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World War 1 at Sea


THE MERCHANT NAVY, Volume 3, Spring 1917 to November 1918 (Part 1 of 2)


by Sir Archibald Hurd


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Standard tramp steamer dazzle painted (click to enlarge)

on to The Merchant Navy, Vol 3, Part 2 of 2
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A Modern Introduction

 

Up-to-date, well-researched naval histories have an important part to play in understanding past events, but I would like to suggest they are equalled by contemporary accounts written not long after the stories they describe, and often by those who took part.

 

Such near-contemporary accounts include the three volumes of THE MERCHANT NAVY by Sir Archibald Hurd. They remain in print, but are still not widely known, and being out-of-copyright, can be found on the internet.

 

They are indispensable to any researcher or scholar of World War 1 who wants to start to understand the vastness of the war at sea and its near fatal impact on British, Allied and Neutral merchant shipping.

 

In reading these volumes, I am surprised how partisan the accounts are. The Germans are still the Hun, but then the U-boat war totally changed the rules of "civilized" mercantile warfare that had reigned for centuries. The shock had still not subsided when these books were written.

 

Any transcription and proofing errors are mine.

 

Gordon Smith,

Naval-History.Net

 

 


HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR

 

 

BASED ON OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS

 

BY DIRECTION OF THE HISTORICAL SECTION OF THE COMMITTEE OF IMPERIAL DEFENCE

 

 

 

THE MERCHANT NAVY

 

Vol. III

 

 

BY ARCHIBALD HURD

 

 

London

John Murray, Albemarle Street, W

1929

 

WITH A FOREWORD BY H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES

MASTER OF THE MERCHANT NAVY AND FISHING FLEETS

 

 
 

 

CONTENTS

 

 

FOREWARD ...... pp. v-vii

 

 

PREFACE ...... pp. ix-xi

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (I) February - April, 1917

 

Germany orders unrestricted submarine warfare - Their estimated results of and submarines available for - U.S.A. declares war - The liner Laconia sunk - Losses during February - The sinking of the liner Alnwick Castle - Losses during March and April - The blackest month of the war – The sinking of the ambulance transports Lanfranc and Donegal - The liner Ballarat sunk - The sinking of the s.s. Terence pp. 1 - 33

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

THE THIRD WINTER OF PATROL WORK

 

The Auxiliary patrol - Activities of - The hunting flotillas - Work of decoy trawlers - Attacks on fishing craft - Work of the Milford Haven drifters - Rescue tugs - Attack on Dutch convoy - Boom defences - Defending the Dover Straits - Losses of fishing craft during March­ - The gallant Rodney II - Fine seamanship by the Dentaria - Raids on the Dover Straits - Protecting the fishing fleets - The armed yachts - Expermental convoys - Arrival of U.S. destroyers at Queenstown - Ocean raiders - Strength of Auxiliary Patrol - The Belgian barrage - The A.P. trawler Taranaki rams submarine - Gallant fight of the A.P. smack Nelson - Posthumous V.C. awarded to Skipper Thomas Crisp, R.N.R. - The end of the U.28 - The cruise of the U.151 - The shelling of Scarborough­ - The misfortunes of the tug Flying Falcon - The "fish" hydrophone - Scandinavian Convoy attacked - The Dover Straits - The destruction of the U.48 - Another attack on the Scandinavian Convoy - The French coal trade convoy - The UB.56 mined pp. 34 - 75

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

THE TENTH CRUISER SQUADRON (I) MARCH 1916­ - DECEMBER 1916

 

Admiral Tupper in command - Strength and disposition - White Sea Trade route - The Arlanza mined - The Iceland Patrol - Adventures of armed guard in Norwegian barque Pestalozzi - Running the blockade - Disposition of the Patrols - The fish oil trade - The Deutschland - C.-in-C.'s tribute to the squadron - Experiences of armed guards - German prize captured - Difficulties of intercepting raiders - The Wilson liner Eskimo captured - Work of the squadron during 1915 and 1916 - Extension of blockade measures . pp. 76 - 105

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE DEFENSIVE ARMING OF MERCHANT SHIPS

 

British and neutral policy - Tactical rules - Effects of arming - Rapid development - Ports for arming - Admiralty instructions as to screening - Types of ordnance - Idea armament - Howitzers - Bomb-throwers - Depth-charges - Smoke screens - Paravanes - Inspection staff and Admiralty instructions - Tactical policy - Position at end of war pp. 106 - 134

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

TRAINING THE MERCHANT SEAMEN TO FIGHT

 

Officer instructors - Inspection duties - Submarine menace courses­ - Gunnery - Crystal Palace - No age limit - Variety of ordnance - Effect of increasing efficiency - Paravane courses - The Goorkha's adventure - Total attendances at courses - Signal schools - Value of instruction pp. 135 - 163

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (II) MAY - JUNE 1917

 

Losses in May - The s.s. Feltria torpedoed - The sinking of the troopship Transylvania - Heavy loss of life - The sinking of the s.s. Locksley Hall - The s.s. Caspian's fight to a finish - The s.s. City of Corinth sunk off the Lizard - The ordeal of the s.s. Umaria and s.s. Clan Murray - The escape of the oiler San Ricardo - Losses in June - The sinking of the liner Southland - Sinkings in the Atlantic - Escape of the s.s. Holywell - Terrible experiences at sea - A Cunarder sinks a submarine - P & O liner Palma attacked in the Atlantic by two submarines - The escape of the s.s. Nitonian pp. 164 - 182

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

THE TENTH CRUISER SQUADRON (II) JANUARY 1917­ - DECEMBER 1917

 

The blockade of Germany - Difficulties of maintaining - U-boats in northern waters - Increasing danger from mines - Patrols and surface raiders - Strength of the squadron - German armed guard captured – Armed guard's adventure in s.s. Stralsund - The "war zone" and neutrals - Shortage of trawlers - A year's work - Allied shipping situation March, 1917 - United States and the blockade - Call for more destroyers - Methods of patrol and disposition of squadron, April, 1917 - Losses in the squadron - Success of escort work - Wireless communication in the squadron - Experiences of armed guards - Action with raider – British submarines in northern waters - The sinking of the Hilary - The Avenger and Otway sunk - Dearth of destroyers - Reduction of the squadron - The Hildebrand attacked - Loss of the Artois and Champagne - Break-up of the squadron - Vessels intercepted during 1917 pp. 183-211

 

 

(Part 2 of 2)

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

DAZZLE PAINTING

 

A war-time innovation - Range-finding at sea - Principles of – First experiment - Admiralty staff at Burlington House - Costs - Early stages­ - Differing opinions - Admiralty Committee on - Trials in Grand Fleet - Reports of British submarines - Enemy opinions - Statistical evidence - Allies adopt - Still experimental at end of war pp. 212 - 228

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

THE AUXILIARY PATROL

 

Minelaying and minesweeping - Mines destroyed to Feb. 1917 – End of UC.32 and UC.43 - The exploit of the Greenisland - Loss of UC.26 and UC.44 - The White Sea - The Otranto Straits - The Adriatic – Austrian cruiser raid on drifters - Mines off Salonica and Egypt - Action with U.49 - Patrol craft off Palestine - Home Waters - The Dover Patrol – The drifter Young Fred sinks UB.82 - Zeebrugge and Ostend – UB.85 surrenders to the drifter Coreopsis – U-boat losses - Belgian ports regained – U-boats recalled to North Sea - The last enemy minefield - Summary of results­ - The Otranto Straits - Total enemy submarine losses - The price pp. 229 - 264

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (III) JULY 1917 - NOVEMBER 1918

 

Losses in July and August 1917 - The sinking of the s.s. Matador­ - The escape of the s.s. Onitsha - A gruesome end - Heavy loss of life - The Belgian Prince - Enemy callousness - The Cunarder Volodia sunk in the Atlantic - Torpedoed in convoy - A five hours' duel - A running fight - Notable escapes - Losses in last quarter of 1917 - Another five hours' action - Fate of the s.s. Eskmere's crew - Convoy attacked in the Mediterranean - The sinking of the liner Apapa - More convoys attacked­ - The Cunarder Vinovia torpedoed - British merchant shipping losses - A five hours' chase - The torpedoing of the s.s. Tuscania - A submarine disguised as a drifter - A fine piece of searnanship - A sporting chance - Unknown heroes - Cast adrift for eight days - Losses in June 1918 – The Orduna sinks a U-boat - Losses in July 1918 - The White Star Liner Justicia sunk - The loss of the ambulance transport Warilda - Sunk on maiden voyage - Improvement in enemy behaviour - Losses in October and November 1918 pp.265 - 296

 

 

CHAPTER XI

 

THE SINKING OF HOSPITAL SHIPS

 

International Law - Shadows of coming events - German allegations - Inspection of Mauretania - The Anglia and Galeka mined - The loss of the Britannic and Braemar Castle - Berlin Declaration of 28th January, 1917 - British Government's reply of 5th October - The Glenart Castle damaged - The Asturias and Gloucester Castle torpedoed - The Salta mined - The Dover Castle sunk in the Mediterranean - The Goorkha damaged - Neutral inspection - The sinking of Rewa – Correspondence with German Government - The loss of the Glenart Castle – French assistance - Attack on the Guildford Castle - The Llandovery Castle sunk in the Atlantic - Heavy loss of life pp. 297 - 339

 

 

CHAPTER XII

 

MERCHANT SEAMEN PRISONERS

 

In German ports July, 1914-August 4th - Seizure of the s.s. Bury - Prison hulks - Physical ill-treatment - Captain E. Webb - List of camps and number of prisoners, July, 1917 - Ruhleben - Brandenburg - Cottbus - Sennelager - Case of William Savory - The "brick ordeal" - Hameln and Luebeck - Statement of Mr. J. S. Wickman - "Mad Harry" - Dulmen - Supplies from home - Relief organisations - Prisoners of war book scheme - Improved conditions - Treatment of cadets and apprentices - Government measures - In Austria - Hungary and Turkey - Compensation scheme pp. 340 - 364

 

 

CHAPTER XIII

 

THE FAILURE OF THE SUBMARINE

 

The silent pressure of sea power - Losses and new construction of British shipping - Defence problems - Success of the convoy system - The rich heritage of the war pp. 365 - 372

 

 

APPENDIX

 

A. United States Government Regulations for the Conduct of Armed Merchant Vessels pp. 373‑375

 

B. Analysis of Vessels Intercepted and Sent in by the Tenth Cruiser Squadron during 1916 and 1917 pp. 376‑377

 

C. Number and Gross Tonnage of British Merchant Vessels and Fishing Vessels Lost through Enemy Action during each month of the War And Number Of Lives Lost Pp. 378‑379

 

  

 

INDEX

(not included – you can use Search)

 

 


 

 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

 

H.R.H. The Prince of Wales ... Frontispiece

British Merchant Ship Torpedoed ... 26

The Auxiliary Patrol: Drifters and Trawlers in Dover Harbour ... 50

"Listening-in" on the Hydrophone ... 66

Dropping a Depth-Charge ...  122

An Effective Smoke Screen ... 124

Merchant Steamer with Paravanes Out ... 126

"Otters" in Action against Submarine Mines ... 127

Fishermen Drilling On Shore ...138

Tough Nuts ... 152

Torpedoed Merchantman on Fire ... 180

 

(Part 2 of 2)

 

Standard Tramp Steamer Dazzle Painted ... 224

The Loss of a British Merchant Ship ... 270

A German Submarine Stops a Sailing Ship ... 284

A Convoy Zig-Zagging in the Danger Zone ... 294

The Mercantile Marine Memorial on Tower Hill ... 372

 

 

MAPS

(not included)

 

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron - Intercepting Positions on 8th March, 1916, 11th December, 1916 - Positions to Intercept Raiders, 4th
June, 1916   ... 104

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron - Position of Ships on 21st January, 6th March, and 1st April, 1917 ... 210

 

 


 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

 

H.R.H. The Prince of Wales

 

As Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Meets, I welcome the opportunity offered me by Sir Archibald Hurd of contributing a few introductory remarks to the volume which completes the history, based on official documents, of the magnificent part played by British Merchantmen in the Great War. It has been my fortunate lot to be a world-wide traveller and I have encountered the British liner and tramp not only on every sea but in many a port in both hemispheres. The sight of the Red Ensign has, in these later days, given me a thrill of a very special kind, for that familiar piece of bunting can never fail to recall the wonderful record of our merchant seamen throughout the struggle of four and a half years.

 

The present volume raises the curtain on what I take to have been the climax of that vast drama - the enemy's plunge into unrestricted submarine warfare on our merchant shipping. Thus was provided the final test of a heroism and endurance unparalleled in history, and how magnificently our seamen responded to the test is to be found chronicled in these pages. To view that record in its proper perspective, it is well to recall those days at the very outbreak of war which abeady seem to some of us to be almost lost in the mists of time.

 

The participation of our seamen in the struggle began with the operations of the German raiders. There was nothing surprising or unprecedented in the destruction achieved by the Emden and other German cruisers and armed merchantmen in Eastern waters and elsewhere. Hostilities were conducted in harmony with principles laid down by international law, and, though many valuable ships were sunk, the toll was no greater than might have been expected, and not a single life of the captured crews was sacrificed. The British seaman recognised that nothing more was being asked of him than to accept the usual hazards of a naval conflict. It was a phase of the war, in short, in which the dictates of humanity were strictly regarded, and every reasonable consideration was shown to the passengers and crews of the vessels unlucky enough to be taken.

 

This phase, however, was short-lived. With the arrival on the scene of the submarine and the indiscriminate use of the mine, the whole position for the merchant seaman was changed. He found himself faced by hazards and perils such as he had never before experienced, or indeed had ever conceived as possible. With the intensification of the enemy's campaign, the British sailor, a non-combatant following an ordinarily peaceful avocation, saw himself directly involved in the whole frightful mechanism of war, whose grim operation, as I have said, reached its climax in the phase of unrestricted submarine attack recorded in detail in this third volume of the history.

 

Let us who are land-dwellers not mince words over this thing. It is the glory of our Merchant Navy, and will be so acclaimed by generations to come, that they faced without hesitation the tremendous odds and the frequent hazard of death, undaunted in spirit to the bitter end. Let us not forget, also, that had it been otherwise this country of ours must have perished.

 

One highly characteristic phase of the work of our Merchant Navy, described in this volume, is that covering the activities of the Auxiliary Patrol. I imagine the Auxiliary Patrol was one of the most striking, as it certainly was one of the most successful, of the many pieces of war­time improvisation which history will place to the credit of the British nation. It was born, as need hardly be recalled, out of those new conditions of submarine attack and indiscriminate mine raids to which I have referred, and it gradually evolved into a vast supplementary fleet.

 

Here was indeed a medley of small vessels - trawlers fresh from our fishing grounds, drifters, whalers, paddle-steamers so familiar to Channel excursionists, steam yachts so well known in the Solent, motor-launches and motor-boats. Their hazardous duties were as varied as their types. In their long hours of patrol they watched for and hunted German submarines; they searched for and dragged mines; they fought hostile aircraft; they con­trolled and examined millions of tons of shipping navigating the Narrow Seas; and in many other ways splendidly seconded the efforts of the Grand Fleet. Varied indeed these craft were in type, but their crews were animated by one heart and one spirit. As time went on, this collec­tion of ships was welded into a great disciplined service of 4,000 vessels with its operations extending as far north as the White Sea, to the Mediterranean and Aegean in the south, and westward to the West Indies. The Auxiliary Patrol was in its days of complete development manned by nearly 50,000 officers and men.

 

The figures representative of the full war effort of the merchant service as a whole would make staggering totals. Therein it was carrying on and even bettering the tradition of centuries. On Tower Hill a fitting and impressive memorial, bearing the names of the officers and men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who have no grave but the sea, and who died that this country might live, was unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen on December 12. It has been erected by the Governments of the peoples of the whole Empire as a tribute, to last for all time to these men's heroic services.

 

It has been said that two-thirds of the Elizabethan fleet which met so triumphantly the shock of the Spanish Armada were merchant vessels, and that the proportions of the force with which Drake "singed the King of Spain's beard" were much the same. The relations of the two great Services have altered since those days, but the Great War has served to prove once more that the Merchant Navy is as essential to-day as ever it was to the operations of the Royal Navy and to the safeguarding of the life of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

 

Edward P.

Master of the Merchant Navy

and Fishing Fleets.

 

 



 

PREFACE

 

The Prince of Wales has graciously written a Foreword to this final volume of the Official History describing the part which the merchant seamen and fishermen of this country took in the Great War, His Royal Highness not only pays tribute to their loyal and heroic services, but also passes in rapid review the varied character of the work which they performed at sea. It would be almost an impertinence to attempt to supplement his words of appreciation.

 

It is sufficient to state that the present volume covers the history of the Merchant Navy from the beginning of the unrestricted submarine campaign to the conclusion of hostilities. No attempt has been made to describe or analyse the strategical or tactical problems; these matters are dealt with in the other Official Histories. This volume is concerned only with the manner in which the un-covenanted seamen of this country confronted the final ordeal to which the enemy, in desperation, submitted them.

 

When, in the month of April 1917, British shipping of upwards of half a million tons was lost from all causes and vessels under all flags of 881,000 tons were sunk, it seemed as though the Allied cause might, after all, be defeated, as the Germans had foretold, by their mines and torpedoes, That this disaster was averted was due to two causes - the doggedness and courage of the officers and men of the sea services, naval and mercantile, and the persistence and ingenuity which were exhibited by the Admiralty in devising defensive and offensive measures and in per­fecting the convoy system. It was an especially bold, and, in some respects, dangerous expedient to bring all shipping under one control in order that it might be shepherded from port to port. Merchant officers, unused to "sailing in company," were required to keep station, but were doubtful as to their ability to do so.

 

The incomparable seamen of the Merchant Navy of all ranks and ratings, as these pages record, responded completely and nobly to every demand which was made upon them.

 

There was only one way in which to treat this subject in its many aspects, and that was to select episodes illus­trative of the main theme, or rather themes, to set out those incidents in their order of occurrence, to quote textually from the statements of masters and men wherever possible, and to reduce comment to a minimum, in order that the facts might stand out in their strongest possible outline. This history contains inevitably only a selection of such incidents. It has not been possible to describe every act of bravery, every loss, or every successful escape. If an attempt had been made to do anything like justice to the fine record of the men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets, not three, but many volumes would have been necessary. It has been possible only to extract from the official records such outstanding occurrences as would, when presented in proper sequence, convey to posterity an adequate conception of the signal services which these men rendered not only to this country, but to all the Allied countries during the Great War.

 

This history will have been written in vain if it does not show conclusively that, had it not been for the devotion, initiative, and hardihood of these merchant seamen and fishermen, the war fleets could not have fulfilled their mission, and the armies of the Allies, so widely distributed, would have failed in their purpose, not from lack of valour but from want of supplies of food and munitions. "An army," it has been said, "moves on its belly," but the army of an island country must necessarily move in ships to its place of action, and the unique characteristic of the Great War was the distances which armies and munitions had to be transported by sea in face of unparalleled dangers.

 

It was necessary, in one instance, to depart slightly from the general method of treatment. No such history would have been adequate if it had contained no reference to the work performed by the Tenth Cruiser Squadron which was associated with the Grand Fleet and became therefore a part of the Royal Navy. The duties of the Squadron were monotonous to a degree; stirring incidents rarely interrupted its routine of hardships; and to have dealt only with the few incidents which did occur would have done scant justice to the officers and men, drawn in the main from the Merchant Navy, whose fortitude and sense of duty enabled miracles to be performed. In justice to them, the military significance of the work which they performed has been lightly touched upon.

 

Nor was it possible to ignore the sinking of hospital ships in circumstances without parallel in former wars. Throughout the campaign of the enemy against men wounded in action or suffering from sickness, neither the seamen, the medical staffs, nor the nurses, women protected alike by the Red Cross and by the code of humanity, flinched from the ordeal.

 

A chapter is devoted to the sufferings of Merchant Sea­men who fell into the hands of the enemy while performing their duties afloat. It is well that posterity should be reminded that many officers and men of the Merchant Navy spent two or three, and in some cases four years of their lives behind the barbed wire of the prison camps in Germany. The majority of them were not only exposed to many indignities and wanton acts of cruelty, but were supplied with inadequate food and suffered hardships so barbarous in their character as to be almost unbelievable, were it not for the unimpeachable records which have been drawn upon for the purpose of writing this portion of the history. It is an act of justice that some record should be preserved of sufferings which cost many of these men their lives and left many others maimed and broken to the world.

 

It is impossible to part from this history without paying a tribute to the assistance which has been generously given by the Admiralty, and the Board of Trade, and in particular by the Secretary and Staff of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The com­pletion of the task of writing this history was delayed by illness and other unavoidable circumstances, and to Colonel E. Y. Daniel and Lieutenant-Commander A. Colquhoun Bell cordial thanks are especially due for the manner in which they co-operated to complete the task of several years.

 

Archibald Hurd.

January, 1929.

 

 

Note: Many of the U-boats claimed sunk or damaged in the following accounts were not confirmed post-war.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

THE INTENSIVE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN (I)

February‑April, 1917

 

ON January 81st, 1917, the German Emperor, in a message to the Chief of the Naval Staff, issued an order which changed the course of the war by sea and by land. "I command that the unrestricted U‑boat campaign shall begin on February 1st in full force." The Emperor was, by his decision, interpreting without doubt the will of the majority of the people of the German Empire, as well as reflecting the determination of the naval and military leaders. The Imperial Chancellor, impressed by the political dangers associated with this step, had opposed it as long as he could. He regarded submarine warfare, conducted without restraint, as "the last card," and he was convinced that the time had not come for playing it. It was an act of desperation, as Dr. Bethmann‑Hollweg realised. Even when overborne by the leaders of the fleet and army, he consented very unwillingly to the avowal of a change of policy, and, as events were to prove, his opposi­tion on grounds of political expediency was fully justified.

 

The Battle of Jutland had been fought and, in spite of the claim to victory which had been made in Germany in the hope of impressing neutrals, it was realised that the High Seas Fleet, with its crews showing increasing signs of disaffection, could do nothing to affect the issue of the war. The Allies had fought the armies of the Central Powers to a standstill; the hopes of the German military leaders had sunk to zero, and even Hindenburg confessed that "the position could hardly be worse." The economic blockade, maintained by the Allied naval forces with increasing rigour, was subjecting Germany her and con­sorts to a measure of constriction which was affecting the spirit of soldiers and sailors, as well as of the civil population.

 

As the year 1916 drew to a close, the naval and military leaders had met, and subsequently the Emperor presided over a conference, which was also attended by the Imperial Chancellor. The result was a foregone conclusion. "The people and the army," it was declared, "were crying out for the unrestricted U‑boat war." The High Naval Command urged that, although the political risks were not negligible, this intensification of the submarine war offered to Germany and her Allies "the one and only hope of victory," since the negotiations for peace ‑ of course on Germany's terms ‑ had failed, and confidence that Presi­dent Wilson would speedily intervene had disappeared. The flickering hopes which led to the decision to abandon all pretence of conducting the submarine campaign in accordance with Prize Law, were supported by the steady increase in the sinkings of merchant shipping which had occurred throughout the latter half of 1916. In June the world total had amounted to 108,855 tons, and in October, November, and December, when the submarine commanders increasingly ignored the Prize Law, it had mounted up to approximately 340,000 tons a month, while in January 1917 there was a further advance to 368,521 tons ‑ almost entirely due to submarines and mines.

 

The downfall of the Asquith administration, in associa­tion with these successes at sea, led to the belief that the declaration of an intensive campaign would have important psychological effects on all the Allied nations, and would be regarded by neutrals as a sign that Germany, conscious of the risks associated with the decision, was so strong that she could afford to take them. Admiral von Holtzen­dorff, Chief of the Naval Staff, confidently predicted that over 4,000,000 tons of shipping, including 3,000,000 tons sunk, would be lost to Great Britain in five months, and that she would in consequence be brought to her knees. In face of the Emperor's attitude, supported by the leaders of the army and navy, the Chancellor, at last, conceded that the prospects for unrestricted submarine warfare were "very favourable." On that assumption, the Emperor's order for the intensive campaign to begin was put into effect, and the momentous announcement of the last day of January followed. Ships carrying passengers

 

UNITED STATES BREAKS WITH GERMANY

 

as well as ordinary cargo vessels came forthwith under the ban. Hopes ran high that terror would speedily spread among the crews of neutral shipping, which had become essential to the efficient conduct of the war by the Allies, and that tonnage would be laid up in increasing volume, even if British seamen were not similarly intimidated.

 

The advice which the German Naval Staff had pressed upon the Emperor and all concerned with the direction of policy was based upon the knowledge that 111 sub­marines would be available for prosecuting the intensive submarine campaign. Experience had shown, however, that only about one‑third of the vessels could be maintained at sea at any one time. Two out of every three boats were always "resting," either undergoing repairs or giving leave to their hard‑pressed crews. Consequently, of the 111 submarines only about 38 would be available for service at sea on February 1st, but this number was held to be sufficient for a beginning; 23 submarines were operating in the North Sea, 5 in the Adriatic, 9 from the bases on the Flanders coast, while one was working from Constantinople. The Germans had put in hand a large programme of construction and the Naval Staff were satisfied that they would not only be able to make good any losses which might be sustained, but would rapidly increase the number operat­ing at sea. They under‑estimated, however, as subsequent months were to reveal, the increasing efficiency of the defensive measures which had been adopted by the British naval authorities, and copied by the French and Italians. But the most serious error of judgment of which they were convicted was as to the influence which the German declaration would have upon the United States, and the importance of the assistance which the Americans, in spite of the great distance across the Atlantic, would render the Allies, not only in the joint conduct of the war on land, but in the operations by sea.

 

The first round in the new struggle for the command of the sea went to the Allies, for immediately the German declaration reached Washington diplomatic relations with Berlin were severed, and this was followed in April by a declaration of war. Consequently Germany embarked upon her new and desperate course with the knowledge that, whatever effect her declaration might have on other countries, it had definitely arrayed against her the American people with their vast resources of man power. It was, however, some time before America could intervene in the struggle, and meanwhile the main responsibility of counter­ing the enemy's efforts to obtain dominion of the sea fell upon the British Navy and the British Mercantile Marine. Though the blow had not been unexpected, the date when the Germans would put their plans into operation had remained uncertain, and it was consequently difficult for the British naval authorities to apportion, in advance of the opening of the intensive submarine campaign, the resources which the situation might demand. The naval authorities were, moreover, embarrassed by the urgent claims of the new army, as well as the Air Force, on the war‑mobilised industries of the country, and fresh material was also required for the development of a new offensive on the Western front.

 

In these circumstances the intensive submarine campaign opened on February 1st when the little steamer Essonite (589 tons) was torpedoed without warning three miles N.N.W. from Trevose Head, with the loss of ten lives. On the following day the sailing vessel Isle of Arran (1,918 tons) was captured and sunk 100 miles S. from the Old Head of Kinsale. From this time onward the Germans pressed the British Mercantile Marine hard, and the losses from day to day began to mount up in alarming fashion. On February 3rd the ruthlessness with which the campaign was to be conducted was illustrated by the fate of the steamer Eavestone (1,858 tons). This vessel was on her way to Gibraltar when, 95 miles W. from the Fastnet, she sighted a submarine just before noon. The enemy opened fire at 3,000 yards, evidently in order to find the range. In this he soon succeeded, and firing continued at the rate of a shot a minute. The steamer was repeatedly struck; even when the crew were taking to the boats firing was not suspended. When the boats had dropped astern of the ship, the submarine turned her gun upon them at short range, firing three shrapnel shells. The third shot killed outright the master, the steward, and the donkeyman, besides wounding two able seamen and the second officer. The incident showed that, when reference had been made by the enemy to the "unrestricted" character of the campaign, it was intended to convey to the world that the Germans would pay no regard, either to the regulations

 

EARLY SINKINGS

 

of the Prize Law, or to the ordinary dictates of humanity. Shortly after this deliberate slaughter of defenceless seamen, the first mate of the Eavestone was called on board the submarine and closely questioned. No enquiries were made as to the losses sustained, and no suggestion was made that help might be given to the wounded. The survivors of the crew, with their dead, were left to the mercy of the sea. Fortunately the boats were picked up the same night by the Norwegian barque Regina.

 

Within the next few days upwards of a dozen other ships were sunk off the Fastnet, some of them without warning, while in other cases the vessels were captured before being destroyed, and prisoners were taken. The biggest of these vessels was the Anchor liner California (8,669 tons), which was passing the Fastnet on her way from New York, when she was sunk out of hand, thirteen of her passengers as well as thirty‑two of the crew being drowned. At this period another submarine was active off Spurn Point. Late at night she chased the steamer Hanna Larsen (1,311 tons) and eventually captured her. As soon as fire was opened on the Hanna Larsen, the master (Mr. Thomas Reid) stopped the ship, ordered full speed astern, and had the boats prepared for lowering. Four shots in all had been fired, and then, as nothing could be seen of the enemy, Captain Reid decided to resume his voyage. A few minutes afterwards another shot was fired from somewhere on the starboard quarter, and the engines were again stopped. Firing continued, the vessel being hit in several places, and the steam‑pipe having apparently been severed, the bridge was enveloped in steam. Under continuous fire, the crew took to the boats, four men being wounded during the operation. Then at last the enemy appeared, bombs were placed in the Hanna Larsen, the master and chief engineer were taken prisoners, and the rest of the crew were left to fend for themselves.

 

The experiences of Captain Reid and the chief engineer on board the submarine, which proved to be the UC.39, supplied testimony to the spirit in which the campaign was being prosecuted by the enemy. The following morning the submarine sighted the Norwegian steamship Ida. Immediately fire was opened, and the merchant ship stopped. The German gunlayer, on inquiring whether he should cease firing, was told by the commander to carry on. Altogether no fewer than twenty‑five rounds were discharged. When at last fire stopped, one of the Ida's boats came alongside the submarine and reported that two men had been left on board the steamer. A German officer and three men were sent on board and found the mate and a steward lying dead on the deck, where they had been killed while engaged in lowering the boats. The Ida was forthwith sunk by bombs. Two hours later the UC.39 opened fire on a steamer and a trawler, but on diving to attack lost them in the mist. When she next came to the surface, intending to sink another steamer which had been sighted, her fire, to the surprise of all on board, was answered by a destroyer. She dived, but not quickly enough, for a depth charge struck her, with the result that water poured into her conning tower and control room, causing a panic among the crew. The situation was critical. The commander had no alternative but to rise to the surface, where he came immediately under fire of the destroyer. He was climbing out of the conning tower hatch, apparently with the intention of surrendering, when he was killed by a shell. The submarine was still under way, and the intention of those on board was still uncertain, so the destroyer con­tinued firing, with the result that the engineer, who had come on deck with the sub‑lieutenant, was wounded.

 

All this time Captain Reid, in company with his chief engineer, was down below, listening to what was happening on deck. He came to the conclusion that he had better show himself and so he went on deck and, waving a white handkerchief, shouted: "We are two Britishers taken prisoners last night." The scene on board the submarine was a remarkable one; those men of the submarine's crew who had not jumped overboard or been killed during the encounter, were standing along the deck with their hands up, while a short distance away lay the British destroyer. In this wise, the career of the UC.39 came to an end, seventeen of the survivors of her crew being taken prisoners. In due course Captain Reid and his companion, none the worse for their experiences, were landed at Immingham. Even at this early date of the intensive campaign, the German seamen, as the master of the Hanna Larsen afterwards related, were far from confident

 

LOSS OF "LACONIA"

 

of the result of the adventure upon which the German Government had entered, and the survivors were not 10th to find safety on board the British destroyer even as prisoners.

 

Day by day throughout the month of February the Germans continued to take more toll of the British mercan­tile marine, as well as of neutral shipping. The heaviest loss of life occurred when the Clan liner Clan Farquhar (5,858 tons) was sunk without warning 80 miles N. from Ben Ghazi. No fewer than forty‑nine lives were lost. The Rosalie (4,237 tons), which like the Clan Farquhar was defensively armed, went down off the Algerian coast, the master and twenty of the crew, out of a total complement of thirty, being drowned. But the outstanding event of these days of ordeal to which all who hazarded their lives at sea were exposed, was the sinking of the Cunard liner Laconia (18,099 tons). She was 160 miles N.W. by W. from Fastnet when at 9.20 on the night of February 25th an explosion occurred. Everything which human in­genuity and vigilance could suggest to ensure the safety of the seventy‑seven passengers and the crew, numbering 217, had already been done. As soon as Captain W. R. D. Irvine realised that his ship had been torpedoed, he ordered the boats to be manned; at the same time he took way off the ship and an S.O.S. signal was sent out. Good order prevailed, passengers and crew taking to the boats in accordance with the routine which had been rehearsed earlier in the voyage. The Laconia was already sinking, when a second torpedo struck her on the star­board side, and, within less than an hour from the time of the first explosion, the liner had sunk out of sight. What did the ship matter? The tragedy consisted in the sacrifice of twelve lives, and the circumstances in which they had been lost.

 

By the end of this first month of the unrestricted cam­paign no fewer than 86 British ships of a tonnage of 256,394 had been destroyed by submarines, and 355 seafarers had been required to surrender their lives. The action of enemy cruisers and torpedo boats and mines brought the total up to 105 ships of 313,486 tons and the death roll to 402. Neutrals had also suffered heavily; the total loss under all flags having mounted up to 540,006 tons.

 

The experiences during February proved, however, merely a foretaste of the fury of the enemy which was to prevail during the succeeding months of the spring and summer. In March the British Mercantile Marine was deprived of 353,478 tons by enemy action, and the number of lives lost rose to 699, while the Allied and neutral losses were over 240,000 tons. Sixty‑two of the British ships which encountered enemy submarines during these weeks were sunk without warning. Not merely were the officers commanding denied the scant consideration provided for under the provisions of Prize Law, but they and their men were treated with a ruthlessness which in pre‑war days would have been regarded as beyond the bounds of the human conscience. Day by day the death roll continued to mount up, and no doubt the enemy extracted from the reports which came in from the sea fresh encouragement to continue the campaign in all its ferocity.

 

On the first day of the month, the Drina (11,483 tons) was torpedoed without warning and 15 of her crew went down with her; two days later the Sagamore (5,197 tons) shared the same fate, the master and 51 of his companions being killed; on the 17th the Antony (6,446 tons) was sunk with a loss of 55 lives; and then occurred the destruc­tion of the Union Castle liner Alnwick Castle (5,900 tons). The moving story of the loss of this ship was told some days later in sailor‑like language by the master (Mr. Benjamin Chave). She was about 820 miles W.1/2 S. from the Bishop Rock. She had on board, besides her crew numbering 100 and 14 passengers, the captain and 24 men of the collier transport Trevose, who had been rescued from their boats on the previous evening after their ship had been torpedoed. In the darkness of the morning ‑ at 6.10 a.m. ‑ of March 19th, Captain Chave was drinking his morning cup of coffee when an explosion occurred, a column of water and debris being blown high in the air, and then falling on the bridge where the chief officer and the fourth officer were on duty. All the precautions which Captain Chave had adopted ‑ the placing of look­outs in all the usual positions, and the steering of zigzag courses ‑ had been unavailing. It was apparent that the ship was doomed. So the engines were put full speed astern and all the six boats were safely launched and left the ship which, short as had been the interval since the torpedo struck her, was rapidly sinking by the head.

 

LOSS OF "ALNWICK CASTLE"

 

The records of these days of supreme ordeal by sea contain no more moving story than the report which Captain Chave made to the owners of the Alnwick Castle nine days later, when he was safely on board the French steamer Venezia. After describing the circumstances in which the ship was torpedoed and the boats were got away, this officer stated:

"The forecastle was now (6.30 a.m.) just dipping, though the ship maintained an upright position with­out list. The people in my boat were clamouring for me to come, as they were alarmed by the danger of the ship plunging. The purser informed me that everyone was out of the ship, and I then took Mr. Carnaby from his post, and we went down to No. 1 boat and pulled away. At a safe distance we waited to see the end of the Alnwick Castle. Then we observed the submarine quietly emerge from the sea, end on to the ship, with a gun trained on her. She showed no periscope ‑ just a conning tower and a gun as she lay there ‑ silent and sinister. In about ten minutes the Alnwick Castle plunged bow first below the surface, her whistle gave one blast and the main topmast broke off; there was a smothered roar and a cloud of dirt, and we were left in our boats, 139 people, 300 miles from land. The submarine lay between the boats, but whether she spoke any of them I do not know. She proceeded N.E. after a steamer which was homeward bound, about four miles away, and soon after we saw a tall column of water, and knew that she had found another victim.

 

"I got in touch with all the boats, and from the number of their occupants, I was satisfied that everyone was safely in them. The one lady passenger and her baby of three months old was with the stewardess in the chief officer's boat. I directed the third officer to transfer four of his men to the second officer's boat to equalise the number, and told them all to steer between east and E.N.E. for the Channel. We all made sail before a light westerly wind which freshened before sunset, when we reefed down. After dark I saw no more of the other boats. That was Monday, March 19th.

 

"I found only three men who could help me to steer, and one of these subsequently became delirious, leaving only three of us. At 2 a.m., Tuesday, the wind and sea had increased to such a force that I deemed it unsafe to sail any longer; also it was working to the N.W. and N.N.W. I furled the sail and streamed the sea anchor, and we used the canvas boat cover to afford us some shelter from the constant spray and bitter wind. At daylight we found our sea anchor and the rudder had both gone. There was too much sea to sail; we manoeuvred with oars, while I lashed two oars together and made another sea anchor. We spent the whole of Tuesday fighting the sea, struggling with oars to assist the sea anchor to head the boat up to the waves, constantly soaked with cold spray and pierced with the bitter wind, which was now from the north. I served out water twice daily, one dipper between two men, which made a portion about equal to one‑third of a condensed milk tin. Fortunately I had made a practice of keeping in the boats a case of condensed milk, a case of beef, two tins of biscuits, and a skein of amberline and some twine and palm and needle, besides the regulation equipment; also I had provided a bundle of blankets for each boat. We divided a tin of milk between four men once a day, and a tin of beef (6 lb.) was more than sufficient to provide a portion for each person (twenty‑nine) once a day. "

 It must have seemed to the passengers at least, if not to the seamen, that their chances of surviving were small. The captain of the enemy submarine had shown no mercy, but had left them to their fate. They were confronted in small boats with all the unchained forces of nature, and it would have been small wonder if some of the survivors had abandoned themselves to counsels of despair. But Captain Chave's narrative reveals in glowing terms the manner in which these men and women, belonging to a seafaring race, maintained the highest British traditions:

"At midnight Tuesday‑Wednesday the northerly wind fell light, and we made sail again, the wind gradually working to N.E. and increasing after sunrise. All the morning and afternoon of Wednesday we kept under way until about 8 p.m., when I was compelled to heave to again. During this day the iron step of our mast gave way and our mast and sail went overboard, but we saved them, and were able to improvise a new step with the aid of an axe and

CAPTAIN CHAVE'S STORY

piece of wood fitted to support the boat cover strongback. We were now feeling the pangs of thirst, as well as the exhaustion of labour and exposure and want of sleep. Some pitiful appeals were made for water. I issued an extra ration to a few of the weaker ones only.

 

"During the night of Wednesday‑Thursday the wind dropped for a couple of hours, and several showers of hail fell. The hailstones were eagerly scraped from our clothing and swallowed. I ordered the sail to be spread out in the hope of catching water from a hail shower, but we were disappointed in this, for the rain was too light. Several of the men were getting light‑headed, and I found that they had been drinking salt water in spite of my earnest and vehement order.

 

"It was with great difficulty that anyone could be prevailed on to bale out the water which seemed to leak into the boat at an astonishing rate, perhaps due to some rivets having been started by the pounding she had received.

 

"At 4 a.m. the wind came away again from N.E. and we made sail, but unfortunately it freshened again and we were constantly soaked with spray and had to be always baling. Our water was now very low, and we decided to mix condensed milk with it. Most of the men were now helpless, and several were raving in delirium. The fore­man cattleman, W. Kitcher, died, and was buried. Soon after dark the sea became confused and angry; I furled the tiny reefed sail and put out the sea‑anchor. At 8 p.m. we were swamped by a breaking sea, and I thought all was over. A moan of despair rose in the darkness, but I shouted to them to bale, bale, bale, and assured them that the boat could not sink. How they found the balers and bucket in the dark, I do not know, but they managed to free the boat while I shifted the sea‑anchor to the stern, and made a tiny bit of sail, and got her away before the wind. After that escape the wind died away about mid­night, and then we spent a most distressing night. Several of the men collapsed, and others temporarily lost their reason, and one of these became pugnacious and climbed about the boat, uttering complaints and threats. The horrors of that night, together with the physical suffering, are beyond my power of description.

 

"Before daylight, however, on March 23rd, the wind permitting, I managed, with the help of the few who remained able, to set sail again, hoping now to be in the Bay of Biscay and to surely see some vessel to succour us. Never a sail or wisp of smoke had we seen.

Landsmen, impressed by the large number of ships which are always at sea, are apt to conclude that the sea is covered with ships, and that at any point on either of the great trade routes the welcome sign of a whiff of smoke from some friendly steamer is certain to appear within a few hours if disaster should overtake them. The ex­periences of the passengers and crew of the Alnwick Castle should correct that false impression. As soon as the ship was struck, the wireless officer (Mr. Carnaby) had repeatedly sent out S.O.S. signals, but though the position of the ship was given, no succour arrived. Day after day the horizon was unbroken by the appearance of any vessel, and it is small wonder in the circumstances that Captain Chave, devoting all his seamanlike skill to the navigation of the boats, at last found himself surrounded by human beings who could no longer sustain the physical and mental agonies to which they had been submitted.

"When daylight came the appeals for water were so angry and insistent that I deemed it best to make an issue at once. After that had gone round, amid much cursing and snatching, we could see that only one more issue remained. One fireman, Thomas, was dead; another was nearly gone; my steward, Buckley, was almost gone, and we tried to pour some milk and water down his throat, but he could not swallow. No one could now eat biscuits, it was impossible to swallow anything solid, our throats were afire, our lips furred, our limbs numbed, our hands were white and bloodless. During the forenoon, Friday, March 23rd, another fireman, named Tride, died, and my steward, Buckley, died, also a cattleman whose only name I could get was Peter, collapsed and died about noon."

Not until early on the afternoon of Friday, March 23rd, did the French steamer Venezia, appear on the scene. A swell was running, and in their enfeebled state Captain Chave and his companions were unable to manoeuvre their boat alongside the French vessel. But Captain Bonafacie proved equal to the occasion, handling his vessel

 

FRENCH GENEROSITY

 

with the greatest skill, and then, leaving the four dead bodies in the boat, the twenty‑four survivors, too weak to climb the ladders, were hoisted with ropes, one by one, until they were all on board. This story of the sinking of the Union Castle liner would be incomplete without Captain Chave's tribute to the reception which he and his companions met with on board the Venezia.

"I cannot speak with sufficient gratitude of the extreme kindness and solicitation which was shown us by all on board. Our wet clothes were at once stripped off and dry ones put on, hot tea with cognac was poured down our parched and swollen throats, then we were put to bed in steam‑heated first‑class cabins. Our feet and hands were swollen to twice the normal size, and several of us narrowly escaped frostbite. In the evening we were given a light meal of soup and boiled beef with potatoes, with claret, and during the night the stewards were kept busy providing water for our unquenchable thirst. Every possible want was anticipated by the captain, officers, engineers, and stewards, who placed freely at our disposal their wardrobes, toilet articles, tobacco, etc."

On the same day as the Alnwick Castle went down, the Frinton (4,194 tons) was sunk with a loss of four lives, and in the next three days no fewer than seven other vessels suffered the same fate, being torpedoed without warning. The largest loss of life was in the case of the Stuart Prince (3,597 tons), when twenty persons, including the master of the ship, were sacrificed to the enemy's policy of frightfulness; the greatest loss in tonnage was the Rotorua (11,140 tons), a steamer of the New Zealand Ship­ping Company, which was sunk in the English Channel with her cargo of perishable food‑stuffs from New Zealand. The last‑named two ships were both destroyed on March 22nd, and day by day to the end of the month the tale of losses, both of personnel and tonnage, mounted up. On the 25th, five vessels were torpedoed and sent to the bottom without warning, the loss of life in the case of the Queen Eugenie (4,358 tons) alone being thirty‑five persons, including the master.

 

On the 27th, between 8 and 9 p.m., the Thracia (2,891 tons) was torpedoed when on passage from Bilbao to Ardrossan with a full cargo of ore. She was one of a string of twelve vessels being escorted by a French de­stroyer and two trawlers on a short stage from Belle Ile to Brest. They were steaming at night and anchoring during the day. The Thracia, which was a quarter or half a mile distant from the nearest vessels, was struck just forward of her stoke‑hold. The explosion burst her boilers, killing outright an engineer, a greaser, and two firemen. The ship sank with appalling sudden­ness, and there was not time even to attempt the lowering of the boats. The crew numbered thirty‑eight all told, and of these there were only two survivors. One was the gunner, who had time to put on a lifebelt, and was picked up after a short interval by a neutral steamer. The other was a cadet, named Dove, a boy of fifteen, who was acting fourth officer. This lad had been on watch with the chief officer till eight o'clock, and when the ship was struck was lying in his bunk reading. He put on a great­coat and went on deck, and as the ship was rapidly sinking he was thrown immediately into the water. The weather was intensely cold, with a north wind blowing, and the sea was very choppy. He succeeded in reaching an upturned boat, climbed on it, and lashed himself to it. Seven others of the crew also got on the boat, but were either washed off, or drowned while trying to swim towards a vessel which was seen. Three hours after the Thracia was sunk, a submarine came close up to the boat, and hailed the boy, who was now its only occupant. After asking him questions about the ship and its cargo, they called him an English swine, and threatened to shoot him. He replied, "Shoot away, and be damned to you," on which they said shooting was too good for him, and left him where he was, to drown. At eleven o'clock next morning he was picked up by a fishing boat, after thirteen hours in the water, and was later transferred to a destroyer. The official record states that when he was seen in Liverpool he was very shy, and his story had to be dragged out of him.

 

While in the great majority of cases the weapon used by the submarine was the torpedo, at least two of the smaller merchant ships destroyed at this time were sunk by gunfire. On the last day of March the sailing schooner Primrose (118 tons) was on voyage from Granville to

 

"PRIMROSE" SUNK BY GUNFIRE

 

Fowey, when the master (Mr. Alexander Steele), who was below, heard the sound of a gunshot, and the mate reported having seen a flash on the port bow. Less than a minute afterwards a second shot was fired, and the conning tower of a submarine became visible about two miles astern. It was eleven o'clock, a bright moonlight night, and the sea was calm. The second shot fell short of the schooner by about a fathom, and while the boat was being launched a third shot came aboard, and exploded over the main hatch, killing one of the seamen, and carrying away the foresail. The skipper and the two remaining seamen got into the boat just as a fourth shot struck the vessel amid­ships. They pulled away in a northerly direction, and saw the submarine come up to about 200 yards from the vessel and fire seven more shells into her from close quarters. Within half an hour she had sunk, and as the wind got up when they had pulled the boat some ten to fifteen miles, the survivors put out their sea‑anchor, and lay to till morning. Eventually they reached Alderney, but not before they had seen a submarine, presumably the same one, making for a ketch on the horizon, and heard it open fire.

 

Although the number of British merchant vessels captured or sunk by submarine during the month of March was well over a hundred, it is not to be thought that submarine attacks were invariably successful. During that same month there are records of no less than seventy­seven encounters between merchant ships and submarines, in which for various reasons the submarine commanders failed to achieve their murderous intent.

 

Among the vessels which were actually torpedoed, but escaped sinking, albeit with some loss of life, were the two hospital ships Asturias and Gloucester Castle. On the night of March 20th‑21st the Asturias (12,002 tons) was torpedoed without warning at night, although she was brilliantly lit with her Red Cross lamps. Thirty‑five lives were lost, but the ship was subsequently beached. On the 80th of the same month the Gloucester Castle (7,999 tons) underwent the same experience. In her case only three lives were lost, but the rescue of the wounded proved extremely difficult, and the attack was a very brutal aggravation of their sufferings. (For details of the attacks on these hospital ships, see Chapter XI.)

 

Two notable encounters in this month between mer­chant ships and submarines in which the attacker was definitely worsted, were those of the Aracatata (4,154 tons) and the Crown of Granada (2,746 tons). On March 10th the Aracatata, on her way to Liverpool from Costa Rica, was nearing the Irish coast, when at 1 p.m. an enemy submarine opened fire upon her from astern. The master (Mr. John H. Scuddamore) had carefully rehearsed his officers and crew for such an encounter, and returned the fire with his 12‑pounder, firing altogether forty rounds in reply to thirty‑five from the submarine. Three times the ship was hit, the second shot from the submarine passing through the firemen's quarters, killing one man and injuring four others. Another shell struck the bridge, between the master and the second officer, injuring the latter; and the third passed through the funnel, and wrecked the galley. The master successfully dodged the remainder of the shots by his coolness and skilful naviga­tion, noting the position of each splash, and zigzagging accordingly. He was well seconded by everyone on board, and in his report of the encounter he gave special praise to the chief steward for his first aid to the wounded, and to the two gunners, one of whom was the ship's carpenter, for their effective handling of the gun from a particularly exposed position. Some three‑quarters of an hour after the attack commenced, a British war vessel arrived to give assistance, but already the submarine's gun had been silenced for some minutes, and the Aracatata had regis­tered at least one hit. The merchant ship had out­manceuvred and out‑fought the submarine before help came to her.

 

The Crown of Granada was an outward‑bound ship from London to Barbados, and on March 23rd, not far from the scene of the Aracatata's fight, she sighted an enemy submarine on the surface, about four miles ahead of her. The master (Mr. A. D. Falconer) put his ship about, to bring the submarine astern, and opened fire. This was at 7.50 a.m., and a running fight was maintained for an hour and a quarter. The German gun outranged the ship's 12‑pounder, and the submarine avoided coming up too close. At first her shots fell right ahead, but gradually she reduced her range, and the ship escaped them by repeated alterations of her course. The submarine

 

THE BLACKEST MONTH OF THE WAR

 

fired forty‑six rounds, and hit the ship once, in the after‑hold, four feet below the waterline. The hole was not a large one, and was very promptly patched. Meanwhile the ship's gunners steadily plugged away, firing no less than seventy rounds; and though they never quite reached the submarine, the shots fell near enough to worry her, and to confuse the aim of her gunlayers. Shortly after 9 a.m., having had enough of it, she sub­merged, and gave up the contest.

 

The month of April 1917 was the most disastrous to British merchant shipping in the war. No fewer than 997 lives were lost, and ships to the extent of 516,394 gross tonnage were destroyed or captured, by enemy sub­marines alone. The torpedo attacks were in nearly every case without warning, and while the submarine commander frequently approached the survivors struggling in the water or tossing in small boats, it was only for the purpose of securing the master of the sunken vessel as a prisoner, with sometimes the chief engineer or one of the officers. During this month the total losses, including Allied and neutral shipping, due to enemy action reached the enormous sum of 881,027 tons.

 

The Germans now utterly disregarded the rules and obligations of maritime warfare previously observed by civilised nations. Throughout the Napoleonic wars it had been a point of honour to rescue from drowning those seamen whose ships had been taken or destroyed. At Trafalgar, British sailors, at imminent risk of their own lives, saved the crews of enemy warships on the point of being blown up or sunk. It was reserved for the twentieth century to witness in the German submarine campaign the deliberate jettisoning of all such obligations hitherto con­sidered sacred, and the casting to the winds of the most elementary dictates of humanity.

 

On April 8th, 1917, the Torrington (5,597 tons), proceeding from Gibraltar to Cardiff, was torpedoed without warning about 150 miles south‑west of the Scilly Isles. The master (Mr. A. Starkey) saw that it was impossible to save the ship, and ordered the crew, consisting of thirty‑four men, into the two lifeboats. He deposed in evidence later that he and the twenty men in his lifeboat were commanded to go on board the submarine, and that he was taken below and kept a prisoner, while his men were left on deck. The submarine then submerged for twenty minutes, the men on deck being all washed off and drowned. Mean­while his lifeboat had been manned by four of the German sailors and one officer, who all returned on board the submarine when she rose again to the surface. They brought with them provisions which had been in the mate's boat, as well as those from his. "I am positive," he said in his deposition, "of the provisions being from both boats, as I had different brands of meat, also one boat contained rum and the other brandy, portions of which I saw myself in the submarine afterwards." Although the sea was quite calm all that day, the mate's lifeboat was never heard of again, and none of those on board it were picked up.

 

Captain Starkey was landed at Heligoland, and im­prisoned there till December 1918, but while he was still on board the submarine she sank two other British ships, one of which, the Toro (3,066 tons), went down on April 12th. In both cases the master was made prisoner, and both times the submarine submerged for about twenty minutes, immediately after the prisoner had been brought below. In the case of his own ship, the Torrington, Captain Starkey said, "I never heard of any reason why the sub­marine should have dived. There was no ship in sight, and no alarm was given. Some of her own men and one officer were absent from the submarine when she dived, and we remained in the vicinity for the rest of the day on the surface. I was kept amidships away from the other prisoners for about two hours, and then sent forward with the two that were already there." These two were Captain Draper of the Umvoti (2,616 tons) and Captain Ashfield of the Petridge (1,712 tons), both of which had been sunk earlier on the same morning as the Torrington.

 

That the deliberate murder of entire crews by depriving them of lifebelts, and leaving them to be washed off the deck of a submarine when she submerged, was no isolated case of inhumanity, was amply proved in July of the same year when the Belgian Prince was sunk, and three of the intended victims managed to secrete cork jackets under­neath their greatcoats, and survived to tell of their experi­ence. This incident is described in a later chapter.

 

Of 169 British merchant vessels sunk during April, three were destroyed by torpedo on the first day of the month. These were the WARREN (3,709 tons), the

 

THE TABLES TURNED

 

Kasenga (4,652 tons), and the Zambesi (3,759 tons). On April 2nd only one ship was sunk, the Britannia (3,129 tons), and the early morning of that day was memorable for the successful resistance and escape of the Wandby (3,981 tons), attacked in the Bay of Biscay. She was on voyage from Bilbao to Newport, and was making for La Rochelle, when about 6 a.m. a shot from a submarine fell close astern of her. The sea was very rough, and it was not till after the sixth shot that the enemy was sighted. The submarine was one of the latest type, using two 4‑inch guns. The Wandby's master (Mr. D. Simpson) at once brought her dead astern, and opened fire in reply. At the end of three‑quarters of an hour the Wandby's fifteenth shot brought the encounter to an end, and the submarine dis­appeared below the surface. She had fired thirty‑six rounds, and had hit the Wandby once, on the port quarter just above the waterline, and some damage had also been done by bursting shrapnel, but happily no British lives were lost. The master's own account of the affair is interesting:

"We got well away from port with the convoy, but had an accident to our wheel‑chains, and were left behind. We repaired our damage, and on Monday morning the Germans came along, and started shelling our old ship, which only gets eight knots. There was no chance of running away, and it was either a case of throwing up the sponge or fighting, and we pegged away at him. The fifteenth got home, and the last we saw of him was his bows up in the air and he went down stern first."

By the end of the first week in April twenty‑three vessels had been sunk, the two largest being the City of Paris (9,239 tons) and the Canadian (9,309 tons) on the 4th and 5th respectively. By the torpedoing of the City of Paris 122 lives were lost. On the same two days the Dun­drennan (4,248 tons) and the Kangaroo (4,348 tons) were both attacked by submarines upon the surface, and returned the fire with such success that they escaped without serious damage.

 

At 7.30 a.m. on the 4th, the master (Mr. J. Cruddace), of the Dun­drennan, observed a submarine about 8,000 yards distant approaching the vessel at full speed. She was at once brought astern. The shots from the submarine fell very close at first, but when the steamer opened fire they became considerably more erratic. After each shot from the submarine the Dun­drennan slightly changed her course. The ship fired thirteen rounds, and the submarine about thirty. At 8.15 the enemy ceased fire and disap­peared.

 

The Kangaroo was a motor‑ship belonging to the Govern­ment of Western Australia. She was attacked by gun­fire about 6 a.m. in the Mediterranean on April 5th. The master (Mr. H. C. Norris) vigorously returned the fire, and in addition used smoke boxes with good effect. The port smoke box was used first, but the wind caused the smoke to blind the gunners and the look‑out on the bridge, so it was extinguished, and the starboard one started instead. About 6.30 a.m. an enemy shell struck the vessel, causing some minor damage, but wounding nobody. The sub­marine, which was about five miles distant when first sighted, continued to gain steadily on the Kangaroo, but was careful not to expose its whole length to her fire. By zigzagging slightly, and hauling his ship to westward about a quarter to half a point more each time, the master successfully misled the gunners of the submarine. The Kangaroo fired thirty‑six rounds, and one of her shells was thought to have hit the submarine, which gave up the encounter and submerged at 7.20 a.m.

 

On April 8th, the day on which the Torrington was sunk and her crew murdered, the R.M.S.P. Carmarthen­shire (7,823 tons) was nearing the entrance to the English Channel, when at 5.20 a.m. the officer of the watch sighted a submarine about three miles distant. The following extracts are taken from the report of the encounter by the master (Mr. E. C. Wakeman):

"I was on the bridge instantly, and steadied the ship when her stern was in line. Telephoned the ship's position (which was kept ready in a book for every half‑hour) to the wireless operator. Rang the pre‑arranged signal to the engine‑room on the telegraph, then called all hands, sending the chief officer round the ship to see that every­body was out with lifebelts on, and that those who could be were stationed by their respective boats, but under cover. After reporting this to me, he went aft, and got the ammunition up, returning to the bridge when the

ESCAPE OF "CARMARTHENSHIRE"

whole of it was ready for use. The engineers all went below, and got the utmost speed out of the ship, opening up the engines to their limit, the steam roaring up the escapes. . . . The submarine opened fire on me without warning, certainly within one minute of the time of sighting her, firing three rounds, the shells striking the water just clear of my quarter. I then ran the ensign up aft, and the largest ensign I had on the jumper stay amidships, and opened fire on her, our shells falling close to her. At that she dropped further astern, and opened fire again, making three distinct attacks and firing about fifty rounds in all, the last four rounds being shrapnel. . . . Not being able to reach her I ceased firing after twenty rounds, she attacking all the time, and Mr. Penny, the refrigerating engineer (being the only engineer on deck), assisted by the gun's crew, removed a stop out of the elevating arc of the gun, which enabled me to increase the range to 9,900 yards against 6,600 before. I then opened fire again, using another eighteen rounds, making thirty‑eight rounds in all. At 7.30 the submarine turned beam on to me, and dived." After giving other details he adds, "I had given the gun's crew orders that when we were reduced to four rounds they were not to fire any more, no matter how we were hit, in the hope that the submarine would close; then they were to let her have the four in the hope of getting her, and finally escaping."

This order is particularly interesting, and is evidence of the determined spirit in which the attack was resisted.

 

In the second week of April twenty‑eight ships were sunk, and in the third week fifty‑eight. On the 13th the Argyll (3,547 tons) was torpedoed about 100 miles west of the Scilly Islands. Eleven of the crew managed to launch a boat and save themselves, but twenty‑two were drowned. On the same day the Zara (1,831 tons) was carrying a crew of twenty‑eight and twenty‑eight passengers, when she was struck on the port side by a torpedo. A terrible explosion occurred, and the ship began to sink very rapidly. The starboard lifeboat was lowered, but the vessel went down before the port boat was got clear. Twelve of the crew and seventeen passengers were saved, but twenty‑seven lives were sacrificed.

 

About five o'clock on the same afternoon the Kariba (3,697 tons) was torpedoed 230 miles south‑west of the Scillies, her starboard lifeboat being smashed by the explosion. Her bunker hatches were blown up, and the stokehold immediately filled with water, so that she went down in a few minutes. Her crew took to the two remain­ing lifeboats, which kept together for about two hours, and then lost sight of each other. The port lifeboat contained twenty‑one men, with very little food. Eleven died from exposure, and two others died afterwards in hospital. The survivors were picked up on the 22nd by the French trawler Esperanza, and taken to St. Louis, after nine days in the open boat.

 

The Lime Branch (5,379 tons) was also torpedoed on that day, but succeeded in reaching Plymouth under her own steam. She was struck in No. 2 hold, and settled down by the head until the fore end of the harbour deck was awash. The other two holds being found sound, the engines were restarted, and she proceeded slowly. An escort was signalled for, and a destroyer met her at 7.30 p.m. At 7.50 she was again attacked, but owing to her slower speed the second torpedo passed about a foot in front of her.

 

A somewhat similar escape was effected by the Brank­some Hall (4,262 tons), which was attacked on the 11th. It was a very dark night, with a high sea running, when the torpedo struck her. She took a list of 30 degrees to port, and her boiler‑room, engine‑room, and No. 4 hold became full of water. The boats were launched with great diffi­culty, and about 4 a.m. the crew were picked up by a French torpedo boat, and placed on board the guard‑ship in Cherbourg harbour. Finding next day that the ship was still afloat, the master (Mr. H. G. Jenkins) and sixteen of the crew managed to get a tug to take them back to her. They found twenty‑four feet of water in the engine­room and No. 4 hold, but none in holds No. 1 or No. 5. The help of a second tug was obtained, and the ship was anchored off the harbour for the night. On the following day she was brought safely in.

 

In all these instances and many others, utter indiffer­ence was shown by the German submarine commanders as to the fate of those on board the ships they sank. On the 15th occurred an instance of still worse barbarity. At 11.45 p.m. the Cairndhu (4,019 tons) was about twenty‑ five miles from Beachy Head,

 

"LANFRANC" AND "DONEGAL"

 

when she was struck by a torpedo on the port side amidships, and took a heavy list to port. Both lifeboats were successfully launched and stood by the ship, which was sinking rapidly. Shortly afterwards a submarine appeared and deliber­ately rammed the port lifeboat, many of whose occupants were thrown into the water. Fortunately, though awash and with the seas breaking over her, she was kept afloat by her watertight tanks. The survivors were picked up by a passing steamer, but not before twelve men had been drowned or succumbed to cold and exposure. The other lifeboat with the master and six men succeeded in reaching port in safety.

 

Two days later the ambulance transports Lanfranc (6,287 tons) and Donegal (1,885 tons), when on passage from Havre to Southampton, were torpedoed without warning between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Ambulance trans­ports were vessels fitted to carry invalids and wounded, but, though painted a distinctive grey, they ran as ordin­ary troop transports and, as distinct from hospital ships, could claim no immunity from attack. They were ex­posed to the same risks from unrestricted submarine warfare as were the ordinary merchant vessels.

 

The Lanfranc (master, Mr. W. E. Pontet) was carrying 234 wounded British officers and men and 167 wounded German prisoners in addition to the medical personnel and crew. She was escorted by the destroyer Badger, and the P.37. When about half‑way across the channel, a terrible explosion took place on the port side abreast of the bulkhead between the engine‑room and No. 3 hold. The engines were immediately stopped. The ship listed to port, settled rapidly by the stern, and then slowly came again into an upright position. Three of her boats were smashed by the explosion, and the Marconi installation was rendered useless. Both escorts were within about a mile of her at the time, one on either bow, and while P.37 closed the Lanfranc, the Badger searched for the submarine. As the Lanfranc was at the time of the explosion steaming 14 knots, it would have been dangerous to lower her boats at once. As soon, however, as she had lost sufficient way, one boat at a time was lowered on each side, eight boats getting away safely. Unfortunately, one boat on the starboard side sank stern first, and nearly all the occupants were thrown into the sea, but were picked up later by lifeboats from the Badger or sailing trawlers. Both escorts had by this time come alongside, and at very great risk, owing to the condition of the Lanfranc and the high seas running, had been embarking the wounded passengers, both British and German.

 

The behaviour of the latter was in many cases deplorable. Numbers of them rushed the boats or jumped on board the escorts.

 

In contrast to this behaviour of the Germans, we have another story told by a British officer on board:

"The behaviour of our own lads I shall never forget. Crippled as many of them were, they tried to stand at attention while the more serious cases were being looked after, and those who could lend a hand scurried below to help in saving friend or enemy. I have never seen so many individual illustrations of genuine chivalry and comradeship. One man I saw had had a leg severed and his head was heavily bandaged. He was lifting himself up a staircase by the hands, and was just as keen on summoning help for Fritz as on saving himself. He whistled to a mate to come and aid a German who was unable to move owing to internal injuries. Another Tommy limped painfully along with a German officer on his arm and helped the latter to a boat. It is impossible to give adequate praise to the crew and staff. They were all heroes. They remained at their posts until the last of the wounded had been taken off, and some of them took off articles of their clothing and threw them into the life‑boats for the benefit of those who were in need of warm covering. The same spirit manifested itself as we moved away from the scene of the outrage."

 Four British, fifteen German wounded, and five members of the crew were drowned.

 

The Donegal (master, Mr. John Jackson) had reached a point about nineteen miles south of the Dean light‑vessel when she met her fate. She was escorted by two de­stroyers (Liffey and Jackal) and had on board 639 wounded British soldiers, of whom 33 were stretcher cases. At 7.43 p.m. the chief officer drew the master's attention to the track of a torpedo four hundred yards distant on

 

JOHN PRIEST'S EXPERIENCES

 

the port side, just astern of the escort. Captain Jackson immediately ordered the helm to be put hard a starboard, but the vessel was, nevertheless, struck near her port propeller, the whole of her stern, with a newly mounted 13‑pounder gun, being practically blown away and the gunner killed. Luckily the weather was fine and clear, and all the boats were safely got away, with the exception of two which were broken when the escort Jackal was laying herself alongside. The other escort, Liffey, was meanwhile circling about in search of the submarine, but when the Jackal had taken on board 500 of the wounded, she in turn laid herself alongside the Donegal, and took off the remainder.

 

The ship sank at about half‑past eight. A few hands were thrown into the water, but most of them were picked up by the boats. The behaviour of the whole ship's company and the troops was uniformly excellent. There was not a trace of panic, and all orders were promptly carried out. It was largely owing to this fact that the casualties were so comparatively few. About twenty‑six of the wounded soldiers were drowned, while the casualties to the crew amounted to eleven lost and five injured.

 

An interesting record among those of the injured was that of John Priest, one of the firemen, aged twenty‑nine, who had had four of the vessels in which he had been employed sunk under him, and three damaged. He had been on board the Titanic when that liner was lost on her maiden voyage. He was in the Olympic at the time of her collision with the cruiser Hawke. He had been wounded in the fight between the Alcantara and the German raider Greif. He had been in the Britannic when she was sunk. And, lastly, he had suffered injuries to his head as the result of the explosion in the Donegal.

 

On the day the Lanfranc and Donegal were sunk, the Aburi (3,780 tons) was on her way from Liverpool with a general cargo and 700 tons of coal for West Africa. At 7.15 a.m. she was about 150 miles off the north of Ireland, when a periscope was sighted by the second officer, some two hundred yards from the ship. Almost immediately, he saw a disturbance caused by the discharge of a torpedo. This struck the vessel at the after part of the bridge, piercing No. 2 hold and the engine‑room. The master (Mr. W. Heaton) gave orders to abandon ship, and threw the codes and confidential papers over the side. While he was doing this a shell whistled overhead, and the submarine appeared on the surface about a quarter of a mile away. One lifeboat had been wrecked by the explosion, and two other boats were swamped. Eventually two boats were got away, the master, chief officer, and gunner, swimming to the last one after searching the ship to make sure that all were clear. The submarine continued firing, and when the boats were rather more than a mile astern they saw the ship sink by the head and the submarine submerge almost simultaneously. The boats after a while got separated, but both succeeded in keeping afloat, in spite of very bad weather conditions, until they were picked up two and a half days later by a trawler and a coaster. By that time three men in the master's boat and thirteen in that of the chief officer had died from exposure.

 

The sailing and management of these small boats for long distances in heavy seas was a notable feature of many of these instances. On the 18th the Castillian (1,923 tons) was two days out from Liverpool, bound for Genoa with a full general cargo and one passenger, when she was struck by a torpedo about 1 p.m. and sank within four minutes. One boat was carried down with the ship, and came to the surface bottom upwards, the other was lowered safely with the chief officer and four men on board. The rest of the crew were thrown into the water, and seventeen of them, including the master, were picked up one by one, ten others being drowned. The survivors set sail for the Irish coast, and covered no less than 178 miles before they were rescued by the Manchester Corporation, and taken by her into Lough Foyle. All suffered very greatly from the exposure.

 

 

 

British Merchant Ship Torpedoed

 

April 19th was a day of many disasters, thirteen vessels being sunk. The callousness which marked the German submarine campaign was particularly exemplified in the case of the Caithness (3,500 tons), which was torpedoed about noon that day. She was in the Atlantic, 130 miles from the north‑west coast of Spain, and sank within a few minutes of being struck, the crew being all thrown into the water. The submarine came up among the survivors, and questioned them about the ship while they were still struggling in

 

FOUR DAYS IN OPEN BOATS

 

the water, trying to keep themselves afloat; when she had got her information, she just left them where they were, to drown. Eleven of them succeeded in righting a boat which had been overturned; and seven days after­wards two men were picked up in this boat alive. These two were the only survivors out of the Caithness's crew of forty‑nine.

 

The next day, the 20th, the Portloe (3,187 tons) was struck by a torpedo amidships, and foundered at once. The third engineer and the mess‑room steward managed to cling to some wreckage for a couple of hours, when they were rescued; but their twenty‑four shipmates were all drowned.

 

Very early that same morning the San Hilario (10,157 tons), with a cargo of oil fuel from Puerto Mexico, was making for Queenstown, when she was attacked by gun­fire about 250 miles west of the Fastnet. She was steam­ing 10 1/2 knots, but was immediately put to full speed, and eventually made 12 1/2 knots. The submarine was about five miles away when she first opened fire, but rapidly overhauled the steamer, and after seventy rounds made her first hit at the base of the funnel, damaging the steam pipes. The gun's crew at this point wanted to abandon the gun, but the chief officer, Mr. Clark, helped by the senior apprentice, kept them to their post. The San Hilario was hit twelve times, and continued to return the fire until there were only five rounds left. The master (Mr. F. Cole) gave orders then to abandon ship, and the crew got safely away, and were in the boats for four days, when they were picked up. The master himself was taken prisoner, and the ship was sunk.

 

Occasionally the peril of a torpedo was successfully averted by the vigilance of those on watch. The Leasowe Castle (9,737 tons) was in the Mediterranean on this day, when the third officer observed the wake of a torpedo approaching from the port quarter; he immediately informed the master (Mr. J. N. Culverwell), who was on the other side of the bridge, and it was just possible for the helm to be put over in time to lessen the damage. The torpedo struck the stern, destroying the rudder and the rudder post, and causing the gun to be dismounted. The periscope of the submarine was sighted about 1,500 yards away, and a second torpedo was fired, which passed ten yards astern. The ship managed to reach Gibraltar under her own steam. In this case the third officer's vigilance averted a much worse disaster, and practically saved the ship.

 

The loss of life during the next three days was happily not so great, and on the 21st the Roumanian Prince (4,147 tons) had a well‑deserved escape, due partly to the master (Mr. H. A. Camp) and partly to the wireless operator. A vessel with two sails set was sighted on the port bow, and the master suspected her to be a submarine. As soon as he altered his helm to bring the suspicious craft astern, the latter dropped her forward sail, and fired, the shot falling about two hundred yards short of the vessel. The second shot fell a hundred and fifty yards ahead, and a third burst over the bridge, destroying the aerial, and splintering the decks. The Roumanian Prince was armed with a 12‑pounder, but did not fire, as the submarine was out of range, and the master wished to keep its commander in doubt as to what armament the steamer carried. By the time the submarine had fired fifteen shots, the wireless operator had repaired the apparatus, and a message was sent out, a reply being received almost immediately. The submarine then aban­doned the chase, and half an hour later an escort arrived.

 

On the following day the Karroo (6,127 tons) success­fully maintained a running fight for about three hours with a submarine by gunfire, after being narrowly missed by two torpedoes. She was on voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Devonport, and some distance west of the Scilly Isles, when at 11.50 a.m. the track of a torpedo was seen just abaft her port beam. Almost immediately afterwards a second torpedo was seen approaching, and as the ship was now swinging rapidly on her helm, this also missed her by about thirty feet. The submarine then came to the surface, and opened fire with her two guns at a range of about 8,000 yards. The Karroo was fre­quently struck, and fired thirty‑five rounds, while the submarine fired nearly two hundred. Towards three o'clock two torpedo‑boat destroyers made their appearance in answer to the Karroo's S.O.S., and the submarine sub­merged.

 

The remainder of the month was marked by a disastrous tale of losses, eight merchant vessels being sunk on the 24th,

 

LOSS OF P & O "BALLARAT"

 

nine on the 25th, and many more on the succeeding days. The greatest loss of life was on the 24th, when the Abosso (7,782 tons) was torpedoed without warning off the south coast of Ireland. She was carrying 127 pas­sengers and a crew of 133, and 65 of those on board were drowned. Other sinkings on that day included the Barnton (1,858 tons), which was torpedoed with a loss of 14 lives, and the Ferndene (3,770 tons), which lost her master and eight members of her crew.

 

On the same day also the Thirlby (2,009 tons) narrowly escaped disaster in the Atlantic. No fewer than three torpedoes were discharged at her, and she was afterwards attacked by gunfire. At 7.30 a.m. the first torpedo was seen to pass across her bow, though nothing was visible of the submarine from which it came. At 8.10 a.m. a second torpedo was observed approaching, and the master (Mr. T. W. Hill) altered the vessel's course, so that it passed astern. Soon afterwards a third torpedo was avoided in the same way; and four minutes later the submarine appeared right astern. The Thirlby opened fire, and the submarine dived, and appeared again about three miles distant, whence she started firing from both her guns. The Thirlby's shots, however, fell so close, that the submarine dropped further back, and kept for a while out of the ship's range. After she had scored a hit with one of her shells on the ship's deck she came up closer, but a second time was forced by the excellence of the ship's gunnery to drop back to a respectful distance. About noon another vessel approached, which was fitted with wireless appara­tus, and sent out a message for assistance. This was answered by a destroyer, which came up about 2 p.m. After hearing particulars she went in search of the sub­marine, which had disappeared. During the attack the submarine had fired over 150 rounds, and the Thirlby 57.

 

The largest vessel sunk about this time was the Ballarat (11,120 tons), which was torpedoed on the 25th about 30 miles from the Land's End, happily without loss of life. She was a P & O boat, and was on a voyage from Australia to Great Britain with Australian troops. It was 2 p.m. when the torpedo struck her, causing a terrific explosion, which carried away one of her propellers and bent the shaft of the other, destroyed the main steam pipe of the engines, and put out of action the 6‑inch gun and the wireless apparatus. The signal for troops and crew to go to their boat stations was sounded im­mediately, and within a few minutes more than twenty boats had left the ship, and were picked up by destroyers which came to the rescue. An attempt was made to tow the Ballarat to safety, but she sank at 4.30 p.m. 7 1/2 miles from the Lizard light. The splendid discipline of both troops and crew made it possible to land the ship's entire complement, 1,752 souls, without any casualties. The master (Mr. G. W. Cockman), and some of the officers, left the ship only a few minutes before she sank.

 

A much larger vessel than the Ballarat, the White Star liner Baltic (23,876 tons), was attacked both on the 25th and 26th, and was saved both times by the vigilance of the look‑out, and by the instant action of the master (Mr. W. Finch) in ordering the helm over. Captain Finch had been in command of the Arabic, when she was sunk in August 1915, and not only held strong views on the efficacy of "zigzagging on short legs," but made it his practice to supplement the ordinary look‑out by having the whole of the deck watch on look‑out duty while his ship was in the danger zone. He himself remained on the bridge practically the whole time, and this meant that, from the time when the submarines began to operate well out in the Atlantic, he was on continuous duty for four days, both coming in and going out from Liverpool. The first attack on the Baltic took place in fine weather, a suspicious patch being sighted on the port bow. Im­mediately the ship was swung to port, in hope of passing over the submarine, and a torpedo went by within a few feet of her. On the occasion of the second attack the first intimation of danger was the appearance of the air bubbles rising on the firing of the torpedo. Again the instant action of the helm saved the vessel, and the torpedo missed by about twenty feet. The Baltic had nearly 400 souls on board, including six men of the Danish schooner Eos, whom she had picked up from a small boat the day before; she was also carrying a cargo of 20,000 tons. The proverbial affection of a merchant captain for his ship and pride in her good qualities were well illustrated by the report of an official interview with Captain Finch in Liverpool. Reference was made to the tremendous strain which his four days' periods of constant

 

LAST WEEK OF APRIL

 

duty had imposed, but he dismissed the subject with a joke about his seventeen stone being a strain upon his legs, and the exclamation, "But you should have seen her answer her helm; she is a beauty."

 

A few of the vessels that were sunk in the last week of April were the Swanmore (6,378 tons) on the 25th, with a loss of eleven lives; the Harflete (4,814 tons), with a loss of one, on the 26th; the Beemah (4,750 tons) and the Glencluny (4,812 tons) on the 27th; the Jose de Larrinaga (5,017 tons), the Port Jackson (2,309 tons), and the Terence (4,309 tons) on the 28th; the Karonga (4,665 tons) and the Daleby (3,628 tons) on the 29th; and the Delamere (1,525 tons) and the Gretaston (3,395 tons) on the 30th. In all these cases one or more lives were lost; in the case of the Gretaston there were no survivors.

 

The Harflete (master, Mr. Scott Carpenter) was attacked at 11.30 a.m. and avoided two torpedoes. The submarine then came to the surface, and a running fight ensued with gunfire. The 22nd and 23rd shots from the Harflete seemed to strike the submarine, which ceased firing, and gave up the chase. At 9.45 p.m. on the same day the Harflete was suddenly torpedoed, and soon afterwards sank. The crew were picked up next morning, and taken in to Queenstown.

 

The sinking of the Karonga, with a loss of eighteen lives, in the Strait of Messina, was notable for an act on the part of the chief steward for which he was awarded the Albert gold medal. When the ship was torpedoed, two of the deck plates buckled, and caught the legs of a Lascar between them so firmly that he would have been inevitably dragged down with the rapidly sinking vessel. Mr. A. W. Furneaux, the chief steward, saw him, and at great risk to his own life extricated one of the man's legs, and finding it impossible to set the other free, amputated it with an ordinary clasp‑knife, and carried the man to a boat. In the boat he dressed the wound as well as possible, and gave the man his lifebelt.

 

On the afternoon of the 29th the Daleby (3,628 tons) was about 150 miles south‑east of Cape Clear, when she was torpedoed without warning. She was struck twice, the second torpedo blowing up all the lifeboats and causing her to sink immediately. The last man to leave the ship dived off as she was sinking. The submarine then came to the surface, and circled round him, but no attempt was made to pick him up. Afterwards he noticed the ship's dinghy floating a little way off, and swam towards it. The wind, however, was behind him, and kept blowing the boat away, so that he did not reach her for two hours. Having baled her out, he returned to the scene of the disaster, where he managed to pick up a fireman, who had been wounded in the head, and was unconscious. He revived this man, and together they started rowing for land, though the fireman was not able to do much work. After twenty‑four hours they were rescued by a steamer, but twenty‑six of those who had been on board the Daleby perished.

 

In the sinking of the Terence (4,309 tons), which occurred on the previous day, three submarines took part, and her master (Mr. W. Frodsham) received afterwards the D.S.C. for the determined effort which he made to save his ship from destruction. The Terence was bound from Buenos Aires to Liverpool, and the series of encounters opened when she was about 200 miles from the Irish coast. At 1.20 p.m. the first submarine was sighted, and seventeen rounds were fired at her without effect; she then disappeared in the haze. At 4.55 p.m. the wake of a torpedo was seen approaching the ship, and, the helm being put over quickly, the torpedo passed astern. Shortly afterwards the sub­marine came to the surface, and for the next two hours an artillery duel went on between it and the merchantman. About 7 p.m. the submarine was firing shrapnel, which kept bursting over the ship, and as the Terence had fired seventy­four rounds and had only sixteen left, Captain Frodsham ordered these to be reserved, and the gunners to cease firing and take shelter. Ten minutes later a second submarine appeared, and each of them discharged a torpedo ineffectually at the Terence. They continued shelling her till 8.15 p.m., when they ceased firing owing to the darkness. The master believed they were still following, and took counsel with his engineers as to the possibility of lessening the amount of smoke from the funnel. At 11.15 p.m. the ship was struck by a torpedo, and after the long shelling to which they had been sub­jected the crew had somewhat lost their nerve, and all hands rushed to their stations, so that the boats were lowered and got away in a few minutes. The second

 

BRAVERY OF MASTER OF "TERENCE"

 

officer, finding that the master and chief officer were still on board, brought his boat back, and with some difficulty persuaded them to leave the ship. So resolved was the master not to be taken prisoner to Germany, that he intended, if a submarine should capture him, to jump overboard and, if possible, carry a German officer down with him. The boats, however, after sixty‑one hours, reached Ireland safely.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER II

 

THE THIRD WINTER OF PATROL WORK

 

THE German decision at the opening of 1917 to press an intensive submarine campaign threw greatly increased work on the Auxiliary Patrol. Could the officers and men stand the additional strain which had now to be met if the foundations on which the Allied war effort, by sea, by land, and in the air were to be preserved?

 

Every Allied ship found within the barred area was to be attacked without delay. "Our object," it was decreed from Berlin, "is to cut England off from traffic by sea, and not to achieve occasional results at far‑distant points. As far as possible, therefore, stations must be taken up near the English coast, where routes converge and where divergence becomes impossible." All submarines, as a rule, were to proceed by way of the English Channel so as to shorten the cruise and thus lessen the period subse­quently spent in dockyard hands. The bad weather experienced for long periods in the North Sea and Atlantic was severely testing the enemy's submarines, and they were directed to use the Straits of Dover, instead of the north‑about route to reach their operating stations, and to attempt to pass through the British defensive system during the hours of darkness, preferably at a time when the tidal stream would assist them.

 

Everything consequently conspired to throw increased responsibility on the craft of all descriptions which had been pressed into the country's service at this "bottle neck" of ocean traffic, contiguous to the bases which the Germans had established on the Belgian coast. If only the Straits could have been closed with nets or mines, all might have been well, but the nets were proving unreliable under the pressure of high seas, and the supply of mines, particularly mines of the im­proved type, was, owing to the urgent demands for muni­tions of every kind required for the navy, the army, and merchant shipping, inadequate for the serious situation which had developed. Moreover, it was not only in the Straits of Dover that the auxiliary craft had to respond to calls for service beyond anything hitherto known. The enemy was pursuing his activities in such widely separated areas as the western approach to the English Channel, the Mediterranean, off the south coast of Ireland, the North Sea, the whole length of the English Channel, the Irish Sea, and far out in the Atlantic.

 

What was to be done with the exiguous means then available? Defensive measures already found effective, such as the employment of armed patrol vessels and Q‑ships, had to be perfected. New devices, such as hydrophones, and new tactics such as stalking and hunting the enemy rather than awaiting his coming had to be adopted. Specialist officers were detailed to the various Auxiliary Patrol bases to superintend the working of the hydrophones which were being hurriedly installed in small craft. A systematic method of training ratings in the art of listening by these instruments ‑ an art that was not so simple as it seemed ‑ had to be instituted. Hydrophones were at this period in an early stage of evolution, and it needed both a sensitive ear and much experience to distinguish between the various under­water sounds which they picked up and the sound of a submarine's engines.

 

The enemy's submarines regularly succeeded in negotiat­ing the Dover Straits, a favourite place being between the buoys on the western side of the barrage of this date. Occasionally they would be caught in the nets, but oftener still they wriggled through. On the very first day of the unrestricted campaign, UC.17 reported that she got caught between two of these buoys. She succeeded in extricating herself, but about forty yards of net remained hanging from her hull. By going astern with her engines, she managed to get clear of this unwelcome load. Such an incident in no way supports an indictment against our drifters and their crews; it is merely a proof that by this time a thoroughly reliable and effective method of thwart­ing the U‑boat had not been evolved. At the best the use of nets is only a defensive measure. It had been difficult in the earlier stages of the war to find the right offensive tactics to be employed against the unseen foe.

 

The idea of using trawlers and M.L.s (motor launches) in formation for hunting flotillas promised well. The enemy often had reason to respect and fear the 9‑knot trawler with its little gun and vigilant crew. Now, too, as revealed in the reports of submarine commanders, they were becoming nervous of the M.L.s. The next stage was to employ these trawlers and drifters and M.L.s on more scientific lines in accordance with ripening experience. The first units organised to hunt with hydrophones were the drifters in the Aegean, which began to operate in February 1917. Organised in divisions of seven, the leader being in the centre, all the vessels were moved according to the direction of the drifter or drifters which heard the sound of the U‑boat. The idea was to keep the enemy within the area assigned to the division and eventually force him to come to the surface within gun‑range of the drifters. This idea was afterwards adopted in Home Waters, and by June 1917 four hunting flotillas of six M.L.s each were formed and based on Newhaven, Portsmouth, Portland, and Dartmouth. As a result, many engagements during the next three months took place between these flotillas and submarines. The U‑boat would first be located on the hydrophones by means of cross‑bearings, and depth‑charges would then be dropped. Even if he was not always destroyed, the experience certainly inflicted on the enemy a good deal of "moral damage" and tended gradually to wear him down until, as actually happened on some occasions, the submarine came to the surface glad to surrender.

 

Owing to the success of these flotillas others were formed during the spring of 1918 at Peterhead, Granton, the Tyne, the Humber, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, the Nore, Littlehampton, Torquay, Newlyn, Holyhead, and Larne, the senior M.L. officer's ship being fitted with wireless. Each M.L. was equipped with four depth‑charges, a gun, a hydrophone, and a flashing lamp. As time went on, a better type of hydrophone was evolved, and these little grey ships were to be observed coming along in line abreast, as far apart as visibility and signalling would allow by day; at night or in thick weather, they drifted with engines stopped, listening eagerly to the hydrophone, the aim being invisibility and silence, so as to catch the enemy unawares, perhaps while in the act of charging his

 

U‑BOAT ATTACKED BY TRAWLERS

 

batteries. Other hunting flotillas were started elsewhere, and more powerful depth‑charges were introduced into the service.

 

Meanwhile the old but successful methods were being continued. The armed smacks out of Lowestoft and the decoy trawlers from certain Scottish ports were at work, some of the latter, disguised with deckhouses, and with sweeps and davits removed, being sent out into the Atlantic as far as the Flannan Islands. The trawlers, in spite of their third winter on patrol, were giving the enemy little peace. On February 7th the trawlers Swallow and Pigeon II were patrolling off Whitby when they had an experience worthy of being put on record. About 10 a.m. Lieutenant J. Dixon, R.N.R., the Swallow 's commanding officer, ob­served a steamer sinking, and proceeded at full speed, in company with the Pigeon II, to investigate. On getting closer, it was noticed that there was another steamer in the vicinity which was stopped with boat tackles over the side; several boats were rowing about. These two vessels turned out to be the Corsican Prince (2,776 tons) and the St. Ninian (3,026 tons), which had been torpedoed three miles east of Whitby. As the Swallow came up, two boats full of seamen were sighted, and there was obviously a periscope to the eastward of the St. Ninian. Shouting to the men to remain in the boats till picked up, Lieutenant Dixon proceeded at full speed for the periscope and rammed the submarine, close to the conning tower, with such im­pact that the Swallow 's bow was knocked violently to starboard, the periscope passing down along the starboard side three feet away. The Swallow then turned, dropped a depth‑charge, and buoyed the spot. A good deal of oil was observed coming to the surface. Meanwhile the Pigeon was picking up the three boat‑loads of men and ultimately landed them at Whitby.

 

It was just at the moment when the Swallow rammed the enemy, that the latter was firing a torpedo at the St. Ninian only three hundred yards away. This took effect so that the steamer sank in a few seconds. One hour later the destroyers Doon and Waveney, who were seven miles off, intercepted a wireless message and proceeded at 20 knots to the scene and searched for the enemy. At noon the Waveney sighted a periscope cutting through the water in a southerly direction. The forecastle gun was fired, one shell bursting near to the periscope. Later on, the periscope was again seen on a south‑westerly course. The Waveney therefore rammed her at full speed, the bump being distinctly felt down the starboard side. About this time a third destroyer ‑ the Nith ‑ took in a signal and steered to cut the enemy off. At 1.15 p.m. she sighted the submarine slowly heading to the south‑west, having just come to the surface. On sighting the Nith, she dived, but a depth‑charge was dropped, and a large patch of oil afterwards appeared on the surface. The chase was maintained and three hours later the Swallow noticed a disturbance in the water, oil appearing near the dan buoy. But darkness was now setting in and the hunt had to be abandoned. This incident was an instance of the ease with which a submarine could evade patrol craft and deceive them. There is no reason for supposing that the U‑boat was destroyed; on the contrary, it had become part of their artful routine to discharge a certain amount of oil into the water after attack, so as to deceive the hunters into the belief that the hull had been injured. It was some time before this ruse was realised, with the result that more than once a submarine was wrongly claimed as having been sunk, whereas the stalking and attack should have been continued. In the case which has been cited the co‑operation of the trawlers and destroyers only just failed in their purpose. The submarine was evidently in difficulties, but the darkness came to her salvation. Lieutenant Dixon received an appreciation from the Board of Admiralty for the promptitude of his attack.

 

The captains of submarines in the meantime were carrying out orders to be ruthless towards fishing craft. The movements of the UC.44 illustrate the campaign. This vessel, having crossed the North Sea, began operating off the north‑east coast. On February 11th, the enemy sank the trawler Ashwold of Shields, taking the skipper prisoner. A course was then steered north and next day the trawler Dale was destroyed 42 miles S. by E. 1/4 E. from North Ronaldshay (Orkneys). The vessel then came south and sank in succession the trawlers King Alfred, 75 miles south of Fair Isle, Belvoir Castle off Buchan Ness, and Mary Bell off Aberdeen. She then went back to her base, arriving at Heligoland on February 16th. In each case the victim was a steam trawler, and each of the skippers

 

MILFORD HAVEN DRIFTERS

 

was taken prisoner. On the day before she got home she was attacked by a couple of British destroyers, whose depth‑charges at once destroyed the submarine's electric light fittings, plunging her into darkness. However, the German had recourse to the usual ruse of discharging oil; and chairs were placed in the after torpedo tube and came to the surface, so that the impression was created that the submarine had been blown up and had gone to the bottom.

 

In the monotony of these wintry days many a man serving in drifter, trawler, steam yacht, Q‑ship, or motor launch must have been led to wonder whether, after all, he was doing as much for his country as the men in the muddy trenches of Flanders. He had patrolled thousands of miles, shot and hauled nets day after day, swept channel and estuary, but in most cases he had never so much as seen a submarine's periscope. Such doubts were groundless. The vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were doing far more ser­vice by keeping the seas than they ever imagined. How often did the presence of the patrol craft cause the enemy to leave a steamship untouched! How often, when lying to those tiresome, kinking nets, did the drifters harass the U‑boat and prevent the enemy from carrying out his orders to be "energetic" and "rapid" and to sink British shipping where traffic converged!

 

One such incident occurred at the southern end of the Irish Sea, where liners and other ships converged from the North Atlantic, the Bay of Biscay, the South Atlantic, and the English Channel, making for Liverpool, or proceeding on their devious ways when outward bound. Since the year 1916 the drifters based on Milford Haven, under the direc­tion of Admiral Dare, had been working their nets across the sea from the Welsh coast right up to the Irish shore. Was all this work of any avail? We now know that it was, for UC.65 at this important focal area was baffled. It was only with the greatest difficulty that she could get through the line of nets, and she reported on returning home that she had been surrounded by net‑drifters. The whole of the area, she guessed quite correctly, from the Smalls to the Tuskar was barred by these little ships, and escape was only possible by submerging to the tremendous depth of 197 feet and going dead slow. The danger to the sub­marine's hull owing to pressure at that depth was not negli­gible. In their various ways, the fishermen, merchantmen, and yachtsmen were taking their full share, in face of great hardship and no mean risks, in keeping the seas open for the Allies.

 

Valuable work was also being carried out by quite a different type of small craft. We have already seen how the necessity of rescue tugs increased owing to the activity of enemy submarines in their campaign against merchant shipping. During February 1917 the better organisation and distribution of these craft became the duty of a special committee at the Admiralty. It was a case of the supply being unequal to the demand. Tugs had to be attached to the Grand Fleet in order to be ready to take charge of vessels injured in a fleet engagement. Obviously such tugs must be available at short notice since it was impossible to foresee when they would be wanted. They could not be spared for any other purpose. Others, again, were needed for transport, for towing stores and ammunition across channel for our armies. Others were engaged, as they had been since the outbreak of war, in the examination service off the entrances of our harbours. The Merchant Navy also needed tugs, otherwise how were big liners to be brought alongside their landing stages and manoeuvred in and out of docks?

 

But none the less the Admiralty required tugs for rescue work if injured merchant vessels were to be got into port, and they had to be hired. They were stationed all round the coast, the three principal stations being Buncrana and Queenstown, in Ireland, and Falmouth, in England. They were armed, provided with smoke‑producing apparatus and depth‑charges, and fitted with wireless. Many of their ratings were secured from the Trawler Reserve and some of these men did so well that in five months they were promoted to second mate, and then to mate. Such men had before the war been skippers of sailing smacks with no experience of steam, but owing to their practical know­ledge of sea‑lore they made excellent officers. It was no easy task to go out into the Atlantic in bad weather, find a sinking liner, get the tow rope connected up, and bring the vessel, possibly with a list to port or starboard or down foreward or aft, through the submarine zone safely into port. Such efforts demanded seamanship, daring, patience, and coolness of the first order. The rescue tug service paid for itself many times over in the value of the

 

WORK OF THE RESCUE TUGS

 

ships and cargoes which were saved. For instance, during the last seven months of 1917 these craft saved 69 ships, which had been torpedoed or mined, and during 1918 the number of salvages was still higher. These vessels, it should be emphasised, were hired tugs, for though new tugs were laid down by the Admiralty in the autumn of 1917, the first of them was not completed until September 1918, and by the date of the armistice only five were ready. There were always fifty per cent of such tugs at sea, and actually strengthening the patrols. As soon as the local senior naval officer received the news that a ship had been torpedoed or mined, he called up the nearest tug by wireless and she altered course and made for the ship's position.

 

It was not only to British or Allied ships that these tugs were rendering service. On February 22nd, eight Dutch ships which had put into Falmouth, came out, bound to the westward. These were the Jacatra, Gaasterland, Noorderdijk, Bandoeng, Eemland, Ambon, Zaandijk and Menado. They had been given a safe‑conduct by the Germans. On the evening of that day a distress wireless call was picked up from the Bandoeng, whereupon three of the rescue tugs from Falmouth, as well as patrol vessels, were at once sent out. What had happened was soon explained. When about twenty‑five miles west of the Bishop's Rock, Scillies, the ships were attacked by a Ger­man submarine, with the result that every one of the eight vessels was abandoned by her crew. Afterwards the tugs and patrol vessels came up. The distressed Dutchmen, to the number of about two hundred, were picked up and taken into Penzance and the Scillies. Six of the ships sank, but the Ambon and Menado were salved.

 

The immediate result was that Dutch steamers sought refuge in Falmouth harbour, and during the week ending March 3rd there were as many as twenty‑four of them lying at anchor up the Fal, causing great congestion and inconvenience. This attack, so unexpected and successful, had been carried out by Lieutenant‑Commander Hersing of the U.21, the submarine which had left Germany in April 1915, had reached Cattaro in May, and then had begun to operate in the Aegean and Mediterranean. The U.21 was on her return voyage to Germany, when the Dutch convoy offered a most tempting target. She reached Wilhelmshaven on March 3rd. It was stated later that Hersing was unaware of the fact that his country had granted a safe­conduct to the Dutch ships, and, after long negotiations, Germany agreed to compensate Holland by transferring to her, under certain conditions, six German steamers then lying in ports of the Dutch East Indies.

 

Meanwhile, in the Harwich area the minesweepers and patrol vessels were having a busy and anxious time; for the safety of the Harwich Force, under Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, as it came in and out of harbour, depended largely on them. Submarines were operating in these waters very persistently, and therefore, in order to make the navigational conditions less easy for them, it was decided to shift one or two of the lightships.

 

Other measures taken at this time included the laying of boom defences in additional harbours so that merchant shipping might lie safely at anchor before putting to sea under cover of darkness. The trawlers which had laid and maintained the Yukanski boom in Lapland in 1916 were now thousands of miles away, preparing a boom off Sierra Leone, an illustration of the wide range which these little vessels covered in the performance of their war duties. Simultaneously the defensive equipment of merchant ships was being extended and improved.

 

Thus, so far as was possible with the human and material means at their disposal, the Admiralty were doing their best to combat the new developments of the submarine warfare. The situation was an embarrassing one. It was difficult to get material, inasmuch as private firms were already fully occupied in supplying the armies overseas. Nor was it easy to obtain an adequate supply of men for the Auxiliary Patrol, for they were required everywhere, both ashore and afloat.

 

As a result of the raid on the Dover Straits of Oc­tober 26th, 1916, the Dover Patrol had been gradually strengthened by vessels detached from the Grand Fleet flotillas and by destroyers borrowed from the Harwich Force. As to the drifters whose duty it was to look after the barrage, these craft were withdrawn at night and their places taken by four or five destroyers who carried out a careful patrol. But the Ramsgate armed drifters and a torpedo boat still watched the northern approach to the Downs.

 

RAID ON DOVER STRAITS

 

The night of February 25th, 1917, was fine though over­cast, and the moon was obscured by clouds. The enemy took advantage of the conditions to make another raid on the Dover Straits, though it did not achieve very much. At 10.30 p.m. the destroyer Laverock became engaged with enemy destroyers three and a half miles to the south­west of the barrage. Shortly afterwards the enemy altered course to the north and retired across the barrage. At 11.10 p.m. there was a second attack, much farther to the north; the Ramsgate armed drifters, who were spread on the line North Foreland‑North Goodwin Lightship, being taken by surprise. The nearest inshore drifter of this squadron was the John Lincoln. She observed three de­stroyers half a mile to seaward, steering in a northerly direction along the coast. Immediately they opened fire, directing their guns towards the land; some shells fell in the vicinity of the North Foreland and others in and near Margate, in which town a woman and two children were killed. The John Lincoln. fired a green rocket, which was the signal to indicate that an attack by surface craft was being made. Before response could be made to the signal, the enemy disappeared to the eastward.

 

During the month of March 3,586 tons of British fishing craft were destroyed. At this period fishing trawlers were being armed and despatched to their Iceland fisheries and elsewhere, keeping together for mutual support. The off­shore fishermen, such as those operating from Newlyn and St. Ives, were protected by armed drifters. How necessary this precaution was the events of March 11th and 12th revealed, for while fishing from ten to twenty‑five miles off Trevose, Cornwall, eleven smacks were sunk by the enemy.

 

The strain of the intensified submarine warfare was telling severely on vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol. Senior officers all round the coast were complaining that with the demands for more escorts, more minesweeping, and more adequate protection of fishing craft, it was not possible to carry on an efficient patrol. The little ships were wanted everywhere and for all sorts of tasks. Then there was the sailor's eternal enemy to contend with ‑ bad weather. In a gale of wind there are few places round the British coast less "healthy" for small craft than the Yorkshire coast with its dearth of suitable harbours. On March 4th, 1917, the French tug Robur was coming along this coast with the three‑masted schooner Cognac in tow. The Robur sprang a leak and was soon in such a sad plight that she had to cast off the tow, leaving the Cognac to anchor two miles off Scarborough, while she herself made off to the northward. The net drifter Rodney II, in command of Skipper James Dougal, R.N.R., fortunately came along, stood by the Robur, and escorted her to a position two miles east of Hartlepool where the Robur let go her anchor. The weather was very bad ‑ an onshore gale of wind blowing. The con­ditions were such that the local lifeboat could not get out, and the destroyer Quail, which was proceeding north to render assistance to the distressed tug, was unable to get past Whitby and had to return. However, the gallant little Rodney II, her crew displaying splendid seamanship, succeeded in going alongside and taking off the Robur's crew.

 

Meanwhile the Cognac, anchored farther down the coast two miles off Scarborough, was in a miserable plight. Early on the morning of March 5th, the armed trawler Dentaria received a wireless signal ordering her to go to the assistance of the Cognac. Proceeding at full speed, Lieutenant Charles Wood, R.N.R., took the Dentaria crashing through the gale, and at 12.45 p.m. found the schooner with seas breaking over her and gradually dragging towards the beach. Off such a coast in such conditions of wind and sea, the chances of anything afloat surviving seemed small. The wind was south‑east, force 7 to 8. After many attempts the Dentaria succeeded shortly after 2 p.m. in passing the Cognac a tow line by means of a rocket and a small line. The schooner now started to heave up her anchors, but her master reported that in so doing the windlass had become damaged beyond repair and that the vessel was leaking, with her pumps broken down. A quarter of an hour afterwards, owing to the heavy seas and the swell, the tow line which had been got aboard with such difficulty was carried away. Things were going from bad to worse and by the late afternoon, since wind and seas were increasing, Lieutenant Wood signalled to the Cognac asking whether, as it was useless to attempt again to take her in tow, the master wished to abandon ship. The Cognac signalled in the affirmative, and then there followed a fine example of sound seamanship.

 

RESCUE WORK BY ARMED TRAWLERS

 

Lieutenant Wood had been joined by the armed trawler Viola (Skipper Charles Allum, R.N.R.), whom he sent to steam ahead of the Cognac with oil bags out. This, of course, reduced the sea and enabled the Dentaria to approach the schooner and take off the crew. Only one man was washed overboard, but he was picked up. By five o'clock all were safe on board the Dentaria.

 

Seamen who know anything of the conditions which prevail at times off the Yorkshire coast will appreciate the difficulties which beset the Dentaria; the least error of judgment would have been disastrous. By the time the rescue had been completed in this comparatively shallow water near to the shore, it was blowing a fresh to strong gale with heavy seas and snow squalls. During the night both trawlers remained cruising near the schooner, hoping to be able to take her in tow as soon as the weather moder­ated. But with the dawn it was seen that the schooner was much deeper in the water; she looked a sorry sight as the gale swept the seas over her. All that afternoon, the trawlers remained standing by. As darkness fell, the weather, instead of improving, settled down to a full gale which raised a very dangerous sea. The two trawlers were therefore compelled to stand well out from the land so as to obtain a truer sea, and they were presently joined by the armed trawler Stronsay.

 

So passed another trying night, and then next morning the Dentaria's wireless recorded the fact that the Cognac had been driven ashore. The three trawlers were then able to make for the Tyne. Drifters and trawlers alike, fishermen and merchant sea­men, had distinguished themselves during that easterly gale. In weather that was too bad for destroyer or life­boat, these auxiliary craft had fought and prevailed and saved every man. "I consider," wrote the Tyne Senior Naval Officer in his report to the Admiralty, "that Lieu­tenant Charles Wood, R.N.R., as is usual with him, displayed the most consummate seamanship on this occasion, the position of the Cognac on a lee shore in the gale being most desperate." The gallantry of Skipper Allum was accentuated by the fact that the Viola's steering gear had broken down. Although he was offered permission to run for shelter, he succeeded in making temporary repairs while lying‑to, and continued to assist the Dentaria.

 

We have referred already to East Coast smacks being armed to fight submarines. The unrestricted phase of the campaign compelled this decoy idea to be employed else­where round our coasts. Thus a motor‑ketch called the Sarah Colebrooke, belonging to the ancient port of Rye, was taken into service, and having been sent round to Portsmouth to be fitted, cruised about the English Channel for some months. On June 3rd, when twenty miles S. by W. of Beachy Head, she had a fierce engagement with a submarine. Some of the Plymouth and Brixham smacks were similarly armed, and even fitted with motors. Off the north‑east Scottish coast steam trawlers, suitably armed and disguised, continued to go out with the fishing fleets, shoot their trawls, and carry on just like other trawlers; then, when a submarine appeared, they would cut away the fishing gear and attack the enemy.

 

Before the spring was over, there came more raids in the Dover Straits. Since that of February 25th, the disposition of the Dover forces by night had continued unchanged. On the night of March 17th‑18th, the moon was in its last quarter and above the horizon only in the early morning. The weather was calm and clear. The northern ap­proach to the Downs was being watched by six armed drifters, spread between the Broadstairs Knoll Buoy and North Sand Head, supported by the torpedo boat No. 4, cruising to the southward. Two days previously the steamship Greypoint, bound to the north, had been forced by an engine‑room breakdown to anchor about a mile east of the Broadstairs Knoll Buoy. At 12.35 a.m. on March 18th the drifter Paramount sighted three or four enemy destroyers approaching from the north‑east, passing close to the eastward of the Greypoint. The drifter fired the usual warning green rocket, and the enemy replied by shelling the drifters and torpedoing the Greypoint. After that the enemy went on for a mile or so to the south‑west, then turned round, and came back on a north‑easterly course. On this return journey, the Germans continued to fire on the drifters, as well as at the sinking Greypoint; they also bombarded both Ramsgate and Broadstairs. The drifter Redwald was seriously damaged and had to be beached. The entire crew of the Greypoint were rescued by the armed drifter R.R.S. The Redwald had received five hits, which caused two boxes of shells to explode, seriously wounding the skipper and trimmer, as well as injuring

 

FURTHER RAIDS ON DOVER STRAITS

 

six other members of the crew. After being beached, she was successfully refloated and brought into Ramsgate. Torpedo boat No. 4 had sighted the enemy near the Gull Lightship and at once proceeded towards the firing at a speed of 15 knots; but she was outdistanced by the German destroyers‑another illustration of the value of speed.

 

At 10.50 p.m. on this night the destroyer Paragon, while patrolling the barrage with three other destroyers, was torpedoed and shelled heavily at close range. She replied, but presently broke in two and sank: no officers and only ten men were saved. The destroyers Laforey and Llewellyn came up, but the Llewellyn was also torpedoed, though eventually she was able to steam stern first into Dover. From Dover, too, were sent six motor launches. M.L.241 was able to rescue eight survivors from the Paragon, and five bodies were picked up by M.L.s 274 and 280. Thus once again came proof that the Dover barrage was not secure against surface raids, and it was decided to mount some guns on the North Foreland.

 

On March 29th at nine in the morning two German seaplanes crossed the barrage, evidently having a good look at the position of the nets and buoys for the information of their submarines. On the same day, in the early hours, a raid off Lowestoft by German naval forces caused the loss of the British steamship Mascota, seven of her crew being taken prisoners. A few weeks followed and then came another raid in the Dover area on the night of April 20th‑21st in favourable conditions. Since the raid of March 17th‑18th, the patrol system for guarding against night attacks had been entirely altered. Two flotilla leaders patrolled the south‑eastern side, while there were reserve ships in Dover. The shore batteries at Foreness and North Foreland had been completed. The enemy's object on this occasion was to bombard Dover and make a demonstration off Calais.

 

At 7 p.m. on April 20th, twelve of his destroyers left Zeebrugge at 15 knots for the Dover Straits in two de­tachments; the western force of six destroyers made the Dover barrage about 10.30 p.m., passed the western barrage patrol unsighted, and at 11.30 p.m. shelled Dover whilst heading north‑east. They then encountered the armed trawler Sabreur (Skipper Robert Scott, R.N.R.) off Dover. The Sabreur was on patrol and the first intimation that the skipper had of the enemy was when they fired on him. About forty shells were discharged, the first bursting in front of the wheelhouse. At this time the Sabreur was heading north‑west and the enemy north‑east, the trawler's port side being fired into from a range of half a mile. The trawler, therefore, quickened her speed, starboarded her helm, made for the westward for a while, and then, as she needed medical aid, turned for Dover. She had received a direct hit on the fore‑end of the engine‑room easing; a shell had burst in the stokehold, damaging bulkheads and bunkers, but otherwise, surprising to relate, no harm had been done to hull or boiler or engines, and only a trimmer on duty in the stokehold had been injured. On deck only the wheelhouse window, the foremost winch, and the rigging had been damaged. The Sabreur had been unable to return the enemy's fire without unduly exposing herself, for the gun would not bear unless the enemy had been brought nearly abeam. Deeming it better to avoid action with so superior a force, the skipper extinguished his lights and made off. These auxiliary patrol craft were in the Straits as anti‑submarine craft; it was not expected that they should, on terms of hopeless inequality, fight a division of destroyers, with thrice the speed and overwhelmingly superior gun power.

 

For the rest, this raid is the story of an historic naval en­gagement in which the Broke (Commander E. R. G. R. Evans) and Swift (Commander A. M. Peck) distinguished themselves, fighting the enemy with conspicuous gallantry, but the event concerned the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol no further. Two more raids occurred within the next few days, when ports were bombarded in which Auxiliary Patrol vessels were resting. The first was on the night of April 25th‑26th, when German destroyers bombarded Dunkirk, followed the next night by a similar raid on Ramsgate.

 

By this time the submarine campaign had reached its greatest intensity, for in April more tonnage was sunk than in any month during the course of the war. Shipping was sunk in the English Channel, in the Bay of Biscay, in the South‑West approaches, in the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, in the North Sea, in the Irish Sea, and off

 

GALLANTRY OF THE "GAUL"

 

the South of Ireland. From the positions where the attacks were made, it was evident that the enemy was making a dead‑set on the trans‑Atlantic trade right away from the seaward limits of the Auxiliary Patrol vessels. In addition to this, cases occurred where the submarines, watching for a favourable opportunity when the patrol had passed round a headland escorting a valuable steamer, would waylay the next oncoming vessel and torpedo her right under the land. Then would come wireless calls, the abandonment of the steamer, the arrival of patrol craft from all points of the compass, the disappearance of the submarine, and the slow towing into port of the sink­ing steamer surrounded by small armed craft of every discription.

 

The enemy were taking great pains at this period to secure accurate information as to the movements of British shipping, and even employed submarines for this sole purpose. On such scouting cruises, the U‑boats were strictly forbidden to attack any vessels. U.49, for instance, made a couple of such trips to the English coast during April, and by means of her wireless kept the staff at the base informed of all that was observed. The reason for adopting this policy was that the convoy system of pro­tecting shipping was coming into use in the North Sea.

 

Meanwhile, the Admiralty were making progress in perfecting every device which promised good results. Directional hydrophones were being distributed to auxi­liary patrol bases, and even gramophones, with records of various types of engine and propeller noises, were sent to the bases and proved of the highest value in the pre­liminary training of ratings.

 

The enemy attack on the fishing fleet at this stage in the war was very intense. On the morning of April 24th, the Grimsby fishing fleet was at work in a position about ten miles N.E. by N. of the Spurn, under the escort of the two armed trawlers, the Gaul (Skipper J. Kime, R.N.R.) and the Margate, when a submarine with two guns was sighted four miles to the south‑west of the Gaul. The enemy immediately opened fire on the fishing trawler Mayfly. The Gaul steamed full speed towards the enemy, engaged her, and wirelessed an S.O.S. signal. For half an hour a keen action ensued, during which the Gaul fired seventeen rounds and was hit by the enemy five times. The Gaul's gun was hit and one of the gun's crew was killed and another wounded. The skipper, the second engineman and trimmer were also killed, and the signalman was wounded. The wireless was shot down and it was found that the forepart of the ship was filling with water. At the actual moment when the Gaul's gun was put out of action, the armed trawler Margate was able to intervene, engaging the enemy at close range. Conditions favoured the submarine, and the Margate, after maintaining the action for an hour and a half, sank, taking down with her one officer and eleven men. But this was not by any means the complete record of loss. Four of the fishing trawlers had been set on fire. The Gaul endeavoured to launch her boat, but just as it reached the gunwale it was blown to pieces. A fog then came on, hiding from sight the trawlers and the submarine. The Gaul herself was in a bad way, but by continuous baling on the part of the four hands from midday to half‑past seven in the evening, the water was kept under and the vessel managed to reach port.

 

 

 

The Auxiliary Patrol: Drifters and Trawlers in Dover Harbour

 

This tragic incident illustrated how heavy was the responsibility of protecting the fishing fleets. By the beginning of May, off the Tyne coast, the situation became embarrassing. The claims of the fishing industry had to be carefully weighed against those of the coastal convoys. Trawlers in that area of the Auxiliary Patrol were now employed almost entirely in escorting these convoys. Drifters had, therefore, to be used to protect the fishing trawlers and the herring drifters, besides carrying out the local coast patrols. As a rule fifty or sixty drifters of the herring fleet were out at once, the fishing position being changed nightly. Of the four or five armed drifters looking after these craft, one would have wireless, the Tyne being about forty miles from their fishing grounds. For patrolling off these north‑east coast ports during the night so as to prevent enemy minelaying, M.L.s were on duty. On the other hand, much farther along the coast M.L.s were employed during the spring and summer laying mines to cover the seaward entrance of the southern half of the Thames estuary against submarines. They succeeded in laying nearly a thousand mines, and carried out the task with scarcely a hitch.

 

The armed yachts, in spite of their inevitable drawbacks,

 

THE ARMED YACHTS

 

were still on patrol and escort work. Several, after three winters at sea, had become badly strained and damaged. It had been necessary to pay off some of them, while others had been lost by mine or collision, or submarine, or through stranding. But the bigger and more seaworthy yachts were still keeping the seas and proving most useful units. Evidence was supplied time and again of their deterrent effect on the enemy. One instance may be cited. In the late afternoon of April 12th the armed yacht Rovenska, based on Falmouth, sighted the steamship Borderer, about fifteen miles south‑west of Scilly flying a red flag. The Rovenska at once proceeded towards her and learned that a submarine had come up alongside the ship showing four feet of periscope, but had dived on seeing the yacht approach. The Rovenska remained with the Borderer as escort, and in the opinion of the merchant captain his steamer was saved from almost certain de­struction.

 

By this time the activities of the Auxiliary Patrol were being supplemented by the first experimental convoys. Was the enemy experiencing the effect of this improve­ment in the varied measures adopted by the Admiralty to defend merchant shipping? There is no shadow of doubt that the German submarines were being hard pressed. The captain of UC.77, in reporting to German headquarters, summed up the situation as it affected the U‑boat thus: "The principle of effective anti‑submarine methods has therefore been grasped by the British, and hampers our operations in the same way as the centralisa­tion of ocean‑going shipping has done": and he went on to refer, sadly, to "the numerous trawler groups, yachts, and submarine‑chasers" which the British were now employing as escorts. The naval authorities, with better supplies of guns, mines, depth‑charges, bomb howitzers, and other offensive and defensive material at their com­mand, were getting to grips with the problem. We can picture, in the light of later knowledge, the chagrin with which captains of submarines found their freedom of action increasingly circumscribed and their craft, as well as their own lives, exposed to new perils as the summer of 1917 advanced. Such a vessel could hardly get outside her base before she encountered the lines of British mine­fields which had been laid so thickly by this period.

 

Across his track would lie a patrol of British submarines; then a well‑organised force of destroyers, yachts, trawlers, drifters, M.L.s, and aircraft would await her. On the trade routes, enemy submarines were also being harassed by innocent‑looking Q‑ships or by escorts of convoys. At likely positions where enemy craft might hope to rest on the bottom, or off landmarks where the skippers might want to get a navigational "fix," British mines or mine­nets were in position. When the U‑boat was threading her way through the sandy channels of the East Anglian coast, dummy lighthouses caused her to lose her bearings. Permanent hydrophones, laid down several miles from the shore and connected up to listening stations on land, gave her presence away and hunting flotillas kept her on the move, dropping depth‑charges at every favourable opportunity.

 

The United States had entered the war early in the year, and on April 9th Admiral Sims had arrived in England. The first division of United States destroyers had reached Queenstown on May 4th, and at once began to patrol. On June 26th the first U.S.A. troops landed direct from North America in France. The move­ment of the transports inevitably tempted the enemy to concentrate submarines on the western approaches. It was essential that Germany should do everything in her power to sink any ship whose men or cargoes would prove of assistance to the hard‑pressed Allied armies. The submarine commanders well knew that if the attack were made within a few miles of the Irish coast, destroyers, Q‑ships, and Auxiliary Patrol craft would be quickly on the spot, and in any case the torpedoed steamship would probably limp into port. Therefore, by the third week in June the U‑boats were venturing out into the Atlantic to an unprecedented distance and sinking ships as far out as four hundred miles from the nearest land.

 

In the meantime, minelaying U‑boats continued to operate, and as their work took them close to the land they frequently encountered British trawlers, fishing or patrolling. Having laid their mines, these craft were usually ready to fight. At midnight on June 3rd‑4th, when five miles east of Girdleness, the Grimsby steam trawler Virgilia (Skipper Alfred Rawlings) was coming home with a full catch of fish from the Faeroes, when

 

PLIGHT OF "UC77" AND "UC66

 

UC.77 rose to the surface, capturing her and then sinking her by bombs. The skipper, of course, was taken prisoner and the crew were left in the dinghy, but only after the Germans had thrown the dinghy's mast and sail into the sea. However, a motor launch came on the scene a few hours later and picked the men up. On the following night this submarine was off Hartlepool and attacked a vessel by gunfire. Unfortunately for the Germans this turned out to be a patrol vessel with good guns and even better gunners, whose first shots caused damage to the enemy craft. The captain only just escaped having his head blown off by a shell which passed over him, and several of the gun's crew came rushing aft with their hands and faces covered with blood as visible evidence of the injuries they had received. The captain of the submarine thought it discreet to dive, but a depth‑charge exploded by her stern at this moment and shook her so violently that every German on board believed his end had come. Then followed a second depth‑charge, which struck one of the oil tanks and burst it, with the result that fifteen tons of oil were lost. A third charge burst just ahead. A few minutes later, the craft fouled some nets, but, by going ahead and astern, she managed to get clear.

 

Similarly off the Devon and Cornish coasts the war was being waged relentlessly by the enemy against these sturdy fishermen who were still "carrying on." On the afternoon of June 8th, off the Start, four fishing smacks were captured and sunk. There was a special‑service armed smack with them, but unfortunately there was no wind and having no motor, she was forced to remain an unwilling spectator. The submarine ceased her destructive operations only when she saw the approach of a destroyer. (It was as a result of this incident that one of the special‑service smacks was this month fitted with a paraffin motor.) Four days later, at 10.30 a.m., the armed trawler Sea King, fitted with a hydrophone, was off the Lizard when she saw UC.66 only four hundred yards away. The trawler at once headed for the enemy, but the sub­marine submerged. The Sea King was commanded by Commander Godfrey Herbert, RN, himself a sub­marine officer who had had exceptional war experience and success in command of anti‑submarine craft. His second‑in‑command, Lieutenant E. W. Buchanan, R.N., had served for a long time in destroyers. No sooner had the enemy submerged than Commander Herbert placed his trawler in exactly the correct spot, let go a depth­charge, and was encouraged by hearing a series of heavy explosions. The depth‑charge had hit the submarine, and her cargo of mines were going off one by one. A considerable amount of oil came to the surface a few minutes later. The remainder of the flotilla also dropped their depth‑charges and then all vessels listened on their hydro­phones. Not a sound was heard. The enemy had been silenced. The steel hull of UC.66, lying on the bed of the English Channel, had become the coffin of thirty or more German sailors.

 

In this same week four of the cross‑Channel barrage buoys were damaged by the machine‑gun fire of enemy seaplanes. But there were twenty drifters as well as M.L.s patrolling the barrage and they managed to shoot down a couple of the seaplanes. The persistent attention of the aircraft suggested that by this means the enemy were trying to facilitate the passage of the barrage by his submarines. A shortage was now being felt in the supply of German submarine officers of the same high efficiency as many of those who had distinguished them­selves in the early days of the war. Neither captains nor crews were quite up to "standard pattern," and men who were serving at sea in the British patrols were struck by the unseamanlike behaviour of many of the German sub­marine commanders. They were evidently losing their nerve under the terrible ordeal to which they were being sub­jected. Those who got back home told their harrowing tales of the capabilities of depth‑charges and the alertness of the British patrol craft.

 

Day by day their hope of victory as a result of the intensive submarine campaign was receding. It was not checking the movement of troops from the United States to Europe and since April the amount of merchant shipping sunk had shown signs of a decrease. The smoke‑boxes which were being used as screens against submarines made the enemy's operations more difficult. By reason of the increase in the number of craft, many of them supplied with hydrophones, guns, and howitzers, the patrol system off our shores was now more efficient than it had ever been, and the improved training of the crews was not

 

U‑BOAT OCEAN RAIDERS

 

without its influence. In July the tide of fortune was beginning to turn decisively, and as a result submarines were operating still farther out into the Atlantic, ships being now attacked as far as 800 miles west of Finisterre.

 

The number of enemy submarines in commission had, however, increased, and the design of the newer boats of the larger size revealed a much heavier displacement. A good many of these craft were for all practical purposes small ocean‑going raiders with the supreme advantage over raiding cruisers that they were able to submerge. This constituted a new menace to merchant shipping, in that it extended the limits of the submarine zone.

 

The new development pointed to no easing of the situation as it affected the Auxiliary Patrol. On July 7th, at half‑past three in the morning, whilst the Scandinavian convoy was proceeding from Lerwick towards Holmengraa, a submarine was seen ahead of the yacht Amalthaea. The yacht fired on the enemy and the destroyer Arab dropped depth‑charges, whilst the whaler Pilot Whale, acting as convoy leader, also attacked with gunfire, whereupon the submarine submerged. An idea of the extent to which ocean‑borne commerce was being protected at this time may be gathered from the following figures. On July 11th a census was taken of all the Auxiliary Patrol vessels, and it was found that these consisted of yachts, trawlers, whalers, paddlers, drifters, smacks, and motor launches, employed either on patrol or minesweeping, to the number of 2,246. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the work of these vessels by forcing the enemy to adopt, to his own ultimate undoing, new expedients in the hope of snatching victory from the hands of destiny.

 

Meanwhile, the necessity had arisen for the employment of large numbers of Auxiliary Patrol craft off the Belgian coast. The history of the barrage inaugurated off that shore by Admiral Bacon has already been traced. During the winter it proved impossible to maintain it, but by the middle of July 1917 it was decided to reinstate it. The Admiral had an increased number of destroyers mounting 4‑inch guns at his disposal, and the enemy was showing so much activity with his destroyers at Ostend and Zee­brugge that energetic action was necessary. Moreover, the Flanders submarine minelayers were exceedingly busy. The operation which it was determined to undertake was to lay both deep mines and mine‑nets off the Belgian coast, so as to deprive the enemy destroyers and submarines of the free use of these waters. This was no slight task, as it was important that the nets should be laid without previous warning and with the utmost despatch. To lay the entire line at once was impossible, and it was considered advisable to deal first with those portions that were most likely to be attacked during the operation. The whole force, numbering 102 vessels, was to be collected as nearly at dark as the state of tide permitted, and then the laying was to commence.

 

There were thus two parts of the operations ‑ the laying of the mines and the laying of the nets. The forces employed by Admiral Bacon consisted of monitors, a light cruiser, a former cross‑Channel mail steamer converted into a minelayer, flotilla leaders, destroyers, seven paddle minesweepers, drifters, M.L.s and P‑boats. The monitors, paddlers, drifters, minesweepers, destroyers, M.L.s and P‑boats assembled at Dunkirk on July 24th, and left in the following order. At 9.40 p.m. came the destroyers escorting the drifters. These drifters laid a line of thirty­two dan buoys which would act as marks for the net­drifters, who would come after. At 10.45 p.m. came another division of destroyers escorting the paddle mine­sweepers and the net‑drifters. The paddlers swept ahead and the P‑boats assisted in making sure of the distance between the buoys; at 1 a.m. (July 25th) came the monitors and M.L.s, and two hours later the light cruiser whose duty it was to supervise the destroyers. The minelayer proceeded straight from the Downs, arrived at the western end of her line at 4.30 a.m., and then laid 120 deep mines in the required position. The net‑drifters placed their nets in position along a line of fifteen miles in an hour and a half, and on July 28th they prolonged this line still farther. The monitors, protected by the M.L.s, who made smoke screens, bombarded Ostend in the meantime, and then the whole operation was carried out according to plan. The enemy destroyers attacked the drifters and their British destroyer support at long range, but the fire was returned energetically.

 

The work of barrage laying was not merely an under­taking demanding a good deal of technical skill, but a most anxious task. The best speed of a drifter with

 

BELGIAN COAST BARRAGE

 

engines recently overhauled and clean bottom was about 9 knots. Most of these units used in the war were built of wood, and in any case they were unsuited to fight against enemy destroyers. Admiral Bacon, who was present in the destroyer Broke, realised that if the drifters were unscreened, not only would it mean a heavy loss in little ships and brave men, but the nets would not be laid and the whole purpose of the operation would be defeated. But, instead of showing initiative, the enemy destroyers pursued the same tactics as on April 24th, 1916, remaining under the shelter of their batteries and firing on our destroyers at long range. The whole operation was regarded by the Admiralty as having been organised and carried out very satisfactorily.

 

Then came the duty of maintaining a patrol of this twenty‑mile barrage for the double purpose of preventing the enemy doing systematic damage to it, and keeping the gear in an efficient condition. The enemy, indeed, wasted no time in interfering with the new barrage. By July 28th he had begun, and by August 5th he had evidently been hauling at it by means of a grapnel, for one was found in the net, both batteries and mine‑cases having been destroyed. Further interferences took place on later dates, and German seaplanes were probably responsible for sinking part of the barrage, cutting the wires and so on. The reinstitution of this barrage had been undertaken partly with a view to assisting what was spoken of in inner naval circles as "the Great Landing" of our Army on the Belgian coast. Owing to various reasons this plan was never carried out, but the patrol was maintained, necessitating the employment of over 6,000 naval officers and men. The intention was to land an army of 13,750 between Westende and Middelkerke. The operation was continually postponed and finally abandoned on October 15th.

 

An interesting commentary on these operations was provided by the minelaying submarine UC.61. At 1 p.m. on July 25th, the very day that the British ships to the number of 102 were off the Belgian coast, this submarine had left Zeebrugge on her way to Boulogne and Havre, where she was to lay her mines, thence proceeding to the Atlantic, where she was to shell or torpedo any merchant shipping encountered. She was able to get through the cross‑Channel barrage during the same night, and shaped a course along the coast between Gravelines and Cape Blanc Nez. The weather became thick and evidently she had not allowed for the set of the strong tide, so between Blanc Nez and Gris Nez she stranded on the shoal off the village of Wissant at 4.20 on the following morning. After being abandoned she was blown up. It was not the first time that she had negotiated this barrage. Usually she had passed between the last buoy of the barrage and the Snou shoal, thus rounding the barrage without going either below or above it. She had done this five times. Almost three years of the war had passed and still we had not been able to bar the Dover Straits to the enemy. On examining this submarine it was found that she was fitted with a hydrophone, and thus she could hear the approach of our patrols.

 

Such operations as were occurring at sea at this period frequently enforced the same lesson ‑ i.e., the interdepen­dence of the various naval forces. An incident which occurred on the night of August 8th‑9th illustrated this truth. It was five minutes within midnight, and the armed trawler Taranaki was returning from the Tyne to Granton, escorting a merchant ship. Suddenly the trawler observed a patch of white foam close to her starboard bow, and immediately afterwards struck a submerged object with considerable force. The trawler promptly stopped her engines and then they had to be used for several minutes to get the ship clear of the obstruction. There was no question of a shoal, for a cast of the lead gave 35 fathoms. A Court of Inquiry was afterwards held, and the evidence went to show that the Taranaki had struck a submarine. A few days later came the news by way of Amsterdam that a German submarine of the largest and most modern type had been towed into Zeebrugge by a couple of torpedo‑boats. The submarine had been rammed in the North Sea, and had been severely damaged, losing three or four of her men. It was not absolutely certain that the Taranaki was responsible for a German submarine being prevented from operating, but it is highly probable that such was the case. Small unexpected incidents came as a continual reminder of the interaction of events. In saving a merchant ship, the

 

SKIPPER T. CRISP AWARDED V.C.

 

Taranaki incidentally put a submarine out of action, unless all the evidence was to be disregarded.

 

More than once a Lowestoft armed smack thought she had sunk a submarine when in fact the enemy had escaped. These disguised sailing craft did, nevertheless, often suc­ceed in destroying German submarines. Of their glorious fights, perhaps the most remarkable is that which occurred on August 15th, 1917. We have cited case after case of the gallantry of fishermen, turned fighters; we have seen them behaving in the most magnificent way in face of the enemy, displaying enterprise, and pursuing their course despite heavy odds. Now we come to the story of one of these men who added distinction to our naval annals. Skipper T. Crisp, R.N.R., was in command of the disguised armed smack Nelson. She was operating off the East Anglian coast, pretending to trawl, but was acting as bait for submarines. At 2.45 p.m. the trawl had been shot, and the Nelson was on the port tack. The skipper himself was below packing fish, while one of the hands was on deck cleaning fish for next morning's breakfast. When Skipper Crisp came on deck a few minutes later, he noticed something on the horizon, examined it, and then sent for his glasses. Almost directly he sang out an order ‑ "Clear for action ‑ submarine." He had scarcely spoken when a shot fell about a hundred yards away on the port bow. In the meantime the motorman had gone to his duty, the deck hand had dropped his fish and was in the ammunition room, and the gunlayer was standing by his 13‑pounder, whilst the other hands, at the word from the skipper, had let go the trawl warp and buoyed it with a dan.

 

Shell after shell was now coming rapidly from the submarine, and it was about the fourth shell which went through the Nelson's port bow just below the waterline. The skipper now put her about on the other tack, and then came three more shells, of which the last struck Crisp, did not explode, but passed through his side, through the ship, and out through the side of the ship. There was no confusion among these hardy fisher­men, but the second hand, T. W. Crisp, the skipper's son, took charge of the tiller. Shells were still being fired at the smack, water was pouring in through the holes and the ship was evidently sinking. One of the crew went to render first aid to the skipper, who was obviously mortally wounded. "It's all right, boy," he said, "do your best." Thus he encouraged his men. Then, speaking to his son, he ordered him to send off a message. He dictated the following: "Nelson being attacked by submarine. Skipper killed. Send assistance at once." This was to be sent by carrier pigeon, which was kept on board these craft as means of communication.

 

The ship was sinking fast ‑ the skipper himself was dying. Only five rounds were now left of the am­munition, and it was time to leave the Nelson. The younger Crisp went to his father, lying stretched out along the deck, and heard him say, "Abandon ship. Throw the books overboard." He was asked if they should lift him into the boat, but this intrepid man, who to the last thought only of his ship, his men, his confidential books, and his duty, merely answered, "Tom, I'm done. Throw me overboard." He was in too bad a condition to be moved, so they left him on his deck, took the small boat, and rowed away. In about a quarter of an hour the Nelson went down just as the light of day was ending. In this wise the career of Skipper Crisp closed, and he was received into the bosom of the sea in a manner befitting a Viking, a great admiral, or an Elizabethan pioneer. He was awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross, and his son, T. W. Crisp, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, came up to Buckingham Palace to receive the two decorations from the King.

 

The rest of the story is quickly told. During the night the Nelson's survivors rowed about. Towards the morning the wind freshened and blew them out of their course. All that day they pulled at the oars, having fastened a pair of trousers and a large piece of oilskin to two oars so as to attract attention. Once a vessel was sighted and once a group of minesweepers, but they failed to notice the men in distress and passed out of sight. During the second night the weather became finer, and they went on pulling until the next daybreak. At 10.30 a.m. they found a buoy, made fast to it, and by the afternoon a ship came along and they were rescued.

 

After sinking the Nelson the submarine attacked and sank the Lowestoft armed smack Ethel and Millie in the same locality. She had nothing more than a 6‑pounder,

 

WORK OF UNARMED TRAWLERS

 

and was more completely outranged by the enemy's 4.1‑inch gun than even the Nelson. When the Ethel and Millie had used up all her ammunition, her crew aban­doned ship. When last seen by the Nelson's crew they were ranged up on the deck of the submarine, which was heading east.

 

Three days later came another disaster to the Auxiliary Patrol force. The place was forty miles east of the Shet­lands, and a submarine was sighted and attacked by both the armed trawlers Benjamin Stevenson and Elise. The first trawler fired five rounds and the submarine replied with seven. The Elise fired fourteen rounds, and the submarine about fifteen. The engagement lasted only half an hour. The enemy then disappeared, and both trawlers went in pursuit. She was sighted by the Benjamin Stevenson a little later, but she disappeared again. The Benjamin Stevenson had been holed and began to leak badly. The Elise was undamaged except for two slight dents on the starboard bow and the severing of a link in the anchor cable by shell splinter. Both trawlers set a course for Bard Head. Half an hour later, the Benjamin Stevenson had to be abandoned as she was in a bad way. The Elise having picked up the crew took her in tow from 1.30 p.m. to 5 p.m., when she foundered. The enemy had displayed the same tactics as when he sank the Nelson. Being better armed, the submarine kept out of range of the fishing vessel, and so had little to fear, for the Benjamin Stevenson had only a 12‑pounder and the Elise a 6‑pounder. Nine days afterwards the Elise was again engaging a submarine forty‑five miles S.E. by E. from Bard Head. In this fashion did these undaunted fishermen in trawlers with improvised defences maintain their struggle against the enemy.

 

Unarmed fishing trawlers engaged in their ordinary peaceful occupation were also helping the common cause. It has been already explained that minefields were dis­covered by them; ships as well as lives were thus saved. Their vigilance was fruitful in quite another way. During the night of August 30th‑31st, an old ship's boat, used for fishing, had mysteriously disappeared from the beach at Druridge Bay (Tyne area). At 9 a.m. on August 31st the fishing trawler Ranter was in the North Sea and spoke a boat which seemed generally to answer the owner's description. It contained several men who described themselves as Danish seamen from a torpedoed sailing ship, and they said they were now making for Holland. This story seemed rather improbable, for they were only twenty miles east of the Tyne. Furthermore, they firmly declined the Ranter's offer of assistance on the plea that they had already been torpedoed twice and wanted to sail home. The British seamen, however, noticed that the course they were steering was not in the direction of Holland. Twelve hours later the Ranter fell in with the armed trawler Vidette, to whom she reported the incident. The Vidette, having wireless, sent a report to the Tyne Senior Naval Officer, with the result that the destroyer Bonetta, promptly despatched from the Tyne, overhauled the stolen boat with its six occupants. They proved to be escaped German naval prisoners.

 

Though dissatisfaction had occurred in the German High Seas Fleet from time to time, the condition of the enemy's submarine service had hitherto been less serious. Officers and men who were carrying on the intensive campaign had been given better food and more of it than the men in the big ships, who rarely went to sea. On a submarine coming in for her refit, her crew greatly appreciated their leave, which was on a fairly liberal scale. But now things began to alter, and the crews became, not merely less efficient, but less easy to handle. By the end of the summer of 1917 the German crews were getting so little leave, and so many boats were being lost that the men became thoroughly disheartened. The campaign was falling short of the full and rapid success so confidently anticipated, and the boats were being sent to sea after only short periods of refitting leave. The men, overwrought with submarine voyaging, and weakened in morale by the losses of other submarines and their own narrow escapes, not only did not volunteer for the Untersee service, but did their best to avoid it by missing their boat or feigning sickness.

 

During September one U‑boat was working as far north as the Arctic Ocean near North Cape, whilst another, U.151, was operating off the coast of Africa. In regard to the first‑mentioned, rather a curious incident occurred. At this time along the route to Archangel passed ships with stores and munitions for the Russians; and knowledge

 

CRUISE OF "U.151"

 

of these movements explained the interest which Northern waters had for the U‑boats. On September 2nd, 1917, the steamer Olive Branch was on that route with a cargo of ammunition, her exact position being lat. 72' 34, N., long. 27' 56' E. A submarine came along and opened fire at a range of only 250 yards. The second shot landed in No. 4 hold, where the ammunition was stored, and the Olive Branch blew up. But the same explosion wrecked also the submarine, which was last seen in a sinking condition with men struggling in the water. Thus did U.28 end her career‑hoist with its own petard!

 

But successes were being achieved by the Germans, and successes calculated, as they thought, to impress neutrals. U.151, a converted mercantile submarine, similar to the Deutschland, carried out a very successful cruise at this period. Leaving Germany about September 3rd she proceeded to the Atlantic by way of the north of Scotland, and operated off Madeira, the Straits of Gibraltar, and thence southward along the African coast to Dakar, afterwards proceeding across to the Cape Verde Islands, and up to the Azores, getting back to Germany just before Christmas. In the course of this cruise, she sank thirteen merchant ships of British, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian, Norwegian, French, Portuguese, and American nationalities, torpedoed a couple of Brazilian steamers in St. Vincent harbour (Cape Verde Islands), and relieved a Norwegian ship of some valuable copper and stores. For his successful voyage Commander Kophamel, her captain, received from the Kaiser the Order "Pour le Merite."

 

Inasmuch as submarines were very active off the Yorkshire coast, it was decided to lay British minefields froirn a position about six miles east of Whitby to about ten miles north‑cast of Scarborough. This was effected during September. What influence this decision had on the enemy's plans remained to be seen, but early on the evening of September 4th a submarine engaged in the futile task of bombarding Scarborough. The first four shells fell into the sea amongst the minesweepers anchored outside the harbour. The enemy then increased his range and most of his other shells to the number of about twenty fell into the town of Scarborough. Several hotels, houses and shops, and the railway station suffered damage, chiefly in the form of broken glass. Six of our minesweepers at once put to sea and fired at the enemy, but he did not stop to fight.

 

The scheme of placing the fishing trawlers under naval control, commissioning them and causing them to fly the White Ensign, their fishing crews being enrolled in a special reserve just as if they were in the Auxiliary Patrol and their movements controlled by the Senior Naval Officer of their port, worked satisfactorily. Their armament was at first, however, too light. On July 10th a group of eight of these fishing trawlers on their way to Iceland were destroyed by bombs and gunfire from a submarine sixty miles S. by E. of Sydero. It therefore became necessary to arm them more in accordance with the strength of the newer submarines of the enemy. Thus on September 6th, of the six Grimsby fishing trawlers proceeding to the Iceland grounds, five were well armed and one was fitted with wireless. Two days later six Hull fishing trawlers, similarly armed, left the Humber for the same grounds. Officers of the R.N.V.R. were appointed to each section of six armed fishing trawlers for the purpose of taking charge when a fight with the enemy began.

During the autumn and winter (1917‑18) the trawlers and rescue tugs were having a strenuous time, especially those whose duty took them out into the Atlantic. The kind of work which had to be performed may be judged from the following incident. On September 25th two rescue tugs, the Flying Falcon and the Milewater, were sent out from Lough Swilly. They were instructed to pro­ceed with sealed orders which were to be opened off Fanad Head. They arrived at this point at 9.30 a.m., the orders were opened, and instructions were read to meet, at a certain rendezvous at 7 a.m. on the 26th, a convoy coming from the westward in charge of the Sloop Primrose. When the Flying Falcon reached the rendezvous, the wind was blowing hard from the S.W., with a nasty cross sea running. On one of the crew going to examine the log, it was found that this had been carried away. At 9 a.m. she fell in with the convoy, homeward‑bound, and was ordered to take up a position to the southward at the rear, with the Milewater to the northward. About five

 

A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE

 

o'clock in the afternoon, the steering gear of the steamship Antillian, one of the convoy, broke down, and for a time the Flying Falcon stood by her until the gear was repaired. About midnight Barra Head light was picked up.

 

The weather had now become very bad; it was blowing heavy SW. gale and the Flying Falcon was labouring very heavily. These conditions continued until the convoy was off the Oversay light (Islay), when a tre­mendous sea broke over the tug, sweeping away the top of the companion way and causing a quantity of water to get down below. The Flying Falcon lay on her beam ends in a bad way. She was able to send out wireless calls for assistance, and then another heavy sea broke on board, smashing the hawser grating and washing the hawser overboard. When going over the side the hawser fouled the propeller and the engines came to a standstill. In the trough of the Atlantic sea the little tug seemed doomed. At times it looked as if she would roll right over. In one terrific roll, the coal in the bunkers shifted to leeward so that she could not right herself, and lay right down on her beam ends for twenty minutes.

The weather showing no signs of improvement, the captain deemed it time to lower the port boat, but whilst this was being done a huge wave washed him, his six hands, the boat and all into the sea. Three of the hands and the captain managed to get back to the tug, but the other three were swept away and drowned. In this helpless condition, the tug was drifting shorewards to her doom. The master then called for volunteers to go into the bunkers and trim the coal. This was manfully done and after half an hour's work they had got the ship a little more upright; in fact, the engineers eventually were able to persuade the engines to move. But it was too late. They were so close to the shore that the captain was compelled to let go both his anchors. Wind and sea continued unabated, and after another two hours the cables snapped, the ship drifted ashore, fortunately on a sandy bottom, and the survivors were landed by means of the rocket apparatus.

 

Progress during these months was being made in the efforts to pick up the sound of the movements of invisible submarines. A new type of hydrophone called the "fish," from the shape of its body, was evolved. After satisfactory trials in October 1917, steps were taken to supply it to the trawlers, which towed it astern submerged to a suitable depth. The "fish " was connected by cable to the ship, a silent listening cabinet being installed near the bridge. By means of this new hydrophone, it was possible to tell the exact direction in which the enemy submarine was proceeding. During the first few days of October three submarines ‑ U.50, U.66, and U.106 ‑ were sunk as a result of the combined operations in the North Sea by our destroyers, submarines, and drifters. Of these one was most probably accounted for in the mine nets of the drifter William Tennant (Lieut. J. A. Camp­bell, R.N.R.). About half‑past ten on the morning of October 2nd this drifter, while anchored and keeping constant hydrophone watch, heard the high‑pitched sound of a submarine running on her electric motors submerged. Evidently she then got into the mine nets, for there followed a heavy under‑water explosion close to the nets, which shook the drifter considerably.

 

 

 

"Listening-in" on the Hydrophone

 

In order to protect the convoys passing to and from the Atlantic by way of the North Channel (North of Ireland), a line of hydrophone drifters was stretched across the mouth of the Clyde and another from the Mull of Galloway to Skulmart (south of Belfast). Though they represented a distinct advance on anything which had hitherto been available, the hydrophones were, of course, still far from perfect, and did not stop sinkings, even of armed ships. On October 9th the armed merchant cruiser Champagne (5,360 tons) was torpedoed and sunk off Dundrum Bay at 6 a.m., and this was followed ten hours later by a similar disaster to the steamship Peshawur (7,634 tons) off county Down, the 114 pas­sengers being picked up by the yacht Albion. Similarly on October 19th a submarine was reported five miles south‑west of Corsewall Point during the forenoon. Every precaution was, therefore, taken to prevent attack on a convoy that was passing through the area from the North Channel to the southward, eight M.L.s and drifters, with hydrophones, being sent to listen in the vicinity. When passing through the position 54-55' N., 5-22' W., the Knight Templar, the commodore ship of the convoy opened fire on a submarine. The Larne patrol vessels, which were assisting to escort the convoy, at once formed

 

ATTACK ON SCAINDINAVIAN CONYOY

 

a screen between the convoy and the enemy. The convoy passed safely through the area, but the submarine hunt continued with all vessels that could stand the weather, and about nine in the evening M.L.476 sighted a German submarine, disguised as a fishing vessel, three miles to the south‑west of Corsewall light. The enemy was proceeding at 12 knots, but before the motor launch could open fire she had disappeared in the darkness and mist.

 

The German operations against the Scandinavian con­voys which came across the North Sea with cargoes were also being pursued with energy. As has been stated, these vessels were escorted and shepherded largely by vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol. It occurred to the German Headquarters that a raid against the convoys would be valuable for two reasons. First, it would assist the U‑boat campaign, in that it would cause the British forces to give even better protection to the Scandinavian trade, thus further depleting the purely anti‑submarine patrols. Secondly, the Germans anticipated that the success of such attacks would have a terrorising influence on the neutral crews. For the carrying out of the raid they possessed two light cruisers, the Brummer and Bremse, which had originally been built in German yards to become Russian minelayers. They were notable for their fine turn of speed.

 

On October 16th the west‑bound Scandinavian convoy left Marsten for Lerwick. It consisted of twelve ships, of which two were British, one Belgian, and the rest Nor­wegian, Swedish, or Danish. These vessels were being escorted by the two British destroyers Mary Rose and Strongbow, in association with the armed trawler Elsie and the armed whaler P. Fannon. At 6.5 a.m. next morning, when in a position 60û13' N., 1û 06' E., the Strongbow sighted the Brummer and Bremse. At first, she did not recognise them as German ships, but having done so advanced smartly to attack the superior force. It was just daylight; there was a S.W. wind, a heavy southerly swell, and the light was bad, the visibility being not more than 4,000 yards. It was not till the Strongbow had made the challenge three times that the enemy bluffed a reply. The Strongbow's alarm gongs were sounded and speed for 24 knots was ordered. At 6.15 a.m. the second German ship opened fire, the first salvo entering the Strongbow's engine‑room, bursting the steam‑pipe. The foremost German ship's other salvo hit the Strongbow's forecastle, started a fire in the lower mess‑deck, put the foremost gun out of action, and killed most of the gun's crew. The Strongbow was now stopped, and at a range of 2,000 yards both ships fired rapidly with frequent hits. The wireless operator and the quarter­master were killed, the captain was wounded, the bridge and the steering gear were wrecked. The enemy then sheered off, and approaching the convoy sank the other destroyer as well as nine of the twelve steamers. The Mary Rose quickly disappeared, but the Strongbow was still afloat. The wounded captain was put on to the raft, but the enemy returned, and swept the Strongbow's deck, killing all the men there. At this moment the Elsie came up, and was driven off by the enemy. The Strongbow was now on fire badly. About 8.20 a.m. the enemy made off back to Germany, and an hour later the Strongbow sank. The Elsie most gallantly stood by the destroyer and ultimately saved most of the survivors, having previously searched for the Mary Rose without success. Both trawlers reached Lerwick undamaged as well as three of the convoy, including the two British steamers.

 

On October 24th the west‑bound convoy was again attacked, but this time by a submarine. The steamship Novington was torpedoed off the east of the Shetlands (though afterwards brought into Lerwick and beached), and the Russian steamship Woron was torpedoed and sunk.

 

The U‑boats continued to make their way through the Dover Straits as before. It became known, for instance, that U.58, which was sunk off Ireland on November 17th, had passed through the barrage close to the French side on November 14th at 1.52 a.m. So also had UB.18, which got into the midst of a British minefield off Prawle Point on November 17th, and blew up. The position at Dover was that the whole of the offing from Thornton Ridge to Dunkirk was theoretically rendered impassable for the enemy by means of mines and mine‑nets. Between the Thornton Ridge and the Dutch limits other mines were laid to make the submarines' voyage precarious. But whatever was done, it was fairly certain that the enemy would use neutral waters. Mines were laid subsequently

 

DEEP MINE BARRAGE

 

across the Schouwen‑Zeebrugge track, and every now and again coastal motor boats from Dunkirk used to drop mines off Zeebrugge itself.

 

All this was based on sound tactics, but still it did not strengthen the defence of the Dover Straits. The barrage had failed. It had been given a long trial and had cost a great deal of money and labour to maintain, but it had proved little more than an inconvenience to the enemy. It had not been for any length of time an effective barrier or even a hindrance to him except for a brief space in the year 1915. The only sound strategy was the employment of deep mines. The fact is that this country had started the war badly equipped with mines both as to numbers and type. There had been difficulties with the mooring gear, the production of non‑porous castings, and even with the glass requisite for the horns. Eventually, however, 10,000 mines a month were manufactured, 980 firms being engaged in creating the various component parts.

 

On October 24th, in anticipation of supplies of the right kind of mine, which became available the following month, the Admiralty approved of the laying of eight parallel lines of mines at depths of at least forty feet below the surface in the case of two lines. The direction was roughly from Folkestone to Gris Nez. On November 21st work on this barrage began, and the operation went on until the armistice, by which time passage across the Dover Straits for any German submarine was almost impossible. The ubiquitous trawler again rendered invaluable aid. The trawler had done such wonderful work in minesweeping, submarine sinking, convoy escorting, and patrolling that no operation seemed complete without her presence. The trawlers Ostrich II, Osta, Carmania II, Russell II, The Norman, Hero, and others were largely responsible for carrying out the dangerous work of dropping mines in the new barrage.

 

In sailing from the ports of Germany or Flanders to the Atlantic or Mediterranean, there are only two possible sea passages. One is by way of the North of Scotland, and the other is through the Dover Straits. For reasons already given, the latter, though not exclusively used, was very popular with the enemy's submarines. How much the U‑boat preferred the Channel passage may be gathered from the fact that during the first eleven months of 1917 at least 253 times had German submarines negotiated the barrage. The Admiralty, therefore, decided to go ahead with the laying of this minefield, extend the breadth of its lines, and keep the barrage illuminated by flares so that the Auxiliary Patrol vessels might cause the submarines to dive and blow up.

 

This operation may be said to mark the beginning of the final phase of the anti‑submarine war. In effect it was comparable to confining an enemy to a field by means of electric doors: the moment he tried to leave the field he was electrocuted. In the present case, the southern door was Dover Straits, and it was determined to defend that first, leaving the closing of the northern exit to be under­taken later on.

 

Ramsgate drifters had a most exciting day's submarine hunting at this period of the war with a fine "kill" to wind up with. They had toiled with courage and persis­tency during these days and nights of the long war. Shelled by German destroyers, attacked by enemy aircraft, buffeted about by bad weather, and never receiving much recognition, they at last came into their own. The story really begins on November 21st, 1917, when U.48 set out from Wilhelmshaven, intending to pass through the Dover Straits for a cruise off Ireland. Two days later at 4 p.m. she had already arrived sixty miles N.E. of Dover and then submerged, but at that moment came an explosion, probably due to a bomb dropped by a seaplane. This experience did not improve the morale of the ship's com­pany. About three and a half hours later U.48 was heading for the Dover Straits, having rested on the bottom to await a convenient opportunity of getting through. During the night the oil motors gave a good deal of trouble, so that the submarine had to run on her electric motors. The starboard shaft would do no more than 300 revolutions, while the port shaft was running at the usual 450. The probable reason of this was that she had fouled the North Goodwin net barrage: in fact, pieces of the net were after­wards found attached to the propellers.

 

The enemy seems to have been intending to cross the Dover net barrage between buoys 2A and 4A, but the vessel must have got out of her reckoning and fouled the North Goodwin nets. She was completely off her course, and whilst proceeding on the surface at 8 a.m. on

 

DRIFTERS IN ACTION WITH U‑BOAT

 

the morning of November 24th, she ran hard and fast on the north‑west edge of the Goodwins. Every seaman who is familiar with these treacherous sands and the strength of the tide in the Gull stream will appreciate the unhappy position of the submarine aground on a November night. Every effort was made to get her off by means of her engines, but she remained firm. There was nothing for it but to lighten her; many tons of oil and a large amount of freshwater were pumped overboard, the ammuni­tion was cast into the sea, and three torpedoes were fired out of the tubes. This lightened the craft so much that she became waterborne once more, though she was unable to get out of the bed she had made for herself in the sand, and so with a falling tide she again grounded. Her position was about one and a half miles N.E.1/2 E. from the Gull Lightship.

 

At 6.30 a.m. it was just twilight. Three drifters, the Present Help, the Paramount, and the Majesty, were sweeping the War Channel for the flow of merchant shipping, when to their great joy they suddenly saw the submarine. In a moment the sweep was slipped and away went the little craft to profit by the chance of a lifetime. One who was present described it thus: "As soon as the submarine was sighted, the Majesty, Paramount, and Present Help were after the enemy like a pack of hounds, and no one could have been more prompt in joining action with the enemy." Although these three drifters between them had only two six‑pounders, a three‑pounder, and a Maxim gun, whereas the enemy was equipped with a 4.1-inch gun, a 22‑pounder, and Maxim gun, to say nothing of his remaining torpedoes, they blazed away at the enemy as they came swooping down in line abreast, closing the range all the time and ignoring the heavy fire which was coming from the enemy's superior armament. About ten minutes later, whilst these little craft were swooping from the north‑west the destroyer Gipsy, armed with a 12‑pounder and 6‑pounder, came down from the northward. Both drifters and destroyer main­tained a vigorous fusillade. About the same time there arrived on the scene two more drifters, the Acceptable and Feasible, who also attacked the enemy, while from the southward came the armed trawler Meror bringing more guns to bear. Determined to close the range, they kept as near into the Goodwins as their vessels would float. The Feasible (Lieut. Delves Broughton, R.N.V.R.) kept two hands working the lead throughout the action, and the Paramount was so eager to get right up to the enemy that she actually hit the ground thirty yards off the submarine. About a quarter‑past seven U.48 was seen to be on fire forward. Her captain, Lieut.‑Commander Edeling, then had the confidential books destroyed, ordered "Cease Fire," and the ship was abandoned after attaching explosive charges. Overboard jumped the crew, the submarine blew up with a heavy explosion, and one officer and twenty‑one men were picked up out of the total complement of forty‑three.

 

Every man on board the British vessels had done well: even the drifters' engineers off watch assisted by passing up ammunition, and the greatest keenness had been dis­played by all the drifters' crews. Before the enemy blew himself up, not one of the drifters had remained farther than 100 yards off the submarine, several of the enemy being killed by the Maxim gun fired from the top of the Paramount's wheelhouse. For their fine achievement, Lieut.‑Commander F. W. Robinson, R.N.R., of the Gipsy, received the D.S.O., Skipper E. Hemp, R.N.R., of the Paramount, Skipper R. W. Barker, R.N.R., of the Majesty, and Skipper T. Lane of the Present Help, each were awarded a D.S.C. In addition, the Admiralty set aside a sum of £1,000 for distribution between the crews of the drifters, and in making the award Admiral Bacon added the following remark: "I wish to express my satisfaction at the gallant way in which the drifters named attacked the submarine armed with a 4.1‑inch gun. It is one more example of how the Ramsgate drifters and the Auxiliary Ser­vice of the navy know how to meet and fight the enemy." It was established at the Court of Inquiry that, when first sighted U.48 was afloat and steering S.W, but on being attacked altered course, and that owing to the fire of the drifters and the destroyer, and the action of the tide, she was driven aground. It had certainly been a great victory for the Auxiliary Patrol, and caused a healthy spirit of emulation in the Dover Straits.

 

Further north the drifters were also able to register a success. They had laid mine nets off Flamborough as far back as October 20th, for it was thought that the submarines used Flamborough Head for fixing their position, and many

 

HEAVY LOSSES IN CONVOY

 

convoys and single ships had been attacked off there. Now the labour of placing these nets in position was rewarded, for on December 10th, 1917, UB.75 was destroyed.

 

Two days later came another big raid on the Scandinavian Convoy, which this time was eastward‑bound. The incident occurred in about 59û 50'N. 3û 50' E., and the con­voy consisted of one British, one Danish, two Norwegian, and two Swedish ships, all of which were sunk. The escort consisted of the two destroyers Pellew and Partridge and four armed trawlers, the Livingstone, Tokio, Lord Alverstone, and Commander Fullerton. Early on the morn­ing of the 11th the enemy light cruiser Emden, with the Fourth Half Flotilla and the Third Half Flotilla of destroyers, the biggest and fastest which the enemy pos­sessed, left Germany and proceeded up the North Sea. When off the N.E. end of the Dogger, the Emden remained behind and the two half flotillas separated.

 

The Fourth Half Flotilla, probably consisting of five destroyers, proceeded north, torpedoed a British ship about twenty‑five miles off the coast soon after midnight, and by 3.15 on the afternoon of the 12th had rejoined the Emden at the rendezvous.

 

Meanwhile the Third Half Flotilla, including four de­stroyers, after parting company with the Emden on the afternoon of the 11th, had steamed up the North Sea and at about 9.30 a.m. sighted the convoy of six merchant ships, two destroyers and four trawlers. Suddenly the Germans appeared from the N.W and engaged the Partridge and Pellew, who were ahead of the convoy on the port and starboard side respectively. The British destroyers en­deavoured to draw the enemy away from the convoy, leaving the trawlers to carry on the escort. Three of the enemy were thus enticed and the fourth remained behind to deal with the merchant ships. She sank all six, together with the armed trawler Livingstone. As to the destroyer versus destroyer action, the Partridge was soon disabled by a shell which penetrated her main steam pipe. She used her torpedoes, one of which struck a German destroyer, but it did not explode. The Pellew, owing to a squall of rain, was able to escape, though severely damaged. When the three enemy destroyers came back to join the fourth, they proceeded to sink the remaining three trawlers Tokio, Lord Alverstone, and Commander Fullerton.

 

The trawlers' 6‑pounders had been hopelessly outranged. They never stood a chance against these modern German destroyers. At a range of five miles the Livingstone had been hit in the engine‑room, cabin, and mess‑deck. The Commander Fullerton had been struck near the gun platform, then on the mess‑deck, then just by the bridge, and many times afterwards. Then came a shot which hit the winch by which the dinghy was being hoisted out, so that the boat dropped into the water. As the trawler began to sink, the enemy lay 700 yards off and kept firing at her. About 6.30 p.m. the survivors were picked up by the Sable. Three survivors from the Livingstone had been picked up at 2.20 p.m. by the Sorceress. The enemy took prisoners, from the Partridge and the four trawlers, four officers and forty‑eight men, as well as twenty‑three of the merchant crews. The whole engagement had lasted not more than three‑quarters of an hour, and of the dozen ships, all had been wiped out, with the exception of the Pellew.

 

On the same evening as the Scandinavian convoy had been destroyed, the French Coal Trade convoy was crossing the English Channel as usual. Among the escort was M.L.357 (Lieutenant J. F. B. Kitson, R.N.V.R.), which was about a mile and a half east of the leading ship. At 7.30 p.m., the motor launch, having just passed through a small bank of fog, suddenly sighted a submarine not more than seventy‑five yards dead ahead. There she was, lying broadside on and apparently in the act of submerging. Full speed ahead went the wooden‑hulled M.L., porting her helm so as to cross the enemy's track and assail him with gun and depth‑charge. The intervention had come too late, for in a few minutes only the conning tower was visible, and as this was abaft the M.L.'s beam, Lieutenant Kitson was unable to train the gun. However, at a speed of 18 knots the motor launch rammed the enemy with such force as to pass completely over her from starboard to port; the impact was so severe that the engines were stopped instantaneously.

 

The submarine dived at a sharp angle, but not before the M.L. had fired a shell at her. The enemy's track was followed, and when she came to the surface fifty yards away, apparently on her side, the M.L. again opened fire. Six shots were discharged and two were seen to burst

 

LOSS OF "UB56"

 

on her hull amidships. Then the submarine disappeared and was not seen again. The M.L. was, of course, badly damaged aft through her pluck in daring to ram a steel ship. She was making water fast and settling down by the stern; but in less than a quarter of an hour the armed trawler Hercules IV got her in tow and eventually beached her in a sinking condition off Penzance. She had been kept afloat until then with the greatest difficulty. The submarine was not sunk, though she was probably seriously damaged. The Admiralty awarded Lieutenant Kitson a D.S.C.

 

A week later the Dover Patrol had confirmation that they were beginning to assert their will on the enemy, for at 11.42 p.m. on December 19th a very heavy explosion was heard and just after midnight men were seen struggling in the water. One of them, a German named Bleeck, was picked up alive, but he soon expired. In this wise the British mines had accounted for the loss of UB.56. There was evidence that other submarines were still getting through, but the barrage of mines was not yet finished. Every day the door was being closed tighter and tighter.

 

 

 


 


CHAPTER III

 

THE 10TH CRUISER SQUADRON (I) ‑ MARCH 1916 - DECEMBER 1916.

 

THE duties of the 10th Cruiser Squadron became more onerous than ever after the institution of the Ministry of Blockade towards the end of February 1916. It would have been natural to expect that with the more determined prosecution of the blockade policy some further means of carrying it out, or at all events, some strengthening of the blockading force, would have been established, but nothing of the kind was done.

 

In only two respects was the work of the squadron lightened ‑ first by the issue of the "Statutory Black List" (February 29th, 1916) giving the names of firms known to be working for the enemy, which enabled the captains of blockading ships to decide more readily when cargoes were actually "suspect," and secondly by a new method (estab­lished March 11th) of facilitating the entry of legitimate American exports to Scandinavia by giving "Letters of Assurance," known by their code‑name "Navicerts," to ap­proved shippers, to enable them to pass their goods through the blockade without examination and resulting delay.

 

When Vice‑Admiral Reginald Tupper (hitherto Senior Naval Officer, Stornoway) succeeded Rear‑Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair on March 6th, 1916, the squadron comprised 22 armed merchant cruisers, besides 4 armed trawlers fitted with wireless. Admiral Tupper sailed from Liverpool in the Alsatian on March 7th, and on the 8th met Commodore Benson in the Teutonic and took over the command of the squadron. The disposition of his ships at that time was:

Iceland‑Rockall Patrol: Teutonic, Artois, Orotava, Gloucestershire, Victorian, Mantua, Columbella, Hildebrand, Patia, Changuinola, Hilary (divided into A and C Patrols).

 

WHITE SEA TRADE ROUTE

 

Rejoining from Liverpool: Alsatian.

Rejoining from Swarbacks Minn: Motagua.

Rejoining from Portsmouth: Moldavia.

Proceeding to Liverpool: Almanzora.

At Liverpool: Andes, Orcoma, Virginian, Otway.

At Swarbacks Minn: Ebro, Patuca.

Detached (White Sea): Arlanza.

The protection of the White Sea trade route had always been one of the duties of the squadron, and it had become increasingly important during the autumn of 1915, when very large supplies of guns and ammunition were being sent to Archangel from France. In November cruisers from the Grand Fleet had also been detailed to watch the route. Archangel was badly equipped as a port, and was further handicapped because it was entirely closed to all traffic by ice for nearly six months in the year. It had also no direct railway communication with Petrograd. But it was the only entrance left to European Russia from the sea, after the closure of the Baltic ports, and the blocking of the Black Sea when Turkey joined the Central Powers.

 

It was therefore only to be expected that the port would be heavily congested, and the Germans were not likely to miss the opportunity of inflicting damage. The presence of minelayers off the entrance to the White Sea became evident early in the summer of 1915, and in August, as the Russians found themselves inexperienced and help­less to cope with the danger, a flotilla of eight minesweeping trawlers had been sent out from England.

 

In October an Allied Military Mission, consisting of General Wolfe Murray and his Staff, and Captain Corbel of the French General Staff, sailed for Archangel in the Arlanza. She was to bring back Admiral Roussin and other members of a Russian Mission to England, who were coming to discuss the problems associated with Archangel. She sailed on her return journey on November 14th, but had not gone very far when she struck a mine off Lumbovski, near Svyatoi Nos, a headland on the Murman coast, where ships stopped for convoy through the swept channels. A Wilson liner, the Novo, happened to be near, and took off the passengers, and the Arlanza was towed by a tug and two British minesweepers into the little harbour of Yukanski, near Svyatoi Nos. The Russians had no facilities for repairing her there, and were unable even to arrange for her to be towed up to the ice‑free port of Alexandrovsk, and it was decided that she should remain where she was for the winter. The Orotava was sent out with supplies for her, and brought home her captain and all her crew, except a "care and maintenance" party, who were left to face the cold and discomforts of a very rigorous winter in an ice‑bound harbour.

 

It was not till April 1916, when the old cruiser Intrepid went out with two trawlers to tow her off that the Arlanza was rescued. Even then, she owed a great deal to the repairs that her crew had effected during the long and dreary winter months they had spent at Yukanski. The Intrepid and the trawlers broke the ice and got the Arlanza out of the harbour with considerable difficulty. The Intrepid started to tow, but the tow broke, and the cruiser had to help the trawlers which had become fast in the ice. The Arlanza managed to move slowly under her own steam, following the others, until she got to Alexandrovsk, where she found the battleship Albemarle which had come out during the winter to serve as an ice‑breaker and to help the traffic generally. With the Albemarle's assistance, the Arlanza was patched up, and in June was towed back by tugs to Belfast for refit. She did not rejoin the 10th Cruiser Squadron until November 1916, and thus the White Sea minefield, remote as it seemed to be, had deprived the squadron of a newly commissioned merchant cruiser for over a year, at a time when every unit of the force was most urgently needed for the blockade.

 

The difficulties with ice were not confined to the White Sea. When Admiral Tupper first joined the squadron in the spring of 1916, the endeavours of neutral ships to evade the patrols by going north of Iceland had begun again, and the Motagua was detailed to investigate ice and weather conditions in that region and also to keep a good lookout for enemy raiders, who might attempt to get into the Atlantic by that route.

 

The passage by the north of Iceland was reported navigable, and probably on account of frequent rumours that raiders were starting from Germany, a second ship, the Ebro, was sent on March 12th to patrol with the Motagua off the North Cape, up to the edge of the ice pack.

 

PATROLLING OFF ICELAND

 

The Moldavia was stationed off the Portland Light (south of Iceland) to maintain wireless communication with the other two ships, and also to intercept any vessels making the south coast of Iceland.

 

The Motagua's own report revealed the difficulties with which she was confronted. Proceeding along the south coast of Iceland on March 12th, she ran into loose ice, but patrolled off Staalbierg Huk, and discovered by reports from trawlers that the ice generally came down about the end of March, but that there was, as a rule, a space of clear water right round the land through which a ship could work her way. On March 14th she proceeded north to meet the Ebro, but found the ice of varying density in 66û 20'N. A ship might have made her way near the land, but with the ice moving in dangerous masses it was not advisable to attempt a passage; a fishing boat reported loose ice as far northward as the North Cape, and heavy pack ice to the eastward. After examining the ice edge, at considerable risk, the Motagua returned south.

 

On March 15th the ice to the north‑west was found to be receding; it had moved apparently 10 miles in two days. That night the Motagua patrolled off the North Cape, and found no ice there, but in the morning she proceeded east, and in about 66û 35'N., 21û28'W., sighted such heavy pack ice to the north that she was forced to turn south again, skirting the edge of the ice, and picking a perilous path through numbers of small "bergs" and "growlers," which extended south as far as could be seen. The ice then trended to the north‑cast and the Motagua resumed her original course. The movement of the ice with the wind from the north and the considerable amount of loose ice near the land, which became dense out to sea, and the possibility that another pack might be drifting from the North Cape and cutting off any possibility of retreat, forced the Motagua to the west again, and she resumed her patrol with the Ebro. On March 17th she left the patrol and sailed for the Clyde.

 

Captain Webster, of the Motagua, pointed out that the part of Denmark Strait north‑west of Iceland was the key to the situation for ships going round to avoid the patrols. If that part of the strait were blocked with ice, in all probability ice extended from Iceland to Greenland without a break, and if the ice were clearing away, it started moving in the strait first and moved to the eastward, so that a ship going round the North Cape and finding it clear, even though ice had been there till recently, would probably find the north coast of Iceland fairly free in a day or two.

 

The passages through the ice varied considerably, and added to the difficulties of the patrol, but there was no doubt that a considerable amount of Norwegian trade­  the skippers evidently knew how to take advantage of the moving ice ‑ attempted to evade the patrols by this somewhat dangerous route.

 

On March 19th the Changuinola, sent up from the east to relieve the Motagua on the Iceland Patrol, reported that she had arrived at the North Cape, after passing through all the dangers of loose and pack ice, and had joined the Ebro to patrol the open channel, about twenty miles wide, between the edge of the ice‑field and Straumnaes.

 

The Moldavia, patrolling off Isa Fiord, boarded the Nor­wegian steamship Gustav Flack on March 31st. The Nor­wegian attempted to escape into neutral waters, even while the boarding boat was being lowered from the Moldavia, and was only stopped by a shot across her bows. She was ostensibly bound for Bergen, with wool and skins, and was sent into Lerwick with an armed guard. Eventually she came before the Prize Court with an incriminating cargo.

 

The provision of the extra patrol of three ships off Iceland, partly no doubt necessitated by the alarm as to enemy raiders, was a matter of serious difficulty to the new Admiral of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. He repre­sented very strongly to the Admiralty the necessity of keeping the squadron up to its full strength of twenty‑four ships. At the time it had been reduced to twenty‑two, and one of the number, the Arlanza, was still ice‑bound in the White Sea. The Almanzora, repairing at Liverpool after suffering damage by fouling the boom defence at Swarbacks Minn in a gale, was being greatly delayed by labour troubles in the shipyards, and the Andes was still being detained for the court‑martial after the Alcantara-Greif action. (See Volume II). The absence of these vessels reduced the number available to nineteen. The Artois (late Digby), which had lately been taken over by the French and attached to the 10th Cruiser Squadron, had developed so many defects that she was almost continually under repair.

 

STRENGTH OF THE SQUADRON

 

Ships were, necessarily, often detained in harbour for repair or by bad weather, and the average number of ships on patrol was generally only eleven, less than half the re­puted strength of the squadron. During the preceding year only one ship had been kept on patrol north of Iceland, but with two more in that region the important "A" Patrol was sometimes reduced to a single ship. The "C" patrol had also been moved to 15ûW. owing to the submarine menace, and the consequence was that a large gap existed on the trade route through which traffic might pass without being intercepted. The Admiral considered that at least twelve ships should be constantly on patrol, and to maintain that level, at least twenty‑four ships were necessary, to allow a margin for coaling, repairs, etc. Even the Avenger, a new armed merchant cruiser, which was due to join the squadron, had been lately detailed for other services. At a later date, the Princess, also a newly‑fitted ship, was similarly detached when actually on her way to join the squadron. She was a German prize, originally fitted out for the 10th Cruiser Squadron, but was found to be too slow. The Armadale Castle from East Africa was sent to take her place.

 

At this time (March 1916) the Admiralty, embarrassed by many difficulties, could only reply to Admiral Tupper that it was impossible either to increase the number of armed merchant cruisers, or, as the Admiral had suggested, to detail extra armed trawlers fitted with wireless to strengthen the patrols. All the available small craft, it was stated, were wanted elsewhere.

 

The two French cruisers, the Artois and Champagne, which were supposed to be an addition to the squadron, were inspected by the Admiral on March 25th, and were said to be in good condition, and the crews healthy and smart in appearance, but the Champagne seems to have been used by the French entirely for carrying stores and passengers to Archangel. She was not included at that time in Admiral Tupper's command.

 

The weather during March continued to be very bad, with frequent squalls of snow and hail. There were renewed reports of enemy submarines, and it was suggested that the lights off Swarbacks Minn should be extinguished and ex­hibited only when a vessel was approaching the harbour; but as a ship of the 10th Cruiser Squadron was expected to arrive almost every day about dawn, Admiral Tupper considered that the extinction of lights, except for admission of ships, would help rather than confuse a submarine, as the enemy would know when an incoming vessel was expected.

 

These suggestions point to the constant anxiety which existed with regard to enemy submarines. At one time it was thought that they used only the Fair Island Channel, south of the Shetlands, but as the larger U‑boats became available, and were able to remain longer at sea, it was known that they were beginning to use the more northern route.

 

Admiral Tupper suggested that the approaches to Swarbacks Minn could be better secured by additional Auxiliary Patrol vessels, but the Admiralty could not supply them. The Auxiliary Patrol trawlers from Lerwick were nearly always employed north of Muckle Flugga, or north‑cast of Out‑Skerries, and none could be spared to help the four trawlers and four drifters stationed at Swarbacks Minn to patrol the west coast. On April 21st the Commander‑in‑Chief informed Admiral Tupper that six trawlers would shortly be available for Iceland, and would be ready to start on May 24th to work on the north­east and east coasts of the island, and on the south coast off the Portland Light, but that was in order to stop the trade that was evading the blockading patrol rather than to guard against submarines. Submarines continued to be reported in northern waters, south of the Shetlands, at the end of March, and several times during April. On April 14th two were reported off Muckle Flugga.

 

An armed guard from the Patuca had an experience of the reality of the submarine danger at this time. On March 13th a Norwegian barque, the Pestalozzi, was de­tained by the Patuca while on her way to South America, and sent in to Stornoway with an armed guard. She encountered north‑easterly gales which prevented her from making the port, and on March 23rd was stopped by the U.28 in 58û18'N., 12û0' W. The master of the Pestalozzi was ordered on board the submarine, and forced to disclose that he had a British armed guard in his ship. The officer in charge, Sub‑Lieutenant J. C. Bate, R.N.R., and the five men of the guard were sent for, and the German commander made prisoners of the officer and a leading seaman, took possession of the arms and ammunition,

 

VOYAGE OF THE "PESTALOZZI"

 

sent the remainder of the guard back to the Pestalozzi, and ordered the master to continue his voyage to Santa Fe, and there hand over the four Englishmen to the German Consul. (In a semi.humorous account of the episode published in the German press, it was said that the commander of the U.28 refused to take the remainder of the guard on account of their "dirty dungarees.") Apparently the sea was high, and no one from the submarine boarded the Pestalozzi, but four trips were made between her and the U.28, and three of the four boats she carried were swamped or stove in, and had to be abandoned.

 

Two months later, May 28th, the Glasgow, warned by the Admiralty that the Pestalozzi had not arrived at Stornoway, and that no one knew what had happened to the guard from the Patuca, intercepted the barque in the South Atlantic, and took off the remaining four members of the guard. As their arms had been removed, they had been unable to persuade the crew to go to a British port, and two British steamers which had been asked to take off the guard had refused, one because she had no boats to fetch them, and the other because she was short of provisions. The master of the Pestalozzi said that he had refused to go anywhere but to his port of destination with only one remaining boat. He feared another attack from a submarine, especially as his last ship had been sunk by a submarine, and he had been warned that if the Pestalozzi were seen making for a British port she would be sunk without warning. The master attributed his misfortune to the fact that the officer in charge of the guard had insisted on going to Stornoway, and would not allow him to make for a north Irish port, such as Londonderry, which he could have reached with a fair wind in a few hours. On June 3rd the Pestalozzi was released and allowed to continue on her voyage. It was afterwards arranged by the Admiralty that an armed guard should have the option of taking a vessel to the nearest port for examination. (After the American protest of April 20th against the sinking of the Sussex, the German submarine orders for trade warfare were cancelled, and all the U‑boats were recalled from the North Sea by wireless on April 24th. Of course this was not known in England at the time, and a new alarm was raised when Admiral Scheer sent out his sixteen Submarines to scout on May 15th.)

 

The alarm of German raiders was raised again, on March 28th, when it was reported that a raiding cruiser was possibly attempting to pass out to the westward. On April 6th there was a further alarm of a large steamer sighted twenty miles north of Muckle Flugga, steering W.S.W. The Orcoma and Orotava (the one on her way to Swarbacks Minn, and the other leaving the harbour) were ordered to intercept the suspected steamer, and the Patuca, which was making for the Clyde, was also warned, but the suspected ship was not sighted.

 

The excitements of the chase were often enhanced in a manner unknown before in any war by wireless calls from distant ships. The excitement of the captain of one of Nelson's frigates can be imagined if he had heard two of his future prizes talking - even though stammering and stuttering unintelligibly in the distance ‑ to each other! During April the American‑Norwegian mail steamers, Kristianiafjord and Bergensford, were especially under suspicion, and patrols were organised to find them. On April 8th faint wireless calls were heard from one to the other. It was evident that the ships were systematically avoiding the usual routes. The Admiral suggested that they should be intercepted near their terminal ports. The Bergensfjord was again heard about 9 a.m. on the following day calling the Bergen coast station, but no bearing could be obtained by the directional wireless. A Norwegian steamer reported that she had sighted the Kristianiafjord in 54ûN., 27û30' W., on the 6th, and it seemed that both ships had passed south of Rockall without being seen.

 

These two ships had made a number of voyages since the war began, and had been intercepted over and over again by the 10th Cruiser Squadron, but they got through fairly often without being caught. The Commander‑in­Chief on one occasion wrote very strongly about the Kristianiafjord's attempts to evade the patrol by steaming without lights. He said that she ran the risk of being taken for an enemy raider and fired at without warning. As she had a number of passengers on board the risk to life was very great. Between January 1st, 1915, and April 17th, 1916, the Bergensfjord made 12 journeys east and 11 journeys west. She was intercepted 8 times going east and 5 times going west. The Kristianiafjord made 11 journeys east and 12 west. She was intercepted 3 times going east and 6 times going west.

 

DIFFICULTY OF LOCATING VESSELS

 

It was concluded that the master of the Bergensfjord could not be trusted to abide by his agreement to follow the route laid down by the British Admiralty, and the Norwegian‑American Line were informed that their coal supply would be stopped until their mail steamers called at the examination ports as requested. The Bergensfjord must have passed through the patrol on the night of April 27th, or the next day, though dispositions had been made to intercept her. She did not use her wireless, but if she had kept to the prescribed route she must have been caught. On the 30th the Kristianiafjord, after an attempt to escape, was intercepted by the Motagua.

 

On May 18th on her return journey to New York she was again caught by the Moldavia, and sent in to Kirkwall with an armed guard. The Alsatian tried to intercept the Bergensfjord by her wireless direction finder on May 21st. At one time her position seemed to be about 400 on the Alsatian's starboard bow, and it appeared certain that she would be found, but her next signals were much fainter. She had passed through the Western patrols in a fog! It was afterwards found that she had called at Kirkwall under directions from her owners, who, possibly fearing that they might lose their coaling facilities, had ordered their vessels to call voluntarily at Kirkwall when eastward‑bound. Both vessels stopped there of their own accord on their next journey, on June 9th and 11th respectively.

 

The explanation of the difficulty was that at the begin­ning of the war it was supposed that the 11th Hague Convention (1907) guaranteed the inviolability of the parcel as well as the letter mails. But in 1915, when it was realised that goods on their way to and from enemy countries were being sent increasingly by parcel post, it was agreed that the Convention applied only to letter Post, and from September 23rd, 1915, onwards, the Allied Governments exercised the right of seizing contraband or enemy goods sent by parcel post. One of the first seizures was from the Swedish mail steamer Hellig Olav, When she called at Kirkwall for examination; she was found to be carrying 8,000 lb. of raw rubber made up in small parcels and sent from New York to a Swedish firm at Gothenburg, known to be the centre of the contraband trade between Germany and Sweden. At the same time, though the steamship companies were not actually implicated in this illicit trade, they were certainly anxious to deliver their mails to time, and to this was due their anxiety to avoid the delay of examination. Opening a number of small parcels was naturally a slow process, though as time went on it was quickened as much as possible. During April two other mail steamers, a Norwegian and a Dane, were sent in with very heavy enemy mails and some suspected Germans on board.

 

In the second week of May the number of ships stopped for examination rose to 88, of which 21 were sent in with armed guards. It was supposed that the increase was partly due to Dutch vessels proceeding "north‑about" instead of going through the Channel, and also to the reopening of the White Sea, though the port of Archangel was not formally declared open till June. The passage north of Iceland was also declared free of ice, and the Gloucestershire and Ebro were sent up to report on the passage.

 

On May 19th, about 4 p.m., orders were received from the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet that owing to the submarine threat ‑ the first report of the scouting submarines sent out by Admiral Scheer before the battle of Jutland ‑ the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron ("A" and "C" Patrols) were to take up the Western Patrol (from 55ûN. to 57ûN., 15ûW. to 19ûW.). The "E" patrol was to remain north of Iceland and the Alsatian north of the Faeroes to maintain wireless communication. When the German submarines were first sent out on this occasion it was believed that another attack on trade was imminent. Admiral Scheer's plan at the time was really another raid on the east coast of England at Sunderland.

 

A submarine was reported coming south from Muckle Flugga on the 22nd, and a destroyer with two armed trawlers was sent to look for her, but without result. Hostile submarines were also reported off the Faeroes on May 17th and 20th, and were thought to be searching for the 10th Cruiser Squadron. It was also said that a large enemy submarine had called at Westmanhavn in the Faeroes on May 28th, and the Columbella fired eight rounds at a supposed submarine on May 26th in 60û50'N., 2û21' W. (Possibly U75, which laid the minefield where the Hampshire was sunk.)

 

On the day of the battle of Jutland (May 31st), at about

 

LYING IN WAIT FOR RAIDERS

 

6 p.m. the 10th Cruiser Squadron, under orders from the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet, took up the Eastern Patrol, on a line N. (true) from Muckle Flugga. This move had nothing to do with the battle, or the expected movements of the High Seas Fleet; it was entirely due to a report from the Admiralty that the raider Moewe had sailed from Wilhelmshaven, and that another raider the Niobe (or Independent) was expected to sail from the same port on June 1st.

 

At 6 p.m. on June Ist the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet directed the squadron to continue the "Muckle Flugga" Patrol (on a line due N. from Muckle Flugga), and directed two ships to be sent north of the Faeroes; a cruiser from the Grand Fleet with an armed boarding steamer was despatched to patrol between the Faeroes and Shetlands, owing to persistent rumours that raiders were coming out. On June 3rd the line was altered to join a position in 59û35' N., 7û30' W., to the coast of Iceland, and two armed trawlers were sent to patrol north of the Faeroes. During this period (from May 31st to June 3rd) wireless silence was strictly observed. Nothing was seen or heard of any raiders, after all the excitement, and it was assumed that they had gone north. Admiral Tupper kept two ships off the North Cape in case they attempted to break out in that direction, but as Admiral Jellicoe observes in his book, "nothing came of it." (The Grand Fleet, p. 296.)

 

It was afterwards remarked at the Admiralty that the 10th Cruiser Squadron had not taken up the position assigned to it in "Battle Orders" in the event of a fleet action, and that it was very far from the scene of action on May 31st‑June 1st. This was explained by the altered situation in view of the expected raiders. Whether that rumour had been purposely spread by the Germans in order to divert the squadron to more distant waters, or whether they really meant to send out raiders at the time, but were prevented, is not known.

 

Possibly the repeated rumours of coming attacks on commerce by cruisers were natural, as the trade warfare by submarines died down. (The German plan seems to have been rather to devote their efforts to minelaying.) At any rate, it was not till June 11th that the 10th Cruiser Squadron went back to the usual Iceland-Rockall Patrol. The passage round the North Cape was very systematically blocked again by the squadron on June 26th. It proved to be a record day, as 26 vessels were intercepted, and six were sent in with armed guards.

 

The constant hunt for raiders sometimes caused an exciting pursuit when a vessel that could not be identified easily was sighted. On June 28th, at 9 a.m., in 62û57' N., 14û15' W., the Artois (southern ship of the "A" patrol) reported that she had been following, at 13 knots, the smoke of a westbound steamer since 7.30 a.m. She was directed to follow at full speed, and the Teutonic, from the south and the Orcoma from the north, also at high speed, started to chase the unknown vessel. The hunt continued all day, as the Artois could keep in touch but could not gain on her quarry. At 7 p.m. the Orcoma sighted the supposed raider at a distance of about 16 miles in 61û43' N, 18û40' W., and reported her as a steamer with two masts and two funnels. At 11 p.m., when the Teutonic was gaining on her, the vessel stopped, and was boarded by the Orcoma. She was a Russian, the Czar, from Archangel to New York, in ballast, with 145 passengers. She was allowed to proceed and the cruisers returned to their patrols.

 

Although the submarine attack on trade had practically ceased, the Germans were still making full use of their minelaying submarines, as was proved by the minefield west of the Orkneys on which the Hampshire was so tragically lost early in June. On July 4th the Commander-in-Chief warned Admiral Tupper that minelaying submarines might pass Fair Island from the eastward at any time after 4 a.m. on the 5th, or Muckle Flugga six hours later. The "C" patrol was therefore moved 60 miles to the westward. It seemed that there were indications of renewed submarine activity, probably in order to attack the trade with Archangel, and the patrols had to be continually shifted. The traffic to the White Sea was very heavy during June, and the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron were constantly on the route to protect shipping against possible raiders. In July a regular patrol by Grand Fleet cruisers was started, and on July 7th the Grand Fleet patrol north of the Shetlands was strengthened.

 

FISH OIL TRADE

 

For some time a cruiser and an armed boarding steamer had been on duty there, and this force was increased to two cruisers and two destroyers. (The Grand Fleet, pp. 427, 431.)

 

Another record was made by the 10th Cruiser Squadron during the first week of July, as no fewer than 112 ships (including 40 fishing vessels) were intercepted and examined; 27 of them were sent in with armed guards. There was considerable suspicion at the time of Dutch fishing vessels with cargoes for Holland. The officer in charge of the armed guard from the Hildebrand, placed on board the Dutch trawler Eveline, on July 2nd, discovered that each barrel of cod liver fetched between £8 and £9 at Ymuiden, and that they were intended for transmission to Germany.

 

When the Patia called in at Sigle Fiord in Iceland, about this time, the Vice-Consul told her captain that a very large trade in fish oil was being carried on, and many ruses were adopted to avoid the Icelandic laws regarding export. The Admiral accordingly sent up two trawlers to help the "E" patrol off Iceland to deal with the fish and oil trade. The number of small vessels employed made it very difficult to stop or examine them all. Apparently the captains of ships trading to Iceland had to sign an agreement that they would call for examination at a British port, under a penalty to the Icelandic Government. This penalty, a fine of £5,000, was incurred by a ship called the Edith, which was lying at Reykjavik while the Patia was there. The prosperity of the trade can be judged from the fact that any shipping company thought it worth while to run the risk of incurring so heavy a penalty by attempting to evade examination, but there seems also to have been considerable resentment about the delay, sometimes inevitable, when a ship called for examination at a British port.

 

On July 10th the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet again warned the Admiral that a raider of the Moewe type might attempt to pass through the patrols at any time after daylight on the 12th, and the dispositions were made to intercept her. Wireless silence was also maintained, but as no news could be obtained of the raider the normal patrol was resumed on July 15th. A raider did make an effort to get out during July, for a British Merchant vessel, the Eskimo, was captured on the 26th, off Risor, in Norwegian territorial waters, by a German armed merchant cruiser. No further operations of the kind seem to have taken place till the Moewe got out again in November 1916.

 

Dense fog was experienced during the last week of July and the patrols could only feel their way blindly, so that the number of ships intercepted was much smaller than usual; but considerable precautions were taken in order to intercept the famous submarine liner Deutschland, and her supposed consort, the Norwegian steamer Haug­land. The Deutschland was, of course, designed as an experiment for using submarines to run the blockade; she was unarmed, but had a cargo of valuable chemicals. She sailed for America in June, and reached Norfolk, Virginia, on July 9th. It was on her return voyage that great efforts were made to catch her. She was reported to have sailed from New York on August 1st, and would be due to pass the patrols on August 12th. All the available ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron (twelve) were spread on a line from 59û10' N., 7ûW., to the coast of Iceland, ships being 30 miles apart. Two trawlers were detailed to patrol west of the Faeroes, as it was thought possible that the Deutschland might meet another German submarine in that locality as an escort. Four trawlers from Stornoway were also sent to keep watch on the Rockall Bank, where it was hoped that they might force the great submarine to dive again, and keep her down till her batteries were exhausted.

 

The day, August 12th, on which she was expected was misty and foggy, with a considerable sea running, but a Dutch steamer sighted a supposed submarine twenty‑five miles west of St. Kilda at 9 a.m. It was thought that this might have been the Deutschland, but she was not seen by the patrols, and the Dutch ship did not report till the next day. She probably passed at a later date, for she arrived in Germany on August 23rd. The patrol lines were changed again on August 15th, but fog greatly hampered the work of the squadron throughout that week.

There were rumours of submarines near the Faeroes on August 16th, and the ships on "A" patrol altered their positions, but the rumours were not substantiated, though reports of submarines farther south were received

 

SUCCESSFUL PATROL WORK

 

fairly often. During August the number of submarines reported in the North Sea was very large, but their target seen's to have been the Grand Fleet itself, especially on August 19th, when the light cruisers Nottingham and Falmouth were sunk. The chief effect of these rumours or reports on the blockading squadron was that the line of patrol was altered for the time. All the reports of submarines off the coast of Iceland were eventually proved to be without foundation, and were possibly caused by the appearance of the northern fishing boats. These boats were thirty feet long, with a cabin aft, and one mast, and were propelled by a motor; it was quite possible to mistake them for submarines.

 

As the "rationing policy" for neutral countries became more strictly enforced, the work of the squadron was not lessened. The number of ships intercepted and sent in during the week ending September 16th was the largest in any one week since the beginning of the war. The majority were caught by the "E" patrol, consisting of two ships of the squadron and two armed trawlers off Iceland. One hundred and sixty‑two vessels were inter­cepted altogether, and fifty‑eight were sent in with armed guards, and fourteen without armed guards. These statistics supply an index to the activity and efficiency with which the 10th Cruiser Squadron was working in conditions of the greatest physical and political difficulty. During October the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet congratulated the squadron on their success between September 1st and 21st, when 435 vessels were dealt with, and 123 sent in. The ships on patrol were only 10; ships proceeding from one patrol to another, or rejoining from harbour, 7; armed trawlers, 4; ships going off patrol to coal or refit, 7, and 2 armed trawlers. It was a fine record for so small a force. The squadron had been strengthened in August by the addition of the Orvieto (late minelayer).

 

Some experiences of the armed guards sent to bring suspected neutral vessels into British ports for examina­tion were curious and interesting, and illustrated the very considerable risks involved. On August 10th, in 56û38' N., 15û5' W. (approximately south of Rockall Bank) the Norwegian steam trawler Hareid of Aalesund was intercepted and boarded by the Hilary. An armed guard was detailed to bring the Hareid into Lerwick; Lieutenant W. J. Canner, R.N.R., was placed in command. His first discovery was that there were no navigating instruments of any kind on board, except the patent log The master also said that his compass had a big error: but he did not know how much! The weather during the whole of the passage to Lerwick was such that no observation was obtainable. Lieutenant Canner, with the resourcefulness characteristic of British seamen, made a lead line from some cod line and by continuous soundings eventually reached Lerwick after being five days on board, the last two without fresh water, and with the whole ship's company complaining of thirst.

 

After three days on board, the course by compass should have brought the ship to westward of the Shetlands. By the soundings it seemed that she ought to be northwest of Muckle Flugga, and a Swedish sailing trawler also gave their position as about thirty miles north‑west of Muckle Flugga. The course was continued until Lieu­tenant Canner considered that the ship was about twelve miles north‑west of the point. At that time (noon, Sunday, August 13th) the chief engineer reported that he had only enough coal for another twenty‑four hours, and that the fresh water was nearly finished. The course was altered to keep to westward of the Shetlands, and then to the east to make the land, but a dense fog came on, and as the soundings increased suddenly to about 107 fathoms, at 3 a.m. on Monday it was decided to stop till daybreak to save the little remaining coal, in the hope that the fog would lift.

While the ship was stopped her course was worked out as far as possible, and it was decided that she must be about sixty miles from the Norwegian coast, and about ninety miles to eastward of the Shetlands. At daybreak she proceeded, steering west till noon, when she again stopped to try to fix a definite position, but without results. The Norwegian master of the trawler then declared that having very little coal left, no water, and only a hazy idea of the ship's position, he refused to accept any responsibility for her safety, if Lieutenant Canner continued to steer west. He considered that by steering east the coast of Norway must eventually be sighted, or if the ship were on the west side of the Shetlands,

 

PEREGRINATIONS OF A TRAWLER

 

those islands would be seen. The master proposed to sign a written document to the effect that every effort had been made to go to Lerwick, but that for humanity's sake it was necessary to proceed on an easterly course to Norway.

 

As the crew were already suffering from thirst, the ship's company were assembled and the position explained to them. They were of opinion that by steering west the vessel would possibly go farther out into the Atlantic ocean, and apart from the fact that everything available had been burnt (they were already burning empty barrels), they were not at all unlikely to die of thirst. The master and crew finally decided to leave everything in the British officer's hands.

 

Lieutenant Canner, though of opinion by the soundings that the vessel was east of the Shetlands, fully realised his risk and responsibility in steering west, but determined that the ship should not go to Norway, and continued on a westward course. At 2 a.m. on Tuesday (15th) he considered that they ought to be close to land and steamed dead slow, steering south‑west to stem the ebb‑tide, and waiting for daylight. At 6 a.m. he proceeded west again, still in a dense fog. The suspense of the moment, with no knowledge of what the lifting of the fog might reveal, with the last coals burning, and nothing to drink, must have been intense. At 8.30 a.m. land was sighted about 200 yards on the port bow, and was found to be Helli Ness, close to Mousa Island south‑east of the Shetlands. From that position the ship steered for Lerwick and arrived there about 10 a.m.

 

With characteristic brevity, Lieutenant Canner finished his letter to the Admiral, "There is nothing further to report," but the Admiral noted that he "deserved credit" for the manner in which he had brought the ship into port.

 

Another officer from the Hilary, Lieutenant S. B. Groome, R.N.R., had a somewhat similar experience, when in charge of an armed guard ordered to bring the steam trawler Assistant, with a cargo of herrings, into Kirkwall. He boarded the trawler south‑west of Iceland, on August 8th, and was greeted by the tidings that the captain had not enough coal, provisions, or water on board to take his ship to Kirkwall, as he was supposed to reach Lodmunder Fiord, Iceland, the next day. The coal was enough at easy speed, and the Hilary supplied sufficient water and food. As usual, there were no instruments or navigational books of any description on board, and on August 9th the patent log was lost. The weather was fortunately fine and clear, and on August 10th a course was set for Fuglo Island, Faeroes. By 6 p.m. no land had been sighted, and a very thick fog came on. The captain then said he could no longer navigate his vessel, and asked Lieutenant Groome to take charge, but he refused to accept any responsibility, though willing to help. Eventually he undertook the navigation, and set a course S. 16û E. (mag.), hoping to make Fair Island. The captain of the trawler had no idea as to how far out his compass was. On August 12th, at 6 p.m., land was sighted about a quarter of a mile ahead, but there was still a thick fog, and by the lie of the land it was concluded that they were off Burrier Head, Shetlands. As the weather cleared, Lieutenant Groome set a course south and sighted two lights, but at midnight was again uncertain, and set a course S.W.1/4 S. for Fair Island. At 1 p.m. a very thick fog came up with a strong wind and heavy sea; the vessel rolled heavily and shipped much water, and most of the herrings were washed overboard.

 

At 4 a.m. on August 13th the fog was too thick to sight Fair Island, and after several hours of great doubt as to his position, and some anxiety because the fresh water on board had come to an end, he picked up the Kirkwall pilot boat at 1.50 p.m. and anchored in Kirkwall harbour at 2.30 p.m. The Admiralty commended both these officers, and further considered the wisdom of risking armed guards in such ill‑found small craft.

 

On September 22nd the newly fitted ship Avenger joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron. A week later the Almanzora returned from Liverpool and was ordered to join the "E" Patrol, which was still sending in more suspected vessels than any of the other patrols. Sub­marines were still active. On September 26th two ships of the Auxiliary Patrol, the yacht Conqueror II and the patrol trawler Sarah Alice, with five British steamers, were torpedoed in or near the Fair Island Channel by enemy submarines. Four days later the Admiralty oiler Califol was attacked by a submarine in 59û48' N., 5û5' W‑

 

ARMED GUARDS

 

and two armed trawlers which were patrolling near the Faeroes were sent to her assistance. It was, however, soon reported that destroyers were on their way to the Califol and that she had evaded the submarine; the orders to the trawlers were countermanded. Patrols were also warned on October 1st that a submarine had been seen in 60ûN., 4û20' W., at 1 p.m. on September 30th. It was stated that she was in company with a cargo steamer of about 2,000 tons, with the word Holland painted on her side. Special precautions were taken in case the vessels were acting in company.

 

As the herring fishing season was at an end, and fewer ships were met, proceeding from Iceland to Scandinavian ports, the "E" Patrol was reduced to two ships in the first week of October.

 

Although there had been many reports of submarines in the area patrolled by the 10th Cruiser Squadron, on October 8th the lines were again moved eastward by order of the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet. Nevertheless, during the week ending October 8th, 105 vessels were intercepted, and twenty‑six sent in with armed guards. A large number of these ships were bound for Archangel, many of them carrying arms and munitions for Russia. Some of the ships complained of the bad quality of the coal supplied to them, which in many cases considerably reduced their speed ‑ a serious matter, with submarines on the route.

 

On October 9th the Alsatian intercepted the Norwegian steamer Hercules, from New York to Archangel, with a cargo of oil, copper, railway materials, etc. The master stated that, if he were unable to pass Vardo Island by October 15th, he was permitted to discharge his cargo in Norway. Apparently this was what he intended to do, as he was heading for Norway, and said he could not reach Vardo by the date given. The Admiral, who had his flag in the Alsatian, had information that it was undesirable to let more copper go to Norway, and as he did not feel confidence in the master of the Hercules, the ship was sent to Lerwick with an armed guard. She was manned entirely by Chinese, with Norwegian officers.

 

On the 18th, as numerous submarines were reported north of the Shetlands the lines were again shifted  ­further evidence of the continually changing conditions to which Admiral Tupper was exposed in carrying out his difficult task.

 

The weather was again very stormy in the middle of October, and though officers and men were inured to the dangers of sea, fog, and wind, boarding became impossible so that ships were obliged to accompany vessels in which it was desired to place armed guards until the weather moderated. Occasionally a warning was received that a submarine was probably lying in wait for some particular ship, generally a munition carrier. During the month the 10th Cruiser Squadron was directed to look out for the Rumanian steamer Jiul, which was thus threatened, but in spite of their precautions she was not sighted.

 

On October 27th the Kildonan Castle, a new armed merchant cruiser that had lately joined the squadron and was patrolling in 63û13' N., 18û30' W., was attacked by a submarine. Two torpedoes were fired at her almost simultaneously at a range of between 600 and 1,000 yards. Both fortunately missed, and the Kildonan Castle was put at full speed. There was no time to open fire, as the periscope was not seen till after the wake of the torpedoes had been sighted, and the submarine was then diving. The Kildonan Castle was carrying out rifle practice at the time in accordance with the routine enforced on all ships.

 

The "A" Patrol was immediately moved north‑west and two armed trawlers, which were on their way to patrol between St. Kilda and Rockall, were sent to search for the submarine. It was thought that she was out to intercept Archangel traffic, or was possibly scouting round Iceland to see if the patrols there would prevent a raider from getting through. On October 28th the Avenger sighted a submarine still further north (66û16'N., 26û30W). It was just possible that this was the same vessel. There were other reports at the time, and the patrols were shifted each day about sixty miles, either east or west, on a different angle, in the hope of confusing the submarines.

 

Just at this period (late in 1916) the political situation was such that the Germans wished to avoid "complications" in the war zone round England. They were to make peace proposals in December, and meanwhile restricted their submarine attacks on commerce to the Mediterranean, and, in northern waters, to attempts to sink supplies sent via Archangel to the Russian seat of War.

 

GERMAN PRIZE CAPTURED

 

The Admiral of the 10th Cruiser Squadron in November again asked for more Auxiliary Patrol vessels to be attached to the squadron, as numbers of his ships were working off the coast of Iceland and there were British fishing tralwers in those waters. In addition, the Faeroes might require watching, and other positions would be more usefully patrolled by smaller anti‑submarine craft. From October 30th to November 2nd reports had been received of submarine activity between Muckle Flugga and the Flannan Islands, and the outlook was bad.

 

The Admiralty did not consider that an extra trawler patrol was yet required for duty off Iceland, though it was recognised that, owing to the fact that the blockading squadron had to keep well to the westward because of the submarine menace, there was a likelihood that neutral vessels might slip through to the eastward. The Stornoway trawlers patrolled to about the 100‑fathom line (off the Hebrides), but vessels might pass between them and the squadron, and it was suggested that four trawlers from the Orkneys might be usefully employed there. On the 11th the Vice‑Admiral, Orkneys and Shetlands, was directed to send them to Oban for service with the 10th Cruiser Squadron.

 

The weather during the second week of November was so bad as practically to prevent boarding. Only seventeen vessels were intercepted and examined during the week, and five were sent in with armed guards. At this time, moreover, eight ships of the squadron were at Liverpool or in the Clyde for refit.

 

On November 18th the Otway boarded a German prize, the Norwegian s.s. Older, which had been captured by a German submarine on November 13th in 47û8'N, 9û6' W. The commanding officer of the Older was unable to prevent the German prize crew (a lieutenant, a warrant officer, and seven men) from exploding bombs and opening cocks to sink the ship, when the Otway took off the crew. The Otway also took off the nine Germans, and the crews of the two other ships sunk by the submarine (eight of the British steam trawler Hatsuse, sunk on November 14th 86 miles SW. from the Fastnet, and twenty‑five of the crew of the Italian steamship Lela, which had been sunk on November 13th.) It was discovered that the sub­marine had been in company with the Older up to the previous evening (17th) and they were both said to be bound for Kiel. A general warning was issued to the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Telefunken signals had been intercepted on the 17th at 6.28 a.m. and 9.59 p.m., which were probably sent by the submarine.

 

The next day (19th), as it was found that the Older was not much damaged, Italian and British crews were put on board, and at 1.15 p.m. she was despatched to Stornoway with an armed guard from the Otway, and arrived on the 22nd.

 

Delays in the refitting of ships were causing a shortage in the number of vessels on patrol; this embarrassed the Admiral of the squadron, and also upset the relief programme, and kept ships on duty beyond the normal fifty days, which was "bad for their boilers"; the Admiral might also have added that the too prolonged strain on the crews tried their endurance to breaking point. On December 1st Admiral Tupper reported that, as the boiler­makers refused to work overtime on board the Orcoma, her sailing would be delayed. The Kildonan Castle was also away on special service. (She rejoined the squadron on December 25th.) Only thirteen ships were at sea at the beginning of December (out of the total of twenty‑four) instead of seventeen, as there should have been.

 

On December 2nd in about 59û56'N., 11ûW., the Avenger and the Teutonic both intercepted a vessel which was thought to be the Dutch ship Gamma, and she was allowed to proceed on her way. It was afterwards suspected that the ship was a raider and not the Gamma, and a Court of Enquiry was held on board the Orion on December 18th, with Rear‑Admiral Goodenough as President. The Court found that the ship was not the Gamma, as she repre­sented, but there was some confusion about her calling at Kirkwall, as according to the latest orders Dutch ships did not go to Kirkwall, and the officers of the examining ships were justified in allowing her to go on. It was concluded that she was a supply ship and not a raider. The real Dutch Gamma apparently cleared at Kirkwall on December 3rd, and the report of this clearance first raised the question about the ship examined on the 2nd.

 

The weather continued to be bad throughout November, and it was probably owing to that fact, as well as to the

 

GERMAN RAIDERS

 

shortage of blockading cruisers, that two German raiders, the Moewe and the Wolf, got through to the Atlantic at the end of the month. (The Moewe was out in the Atlantic for four months, captured and sank a considerable number of ships (the Germans claimed twenty‑seven) and returned to her base on March 22nd, 1917. The Wolf was out longer, the sphere of her activities being chiefly the Indian Ocean. She returned to Kiel on February 19th, 1918, without meeting any British forces.)

 

On December 8th the Admiral received orders to detach four ships of the squadron to pursue the raiders. As it was necessary for these vessels to have a large radius of action and to be suitable for the tropics, the Almanzora, Orvieto, Orcoma, and Arlanza were selected for the purpose. The first three were already at Liverpool, and the Arlanza was ordered to join them there at once. She had only lately returned to the squadron after her adventures in the White Sea. Later in the day the Gloucestershire was also sent to the Clyde, presumably to replace one of the other vessels, which might not be ready in time.

 

Owing to the shortage of ships, the "E" Patrol (off Iceland) was temporarily given up, and the Otway and Moldavia joined the main patrol line, which was altered on the 9th, owing to further submarine alarms; but on the 11th the Admiral heard from the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet that a German raider was possibly coming out via the north of Iceland or the Faeroes, and he directed that a ship should go back to the "E" Patrol, and that the more northern Patrols ("A" and "B") should be strengthened at the expense of the more southern ("C" and "D"). Eight ships only were available, and that number was obtained by counter­manding the order for the Avenger to oil, and by directing that the Ebro should remain out for two or three days longer, though she was already overdue for overhaul and coaling. A force of light cruisers was detached from the Grand Fleet to search for the raiders further south, and as the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron took up the patrol on a line joining Sydero and Noup Head, the "C" Patrol was reduced to two ships, and the four ships of the "A" and "B" Patrols were ordered to work on a line 360û from 61û30' N., 9û W. This was all that could be done by the 10th Cruiser Squadron towards stopping a raider on her way north of the Faeroes for Icelandic territorial waters.

 

Two armed trawlers were directed to patrol between St. Kilda (Hebrides) and 10û W. with the idea of working across the route followed by Dutch vessels between Holland and Falmouth. The route followed by those vessels generally carried them clear of the 10th Cruiser Squadron patrols, and it was known that, if the enemy knew this fact, he would have a key to a comparatively safe passage through the patrols. The Admiral intended to use the trawlers attached to his squadron to block the passage as far as possible, but suggested that Dutch vessels should be ordered to pass west and north of Rockall from the position 61û N., 6û W. This would generally ensure that they would be intercepted, and give the impression that the whole area was thoroughly patrolled. At 7 p.m, on December 14th the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet informed Admiral Tupper that no further news had been received about the supposed raider, and that ordinary patrol should be resumed. The fact that the Moewe and Wolf had both got out was not known at this time.

 

On the 15th there was a further alarm of a suspicious vessel sighted off Muckle Flugga, and the "C" Patrol was moved to the eastward to intercept her, but she proved to be the Minotaur. Another alteration was made in the patrol on December 19th in order to watch more effectively the passage between the Faeroes and Iceland, but the shortage of ships still caused considerable difficulty.

 

During December both the Moldavia and Hildebrand revealed structural weaknesses which would keep them in dock until the middle of January, so that the squadron had to work with a shortage of vessels, though the blockade continued to provide varied tasks, which put a great strain on the Admiral's resources. On December 29th the Kildonan Castle, Ebro, and Changuinola were directed to chase a large four‑masted steamer which the armed trawler Arley had been unable to stop (in 58û10' N., 9û10' W.), The Arley had fired blank charges at her, but without effect, and could not overhaul her as her speed was 14 knots. She was said to be a Danish motor‑ship, the Panama, which had cleared from Stornoway the day before. The three cruisers were, however, unable to find her, and returned to patrol in the evening.

 

On December 31st the Admiral, in the Alsatian, visited Scapa Flow, to discuss with the Commander‑in‑Chief of the

 

CONFERENCE AT SCAPA

 

Grand Fleet (Sir David Beatty) various matters in connec­tion with the squadron, especially the possibility of using Scapa instead of Swarbacks Minn as a coaling base, or the alternative of abandoning a northern base and using Liverpool and the Clyde only. The visit to Scapa was greatly appreciated by both officers and crew of the Alsatian, especially the opportunity of seeing the Grand Fleet and realising more fully that the 10th Cruiser Squadron actually belonged to it.

 

The constant alarm as to German surface raiders seems to have affected very considerably the dispositions of the 10th Cruiser Squadron during 1916. As early as February the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet had suggested to the Admiral commanding the squadron that it might be advisable to alter the patrols in view of the possibility that more disguised and armed merchant ships might be coming out. (The Moewe, on her first cruise, came out at the end of December 1915.) The menace, he said, would probably necessitate a cruiser squadron being kept north of the Shetlands, and, when the weather permitted, a freer use of destroyers and constant cruiser sweeps towards the Skagerrak. The Commander‑in‑Chief's idea was that, on the alarm being raised, the 10th Cruiser Squadron should at once take up a position from Muckle Flugga to Utvaer Lighthouse, whence they would sweep south.

 

All the Admirals in the Grand Fleet were directed to send in proposals for meeting the difficulties which had become apparent in maintaining the patrol. Sir Cecil Burney (First Battle Squadron) pointed out that efficient patrols between the Shetlands and Iceland, and in the fairway north of Iceland would mean establishing a blockade on a front of 410 miles (without counting the Northern Channel), and that would mean at least 40 ships constantly on patrol, and approximately 60 ships to main­tain it. The total number of ships in the 10th Cruiser Squadron at the time was 27, of which 17 were actually away, leaving only 10 on patrol, instead of 40. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that raiders did get through. Admiral Burney suggested employing the four cruiser squadrons of the Grand Fleet as well as more submarines in order to render the blockade more adequate.

 

The Rear‑Admiral commanding the First Battle Cruiser Squadron put forward two plans, one to fix routes for all outward‑bound neutral traffic passing north of the British Isles, and the other for the neutral Powers to establish a convoy system for outward‑bound ships from Slottero Light to Sumburgh Head, 180 miles. Either of these measures, he urged, would reduce the area to be covered by the patrolling vessels, though neutral Powers would no doubt object. It was obvious that these two suggestions covered the whole field: increase the blockading squadron, or decrease the area the squadron had to cover; but neither was adopted. Sir David Beatty's letter on the subject dealt chiefly with the danger to men of war and squadrons at sea when passing within two miles of a merchant vessel, unless she had been care­fully inspected.

 

New instructions were subsequently issued for boarding vessels and making signals. Ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron were directed not to board suspected vessels unless a consort was within supporting distance.

 

A curious incident occurred on July 26th. The Wilson liner Eskimo, from Christiania to Newcastle, was captured by a German auxiliary cruiser off Risor, on the coast of Norway, and taken to Germany. The captain considered that he was, according to custom, within territorial waters, which were deep right up to the coast in this position. The German ship fired five shots, and the second shot hit the Eskimo. The Berlin official communique of July 28th spoke of an "engagement" with the armed British steamer Eskimo; but the ship was not armed. She carried two rifles and a small amount of ammunition for them, all in charge of the master.

 

This event only affected the 10th Cruiser Squadron in so far that the capture was effected either in territorial waters or very close to them. Attempts of the same kind had apparently been made before, and if territorial waters were to be even more closely watched it would add very considerably to other difficulties.

 

In October 1916 further instructions were issued for action to be taken to intercept enemy raiders which were reported as being about to sail, or as having sailed, from an enemy port, with the intention of breaking out into the Atlantic. These instructions were chiefly for the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and armed boarding steamers on the Shetland‑Faeroes patrol and the 4th Light Cruiser

 

ESCAPE OF RAIDERS

 

Squadron and destroyers on the Shetland‑Norway patrol. The 10th Cruiser Squadron had their own orders for a line approximately between Rockall and Iceland, and while disposed to intercept raiders, were to intercept and send in merchant vessels as usual. If ice permitted, two ships were to be detailed to patrol in the Denmark Strait, and one off the south‑east coast of Iceland. In spite of all these precautions, two enemy raiders escaped into the Atlantic. The Moewe and Wolf left Germany towards the end of November, and on December 15th the Commander‑in­Chief of the Grand Fleet wrote strongly to urge that more drastic measures should be taken, especially with regard to control over Norwegian territorial waters, in which enemy vessels and neutral vessels carrying contraband passed freely up and down without fear of molestation.

 

As an illustration of the correctness of his apprehensions, it may be noted that the raider Seeadler, which was formerly the American sailing ship Pass of Balmaha, left Bremen on December 21st, 1916, for the coast of South America, evaded the patrols, and got through without being seen.

 

On December 17th a new memorandum was issued by the Commander‑in‑Chief, Sir David Beatty, as to action to be taken on receipt of information that an enemy commerce raider was about to sail or had sailed from an enemy port. Later in the month he represented very strongly to the Admiralty that the recent reduction in numbers of the blockade squadron weakened the general efficiency of the patrol, as the force was inadequate for guarding in a reliable manner the passages north of Iceland, between Iceland and the Faeroes, and between the Faeroes and Orkneys. This was especially serious with regard to the passing out of raiders, as well as for keeping a strict blockade. The only enemy surface vessels which could operate against trade on the high seas were those which evaded the 10th Cruiser Squadron patrol, and all the oversea supplies for countries bordering on Germany had to run the gauntlet of the blockading squadron. It was, therefore, in his opinion, absolutely imperative that their numbers should be increased. With four of the best ships absent hunting a raider in the Atlantic. The Kildonan Castle about to be withdrawn for special service, the Armadale Castle not yet joined, the Artois and Champagne not reliable, and about a third of the remainder coaling or refitting, there were usually only 12 or 15 vessels on patrol. The Commander‑in‑Chief suggested that five ships (armed merchant cruisers) should be withdrawn from the Atlantic trade routes, three others from South America, one from East Africa, and one from China, to strengthen the 10th Cruiser Squadron. He also urged that vessels from the 2nd Cruiser Squadron might be sent to South America, and the other ships replaced by French and Japanese vessels. He recommended that a permanent patrol of about 24 vessels ought to be kept by the 10th Cruiser Squadron. The Admiralty answer to this was that the squadrons abroad had not only patrol work to carry out; they had to prevent the escape of enemy interned vessels, to escort transports, and to carry gold to the United States.

 

During 1916, 3,388 vessels were intercepted, and 889 were sent in with armed guards. In 1915 the numbers had been 3,098 and 743 respectively, and the increase was probably due to the large number of vessels intercepted off the north‑east coast of Iceland during the herring fishing season, as owing to the submarine menace, the patrols were frequently so far to the westward that they were in a less favourable position for intercepting shipping than in 1915. Whether the enemy realised this fact is not known. Only one ship of the squadron was lost during 1916, the Alcantara (See Vol. II., p. 154) in action with the German raider Greif, but an officer and five men belonging to the Ebro were lost in the Norwegian barque Olivia which had been sent in under armed guard, and was never heard of again. An officer and a leading seaman were also removed by a German submarine from the Norwegian barque Pestalozzi and taken to Germany as prisoners of war.

 

The work of the squadron was considerably affected by the extension of blockade measures, without any corresponding increase in the number of the blockading vessels. The increased submarine menace also added to the difficul­ties, as it was always driving the patrol to the westward, and thus leaving an unguarded channel for merchant ships to get through without undergoing examination, and the recurring alarms about surface raiders very often took the squadron away from its own pressing duties.

 

EXTENSION OF BLOCKADE MEASURES

 

In spite of all these dangers and drawbacks, the work was unceasingly carried on, and the blockade developed successfully. Though three enemy raiders evaded the patrols and got through into the Atlantic and Indian oceans in 1916‑17, two others were sunk, and the Germans must have realised very well that the odds were greatly against them, as they did not tempt fortune by risking rnany more ships as oversea raiders. (For operations of the German raiders, see Vol. II., Chap. XVII.)

 

The position of the 10th Cruiser Squadron after four of the best ships had been sent away to the Atlantic in December 1916 was very precarious, but this was recognised by the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Grand Fleet, and at the Admiralty, and the cruisers and light cruisers of the Grand Fleet were increasingly employed in blockade and patrol work.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE DEFENSIVE ARMING OF MERCHANT SHIPS

 

In the previous volume of this history a special chapter entitled "The Merchant Service on the Defensive" was devoted to the measures taken by the Admiralty up to the middle of the year 1916 to arm the British Merchant Service for self‑protection. We must now describe the steps which were taken, in view of later developments of German policy, to defend the Allied cause. That the enemy tactics were defeated was due partly to the success of the British navy in sinking submarines, and otherwise pro­tecting merchant shipping against their depredations, partly to the arming of British merchant ships and the training of their crews to defend themselves, their ships, and their cargoes. With the first‑mentioned methods (described in the volumes on "Naval Operations") this history does not deal. It treats of an equally or even more inspiring theme, the armament of the merchant ships and the training in dis­cipline and in fighting efficiency of the personnel. The German policy nearly succeeded. That it failed is largely due to the enthusiasm with which all ranks under the Red Ensign, men and youths, from captain to cabin‑boy, rose to the occasion. The subject comes naturally under two heads: (1) the supply of armament to British merchant ships, and (2) the training of the crews in its use. This chapter deals with the first portion of the subject.

 

Before describing in detail the measures taken by Great Britain to arm merchant ships on an extensive scale, it is desirable to complete the tale of the attitude of neutrals towards the policy involved. The special conditions which affected the territorial waters of different countries may be gathered from a memorandum drawn up by the Admiralty in 1916 and issued in its final form on March 1st, 1917. Under the terms of this memorandum, the Merchant Service was informed that defensively armed vessels might visit the ports of any neutral country (except Holland) to

 

ATTITUDE OF NEUTRALS

 

which they were permitted to proceed under the conditions affecting voyages recognised as permissible under the Government war risk scheme. Special instructions for masters of ships as a guide to their procedure in ports of the United States, Spain, Cuba, and Norway were appended. To obtain clearance from a port in the United States (including those in the Panama Canal zone) an assurance to the local authorities, from the British consular office, was required to the effect that the armament would be used only for defensive purposes, and the masters were warned that they must also expect to have to answer certain questions. If any difficulty arose, appeal to the nearest British con­sular officer was recommended. On a defensively armed vessel visiting a Spanish port, the captain, proprietor, or agent of the vessel was directed to furnish a written declara­tion, with the intervention of the British consular officer (if any):

 

1. That the vessel was destined exclusively for commerce.

2. That she would not be transformed into a ship of war or auxiliary cruiser before returning to the United Kingdom.

3. That the armament on board would only be used for defence of the vessel in case of attack.

 

Instructions affecting visits to ports in Cuba were less definite. On arrival at a Cuban port of "an armed ship of belligerent nationality, purporting to be a merchant vessel" the port authorities immediately conducted an investiga­tion as to the proposed employment of the armament, and reported to the State Department whether there was sufficient proof to negative the presumption that she was, and should be treated as, a war vessel. In Norwegian Ports the masters of ships were required to furnish the commanders of the local guardships with details of their ships' speed, dimensions, armament; their last, present, and proposed voyage; the number and nationality of officers and crew, and so forth. In case of difficulties in any neutral Port, the masters were recommended to apply to the nearest British consular officer.

 

On March 13th, 1917, after the United States had broken off diplomatic relations with Germany, but had not yet declared war, the Navy Department issued Regulations for the conduct of American Armed Merchant vessels, which are so important that they are given in extenso in Appendix A.

 

It will be seen by reference to these regulations that the American system was to place an "armed guard" on board each vessel, instead of training their Mercantile Marine as a combatant service to protect themselves, as in the British service. These armed guards were for the sole purpose of defence "against the unlawful acts of Germany or of any nation following the policy announced by Germany in her note of January 31st, 1917." Neither the armed guards nor their arms were to be used for any other purpose than that specified. The armed guards, in matters of a non‑military character, were under the orders of the master of the vessel, but their military discipline was administered by the naval officer commanding them, who was alone responsible for opening or ceasing fire. As in the British service, national colours were to be hoisted before fire was opened. It was laid down as lawful for fire to be opened upon any submarine of Germany, or of any nation following her policy of January 31st 1917, that attempted to approach, or lay within 4,000 yards of the commercial route of an American vessel sighting the sub­marine in the zone prescribed by Germany. Fire was also to be opened at ranges exceeding 4,000 yards upon any submarine which fired first.

 

Offensive action was not permitted outside the zone against submarines so specified, if on the surface, unless guilty of an unlawful act jeopardising the vessel con­cerned. Fire could be opened upon submerged submarines outside the zone. Although not called upon actually to serve the gun, the merchant crews were required to handle ammunition, clear the decks, and otherwise to perform supplementary service in fighting the ship. The prece­dence of the naval officer was defined as coming next after the master, with the proviso that he was not eligible to succeed to the command of the ship. He was responsible for the condition of the guns and of their appurtenances; for training not only the armed guard, but also the members of the crew detailed, as above, to assist in the service of the guns; for the readiness of the armed guard. for a continuous look‑out near each gun; and for reporting to the Navy Department.

 

Such was the policy of neutrals, and of the United

 

BRITISH PRACTICE

 

States when about to become a belligerent, during the acute stage of the German unrestricted submarine campaign which was launched in February 1917. In British merchant ships, guns, almost without exception, were placed right aft from the outset. A certain amount of agitation for a gun forward was raised from time to time, mostly by masters who had not had an opportunity for studying thoroughly the arguments for and against this procedure. The primary duty of a merchant ship was to bring her cargo safely to its destination, and not to engage in action with the enemy if that course could be avoided. That policy was originally laid down in pre‑war days, when its initiation was under the guidance of Admiral H. H. Campbell. It was summarised in his reply to masters of meat‑ships who wanted their guns mounted forward: "We want the beef that you are carrying." That principle having been established