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Title: War in the Underseas
Author: Wheeler, Harold
Language: English
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                          WAR IN THE UNDERSEAS


[Illustration:

  The Last of a Pirate

  G. H. Davis
]



                          WAR IN THE UNDERSEAS


                                   BY
                          HAROLD F. B. WHEELER
                              F.R.Hist.S.

                               AUTHOR OF
                   ‘DARING DEEDS OF MERCHANT SEAMEN’
              ‘STIRRING DEEDS OF BRITAIN’S SEA-DOGS’ ETC.
                          FOUNDER OF ‘HISTORY’

[Illustration]

                                NEW YORK
                       THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS



                       _Printed in Great Britain
                    by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh_



                               DEDICATED

                                   TO

                     GEOFFREY CHARLES TASKAR KEYES

        IN THE SINCERE HOPE THAT IF OPPORTUNITY BE HIS HE MAY
        EMULATE THE DARING OF HIS FATHER, WHOSE ACHIEVEMENT AT
        ZEEBRUGGE AND OSTEND WILL BE RELATED BY OLD BOYS TO
        THEIR JUNIORS UNTIL THE OCEAN HIGHWAY IS AS DRY AS A
        DUSTY ROAD

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               _Foreword_


Sea-power strangled Germany and saved the world. Even when the Kaiser’s
legions were riding roughshod over the greater part of Europe its grip
was slowly throttling them. Despite the murderous mission of mine and
U-boat, it kept the armies of the Allies supplied with men and
munitions, and scoured the world for both. When the British Fleet took
up its war stations in the summer of 1914 it became the Heart of Things
for civilization. It continued to be so when the major portion of the
swaggering High Sea Fleet came out to meet Beatty under the white flag
in the chilly days of November 1918. It remains so to-day.

The officers and men of the Royal Navy whose march is the Underseas
played a perilous and noble part in the Great Conflict. British
submarines poked their inquisitive noses into the wet triangle of
Heligoland Bight three hours after hostilities were declared; they
watched while the Men of Mons crossed the Channel to stay the hand of
the invader; they pierced the Dardanelles when mightier units remained
impotent; they threaded their way through the icy waters of the Baltic
despite the vigilance of a tireless enemy; they fought U-boats, a feat
deemed to be impossible; they dodged mines, land batteries, and surface
craft, and depleted the High Sea Fleet of many valuable fighting forces.
In addition, they had to contend with their own peculiar
troubles—shoals, collisions, breakdowns, and a hundred and one ills
which a landsman never suspects. Some set out on their duties and failed
to come back. They lie many fathoms deep. Their commanders have made
their last report. Sea-power has its price.

I am under special obligation to several officers of British submarines
for assistance willingly rendered, despite the arduous nature of their
duties. Their generous enthusiasm exhibits that “real love for the Grand
Old Service it is an honour and pleasure to serve in,” as Admiral Beatty
wrote to me the other day.

                                                    HAROLD F. B. WHEELER



                               _Contents_


            CHAPTER                                     PAGE
                 I. CLEARING THE DECKS                    13

                II. LIFE AS A LATTER-DAY PIRATE           52

               III. GERMANY’S SUBMERSIBLE FLEET           69

                IV. PYGMIES AMONG GIANTS                  84

                 V. TRAGEDY IN THE MIDDLE SEAS           105

                VI. HORTON, E 9, AND OTHERS              120

               VII. SUBMARINE _v._ SUBMARINE             137

              VIII. A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS               148

                IX. SEA-HAWK AND SWORD-FISH              165

                 X. U-BOATS THAT NEVER RETURNED          192

                XI. DEPTH CHARGES IN ACTION              209

               XII. SINGEING THE SULTAN’S BEARD          222

              XIII. ON CERTAIN HAPPENINGS IN THE BALTIC  241

               XIV. BLOCKADING THE BLOCKADE              272

                XV. BOTTLING UP ZEEBRUGGE AND OSTEND     297

               XVI. THE GREAT COLLAPSE                   310



                            _Illustrations_


                                                              PAGE
      THE LAST OF A PIRATE                          _Frontispiece_

      UNRESTRICTED SUBMARINE WARFARE                            48

      THE INTERIOR OF A GERMAN SUBMARINE                        72

      THE SECOND EXPLOIT OF E 9                                126

      “KAMERAD! KAMERAD!”                                      154

      A SEAPLANE OF THE R.N.A.S.                               188

      THE DESTROYER’S SHORT WAY WITH THE U-BOAT                218

      C 3 AT ZEEBRUGGE MOLE                                    298

      ENTRY OF THE SURRENDERED U-BOATS INTO HARWICH            310



                               CHAPTER I
                          _Clearing the Decks_

“_Society must not remain passive in face of the deliberate provocation
of a blind and outrageous tyrant. The common interests of mankind must
direct the impulses of political bodies: European society has no other
essential purpose._”—SCHILLER.


Surprise is the soul of war. The submarine illustrates this elemental
principle, and its astounding development is the most amazing fact of
the World Struggle. Given favourable circumstances it can attack when
least expected, pounce on its prey at such time as may be most
convenient to itself, and return to its lair without so much as being
sighted. What has become a vital means to the most important military
ends was once described by the British Admiralty as “the weapon of the
weaker Power.” To a large extent, of course, it is _par excellence_ the
type of vessel necessary to bidders for Sea Supremacy who would wrest
maritime predominance from a stronger Power. On the other hand, it has
rendered yeoman service to the British Navy, as many of the following
pages will show. Germany, a nation of copyists but also of improvers,
diverted the submersible from the path of virtue which previous to the
outbreak of hostilities it was expected to pursue. It is safe to say
that few people in Great Britain entertained the suspicion that
underwater craft would be used by any belligerent for the purpose of
piracy.

Up to August 1914 the submarine was intimately associated in the public
mind with death and disaster—death for the crew and disaster for the
vessel. It is so easy to forget that Science claims martyrs and Progress
exacts sacrifice. These are two of the certainties of an uncertain
world. The early stages of aviation also were notable for the wreck of
hopes, machines, and men. To-day aircraft share with submarines and
tanks the honour of having altered the aspect of war. The motor-car,
once the laughing-stock of everybody other than the enthusiast, and now
grown into a Juggernaut mounting powerful guns, is the foster-father of
the three, for the perfection of the internal combustion engine alone
made the submarine and the aeroplane practicable.

For good or for ill, the underwater boat has passed from the
experimental to the practical. In the hands of the Germans it became a
particularly sinister and formidable weapon. The truth is not in us if
we attempt to disguise the fact. When there was not so much as a cloud
the size of a man’s hand on the European sky, and the Betrayer was
pursuing the path of peaceful penetration all undisturbed and almost
unsuspected, the submarine was regarded by many eminent authorities as a
somewhat precocious weakling in the naval nursery. They refused to
believe that it would grow up. Even Mr H. G. Wells, who has loosed so
many lucky shafts, unhesitatingly damned it in his _Anticipations_. He
saw few possibilities in the craft, and virtually limited its use to
narrow waterways and harbours.

There were others, however, who thought otherwise, and the controversy
between the rival schools of thought was brought to a head by a fierce
battle fought in Printing House Square. Sir Percy Scott, who had
previously held more than a watching brief for the heavy fathers of the
Fleet, bluntly told the nation through the columns of the _Times_ that
the day of the Dreadnought and the Super-Dreadnought was over. With a
scratch of the pen he relegated battleships to the scrap-heap—until
other experts brought their guns to bear on the subject. Almost on the
conclusion of this war of words the war of actuality began. I do not
think I am wrong in saying that the former ended in an inconclusive
peace. Practice has proved the efficiency of both surface and underwater
craft, but particularly of vessels that do not submerge.

Admiral Sir Percy Scott’s prophecy remains unfulfilled. The big-gun ship
has asserted itself in no uncertain language. It is interesting to note,
however, that the ruling of one who took part in the discussion, and
whose personal experience in the early stages of the evolution of a
practical submarine entitled him to special consideration, has been
entirely negatived. Rear-Admiral R. H. S. Bacon,[1] the principal
designer of the first British type, asserted that “the idea of attack of
commerce by submarines is barbarous and, on account of the danger of
involving neutrals, impolitic.” It is obvious from this that the late
commander of the Dover Patrol never contemplated any departure from the
acknowledged principles of civilized warfare. The unexpected happened,
as it is particularly liable to do in war. One of the main purposes of
the enemy’s submarines in the World War was piracy, unrestrained,
unrestricted, and unashamed. It failed to justify Germany’s hope.

Probably Lord Fisher was the first seaman holding high position to
actually warn the British Government of the likelihood of Germany’s
illegitimate use of the submarine. Early in 1914 he handed to Mr Asquith
and the First Lord of the Admiralty a memorandum pointing out, among
other things, that the enemy would use underwater boats against our
commerce.[2] His prescience was forestalled thirteen years before by
Commander Sir Trevor Dawson, who had prophesied that the enemy would
attack our merchant fleet in much the same way as the Boers were then
attacking the army in the Transvaal. “Submarine boats,” he told a
meeting of engineers, “have sufficient speed and radius of action to
place themselves in the trade routes before the darkness gives place to
day, and they would be capable of doing almost incalculable destruction
against unsuspecting and defenceless victims.”

Originally Germany was by no means enamoured of the new craft. Her first
two submarines did not appear until 1905–6; Great Britain’s initial
venture was launched at Barrow-in-Furness in 1901. The latter, the first
of a batch of five, was ordered on the advice of Lord Goschen. Even then
the official attitude was sceptical, not altogether without reason. Mr
H. O. Arnold-Forster, speaking in the House of Commons on the 18th
March, 1901, after admitting that “there is no disguising the fact that
if you can add speed to the other qualities of the submarine boat, it
might in certain circumstances become a very formidable vessel,” adopted
what one might call a misery-loves-company attitude. “We are comforted,”
he averred, “by the judgment of the United States and Germany, which is
hostile to these inventions, which I confess I desire shall never
prosper.”

Dr Flamm, Professor of Ship Construction at the Technical High School at
Charlottenburg, who should and probably does know better, has aided and
abetted certain other publicists in foisting on the public of the
Fatherland the presumption that the submarine is a German invention.
This is not the place for a full history of the underwater craft from
its early to its latest stages, but perhaps it is permissible to give a
few particulars regarding the toilsome growth of this most formidable
type of vessel.

The first underwater craft of which there is anything approaching
authentic record was the invention of Cornelius Drebbel, a Dutchman who
forsook his own country for England. According to one C. van der Woude,
writing in 1645, Drebbel rowed in his submerged boat from Westminster to
Greenwich. Legend or truth has it that this “Famous Mechanician and
Chymist” managed to keep the air more or less sweet in his craft by
means of a secret “Chymical liquor,” and that the structure was covered
with skin of some kind to make it watertight. Drebbel, who also
professed to have discovered the secret of perpetual motion, is stated
to have hit upon the idea of his invention by the simple process of
keeping his eyes open. He noticed some fishermen towing behind their
smacks a number of baskets heavily laden with their staple commodity.
When the ropes were not taut the vessels naturally rose a little in the
water. He came to the conclusion that a boat could be weighted in much
the same way to remain entirely below the surface, and propelled by
means similar to a rowing-boat. It is even said that King James
travelled at a depth of from twelve to fifteen feet in one of the two
vessels constructed by Drebbel, whose invention is referred to in Ben
Jonson’s _Staple of News_.

The submarine may be said to have remained in this essentially
elementary stage until 1775, when David Bushnell, an American, launched
a little one-man submarine after five years of planning and preparation.
The shape of the vessel resembled a walnut held upright, the torpedo
being carried outside near the top. At the bottom was an aperture fitted
with a valve for admitting water, while a couple of pumps were provided
for ejecting it. About 200 lb. of lead served as ballast, which could be
lowered by ropes for the purpose of giving immediate increase of
buoyancy should emergency require it. “When the skilful operator had
obtained an equilibrium,” Bushnell writes, “he could row upward and
downward, or continue at any particular depth, with an oar placed near
the top of the vessel, formed upon the principle of the screw, the axis
of the oar entering the vessel; by turning the oar one way he raised the
vessel, by turning it the other way he depressed it.” A similar
apparatus, worked by hand or foot, whichever was the more convenient,
propelled the submarine forward or backward. The rudder could also be
utilized as a paddle.

Bushnell provided his little wooden craft with what he called a crown
and we should designate a conning-tower. In this there were several
glass windows. Neither artificial light nor means of freshening the air
was carried, though the submarine could remain submerged for thirty
minutes before the condition of the atmosphere made it necessary to
ascend sufficiently near the surface to enable the two ventilator pipes
to be brought into action. The water-gauge and compass were rendered
discernible by means of phosphorus.

The torpedo—Bushnell termed it a magazine—was an oak box containing 150
lb. of gunpowder and a clockwork apparatus which was set in operation
immediately the affair was unshipped. It was attached to a wooden screw
carried in a tube in the brim of the ‘crown.’ Having arrived beneath an
enemy vessel, the screw was fixed in the victim’s hull from within the
submarine, and the ‘U-boat’ made off. At the time required the mechanism
fired what to all intents and purposes was a gun-lock, and the torpedo
blew up.

The wooden screw was the least successful of the various appliances. An
attempt was made in 1776 to annihilate H.M.S. _Eagle_, then lying off
Governor’s Island, New York. The operator apparently tried to drive his
screw into iron, and quite naturally failed. Writing to Thomas Jefferson
on the subject, Bushnell suggests that had the operator shifted the
submarine a few inches he could have carried out his operation, even
though the bottom was covered with copper. Two other unsuccessful trials
were made in the Hudson River. Owing to ill-health and lack of means,
the inventor then abandoned his submarine, though in the following year
he attempted to ‘discharge’ one of his magazines from a whaleboat, the
object of attack being H.M.S. _Cerberus_. It failed to reach the British
frigate, and blew up a prize schooner anchored astern of her. Washington
was fully alive to the possibilities of Bushnell’s invention, but was
evidently of opinion that it was too crude to warrant his serious
attention. Writing to Jefferson, he says: “I thought, and still think,
that it was an effort of genius, but that too many things were necessary
to be combined to expect much from the issue against an enemy who are
always upon guard.” Incidentally this was a remarkable testimonial to
the men on look-out duty on the British vessels. Keen sight is still a
recognized weapon against submarine attack.

In 1797 Robert Fulton, also an American, brought his fertile brain to
bear on the submarine, possibly on hearing or reading of David
Bushnell’s boat. One would have anticipated that the era of the
Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars would be propitious for the
introduction of new plans and methods calculated to bring a seemingly
never-ending state of hostilities to an end. Novel propositions were
certainly brought forward; few were utilized. Fulton, an artist by
profession, simply bubbled over with ideas connected with maritime
operations. Moreover, he had extraordinary tenacity and enthusiasm.
Set-backs seemed to give him added momentum. He tried to do business
with Napoleon in France, with Pitt in England, with Schimmelpenninck on
behalf of Holland, not always without success, before returning to the
United States and running the steamer _Clermont_ at five miles an hour
on the Hudson.

At the end of 1797 the enterprising American proposed to the French
Directory to construct a submarine, to be christened the _Nautilus_, or,
as he frequently spelled it, the _Nautulus_. So great was his faith in
the project for “A Machine which flatters me with much hope of being
Able to Annihilate” the British Navy, that he was willing to be
remunerated by results, viz., 4000 francs per gun for every ship of
forty guns and upward that he destroyed, and half that amount per gun
for smaller vessels. All captures were to become the property of “the
_Nautulus_ Company.” A little chary of being caught red-handed by the
enemy and dealt with as a pirate, he asked that he might be given a
commission in the Service, which would ensure for him and his crew the
treatment of belligerents. Pléville le Pelley, Minister of Marine,
deeming that such warfare was “atrocious,” and yet not altogether
unkindly disposed toward it, refused the latter request, which would
obviously give the submarine official sanction. The proposed payment by
results he reduced by fifty per cent. All the arrangements were
subsequently cancelled.

Nothing further was done until July 1798, when Bruix was Minister of
Marine. Fulton renewed his proposition, and certain inquiries by
scientists of repute were made at the instigation of Bruix. The report
was distinctly favourable, but again there was disagreement as to terms.
Fulton, impatient of delay, built the _Nautilus_. This little vessel,
twenty feet long and five feet beam, was launched at Rouen in July 1800.
On the trial trip the inventor and two companions made two dives in the
boat, the time of submersion varying from eight minutes to seventeen
minutes. Proceeding to Havre, Fulton made various improvements in the
_Nautilus_, including the introduction of a screw propeller worked by
hand, and the addition of wings placed horizontally in the bows for the
purpose of ascending or descending. While at Havre the submarine
remained below over an hour at a depth of fifteen feet with her crew and
a lighted candle. On another occasion the _Nautilus_ was submerged for
six hours, air being supplied by means of a little tube projecting above
the water.

For sailing on the surface the boat was fitted with a single jury-mast
carrying a mainsail jib, which could be unshipped when submarine
navigation was required. By admitting water she sank to the required
depth, and was then propelled by the method already referred to. A glass
dome, a compass, a pump for expelling the water when necessary, and a
gauge for testing depth, which Fulton called a bathometer, constituted
the ‘works.’ The torpedo was an apparatus made of copper filled with
gunpowder, “arranged in such a manner that if it strikes a vessel or the
vessel runs against it, the explosion will take place and the bottom of
the vessel be blown in or so shattered as to ensure her destruction.”[3]
The weapon was to be fixed to the bottom of the victim by means of a
barbed point on the chain used for towing it.

Fulton approached Napoleon, who authorized Forfait, the latest Minister
of Marine, to advance the sum of 10,000 francs for the purpose of
perfecting the _Nautilus_. He also granted Fulton an interview. When, in
the autumn of 1801, he expressed a wish to see the submarine, the vessel
had been broken up. Here the matter ended, and the ingenious American
turned his thoughts in the direction of steam navigation. The _Nautilus_
was his one and only experiment in underwater craft.[4]

The first ship to be actually sunk during hostilities by submarine was
the Federal 13–gun frigate _Housatonic_, of 1264 tons. She went down off
Charleston on the 17th February, 1864, during the American Civil War, as
the result of being attacked by a spar-torpedo carried by the
Confederate submarine _Hunley_, so named after her designer, Captain
Horace L. Hunley. Unfortunately the underwater boat was also a victim,
and she carried with her her fourth crew to meet with death as a
consequence of misadventure. On the first occasion the boat was swamped
and eight men were drowned, on the second a similar disaster overtook
her, with the loss of six of her crew, on the third she descended and
failed to come up. Small wonder that the _Hunley_ came to be known as
‘the Peripatetic Coffin.’

The shape of the _Hunley_ was cylindrical. For’ard and aft were water
ballast tanks operated by valves, and additional stability was given by
a sort of false keel consisting of pieces of cast iron bolted inside so
as to be easily detachable should it be necessary to reach the surface
quickly. On each side of the propeller, worked by the hand-power of
eight men, were two iron blades which could be moved so as to change the
depth of the vessel. The pilot steered from a position near the fore
hatchway.

The torpedo, a copper cylinder containing explosive and percussion and
primer mechanism, was fired by triggers. It was carried on a boom,
twenty-two feet long, attached to the bow. The speed was seldom more
than four miles an hour on a calm day. As there was no means of
replenishing the air other than by coming to the surface and lifting one
of the hatchways, it was obviously a fair-weather ship.

On the afternoon of the 17th February, 1864, the _Hunley_ set out on her
final trip. While attacking the submarine was only partly submerged, and
one of the hatches was uncovered; why will never be known. She made
straight toward the _Housatonic_, with the evident intention of striking
the vessel near the magazines with her torpedo. There was an explosion,
the ship heeled to port, and went down by the stern. When divers
examined the extent of her injuries the plucky little _Hunley_ was found
with her nose buried in the gaping wound in her victim’s hull. Her crew
were dead, but apparently the officer was saved.

Other submarines or partly submersible boats were used by the defenders
of the Southern cause. They were usually termed ‘Davids’ because they
were built to sink the Goliaths of the Federal Navy. The _New
Ironsides_, the _Minnesota_, and the _Memphis_ were all damaged as a
result of their operations.

The only weapon of the submerged submarine is the torpedo. The World War
brought no surprise in this direction. For surface work the calibre of
the guns mounted on the disappearing platforms has increased very
considerably. In 1914 a 14–pdr. was considered ample armament. With
added displacement, gun-power has grown enormously. Some German
underwater craft in 1918 carried 5.9–in. guns—that is to say, weapons
larger than those used by many destroyers.

During the past decade torpedoes and submarines have made almost
parallel progress. Of the various types of the former, the Whitehead is
first favourite in the Navies of Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and
Austria-Hungary, while France uses both the Whitehead and the Schneider,
and Germany was exclusively devoted to the Schwartzkopf (Blackhead). The
extreme effective range of each may be taken as from 10,000 to 12,000
yards. The essential difference between a torpedo and the usual run of
naval ammunition for guns is that the torpedo retains its propellant,
while the shell does not. The torpedo is really an explosive submarine
mine forced through the water at a rate varying from 28 knots to 42
knots by twin-screws worked by compressed air engines. Any deviation
from the course is automatically corrected by a gyroscope. Some
torpedoes are now fitted with an apparatus which causes the torpedo to
go in circles should it miss its mark and meet with the wash of passing
ships. There is the added possibility, therefore, that the weapon may
strike a vessel at which it was not aimed when a squadron is proceeding
in line ahead.

To a certain extent the submarine has enabled the torpedo to come into
its own. It is not at all an easy task to hit a rapidly moving ship from
a platform also ploughing the water at a great rate. Among other things
the speed and distance of the opponent have to be taken into
consideration, and the missile aimed ahead of the enemy so that it and
the target shall arrive at a given point at the same moment. The late Mr
Robert Whitehead’s invention, an improvement on that of Commandant
Lupuis, of the Austrian Navy, who had sold his patent to the former, was
tested by the British Admiralty at Sheerness in 1871. Although extremely
crude when compared with its successor of to-day, the sum of £15,000 was
paid for the English rights. It was first put to a practical test in the
Russo-Turkish War of 1877, when Lieutenant Rozhdestvensky, who afterward
suffered defeat at the hands of the Japanese in May 1905, sank a Turkish
warship by its means.

Viscount Jellicoe has told us that the arrival of the submarine led to
certain alterations in strategy. I quote from an interview which the
former First Sea Lord granted to a representative of the Associated
Press in the spring of 1917. Sir John, as he then was, said: “The most
striking feature of the change in our historic naval policy resulting
from the illegal use of submarines, and from the fact that the enemy
surface ships have been driven from the sea, is that we have been
compelled to abandon a definite offensive policy for one which may be
called an offensive defensive, since our only active enemy is the
submarine engaged in piracy and murder.” Mr Winston Churchill, First
Lord of the Admiralty in August 1914, put the matter a little more
bluntly. “But for the submarine and the mine.” he wrote, “the British
Navy would, at the outset of the war, have been able to force the
fighting to an issue on their old battleground—outside the enemy’s
ports.”

This did not mean that every other type of ship had been rendered
obsolete or even obsolescent by the coming of the vessel that can float
on or under the waves. Admiral von Capelle, Secretary of State for the
German Imperial Navy, told the Main Committee of the Reichstag that the
submarine was an “important and effective weapon,” but added that “big
battleships are not wholly indispensable. Their construction depends on
the procedure of other nations.”[5] For instance, the submarine has
emphasized the importance of the torpedo-boat destroyer, which some
seamen thought it would supersede. The T.B.D. has more than maintained
its own. Not only is it useful for acting independently, fighting its
own breed, but as the safeguard of the battleships and battle-cruisers
at sea, and also as the keenest weapon against submarines, the naval
maid-of-all-work has proved extraordinarily efficient.[6]

In the general operations of naval warfare it cannot be said that the
enemy U-boats were particularly successful. In the five battles that
were fought the work of German submarines was negligible so far as
actual fighting was concerned. In two of them, namely Coronel and the
Falklands, they were unrepresented on account of the actions taking
place many thousands of miles from European waters. This limitation of
range of action is a difficulty that time and experiment were beginning
to solve when hostilities came to an abrupt conclusion.

The battles of Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank are profoundly
interesting to the student of War in the Underseas. Sir David Beatty,
who commanded the Battle Cruiser Squadron in the first big naval
engagement in which submarines were used, while admitting that he did
not lose sight of “the risk” from them, says in his dispatch that “our
high speed ... made submarine attack difficult, and the smoothness of
the sea made their detection comparatively easy.” These two antidotes
will be noted by the reader. The same distinguished officer, perched on
the fore-bridge of the _Lion_ in his shirt-sleeves while pursuing the
German Fleet near the Dogger Bank, personally observed the wash of a
periscope on his starboard bow. By turning immediately to port he
entirely upset the calculations of the enemy commander, who was not
afforded a further opportunity to torpedo the flagship. A like manœuvre
defeated a similar projected attack on the _Queen Mary_ in the Bight.
The helm is therefore a third instrument of defence. Apparently the
service rendered by enemy U-boats at these two battles was worthless. If
they fired at all they missed. On the other hand, any attempt to sink
them likewise failed.

In the dispatches on the Battle of Jutland, which a well-known Admiral
tells me were severely edited before publication, there are several
references to enemy submarines, none to our own. The first attempted
attack took place about half an hour after Sir David Beatty had opened
fire, and immediately following the entry of the 5th Battle Squadron
into the fight. The destroyer _Landrail_ sighted a periscope on her port
quarter. With the _Lydiard_ she formed a smoke-screen which “undoubtedly
preserved the battle-cruisers from closer submarine attack.” The light
cruiser _Nottingham_ also reported a submarine to starboard. We are also
informed that “_Fearless_ and the 1st Flotilla were very usefully
employed as a submarine screen during the earlier part of May 31.” The
_Marlborough_, flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney’s First Battle
Squadron, after having been torpedoed—whether by submarine or other
craft is not mentioned—drove off a U-boat attack while proceeding to
harbour for repairs. “The British Fleet,” adds Sir John Jellicoe,
“remained in the proximity of the battlefield and near the line of
approach to German ports until 11 a.m. on June 1, in spite of the
disadvantages of long distances from fleet bases and the danger incurred
in waters adjacent to enemy coasts from submarines and torpedo craft.”
In the British list of enemy vessels put out of action, one submarine
figures as sunk.

Admiral Beatty justly remarks that the German losses were “eloquent
testimony to the very high standard of gunnery and torpedo efficiency of
His Majesty’s ships.” Of the twenty-one vessels lost or severely
damaged, it would appear as though nine were accounted for by torpedoes,
although this does not necessarily mean that they had not been engaged
by gunfire as well. At Dogger Bank, it may be recollected, a torpedo
finally settled the _Blücher_, which had already been rendered _hors de
combat_ by shell fired from more old-fashioned weapons.

The German High Sea Fleet adopted a prolonged attitude of caution after
Jutland, but the All-Highest thought it well to issue an Imperial Order
calculated to inspire the officers and men of the submarine flotillas.
“The impending decisive battle” mentioned in the following message,
which is dated Main Headquarters, 1st February, 1917, evidently refers
to the ‘unlimited’ phase of U-boat warfare and not to a general action,
as one might imagine at first glance. This highly interesting document
runs:

  TO MY NAVY

  In the impending decisive battle the task falls on my Navy of
  turning the English war method of starvation, with which our most
  hated and most obstinate enemy intends to overthrow the German
  people, against him and his Allies by combating their sea traffic
  with all the means in our power.

  In this work the submarine will stand in the first rank. I expect
  that this weapon, technically developed with wise foresight at our
  admirable yards, in co-operation with all our other naval fighting
  weapons, and supported by the spirit which during the whole course
  of the war has enabled us to perform brilliant deeds, will break our
  enemy’s war designs.

                                                               WILHELM

The defensive policy of the Imperial Navy was summed up by a writer in
the _Deutsche Tageszeitung_ seven months after the publication of the
above. “Above all else,” he wrote, “the German High Sea Fleet has
rendered possible the conduct of the submarine war. Without it the enemy
would have threatened our submarine bases and restricted our submarine
warfare, or made it impossible.” It was not a valorous _rôle_ to play,
but there was wisdom in it.

The submarine campaign passed through several phases. In its earliest
stages it was mainly directed by Grand Admiral von Tirpitz, the
predominant personality associated with the growth of the Imperial Navy.
In December 1914 this Bluebeard of the Seas asserted that as England
wished to starve Germany, “we might play the same game and encircle
England, torpedoing every British ship, every ship belonging to the
Allies that approached any British or Scottish port, and thereby cut off
the greater part of England’s food supply.” The ‘game’ was started on
the 18th February, 1915, and enthusiastically applauded throughout the
German Empire. All the waters surrounding the United Kingdom, and “all
English seas,” were declared to be a war area. Every vessel of the
British Mercantile Marine was to be destroyed, “and it will not always
be possible to avoid danger to the crews and passengers thereon.”[7]
Peaceful shipping was warned that there was a possibility of neutrals
being “confused with ships serving warlike purposes” if they ventured
within the danger zone. Great Britain had declared the North Sea a
military area in November 1914, and every care was taken to respect the
rights of neutral shipping. The enemy, on the contrary, speedily showed
utter disregard of international law. The submarine programme was
started before the day advertised for the opening performance.

The sinking of the _Lusitania_ on the 7th May, 1915, with the loss of
1225 lives, showed in no uncertain way that the Germans intended nothing
less than an orgy of cold-blooded devilry. In the following month the
always strident German Navy League stated that the fleet which it had
done so much to bring into being “was not in a position to break the
endless chain of transports carrying munitions in such a manner as
blockade regulations had hitherto required.” To search ships was “in
most cases impossible.” In the same manifesto the sinking of the giant
Cunarder was ‘explained’ by arguing that as submarines had no means to
compel vessels to stop, and there was ammunition on board, sinking
without warning was justified. “Such must continue to be the case, and
the Army has a just claim to this service of the Fleet.”

As a protest against armed traders, the campaign was intensified on the
1st March, 1916. These ships were “not entitled to be regarded as
peaceful merchantmen.” The plain English of the move was that Germany
wanted some kind of excuse for ordering her submarines to sink vessels
at sight. According to her, none other than naval ships had the least
excuse to assume so much as the defensive. In President Wilson’s
so-called _Sussex_ note of the 18th April, 1916, attention is called to
the “relentless and indiscriminate warfare against vessels of commerce
by the use of submarines without regard to what the Government of the
United States must consider the sacred and indisputable rules of
international law and the universally recognized dictates of humanity.”

The third phase was that of “unlimited submarine war,” announced on the
last day of January 1917. “Within the barred zones around Great Britain,
France, Italy, and in the Eastern Mediterranean, all sea traffic will
henceforth be oppressed by all means.” Neutral ships in those areas
would traverse the waters “at their own risk.” To a large extent they
had done so before. Notwithstanding repeated ‘regrets’ and pledges given
by Germany to the United States, murder on the high seas was now to be
an acknowledged weapon of German warfare. It culminated in a declaration
of war on the part of the United States on the 6th April, 1917, by which
time over 230 Americans had lost their lives by the enemy’s illegal
measures. The date is worth remembering; it will loom big in the history
books of to-morrow. Zimmermann, Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs,
had already expressed the opinion that ruthless submarine warfare
promised “to compel England to make peace in a few months.”[8] In this
expectation, as in several others, he miscalculated.

The Lord Chancellor declared that submarine warfare, as carried on by
the enemy, was absolutely illegal by international law, and was mere
piracy.[9] As to mines, which were also greatly favoured by the Huns and
sown by their U-boats, it may be mentioned that such weapons laid to
maintain a general commercial blockade are equally illegal, although
perfectly legitimate outside naval bases. This was a small matter to the
Kaiser and his satellites, who were out to win at any and all costs. No
British mines were placed in position until many weeks after the
declaration of hostilities, although the enemy had scattered them
indiscriminately in the trade routes either before or immediately
following the outbreak of war. When we resorted to the use of mines they
were anchored in all cases, and constructed to become harmless if they
broke loose.

The reply of England and of France to these measures was to stop
supplies from entering Germany by means of a blockade controlled by
cruiser cordon. “The law and custom of nations in regard to attacks on
commerce,” to quote the British Declaration to Neutral Governments,[10]
“have always presumed that the first duty of the captor of a merchant
vessel is to bring it before a Prize Court, where it may be tried, where
the regularity of the capture may be challenged, and where neutrals may
recover their cargoes.” With delicate consideration for the convenience
of neutrals, which some folk held to be wisdom and others lunacy, the
British Government declared their intention “to refrain altogether from
the exercise of the right to confiscate ships or cargoes which
belligerents have always claimed in respect of breaches of blockade.
They restrict their claim to the stopping of cargoes destined for or
coming from the enemy’s territory.”[11]

Much ado was made about the stoppage of food for the civil population of
the Central Empires. It was barbarous, inhuman, and so on. Yet the
principle had been upheld by both Bismarck and Caprivi, and practised at
the siege of Paris. As Sir Edward Grey delightfully put it, this method
of bringing pressure to bear on an enemy country “therefore presumably
is not repugnant to German morality.”[12]

A great deal has been said and written to show that the Prussian
Government was not the German People, that instead of Representation
there was Misrepresentation. It is still extremely difficult to secure
reliable information on any subject connected with intimate Germany, and
the contemporary views of so-called neutrals are often more than
suspect. A study of German newspapers at the time certainly led one to
believe that opposition to the submarine campaign had been more or less
negligible. A change of view only came when the people realized that
ruthlessness did not pay, and it was the business of the British Navy to
demonstrate this—as it did. Meantime the German official accounts of
sinkings were grossly exaggerated, and the nation had no means of
discovering the loss of submarines other than when relatives serving in
them failed to return to their families. There was no one to contradict
the grossly exaggerated statement made by Dr Helfferich, Minister for
the Interior, that in the first two months of unrestricted U-boat
warfare over 1,600,000 tons of shipping had been sunk at the cost of the
loss of a mere half-dozen submarines.[13]

Dr Michaelis, a more noisy sabre-rattler than his predecessor in the
Chancellorship, asserted that “the submarine warfare is accomplishing
all, and more than all, that was expected of it.”[14] Like many other of
his countrymen, to him the crews of the Imperial Pirate Service were
more of the nature of soldiers than of sailors. Certainly their callous
behaviour suggested that they were strangers to the proverbial
comradeship of the sea, and one with the glorious band that hacked a way
through Belgium, drove their bayonets through babies, and crucified
their prisoners. Loud cheers followed the remark that “We can look
forward to the further labours of our brave submarine warriors with
complete confidence,” and also to a reference to greetings sent home to
the Fatherland by “our troops on all fronts on land and sea, in the air
and under the sea.”

As to the thoroughness with which commanders of U-boats performed their
task, there is no need to speak. There is plentiful evidence to prove
that so elementary a duty as that of examining a ship’s papers seldom
interested them. They had no respect for law or life. Witness a case[15]
that has a direct bearing on this matter. It arose in connexion with the
salving of the s.s. _Ambon_, a neutral vessel bound for the Dutch East
Indies, after having been torpedoed on the 21st February, 1916, when
about seven miles off Start Point. A shell was fired from an enemy
submarine. Immediately the engines of the steamship were stopped, a
lifeboat was lowered, and the chief engineer sent off with the ship’s
papers and instructions. The latter included a copy of a telegram from
the owners advising that the steamer was to call at a certain port on a
specified day, in accordance with an agreement between the Dutch and
German Governments. The German commander did not so much as look at the
documents, and peremptorily told the crew to leave the _Ambon_. “My
orders admit of no variation,” he remarked. They were “to sink every
ship in the blockade area.” The steamer was then torpedoed, but did not
founder, and was subsequently towed into Plymouth.

[Illustration:

  Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

  A U-boat gliding, submerged, over her victim.

  Montague Black
]

No reliance whatever could be placed on Germany’s word, as neutrals
early discovered to their cost. Having provided a so-called ‘safe’ zone,
the Dutch steamer _Amsterdam_ was torpedoed within it. At Germany’s own
suggestion, an International Committee, composed of Dutch, Swedish, and
German naval officers, was formed to investigate the circumstances.
Their finding was that the vessel had been sunk in the ‘safe’ zone.

There was a time when the French authorities seemed to be in favour of
the submarine above all other types of naval ships. The result was that
France lost her position in the race for second place in the world’s
fleets, though it is to her credit that in 1888 she launched the
_Gymnote_, the first modern submarine to be commissioned. Nordenfeldt,
of gun fame, had already achieved a certain amount of success with
steam-driven underwater boats, but they had many disadvantages when
compared with those of Mr John P. Holland, who hailed from the same
country as Fulton. The first submarines built for the British Government
were of the Holland type, of 120 tons displacement when submerged, and
having a speed of five knots when travelling below. Germany’s pioneer
U-boat was built in 1890. In 1918 she boasted giant diving cruisers of
5000 tons, with a radius of action of 8000 miles, and mounting 5.9–in.
guns.

As to the vexed question of the number of submarines possessed by Great
Britain and Germany respectively at the beginning of the war, one can
only say that authorities differ. According to an interview granted by
Mr Winston Churchill to M. Hugues le Roux which appeared in _Le Matin_
in the first week of February 1915, we then had more underwater boats
than the enemy, but Lord Jellicoe afterward asserted that in August 1914
“the German Navy possessed a great many more oversea submarines than we
did.”[16] Unless there is a subtle distinction between the general term
used by the then First Lord and the oversea type referred to by the
former Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, it is impossible to
reconcile the two statements, for it is obvious that the leeway
mentioned by the latter cannot have been made up in five months.

According to the Berlin official naval annual _Nautilus_, published in
June 1914, the total number of completed German submarines up to the
previous month was twenty-eight. Commander Carlyon Bellairs, R.N., M.P.,
estimated them at “fifty built, building, and projected.” Austria had
six ready, four under construction at Pola, and five on the stocks in
Germany. In the five years immediately preceding the beginning of the
struggle Germany certainly spent more on underwater craft than Great
Britain, the figure for the former being £5,354,206, and for the latter
£4,159,670.



                               CHAPTER II
                     _Life as a Latter-day Pirate_

“_The unrestricted U-boat war means a very strong naval offensive
against the Entente._”—ADMIRAL VON CAPELLE.


Writing in the early summer of 1915, a neutral who visited the once busy
ports of Danzig, Stettin, Hamburg, and Bremen remarked that “wherever
one goes in these cities, wherever one takes one’s meals, one hears the
word _Unterseeboot_. Amazing, and often untrue, stories are told of the
number of submarines that are being constructed, the size and speed of
the latest ones, and the great number of English ships that have been
sunk, but whose loss has been ‘concealed from the British public.’” The
submarine barometer was Set Fair. It soon dropped to Change.

Within six months the industrious and outspoken Captain Persius was
confessing in the _Berliner Tageblatt_ that “regarding the effectiveness
of our U-boats in the trade war, one hears frequently nowadays views
that bear little resemblance to the views uttered a year ago. Then,
alas, hopes were extravagant, owing to a disregard of facts which the
informed expert, indeed, observed, but which remained concealed from the
layman”—a confession of failure, notwithstanding the offer of
substantial rewards for every merchant vessel sunk, and pensions for
each man in a submarine which destroyed a transport.

Twenty months later Admiral von Scheer asserted that German submarine
losses were more than equalized by new construction. Note the definite
acknowledgment of losses and of the necessity for replacing them. In
April 1918 Admiral von Capelle, Imperial Secretary of State for the
Navy, endeavoured to explain the declining maritime death-rate of the
enemy by assuring the Main Committee of the Reichstag that the average
loss of British ships from submarine attacks alone, during 1917, was
600,000 tons per month. The truth of the matter was that the average
loss from all causes was not more than 333,000 gross tons. According to
an official statement circulated to the German Press on the 4th of the
following June, food conditions in England were “extraordinarily bad,”
because the U-boat campaign was “having the intended result of
constantly diminishing England’s food supply.” In actual fact, the
U-boats were then having a particularly rough time. So far as the German
Independent Socialists were concerned, they did not “look forward with
complete confidence,” as Dr Michaelis had professed to do in July 1917,
“to the further labours of our brave submarine warriors.” Herr Vogtherr,
a member of the party, bluntly remarked that “it cannot be seen that
U-boat warfare has brought peace nearer. Meanwhile we continue to
destroy tonnage which we shall need after the war in order to obtain
necessary raw materials.” As to the latter clause, the British
Mercantile Marine has already had something to say. It lost 14,661
gallant fellows through enemy action.

According to the statement of a member of the crew of the British
destroyer which rammed U 12, some of the prisoners at least were
thankful to be in despised England. They said that the coxswain had been
a North Sea pilot for fifteen years previous to the outbreak of war, and
though the veriest tyro in matters relating to underwater craft, was
compelled to take service, presumably because he was well acquainted
with the east coast of the United Kingdom. The story of crews being
forced with the gentle persuasion of a revolver to board other U-boats
while their own was docked to undergo repairs was not necessarily
exaggerated. There is evidence that on occasion German seamen were shot
for refusing to go on board a submarine. The mate of the Brazilian
steamer _Rio Branco_, when taking the ship’s papers to the commander of
an enemy U-boat, asked a member of the crew what life was like as a
latter-day pirate. He replied in a single word usually taken to denote
eternal misery, and added that although he and his mates would like to
mutiny, opportunity was never afforded them, because they were shot on
the slightest pretext. There is no reason to doubt that crews were sent
to sea with insufficient training, and that their _moral_ steadily
declined as Allied efforts to tackle the foe developed.

With a stoical philosophy which may have been specially intended for
neutral consumption,[17] Lieutenant-Commander Claus Hansen informed the
Kiel representative of the _New York World_ that “We need neither
doctors nor undertakers aboard U 16; if anything goes wrong with our
craft when below no doctor can help; and we carry our coffin with us.”
One can thoroughly appreciate his remark that the work “is fearfully
trying on the nerves. Every man does not stand it.”

The same article also furnishes other interesting particulars of the
life of a modern pirate which bear _prima facie_ evidence of truth. “We
steer entirely by chart and compass,” the commander averred. “As the air
heats it gets poor, and, mixed with odours of oil from machinery, the
atmosphere becomes fearful. An overpowering sleepiness often attacks new
men, who require the utmost will-power to remain awake. Day after day in
such cramped quarters, where there is hardly room to stretch the legs,
where one must be constantly alert, is a tremendous strain on the
nerves. I have sat or stood for eight hours with my eyes glued to the
periscope, peering into the brilliant glass until my eyes and head have
ached. When the crew is worn out, we seek a good sleep and rest under
the water, the boat often rocking gently, with a movement like that of a
cradle. Before ascending I always order silence for several minutes, to
determine whether one can hear any propellers in the vicinity through
the shell-like sides of the submarine, which act like a sounding-board.”

Hansen gave the interviewer to understand that lying dormant many
fathoms deep was not exactly a treat to his crew. “When the weather or
the proximity of the enemy make it necessary to remain down so long that
the air becomes unusually bad, every man except those actually on duty
is ordered to lie down, and to remain absolutely quiet, making no
unnecessary movements, as movement causes the lungs to use more oxygen,
and oxygen must be saved, just as the famished man in the desert tries
to make the most of his last drop of water. As there can be no fire,
because fire burns oxygen, and the electric power from the accumulators
is too precious to be wasted for cooking, we have to dine cold when
cruising.” This chat, it is necessary to add, took place in March 1915.
Since then many improvements have been made in submarines, including
ventilation and roominess.

At this particular period everything possible was being done to arouse
the enthusiasm of the German nation for the Underseas War. Carefully
written articles by naval men, syndicated by official or semi-official
Press bureaux, made their appearance with almost bewildering frequency.
German submarines had found their way to the Dardanelles, a feat
attended by much metaphorical trumpet-blowing and flag-waving. To quote
Captain von Kühlewetter, a devout worshipper at the shrine of Tirpitz:

“The layman can hardly imagine what it means for a craft of only 1000
tons displacement, about 230 feet long and 19 or 20 feet beam at its
widest point, to make with a crew of thirty a trip as far as from
Hamburg to New York. The little vessel can only travel at moderate speed
in order that the petrol may last. It is always ready to meet the enemy
without help of any kind on a journey through hostile waters for the
entire distance. And these submarines did meet the enemy often.”

There is a charming _naïveté_ about the narrative of a U-boat man who
spent some time reconnoitring the coast of Scotland. His vessel left her
base in company with several others, including U 15, which failed to
return. “She fell before the enemy” is his pathetic little epitaph to
her memory. Each of the ten days spent on the trip was divided into four
shifts for alternate sleep and work. For variety there was “a little
while under, a little while on top.” The only sensational phase of the
cruise appears to have been when “one after another had to leave his
place for a minute and take a peep through the periscope. It was the
prettiest picture I ever saw. Up there, like a flock of peaceful lambs,
lay an English squadron without a care, as if there were no German
sea-wolves in armoured clothing. For two hours we lay there under water
on the outposts. We could with certainty have succeeded in bringing
under a big cruiser, but we must not. We were on patrol. Our boat had
other work to do. It was a lot to expect from our commander. So near to
the enemy, and the torpedo must remain in its tube! He must have felt
like a hunter who, before deer-stalking begins, suddenly sights a fine
buck thirty paces in front of him.”

The reference to British cruisers resembling peaceful lambs is
delicious. The writer seems to have forgotten that so far as ‘armoured
clothing’ goes they are considerably better provided than the toughest
submarine afloat. And what kind of a wolf was it to let such easy prey
escape? One surmises a reason connected with the British patrol rather
than with its German counterfeit.

An American sailor-boy was taken on board U 39 after that submarine had
torpedoed his ship. The lad afterward characterized the unenviable
experience as “a dog’s life in a steel can,” accompanied by a constant
succession of rings of the gong that sent every member to his appointed
station as though the Last Trump had blown. The usual menu was stew and
coffee, the liquid refreshment being varied on occasion by the
substitution of raspberry juice.

Three captains—a Briton, an American, and a Norwegian—were made
prisoners on U 49. For days they were confined in a tiny cabin
containing three bunks. They took turns in the solitary chair that was
the only furniture other than a folding table. As no light was allowed,
conversation and change of position were their only occupations. They
found plenty to talk about, but even desultory chatter becomes irksome
when it is centred around the topic, What will happen? Still, misery
loves company, even if it does not appreciate cramp. The prisoners were
kept in this Dark Hole of the Underseas except for occasional airings on
deck when the craft was running awash and there was ‘nothin’ doin’’ in
the piracy or anti-piracy line. Even then they were closely watched by
armed guards. Their rations consisted of an unpalatable concoction
called stew, black bread, rancid butter, and alleged marmalade, any one
of which might have been guaranteed to engender _mal de mer_.

When off the coast of Spain the commander of U 49 hailed a Swedish
steamer. The captain must have been deeply relieved when he found that
his services were merely required as temporary gaoler. He was
peremptorily told to take charge of the prisoners, and land them in the
neighbourhood of Camarina. Neither ship nor cargo was interfered with.
Never were mariners more pleased to set foot on solid earth.

This particular barbarian was not quite so callous as the presiding
genius of U 34. Four of the crew of the trawler _Victoria_, of Milford,
which he had sunk, were picked up by the submarine. Six of their
comrades had passed to where there is no sea, and required no favours
from enemy or friend. As though they were not sufficiently well
acquainted with the ways of U 34, the survivors were summoned on deck
the following morning to receive a further object-lesson in humanity as
the Hun understands it. They were compelled to watch the death and
burial of a Cardiff trawler. “England,” explained one of the German
officers, “began the war, and we shall sink every ship we see flying the
British flag.” When the latest victim of U 34 had gone to her watery
grave, the men were given a handful of biscuits, placed in a boat, and
left to the mercy of the sea.

Apparently U-boats were not keen on fine weather. “A smooth sea and a
lull in the wind are very disagreeable for U-boats,” said Dr Helfferich,
the Vice-Chancellor, “especially in view of the enemy’s defensive
measures, particularly as regards aircraft. Some U-boat commanders are
of opinion that U-boat warfare can be carried on with still better
results when the weather is not too fine and the nights are longer.”

A certain submarine left her lair at Zeebrugge a few days before
Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes and his band of heroes gave an enforced
holiday to those that remained. She had not proceeded any great distance
before she encountered a mine. It did not completely put her ‘out of
mess,’ but sent her staggering backward in inky darkness to the bottom.
The electric light had failed with the quickness of a candle meeting a
sudden draught. To restore the current was obviously the first thing to
do. It was not easy working with the aid of torches, the boat tipped up
on end, her stern buried deep in the bed of the sea. Primitive man, his
tail not yet worn off, would have fared better. Eventually the supply
was restored, and it became possible to make a more thorough survey of
the damage. The engineers found that the shock had paralysed the nervous
system of the machinery. Not only was the boat leaking badly, but the
pumps refused to blow out the ballast tanks.

On an even keel the problem would be easier to tackle. The men were
therefore ordered to assemble in the stern and rush forward on the word
of command. Their combined movement had the desired effect. Slowly the
extra weight in the bow caused the ooze to loose its grip. The submarine
sank down with languid grace. There was now nothing to hamper movement.
Each member of the crew had a pair of hands ready for service instead of
having to employ one for the purpose of hanging on.

The engineers tried to start the motors. They refused to budge.
Sea-water found its way into the accumulators, adding a further terror
to the overwrought men by the introduction of poison gas in an
atmosphere already charged with death. Pirates might laugh when they saw
British sailors struggling for life in icy water, might derive
entertainment from shelling frail craft laden to the gunwale with
survivors from ships sunk in pursuance of the German cult of
frightfulness, but they failed to appreciate the humour of the situation
when they were the victims and the tragedy was enacted 100 feet beneath
the surface. The traditional Nero would never have fiddled had he felt
the scorch of the flames that burnt Rome. There is little enough of the
alleged glory of war in being trapped like a rat. Much of its glamour in
any circumstance is imaginary, and exists chiefly in the minds of
scribblers. This is not pacificism, but fact.

The sea mounted higher and higher in the lonely prison cell. Officers
and crew tried to staunch the inflow, to stop the leaks with tow and
other likely material. These devices held for a little, then burst away.
Some sought to make their escape through the conning-tower, as Goodhart
of the British Navy had done;[18] others tried to force a way out _via_
the torpedo-tubes. Bolts were wrenched off, fastenings filed through.
The doors held firm. The mighty efforts of the men met with no reward.
They fell back exhausted and covered with sweat. The pressure from
without would have thwarted a score of Samsons. The hatches remained
immovable.

They read the handwriting on the curved walls of their prison: “No
hope!” The crew must have cursed the Hohenzollerns then. Despair robbed
them of reason. One fellow went mad, then another, followed by a third.
A man plunged into the water, now up to his knees. His overwrought brain
could stand the terrible strain no longer. He drowned in two feet of
water. Nobody moved to pull him out. The place became a Bedlam. A
comrade tried to shoot himself. The revolver merely clicked. In a
passion of rage he flung both weapon and himself into the rising flood.
Death was the most desired of all things.

A plate burst, letting in a Niagara. The swirl of waters increased the
pressure of air against the hatches. One of them burst open. Those who
remained alive were carried off their feet and hurled through the
aperture. The blind forces of Nature succeeded where man had failed. A
mangled mass of human flotsam was flung to the surface. Two maimed
bodies alone had life in them when a British trawler steamed by. A boat
was lowered, the half-dead forms fished out of the sea. Then the enemy,
potential victims of these men but an hour before, did what they could
to alleviate their agony. That is the spirit and the tradition of the
British Sea Service, though the sufferer be the Devil himself.

A survivor of a neutral ship blown up by a U-boat, who was kept swimming
about for ten minutes before being rescued because the officers wanted
to take some snap-shots, avowed that he and his mates were compelled to
lend a hand with the ammunition. That was the Huns’ method of making
them pay their way. Their ‘dungeon,’ to quote the narrator, was
“furnished with tubes, pressure gauges, flywheels, torpedoes, and the
floor paved with shells.” The life he characterized as “monotonous.”
During their stay of twelve days five vessels were sunk.

As “a recognition of meritorious work during the war” the Kaiser created
a special decoration for officers, petty officers, and crews of
submarines on the completion of their third voyage. That did not make
them any the more enamoured of mines and _wasserbomben_.



                              CHAPTER III
                     _Germany’s Submersible Fleet_

“_The submarine is the hunted to-day._”—SIR ERIC GEDDES.


In the first phase of the Underseas War torpedoes were the favourite
weapons of the U-boat. The work was done more effectively and quicker
than was possible with the comparatively small guns then mounted. Later,
the number of ships attacked by shellfire rapidly increased. This was
due to several reasons. The second method of attack was considerably
less expensive, for a torpedo costs anything from £750 to £1000.
Comparatively few merchant vessels had any means of defence, for ramming
was seldom practicable, and other dodges, such as obscuring the vessel
by voluminous smoke from the funnels, and steering stern on, thus
presenting a relatively small target, were equally uncertain. Altogether
the submarine had things very much her own way. She could carry an
augmented provision of ammunition, and the difficulties of supply were
more easily met. It takes longer to make a torpedo than to turn a shell;
to train a torpedo expert than a gunner. If no British patrol were at
hand, the German commander could safely risk waging war on the surface.
He did not have to return to his base so frequently for the purpose of
replenishing empty magazines, and he was saving money for the dear
Fatherland. With increasing range of action the necessity for conserving
torpedoes became more pronounced. The menace grew to such proportions in
the Mediterranean that it was found necessary to send vessels by the
long Cape route instead of _via_ the Suez Canal.

When slow-moving John Bull at last bestirred himself and decided to arm
merchantmen, the risks of an exposed U-boat were considerably increased.
The torpedo again came into her own. As Mr Winston Churchill told the
House of Commons,[19] “the effect of putting guns on a merchant ship is
to drive the submarine to abandon the use of the gun, to lose its
surface speed, and to fall back on the much slower speed under water and
the use of the torpedo. The torpedo, compared with the gun, is a weapon
of much more limited application.”

Germany’s maritime faith being based on the U-boat, despite the Kaiser’s
dictum that “our future lies on the water,” many keen scientific brains
there had a part in its recent evolution. Whereas in 1914 the latest
type, such as U 30, could travel 300 miles submerged or 3500 miles
entirely on the surface—the latter trip an impossibility, of course,
with the British Navy in being—at least 8800 miles were traversed by the
submarine which in 1918 bombarded Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, on
the west coast of Africa. This is assuming that she returned to her home
port in Europe.

The following table, in which round figures are used, will help us to
appraise Germany’s progress in the construction of U-boats previous to
the outbreak of hostilities. It is based on what is considered to be
reliable evidence, although the difficulty of obtaining accurate figures
will be appreciated. I shall refer to the larger types later.

  U 1 (1905).—Submerged displacement, 236 tons. Surface engines, 250
  H.P.; electric motors, 100 H.P. Speed, 10 knots on surface, 7 knots
  submerged. Surface range, from 700 to 800 miles. Armament, one
  torpedo-tube in bow. Complement, nine officers and men.

  U 2–U 8 (1907–10).—Submerged displacement, 250 tons. Surface
  engines, 400 H.P.; electric motors, 160 H.P. Speed, 12 knots on
  surface, 8 knots submerged. Surface range, 1000 miles. Armament, two
  torpedo-tubes in bow. Fitted with submarine signalling apparatus.
  Complement, eleven officers and men.

  U 9–U 18 (1910–12).—Submerged displacement, 300 tons. Surface
  engines, 600 H.P. Speed, 13 knots on surface, 8 knots submerged.
  Surface range, 1500 miles. Armament, two torpedo-tubes in bow, one
  torpedo-tube in stern. With U 13 anti-aircraft weapons were
  introduced.

  U 19–U 20 (1912–13).—Submerged displacement, 450 tons. Surface
  engines, 650 H.P.; electric motors, 300 H.P. Speed, 13½ knots on
  surface, 8 knots submerged. Surface range, 2000 miles. Armament, two
  torpedo-tubes in bow, one torpedo-tube in stern, two 14–pdr. Q.F.
  guns. Complement, seventeen officers and men.

  U 21–U 24 (1912–13).—Submerged displacement, 800 tons. Surface
  engines, 1200 H.P.; electric motors, 500 H.P. Speed, 14 knots on
  surface, 9 knots submerged. Surface range, 3000 miles. Armament, two
  torpedo-tubes in bow, two torpedo-tubes in stern, one 14–pdr. Q.F.
  gun, two 1–pdr. anti-aircraft guns. Complement, twenty-five officers
  and men.

[Illustration:

  The Interior of a German Submarine

  Showing the internal combustion engines for surface work, and the
    motor-generators for driving the propellers when submerged.
]

  U 25–U 30 (1913–14).—Submerged displacement, 900 tons. Surface
  engines, 2000 H.P.; electric motors, 900 H.P. Speed, 18 knots on
  surface, 10 knots submerged. Surface range, 4000 miles. Submerged
  range, 300 miles. Armament, two torpedo-tubes in bow, two
  torpedo-tubes in stern, two 14–pdr. Q.F. guns, two 1–pdr.
  anti-aircraft guns. Complement, thirty to thirty-five officers and
  men. Upper works lightly armoured. Fitted with wireless.

German U-boats are really submersibles. That is to say, the outer shell
conforms to the shape of an ordinary ship, with a broad deck, whereas
British submarines resemble a fat cigar. Internally they are
cylindrical, the space intervening between the compartments and the
shell affording accommodation for the ballast tanks. The theory is that
vessels built to this design are more seaworthy and easier to handle.
U 36, which was building when war broke out, was divided into ten
compartments, below which were the steel cylinders containing compressed
air for freshening the atmosphere, oil fuel, lubricating oil, and
water-ballast tanks, and the accumulators for driving the dynamos when
travelling beneath the surface. The officers’ combined ward-room and
sleeping quarters were for’ard, immediately behind the bow torpedo
compartment. Adjoining were the crew’s quarters, divided by a steel
bulkhead from the control chamber, situated below the conning-tower. In
the control chamber the steering wheel, periscope, projection table on
which a surface view was thrown after the manner of a camera obscura,
water-pressure dial, and other delicate and necessary instruments for
the safety and navigation of the ship were distributed. Proceeding
toward the stern, the petty officers’ quarters, the machine-room with
its heavy oil engines for surface work and electric motors for
progression when submerged, and the stern torpedo compartment were to be
found. U 36 was one of the “new Super-Dreadnought submarines,” to quote
an American correspondent who saw them under construction at Kiel. On
these, he added, “the Germans appear to be banking.”

The autumn of 1915 witnessed the introduction of mine-laying
submersibles. The trotyl-filled cylinders were dropped on recognized
trade routes without the slightest regard for the rights of neutrals.
The mines were kept in a special chamber, ingeniously contrived so that
it could be flooded without the water entering elsewhere, and released
through a trap-door. Thus another weapon was added to the submarine’s
armoury. It answered all too well. “They can follow your mine-sweeper,”
said Sir Edward Carson, “and as quickly as you sweep up mines they can
lay new ones without your knowing or suspecting.” In 1914 the enemy had
only one means of sowing these canisters of death, namely, by surface
vessels. It will be recollected that the _Königin Luise_ was sunk in the
North Sea on the morning of the 5th August while on this hazardous duty.
Germany’s opportunity for hurting us in this manner was of short
duration. The British Navy asserted itself, with the result that the
enemy was perforce compelled to find a new method. He resorted to the
use of specially fitted submarines.

In due course 4.1–in. guns, mounted on disappearing platforms, made
their _début_, followed by U-boats provided with two 5.9–in. guns. With
increase of gun-power came a necessary increase in size, and with both
several distinct advantages and disadvantages. The boats were less easy
to manœuvre, required augmented crews, and offered a larger area for
attack. Against these minus qualities must be set those of increase of
cruising range, and the possibility of spoil, the sole excuse of the
old-time pirate. Hitherto his more scientific successor could only sink
his victim. Now, given favourable conditions, he might carry off goods
useful to the Fatherland. One German U-boat secured twenty-two tons of
copper from merchantmen destroyed during a 5000–mile cruise.

Germany waxed particularly enthusiastic over her diving cruisers. These
boats displaced 5000 tons, were from 350 feet to 400 feet long, had a
much accelerated submerged and surface speed, were protected by an
armour belt of tough steel plate, and mounted a couple of 5.9–in. guns.
Some of these submersibles seem to have been driven by steam when in
surface trim, others by the usual Diesel engines. On the 11th May, 1918,
a British Atlantic escort submarine came across one of these fine
fellows travelling awash, likely enough anxious to have a shot at the
merchant convoy which the representative of His Majesty’s Navy was on
her way to pick up. A heavy sea was running at the time, but at
intervals between the waves the periscope revealed the position of his
rival to the British commander. One torpedo sufficed. The _Tauchkreuzer_
went down, carrying with her the sixty or seventy men who constituted
her company. There were no survivors. She had the distinction of being
the first of the type to be destroyed.

Germany’s merchant service, prizes of war, or driven off the seven seas
and growing barnacles in neutral or home ports, virtually ceased to
exist at the outbreak of hostilities. The mammoth liners which formerly
competed with our own no longer sailed the seas with their holds full of
cheap goods and their saloons alive with travellers bent on ‘peaceful
penetration’—and other things. It rankled in the bosoms of her shipping
magnates that the much-vaunted High Sea Fleet was impotent to prevent
Britain ‘carrying on’ commercially while conducting campaigns in all
parts of the world. It was true that Germany’s U-boats were making
inroads on the maritime resources of her enemy, that when hostilities
were over they might compete on more than even terms because of these
losses, but to-day rankled though to-morrow was full of hope. Likewise
the Economic Conference in Paris had declared its firm intention to
impose special conditions on German shipping after the war. _After_ the
war! The Director-General of the North German Lloyd Line said that the
English were not so unpractical as to reject a favourable freightage or
passage.

I cannot give you the name of the man or woman who first suggested the
possibilities of the submarine for business purposes. The idea was
certainly not a particularly novel one. All I can say definitely is that
the concern which owned the pioneer vessels was called the Ocean
Navigation Company, and that the president was Herr Alfred Lohmann. If
British merchantmen could use American ports, why not German commercial
submarines? The _Deutschland_ was built with this object in view.
Officially she was described as “a vessel engaged in the freight trade
between Bremen and Boston and other Eastern Atlantic ports.”

She left Heligoland on the 23rd June, 1916, and arrived at Norfolk News,
Virginia, seventeen days later. The German Press quite naturally went
into ecstasies over the achievement. Yet it was not quite such a unique
event as they imagined. Ten submarines built in Montreal had crossed the
Atlantic nine months before. The _Deutschland_ duly discharged her
cargo, stayed three weeks or so, and returned to Germany. The Kaiser
showed his pleasure by conferring decorations on Herr Lohmann and the
crew. Germany was again a maritime nation—of sorts.

The submersible had travelled no fewer than 8500 nautical miles. She
made a second voyage to America in October. This time her port of
arrival was New London, Connecticut. When starting on her return journey
she managed to get in collision with one of the escorting tugs, which
sank with the loss of seven of her crew. The _Deutschland_ was the
pioneer of seven similar boats said to be in course of construction. A
sister vessel, the _Bremen_, was launched and started on a voyage. She
is now some two years overdue.

Official Germany revealed no great faith in the possibilities of the
commercial submarine, though this does not necessarily mean that the
autocrats of the Wilhelmstrasse showed their real belief. It sometimes
suited them to lie. According to the _Frankfurter Zeitung_, £15,000,000
per annum was earmarked for the fostering of Germany’s moribund merchant
service in the next decade.

In October 1916 the depredations of U 53 off the American coast were
hailed by the population of Berlin and other German towns as a sure
prelude to peace. She was the first armed U-boat to cross the Atlantic,
but the German nation saw her multiplied by scores, if not by hundreds.
Many optimistic folk held the belief, based on the wonderful tales that
were told of huge Allied shipping losses, that the war would be over
before the dawn of a new year. Britons are not the only people who have
hugged delusions. After having put in at Newport News for a few hours
and been visited by various notabilities, U 53 took up a position off
the Nantucket Lightship, so well known to all Atlantic voyagers. She
then calmly proceeded to sink half a dozen ships—British, Dutch, and
Norwegian—under the nose of U.S. destroyers. According to accounts that
were published in American newspapers at the time, the submersible had
four torpedo-tubes, one 4–in. gun forward and one 3–in. gun aft, three
periscopes, wireless apparatus, and engines of 1200 h.p. that enabled
her to travel on the surface at eighteen knots. Her submerged speed was
understood to be some four knots less.

U-boats were built at the Vulkan and Blohm and Voss shipyards of
Hamburg; at Hoboken, in the former yards of the Société John
Cockerill;[20] at Puers, near Termonde; and at the great naval bases of
Kiel and Wilhelmshaven. Here the parts were assembled, for it is fairly
evident that the thousand and one units of a modern submersible were
constructed on many lathes in many parts of the Fatherland. For example,
it is believed that UC 5, the small mine-layer of 200 tons displacement
captured by the British Navy and exhibited off the Thames Embankment,
was brought in sections to Zeebrugge and put together there.

When German liners were compelled to keep in American ports owing to the
pressure of British sea-power, there seemed not the slightest likelihood
that the United States would become an active participant in the war. In
1917 these selfsame steamers were traversing 3000 miles of ocean with
armed tourists bound for Germany, giving the lie direct to the Imperial
Chancellor’s hopeful message that Uncle Sam could not “send and maintain
an army in Europe without injuring the transport and supply of the
existing Entente armies and jeopardizing the feeding of the Entente
people.” The mercantile marine of the United States is small, but with
the aid of former German vessels and British ships her troops defied the
submarine menace and were landed by the hundred thousand in France as
America’s splendid contribution toward the liberation of the world. The
spectacular appearance of the _Deutschland_ and U 53 fade into
insignificance before this amazing triumph.

Speaking at a luncheon given in London[21] in honour of American Press
representatives visiting England, Vice-Admiral Sims remarked that some
of his countrymen regarded it as a miracle of their Navy that it had got
a million and a half troops across the Atlantic in a few months and had
protected them on the way. “We didn’t do that,” he avowed. “Great
Britain did. She brought over two-thirds of them and escorted a half. We
escort only one-third of the merchant vessels that come here.”

America has been most generous in her appreciation of the part played by
Britain in the war.



                               CHAPTER IV
                         _Pygmies among Giants_

  “_This is the first time since the Creation that all the world has
  been obliged to unite to crush the Devil._”—RUDYARD KIPLING.


Two weeks after the declaration of war Count von Reventlow was
cock-a-hoop regarding the “attitude of reserve” of what he was kind
enough to term the “alleged sea-commanding Fleet of the greatest naval
Power in the world.” “This fleet,” he asserted, “has now been lying idle
for more than a fortnight, so far from the German coast that no cruiser
and no German lightship has been able to discover it, and it is
repeatedly declared officially, ‘German waters are free of the enemy.’”

Whether the Count was aware of the fact or not, British submarines were
watching in the vicinity of the ironclad fortress of Heligoland three
hours after hostilities had begun. Had the High Sea Fleet ventured out
it would have been greeted with anything but an “attitude of reserve,”
as part of it found to its cost on the 28th August, 1914. The initiative
on that splendid occasion was taken by the British, who compelled the
enemy to give battle by means of a delightful little ruse in which
submarines not only played the leading part, but had “supplied the
information on which these operations were based.”

At midnight on the 26th August Commodore Roger Keyes hoisted his broad
pennant on the _Lurcher_, a small T.B.D. of only 765 tons, and
accompanied by the _Firedrake_, of similar displacement, escorted eight
submarines to sea. On the night of the 27th the vessels parted company,
the submarines to take up positions preparatory to the following day’s
work. Destroyer flotillas, the Battle Cruiser Squadron, the First Light
Cruiser Squadron, and the Seventh Cruiser Squadron also left their
various bases and made toward the Bight.

At dawn the _Lurcher_ and the _Firedrake_ carefully searched for U-boats
the area that would be traversed by the battle-cruisers in the
succeeding operations, and then began to spread the net into which it
was hoped the Germans would fall. E 6, E 7, and E 8, travelling awash,
proceeded in the direction of Heligoland, the destroyers following at
some distance. They were “exposing themselves with the object of
inducing the enemy to chase them to the westward.” In this decoy work
the submarines were eminently successful. In the ensuing action they
played no active part. “On approaching Heligoland,” to quote the
Commodore’s dispatch, “the visibility, which had been very good to
seaward, reduced to 5000 to 6000 yards, and this added considerably to
the anxieties and responsibilities of the Commanding Officers of
Submarines, who handled their vessels with coolness and judgment in an
area which was necessarily occupied by friends as well as foes. Low
visibility and calm sea are the most unfavourable conditions under which
Submarines can operate, and no opportunity occurred of closing with the
Enemy’s Cruisers to within torpedo range.” The German U-boats were no
more fortunate. Three of them attacked the Battle Cruiser Squadron
before it was engaged, to be frustrated by rapid manœuvring and the
attention of four destroyers. The use of the helm also saved the _Queen
Mary_ and the _Lowestoft_ during the battle.

The most enthralling incident in the fight centres around E 4, whose
commander witnessed the sinking of the German torpedo-boat U 187 through
his periscope. British destroyers immediately lowered their boats to
pick up survivors. They were rewarded by salvoes from a cruiser.
Lieutenant-Commander Ernest W. Leir prepared to torpedo the vessel, but
before he could do so she had altered course and got out of range.
Having covered the retirement of the destroyers, he went to the rescue
of the boats, which had necessarily been abandoned. The story of what
followed is well told by a lieutenant in a letter to the _Morning Post_.

“The _Defender_,” he writes, “having sunk an enemy, lowered a whaler to
pick up her swimming survivors; before the whaler got back an enemy’s
cruiser came up and chased the _Defender_, and thus she abandoned her
whaler. Imagine their feelings; alone in an open boat without food;
twenty-five miles from the nearest land, and that land the enemy’s
fortress, with nothing but fog and foes around them. Suddenly a whirl
alongside, and up, if you please, pops His Britannic Majesty’s submarine
E 4, opens his conning-tower, takes them all on board, shuts up again,
dives, and brings them home 250 miles! Is not that magnificent? No
novelist would dare face the critics with an episode like that in his
book, except, perhaps, Jules Verne; and all true!”

Another survivor asserts that while he was in the whaler about two
hundred shells burst within twenty yards without doing the slightest
damage to the company. A lieutenant and nine men of the _Defender_ were
stowed below in E 4, while a German officer, six unwounded men, and
twenty-six others who had sustained injuries of various kinds were
provided with water, biscuit, and a compass, and told to make for land.
A German officer and two A.B.s were taken prisoners of war.
“Lieutenant-Commander Leir’s action,” the Commodore justly remarks, “in
remaining on the surface in the vicinity of the enemy, and in a
visibility that would have placed his vessel within easy gun range of an
enemy appearing out of the mist, was altogether admirable.” The enemy
suffered the loss of three cruisers and a destroyer, and one cruiser and
at least seven torpedo-boats were badly mauled.

Reference has already been made to the running fight in the North Sea on
the 24th of the following January, when Sir David Beatty very
effectively prevented a raid on the North-east Coast, and to the Battle
of Jutland.[22] The former affair, characterized by the Germans as
having been broken off by the British, and in which they sank a
hypothetical battle-cruiser, ended in the loss of the _Blücher_ and
serious damage to two other enemy battle-cruisers. The enemy squadron
escaped because Sir David Beatty had chased them to the verge of “an
area where danger from German submarines and mines prevented further
pursuit.” The Germans were so keen on meeting the hated British that
they sheered off immediately they sighted our ships and laid a straight
course for home. Although the _Lion_ and the destroyer _Meteor_ were
disabled, they reached harbour safely and the necessary repairs were
speedily effected.

These are some of the high lights of a picture which has in it many dark
and sombre shadows. Enemy submarines exacted a heavy toll of the British
Navy. It would be a tedious business to detail the loss of every
man-of-war lost by enemy action. Casualty lists make uncongenial
reading, but it is well to bear in mind that Germany’s campaign was not
entirely devoted to commerce-destroying. I shall therefore deal with
some of the more outstanding triumphs of her attempt to control the
Empire of the Ocean from below before dealing with the victories of her
British rivals in the Realm of the Underseas.

H.M.S. _Pathfinder_ was the first naval vessel to be lost by submarine
action in the Great War. When the news was given to the public, it was
announced that this fast light cruiser of 2700 tons had struck a mine
“about twenty miles off the East Coast,” a geographical expression
conveying the minimum of information. The intimation sent to relatives
of those who lost their lives stated that the ship had been sunk by a
submarine, which was the case. The discrepancy in the two statements was
due to a belief that the _Pathfinder_ had been blown up in the manner
originally described. Subsequent investigation proved this to be
incorrect. It was not contradicted at once because the Admiralty held
that possibly the intelligence might hamper operations for catching the
offender. It must have occurred to many people, however, that a notice
issued shortly after the original _communiqué_, that all aids to
navigation on the East Coast of England and Scotland were liable to be
removed, was more or less connected with the loss of the cruiser and the
presence of enemy submarines. When letters from survivors began to
appear in the newspapers it was clear that a torpedo had caused the loss
of the ship, which foundered twelve miles north of St Abb’s Head,
Berwickshire. The approach of the weapon was observed by some of those
on board, and the order was given for the engines to be stopped and
reversed. It was too late. The explosion took place close to the bridge,
causing the magazine to blow up.

“I saw a flash” says a survivor, “and the ship seemed to lift right out
of the water. Down went the mast and forward funnel and fore part of the
ship, and all the men there must have been blown to atoms.” When the
order to man the boats was given it was found that only one boat was
left whole; it capsized on reaching the water. Nothing could be done to
save the _Pathfinder_, now partly on fire and _in extremis_. The
death-knell of hope rang out sharp and clear: “Every man for himself.”
Officers and crew jumped overboard and made for anything floatable that
had been flung adrift by the explosion or thrown out by the men
themselves when the last dread order had been given. Wonderful work was
done by a lieutenant and a chief petty officer. Both of them powerful
swimmers, they paddled about collecting wreckage, and pushing it toward
those in need of help. One of the most miraculous escapes was that of
Staff-Surgeon T. A. Smyth, who got jammed beneath a gun, was carried
down with the ship, and escaped with a few bruises.

The dramatic swiftness attending the loss of the _Aboukir_, the _Hogue_,
and the _Cressy_ accentuated the ruthless nature of the sea campaign in
the public mind. The three armoured cruisers were struck down within an
hour by the same submarine. They were patrolling in company, and two of
them were lost while going to the assistance of the _Aboukir_, which was
believed to have struck a mine.

Sixty officers and over 1400 men, many of them reservists, perished as a
sequel to Otto Weddigen’s prowess and their own humanity, or more than
the total British losses at the battles of the Glorious First of June,
St Vincent, the Nile, and Trafalgar. From a naval point of view the loss
of the ships was unimportant. One is apt to forget that men-of-war have
often a floating population equal to many a place in the United Kingdom
which prides itself on being called a town. If several hundred
inhabitants of such a spot were wiped out in a few minutes it would be
regarded as a terrible happening. The tragedy of the affair would come
home to us because a similar thing might occur where we live. Yet often
enough a naval disaster arouses nothing more than scant sympathy and a
mere comment. During the Great War those at sea in our big ships faced
such disasters every hour of every day and every night.

Fortunately the _Aboukir_, the _Hogue_, and the _Cressy_ did not
constitute the “British North Sea Fleet,” as ultra-patriotic German
newspapers inferred. According to his own statement, the commander of
U 9 was eighteen nautical miles to the north-west of the Hook of Holland
when he first sighted the cruisers, time 6.10 a.m. The vessels were
proceeding slowly in line ahead, and the first torpedo struck the
_Aboukir_, which was the middle ship. The reverberations of the
explosion could be felt in the submarine, for “the shot had gone
straight and true.” The _Aboukir’s_ consorts closed on her, intent on
offering assistance, but, as Weddigen points out, this was playing his
game. They were torpedoed in rapid succession. “I had scarcely to move
out of my position, which was a great aid, since it helped to keep me
from detection.” One shot from the _Cressy_, he adds, “came unpleasantly
near to us.” The commander pays a generous tribute to his foes: “They
were brave, true to their country’s sea traditions.” In one thing only
was he unsuccessful. The cruisers were unattended by a covering force of
destroyers, but while U 9 was returning to her lair he came across some
of these vessels. By exposing his periscope at intervals Weddigen hoped
to entice them into a zone where capture or destruction by German
warships was probable. Although the destroyers failed to put an end to
his career, he likewise failed to get the flies into the spider’s
parlour.

The Admiralty held that the commanders of the _Hogue_ and the _Cressy_
committed a pardonable error of judgment, and noted that “the conditions
which prevail when one vessel of a squadron is injured in a mine-field
or is exposed to submarine attack are analogous to those which occur in
an action, and that the rule of leaving disabled ships to their own
resources is applicable, so far at any rate as large vessels are
concerned.”

The _Hawke_, a cruiser of 7350 tons, with an armament of two 9.2–in.,
ten 6–in., twelve 6–pdr., and five 3–pdr. guns, plus two 18–in.
submerged torpedo-tubes, was characterized by some of those in the
Service as an unlucky ship. She had collided with the White Star liner
_Olympic_ when that vessel was on her maiden voyage, an incident deemed
quite sufficient to justify sinister prophecies of an untimely end. On
that occasion she lost her ram, which was replaced by a straight stem.
On the 15th October, 1914, when the war was only a little over two
months old, she was torpedoed by U 29, with the loss of some three
hundred officers and men. Her enemies were subsequently decorated with
the Iron Cross at the hands of the Crown Princess.

H.M.S. _Theseus_, a vessel of the same class which was patrolling with
the _Hawke_ in northern waters at the time, was attacked first, but
managed to escape. The submarine then aimed at the _Hawke_, hitting her
amidships on the starboard side aft of the fore funnel, and probably
blowing up the magazine, as in the case of the _Pathfinder_. She settled
very rapidly, “at God knows what angle,” according to an eye-witness.
She had nearly a hundred watertight doors, but even they can buckle and
jam, and are not explosive-proof. When the order was given to abandon
ship a few of the crew managed to get into one of the boats, while about
forty others scrambled on to a raft. Commander Bernhard Pratt-Barlow was
of the company. “There are too many on this raft,” he remarked, “I will
swim to another.” He dived in, but was never seen again. It was merely
prolonging the agony for most of those who remained. Before night many
of the poor fellows had succumbed to exposure and the bitter cold. After
being on the raft for twenty-three hours the survivors were picked up by
a destroyer, and after recovery proceeded to Portsmouth for a new kit.
The last seven words epitomize the splendid spirit of the British Navy.

The _Hermes_, an old cruiser used as a sea-plane-carrying ship, was sunk
in the Straits of Dover in October 1914, while returning from Dunkirk.
She was the victim of two torpedoes fired by a U-boat. The sea was
choppy, which may account for the submarine’s escape, for she was not
seen. As the _Hermes_ was near the warships engaged in bombarding the
Dunes in support of the Belgians, it is more than likely that the enemy
vessel had been hopeful of catching larger fry, an expectation which did
not materialize. One sailor who endeavoured to make himself more or less
comfortable on an upturned table was asked if he was training for the
next Derby, while two fellows in similar straits informed their friends
in the water that they were Oxford and Cambridge. The _Hermes_ must have
been what is called a ‘matey’ ship. The majority of her company were
saved.

Another loss to the Navy in 1914 was the _Niger_, a torpedo gunboat
built in 1892 and sister ship to the _Speedy_, mined on the 3rd
September.

The little vessel of 810 tons was torpedoed while on patrol duty by the
first U-boat which succeeded in dealing destruction in the Downs.
Despite a high wind and a heavy sea, all the officers and seventy-seven
men were saved, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of three Deal
boats and the fact that many of the bluejackets were wearing life-saving
collars. The submarine was seen approaching from the direction of South
Sand Head Lightship, but as the _Niger_ was anchored she was an easy
prey. At the moment of impact the wireless operator was actually sending
the S O S signal. When the explosion occurred Lieutenant-Commander A. T.
Muir was on the navigation bridge, which, despite severe injuries, he
vacated only after every other person had left the sinking vessel.

The gunboat was struck abaft the foremast. Although the bow was soon
under water, she kept afloat for quite twenty minutes, probably because
orders had been given for the watertight doors to be closed. One poor
fellow was lugged through one of the portholes; another scrambled aboard
after he had been rescued, hauled down the flag, and returned to the
boat.

The torpedoing of the _Formidable_ was an inauspicious omen for 1915.
This, the fourth ship to bear the name of one of Hawke’s prizes in the
battle of Quiberon Bay, was a pre-Dreadnought of 15,000 tons, armed with
four 12–in. and twelve 6–in. guns, twenty-six smaller weapons, and four
submerged torpedo-tubes. She was encountering a south-west gale in the
Channel at 2.20 a.m. on New Year’s Day when a torpedo struck her abaft
the starboard magazine and abreast of No. 1 stokehold. The _Formidable_
was the first victim of a submarine attack in the darkness of night.
While boats were being got away, and chairs, tables, and other floating
articles thrown overboard for use as life-savers, a torpedo exploded on
her port side. Captain Loxley, puffing at a cigarette, gave orders from
the bridge as coolly and collectedly as though the _Formidable_ was
making her way to Portsmouth Harbour on an even keel in the piping times
of peace. “Into the water with you! She’s going!” he sang out.
“Good-bye, lads. Every man for himself, and may God help you all!” He
went down with his vessel and as goodly a company of sea-dogs as ever
trod the deck of a British battleship. Over five hundred officers and
men were coffined in the _Formidable_ or drowned in attempting to get
away.[23] The loss of this useful, if obsolescent, vessel was severely
criticized by Admiral Lord Charles Beresford.[24] He commented on the
fact that the squadron of which the battleship was a unit had started
from port with destroyers and afterward sent them back, also that the
ship had slackened speed in an area known to be infested with
submarines.

Although it was announced that the battleship _Russell_ struck a mine in
the Mediterranean, the Germans claimed that she was sunk by one of their
U-boats. This was the second pre-Dreadnought and the third flagship to
pay the price of Admiralty during the war. The _Russell_, named after
one of six famous admirals, was commissioned in 1903, and completed her
career on the 27th April, 1916. She carried four 12–in., twelve 6–in.,
ten 12–pdr., and two 3–pdr. guns, and four torpedo-tubes. Although
Rear-Admiral S. R. Fremantle, M.V.O., the captain, twenty-four other
officers, and 676 men were saved, over 100 of her complement were
reported as missing.

Of the five capital ships lost by Britain in the Dardanelles campaign,
the _Ocean_ and the _Irresistible_ were lost by mines or torpedoed from
the shore, the _Goliath_ was torpedoed in a destroyer attack, and the
_Triumph_ and the _Majestic_ were submarined. On the 22nd May, 1915, the
periscope of a U-boat was sighted from the battleship _Prince George_. A
couple of rounds made the submersible take cover. That was the first
occasion on which enemy underwater craft had put in an appearance in the
vicinity of the Gallipoli peninsula. Three days later the _Swiftsure_
was on the verge of being attacked, but her gunners proved too
wide-awake and drove off the enemy. A little later the submarine
discharged a torpedo at the _Vengeance_, and missed. On the 26th the
enemy was seen again, escaped, and plugged two or three torpedoes into
the _Triumph_, lying stationary off the now famous, or infamous, Gaba
Tepe. Her nets were down, but the weapons went through them with almost
as much ease as a circus clown jumps through a hoop covered with
tissue-paper. Henceforth devotees of this form of protection had little
to say. The battleship disappeared in fifteen minutes, fortunately
without a heavy roll of casualties. Three officers and fifty-three of
her considerable company were lost. Like the _Swiftsure_, her sister
ship, the _Triumph_ was built for the Chilian Government and purchased
by Britain.

An enemy submarine exacted another toll on the following day, when the
_Majestic_, one of the oldest battleships on active service, was sunk
while supporting the troops against an attack by the Turks. Within four
minutes of the explosion, says a member of the French Expeditionary
Force who witnessed the catastrophe, the _Majestic_ turned completely
over and went down. “It was a terrible moment,” he adds, “but it was
also sublime when 600 men, facing death mute and strong, were thrown
into the sea, covered and caught in the torpedo nets, which ensnared
them like an immense cast-net among the gigantic eddies and the profound
sobs of their dear annihilated battleship. I shall never forget that
infernal instant when submarines, aeroplanes, cannons, and quick-firing
guns dealt death around me. And yet this vision only lasted the space of
a flash of lightning, for we too looked death in the face, and in our
own ship’s boats we took part in the finest rescue that the palette of
an artist ever represented.”

So the French have forgiven us for Nelson and Trafalgar!

The last battleship to be sunk by a U-boat in the World War was H.M.S.
_Britannia_, lost near Gibraltar on the 9th November, 1918. Two
explosions occurred, killing some forty of the crew. An hour and a half
later, while she was still afloat, the periscope of a submersible was
spotted. The guns of the stricken leviathan were trained and fired, with
what success is uncertain. Then two destroyers dropped depth charges
where the enemy was seen to submerge. If her ugly sides ever rose again
they certainly did not do so in the vicinity of the _Britannia_. Shortly
afterward the battleship turned turtle in deep water.



                               CHAPTER V
                      _Tragedy in the Middle Seas_

  “_Germany must for all time to come maintain her claim to
  sea-power._”—LT.-GEN. BARON VON FREYTAG-LORINGHOVEN, _Deputy Chief
  of the German General Staff_.


The Adriatic afforded much interesting naval news. The strategy of the
Austrians was exactly that of the High Sea Fleet—tip-and-run raids and
avoidance of battle whenever possible. During the blockade of the
Austro-Hungarian naval ports of Pola and Cattaro previous to Italy’s
becoming an active participant in the war, the battleships and cruisers
of the French Fleet were frequent objects of attacks on the part of
enemy underwater craft. The armoured cruiser _Leon Gambetta_ escaped
being submarined on the 2nd September, 1914, only to fall a victim on
the 27th April, 1915. The Austrian U 5, a small boat with a surface
displacement of 235 tons, commanded by Lieutenant von Trapp, picked her
up some twenty miles south-west of Cape Leuca. It was a brilliant
moonlight night, the armoured cruiser was steaming slowly, and hitherto
no U-boat in the Adriatic had betrayed activity after the passing of
day. The great black shape, with its four massive funnels, stood out a
mammoth silhouette as the first torpedo sped on its devastating errand.
It struck the port side, wrecked the dynamos, and plunged the ship in
darkness, precluding the possibility of a momentary flash of a
search-light to discover the assailant. The wireless was also put out of
action by the same cause. A second torpedo wrought havoc in one of the
boiler-rooms. “From the heeling of the cruiser,” says a Vienna account,
“Lieutenant Trapp concluded that a further torpedo was unnecessary.”

An effort was made to beach the ship. This failing, it became the
difficult task of Captain Andre to provide for the safety of his crew, a
task not only hampered by lack of illumination, but by the boats having
been swung inboard to ensure the more effective use of anti-torpedo
guns. “The boats are for you; we officers will remain,” Admiral Sénès
told the crew without the slightest affectation of heroism, although
neither he nor any single individual on the quarterdeck was to be saved.
He called the men his children, told them to keep steady and take to the
boats. “Forward, sailors of France!” he cried. “My destiny is here,”
said Commander Depérière, the worthy colleague of so gallant an officer.
“I die with my ship. Vive la France!” Portable torches were used to show
the way to the wounded and the sick. To make escape easier the captain
issued orders to fill the starboard compartments so as to counterbalance
the intake of water on the other side. He did not want the great ship to
turn turtle before _mes enfants_ had been afforded an opportunity to
escape. One officer, anxious to restrain any undue haste that would
retard escape, took out a cigar from his case, lit it, and puffed away
as calmly as though he were in Toulon Harbour instead of standing in a
foot of water on a ship that was rapidly sinking under him. “Vive la
France!” shouted the officers on the bridge; “Vive la France!” echoed
the many who had failed to get away. With that ringing cheer of Victory
and not of Defeat, the _Leon Gambetta_ and 684 officers and men of the
gallant company disappeared out of the night into the greater darkness.
From first to last the tragedy took just ten minutes.

Those who were saved owed their lives to the fine courage of the
commanders of Italian torpedo-boats and destroyers, who ran the risk of
being mistaken for French men-of-war.[25] Jean and Jacques are never at
a loss when it comes to paying a compliment. Had they been British
sailors who were pulled out of the water, a gruff but well-meant “Much
obliged” would probably have sufficed. Frenchmen are more artistic. They
cried “Vive l’Italie!” As for U 5, when she returned to Cattaro she was
naturally received with honours.

The _Danton_, a French battleship with a displacement of 18,028 tons,
completed at Brest in the spring of 1909, was on the point of
celebrating the seventh anniversary of her launching when she was struck
down in the Mediterranean on the 19th March, 1917. She had taken many
months to build, but took only thirty minutes to sink. Destruction comes
easier to man than construction. Two torpedoes accomplished her end.
Fortunately the catastrophe occurred in the afternoon, and the tragedy
of the _personnel_ of the _Leon Gambetta_ was not repeated, although
even then 296 of her company lost their lives. The destroyer _Massue_
and patrol vessels rescued the remaining 806 officers and men.

The story of how Lieutenant-Captain Robert Moraht sent the _Danton_ to
her doom was subsequently told by himself. The following is based on his
lively narrative.

At midday the U-boat was off the south-west point of Sardinia, and those
of the crew not actually required for the working of the ship were
enjoying a breath of fresh air on deck with a delightful sense of having
nothing whatever to do. Moraht was below, when the whistle of the
speaking-tube blew a short, sharp blast. He answered the summons readily
enough. “A steamer on the port bow,” came the message, spoken in a tone
of some urgency. Almost before the commander had taken his ear from the
instrument the men were clattering down the ladders and taking up action
stations. Reaching the conning-tower with some difficulty by reason of
the undue haste, Moraht distinctly saw the outlines of the vessel whose
appearance had so suddenly changed their programme for the afternoon.
The commander picked it up with his glasses. “French battleship!”
announced a fellow officer who was standing at the telescope. At the
moment the commander’s thoughts were centred on whether the U-boat had
been seen, whether hunter and hare were both aware of the other’s
presence.

Apparently not. The _Danton_ kept on her zigzag course, as yet far out
of range. Had she sighted the submarine she could have got clear away;
there was little chance now, for Moraht had submerged. Presently a
destroyer made her appearance, likewise zigzagging, and in advance of
the battleship. The U-boat was nearer the object of her vengeance, and
likewise nearer danger. Destroyers are to submarines what terriers are
to rats. Moraht felt a shade uncomfortable. Besides, a battleship in the
Mediterranean, or any other sea for the matter of that, does not go
about blind. Keen eyes look out for her safety and their own. What the
men on the destroyer might miss, those on the _Danton_ might find. The
commander of the submarine was sparing in the use of the periscope.
There is a tell-tale wake when that apparatus is above the surface that
human device cannot dispel. The waters, parted by the tube, embrace as
though long separated, leaving a trail of emotion behind. Moraht popped
it up now and again as necessity compelled, took his bearings, lowered
it, and checked his course.

The weather conditions on this ‘Mediterranean Front’ changed in favour
of the Germans, as they usually did in France, according to popular
belief, whenever the Allies took the offensive. Listen to the commander:
“A considerable lightening of the mist was rolling up from the
north-west, and the wind was freshening; thick white tufts of foam stood
on the deep blue sea. That was the light we wanted. Anyhow, nobody saw
us. The destroyer raced past without suspicion about 600 yards off, then
the giant ship herself came before our bow. Everything was just right
to-day. ‘Both tubes, attention! No. 1—let go! No. 2—let go.’”

The periscope vanished, its wash was replaced by that of the torpedoes
and a liberal accompaniment of bubbles. The weapons, at an interval of
five seconds between them, tore the ship asunder. Later, from a safer
distance, Moraht took a peep at his victim in her death-agony. The
rudder was hard to port, proof that the twin harbingers of destruction
had been seen and a fruitless attempt made to dodge them. The torpedoes
could scarcely have performed their duty more loyally. The _Danton’s_
massive keel was where her turrets ought to have been; her bulgy side,
with casemates resembling a fortress, revealed “two holes like barn
doors.”

Moraht says that his boat ‘buck-jumped’ after the shots. This means that
the compensating tanks, which fill with water to make up for loss of
displacement when a torpedo leaves the tube, did not act quickly enough.
As a consequence the periscope and the upper part of the superstructure
appeared above the surface for a second or two. The _Massue_ dropped
depth charges, and the ‘buck-jump’ may not have been entirely
unconnected with them.

To-day the submarine that robbed the Allies of a fine ship mounting four
12–in., a dozen 9.4–in., and sixteen 2.9–in. guns does not figure as a
fighting unit in what remains of the German Navy. She has joined the
_Danton_,

              Visiting the bottom of the monstrous world.

Austrian submarines depleted the ranks of Italy’s naval forces by
several ships, but the hereditary enemy of the Land of Dante lost
considerably more at the hands of Italy, which also policed some 300
miles of coast with flotillas of hydroplanes in addition to the regular
naval units. During a reconnaissance in force in the Upper Adriatic, the
_Amalfi_, an armoured cruiser of 9958 tons displacement, carrying four
10–in. and eight 7.5–in. guns, was torpedoed at dawn on the 7th July,
1915. According to information received, it was the intention of the
Austrians to bombard the Italian coast. While searching the Dalmatian
littoral for the enemy, with the idea of bringing him to battle before
he could carry out his object, the cruiser was lost. The ship listed
heavily to port almost immediately, and sank in less than thirty
minutes. Nearly all her officers and crew, numbering 684, were saved.
Before giving orders to leave the ship the commander lined up his men on
the quarterdeck and shouted, “Long live the King! Long live Italy!” The
response was not less hearty than if they had been given a week’s leave.

One instance of extraordinary bravery stands out conspicuously, though
the discipline was exemplary in every respect. While in the water the
chief engineer was drawn toward the revolving propellers, and one of his
arms was completely severed. A surgeon witnessed the incident when
swimming at no great distance away. With powerful strokes he reached the
injured officer, took off his own belt, applied it as a tourniquet, and
then supported the sufferer until help arrived. The surgeon was on the
verge of collapse, but he had performed a feat probably unique in the
annals of first aid.

The second armoured ship to be lost by Italy was torpedoed three weeks
later in the same sea. She bore the honoured name of _Giuseppe
Garibaldi_, whose presentation swords of gold were kept on board as
treasures beyond price. The cruiser formed part of a squadron that had
been bombarding the railway and fortifications at Cattaro, where a
number of Austrian battleships had taken refuge, unwilling to face four
Italian vessels which had outlived their youth. The enemy adopted much
more stealthy tactics. As the _Giuseppe Garibaldi_, the _Vettor Pisani_,
the _Varese_, and the _Ferruccio_ were steaming away they sent out a
flotilla of submarines. The first attack was skilfully fended. Subjected
to a withering fire, in which the _Giuseppe Garibaldi_ joined, two of
the U-boats sought safety in flight. U 4 was so badly damaged that she
sank. A fourth either lay ‘doggo’ for a time or returned to the attack a
little later. Her first torpedo, fired at the close range of about 500
yards, missed, but the second did such damage, despite the cruiser’s
belt of 6–in. armour, that saving her was out of the question. The
majority of her crew of 540 were rescued.

When Germany and Austria arranged to drench Europe in blood in pursuit
of Teutonic ambitions, the Austro-Hungarian Navy possessed three
completed Dreadnoughts, of which the _Viribus Unitis_ was one. This
powerful battleship of 22,000 tons, carrying twelve 13–in. guns, twelve
5.9–in. quick-firers, six torpedo-tubes, and a complement of nearly 1000
officers and men, was attacked in Pola Harbour by an intrepid French
submarine, which succeeded in damaging her to such an extent that she
was rendered useless for a considerable time. Had she been at sea it is
probable the _Viribus Unitis_ would have sunk, but plenty of assistance
was handy, and she reached dry dock with a very ugly wound in her hull
and certain portions of her engines so badly wrecked that the workshops
at Trieste had to get busy to provide new parts. This was in December
1914. She was still in Pola Harbour in May 1918, when a little Italian
motor-boat penetrated the mine-field, cables, and steel nets guarding
the entrance and completed the discomfiture of the great vessel. Captain
Pellegrini and three volunteers discharged two torpedoes at the _Viribus
Unitis_, and after seeing them take effect, sank their own tiny craft to
prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. This was the
thirteenth operation by the Italian Navy against enemy bases, and was
completely successful. Apparently the Dreadnought was resurrected, for
she was again sunk in November 1918 by means of a time-charge laid by
two Italian officers.

Italy also lost several fine destroyers by attack from Austrian or
German U-boats. The _Impetuoso_ was submarined in the Straits of Otranto
on the 10th July, 1916, with small loss of _personnel_, but the fate
which befell the _Nembo_ was more tragic and more romantic. The _Nembo_
was escorting a transport to Valona. The submarine was sighted on board
the destroyer, whose commander at once changed course so as to cover his
charge, which had some 3000 soldiers on board. He succeeded in doing
this, and the torpedo intended for the transport struck the _Nembo_ with
full force. She at once began to settle, but the indomitable officer
swung his ship round with the intention of ramming his assailant. Loss
of speed and gain of water on the part of the destroyer gave the U-boat
time to submerge, but the commander still had another card to play. He
ordered depth charges to be dropped overboard. There was a mammoth
upheaval of water, followed by the reappearance of the enemy showing
evident signs of distress. Shortly afterward destroyer and submarine
went to a common grave, the _Nembo_ carrying with her most of her
gallant crew, while eleven men from U 16 managed to scramble into one of
the destroyer’s boats that floated by without a solitary occupant.

Vienna newspapers, like those of Berlin, endeavoured to bolster up the
naval cause of the Central Powers by deliberately manufacturing
desirable news. In January 1915 the Austrians were told that their E 12
had sunk the French battleship _Courbet_, a Dreadnought armed with a
dozen 12–in. guns. That was sufficiently wide of the mark in all
conscience, for it was absolutely untrue, but the loss of the _Jean
Bart_ by colliding with her when going to her assistance was tagged on
to make the victory still more complete. E 12 certainly did succeed in
hitting the _Jean Bart_ with a torpedo, but the material damage was of
slight importance and was speedily repaired. At the time the _Courbet_
was many miles away from the scene of the imaginary action—“in excellent
trim,” as the French Ministry of Marine stated. On another occasion the
French battleship _Vérité_ was alleged to have been seriously damaged by
a German submarine.

This tale of disaster, terrible in the loss of great ships and greater
men, is at the worst only a record of what is legitimate in modern naval
warfare. Those who thought, like Nobel, that the more violent the
agencies to be employed in conflict the more likelihood of preserving
peace had their fond delusions shattered in the saturnalia of the
centuries. Likewise those who sow the wind often reap the whirlwind.



                               CHAPTER VI
                       _Horton, E 9, and Others_

  “_If the submarine had succeeded our Army in France would have
  withered away._”—D. LLOYD GEORGE.


Previous pages have had much to say about U-boats. The northern mists,
from the obscurity of which the Grand Fleet occasionally emerged into
the broad sunlight of publicity, were as nothing compared with the fog
of war which veiled the hourly activities of British and Allied
submarines. Scouting is notoriously hazardous and necessarily private.
Our underseas craft had sufficient of it. In the performance of this
task they also tackled much other business, tracked and sent to the
bottom vessels of their own species though not of their own tribe,
wormed their way through waters sealed to surface ships, ferreted a
course through strings of floating mines, dodged unanchored infernal
machines, convoyed in safety hundreds of thousands of troops, and
stalked men-of-war. They proved themselves friends to all but the
Ishmael of the seas; and when opportunity served they snatched him from
a watery grave when he ought to have perished.

The first German warship to be sunk by a British submarine was the
_Hela_. She fell to E 9 on the 13th September, 1914. Heaven knows it was
not for lack of searching for legitimate prey that nothing had been
secured by our underwater craft ere the second month of the war. Like
Villeneuve’s ships before Trafalgar, if any German vessels occasionally
took an airing they also took good care to keep near home. The _Hela_, a
light cruiser of 2040 tons displacement, with a complement of 178, of
little consequence for fighting purposes because her heaviest guns were
15½-pdrs., was only six miles south of Heligoland when she was torpedoed
by Lieutenant-Commander Max K. Horton.

E 9, it may be well to note, had already won her spurs in the prelude to
the battle of Heligoland Bight. Two torpedoes were fired, with an
interval of fifteen seconds between. One hit. Greatly daring, about a
quarter of an hour later Horton took just the suspicion of a glance in
her direction through the periscope, and saw that she was heeling over
to starboard. When he again ventured to use his ‘eye’ there was no
_Hela_, and a trawler had gone to the rescue of her crew. “What we are
so proud about is that it is the first torpedo fired from a [British]
submarine that made a hit,” one of the crew wrote, “and it has been a
great competition among all our boats to get first one in, and of course
we consider ourselves ‘the cock of the submarine flotilla’ now.”

A number of German torpedo-boats hunted for E 9 during several hours
after the destruction of the cruiser. Yet the following day saw her
calmly at work examining the outer anchorage of the island fortress, “a
service attended by considerable risk.” An exceptionally heavy westerly
gale was blowing on the 14th and continued for a week. On a lee shore,
with short, steep seas, the lot of the submarines in the Bight was both
hazardous and unpleasant. “There was no rest to be obtained,” says the
Commodore, “and when cruising at a depth of sixty feet the submarines
were rolling considerably, and pumping—_i.e._ vertically moving about
twenty feet.” Officers and men were granted prize bounty amounting to
£1050 for sinking the _Hela_, an exploit which the crew regarded as
avenging the _Pathfinder_.

Further insight into the hazardous life of those who operated in the
Bight is afforded by the following extract from another official report:

“When a submarine is submerged, her captain alone is able to see what is
taking place. The success of the enterprise and the safety of the vessel
depend on his skill and nerve and the prompt, precise execution of his
orders by the officers and men under his command. Our submarines have
been pioneers in waters that have been mined. They have been subjected
to skilful and well-thought-out anti-submarine tactics by a highly
trained and determined enemy, attacked by gunfire and torpedo, driven to
lie at the bottom at a great depth to preserve battery power, hunted for
hours at a time by hostile torpedo craft, and at times forced to dive
under our own warships to avoid interfering with their movements. Sudden
alterations of course and depth, the swirl of propellers overhead and
the concussion of bursting shells, give an indication to the crew of the
risks to which they are being exposed, and it speaks well for the
_moral_ of these young officers and men, and their gallant faith in
their captains, that they have invariably carried out their duties
quietly, keenly, and confidently under conditions that might well have
tried the hardened veteran.”

On the 6th of the succeeding month E 9 was ‘at it again.’ She was
patrolling off the estuary of the Ems, near the much-advertised island
of Borkum, which boasted some of the most powerful guns ever mounted for
coast defence. Presently the enemy’s torpedo-boat S 126 came along,
entirely unsuspecting.[26]

Horton was really after bigger game, but when out shooting pheasants one
does not disdain a pigeon if nothing else is available. He was keen on a
battleship, and only a little while before had spotted a fair-sized
cruiser, an excellent ‘second best.’ When enthusiasm was at its height,
and triumph reasonably sure, circumstances compelled him to dive. We are
not told what those circumstances were. Perhaps we should not be far
wrong if we ventured the opinion that they were intimately connected
with the noisome presence of fleeter craft whose pet particular prey is
the British submarine. When the officer had another opportunity to
observe what was going on in the upper world, the larger ship had gone
out of sight and a smaller vessel come into view.

Within a hundred yards of E 9 was S 126, followed at some distance by a
second T.B. Horton waited until the leader had travelled another 500
yards, ensuring a ‘comfortable’ range, and then fired. The commander
evidently believed in even numbers, for he discharged two ‘rooties’ at
his quarry, as he had done when attacking the _Hela_. It was just as
well that he did, for one missed. The other struck the enemy amidships
and worked deadly havoc. Coastguards on the Dutch island of
Schiermonnikoog, opposite Borkum, and some seven miles from the scene,
heard the roar of the explosion, and saw a great column of water shoot
up near the forepart of the ship. In three minutes all that remained of
S 126 was flotsam. She went down bow foremost, like a leaping salmon. As
the stern rose her men took to the water. Most of them appear to have
been rescued by a cruiser which came up a little later, but did not
consider it advisable to make a long stay. “Look at her!” Horton cried.
“The beggar’s going down!” as though it was the most surprising thing in
the world for a ship to sink after having a 21–in. torpedo plugged in
her side.

The second torpedo-boat, unwilling to run the risk of sharing her
consort’s fate, made off, leaving the shipwrecked crew of thirty-six to
fend for themselves. The lost vessel, launched in 1905, had a
displacement of 420 tons, and carried three 6–pdr. guns and three
torpedo-tubes.

[Illustration:

  The Second Exploit of E 9

  When Lieutenant-Commander Max K. Horton torpedoed S 126 in the mouth
    of the Ems

  E. S. Hodgson
]

When E 9 swung into Harwich safe and sound the crews of destroyers and
other craft based there knew that Horton and his gallant little band had
scored another hit. No wireless conveyed the intelligence. She was
displaying the White Ensign, plus two unofficial flags that are the
pride and glory of the Submarine Squadron. These little bits of bunting,
one yellow and the other white, bore the death’s-head and cross-bones so
intimately associated with the pirate of yester-year, and more
appropriate to the Huns. The former represented the ‘tuft’ of the
_Hela_, the latter that of the latest victim. The officers and crew
received further prize money to the tune of £350 for ‘digging out’
S 126. Horton was awarded the D.S.O., and noted for early promotion. On
the last day of 1914 he became Commander.

The news was spread abroad by Germany that the action had taken place in
Dutch territorial waters, within a mile of the shore. The Dutch Naval
Staff promptly contradicted this report, pointing out that sands extend
for two and a half miles from Schiermonnikoog, off which it was alleged
E 9 had committed this grave misdeed.

Horton’s succeeding _coup_ took place in the Baltic, and rightly belongs
to a later chapter. I introduce it here because it will better help us
to appreciate his worth.

Shortly after the Germans had occupied Libau, Russia’s most southerly
port in the Baltic, a certain mysterious submarine made her presence
felt in the Mediterranean of the North. An official bulletin from
Petrograd stated that the boat was British, and that she had sunk the
pre-Dreadnought _Pommern_ off Danzig on the 2nd July, 1915. The Censor
in London removed the reference to the nationality of the submarine, but
a little later it leaked out that E 9 had resumed operations and was
responsible for the disaster. In reply to a question put by Commander
Bellairs, Dr Macnamara answered that no official report had been
transmitted to the Admiralty, “but from a semi-official communication
received from the Russian Government it appears that the name of the
officer referred to is Commander Max K. Horton, D.S.O.,” which statement
was received with enthusiastic cheers by the House of Commons.

The _Pommern_ was completed in 1907, and displaced 13,200 tons. She
carried four 11–in. and fourteen 6.7–in. guns, and a crew of over seven
hundred officers and men. The _Pommern_ was the first German battleship
to be sunk in the war. The coveted Order of St George (Fourth Class) was
bestowed on the Commander by Tsar Nicholas. The German Government
vigorously denied that a battleship had been lost, but

              All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
              Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again,

and all the contradictions in the world failed to resurrect the
_Pommern_.

The energetic E boats did not remain in obscurity very long. In the
following month the enemy endeavoured to secure naval control of the
Gulf of Riga. Their first attempt, made on the 8th August with nine
battleships, twelve cruisers, and a brave showing of torpedo-boats, was
a complete failure. It was followed up eight days later by a more
ambitious force. Favoured by heavy sea fog, the enemy cleared a channel
through the mines and net defences at the entrance within forty-eight
hours, and were then ready to penetrate farther. If we accept the
assertion of the Russians, the Germans paid dearly for their adventure.
Against their own losses of two gunboats and several torpedo craft they
assessed those of the Germans at two cruisers, and eight torpedo-boats
either sunk or badly damaged. In addition, the _Moltke_, a
battle-cruiser, was torpedoed by E 1. She was not mortally wounded, and
was towed back to harbour, where she remained until Beatty claimed her.
The Huns gained nothing and lost much in this attempt to dominate the
Gulf.

On the 19th August, 1916, Lieut.-Commander Robert R. Turner of E 23
attacked an enemy battleship. The vessel, a member of the _Nassau_
family, the first type of Dreadnought to be built in a German yard, was
powerfully armed with twelve 11–in., twelve 5.9–in., and sixteen 21–pdr.
guns, in addition to half a dozen submerged torpedo-tubes. The
displacement was 18,600 tons, and the speed 19–20 knots, but experts
held that the class was a failure when compared with our own earlier
Dreadnoughts.

The first torpedo fired by E 23 badly damaged the battleship. Of that
there is not the slightest doubt. Five destroyers immediately went to
her assistance. While these were engaged in escorting her, a second
torpedo hit the target, and the officer in command of the submarine
reported that he “believed she was sunk.” Then began a war of
contradiction. The Germans stated that one of their submarines had
attacked a British destroyer and a cruiser, both of which went down
shortly afterward. They admitted that the submarine was rammed, but
added the rider that she had returned to harbour ‘badly damaged.’ The
question of the loss of a second U-boat was carefully hedged. “The
statement can only be verified when all reports from our submarines are
to hand”—an ingenious ruse. The report anent British losses was without
foundation.

As in the above case, it is not always possible to ascertain the result
of a shot. Many other instances of likely losses could be cited. A
British submarine saw four battleships of the _Kaiser_ class off the
Danish coast. After making all ready to attack, the boat broke surface
of her own accord owing to the exceedingly heavy swell. This terrible
risk was run quite accidentally, but she got under again. Four torpedoes
were discharged at a range of 4000 yards at the third ship in the line.
Two explosions proved that the weapons had performed their tasks, and
the commander was of opinion that the third and fourth ships had both
been hit. He was about to verify his belief when a destroyer was heard
racing in his direction, followed by others. For two hours they
patrolled in search of the boat that had shot this ‘bolt from the blue.’
They failed to find her. Two depth charges nearly did, but not quite,
and a sweep dragged ominously over her hull. Puzzle: Did the battleships
founder? The Marineamt in Berlin knows but does not say. In fifty-one
months of conflict British submarines successfully attacked forty-three
enemy warships.

A British submarine, referred to in a Dutch official communication as
C 55, was patrolling in the North Sea on the 27th July, 1917, when she
picked up a German steamer. This was the _Batavier II_, of 1328 tons
net, proceeding in the direction of Hamburg. The North Sea, or ‘German
Ocean’ as those who dwell on its eastern fringe fondly call it, had not
been darkened by a mercantile ship of that nationality for many long
months, and even the _Batavier II_ was British-built and had been
captured from the Dutch. The submarine overhauled her, and after having
sustained damage by gunfire, she was captured, her crew escaping in
their boats. A prize crew took possession of the vessel and endeavoured
to bring her to port. The idea had to be abandoned because she made so
much water. The opening of her sea-cocks speedily sent her beneath the
waves. Twenty-eight survivors of the steamer’s crew were subsequently
landed at Texel.

According to the Dutch Navy Department, the steamer was towing the
motor-ship _Zeemeeuw_ at the time, and at the opening of the engagement
both vessels were outside territorial waters. When they were abandoned
they had again entered the three-mile limit. The prize crew succeeded in
getting the _Batavier II_ outside, but owing to her disability and a
strong current she again drifted within the Dutch sphere of influence. A
Dutch torpedo-boat then hoisted the signal “Respect neutrality,” and the
submarine retired. The _Zeemeeuw_ was taken in tow and conducted to
Nieuwediep.

Less than a month later the _Renate Leonhardt_, another German steamer,
attempted to run the blockade. Instead she ran ashore near the Helder,
and after being refloated was met on the high seas by a British
submarine, which made short work of her. The crew were picked up and
taken to Holland.

Let me close this chapter with a contrast. Fiendish brutality
characterized the behaviour of most German U-boat commanders. It
mattered not whether the ship attacked was sailing under the colours of
the Allies or of neutrals. To them war was a biological necessity, a
phase in the development of life, to be waged relentlessly and vitriolic
ally. The more cruel the method, the shorter the conflict. That was the
Prussian theory, and the Great Conflict proved it false. To the German
the neutral country was only neutral when it was working for the
Fatherland. Often enough, even in these circumstances, he preferred to
regard it as an open enemy. The lanes of the ocean are strewn with the
wrecks of neutral craft and dead men assassinated by “our sea-warriors”
in their hideous attempt at world-conquest. I quote a report received
from the commander of a British submarine. The statements are
corroborated by the neutrals of the world:

“On the morning of March 14 [1917] His Majesty’s submarine E —, when
proceeding on the surface in the North Sea, sighted two suspicious craft
ahead. On approaching them, however, she found them to be ship’s boats
sailing south, and containing some thirty members of the crew of the
Dutch steamship _L. M. Casteig_, which had been torpedoed and sunk by a
German submarine some distance to the northward over twenty-four hours
previously.

“After ascertaining that there was both food and water in the boats, E —
took them in tow at once, and proceeded toward the Dutch coast at the
greatest possible speed consistent with safety, in view of the state of
the weather. Some four hours later the Norwegian steamship _Norden_ was
sighted, and as she showed some natural reluctance about approaching the
submarine, not knowing that it was a British one, the boats containing
the Dutch crew cast off the tow and pulled toward her. E — kept the
boats in sight until they were seen to have been picked up by the
_Norden_, and then proceeded on the course which had been interrupted
for this act of mercy.”

Mercy as a biological necessity of war! It is a suggestive thought, of
British origin. It compares favourably with the treatment of forty of
the crew of the s.s. _Belgian Prince_, who were lined up on U 44 and
drowned as the submersible plunged. About a fortnight later Paul
Wagenführ, the instigator of this diabolical outrage, was drowned with
his confederates. U 44 was their coffin.



                              CHAPTER VII
                       _Submarine_ v. _Submarine_

            “_Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy._”

                                                           SHAKESPEARE


At the beginning of the war it was freely stated that the one ship a
submarine could not fight was the submarine. This theory, like so many
others, went by the board in the process of time. Finally the notion was
completely reversed. Allied underwater craft ferreted out many an enemy
submersible. Indeed, if we accept the authority of Rear-Admiral S. S.
Robison, of the United States Navy, they did “more than any other class
of vessel” to defeat the U-boats.

The French and Italians name the units of their underseas navy. They are
not vague, impersonal things denoted by a letter and a number, after the
fashion of an inhabitant of Portland Prison. The first recorded action
between submarines took place in June 1915. It remains one of the
mysteries of the war. The Italian submarine _Medusa_, after carrying out
several daring reconnaissances, was torpedoed by an Austrian submersible
of almost similar type and size. The _Medusa_ was quite a small boat,
built at Spezzia in 1911, with a displacement of 241 tons on the surface
and 295 tons below water. Her crew numbered seventeen. She was scouting
in the Adriatic when the incident occurred, and we must presume her to
have been comparatively close to the enemy without being aware of the
fact, otherwise her action is unaccountable. For some reason or other
she came to the surface, whereupon the commander of the Austrian U-boat
sighted her through his periscope and torpedoed her. An officer and four
men were picked up. According to a later report, divers were sent down
to examine the condition of the _Medusa_ with a view to salvage
operations. They made the startling discovery that the wreck of an
Austrian submersible was lying close to that of the Italian, suggesting
that the two vessels had participated in a duel in which both had got a
fatal shot home and neither was the victor.

In August of the same year an Italian destroyer was escorting a
submarine, when the commander of the former became aware that his ship
was the object of attention on the part of an Austrian U-boat. He could
see the periscope just sticking out of the water. Judging by her
movements the enemy was manœuvring for a favourable position from which
to strike. The destroyer sought to cover her charge, and did so. At the
same time the submarine took advantage of the protection thus afforded,
and played the same game as her rival. Everything being ready for the
projected attack, the destroyer changed course so as to give her consort
an unlimited field for operations. The Austrian opened fire from one of
her bow tubes, and scored a miss. The Italian, not satisfied with the
target presented, made no reply. Both tried to out-manœuvre the other,
and admirably succeeded for an hour and a half. It was the most skilful
game of ‘touch’ ever played. At last the Italian secured a slight
advantage and fired. Almost at the same moment her adversary did the
same, but whereas the Italian escaped without a scratch, the Austrian
received the full force of the blow amidships. Not a man of the crew of
U 12 survived, though the destroyer reached the spot shortly after the
submersible had disappeared.

On one of those evenings which the tourist in Venice calls perfect
because the sea and sky seem to have less imperfection in them than most
things deemed of the earth earthy, the commander of an Italian submarine
was taking a look round. A wilderness of blue water, calm as the
proverbial millpond, had met his gaze all day, and was becoming tedious.
Perfection depends so much on the point of view. To him the sea which
pleases and fascinates the traveller was a medium for work, and had
become the abomination of desolation by reason of enforced inaction. He
had almost completed the circle of his observations when a blot
representing something maritime appeared squatting on the waters. He
held on his course, his eyes strained on the far-away object. As the
submarine and ‘it’ grew nearer, ‘it’ assumed definite shape. A
submersible of Austrian origin without doubt, lying on the surface as
listless as a dead whale. At first men were busy on the deck, then they
disappeared one by one down the hatches until there was not a living
soul visible. Apparently the Italian boat had not been seen. By great
good fortune it might escape observation if the enemy did not bring his
periscopes into early service.

The Italian broke surface, stealthily approached, found the range. There
must be no mistake, no ‘giving the show away,’ and likewise no
hesitation. She was discovered nevertheless, though not through lack of
caution on the commander’s part. One of the enemy’s ‘eyes’ moved in her
direction, revealing its owner’s dire peril, and at the same time making
the Italian’s task more risky. At the moment the Austrian was broadside
on—a lovely target. Slowly the Austrian began to turn so as to bring her
torpedo-tubes to bear on her rival. A few more seconds would have
sufficed, but the Italian officer got his blow in first. It literally
disembowelled his enemy, and she sank like a stone.

Ramming submarines was formerly regarded as the special prerogative of
surface vessels. Submersibles were certainly more inclined to fight
duels by other means, but several instances could be cited of British
commanders who did not hesitate to turn and rend an enemy without so
much as a shot or a torpedo being fired. A British submarine was
patrolling her beat in the North Sea. Suddenly her commander caught
sight of a couple of periscopes that had no right to be there. He
tackled the U-boat, ramming the nose of his vessel so far into her side
that he could not back it out again. It was a horrible predicament for
both of them. Thanks to the German’s effort the British submarine got
clear. By pumping out the ballast tanks the U-boat managed to rise to
the surface, bringing her assailant with her. The wounded vessel slowly
drew away, making water rapidly. Already the bow was submerged, and she
betrayed an unhealthy list to starboard. Less than two minutes later the
stricken pirate gave a lurch and disappeared.

On another occasion a British submarine and a German U-boat sought to
come to grips for nearly half an hour. As soon as one had taken up a
position the other dodged. At last the British commander ventured a
torpedo. It missed by a few feet. Again the game of hide-and-seek began
with renewed zest. It went on for exactly eight minutes, when another
torpedo went speeding through the water in the direction of the U-boat.
There was a terrific noise as the weapon struck the enemy’s stern, which
rose completely out of the water with, judging by the smoke, one or more
of the aft compartments on fire. Another U-boat had finished her career.
She rose almost as straight as a church steeple, then slid under.

One of our submarines chased a U-boat for nearly two hours before she
finally sent her quarry to the bottom. When the commander first became
aware of the enemy’s presence the latter was making ready for a cruise
on the surface. She was then too far away to warrant a shot, and
consequently there was every likelihood that the German would escape
unless swift measures were taken for dealing with her. The British
officer dogged the U-boat with grim determination, then struck a patch
of shallow water. If he could safely navigate this he knew that the
other’s ‘number was up’; if he avoided it by taking a circuitous route
he was equally confident that the enemy would escape. He took the risk,
bumping the bottom heavily several times, and stealthily approached to a
distance of 550 yards. Two torpedoes were fired simultaneously. From his
place of safety, several fathoms below, the commander heard them
explode. When he took a peep no submersible was visible, though the
water was bubbling where she had floated a few minutes before.

Some of the commanders of British submarines are exceedingly cryptic in
their reports. They give the barest information and the fewest possible
details. Here is one in its brief entirety:

  10.30 a.m.—Sighted enemy submarine, so dived and altered course.

  10.47 a.m.—Enemy picked up in periscope.

  10.50 a.m.—Again altered course.

  10.52 a.m.—Stern tube torpedo fired.

  10.53 a.m.—Sharp explosion heard.

  11.10 a.m.—Came to surface and sighted oil right ahead, with three
  men swimming in it. Two were picked up, but the third sank before we
  could reach him. Dived. Survivors stated that submarine U — was hit
  in a full tank just before conning-tower and sank very rapidly by
  the head, rolling over at the same time.

Here is a chapter of thrilling heroism told in less than fifty words:

  10 a.m.—Sighted hostile submarine. Attacked same.

  10.30 a.m.—Torpedoed submarine. Hit with one torpedo amidships.
  Submarine seen to blow up and disappear. Surface to look for
  survivors. Put down immediately by destroyers, who fired at me.

Had the periscope been in good health—it was suffering from a stiff neck
that took three men to move—the commander might have bagged one or two
of the destroyers in addition to the submarine. As it was he dared not
risk the operation, particularly as he knew that the surface craft would
be scouring the sea in every direction and dropping pills all round him.
He put a distance of four miles between himself and the scene of his
prowess, then awaited events. Depth charges were used in great
profusion. He lay at the bottom and heeded them not, though the noise of
discharge was heard right enough. For hours he listened to vessels
passing above, and once a wire sweep scraped along the port side with an
ominous grating. It was not particularly inviting waiting for something
to happen, but the commander had the satisfaction of knowing that he had
scored a victory over his rival. Through the ill-behaved periscope he
had seen a torpedo take effect forward of the conning-tower, send up a
tall column of water and yellow smoke, and had watched the U-boat
disappear.

While returning home after an arduous cruise, a British submarine,
travelling on the surface, came across a U-boat prowling about for
merchantmen. She also was unsubmerged, and apparently so engrossed in
searching the horizon for fat cargoes that the patrol was not noticed.
The Britisher went under, took careful aim, fired a couple of torpedoes,
and waited. The weapons took effect. After the German had disappeared,
the submarine came up and searched for possible survivors. One was
bobbing up and down in the water. He was the captain of the U-boat.

The _Nereide_, an Italian submarine of 297 tons, was unloading supplies
for the garrison at Pelagosa when an Austrian U-boat suddenly appeared.
Although the commander of the _Nereide_ made instant preparation to meet
the enemy he had insufficient time at his disposal. Two torpedoes struck
the boat and she went down with her crew.

Another of these unusual encounters occurred on the 19th June, 1917,
when the French submarine _Ariane_ was sunk by a U-boat in the
Mediterranean. The vessel carried a crew of about thirty, of whom nine
were saved.

I began this chapter by quoting a remark of Rear-Admiral Robison. I will
end it with another anent Britain’s stalking submarines, whose duty he
regarded as the most hazardous occupation of the war. He stated that at
Harwich, in June 1918, “there was a record of twenty-five submarines
which had gone out of port and had not come back.”



                              CHAPTER VIII
                        _A Chapter of Accidents_

  “_In the future as in the past, the German people will have to seek
  firm cohesion in its glorious Army and in its belaurelled young
  Fleet._”—LT.-GEN. BARON VON FREYTAG-LORINGHOVEN.


All kinds of queer accidents happen to submarines. It was one thing to
have a ‘joy-ride’ standing on the conning-tower of a spick-and-span
craft in the neighbourhood of Haslar, and quite another to be compelled
to lie ‘doggo’ hundreds of miles from the base owing to the near
presence of German torpedo-boats out for slaughter. The following story
has been told before, but may be thought worthy of repetition because it
reveals the calm philosophy which is the submarine man’s sheet-anchor.
Without it he would speedily be reduced to nothing more than a nervous
wreck.

A British submarine, intent on business intimately connected with the
enemy, broke surface at an awkward moment. A shell whizzed close enough
to assure the commander that somebody was on the watch for the Paul Prys
of the British Navy. She went under, and after lying quiet for four
hours again ascended for the purpose of finding out things. She
discovered them all right, although they were not exactly of the kind
she sought. One of the shots made a hole that necessitated a certain
amount of plugging in double quick time. The submarine submerged until
after dark, then made off to report. “What did you do while you were at
the bottom?” an inquisitive friend asked the commander as he was
stretching his legs on the quay and forming a miniature smoke screen
with whiffs of Navy Cut. “I did fine,” was the answer; “we played
auction bridge all the time, and I made 4s. 11½d.”

The officers and crew of a French submarine had a much more exciting
experience while engaged on similar duty in the early days of the war.
They were proceeding cautiously toward the entrance of an enemy harbour.
The periscope showed a delightful bag, but unfortunately the battleships
that constituted it were protected by nets sufficiently substantial to
make poaching impossible. There was no sign of movement other than in
the smoke issuing languidly from the funnels. While the commander was
taking observations, the ships began to show signs of life, and, with a
number of torpedo-boats, denoted by their actions that they had every
intention of weighing anchor. Here was an opportunity in a thousand, an
unexpected one too, and the French officer seized it with avidity. As
the enemy approached, he decided to go ahead a short distance so as to
make assurance doubly sure. He wanted his aim to be absolutely certain.
The submarine had not proceeded more than a few yards when there was a
nasty jar. The rudder had become fixed as in a vice. It was caught so
tightly in a steel cable that the boat could not budge an inch. The
crews of the T.B.s knew exactly what had happened, though how they came
by the knowledge remains their secret. The vessels raced to the spot,
hoping that the submarine was sufficiently near the surface to be
rammed. Providentially she was not, though her crew heard the thrashing
of the screws as they passed perilously close to her carcase.
Immediately they had gone a furious hail of shells ploughed the sea, and
one or two torpedoes were discharged by the enemy on the off chance that
they might hit the intruder. It was a hot spot, despite the cold water.
One who was on board says it was a miracle they were not struck. “We
thought we were done for,” he adds, “and we patiently awaited the
explosion which would deliver us from the cruel suspense.”

Meanwhile something had to be done, and quickly. Death by being blown to
pieces is infinitely preferable to suffocation. The one is speedy and
certain; the other slow and agonizing. The water tanks were filled until
they could hold no more. It was hoped that the added weight would force
the craft down and snap the cable. Nothing happened. Then some one
suggested that if the steering wheel were compelled to move, possibly
the wire would snap. If it failed to do so, and merely smashed the
rudder, it could scarcely add to their anxieties. A doomed ship might as
well be without steering gear as otherwise.

Half a dozen men exerted their full strength on the spokes. The wheel
remained rigid for one, two, three seconds, then spun round with a
sudden jerk that was not good for the equilibrium of the sailors but
entirely satisfactory from every other point of view. The submarine went
down several fathoms before she was brought under control.

The commander thought it was time to make tracks for a healthier clime
without further spying. Risks are to be run only when necessary. Some
hours later he ventured to use his periscope, only to find that an enemy
vessel was no great distance off, evidently on the watch for such as he.
The craft reached her base somewhat overdue. “All’s well that ends
well,” but there is often a painful interim.

Explosions in underwater boats are not frequent, though they have
occurred. Several men were either killed or injured in a disaster of
this nature in a U.S. submarine cruising off Cavite, in the Philippines.
The ‘blow’ was due to gasoline fumes, but the cause of ignition is
unknown. U.S. submarine E 2 also sank as the result of a similar mishap
in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in January 1916.

Spain, a neutral country, was treated by the Germans as though she were
an admitted combatant on the side of the Allies. Yet after torpedoing
Spanish ships and leaving their crews to look after themselves as best
they could, U-boat commanders were very thankful to take shelter in her
ports on more than one occasion, despite the risk of internment. Here is
a typical case. A French seaplane caught sight of U 56 while on the
prowl in the Mediterranean, dropped what bombs she possessed on the
shadowy target, and proceeded on her way. She could do no more. U 56
found herself in difficulties. Damage had been done to the diving gear.
The second officer was for ‘risking it’ and making an attempt to reach
home. The commander thought otherwise, and as he had the casting vote in
this as in other matters, the submarine limped into Santander.
Kissvetter, the officer in question, after seeing that his ship was
safely berthed, lined up his crew and marched them to the naval
headquarters of the port. On giving his parole, he indulged in a lively
chat with the officer in charge, during the course of which he was good
enough to volunteer the information that the British bluejackets who had
taken part in the raids on Zeebrugge and Ostend[27] had displayed great
valour.

Another French aeroplane distinguished itself in a similar manner off
the Moroccan coast. It succeeded in so badly damaging U 39 that the
submarine could not reach Cartagena unassisted. There was an ugly dent
in her bow, the upper structure was damaged, and part of the machinery
put out of commission. Although his craft had sustained these injuries,
the commander found no difficulty in submerging, which proves that the
more modern U-boat was not so easily defeated as some people imagined.
Presumably the submarine waited until another of her tribe was due to
come along, possibly at dusk, and then made her presence known. At any
rate, a sister boat towed her within easy distance of Cartagena Harbour,
cast off, and disappeared. In response to signals of distress, a tug
took the battered submersible in charge and berthed her alongside a
Spanish cruiser. Commander Metzger, wearing the Iron Cross, was taken
with his crew of forty men to Madrid and interned.

[Illustration:

  “Kamerad! Kamerad!”

  Photo by W. S. Wiggins, U.S.S. _Fanning_

  _Reproduced by courtesy of the Naval Exhibition_
]

Fog is usually accepted as one of the plagues of the sea, but on
occasion it proved an excellent friend to the enemy when British patrol
craft were hot on the scent. This was not the case, however, with a
small German submarine which went ashore near Hellevoetsluis in
perfectly clear weather. The officer seems to have lost his bearings
completely. After spending several fruitless hours hoping that the
incoming tide would refloat his ship, the crew of fifteen men were
compelled to abandon her.

Their action was certainly less desperate than the means adopted by the
officers and men of a German mine-laying submarine which grounded on the
French coast to the west of Calais. She ‘touched bottom’ at high tide,
the worst possible time to choose for such a performance, and remained
as immovable as a rock. At daybreak the coastguards saw the boat lying
like a stranded whale, and promptly secured her. The officers and men
offered no resistance. They had made their plans when they realized that
the ‘game was up.’ By flooding the submarine with inflammable oil and
applying a match they effectively prevented the boat from passing into
the service of the French Navy.

Occasionally the hunter got more than he bargained for and was ‘hoist
with his own petard.’ The pirate commander of a U-boat was
congratulating himself on having disposed of a British steamer with the
minimum of trouble, when the victim blew up. He had attacked a vessel
loaded with ammunition without knowing what was in her hold, and at
comparatively short range. The explosion was so violent that it upset
the stability of the submersible, and did so much damage in other ways
that for a time it was believed she would founder. She was a sorry
spectacle when the cliffs and frowning guns of Heligoland were sighted
through the periscope.

In the early days of submarines their constitution could only be
described as delicate. At each stage of progress the craft has taken on
strength, until it has now anything but a fragile frame. That was one of
the reasons why the British Admiralty was chary of issuing definite
statements as to U-boat losses. Oil rising to the surface might be a
sign that a submarine had been wounded, but was no definite guarantee
that the patient would bleed to death. U-boats had a little trick of
letting out oil when attacked in the hope that it would deceive the
enemy. Take the case of a certain British submarine which had the very
undesirable misfortune to barge into a German mine. These submerged
canisters were filled with a heavy charge of trotyl. You will better
appreciate what this means when I add that T.N.T. has a bursting force
when confined of 128,000 lb. per square inch. Yet this British-built
ship is still afloat, and her crew alive to tell the tale. Vessel and
men owed their escape from death to a mighty good bulkhead. She struck
the mine bow on. Bulkheads 1 and 2 were burst open; her two fore
torpedo-tubes, both loaded, were so twisted and jammed that they were
rendered useless; the glass of the dials of the various recording
instruments was scattered in all directions; every member of the crew
was knocked flat, and the vessel sent to the bottom, nose foremost. A
landsman would have said it was the end of all things; the men most
concerned merely admitted that it was ‘a nasty jar.’

When they had regained their feet the crew went back to their allotted
stations to await orders. There was no need for them to puzzle why their
craft was in this predicament. Neither a sunken wreck nor a submerged
rock goes off with a bang. Meanwhile, there were some nasty leaks to
divert the mind. They would be attended to later, when orders had been
given. Discipline, like explosive, is a mighty force.

The commander picked himself up, carefully brushed his uniform with his
hands, and went to his post. “Let all things be done decently and in
order” is the acknowledged, if unwritten, motto of British submarines.
The officer’s action was the outward and visible sign that he had not
forgotten it. He gave instructions for the pumps to be set in motion—if
they were capable of movement. Everything depended on the answer. There
were moments of tense anxiety before it came. No one, even the bravest
of the brave, likes to be drowned like a rat in a trap. The motors were
going. They had not stopped. But the pumps?

They started! With the beating of their pulse hope flowed in where
before it had been on the ebb. The submarine came to the surface as game
as ever, though terribly bruised. If “God tempers the wind to the shorn
lamb,” a kindly Providence most assuredly watched over this craft. In
enemy waters, three hundred odd miles from home, with a broken nose and
internal injuries, she had not too much strength for the journey. She
accomplished it satisfactorily enough, and was back again in her old
haunts within a few weeks.

There is a particularly poignant note of tragedy in a strange mishap
that befell another British submarine. The why and the wherefore of the
accident have now been revealed. She was on her trials, and the
ventilating shafts had been left open, flooding the rear compartments
and drowning thirty-one men. She took an unexpected plunge of
thirty-eight feet, stuck fast in the mud, and positively refused to
budge. She lay like a dead thing. Every conceivable means of
resurrection was tried; each failed. One has read of wonderful
life-saving devices that are supposed to be donned by submarine men when
their boat is in difficulties. They look like smoke-helmets. All that is
required is to don one of these affairs, enter the conning-tower, open
the lid, and pop up like a cork. It sounds simple, even entertaining,
and might be introduced as a side show at an exhibition as a change from
the Flip-Flap. Whatever other submarines may have of this kind, this
particular boat either did not possess or could not use.

Officers and crew watched the hands of the clock complete the circle
several times. There was little else to do. One does not talk much when
waiting for eternity. Each felt that he was a doomed man, that ere long
his wife would be a widow and his children fatherless. There was ‘a war
on,’ but was this war? No enemy had done this, unless Destiny be an
enemy. The forty-two men who still lived were within a comparatively
short distance of the Scottish shore.

A terrible way out suggested itself to Commander Francis Herbert
Heaveningham Goodhart. It is a formidable name to remember in its
lengthy entirety, but one to make a note of. No future Book of Sea
Heroes will omit it and be reasonably complete. The surname, although it
is without an ‘e,’ fitted the man and the deed. He already had the
D.S.O. to his credit; his next award, the Albert Medal in gold, was
posthumous. Now you know the tragedy of the story. The story of the
tragedy remains to be told.

Goodhart’s “terrible way out” was this. The conning-tower of a submarine
may be cut off from the boat by a trap-door. He proposed that a tin
cylinder with a message giving full particulars of the position of the
craft, the approximate length of time the men could hold out, and other
details should be given to him, and that he should be blown up with it
through the conning-tower. To effect this it was necessary to partly
fill the chamber with water, turn on the high-pressure air, and release
the clips that secured the lid. Placing the little cylinder in his belt,
Goodhart set out on his last desperate adventure. Together with the
commanding officer, who was to open and close the hatch, he stepped into
the conning-tower. “If I don’t get up, the tin cylinder will,” he
remarked quite casually to his colleague.

Water was admitted, then air. The lid fell back, and Goodhart made his
escape. At this point Destiny, the unknown and the unknowable,
intervened. It reversed the order of affairs that man had so carefully
planned. Goodhart was flung back against the structure and killed
outright. At the same moment the officer who was to retire into the
submarine was shot upward and reached the surface. According to the
official account in the _London Gazette_, “Commander Goodhart displayed
extreme and heroic daring, and thoroughly realized the forlorn nature of
his act.” This does not go quite far enough. Had it not been for the
dead man’s attempt the instructions which were of such vital consequence
to the imprisoned men would never have reached the rescuers. In due
course fresh air, food, and water were sent to those below by methods
private to the printed page. That night the survivors slept on shore as
a slight compensation for their long and awful vigil.

In October 1916 the Danish submarine _Dykkeren_ met with a somewhat
similar mishap, although the cause of her sudden disappearance was a
collision with a Norwegian steamer in the Sound. Divers entrusted with
the salvage operations hammered messages of good cheer in the Morse code
on the side of the sunken boat, to which the prisoners promptly
responded. The commander alone lost his life. He was found dead in the
conning-tower.

The pirate chiefs of Germany did not have it all their own way even when
the absence of Allied patrol vessels, mines, and anti-submarine nets
rendered existence a little less worrying than was usually the case with
these pariahs of the deep. Lieutenant-Commander Schneider, who had won
renown in the Fatherland as an instrument of the ‘Blockade,’ was swept
overboard from his conning-tower while his craft was travelling awash.
When his body was recovered life was extinct. It was consigned to the
deep, whither the Commander had sent many another during his career as a
pirate. Some men from a U-boat in the Baltic were investigating the
papers of a schooner, when a German cruiser put in an appearance. Being
uncertain whether the submarine was a foreigner or not, as no colours
were displayed, the man-of-war ventured too close, and crashed into the
bow of the stationary vessel. Both U-boat and cruiser were compelled to
retire for repairs. Off Norway a German submarine mistook another of her
own nationality for a British representative of the underseas and
promptly torpedoed her.



                               CHAPTER IX
                       _Sea-hawk and Sword-fish_

  “_The present submarine difficulty is the result of our undisputed
  supremacy upon the sea surface. The whole ingenuity, building power,
  and resource of Germany are devoted to submarine methods, because
  they cannot otherwise seriously damage us._”—LORD MONTAGU OF
  BEAULIEU.


They call them ‘blimps’ in the Navy. The term conveys to the landsman
about as much information as ‘Blighty’ to a Chinaman. Blimps are speedy
little airships driven by a single propeller, with a gondola capable of
holding two or three men and a supply of munitions of war. These
miniature Zeppelins are handy little craft not given to high flying and
acrobatic feats, therefore less interesting to the general public than
aeroplanes, though not less useful to the commonwealth. They were the
guardian angels of the Merchant Service in the war. As such they played
an important part in combating the submarine evil. These tractor
balloons, with envelopes conforming to the shape of a fish, can hover
over a suspected spot for hours at a time, which a seaplane cannot do.
On the other hand, they are useless for raiding purposes on account of
their vulnerability. Blimps are submarine spotters, and frequently
submarine sinkers.

From the height at which it is accustomed to travel, the blimp, given
fair weather conditions, is able to see the shadowy form of a ‘dip
chick’ when not so much as her periscope is showing, and it can cover a
fairly wide area of observation. If you stand on the bank of a broad and
deep brook you will not be able to see so far into the water as if you
were standing on a bridge that spans it and leaning over the parapet.
That is why a gull looks for its food above the sea, and having glimpsed
a toothsome, or rather beaksome, morsel, dives after it. This is also
the secret of the spotter’s sight. Many a German and Austrian U-boat
disappeared in a welter of oil and bubbles by reason of the fact.

It was during Lord Jellicoe’s term of office as First Sea Lord that
increasing attention was paid to aircraft as an ally of the Senior
Service. At the same time it is only fair to mention that when the
British Expeditionary Force crossed to France in 1914, aircraft
patrolled the marches of the sea between the French, Belgian, and
English coasts.

The Navy and the Army have their own schemes of warfare, but in one
particular plan of operations there is marked similarity. Just as the
land is divided into sectors for fighting purposes, so the sea is
divided into sections for the purpose of patrol. Destroyers and
hydroplanes, auxiliaries and trawlers, airships and seaplanes have their
beats mapped out for them like a City policeman. This does not mean that
every square yard of salt water is covered—an obvious impossibility—but
it does mean that as many square yards are watched as is humanly and
practicably possible. In one month 90,000 miles were travelled by
seaplanes on patrol, and 80,000 miles by airships.

When the war was very young, a seaplane containing an officer and a
petty officer was scouting. Without any preliminary warning the engine
broke down, and they were compelled to descend and drift on the surface
with a heavy sea running. Of rescue there seemed to be little hope. Fog
completely enveloped them. A survey of the damage proved that patching
up was altogether out of the question. Nothing short of a lathe would
suffice. The airmen fell back on tobacco, “the lonely man’s friend.”
Even this comfort speedily failed them. Cigarettes and sea-sickness do
not go well together. The poor fellows held on and watched their machine
gradually break up. They were horribly ill, and on the verge of despair,
when the throb of machinery suddenly fell on their ears, and a destroyer
peered in through the opaque surroundings of their little world. They
were no longer face to face with death. Other men have not always been
so fortunate. One does not necessarily have to be washed overboard to be
“lost at sea.”

A couple of seaplanes on outpost duty were watching the waters below
with great interest when one of them sighted a submarine travelling on
the surface. They were up a good height, but the observers duly noted a
couple of men on the conning-tower. Apparently the Germans were too
intent on the business in hand to observe the sky-pilots, who kept on a
steady course. They suffered a rude awakening a few minutes later. A
weighty bomb fell plumb on the starboard side of the sea pest, midway
between the conning-tower and the stern. That bomb ‘did its bit’ for
King and Country. Slowly but surely the U-boat heeled over, ceased to
make progress, and lay like a log on the water. Then the bow rose at an
awkward angle, and the vessel began to settle rapidly. Another bomb,
released by the second seaplane, burst close to the conning-tower,
followed by a third bomb, “to make assurance doubly sure.” This
particular submarine was not handed over to Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt.

America did much excellent work in helping the British Navy to rid the
seas of underwater pests. An ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve attached
to the Aviation Service was patrolling in a British seaplane with a
British observer. Within thirty minutes of having started, “we sighted
the periscope of a submarine directly in front of us,” he reports.
“Immediately I opened the engine full out and attacked, dropping a bomb
which landed a few feet ahead of the periscope and directly in line with
it. A moment later a great quantity of air bubbles came to the surface.
The water all about began to boil. I turned and attacked again. This
time I dropped a bomb of twice the size. It landed nearly in the centre
of the first disturbance. A mass of oil now appeared on the surface in
addition to the _débris_ left by the bomb itself. The second disturbance
continued for some time. Then I circled round for two hours before
returning to warn merchant ships in the vicinity and inform a destroyer
escorting a British submarine of what I had done and seen.”

From his point of vantage the look-out of a British airship noticed a
steamer limping along in a manner which distinctly suggested that she
was in difficulties. That had been a fairly familiar sight since the
opening of Germany’s illegal warfare. The cause of her crippled
condition was evidently of enemy origin, though her assailant was
invisible. Sea-wolves did not make a regular habit of gloating over
their victims. That little hobby was only indulged in when the ‘coast’
was clear. The coxswain headed the airship in the direction of the
stricken steamer, but before reaching her tugs had made their welcome
appearance and lent the assistance of a stout steel hawser that worked
wonders.

As a precaution against surprise the airship accompanied the miniature
squadron. They proceeded quietly enough for a time, making fair speed,
when a U-boat broke surface about five miles off. Signalling by wireless
the position of the pest to all and sundry, the airship accelerated her
engine and lowered to a height from which she could make the best use of
her weapons. The submarine was not taken entirely unawares; she
submerged before the sea-hawk was immediately above. Two bombs, released
simultaneously, caused a terrible commotion and effected a kill. A
destroyer which had picked up the wireless subsequently dragged the
spot, and signalled the cheering news, “You’ve undoubtedly bagged her.”

Better luck attended this effort than befell the pilot of a seaplane who
came across a large submersible travelling awash. Here early demise
seemed a certainty. Unfortunately there is many a slip ’twixt the bomb
and the U-boat. One packet of high explosive fell ahead and another
astern of the grey monster. The third was a marvellous shot. It did the
aviator’s heart good to see it strike. It landed directly in the centre
of the deck. He had scored a bull’s-eye. I am afraid I cannot quote what
he said when the missile failed to detonate. His anger was not appeased
by the knowledge that his supply of ammunition was exhausted. The enemy
submerged, descended to the lowest depths, and made off.

Observation balloons, towed by destroyers, although they obviously lack
the initiative of airship and seaplane, have their uses like their more
energetic brethren of the sky. On one occasion an observer telephoned
that there was a U-boat in the neighbourhood. Depth charges were thrown
overboard, but achieved nothing more than causing the boat to shift her
position. She passed from mortal ken so far as her hunters were
concerned. Later on, however, the submarine came to the surface and
began shelling a poor little helpless sailing vessel that could neither
escape nor offer effective resistance. The destroyer opened fire, and as
a submersible is no match for this type of vessel, she promptly went
below. Her rapidity of movement failed to evade Nemesis, though her
smartness in this respect was highly commendable. Guided by the balloon,
the parent ship took up the trail, and nine ‘pills’ were sent overboard
with the compliments of the captain. Then followed such a display of oil
as is rarely seen. No fake oil squirt ever succeeded in covering a mile
of sea with the colours of the rainbow. The U-boat had gone to her doom.

The task undertaken by blimps and seaplanes in their daily warfare
against the pirates was far from selfish. The Mistress of the Seas and
her Allies kept guard over the welfare of neutral nations as well as of
their own. While journeying homeward the Danish steamer _Odense_ was met
by a German submersible. It signalled her to stop. The order was
complied with without hesitation, but instead of making an examination
of the ship’s papers the U-boat opened fire, killing two of the crew.
The enemy commander then ordered the survivors into the boat. This was
really inviting them to commit suicide, for the weather was such as to
render the likelihood of the men’s being saved extremely remote. While
this little tragedy of the sea was being acted, a British submarine put
in an appearance, apparently from nowhere. She had been summoned by
aircraft. The U-boat did not stay to fire further shells into the
steamer. Not long afterward a British patrol ship on its ceaseless vigil
came across the Danes in their cockleshell, took them on board, gave
them warm food and dry clothes, and amply demonstrated the fact that the
British Navy was neither spiteful nor cruel because it did not own the
globe.

A British coastal airship was scouting for a convoy bound westward. The
voyage had been uneventful, when a look-out spied the track of a torpedo
aimed with deadly certainty at one of the steamers. With marvellous
agility the course of the airship was altered and traversed the trail
still outlined on the water. It is said that she travelled at a rate
approaching ninety miles an hour. There was the gaunt form of the
submarine right enough, though submerged. Well-placed bombs did the
rest.

Another airship, quietly sailing in the upper air, also came across a
British convoy. The reply to the pilot’s request for news was entirely
unsatisfactory from his point of view. No U-boats had been seen or
reported. Things were slow. They continued so for several hours after
the two branches of the Service had parted, but brightened up a bit when
a wireless message was received that a merchantman was being attacked by
a pirate. Details as to position proved correct. The submersible was
floating awash. Blimps being preeminently handy affairs which readily
respond to helm and engine control, the airship was hovering over the
U-boat before the latter was completely submerged. It boded ill for the
intended victim, whose ballast tanks were slower in filling than the
airship’s mechanical appliances in accelerating. The first bomb was a
good shot, but not a hit. It fell three feet short of the mark, and
exploded astern of the propellers. That it did the enemy no good was
evident. Streams of oil, too voluminous to be make-believe, spurted to
the surface. The second bomb was a direct hit aft of the conning-tower,
causing the stern to rise upward. It would have been waste of good
ammunition to spend more on the wreck that lay below. She slowly turned
turtle, and was no more seen. Another U-boat had paid the price of her
perfidy. The blimp had scored a full triumph that admitted of no
question.

A seaplane was patrolling her section, keeping a sharp eye on
possibilities in the nether regions that failed to eventuate. Presumed
periscopes are sometimes in reality nothing more than mops or spars.
After the novelty of flying has worn off it is apt to become a trifle
boring without action. As the pilot was proceeding on his way, doubtless
thinking that his luck was most decidedly out, he picked up a wireless
message. Judging by its purport it was evidently sent by a U-boat no
great distance off. He had not proceeded very far before he spotted his
prey, comfortably squatting on the surface about a mile ahead. The
seaplane was ‘all out’ in a trice. Sea-hawk and sword-fish exchanged
greetings, the one with a bomb, the other with a shell. The latter burst
quite harmlessly within fifty feet of the aircraft, then splashed over
the sea like a shower of pebbles. The bomb went more than one better. It
fell on the U-boat and tore a great rent in her deck. While this battle
royal was proceeding, three German U-boats, three torpedo-boats, and a
couple of seaplanes were speeding in the direction of the firing. The
weather was somewhat misty, but they sighted the solitary seaplane and
tried to wing her. The pilot treated them with contempt, and calmly
proceeded with the business immediately in hand. The firing in his
direction became so heavy that it formed a barrage through which the
German aircraft were totally unable to penetrate. The officer gave his
enemy another dose of bomb, photographed her as she was going down, took
a picture of her friends, and having exhausted his ammunition, returned
to report.

A gunner on a British submarine cruising off Denmark proved himself a
better shot than his German rivals in the afore-mentioned incident. Two
enemy seaplanes saw the boat and dropped their highly explosive eggs.
The bombs burst, made a great noise, but did no damage. A shell from the
submarine sped straight and true and one of the seaplanes was brought
down, whereupon her companion, realizing that the locality was
unhealthy, beat a hasty and undignified retreat.

German airmen naturally endeavoured to turn the tables on us. They
hunted for British submarines in addition to doing scouting work for
their own. Within a month of the outbreak of war an enemy airman and his
mechanic got what was at once the greatest shock in their lives and the
means of the aforesaid lives being preserved. Their machine had broken
down, and they were using it as a raft, when one of His Britannic
Majesty’s submarines rose to the surface. Instead of making war on them
as a ‘biological necessity,’ the commander rescued the two men and took
them into Harwich, after their damaged craft had been satisfactorily
disposed of.

During the afternoon of the 6th July, 1918, a British submarine was on
guard off the East Coast when five hostile seaplanes swooped down on her
and made a vigorous attack with bombs and machine-guns. According to the
German official account, the action took place off the mouth of the
Thames, and two submarines were severely damaged, one of which, when
last observed, was in a sinking condition. The report rather reminds one
of occasions when Teutonic imagination has robbed the Grand Fleet of
battle-cruisers. As it happened, the British craft sustained only minor
injuries, and was towed into harbour by another submarine—presumably the
one which the enemy had seen. She had suffered no inconvenience whatever
from the seaplanes’ attentions. Unhappily an officer and five men were
killed in this attack.

Some time since the Berlin Press made much ado about a British submarine
being sunk by a German airship. It was when Zeppelins were considered to
be rather more substantial assets in the Wilhelmstrasse than they
subsequently became. A little later the ‘sunken’ submarine returned to
her base without so much as a scratch on her bulgy sides, and reported
that she had been in action with a hostile airship, which she had
damaged and driven off. So much for the Truth as propagated in Berlin.

One of the most brilliant exploits of what I may term the aerial phase
of war in the underseas took place in March 1918. The scene of the
engagement, in which three British seaplanes and five German machines
were involved, was just beyond the North Hinder. While the enemy were
attacking from the rear, and our men were busily engaged in putting up a
stiff fight, a U-boat made its appearance ahead with several officers
and men on the conning-tower. The three Britishers dived down, and
having nothing else available, fired their machine-guns at the
spectators, who disappeared inside and slammed the hatch. They then took
up positions to renew the aerial combat. The fight continued for half an
hour, to be broken off by the enemy when five British trawlers were
sighted. As for the submarine, she was nowhere to be seen. One of our
seaplanes was then out of action owing to a petrol pipe having burst. It
returned home without overmuch difficulty.

Meanwhile the remaining two seaplanes carried on with their patrol work,
though some of the men were relieved. Almost three hours later they came
across as pretty a sight as British airmen could wish to see. The five
Germans were floating on the water. The British gave them a round or two
from their guns, but before they had got well within range the enemy
were up and had taken places in their usual =V= formation at a height of
about 200 feet. This was speedily broken up as our airmen gained on
them, the =V= rapidly assuming the appearance of an elongated =I=, or
single line ahead. Having succeeded in scattering them, the British
seaplanes attacked them individually. An enemy twin-seater was hurled
down, followed by a second machine, whose observer and gunner were both
shot, and a third seaplane was rendered unfit for immediate service. The
other machines escaped because not a solitary cartridge was left
available for pursuit; in all 2500 rounds had been fired. A solitary
casualty was sustained on our side. A wireless operator was wounded in
the neck, whereupon his companions administered first aid and returned
to their respective duties.

Five British seaplanes were patrolling off the East Coast on the
afternoon of the 4th June, 1918. After a particularly ‘tame’ flight, a
similar accident to that which had occurred in the engagement related
above compelled one of the machines to descend to the water. A petrol
pipe had broken, and as repairs of this nature cannot be effected to a
heavier-than-air machine while it is on the wing, there was no
alternative but to come down. While the others were on guard, a squadron
of five enemy aircraft was seen approaching. The seaplanes at once gave
battle, but the Germans were in no mood for fighting, and made off as
fast as their propellers would take them. When it was obvious that they
could not be brought to action, the British machines returned to their
crippled comrade. Two more hostile seaplanes appeared a little later,
and were similarly disposed of.

Before the wounded sea-hawk was fit for further fighting, no fewer than
ten hostile seaplanes came in view. Probably they were the previous
flock concentrated and augmented. There was no thought of “retiring
according to plan.” The Britons went to meet the enemy, as is their
wont. By taking the offensive they would also best screen their comrades
below, who were working with an energy seldom equalled. They, like the
others, wanted to be up and at them. The aerial battle was sharp and
furious. Two of the German craft were shot down; one of our machines
fought till she could fight no longer. The latter eventually landed in
Vlieland, Holland. Finding that the task of putting their craft in order
was impossible with the appliances at their command, the crew of the
other maimed machine set it on fire when they reached Dutch territorial
waters, and made their escape by swimming to land.

During the course of the action a British seaplane was attacked by two
of the enemy, and the assistant pilot was shot dead. Five other German
’planes then closed with the British machine. The pilot made a
nose-dive, shook off his assailants, and put up such a hot fight with
the gun in the stern that they broke off the contest. A little later the
petrol pipe of this machine also broke, and the seaplane was forced to
descend for the needful repairs. Petrol pipes are the _bêtes noires_ of
the airman’s life. The engineer air-mechanic did his work with such
dexterity that within ten minutes everything was in running order again
and the machine was climbing up to rejoin its companions. When it
reached them they set out in search of the enemy. They met with no luck,
and returned to their base.

In such ways as these aircraft fought fish with steel fins and winged
creatures after their own kind. There remained yet another method of
warfare known to them, namely, bombing submarine bases, of which Ostend,
Zeebrugge, and Bruges were probably the most important. Time after time
one read in the newspapers that these places had been attacked by
aircraft, until one wondered how it was that so much as a stone or a
stick of timber was left. The reason is that a bomb explosion is
entirely local in its effects. It does not spread like fire in a gale,
though it may cause buildings to be gutted. It was only now and again
that direct hits were scored on submarines, torpedo-boats, and other
vessels in the docks. But there was another important factor to be taken
into consideration. The soldiers, sailors, tinkers and tailors who
inhabited these places could not possibly produce their best work under
the strain of constant attacks from the air. They must have suffered
from the ‘jumps’ pretty frequently; and Napoleon said truly that the
moral is to the physical as three to one.

Submarines, aircraft, and surface fighting forces were involved in the
famous Christmas Day attack on the heavily fortified base of Cuxhaven in
1914. This was a sequel to the German naval raid on Scarborough, Whitby,
and the Hartlepools ten days before. Seven seaplanes, three
seaplane-carriers, escorted by the light cruisers _Undaunted_ and
_Arethusa_, several destroyers and submarines, duly arrived in the
neighbourhood of Heligoland. When they had left England the previous
afternoon the coast was bathed in sunshine, but the mouth of the Elbe
was fog-bound. However, the aircraft got away, their principal objective
being the warships lying in Schillig Roads. The surface craft then
toured about while awaiting their return, and were seen from Heligoland.
Two Zeppelins, several seaplanes, and a number of U-boats came out to
attack, but it is significant that although the British ships were off
the German coast for three hours not a solitary surface vessel attempted
to face them. They doubtless foresaw a second battle of Heligoland Bight
and were anxious to avoid it. Bombs from the aircraft dropped fast and
furious; they merely ploughed the sea. Maxims, anti-aircraft weapons,
rifles, and 6–in. guns took up the challenge and put the Zeppelins to
flight; torpedoes were fired at the _Arethusa_, and skilfully avoided by
swift manœuvring. A Taube spotted one of our submarines, made half a
dozen attempts to sink her, and failed. In this matter they were no more
successful than the British seaplanes, which tried to hit an enemy
torpedo-boat and a submersible. What actual damage was achieved by the
airmen is unknown, but the Germans certainly scored at Langeoog. Under
the impression that T.B.D.s were hiding in the fog off the island they
dropped a number of bombs, thereby killing several civilians.

Of the six British airmen who returned, three were picked up by our
surface ships, the others by submarines. In the case of the latter the
machines were sunk. For a time it was feared that Flight-Commander
Hewlett had been brought down or was drowned, but he eventually turned
up none the worse for his exciting adventure, having been picked up by a
Dutch trawler. Chief Mechanic Gilbert Budds, writing to his father,
gives a little glimpse of his exciting experiences. “Just fancy,” he
says, “Christmas Day—first on a ship through mine-fields, on a seaplane
over the enemy’s fleet and force, and then back in a submarine. During
the homeward trip we had the gramophone going with all the latest music,
and had chicken, Christmas pudding, custard and jellies for dinner.
How’s that, Dad, for a submarine in the heart of the enemy’s fleet in
war-time?”

After all, perhaps life in an underwater craft during the war had its
compensations.

The French seaplane patrol service also did wonderful things, as was to
be expected, for our Allies took aircraft seriously when we only
regarded them as expensive toys for wealthy folk with suicidal
tendencies. In a single month, and in various samples of weather, their
seaplanes made as many as 3139 flights. During the thirty days under
review, ten submarines were attacked, six mine-fields were located, and
nine night bombardments carried out. French airships also made 141
trips.

So much for statistics, which is the practical in undress uniform. Now
for the more picturesque aspect of the Service. A couple of French
sea-hawks were watching the Channel, and came across a German
submersible on the surface. Apparently the commander of the U-boat had
not the slightest notion that there was an enemy “up above the world so
high” until he was attacked. When the rude awakening came he began to
submerge. The boat was not quite so quick in her movements as the
seaplanes. The airmen dived with extraordinary rapidity, and both scored
a bull’s-eye on the target.

[Illustration:

  A Seaplane of the R.N.A.S keeping a Watchful Eye on an Enemy Submarine
]

“The leading machine,” says the semi-official note, “then returned to
its base for a further supply of bombs, leaving the other machine to
keep a look-out. The latter, a few seconds after the attack, saw the
forepart of the submarine emerge at an angle of 45 degrees. Then the
submarine slowly rose to the surface, without, however, being able to
regain a horizontal position, and again disappeared in a violent
whirlpool. Three times at short intervals the submarine attempted to
rise to the surface, taking at each attempt a stronger list to
starboard. Then the observer saw the whole of the submarine’s port side
exposed, while the submarine rested on its beam ends. Finally the vessel
disappeared without having succeeded in getting its conning-tower above
water.”

One Sunday a British pilot and a Frenchman attached to the R.N.A.S. were
on the spy for U-boats off the Belgian coast. They had scarcely been in
the air half an hour, and had reached a height of about 9000 feet, when
they saw two submarines lying side by side on the surface. The spot was
some five miles west of Nieuport, where the water is shallow. To the
aviators it looked very much as though the craft were just above a
sandbank. So much the better for the attackers. The boats would have
furnished lovely targets had there been no look-out below, but it was
first of all necessary to decrease the distance separating the airmen
from the objects about to be attacked, and during the descent the
Germans saw their enemy. One of the submarines managed to get away,
leaving the other to fend for herself. At 600 feet Lieutenant de Sincay
dropped a bomb right on the conning-tower. A second missile did such
terrible execution that the boat sank like a stone.

The great Austrian naval bases of Cattaro and Pola were visited several
times by Italian airmen. On one occasion a raid was made on the former
harbour at night and direct hits were scored on submarines and
torpedo-boats, while an aerial attack on Pola was responsible for the
destruction of three U-boats undergoing repairs.

It is only doing bare justice to remember that neutral aviators also
played a part in making a life under the rolling deep in a U-boat
anything but pleasant. Time and again German pirates endeavoured to use
the deep fiords of North-western Scandinavia for purposes best known to
themselves, but in all probability as convenient rendezvous for stabbing
Norwegian vessels in the back. Several tried to hide themselves in
Bergen Bay. They were discovered by native airmen and promptly informed
that if they did not quit the neutral zone without delay they would be
interned. They left.



                               CHAPTER X
                     _U-Boats that Never Returned_

  “_Let us march farther, undaunted and confident, along the road
  of force. Then our future will be secure against British avarice
  and revenge. The German is too good to become England’s
  vassal._”—ADMIRAL VON SCHEER.


Many U-boats were buried in the same grave as their last victim. This
was not adequate retribution, but it left the Navy and the Mercantile
Marine with one submarine the less to fight.

Close to the wreck of the great White Star liner _Justicia_, a
magnificent steamer of 32,000 tons, lie the remains of one of her
attackers. There may be others, but I give the official figure. The
submarine in question was sunk by the destroyer _Marne_ on the 20th
June, 1918, the day the Germans were being driven back across the
historic river whose name she bore. The _Justicia_ was dogged by
submersibles for twenty-two hours, during which time no fewer than seven
torpedoes were fired at her. It was the most determined onslaught ever
made by U-boats. Moreover, the attack is remarkable by reason of the
fact that not only were destroyers and other craft convoying the vessel,
but she herself was armed.

The first torpedo struck and exploded in the engine-room, killing
fifteen men and injuring the third engineer so terribly that he died
later. The second weapon was diverted from its course by the
_Justicia’s_ gunners; the third missed. Depth charges and other means
were used to deal with the menace, and apparently with success. During
the ensuing night nothing further was seen or heard of the enemy. Early
the following morning, however, two torpedoes were fired simultaneously,
one taking effect in No. 3 hold, the other in No. 5 hold. When it was
realized that there was not the remotest chance of bringing the
_Justicia_ to port, the crew of between six and seven hundred were
quietly transferred to another vessel. The liner kept afloat for eight
hours after that, a remarkable testimony to the efficient work of those
who had built her in the Belfast yards of Messrs Harland and Wolff.

Several commanders of U-boats asserted that a number of attempts had
previously been made to sink the _Justicia_, but had failed because she
was provided with torpedo nets. This does not seem altogether an
adequate explanation, unless we are to presume that the devices alleged
to be in use were not in position when the maritime snipers succeeded in
sending her to Davy Jones’s locker.

The during-the-war policy of the British Admiralty as regards lost,
stolen, and strayed U-boats was one of reserve, and rightly so. When you
are on the watch for a gang of burglars you make as little fuss about it
as possible. If full publicity had been given to the methods of capture
the Central Powers would have speedily become conversant with them. We
preferred to let the enemy find out things for himself—if he could. To
use an expression common on the Western Front, it ‘put the wind up’
German crews to find that an ever-increasing number of their friends on
U-boats failed to report after a voyage. Except in rare instances no
information as to their fate came to relieve their friends’ anxiety.
They just disappeared from mortal ken. It did not make for ease of mind;
it harrowed the nerves of the strongest. The effect on the _moral_ of
the enemy was distinctly marked. The plot rebounded. The sea-dogs of the
British Merchant Service were to be frightened into submission; their
ships were to rust for want of use, moss was to grow on the quayside. It
was the U-boat which surrendered to the White Ensign.

The first enemy submersible to be lost was U 15, sunk in the North Sea
by H.M.S. _Birmingham_ on the 9th August, 1914. This was admitted by Mr
Winston Churchill in a telegram to the Lord Mayor of the cruiser’s
name-place, whose loyal citizens had made a presentation of plate to her
officers’ mess. U 15 was a small vessel of about 300 tons, carrying a
crew of twelve officers and men, and appears to have had two or three
consorts with her. An A.B. on the _Birmingham_, which was attached to
the First Light Cruiser Squadron, sighted the periscope of a submarine,
and fire was opened at once. The noise of the guns and the piercing
notes of the bugle calling all to action stations brought those who were
not on watch to their allotted positions in double quick time. Officers
in pyjamas, men with one leg in their trousers and one out, scampered
along the upper deck as though joining in a race, anxious only to get to
grips with the enemy. It is said that the first shell struck the
periscope and rendered the submarine sightless. If so, it was a
marvellous shot at a range of a couple of miles or thereabouts. Probably
the sailor who set the story going was indulging in a little game of
‘leg-pulling,’ a hobby not unknown in the Navy. There was a mighty
swerve as the captain of the cruiser altered course so as to be out of
the line of fire. In another instant the _Birmingham_ was racing toward
her assailant as though the engines would tear themselves from their
pits in the excitement of the chase. Every gun was trained on the
U-boat. Another shot rang out, wrecking the conning-tower. The sharp
steel bow of the man-of-war did the rest. There were no survivors.

In October 1914 it was announced that the T.B.D. _Badger_ had rammed and
probably sunk an enemy submarine. This was contradicted by the Germans,
who asserted that the vessel in question had returned to her base in a
damaged condition. There was less uncertainty about a U-boat casualty
that happened in the following month. U 18 penetrated a certain harbour
in the north of Scotland much frequented by naval vessels. It happened
that just as the submarine was going in, a trawler attached to the
Patrol was coming out. Apparently the tough little craft passed over the
U-boat, for the skipper immediately signalled, “Have struck submarine.”

Now a submarine chase was much appreciated by those who commanded
destroyers. There was sport about it rather more exciting than merely
“barging about the North Sea.” The T.B.D. _Garry_ was first in the
field. She slipped along in wonderful style and attempted to ram the
enemy as she was endeavouring to get away. According to a seaman, the
periscope crumpled up, but the jar that was felt was scarcely enough to
warrant his commander in believing that the U-boat had run her course.
Accordingly he cruised about for a while, anticipating that eventually
she would come to the surface if any life remained in her. This is
exactly what happened, and once again the _Garry_ worked up to full
speed. She was on the verge of crashing into the enemy when the crew
appeared on deck. One of them waved a white handkerchief in token of
surrender. It was a narrow squeak, but the destroyer rescued three
officers and twenty-three of her crew. One of the latter was drowned. He
volunteered to stay behind and open the Kingston valve so that the craft
might not be captured.

To give a chronological list of the U-boats known to have perished in
the war, with particulars of their death, would occupy all the pages in
this volume. I can therefore only cite a few instances. The story of the
sinking of an unknown marauder by the _Thordis_, a little coasting
steamer of 500 tons, is too well known to require retelling.[28] Captain
Bell was the first master in the Merchant Service to win official
recognition as a submarine-sinker.

U 8 had been operating in the Straits of Dover and the English Channel
for several weeks before she was finally rounded up by a dozen
destroyers under the command of Captain C. D. Johnson. This was in the
afternoon of the 4th March, 1915. Here again there was an alarming
discrepancy in the company the submersible ought to have carried and the
number she actually had on board. Her normal complement was twelve
officers and men; when she was sunk twenty-nine survivors were picked
up. The sinking of U 8 and U 12 was made the basis of a threat of
reprisals upon British officer prisoners in Germany because the
authorities at Whitehall did not “feel justified in extending honourable
treatment” to the men of U 8. They held that there was “strong
probability” of their having “been guilty of attacking and sinking
unarmed merchantmen” and “wantonly killing non-combatants.” Sir Edward
Grey pointed out that up to the time of the incident more than a
thousand officers and men of the German Navy had been rescued from the
sea, “sometimes in spite of danger to the rescuers, and sometimes to the
prejudice of British naval operations.” Not a single British sailor had
been picked up by the enemy. The widely circulated report that the
officers of U 8 were guests of Royal Artillery officers at lunch at
Dover Castle was a falsehood.

The life of U 12 as a pirate was extremely short. She was caught by the
destroyer _Ariel_ on the 10th March, 1915, before she had been able to
do anything approaching appreciable damage, her sole victim being a
little steam collier of 60 tons, which she sank by means of a bomb.

A certain amount of mystery is also associated with this particular
submarine. Her displacement, if she were the original U 12, was 300 tons
submerged and 250 tons above water. Fourteen men would have been ample
to work her, yet she had a complement of twenty-eight. It is possible,
though the idea seems somewhat far-fetched on account of the limited
accommodation on board, that the men in excess were being trained. What
appears to be far more probable is that an old number had been given to
a new boat, just as the name _Arethusa_ has been borne by a long line of
fighting ships in the Royal Navy. Ten of the pirates were picked up and
landed in Scotland; eighteen were drowned.

Although Captain Otto Weddigen achieved momentary fame in Germany as the
hero of an exploit that sent the _Aboukir_, the _Cressy_, and the
_Hogue_ to the bottom of the North Sea, he did not live long to enjoy
his popularity. When the U 9, the submarine which he commanded on that
occasion, was withdrawn from service, he was given the U 29, believed to
have a displacement of some 800 tons, and to be armed with two
quick-firing guns and four or more torpedo-tubes. One of the U 9’s last
adventures was to get entangled in the net of a Dutch steam trawler,
necessitating the cutting away of the lines.

U 29 first appeared as a commerce-destroyer about a fortnight before she
was sent to the bottom. Her hunting-ground was the vicinity of the
Scillies. Known as ‘the Polite Pirate,’ Weddigen sank five or six
merchant ships, and on occasion regaled the crews with cigars and wine
and towed their boats toward land. Not once did he behave with the
stupid and blundering brutality of many of his associates in arms. When
the crew of the _Adenwen_ were taking to the boats, one of the men fell
overboard. Weddigen happened to be on the conning-tower at the time.
Noticing the sailor’s plight and his rescue, the captain of the U-boat
sent him a suit of dry clothes.

The German commander’s order Pour le Mérite and the Iron Cross of the
First Class went down with his ship. This misfortune reached the
Kaiser’s ears. That august personage sent duplicates to Weddigen’s
widow, at the same time condoling with her in “the bitter loss of a man
whom the entire Fatherland mourns, who achieved unforgettable fame for
himself and the Fatherland, and who will live for all time as a shining
example of daring, calm, and resolution.”

Weddigen’s humanity came in very useful when the fate of U 29 had to be
explained in the German Press. The _Deutsche Tageszeitung_ suggested
that “British ships surprised U 29 while she was busy saving the crew of
the steamer. In the midst of this humane work the knightly English must
have caught U 29 while she was helpless, and it would be easy for them
to destroy her. The noble hypocritical sentimentality of the English
Press about the captain points to facts of this kind.” Admiral Klaus,
writing in the _Vossische Zeitung_, put forward the theory that the
submarine was sunk by a British ship flying a neutral merchant flag, and
added that as the British Admiralty had seen fit to withhold details
there were apparently good reasons for not being proud of the success.
The only information vouchsafed by the officials of the Wilhelmstrasse
was couched in the baldest of bald language: “U 29 has not yet returned
from her last cruise. According to the report of the British Admiralty
issued on March 26 [1915], the ship sank with her entire crew. The
submarine must therefore be regarded as lost.” The burial of the U-boat
in a shroud of mystery must have been horribly galling to the bigwigs of
Berlin. The intimation that she was “sunk by one of His Majesty’s ships”
conveyed nothing to them except the obvious.

On the 9th June, 1915, Mr Balfour announced in the House of Commons that
a German submarine had been sunk and the entire crew taken prisoners.
The German Admiralty subsequently announced that U 14 was evidently the
vessel in question, as it had “not returned from its last expedition.”

Whether the following letter is a typical revelation of the mind of the
German underwater sailor or not is more than I can say, but it is
particularly interesting as showing that the writer was thankful to a
kindly Providence for sparing him when the game of piracy and murder had
come to an end and he was safe in British hands. It could scarcely be
supposed that every German who sailed in a submarine did it of his own
free will or took a delight in the work. I can only suggest that all too
often the Prussian Cult makes blackguards of men who are not by nature
what they afterward become. The communication runs as follows:

  MY DEAR, GOOD PARENTS,

  Go to church the first Sunday after you receive these lines from me,
  and thank the good God for having so mercifully watched over and
  preserved me. I have fallen into the hands of the English, unwounded
  and whole in body and mind, and have been well treated, quite
  particularly so by the English naval officers.

  It was an extremely sad day for me. First of all in the morning I
  saw dead on the deck two poor Norwegians who had unhappily fallen
  victims to our gunfire. The day will be engraved on my memory in
  letters of blood.

  But as for you, dear parents, do not be distressed, and do not weep
  for me. The good God Who has protected me hitherto will continue to
  be my aid, and if it should be His will that I should quit this
  world I shall know how to die.

The submersible in which the writer of the above letter served was
UC 39, commanded by Otto Ehrentraut, a personal friend of Prince Henry
of Prussia. UC 39 was a mine-layer, but does not appear to have been so
employed when she was destroyed. She was simply indulging in
cold-blooded piracy with the aid of torpedoes and shell. Her first
victim was the Norwegian s.s. _Hans Kinck_. Although the vessel stopped
when summoned to do so, many rounds were fired at the helpless ship.
Victim No. 2 was the British s.s. _Hanna Larsen_, which was sunk by
bombs and the master and chief engineer made prisoners. Victim No. 3 was
another Norwegian steamer, the _Ida_, when the old practice of firing
after the vessel had stopped was again indulged. No fewer than twenty
shells were hurled at her before Otto Ehrentraut gave the order to cease
fire. It was only then that the men in one of the _Ida’s_ boats ventured
to come alongside and inform him that two of their comrades, both
wounded, had been left on the sinking vessel. When a German officer
clambered on board, the mate and the steward were lying dead on the
deck. There they were allowed to remain while the _Ida_ was finished off
with bombs.

A steamer and a trawler were next attacked. Both escaped in the mist.
Another steamer was encountered a little later, but this time UC 39
caught a Tartar. A destroyer was close by and opened fire. Before the
submarine could dive sufficiently low to make her whereabouts uncertain
a depth charge exploded in her near vicinity. Water poured in, making it
dangerous to remain submerged. So she came to the surface, to receive a
tornado of fire from the man-of-war. Ehrentraut appeared on the
conning-tower, and was struck by a shell. His place was taken by another
officer. As UC 39 continued on her course, the commander of the
destroyer yelled through a megaphone for her to stop. Before she
answered the summons several of the crew had been killed or wounded, but
seventeen survivors were rescued. All these events were crowded into two
days.

The French, Italian, and Japanese Navies all displayed splendid prowess
in dispatching submarines. The Austrian U 3, a small submarine of 300
tons displacement when submerged, was rounded up in the Lower Adriatic
by the French T.B.D. _Bisson_ after a search in which Italian men-of-war
had joined. No sooner was the periscope sighted than the destroyer
scored a hit at over 3000 yards. The second shot was not so successful,
for it fell short, but the third struck her and exploded in the
engine-room. Although U 3 went down in half a minute, twelve of her crew
were rescued.

The U-boat which wrecked the _Chateaurenault_ in the Ionian Sea on the
14th December, 1917, took a lot of killing. After the enemy had sent her
first torpedo, the spot where she submerged was riddled with shells. On
her reappearance shortly afterward, the gunners of the cruiser opened
fire, causing her once more to make a hasty withdrawal. A second torpedo
followed, and the U-boat was again shelled, while two seaplanes dropped
bombs. Unable to keep under water, she came up for the last time, and
was literally blown to pieces.

I have scarcely touched the fringe of a vast topic. In August 1918 Mr
Lloyd George stated that 150 enemy submarines had been destroyed by the
British Navy alone since the beginning of the war. Before the end forty
more had been added to the obituary list, while three were destroyed by
the Germans at Zeebrugge, half a dozen foundered in British mine-fields,
and one was lost in the North Sea while crossing to Harwich. Precise
particulars of the When and Where of submarine-hunting cannot even now
be given, but the How of the matter will be related in fuller detail in
later chapters.



                               CHAPTER XI
                       _Depth Charges in Action_

  “_I believe the day is not distant when we shall overcome the
  submarines as we have overcome the Zeppelins and all the infernal
  machines started by the Germans in this war._”—LORD MILNER.


One of the most effective antidotes for the submarine menace when the
approximate whereabouts of the enemy is known is the depth charge,
already mentioned more than once in these pages. Outwardly it resembles
nothing more murderous than a cylindrical drum such as is used for
storing paraffin oil. There the likeness ends. Inwardly it is filled
with high explosive, and fitted with a fuse that can be set to detonate
at any desired depth. Given a reasonable amount of luck, the surprise
packet when thrown overboard blows up in the track of the enemy. Very
often it strikes a death-blow, sometimes it does such extensive damage
that it is only with extreme difficulty that the injured craft can crawl
back to port, and occasionally the enemy escapes with nothing worse than
a nasty jar. The effect naturally depends on the distance separating the
charge from the target.

Some time since a young friend of mine who is an engineer officer on a
certain armed auxiliary was asked if he would volunteer to take charge
of the engine-room of a mine-sweeper. “Their man” was in sick bay, and
as mine-laying U-boats had become increasingly active in the vicinity,
it was highly desirable that operations should be resumed with the least
possible delay. As his own ship was not due to sail for several days, he
assured the skipper that he would be delighted to render any possible
service. Incidentally he looked forward to what he termed “a bit of
sport.”

It was abominably rough outside the sheltered seclusion of the harbour,
and he was beginning to think that ‘a willing horse’ is a synonym for a
fool, when a terrific crash made the ship quake, flung him in anything
but a gentle manner against the nearest handrail, and nearly burst his
ear-drums. Our friend glued his eyes to the indicator, expecting it to
swing round to ‘Astern’ or ‘Stop.’ The hand remained motionless. He
comforted himself with the reflection that if the bow was blown to bits
or the vessel sent sky-high it was none of his business. It was not his
duty to interfere with the navigation of the ship, which was certainly
ploughing her way through the short and choppy seas as though nothing
untoward had happened.

Presently the skipper’s burly form appeared at the casemate. “What on
earth was _that_?” asked the engineer. “Only a depth charge exploding a
couple of miles away,” was the answer. “There’s lots of oil hereabouts.”

Unfortunately the Allies were not the sole possessors of the
prescription for these quick-acting pills. Depth charges ‘made in
Germany’ were sometimes dropped in the tracks of British submarines. A
certain commander, who also knows what it is to face the ugly muzzles of
6–in. guns spitting flame when a submarine is cruising awash, confesses
to a preference for the latter weapon. This is the reason why:

He came near the surface at an awkward moment. No sooner had he fixed
his eyes to the periscope than he discovered that enemy
torpedo-boats—not one but many—were in the immediate neighbourhood.
Their movements showed them to be perfectly well aware of his presence.
His orders were terse. Any hesitation in translating them into action
would have meant disaster. The boat began to descend, nose foremost. She
continued travelling in that direction even when it was a matter of
urgent importance to maintain an even keel. Something had jammed, and
jammed badly. Then there was a terrific report, followed by a concussion
that did more than merely shake the submarine. Some of the crew were
knocked down. No need to ask if there had been a seaquake. Everybody
knew right enough what had happened, and fully realized that the shock
was probably only the prelude to further episodes of a similar kind.
Rivets, bolts, and plates held good—so did the beastly jam. The
submarine just dived to the bottom. There the officer let her remain
without any attempt to repair the trouble. Like Brer Rabbit, he believed
there were occasions when it is supreme wisdom to ‘lie low’ and do
nothing. This was one of them. There was no immediate haste. He appeared
to be waiting for something.

The ‘something’ came three minutes later, accompanied by a deafening
bang that made rich, warm blood run cold. Another depth charge had been
hurled overboard. It made the submarine rock, but a careful
investigation of every nook and cranny made it evident that she had not
so much as sprung a leak. British shipbuilders are the finest in the
world when they like, and they had liked when putting together this
underwater craft. With those on board the _Norah Creina_ the commander
could say, “God bless every man that swung a mallet on that tiny and
strong hull! It was not for wages only that they laboured, but to save
men’s lives.”

Evidently the enemy was not quite satisfied that he had killed his prey.
There was nothing on which to base a report of death. Surmise is not
certainty; it withholds proof. The Germans got out their sweeps and
began fishing. The imprisoned men could hear the cable scraping along
their boat, and thanked God when it ceased. The wire rope got entangled
in nothing. That was a big mercy.

A third depth charge was heard and felt to explode, nearer this time,
but still without doing serious injury. The torpedo-boats dropped no
more ground-bait after that. The submarine was “missing, believed
killed.” The Germans were not fond of remaining in one spot for any
considerable time. When the victim was dead or mortally wounded, there
was no need to attend the funeral. There were always the grey police of
the Patrol to be reckoned with.

Down below the crew of the “missing, believed killed” were straightening
things out and wondering if they were to receive further attention from
above. Two, four, six, eight hours passed, daylight with them. Little
likelihood of the hunters being about now. Then the submarine, according
to the official report, “proceeded to her base.”

Before the war I tried to puzzle out why it was that human beings, of
their own free will, became firemen on a battleship. One minute in a
stokehold is sixty seconds too long for most people. To me the problem
remains unsolved. Are they all possessed of the steel nerves of Hotham
when he was told to fight his vessel till she sank and was comforted by
Duncan’s remark that he had taken the depth of the water and that when
the _Venerable_ went down his flag would still be flying? Stoking is bad
enough, but what of those who volunteer for service in a submarine? They
do not seem to be out of the ordinary ruck of humanity. Solve the riddle
of the ‘something’ they possess and you will be able to put down in
black and white, after the manner of a sum, the secret of Britain’s
Sea-power.

Seemingly unconscious of the unpleasant fact that a T.B.D. was a mere
mile away, a submersible broke surface, presumably to recharge her
storage batteries. No sooner had she come to the top than the commander
discovered the British vessel racing toward him at full tilt. If the
destroyer missed a fine chance of ramming by reason of the Hun’s
alertness, she certainly seized a rare opportunity for dropping a couple
of depth charges. They gave the enemy a terrible shaking. No other
reason would have brought the U-boat so perilously near the surface as
to uncover the periscope, which appeared at an angle sufficiently rakish
to show that the submarine was anything but comfortable. The T.B.D. gave
her another dose. One or two other vessels appeared, anxious to render
assistance with a further supply of concentrated destruction. In
addition to a lavish waste of oil, there came to the surface four
significant things: a calcium float, a broken steel buoy, a wooden
ladder, and a lifebelt. I do not think there is the least likelihood
that that particular U-boat returned to Zeebrugge or any other lair.

Sometimes even more conclusive evidence of decease was furnished by the
victim. Motor launches which formerly lived a genteel existence, lifting
silver cups at smart regattas, became terribly efficient engines of war
as submarine-chasers. One of them sighted the ‘eye’ of a U-boat not more
than 200 yards away. A couple of depth charges were dropped on the spot
just after she had disappeared. Some hefty sheets of metal came hurtling
up from Neptune’s kingdom, flung wide of the attacking vessel by great
good fortune. The usual tell-tale streaks of oil, ascending in
ever-increasing volume, afforded further testimony to the efficacy of
the explosions.

Some U-boats took a lot of killing; they seemed as hydra-skinned as the
offspring of Typhon and Echidna was many-headed. They came to resemble
the poor patient who has a complication of diseases and yet lives for
years. Therefore we usually made assurance doubly sure. A destroyer on
patrol gave a submersible a thundering good ramming. There was no doubt
about it, because the skipper on the bridge saw a gaping hole in the
hull just before the conning-tower, and seeing is believing. Now it was
no part of British war methods to impose a lingering death on our
enemies, however deep-dyed in sin they might be. We got the killing
business over as speedily as possible. On this occasion two depth
charges were flung out to polish off the job with the maximum of
celerity. Then the destroyer circled round the spot on the off chance
that the U-boat might still be near the surface. There was plenty of oil
rising thereabouts, but the commander of the T.B.D. was not quite
convinced of a ‘kill,’ and it was his business to deal with facts rather
than probabilities. So he anchored a buoy near the spot, determined to
return at daylight. When he came back several hours later rainbow
patches were still rising. He used another depth charge before
proceeding on the uneven tenor of his way. In due course the position
was swept and the wreck located.

Lord Jellicoe has told us that at night a submarine travelling awash is
not visible at a distance of more than 200 yards. Moonlight, of course,
increases visibility, and on the particular night I have in mind the
look-out on a British auxiliary sighted a U-boat in surface trim about
half a mile distant. The patrol vessel gave chase, but the submarine
managed to submerge before her enemy came up. Half a dozen depth charges
were dropped overboard. Their explosion—‘some explosion,’ as Uncle Sam
would say—was followed by what the commander termed a ‘disturbance’
about 300 yards distant, which may or may not have been the U-boat
breaking surface, likely enough inadvertently. At any rate, a shot
whistled in that direction. Vast pools of oil settled on the water.
Harsh, guttural voices made themselves audible above the tumult. One
survivor was picked up. Sir Eric Geddes has said that when the full
story of the British Navy in the Great War is told “it will surpass in
heroism and daring and ingenuity and wonder the tales of Captain
Marryat.”

[Illustration:

  The Destroyer’s Short Way with the U-Boat

  Sighted at a distance of several miles, a British destroyer found a
    U-boat in difficulties and ended them in the manner depicted.

  _Drawn by a Naval Officer_
]

The speed of a convoy is necessarily that of the slowest ship, but
sometimes bad steaming plays ducks and drakes with the keeping of a
correct formation, on which so much depends. Ships have an awkward way
of falling behind, necessitating their being shepherded like a flock of
sheep, and adding considerably to the risks. The commander of a convoy
needs a sweet temper.

A merchantman was forming an involuntary rearguard on her own account.
She had fallen behind, and in her isolated position was an ideal target
for any U-boat that might happen to be lying low by reason of the
presence of lynx-eyed destroyers with the main body. One of the latter
was detached to hasten up the sluggard. Scarcely had she reached her
before one of the steamers in the van was neatly torpedoed. Heading for
the track of the steel fish, the T.B.D. apparently cut across the
submarine. She quivered from stem to stern with the force of the bump.
The skipper of a sister ship distinctly saw a periscope sticking above
the waves, and, coming up, dropped a depth charge, which was followed by
an explosion and the appearance of the U-boat astern. Both destroyers
put their helms right over, and opened fire. The fight was ended by one
of them charging the submersible and literally chopping her in half.
Both sections kept afloat for a few seconds, then disappeared in two
mammoth whirlpools. It was one of the cleanest cuts of the war, though a
United States cruiser managed to perform a similar feat a few weeks
later.

While escorting a convoy a look-out on the U.S. destroyer _Fanning_
noticed a periscope sticking out of the water. Heading for the spot, a
single depth charge was unloaded. The U-boat came to the surface, and
after a short chase meekly surrendered. According to the evidence of
prisoners, the machinery of the submarine was wrecked beyond repair.

The Germans referred to depth charges as ‘water-bombs.’ Frankly, they
were not enamoured of them. With that abnormal lack of humour which no
Briton can understand, Commander Rose of the Kaiser’s Underseas Navy
explained that “their material effect is only small”—witness the above
samples—“but the infernal din of their explosion” had a great moral
effect, “especially on an inexperienced crew.”



                              CHAPTER XII
                     _Singeing the Sultan’s Beard_

  “_There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing
  unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true
  glory._”—SIR FRANCIS DRAKE.


To win the first Victoria Cross awarded to a naval officer in the Great
War, to be the first submarine commander to gain it in any war—these are
no mean distinctions. Primarily, of course, Lieutenant Norman Douglas
Holbrook, R.N., owed his blue ribbon to “most conspicuous bravery,” as
the _Gazette_ has it, but to this must be added a particularly daring
and unique exploit that showed exceptional tactical and executive skill.

The deed was not one of those lightning-stroke affairs that lack
premeditation and are accomplished on the spur of the moment in the heat
of battle. The elements of conflict were there, guns, ammunition,
soldiers, and all the stage scenery necessary to give a picturesque and
enthralling setting. The chief actor alone failed to appear in the
picture. I would not for the world attempt to minimize the superb
heroism of any holder of a much-coveted decoration. Yet there is a
marked difference between this particular deed and all others that had
gone before. It was accomplished in a place remote from other British
battle forces. The young officer neither carried a wounded man on his
back amid a storm of bullets, his comrades looking on, nor with a
machine-gun held up a horde of Huns.

Harking back, it is interesting to recall that the first person to win
the V.C. was a bluejacket—an above-salt-water sailor. Holbrook belonged
to the same splendid Service, but to a section unborn when Charles Davis
Lucas flung overboard a live shell from H.M.S. _Hecla_ off Bomarsund in
1854. The commander of B 11 gained his fourpennyworth of bronze in a
submarine below the sea. What Holbrook’s meritorious action lacks in
intensity of swift drama is more than compensated by the cool and
calculated daring of the whole proceeding.

Standing quietly in a sealed chamber breathing ‘canned air’ for nine
mortal hours, dodging mines, torpedo-boats, and gunfire from forts,
requires a steady nerve and a concentration of mind and purpose beyond
what is called for in open fighting. He accomplished what he had to do,
brought back his ship, fourteen men and an officer, quite safely, and
betrayed an eager anxiety as to what his next task might be.

It was not as though Holbrook had been placed in command of a brand-new
vessel of modern type, replete with the latest improvements, spacious,
comfortable, and minus the stuffiness so inseparably associated with
earlier craft. B 11 was one of the smallest, slowest, and oldest
submarines in the British Navy. She had been launched in 1906, when
Holbrook was still a ‘snotty,’ which is the Service name for midshipman.
There was no question as to the risks all on board knew they were about
to run. It was an adventure in the truest sense of the word, without a
single ‘dead cert.’ in it. Every man jack of them left letters behind,
“in case of accidents,” as one of the brave fellows modestly put it, and
he added, perhaps half wistfully, that the commander was “a very cool
hand.” The latter fact needs no qualification; it is self-evident. For
one thing the Lieutenant had promised his mother “to be careful” when he
bade her good-bye at Portsmouth. He fulfilled his pledge, as is the
habit of worthy sons of worthy parents. Later on, when he gave her an
account of his deeds, Holbrook gently reminded her of his vow in a
subtle way. He signed his letter, “Your affectionate and _careful_ son.”
Which shows that a sense of humour is likewise one of his traits.

Lieutenant Holbrook had been appointed to H.M.S. _Egmont_ at Malta for
the command of B 11 in December 1913. What he and his submarine did in
the interim of a year does not concern us. The blue waters of the
Mediterranean hid them from the public gaze for exactly twelve months.
Then they suddenly turned up in the Ægean Sea, hundreds of miles from
their base. The Angel of Peace had retired sadly before the bustling
entrance of Mars. A combined British and French squadron was gathered
together in the neighbourhood of the entrance to the Dardanelles. There
was an idea that big ships and big guns could smash their way through
the Straits and appear before Constantinople. Eminent naval men said
that the project was perfectly feasible; others that it was an
impossible task. The ‘Ayes’ had it; the ‘Noes’ came into their own a
little later. The heavy fathers of the Fleet had tuned up for the
overture at daybreak on the 3rd November, 1914. On the 13th of the
following month Holbrook and his merry men started to pierce the Straits
_via_ the underseas.

Wiseacres in the battleships, jealous of the reputation of the giants,
and secretly itching to follow in the tracks of Admiral Sir J.
Duckworth, who had got through in 1807, before battleships were quite so
bulky and the Turks so well prepared, called in superstition to justify
their views. The 13th was, and always had been, unlucky. It was the
height of foolishness to tempt Providence with that date staring at one
from the calendar. Really, the lack of wisdom in their superiors was
beyond words!

The commander of the expedition was too eager to get on with the job to
be deterred by superstition, and too much occupied with practical
affairs to be concerned with old women’s tales once the Dardanelles had
been entered. The Hellespont of ancient history is a bit of a teaser to
a navigation officer. It has all manner of depths and shallows, widths
and currents. Mists frequently hang between the rocky heights and the
low hills of the landlocked waterway like steam and smoke in a railway
tunnel. To these difficulties were added peril from mine, floating and
fixed, peril from the guns of forts and land batteries, and peril from
whatever naval forces might be in the vicinity.

Holbrook’s main object was to torpedo the Turkish battleship
_Messudiyeh_. She was guarding the mine-field in the roadstead of
Nagara, below the Narrows. Here the distance between the banks is only
some 1400 yards, and the current often runs at the rapid rate of four
and a half knots. The _Messudiyeh_ was a rather curious specimen of
naval architecture, the combined product of British and Italian labour.
Launched at Blackwall forty years before, she had been rebuilt to a
great extent at Genoa in 1902. From the point of view of armament she
was by no means to be despised. Although her two 9.2–in. breech-loaders
were being overhauled in England and had given place to wooden replicas,
she mounted twelve 6–in. quick-firers, and over two dozen smaller
weapons—a plentiful selection of guns for service should B 11’s
periscope be sighted. As a matter of fact it _was_ sighted, but not
before Holbrook had taken his observations and discharged a torpedo, as
we shall have occasion to notice a little later.

The 10,000–ton battleship was perhaps the least of the difficulties that
confronted the intrepid Lieutenant. When beset by so many dangers
comparison between one and another is of little consequence. The ship
was anchored, and therefore presented as fine a target as a submarine
commander could wish. But before she could be reached there was a
gauntlet of five rows of live mines to be run. It was no good trying to
‘rush’ the Straits. For one thing, the motors of B 11 could not propel
her more than 5½ knots an hour when submerged, and only 11 knots on the
surface, and for another, speed would have been a disadvantage rather
than a help. Barging into the nearest horned canister is not good for
the health of a submarine, and Holbrook realized that he must feel his
way in the painful manner of a blind man, with the difference that at
intervals he could use his periscope.

The fact that the _Messudiyeh_ had been the flagship of a British
admiral previous to the outbreak of war lent a sentimental interest to
the commander’s project. All submarine officers are not compounded of
crude blood and iron, as popular belief has it. Holbrook is a
particularly human specimen of the species, and has more than a strain
of idealism in his make-up. Rear-Admiral Limpus had been engaged in
reorganizing the Ottoman naval service previous to the winning-over of
the Turks by the Germans. To be sure the serviceable material at his
disposal, so far as battleships were concerned, was poor enough. These
numbered three in all, but three on the effective list are better than
none, and two Dreadnoughts were under construction in England. The
last-mentioned are now members of the great family that goes under the
generic name of the Royal Navy.

Holbrook threaded his way through the mines, as Nelson dodged the shoals
at Copenhagen, got within target-distance of his intended victim, took
his bearings, and discharged an 18–in. torpedo, the first to be fired by
a B boat since the commencement of the war.

Do not run away with the idea that it was a one-sided affair—a game of
naval cricket with the British commander as bowler and the batsman out
of his wicket. The wash of the periscope had been spotted by a keen-eyed
look-out on the _Messudiyeh_. Before Holbrook knew the result of his
aim, shells were falling unpleasantly near, and not a few! The enemy
peppered the spot with a mighty weight of metal, but B 11 was down and
under when the Turks got the correct range. Even then things were
precious uncomfortable, for the submarine grounded on a shoal, with only
about thirty feet of water above her thin skin. It took some little
time, plus much bumping and scraping, to get clear, but Holbrook never
turned a hair. Flurry is not in his dictionary. He gave an order or two,
then waited. On the whole B 11 behaved herself very well. She got into
deeper water, from which Holbrook took a look round to ascertain the
extent of the damage done. After expressing his satisfaction, he again
descended.

During the whole voyage B 11 remained submerged for nine of the longest
hours that the crew had ever experienced. The early British submarines
are cramped and stuffy, with the minimum of accommodation and the
maximum of discomfort. At least the crew could congratulate themselves
on having accomplished something, for there had been a mighty
reverberation a few seconds after the torpedo had started on its
travels. It was horribly difficult to keep a straight course on account
of the current, but coxswains and men proved themselves worthy of so
gallant a skipper.

What of the _Messudiyeh_? It was given out by the Turkish authorities
that she had sunk at her anchorage off the Asiatic shore “as the result
of a leak,” and that part of the ship was still above water. The
_communiqué_ has a refreshing touch of humour about it not altogether
characteristic of the general run of similar announcements. If we may
accept the word of ‘a reliable source,’ the veteran turned turtle in
shallow water within five minutes of having received Holbrook’s
compliments. Of the battleship’s crew, which may have numbered 600 or
more, the same authority states that only twenty-three escaped. These
were got out by the dexterous manipulation of axe and saw.

If Englishmen take their pleasures sadly, they make war with a light
heart. Shortly after his return, Lieutenant Holbrook was presented with
a specially constructed Iron Cross—a huge metal affair almost as big as
his head. Commander Bromley[29] performed the mock ceremony on board
H.M.S. _Indefatigable_, to the immense amusement of the assembled
company.

Holbrook was rightly acclaimed the Hero of the Service. Admiral Count
Bettolo, voicing the opinion of the countrymen of Columbus, said that
the achievement was a “magnificent feat which highly honours the British
Navy and shows the firm determination to succeed on the part of the
English sailors.” “The British Navy,” he added, “wishes the world to
know it is capable of heroism and daring not inferior to that of any
other Navy. The organizer of the raid has demonstrated that he possesses
the qualities to triumph at any cost.” In Russia the exploit was hailed
as one of enormous military value, which the enthusiasm of the moment
doubtless suggested but subsequent events did not justify. It certainly
robbed Turkey of the _Messudiyeh_. Most important of all, Lieutenant
Norman Douglas Holbrook had blazed a trail.

Lieutenant Sydney T. Winn, second in command of B 11, was appointed to
the Distinguished Service Order. No one was more delighted to hear of
this honour than Lieutenant Holbrook. All the members of the crew were
granted the Distinguished Service Medal.

The ill-fated Dardanelles Campaign, so rich in deeds of daring and so
poor in practical results, introduced to the world at large two other
submarine commanders, each of whom won the V.C. in connexion with it.

Lieutenant-Commander Edward Courtney Boyle, R.N., took E 14 beneath the
enemy mine-fields and suddenly appeared in the Sea of Marmora on the
27th April, 1915. He was stalking transports, the enemy’s favourite
method of conveying troops to Gallipoli because the land communications
consisted of a solitary road. The submarine, a larger and more powerful
boat than B 11, with a displacement of 810 tons, did not return to her
base until twenty-two days later. When she arrived it was much to the
astonishment of many officers and men of the Allied Fleet, who had
firmly believed that she and her brave crew had gone to Davy Jones’s
locker.

During the interim E 14 had dodged mines, navigated treacherous
currents, kept out of harm from hostile patrols, sunk a couple of
gunboats, wrecked two transports—one crowded with 6000 troops—and poked
her inquisitive nose into the Bosphorus.

The first week spent in the Sea of Marmora was terribly exciting. E 14
was hunted by all the light craft at the disposal of the Turks.
Gunboats, destroyers, and torpedo-boats took part in the chase, without
achieving the slightest success. Their failure, combined with shortage
of coal, caused most of them to be withdrawn from the service.
Thenceforth they assumed the more humble _rôle_ of convoys. This phase
lasted a short time only. After Boyle had sunk the large troopship
already mentioned, the Turkish soldiers refused to go by sea, preferring
to march for three days and three nights rather than run the risk of
meeting the terrible submarine.

E 14 went into the Marmora on two subsequent occasions. Altogether she
spent no fewer than seventy days there. On her last visit she had to
break through the net placed across the Dardanelles by Nagara Point. As
this formidable obstacle was made of chain and 3½-in. wire, it “required
some breaking,” to quote the words of the commanding officer. Then
Boyle’s first lieutenant developed typhoid, and was ill for the
remainder of the voyage, a matter of over a fortnight. About fifty
vessels, including dhows laden with grain and other useful commodities,
were sent to the bottom by E 14, but—mark this—no non-combatant ship was
ever sunk before the crew had been taken close inshore in their boats
and had been fed if they were hungry. Submarines can be good Samaritans,
despite German assertions to the contrary. It should also be added that
for two days E 14, in conjunction with E 11, shelled the reinforcing
troops marching to repel the Suvla Bay landing.

Boyle superbly earned and won the V.C., his colleagues, Lieutenant E. G.
Stanley, R.N., and Acting-Lieutenant R. W. Lawrence, R.N.R., were
awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and each member of the crew was
given the Distinguished Service Medal. One can fully appreciate the
statement of Admiral de Robeck, that “it is impossible to do full
justice to this great achievement.” On the occasion of E 14’s first
penetration of the Straits the King sent the gallant Commander and his
crew a telegram of congratulation.

Another E boat carried this process of anything but peaceful penetration
still farther. Lieut.-Commander Martin Eric Nasmith, R.N., not only took
E 11 through the Dardanelles and crossed the Sea of Marmora, but
actually succeeded in entering the Golden Horn, situated no fewer than
170 miles from the entrance to the Straits. At the quay adjoining the
arsenal he fired a torpedo, which “was heard to explode.” Whether it hit
a transport or a lighter laden with firebricks lying near by has not
been ascertained with certainty. The Turks and their Teutonic friends
are none too keen on telling the truth if it is to their disadvantage.
One informant had it that the barge was blown to smithereens, and that
part of the _débris_ was flung with such terrific force against the
German Levant steamer _Stambul_ that she was holed and had to be
beached. Another report stated that the strong current deflected the
torpedo, causing it to blow up part of the jetty. All independent
observers were at least unanimous as to the effect of the raid on the
nerves of the inhabitants of Constantinople. The people were
panic-stricken, and when the Turkish guns opened fire on their invisible
foe they merely contributed to the ferment. So far as Nasmith was
concerned, it was almost a case of ‘much ado about nothing.’ E 11
escaped with no worse casualty than a jagged wound in her periscope!
Many of the Turks thought that the Russian Black Sea Fleet had broken
through and was bombarding the capital as a preliminary to the landing
of troops. Nasmith was merely singeing the Sultan’s beard, as Drake had
singed that of Philip of Spain three centuries before.

Whether the torpedo in question struck troopship, lighter, or jetty at
Constantinople does not much matter; the Commander’s remaining torpedoes
found their billets right enough. Nasmith undoubtedly destroyed two
heavily laden transports, a large gunboat, an ammunition ship, and three
store ships, while another vessel containing supplies was driven ashore.
As though this bag were not large enough, he returned to torpedo a
fourth transport when his crew were congratulating themselves that the
most dangerous part of the homeward voyage had been safely negotiated.
The ammunition ship blew up with a terrific explosion. By her loss the
enemy was deprived of thousands of charges, a quantity of gun mountings,
and a 6–in. gun. Having sunk everything that could be sunk, Nasmith
returned to report.

The most unpleasant incident of a whole chapter of exciting passages
occurred in the Sea of Marmora. The submarine ran foul of the cable that
anchored a mine. As other canisters of death were in the vicinity, it
was much too perilous to attempt to go astern in the hope that the steel
rope would become disentangled. The mine was the submarine’s unwelcome
guest for eleven miles. Every officer and man knew it, and each realized
only too well exactly what would occur if one of the horns of the
beastly thing bumped against the boat or struck some floating object.
What with submerged torpedo-tubes skilfully rigged up by the Turks on
shore, land batteries, forts, floating and anchored mines, there was
sufficient food for reflection to say nothing of the sinister appendage,
and it is perhaps not surprising that the company was serious. If
conversation was not animated this was not entirely due to the somewhat
sultry atmosphere of E 11. However, Nasmith got rid of the mine at last,
and when he emerged among the battleships and cruisers at the other end
of the Dardanelles no King or Kaiser ever received a warmer welcome.

This young hero of thirty-two years, who had already attracted notice by
his ready resource when A 4 inadvertently sank while exercising at
Spithead in 1905, had certainly earned his V.C., and the same may be
recorded of his brother-officers, Lieutenant Guy D’Oyle-Hughes, R.N.,
and Acting-Lieutenant Robert Brown, who were given similar distinctions
to those awarded to the subordinate officers of E 14. Had Nelson been
alive we may be quite sure he would have admitted the heroes of this
chapter to his gallant ‘band of brothers.’ Their exploits are memorable,
as Bacon says of another great naval episode, “even beyond credit, and
to the Height of some Heroicall Fable.”



                              CHAPTER XIII
                 _On Certain Happenings in the Baltic_

  “_British submarines may take to themselves the credit of having
  damaged our trade and shipping in the Baltic._”—CAPTAIN PERSIUS.


Before our Russian allies abandoned the sword and the ploughshare for
revolution and famine the Baltic was alive with naval doings.
Occasionally it even became the scene of intense activity. When the
former subjects of the Little Father obtained their liberty, and thereby
shackled themselves with a greater tyranny, the inland sea of Northern
Europe passed to the enemy. The unweaned democracy of Russia sought
peace with paper and not with a sword, hugging the delusion that a new
heaven and a new earth could be created with the aid of the devil and
the whirlwind. The Baltic became a vast German lake. With the acumen of
a committee of Frankfort Jews, and in pursuance of the much-vaunted
Mittel-Europa policy that was both commercial and political, the
Fatherland at once projected a canal between the Baltic and the Black
Sea. This, of course, would have rendered the Empire entirely
independent of the sea-water and long-distance route from Odessa, the
granary of the South.

Great Britain was Russia’s only ally in the Baltic before she
surrendered. Two or three battle-cruisers from the neighbourhood of the
Orkneys would doubtless have been a desirable addition to her naval
strength, but there were good and sufficient reasons why they were
withheld. What would have happened had there been no revolution can only
be surmised. Certainly there was a time when the appearance of large
British vessels was not regarded as altogether visionary. Sir John
Jellicoe, when Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, stated that it
would be difficult to go to the Baltic, but not impossible, and he hoped
the day might come when the two Navies would fight a common foe. That
day never arrived. Submarines alone represented the might and majesty of
the British Navy; and excellent representatives they made. These
underseas craft, which threaded their way through the tortuous channels
of the Cattegat and the Sound, or were conveyed in sections from
Archangel by inland water transport, rendered yeoman service. Some of
the boats put in three long years of hard and hazardous work before the
signature of the fatuous Brest-Litovsk Treaty negatived further effort
and the ice-bound condition of the frozen waters made escape impossible.
Their tasks accomplished, they were blown up by their own crews. The
battered plates of seven worthy successors of the gallant little
_Revenge_ lie buried deep in the Gulf of Finland. Not every British
victory is perpetuated to an apathetic posterity by such visible tokens
as a sail-of-the-line or a gun at the United Service Museum. There are
other and grimmer relics which will never meet the public eye.

Scouting for months in conditions bordering on life in the Arctic,
eternally on the prowl for the High Sea Fleet, sinking men-of-war and
German cargoes, holding the enemy at bay while the Russian Fleet secured
safety in the Gulf of Finland and the Huns sought to corner it at
Reval—these and other things must be put to the credit of British
submarines in the 160,000 odd square miles of waterway which constitute
the changeful northern sea. Flat and sandy coast, rocky and precipitous
cliff, treacherous shallows, weather as fitful as the temper of a
fractious child, added to the anxieties of the watchers. If ever there
existed a legitimate excuse for jumpy nerves, surely it was here. Yet
throughout their long vigil officers and men upheld the worthy tradition
of the British sea game. Not one enemy merchant ship was sunk without
warning, or before ample time had been afforded every member of the crew
to secure safety in the boats. No shot was fired until they had pulled
away from the danger zone. If the distance from land was great, the
submarine stood by until a neutral took charge of the refugees. “That
bloody wild beast that slumbers in man” of whom Robert Louis Stevenson
makes mention was never allowed to awake, though often enough there was
sufficient of insolence and bitter hate on the part of the enemy to
arouse it.

The case of the s.s. _Nicomedia_, of Hamburg, is typical of British
methods in the Baltic. This big steamer was laden with 6700 tons of
valuable ore for the hungry melting-pots of Essen. E 19 hauled her up,
gave her complement ‘fain’its’ to gather their belongings and stow them
into the boats, patiently waited for them to clear out, and then sent
the ship to the bottom with the assistance of a dynamite cartridge. No
cold-blooded-murder tricks sullied the fair fame of the English-speaking
seafarers, who thus gave the lie direct to the Teutonic assertion that
submarine warfare could only be carried on if it set at nought the
common decencies of humanity.

The sportsmanlike behaviour of the British was entirely unappreciated by
the enemy. They deliberately falsified the accounts which they sent
broadcast throughout the world as part of their propaganda work. For
instance, neutrals were informed that the commander of a British
submarine had blown up the s.s. _Germania_ in Swedish territorial waters
by placing a bomb in her hold. When sighted off the Swedish coast the
vessel was bound for Stettin with a cargo of 2750 tons of concentrated
iron ore. Shots were fired as a signal to her captain to stop, and also
to warn him that he was making straight for a dangerous sandbank. They
were disregarded, with the inevitable result that the _Germania_ ran
ashore. Then, and not till then, the British boat entered Swedish
waters, intent only on saving the crew and helping to salve the vessel.
Not a soul was found on board. After spending an hour in a useless
endeavour to move the steamer, the ship’s papers and some fresh meat
were removed to the submarine. When the British officers and men left
the _Germania_ the engine-room was already partly submerged. On the
water reaching the boilers they quite naturally blew up. No attempt was
made to destroy the vessel.

After the high seas had been swept of much Teutonic baggage, the Baltic
alone remained to the German merchant service as a field for possible
operations with surface vessels. Westward of the Skager-Rack the way was
barred by the British Grand Fleet; eastward, the German High Sea Fleet
felt more or less confident of supremacy, though not positively sure.
The Russian Baltic Fleet, consisting of four pre-Dreadnought
battleships, six armoured cruisers, four protected cruisers, over a
hundred destroyers, twenty or more submarines, and four Dreadnoughts in
the making,[30] was obviously numerically weaker than that of the second
naval Power in the world. It was not in a position to undertake a
vigorous offensive. The strategy adopted, to quote Admiral Kanin, was
that of regarding the Baltic Fleet as “a continuation of the extreme
flank of the Army.” Its task was “as far as possible to support the
movements of the army, protecting it against envelopment by the German
Fleet.” The element of uncertainty, from the enemy’s point of view, was
introduced by England as usual. Had the latter not declared war, Germany
could have swamped the Russian Fleet and landed troops for the invasion
of Russia without fear of molestation from the sea. As it was she had to
keep both eyes open, for on each flank she had maritime enemies. It was
scarcely likely that any of Britain’s battleships would venture to
render assistance, but what of her submarines? The machines in which
Germany placed so much faith were not her secret. They represented no
new departure. Britain might attempt to get a squadron or two through
the narrow passageway. When the devil gets among tailors, complications
are more than likely.

Evidence that the Germans anticipated inroads from hostile underwater
craft is afforded by the vigilance of their guard at the doors affording
entry and exit. Three E boats once tried to make the passage in company.
Two of them got through unscathed, though trawlers were busily hunting
for poachers at the time. No. 3 got into difficulties with a sweep slung
between two of the afore-mentioned watch-dogs. She ran smack into the
hawser, seeing nothing, got entangled, and gave her commander furiously
to think on ways and means of possible extrication. By the ‘feel’ of it
the officer knew approximately where the cable had caught, so he went
astern, cocked the boat’s nose up a little, and attempted to ‘step’ over
it. The manœuvre was executed with celerity. Rapidity of movement is the
soul of underwater warfare. Once let the watchers above become aware
that they had a ‘bite,’ and an explosive charge would come rattling down
the line with the ease of a load of bricks on an aerial railway. Then
good-bye to the Baltic and all deeps. They must have felt the tug, but
it was so momentary that it is more than likely it was put down to
jetsam, and one does not waste good material on lumps of sunken
wreckage. The string of death rasped along the keel of the submarine,
slipped over the bow, and freed itself. If the commander of E — failed
to mutter an audible exclamation of thankfulness, he at least breathed a
little more freely as a sign of relieved tension. He had lived an hour
in less than sixty seconds, and for aught I know added a grey hair or
two to his head as outward and visible indications of inward
perturbation.

On another occasion a squadron of the High Sea Fleet left the sheltering
shores of Kiel Bay for a trip in the Baltic. Three additional British
submarines were detailed to pass through the Sound. No patrol work this;
their orders were to attack. They left their base in company, intending
to make the passage of fifty miles together on the first favourable
night. During the voyage one of the craft developed a minor malady, to
which submarines are subject. As she could not keep up with the others,
and instructions were not to be disregarded, the lame duck had perforce
to limp her way alone. Her consorts aroused no suspicion until they had
actually entered the Baltic. Then the enemy became aware of their
presence. While trawlers and torpedo-boats hunted for them, four
merchantmen in line abreast, supported by warships, swept the entrance
to prevent others from following suit.

The third submarine, restored to health, arrived twenty-four hours late.
The commander fully appreciated what was happening. He sought salvation
in bluff. As the sweepers were showing navigation lights he quite
reasonably argued that if he made a similar display he might possibly
get through. He came to the surface, lamps were placed in position, the
operation began. For a time it looked as if the artful little ruse would
be successful. Then from out the surrounding darkness a torpedo-boat was
felt rather than seen coming full tilt at the submarine. It took the
latter three minutes to submerge, according to the log-book; the surface
craft occupied a little longer in reaching the spot. Even then it was a
mighty close shave. There were not many feet of blue water between the
enemy’s keel and the submarine’s conning-tower.

After an interval the British commander thought he would try his luck
again, minus lights. He waited his opportunity, riding quietly on the
waves in the meantime, and keeping a pair of keen eyes to his
night-glasses. Presently a ship came along, seemingly intent on
navigating the difficult passage through the Sound. The low-lying craft
awakened into life, and followed at a respectful distance. There was
just a chance that she would not be detected. The blackness of the night
prevented the officer from being certain of the nature of his pilot,
otherwise he would scarcely have used her as a screen. A mouse does not
creep behind a cat. Meantime she was making no great speed, and looked
like some old tub loaded to the Plimsoll mark with merchandise.

Then for no apparent reason the vessel suddenly developed marked
eccentricity, went dead slow, then put on full speed, altered course,
and made in the direction of her follower. The submarine again sought
refuge in the chilly and inhospitable waters, and her company listened
to the threshing of propellers racing above. She returned home, “prior
to making a further attempt.” Thus the commander in his official
communication to My Lords of the Admiralty.

In October 1914 it was announced that the cruiser _Prinz Adalbert_ had
been sunk by two shots from a submarine off Libau, with the loss of most
of her crew. According to a Petrograd report, her demise “was effected
after much skilful manœuvring” by a British submarine. The cruiser was
not actually the _Prinz Adalbert_, but a vessel of the same class. The
warship bearing that name fell a victim to a British torpedo in the
autumn of the following year.[31]

A light cruiser—name unknown—and a torpedo-boat were taking an airing
when a certain British submarine of the celebrated ‘E’ class met them.
The larger vessel was torpedoed forward, apparently set on fire, and
showed signs of sinking by the head. As the torpedo-boat sought to
pounce on the enemy the submarine passed under her stern and struck the
cruiser in or near the after-magazine. There was a double explosion. The
torpedo-boat and her tornado of shell were dodged a second time. Three
minutes later the periscope showed no cruiser.

On the 10th October, 1914, an attempt was made by enemy submarines to
sink the Russian _Admiral Makaroff_, at the moment busily engaged in
searching a suspicious fishing-boat flying the Dutch commercial flag.
Several torpedoes were fired, but missed, and the armoured cruiser beat
off the enemy. On the next day, however, the German craft atoned for
previous bad marksmanship by sinking the _Pallada_, a sister ship of the
_Admiral Makaroff_, while she was scouting in company with the _Bayan_.
This success was achieved through the ‘neutral flag’ trick. The
submarine lay in waiting behind a vessel displaying Dutch colours. The
ruse was discovered too late. Although subjected to a heavy fire, the
submarine got a shot home which apparently exploded the magazines. This
vessel, armed with two 8–in., eight 6–in., and many smaller guns, had a
normal complement of 568 men. Not a soul was saved. An interesting
sequel to this disaster was furnished by the announcement of the Russian
Naval Headquarters Staff that during the course of their predatory
operations on the 10th and 11th a German submersible had been sunk by
the fire of the _Bayan_, a second foundered through striking a mine, and
a third was put to flight by a torpedo-boat. Admiral von Essen,
Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Baltic Fleet, told the Tsar that
twenty unsuccessful submarine attacks had been made within two months
previous to the sinking of the _Pallada_.

Early in 1915 the German cruiser _Gazelle_ was attacked off the Danish
coast by a submarine whose nationality was not disclosed, although
rumour had it that she was Russian, but commanded by a British officer.
Despite a big hole in her side made by the explosion, the cruiser was
able to keep afloat and reach Sassnitz with the assistance of a ferry
steamer. As a withering fire was kept up by the enemy, and floating
mines were flung out indiscriminately as a further means of protection,
a second shot was impracticable.

A lonely Russian submarine boldly attacked an enemy squadron of ten
battleships and a swarm of torpedo-boats in the following summer. One
evening, when far out in the Baltic, the commander picked up dense black
clouds of smoke on the horizon. Then the funnels of warships and their
massive hulls rose out of the sea. They were proceeding in two columns,
the smaller vessels on the flanks of the larger ones.

An hour or more passed before the squadron was sufficiently near for
action. As the vessels approached, the commander concluded that his best
position would be on the port side of the oncoming ships, between the
enemy and the light. He raised his periscope, and believing he had ample
time to change his position before the torpedo-boat in the van of the
right column came abreast of him, proceeded to carry out the manœuvre.
The submarine rose a matter of fifteen feet to bring her periscope again
into use. The ‘eye’ revealed the distance between her and the first of
the oncoming battleships as certainly not more than sixty yards. The
officer fired a torpedo, dived immediately, and struck the ram of the
object at which he had aimed. As no German battleship draws less than
twenty-six feet of water, the boat had evidently not submerged
sufficiently rapidly.

Everybody on board firmly believed that their craft would founder. Only
those who have been in a similar occurrence or a railway collision can
appreciate the appalling suddenness of such a crash. The electric light
bulbs burst, the boat assumed a list to starboard, something in the
superstructure snapped, water came in. Apparently the engines had
sustained no damage from the shock, for they continued to work without
any appreciable loss of speed. The boat descended seventy-five feet.
Then the sound of a great tumult penetrated her steel plates. The
commander afterward declared that when he heard the explosion he was
perfectly convinced that the boat in her damaged state could not
withstand the pressure of the water. He tried to reach the surface
several times, but on each occasion was compelled to descend because the
thud of screws above told only too plainly that the enemy vessels were
still in the same area, some doubtless assisting the wounded battleship,
others zigzagging about in the hope that the assailant might be made to
pay the full penalty. When the officer tried to use the periscope he
found it to be irretrievably damaged, and about as useless as a broken
cowl on a chimney-stack. It revealed a blank. At 11.30 the commander,
hearing nothing to suggest the presence of the enemy, rose to the
surface after having been below four hours. The submarine reached port
without further incident, and was docked for repairs. To this day the
commander does not know whether the vessel he aimed at was put _hors de
combat_.

Late in June 1915 a number of enemy warships bombarded Windau with
9.4–in. guns, and also tried to effect a descent on the coast with a
view to co-operating with the German army in Courland. The invasion
project was entirely unsuccessful, and the naval forces were compelled
to retire. The defence seems mainly to have been the work of
torpedo-boats; no mention was made on either side of the presence of
submarines. A similar attempt made three weeks before had robbed the
Russians of the _Yenissei_, which fell a victim to a U-boat. According
to reports furnished by commanders of Russian submarines, three of the
enemy vessels were sunk or damaged by mines previously dropped by the
wrecked vessel.

Early in the following month Russian naval forces came across two enemy
light cruisers and destroyers on outpost duty between Gothland and
Windau. On this occasion the tables were turned, and the Germans lost a
mine-layer. The _Albatross_, the ship in question, was so severely
handled that she ran aground near Oestergarn, and became a total wreck,
her consort, the _Augsburg_, managing to escape in the fog. While the
Russian squadron continued its course northward, two cruisers, four
destroyers, and a flotilla of U-boats joined battle, but speedily
retreated after the armoured cruiser _Roon_ had been badly damaged. On
being reinforced by a battle squadron, another attempt was made against
the Russian vessels, including a spirited submarine attack on the
_Rurik_. The latter was saved by a destroyer, which was reported to have
sunk one of the hostile underwater craft. The 2nd July was a disastrous
day for Germany in the Baltic. In addition to the _Albatross_ she lost a
battleship of the _Pommern_ type at the hands of Commander Max K.
Horton.[32] On the 30th, E 1 sank a large transport, despite a
determined effort on the part of the latter to run down the attacking
party.

The next happening of importance from the point of view of the submarine
war was a dramatic series of actions at the entrance of the Gulf of Riga
in the succeeding August. These were carried out with the object of
assisting Hindenburg’s land offensive in the direction of the great
seaport of Riga, whose fall would open the road to Petrograd. The
weather, mostly calm and foggy, was entirely favourable to the enemy,
who slipped past the patrols and were able to sweep up many mines that
barred further progress. In this dangerous operation it would have been
nothing short of miraculous had the enemy escaped scot-free, and one or
two vessels were destroyed. The Russian warships put up an excellent
defence, with the result that the attempt to capture the old city of the
Merchant-Venturers completely failed and the Gulf was evacuated.

Again British submarines were to the fore. Commander Noel F. Laurence in
E 1 torpedoed the Dreadnought cruiser _Moltke_ in thick weather on the
19th. This great vessel of 23,000 tons, a sister ship of the more
romantic _Goeben_, mounting ten 11–in. guns, was believed to have taken
part in the infamous raid on Scarborough. Although the _Moltke_ did not
sink, she was sufficiently damaged to be placed temporarily out of
commission, thereby easing the situation for a time by denuding Germany
of a very formidable fighting machine. Laurence, whose boat had been the
first British submarine to penetrate the Baltic, narrowly escaped having
E 1 rammed on this occasion. A torpedo-boat missed her by a few feet
only. The Tsar acknowledged the officer’s services by decorating him
with the St George’s Cross of the Fourth Class.

In this month of August 1915, so big with events in the Baltic, the
enemy committed a flagrant breach of international law by firing on the
British submarine E 13 while she was ashore in Danish territorial
waters. The outrage was intensified by the attacking torpedo-boat firing
shrapnel and bringing machine-guns to bear on the members of the crew
struggling in the water.

E 13, in charge of Lieutenant-Commander Layton, grounded on the island
of Saltholm, and was given the usual twenty-four hours’ grace to get
off. Long before the time-limit had expired a German torpedo-boat let
off a torpedo at a range of about 300 yards, and opened fire with all
her other available weapons. The torpedo exploded on hitting the bottom,
close to E 13. Within a few seconds the submarine was a mass of flame.
Unable to offer any defence, the officer ordered the crew to abandon the
ship. Had it not been for the intervention of a Danish man-of-war, which
lowered her boats and steamed between the attacker and the attacked,
probably not a soul would have been saved.

Fishermen who witnessed the tragedy avowed they had never seen any
bravery to equal that of the helpless crew. When E 13 was refloated by
the Danish authorities the hull was found to be riddled with shells, but
her colours were still on the charred staff. Fifteen bluejackets lost
their lives in an attack which Sweden’s leading newspaper characterized
as “wilful murder.”

Acting under the orders of the Russian Commander-in-Chief, the British
boats in the Baltic carried on as before. They rendered valuable support
to the Allies by cutting off supplies of timber, ore, and coal consigned
to the Fatherland, and sinking transports and merchantmen whenever
bigger prey was undiscoverable. “The capture of an enemy’s merchant
ships,” as Mr David Hannay has so well said, “is the maritime equivalent
for the occupation of territory.” This active warfare was carried out
despite vigorous search on the part of Zeppelins and seaplanes.

E — was treated with three bombs from an enemy aircraft. Then the
latter, apparently not satisfied with the result, dropped seven more.
Sixty minutes later the submarine came up to have a look round, and was
obliged to retreat hurriedly on account of a biplane coming toward her
at great speed. Five bombs followed her passage below. After a lapse of
forty-five minutes E — again rose to the surface. Subsequent events are
best related by reference to the commander’s log:

  Decided to rise and get the gun into action. Got under way on a
  north course at 10 knots with the upper deck awash. The biplane was
  sighted on the starboard bow at 6.20 p.m., and we opened fire at
  3000 yards. The biplane immediately sheered off, and got out of
  range after the eighth round, and then kept three miles astern of
  us. I decided to run north till dark or till the aeroplane retired,
  and then to return under water to —— position. At 7.30 we lost sight
  of the aeroplane, and at 8.30 decided to turn and dive south. Just
  then the aeroplane was sighted. Dived. Heard nine distant
  explosions. Decided to remain down till dark.

For a month business was bad in the ‘big event’ line, but things
brightened in October, although E 19, sighting a German cruiser and two
escorts outside Danish territorial waters off Klintholm Moen, had rather
an unpleasant ten minutes in trying to hit one of them. The large
warship opened fire with great promptitude, while the smaller fry
cruised about trailing high explosive charges. E 19 dodged, got in a
neat shot at one of the torpedo-boats, and was rewarded by the knowledge
that she sank.

On the 23rd October the cruiser _Prinz Adalbert_, although escorted by a
couple of destroyers, one on each bow, was sent to the bottom by a
British submarine near Libau. Regarding the manner of her death, the
commander of the boat which wrought her destruction has this to say:

  Fired bow tube at enemy’s fore-bridge. Observed very vivid flash of
  explosion along water-line at point of aim. This was immediately
  followed by very large concussion, and entire ship was immediately
  hidden in huge columns of thick grey smoke, fore magazine having
  evidently been exploded by torpedo.

For some unknown reason a newspaper correspondent’s account of the loss
of this ship was allowed to be sent by the German official wireless to
New York. The writer asserted that the affair took place in hazy
weather—“ideal conditions for an attack,” according to the British
commander—and that the vessel was struck by two torpedoes almost
simultaneously. According to him the _Prinz Adalbert_ went down
“immediately, like a piece of iron.” How the following paragraph came to
be passed by the censor is a greater mystery: “The enemy submarines in
the Baltic offer a difficult problem. The Admiralty is confronted with
the practically impossible task of keeping them out. The Admiralty can
mine or set barrier nets in the Sound between Denmark and Sweden only up
to the three-mile limit, where the neutral waters of the two countries
begin. The problem is causing the Admiralty serious thought.”

The range was some 1300 yards, and the “very large concussion” so great
that it upset the working of the torpedo mechanism of the submarine and
necessitated the craft’s burying herself in deep water to avoid injury
from the great masses of _débris_ that were falling over a wide area.
The _Prinz Adalbert_ was not wrecked, but annihilated.

The light cruiser _Undine_ was dispatched by two torpedoes in three
minutes, while convoying the steam ferry _Preussen_ from Trelleborg to
Sassnitz on the 7th November, 1915. The first missile missed, and merely
put a couple of attendant torpedo-boats on the _qui vive_. In attempting
to ram the assailant, one of them uncovered her charge, with the result
that the second weapon struck the _Undine_ full amidships. The
underwater craft, uninjured by the withering fire of the disconcerted
cruiser, ducked and was seen no more. As a neutral captain remarked,
“the submarines pop up everywhere, and disappear again with an alertness
which only an intimate knowledge of the waters would allow. Several
times they have been seen in close proximity to the mine-field, but they
seem to be as much at home as in the North Sea.” A little later the
_Preussen_ played into the enemy’s hands by ramming and sinking her
escorting torpedo-boat, of whose company only five were picked up.

The _Flying Dutchman_ of the Great War was surely the German light
cruiser _Bremen_, completed in 1904 at the port whose name she bore.
This little 3200–ton warship, mounting ten 4.1–in. guns and fourteen
smaller weapons, was reported from time to time as having been seen in
the Atlantic, the North Sea, and the Pacific. Then she appeared—and
disappeared—in the Baltic. On the 18th December, 1915, Berlin admitted
her loss, together with a torpedo-boat escorting her. This double event
of the previous day was due to a British submarine.

In May 1916, when the eastern and southern parts of the Baltic were once
more free from ice, British submarines lost no time in renewing their
activity, to the utter discomfiture of traders who did not mind running
big risks for big money. A German convoy was also intercepted off the
coast of Sweden by Russian torpedo-boats, destroyers, and submarines.
The squadron sank the auxiliary cruiser _König von Sachsen_, and set
fire to another auxiliary ship, the _Hermann_. The latter was afterward
blown up by her crew.

The raid in the Gulf of Finland in November 1916, again under cover of a
fog, showed the efficiency of the Russian Baltic Fleet to be still
unimpaired, but the Revolution achieved what the enemy failed to do.
“Confusion and mistrust prevailed”: in these words Admiral Koltchak
summed up the whole unhappy situation. In October 1917 the German High
Sea Fleet held the mastery of the Gulf of Riga. The most belligerent
representative of the London Press went frantic because the enemy’s
object had been carried out “without any interference from the British
Fleet, which, as we are accustomed to say, commands the sea.” Presumably
it would have had battleships and vessels of Sir David Beatty’s
celebrated ‘Cat Class’ forging ahead through the entrance, disregarding
the imminent likelihood of their being sent to the bottom by U-boats and
mine-fields. The difficulties surmounted by underwater craft in
penetrating the Baltic, to which I have already drawn attention, is
surely sufficient answer to the most amateur of amateur strategists,
who, indeed, were somewhat roughly handled by Sir Eric Geddes in the
House of Commons. What it was possible for the British Navy to do it
achieved.

On the 23rd it was announced that a British submarine had fired two
torpedoes at an enemy Dreadnought of the _Markgraf_ class mounting ten
12–in. guns, with what result was unknown. The Germans made it somewhat
too hot with shells from ships and bombs from seaplanes for her
commanding officer to wait and see. She certainly succeeded in blowing
up a big transport.

Opportunity is four-fifths of the battle where underwater craft are
concerned. As the war progressed and Britain learned how to tackle those
of the enemy, so the Germans gained experience in dodging our boats.
Three Dreadnoughts, a light cruiser, and several torpedo craft hailing
from Kiel were chased for four hours by one of our submarines. Every
ounce of energy was got out of the motors, but never once did she
succeed in getting closer than eight miles. A decent-sized gun would
have reached readily enough, but no torpedo has ever achieved so distant
a range. The squadron covered a wide area of sea, frequently changed
course, and manœuvred in such a way that the British skipper candidly
confessed that his German rival “made use of very confusing and
successful anti-submarine tactics.”

This chapter cannot be other than a faint and incomplete outline of
happenings in the Baltic between 1914 and 1917. The British campaign
ended in April 1918. When the German naval forces and transports
approached Hangö, South-west Finland, four ‘E’ and three ‘C’ boats were
taken outside the harbour of Helsingfors and blown up. The crews made
their way, not without difficulty and danger, to Petrograd. “Whether it
be wise in men to do such actions or no,” said Sir William Temple over
two centuries ago, “I am sure it is so in States to honour them.”

Russia had gone into ‘Committee.’ The Baltic had ceased to be a battle
area. A chapter in which the names of Horton, Laurence, Goodhart, and
Crombie afforded something more than a tinge of romance had been added
to the history books. To quote Admiral Kanin, successor to the
hard-working and reforming von Essen, Russia had been “helped
extraordinarily by the English submarines.” The boats were
“magnificent,” the officers “fine young fellows.” Their bearing was
“wonderful—and their coolness!”



                              CHAPTER XIV
                       _Blockading the Blockade_

  “_This blockade is a complete avowal of Germany’s weakness._”—LORD
  ROBERT CECIL.


Shelling an enemy is merely a scientific way of throwing stones. When a
schoolboy in God’s open air is not quite sure of the nature of an
object, his primitive ancestors prompt him to fling something at it;
middle age, having the full advantage of civilization, pokes it with a
stick.

In naval warfare ‘throwing things’ is perfectly legitimate cricket, but
mining, which is invisible poking, is scarcely recognized as a worthy
substitute for football. Two or three years passed before the last mine
was swept from the waters that formed the theatre of the maritime drama
of the Russo-Japanese War; it may take thrice that time to clear up the
aftermath of the World Conflict. The prospect is not pleasant to
contemplate. The belligerents sowed these murderous canisters in many
latitudes. Germany, to her lasting shame, did not always provide the
necessary apparatus to render them innocuous when they broke loose, or
for those of the unanchored variety to become worthless “one hour at
most after the person who laid them shall have lost control over them,”
according to Article 1 of the Eighth Convention of The Hague Conference
of 1907. Her favourite trick after a naval engagement was to fling
floating mines overboard in the hope that the pursuing fleet would
blunder into them. Many thousands were scattered along the trade routes.
Let me hasten to add that in the use of mines Germany was well in
advance of every other belligerent in 1914. It was weeks before the
British Navy took advantage of what most salt-water sailors regard as a
device associated with the dirty, low-down trick of hitting below the
belt.

Mines, like their cousin the depth charge, played a very important part
in combating the submarine menace. As Germany showed a partiality for
them, we did our best to oblige her. The most extensive mine-field ever
planted was sown by Great Britain. It stretched from the Orkney Islands
to the fringe of the territorial waters of Norway, and covered an area
of not less than 22,000 square miles. Access to the Atlantic, rigidly
guarded by the naval police of the Patrol, was provided on the Scottish
side. Other British mine-fields existed at the farther end of the North
Sea, guarded by a hundred or more surface craft, and in the
neighbourhood of Flanders, Heligoland, and Denmark. The object of these
vast prohibited areas was to prevent U-boats from gaining easy access to
the great ocean routes. Germany early laid a mine-field inside the
Skager-Rack to prevent British submarines from entering the Baltic—which
it did not do—and afterward violated international law by taking similar
steps in the Cattegat. While the latter operation was proceeding,
certain of our naval forces came across a batch of enemy mine-layers at
their nefarious task, sank ten of them, and rescued their crews. The men
ought to have been ordered to walk the plank, _pour encourager les
autres_, as Voltaire said of Admiral Byng’s execution.

Britain’s bold bid to foil the U-boats was undertaken, in the words of
the official explanation, “in view of the unrestricted warfare carried
on by Germany at sea by means of mines and submarines, not only against
the Allied Powers, but also against neutral shipping,” and because
merchant ships were “constantly sunk without regard to the ultimate
safety of their crews.” The big northern mine-field proved very useful.
That was why the enemy immediately started a loud-mouthed campaign in
neutral countries in the hope of inciting their Governments to protest
against an effective method of warfare decidedly prejudicial to the
German cause.

A word or two about the surface barrage maintained across the Channel.
Every day and night, ceaselessly and relentlessly, in fair weather and
foul, over a hundred armed patrolling craft of various sorts and sizes
kept sentinel at the great southern gateway, and enabled troops and
munitions to cross the drawbridge from England to France. It was not so
difficult a task during the day as at night. When darkness fell the
guard burned flares that made the passage of a submarine travelling on
the surface an exceedingly dangerous undertaking. If a U-boat tried the
underwater route, there were other means of obstruction quite as deadly
as the methods of the fire-breathing trawlers. There is no truth in the
yarn that a steel net stretched across the Straits of Dover, thereby
guaranteeing with more or less certainty the immunity of transports from
attack by underwater vessels.

The fisherman’s device for catching members of the finny tribe was, of
course, applied to submarines. Long nets with meshes ten or fifteen feet
square proved of great service when the war was young. Dropped in the
course of an approaching U-boat, the probability was that she would poke
her nose into it and find extreme difficulty in getting out.
Subsequently cutters were fitted to the enemy’s craft, but nothing could
eliminate the movement of the net, which was supported on the surface by
small buoys or planks. Moored nets with mines attached boded no good to
the submarine that was unfortunate enough to encounter the obstacle.

An enemy commander found that his boat was towing a red buoy, and
shortly afterward that she was entangled in wire-netting. “For an hour
and a half,” he relates, “the netting carried us with it, and although I
made every effort to get clear of it, rising and then sinking with the
object of getting to the bottom of the netting, it was all in vain, for
we were always dragged back, sometimes to the right and sometimes to the
left.” By increasing the weight of water in the tanks the U-boat managed
to tear the netting. She remained under water for eighteen hours, came
up and found patrol craft in the vicinity, and was compelled to descend
for another six hours. After a further look round, the officer adds, “I
remained submerged for two hours, then slowly turned outward, and at a
distance of some fifty yards from the leading enemy craft passed toward
the open sea. At nine o’clock in the evening we were able to rise to the
surface in safety.”

The arming of traders gave the Central Powers furiously to think,
especially as the policy was a perfectly natural sequel to their own
misdoings. Details of the calibre of guns mounted by ships of the
British Mercantile Marine were withheld from Parliament as “not in the
public interest.” The French Minister of Marine was more communicative.
At the end of 1917 every French merchantman was armed with two 3.7–in.
guns. International law held that trading vessels during war-time must
be stopped and searched before further action could be taken.
Exceptional circumstances alone justified the sinking even of an enemy
vessel, the usual practice being to conduct the captive to port, the
final disposal being settled in the Prize Court. Neutral ships could in
no circumstances be destroyed. Germany’s difficulty was that it was next
to impossible for a submarine to follow this programme, which she
herself had recognized previous to the advent of the U-boat. While the
process of search was going on, a necessarily slow and tedious task, ten
to one a patrol boat would appear on the scene and show an untoward
amount of inquisitiveness. The natural development of blockade by
submarine was _via_ the line of least resistance. Rules and rights,
obligations and understandings must go by the board. The word
illegitimate was wiped out. From naval virtue to piracy is but a step;
the enemy took it. She would sink at sight.

As a direct consequence of the arming of merchantmen there was an
increase in the number of submerged attacks and a decrease in the use of
the gun on the part of the submarine. This was entirely to the good,
because it necessitated more frequent visits to the base to replenish
depleted magazines.

Elsewhere I have dealt at length with the wonderful way in which the men
of the Merchant Service settled down to the altered condition of
affairs.[33] The crews showed as much faith in their solitary weapon
mounted in the stern as a gun-layer of the _Queen Elizabeth_ believed in
the giant organs of destruction housed in the fore turret. They achieved
wonders with the little spitfires, though sometimes their confidence was
misplaced. Uncertainty is the only certainty in war.

Lest I should be accused of being a devotee of mere drum and trumpet
history, let me relate the story of a failure. At a few minutes to 3
a.m., in squally and heavy weather, the captain of a merchantman made
out the form of a U-boat right ahead. His attempt to ram missed by a few
feet. Putting the helm hard over to bring the submarine astern, he
ordered the gun to be brought into action. The first shot looked as
though it had struck the evil thing. But the bursting shell failed to
check the enemy, despite what the master called “a big, bright
flare-up.” A little later he observed what he presumed to be the wake of
a torpedo, followed by the appearance of the U-boat travelling parallel
to the steamer. Again the gun was fired, and again achieved nothing. As
the darkness made range-finding exceedingly difficult, and the flash of
the cordite betrayed the position of the steamer, the captain gave
orders to cease fire, and sent every available man to the stokehold.
What the trusted gun had failed to do the engines might achieve. He then
told the steward to get coffee. What a delightful human touch! It
reminds one of Nelson writing a prayer when within sight of the Combined
Fleet, and of Sturdee shaving before giving battle to von Spee.

At 6.20 a.m. a torpedo struck the port side of the steamer, the boilers
burst, and ship and gun disappeared in a welter of steam, smoke, and
flame. The survivors were picked up a few hours later. But don’t think
for one moment that they blamed their armament. They attributed their
failure to unfortunate weather conditions.

Now for a more pleasing picture. A U-boat tried to torpedo the _Nyanza_,
an American steamer with an Imperial name, at a range of approximately
1000 yards. By quick manipulation of the helm the tin fish was skilfully
dodged, and the ship’s gun opened fire. The submarine thereupon brought
two guns to bear on the vessel. The running fight continued for two and
a half hours, and was ended by four shots from the _Nyanza_. The enemy
visibly staggered, slowly heeled over, and is now gathering rust and
barnacles on the ocean floor.

The first of all anti-submarine appliances is the human eye. “It is
seven to three on the ship if the submarine is sighted, and four to one
against it if it is not,” says Sir Eric Geddes. In every British
merchant vessel of 2500 gross tonnage and upward, four men possessing
the special Board of Trade certificate as to eyesight were required to
act as look-outs at the masthead or elsewhere in areas in which U-boats
were likely to be encountered. They kept watch in turn for not more than
two hours, and although not necessarily additional members of the crew,
were specially engaged and received extra pay.

The necessity for keeping a keen look-out was early recognized. The
Admiralty offered a reward not exceeding £1000 for information leading
to the capture or destruction of an enemy vessel, including a mine-layer
or submarine, and a sum up to £200 for information leading to the craft
being sighted and chased. Prominent shipowners and other patriotic
citizens aided and abetted these rewards by offering various sums to the
captain and crew of the first British merchantman who sank a U-boat.

In due course the idea of ‘camouflage’ was borrowed from the Army. In
military campaigns the ingenious daubing of guns with paint that
harmonized with the colours of the surrounding scenery became, if not
high art, a most skilful artistic device. It was found impossible to
make ships invisible at sea, but much was done to render them
considerably less conspicuous. The constantly changing light defeated
every plan that had invisibility for its aim.

While it is a wise thing to consume one’s own smoke, steamers are unable
to do so. Smoke is an excellent tell-tale. On the other hand it was not
always a friend of the enemy. Destroyers in battle often put up a
smoke-screen sufficiently dense to cover battleships and cruisers—it was
a marked device of the German fleet at Jutland—and many a ‘black gang’
in the stokehold have saved their ship by its means. Boxes filled with
smoke-making powder that burnt slowly and gave off black clouds when
flung in the sea have enabled many a vessel to escape behind a dense
pall. They played their part in the daring raids on Ostend and
Zeebrugge. Special smoke-funnels for use on board were also introduced
with success. The Compagnie Transatlantique liner _Le Gard_ escaped from
two U-boats by means of this system.

On those rare occasions when an unsuspecting U-boat popped up under the
very nose of a patrol boat the lance-bomb proved a thoroughly efficient
weapon. It consisted of a 14–lb. bomb that exploded on contact, placed
on the end of a shaft some 6 feet in length. An expert thrower could
hurl this naval hand-grenade quite a fair distance and with splendid
precision. A destroyer or chaser towing explosive charges at breakneck
speed was a sure and certain harbinger of death should a marauder happen
to be in the way.

Armed yachts and fast motor-boats displayed their sea-keeping qualities
as never before, and to these were added capacities as auxiliary
fighting vessels. One of the former picked up an S O S signal. The
sender proved to be a trader, and at no great distance from her was a
periscope. The enemy was just a little too late in getting under, for
the ‘eye’ had scarcely disappeared when the yacht cut right across her
back. A couple of depth charges were thrown out to complete the
business, and the yacht was swung round to cross the spot again after
the explosion had subsided, when a peculiar disturbance was noticed in
another direction. A third depth charge added considerably to the
turmoil. As the sailors watched a human form came to the surface. The
‘peculiar disturbance’ was doubtless the death-rattle of the U-boat, and
as she broke in halves the solitary survivor was flung up. He did not
live to relate his terrible experience.

The celebrated submarine-chasers, while they varied in design, were
usually stubby craft mounting a remarkably serviceable quick-firer on a
high forecastle and carrying a liberal supply of ‘pills’ in the stern.
As the range of the former was about three and a half miles, and the
engines were capable of attaining a speed of thirty or more knots an
hour in calm weather, a submarine was at considerable disadvantage
unless she managed to deliver the first blow. Should a U-boat consider
it worth while to risk a fight on the surface or attempt to torpedo the
‘weasel’ from below, the speed of the chaser was obviously her greatest
asset. Italian chasers, by the way, resembled small submarines, minus
the conning-tower; those of France were very similar to our own. When
the United States entered the war one of President Wilson’s first
measures was to order the construction of a large number of these
vessels.

Many of the motor launches in the Service were commanded by former
amateur yachtsmen, who soon became hardy seafarers. Pluck, energy, and
resource characterized their hazardous work. “Day after day, year after
year,” as a senior naval officer reports, “they have kept the sea in the
worst weather when other craft have had to run for shelter.” One story
must suffice as typical of many others.

Three motor launches of the Auxiliary Patrol were forging ahead one
morning when a look-out saw certain movements known as ‘white feathers,’
sure indications of the presence of a U-boat. The Germans led them many
miles afield in their effort to escape. The launches hung on, and
gradually worked themselves into a position which cornered the
submersible. Overboard went several depth charges, followed by
convulsions and the end of the ‘spasm’—naval for submarine chase.

Several ingenious inventions having sound as their basis were
introduced. Of these the microphone, enabling the listener to detect the
rhythm of submarine motors when submerged, is undoubtedly the most
important. The télémétriste and the hydrophone, somewhat similar
contrivances, were fitted on certain ships of the French Navy.

The convoy system of gathering together a group of merchantmen and
conducting them through the danger zone was merely the revival of a
venerable institution. Its modern application met with considerably
greater success than was often evident in the past. The First Dutch War
of 1652–4, for instance, consisted very largely, so far as England was
concerned, of attacks on convoys. The necessity for protecting them was
responsible for four of the seven battles fought.

Beginning in a comparatively small way, the idea of shepherding merchant
shipping was gradually enlarged until few vessels sailed overseas
unattended. The system was extraordinarily successful. Before it was
introduced nearly 10 per cent. of Britain’s food ships were sent to the
bottom by an enemy bent on starving England into submission. When the
vessels were assembled and protected only 1 per cent. was lost, and
26,000,000 tons of foodstuffs were brought over from different parts of
the world, in addition to 35,000,000 tons of munitions of various kinds.
The whole of the Argentine wheat crop was transported to Great Britain,
France, and Italy in 307 ships, of which only one was lost through enemy
action.

The celebrated ‘Q’ ships are mystery ships no longer. The idea of these
decoy vessels was obviously suggested by the raider _Möwe_, which
resembled a tramp and was really a powerfully armed fighting unit of the
German Navy, as many a captain of the Mercantile Marine found to his
cost. Officered and manned by volunteers, the avowal of Sir Eric Geddes
that the crews were made up of “the very bravest that our sea service
can produce” was more than a mere figure of speech. No fewer than eight
of their commanders won the V.C.

Some of the Q class were sailing ships, others looked like colliers or
aged cargo boats; all resembled slow-going, nondescript tubs likely to
attract the fond attention of the Germans. When a submarine appeared and
called upon the captain to surrender, a special ‘panic party’ would
abandon ship in a terrible state of consternation. They showed beyond
doubt that the U-boat campaign had put the fear of the Hun in their
hearts. Sometimes the poor fools of Englishmen were not given an
opportunity to get away. Fire was opened on the innocent babe without
palaver. The panic party would then go frantic with terror, try to
launch the boats, occasionally upsetting one in their haste to get away,
or leaving it dangling like a skeleton on a gibbet. Not until the
submersible popped up alongside or presented a ‘dead certain’ target was
the true nature of the vessel revealed. Sometimes the ship was
torpedoed, shelled, set on fire, and sunk almost to the water’s edge
before the captain deemed that the psychological moment had arrived.
Then flaps dropped that uncovered guns guaranteed by Woolwich to sink
the stoutest submersible afloat, bullets spat from chicken coops, and
hell was let loose on the surprised enemy. The story of the Q ships is
full of dramatic incidents, but words fail to describe the agony of
waiting for action or the cool courage of the men who went through
strange performances to order when under fire.

H.M.S. _Stock Force_ was a steam mystery ship of only 360 tons. What she
lacked in size she more than made up for in impudence. On the 30th July,
1918, at 5 p.m. by the captain’s chronometer, a torpedo struck her
abreast No. 1 hatch. Her stubby nose was blown off, its component parts
and contents hurled sky-high, and the bridge completely wrecked. This
was a bad beginning, particularly as several of the crew of the foremost
guns were wounded. One poor fellow was pinned under the weapon it was
his duty to serve when occasion arose, and there he remained throughout
the action. A few seconds later lumps of iron, planks, and unexploded
shells flung up from the fore part of the ship by the force of the
explosion fell on deck and added to the injuries already sustained by
the ratings, at the same time wounding the first lieutenant and the
navigating officer. As the vessel began to settle down forward the panic
party pushed off. Although the lower deck was flooded, the surgeon got
to work standing up to his waist in water, and the engine-room staff
went on with their labours. The captain and two guns’ crews alone had
nothing to do at the moment beyond keeping themselves out of sight.
Sometimes waiting is the hardest of all tasks.

The attacking U-boat behaved in a most irritating way. She came to the
surface straight ahead, and showed no immediate intention of approaching
nearer. Meanwhile the _Stock Force_ was going down. There was not the
slightest doubt about that. It was then that the panic party played
their second act. They began to row back to the ship, hoping to entice
the enemy nearer. The U-boat swallowed the bait, approaching slowly.
When she was abeam, up went the White Ensign, the contraptions fell
away, and two guns crashed out. Three rounds smashed the conning-tower,
felled a periscope, and tore a great rent in the hull on the water-line.
Several Germans were blown out through the hole, while the officer on
watch got a sudden rise in the world.

As the water rushed into the stricken U-boat her bows rose, to be
instantly subjected to a terrific bombardment. Then she disappeared. Her
assailant kept afloat until 9.25 p.m. Officers and men were taken off by
torpedo-boats and a trawler.

For nearly half an hour after the panic party had pulled away from
H.M.S. _Prize_, another Q ship, the guns’ crews were lying face downward
on the deck subjected to heavy fire from a U-boat. When the enemy came
abeam the schooner’s weapons were revealed in no uncertain fashion. The
action was over in four minutes. One shell shattered the foremost gun of
the U-boat, killing everybody near it. Another wrecked the
conning-tower, and the interior of the craft became a mass of flame.
Three survivors were rescued, though how they escaped passes
understanding. The _Prize_ had been so badly holed that she looked like
following her victim. Q boats, however, were built to stand a lot of
knocking about. More often than not they were severely handled before
they got an opportunity to retaliate. On this particular occasion every
available man turned carpenter or lent a hand with the pumps. The
nearest port was 120 miles off. The Q ship sailed to within five miles
of the ‘haven where she would be’ before accepting assistance. She was
then given a friendly tow by a nimble little motor-launch.

The following is the official account of what happened to H.M.S. Q 5 on
the 17th February 1917, after she had been torpedoed abreast of No. 3
hold. The chief hero of the exploit was Commander Gordon Campbell, who
had been awarded the D.S.O. for sinking a U-boat when in command of
H.M.S. _Farnborough_ nearly a year before.

  Action stations were sounded and the ‘panic party’ abandoned ship.
  The engineer officer reported that the engine-room was flooding, and
  was ordered to remain at his post as long as possible, which he and
  his staff, several of whom were severely wounded, most gallantly
  did. The submarine was observed on the starboard quarter 200 yards
  distant, watching the proceedings through his periscope. He ran past
  the ship on the starboard side so closely that the whole hull was
  visible beneath the surface, finally emerging about 300 yards off on
  the port bow. The enemy came down the port side of the ship, and
  fire was withheld until all guns could bear at point-blank range.
  The first shot beheaded the captain of the submarine as he was
  climbing out of the conning-tower, and the submarine finally sank
  with conning-tower open and crew pouring out. One officer and one
  man were rescued on the surface and taken prisoner, after which the
  boats were recalled, and all hands proceeded to do their utmost to
  keep the ship afloat. A wireless signal for assistance had been sent
  out when (but not until) the fate of the submarine was assured, and
  a destroyer and sloop arrived a couple of hours later, and took Q 5
  in tow. She was finally beached in safety the following evening.

  The action may be regarded as the supreme test of naval discipline.
  The chief engineer and engine-room watch remained at their posts to
  keep the dynamo working until driven out by the water, then
  remaining concealed on top of the cylinders. The guns’ crews had to
  remain concealed in their gun-houses for nearly half an hour, while
  the ship slowly sank lower in the water.

One such adventure would suffice most men. Not so Commander Gordon
Campbell. He was ‘at it again’ in August 1917, when in command of
another Q ship, the _Dunraven_. This particular vessel was ostensibly an
armed British trader. On the U-boat beginning the action, the
undisguised stern gun was brought into play, the speed of the ship
reduced so that the submarine might overtake her, and wireless calls for
help were sent out. She caught fire aft, in the vicinity of a magazine,
above which was a concealed gun with its crew ready for immediate
service. Shortly after the panic party left the vessel the magazine
exploded, starting the electric gongs that signalled ‘Action’ at the
other gun positions. This was unfortunate, for only one weapon could be
brought to bear on the enemy, then in the act of submerging. Although
the _Dunraven_ was on fire, a wireless code message was sent to warn
approaching traffic not to intervene. After two torpedoes had struck the
vessel a second panic party abandoned ship, leaving the guns unmasked.
Apparently not a soul remained on board, but the commander of the
submarine was evidently not quite sure. For nearly an hour he regarded
discretion as the better part of valour. He merely watched and waited
for the ship to blow up or go down. As the mystery ship did neither, the
U-boat pounded her for twenty minutes, then slowly passed at a distance
of about 150 yards. A torpedo fired by the _Dunraven_ missed by a
hair-breadth, but was apparently unperceived. A second torpedo was tried
as the enemy returned on the other side. That likewise failed. Uncertain
as to the next proceeding of her astonishing antagonist, the U-boat made
off. When destroyers arrived on the scene the fire on the gallant little
ship was got under, and a valiant attempt made to keep her afloat. She
eventually succumbed to bad weather. But what a career, and what superb
courage! You will not meet the like in fiction.

These wonderful mystery ships, that took such a lot of sinking, that
purposely courted trouble to entice their aggressors into the same, were
no ordinary vessels. Externally, as I have said, they resembled rusty
old tramps; internally they were built for battering. Iron girders gave
them additional strength, and bales of cork served to check the shock of
a torpedo and keep them afloat. No wonder Fritz got scared and threw up
the game!



                               CHAPTER XV
                   _Bottling up Zeebrugge and Ostend_

  “_Their Lordships desire to express to all ranks and ratings
  concerned in the recent gallant and successful enterprise on the
  Belgian coast their high admiration of the perfect co-operation
  displayed, and of the single-minded determination of all to achieve
  their object. The disciplined daring and singular contempt of death
  exhibited by those who were assigned the posts of greatest danger
  places this exploit high in the annals of the Royal Navy and Royal
  Marines, and will be a proud memory for the relatives of those who
  fell._”—GENERAL ORDER TO THE FLEET.


Prevention is better than cure, even in the Navy. To bottle up the
U-boats was obviously a far quicker way of ridding the sea of the vermin
than scouring the ocean highway for them. It required no effort of
genius to come to that conclusion. But how? Many minds had puzzled over
the problem and evolved all kinds of devices for the purpose, most of
them more ingenious than practical. Zeebrugge and Ostend were within a
comparatively few miles of the Essex coast, and from these ports there
issued U-boats that played the part of maritime highwaymen every hour of
the twenty-four, and surface craft that stole along in the darkness of
night and raided the Straits. The importance attached by the enemy to
Zeebrugge and Ostend was so great that they said they would never give
them up. That defiant attitude, suggestive of a rude little boy putting
his fingers to his nose in token of profound disrespect, was calculated
to make every British son all the more determined that the Germans
should be compelled to clear out.

Napoleon I quite rightly regarded Antwerp as a pistol held at the heart
of England; when William II ravished Belgium he brought his weapons
nearer still. Under German domination Zeebrugge and Ostend became vastly
important bases for submarines and torpedo-boats. Together they formed a
veritable pirates’ lair. From time to time since August 1914 they had
been heavily bombarded by the Navy and from the air, but always with
surprisingly little effect on their fiendish activities. Warships came
and warships went, tons of high explosive shells and bombs were rained
on them, until one dismally surmised that they must be invulnerable.

[Illustration:

  C 3 at Zeebrugge Mole

  An old British submarine, loaded with explosives, was run into the
    piles of the jetty at the shore end of Zeebrugge Mole and blown up,
    to the amazement and destruction of the defenders.
]

Zeebrugge was the more important because it was directly connected by
canal with medieval Bruges. Previous to the outbreak of hostilities the
City of the Golden Fleece was a sort of Sleepy Hollow kept awake by its
carillon and tourists. The German invaders transformed the place into a
naval arsenal. Torpedo-boats and submarines found shelter in the port,
making their entry and exit _via_ Zeebrugge Harbour, with its broad mole
extending about a mile and a half seaward. The latter was connected with
the shore by a wooden jetty of enormous strength. This arrangement
prevented the harbour from silting up, which otherwise it would have
done. The long concrete arm sheltering the canal was something more than
a mere breakwater. It had been converted into a fort, with batteries and
machine-guns, seaplane hangars and stores, and was strongly garrisoned.
No fewer than 120 guns guarded the littoral of Zeebrugge and Ostend.

Could the ports be sealed, despite the difficulties presented by the
treacherous nature of the coast, the mine-fields that shielded them, the
batteries that bristled on the sand-dunes, the aircraft that kept watch
and ward, the warships that lay in hiding? The question was entertained
seriously by Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt. There seemed to be
little likelihood at that date that the Army would achieve the result by
military means, and so if these places were to be rendered useless as
sea bases the task, it was clear, must be accomplished by the Navy.

The scheme was laid before Sir John Jellicoe, at that time First Sea
Lord, and given to Vice-Admiral Roger Keyes, in command at Dover, to
carry out. We have already met the latter as Commodore of Submarines in
August 1914; he now returned to a task he had undertaken on a much
smaller scale in 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion in China. With a dozen
men he stormed a fort and blew it up, despite the opinion of some of his
seniors that the attempt was little more than a forlorn hope. While he
and his associates were planning the multitudinous details of the
Zeebrugge-Ostend expedition, the memory of the former ‘impossible’ task
must have crossed his mind more than once. Here was an operation ten
thousand times more difficult, requiring the most minute calculations,
an efficient fighting force, a considerable fleet, and an exact
time-table. Chinamen can fight, and fight desperately, but the garrison
Keyes purposed to attack was officered and manned by the German Army,
and the place defended by the most modern weapons.

The resources that Keyes asked for were a covering force, half a dozen
obsolete cruisers—there is sometimes a good deal of ‘kick’ in a ship
marked for the scrap-heap—a couple of ferry-boats, and a number of
auxiliary vessels. Of the six old-timers, five were to be filled with
concrete and sunk in such a position that navigation would be blocked
(hence the term block-ships) and one was to land the main storming
party; the ferry-boats were to convey additional fighting men, and the
auxiliaries were to pick up any survivors there might be. For mark this:
the desperate nature of the enterprise made annihilation possible. None
expected to get back, but all had made up their minds to dam up the
raiders. That was the sole and sufficient object of the expedition. It
formed part of no invasion project.

There was urgency but no hurry, a naval paradox which meant that while
the Service fully realized the importance of bottling up the U-boats, it
also understood that delay in executing the operation was preferable to
a tragic anti-climax. Twice the armada set out and returned without
having accomplished its purpose. On St George’s Day 1918 Keyes and his
men showed their mettle in the most dashing naval exploit of the Great
Conflict.

The cruiser _Vindictive_, accompanied by the _Daffodil_ and the _Iris_,
both Mersey ferry-boats, carried storming and demolition parties of
bluejackets and ‘jollies,’ all picked men. The _Vindictive_, armed with
various species of things Satanic, was to focus the attention of the
enemy. The _Intrepid_, the _Iphigenia_, and the _Thetis_, cargoed with
concrete, were to be sunk by explosives detonated from their respective
bridges in the channels and entrances to Zeebrugge; the _Brilliant_ and
the _Sirius_ were to perform similar operations at Ostend.

The night was hazy and overcast. Navigation in mined waters is not easy,
but there were no casualties. As the _Vindictive_ and her consorts
headed for Zeebrugge Harbour they shrouded themselves in a smoke-screen
so dense that the strongest search-light could not penetrate it.
Everything went splendidly until the old cruiser and the ferry-boats
were just off the mole. Then the wind turned Hun. The star-shells and
search-lights that suddenly awakened, lighting up the harbour almost as
though it were day, revealed the visitors to the enemy. Batteries
thundered, machine-guns on the mole awoke to life, shells burst above,
about, and on the incoming cruiser. In addition to the immediate din the
boom of the guns of the supporting monitors and of siege guns in
Flanders could be heard. The _Vindictive_ held on her way through the
inferno as though the reception was nothing more formidable than
fireworks sent up to welcome her.

Commander Alfred F. B. Carpenter, standing on the exposed bridge of the
cruiser, brought the bows of his ship alongside the mole, while the
_Daffodil_ ran a grave risk of bursting her boilers in a giant effort to
shove her stern in. As the parapet of the mole was thirty feet high the
_Vindictive_ had been fitted with a temporary deck, from whence eighteen
gangways were speedily run out. Before they had ordered their men to
land both Colonel Elliot, of the Marines, and Captain H. C. Halahan, who
was to lead the sailors, were lying dead. When the word was given the
fighters moved down the brows in face of a withering fire, an operation
made more difficult by the rolling of the ship in a heavy swell. Many
were killed and wounded as they attempted to land. Lieutenant H. T. C.
Walker, with one arm blown off, was trodden under before he could be
dragged away. “Good luck!” he yelled, “good luck!”

The howitzer mounted forward in the _Vindictive_ was fed and fought with
uncanny precision, though two crews were wiped out. In the foretop a
solitary man alone remained to work one of the Lewis guns, and he was
grievously wounded. Near by, sitting in a little cabin, a mere landsman
fired rockets for the guidance of the block-ships with as little concern
as if he were managing a benefit performance at the Crystal Palace.
Commander Carpenter’s coolness was infectious. There was no ‘panic
party,’ real or fancied, on this mystery ship. The _Daffodil_, still
holding the cruiser in position, was ordered to maintain her station and
withhold landing her storming party. The _Iris_, owing to the failure of
her grapnels to grip the parapet, fell astern of the cruiser, though
Lieutenant-Commander Bradford and Lieutenant Hawkins clambered up and
tried to fix them, sitting at work on the wall until they were shot
dead.

The _Thetis_, with a nucleus crew—the others had been taken off by
motor-boats—approached the mole, but failed to reach it. One of her
propellers got entangled in a steel defence net. Becoming unmanageable,
she struck the edge of a shoal and refused to budge. Shell after shell
crashed against her old sides, but it was not until she was virtually a
wreck that Commander R. S. Sneyd, D.S.O., exploded the charges in her
hold and sank her. Then he signalled the course to the other ships.

The _Intrepid_ and the _Iphigenia_ came bowling along, sorry for their
consort’s ill-luck but anxious only to get on with the immediate task in
hand. Lieutenant S. Bonham-Carter beached the _Intrepid_ on the muddy
spot marked as her grave, blew a great hole in her side, and was
smilingly told by the chief engineer, who had remained below, that the
performance was eminently satisfactory. Surely that engineer was the
embodiment of dignity and impudence, that peculiar combination that
marks the true Briton. Lieutenant E. W. Billyard-Leake, in command of
the _Iphigenia_, also entered the canal and carried out his task with
splendid efficiency. Both ships were sunk about 200 yards up the
fairway.

The officers and men of the block-ships were picked up with conspicuous
gallantry by perky little motor launches that were all the while
subjected to the attention of land batteries as they bustled about their
business. Lieutenant Bonham-Carter sent away his boats before leaving
the ship, trusting to a Carley float for his own salvation. The calcium
flare, which is an integral part of this apparatus, showed him up to the
Germans, who kindly turned on a machine-gun for his special benefit.
Probably the smoke from his own vessel saved him. He was subsequently
picked up by a launch.

The most dramatic incident was yet to come. Suddenly the shore end of
the mole was lit up by a sheet of livid flame that seemed to sear the
sky. C 3, an old submarine commanded by Lieutenant R. D. Sandford, R.N.,
had been jammed into the great piles that supported the jetty. No
ordinary submarine this, but one loaded with several tons of high
explosive. Her little crew of heroes got away in a boat before the
charge was fired, but not before the craft had been driven right home.
The explosion severed the communications of the mole with the shore, a
break 60 feet wide being effected. The Germans crowding the wooden
structure were blown to bits.

The landing parties, working under a galling fire, blew up buildings,
destroyed gun-emplacements, and did as much damage as was possible
before being recalled. Not a few of the enemy felt the cold steel of
British bayonets, and at least two of their guns were captured and
turned on them. Fifty minutes elapsed before the siren of the
_Vindictive_ sounded for the men to return.

The operation against Ostend was not so successful. Owing to the change
of wind the _Sirius_ and the _Brilliant_ were revealed by means of the
calcium flares lit to guide them, which had previously been hidden by
the smoke-cloud. These lights were promptly extinguished by the enemy’s
gunners. Unable to find the entrance, the two ships grounded east of the
piers, and were there sunk.

Taking all things into consideration, the casualties in these two
dare-devil actions were small, although they totalled over 600.
Vice-Admiral Keyes, who was present in the destroyer _Warwick_, was
knighted in recognition of his distinguished service, and Commander
Alfred F. B. Carpenter was promoted to Captain and received the V.C.
Sandford, of C 3, Lieutenant P. T. Dean, R.N.V.R., who performed wonders
in rescuing men from the _Intrepid_ and the _Iphigenia_, Captain E.
Bamford, D.S.O., who landed three platoons of the Marines on the mole,
Sergeant N. A. Finch, who fought in the foretop of the _Vindictive_, and
Able Seaman A. E. Mackenzie, who worked a machine-gun in an exposed
position, were also decorated with the Victoria Cross.

Battle-scarred and holed in many places, the _Vindictive_ was patched up
at Dover for a final exploit. The British Navy does not like leaving
things half done. The affair at Ostend had miscarried through sheer bad
luck. It must be completed. In the early hours of the morning of the
10th May, 1918, the brave old cruiser, now rigged up as a block-ship,
faced 15–in. guns and found the entrance, though twice she lost her way.
She got a terrible pasting from the defenders of the port. The
after-control was wiped out, the conning-tower struck by a heavy shell.
On reaching the eastern pier she swung round to an angle of about forty
degrees to the structure, the charges were fired, and she settled down.
The casualties reached 136 officers and men.

That these stirring episodes in the War in the Underseas aided and
abetted in the final surrender of the U-boats in November 1918 cannot be
doubted.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                          _The Great Collapse_

  “_The Board of Admiralty desire to express to the officers and men
  of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines on the completion of their great
  work their congratulations on a triumph to which history knows no
  parallel._”


They came in flying the White Ensign, which was the cleanest thing about
them. Only a few weeks before the commanders of these same bedraggled
U-boats had boasted of defying the world; now they had been brought to
heel like a pack of whipped curs. German officers and men were taking
part in the biggest collapse in naval history; their conquerors in the
greatest triumph. At Beatty’s bidding they meekly surrendered their
piratical craft at the rate of a score a day for a week or more. The
bluejackets at Harwich rechristened the Stour “U-boat Avenue” when the
captives were given floating-room in its sluggish waters.

[Illustration:

  Entry of the Surrendered U-Boats into Harwich, November 20, 1918

  E. S. Hodgson
]

On the 9th November, 1918, Sir Eric Geddes gave it as his opinion that
the High Sea Fleet had “gone mad” because it “dared not fight” and
because it “had not got a good cause.” That is the psychological
explanation, true to fact and experience. Its _moral_ broke down, which
is another way of saying that it lost its nerve. When ordered to put to
sea on the 28th October, 1918, ostensibly for manœuvres, but in reality
as a gambler’s last hazardous throw of the dice, the German Fleet
mutinied in a far more thorough manner than had obtained a few months
previously.

At Wilhelmshaven about one thousand sailors were imprisoned for taking
part in the mutiny; Kiel, on the other hand, went wholly ‘red,’ as did
also the commercial ports of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck. Soviets came
into being, a Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council was formed, Bolshevism was
openly preached, fireworks were let off at Wilhelmshaven in honour of
the German Republic.

Apart from the moral issue, three main causes led to the defection of
the German Navy. It did not fight because the Battle of Jutland had
proved the vast superiority of the Grand Fleet; it did not want to fight
because the complements of the vessels were mainly landsmen by
upbringing and inclination; it had no heart to fight because the U-boat
campaign had failed to win the war according to promise, or even to
shake Britain’s resolution by one iota. Probably the ultimate and
determining factor was the frightful mortality among the submersibles.
When the High Sea Fleet failed at Jutland the U-boat campaign was
undertaken in real earnest; when that failed the mutiny took place. The
death-rate toward the end was frightful. Of 360 submarines launched
during 1914–18, 200 were sunk or captured.

That Germany made a bold bid for triumph cannot be gainsaid. There were
times when the Allied Admiralties regarded the situation as critical.
The statistics of the matter are instructive, though not pleasing. From
first to last Great Britain lost 9,000,000 tons of shipping, while
Allies and neutrals suffered to the extent of a further 6,000,000 tons.
In addition there were eighty British vessels, with an aggregate tonnage
of 172,554, held up in German ports during hostilities, an amount by no
means to be despised, although it is small compared with the enemy
tonnage captured and brought into Allied service. The latter reached the
respectable figure of 2,392,675. British naval casualties totalled
39,766 in killed, wounded, interned, and captured. In the Merchant
Service 14,661 lost their lives, and 3,295 were taken prisoners. War in
the Underseas was waged at frightful cost to all belligerents, both
vanquished and victors. Taking British losses by enemy action and marine
risks during the war, the worst quarters were in this order: second
quarter of 1917, third, first, and last quarters of the same year, and
first quarter of 1918 and last quarter of 1916. In April 1917, 555,000
tons of British shipping were sent to the bottom. Had things gone on at
that rate, “we were in deadly danger; had it gone on for nine months we
were ruined.”[34] In September 1918 the depletion had been reduced to
151,000 tons.

Captain Persius asserts that, following the action off the Danish coast,
twenty-three battleships were disarmed for the purpose of obtaining
metal for constructing U-boats—excellent proof of the grip of the
blockade and of the British victory at Jutland. His figures regarding
underseas craft are a little difficult to follow, because he only deals
with what he calls ‘front submarines,’ presumably those definitely on
active service and not merely patrolling in home waters. In April 1917,
he says, Germany had 126 U-boats, in the following October 146; in
February 1918 she possessed 136; in June of the same year, 113. In
January 1917 only 12 per cent. were at sea, 30 per cent. in harbour, 38
per cent. under repair, and 20 per cent. incapacitated. His most
important admission is that the ill-trained crews had no confidence in
their craft, and that toward the end of the campaign it was difficult to
get men to work them. He flatly contradicts the assertion that losses
were made up by new construction.

Apart from the offensive operations of the Navy proper, the defensive
equipment of traders and the introduction of the convoy system in the
summer of 1917 were of enormous importance in thwarting the submarine.
In addition to merchant shipping and munitions 16,000,000 fighting men
were escorted, and of these less than 5000 met with disaster.

Sea-power worked miracles in other directions. “The blockade,” says Sir
Eric Geddes,[35] “is what crushed the life out of the Central Empires.”
That was the work of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. From 1914 to 1917 the
ships of that squadron “held the 800 miles stretch of grey sea from the
Orkneys to Iceland. In those waters they intercepted 15,000 ships taking
succour to our enemies, and they did that under almost Arctic
conditions, and mainly in the teeth of storm and blizzard; out of that
15,000 they missed just 4 per cent., a most remarkable achievement under
impossible conditions. Behind the blockade was the Grand Fleet, the
fulcrum of the whole of the sea-power of the Allies. If ever testimony
were needed of the value of sea-power, I can give it. In every
individual case when an armistice was signed by our enemies, and in one,
if not two, cases before, the one cry that went up was, ‘Release the
blockade.’”

Admiral Sir Percy Scott holds that four years of U-boat warfare have
“tragically demonstrated the truth” of his neglected warning, but he
also acknowledges that the Navy did not fail us. “From the first,” to
quote the apostle of the submarines, “Great Britain kept command of the
seas.” His prophecy of 1914 that the day of the big surface ship was
over has not been fulfilled, though the submarine may become the capital
ship of the future. He contends that if Germany could have placed 200
U-boats on the ocean trade routes at the outbreak of war she would have
defeated the Allies. She might have done so, but the important fact is
that she did not possess the requisite number. At that time we were
lamentably short of light craft, German cruisers and raiders were
running amok in various parts of the world, and the Grand Fleet was
fully occupied ‘containing’ the main German squadrons. Given the
hypothetical conditions mentioned by the Admiral, it is not improbable
that the enemy would “have defeated the Allies and practically conquered
the world,” but it is not “certain,” as Sir Percy asserts. Germany
regarded the intensified U-boat campaign as a sure thing; we know the
result. In his now famous letter to the _Times_, one of the eminent
correspondent’s contentions was that “the introduction of vessels that
swim under water has already done away with the utility of ships that
swim on the top of the water,” that “as the motor vehicle has driven the
horse from the road, so has the submarine driven the battleship from the
sea.” The Great War of 1914–18 disproved this very definite statement,
and witnessed the introduction of mighty ‘hush’ ships which lived and
moved and had their being on the surface of great waters.

On the other hand we should be crass fools if we neglected the lessons
of the war as regards the latest naval arm. The records of British
submarines are eloquent of their effectiveness. Summed up they amount to
this: Two battleships sunk and three badly damaged; two armoured
cruisers destroyed; two light cruisers sunk and one badly damaged. The
long obituary list also included seven torpedo-boats, five gunboats,
twenty submarines, five armed auxiliaries, fourteen transports, two
store ships, half a dozen ammunition and supply ships, fifty-three
steamships, 197 sailing vessels, and one Zeppelin, making a grand total
of 315 vessels dead and buried. As to the sea-going qualities of the
craft, one British commander made twenty-four cruises, covering 22,000
miles, in a year, while in a single month British submarines navigated
105,768 sea miles, one mile in every ten being in the submerged
position. We have seen in previous chapters that the Allied naval
losses, while they made no appreciable difference to the situation, were
not negligible. Approximately 230 fighting ships were lost from all
causes by Great Britain during the war.

Without going so far as Mr Arthur Pollen, whose opinion regarding the
submarine is that, “viewed strictly as a form of sea force, it is the
feeblest and least effective that has ever been seen,” all available
facts show that warships travelling at a good speed are comparatively
immune from attack. There is also little danger when they are going
slowly, provided they have a covering screen of destroyers. The majority
of battleships and cruisers that fell victims to U-boats were taking
life easy, as for instance the _Aboukir_, the _Cressy_, and the _Hogue_
in the North Sea, and the _Formidable_ in the Channel.

The Great Collapse revealed no new wonders, though the cargo-carrying
_Deutschland_, converted into a ‘front submarine’ and mounting 5.9–in.
guns, was a sight for the gods as she lay floating on the bosom of old
Father Thames. Another former commercial cruiser, U 139, had just
returned to the Fatherland after a voyage of sixty-four days with a
company of ninety-one, fifteen of whom were specially detailed for
manning prizes. One ugly brute, believed to have been responsible for
the sinking of 47,000 tons of shipping, carried forty-two mines and
twenty-two torpedoes. Perhaps the most interesting discovery was a
cat-o’-nine-tails stained with blood, extracted from under the bunk of a
certain U-boat commander. Two sailors were so enamoured of their own
country that they had to be persuaded to go on board the transport at
the point of a revolver. One commander, in handing over his signed
declaration, was good enough to remark, “We shall be coming over again
for them soon.” Another officer explained that his periscope was missing
and his compass gave an incorrect reading because a steamer had ‘sat’ on
his boat, while a British Lieutenant-Commander had the satisfaction of
piloting a submarine he had once attacked in German waters. Another boat
was brand-new from the shipbuilding yard. Nearly all were camouflaged.
The majority of the submarines surrendered were certainly not of the
cruiser type, about which one heard so much during the war, although in
the first batch to reach Harwich was a monster 340 ft. long, with a
displacement of 2300 tons and accommodation for a crew of seventy. The
remainder were mostly of 800 tons displacement, 225 ft. long, and 22 ft.
beam.

It has taken ten centuries to make the British Navy; it took four and a
quarter years for the Senior Service to secure the surrender of its most
formidable rival in the greatest Sea Conquest of all time.

-----

Footnote 1:

  Now Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald H. S. Bacon, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., D.S.O.

Footnote 2:

  Reply of Mr Bonar Law to Mr G. Lambert and Commander Bellairs in the
  House of Commons, 5th March, 1918.

Footnote 3:

  Fulton’s report, 9th September, 1801.

Footnote 4:

  Readers who wish for further details of Fulton will find them in
  _Robert Fulton, Engineer and Artist, his Life and Works_, by H. W.
  Dickinson, A.M.I.Mech.E. (London, 1913), and other documentary
  evidence in _Projets et Tentatives de débarquement aux Iles
  Britanniques_, by Édouard Desbrière (Paris, 1902), vol. ii, pp.
  255–259, 279–280.

Footnote 5:

  Speech of 27th April, 1917.

Footnote 6:

  In this connexion see particularly Chapter X.

Footnote 7:

  Proclamation of 5th February, 1915.

Footnote 8:

  Note to the German Minister in Mexico, dated Berlin, 19th January,
  1917.

Footnote 9:

  Speech in the House of Lords, 10th August, 1917.

Footnote 10:

  Dated 1st March, 1915.

Footnote 11:

  Sir Edward Grey to Mr Page, 15th March, 1915.

Footnote 12:

  Sir Edward Grey to Mr Page, 15th March, 1915.

Footnote 13:

  In the Reichstag Main Committee, 28th April, 1917.

Footnote 14:

  Speech in the Reichstag, July 1917.

Footnote 15:

  Heard before Mr Justice Hill and Elder Brethren of the Trinity House,
  20th March, 1918.

Footnote 16:

  Speech delivered in Sheffield, 24th October, 1917. In reviewing the
  naval situation in the House of Commons on the 27th November, 1914, Mr
  Churchill had remarked that “our power in submarines is much greater
  than that of our enemies.”

Footnote 17:

  The United States had not then declared war.

Footnote 18:

  See _post_, p. 161.

Footnote 19:

  21st February, 1917.

Footnote 20:

  An Englishman, who started the famous engineering works in Belgium at
  Seraing at the early age of twenty-seven.

Footnote 21:

  By the English-Speaking Union, 11th October, 1918.

Footnote 22:

  See _ante_, pp. 35–38.

Footnote 23:

  I have dealt with the loss of the three cruisers and of the
  _Formidable_ at much greater length in _Stirring Deeds of Britain’s
  Sea-dogs_, pp. 159–174, 292–302.

Footnote 24:

  Now Admiral Lord Beresford.

Footnote 25:

  Italy was then a neutral.

Footnote 26:

  We should call S 126 a destroyer, but the term is unknown in the
  German Navy. All vessels of the type are dubbed torpedo-boats,
  irrespective of size.

Footnote 27:

  See _post_, p. 297.

Footnote 28:

  More detailed particulars will be found in my _Daring Deeds of
  Merchant Seamen_, p. 221, and _Stirring Deeds of Britain’s Sea-dogs_,
  p. 275.

Footnote 29:

  Now Captain.

Footnote 30:

  These were duly put in commission.

Footnote 31:

  See _post_, p. 264.

Footnote 32:

  See _ante_, p. 128.

Footnote 33:

  _Daring Deeds of Merchant Seamen in the Great War_ (Harrap, 1918).

Footnote 34:

  Sir L. Chiozza Money in the House of Commons, 14th November, 1918.

Footnote 35:

  Speech at the Grosvenor Galleries, 4th December, 1918.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES


 1. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 2. Archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as printed.
 3. Footnotes were re-indexed using numbers and collected together at
      the end of the last chapter.
 4. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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