.  If there isn't
anything to be seen, we'll go under again and take another look-see
in half an hour.  Reilly has his instructions."  Reilly was chief of
the torpedo room.


"Something round here must have got it in the neck recently," said
the destroyer captain, breaking a silence which had hung over the
bridge.  "Did not you think that wreckage a couple of miles back
looked pretty fresh?  Wonder if the boy we're after had anything to
do with it.  Keep an eye on that sun streak."


An order was given in the Z3.  It was followed instantly by a kind of
commotion, sailors opened valves, compressed air ran down pipes, the
ratchets of the wheel clattered noisily.  On the moon-faced depth
gauge with its shining brazen rim, the recording arrow fled swiftly,
counter clockwise, from seventy to twenty to fifteen feet....
Captain Bill stood crouching at the periscope, and when it broke the
surface, a greenish light poured down it and focussed in his eyes.
He gazed keenly for a few seconds, and then reached for the
horizontal wheel which turns the periscope round the horizon.  He
turned ... gazed, jumped back, and pushed the button for a crash dive.

"She was almost on top of me," he explained afterwards.  "Coming like
H--l.  I had to choose between being rammed or depth bombed."

There was another swift commotion, another opening and closing of
valves, and the arrow on the depth gauge leaped forward.  Captain
Bill was sending her down as far as he could as fast as he dared.
Fifty feet, seventy feet, ... ninety feet.  Hoping to throw the
destroyer off, the Z3 doubled on her track.  A hundred feet.

Crash!  Depth charge number one.

According to Captain Bill, who is good at similes, it was as if a
giant, wading along through the sea, had given the boat a vast and
violent kick, and then leaning down had shaken it as a terrier shakes
a rat.  The Z3 rocked, lay on her side, and fell through the depths.
A number of lights went out.  Men picked themselves out of corners,
one with the blood streaming down his face from a bad gash over his
eye.  Many of them told later of "seeing stars" when the vibration of
the depth charge travelled through the hull and their own bodies;
some averred that "white light" seemed to shoot out of the Z3's
walls.  Each man stood at his post waiting for the next charge.

Crash!  A second depth charge.  To every one's relief, it was less
violent than the first.  A few more lights went out.  Meanwhile the
Z3 continued to sink and was rapidly nearing the danger point.
Having escaped the first two depth charges, Captain Bill hastened to
bring the boat up to a higher level.  Then to make things cheerful,
it was discovered that the Z3 showed absolutely no inclination to
obey her controls.

"At first," said Captain Bill, "I thought that the first depth bomb
must have jammed all the external machinery, then I decided that our
measures to rise had not yet overcome the impetus of our forced
descent.  Meanwhile the old hooker was heading for the bottom of the
Irish Sea, though I'd blown out every bit of water in her tanks.  Had
to, fifty feet more, and she would have crushed in like an egg shell
under the wheel of a touring car.  But she kept on going down.  The
distance of the third, fourth and fifth depth bombs, however, put
cheer in our hearts.  Then, presently, she began to rise.  The old
girl came up like an elevator in a New York business block.  I knew
that the minute I came to the surface those destroyer brutes would
try to fill me full of holes, so I had a man with a flag ready to
jump on deck the minute we emerged.  He was pretty damn spry about
it, too.  I took another look-see through the periscope, and saw that
the destroyer lay about two miles away, and as I looked she came for
me again.  Meanwhile, my signal man was hauling himself out of the
hatchway as if his legs were in boiling water."

"We've got her!" cried somebody aboard the destroyer in a deep
American voice full of the exultation of battle.  The lean rifles
swung, lowered....  "Point one, lower."  They were about to hear
"Fire!" when the Stars and Stripes and sundry other signals burst
from the deck of the misused Z3.

"Well what do you think of that?" said the gunner.  "If it ain't one
of our own gang.  Say, we must have given it to 'em hard."

"We'll go over and see who it is," said the captain of the destroyer.
"The signals are O.K., but it may be a dodge of the Huns.  Ask 'em
who they are."

In obedience to the order, a sailor on the destroyer's bridge
wigwagged the message.

"Z3," answered one of the dungaree-clad figures on the submarine's
deck.  Captain Bill came up himself, as the destroyer drew alongside,
to see his would-be assassin.  There was no resentment in his heart.
The adventure was only part of the day's work.  The destroyer neared;
her bow overlooked them.  The two captains looked at each other.  The
dialogue was laconic.

"Hello, Bill," said the destroyer captain.

"All right?"

"Sure," answered Captain Bill, to one who had been his friend and
class mate.

"Ta, ta, then," said he of the destroyer, and the lean vessel swept
away in the twilight.

Captain Bill decided to stay on the surface for a while.  Then he
went below to look over things.  The cook, standing over some
unlovely slop which marked the end of a half dozen eggs broken by the
concussion, was giving his opinion of the undue hastiness of
destroyers.  The cook was a child of Brooklyn, and could talk.  The
opinion was not flattering.

"Give it to 'em, cooko," said one of the crew, patting the orator
affectionately on the shoulder.  "We're with you."

And Captain Bill laughed.



IV

RUNNING SUBMERGED

It was breakfast time, and the officers of the submarines then in
port had gathered round one end of the long dining table in the
wardroom of the mother ship.  Two or three who had breakfasted early
had taken places on a bench along the nearer wall and were examining
a disintegrating heap of English and American magazines, whilst
pushed back from the table and smoking an ancient briar, the senior
of the group read the wireless news which had just arrived that
morning.  The news was not of great importance.  The lecture done
with, the tinkle of cutlery and silver, which had been politely
hushed, broke forth again.

"What are you doing this morning, Bill?" said one of the young
captains to another who had appeared in old clothes.

"Going out at about half past nine with the X10.  (The X10 was a
British submarine.)  Just going to take a couple of shots at each
other.  What are you up to?"

"Oh, I've got to give a bearing the once over, and then I've got to
write a bunch of letters."

"Wouldn't you like to come with us?" said the first speaker, pausing
over a steaming dish of breakfast porridge.  "Be mighty glad to take
you."

"Indeed I would," I replied with joy in my heart.  "All my life long
I have wanted to take a trip in a submarine."

"That's fine!  We'll get you some dungarees.  Can't fool round a
submarine in good clothes."  The whole table began to take a friendly
interest, and a dispute arose as to whose clothes would best fit me.
I am a large person.  "Give him my extra set, they're on the side of
my locker."  "Don't you want a cap or something?"  "Hey, that's too
small, wait and I'll get Tom's coat."  "Try these on."  They are a
wonderful lot, the submarine officers.

I felt frightfully submarinish in my outfit.  We must have made a
picturesque group.  The captain led off, wearing a tattered,
battered, old uniform of Annapolis days, I followed wearing an old
Navy cap jammed on the side of my head and a suit of newly laundered
dungarees; the second officer brought up the rear; his outfit
consisted of dungaree trousers, a kind of aviator's waistcoat, and an
old cloth cap.

The submarines were moored close by the side of the mother ship, a
double doorway in the wall of the machine shop on the lower deck
opening directly upon them.  A narrow runway connected the nearest
vessel with the sill of this aperture, and mere planks led from one
superstructure to another.  The day, first real day after weeks of
rain, was soft and clear, great low masses of vapour, neither mist
nor cloud, but something of both, swept down the long bay on the
wings of the wind from the clean, sweet-smelling sea; the sun shone
like ancient silver.  Little fretful waves of water clear as the
water of a spring coursed down the alley ways between the submarines;
gulls, piping and barking, whirled like snow flakes overhead.  I
crossed to one grey alligatorish superstructure, looked down a narrow
circular hatch at whose floor I could see the captain waiting for my
coming, grasped the steel rings of a narrow ladder, and descended
into the submarine.  The first impression was of being surrounded by
tremendous, almost incredible complexity.  A bewildering and
intricate mass of delicate mechanical contrivances, valves, stop
cocks, wheels, chains, shining pipes, ratchets, faucets, oil-cups,
rods, gauges.  Second impression, bright cleanliness, shining brass,
gleams of steely radiance, stainless walls of white enamel paint.
Third impression, size; there was much more room than I had expected.
Of course everything is to be seen by floods of steady electric
light, since practically no daylight filters down through an open
hatchway.

"This," said the captain, "is the control room.  Notice the two depth
gauges, two in case one gets out of order.  That thick tube with a
brass thread coiled about it is a periscope, and it's a peach!  It's
of the 'housing' kind and winds up and down along that screw.  The
thread prevents any leak of water.  In here," we went through a
lateral compartment with a steel door, thick as that of a small safe,
"is a space where wee eat, sleep and live; our cook stove is that
gadget in the corner.  We don't do much cooking when we're running
submerged; in here," we passed another stout partition, "is our
Diesel engine, and our dynamos.  Up forward is another living space
which technically belongs to the officers, and the torpedo room."  He
took me along.  "Now you've seen it all.  A fat steel cigar, divided
into various compartments and cram jammed full of shining machinery.
Of course, there's no privacy, whatsoever.  (Readers will have to
guess what is occasionally used for the phonograph table.)  Our space
is so limited that designers will spend a year arguing where to put
an object no bigger than a soap box.  We get on very well however.
Every crew gets used to its boat; the men get used to each other.
They like the life; you couldn't drag them back to surface vessels.
An ideal submarine crew works like a perfect machine.  When we go out
you'll see that we give our orders by Klaxon.  There's too much noise
for the voice.  Suppose I had popped up on the surface right under
the very nose of one of those destroyer brutes.  She might start to
ram me; in which case I might not have time to make recognition
signals and would have to take my choice between getting rammed or
depth bombed.  I decide to submerge, push a button, the Klaxon gives
a yell, and every man does automatically what he has been trained to
do.  A floods the tanks, B stands by the dynamos, C watches the depth
gauges and so on.  That's what we call a crash dive."

"Over at the destroyer base," I said, "they told me that the Germans
were having trouble because of lack of trained crews."

"You can just bet they are," said the captain.  "Must have lost
several boats that way.  Can't monkey with these boats; if somebody
pulls a fool stunt--Good Night!"  He opened a gold watch and closed
it again with a click.  "Nine o'clock, just time to shove off.  Come
up on the bridge until we get out in the bay."

I climbed the narrow ladder again and crept along the superstructure
to the bridge which rose for all the world like a little grey steel
pulpit.  One has to be reasonably sure-footed.  It was curious to
emerge from the electric lighted marvel to the sunlight of the bay,
to the view of the wild mountains descending to the clear sea.  The
captain gave his orders.  Faint, vague noises rose out of the
hatchway; sailors standing at various points along the superstructure
cast off the mooring ropes and took in bumpers shaped like monstrous
sausages of cord which had protected one bulging hull from another;
the submarine went ahead solemnly as a planet.  Friendly faces leaned
over the rail of the mother ship high above.

Once out into the bay, I asked the second in command just what we
were up to.  The second in command was a well knit youngster with the
coolest, most resolute blue eyes it has ever been my fortune to see.

"We're going to take shots at a British submarine and then she's
going to have a try at us.  We don't really fire torpedoes--but
manoeuvre for a position.  Three shots apiece.  There she is now,
running on the surface.  Just as soon as we get out to deep water
we'll submerge and go for her.  Great practice."

A British submarine, somewhat larger than our American boat, was
running down the bay, pushing curious little waves of water ahead of
her.  Several men stood on her deck.

"Nice boat, isn't she?  Her captain's a great scout.  About two
months ago a patrol boat shot off his periscope _after_ he made it
reasonably clear he wasn't a Hun.  You ought to hear him tell about
it.  Especially his opinion of patrol boat captains.  Great command
of language.  Bully fellow, born submarine man."

"I meant to ask you if you weren't sometimes mistaken for a German,"
I said.

"Yes, it happens," he answered coolly.  "You haven't seen Smithie
yet, have you?  Guess he was away when you came.  A bunch of
destroyers almost murdered him last month.  He's come the nearest to
kissing himself good-bye of any of us.  Going to dive now, time to
get under."

Once more down the steel ladder.  I was getting used to it.  The
handful of sailors who had been on deck waited for us to pass.
Within, the strong, somewhat peppery smell of hot oil from the Diesel
engines floated, and there was to be heard a hard, powerful
knocking-spitting sound from the same source.  The hatch cover was
secured, a listener might have heard a steely thump and a grind as it
closed.  Men stood calmly by the depth gauges and the valves.  Not
being a "crash dive," the feat of getting under was accomplished
quietly, accomplished with no more fracas than accompanies the
running of a motor car up to a door.  One instant we were on the
surface, the next instant we were under, and the lean black arrow on
the broad moon-faced depth gauge was beginning to creep from ten to
fifteen, from fifteen to twenty, from twenty to twenty-five....  The
clatter of the Diesel engine had ceased; in its place rose a low hum.
And of course there was no alteration of light, nothing but that
steady electric glow on those cold, clean bulging walls.

"What's the programme, now?"

"We are going down the bay a bit, put up our periscope, pick up the
Britisher, and fire an imaginary tin fish at him.  After each shot,
we come to the surface for an instant to let him know we've had our
turn."

"What depth are we now?"

"Only fifty-five feet."

"What depth can you go?"

"The Navy Regulations forbid our descending more than two hundred
feet.  Subs are always hiking around about fifty or seventy-five feet
under, just deep enough to be well under the keel of anything going
by."

"Where are we now?"

"Pretty close to the mouth of the bay.  I'm going to shove up the
periscope in a few minutes."

The captain gave an order, the arrow on the dial retreated towards
the left.

"Keep her there."  He applied his eye to the periscope.  A strange,
watery green light poured out of the lens, and focussing in his eye,
lit the ball with wild demoniac glare.  A consultation ensued between
the captain and his junior.

"Do you see her?"

"Yes, she is in a line with that little white barn on the island....
She's heading down the bay now....  So many points this way (this
last direction to the helmsman) ... there she is ... she's making
about twelve ... she's turning, coming back ... steady ... five, ...
six ... Fire!"

There was a rush, a clatter, and a stir and the boat rose evenly to
the surface.

"Here, take a look at her," said the captain, pushing me towards the
periscope.  I fitted the eyepieces (they might have been those of
field glasses embedded in the tube) to my eyes, and beheld again the
outer world.  The kind of a world one might see in a crystal, a
mirror world, a glass world, but a remarkably clear little world.
And as I peered, a drop of water cast up by some wave touched the
outer lens of the tube, and a trickle big as a deluge slid down the
visionary bay.

Twice again we "attacked" the Britisher.  Her turn came.  Our boat
rose to the surface, and I was once more invited to accompany the
captain to the bridge.  The British boat lay far away across the
inlet.  We cruised about watching her.

"There she goes."  The Britisher sank like a stone in a pond.  We
continued our course.  The two officers peered over the water with
young, searching, resolute eyes.  Then they took to their binoculars.

"There she is," cried the captain, "in a line with the oak tree."  I
searched for a few minutes in vain.  Suddenly I saw her, that is to
say, I saw with a great deal of difficulty a small dark rod moving
through the water.  It came closer; I saw the hatpin shaped trail
behind it.

Presently with a great swirl and roiling of foam the Britisher pushed
herself out of the water.  I could see my young captain judging the
performance in his eye.  Then we played victim two more times and
went home.  On the way we discussed the submarine patrol.  Now there
is no more thrilling game in the world than the game of periscope
_vs._ periscope.

"What do you do?" I asked.  "Just what you saw us do to-day.  We pack
up grub and supplies, beat it out on the high seas and wait for a
Fritz to come along.  We give him a taste of his own medicine; given
him one more enemy to dodge.  Suppose a Hun baffles the destroyers,
makes off to a lonely spot, and comes to the surface for a breath of
air.  There isn't a soul in sight, not a stir of smoke on the
horizon.  Just as Captain Otto, or Von Something is gloating over the
last hospital ship he sunk, and thinking what a lovely afternoon it
is, a tin fish comes for him like a bullet out of a gun, there comes
a thundering pound, a vibration that sends little waves through the
water, a great foul swirl, fragments of cork, and it's all over with
the Watch on the Rhine.  Sometimes Fritz's torpedo meets ours on the
way.  Then once in a while a destroyer or a patriotic but misguided
tramp makes things interesting for a bit.  But it's the most
wonderful service of all.  I wouldn't give it up for anything.  We're
all going out day after to-morrow.  Can't you cable London for
permission to go?  You'll like it.  Don't believe anything you hear
about the air getting bad.  The principal nuisance when you've been
under a long while is the cold; the boat gets as raw and damp as an
unoccupied house in winter.  Jingo, quarter past one!  We'll be late
for dinner."


Some time after this article had appeared, the captain of an American
submarine gave me a copy of the following verses written by a
submarine sailor.  Poems of this sort, typewritten by some
accommodating yeoman, are always being handed round in the Navy; I
have seen dozens of them.  Would that I knew the author of this
picturesque and flavorous ditty, for I would gladly give him the
credit he deserves.


  A SUBMARINE

  Born in the shops of the devil,
  Designed by the brains of a fiend;
  Filled with acid and crude oil,
  And christened "A Submarine."

  The posts send in their ditties
  Of battleships spick and clean;
  But never a word in their columns
  Do you see of a submarine.

  So I'll endeavour to depict our story
  In a very laconic way;
  So please have patience to listen
  Until I have finished my say.

  We eat where'er we can find it,
  And sleep hanging up on hooks;
  Conditions under which we're existing
  Are never published in books.

  Life on these boats is obnoxious
  And this is using mild terms;
  We are never bothered by sickness,
  There isn't any room for germs.

  We are never troubled with varmints,
  There are things even a cockroach can't stand;
  And any self-respecting rodent
  Quick as possible beats it for land.

  And that little one dollar per diem
  We receive to submerge out of sight,
  Is often earned more than double
  By charging batteries all night.

  And that extra compensation
  We receive on boats like these,
  We never really get at all.
  It's spent on soap and dungarees.

  Machinists get soaked in fuel oil,
  Electricians in H2SO4,
  Gunner's mates with 600 W,
  And torpedo slush galore.

  When we come into the Navy Yard
  We are looked upon with disgrace;
  And they make out some new regulation
  To fit our particular case.

  Now all you battleship sailors,
  When you are feeling disgruntled and mean,
  Just pack your bag and hammock
  And go to a submarine.



V

THE RETURN OF THE CAPTAINS

The breakfast hour was drawing to its end, and the very last
straggler sat alone at the ward room table.  Presently an officer of
the mother ship, passing through, called to the lingering group of
submarine officers.

"The X4 is coming up the bay, and the X12 has been reported from
signal station."

The news was received with a little hum of friendly interest.
"Wonder what Ned will have to say for himself this time."  "Must have
struck pretty good weather."  "Bet you John has been looking for
another chance at that Hun of his."  The talk drifted away into other
channels.  A little time passed.  Then suddenly a door opened, and
one after the other entered the three officers of the first home
coming submarine.  They were clad in various ancient uniforms which
might have been worn by an apprentice lad in a garage, old grey
flannel shirts, and stout grease stained shoes; several days had
passed since their faces had felt a razor, and all were a little pale
from their cruise.  But the liveliest of keen eyes burned in each
resolute young face, eyes smiling and glad.  A friendly hullaballoo
broke forth.  Chairs scraped, one fell with a crash.

"Hello, boys!"

"Hi, John!"

"For the love of Pete, Joe, shave off those whiskers of yours; they
make you look like Trotsky."

"See any Germans?"

"What's the news?"

"What's doing?"

"Hi, Manuelo" (this to a Philipino mess boy who stood looking on with
impassive curiosity), "save three more breakfasts."

"Anything go for you?"

"Well, if here isn't our old Bump!"

The crowd gathered round Captain John who had established contact
(this is military term quite out of place in a work on the Navy) with
the eagerly sought, horribly elusive German.

"Go on, John, give us an earful.  What time did you say it was?"

"About 5 A.M.," answered the captain.  He stood leaning against a
door and the fine head, the pallor, the touch of fatigue, all made a
very striking and appealing picture.  "Say about eight minutes after
five.  I'd just come up to take a look-see, and saw him just about
two miles away on the surface, and moving right along.  So I went
under to get into a good position, came up again and let him have
one.  Well, the bird saw it just as it was almost on him, swung her
round, and dived like a ton of lead."

The audience listened in silent sympathy.  One could see the
disappointment on the captain's face.

"Where was he?"

"About so and so."

"That's the jinx that got after the convoy sure as you live."

The speaker had had his own adventures with the Germans.  A month or
so he shoved his periscope and spotted a Fritz on the surface in full
noonday.  The watchful Fritz, however, had been lucky enough to see
the enemy almost at once and had dived.  The American followed suit.
The eyeless submarine manoeuvred about some eighty feet under, the
German evidently "making his get-a-way," the American hoping to be
lucky enough to pick up Fritz's trail, and get a shot at him when the
enemy rose again, to the top.  And while the two blind ships
manoeuvred there in the dark of the abyss, the keel of the fleeing
German had actually, by a curious chance, scraped along the top of
the American vessel and carried away the wireless aerials!

All were silent for a few seconds, thinking over the affair.  It was
not difficult to read the thought in every mind, the thought of
_getting at the enemy_.  The idea of our Navy is "Get after 'em, Keep
after 'em, Stay after 'em, Don't give 'em an instant of security or
rest."  And none have this fighting spirit deeper in their hearts
than our gallant men of the submarine patrol.

"That's all," said Captain John.  "I'm going to have a wash up."  He
lifted a grease stained hand to his cheek, and rubbed his unshaven
beard, and grinned.

"Any letters?"

"Whole bag of stuff.  Smithie put it on your desk."

Captain John wandered off.  Presently, the door opened again, and
three more veterans of the patrol cruised in, also in ancient
uniforms.  There were more cheers; more friendly cries.  It was
unanimously decided that the "Trotsky" of the first lot had better
take a back seat, since the second in command of the newcomers was "a
perfect ringer for Rasputin."

"See anything?"

"Nothing much.  There's a bit of wreckage just off shore.  Saw a
British patrol boat early Tuesday morning.  I was on the surface,
lying between her and the sunrise; she was hidden by a low lying
swirl of fog; she saw us first.  When we saw her, I made signals, and
over she came.  Guess what the old bird wanted ... _wanted to know if
I'd seen a torpedo he'd fired at me_!  An old scout with white
whiskers, one of those retired captains, I suppose, who has gone back
on the job.  He admitted that he had received the Admiralty notes
about us, but thought we acted suspicious....  Did you ever hear of
such nerve!"


When the war was young, I had a year of it on land.  Now, I have seen
the war at sea.  To my mind, if there was one service of this war
which more than any other required those qualities of endurance,
skill and courage whose blend the fighting men so wisely call
"_guts_," it surely was our submarine patrol.  So here's to the L
boats, their officers and crews, and to the _Bushnell_ and her brood
of Bantry Bay!



VI

OUR SAILORS

In the lingo of the Navy, the enlisted men are known as "gobs."  This
word is not to be understood as in any sense conveying a derogatory
meaning.  The men use it themselves;--"the _gobs_ on the 210."  "What
does a real _gob_ want with a wrist watch?"  It is an unlovely
syllable, but it has character.

In the days before the war, our navy was, to use an officer's phrase,
more of "a big training school" than anything else.  There were, of
course, a certain number of young men who intended to become sailors
by profession, even as some entered the regular army with the
intention of remaining in it, but the vast majority of sailors were
"one enlistment men" who signed on for four years and then returned
to civilian life.  The personnel included boys just graduated from or
weary of high school, young men from the western farms eager for a
glimpse of the world, and city lads either uncertain as to just what
trade or profession they should follow or thirsting for a man's cup
of adventure before settling down to the prosaic task that gives the
daily bread.

To-day, the enlisted personnel of the Navy is a cross section of the
Nation's youth.  There are many college men, particularly among the
engineers.  There are young men who have abandoned professions to
enter the Navy to do their bit.  For instance, the yeoman who ran the
little office on board Destroyer 66 was a young lawyer who had
attained real distinction.  On board the same destroyer was a lad who
had been for a year or two a reporter on one of the New York papers,
and a chubby earnest lad whose father is a distinguished leader of
the Massachusetts bar.  Of my four best friends, "Pop" had worked in
some shop or other, "Giles" was a student from an agricultural
college somewhere in western New York, "Idaho" was a high school boy
fresh from a great ranch, and "Robie" was the son of a physician in a
small southern city.  The Napoleonic veterans of the new navy are the
professional "gobs" of old; sailors with second enlistment stripes go
down the deck the very _vieux de la veille_.

The sailor suffers from the fact that many people have fixed in their
minds an imaginary sailor whom they have created from light
literature and the stage.  Just as the soldier must always be a
dashing fellow, so must the sailor be a rollicking soul, fond of the
bottle and with a wife in every port.  Is not the "comic sailor" a
recognized literary figure?  Yet whoever heard of the "comic
soldier"?  This silly phantom blinds us to the genuine charm of
character with which the sea endows her adventurous children; we turn
into a frolic a career that is really one of endurance, heroism, and
downright hard work.  Not that I am trying to make Jack a sobersides
or a saint.  He is full of fun and spirit.  But the world ought to
cease imagining him either as a mannerless "rough-houser" or a low
comedian.  Our sailors have no special partiality for the bottle;
indeed, I feel quite certain that a majority of every crew "keep away
from booze" entirely.  As for having a wife in every port, the
Chaplain says that a sailor is the most faithful husband in the world.

As a lot, sailors are unusually good-hearted.  This last Christmas
the men of our American battleships now included in the Grand Fleet
requested permission to invite aboard the orphan children of a great
neighbouring city, and give them an "American good time."  So the
kiddies were brought aboard; Jack rigged up a Christmas tree, and
distributed presents and sweets in a royal style.  Said a witness of
the scene to me, "I never saw children so happy."

One of the passions which sway "the gobs" is to have a set of
"tailor-made" liberty blues.  By "liberty blues" you are to
understand the sailor's best uniform, the picturesque outfit he wears
ashore.  Surely the uniform of our American sailor is quite the
handsomest of all.  On such a flimsy excuse, however, as that "the
government stuff don't fit you round the neck" or "hasn't any
_style_," Jack is forever rushing to some Louie Katzenstein in
Norfolk, Va., or Sam Schwartz of Charlestown, Mass., to get a "real"
suit made.  Endless are the attempts to make these "a little bit
_different_," attempts, alas, which invariably end in reprimand and
disaster.  The _dernier cri_ of sportiness is to have a right hand
pocket lined with starboard green and a left hand pocket lined with
port red.  A second ambition is to own a heavy seal ring, "fourteen
karat, Navy crest.  Name and date of enlistment engraved free."
Sailors pay anywhere from twenty to seventy dollars for these
treasures.  To-day, the style is to have a patriotic motto engraved
within the band.  I remember several inscribed "Democracy or Death."
The desire of having a "real" watch comes next in hand, and if you
ask a sailor the time he is very liable to haul out a watch worth
anywhere from a hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars.

Our sailors are the very finest fellows in the world to live with.  I
sailed with the Navy many thousand miles; I visited all the great
bases, and _I did not see one single case of drunkenness or
disorderly behaviour_.  The work done by our sailors was a hard and
gruelling labour, the seas which they patrolled were haunted by every
danger, yet everywhere they were eager and keen, their energy
unabated, their spirits unshaken.



VII

THE BASE

The town which served as the base of the American destroyers has but
one great street; it is called The Esplanade, and lies along the
harbour edge and open to the sea.  I saw it first in the wild
darkness of a night in early March.  Rain, the drenching, Irish rain,
had been falling all the day, but toward evening the downpour had
ceased, and a blustery south-east wind had thinned the clouds, and
brought the harbour water to clashing and complaining in the dark.
It was such a night as a man might peer at from a window, and be
grateful for the roof which sheltered him, yet up and down the gloomy
highway, past the darkened houses and street lamps shaded to mere
lifeless lumps of light, there moved a large and orderly crowd.  For
the most part, this crowd consisted of American sailors from the
destroyers in port, lean, wholesome-looking fellows these, with a
certain active and eager manner very reassuring to find on this side
of our cruelly tried and jaded world.  Peering into a little lace
shop decked with fragile knickknacks and crammed with bolts of table
linen, I saw two great bronzed fellows in pea jackets and pancake
hats buying something whose niceties of stitch and texture a little
red-cheeked Irish lass explained with pedagogic seriousness; whilst
at the other end of the counter a young officer with grey hair fished
in his pockets for the purchase money of some yards of lace which the
proprietress was slowly winding around a bit of blue cardboard.  Back
and forth, now swallowed up in the gloom of a dark stretch, now
become visible in the light of a shop door, streamed the crowd of
sailors, soldiers, officers, country folk and townspeople.  I heard
Devon drawling its oe's and oa's; America speaking with Yankee
crispness, and Ireland mingling in the babel with a mild and genial
brogue.

By morning the wind had died down; the sun was shining merrily, and
great mountain masses of rolling white cloud were sailing across the
sky as soft and blue as that which lies above Fiesole.  Going forth,
I found the little town established on an edge of land between the
water and the foot of a hill; a long hill whose sides were in places
so precipitous that only masses of dark green shrubbery appeared
between the line of dwellings along the top and the buildings of the
Esplanade.  The hill, however, has not had things all its way.  Two
streets, rising at an angle which would try the endurance of an
Alpine ram actually go in a straight line from the water's edge to
the high ground, taking with them, in their ascent, tier after tier
of mean and grimy dwellings.  All other streets, however, are less
heroic, and climb the side of the hill in long, sloping lateral
lines.  A new Gothic cathedral, built just below the crest of the
hill, but far overtopping it, dominates and crowns the town; perhaps
crushes would be the better verb, for the monstrous bone-grey mass
towers above the terraced roofs of the port with an ascendancy as
much moral as physical.  Yet for all its vastness and commanding
situation, it is singularly lifeless, and only the trickery of a
moonlight night can invest its mediocre, Albert-Memorial architecture
with any trace of beauty.

The day begins slowly there, partly because this south Irish climate
is such stuff as dreams are made of, partly because good, old
irreconcilables are suspicious of the daylight saving law as a
British measure.  There is little to be seen till near on ten
o'clock.  Then the day begins; a number of shrewd old fish wives,
with faces wrinkled like wintered apples and hair still black as a
raven's wing, set up their stalls in an open space by a line of
deserted piers, and peasants from near by villages come to town
driving little donkey carts laden with the wares; now one hears the
real rural brogue, the shrewd give and take of jest and bargain, and
a prodigious yapping and snarling from a prodigious multitude of
curs.  Never have I seen more collarless dogs.  The streets are full
of the hungry, furtive creatures; there is a fight every two or three
minutes between some civic champion and one of the invading rural
mongrels; many is the Homeric fray that has been settled by a good
kick with a sea boot.  Little by little the harbour, seeing that the
land is at last awake, comes ashore to buy its fresh eggs, green
vegetables, sweet milk and golden Tipperary butter.  The Filipino and
negro stewards from the American ships arrive with their baskets and
cans; they are very popular with Queenstown folk who cherish the
delusion that our trimly dressed, genially grinning negroes are the
American Indians of boyhood's romance.  From the cathedral's solitary
spire, a chime jangles out the quarters, amusing all who pause to
listen with its involuntary rendering of the first bar of "Strike up
the band; here comes a sailor."  And ever and anon, a breeze blows in
from the harbour bringing with it a faint smell from the funnels of
the oil-burning destroyers, a smell which suggests that a giant oil
lamp somewhere in the distance has need of turning down.  After the
lull of noon, the men to whom liberty has been given begin to arrive
in boatloads forty and fifty strong.  The patrollers, distinguished
from their fellows by leggins, belts, white hats, and police billie,
descend first, form in line, and march off to their ungrateful task
of keeping order where there is no disorder; then, scrambling up the
water side stairs like youngsters out of school, follow the liberty
men.  If there is any newcomer to the fleet among them, it is an even
chance that he will be rushed over the hill to the _Lusitania_
cemetery, a gruesome pilgrimage to which both British and American
tars are horridly partial.  Some are sure to stroll off to their
club, some elect to wander about the Esplanade, others disappear in
the highways and byways of the town.  For Bill and Joe have made
friends.  There have been some fifty marriages at this base.  I
imagine a good deal of match-making goes on in those grimy streets,
for the Irish marriage is, like the Continental one, no matter of
silly sentiment, but a serious domestic transaction.  All afternoon
long, the sailors come and go.  The supper hour takes them to their
club; night divides them between the movies and the nightly promenade
in the gloom.

The glories of this base as a mercantile port, if there ever were
any--and the Queenstown folk labour mightily to give you the
impression that it was the only serious rival to London--are now over
with the glories of Nineveh and Tyre.  A few Cunard lithographs of
leviathans now for the most part at the bottom of the sea, a few
dusty show cases full of souvenirs, pigs and pipes of black, bog oak,
"Beleek" china, a fragile, and vanilla candy kind of ware, and lace
'kerchiefs "made by the nuns" alone remain to recall the tourist
traffic that once centred here.  To-day, one is apt to find among the
souvenirs an incongruous box of our most "breathy" (forgive my
new-born adjective) variety of American chewing gum.  If you would
imagine our base as it was in the great days, better forget the port
entirely and try to think of a great British and American naval base
crammed with shipping flying the national ensigns, of waters thrashed
by the propellers of oil tankers, destroyers, cruisers, armed sloops,
mine layers, and submarines even.  A busy dockyard clangs away from
morning till night; a ferry boat with a whistle like the frightened
scream of a giant's child runs back and forth from the docks to the
Admiralty pier, little parti-coloured motor dories run swiftly from
one destroyer to another.

From the hill top, this harbour appears as a pleasant cove lying
among green hills.  On the map, it has something the outline of a
blacksmith's anvil.  Taking the narrow entrance channel to be the
column on which the anvil rests, there extends to the right, a long
tapering bay, stretching down to a village leading over hill, over
dale to tumble-down Cloyne, where saintly Berkeley long meditated on
the non-existence of matter; there lies to the right a squarer,
blunter bay through which a river has worn a channel.  This channel
lies close to the shore, and serves as the anchorage.

Over the tops of the headlands, rain-coloured and tilted up to a bank
of grey eastern cloud, lay the vast ambush, the merciless gauntlet of
the beleaguered sea.



VIII

THE DESTROYER AND HER PROBLEM

About a quarter of a mile apart, one after the other along the ribbon
of deep water just off the shore, lie a number of Admiralty buoys
about the size and shape of a small factory boiler.  At these buoys,
sometimes attached in little groups of two, three, and even four to
the same ring bolt, lie the American destroyers.  From the shore one
sees the long lean hull of the nearest vessel and a clump of funnels
all tilted backwards at the same angle.  The air above these waspish
nests, though unstained with smoke, often broods vibrant with heat.
All the destroyers are camouflaged, the favourite colours being
black, West Point grey and flat white.  This camouflage produces
neither by colour nor line the repulsive and silly effect which is
for the moment so popular.  Going aboard a destroyer for the first
time, a lay observer is struck by their extraordinary leanness, a
natural enough impression when one recalls that the vessels measure
some three hundred feet in length and only thirty-four in width.
Many times have I watched from our hill these long, low, rapier
shapes steal swiftly out to sea, and been struck with the terror, the
genuine dread that lies in the word _destroyer_.  For it is a
terrible word, a word heavy with destruction and vengeance, a word
that is akin to many an Old Testament phrase.

Our great destroyer fleet may be divided into two squadrons, the
first of larger boats called "thousand tonners," the second of
smaller vessels known as "flivvers."  Another division parts the
thousand tonners into those which have a flush deck from bow to
stern, and those which have a forward deck on a higher level than the
main deck.  All these types burn oil, the oil burner being nothing
more than a kind of sprayer whose mist of fuel a forced draft whirls
into a roar of flame; all can develop a speed of at least twenty-nine
knots.  The armament varies with the individual vessel, the usual
outfit consisting of four four-inch guns, two sets of torpedo tubes,
two mounted machine guns, and a store of depth charges.

These charges deserve a eulogy of their own.  They have done more
towards winning the war than all the giant howitzers whose calibre
has stupefied the world.  In appearance and mechanism they are the
simplest of affairs.  The Navy always refers to them as cans: "I
dropped a can right on his head"; "it was the last can that did the
business."  Imagine an ash can of medium size painted black and
transformed into a ponderous thick walled cylinder of steel crammed
with some three hundred pounds of T.N.T. and you have a perfect image
of one.  Now imagine at one end of this cylinder a detonator
protected by an arrangement which can be set to resist the pressure
of water at various levels.  A sub appears, and sinks swiftly.  If it
is just below the surface, the destroyer drops a bomb set to explode
at a depth of seventy feet.  The bomb then sinks by its own weight to
that level at which the outward force of the protective mechanism is
over-balanced by the inward pressure of the water; the end yields,
the detonator crushes, the bomb explodes, and your submarine is flung
horribly out of the depths almost clear of the water, and while he is
up, the destroyer's guns fill the hull full of holes.  Or suppose the
submarine to have gone down two hundred feet.  Then you drop a bomb
geared to that depth upon him, and blow in his sides like a cracked
egg.  The sound of these engines travels through the water some
twenty or twenty-five miles, and there have been ships who have
caught the vibration of a distant depth bomb through their hulls and
thought themselves torpedoed.  I once saw a depth bomb roll off a
British sloop into a half filled dry dock; the men scrambled away
like mad, but returned in a few minutes to fish out a "can," that had
sixty more feet to go before it could burst.  It lay on the bottom
harmless as a stone.  The charges rest at the stern of a vessel,
lying one above the other on two sloping runways, and can be released
either from the stern or by hydraulic pressure applied at the bridge.
The credit for this exceedingly successful scheme belongs to a
distinguished American naval officer.

The destroyer has but one deck which is arranged in the following
manner.  I take one of the "thousand tonners" as an illustration.
From an incredibly lean, high bow, a first deck falls back a
considerable distance to a four-inch gun; behind the gun lies another
open space closed by a two-storied structure whose upper section is
the bridge and whose lower section a chart room.  At the rear of this
structure the hull of the boat is cut away, and one descends by a
ladder from the deck which is on the level of the chart room floor,
to the main deck level some eight feet below.  Beyond this cut but
one deck lies, the mere steel covering of the hull.  Guns and torpedo
tubes are mounted on it, the funnels rise flush from the plates; a
life line lies strung along its length, and strips of cocoa matting
try to give something of a footing.

The officers' quarters are to be found under the forward deck.  The
sleeping rooms are situated on both sides of a narrow passageway
which begins at the bow and leads to the open living room and dining
room space known as the ward room.  In the hull, in the space beneath
the wardroom lie the quarters of the crew, amidships lie the boilers
and the engine room, and beyond them, a second space for the crew and
the petty officers.  A destroyer is by no means a paradise of
comfort, though when the vessel lies in a quiet port, she can be as
attractive and livable as a yacht.  But Heaven help the poor sailor
aboard a destroyer at sea!  The craft rolls, dips, shudders, plunges
like a horse straight up at the stars, sinks rapidly and horribly,
and even has spells of see-sawing violently from side to side.  Its
worst motion is an unearthly twist,--a swift appalling rise at a
dreadful angle, a toss across space to the other side of a wave, a
fearful descent sideways and down and a ghastly shudder.  "You need
an iron stomach" to be on a destroyer is a navy saying.  Some,
indeed, can never get used to them, and have to be transferred to
other vessels.

[Illustration: American destroyer on patrol]

The destroyer is the capital weapon against the submarine.  She can
out-race a sub, can fight him with guns, torpedoes, or depth charges;
she can send him bubbling to the bottom by ramming him amidships.
She can confuse him by throwing a pall of smoke over his target; she
can beat off his attacks either above or below the surface.  He fires
a torpedo at her, she dodges, runs down the trail of the torpedo,
drops a depth bomb, and brings her prey to the surface, an actual
incident this.  Her problem is of a dual nature, being both defensive
and offensive.  To-day, her orders are to escort a convoy through the
danger zone to a position in latitude x and longitude y; to-morrow,
her orders are to patrol a certain area of the beleaguered sea or a
given length of coast.

Based upon a foreign port, working in strange waters, the destroyer
flotilla added to the fine history of the American Navy a splendid
record of endurance, heroism and daring achievement.



IX

TORPEDOED

If you would understand the ocean we sailed in war-time, do not
forget that it was essentially an ambush, that the foe was waiting
for us in hiding.  Nothing real or imagined brooded over the ocean to
warn a vessel of the presence of danger, for the waters engulfed and
forgot the tragedies of this war as they have engulfed and forgotten
all disasters since the beginning of time.  The great unquiet shield
of the sea stretched afar to pale horizons, the sun shone as he might
shine on a pretty village at high noon, the gulls followed alert and
clamorous.  Yet a thundering instant was capable of transforming this
apparent calm into the most formidable insecurity.  In four minutes
you would have nothing left of your ship and its company but a few
boats, some bodies, and a miscellaneous litter of wreckage strewn
about the scene of the disaster.  Of the assassin there was not a
sign.

All agreed that the torpedo arrived at a fearful speed.  "Like a long
white bullet through the water," said one survivor.  "Honest to God,
I never saw anything come so fast," said another.

"Where did it strike?" I asked the first speaker, a fine intelligent
English seaman who had been rescued by a destroyer and brought to an
American base.

"In a line with the funnel, sir.  A great column of steam and water
went up together, and the pieces of the two port boats fell all
around the bridge.  I think it was a bit of one of the boats that
struck me here."  He held up a bandaged hand.

"What happened then?"

"All the lights went out.  It was just dusk, you see, so we had to
abandon the boat in the darkness.  A broken steam pipe was roaring so
that you couldn't hear a word any one was saying.  She sank very
fast."

"Did you see any sign of the submarine?"

"The captain's steward thought he saw something come up just about
three hundred yards away as we were going down.  But in my judgment,
it was too dark to see anything distinctly, and my notion is that he
saw a bit of wreckage, perhaps a hatch."

The next man to whom I talked was a chunky little stoker who might
have stepped out of the pages of one of Jacobs' stories.  I shall not
aim to reproduce his dialect--it was of the "wot abaht it" order.

"We were heading into Falmouth with a cargo of steel and barbed wire.
I had a lot of special supplies which I bought myself in New York,
some sugar, two very nice 'ams and one of those round Dutch cheeses.
I was always thinking to myself how glad my old woman would be to see
all those vittles.  Just as we got off the Scillies, one of those
bloody swine hit us with a torpedo between the boiler room and the
thwart ship bunker, forward of the engine room, and about sixteen
feet below the water line.  Understand?  I was in the boiler room.
Down came the bunker doors, off went the tank tops in the engine
room, two of the boilers threw out a mess of burning coal, and the
water came pouring in like a flood.  Let me tell you that cold sea
water soon got bloody hot, the room was filled with steam, couldn't
see anything.  I expected the boilers to blow up any minute.  I
yelled out for my mates.  Suddenly I heard one of 'em say: 'Where's
the ladder?' and there was pore Jem with his face and chest burned
cruel by the flying coal, and he had two ribs broke too, though we
didn't know it at the time.  Says 'e, 'Where's Ed?' and just then Ed
came wading through the scalding water, pawing for the ladder.  So up
we all went, never expecting to reach the top.  Then when we got into
a boat, we 'eard that the wireless had been carried away, and that
we'd have to wait for somebody to pick us up.  So we waited for two
days and a Yankee destroyer found us.  Yes, both my mates are getting
better, though sister 'ere tells me that pore Ed may lose his eye."

Sometimes the torpedo was seen and avoided by a quick turn of the
wheel.  There were other occasions when the torpedo seems to follow a
ship.  I remember reading this tale.  "At 2.14 I saw the torpedo and
felt certain that it would mean a hit either in the engine or the
fire room, so I ordered full speed ahead, and put the rudder over
hard left.  At a distance of between two and three hundred yards, the
torpedo took a sheer to the left, but righted itself.  For an instant
it appeared as if the torpedo might pass astern, but porpoising
again, it turned toward the ship and struck us close by the
propellers."

So much for blind chances.  One hears curious tales.  The column of
water caused by the explosion tossed onto the forward hatch of one
merchant ship a twisted half of the torpedo; there was a French boat
struck by a torpedo which did not explode, but lay there at the side
violently churning, and clinging to the boat as if it were possessed
of some sinister intelligence.  I heard of a boat laden with high
explosives within whose hold a number of motor trucks had been
arranged.  A torpedo got her at the mouth of the channel.  An
explosion similar to the one at Halifax raked the sea, the vessel,
blown into fragments, disappeared from sight in the twinkling of an
eye, and an instant later there fell like bolides from the startled
firmament a number of immense motor trucks, one of which actually
crashed on to the deck of another vessel!

Meanwhile, I suppose, some hundred and fifty feet or more below,
"Fritz," seated at a neat folding table, wrote it all down in his log.



X

THE END OF A SUBMARINE

Two days before, in a spot somewhat south of the area we were going
out to patrol, a submarine had attacked a convoy and sunk a horse
boat.  I had the story of the affair months afterwards from an
American sailor who had seen it all from a nearby ship.  This sailor,
no other than my friend Giles, had been stationed in the lookout when
he heard a thundering pound, and looking to port, he saw a column of
water hanging just amidships of the torpedoed vessel, a column that
broke crashing over the decks.  In about three minutes the ship broke
in two, the bow and the stern rising like the points of a shallow V,
and in five minutes she sank.  The sea was strewn with straw; there
were broken stanchions floating in the confused water, and a number
of horses could be seen swimming about.  "All you could see was their
heads; they looked awful small in all that water.  Some of the horses
had men hanging to them.  There was a lot of yelling for help."  The
other ships of the convoy had run for dear life; the destroyers had
raced about like hornets whose nest is disturbed, but the submarine
escaped.

We left a certain harbour at about three in the afternoon.  Many of
the destroyers were out at sea taking in a big troop convoy and the
harbour seemed unusually still.  The town also partook of this quiet,
the long lateral lines of climbing houses staring out blankly at us
like unresponsive acquaintances.  Very few folk were to be seen on
the street.  We were bound forth on an adventure that was drama
itself, a drama which even then the Fates, unknown to us, were
swiftly weaving into a tragedy of vengeance, yet I shall never forget
how casual and undramatic the Esplanade appeared.  A loafer or two
lounged by the door of the public house, a little group of sailors
passed, a jaunting car went swiftly on its way to the station; there
was nothing to suggest that these isles were beleaguered; nothing
told of the remorseless enemy at the gates of the sea.

All night long under a gloomy, starless sky we patrolled waters dark
as the very waves of the Styx.  The hope that nourished us was the
thought of finding a submarine on the surface, but we heard no noise
through the mysterious dark, and a long, interminable dawn revealed
to us nothing but the high crumbling cliffs of a lonely and
ill-reputed bay.  Where were _they_ then, I have often wondered?
When had they their last look at the sun?  Had they any consciousness
of the end which time was bringing to them with a giant's hurrying
step?  At about six o'clock we swung off to the southward, and in a
short time the coast had faded from sight.

From six o'clock to about half past ten we swept in great circles and
lines the mist encircled disk of the pale sea which had been
entrusted to our keeping.  We were at hand to answer any appeal for
aid which might flutter through the air, to investigate any
suspicious wreckage; above all, to fulfill our function of
destruction.  I have spoken elsewhere of the terror which lurks in
the word _destroyer_.  We were hunters; beaters of the ambush of the
sea.  About us lay the besieged waters, yellow green in colour, vexed
with tide rips and mottled with shadows of haze and appearances of
shoal.

We were on the bridge.  Suddenly a voice called down the tube from
the lookout on the mast:

"Smoke on the horizon just off the port bow, sir."

In a little while a vague smudginess made itself seen along the humid
southeast, and some fifteen minutes later there emerged from this
smudge the advance vessels of a convoy.  Now one by one, now in twos
and threes, the vessels of the convoy climbed over the dim edge of
the world, a handful of destroyers accompanying the fleet.  Almost
every ship was camouflaged, though the largest of all, a great ocean
drudge of a cargo boat, still preserved her decency of dull grey.  A
southeast wind blowing from behind the convoy sent the smoke of the
funnels over the bows and down the western sky.  There was something
indescribably furtive about the whole business.  The ships were going
at their very fastest, but to us they seemed to be going very slowly,
to be drifting almost, across the southern sky.  "We advanced," as
our report read later, "to take up a position with the convoy."  The
watch, always keen on the 660, redoubled its vigilance.  The bait was
there; the hunt was on.  Now, if ever, was the time for submarines.
I remember somebody saying, "We may see a sub."  The destroyer
advanced to within three miles of the convoy, which was then across
her bow.  The morning was sunny and clear; the sun high in the north.

"Periscope!  Port bow," suddenly cried the surgeon of the ship, then
on watch on the bridge.  "About three hundred yards away, near that
sort of a barrel thing over there.  See it?  It's gone now."

Powerful glasses swept the suspected area.  The captain, cool as ice,
took his stand by the wheel.

"There it is again, sir.  About seventy-five yards nearer this way."

This time it was seen by all who stood by.  The periscope was
extraordinarily small, hardly larger than a stout hoe handle, and not
more than two feet above the choppy sea.

"Full speed ahead," said the captain.  "Sound general quarters."

I do not think there was a heart there that was not beating high, but
outwardly things went on just as calmly as they had before the
periscope had been sighted.

The fans of the extra boilers began to roar.  The general quarters
alarm, a continuous ringing, sounded its shrill call.  Men tumbled to
their stations from every corner of the ship, some going to the
torpedo tubes, some to the guns, others to the depth charges at the
stern.  The wake of the destroyer, now tearing along at full speed,
resembled a mill race.  And now the destroyer began a beautiful
manoeuvre.  She became the killer, the avenger of blood.  Leaving her
direct course, she turned hard over to port, and at the point where
her curve cut the estimated course of the German, she tossed over a
buoy to mark the spot at which the German had been seen and released
a depth bomb.  The iron can rolled out of its chocks, and fell with a
little splash into the foaming wake.  The buoy, a mere wooden
platform with a bit of rag, tied to an upright stick wobbled sillily
behind.  For about four seconds nothing happened.  Then the seas
behind us gave a curious, convulsive lift, one might have thought
that the ocean had drawn a spasmodic breath; over this lifted water
fled a frightful glassy tremor, and an instant later there broke
forth with a thundering pound a huge turbid geyser which subsided,
splashing noisily into streaks and eddies of foam and purplish dust.
The destroyer then dropped three more in a circle round the first--a
swift cycle of thundering crashes.  Meanwhile the convoy, warned by
our signal and by the uproar turned tail and fled from the spot.
Great streamers of heavy black smoke poured from the many funnels,
revealing the search for speed.  In the area we had bombed, a number
of dead fish began to be seen floating in the scum.  By this time
some of the vessels from the escort of the convoy had rushed to our
assistance, and round and round the buoy they tore, dropping charge
after charge.  The ocean now became literally speckled with dead
whiting, and I saw something that looked like an enormous eel
floating belly upwards.

[Illustration: The last of a German U-boat.  The depth bomb that
destroyed her was dropped by the destroyer shown in a corner of the
picture]

The convoy disappeared in a cloud of smoke.  Little by little the
excitement died away.  Finally the only vessel left in sight on the
broad shield of the sea was another American destroyer, our partner
on patrol.  The 305 was fitted with listening devices, and she agreed
to remain behind to keep an eye and ear open.  We were to have a word
from her every half hour.

From twelve noon to two o'clock there were no tidings of importance.
At 2:20, however, this laconic message sent us hurrying back to the
scene of the morning's combat.

"Signs of oil coming to surface."

What had happened in the darkness below those yellow green waves?  I
am of the opinion that our first bomb, dropped directly upon her,
crushed the submarine in like an egg-shell, that she had then sunk to
the bottom, and developed a slow leak.

The 660 returned through a choppy sea to the battleground of the
morning.  We caught sight of the other destroyer from afar.  She lay
on the flank of a great area defiled by the bodies of fish, purple
T.N.T. dust and various bits of muddy wreckage which the explosions
had shaken free from the ooze.  Gulls, already attracted to the spot,
were circling about, uttering hoarse cries.  In the heart of this
disturbed area lay a great still pool of shining water and into this
pool, from somewhere in the depths, huge bubbles of molasses-brown
oil were rising.  Reaching the surface, these bubbles spread into
filmy pan cakes round whose edges little waves curled and broke.



XI

"FISHING"

A young executive officer who had discovered that I came from his
part of the world, took me there for tea.  I fancy that few of the
destroyer folk will forget the principal hotel at the Navy's Irish
base.  We sat in worn plush chairs in a vast rectangular salon lit by
three giant sash windows of horrible proportions.  Walls newly decked
with paper of a lustrous, fiery red showered down upon us their
imaginary warmth.  The room was cold, horribly cold, and a minuscule
fire of coke burning in a tiny grate seemed to be making no effort
whatsoever to improve conditions.  The little glow of fire in the
nest of clinkers leered with a dull malevolence.  Cold--a shivery
cold.  My eye fled to the pictures on the fiery wall.  How in the
d----l did these particular pictures ever land in this particular
corner of south Ireland?  Two were photographic studies of ragged
Alabama darkies, pictures of the kind that used to be printed on
calendars in the eighteen nineties.  One was entitled "I want you, ma
honey" (this being addressed to a watermelon), the other being called
"I'se just tired of school."  These two were varied by an engraving
of a race horse, some Charles I cavaliers, and a framed newspaper
photograph of the 71st New York Guards en route for Tampa in 1898!

Sugar excepted, there is still plenty of good food in Ireland.  The
Exec. and I sat down to a very decent tea.  I told all that I knew
about the Exec.'s friends, that A was in a machine gun company; B in
the naval aviation; C in the intelligence department and so forth.
And when I had done my share of the talking, I demanded of the Exec,
what he thought of his work "over there."

He answered abruptly, as if he had long before settled the question
in his own mind:

"It's a game.  Some of the sporting fishermen in the flotilla say
that it's much like fishing ... now you use this bait, now that, now
this rod, now another, and all the time you are following ...
following the fish....  It's a game, the biggest game in all the
world, for it has the biggest stakes in all the world.  There's far
more strategy to it than one would suspect.  You see, it's not enough
to hang round till a periscope pops up; we've got to fish out the
periscope."

"Fishing, then," said I.  "Well, how and where do you fish?"

"On the chequer board of the Irish Sea and the Channel.  You see the
surface of the endangered waters is divided up into a number of
squares or areas, and over each area some kind of a patrol boat
stands guard.  She may be a destroyer, ... perhaps a 'sloop.'  Now
let's suppose she's out there looking for 'fish.'"

"Yes, even as a fisherman might wade out into a river in which he
knows that fish are to be caught.  But how is your destroyer
fisherman to know just what fish are to be caught, and in just what
bays and inlets he ought to troll?"

"That's the function of the Naval Intelligence.  Have you realized
the immense organization which Britain has created especially to
fight the submarine?  You'll find it all in the war cabinet report
for 1917.  Before the war, there were only twenty vessels employed as
mine sweepers and on auxiliary patrol duties; to-day the number of
such craft is about 3,800, and is constantly increasing.  And don't
forget the sea planes, balloons, and all the other parts of the
outfit.  So while our destroyer fisherman is casting about in square
x, let us say, all these scouting friends of his are trying to find
the 'fish' for him.  So every once in a while he gets a message via
wireless, 'fish seen off bay blank,' 'fish reported in latitude A and
longitude B.' ... If these messages refer to spots in his
neighbourhood, you can be sure that he keeps an extra sharp lookout.
So no matter where the fish goes, there is certain to be a fisher."
_During a recent month the mileage steamed by the auxiliary patrol
forces in British home waters exceeded six million miles_.

"Now while you are beating the waters for them, what about the fish
himself?"

"The fish himself?  Well, the ocean is a pretty big place, and the
fish has the tremendous advantage of being invisible.  A submarine
need only show _three inches_ of periscope if the weather is calm.
She can travel a hundred miles completely submerged, and she can
remain on the bottom for a full forty-eight hours.  Squatting on the
bottom is called "lying doggo."  But she has to come up to breathe
and recharge her batteries, and this she does at night.  Hence the
keenness of the night patrol.  And here is another parallel to
fishing.  You know that when the wind is from a certain direction,
you will find the fish in a certain pool, whilst if the wind blows
from another quarter, you will find the fish in another place?  Same
way with submarines.  Let the wind blow from a certain direction, and
they will run up and down the surface off a certain lee shore.  You
can just bet that that strip of shore is well patrolled.  Moreover,
submarines can't go fooling round all over the sea, they _have_ to
concentrate in certain squares, say the areas which lie outside big
ports or through which a great marine highway lies."

"Suppose that you manage to injure a fish, what then?"

"Well, if the fish isn't too badly injured, he will probably make for
one of the shallows, and lie doggo till he has time to effect
repairs.  Result, every shallow is watched as carefully as a miser
watches his gold.  And sea planes have a special patrol of the coast
to keep them off the shallows by the shore."

"Sometimes, then, in the murk of night, a destroyer must bump into
one by sheer good luck?"

"Oh, yes, indeed.  Not long ago, a British destroyer racing through a
pitch dark rainy night cut a sub almost in half.  There was a
tremendous bump that knocked the people on the bridge over backward,
a lot of yelling, and then a wild salvo of rain blotted everything
out.  I think they managed to rescue one of the Germans.  Pity they
didn't get the fish itself.  You know it's a great stunt to get your
enemy's codes.  We get them once in a while.  Ever seen a pink
booklet on any of your destroyer trips?  It's a translation of a
German book of instructions to submarine commanders.  On British
boats they call it 'Baby-Killing at a Glance or the Hun's Vade
Mecum.'  Great name, isn't it?  Tells how to attack convoys and all
that sort of thing.  Lots of interesting tricks like squatting in the
path of the sun so that the lookout, blinded by the glare, shan't see
you; playing dead and so on.  That playing-dead stunt, if it ever did
work, which I greatly doubt, is certainly no favourite now."

"Playing dead?  Just what do you mean?"

"Why, a destroyer would chase a sub into the shallows and bomb her.
Then 'Fritz' would release a tremendous mess of oil to make believe
that he was terribly injured, and lie doggo for hours and hours.  The
destroyer, of course, seeing the oil, and hearing nothing from
'Fritz' was expected to conclude that 'Fritz' had landed in Valhalla,
and go away.  Then when she had gone away, 'Fritz,' quite uninjured,
went back to his job."

"And now that stunt is out of fashion?"

"You bet it is.  Our instructions are to bomb until we get tangible
results.  Before it announces the end of a sub, the Admiralty has to
have unmistakable evidence of the sub's destruction.  Not long ago,
they say a sub played dead somewhere off the Channel, sent up oil,
and waited for the fishers to go.  In a few seconds, 'Fritz' got a
depth bomb right on his ear, and up he came to the top, the most
surprised and angry Hun that ever was seen.  Bagged him, boat and
all.  He must have had a head of solid ivory.

"Got to be cruising along, now.  It's four o'clock, and our tender
must be waiting for me at the pier."

"Going fishing?" I asked politely.

"You bet!" he answered with a grin.



XII

AMUSEMENTS

On every vessel in the Navy there is a phonograph, and on some
destroyers there are two phonographs, one for the officers, and one
for the men.  The motion of the destroyer rarely permits the use of
the machine at sea, but when the vessel lies quietly at her mooring
buoy, you are likely to hear a battered old opera record sounding
through the port holes of the ward room, and "When the midnight choo
choo leaves for Alabam'" rising raucously out of the crew's quarters.
When music fails, there are always plenty of magazines, thanks to
good souls who read Mr. Burleson's offer and affix the harmless,
necessary two cent stamps.  Each batch is full of splendid
novelettes.  We gloat over the esoteric mysteries of the "American
Buddhist," and wonder who sent it, we read the "Osteopath's
Quarterly," the "Western Hog Breeder," and "Needlework."  Petty
officers with agricultural ambitions, and there are always a few on
every boat, descend on the agricultural journals like wolves on the
fold.

No notice of Queenstown, no history of the Navy would be complete
without a word about golf.  It is _the_ Navy game.  Golf clubs are to
be found in every cabin; in the tiny libraries Harry Vardon rubs
shoulders with naval historians and professors of thermodynamics.  If
you take the train, you are sure to find a carriage full of golfers
bound for a course on the home side of the river.  I remember seeing
the captain of an American submarine just about to start upon the
most dangerous kind of an errand one could possibly imagine.  It was
midnight; it was raining, the great Atlantic surges were sweeping
into the bay in a manner which told of rough weather outside.  Just
as he was about to disappear into the clamorous bowels of his craft,
the captain paused for an instant on the ladder, and shouted back to
us, "Tell Sanderson to put that mashie in my room when he's through
with it."

Were it not for the great "United States Naval Men's Club," I fear
that Jack ashore would have had but a dull time, for our amusements
were limited to a dingy cinema exploiting American "serials" several
years old, and a shed in which a company of odd people played
pretentious melodramas of the "Worst Woman in London" type on a tiny
Sunday school stage.  Alas, there were not enough people in the
company to complete the cast of characters, so the poor leading lady
was forever disappearing into the wings as the wronged daughter of a
ducal house, only to appear again in a few minutes as the dark female
poisoner, whilst the little leading man with a Kerry Brogue was
forever rushing back and forth between the old white-haired servitor
and the Earl of Darnleycourt.  Once in a while Jack came to these
performances, bought the best seat, and left the theatre before the
performance was ended.  The British Tars, however, sat through it
respectably and solemnly to the end.

The Men's Club was to be found at one end of the town close by the
water's edge.  It was quite the most successful and attractive thing
of its kind I have ever visited.  The largest building was a
factory-like affair of brick which once housed some swimming baths,
then became a theatre, and finally failed and lay down to die; the
smaller buildings were substantial huts of the Y.M.C.A. kind which
had been attached to the original structure.  This institution
provided some several thousand sailors with a canteen, an excellent
restaurant, a theatre, a library, a recreation room, and, if
necessary, a lodging.  Best of all, one could go to the Club and
actually be warm and comfortable in the American style, a boon not to
be lightly regarded in these islands where people all winter long
huddle in freezing rooms round lilliputian grates.  Enlisted men
controlled the club, maintained it, and selected their stewards,
cooks and attendants from their own ranks.  Upon everybody concerned,
the Club reflects the highest credit.

There were "movies" every night, and on Saturday night a special
concert by the "talent" in the flotilla.  The opening number was
always a selection by the Club Orchestra, perhaps a march of Sousa's,
for the Navy is true to its own, or perhaps Meacham's "American
Patrol."  Then came a long four-reel movie, "Jim the Penman," "The
Ring of the Borgias," "Gladiola" or "Davy Crockett."  The last
terrifying flickers die away, the footlights become rosy; the curtain
rises on "The Musical Gobs."  We behold a pleasant room in which two
people in civilian clothes sit playing a soft, crooning air on
violins.  Suddenly a knock is heard at the door.  One of the
performers rises, goes to the door, then returns and says to his
partner:

"There's some sailors out there (great laughter in the audience);
they say they can play too.  Want to know if they can't come in and
play with us."

"Sure, tell 'em to come in."

"Come in, boys."

From behind the back drop, a subdued humming suddenly bursts and
blossoms into "Strike up the band; here comes a sailor."  Enter now
three pleasant looking, amiably grinning lads playing the tune.
Chairs are brought out for the newcomers and the "Musical Gobs,"
genuine artists all, play several airs.  Another knock is heard and a
singer, a petty officer with a good tenor, also begs to join them.
The curtain goes down in a perfect tempest of applause.  The screen
descends once more, and all present sing together the popular songs
whose text is shown, "Gimme a kiss, Mirandy," and "It's a long way to
Berlin, but we'll get there."  This feature was always a favourite.
We then have a clog dancer, two more comic films and the National
anthems.  When the show is over, almost everybody wandered to the
canteen to get "a bite to eat."  To o'erleap the bars of the ration
system with a real plate of ham and eggs, served club style, was an
experience.

So if you were aboard a destroyer that night, you would have heard
Jack whistling the new tunes, and his officers discussing golf scores.



XIII

STORM

Sooner or later, destroyer folk are sure to say something about _the_
storm.  It happened in December and raged for a full three days.
Readers will have to imagine what it meant to destroyer sailors; the
boat dancing, tipping and rolling crazily without a second's respite;
no warm food to eat because a saucepan could not be kept on the stove
or liquids in a saucepan; no rest to be had.  Imagine being in the
lookout's station in such a storm, wondering when the tops of the
masts were going to crash down on one's head.  It was a hard time.
Yet two-thirds of the American flotilla were out in it, and _not a
single vessel lost an hour from her patrol_.  Indeed the American
vessels were about the only patrol boats to stay out during the
tempest.

One day in the wardroom of the good old Z, some of the officers began
to tell of it.  The first narrator was the radio officer, a tall
blond Westerner with big grey eyes, and a little sandy moustache.

"I knew we were in for something when I saw the clouds racing over
_against_ the wind.  Didn't you notice that, Duke?  It kept up for
quite a while, and kept getting colder and colder.  It wasn't one of
these squally storms, but one of these storms that starts with a
repressed grouch, nurses it along, and finally decides to have it
out.  Whoopee!  Some night, that first one.  Everybody stayed on
their feet.  Couldn't have slept if you'd had the chance to.  To get
about, you grabbed the nearest thing handy, hung on for dear life,
took a step, grabbed the next thing handy and so on.  The old hooker
did the darndest stunts I ever saw or felt.  I came in to get my coat
hanging in that corner, and the first thing I knew I was lying on the
floor over in the other corner trying to fight my way to my feet
again.  One of the men in the boiler room got burned by being thrown
against a hot surface.  Did I tell you how I tried to lie down?
Well, just as I had actually succeeded in getting over to this
transom and stretching out preparatory to strapping myself in (you
have to strap yourself tight in these destroyer bunks same as in an
aeroplane) the old craft sank or swooped or did something more than
usually funny, and left me hanging in the air about a foot and a half
above the bunk.  I must have looked like the subject of an experiment
in levitation.  A minute later either the bunk came up and caught me
a wallop in the back, or I fell down like a ton of brick or we met in
mid air, anyway, I thought my spine had been carried away.  Then all
of a sudden the library door opened and dumped about a hundred pounds
of books on me.

"It was really dangerous to go on deck, for the waves could easily
have torn one from the life line.  One of the boats did, I think,
lose a man overboard, but by wonderful luck managed to fish him out
again."  It is the engineer officer speaking.  He is somewhat older
than the average destroyer officer; somewhere on the edge of the
forties, I should say; of medium height, lean; and with hazel eyes, a
thin high nose and a thin, firm mouth.  "I was just getting through
my watch, had my foot on the ladder, in fact, when the boat that we
lost got smashed in.  A wave about the size of a young mountain
climbed aboard, hit the deck, caught the boat, and then poured off
with the kindling wood.  Then to make things interesting, right when
it was blowing the hardest, the men's dog took it into his head to
come on deck.  Of course, he was only a three months' pup then, and
didn't know any better.  (He does now though, he won't stick his nose
out when the weather's bad.)  Well, he slipped his collar or
something, and ran on deck.  The water was washing about under the
torpedo tubes like the breakers at Atlantic City, and the deck plates
were buckling.  Takes a destroyer to do that.  But I keep forgetting
the dog.  The little brute backed up between two of the stacks and
started yapping out a puppyish bark at the world to starboard.  It
was funny in a way to see the little brute there with his short hair
blown backwards and his feet braced on the wet deck.  Everybody
yelled, and one of the men ran out hanging on to the life line, and
not a minute too soon either, for a second later a big wave came
thumping down on us, and there was Maloney, the big dark fellow you
were talking to this morning, hanging on to the wire by one arm, with
the fool dog squashed under the other, and the whole Irish Sea trying
to wash them both overboard.  I was afraid he'd lose his balance or
have the handle that travels along the wire torn out of his grasp.
But he got to shelter all right, the darn dog yapping steadily all
the time.  We had two, almost three days of it, and it never let up
one bit.  One of our boats got caught in it with only a meagre supply
of oil, but managed to make a French port.  I've heard that there
actually wasn't enough oil left in her tanks to have taken her three
miles further.  Other destroyers, too, had boats smashed up, and one
of 'em came in with her smokestacks bent up for all the world like
the crooked fingers of a hand.  Some had depth charges washed
overboard.  It certainly was the worst blow that I remember."

Here the navigator came over with a twinkle in his eye, and touched
me on the shoulder.

"Don't let him fill you with that dope," said he, "that storm wasn't
in it with the storms we have on the other side off Hatteras."

"Hatteras, my neck," said the other.  "What do you think you are,
anyway--Hell-Roaring Jake the Storm King?"

And then the talk shifted to something else.



XIV

ON NIGHT PATROL

It was the end of the afternoon, there was light in the western sky
and on the winding bay astern, but ahead, leaden, still, and slightly
tilted up to a grey bank of eastern cloud, lay the forsaken and
beleaguered sea.  The destroyer, nosing slowly through the gap in the
nets by the harbour mouth, entered the swept channel, increased her
speed, and trembling to the growing vibration, hurried on into the
dark.  High, crumbling, and excessively romantic, the Irish coast
behind her died away.  Tragic waters lay before her.  Whatever
illusory friendliness men had read into the sea had vanished; the
great leaden disk about the vessel seemed as insecure as a mountain
road down whose length travellers cease from speaking for fear of
avalanches.  "A vast circular ambush."  Somehow the beholder cannot
help feeling that the waters should show some sign of the horrors
they have seen.  But the sea has engulfed all, memories as well as
living men, engulfing a thousand wrecks as completely as time engulfs
a thousand years.

The dark came swiftly, almost as if the destroyer had sailed to find
it in that bank of eastern cloud.  There was an interval of twilight,
no dying glow, but a mere pause in the pale ebb of the day.  The
destroyer had begun to roll.  Looking back from the bridge one saw
the lean, inconceivably lean, steel deck, the joints of the plates
still visible, the guns to each side with their attendant crews, a
machine gun, swinging on a pivot like a weather vane, the gently
swaying bulk of the suspended motor dories and life boats, the four
great tubes of the funnels rising flush from the plates, and crowned
with a tremble of vibration from the oil flames below.  And all this
lean world swung slowly from side to side, rocking as gently as a
child's cradle, swayed as if by some gentle force from within.

The destroyer was out on patrol.  A part of the threatened sea had
been given to her to watch and ward.  She was the guardian, ... the
avenger.

The supper hour arrived, men came in groups to the galley door, some
to depart with steamy pannikins, there was a smell of good food very
satisfying to children of earth.  In the officer's wardroom when
dinner was over, and the negro mess boys were silently folding the
white cloth, securing the chairs, and tidying up, those not on watch
settled down to a friendly talk.  All the lights except one bulb
hanging over the table in a pyramidal tin shade had been switched
off.  It was very quiet.  Now and then one could hear the splash of a
wave against the side, a footfall on the deck overhead, or the tinkle
of the knives and forks which the steward was putting away in a
drawer.  The hanging light swayed with the motion of the ship,
trailing a pool of light up and down the oaken table.  Cigarette
smoke rose in wisps and long, languorous oriental coils to the clean
ceiling.  A sailor or two came in for his orders.  Hushed voices
talking apart, a direction to do this or that, a respectful
business-like "yes, sir," a quiet withdrawal by the only door.  It
was all very calm, it had the atmosphere of a cruise, yet those
aboard might have been torpedoed any minute, struck a mine, crashed
into a submarine fooling about too near the surface (this has
happened) or been sunk in thirty seconds by some hurrying, furtive
brute of a liner which would have ridden over them as easily as a
snake goes over a branch.  The talk flowed in many channels, on the
problems of destroyers, on the adventures of other boats, on members
of the crew soon to be advanced to commissioned rating, and under the
thought under the words, could be discerned the one fierce purpose of
these fighting lives; the will to strike down the submarine and open
the lanes of the sea.  Oh, the vigilance, the energy, the keenness of
the American patrol!  There were tales of U-boats hiding in suspected
bays, of merchantmen swiftly and terribly avenged, of voices that
cried for help in the night, of life boats almost awash in whose foul
waters the dead floated swollen and horrible.  The war of the
destroyer against the submarine is a matter of tragic melodrama.

The wandering glow of the swaying lamp now was reflected from the
varnished table to one keen young face, now to another.  "Running a
destroyer is a young man's game," says the Navy.  True enough.  Pray
do not imagine them, as a crew of "hell-driving boys."  The destroyer
service is the achievement of the man in the early thirties, of the
officer with a young man's vigour and energy and the resolution of
maturity.  After all, the Navy Department is not yet trusting vessels
worth several million dollars and carrying over a hundred men to
eager youngsters who have no background of experience to their
energy, good-will and bravery.  If you would imagine a destroyer
captain, take your man of thirty-two or -three, give him blue eyes, a
keen, clear-cut face essentially American in its features, a sailor's
tan, and a sprinkling of grey hair.  A type to remember, for to the
destroyer captain more than to any other single figure do we owe our
opportunity of winning the war.

The evening waned, the officers who were to go on watch at twelve
stole off to get a little sleep before being called.  The navigator
and the senior engineer slept on the transoms of the wardroom.  A
junior officer lingered beneath the solitary ever-swinging light,
reading a magazine.  A little hitch worked itself into the
destroyer's motion, a swift upward leap, a little catch in mid air, a
descent ending in a quiver.  The voice of the waters grew louder,
there were hissing splashes, watery blows, bubbly gurgles.

The sleeping officers had not paused to undress.  Nobody bothers to
strip on a destroyer.  There isn't time, and a man has to be ready on
the instant for any eventuality.

The door giving on a narrow passageway to the deck opened, and as it
stood ajar, the hissing of the water alongside invaded the silent
room.  A sailor in a blue reefer, a big lad with big hands and
simple, friendly face, entered quietly, walked over a transom and
said:

"Twelve o'clock, sir."

"All right, Simmons," said the engineer, sitting up and kicking off
the clothes at once with a quick gesture.  Then he swung his legs
over the side of the bunk, pulled on a coat and hat and wandered out
to take his trick at the bridge.

He found a lovely, starlit night, a night rich in serenity and
promised peace, a night for lovers, a poet's night.  There was
phosphorescence in the water, and as the destroyer rolled from side
to side, now the guns and rails to port, now those to starboard stood
shaped against the spectral trail of foam running river-like
alongside.  One could see some distance ahead over the haunted plain.
The men by the guns were changing watch; black figures came down the
lane by the funnels.  A sailor was drawing cocoa in a white enamel
cup from a tap off the galley wall.  The hatchway leading to the
quarters of the crew was open; it was dark within; the engineer heard
the wiry creak of a bunk into which some one had just tumbled.  The
engineer climbed two little flights of steps to the bridge.  It was
just midnight.  It was very still on the bridge, for all of the ten
or twelve people standing by.  All very quiet and rather solemn.  One
can't escape from the rich melodrama of it all.  The bridge was a
little, low-roofed space perhaps ten feet wide and eight feet long,
it had a front wall shaped like a wide, outward pointing V, its sides
and rear were open to the night.  The handful of officers and men on
watch stood at various points along the walls peering out into the
darkness.  Phosphorescent crests of low, breaking waves flecked the
waters about; it was incredibly spectral.  In the heart of the bridge
burned its only light, a binnacle lamp burning as steadily as a light
in the chancel of a darkened church, the glow cast the shadow of the
helmsman and the bars of the wheel down upon the floor in radiations
of light and shade like the stripes of a Japanese flag.  The captain,
keeping a sharp lookout over the bow, gave his orders now and then to
the helmsman, a petty officer with a sober, serious face.

Suddenly there were steps on the companionway behind, the dark
outline of some messenger appeared, a shadow on a background of
shades.  The sailor peered round for his chief and said, "Mr. Andrews
sent me up, sir, to report hearing a depth bomb or a mine explode at
12.25."

"Was it very loud, Williams?"

"Yes, sir, I should have said that it wasn't more than a few miles
away.  We all heard it quite distinctly down below."

Evidently some devil's work was going on in the heart of the
darkness.  The vibration had travelled through the water and had been
heard, as always, in that part of the ship below the water line.

Williams withdrew.  The destroyer rushed on into the romantic night.

"Must have spotted something on the surface," said some one....  A
radio operator appeared with a sheaf of telegrams.  "Submarine seen
in latitude x and longitude y," "Derelict awash in position so and
so."  "Gun fire heard off Cape Z at half past eleven"--it all had to
do with the channel zone to the south.  The captain shoved the sheaf
into a pocket of his jacket.

Suddenly, through the dark, was heard a hard, thundering pound.

"By jingo, there's another," said somebody.  "Nearby, too.  Wonder
what's up?"

"Sounded more like a torpedo this time," said an invisible speaker in
a heavy, dogged voice.  A stir of interest gripped the bridge; one
could see it in the shining eyes of the young helmsman.  Two of the
sailors discussed the thing in whispers, fragments of conversation
might have been overheard.--"No, I should have said off the port
bow."  "Isn't this about the place where the _Welsh Prince_ got
hers?"  "Listen, didn't you hear something then?"

From somewhere in the distance came three long blasts, blasts of a
deep roaring whistle.

"Something's up, sure!"

The destroyer, in obedience to an order of the captain, took a sharp
turn to port, and turning, left far behind a curving, luminous trail
upon the sea.  The wind was dying down.  Again there were steps on
the way.

"Distress signal, sir," said the messenger from the radio room, a
shock-haired lad who spoke with the precise intonation of a Bostonian.

The captain stepped to the side of the binnacle, lowered the flimsy
sheet into the glow of the lamp, and summoned his officers.  The
message read: "S.S. _Zemblan_, position x y z torpedoed, request
immediate assistance."

An instant later several things happened all at once.  The "general
quarters" alarm bell which sends every man to his station began to
ring, full speed ahead was rung on in the engine room, and the
destroyer's course was altered once more.  Men began to tumble up out
of the hatchways, figures rushed along the dark deck; there were
voices, questions, names.  The alarm bell rang as monotonously as an
ordinary door bell whose switch has jammed.  But soon one sound, the
roaring of the giant blowers sucking in air for the forced draught in
the boiler room, overtopped and crushed all other fragments of noise,
even as an advancing wave gathers into itself and destroys pools and
rills left along the beach by the tide.  A roaring sound, a deep
windy hum.  Gathering speed at once, the destroyer leaped ahead.  And
even as violence overtook the lives and works of men, the calm upon
the sea became ironically more than ever assuring and serene.

[Illustration: To enjoy their leisure between watches these officers
of an American destroyer lash themselves into their seats.  A
destroyer travelling at high speed in a heavy sea is like a bucking
broncho.]

"Good visibility," said somebody on the bridge.  "She can't be more
than three miles away now.  Hello, there's a rocket."

A faint bronzy golden trail, suddenly flowering into a drooping
cluster of darting white lights gleamed for a furtive instant among
the westering winter stars.

"I saw her, sir!" cried one of the lookouts.

"Where is she, O'Farrell?"

"Quite a bit to the left of the rocket, sir.  She's settling by the
head."

The beautiful night closed in again.  O'Farrell and the engineer
continued to peer out into the dark.  Suddenly both of them cried
out, using exactly the same words at exactly the same time, "Torpedo
off the port bow, sir!"

The thing had become visible in an instant.  It could be seen as a
rushing white streak in the dark water, and was coming towards the
destroyer with the speed of an express train, coming like a bullet
out of a gun.

The captain uttered a quick word of command.  The wheel spun, the
roaring, trembling ship turned in the dark.  A strange thing
happened.  Just as the destroyer had cleared the danger line, the
torpedo, as if actuated by some malevolent intelligence, porpoised,
and actually turned again towards the vessel.  The fate of the
destroyer lay on the knees of the gods.  Those on the bridge
instinctively braced themselves for the shock.  The affair seemed to
be taking a long time, a terribly long time.  An instant later, the
contrivance rushed through the foaming wake of the destroyer only a
few yards astern, and continuing on, disappeared in the calm and
glittering dark.  A floating red light suddenly appeared just ahead
and at the same moment all caught sight of the _Zemblan_.

She was hardly more than half a mile away.  Somebody aboard her had
evidently just thrown over one of those life buoys with a
self-igniting torch attachment, and this buoy burned a steady orange
red just off that side on which the vessel was listing.  The dark,
stricken, motionless bulk leaned over the little pool of orange
radiance gleaming in a fitful pool; round the floating torch one
could see vague figures working on a boat by the stern, and one
figure walking briskly down the deck to join them.  There was not a
sign of any explosion, no breakage, no splintered wood.  Some ships
are stricken, and go to their death in flames and eddying steam, go
to their death as a wounded soldier goes; other ships resemble a
strong man suddenly stricken by some incurable and mysterious
disease.  The unhappy _Zemblan_ was of this latter class.  There were
two boats on the water, splashing their oars with a calm regularity
of the college crews; there were inarticulate and lonely cries.

Away from the light, and but vaguely seen against the midnight sky,
lay a British patrol boat which had happened to be very close at
hand.  And other boats were signalling--"_Zemblan_--am coming."  The
sloop signalled the destroyer that she would look after the
survivors.  Cries were no longer heard.  Round and round the ship in
great sweeps went the destroyer, seeking a chance to be of use,--to
avenge.  Other vessels arrived, talked by wireless and disappeared
before they had been but vaguely seen.

Just after two o'clock, the _Zemblan's_ stem rose in the air, and
hung suspended motionless.  The tilted bulk might have been a rock
thrust suddenly out of the deep towards the starry sky.  Then
suddenly, as if released from a pose, the stern plunged under,
plunged as if it were the last act of the vessel's conscious will.

The destroyer cruised about till dawn.  A breeze sprang up with the
first glow of day, and scattered the little wreckage which had
floated silly-solemnly about.  Nothing remained to tell of an act
more terrible than murder, more base than assassination.



XV

CAMOUFLAGE

In the annals of the Navy one may read of many a famous duel, and if
the code duello were in existence to-day, I feel certain that the
present would not be less fiery than the past.  The subject which
stirs up all the discussion is camouflage.  To ask at a crowded
table: "What do you think of camouflage," is to hurl a very apple of
discord down among your hosts.  For there will be some who will stand
by camouflage to the last bright drop of blood, and strive to win you
to their mind with tales that do "amaze the very faculties of eyes
and ears."  You will hear of ships melting into cloud, of vessels
apparently going full speed backward, of ships whose funnels have one
and all been rendered invisible.  And now the mocker is sure to ask
the pro-camouflager in the most serious of tones if he ever saw the
ship disguised as a sunset which the Germans unhappily discovered on
a rainy day.  The signal gun of the anti-camouflage squad now having
sounded, the assault begins with a demand of "What's your theory?"
The pro's reply something about breaking up spaces of colour, optical
illusions--"if you draw horizontal lines along a boat's hull, she
will appear longer; if you draw vertical or angular parallels, the
vessel will appear shorter."  The anti's answer that such an
expedient might possibly, just possibly, deceive an idiot child for
exactly five and one-eighths seconds, as for deceiving a wily
Hun,--Good Night!  "Do you mean to tell me," cries the devotee of
camouflage, growing angry, "that a ship painted one flat, dead colour
is less visible against the sea than one whose surface is broken up
into many colours?"  "Yes, that's what I mean," retorts the anti.
"You know as well as I do that a thing that looks like Vesuvius in
eruption is ten times more easily seen than a boat painted a dull
neutral grey."

"Yes," cries some one else, "but hasn't camouflage on land proved its
utility?"  "I'm talking about naval camouflage," answers the anti.
"On land your camouflaged object is usually stationary itself, and
stands in relation to a surface which is always stationary,--the
surrounding landscape.  Out here, both surfaces, sea and vessel, are
constantly in motion and constantly changing their relation to each
other."  "But I _saw_ a boat--" begins a pro.  "Oh, cut it out,"
cries somebody else wholeheartedly, and the discussion ends exactly
where a thousand others have ended.

Whether camouflage be valuable or not, it certainly is the fad of the
hour.  The good, old-fashioned, one-colour boat has practically
disappeared from the seas, and the ships that cross the ocean in
these perilous times have been docked to make a cubist holiday; the
futurists are saving democracy.  There are countless tricks.  I
remember seeing one boat with a false water line floating in a
painted sea whose roaring waves contrasted oddly with a frightfully
placid horizon, and I recall another with the silhouette of a
schooner painted on her side.  I remember a little tramp
remorselessly striped, funnels and all with alternate slanting bands
of apple-green and snuff brown; I have an indistinct memory of a
terrible mess of milky-pink, lemon-yellow and rusty black, which
earned for the vessel displaying it the odious title of "The Boil."
We saw the prize monstrosity in midocean.  Every school of camouflage
had evidently had a chance at her.  She was striped, she was
blotched; she was painted in curves; she was slashed with jagged
angles; she was bone grey; she was pink; she was purple; she was
green; she was blue; she was egg yellow.  To see her was to gasp and
turn aside.  We had quite a time picking a suitable name for her, but
finally decided on the Conscientious Objector, though her full title
was "The State of Mind of a C.O. on Being Sent to the Front."

Finally destiny put in my path just the man I wanted to see, the
captain of a British submarine. "What do you think of camouflage?" I
asked.

"Well," he answered, after a pause, "I can't remember that it ever
hindered us from seeing a ship.  Visibility at sea strikes me as
being more a matter of mass than of colour.  The optical illusion
tricks are too priceless silly.  Must amuse the Huns.  You see if the
eye does play him false, Fritz detects the error with his gauges."

The P.C's, I am sure, will put this down as a bit of typical
submarine "side."  Indignant letters, care H.M.S. X999.



XVI

TRAGEDY

Just at the fall of night, three days before, a weak and fragmentary
wireless had cried forlornly over the face of the waters for
immediate help, and had then ceased abruptly like a lamp blown out by
a gust of wind.  The destroyers, stationed here and there in the vast
loneliness of the gathering dark, had heard and waited for "the
position" of the disaster, but nothing more came through the night.
Presently, it had begun to rain.

And now for three interminable and tedious days and nights rain had
been falling, falling with the monotony and purpose of water over a
dam.  There being little or no wind the drops fell straight as
plummets from a sky flat as a vast ceiling, and the air reverberated
with that murmuring hum which is the voice of the rain mingling with
the sea.  Rain greasy with oil it had gathered from the plates poured
in little streams off the deck; drops hissed on the iron of the hot
stacks.  Clad in stout waterproof clothes, and wearing their
waterproof hoods, the crew went casually about their duties, their
hardy faces showing no sign of discomfort or weariness.

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon of a January day.

Presently the lookout, from his station on the mast, reported:
"Floating object off starboard bow," and a few minutes later one of
the watch on the bridge reported two more floating masses, this time
visible to port.  The destroyer was making her way into a vast field
of wreckage.  Within the radius of visibility, there lay, drifting
silently about in the incessant rain, an incredible quantity of
barrels, boxes, bits of wood, crates, vegetables, apples, onions,
fragments of coke, life preservers and planks.

"See if you can spot a name on anything," said the destroyer's
captain.  But though everybody looked carefully, not a sign of a name
could be seen.  Mile after mile went the destroyer down the rain
lashed sea, mile after mile of wreckage opened before her.

"Life boat ahead showing flag!"

The captain raised to his eyes the pair of binoculars he wore hanging
from his neck, and peered out of the window by the wheel.

"Found her yet, sir?"

"Yes ... it's a small grey boat.  Barely afloat, I guess.  They've
got a shirt or something tied to a mast or an oar.  We'll have a look
at it.  Tell Mullens to have a couple of men stand by with boat hooks
in case we run alongside."

The swamped boat, motionless as a stone in the driving rain, lay no
more than half a mile off.  Voices eagerly discussed the possibility
of finding survivors.

"Alive?  Course they ain't.  Why, the boat's awash."

"Sure, but look at the flag."

"Those poor guys are gonners long ago."

Handled skilfully the destroyer crept alongside the motionless boat,
and presently those on the bridge looked directly down upon it.  It
lay, floating on even keel, not more than six or seven feet off the
starboard side, and was held up by its tanks.  A red flannel shirt
hung soggily against an upright pole, and coloured the shaft with the
drippings of its dye.  The interior of the boat was but a deep
puddle, a dark puddle into which the rain fell monotonous and
implacable.  Floating face down and side by side in the water lay the
fully clothed bodies of two men, whilst at the stern, sitting on a
seat just under water, with his feet in the water and his body
toppled over on the gunwale, could be seen a third figure dressed in
a kind of seaman's jacket.  The wet cloth of his trousers clung
lightly to his thin legs and revealed the taut muscles of his thighs.
Then boat hooks fished out from the side of the destroyer and drew
the heavy craft in.  A sailor cried out that all were dead.

"Any name on the boat, Hardy?" asked the officer standing by.

"No, sir."

"Very well.  Cast off!"  The life boat, watched by some rather
horrified eyes, slid alongside the destroyers, and drifted solemnly
behind.

"Now," said the captain, who had come on deck, "I want one tidy shot
put into that boat, Butler."

Ten seconds later, the roar of the four-inch at the stern burst
asunder the murmur of the rain, and the watchers saw the boat of the
dead crumple and disappear in the loneliness and rain.



XVII

"CONSOLIDATION, NOT COÖPERATION"

Talking one day with an English member of the House of Commons, I
asked him what he held to be the most important result of American
intervention.

"The spirit of coöperation which you have stirred up among the
Allies," he answered.  "Not that I mean to say that the Allies were
continually quarrelling among themselves; the manner in which Britain
has shared her ships with other hard pressed nations would refute any
such insinuation, but not until you came on the scene was there a
really scientific attempt at the coördination of our various forces.
You were quite right to insist on a generalissimo.  But of course the
great lesson you've given us has been through your Navy.  There's
been nothing like it in the history of the allied forces.  What an
extraordinary position Admiral Sims has won in England!  His
influence is perfectly tremendous; there isn't another allied leader
who has a tithe of his power.  I really do not think that there is a
parallel to it in English history."

Now this is no over-statement of the case.  The influence of Admiral
Sims over the British people _is_ tremendous.  All along he has had
but one watchword, "Consolidation, not Coöperation."  It is a
splendid phrase, and Admiral Sims has turned it into action.  The
way, I gathered from various members of the Staff and the Embassy,
had not been without its obstacles.  For instance, once upon a time
certain American forces were to be sent into a distant area, and a
member of the Allied Naval Council sitting in London had taken the
stand that the little force should be supplied from the United
States.  Immediately Admiral Sims pointed out that these American
forces must be considered as _allied_ forces and must be supplied
from the nearest and most convenient _allied_ sources of supply.  And
he carried the day.  Not only has the Admiral insisted on the
_consolidation_ of material forces; but he has also insisted on a
consolidation of the allied spirit.  Himself a master of diplomacy
and tact, he loses no opportunity of reminding the individual
officers under his control to bear in mind the good points of other
services and to remember the fact that the success of this work would
be directly affected by their relations with their comrades of the
Great Cause.  And this extraordinary consolidation of force and
spirit is precisely the thing which more than anything else takes the
attention of the visiting correspondent.  "Consolidation, not
Coöperation"--it is a phrase that well might have been our allied
motto from the first.

While in London, I had several talks with Admiral Sims in his office
in Grosvenor Gardens.  Of the many distinguished men it has been my
lot to interview, Admiral Sims stands first for the ability to put a
guest at ease.  Tall, spare, erect, and walking with a fine carriage,
our Admiral is a personality whom the interviewer can never forget.
One has but to talk with him a few minutes to realize the secret of
the extraordinary personal loyalty he inspires.  And he is as popular
in France as he is in England.  Speaking French fluently, he is able
to carry on discussion with the French members of the Naval Council
in their own language.

"Consolidation, not Coöperation."  There's a real phrase.  And thanks
to the great man who said it and insisted upon it, we defeated the
common enemy.



XVIII

MACHINE AGAINST MACHINE

The year stood at the threshold of the spring; a promise of warmth
lay in the climbing sun; on land one might have heard the first songs
of the birds.  At sea, the mists of winter were lifting from the
waters, and the sun, for many months shrunk and silver pale, shone
hard and golden bright.  A fresh, clear wind was blowing from the
west, driving ahead of it a multitude of low foam-streaked waves.
There was not a sign of life to be seen anywhere on the vast disk of
the sea, not a trail, not a smudge of smoke on the horizon's circle,
not even a solitary gull or diver.  The destroyer, dwarfed by her
world, ran up and down the square she had been chosen to guard.  She
had the air of performing a casual evolution.  There was never
anything to be found in this particular square.  It lay beyond the
great highways; even the sight of a coaster was there something of a
rarity.  Periscopes were never reported from that area, never had
been reported, and probably never would be.  Caressed by the sun,
enveloped in the serenity of the day as in a mantle, the destroyer
went back and forth on her patrol.

The emergence of the periscope a quarter of a mile ahead off the
starboard bow had in it something so unattended that the incident had
a character of abnormality ... much as if a familiar hill should
suddenly turn into a volcano.  It is greatly to the honour of the
ship's discipline, that those aboard were not staled by months of
unfruitful vigil, and acted as swiftly as if the destruction of a
submarine were matter of daily practice.  There it lay, going
steadily along about two hundred yards away, ... a simple, most
unromantic black rod rising two feet or so above the waves.  A white
furrow like a kind of comet's tail, streamed behind it, forever
widening at the end.  Later on, they asked themselves what the
submarine could possibly have been doing.  Seeking a quiet place to
come up to breathe, to effect repairs, to send out a hurried wireless
message?

It might have been a rendezvous between the two vessels.  One felt
that the gods had brought to pass there no careless drama, but a
tragedy long meditated and skillfully prepared.  The morning sun
watched, a casual spectator, the duel between the two engines of
violence.

There had been a command, a call of the summoning bell, a release of
power carefully stored for just such an event, and the destroyer
leaped ahead like a runner from the starting line.  The periscope,
meanwhile, continued to plough its way straight ahead almost into the
teeth of the wind and the flattened, marbly waves.  Presently, either
because the destroyer had been seen or heard on the submarine
telephone, the submarine began to submerge, sucking in a kind of a
foaming hollow as she sank.  Aboard the destroyer, they wondered if
the keel would clear her, and waited for the shock, the rasping
grind.  But nothing happened.  The first depth bomb fell into the
heart of the submarine's swirl even as a well placed stone falls in
the heart of a pool.  Trembling to the roar of her fans, the
destroyer fled across the spot, and turned.  The wake of her passing
had almost obliterated the platter-shaped swirl the submarine had
left behind; one had a vision of the great steel cylinder tumbling,
bubbling down through green water to dark, harmless as a spool of
thread on the surface, but presently to be changed by the wisdom and
cunning of men into monstrous and chaotic strength.  One, two, three,
four, five ... a thundering pound....  The submarine rose behind
them, her bow on the crest of the geyser, an immense, tapering rusty
mass, wet and shining in the placid glance of the day.  From a kind
of hole some distance up the side, a stream of oil ran much like
blood from a small deep wound....  A gun spoke, and spoke again, a
careening whizz, ... ugly hollow crashes of tearing steel ... the sub
heeled far over on her starboard side ... those nearest heard, or
thought they heard, screaming ... the bow sank, tilting up the great
planes and propellers.  A monstrous bubble or two broke on the
tormented surface just before she disappeared ... and with her going,
the calm of the spring morning, which had been frightened away like a
singing bird, returned once more to the tragic and mysterious sea.



XIX

THE LEGEND OF KELLEY

Kelley, not Von Biberstein or Hans Bratwurst, is his name, Kelley
spelled with an "e."  The first destroyer officer whom you question
will very possibly have never heard of him, the second will have
heard the legend, the third will tell you of a radio officer, a
friend of his, who received one of Kelley's messages.  So day by day
the legend grows apace.  Kelley is the captain of a German submarine.

The first time that I heard about him he figured as a young Irishman
of good family who had attached himself to the German cause in order
to settle old scores.  "Lots of people know him in the west of
Ireland; he goes ashore there any time he cares to."  Another
version, perhaps the true one, if there be any truth at all in this
fantastic business, is that Kelley is no Irishman but a cosmopolitan,
jesting German with a Celtic camouflage.  No less a person than
Captain James Norman Hall testifies that the Germans in the trenches
often tried to anger the British troops by pretending they were
disloyal Irish.  So perhaps Kelley is Von Biberstein after all.  A
third version has it that Kelley is a Californian of Irish origin.
Those who hold to this last view have it that Kelley spares all
American ships but sends the Union Jack to the bottom without mercy.

Many and varied are Kelley's activities.  He has penchant for sending
messages.  "I am in latitude x and longitude y; come and get
me--Kelley," has come at the dead of night into the ears of many an
astounded radio operator.  Others declare that these messages were
sent by Hans Rose, the skipper of the submarine which attacked the
shipping off Nantucket in 1916.  All agree that Kelley was the beau
ideal of pirates.  He sinks a ship and apologizes for his action, he
sees the women passengers into the boats with the grace and urbanity
of a Chesterfield, he comes alongside a wretched huddle of survivors,
supplies them with food, and sends out notice of their position.
When they ask his name, he replies "Captain Kelley," and disappears
from view beneath the sea.  He goes ashore, and proves his visit with
theatre tickets and hotel bills.  "London hotel bills made out to
Kelley, Esquire."  He requests the survivors as a slight favour to
tell Captain Nameless of the Destroyer XYZ that his propeller shaft
needs repairing; that he, Kelley, has been seriously annoyed by
having to listen to the imperfect beat via the submarine telephone.
There is certainly a flavour of Celt in this chivalry tinged with
mockery.

I could never find anybody who had actually seen him, much to my
regret, for I should have been glad to describe so famous a person.
Months have passed since last I heard of him.  Perhaps he is still in
the Irish Sea; perhaps he is now at Harwich, perhaps he has gone
aloft to join his kinsman "The Flying Dutchman."  If so, let us keep
his memory green, for he was a pirate _sans peur et sans reproche_.



XX

SONS OF THE TRIDENT

Any essay on the British sailor must rise from a foundation of
wholesome respect.  One cannot look at the master of the world
without philosophy.  And British Jack is the world's master, for he
holds in his hands that mastery of the seas which is the mastery of
the land.  He is a sailor of the mightiest of all navies, an
inheritor of the world's most remarkable naval tradition, a true son
of Britannia's ancient trident.

What is he like, British Jack?  How does he impress those companions
who share the vigil of the seas?

To begin with the Briton is, on the average, an older man than our
bluejacket.  British Jack has not gone into the Royal Navy "for the
fun of it" or "to see the world," as our posters say, but as the
serious business of his life.  His enlistment is an eight-year
affair, and by the time that he has completed it, he rarely thinks of
returning to a prosaic life ashore.  Thus it comes about that whilst
our American sailors are usually somewhere in the eager,
irresponsible twenties, British tars are often men of sober middle
age.  One is sure to see, in any of the "home ports," the fleet's
married men out walking on Sunday with their wives and children,
forming together a number of honest, steady little groups whose hold
on the durable satisfactions of life it is a pleasure to see.  The
"home ports" idea has well proved its value.  It is simple enough in
operation.  Each ship, according to the plan, bases on some definite
port, thus permitting poor Jack (who has enough of roaming at sea) to
have a steady home on land.  In all the great British bases,
therefore, you will find these sailor colonies.  I was well
acquainted with a retired Navy chaplain who ministered to such a
group.  These families form a distinct group dependent on the Navy.
Marriages are performed by the naval chaplain, the ills of the flesh
are looked after by the fleet surgeons, and the rare troubles are
brought to the judgment of Jack's favourite officers.

Our American crews are gathered together from all over the vast
continent, British crews are often recruited from one section of the
country.  For instance, a ship manned by a crew from "out o' Devon"
is known as a "West Country" ship and its sailors as "Westos."  A
real Royal Navy man knows in an instant the character of any ship
which he happens to visit.  The drawled "oa's" and oe's" of the West
tell the story.  I once heard a "Westo" refer to an officious wharf
tender as a "bloody to-ad," a phrase that certainly has character.
Then there be ships based on Irish ports.  Indeed, there are sure to
be Irish sailors on every ship, irresponsible, keen-witted Celts to
whom all devilment is entrusted.

The war has not been without influence on the naval personnel.
British Jack had, in his own social system, a place of his own.  He
is not looked down upon, for the British bluejacket has been, is, and
forever ought to be the best loved of national figures.  Sons of
"gentlemen," however, I use the word here in its British sense, did
not join the Royal Navy as enlisted men.  Such a thing would have
been regarded as "queer" (no mild word, in Britain), and the crew
certainly would have looked upon any such arrival as an intruder.
But just as the war has placed University men side by side in the
ranks with troopers like Kipling's Ortheris, so has it placed among
the enlisted personnel of the Royal Navy a large number of men from
the educated and wealthier class.  There hung in the Royal Academy
this spring a portrait of a British bluejacket, a pleasant-looking
lad some nineteen or twenty years of age with blond hair, a long face
and honest eyes of English grey.  It was entitled "My Son."  Almost
invariably the older visitors to the exhibition, when looking at this
picture, would fall to talking of the change in the social system
which the portrait symbolized.

There are always a number of boys on British ships, for the British
hold that to be a good sailor, one should early become familiar with
the sea.  The status of "boy" is a kind of distinct rating, and these
youngsters are addressed by their last names, viz., Boy Bumblechook
or Boy Stiggins.  They have shown up wonderfully well.  One has but
to recall little Cornell of Jutland to see of what stuff these lads
are made.

The British sailor's uniform is picturesque and characteristic, but
certainly less attractive than ours.  It is cut not of broadcloth or
of serge, but of heavy blue worsted, and a detachable collar of blue
linen falls back upon the blouse.  Our sailors are forever washing
the blouses to keep the white stripes of the collar clean; the Briton
has only his collar to care for.  And there is a difference between
the national builds as marked as the difference twixt the uniforms.
Our Jack is rangy, lean and quick-moving, the Briton heavier,
shorter, and more deliberate.  In hours of leisure, the Briton busies
himself with knitting, wood-carving or weaving rag rugs; the
American, driven by the mechanical genius of the nation, hurries to
the ship's machine shop to pound a half-crown into a ring.

The sons of Columbia and the sons of Britannia get on very well
together.  At the big club house at the Irish base, there are always
little groups of British sailors to be seen, quiet, well-behaved
fellows who watch everything with British dignity.  Our bluejackets,
however, are far more chummy with British soldiers than with Britons
of their own calling.  Navy blue and khaki are forever going down the
street arm in arm.  The tar is always keen to hear of the front.
Tommy does the talking.  After all, there is a difference in the
vernacular.  Witness this poem which I reprint from the August number
of _Our Navy_.  It is by a Navy man, Mr. R. P. Maulsley.  The word
Limey, here shortened to "Lima," means, used as a noun, a British
sailorman; used as an adjective, British.  The term had its origin in
the ancient British custom of giving lime juice to ward off scurvy.

THE LIMA AND THE YANKS

By R. P. Maulsley

  It was nice and cozy in the "Pub,"
    And blowing cold outside.
  By the fireplace sat two gobbies,
    America's joy and pride.

  When a Lima from a cruiser
    Thought their talk he'd like to hear,
  And sat down just behind them,
    With a half o' pint of beer.

  And o'er a flowing mug of ale,
    That held about a quart,
  He heard them swapping stories
    About their stay in port.

  "Say, this is sure some burg,
    Tho' it ain't the U.S.A.,
  But did you pipe the classy Jane,
    That passed us on the quay?

  "She gave me some sweet smile, bo,
    And winked her pretty eye,"
  "Get out, you big hay-maker,
    It was for me she meant to sigh."

  "G'wan you homely piece of cheese,
    You're talkin' thru' your hat,
  I'll betsha just ten plasters,
    It was me she was smiling at."

  "I'll take that up old-timer,
    Why, that's some easy dough,
  We'll have another round,
    And then we'll have to blow.

  "And if I lamp that broad, kid,
    And she cottons to me quick,
  I'll buy her everything in town,
    And make that ten look sick."

  They arose and left the Lima,
    A gasping in some chairs,
  And as they left the room,
    He heard them on the stairs.

  "Like candy from a baby,
    I'll take your coin this day,
  And have a high old time and--
    Say, how did you get that way?"

  The Lima emptied his tankard,
    And caught the barmaid's eye,
  "I 'eard them Yanks a tarkin',
    But what the bloomin' ell'd they seye?"



XXI

THE FLEET

The fleet lay in the Firth of Forth.  It was one o'clock in the
afternoon, and the little suburban train which leaves and pauses at
the Edinburgh Grand Fleet pier had not yet been brought to its
platform.  The cold sunlight of a northern spring fell upon the vast,
empty station, and burnished the lines of rail beyond the entrance
arch.  Two porters from the adjoining hotel, wearing coats of
orange-red with dull brass buttons, stood lackadaisically by a
booking office closed for the dinner hour.  Presently, after a
piercing shriek intensified by the surrounding quiet, the suburban
train backed in with a smooth, crawling noise.  Various folk began to
appear on the platform, a group of young British naval officers, a
handful of older sailors, a captain carrying a small leather affair
much like a miniature suit-case, a number of civilians, two "Jacks"
evidently on furlough, and a young sailor lad with a fine bull
terrier bitch on a leash.  No one entered to share my compartment.
The train left behind the clean, grim town ... rolled on through
suburbs and through fields barely awake to the spring ... paused here
and there at tidy, little stations ... reached the station above the
pier.  Somewhat uncertain of my path to the landing, I followed a
group of officers.  A middle-aged soldier sentry with grey hair and
ruddy cheeks held me up for my pass, unfolded and folded it again
with extraordinary deliberation, and courteously set me on my way.
As yet there was no sign of the sea, nor had it once been visible
during the journey.  One might have been on the way to play golf at
an inland field.  The path to the pier descended a great flight of
steps and passed a space in which men were playing football....  A
turn down a bit of road, and I was looking at the fleet.

It lay in the great firth, in a monstrous estuary enclosed between
barren banks rising to no great height.  Bare, scattered woodlands
were to be seen, a clump of cottages, a castellated house in a
solitary spot, a great wharf with a trumpery traveller's bookstall in
a wooden shed at its entrance, a huddle of grey roofs at the water's
edge on the distant side.  Over a spur of land the smoke of a giant
dockyard rose in a hazy reek to the obscured and silvery sun.  The
water in which the squadrons lay was for the moment as calm as a
woodland pool; in colour, green-grey....  An incredible number of
ships of war lying lengthwise in orderly lines, bows turned to the
unseen river of the rising tide, ... row after row, squadron after
squadron, fleet after fleet, ships of war, dark, terrible and huge,
no more to be counted than the leaves of trees.  As far as the eye
could reach up and down the firth, ships.  One beheld there the
mastery of the sea made visible, the mastery of all the highways and
the secret paths of the waters of earth.  Because of this fleet ships
were able to bring grain from distant fields, great hopes were kept
aflame, and the life blood of evil ambitions poured upon the ground.
A grey haze lay at the mouth of the roads and somewhere in the heart
of it was target practice being held, for violent blots of light
again and again burst open the dim and veiling fog.  Small gulls
passed on motionless wings, whistling.  Now and then a vessel would
run up a tangle of flags.  The signal light of a flagship suddenly
uttered a message with intermittent flashes of an unnatural violet
white glare.

Over earth and sea brooded the peace of empire.



XXII

THE AMERICAN SQUADRON

The morning found me a guest aboard the flagship of the American
battleship squadron attached to the Grand Fleet.  Going on deck, I
found the sun struggling through thin, motionless mists.  A layer of
webby drops lay on wall and rail, on turret and gun.  Presently a
little cool wind, blowing from the land, fled over the calm water in
mottled, scaly spots, bringing with it a piping beat of rhythmic
music.  Half a mile beyond the flagship, the crew of a British
warship were running in a column round and round her decks to the
music of the ship's band.  An endless file of white clad figures bent
forward, a faint regular tattoo of running feet.  Round and about
several of the giants were signalling in blinker.  Beyond us stood a
titanic bridge, whose network was here and there smouched with
clinging vapour, and beneath this giant, a tanker laden with oil for
the fleet passed solemnly, followed by wheeling gulls.  Presently two
American sailors, lads of that alert, eager type that is so intensely
and honestly American, popped out of a doorway and began to polish
bright work.

America was there.

Surely it was one of the finest thoughts of the war to send this
squadron of ours.  Putting aside for the instant any thought of the
squadron as a unit of naval strength, Americans and Britons will do
well to consider it rather as a splendid symbol of a union dedicated
to the most honourable of purposes, to the defence of that ideal of
fraternity and international good faith now menaced.  They say that
when the American squadron came steaming into the fleet's more
northern base one bitter winter day, cheer after cheer broke from the
British vessels as they passed, till even the forlorn, snow-covered
land rang with the shouting.

It has recently been announced that our battleship squadron is under
the command of Admiral Hugh Rodman, which announcement the Germans
must have taken to heart, for Admiral Rodman is a man of action if
ever one there was.  Tall, strongly built, vigorous and alert, he
dominates whatever group he happens to find himself in by sheer force
of personality.  It would fare ill with a German who brought his
fleet under the sweep of those keen eyes.  Admiral Rodman is a
Kentuckian, and a union of blue grass and blue sea is pretty hard to
beat, especially when accompanied by a shrewd sense of humour.

I talked with Admiral Rodman about the squadron and its work.

"Always remember," said he, "that this squadron is not over here, as
somebody put it, 'helping the British.'  Nor are we 'coöperating'
with the British fleet.  Such ideas are erroneous, and would mislead
your readers.  Think of this great fleet which you see here as a unit
of force, controlled by one ideal, one spirit and one mind, and of
the American squadron as an integral part of that fleet.  Take, as an
instance of what I mean, the change in our signalling system.  We
came over here using the American system of signals.  Well, we could
not have two sets of signals going, so in order to get right into
things, we learned the British signals, and it's the British system
we are using to-day....  There are American _ships_ here and British
ships but _only one fleet_.

Everywhere I went, I found both British and American officers keen to
emphasize this unity.  Said a Briton---"Why we no longer think of the
Americans of 'the Americans'; we think of squadron X of the fleet.
It's just wonderful the way your chaps have got down to business and
fallen in with the technique and the traditions.  We expected to see
you spend some time getting into the life of the fleet and all that,
you know; the sort of thing that a boy in a public school goes
through before he gets the spirit and the ways of the place, but your
people came along in the morning and had picked up everything by the
afternoon."  And I found the Americans proud of the fleet's essential
oneness, proud to share in its great tradition, and to be a part of
its history.  America is taking no obscure place.  Her hosts have
given her the place of honour in the battle line.

[Illustration: An American battleship fleet leaving the harbor]

Battle--that was the thought of everybody aboard the fleet.  If only
the German "High Canal" fleet would really come out and fight it to a
finish, or as an American lieutenant put it, "start something."  The
Germans, however, knew only too well that the famous betoasted _Der
Tag_ would turn swiftly into a _Dies Iræe_ and preferred to
surrender.  So for lack of an antagonist, the fleet had to be content
to keep steam up all the time and to know that everything was
prepared for a day of battle.  But the fleet did far more than wait.
No statement of the Germans was more empty of truth than the silly
cry that the British fleet lies "skulking in harbour for fear of
submarines."  The fleet was busy all the time.  Again and again, a
visible defiance, it swept by the mine sealed mouths of the German
bases.  For five years now, the fleet has been on a war footing
prepared for instant action, a tremendous task this.  "If they only
had come out, the beggars."

A day with the fleet in port passed casually and calmly enough.
There was none of that melodrama which invests the war of the
destroyer and the submarine, and human problems seemed to lack
importance, for in the fleet man is somewhat shadowed by the immense
force he has created.  On board there were various drills, perhaps a
general quarters practice drill that sends everybody scurrying to his
station.  Hour after hour, the visitor sees the continuous and
multitudinous activity needed to keep a dreadnaught in shape as a
fortress, an engine, and a ship.  Then, when the evening has come,
such officers as are off duty may sit down to a game of bridge or go
to their rooms to read or study quietly.  There are great days when
kings and queens come aboard and are royally entertained.  Twice a
week the entertainment committee of the fleet sent round a steel box
full of "movies."  However, everybody enjoys them, and laughs.  But
it is good to escape on deck again, and see the squadron and the
fleet beneath the haloed moon.

The shores about are quite in darkness, though now and then a glow
appears over the hidden dockyard as if some one there had opened a
furnace door.  A little breeze is blowing a thin, flat sheet of cloud
across the moon; one can hear water slapping against the sides.  The
sailors on watch walk up and down the decks, shouldering their guns.
In the light one might believe the basketry of the woven masts to be
spun of delicate silver bars.  Behind us ride the other vessels of
the squadron, a row of dark, triangular shapes.  The great columnar
guns, sealed with a brazen plug, seem mute and dead.  The curtain of
a hatchway parts, and a little group of officers come on deck to
watch a squadron go to sea.  One by one the vessels, battleships and
attendant destroyers glide past us into the dark, and so swift and
silent their motion is that they seem to be less self-propelled than
drawn forward by some mysterious force dwelling far beyond in the
moonlit sea.  A slight hiss of cleaving water, the length of a
hurrying grey fortress beneath the moon, and the last of the squadron
vanishes down the roads.  For a little time one may see the
diminishing glares of blinker lights.  Squadrons of various kinds are
forever leaving a fleet base to go on mysterious errands, squadrons
are ever returning home from the mystery and silence of the sea.

A friend comes to tell me that we have been put on "short notice,"
and may leave at any instant.



XXIII

TO SEA WITH THE FLEET

On the morning of the day that the fleet went out, there was to be
felt aboard that tensity which follows on a "short notice" warning.
Officers rushed into the wardroom for a hasty cup of coffee and
hurried back to their beloved engines; the bluejackets, too, knew
that something was in the air.  A visitor to the flagship will not
have to study long the faces of his hosts to see that they are an
exceptional lot of men.  Whilst among the destroyers there is a good
deal of the grey-eyed ram-you, damn-you type; on a battleship there
is a union of the elements of thought and action which is very fine
to see.  Nor is the artist element lacking in many a countenance.  I
remember a chief engineer whose ability as an engineer was a word in
the fleet; it was easy to see, when he took you through his
marvellous engine room, that he enjoyed his labour as much for the
wonder of the delicacy, the power and the precision of his giant
engines as he did for their mere mechanical side of pressures and
horsepower.  Nor shall I ever see a more perfect example of
coördination and competence than a turret drill at which I was
invited to assist.  From the distinguished young executive to the
lowest rated officer in "the steerage," every man brought to his task
not only an expert's understanding of it, but a love of his work,
which, I think it is Kipling that says it, is the most wonderful
thing in all the world.  The vessel was very much what Navy folk call
a "happy ship."  I must say the prospect of going out with the fleet
and with such a wonderful crowd did not make me keenly miserable.
"If they only would come out, ah, if...!"

"So we are still on an hour's notice," I said to one of my hosts in
the hope of getting some information.

"Yes, back again.  At two o'clock this morning the time was extended,
but after seven we were put back on short time once more."

"I suppose the time is always shifting and changing?"

"Yes, indeed.  You know we are always on an hour's notice.  Pretty
short, isn't it?  You see we don't want the Germans to get away with
anything if we can help it.  Got to be ready to sail right down and
smash them.  Nobody knows just why the time changes come.  Somebody
knows something of course.  Perhaps one of the British submarines on
outpost duty off the German coast has seen something, and sent it
along by wireless.

I asked about the German watch on the British bases.

"Subs.  Everybody's doing it.  I suppose that two or three are
hanging off this coast all the time trying to get a squint at the
fleet.  It's what we call keeping a 'periscope watch' ... run by the
naval intelligence.  Little good anything they pick up about us does
the Germans!  Safety first is their daring game.  What they are
itching to do is to pick off one of our patrol squadrons that's gone
on a little prospecting toot all by itself.  They'd try, I think, if
they weren't mighty well aware that not a single ship of the crowd
that did the stunt would ever get back to the old home canal."

Presently a sailor messenger arrived, stood to attention, saluted
snappily, and presented a paper.  The officer read and signed.

"You're in luck," said he.  "We are going out ... due to leave in
three hours.  Whole fleet together, evidently.  Something's on for
sure....  Hope they're out."  And off he hurried to his quarters.  I
saw "the exec." going from place to place taking a look at
everything.  Pretty soon the chaplain of the flagship, an officer to
whose friendly welcome and thoughtful courtesy I am in real debt,
came looking for me.

"Come along," he cried, "you are missing the show.  They're beginning
to go out already.  You ought to be on deck," and seizing me by the
arm, he rushed me energetically up a companionway to the world
without.  There I learned that the departure of the Grand Fleet was
no simultaneous movement such as the start of an automobile convoy,
but a kind of tremendous process occupying several hours.  The scout
vessels, were to go first, then the various classes of cruisers and
the destroyer flotillas with whom they acted in concert, last of all
the squadrons of battleships.  Our own sailing time was three hours
distant and the outward movement had already begun.

[Illustration: Even a super-dreadnought is wet at times]

The day was a pleasant one, the sun was shining clear and a fresh
salty breeze was blowing down the estuary.  The officers, however,
shook their heads, talked of "low visibility," and pointed out that
an invisible mist hung over the water, whose cumulative effect was
not at all to their liking.  First there went out a new variety of
submarine, steam submarines of extraordinary size and speed; there
followed a swift procession of destroyers and lighter cruisers, many
signalling with blinker and flag.  The outgoing of the destroyers was
a sight not to be forgotten, for more than anything else did it
impress upon me the titanic character of the fleet.  _Destroyers
passed one every fifty seconds for a space of many hours_.  You would
hear a hiss, and a lean, low rapier of a vessel would pass within a
hundred yards of the flagship and hurry on, rolling, into the waiting
haze of the open sea, and as you watched this first vessel leave your
bow astern, you would hear another watery hiss prophetic of the
following boat.  On our own vessel all boats had long before been
hoisted to their places; there were mysterious crashing noises, bugle
calls, a deal of orderly action.  Time passed; a long time full of
movement and stir.  The greater vessels began to go out, titans of
heroic name, _The Iron Duke_, _Queen Elizabeth_, _Lion_.  A broad
swirling road of water lay behind them as one by one they melted into
that ever mysterious obscurity ahead.  Then with a jar, and a torrent
of crashing iron thunder dreadful as a disintegration of the universe
itself, our own immense anchor chains rose from the water below, and
the American flagship got under way.  We looked with a meditative eye
on the bare shores of the firth wondering what adventures we were to
have before we saw them again.  Behind us the mist gathered, ahead,
it melted away.  And thus we stood out to the open sea.  Night came,
starlit and cold.  Just at sun-down one of the British ships
destroyed a floating mine with gun fire.  I sought information from
an officer friend.

"What about the mine problem?"

"Never bothers us a bit, though the Germans have planted mines
everywhere.  This North Sea is as full of them as a pudding is of
plums."

"Why is it then that the fleet doesn't lose ships when out on these
expeditions?"

"Because the British mine sweepers have done so bully a job."

"But once you get beyond the swept channels at the harbour mouths,
what then?"

"The mine-sweepers attend to the whole North Sea."

"You mean to say that the Admiralty actually clears an ocean of
mines?"

"To all intents and purposes, yes.  Haven't you read of naval
skirmishes in the North Sea?  They are always having them.  Many of
those skirmishes take place between patrol boats of ours and enemy
patrols.  Of course it's a task, but the British have done it.  One
of the most wonderful achievements of the war."

"Suppose the Germans try to reach the British coast?"

"They do their best to find the British path.  As a result, the
Germans are always either bumping into their own mines or into ours.
I feel pretty sure that their loss from mines has been quite heavy."

"Where, then, are the German cruising grounds?  Doesn't their fleet
get out once in a while?"

"Not to the outer sea.  Once in a while they parade up the Danish
coast, never going more than two or three hours from their base.  Our
steady game, of course, is to nab them when they are out, and cut off
their retreat.  If the weather had held good at Jutland, this would
have been done.  But the Germans now hardly ever venture out.
Destroyers of theirs, based on the Belgian coast, try to mix things
up in the Channel once or twice a year, but the fleet seems to stick
pretty closely to dear old Kiel."

"Any more information in regard to this present trip?"

"Not a thing.  It's always mysterious like this.  Yet in twenty
minutes we may be right in the thick of the world's greatest naval
battle."

The next morning I rose at dawn to see the fleet emerge from the dark
of night.  A North Sea morning was at hand, cold, windy and clear.
Now seas have their characters even as various areas of land, and
there is as much difference between the North Sea and the Irish Sea
as there is between a rocky New England pasture and a stretch of
prairie.  The shallow North Sea is in colour an honest salty, ocean
green, and its surface is ever in motion; a sea without respite or
rest.  It has a franker, more masculine character than the
beleaguered sea to the west with its mottlings of shadow and shoal
and weaving, white-crested tide rips.  A great armament, scouts,
destroyers, and light cruisers had already passed over the edge of
the world, and only a very thin haze revealed their presence.  Miles
ahead of us in a great lateral line, a number of great warships, vast
triangular bulks, ploughed along side by side, then came the American
squadron in a perpendicular line, each vessel escorted by destroyers.
Behind us, immense, stately, formidable and dark, the second American
ship followed down the broad river of our wake which flowed like
liquid marble from the beat of the propellers.  And behind the
American squadron lay other ships, and over the horizon the bows of
more ships still were pointing to the mine-strewn German coast.  The
Grand Fleet line, _eighty miles long_, rode the sea, a symbol of
power, an august and visible defiance.  Standing beneath the forward
turret, beside the muzzles of the titan guns, I felt that I had at
last beheld the mightiest element of the war.

Tightly wrapped in a navy great coat, the young officer whose guest I
had been at turret drill walked up and down the deck watching the
southeastern horizon.  What eagerness lay in his eyes!  If we only
might then have heard a heavy detonation from over the edge of the
dawn-illumined sky! ... All day long we cried our challenge over the
sealed waters ahead.

Were "they" out?  To this day, I do not know.  The ways of the fleet
are mysterious.  Certainly, none came forth to accept our gage of
battle.  A time passed, and we were in port again.  We saw the
vessels we had left behind, the supply ships, tugs, oil tenders,
colliers ... all the servants of the fleet.

Down in the wardroom, the tension relaxed.  The anchor chain rattled
out; once more the universe seemed to part asunder.  The mail had
arrived, joyous event.  Somebody put a roll of music into a rather
passé player piano, and let loose an avalanche of horribly orderly
chords.

And all the time the Olympians were preparing, not the battle of the
ages, but the Great Surrender!



XXIV

"SKY PILOTS"

We know him as chaplain, the gobs use the good old term "Sky Pilot,"
and the British call him "Padre."  His task, no light one, is to look
after the spiritual and moral welfare of some thousand sailor souls.
He is general counsellor, friend in need, mender of broken hearts,
counsel for the defence, censor, and show manager.  Now he comes to
the defence of seaman, first class, Billy Jones, whose frail bark of
life has come to grief on the treacherous reef of the installment
plan, and for whose misdemeanours a clamouring merchant is on deck
threatening to "attach the ship."  Now he is assuring the clergyman
of the church on the hill that 2nd class petty officer Edgar K. Lee
(who is going to marry pretty little Norah Desmond) is not, as far as
he knows, committing bigamy.  They tell of a chaplain of the
destroyer force who, pestered beyond bearing by these demands that
the American bridegroom be declared officially and stainlessly
single, floored his tormentor by replying: "I've told you that as far
as we know the man's unmarried.  We can't give you any assurance more
official.  He may be bigamous, trigamous, quadrugamous, or," here he
paused for effect, "pentagamous, but I advise you to risk it."  The
land sky pilot is said to have collapsed.

Aboard the flagship of the Grand Fleet, the chaplain of the vessel
was my guide, counsellor, and friend.  In the words of one of the
sailors, "Our chaplain is a real feller."  And indeed it would have
been hard to find a better man for the task than this padre of ours
with his young man's idealism, friendliness, and energy.  In addition
to his welfare work, he had his duties as a de-coder, and his spare
time he spent tutoring several of the enlisted personnel who were
about to take examinations for higher ratings.  It is a great
mistake, by the way, to imagine that a violent gulf lies between the
commissioned officer and the enlisted man.  One finds the higher
officer only too glad to help the sailor advance, and many times have
they said to me, "Don't write about us, write about the sailors; get
to know them; get their story."  On this particular ship many of the
younger officers were, like the chaplain, giving up their spare time
to help the ambitious men along.  Correspondence school courses are
great favourites in the Navy, and have undoubtedly helped many a
sailor on to a responsible rating.

Our flagship chaplain used to make several rounds of the ship every
day, "tours of welfare inspection," he used to call them humorously.
Everywhere would he go, from wardroom to torpedo station, not
neglecting an occasional visit to the boiler room.  Friendly grins
used to salute him on his passage; as the sailor said he was a "real
feller."  I often accompanied him on his rounds.  When the tour was
over, we would go to the chaplain's room for a quiet smoke and a good
talk.  The chaplain's room was always clean and quiet, and on the
bookshelf, instead of weighty books on thermodynamics and navigation,
were the pleasant kind of books one found in friendly houses over
home.

"Do you know," said the chaplain to me one day, "you have landed here
at an interesting time.  There's very little shore leave being given
because it can't be given, and as a result the life of the ship is
thrown back upon itself for all its amusements and social activities.
What do you think of the morale here?"

"I think it's very high," I answered.  "The men seem very contented
and keen.  I've talked with a great many of them.  How do you keep
the morale up?"

"Well, this ship has always been famous as a 'happy ship'" (here I
ventured to say that any other condition would be impossible under
the captain we had) "and when men get into the habit of working
together good-naturedly, that habit is liable to stick.  And I find
the men sustained by the thought of active service.  You may think it
calm here, having just arrived from a destroyer base, but think of
what it is over on the American coast."

"Calm?" said I.  "Don't put that down to me.  The very idea of being
with the Grand Fleet is thrilling.  It's the experience of a
lifetime.  And let me tell you right from personal experience that no
sight of the land war can match the impressiveness and grandeur of
the first view of the fleet."

"I feel just as you do.  The whole thing is a constant wonder.  And
some day the Germans may come out.  Moreover, summer is now at hand,
and we shall have a chance to use the deck more for sports.  This
long, raw, rainy winter doesn't permit much outdoor exercise.  As
soon as it gets warm, however, we shall have boxing matches on the
deck between various members of the crew and the champions of the
different ships.  We have some good wrestlers, too.  At present we
are reduced to vaudeville competitions between our various vessels,
and movies.  I'm doing my best to get better movies.  So we shan't
fare badly after all."

"When do you hold Sunday services?"

"I have a service in the morning and another in the evening.  Yes, I
muster a pretty big congregation.  But I'm afraid I've got to be
going now, got to ram a little algebra into the head of one of the
boys.  See you at dinner."  And our sky pilot was gone.  May good
luck go with him, and good friends be ever at hand to return him the
friendliness he grants.

They tell a story of a favourite chaplain who retired from the Navy
to take charge of a parish on land.

"Good-bye, sir," said one of the old salts to him, as he was leaving
the ship.  "Good-bye, sir.  We'll all look to see you come back with
a _bishop's rating_."



XXV

IN THE WIRELESS ROOM

I haven't the slightest idea where the wireless room is or how to
find it.  All that I remember is that some kind soul took me by the
hand, led me through various passages and down several ladders, and
landed me in a small compartment which I felt sure must have been
hollowed out of the keel.  The wireless room of a great ship is, by
the way, a kind of holy of holies, and my visit to it more than an
ordinary privilege.

There are as many messages in the air these times as there were wasps
in the orchard in boyhood days after one had thrown a large,
carefully-selected stone into the big nest.  Messages in all keys and
tunes, messages in all the known languages, messages in the most
baffling of codes.  Now the operator picks up a merchantman asking
for advice in English, this against all rules and regulations; a
request once answered by a profane somebody with "Use the code, you
damned fool."  At intervals the Eiffel Tower signals the time;
listening to it, one seems to hear the clear, monotonous tick-tock of
a giant pendulum.  Now it is a British land station talking to a
British squadron on watch in the North Sea, now the destroyers are at
it, now one hears the great station at Wilhelmshaven sending out
instructions to the submarine fleet in ambush off these isles.

How strange it is to come here at midnight and hear the Germans
talking!  Germany has been so successfully cut off from contact with
the civilization she assaulted that these communications have the air
of being messages from Mars.  There are times when the radio operator
picks up frantic cries sent by one U-boat to another; I have before
me as I write a record of such a call.  It began at 2.14 A.M.,
shortly after a certain submarine was depth-bombed by an American
destroyer.  First to be received was _OLN's_ clear, insistent call
for _RXK_ and _ZZN_, probably the two nearest members of the U-boat
fleet.  Were they cries for help?  Probably.  Again and again the
spark uttered its despairing message.  For some time there was no
answer.  The other two boats may have been submerged; quite possibly
sunk.  Then at 2.40 from far, far away came _ADL_ calling _OLN_.  At
2.45 _OLN_ answered very faintly.  A minute or two later, _ADL_ tried
and tried again to get either _RXK_ and _ZZN_.  But there was no
answer.  Was she trying to send them to the help of the stricken
vessel?  At 2.57 _ADL_ tries for the hard pressed _OLN_, but no
answer comes to her across the darkness of the sea.

Night and day, a force of operators sit here taking down the
messages, sending important ones directly to the chief officers, and
letting unimportant ones accumulate in batches of four and five.  The
messages are written or typewritten on a form in shape and make-up
not unlike that of an ordinary telegram blank.  All day and all night
long, the messengers hurry through the corridors of the great ship
with bundles of these naval signals.  And since everything intended
for the Navy comes in code, decoders too must be at hand at all hours
to unravel the messages.  It is no easy task, for the codes are
changed for safety's sake every little while.  On board the great
ship I visited, the chaplain did a big share of this work.  I can see
him now bent over his table in the wireless room, spelling out
sentences far more complicated than the Latin and Greek of his
university days.

There is one wireless service which will not be remembered with
affection by our sailors over there, the Government Wireless Press
Service.  I was in the Grand Fleet when that dashing business of the
first Zeebrugge raid occurred.  The "Press News" on the following
morning mentioned it, and warned us impressively to keep our
knowledge to ourselves.  As a result we spoke of it at breakfast time
with bated breath.  I myself, a modest person, was stricken with a
sudden access of importance at possessing a Grand Fleet secret.

Then at ten o'clock the morning papers came down from a certain great
city with a full, detailed account of the raid!

The thing that we have most against it, however, is its conduct
during the great offensive of the spring of 1918.  The air was
resounding with the wireless pæans of the on-rushing Germans; and
everybody was worried, and anxious to know the fortunes of our
troops.  One rushed to breakfast early to have first chance at the
press news.  Friends gathered behind one's shoulder, and tried to
read before sitting down.  What's the news?  What's the news?  This
(or something very like it) was the news:

"Dr. Ostropantski, president of the Græco-Lettish Diet, denounced
yesterday at a meeting of the Novoe Vremya the German assault on the
liberties of Beluchistan."

There was one vast, concerted groan from the sons of the Grand Fleet.
Some wondered what the anxious folk far out at sea on the destroyers
were saying.  Finally the wit of the table shook his head gravely.

"Boys," said he, "where _would_ we be if the civilians refused to
tell?"



XXVI

MARINES

This paper does not deal with the marines fighting in France, but
with the marines such as one finds them on the greater ships.  The
gallant "devil dogs" now adding fresh laurels to the corps have army
correspondents to tell of them, for though they are trained by the
Navy and are the Navy's men, the Army has them now under its command.
It is rather of the genuine marine, the true "soldier of the sea"
that I would speak.  Having been myself something of a soldier and a
sailor, the marines were good enough to receive me in a friendly
fashion when I was a guest on one of the battleships now on foreign
service.

Even as the traditional nickname for the sailor is "gob," so is
"leatherneck" the seaman's traditional word for the marine.  I am
guileless enough not to know just how marines take this term, but if
there is any doubt, I advise readers to be easy with it, for marines
will fight at the drop of a hat.  All those aboard declared, by the
way, that the antipathy between the sailor and the marine in which
the public believes, does not exist, nor do the marines according to
the popular notion "police the ship."  The marine has his place; the
sailor has his, and they do not mix, not because they dislike each
other, but simply because the marine and the sailor are the products
of two widely different systems of training.  Moreover, the marine is
bound to his own people by an _esprit de corps_ without equal in the
world.  It was very fine to see each man's anxiety that the corps
should not merely have a good name, but the best of names.

We swopped yarns.  In return for my gory tales of shelled cities, gas
attacks, and air raids, they gave me gorgeous ... gorgeous tales of
the little wars they have fought in the Caribbean.  I realized for
the first time just what it meant to Uncle Sam to be Central
America's policeman.  Now, as they spun their yarns, I could see the
low, white buildings of a Consulate against the luminous West Indian
sky, the boats on the beach, the marines on patrol; now the sugar
plantation menaced by some political robber-rebel, the little tents
under the trees, the business-like machine gun.  A harassed American
planter is often the _deux ex machina_ of these tales.

We used to talk in a little office aboard the battleships down by the
marines' quarters, which lie aft.  I believe it was the sergeant's
sanctum sanctorum.  There were marine posters on the wall, a neat
little stack of the marines' magazines handy by, a few books, and
some filing cabinets.  Just outside were the marine lockers, each one
in the most perfect order, and a gun breech used for loading drills.
The sergeant, himself, was a fine, keen fellow who had been in the
corps for some time.  His men declared themselves, for the most part,
city born and bred.

"What happened then?"

"Just as soon as they got the message, a detail was sent into the
hills for the defence of the plantation.  It was a big sugar
plantation.  The American manager was seeing red he was so peeved,
the harvesting season had come and the help, scared by the
insurgents, were beating it off into the hills.  What's more, the
insurgents had told the manager that if he didn't pony up with five
thousand dollars by a certain date, they'd burn the place.  Actually
had the nerve..."

"In fiction," said I, "a lean, dark, villainous fellow mounted on a
magnificent horse which he has looted from some fine stable dashes up
to the plantation door, delivers his threat in an icy tone and
gallops back into the bush.  Or else a message wrapped round a stone
crashes through the window onto the family breakfast table.  Which
was it?"

I think the marine telling the story wanted very much to utter: "How
do you get that way?" however, he merely grinned and answered:

"Neither.  A big, fat greaser in a dirty, Palm Beach suit came
ambling up one morning as if somebody had asked him to chow.  This
was his game.  A holdup?  Oh, no!  Only his men were getting a bit
restless under the neck, about five thousand dollars restless, and if
they didn't get it, there's no telling what they wouldn't do.  He
thought he could restrain them till Tuesday night, of course it would
be a pretty stiff job to hold them in, but if something crisp and
green hadn't shown up by Tuesday P.M., those devils might actually
burn the plantation.  Did you ever hear such a line of bull?  And
that's the honest truth of it, too; none of this stone in the mashed
potatoes guff."

"And then," I broke in, "the faithful servant gallops through the
valley to the shore; a stray bullet knocks off his hat, but he gets
there, and delivers his message to the warship in the bay.  A bugle
blows, the marines rally, launches take them to the beach; they rush
over the hills, and get to the plantation just as Devil's-hoof Gomez
or Pink-eyed Pedro has set fire to a corner of the bungalow.  Rifles
crack, bugles sound a charge, the marines rush the Gomez gang who
take to their heels.  Brave hearts put out the fire.  Isn't there
always an exquisitely beautiful señorita to be rescued?  There always
is in the movies.  Now, please don't destroy any more of my
illusions."

"The message comes all right, all right, but I doubt very much if
that faithful servant comes in a hurry.  Down there, if a man goes by
in a hurry, everybody in the village will be out to look at him....
The major gets the message, works out his plan of campaign, and away
we go.  Arrived at the plantation, we pitch camp, establish pickets,
and generally get things ready to give the restless greasers a hot
time.  Sometimes the greasers try their luck at sniping; other times,
they go away quietly and don't give you a bit of trouble.  There
aren't any beautiful señoritas, ... no broken hearts.  Yes, it's
tough luck."

Thus were my illusions dispelled by a group of Uncle Sam's marines.
They forgot to tell me that many members of their little company had
been wounded, and seriously wounded in these West Indian shindies.
The list of wounds and honours in the records was an impressive roll.

The visitor aboard a warship will see marines acting as orderlies and
corporals of the guard and manning the secondary batteries.  I
attended many of their drills, and never shall forget the snap and
"pep," of the evolutions.  Nor shall I forget the courtesies and
friendly help of the gallant officer under whose command these
soldiers of the sea have the good luck to be stationed.

N.B. (Very secret), to Huns only.  The marines man the gun in the
"Exec's" office and the corresponding one in the line officers'
reading room.  If you want to get home to the old home canal, ...
keep away from their range.



XXVII

SHIPS OF THE AIR

After I had been to visit several of the bases, I returned to London,
and called at the Navy headquarters.  A young officer of the
admiral's staff who was always ready and willing to help the writers
assigned to the Navy in every possible way, came down to talk with
me.  "Had I been to Base X?  To Base Y?  Had I been to see the
American submarines?  The Naval Aviation?"  I grasped at the last
phrase.

"Tell me about it," I said.  "I had no idea that the sea flyers were
over here.  Last fall the streets of Boston were so thick with boys
of that service that you could hardly move round.  And now they are
on this side.  Where can I find them?"

The officer drew me to a large scale map of the British Isles and the
French coast which hung on the wall, plentifully jabbed with little
flags.  His finger fairly flew from one dot to another.

"Well," said he, "we have a station here, another station here,
another station there, ... there's a station on this point of land;
right about here we're putting up buildings for a depot but there is
nobody at hand yet, here's a big station...."  I believe that he
could have continued for five minutes.

"You seem to have a big affair well in hand," I suggested, rather
surprised.

"No," he corrected, "just beginning.  The department scheme for the
naval aviation service is one of the big things of the war.  It's so
big, so comprehensive that people over there haven't woken up to it
yet.  Aren't you going to Base L next week?  Why don't you go down
the coast a few miles and see the outfit at Z?  Only don't forget
that we've 'just begun to fight.'  Come upstairs and let me give you
a letter."  A few days later I ran down to see the aviators in their
eyrie.

The naval station lay in a sheltered cove hidden away in a green and
ragged coast.  Landing at a somewhat tumble-down old pier, I saw
ahead of me a gentle slope descending to a broad beach of shingle.
Mid-way along this beach, ending under the water, was to be seen a
wide concrete runway which I judged to be but newly finished, for
empty barrels of cement and gravel separators stood nearby.  At the
top of the slope, in a great field behind mossy trees, lay the
corrugated iron dormitories of a vast, deserted camp once the repose
quarters of a famous fighting regiment.  There was something of the
atmosphere of an abandoned picnic ground to the place.  Sailor
sentries stood at the entrance of the quiet roads leading to the
empty barracks, and directed me to those in authority.

The naval aviation is a new service.  For a long time the uniform of
the cadets was so unfamiliar that even in their own America the boys
used to be taken for foreign officers.  It was a case of "I say he's
an Italian.  No, dear, I'm _sure_ he's a Belgian."  A not unnatural
mistake, for the uniform has a certain foreign jauntiness.  In
colour, it is almost an olive green, and consists of a short,
high-collared tunic cut snugly to the figure, shaped breeches of the
riding pattern, and putties to match.  Add the ensign's solitary
stripe and star on shoulder and sleeve and you have it.

I found a group of the flyers in one of the tin barracks that did
duty as a kind of recreation centre.  The spokesman of the party was
a serious lad from Boston.

"Fire away," they yelled good-naturedly to my announcement that I was
going to bomb with questions.

"First of all, about how many of you are there helping to make it
home-like for Fritz in this amiable spot?"

"About fifty of us."

"Been here long?"

"No, just came.  You see the station is not really finished yet, but
they are hurrying it along to beat the cars.  Did you spot that
concrete runway as you came up?  A daisy, isn't it?  Slope just
right, and no skimping on the width.  Well, that's only one of the
runways we're going to have.  Over on the other side, the plans call
for three or four more."

"And what do these sailors do?" I had noticed a large number of
sailors about.

"They look after our machines and the balloons.  You see this is a
regular aviation section just the same as the army has, and the
sailors are trained mechanics, repair men, clerks and so forth.
They're rather taking it easy now because the planes have been
somewhat slow in reaching us.  You know as well as I do the rumpus
that's been made in the States over the air program.  Things are
breezing up mighty fast now, however, and every supply ship that puts
into the harbour brings some of our equipment.  The Navy's ready, the
camps are being organized, the men are trained; it's up to the
manufacturers to hustle along our machines.  Please try to make them
realize that when you write."

"But, say," put in another, "don't, for the love of Pete, run away
with the idea that we haven't any equipment.  We've got some planes
and some balloons.  But we want more, more, more.  Anything to keep
the Germans on the go."

"What do you use?" I asked.  "Mostly balloons," put in a third
speaker, a quiet young Westerner who had thus far not joined in the
conversation.  "Most of us are balloon observers, though Jos here,"
he indicated the Bostonian, "is a sea-plane artist.  He runs one of
the planes."

"Come," said I, "tell the thrilling story."

"There isn't any story," groaned Jos, "that's just the trouble.  I've
been fooling round these coasts and out by the harbour mouth in the
hope of spotting a sub till I feel as if I'd used up all the gasoline
in the British Isles.  Those destroyers have spilled the beans.
Fritz doesn't dare to come round.  Ever try fishing in a place from
which the fish have been thoroughly scared away?  It's like that.
Mine laying submarines used to be round the mouth of the harbour all
the time, now Fritz is never seen or heard from....  The destroyers
have spilled the beans.  The balloon hounds are the whole show here.
Tell him about it, Mac.  You've taken more trips than any of the
others."  The disgruntled sea planer knocked a bull-dog pipe on his
shoe, and was still.

"I can't tell much," drawled Mac, a wiry, black little Southerner
with a wonderful accent.  "They fill the balloon up here, take it out
to a destroyer or some patrol boat and tie it on, jes like a can to
purp's tail.  Then you go out in the Irish Sea and watch for subs.
If you observe anything that looks like a Hun, you simply telephone
it down to the destroyer's deck, and she rushes ahead and
investigates.  Sometimes the observer in the balloon sees something
which can't be seen from the level of the destroyer's bridge, and in
that case the balloonist practically steers the vessel, ... so many
points to port, so many to starboard, and so on till you land them in
the suspected area."

"What's it like up above there in a balloon?  From the deck of a
battleship or a destroyer, it seems to be a calm matter."

"Don't be too sure of that.  I know it looks calm, calm as a regular
up-in-the-air old feather baid.  And it isn't bad if you have a
decent wind with which the course and speed of the ship are in some
sort of an agreement.  But if the ship's course lies in one direction
and the wind is blowing from another, the balloon blows all over the
place.  When the wind blows from behind, you float on ahead and try
to pull the ship after you; if the wind is from ahead, you are
dragged along at the end of a chain like a mean dawg.  There is
always sure to be a party if the ship zigzags.  Now you are pulling
towards the bow, now you are floating serenely to port, now you are
tugging behind, now you are nowhere in particular and apparently
standing on yo' haid."

We went to walk in the grounds.  I was shown where the balloon shed
was to be, the generators, and a dozen other houses.  Evidently the
station was going to be "some outfit."  Already a big gang of
civilian labourers, electrified by American energy, were hard at work
laying the foundations of a large structure.

"Yes," said one of the boys, "this is going to be a great place.
When it's completed we shall have regular sea-plane patrols of this
entire coast, and a balloon squadron ready to coöperate with either
the British or the American destroyer fleets.  Our boys along the
French coast have already made it hot for some Huns, and believe me,
if there are any subs left, you just bet we want a chance at 'em?"

Such is the spirit that has driven the Germans from the seas.



XXVIII

THE SAILOR IN LONDON

The convalescent English Tommy in his sky-blue flannel suit, white
shirt, and orange four-in-hand, the heavier, tropic-bred Australian
with his hat brim knocked jauntily up to one side, the dark,
grey-eyed Scotch highlander very braw and bony in his plaited kilt,
these be picturesque figures on the streets of London, but the most
picturesque of all is our own American tar.  Our "gobs" are always so
spruce and clean, and so young, young with their own youth and the
youth of the nation.  Jack ashore is to be found at the Abbey at
almost any hour of the day, he wanders into the National Gallery, and
stands before Nelson at St. Paul's; he causes fair hearts to break
asunder at Hampton Court.  Wherever you go in London, the wonderful
wide trousers, and the good old pancake hat, this last worn cockily
over one eye, are always to be seen in what nautical writers of the
Victorian school call "the offing."

Our boys come in liberty parties of thirty and forty from the various
bases, usually under the wing of a chief petty officer very conscious
of his responsibility for these wild sailor souls.  Accommodations
are taken either at a good London hotel with which the authorities
have some arrangement, or the personnel is distributed among various
huts and hospitable dwellings.  The great rallying centre is sure to
be the Eagle Hut off the Strand.

This famous hut, which every soldier or sailor who visits London will
long remember, is situated, by a happy coincidence, in modern
London's most New Yorkish area.  It stands, a huddle of low,
inconspicuous buildings, in just such a raw open space between three
streets as on this side prefigures the building of a new skyscraper;
the great, modern mass of Australia House lifts its imposing Beaux
Arts façade a little distance above it, whilst the front of a
fashionable hotel rises against the sky just beyond.  The ragged
island, the sense of open space, the fine high buildings, ... "say,
wouldn't you think you were back in America again?"  Yet only a few
hundred feet down the Strand, old St. Clement Danes lies like a ship
of stone anchored in the thoroughfare, and Samuel Johnson, LL.D.,
stands bareheaded in the sun wondering what has happened to the
world.  The hut within is simply an agglomeration of big, clean,
rectangular spaces, reading rooms, living rooms, dormitories, and
baths always full of husky, pink figures, steam and the smell of
soap.  Physically, Eagle hut is merely the larger counterpart of some
thousand others.  The wonder of the place is its atmosphere.  The
narrow threshold might be three thousand miles in width, for cross
it, and you will find yourself in America.  All the dear, distinctive
national things for which your soul and body have hungered and
thirsted are gathered here.  There is actually an American shoe
shining stand, an American barber chair, and, Heaven be praised,
"good American grub."  It is a sight to see the long counter thronged
with the eager, hungry bluejackets, to hear the buzz of lively
conversation carried on in the pervading aroma of fried eggs,
favourite dish or sandwich of apparently every doughboy and tar.
One's admiration grows for the Y. workers who keep at the weary grind
of washing floors, picking up stray cigarette buts, and washing
innumerable eggy plates.  I realized to the full what a poor old
college professor who "helped" in a hut on the French front meant
when he had said to me, "life is just one damned egg after another."
Of course sometimes the "hen fruit"--one hears all kinds of facetious
aliases at the Hut--gives way to _soi disant_ buckwheat cakes, a
dainty, lately honoured by royal attention.  Should you stroll about
the buildings, you will see sailors and soldiers reading in good,
comfortable chairs; some playing various games, others sitting in
quiet corners writing letters home.  There is inevitably a crowd
round the information bureau.  Alas, for the poor human encyclopedia,
he lives a bewildering life.  On the morning that I called he had
been asked to supply the address of a goat farm by a quartermaster
charged with the buying of a mascot, and he was just recovering from
this when a sailor from the Grand Fleet demanded a complete and
careful résumé of the British marriage regulations!  Everybody seems
cheerful and contented; the officials are attentive and kind; the
guests good-natured and well-behaved.

Such is the combination of club, restaurant, and hotel to which our
Jack resorts.  And there he lives content in his islet of America,
while London roars about him.  During the week, he wanders, as he
says himself, "all over the place."

The good time ends with the Saturday ball game.  Everybody goes.
Posters announce it through London in large black type on yellow
paper.  "U.S. Army _vs._ U.S. Navy."  The field is most American
looking; the "bleachers" might be those in any great American town.
The great game, the game to remember, was played in the presence of
the king.  The day was a good one, though now and then obscured with
clouds; a strangely mixed audience was at hand, wounded Tommies,
American soldiers speaking in all the tongues of all the forty-eight
states, a number of American civilians from the embassy and the
London colony, groups of dignified staff officers from the army and
the navy headquarters, and even a decorous group of Britons dressed
in the formal garments which are de rigueur in England at any
high-class sporting event.  Then in came the king walking ahead of
his retinue, ... a man of medium height with a most kind and
chivalrous face.  Our admiral walked beside him.  The band played,
eager eyes looked down, the king, looking up, smiled, and won the
good-will of every friendly young heart.  A few minutes later, the
noise broke forth again, "Oh you Army!"  "Oh you Navy," a hullaballoo
that culminated in a roar, "Play Ball!"

The Navy men, wearing uniforms of blue with red stripes, walked out
first, closely followed by the army in uniforms of grey-green.  The
admiral, towering straight and tall above his entourage, threw the
ball.  A pandemonium of yells broke forth.  "Now's the time, give it
to 'em, boys, soak it to 'em, soak it to 'em, steady Army, give him a
can, run Smithie!"  In a corner by themselves, a group of bluejackets
made a fearful noise with some kind of whirligig rattles.  Songs rose
in spots from the audience, collided with other songs, and melted
away in indistinguishable tunes.  British Tommies looked on
phlegmatically, enjoying it all just the same.  There were stray,
mocking cat calls.  It was a real effort to bring one's self back to
London, old London of decorous cricket, tea, and white flannels.

And of course, the Navy won.  Over the heads of the vanishing crowd
floated,

  Give 'em the axe, the axe, the axe,
    Where?  Where?  Where?
  Right in the neck, the neck, the neck,
    There!  There!  There!
  Who gets the axe?
                ARMY
  Who says so!
                NAVY


It ends with a roar.

Then there is a celebration, and the next morning, his holiday over,
Jack is rounded up, and put into a railway carriage.  The roofs of
London die away, and Jack, dozing over his magazines, sees in a dream
the great grey shapes of the battleships that wait for him in the
endless northern rain.



XXIX

THE ARMED GUARD

When the Germans began to sink our unarmed merchant vessels, and
announced that they intended to continue that course of action, it
was immediately seen that the only possible military answer to this
infamous policy lay in arming every ship.  There were obstacles,
however, to this defensive programme.  We were at the time engaged in
what was essentially a legal controversy with the Germans, a
controversy in which the case of America and civilization was stated
with a clarity, a sincerity, and a spirit of idealism which perhaps
only the future can justly appreciate.  We could not afford to weaken
our case by involving in doubt the legal status of the merchantman.
The enemy, driven brilliantly point by point from the pseudo-legal
defences of an outrageous campaign, had taken refuge in quibbling,
"the ship was armed," "a gun was seen," "such vessels must be
considered as war vessels."  We all know the sorry story.  For a
while, our hands were tied.  Then came our declaration of war which
left our Navy free to take protective measures.  The merchantmen were
fitted with guns, and given crews of Navy gunners.  This service,
devoted to the protection of the merchant ship, was known as the
Armed Guard.

It was not long before tanker and tramp, big merchantman and grimy
collier sailed from our ports fully equipped.  Vessels whose
helplessness before the submarine had been extreme, the helplessness
of a wretched sparrow gripped in the talons of a hawk, became
fighting units which the submarine encountered at her peril.
Moreover, finding it no longer easy to sink ships with gunfire, the
submarines were forced to make greater use of their torpedoes, and
this in turn compelled them to attempt at frequent intervals the
highly dangerous voyage to the German bases on the Belgian coast.
Sometimes the gun crews were British; sometimes American.  The
coöperation between the two Navies was at once friendly and
scientific.

The guns with which the vessels were equipped were of the best, and
the gun crews were recruited from the trained personnel of the fleet.
One occasionally hears, aboard the greater vessels, lamentations for
gunners who have been sent on to the Guard.  These crews consisted of
some half-dozen men usually under the command of a chief petty
officer.  A splendid record, theirs.  They have been in action time
and time again against the Germans, and have destroyed submarines.
There is many a fine tale in the records of crews who kept up the
battle till the tilt of their sinking vessel made the firing of the
gun an impossibility.  So far, the gunners on the merchant ships have
come in for the lion's share of attention.  But there is another and
important side of the Armed Guard service which has not yet, I
believe, been called to the public notice.  I mean the work of the
signal men of the Guard.

[Illustration: An American gun crew in heavy weather (winter) outfit]

The arming of the merchant ships was the first defensive measure to
be adopted; the second, the gathering of merchantmen into escorted
groups known as convoys.  Now a convoy has before it several definite
problems.  If it was to make the most of its chances of getting
through the German ambush, it must act as a well coördinated naval
unit, obeying orders, answering signals, and performing designated
evolutions in the manner of a battleship squadron.  For instance,
convoys follow certain zigzag plans, prepared in advance by naval
experts.  Frequently these schemes are changed at sea.  Now if all
the vessels change from plan X to plan Y simultaneously, all will go
well, but if some delay, there is certain to be a most dangerous
confusion, perhaps a collision.  It is no easy task to keep twenty or
so boats zigzagging in convoy formation, and travelling in a general
direction eastward at the same time.  Merchant captains have had to
accustom themselves to these strict orders, no easy task for some
old-fashioned masters; merchant crews have had to be educated to the
discipline and method of naval crews.  Moreover, there have been
occasional foreign vessels to deal with, and the problem presented by
a foreign personnel.  In order, therefore, to assure that
communication between the guide ship of the convoy and its attendant
vessels which is, in the true sense of an abused word, vital to the
success of the expedition, the Navy placed one of its keenest
signalmen on the vessels which required one.  He was there to give
and to send signals, by flag, by international flag code, by
"blinker" and by semaphore.  The wireless was used as little as
possible between the various vessels of the merchant fleet, indeed,
practically not at all.

The system of signalling by holding two flags at various angles is
fairly familiar since a number of organizations began to teach it,
and the semaphore system is the same system carried into action by
two mechanical arms.  The method called "Blinker" has a Morse
alphabet, and is sent by exposing and shutting off a light, the
shorter exposures being the dots, the longer exposures, the dashes.
Sometimes "blinker" is sent by the ship's search light, a number of
horizontal shutters attached to one perpendicular rod serving to open
and close the light aperture.  One used to see the same scheme on the
lower halves of old-fashioned window blinds.  The international flag
code is perhaps the hardest signal system to remember.  It requires
not only what a naval friend calls a good "brute" memory, but also a
good visual memory.  Many have seen the flags, gay pieces of various
striped, patched, chequered, and dotted bunting reminiscent of a
Tokio street fair.  The signalman must learn the flag alphabet,
committing to memory the colours and their geometric arrangement; he
must also learn the special signification of each particular letter.
For instance, one letter of the alphabet stands for "I wish to
communicate"; there are also numbers to remember, phrases, and
sentences.  If a signalman cares to specialize, he can study certain
minor systems, for instance the one in which a dot and a dash are
symbolized by different coloured lights.  A signalman must have a
good eye, a quick brain, and a good memory.  It is a feat in itself
to remember what one has already received while continuing to receive
a long, perhaps complicated message.  Because of these intellectual
requirements, you will find among the signalmen some of the cleverest
lads in the Navy.  "Giles" such a lad, "Idaho," another, and "Pop"
was always "on the job."

The Guard has its barracks in a great American port.  One saw there
the men being sorted out, equipped for their special service, and
assigned to their posts.  A fine lot of real seafaring youngsters,
tanned almost black.  The Navy looked after them in a splendid
fashion.  Said one of the boys to me, "If I had only known what a
wonderful place the Navy was, I'd been in it long ago."  The boys
were sent over in the merchant ships, were cleanly lodged in
excellent hotels once they got to land, and were then sent back on
various liners.  The Armed Guard was a real seafaring service, and
its men one and all were touched by the romance and mystery of the
sea.  They fell in with strange old tramps hurried from the East,
they broke bread with strange crews, they beheld the sea in the
sullen wrath it cherishes beneath the winter skies.  One and all they
have stood by their guns, one and all stood by their tasks, good,
sturdy, American lads, gentlemen unafraid.



XXX

GOING ABOARD

Giles, who had just been sent to the Armed Guard from the fleet, was
waiting for orders in a room at the naval barracks.  It was early in
the spring, the sun shone renewed and clear; a hurdy gurdy sounded
far, far away.  The big room was clean, clean with that hard, orderly
tidiness which marks the habitations of men under military rule.  A
number of sailors, likewise waiting for their orders, stood about.
There was a genuine sea-going quality in the tanned, eager young
faces.  The conversation dealt with their journeys, with the ships,
with the men, the life aboard, the furloughs in London.  "Bunch of
Danes ... good eats ... chucked Bill right out of his bunk ...
regular peach ... saw Jeff at the Eagle Hut..."

Presently a bosun entered.  A man somewhere in the thirties, brisk
and athletic.  One could see him counting the assembled sailors as he
came, the numbers forming on his soundless lips.  The talk died away.

"How many men here?" said the bosun abruptly.

Several of the sailors began counting.  There was much turning round,
a deal of whispered estimations.  Every one appeared to be looking at
everybody else.  Finally a deep voice from a corner said:

"Thirty-five."

"Any one down for leave?"

Some half dozen members of a gun crew just home from a long journey,
called out that leave had been given them.

"Anybody on sick list?"

There was no answer.  In the ensuing silence, the bosun checked off
the answers on his list.

"I suppose you all want to go out."

"Sure!"

"Get in line."  The bosun backed away, and looked with an official
eye at the sturdy group.

"All here, pack up and stand by.  At eleven o'clock have all your
baggage at the drill office.  I'll send a man up to get the mail."

The line broke up, keen for the coming adventure.  Giles, the
signalman, walked at a brisk pace to his quarters...  You would have
seen a lad of about twenty-two years of age, between medium height
and tall, and unusually well built.  Some years of wrestling--he had
won distinction in this sport at school--had given him a tremendously
powerful neck and chest, but with all the strength there was no
suggestion of beefiness.  The friendliest of brown eyes shone in the
clean-cut, handsome head, he had a delightful smile, always a sign of
good breeding.  In habit he was industrious and persevering, in
manner of life clean and true beyond reproach.  Giles is an American
sailor lad, a _real gob_, and I have described him at some length
because of this same reality.  The sooner we get to know our sailors
the better.

Back in his quarters, he busied himself with packing his bag.  Now
packing one of those cylindrical bags is an art in itself.  First of
all, each garment must be folded or rolled in a certain way, the
sleeve in this manner, the collar in that (it is all patiently taught
at training stations) then the articles themselves must be placed
within the bag in an orderly arrangement, and last of all, toilet
articles and such gear must be stowed within convenient reach.  A
clean smell of freshly washed clothes and good, yellow, kitchen soap
rose from the tidy bundles.  In went an extra suit--"those trousers
are real broadcloth, don't get 'em nowadays, none of that bum serge
they're trying to wish on you," a packet of underwear tied and
knotted with wonderful sailor knots, and last of all handkerchiefs,
soap, and other minor impedimenta done up in blue and red bandanna
handkerchiefs.  You simply put the articles on the handkerchiefs and
knot the four corners neatly over the top.  There you have the
sailor.  Only at sea does one realize to what an extent the bandanna
handkerchief is a boon to mankind.  When the bag was packed, it was a
triumph of industry and skill.  Shouldering it, the sailor walked to
the drill office.  He was early.  A good substantial luncheon had
been prepared.  There were plates of hearty sandwiches.  Just before
noon, a fleet of "buses" took them to the pier.

The day was clear but none too warm, and great buffeting salvos of
dust-laden wind blew across the befouled and busy waters of the port.
A young, almost boyish ensign gave each man his final orders, and a
kind of identification slip for their captains.  The sailors of the
Guard, wearing reefers and with round hats jammed tightly on their
heads, stood backed against a wind that curled the wide ends of their
blue trousers close about their ankles.  Presently, grimy, hot, and
pouring out coils of brownish, choking smoke, a big ocean-going tug
glided over to the wharf and took them aboard.  Then bells ran, the
propeller churned, and the tug turned her corded nose down the bay.
The convoy lay at anchor at the very mouth of the roads.  A
miscellaneous lot of vessels, mostly of British registration; some
new, some very, very old.  The pick of the group was a fine large
vessel with an outlandish Maori name; Giles heard later that she had
just been brought over from New Zealand.  The inevitable grimy-decked
tankers and ammoniacal mule boat completed the lot.  An American
cruiser lay at the very head of the line, men could be seen moving
about on her, and there was much washing flapping in the wind.  The
tug went from vessel to vessel, landing a signalman here, a gun crew
there.  One by one the lads clambered aboard to shouts of "See you
later," and "Soak 'em one for me."  Giles was almost the last man
left aboard the tug.  Presently he darted off busily to a clean
little tramp camouflaged in tones of pink, grey, and rusty black.
The tug slid alongside caressingly.  There were more bells; a noise
of churning of water.  Over the side of the greater vessel leaned a
number of the crew, a casual curiosity in their eyes.  Seafaring men
in dingy jerseys opening at the throat and showing hairy chests.  A
putty-faced ship's boy watched the show a little to one side.
Presently an officer of the ship, young, deep-chested and with a
freshly-healed, puckering, star-shaped wound at the left hand corner
of his mouth, came briskly down the deck and stood by the head of the
ladder.

Giles caught up his bag, clambered aboard, and reported.  The officer
brought him to the captain.  Then when the formalities were over, the
second mate took him in charge, and assigned the lad his quarters and
his watches.

The convoy set sail the next morning just as a pale, cold, and
unutterably laggard dawn rose over a sea stretching, vast and empty,
to the clearly marked line of a distant and leaden horizon.  The
escorting cruiser, flying a number of flags, was the first to get
under way; and behind her followed the merchantmen in their allotted
positions, each ship flying its position flag.

Giles watched the departure from the bridge.  Behind him the vast
city rose silent above the harbour mist; ahead, rich in promise of
adventure and romance, lay the great plain of the dark, the
inhospitable, the unsullied, the heroic sea.



XXXI

GRAIN

This is "Idaho's" story.  He told it to me when I met him coming home
early this summer.  We were crossing in a worthy old transatlantic
which has since gone to the bottom, and Idaho, at his ease in the
deserted smoking room, unfolded the adventure.  "Idaho, U.S.N.," we
called him that aboard, is a very real personage.  I think he told me
that he was eighteen years old, medium height, solidly built,
wholesome looking.  The leading characteristic of the young, open
countenance is intelligence, an intelligence that has grown of itself
behind those clear grey eyes, not a power that has grown from
premature contact with the world.  Until he joined the Navy, I
imagine that Idaho knew little of the world beyond his own
magnificent West.  I consider him very well educated; he declares
that preferring life on his father's ranch to knowledge, he cut high
school after the second year.  He is a great reader, and likes good,
stirring poetry.  He is an idealist, and stands by his ideals with a
fervour which only youth possesses.  And I ought to add that Idaho,
in the words of one of his friends, is "one first-class signalman."
This is Idaho's story, pieced together from his own recital, and from
a handful of his letters.

The crowd aboard the naval tug was so festive that morning, and there
was such a lot of scuffling, punching, imitation boxing and jollying
generally that Idaho did not see the vessel to which he had been
assigned till the tug was close alongside.  Then, hearing his name
called out, the lad caught up his baggage, and walked on into the
open side of a vast, disreputable tramp.  The lad later learned that
she had been brought from somewhere in the China Sea.  The
_Sebastopol_, Heaven knows where she originally got the name, was a
ship that had served her term in the west, had grown old and out of
date, and then been purchased by some Oriental firm.  Out there, she
had carried on, always seaworthy in an old-fashioned way, always
excessively dirty, always a day over due.  When the submarine had
made ships worth their weight in silver, the _Sebastopol_ must have
been almost on the point of giving up the ghost.  Presently, the war
brought the old ship back to England again.  Her return to an English
harbour must have resembled the return of a disreputable relative to
an anxious family.  And in England, in some tremendously busy
shipyard, they had patched her up, added a modern electrical
equipment and even gone to the length of new boilers.  But her
engines they had merely tuned up, and as for her ancient hull, that
they had dedicated to the mercy of the gods of the sea.

Once aboard, and assigned to his station and watches, the lad had
leisure to look over his companions.  The _Sebastopol_ carried a crew
from Liverpool, and was officered by three Englishmen and a little
Welsh third mate.  The Captain, a first mate of many years'
experience, to whom the war had given the chance of a ship, was in
the forties; tall and with a thin, stern mouth under a heavy brown
moustache; the first mate was a mere youngster: the second, a
middle-aged volunteer, the third, an undersized, excitable Celt with
grey eyes and coal black hair touched with snow white above the ears.
The Welshman took a liking for Idaho; used to question him in regard
to the West, being especially keen to know about "opportunities there
after the war."  He had a brother in Wales whom he thought might
share in a farming venture.  Of the captain the lad saw very little;
and the first mate was somewhat on his dignity.  Practically every
man of the crew had been torpedoed at least once, many had been
injured, and had scars to exhibit.  All had picturesque tales to
tell, the gruesomest ones being the favourites.  The best narrator
was a fireman from London, a man of thirty with a lean chest and
grotesquely strong arms; he would sit on the edge of a bunk or a
chair and tell of sudden thundering crashes, of the roaring of steam,
of bodies lying on the deck over which one tripped as one ran, of
water pouring into engine rooms, and of boilers suddenly vomiting
masses of white hot coal upon dazed and scalded stokers.  It was the
melodrama of below the water line.  Then for days the narrator would
keep silent, troubled by a pain in one of his fragmentary teeth.  All
the men kept their few belongings tied in a bundle, ready to seize
the instant trouble was at hand.  The cook complained to Idaho that
he had lost a gold watch when the _Lady Esther_ was torpedoed off the
coast of France, and advised him paternally to keep his things handy.
One of the oilers, a good-natured fellow of twenty-eight or nine, had
been a soldier, having been invalided out of the service because of
wounds received late in the summer on the Somme.  An interesting lot
of men for an American boy to be tossed with, particularly for a lad
as intelligent and observing as our Idaho.  The boy was pleased with
his job and worked well.  He did not have very much to do.
Signalling aboard a convoyed ship, though a frequent business, is not
an incessant one.  He knew that his work would come at the entrance
to the zone.  Sometimes he picked up messages intended for others.
"_Mt. Ida_, you are out of line," "_Vulcanian_, keep strictly to the
prescribed zigzag plan."  Now he would see the _Sicilian_ asking for
advice; now there would be a kind of telegraphic tiff between two of
the vessels of the "Keep further away, hang you" order.  Twenty ships
running without lights through the ambush of the sea, twenty ships,
twenty pledges of life, satisfied hunger ... victory.  In other days,
one's world at sea was one's ship; a convoy is a kind of solar system
of solitary worlds.  Hour after hour, the assembled ships straggled
across the great loneliness of the sea.

The crew had a grievance.  It was not against their officers, but
against his majesty's government, against "a bloody lot of top hats."
A recent regulation had forbidden sailors to import food into the
United Kingdom, and all the dreams of stocking up "the missus'"
larder with American abundance had come to naught.  Idaho says that
there was an engineer who was particularly fierce.  "Don't we risk
our lives, I arsk yer," he would say, "bringing stuff to fill their
ruddy guts, and now they won't even let us bring in a bit of sugar
for ourselves."  The rest of the crew would take up the angry
refrain; a mention of the food regulations was enough to set the
entire crew "grousing" for hours.

And then came trouble, real trouble.

On the fifth day out Idaho, called for his early watch, found the
boat wallowing in a heavy sea.  The wind was not particularly heavy,
but it blew steadily from one point of the compass, and the seas were
running dark, wind-flecked, and high.  The _Sebastopol_, accustomed
to the calm of eastern seas, was pitching and rolling heavily.
Presently the cargo began to shift.  Now, to have the cargo shift is
about the most dangerous thing that can happen to a vessel.  One
never can tell just when the centre of gravity of the mass will be
displaced, and when that contingency occurs, the big iron ship will
roll over as casually and as easily as a dog before the fire.  It
takes courage, plenty of courage, to keep such a ship running,
especially if you are down by the boilers or in the engine room.  You
have to be prepared to find yourself lying in a corner somewhere
looking up at a ceiling which, strange to say, has a door in it.  The
_Sebastopol_ leaned away from the wind like a stricken man crouching
before a pitiless enemy; the angle of her smokestack more than
anything else betraying the alarming list.  In her stricken
condition, the ship seemed to become more than ever personal and
human.  Presently her old plates bulged somewhere and she began to
leak.

The vessel carried a cargo of grain, in these days more than ever a
cargo epical and symbolic; a holdful of rich grain, grain engendered
out of fields vast as the sea, bred by the fruitful fire of the sun,
rippled by the passing of winds from the mysterious hills, grain,
symbolic of satisfied hunger, ... victory.  A cargo of grain, life to
those on land, to those on board, danger and the possibility of a
violent if romantic death.  The crew, too occupied with the emergency
to curse the stevedores, ran hither and thither on swift, obscure
errands.  And the weather grew steadily worse, the leak increasing
with the advance of the storm.  Down below, meanwhile, a force of men
hardly able to keep their balance, buffeted here and there by the
motion of the ship, and working in an atmosphere of choking dust,
transferred a number of bags from one side to another.  Unhappily,
the real mischief was due to grain in bins, and with this store
little could be done.  And always the water in the hold increased in
depth.

The pumps, orders had been given to start them directly the leak was
noticed.  Three minutes later, the machinery and the pipes, fouled
with grain, refused to work.  They saw bubbles, steam, a trickle of
water that presently stopped, and lumps of wet grain that some one
might have chewed together, and spat forth again.  Idaho did a lot of
signalling in code to the guide ship of the convoy.  The _Sebastopol_
began to drop behind.  An order being given to sleep up on the boat
deck so as to be ready to leave at any instant, the men dragged their
bedding to whatever shelter they could find.  The captain appeared
never to take any time off for sleep.  Day after day, through heavy
seas, under a sky torn and dirty as a rag, the old _Sebastopol_
listing badly and sodden as cold porridge, carried her precious cargo
to the waiting and hungry east.  Giving up all hope of keeping up
with her sisters, she fell behind, now straggling ten, now fifteen
miles astern.  At length the weather changed; the sea became smooth,
blue and sparkling, the sky radiant and clear.

Then the destroyers came.  There was a parley, and the other vessels
of the convoy zigzagged wildly for a while in order to allow the
_Sebastopol_ to catch up.  But in spite of all attempts, the old ship
fell behind again and was suffered to do so, lest the others,
compelled to adopt her slow speed, be seriously handicapped in their
race down the gauntlet.  Then it was discovered that the leak had
gained alarmingly; there was even talk of abandoning the vessel and
taking to the boats.  A try was made to pump out the boat with an
ancient hand engine.  The contrivance clogged almost at once.
According to Idaho, it was much like trying to pump out a thick bran
mash such as they give sick calves.  And they were only two days from
land.  Barely afloat, just crawling, and with the submarine zone
ahead of them....  But the gods were kind, and the old boat and the
solitary destroyer went down the Channel and across the Irish Sea as
safely as clockwork toys across a garden pool.  Yet they passed quite
a tidy lot of wreckage.  Nearer ... nearer all the time, till late
one afternoon two big tugs raced to meet them at the mouth of a giant
estuary.  The _Sebastopol_ was at the end of her tether.  Another
day, and it would have been a case of taking to the boats.

The tugs hurried her into a waiting dry dock.

Idaho, his papers signed, his bag upon his shoulder, got into a
little tender which was to take him over to the harbour landing.
Looking up, he saw some of the crew leaning over the rail....  They
grinned with friendly, soot-streaked faces, waved their arms....  The
_Sebastopol_ was safe, the rich cargo of grain, the life-giving
yellow grain was safe....  The tug slid off into the busy, noisy
riverway.

And thus came Idaho of the Armed Guard to the Beleaguered Isles.



XXXII

COLLISION

"......Regret to report collision in latitude x and longitude y
between tank steamships _Tampico_ and _Peruvian_......"--_Extract
from an Admiralty paper_.


When supper was over, the two sailors of the Armed Guard attached to
the ship went out on deck for a breath of evening air.  It was just
after sundown, a clean calm rested upon the monstrous plain of the
sea; one golden star shone tranquil and lonely in the west.  The
convoy was almost at the border of the zone.  To the left the lads
could see the twin funnels of the big grain ship; the tattered,
befouled horse boat, the little, rolling tramp said to be full of
T.N.T., and the long low bulks and squat houses of the two tanks.

"Whoever's on that tramp is some bird at signals," said the bigger of
the boys, my friend "Pop."  "Generally starts to answer my signal
before I'm through.  Know who's aboard her, Robbie?"

"I think it's that big new guy from the Pennsylvania" answered
Robbie, meditatively.

"Dalton's on the horse boat, isn't he?"

"Sure, either he or Ricci.  Pete Johnson's on the first tank, and
that fresh little Rogers guy's on the other."

There was a pause.  Pop spat with unction over the side.

Suddenly their vessel entered a fog bank, passing through a detached
island or two of it before plunging on into the central mass.  The
convoy instantly faded from sight.  Every now and then, out of the
wall of grey ahead, a little swirl of fog detached itself, and
floating down the darkening deck, melted into the opaque obscurity
behind.  Drops of moisture began to gather on the lower surface of
the brass rails of the companion ways; wires grew slippery to the
touch; little worm-like trails of over-laden drops slid mechanically
down sloping surfaces.  The fog, thickening, flowed alongside like a
vaporous current.  Overhead, however, the sky was fairly clear,
though the greater stars shone aureoled and pale.  There was very
little sound, merely the steady hissing of the calm water alongside,
occasional voices heard in a tone of consultation,--the heavy slam of
a door.  An hour passed.  The fog showed no sign of lifting, seeming
rather to become of denser substance with the dark.  Pop was glad
that there was no ship following directly behind, and wondered if the
others were dragging fog buoys.  The ship's bell rang muffled and
morne in the fog.  Suddenly, out of the clinging darkness, out of the
oppressive obscurity, there came, momentary, brazen, and incredibly
distant a dull and muffled sound.  So far away and mysterious was its
source that the sound might have been imagined as coming from the
dark beyond the stars.  An instant later, as if the only purpose of
its mysterious existence had been to sink a tanker, the fog melted
into the night, and a little wind, a little, timid, trembling breath
brushed the great plume of smoke from the funnel lightly aside.  A
bright starlit night came into being as if by enchantment, as if
created out of the fog by the intervention of divine will.

The motionless black shapes of the colliding tankers could be seen
far, far astern.  After the crash, they had drifted apart.  The
wireless was crackling, blinker lights flashed their dots and dashes
of violet white, a whistle blew.  "Am standing by," came a message.
The chief of the convoy sent out a peremptory command.  Presently a
light appeared on one of the vessels, a little rosy glow like a
Chinese lantern.  The glow sank, disappeared, and rose again, having
gathered strength.  One of the tankers was on fire.  Soon a second
glow appeared close by its stern.  A glow of warm, rosy orange.  In a
few minutes they could see tongues of fire, and two boats rowing away
from the vessel.  They did not know that the men in the boats were
rowing for their lives through a pool of oil which might take fire at
any instant.  A few minutes passed; the light grew brighter.
Suddenly, there was a kind of flaming burst: a great victory of fire.
The tanker, well down by the head, floated flaming in an ocean that
was itself a flame, floated black, silent, and doomed to find an
ironic grave in the waters under the fire.  Great masses of smoke
rose from the burning pool into the serene sky, and hid the vessel
when she sank.  Half an hour later, a little, rosy light lay at the
horizon's rim.  Suddenly, like a lamp blown out, it died.



XXXIII

THE RAID BY THE RIVER

The convoy of merchantmen, after a calm, quite uneventful voyage
across the ambushed sea, put into a port on the Channel for the
night, and the following morning dispersed to their various harbours.
Some sort of coast patrol boat "not much bigger than an Admiral's
launch," the words are those of my friend Steve Holzer of the Armed
Guard, took the S.S. _Snowdon_ under her metaphorical wing, and
brought her up the Thames.  This _Snowdon_ was one of a fleet of
twelve spry little tramps named for the principal mountains of the
kingdom, a smart, well-equipped, well-ordered product of the Tyne.
Steve, quick, clever, and alert, had got along capitally with the
"limeys."  His particular pals were a pair of twin lads about his own
age, young, English, blond, and grey-eyed; young, slow to understand
a joke, honest, good-tempered, and sincere.  I have seen the postcard
photograph of themselves which they gave Steve as a parting gift.
Steve himself is a Yankee from the word go, a genuine Yankee from
somewhere along the coast of Maine.  He stands somewhat below medium
height, is lean-faced and lean-bodied; his eyes twinkle with a shrewd
good humour.  A great lad.  He tells me that his people have been
seafaring folk for generations.

The _Snowdon_, escorted by her tiny guard, ran down the coast,
entered the Thames estuary, passed the barriers, and finally resigned
herself to the charge of a tug.  Late in the afternoon, the mass of
London began to enclose them, they became conscious of strange,
somewhat foul, land smells; the soot in the air irritated their
nostrils.  The ship was docked close after dusk.  The feeling of
satisfaction which seizes on the hearts of seamen who have
successfully brought a ship into port entered into their bosoms;
everybody was happy, happy in the retrospect of achievement, in the
prospect of peace, security, good pay, and good times.

Their vessel lay in a basin just off a great bend in the river, in a
kind of gigantic concrete swimming pool bordered with steel arc-light
poles planted in rows like impossibly perfect trees.  To starboard,
through another row of arc poles and over a wall of concrete, they
could see the dirty majesty of the great brown river and the square
silhouetted bulks of the tenements and warehouses on the other side.
To port, lay a landing stage some two hundred feet wide, backed by a
huge warehouse over whose dingy roof two immense chimneys towered
like guardians.  The space stank of horse; the river had lost the
clean smell of the sea, and breathed a reek of humanity and inland
mire.  A mean cobbled-stone street led from a corner of the landing
space past wretched tenements, fried fish shops, and pawnbrokers'
windows exhibiting second rate nautical instruments, concertinas, and
fraternal emblems.  It was all surprisingly quiet.

Steve, hospitably invited to remain aboard, went to the starboard
rail and stood studying the river.  The last smoky light had ebbed
from the sky; night, rich and strewn with autumnal stars, hung over
the gigantic city, and a moon just passing the first quarter hung
close by the meridian, and shone reflected in the pool-like basin and
the river's moving tide.  One of the huge chimneys suddenly assumed a
great, creamy-curling plume of smoke which dissolved mysteriously
into the exhalations of the city.  From down in the crew's quarters
came the musical squeals of a concertina, and occasional voices whose
words could but rarely be distinguished.  The arc lights by the basin
edge suddenly flowered into a dismal glow of whitish yellow light
strangled by the opaque hoods and under cups affixed by the
anti-aircraft regulations.  Another concertina sounded further down
the street.  The moonlight, like a kind of supernal benediction, fell
on smokestack and funnel, on shining grey wire and solemn, rusted
anchor, on burnished capstan and finger smoutched door.  Heat haze,
flowing in a swift and glassy river, shone above the smokestack in
the moon.

Suddenly, Steve heard down the street a sustained note from something
on the order of a penny whistle, and an instant later, a window was
flung up, and a figure leaned out.  It was too dark to see whether it
was a man or a woman.  Then the same whistle was blown again several
times as if by a conscientious boy, and a factory siren with a
sobbing human cry rose over the warehouses.  At the same moment, the
lights about the dock flickered, clicked, and died.  There was a
confused noise of steps behind, there were voices--"Hey, listen!"
"Wot's that?" the last in pure cockney, and a questioning, doubting
Thomas voice said: "A raid?"  The figure of the captain was seen on
the bridge.  One of the ships' boys went hurrying round, doing
something or other, probably closing doors.  The twins strolled over
to Steve, and informed him in the most casual manner that they were
in for a raid.  It was Steve's first introduction to British
unemotionalism, and I imagine that it rather let him down.  He says
that he himself was "right up on his tiptoes."  He also had a notion
that bombs would begin to rain from the sky directly after the
warning.  The twins soon made it clear, however, that the warning was
given when the raiders were picked up on the east coast, and that
there was generally some twenty minutes or half an hour to wait
before "the show" began.  Every once in a while, somebody in the
group would steal a look at the pale worlds beyond the serried
chimney pots and at the moon, guiltless accomplice of the violence
and imbecilities of men.

Presently, a number of star shells burst in fountains of coppery
bronze.  Every hatch covered, every port and window sealed, the
_Snowdon_ awaited the coming of the raiders.  Whistles continued to
be heard, faint and far away.  From no word, tone, or gesture of that
English crew could one have gathered that they were in the most
dangerous quarter of the city.  For the one indispensable element of
a London raid is the attack on the waterfront, the attack on the
ships, the ships of wood, the ships of steel, the hollow ships
through which imperial Britain lives.

There is little to be seen in a London raid unless you happen to be
close by something struck by a bomb.  The affair is almost entirely a
strange and terrible movement of sound, a rising, catastrophic tide
of sound, a flood of thundering tumult, a slow and sullen ebb.

"There!  'Ear that?" said some one.

Far away, on the edge of the Essex marshes and the moon-lit sea, a
number of anti-aircraft guns had picked up the raiders.  The air was
full of a faint, sullen murmur, continuous as the roar of ocean on a
distant beach.  Searchlight beams, sweeping swift and mechanical,
appeared over London, the pale rays searching the black islands
between the dimmed constellations like figures of the blind.  They
descended, rose, glared, met, melted together.  The sullen roaring
grew louder and nearer, no longer a blend, but a sustained crescendo
of pounding sounds and muffled crashes.  A belated star shell broke,
and was reflected in the river.  A police boat passed swiftly and
noiselessly, a solitary red spark floating from her funnel as she
sped.  The roaring gathered strength, the guns on the coast were
still; now, one heard the guns on the inland moors, the guns in the
fields beyond quiet little villages, the guns lower down the
river--they were following the river--now the guns in the outer
suburbs, now the guns in the very London spaces, ring, crash, tinkle,
roar, pound!  The great city flung her defiance at her enemies.
Steve became so absorbed in the tumult that he obeyed the order to
take shelter below quite mechanically.  A new sound came screaming
into their retreat, a horrible kind of whistling zoom, followed by a
heavy pound.  Steve was told that he had heard a bomb fall.
"Somewhere down the river."  Nearer, instant by instant, crept the
swift, deadly menace.  A lonely fragment of an anti-aircraft shell
dropped clanging on the steel deck.

"You see," explained one of the twins in the careful passionless tone
that he would have used in giving street directions to a stranger,
"the Huns are on their way up the river, dropping a kettle on any
boat that looks like a good mark, and trying to set the docks afire.
The docks always get it.  Listen!"

There was a second "zoom," and a third close on its heels.

"Those are probably on the _Ætna_ basins," said the other twin.
"Their aim's beastly rotten as a rule.  If this light were out, we
might be able to see something from a hatchway.  Mr. Millen (the
first mate) makes an awful fuss if he finds any one on deck."  "I
know what's what, let's go to the galley, there's a window that can't
be shut." ... The three lads stole off.  Beneath a lamp turned down
to a bluish-yellow flame, the older seaman waited placidly for the
end of the raid, and discussed, sailor fashion, a hundred irrelevant
subjects.  The darkened space grew chokingly thick with tobacco
smoke.  And the truth of it was that every single sailor in there
knew that the last two bombs had fallen on the _Ætna_ basins, and
that the _Snowdon_ would be sure to catch it next.  By a trick of the
gods of chance, the vessel happened to be alone in the basin, and
presented a shining mark.  The lads reached the galley window.

By crowding in, shoulder to shoulder, they could all see.  The pool
and its concrete wall were hidden; the window opened directly on the
river.  Presently came a lull in the tumult, and during it, Steve
heard a low, monotonous hum, the song of the raiding planes.  More
fragments of shrapnel fell upon the deck.  The moon had travelled
westward, and lay, large and golden, well clear of the town.  The
winter stars, bright and inexorable, had advanced ... the city was
fighting on.  Suddenly, the three boys heard the ominous aerial
whistle, one of the twins slammed the window to, and an instant later
there was a sound within the dark little galley as if somebody had
touched off an enormous invisible rocket, ... a frightful "zoom," and
impact ... silence.  They guessed what had happened.  A bomb intended
for the _Snowdon_ had fallen in the river.  Later somewhere on land
was heard a thundering crash which shook the vessel violently.  A pan
or something of the kind hanging on the galley wall fell with a
startling crash.  "Get out of there, you boys," called the cook.
Ship's galleys are sacred places, and are to be respected even in air
raids.  And then even more slowly and gradually than it had gathered
to a flood, the uproar ebbed.  The firing grew spasmodic, ceased
within the city limits, lingered as a distant rumble from the
outlying fields, and finally died away altogether.  The sailors,
released by a curt order, came on deck.  The top of the concrete wall
was splashed and mottled with dark puddles and spatters of water.
All agreed that the bomb had fallen "bloody close."  The peace of the
abyss rules above.  Far down the river, there was an unimportant fire.

Said Steve--"I certainly was sore when I didn't have any excitement
on the way over in the convoy, but after that night in the _Snowdon_,
I decided that being with the Armed Guard let you in for some real
stuff.  It's a great service."

With which opinion all who know the Guard will agree.



XXXIV

ON HAVING BEEN BOTH A SOLDIER AND A SAILOR

When this cruel war is over, and the mad rounds of parades, banquets
and reunions begin, I shall immediately set to work to organize the
most exclusive of clubs.  A mocking and envious friend suggests that
our uniform consist of a white sailor hat, a soldier's tunic,
British, French, or American according to the flags under which we
served, and a pair of sailor trousers with an extra wide flare.  For
the club is to be composed of those fortunate souls who like myself
have seen "the show" on land and on sea.  To my mind, however,
instead of mixing the uniforms, it would be better to dress in khaki
when we feel military; in blue when our temperament is nautical.
Think of belonging to a club whose members can dissect a trench
mortar with ease and at the same time say: "Three points off the port
bow" without turning a hair.  I should admit marines only after a
special consideration of each case.  Not that I don't admire the
marines.  I do.  I yield to no one in my admiration of our gallant
"devil dogs."  But the applicant for admission to our club must have
first served as a bona fide soldier and then as a bona fide sailor or
vice versa.  Not that I am a sailor or ever was a sailor in Uncle
Sam's Navy.  All that I can claim to have been is a correspondent
attached to the Navy "over there."  But four months' service, most of
it spent at sea on the destroyers, subs, and battleships entitles me,
I think, to membership, consequently, being president, I have
admitted myself.

"Well, you've seen the war both on land and on sea; which service do
you prefer ... the army or the Navy?"  This question is hurled at me
everywhere I go.  I answer it with deliberation, enjoying the while
to the full the consciousness of being an extraordinary person, a
sort of literary Æneas, _multum jactatus et terris et alto_.  And I
answer briefly:

"The Navy."

I hasten to add, however, that you will find my answer coloured by a
passion for the beauty and the mystery of the sea with which some
good spirit endowed me in my cradle.  I was born in one of the most
historic of New England seacoast towns where brine was anciently said
to flow through the veins of the inhabitants.  On midsummer days the
fierce heat distils from the cracked, caked mud of tidal meadows the
clean, salty smell of the unsullied sea; dark ships, trailing far
behind them long, dissolving plumes of smoke, weave in and out
between the tawny, whale-backed islands of the bay, and tame little
sea birds almost the colour of the shingle run along at the edge of
the in-coming tide.  So I admit a bias for the service of the sea.

Does the Navy demand as much of the sailor as the Army does of the
soldier?  A vexed question.  The Army, comparing grimly its own
casualty lists with the Navy's occasional roll sometimes imagines
naturally enough that the sailor lives, as the old hymn has it, "on
flowery beds of ease."  As a whole there is no denying that living
conditions are far better in the naval service, though much depends
on the boat to which the sailor is assigned.  A soldier in the
trenches sleeps in his clothes, so does a sailor on a destroyer or a
patrol boat, and I do not believe that I felt much more comfortable
at the end of a long trip in an old destroyer during which the vessel
rolled, pitched, tossed, careened, stood on her head, sat on her tail
and buckled than I did after a week or so at the front.  Certainly,
there was little to choose between the overcrowded living quarters of
the sailors and a decent "dug-out."  True, the "Toto," alias
greyback, alias "Cootie" or his occasional but less famous accomplice
the "crimson rambler" does not infest a Navy ship.  How many times
have I not heard Army folk say in heartfelt tones, "Those Navy people
can keep _clean_."  But a truce to the Cootie.  Much more has been
made of him than he deserves.  During the first six months of the war
the creature was in evidence, but after the hostilities began to
limit themselves to the trench swathe, and this localizing war made
possible a stable system of hospitals, cantonments and baths, the
Cootie became as rare as a day in June and to have such guest was an
indication of abysmally bad luck or personal uncleanliness.
Moreover, a little gasoline begged from a lorry driver and sprinkled
on one's clothes confers unconditional immunity.  Consider the crew
of a submarine.  They do not have to splash about in a gulley of
smelly mud the consistency of thick soup, or wander down alleyways of
red brown mud, so cheesy that it sticks to the boots till one no
longer lifts feet from the ground, but shapeless, heavy, thrice
cussed lumps of mire.  No one has yet risen to sing the epic of the
mud of France; yet 'tis the soul of the war.  The submarine sailors
are spared the mud, but they live in a sealed cylinder into which
sunlight does not penetrate, live in the close atmosphere of a
garage; they can not get exercise or change clothes.  A submarine
crew that has had a hard time of it looks quite as worn out as
soldiers just out of battle and their colour is far worse.  And if
there is a more heroic service than this submarine patrol, I should
like to know of it.

And now the army in me rises to protest.  "I admit," says the
military voice, "that service on ships may be a confounded sight more
disagreeable than I had imagined, but the sailor has a chance when he
gets to port of changing his uniform, whilst a poor lad of a soldier
must fight, eat, and sleep in the same old uniform, and must limit
his changes to a change of underclothes."

True, oh military spirit.  Civilian, and thou, too, oh sailor, do you
know what it is to be confined, to be wedded, without jest, "till
death do us part" to _one_ suit.  One faithful, persistent, necessary
uniform and _one_ only.  Two-thirds of the joy of permission is the
pleasure of getting out of a dirty, stale, besweated uniform.  Heaven
bless, Heaven shower a Niagara of happiness on those kindly ladies
who sent us supplies of socks and jerseys!  Don't be content to knit
Johnny socks and a sweater, keep on knitting him a number of them,
and send them over at intervals.  The dandies of a section used to
leave extra clothes in villages behind the lines.  Alas, sometimes,
the group, after service "_aux tranchées_" was not marched back to
the same village, and it was difficult to get permission to visit the
other village, even were it near.  Such expedients, however, are for
luxurious times.  Quite often there are no habitable villages for
miles behind the lines, or else the civilian inhabitants have been
ruthlessly warned away.  In such circumstances there is no clean
cache of clothes to be left behind in Madame's closet.  But the
sailor ... though he returns as grimy as a printers' devil and as
bearded as a comic tramp, there is always a clean suit of "liberty
blues" in his bag, and to-morrow, clad in the handsomest of all naval
uniforms, he will be found ashore, breaking fair British or Irish
hearts.

I have tried to show that in the judgment of an ex-soldier, the
difference between the life of a sailor in a fighting ship and the
life of a soldier in a fighting regiment is by no means as great as
it has been imagined.  The army, I suppose, will grumble at such a
pronunciamento.  Let an objector, then, try being a lookout man all
winter long on a destroyer ... or try firing a while.  All is not
quite purgatorial even at the front.  Most army men know of quiet
places along the line held on our side by rubicund, wine-bibbing,
middle-aged French "territoriaux," _bons pères de famille_ who show
you pictures of Etienne and Maurice; and garrisoned on the enemy's
border by fat old Huns who want very, very much to get home to their
great pipe and steaming sauerkraut.  In such places each side
apologizes for the bad taste of their supporting artillery, whilst
grenade throwing is regarded as the bottom level of viciousness.
Once in a while people die there of old age, gout, or chronic liver.
No one is ever killed.  Such "ententes cordiales" were far more
frequent than those behind the line have ever suspected.  On the
other hand, some twenty miles down the trench swathe there may be a
hillock constantly contested, a strategic point which burns up the
lives of men as casually as the sustaining of a fire consumes
faggots.  Now it is the quick, merciful bullet in the head, now the
hot, whizzing éclat of a high explosive, now the earthquake of the
subterranean mine.  But after all, a mine at sea is no more gentle
than one on land, and to have a mine exploded under him is perhaps
the eventuality which a soldier fears more than anything else.  On
land, the thundering release of a giant breath from out of the earth,
a monstrous pall of fragments of soil, stones, and dust ... perhaps
of fragments more ghastly, at sea, a thundering pound, a column of
water which seems to stand upright for a second or two and then falls
crashing on whatever is left of the vessel.  _Quelle monde!_

There is a distinct difference between the psychology of the soldier
and that of the sailor.  A soldier of any army is sure to be drilled,
and drilled, and drilled again till he becomes what he ought to be, a
cog in an immense machine scientifically designed for the release of
violence; a sailor, drilled scientifically enough but not so
machinally, preserves some of the ancient freedom of the sea.  Then,
too, the soldier with his bayonet is a fighting force; the sailor,
though prepared for it, himself rarely fights, but works a fighting
mechanism, ... the ship.  The battleship X may sink the cruiser Y,
but there is rarely a "_corps a corps_" such as takes place for
instance in a disputed shell crater.  Thus removed from the baser
brutalities of war, the sailor never reveals that vein of Berserker
savagery which soldiers will often reveal in a conquered province.
As a class, sailors are the best-natured, good-hearted souls in the
world.  Rough some may be, some may be scamps, but brutal, never.
Moreover, living under a discipline easier to bear than the soldiers,
Jack has not the sullen streaks that overtake betimes men under arms.
Of course, he grumbles, enlisted men are not normal if they don't
grumble, but Jack's grumbling is as nothing compared to the fierce,
smothered hate for things in general which every soldier sometimes
feels.

I would follow the sea, because I am a lover of the mystery and
beauty of the sea, and because my comrades would be sailormen.  I
would knock at the Navy's door because, after all is said and done,
the naval power is the ultima ratio of this titanic affair.  I have
seen many of the great scenes of this war, among them Verdun on the
first night of the historic battle, but nothing that I saw on land
impressed me as did my first view of the British Grand Fleet in its
northern harbour, ... the dark ships, the hollow ships, rulers of the
past, rulers of the future, unconquered and unconquerable.

H.B.B.

  The Parson Capen House,
    Topsfield, 1919.



END



  THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
  GARDEN CITY, N.Y.





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