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World War 1 at Sea


THE MERCHANT NAVY, Volume I, 1914 to Spring 1915 (Part 2 of 2)


by Sir Archibald Hurd


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The Sinking of a Merchant Ship (click to enlarge)

on to The Merchant Navy, Vol 2

or return to World War 1, 1914-1918

 

 

CONTENTS

(continued)

CHAPTER VI

 

THE ORGANISATION OF THE AUXILIARY PATROL

 

Scarcity of small craft for purposes of patrol - Influence of the submarine and mine - Organisation of the New Navy - Lord Beresford's foresight - Trawlers organised for war purposes - An Admiralty Committee appointed - The purchase of trawlers in 1910 - Manning policy - Progress of recruiting - The mobilisation scheme - The trawler section on the outbreak of war- A notable achievement . . . pp. 253-267

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

THE APPEARANCE OF THE SUBMARINE

 

Development of a new policy for attacking sea-borne commerce - The sinking of the s.s. Glitra, the first merchant ship to be destroyed by a submarine - The achievement of U21 in the English Channel - Germany's decision to ignore international law and the code of humanity - Interview with Grand Admiral von Tirpitz in December 1914 - Germany's declaration of the War Zone on February 4th, 1915 - The reply of the British Government - The attack on the s.s. Laertes - The British seamen's ordeal - Enemy threats treated with contempt - The rising toll of lives lost - Merchant ships attacked by aeroplanes - Vessels torpedoed without warning - The escape of the s.s. Vosges - The s.s. Falaba torpedoed and sunk - A court of inquiry - The tragedy of the s.s. Fulgent. pp. 268-317

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

THE AUXILIARY PATROL AT WORK

 

Mine-laying by the Germans - Operations of British mine-sweepers - Maintaining a swept channel - The needs of the Grand Fleet - Trawlers in a new role - Steam-yachts requisitioned - The Motor-Boat Reserve - Clearing three German minefields - The menace of the submarine - An anti-submarine trawler flotilla - Protecting merchant shipping - A new naval command at Dover - Hunting for submarines - Expansion of the mine-sweeping service - Escape of the Norddeutscher Lloyd liner Berlin - A minefield laid off Tory Island - Foundering of H.M.S. Audacious - Impressment of Liverpool tugs as patrols - Exploration of a new minefield - The Gorleston raid - Activity in the English Channel - U18 sunk by a trawler - Incursions into Scapa Flow - The raid on Scarborough pp. 318-366

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

THE GROWTH OF THE SUBMARINE MENACE

 

The enemy's dependence on the mine and submarine - An attack upon the Grand Fleet - Additional armed trawlers fitted out - The development of the "indicator net " - An extended scheme of patrol introduced - The nucleus of the drifter fleet - Submarine attack off the Mersey - Reorganisation of the patrol area - The war zone declaration and its influence on the patrol - Netting the Straits of Dover - Destruction of a submarine by the steam trawler Alex Hastie - Encounters with submarines - The value of the modified sweep - The fighting spirit of the British crews - The enemy's reply to the indicator net - Loss of fishing vessels and crews - Protective measures devised by the Admiralty - Further changes in the Auxiliary Patrol - The discovery of an enemy minefield . pp. 367-409

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

THE SINKING OF THE "LUSITANIA"

 

The "Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic " - Enemy warning of an attack on the Lusitania ignored by passengers - An unarmed ship, with 1,959 people on board - Lord Mersey's judgment supported by an American judge - The cross-Atlantic voyage - Warnings from the Admiralty as to the presence of submarines off the Irish coast - Captain Turner's decision - The enemy's attack without warning - A passenger's experience - Scene on board the doomed ship - Heroic conduct of an able seaman - The first officer's exertions to save life - Captain Turner's explanation - The official inquiry and judgment - Reception of the news in Germany pp. 410-428

 

 

CHAPTER XI

 

THE ADVENT OF THE OCEAN-GOING SUBMARINE

 

The concentration of enemy craft off the Irish coast to attack the Lusitania - The disposition of patrol vessels - The S.O.S. signal and the response - Rescue of the survivors - Fine service of unarmed fishing-vessels - Increasing constriction on the enemy's movement owing to the activity of the patrol - A well-devised scheme - The introduction of the hydrophone - The fighting spirit of the new Navy - Entrapping the submarine - The harvest of the sea - Trawler sea-fights - A submarine's cowardly action - Destruction of the U-boat - Rescue of a merchant ship and a valuable cargo . pp.429-449

 

 

INDEX

(not included use Search)

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

THE ORGANISATION OF THE AUXILIARY PATROL

 

IT may be said of the Admiralties of the world, even those responsible for ocean commerce on a large scale, that none foresaw the course which the war by sea would take, and consequently there was a good deal of hasty improvisation to meet its needs, particularly on the part of the Entente navies, which had to keep open the maritime communications of armies and peoples. For ten years or more attention had been directed almost exclusively to the building of big men-of-war, battleships, and battle cruisers; and in 1914 the number of small craft - light cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo-boats - possessed by the Great Powers, not excluding Germany and Austria-Hungary, was relatively small. That was a matter of slight importance to the enemy, because he relinquished, almost from the first, all attempt to use the sea for military or economic purposes; but it would have proved a grave embarrassment to the Entente Powers if they had not had a reserve, to be called upon as required, consisting of the unconsidered and uncatalogued latent elements of naval power possessed by the British people with ancient sea traditions. Because it was responsible for protecting about half the ocean tonnage of the world, and was better provided with small craft than the French or Italian navies, the burden of sea command bore mainly on the British Fleet throughout the war. It had not been foreseen that it would be necessary to organise what at length reached the proportions of a second fleet under Admiralty control, consisting of craft which were never intended for the violence of warfare, but when the need arose it was met with complete success.

 

There had been no intention of making heavy demands upon the ships or men of the Mercantile Marine, though the Admiralty was prepared to take up a limited number of steamships for use as store, ammunition, and hospital ships, while other vessels were held available for employment as auxiliary cruisers and transports. The necessity for organising a great auxiliary fleet would not have arisen, or, at any rate, it would not have assumed such large proportions as it did assume, had it not been for the enemy's decision to dispatch submarines to attack merchant shipping. That policy was an afterthought. It is hardly too much to say that before the outbreak of war no naval officer, whatever his nationality, seriously contemplated the possibility of vessels being used for attacking ocean-borne commerce which could not supply prize crews or make provision, in case the prize was destroyed, for the safety of the crew as well as passengers, if passengers were carried.

 

For a number of years torpedo-boats, swift and carrying guns as well as torpedoes, had been in commission, but it had never been suggested that these small vessels, the forerunners of the submarines, should be pressed into such service, because it was realised that such a departure involved the infraction of the generally-accepted law of nations, and, if human life was lost, the flouting of the dictates of humanity. The Germans themselves entertained no such proposal. When the submarine appeared and proved its efficiency, no idea was held of converting it into an instrument for attacking commerce, as is proved by the fact that in the summer of 1914 the enemy possessed only twenty-eight completed vessels of this type. If any such scheme had been determined upon as part of the war plans of the Germans, many more submarines would certainly have been in readiness to be thrown into the war when the struggle by sea opened. It was not until after the British cruisers Hogue, Cressy, and Aboukir had been sunk by U9, and the German flag had been banished from the outer seas, that the idea was conceived that, if men-of-war, armed and armoured and with highly trained crews, could be so easily destroyed as experience had shown, submarines should be employed against unarmed merchantmen, manned by crews unfamiliar with war conditions.

 

That determination on the part of the enemy, reached in the late autumn of 1914, vitally affected the naval situation as it had been studied by the British naval

 

A SUPPLEMENTARY FLEET

 

authorities in pre-war days. It forced them to assume an added responsibility, as unexpected as it was embarrassing. The Fleet had been organised to take its part in surface warfare; within a few months it had to adapt itself to a new form of warfare, pursued by the enemy with determination, with vessels capable of operating below the surface.

 

In conjunction with the appearance of the submarine the enemy's resort to indiscriminate mining changed the character of the British naval problem, and thus it came about that gradually a supplementary fleet was evolved - the Auxiliary Patrol. It eventually consistted of a great assemblage of small vessels of varied types - trawlers, whalers, drifters, steam-yachts, paddle-steamers, motor-launches, and motor-boats. Those vessels were manned by merchant seamen, fishermen, yachtsmen, and naval enthusiasts drawn promiscuously from the coast and inland towns and villages, from counting-house and shop and factory. Few persons before the war imagined that the stately white enamelled yachts seen in the Solent during Cowes Week would one day be painted grey, and, mounting guns fore and aft, would be commissioned under the White Ensign to hunt German submarines and assist in patrolling the ocean highways. Certainly the fishermen of the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and the English Channel did not foresee that they would spend several of the best years of their lives in sweeping up German mines and assuring the safety of merchant shipping from a deadly peril, besides assisting to bring to the British Isles the food and raw material required by the crowded population. Similarly, none of the yachtsmen who sought service under the Admiralty later dreamed that the summer cruises which they had been accustomed to make would furnish sea training and sea experience to fit them to take a foremost part in the world war. And yet, owing to the force of circumstances, this apparently miscellaneous collection of ships and men was to be welded together into a great disciplined force which bore no mean share of the burden of the war by sea during the whole of the long period covered by hostilities.

 

It was because the Royal Navy was so powerful that it needed these small ships, claiming them as necessary auxiliaries, arming them and sending them to sea in all weathers to fight the enemy and to assist in protecting the supreme weapon - the Grand Fleet - on which the fortunes of war mainly depended. Owing to the preponderating strength of the Grand Fleet over the High Sea Fleet, the enemy, thrown back on the defensive, decided to rely almost exclusively on two methods of offence, the mine and, afterwards, the submarine. They constituted deadly perils, not only to ships of commerce, but to men-of-war, and it was realised from the first that battleships, battle cruisers, and light cruisers were unsuited to offer an adequate defence against such instruments of warfare. A battleship or cruiser carries too many lives in her vulnerable hull, is too costly to build, is too difficult to replace, and has too great a turning circle, to engage in harrying, chasing, and sinking submarines. Destroyers were admirably suited to the work, but they were required as screens for the battle and cruiser squadrons, and the British Navy, in common with the other Allied navies, was short of these small craft. It soon became apparent that the Navy must have assistance, and, once the need was recognised, it was met by one of the most remarkable voluntary movements for which the war was responsible.

 

The unexpected development of the enemy's naval policy suggested the employment in this service of the steam-yacht, the paddle-steamer with its moderate draught, the motor-vessel, the drifter, and the trawler, thus utilising in fighting at sea the tonnage of the country which in normal times was used either in the pursuit of pleasure or in the fisheries. Fishing vessels were admirably adapted to meet the Navy's urgent requirements, carrying small crews, being handy in a seaway, drawing little water, and being cheap to build. These were the ships which were consequently taken up soon after the outbreak of war, fitted out, and placed on duty in the waters surrounding the British Isles. On these vessels devolved the duty of examining and controlling millions of tons of shipping passing through the narrow seas; day by day they swept channels of safety, destroying thousands of mines in the process; they encircled the British Isles with their ever-vigilant patrol, in fog and in storm, in summer and in winter; they escorted merchant ships, warning them from dangerous areas; they towed torpedoed vessels into safety; they sent enemy submarines to their doom by ramming, shelling, dropping explosives, or

 

MINE-SWEEPING EXPERIMENTS

 

other means. These auxiliary craft proved the salvation of the Royal Navy as of the Merchant Fleet. Gradually the sphere of operations of the Auxiliary Patrol was extended as far north as the White Sea, as far south as the Mediterranean and Aegean, and as far west as the West Indies. Wherever these vessels were employed, their officers and men performed redoubtable service in the common cause. They were the heroes of some of the most gallant exploits in naval history, as was attested by the long list of decorations won in unequal contests against the mine and submarine.

 

The story of the part taken in the naval war by the Auxiliary Patrol, consisting of nearly 4,000 vessels and manned by nearly 50,000 officers and men, constitutes a chapter in our naval annals of imperishable renown. It is a story which proves that the British seaman, even in the days of highly developed mechanically-driven ships, has nothing to fear by comparison with the standards of the golden age of the sailing-ship. Side by side with the personal achievements of the seamen, an endeavour will be made to show how a fortuitous and unorganised assemblage of shipping, with crews undisciplined to the demands of war, developed into what was in effect a supplementary navy.

 

When the war broke out in August 1914, a modest organisation was already in existence for the employment of fishing craft under the White Ensign, which enabled trawlers to be dispatched within a few hours to sweep up the first minefield laid by the enemy off our coast.

 

In 1907 Admiral Lord Charles Beresford was Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet, with his flag in the King Edward VII. For some time past he had been concerned with the best method of clearing a channel for a battle-fleet leaving harbour during strained relations or in time of war. When earlier he had been Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet he had tried sweeping experiments with tugs and destroyers, but both classes of vessels were found to be unsuitable. Whilst on a visit to Grimsby he saw about 800 trawlers congregated in the harbour. He inspected some of them, and talked with the skippers. Here were men accustomed to deal with trawl-ropes and trawls, the equivalent to mine-sweeps. These fishermen were so expert at their work that they never fouled their screws with the wire ropes, and their ships were fitted with steam winches and all the necessary gear required for sweeping. What could be more suitable than these ships and men for mine-sweeping? In July 1907 he therefore suggested to the Admiralty that a trial should be made with these craft, and, further, that, if successful, a certain number of trawlers should be requisitioned for the different ports so as to be ready for service when the period of strained relations with a foreign Power arrived.

 

In response to this suggestion, the Admiralty approved of Lord Charles making a practical test. At the beginning of the following year, Commander E. L. Booty of the King Edward VII was sent to Grimsby, where he selected two typical steam trawlers, the Andes and Algoma. They reached Portland on February 5th, with their skippers and crews of nine apiece; and for the next eight days they proceeded to sweep up dummy mines. The trials were carried out under the supervision of a Channel Fleet Mining Committee, of which Captain F. C. D. Sturdee, (afterwards Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee) then commanding officer of the New Zealand, was President. Associated with him were Captain R. F. Phillimore and two torpedo lieutenants, together with a mining expert from the Vernon. The Committee reported that the experiments had proved sufficiently satisfactory to justify the taking up of trawlers for service in war, to assist in keeping clear the approaches to harbours that were likely to be mined. Lord Charles Beresford stated in his report that the trawlers would prove invaluable for sweeping duties, as the crews had been accustomed to earning their livelihood by this class of work. Skippers and crews had entered into the trials with both enthusiasm and delight; as to the trawlers themselves, their shape and build rendered sweeping easy, and practically no additional gear was required. In other words, a trawler with its crew, when ready to proceed to the fishing-grounds, was equally prepared for mine-sweeping.

 

As these trials actually brought about the creation of the mine-sweeping service, which rendered such gallant assistance throughout the war, it may be not out of place to set down the details of the Andes and Algoma. They measured 105 feet in length, 21 feet beam, with a draught of 13 feet aft and about 9 feet forward. Their speed was 8 knots; i.h.p. 240, and they carried 80 tons of coal,

 

RESULTS OF THE TRIALS

 

having an expenditure of five to six tons a day. Each trawl warp consisted of 250 fathoms of 3-inch wire, and at first the trawlers' own otter-boards were used as kites, though later, after further experiments, the right size and type of kite for mine-sweeping was evolved. The crew in each case consisted of skipper, mate, third hand, two deck hands, steward, chief engineer, second engineer, and trimmer. After the outbreak of war, when fishing trawlers became His Majesty's ships, the Admiralty made the fewest possible modifications in the personnel and the running of these vessels.

 

The result of the experiments at Portland was to convince the Admiralty that trawlers could be depended on to clear a channel with practically only their own resources. One distinguished officer, Captain Bernard Currey (afterwards Director of Naval Ordnance), pointed out that they would be indispensable in war-time as an Auxiliary Sweeping Service, and suggested the desirability of preparing a contract with the trawler-owners so as to enable a number of these craft to be taken up on the Approach of war. With this suggestion Captain E. J. W. Slade, (Afterwards Admiral Sir Edmond J. W. Slade.) then Director of Naval Intelligence, concurred, and he further emphasised the fact that trawls were obviously more efficiently worked by men accustomed to their use than by untrained crews. The solution of the manning problem, therefore, appeared to lie in employing Royal Naval Reserve men, of whom a large number were fishermen. The proposal was approved by Admiral Sir John Fisher, the First Sea Lord.

 

On August 1st, 1908, five months afterwards, an important Mining Committee was formed at the Admiralty under the presidency of RearAdmiral G. A. Callaghan to consider the general question of mine-laying and mineclearing. It was evident to anyone able to read the signs of the times that war with Germany was sooner or later possible, and that mines might play no inconsiderable part in the enemy's operations. Hitherto the method of destroying a minefield was to countermine. But after going into the matter very carefully, the Committee recommended that a mine-sweeping service should be instituted in lieu of countermining; that the wire-sweep should be adopted; that 6-foot kites should be used for small craft, and 9-foot kites, or even 12-foot, for larger craft. They further suggested that six trawlers should be purchased immediately for experimental and instructional service, and that trawler-owners should be approached by the Admiralty to ascertain if they could provide crews in peacetime for instruction, as well as in war-time for sweeping mines.

 

Little time was wasted, for by the middle of August both Sir John Fisher and the First Lord, Mr. Reginald McKenna, had approved of six trawlers being obtained (two for each of the three Torpedo Schools) in order to enable instruction in mine-sweeping to proceed without delay. There was still much to be learnt in regard to the best types of kites and the most suitable wires, and, furthermore, officers and men required a certain amount of instruction. The urgency of the matter arose from the fact that foreign Powers were known to be increasing the numbers of their blockade mines. There was the consequential danger that at the outbreak of war the British Fleet might be taken by surprise, blockaded by minefields, and unable to emerge from its bases.

 

In spite of the urgency of the matter, there followed some delay in obtaining financial sanction for the purchase of these trawlers; but in the Naval Estimates for 1909-10 this was provided for. In March 1910 Mr. McKenna stated that during the year great attention had been paid to mine-sweeping, and that six trawlers had been bought for "subsidiary services." More than this was not revealed publicly, as there was a desire to keep all mine-sweeping details secret. The first four trawlers were purchased in April 1909, their names being the Spider, Sparrow, Seaflower, and Seamew. From this date practice and experimental work in mine-sweeping were carried out continuously, and the results were eminently satisfactory. In December it was decided to allocate the Sparrow and Spider to the Vernon at Portsmouth, the Seamew and Seaflower to the Actaeon at the Nore, whilst the two others still to be bought were to be attached to the Defiance at Devonport. But from June to the end of September every year these six trawlers were to be used for visiting the fishing ports and training ratings.

 

The Admiralty having obtained these trawlers, the next step was to secure the personnel. It was necessary

 

NAVAL OFFICERS TRAINED

 

to detail naval officers to take charge of the units of trawlers when sweeping, but a difficulty arose. In the first place there were very few officers who had experience of sweeping, and it was clear that in time of war every available officer on the active list would be required for service in the Royal Navy. The difficulty was met when it was decided, early in 1910, to detail and train certain officers on the emergency and retired lists for this special purpose. At the outset twenty-two lieutenants or commanders were required, each of whom in time of war would command a unit consisting of six trawlers. Of those who were invited, about twenty commanders and lieutenants accepted the call and underwent a fourteen days' course in the Vernon. This was soon followed by another course for an additional number, and thus a fairly big nucleus of trained officers became available. These details of organisation were arranged none too early. Since the year 1906, Germany had been expending large sums of money on the construction of mine-layers, the manufacture of mines, and the training of officers and men in mine-laying. The Russo-Japanese War had shown the value of mines, for no fewer than thirty-seven craft, from battleships to picket-boats, had struck mines, and there were also losses to merchant shipping.

 

Officers for the units having been obtained, the next step was to get together a special section of the Royal Naval Reserve, to be known as the Trawler Section, which would man these craft. Men were not to be drawn from the existing Royal Naval Reserve, as obviously such a step would interfere with the manning of some of the bigger ships in time of war. The regulations for this Trawler Section were drawn up in October 1910. It was decided to retain for the men their existing titles of ranks and ratings "Skipper," "Second-hand," and so on. The pay was based on the wages normally obtaining in the trawling industry, but about 20 per cent, lower. The skipper was to be given the rank of a warrant officer; it was determined that he must have commanded a trawler for at least two years, possess a Board of Trade certificate, and before receiving the Admiralty warrant must undergo eight days' training in one of His Majesty's steam trawlers.

 

The slack season in the trawling trade occurs immediately after Lent, especially between June and September, and the decision was made that the training season should coincide with the slack season as far as possible. The first enrolment of fishermen for the Royal Naval Reserve (T.) was postponed until the beginning of 1911, when the Admiralty endeavoured to obtain fifty skippers and fifty second-hands. The training was to be carried out on board the six trawlers now attached to the Torpedo Schools, the names of the recently-added pair being the Rose and Driver, attached to Devonport. For the commencement of this training Aberdeen was selected, and there the six Admiralty trawlers were to assemble, together with H.M.S. Jason and Circe, those two gunboats having been selected by reason of the training and experience of their commanding officers in mine-sweeping. The first course at Aberdeen began on January 30, 1911, and ended by the middle of April, during which time twenty-eight skippers, twenty-seven second-hands, twenty deck-hands, twenty-one engineers, and twenty trimmers, had been recruited and trained. Thus the first batch of the Trawler Reserve was obtained. Commander Holland of the Circe afterwards reported that the class of men enrolled was very good, and much better than had been expected; they all took very keen interest in their work, and were amenable to discipline. The eight days' instruction included sweeping independently in pairs, reeving sweeps, wheeling and slipping the sweep, sweeping up dummy mines, and so on.

 

At the beginning of April recruiting began at Grimsby, but the results were by no means encouraging. Not more than a dozen men volunteered, and not one of these was a skipper. There was no disguising the fact that Grimsby, which had been the birthplace of this Trawler Reserve scheme, and was also the home of the great fishing industry, showed itself very far from enthusiastic. There was something not quite as it should be. What was it? Anyone acquainted with these rough, hearty fishermen knows that in many ways they are just delightful big children. If one man "throws his hand in," practically the whole crew will do the same. The trouble in this case began with the skippers, some of whom made what the seaman calls  a bit of a moan" over some apparent

 

DIFFICULTIES OVERCOME

 

injustice. Most of their companions took up the same attitude, and the result was failure. It is only fair to state that there were defects in the scheme, which, considering its novelty, was scarcely surprising. For instance, the Admiralty had made the age limit for skippers twenty-five to thirty-five. The Grimsby men objected to this as being too young, seeing that the best skippers in the port were much older than thirty-five. Another grievance was that the pay was not attractive. The Admiralty were quick to see where the trouble lay, and a number of modifications were devised to meet the difficulty. It was afterwards possible to smile at all this, since throughout the long war which was to follow no men did more gallant and persevering service in the minefields and on patrol than the Grimsby skippers and Grimsby crews. These men revealed themselves as no sea-lawyers, but the bravest of the brave. Time after time a Grimsby trawler foundered on a mine, and the first thing that the sole survivor did on getting back to his port was to sign on for a mine-sweeping job. And as to the skippers' ages well, many of the best men were of the same age as some of the best Admirals!

 

Down to the autumn of 1911 the recruiting and training went on. In addition to Aberdeen and Grimsby, the fishing ports of Hull, Fleetwood, and Milford were visited. From these there were obtained 52 skippers, 94 second-hands, 198 deck-hands, 88 enginemen, and 94 trimmers; a total of 526.

 

This was the nucleus of what was to develop into a great Auxiliary Navy. But it was patent that its usefulness would depend very considerably on the rapidity with which it could be mobilised at the time of war's approach. The sphere of utility for these trawlers, as conceived in the mind of the Admiralty, was not to act as fleet sweepers - that is, sweeping ahead of the Grand Fleet. For this purpose the trawlers were too slow of speed, and a number of old gunboats were already earmarked for that duty. But it was for clearing the entrances to harbours and fairways that the trawlers were to be relied on. The moment war was declared the enemy might lay his mines off the entrances to our East Coast ports; perhaps he would not even wait for the declaration of war. Unless ships were to be either blown up or virtually blockaded, sweepers must be ready to work almost at once.

 

The Admiralty realised in November of this same year that there should be appointed for each of these trawler ports a mobilising officer, whose duty was laid down. Just before the outbreak of war this officer would, on receipt of a telegram ordering him to take up his mobilisation appointment, proceed to his assigned port. There he would receive in due course another telegram ordering him to take up so many trawlers, call on the Registrar of the Royal Naval Reserve for that port, and warn him to prepare crews for these craft. The Registrar of Shipping and Seamen would furnish the mobilising officer with a list of the trawlers in port, or likely to arrive very shortly. Arrangements would be made to have these craft prepared for sea, coaled, and filled up with water, oil, and provisions to last seven days. The owners were to take out all the fish, the ice, and the fishing-gear, excepting the warps. Having selected from the available trawlers those which were suitable, the mobilising officer was to give the skippers their charts and sailing orders, and away they would sail to their port.

 

Having proceeded thither at full speed, the trawler's skipper would then draw his special sweeping stores, such as his kite, White Ensign, flags, cone, and signal book, and be informed to which group of sweepers he was to belong, as well as the name of the parent ship of the officer in charge of his group. He would also be given a number, which was to be painted in white figures two feet long on each bow, and his ship would in future be known officially by that number. His fishing letters and number were to be painted out. A naval petty officer would also join the trawler in order to assist the skipper with advice, especially in purely naval matters, in signalling and keeping accounts; and this petty officer would be third in command. By this time the ship would also have been painted a navy grey and be flying the White Ensign; she would, in fact, have changed her character from that of a peaceful fisherman to a man-of-war.

 

Mention must not be omitted of the arrangement which had been made, also prior to the war, between the Admiralty and the trawler-owners. It was realised that in the event of hostilities the fishing industry would,

 

ARRANGEMENT WITH THE OWNERS

 

except in certain areas removed from the theatre of operations, automatically stop; that the trawlers would have to remain in port, and therefore the owners would cease to receive dividends. The Admiralty scheme, by taking over these vessels in war-time at a certain rate of hire, was to be considered as offering a sound business proposition. Before the war an arrangement existed between certain owners and the naval authorities whereby such vessels would be chartered in priority of any other trawlers in the event of hostilities. The owners agreed that as soon as possible after receipt of notice they would hire their vessels to the Navy upon terms which had already been arranged. The payment in respect of hire was to be 12 per cent, per annum on the then value of the trawler. The first cost was to be ascertained by valuing the hull and outfit at 18 per ton of the gross tonnage on the Board of Trade certificate, and the machinery and boilers at 40 per nominal horse-power. This estimated first cost was to be depreciated at the rate of 4 per cent, for every year of the trawler's age; the class of vessel aimed at was craft not more than ten years old, and able to carry enough coal to steam at least 1,000 miles at 8 knots.

 

In the month of March 1912, a number of retired naval officers were selected to take charge of mine-sweeping trawlers at Sheerness, the Firth of Forth, Dover, Portsmouth, Portland, Devonport, and Milford. As soon as these officers should receive a telegram ordering them to mobilise, they were to proceed to their respective ports. They were not, of course, the mobilising officers, but were to go to sea in charge of their respective groups of sweepers. In July of that year a further number were also selected as mobilising officers at Aberdeen, Hull, Grimsby, Milford Haven, North Shields, Granton (near Leith), and Fleetwood; and, in order to leave no loophole for misunderstandings, these officers were required to undergo an annual course of three days at their appointed ports with a view to getting in touch with the Registrars of the Royal Naval Reserve, the local harbour authorities, and trawler-owners, and in order to become acquainted generally with the docks and locality. Prior to these three days, they were to visit the Admiralty for one day each year in order to confer with the Inspecting Captain of Minesweeping.

 

It will be seen with what meticulous care the Navy had prepared against one particular form of warfare which it was suspected the enemy would pursue. For years these preparations had continued, but they were not complete. In September of 1912 another stage was reached, when an allocation of mine-sweeping trawlers was made right away down the coast from Scotland along the North Sea, down the Channel, up the Irish Sea to Milford Haven, and even as far west as Queenstown. In November there were sixty-four trawlers on the Admiralty list, each allocated to one of these ports, each with its skipper and crew trained for sweeping, and with a naval officer ready to take charge of a group whenever ordered to leave his retirement and go to sea. The crew was to consist of the skipper, second-hand, four deck-hands, two enginemen, and one trimmer, in addition to one naval petty officer, whose knowledge of signalling would be found not the least useful of his qualifications.

 

By August 1914 the Trawler Section had so far advanced that there were already eighty-two trawlers under the above arrangement, to be based on Cromarty, the Firth of Forth, North Shields, the Humber, Harwich, the Nore, Dover, Portsmouth, Portland, and Devonport. In addition to these eighty-two fishing trawlers, there were, of course, the six Admiralty-owned trawlers already mentioned, as well as the surveying trawlers Esther and Daisy which appeared in the Navy List, for some years before the war, as surveying-vessels. It was intended that on the outbreak of war these two should sweep at the Nore, but as soon as they were relieved by hired trawlers they were to proceed, the one to Harwich and the other to the Humber. Thus the commanding officers of both the Daisy and Esther were each able to take charge of a unit of detached trawlers.

 

The Admiralty also owned the trawlers Javelin, Jasper, Janus, and had chartered some time prior to the war the trawlers Alnmouth, Xylopia, Daniel Stroud, and Osborne Stroud. These had been employed in peace-time in towing targets, and were at that period commanded by warrant officers of the Royal Navy. Nor was the Admiralty ignorant of the mining preparations which Germany had been making stealthily and determinedly during the years of peace. It was known that practically every

 

READY FOR WAR

 

German man-of-war, from battleship to torpedo-boat, had been fitted to carry mines; and for a long time the personnel of the German torpedo-craft had been trained in mine-laying. It was known, also, that our future enemy possessed over 10,000 mines, chiefly of the horned type, ready to be scattered at our very doors at the earliest moment. The naval authorities were prepared for this. On the other hand, whilst it was realised that the mine would be a serious menace, no one could have foreseen that it would usurp to itself, in conjunction with the submarine, the task of carrying out the main operations of the enemy by sea.

 

Such, then, was the situation at the outbreak of hostilities. The country possessed a defensive organisation when the first act of warfare by sea occurred in the laying of the minefield off the Suffolk coast by the enemy. This organisation had taken just seven years to create and to perfect. During those years great difficulties had been overcome, for unsuspected obstacles were continually arising. To have created a mine-sweeping fleet ready for service as a reserve force with a minimum of cost to the country was indeed no mean achievement. It is not possible to realise how shipping could have gone up and down the North Sea as it did during the first few months of the war if it had not been for this trawler organisation. Within ten days of the declaration of hostilities there were 100 of these fishing-vessels serving under the White Ensign. They kept a channel up the coast swept clear for tramp steamer and man-of-war alike. They had come straight in from their fishing-grounds, landed their catch and their gear, coaled, turned round, and away they had gone to sea again, with the least possible delay, to begin one of the most dangerous occupations which, in the whole history of marine warfare, has ever been devised by the wit of man. To these men the country owes an immeasurable debt.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

THE APPEARANCE OF THE SUBMARINE

 

THE Germans must have realised at an early stage in the war that they could not hope seriously to interrupt British sea-borne traffic, immense in volume and widely distributed, with the comparatively few men-of-war and armed merchantmen which they had operating on the trade routes. The ultimate fate of those enemy vessels was also certain in view of the large forces which the Allied fleets were able to employ in hunting them down. The Germans may also have been impressed by the confident statements issued by the British Admiralty from time to time as to the flow of traffic, and must have foreseen that month by month the Allies, drawing from the inexhaustible resources of the sea, would continue to grow in strength, while Germany and the Powers associated with her would suffer from increasing exhaustion due to the slow but relentless pressure of superior sea-power. Before hostilities had been in progress three months, there were indications that the German naval authorities were searching for some means by which they could strike an effective blow at the merchant shipping of the Allies, and the United Kingdom in particular, without endangering the existence of the High Sea Fleet.

 

The whole civilised world was shocked, towards the end of October 1914, by the story of the barbarous attack by a German submarine upon the French s.s. Amiral Ganteaume, crowded with Belgian refugees, about forty of whom were killed. (Subsequent examination of one of the damaged lifeboats of the Amiral Ganteaume led to the discovery of the fragment of a German torpedo.) A charitable view was at first taken of the incident, it being assumed that this attempt to sink a vessel engaged on an errand of mercy was due to the ill-considered act of an individual naval officer. That opinion

 

THE FIRST VICTIM

 

had, however, to be abandoned subsequently in face of incidents which indicated that the Germans were definitely testing the suitability of the submarine for cutting the sea communications of the Allies.

 

Six days before this incident, on October 20th, the British steamship Glitra, 866 tons, had been attacked in the North Sea. That ship, which was old, slow, and, of course, unarmed, left Grangemouth, at the head of the Firth of Forth, for Stavanger on October 18th with a general cargo; the crew numbered seventeen. She followed the route laid down by the Admiralty, steaming at about 8 knots. When some fourteen miles west-south-west from Skudesnaes on the Norwegian coast, at noon on the 21st, she unsuspectingly hoisted the signal for a pilot, for no suspicious vessel was in view. The response was instant. But as the motor pilot-boat approached a low, long object, about three miles to the seaward, was observed by the Glitra's master (Mr. L. A. Johnston) and chief officer, who were on the bridge. It proved to be U17 (Oberleutnant z. S. Feldkirchner).

 

The pilot-boat turned back, evidently fearing trouble, and the master of the Glitra altered course more to the north, in order to increase the distance between himself and the submarine. He had no reason to anticipate molestation by the submarine, a thing unheard of hitherto. The submarine, which had 5 knots superior speed, followed the Glitra, subsequently describing a complete circle round the defenceless merchant ship, and carrying out a leisurely inspection. A gun mounted abaft the conning-tower of the submarine was then fired, and on the Glitra stopping, the Germans approached within a ship's length and launched a collapsible boat. An officer and two men forthwith boarded the merchantman. They were fully armed and evidently in ruthless mood. The master of the Glitra was immediately ordered off the bridge, the German officer placing the muzzle of a revolver against his neck and excitedly warning him in passable English that he would be allowed ten minutes in which to get his crew away in the boats, and that then his ship would be sunk.

 

While preparations were being made to leave the ship, the Germans covered the crew with revolvers, and two guns mounted in the submarine were trained threateningly on the vessel. Captain Johnston and his men were refused permission to collect their clothes and other belongings, and the Germans, having seized the ship's papers, lowered the British flag, which was torn to pieces and trampled underfoot with maniacal rage. These actions were indicative of the spirit of the enemy's seamen on entering upon the new campaign. As soon as the crew had taken to the boats, the Germans transferred to the submarine the charts and compasses of the Glitra, without a word of apology for such acts of theft. In the meantime, the commanding officer of the U17 had sent an engineer into the engine-room, evidently to open the valves, for shortly afterwards the ship began to settle down, her late crew being helpless spectators. The submarine towed the crowded boats for about a quarter of an hour, and, having then cast them loose with directions to the men to row towards the land, returned to complete the destruction of the Glitra. The pilot-boat subsequently came to the rescue of the abandoned seamen and towed the boats until the Norwegian torpedoboat Hai appeared. This craft eventually landed Captain Johnston and his men at Skudesnaes, from which place they were taken on by a passenger steamer to Stavanger.

 

 

 

Survivors from a Torpedoed Ship

 

At the time this action of the Germans was regarded as merely an isolated outrage of a despicable character, but later events contradicted that impression. That the officer commanding U17 had acted on instructions received from superior authority, and that a definite policy of attack was being tested before its adoption on a larger scale, was afterwards suggested by the fate of the s.s. Malachite (718 tons). This vessel left Liverpool on November 19th for Havre with a general cargo. She was about four miles north by west from Cape la Heve on the afternoon of the 23rd when she sighted U21, commanded by Kapitan-Leutnant Otto Hersing, about two miles away on the starboard beam. Warned by a shot fired across his bow, the British master (Mr. Stephen Masson) stopped his engines. The submarine then closed in, and particulars of the voyage and the cargo were demanded in English. Question and answer were shouted from deck to deck. The Germans, realising that they had the British seamen at their mercy, then hoisted their ensign, and directed the master to carry all his papers to the enemy ship. When the crew were taking to the boats, the officer remarked, as though

 

U21's TEST CRUISE

 

ashamed of his conduct, that he was sorry he could not accommodate the men on board the submarine, but "war is war." Meantime the master had asked permission to retain the logbook and the ship's articles. The request was refused. When the men were clear of the ship, the submarine began firing at the Malachite at a range of about 200 yards with a gun mounted abaft the conning-tower. As the boats were being rowed towards Havre, which was reached the same evening, the Germans were still firing on the Malachite, and incidentally on the German flag, which the doomed vessel continued to fly. It was afterwards ascertained that the ship remained afloat and on fire for twenty-four hours.

 

Three days later the same submarine encountered the Primo (1,366 tons), which was on passage from Jarrow-on-Tyne to Rouen with coal. She was six miles north-west by north from Cape d'Antifer when the submarine, flying no flag, appeared. As in the case of the Glitra and Malachite, the attack was made by daylight, the Primo falling in with the submarine at about 8 a.m. The captain of the submarine adopted the same procedure as before, apologising shamefacedly to the master (Mr. C. A. Whincop) for the trouble caused, remarking that "This is war." The master and crew, cast adrift in their boats, endeavoured to reach a steamer which they saw at some distance, but on hearing the firing of the submarine directed on the Primo, that vessel sheered off in order to avoid sharing the Primo's fate. The seamen then rowed towards Fecamp, and about two hours later were picked up by the s.s. Clermiston and put ashore. The captain of the U21 experienced considerable difficulty in sinking the Primo. Gunfire failed to achieve the purpose. When Captain Whincop and his men last saw the vessel, she was still afloat with the submarine standing by. Two days later various vessels reported her as on fire and adrift. The French naval authorities at Boulogne, learning that an abandoned ship was afloat, a danger to traffic, dispatched a division of torpedo-boats on the last day of the month to carry out a search. According to a report from the Vice-Consul at Treport, the battered Primo was ultimately sunk by a French torpedo-boat.

 

The sinking of these two merchant ships was the result of the first cruise for commerce-destruction carried out in the Channel by Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing. He was dispatched, there is every reason to believe, to test the adaptability of the submarine to a campaign on merchant shipping, being chosen for this mission by reason of the success which he had already achieved in the North Sea. About the same time rumours were current of a German plan to establish submarine bases in Flanders, which had recently passed into the enemy's possession; this intention, however, did not materialise until the following spring, and no other merchant ship was destroyed before the close of the year, though one vessel had a narrow escape.

 

On December 11th, the Colchester (1,209 tons), a passenger vessel of the Great Eastern Railway Company, with a speed of about 13 knots, was crossing from Rotterdam to Parkeston Quay, Harwich. When some twenty-two miles from the Hook of Holland, at 8.20 a.m., she saw a submarine on the starboard bow steering approximately south-west by west. The master (Mr. F. Lawrence), being at first doubtful of the nationality of the stranger which was closing on his ship, ported his helm, bringing the submarine on the starboard bow. The submarine then turned to starboard and steamed direct for the Colchester, at the same time rising well out of the water. The Germans began to signal, but Captain Lawrence was too busy watching his pursuer to pay attention to signals, and in any case he was determined to spare no effort to escape. As the submarine turned towards his ship, he ported his helm again so as to bring the enemy astern of him. His seaman's instinct prompted him to turn out all the stokers, and the fires were double-banked to obtain the utmost speed. In these exciting conditions the chase continued for about twenty minutes. Finding the British vessel was drawing away from her, the submarine at last steered away south-west. The Admiralty came to the conclusion that the submarine was a German vessel, and commended the master of the Colchester for his spirited action.

 

These incidents indicated the policy which the enemy had determined to adopt. The High Sea Fleet dared not face a general action against superior forces; the whole Austrian Navy was held firmly in the Adriatic; the enemy cruisers armed merchantmen as well as men-of-war had been nearly all rounded up, and enemy commerce

 

THE END AND THE MEANS

 

had been swept off the seas. Driven to desperation by the complete failure to interfere with the transport of the British Army or to interrupt seriously British ocean commerce, the German authorities had searched round for some method of striking a vital blow at the one Power which, encompassed by the sea, they could not reach with their army or navy. When the war opened Germany possessed only twenty-eight submarines; the oldest of these craft, eighteen in number, were built between 1905 and 1912, but ten of them, U19 to U28, of later and improved construction, were thoroughly reliable vessels.

 

During the early phase of hostilities, the German General Staff was encouraged by events, judging by the comments in the German newspapers, to believe that, with the aid of the submarine, a war of attrition could be pursued until at last the two fighting fleets the Grand Fleet and the High Sea Fleet stood at something approaching parity in strength. As early as September 5th, the light cruiser Pathfinder had been sunk at the entrance to the Firth of Forth by U21. Later in the same month a single submarine, U9, under the command of Otto von Weddigen, had destroyed in rapid succession the armoured cruisers Hogue, Cressy, and Aboukir, with heavy loss of life. These successes produced a great effect on German opinion, and it was intensified when, on October 15th, the cruiser Hawke was sunk in the North Sea. Orders must almost immediately have been given to a certain number of submarine commanders to prove whether U-boats might be employed against merchant shipping. The incidents already recorded brought conviction to the German Naval Staff that submarines could, at one and the same time, wage war against the British Navy and the British Mercantile Marine, thus week by week wearing down the essential sea power of the British people.

 

The attack upon commerce involved the infraction of international law and a denial of the common dictates of humanity, since submarines, owing to their limited accommodation, could not become "places of safety" for the crews of the ships destroyed. But those were not matters to trouble the Germans, ready to believe that the end - a German victory - would justify the means. The subsequent action of the German Government and the character of its pronouncements support the impression that the belief existed that the mere threat of a submarine campaign, supported by a comparatively few ruthless acts, would intimidate British seamen, with the result that the seas would be cleared of British shipping, thus preparing the foundations for the conclusion of a German peace. By that time it had become apparent to the German authorities that their military machine had failed to realise the hopes which rested in it within the limit of time laid down by the General Staff. Germany had become involved, not in a short campaign resembling those waged in 1864, in 1866, and in 1870-1, but, owing to the intervention of British sea power, in a long and exhausting war, the issue of which was uncertain. They had under-estimated the influence of sea power, and they hailed the submarine as offering them an escape from an exceedingly embarrassing situation.

 

In these circumstances, the submarine, with all it implied of inhuman terrorism, was adopted as giving the promise of an early peace on Germany's own terms. The enemy's growing intention was revealed before the end of the year in an interview with Grand-Admiral von Tirpitz, then Naval Secretary, which was published in the New York Sun on December 22nd. Referring to the possibilities of a submarine campaign, he declared, "It is difficult to draw conclusions just yet, but it is unquestionable that submarines are a new and powerful weapon of naval warfare." At the same time he confessed and the confession indicates the restrictions which it was then believed limited the activity of these craft " One must not forget that submarines do their best work along the coast and in shallow waters, and that for this reason the Channel is particularly suitable for this craft. The successes which have been achieved hitherto do not warrant the conclusion that the day of large ships is past. It is still questionable whether submarines would have made such a fine show in other waters. We have learnt a good deal about submarines in this war. We thought that they would not be able to remain much longer than three days away from their base, as the crews would then necessarily be exhausted. But we soon learnt that the larger type of these boats can navigate round the whole of England, and can remain absent as long as a fortnight. All that is necessary is that the crew gets an opportunity

 

U19 AND THE "DURWARD"

 

of resting and recuperating, and this opportunity can be afforded the men by taking the boat to the shallow and still waters, where it can rest on the bottom and, remaining still in the water, the crew can have a good sleep. This is only possible where the water is comparatively shallow." He put the further query, "What would America say if Germany should declare a submarine war against all enemy trading vessels? "

 

That this was something more than a mere academic expression of professional views became clear in the light of later events. After the appearance of this interview, which was no doubt intended to test public opinion in the United States and other neutral countries, a period of nearly a month occurred, during which no British vessel was attacked by a submarine. It was soon apparent that the enemy had devoted attention to the study of the problem which the new policy, directly foreshadowed by Grand-Admiral von Tirpitz, presented. German submarines were provided with bombs to be used in circumstances in which such comparatively cheap and light weapons could be employed, thus economising the expenditure of torpedoes, of which each vessel could carry only a few. At this stage of the war, therefore, the German submarines, particularly susceptible to surface attack owing to the vulnerability of their hulls, depended for offensive purposes on the bomb, and in the last resort on the torpedo, though some of them were provided with light guns.

 

On January 21st, 1915, in rainy but clear weather, the s.s. Durward (1,301 tons) was two days out from Leith, on passage to Rotterdam, when the chief officer, who was on the bridge, reported to the master (Mr. John Wood) that a suspicious submarine was about 1  points before the steamer's starboard beam. On going on deck and looking through his glasses, Captain Wood saw that the strange ship was flying the signal to stop instantly. The submarine was only about a mile and a half distant and was showing no colours; she was steaming towards the Durward on an opposite course. The British ship was travelling at about 12 knots. Captain Wood at once determined to ignore the signal, and, going into the engine-room, gave directions to put on all possible speed. When he returned to the deck, he saw that the submarine had altered course and was heading for the Durward's starboard side, at the same time flying the signal "Stop, or I fire." Within half an hour of the first sighting of the enemy craft, the submarine, in spite of the best endeavours of the Durward's engine-room staff, had managed to get under the ship's starboard quarter, and shortly afterwards a warning rocket was fired. Captain Wood realised that further effort to escape was impossible, and stopped his engines.

 

The submarine proved to be U19 (which had recently been rammed by H.M.S. Badger), and the conduct of the commanding officer, Oberleutnant Kolbe, towards the British seamen merits being recalled in view of later events. In reply to a signal, the chief officer of the Durward and three men of the crew carried the ship's papers on board the submarine. As soon as the boat got alongside the enemy vessel, a group of German seamen put off, themselves using the Durward's boat, and an officer, speaking in good English, ordered Captain Wood to get everyone into the boats as quickly as possible. After the crew had left and while the British master was on board U19, to which he had been taken, the boarding-party placed two bombs against the ship's side. About twenty minutes afterwards explosions occurred, the vessel beginning at once to settle down in the water, to the grief and consternation of the British seamen. The German commander towed the two British boats for about half an hour in a northerly direction. Casting them adrift, he went back to the Durward, subsequently returning to give a further tow until he was within one mile north of the Maas lightship, as though anxious to do what he could for members of the same great brotherhood of the sea while conforming to the orders he had received from his superiors. From first to last the British seamen had been well treated, and, having been placed in a position of comparative safety, they were left to their own resources. Eventually a Dutch pilot steamer took them on board and towed the two boats as far as the Hook of Holland. The craft were returned later on to their owners, and, apart from the loss of the ship and the crews' effects, the incident was marked by no exhibition of Prussianism.

 

On the last day of January no fewer than seven ships were attacked, and only one, the Graphic (1,871 tons), escaped. Of the six vessels which were destroyed, three were intercepted by the enemy outside Liverpool, pointing

 

OPERATIONS OFF LIVERPOOL

 

to a carefully prepared plan of attack by the submarine under Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing to test the possibilities of virtually blockading a great commercial port. At 10.30 a. m. the Ben Cruachan (3,092 tons; master, Mr. D. W. Heggie) was sunk by bombs, the crew, who had taken to the two lifeboats, being directed to steer towards the sailing trawler Margaret, by which they were landed at Fleetwood. About an hour later the same submarine, U21, fell in with the Linda Blanche, a small steamer of 369 tons. The procedure was the same as in the case of the Ben Cruachan, the crew being advised to steer towards the trawler Niblet, by which they were taken to Fleetwood. When the boarding-party reached the Linda Blanche, some of the Germans gave cigars and cigarettes to the British crew, as though to indicate that they did not care for their work. At 1.30 p.m. the s.s. Kilcoan was sunk. The mate, who was on deck in charge of this little ship of 456 tons, shouted down to the master (Mr. James Maneely) to come on deck, as a submarine wished to speak to him. On going up, Captain Maneely found the submarine close to the starboard side, with a machine-gun trained on the Kilcoan. Her hull was painted a dull white, the conning-tower being of a darker colour. Ten men stood on the deck of the enemy craft, most of them armed with revolvers, but two carrying rifles. In face of this menacing exhibition, what could the British seaman do but comply with any demands? Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing shouted in English, "Get into your boats."

 

The men promptly launched the starboard and port boats, and all hands took their places. The boats were then ordered alongside the submarine, and the crew were directed to get on board. The master was asked peremptorily for his papers and, as he had not brought them with him, he was sent for them. Four fully armed German seamen, carrying an explosive bomb fitted with about two yards of fuse, accompanied him. The Germans remained on deck while the master went below to obtain the ship's certificate of register and other papers, which he handed over to a petty officer. The logbook was saved, Captain Maneely suggesting in his answers to questions that he did not know where it was. The enemy, however, secured the ship's ensign and the Union Jack.

 

In the meantime, one of the German seamen had fixed the bomb amidship and set the fuse alight. The skipper and the boarding-party then left the Kilcoan to return to the submarine. While they were on their way back, the bomb exploded, tearing a hole in the port side of the steamer. The members of the crew of the British ship, still on board the submarine and wondering what their fate would be, were ordered back into their boats. Then occurred an unexpected diversion. In the distance the German officer discerned the steamer Gladys from Liverpool to Douglas. He made off towards her and directed her captain to pick up the Kilcoan men. He then returned to the Kilcoan and fired at that vessel in order to hasten her destruction. The submarine at length disappeared, and late that night the British seamen's adventure ended when they were landed at Fleetwood without further mishap. On the same day the Graphic, twenty-two miles from Liverpool Bar light-vessel, was chased, but, thanks to her speed, succeeded in making her escape.

 

In the meantime, another submarine - U20 - was busy farther south, pursuing a policy of torpedoing ships at sight, no warning of any kind being given. The Shaw Savill liner Tokomaru (6,084 tons) was sunk seven miles north-west from Havre light-vessel, and the Ikaria (4,335 tons) nearly twenty miles farther away, both on January 30th. The former vessel was on her way from Wellington, New Zealand, and Tenerife. At nine o'clock on the morning of that day, in fine, clear weather, the sea being smooth, she was slowly steaming towards Havre looking for a pilot. The master (Mr. Francis Greene) had no suspicion of the menace which threatened him. He was on the bridge, with the second and third mates, an A.B. being on the lookout forward. Suddenly an explosion occurred on the port side, sending the water up over the bridge and filling the stokehold. The ship at once listed heavily and commenced to sink. It was evident that the submarine was watching the effect of its torpedo, for a periscope was seen by Captain Greene three cables away. The commander of the submarine, his act of savagery consummated, then disappeared, caring nothing as to the fate of the British sailors. The experience of the Tokomaru's crew was one which no seaman had hitherto suffered, but nevertheless discipline was maintained and all the hands succeeded in getting into the boats the captain going over the side last in accordance with tradition. Within an hour the men were

 

TORPEDOED WITHOUT WARNING

 

safely on board the French mine-sweeper Saint Pierre. Before being landed at Havre, Captain Greene and his companions saw their ship disappear beneath the water.

 

Shortly after noon on the same day the Leyland liner Ikaria, which left Santos and other South American ports for Havre, stopped off Cape la Heve to pick up a pilot. The ship still had slight headway on her when the master (Mr. Matthew Robertson), who was on the bridge, saw the wake of a torpedo, fired, there is no reason to doubt, by U20. There was no time to use the helm, for almost immediately afterwards the vessel was struck on the port side abreast of No. 1 hatch and began to sink gradually by the head. The boats were ordered out and the officers and men proceeded on board a tug which happened, fortunately, to be close by. About an hour later, the Ikaria being still afloat, Captain Robertson, with some of his men, boarded her. He came to the conclusion that the ship could be saved. She was only about twenty-five miles from Havre, the sea was smooth and there was no wind. With the assistance of a tug, the Ikaria was got into Havre and berthed alongside Quai d'Escale, where she remained until midday on January 31st. The port authorities, becoming nervous lest she should sink and thus impede traffic, removed her to the west of the Avant Port, towards the breakwater, where she sank on February 2nd, leaving her afterpart showing.

 

There is no reason to doubt that the General Steam Navigation Company's steamer Oriole (1,489 tons) met her fate also at the hands of U20, but her end was mysterious. The Oriole left London for Havre on January 29th, and passed the s.s. London Trader off Dungeness on the afternoon of the following day. The distance from Dungeness to Havre being from ninety to ninety-five miles, the Oriole should have reached the latter port about ten o'clock that evening. She was never heard of again. Later in the year, Mr. Justice Bailhache had to decide in the High Court the fate of the vessel. In the course of his judgment, he told of two pathetic incidents. On February 6th, two lifebuoys were found on the coast between Hastings and Dymchurch, a little seaside place to the north of Dungeness. The name Oriole was painted upon them. In the following month - on March 20th - a Guernsey fisherman picked out of the sea an ordinary beer-bottle containing a piece of paper. On the bottle being broken, the paper was found to be an envelope embossed with the name of the General Steam Navigation Company, and written in pencil was the message, "Oriole torpedoed sinking." The widow of the ship's carpenter identified the handwriting as that of her husband.

 

After considering all the evidence, Mr. Justice Bailhache came to the conclusion that the only reasonable explanation of the disappearance of the Oriole was that she was torpedoed by the enemy, the master (Mr. William G. Dale) and his crew of twenty men perishing. The story has an historical interest since, whereas the Glitra was the first vessel to be sunk by a submarine on October 20th, 1914 the Tokomaru and the Ikaria were the first to be torpedoed without warning, while the Oriole, destroyed in the same barbarous way, was the first British loss which involved the death of the crew. Later events were to overshadow this tragedy of the war, presenting a picture of such large, dramatic, and terrible proportions that in a few months the story of the fate of these defenceless British seamen shrank into comparative oblivion.

 

These first outbursts of terrorism by sea, though succeeded by an interval of a fortnight during which no British vessel was sunk and only two were attacked, proved merely the preliminary acts to the declaration of a definite policy on the part of the enemy. Since the sinking of the Glitra the practicability of employing submarines in attacking commerce had been tested under varying conditions. The reports received had encouraged hopes that at last a means had been discovered for bringing the war to a speedy end. A good deal had been written of the submarine and its psychological influence, and the enemy embarked upon the new policy in full confidence that the war would be ended by the severance of the maritime communications of the British people, even if the mere announcement of the intention to employ submarines on a large scale in an attack upon British shipping did not break the courage of the officers and men. Accordingly, on February 4th, 1915, the following memorandum was issued by the German Government:

 

"Since the commencement of the present war Great

 

THE GERMAN DECLARATION

 

Britain's conduct of commercial warfare against Germany has been a mockery of all the principles of the law of nations. While the British Government have by several orders declared that their naval forces should be guided by the stipulations of the Declaration of London, they have in reality repudiated this declaration in the most essential points, notwithstanding the fact that their own delegates at the Maritime Conference of London acknowledged its acts as forming part of existing international law. The British Government have placed a number of articles on the contraband list which are not at all, or only very indirectly, capable of use in warfare, and consequently cannot be treated as contraband either under the Declaration of London or under the generally acknowledged rules of international law.

 

"In addition, they have in fact obliterated the distinction between absolute and conditional contraband by confiscating all articles of conditional contraband destined for Germany, whatever may be the port where these articles are to be unloaded, and without regard to whether they are destined for uses of war or peace. They have not even hesitated to violate the Declaration of Paris, since their naval forces have captured on neutral ships German property which was not contraband of war. Furthermore, they have gone further than their own orders respecting the Declaration of London, and caused numerous German subjects capable of bearing arms to be taken from neutral ships and made prisoners of war.

 

"Finally, they have declared the North Sea in its whole extent to be the seat of war, thereby rendering difficult and extremely dangerous, if not impossible, all navigation on the high seas between Scotland and Norway, so that they have in a way established a blockade of neutral coasts and ports, which is contrary to the elementary principles of generally accepted international law. Clearly all these measures are part of a plan to strike not only at the German military operations, but also at the economic system of Germany, and in the end to deliver the whole German people to reduction by famine, by intercepting legitimate neutral commerce by methods contrary to international law.

 

"The neutral Powers have in the main acquiesced in the measures of the British Government; in particular they have not been successful in securing the release by the British Government of the German subjects and German merchandise illegally taken from their vessels. To a certain extent they have even contributed towards the execution of the measures adopted by England in defiance of the principle of the freedom of the seas by prohibiting the export and transit of goods destined for peaceable purposes in Germany, thus evidently yielding to pressure by England.

 

"The German Government have in vain called the attention of the neutral Powers to the fact that Germany must seriously question whether it can any longer adhere to the stipulations of the Declaration of London, hitherto strictly observed by it, in case England continues to adhere to its practice, and the neutral Powers persist in looking with indulgence upon all these violations of neutrality to the detriment of Germany. Great Britain invokes the vital interest of the British Empire which are at stake in justification of its violations of the law of nations, and the neutral Powers appear to be satisfied with theoretical protests, thus actually admitting the vital interests of a belligerent as a sufficient excuse for methods of waging war of whatever description.

 

"The time has now come for Germany also to invoke such vital interests. It therefore finds itself under the necessity, to its regret, of taking military measures against England in retaliation of the practice followed by England. Just as England declared the whole North Sea between Scotland and Norway to be comprised within the seat of war, so does Germany now declare the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole English Channel, to be comprised within the seat of war, and will prevent by all the military means at its disposal all navigation by the enemy in those waters.

 

"To this end it will endeavour to destroy, after February 18th next, any merchant vessels of the enemy which present themselves at the seat of war above indicated, although it may not always be possible to avert the dangers which may menace persons and merchandise.

 

"Neutral Powers are accordingly forewarned not to continue to entrust their crews, passengers, or merchandise to such vessels. Their attention is furthermore called to the fact that it is of urgency to recommend to their own

 

THE "WAR ZONE"

 

vessels to steer clear of these waters. It is true that the German Navy has received instructions to abstain from all violence against neutral vessels recognisable as such; but in view of the hazards of war, and of the misuse of the neutral flag ordered by the British Government, it will not always be possible to prevent a neutral vessel from becoming the victim of an attack intended to be directed against a vessel of the enemy. It is expressly declared that navigation in waters north of the Shetland Islands is outside the danger zone, as well as navigation in the eastern part of the North Sea and in a zone thirty miles wide along the Dutch coast.

 

"The German Government announces this measure at a time permitting enemy and neutral ships to make the necessary arrangements to reach the ports situated at the seat of war. They hope that the neutral Powers will accord consideration to the vital interests of Germany equally with those of England, and will on their part assist in keeping their subjects and their goods far from the seat of war: the more so since they likewise have a great interest in seeing the termination at an early day of the war now raging. - Berlin, February 4th, 1915."

 

This declaration was epitomised in a proclamation of the same date, signed by Admiral von Pohl, Chief of the Admiralty Staff of the German Navy, in the following terms:

"1. The waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole English Channel, are hereby declared to be a War Zone. On and after February 18th, 1915, every enemy merchant ship found in the said war zone will be destroyed without it being always possible to avert the dangers threatening the crews and passengers on that account.

 

"2. Even neutral ships are exposed to danger in the war zone, as in view of the misuse of neutral flags ordered on January 31st by the British Government, and of the accidents of naval war, it cannot always be avoided to strike even neutral ships in attacks that are directed on enemy ships.

 

 "3. Northward navigation around the Shetland Islands, in the eastern waters of the North Sea, and in a strip of not less than thirty miles width from the northward coast, is in no danger.

 

"VON POHL,

"Chief of the Admiralty Staff of the Navy.

"BERLIN, "February 4th, 1915."

(A translation accompanying the dispatch of Ambassador Gerard to the Secretary of State, February 6th, 1915. This proclamation was published in the Reichsanzeiger of February 4th, 1915. (No. 29.) )

To this announcement the British Government issued the following reply on March 1st, 1915:

"Germany has declared that the English Channel, the north and west coasts of France, and the waters round the British Isles are a ' war area,' and has officially notified that 'all enemy ships found in that area will be destroyed.' This is, in effect, a claim to torpedo at sight, without regard to the safety of the crew or passengers, any merchant vessel under any flag. As it is not in the power of the German Admiralty to maintain any surface craft in these waters, this attack can only be delivered by submarine agency. The law and custom of nations in regard to attacks on commerce have always presumed that the first duty of the captor of a merchant vessel is to bring it before a Prize Court, where it may be tried, where the regularity of the capture may be challenged, and where neutrals may recover their cargoes.

 

"The sinking of prizes is, in itself, a questionable act, to be resorted to only in extraordinary circumstances, and after provision has been made for the safety of all the crew or passengers (if there are passengers on board). The responsibility for discriminating between neutral and enemy vessels, and between neutral and enemy cargo, obviously rests with the attacking ship, whose duty it is to verify the status and character of the vessel and cargo and to preserve all papers before sinking or even capturing it. So also is the humane duty of providing for the safety of the crews of merchant vessels, whether neutral or enemy, an obligation upon every belligerent. It is upon this basis that all previous discussions of the law for regulating warfare at sea have proceeded.

 

"A German submarine, however, fulfils none of these

"INDISCRIMINATE DESTRUCTION"

obligations. She enjoys no local command of the waters in which she operates. She does not take her captures within the jurisdiction of a Prize Court. She carries no prize crew which she can put on board a prize. She uses no effective means of discriminating between a neutral and an enemy vessel. She does not receive on board for safety the crew of the vessel she sinks. Her methods of warfare are, therefore, entirely outside the scope of any of the international instruments regulating operations against commerce in time of war. The German declaration substitutes indiscriminate destruction for regulated capture.

 

"Germany is adopting these methods against peaceful traders and non-combatant crews with the avowed object of preventing commodities of all kinds (including food for the civil population) from reaching or leaving the British Isles or Northern France. Her opponents are, therefore, driven to frame retaliatory measures in order in their turn to prevent commodities of any kind from reaching or leaving Germany. These measures will, however, be enforced by the British and French Governments without risk to neutral ships or to neutral or non-combatant life, and in strict observance of the dictates of humanity. ..."

As already stated, it was evidently anticipated by the Germans that the announcement of their intention to employ submarines in an attack upon British shipping would break the courage of officers and men. That this expectation was ill-founded was proved by the continued flow of traffic to and from the British Isles, and the hardihood and seamanship which were exhibited during the next few weeks, not by one ship merely, but by many. Between the beginning of February and the end of May, 123 vessels were molested by submarines, and more than half of them sixty-four to be exact managed to escape. Thirty-one of these ships, slow tramps though they were for the most part, owed their good fortune to their speed, of which the captains took the fullest advantage. At this period of the war the Germans were able to employ only a comparatively small number of submarines, and the surface speed of these was slow. After Grand-Admiral von Tirpitz had relinquished office some months later, he was severely criticised for having failed to provide a sufficient number of submarines of suitable types to insure the success of Germany's policy. Down to the end of April the loss of British tonnage, in comparison with the great volume operating in the waters surrounding the British Isles, proved a great disappointment to the enemy, who was compelled to readjust his estimate of the character of the British seamen and their seamanlike qualities.

 

The story of the Laertes (4,541 tons) provided a conspicuous illustration of the spirit which animated the service. This ship (master, Mr. William H. Propert) left Liverpool on Sunday, February 7th, with a general cargo for Java, being under orders to call at Amsterdam. Captain Propert had been in charge of the ship for two voyages to the Far East, and had come to the conclusion that the vessel's best speed was 11  knots. The vessel had a crew of fifty-one officers and men, including twenty-four Chinese. By four o'clock on the 10th, the Laertes reached a point about twelve miles from the Schouwen Bank lightship. The master and the second officer were on the bridge, a good lookout was being kept by men stationed on the poop and in the crow's-nest on the foremast, and the ship was making her best speed, when a submarine was seen about three miles away bearing two points on the starboard bow. Captain Propert promptly ordered the helm to be starboarded one point, and almost at the same moment the submarine hoisted a signal directing the vessel to heave to, and threatening to fire if the order was not obeyed. Captain Propert ignored the signal and determined to make an effort to escape; the enemy submarine made straight for the Laertes at top speed. What happened can, perhaps, best be told in Captain Propert's own words:

 

"My engines were well opened out, and I kept starboarding my helm to avoid him, but he gained steadily; and at 4.15 p.m., when he was about one point and a half on the starboard quarter, distant about three-quarters of a mile, he opened fire with a machine-gun, directing his fire on the bridge. I then starboarded further and brought him right astern, keeping the ship going at the highest speed she could make. Just at this time four or five single shots were heard, indicating that we were also being subjected to rifle fire. (Three bullets of different kinds were found later in various parts of the ship.)

 

HOW THE "LAERTES" ESCAPED

 

"This was about 4.20 p.m., and the firing was kept up continuously until about 5.15 p.m., the submarine being kept all the time as much astern as possible by the use of our helm. In order to deceive him, I also hoisted the answering pennant indicating that I had read his signals. This I did twice, but he did not appear to reduce his speed, and when he had come within less than a quarter of a mile from the Laertes, at about 5.15, he gave one continued discharge from the machine-gun and then fell astern. About six minutes later, when he was well astern slightly on our starboard quarter, I ported the helm one point and immediately noticed a torpedo coming straight for the ship about two cables off on the starboard quarter. My helm was at once put hard aport, and the torpedo passed astern very close to the ship.

 

"The submarine at this time was enveloped in a cloud of steam and appeared to be in difficulties. It was dusk by this time, and a steamer, which came up on my port side steering directly towards the submarine, was given the signal, 'You are steering into danger.' The other ship altered her course, but appeared to resume the former course a little later. I had no means of ascertaining the name of the other vessel, and she made no attempt to speak further with us.

 

"I now hauled the Laertes round and steered in a northerly direction, gradually swinging her in towards the land and taking continual soundings as we approached. When we had reached a point about seventeen miles off Ymuiden, a green light appeared on my port bow three miles distant. I put the helm hard astarboard, and the light suddenly disappeared and was not seen again. As this was suspicious, I put the helm hard aport, but no further lights were observed. I then took in the regulation lights, and, while they were kept ready at hand, they were not again exhibited until we had come close to Ymuiden, which port we reached at about 10.30 p.m. on February 10th. No lives were lost and no injury received by any person on board the Laertes. The upper bridge, the casing of the standard compass, two boats, several ventilators, the main funnel, donkey funnel, and exhaust pipe, were pierced by bullets, and there may be some further damage. I cannot estimate the amount of this damage. The Dutch flag had been hoisted at about 4 p.m. on February 9th, and was kept continually flying during daylight. The name of the port of registry had also been obscured. Two boats had been swung out ready for loading and two lifted from the chocks on February 9th."

 

That is the modest record of an escape from the enemy which suggested, in association with a hundred other incidents, that British seamen were not prepared to surrender to the enemy without a struggle. The Admiralty marked their appreciation of Captain Propert's  gallant and spirited conduct" by granting him a temporary commission as lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, and awarding him the Distinguished Service Cross; a gold watch, with a letter of commendation, was presented to each of the officers, and a complimentary grant of 3 was made to every member of the crew.

 

By this time it was evident that the enemy, with limited resources - how limited was not known to the British Government at the time - was determined to make a desperate attack on the British Mercantile Marine, paying no regard to the ordinary humanities which in previous wars had restricted the action of belligerents. The number of cases in which torpedoes were fired against ships unarmed, and therefore incapable of resisting visit and search, steadily increased. The Membland (3,027 tons) was destroyed in the North Sea either by mine or by submarine; she disappeared about February 15th, together with her officers and men, numbering twenty, and the cause of the loss of this valuable cargo carrier and the destruction of so many lives will probably never be known. Nothing, perhaps, is more remarkable than the comparatively small loss of life which, in fact, occurred during this early period of the submarine campaign. That immunity must be attributed to the high standard of seamanship maintained in the British Mercantile Marine, and the skill exhibited by officers and men in the management of the small boats to which they were compelled to confide their fortunes after their ships had sunk. Typical illustrations of the hazardous experiences which fell to the crews of ships destroyed at sight are supplied by the stories of the Dulwich (3,289 tons) and Cambank (3,112 tons), the former attacked

 

LOSS OF LIFE

 

off Cape la Heve on February 15th, and the latter ten miles east of Lynns Point, on the north-eastern coast of Anglesey.

 

The Dulwich was on her way to Rouen, when an explosion occurred on the starboard side. Night had descended, and it is not difficult to imagine the momentary consternation which was caused as the ship listed slightly to starboard, and then began to settle by the stern. Fortunately, the boats had been swung out and were uninjured. The master (Mr. J. A. Hunter) soon had his men transhipped, twenty-two being allotted to one boat and nine to the other. Within about twenty minutes the Dulwich had disappeared in a swirl of foaming water, and then a submarine was dimly seen travelling on the surface of the water, a menacing spectacle for the British seamen who had been left to the mercy of the sea on this winter's night. The enemy, callous as to the fate of these men, was evidently watching the effects of the explosion making sure that the ship sank. The boats soon afterwards became separated. A French torpedo-destroyer picked up the master and his twenty-one companions shortly after eight o'clock that night and took them into Havre. The other boat, with only seven men on board, reached Fecamp, and thus two lives were added to the death roll of the campaign. How these two men came to their end is uncertain, as they were seen leaving the forecastle to enter the boats by Captain Hunter when he and the chief officer made their final round of inspection.

 

The loss of life in the case of the s.s. Cambank was heavier. This ship was on passage from Huelva to Liverpool with a cargo of copper and sulphur ore. The voyage proceeded uneventfully until February 12th. At midnight on that date a gale from the south-west sprang up and continued to blow throughout the following day. Early on the 14th the wind shifted to the north-west. A heavy sea struck the ship at 9 a.m. on the port side, staving in No. 1 hatch. The master (Mr. T. R. Prescott) kept his vessel away before the wind and sea and was able to reach Falmouth. Temporary repairs were effected at that port, and on the 17th the vessel left to resume her voyage. Three days later, after taking up a pilot at Lynns Point, the Cambank saw the periscope of a submarine (U30, according to German accounts.) about 250 yards on the port beam, and immediately afterwards the track of a torpedo was noticed making for the merchantman. The Cambank's helm was put hard aport, but, before the ship could answer, the torpedo struck her near the engine-room. It was at once evident to Captain Prescott that the vessel would speedily sink, and he ordered the crew to take to the boats. Midnight, the enemy near at hand, and their ship so fatally damaged that officers and men had no choice but to confide their lives to frail boats! The starboard lifeboat was successfully lowered, and into her scrambled twenty-one of the twenty-five men on board, including the pilot. What happened to the other four men is a matter of speculation. For a quarter of an hour the survivors lay off the doomed ship, which at last broke in two amidships and was swallowed up in the waters. Eventually these men, having been buffeted in a hurricane and then attacked by the enemy, succeeded in reaching port.

 

On the evening of the same day the steam collier Downshire (337 tons) was steaming at about 10 knots off the Calf of Man, when she saw a submarine standing to the northward on the starboard bow, being about one and a half to two miles distant. The enemy gained rapidly on the British ship and, when about a quarter of a mile away, fired a shot from a gun on the fore-deck. The master of the Downshire (Mr. W. H. Connor) ignored the warning, and then a second shot was fired. The collier, which was travelling at full speed, still stood on her course. A third shot followed. The submarine was then close up, and as it was apparent that escape was impossible the engines were stopped. The crew were ordered to the boats, a bomb was placed against the side of the vessel by the Germans, and the ship was sunk. Fortunately in this instance there was no loss of life, but that was due to no consideration on the part of the commander of the submarine.

 

Three days later on February 23rd two vessels were sunk without warning, the Oakby (1,976 tons; master, Mr. F. J. Bartlett), off the Royal Sovereign lightvessel, and the Branksome Chine (2,026 tons; master, Mr. F. J. Anstey), six miles E. by S. S. from Beachy Head evidently by the same submarine. Within five minutes of the torpedo striking the port side of the Oakby, the forecastle was level with the water. It seemed as though the ship must founder rapidly. Nevertheless, the second engineer went

 

TORPEDOED IN THE CHANNEL

 

below and stopped the engines so as to enable the boats to be lowered. (The second engineer, Mr. Stanley Robinson, was awarded the Bronze Medal for gallantry in saving life at sea.) The vessel took so long in settling down that an attempt was made by the patrol-boat Isle of Man, which had come on the scene, to tow her to Dover. The effort was unsuccessful, the Oakby sinking near the Varne Lightship. The loss of the Branksome Chine was marked by no noticeable incident, the crew managing to make their escape in safety.

 

On the following day undoubted evidence was furnished that an enemy submarine, commanded by an experienced and daring, if callous, officer, was operating in this part of the English Channel, the Rio Parana (4,015 tons) and the Western Coast (1,165 tons) being destroyed off Beachy Head. In the first case no submarine was sighted, but the ship was struck on the starboard side, with the result that ports and doors were stove in, jammed, or broken, and a great volume of water entered the saloon. In these conditions, the master (Mr. J. Williams) and the crew prepared to abandon the ship. By the time their preparations were completed, the ship was considerably down at the head, and the water was flush with her deck.

 

It was at first suggested that the casualty was due to a mine, but the Admiralty, in view of all the circumstances, came to a contrary conclusion. This was supported by intelligence as to the fate of the Western Coast. This vessel was on her way from London to Plymouth, where warnings of the presence of enemy submarines were given by a destroyer, and shortly afterwards a ship in distress was noticed. The second officer of the Western Coast (master, Mr. J. Ratcliffe) was on his way to report the incident when an explosion occurred, a column of water rising forty or fifty feet. The ship immediately began to settle down, but, though she sank in two or three minutes, Captain Ratcliffe and his men managed to make their escape. The month's losses closed with the sinking of another ship the Harpalion (5,867 tons; master, Mr. A. Widders) not far from the Royal Sovereign light-vessel. A violent explosion occurred which killed three firemen, and then the ship was enveloped in steam and water poured over the port side.

 

Though enemy submarines secured eight British ships during the month of February, ten succeeded in escaping. Of these, in addition to the Laertes, a notable experience was that of the master and men of the Thordis (501 tons). Her case attracted a good deal of attention at the time owing to the fine spirit exhibited by master and men. The Thordis (master, Mr. J. W. Bell) left Blyth on the afternoon of February 24th, with a cargo of coal for Plymouth. Everything went well until the 28th, when the ship was about eight or ten miles off Beachy Head, which bore north-east by east. The Thordis was steaming at about 5 knots, her maximum being 10 knots. A heavy head sea was running, and Captain Bell, who was on the bridge, noticed what he thought to be a periscope on the starboard bow, twenty or thirty yards away.

 

Then began a contest between the little steamer and the enemy craft, which ended in the discomfiture of the latter. Captain Bell instantly gave instructions for full speed and all hands were ordered on deck. The submarine crossed the bow of the Thordis, taking up a position thirty or forty yards on her port side. Shortly afterwards Captain Bell noticed the wake of a torpedo on the starboard beam. He put the helm hard over to starboard, the engines in the meantime going full speed. The Thordis responded well and ran over the submarine's periscope. Everyone on board the merchantman heard a crash, and an oily substance was afterwards noticed on the surface of the water. The submarine was not seen again. The severity of the blow which the Thordis had dealt the submarine was suggested by the damage to the keel and propeller, revealed when the vessel was docked immediately afterwards at Devonport. The Germans subsequently asserted that the submarine, though put out of action, had managed to return to port. If that was so, she must have been badly damaged. The Admiralty marked their high appreciation of the master's conduct by conferring on him a commission in the Royal Naval Reserve, and awarding him the Distinguished Service Cross, and 200 was distributed among the officers and men of the ship, Captain Bell or, rather, Lieutenant Bell, R.N.R., as he had become receiving half that sum.

 

The month of February furnished another conspicuous example of British seamanship. (A reward of 500 offered by The Syren and Shipping for the destruction of an enemy submarine was also paid to the officers and men of the Thordis).  On the 17th the Colchester,

 

CAPTAIN FRYATT'S PROMPTITUDE

 

which had already been under attack, again escaped from the enemy when on passage from Parkeston Quay to Rotterdam, Captain Charles A. Fryatt, who afterwards became the victim of one of the foulest crimes committed by the Germans, having in the meantime succeeded to the command. During a southerly gale, with heavy seas and thick rain, a submarine was sighted about two miles ahead of the ship. The submarine was steering about W.S.W. and the British vessel E.S. Captain Fryatt had only a moment in which to decide what he should do. In a report to the British Consulate at Rotterdam he explained how, by prompt action, he had saved his ship: "I at once altered my ship's course until her head was north-west by the compass on the bridge, so I brought the submarine right astern of me, and I ordered the chief engineer to get all the steam he could and get all the speed he could with the engines, and after about fifteen minutes steaming north-west, I lost sight of the submarine in the thick rain. I then brought my ship gradually back to her course again E.1/4 S., and proceeded on my passage, and I never saw the submarine again."

 

During March and April the enemy campaign was evidently conducted with all his available resources, the officers commanding submarines apparently receiving instructions to use their torpedoes freely, discharging them without warning, and without consideration for the lives of British seamen, who had treated all previous threats and acts with contempt. No fewer than sixty-seven ships were attacked by submarines during that period. Aircraft were also called in aid to intensify the sense of terror which it was intended to create, and ten vessels were bombed by aeroplanes near the North Hinder and Galloper light-vessels. But of the ships attacked, all those which were molested by aircraft, as well as thirty-five which attracted the attention of submarines, escaped, in addition to a mined ship, which was towed in, and a merchantman which a Turkish torpedo-boat vainly chased in the Mediterranean.

 

It is difficult to judge the motives which inspire a nation's policy in time of war, but there are indications which suggest that the Germans anticipated that the aeroplane, or seaplane, would prove a valuable complement to the submarine in closing the North Sea against Allied merchantmen. It was only when the new ruthless, submarine policy had failed to intimidate British seamen that attacks by enemy aircraft began.

 

The first ship to be molested was the Blonde (613 tons; master, Mr. A. B. Milne), on her way from Cowes to the Tyne in ballast. On the morning of March 15th the ship was about three miles to the eastward of the North Foreland, when the second mate, who was on the bridge, noticed an aeroplane approaching from the east. The master at the time was down below looking for a screwdriver, as was afterwards explained, when he heard the sound of an explosion which caused him to run to the engine-room door, thinking that something was wrong with the engines. The engineer had reached the same conclusion, and immediately stopped the engines. This officer was engaged in searching for the damage when the second mate, running along the deck, called out that an aeroplane of enemy nationality was dropping bombs. It was a novel experience for these seamen, who had certainly never given a thought to such a possibility representing a fresh menace to navigation. Captain Milne at once gave orders for full speed.

 

The first two bombs fell about twenty feet astern, exploding on reaching the water, and the next about the same distance ahead. During this attack on the vessel, the aeroplane circled about the ship, endeavouring to get immediately above her. The fifth bomb was dropped even closer on the starboard side. The utmost endeavours of the airmen, however, failed. Captain Milne, realising his danger, adopted a zigzag course, and in the meantime kept his whistle blowing. His distress call attracted the attention of a trawler, a single shot from which caused the aeroplane to disappear.

 

The Elfland (4,190 tons), a Belgian relief ship, was attacked in very similar circumstances off the North Hinder on the 21st, and the Lestris (1,384 tons) fourteen miles east of the Galloper on the same day, when the Pandion (1,279 tons) was also bombed without result. On the two following days the Osceola (393 tons) and the Teal (764 tons) shared the same experience. The Ousel (1,284 tons) was attacked on the 29th, and the Staffa (1,008 tons) on the 30th.

 

On April 11th the Serula (1,388 tons) was exposed to a determined attack, two machines concentrating on her. The ship was five miles west of the North Hinder

 

ATTACKED BY SEAPLANES

 

Light-vessel at 3.50 p.m., when a seaplane of large size and one smaller machine appeared. The large one was first seen coming down towards the ship from high up on the starboard side abaft the beam, and dropped a small bomb showing a white trail of smoke, followed by three bombs which fell just before the bridge on the starboard side. The undismayed master (Mr. J. T. Sharp) ordered the helm to be put hard aport. Shortly afterwards three more bombs came down on the port side, also on the foreside of the bridge, distant about twenty-five feet. The smaller machine, following the example of the larger one, started to come lower down to co-operate in the attack, but, being met with rifle fire from the ship, she straightened up and flew across, dropping bombs on each side of the vessel. The two machines then proceeded aft, on the port side, turned, and came back together, evidently with the intention of dropping bombs all along the steamer. The ship's course was altered backwards and forwards from port to starboard, so as to confuse the airmen. At last Captain Sharp got both machines on the starboard side, and then the helm was put hard aport and the engines full astern. Both airmen dropped their bombs on the port side forward.

 

So far the enemy airmen had failed, but they were not discouraged. The machines again went aft and attacked a third time. On this occasion they came singly and dropped bombs on each side of the bridge, doing no damage to the ship. On the last occasion the smaller aeroplane, on passing over the vessel, appeared to have been struck by the rifle fire which was then being maintained from the Serula, as she tilted up, then recovered herself, and flew directly away to the south with part of the left wing hanging down. The larger seaplane remained around the ship for about ten minutes longer, and then, passing over a Dutch ship which was close by, disappeared to the southward. The attack lasted from 3.50 to 4.30, and twelve shots were fired at the two machines, one rocket distress signal also being sent up. Later events suggested that the Germans regarded these attempts with aircraft as unsatisfactory, and this conclusion reacted on their policy, for such attacks were in future spasmodic mere casual incidents of the war in the North Sea.

 

To return to the submarine campaign, the fact that so large a proportion of the vessels attacked made good their escape from under-water craft was evidently noted by the German Naval Staff. Hitherto crowded passenger liners had not been interfered with, but the failure of the campaign during March and April to realise the expectations formed in Berlin was to lead to a change of policy in this respect. During the first week of March the enemy secured only one vessel the Bengrove (3,840 tons), which was destroyed five miles north-north-east from Ilfracombe on the 7th. During the same period three other vessels succeeded in escaping the Wrexham (1,414 tons) in the North Sea on March 2nd; the Ningchow (9,021 tons) in the Bristol Channel on the 4th; and the Lydia (1,138 tons) in the English Channel on the 5th.

 

The experience of the Wrexham attracted the attention of the Admiralty owing to the spirited manner in which the enemy was eluded. The Wrexham (master, Mr. Charles A. Fryatt, whose spirited action on February 17th has already been mentioned, was taken prisoner by the Germans on June 23rd, 1916, when in command of s.s. Brussels, and afterwards shot.) was one of the Great Eastern Railway Company's vessels, running between Harwich and Rotterdam, and this further attack on a ship of this line supports the belief that the enemy was endeavouring to cut communications between England and Holland. The submarine appeared at thirty-five minutes after noon on March 2nd, when the Wrexham was approximately in lat. 51 50' N., long. 3 0' E. The enemy circled to the northward, and then made towards the British ship. Captain Fryatt immediately altered course to south-east by south, and ordered the engineer to increase speed to the utmost. Deck hands were mustered and sent below to assist the firemen, everyone realising that a chase for life had begun. Under ordinary conditions the Wrexham was capable of about 14 knots. But, in the face of such a peril, she was soon travelling at nearly 16 knots through the heavy, northerly swell. In these circumstances the chase continued, the submarine in the meantime flying imperative signals. Though the weather was fine and clear, Captain Fryatt kept his ship so far away that the signals could not be read. No doubt they were calling upon him to stop, but this was the last thing he had in his mind, as the Wrexham slowly drew away

 

SEAMANSHIP AND PLUCK

 

from the submarine. The British skipper had to exhibit a high standard of seamanship owing to the proximity of the Schouwen Bank on his starboard hand. The course was altered time after time so as to keep the enemy on the port beam (abaft), and at a distance of about one and a half miles. For about forty miles the Germans maintained the chase, and only abandoned it when the Wrexham had approached within a mile of the Maas light-vessel.

 

The incident provided a fine demonstration of British seamanship and British pluck. In making his report to his owners, Captain Fryatt remarked: "had it not been for the good work put in by the engineers and the men firing, and the speed they were thus able to get up, I could not have escaped, as the submarine was doing well over 14 knots and chased us for about forty miles, only giving up when we were safe in Dutch waters." The Admiralty commended the conduct of the master, officers, and crew of the Wrexham, laying special emphasis on the spirit exhibited by the engine-room complement; the chief engineer, Mr. F. A. Goddison, was "mentioned" in the London Gazette.

 

Throughout the remainder of the month the enemy maintained a vigorous attack upon merchant shipping, alike in the North Sea, in the Irish Sea, and in the English Channel. Two ships were sunk without warning on March 9th the Princess Victoria (1,108 tons; master, Mr. John Cubbin), sixteen miles north-west by north from Liverpool Bar light-vessel; and the Blackwood (1,230 tons; master, Mr. John Souter), eighteen miles south-west by south from Dungeness. On the same day the Tangistan (3,738 tons) foundered nine miles north from Flamborough Head. The sinking of the last ship was accompanied by the heaviest loss of life which had hitherto occurred, whether due to enemy cruiser, submarine, or mine.

 

The Tangistan was on passage from Ben-isaf to Middlesbrough with a cargo of iron ore. The voyage from the Mediterranean had been like scores of other voyages which the crew had previously made; they had seen no enemy ships, and they had run into no mines. As the ship approached Middlesbrough, it was realised that she was early for the tide, so speed was reduced. Night fell, and all on board were anticipating their early arrival in port, when suddenly the ship trembled from end to end and then stopped. The hour of midnight was just striking; the lights went out. All hands rushed up on deck, to find the Tangistan was rapidly sinking under their feet. There was little or no confusion as orders were shouted from the bridge for the boats to be lowered. Before this could be done, however, the tragedy was completed; the Tangistan, on an even keel, disappeared in the dark waters, with all on board. Several of the men came to the surface, and cries rang out in the night, but only one of them survived the night's horror a seaman named J. C. Toole.

 

He managed to secure a spar, and he clung to it in desperation as offering him the only hope of life. Benumbed with the cold, he noticed the other voices around him were soon silenced, and he remained the lonely survivor of the whole ship's company! All he could do was to shout in the hope that he might attract the attention of some passing steamer, and this he did with all his remaining strength. One ship had passed in the night soon after he had reached the surface, and then he descried yet another vessel, but failed to attract her attention. Three times hope of rescue was excited, but each time the desperate man was disappointed. He had been in the water for two hours when at last the s.s. Woodville passed near him, heard his cries, now faint with increasing exhaustion, and picked him up. He was afterwards landed at West Hartlepool. Of the crew of thirty-nine, consequently, only one man survived to tell the tale of the loss of the Tangistan. Whether the Tangistan was, as in the case of the Princess Victoria and Blackwood, the victim of a submarine, or whether she exploded a mine, was a matter of some doubt, but it is significant that "Die Deutschen U-Boote in ihrer Kriegsfuhrung, 1914-18" claims the Tangistan as a victim of U12, whose destruction the following day is described in a later chapter.

 

It was indubitably a submarine which was responsible for the destruction two days later of the Florazan (4,658 tons; master, Mr. E. J. Cawsey) when fifty-three miles N.E.   E. from the Longships, the lighthouse which stands on the rocks off Land's End. In this instance the violence of the explosion of the torpedo not only gave the ship a list to port, but lifted the oil lamps in the cabins from their sockets, with the result that the ship was soon ablaze amidships as she began to settle slowly by the head.

 

THE "ADENWEN'S" ADVENTURE

 

Fortunately the steam drifter Wenlock, then about two miles away, noticed that the Florazan was in distress, and rescued all the officers and men, who in the meantime had taken to the boats, with the exception of one fireman, who was presumably killed by the explosion. The survivors stood by the burning vessel for two or three hours, but it was impossible to board her on account of the flames, and, no sign of life being observable, the Wenlock continued on her course. On the following day the Florazan was still afloat and was taken in tow by eight drifters, but she sank on the morning of the 18th.

 

On the same day the Adenwen (3,798 tons) had a curious experience off the Casquets. In the early morning light, submarine U29 appeared, and firing rockets ordered the merchantman to stop. The master (Mr. W. H. Ladd) paid no attention to what was intended to be a peremptory injunction, but, on the contrary, increased speed and steered varying courses in order to keep the submarine right astern. Again the signals were made, and again they were ignored. But the chase was a hopeless one, for the submarine had the advantage of speed and soon overhauled the Adenwen. Speaking through a megaphone, the commander of U29 threatened to torpedo the ship unless she was stopped. There was no alternative but compliance with this order. In a few minutes the crew had taken to the boats, and a German party proceeded on board the Adenwen and placed bombs in the hold, which subsequently exploded. The crew were towed by the submarine for some time, and were then transferred to the Norwegian s.s. Bothnia, which landed them at Brixham the same afternoon.

 

The enemy assumed that the British ship would sink, but, on the contrary, she remained afloat, was noticed by the French destroyer Claymore later in the day, and, having been towed into Cherbourg and temporarily repaired, arrived at Cardiff on April 1st, to be taken later on into the Admiralty service.

 

The campaign continued on the 12th, when five ships were attacked, four being sunk. One, the Invergyle (1,794 tons; master, Mr. D. K. Minto), was torpedoed off the Tyne, and the other three in the neighbourhood of the Scilly Islands. This group consisted of the Headlands (2,988 tons), the Indian City (4,645 tons; master, Mr. John Williams), and the Andalusian (2,349 tons; master, Mr. L. Malley), and they were all sunk by the U29 under the redoubtable Otto Weddigen. As in the case of the three armoured cruisers Aboukir, Cressy, and Hogue, this officer profited by the code of humanity which the seamen of the great maritime Powers had always hitherto observed.

 

The s.s. Headlands was entering the English Channel from the west when the master (Mr. Herbert Lugg) saw a burning ship about five miles away to the eastward. Without a thought except for the men of the vessel from which the smoke was rising, he altered course in the hope that he might be able to save the lives of brother seamen. He had been steaming towards the mass of smoke for a matter of twenty minutes, when he observed a submarine approaching him at full speed. In the track of the submarine was a patrol-boat, and intermittently flashes of gunfire reminded him that in obeying the humane custom of the sea he had run into danger. When his own ship had disappeared, he learnt that the U29 had attacked the Indian City, which had been torpedoed when the patrol-boat came on the scene. As the Indian City, which did not sink until the following day, was in no immediate danger, the patrol-vessel had given chase to the submarine.

 

By keeping on the surface, at the risk of being hit by a shell, the German commander was able to outdistance his pursuer. As soon as Captain Lugg realised the danger, he put his helm hard astarboard in the hope of avoiding pursuit. Owing to the Headlands' slow speed, it was soon apparent that his case was hopeless. The merchant ship was still holding to her course when the submarine commander drew up close astern and shouted to the Headlands to stop. The challenge was unheeded. The submarine then manoeuvred for position and fired a torpedo, which struck the Headlands abaft the engine-room. The ship began to settle down as the submarine, with a group of patrol vessels in pursuit, made off at high speed. Within a few minutes everyone on board the Headlands had taken to the boats, which were afterwards towed into port by a patrol craft. (On March 18th, 1915, Otto Weddigen, who, as a reward for his successes, had been promoted from U9 to U29 since he began his raids on commerce, attempted to attack one of the battle squadrons of the Grand Fleet, and was appropriately rammed and sunk by H.M.S. Dreadnought "Picked up on her ram like a winkle on a pin," as an eyewitness expressed it. This incident, one of the most striking in the whole history of submarine warfare, was kept secret from the Germans, who never tired of inquiring the fate of Otto Weddigen, though thousands of people in and out of the Grand Fleet must have known the facts.)

 

A GUNNERY DUEL

 

On the following day the Hartdale (3,839 tons; master, Mr. Thomas Martin), after being chased off the coast of County Down, was torpedoed, two lives being lost. Four ships were attacked on the 14th; none was sunk, and all managed to escape uninjured except the Atalanta (519 tons). This ship was the first defensively armed British merchantman to fall in with a submarine. She was on passage from Galway to Glasgow, and was steaming about eleven miles off Inishturk Island, which lies about half-way between Blacksod Bay and Styne Head, when she sighted a submarine which was coming up astern and gaining rapidly on her. The master (Mr. J. MacLarnon) decided to withhold his fire. But when the submarine had come within a range of three or four thousand yards, the marine gunners could be restrained no longer and action was opened, the submarine replying with guns and rifle. By the time four rounds had been fired by the Atalanta's gunners, the ship stopped, rolling heavily in the swell. The submarine, concluding that the short chase was over, came abreast of her on the port beam. As the 12-pounder gun could not be brought to bear owing to the ship having stopped, Private Gilgallon blew away a davit by gunfire; three more rounds were then fired, causing the submarine to submerge.

 

According to a statement subsequently made by the two marine gunners, the boats had in the meantime been lowered; officers and crew got into them and rowed away from the ship, with the exception of Mr. Mackey, first mate, who remained on the bridge and rang orders to the engine-room for steam until it was found that all the men had left; and, as the vessel was now helpless, and the submarine appeared to be preparing to discharge a torpedo at short range from a position in which she could not be fired on, the mate and two marines got into a boat which was lying alongside and shoved off. According to the report of the chief engineer, Mr. James Fraser, the master, after he had got into the port boat, went on board the Atalanta again, and while he was there the submarine appeared on the starboard bow. "When the boat got round the starboard side and the master got on deck, , he called on those in the boat to go on board, but those who had the oars would not pull back." Captain MacLarnon then left the ship with the rest of the hands. The crew were eventually landed at Inishturk Island. In the meantime the enemy devoted attention to the ship, which was soon well afire. She was subsequently found adrift by the patrol-boat Greta and towed into Cleggan Bay, about ten miles to the southward, where, already gutted by the flames, she was beached.

 

During the remainder of the month of March the campaign was pressed by the enemy with energy and eleven ships were lost, together with 115 lives. Eighteen other vessels were attacked, but managed to escape. None of these ships possessed any armament, but owed their safety in most cases to speed and good seamanship. A typical illustration of resourcefulness under adverse conditions was furnished by the master (Mr. John Home) of the Hyndford (4,286 tons). The Hyndford was on her way home from Bahia with a cargo of wheat and oats. On the afternoon of March 15th she was steaming up-Channel at full speed, making for London, and when about twelve miles south of Beachy Head an explosion occurred. The weather was fine and there was a smooth sea. The ship shook from end to end. On rushing out of the charthouse, the master encountered a great volume of falling water and debris. After a moment's delay he was, however, able to reach the bridge in time to see the wake of a submarine, with its periscope showing.

 

The enemy vessel was going away from the ship in a south-westerly direction, and soon disappeared beneath the water. The second officer had also seen the periscope, and there was no doubt, therefore, that the vessel had been attacked by a submarine without warning. The outrage was so unexpected that considerable confusion occurred on board the Hyndford. As the ship's head was sinking fast, the engineers left the engine-room, and the crew were hurrying towards the boats, which had already been swung out, when the master took command of the situation. He immediately directed that the boats were not to be lowered, but, owing to an accident, the port lifeboat slipped and two hands were thrown into the water. Captain Home then endeavoured to calm the men and ordered an engineer to stop the engines. As soon as way was sufficiently off

 

THE "LIZZIE'S" RESCUE WORK

 

the ship, a boat was put out to rescue the two men who had fallen into the water, and one of them was, in fact, saved. Gradually more or less normal conditions were established on board. In the meantime it had been found that water in the fore hold was at sea-level, but No. 2 hold was dry, so, firing two rockets of distress, Captain Home put his engines half speed ahead for ten minutes as a test, and, finding the bulkhead stood the strain, he proceeded at full speed towards the Downs, filling the after ballast tanks in order to trim the ship. The Hyndford arrived at the Downs half an hour after midnight on March 16th, and eventually was towed to Gray's Flats and beached for temporary repairs.

 

The attack on the Delmira (3,459 tons) on the 25th attracted the special attention of the Admiralty owing to the pluck and resource exhibited by Mr. Jonathan Evans, the master of the s.s. Lizzie (802 tons). The Delmira had a crew of thirty-two hands, but only eight of these were English, the rest being Chinese. She was proceeding from Boulogne to Port Talbot, and was twenty-three miles north-north-east from Cape d'Antifer, when the U37 appeared aft at a distance of about two miles. The master of the large British merchant ship (Mr. William Lancefield) took no notice of a signal directing him to stop, and the Germans then began firing and gradually gained on the Delmira, which was making only about 9 knots. The usual procedure was followed, but in this case the commander of the U-boat showed consideration for the officers and men. He volunteered to tow their boats until some vessel was met with to which they could transfer.

 

For an hour and a half the little procession, consisting of the submarine and the three boats of the Delmira, maintained its course towards the English coast, and then the s.s. Lizzie appeared to the eastward. The submarine immediately cut the tow and began to dive in the direction of the Lizzie. The master of the little British vessel promptly steamed full speed towards the submarine with the intention of ramming her. The Lizzie passed over the enemy vessel, but felt no shock, and it is doubtful if even the periscope was struck. In spite of the danger which the presence of the enemy boat must have suggested, Captain Evans of the Lizzie stopped his ship and picked up the men out of the three boats, who were eventually landed at Portsmouth. The Delmira grounded later on at Cape La Hogue, where temporary repairs were carried out.

 

By this time evidence was accumulating of the determination of the enemy to break, if he could, the spirit of British merchant seamen, while, on the other hand, the stories that reached the Admiralty bore testimony to the dogged courage with which these men, in face of unparalleled dangers, continued to go about the nation's business. Almost every incident suggested that no amount of frightfulness on the part of the enemy would succeed in terrorising the descendants of the men who had thrown open the navigation of the seas freely to the nations of the world. The record of these days of heroic resistance to a cruel campaign must be studied in the knowledge that these men, untrained for the violence of war, were also, for the most part, unprovided with armament to enable them to defend themselves and their vessels against craft possessing, in addition to the powers of submergence, powerful guns, deadly torpedoes, and easily portable bombs. It was an unequal contest, but British seamen pursued it with high courage and tenacity. The official records reveal the generous feeling of admiration excited in naval officers serving at the Admiralty as tale after tale came in from the sea.

 

A particularly noteworthy story is that of the Vosges (1,295 tons). She was on passage from Bordeaux to Liverpool, carrying a general cargo, with two first-class passengers and five consular passengers, when she was attacked on March 27th, 1915, at 10.15 a.m., by a German submarine in lat. 50 27', long. 6 W. The merchantman was unarmed. Immediately the submarine came into view the master (Mr. John R. Green) ordered all the firemen below and asked the consular passengers to volunteer to assist in maintaining steam pressure. This aid was willingly given. A fight was in prospect that made the blood course freely through the veins of every man on board.

 

The submarine opened fire from astern, the first shot being immediately followed by one which hit the British vessel aft. In the meantime the Vosges was steaming at her highest speed, Captain Green altering course as necessary to keep the enemy behind him, and with her head to the sea, so that she could not use her gun. On the other hand, the submarine was all the time

 

A GALLANT STRUGGLE

 

endeavouring to get on the beam of the merchantman, so as to obtain a good target for his torpedoes. This manoeuvring and counter-manoeuvring continued for an hour and a half, the enemy, firing as opportunity offered, refusing to abandon her quarry. The British vessel was struck repeatedly by shells, a round hole about two feet in diameter being made in the starboard side, and another about one foot in diameter being pierced on the starboard quarter; there were other small holes about the waterline aft. The funnel was riddled, the bridgehouse smashed, and the engine-room badly holed. The chief engineer, Mr. Harry Davies, was killed instantaneously when standing near the stokehold door exhorting the firemen and volunteers to further efforts, a shell striking him in the chest. The second mate was hit on the arm while on the bridge; a fireman was injured in the wrist; the mess-room boy had a leg hurt; the mate was slightly wounded in the hand; and splinters grazed the captain's hand. Among the passengers, the only injury suffered was in the case of a lady who was struck in the foot.

 

At about a quarter to twelve, the submarine, having failed to effect her purpose owing to the skill of Captain Green and the manner in which he was supported in the engine-room, sheered off. It was hoped that it would be possible to get the damaged vessel into Milford Haven. Water, however, was gaining rapidly on the pumps, and it became evident that the ship was sinking. At this moment, the armed yacht Wintonia (Lieutenant-Commander W. E. Kelway, R.N.R.) was sighted about twenty-two miles north-west of Trevose Head. This vessel immediately bore down on the Vosges, and shortly afterwards the boats were manned and lowered, and, by the captain's orders, officers and men took their places. There was no fuss or excitement in spite of the unnerving experience through which everyone on board had so recently passed. After making sure that everyone else had left the ship, Captain Green cast off both painters, and, getting into the starboard lifeboat, rowed over to the patrol yacht. In spite of the strong wind and heavy rain, everyone got on board a difficult operation in the circumstances.

 

"The only remark I have to make," Captain Green reported, "is that, had I had a gun, I have not the slightest doubt but that I should have sunk the submarine." The Vosges disappeared bow first at 2 o'clock after an explosion had occurred. "Gentlemen, I did not give her away," the captain concluded in his report to his owners. The Admiralty, on receiving information, at once expressed their appreciation of the conduct of all concerned, it being remarked that "the chief engineer, both by his energy and his example, was largely instrumental in enabling the vessel to shake off the submarine." Official appreciation was afterwards formally expressed of the gallantry of officers and crew: Captain Green was awarded a commission in the Royal Naval Reserve and received the D.S.O. for "his gallant and resolute conduct "; gold watches were presented to the other officers, the widow of chief engineer Harry Davies receiving the gold watch which would have been handed to her husband if he had lived; and the members of the crew were paid a gratuity of 3 each.

 

A duel lasting ninety minutes between an old British merchant ship and a German submarine occurred at this period of the war, reflecting the utmost credit on British seamanship. The City of Cambridge was a four-masted ship of 3,844 tons, and her compound engines gave her a normal speed when loaded of about 10 knots. She was thirty-three years old, having been built by Messrs. Workmen, Clark & Co. at Belfast in 1882. She left Alexandria for Liverpool on March 16th with a general cargo. The master (Mr. Alfred C. Fry) was determined not to be caught unprepared for an emergency, and on the 27th he mustered all hands at their respective boat stations in order that every officer and man should practise putting on his life-belt in its proper position, "for, believe me," Captain Fry afterwards remarked, "familiarity breeds contempt, and there are numbers of persons on board most ships who do not know how to put on life-belts properly." Strong north-east winds were encountered in crossing the Bay, and at 4.30 on the following afternoon, the City of Cambridge passed Bishop Rock at a distance of about thirty-eight miles, and course was then altered to pass about twenty miles west of the Smalls, to the westward of Milford Haven. At noon Captain Fry had doubled the lookout, and he "kept his eye skinned" for any suspicious craft or for the sight of a periscope. At 6.30, nothing being observable on the horizon, he

 

BAFFLING A SUBMARINE

 

left the bridge to go down to dinner, the third officer with the lookout men and the man at the wheel remaining on the bridge. He had just sat down with the chief and second officers, when a sharp report was heard on the starboard side of the vessel. "I raced from the table to the bridge," he stated in his subsequent narrative of events, " and did it, I think, in record time - say fifteen seconds. I climbed the port ladder and rushed to the wheel. Looking over the side, I saw close to us, say half a ship's length away, the conning tower of a submarine with several men in it. She was heading the same way as ourselves. I at once myself pulled the wheel over to the starboard, shaking them up below at the same time; then, knowing that the bridge would be fired at, I lay flat for a minute. The chief and second officers were with me by this time, and the second officer took the wheel and kept it for the rest of the time of our trial. After a short time I looked for the enemy and found that he was a couple of points or so on the starboard quarter and our own ship swinging off good to port. This gave us courage and the hope that he would not have it all his own way; if we could only keep her going and the enemy astern, we had a good chance of getting away, unless holed below the water-line.

 

"As soon as he understood we were going to make a try for it, he fired a shell, and then for an hour and a half it was very hot work. He would gain on us till one could count the heads in the conning tower. At one time I think he could not have been 200 feet from us, a mass of foam with just the top of the tower showing, and then he was hard aport or starboard (generally port) till he stood at right angles, trying to get far enough out to smash the bridge, at the same time he was shepherding us so that we were before the wind and swell, which, although it was small, probably upset his shooting platform. We managed to baffle him at every move. At one time I was afraid our speed was going down, but with the best of firemen below and the mighty efforts of the engineers, we recovered speed and worked her up to a little over 13 knots (our top speed). At this time we were heading into both wind and sea (he had forced us to turn round the compass twice) and going slowly away from him. The light by now had settled into a bright moonlight night, and as he got farther astern we gradually lost sight of him, but he gave us one parting shot, which did a lot of damage.

 

"That ninety minutes was such as I do not wish to experience again. Thinking it possible that some of our armed ships might be within range, I fired two distress signals one after another to attract their attention. Then he brought a Morse lamp on deck and started Morsing, but knowing this was only a trick to divert our attention, I took no notice of it."

 

For the courage and resource exhibited in face of the enemy, Captain Fry was presented with a gold watch from the Admiralty as well as Lloyd's Medal, and was commended in the London Gazette, besides receiving a reward from the War Risks Association. Though his ship was entirely without armament, he had opposed his seamanship to all the offensive qualities possessed by the submarine, and, splendidly supported by his officers and the staff in the engine-room, he had won. The devotion of the master, officers, and engineers saved the ship and its cargo, but the City of Cambridge did not escape uninjured. One German shell carried away a 6 -inch davit, destroying the boat which it helped to support. Another penetrated the boatswain's room and part of the lamp locker, one of these holes being about 30 inches by 50 inches. The after-works were injured, and one shell which passed over the bridge carried away the signal halyard. "This was a close call," Captain Fry remarked, "as, had it struck any of the short awning spars, it would have exploded, and that would have finished us." Except for a slight splinter wound sustained by a fireman, no one was the worse for the encounter. "With a bit of luck and owing to the hard determination of the officers and men above and below deck," the master related afterwards, "we managed to bring our ship home." (The City of Cambridge, after a second escape from a submarine in the same year, was sunk in the Mediterranean (July 3rd, 1917) when under the command of another master.)

 

Another incident which occurred in the closing days of March must be noted, because, apart from the loss of life involved, it figured in the Notes which afterwards passed between the Government of the United States and Germany, and was the subject of a special inquiry by the Board of Trade. When approximately sixty miles W. 1/2 N.

 

STORY OF THE "FALABA"

 

off St. Ann's Head at 12.30 p.m. on March 27th, the master (Mr. George Wright) of the Eileen Emma, who was fishing from Milford Haven, sighted the periscope of a submarine. He immediately rang for full speed and tried to cut her off. The enemy, realising what was happening, altered course again and again, trying to avoid collision. The speeds of the two ships were about equal, and for some time these manoeuvres continued, until a steamer appeared on the horizon steering south-west. The submarine then increased her buoyancy until she was well above the water, and in this trim outpaced the Eileen Emma and proceeded towards a steamship which proved to be the Falaba (4,806 tons; master, Mr. F. J. Davies). She was unarmed, and had on board a crew of ninety-five men and 147 passengers, including seven women and an American citizen, when she left Liverpool on the previous evening on her passage to Sierra Leone. Passengers and crew had had insufficient time to adjust themselves to war conditions when they sighted the submarine about two points abaft the starboard beam and three miles distant. In approaching the Falaba the submarine at first showed a British ensign, for which the German colours were afterwards substituted. She was noticed by Mr. Pengilly, the Falaba's third officer, at 11.40 a.m. The sequence of later events was settled by the considered judgment of Lord Mersey, acting as Wreck Commissioner:

 

"The captain immediately altered the course of the Falaba so as to get the submarine directly astern, and at the same time he rang up the engine-room to increase the speed. The best was done in the engineroom to respond to this call, but it was found impossible to effect any material improvement in the short time available. The captain then sent Baxter to instruct the Marconi operator to signal all stations as follows: 'Submarine overhauling us; flying British flag. 51 32', 6 86'.' This message was sent out at 11.50 a.m. Baxter then obtained a telescope and observed that the submarine was flying a German ensign. It is, in my opinion, uncertain whether the ensign had been changed, or whether the ensign already observed was not, in fact, a German flag. The point, however, is not material, because from the first the captain believed the submarine to be an enemy craft. The submarine was at this time making about 18 knots and was rapidly overhauling the Falaba. Shortly before noon she fired a detonating signal to call attention, and by flags signalled the Falaba to 'stop and abandon ship.' The Falaba did not stop, but still manoeuvred to keep the submarine astern. The submarine then signalled 'Stop or I fire.' The captain and the chief officer then conferred and decided that it was impossible to escape. They accordingly rang to the engine-room to stop the engines.

 

"The signal 'Stop or I fire' was given a minute or two before noon. The submarine then signalled 'Abandon ship immediately,' and hailed through a megaphone to the Falaba to take to the boats, as they were going 'to sink the ship in five minutes.' The captain answered that he was taking to the boats. The Marconi operator heard the hail, and sent out a second message, 'Position 51 32' N., 6 36' W.; torpedo; going boats.' The warning that the submarine was going to sink the ship in five minutes was given as nearly as possible at noon. The Falaba stopped at 12.4 or 12.5, and at 12.10 the submarine fired a torpedo into her. At this moment the submarine was within about 100 yards of the Falaba. The torpedo struck the Falaba on the starboard side by No. 3 hatch aft of No. 1 lifeboat and just alongside the Marconi house. The blow was fatal. The Falaba at once took a list to starboard, and in eight minutes (namely, at 12.18) she sank. This was within twenty minutes of the notice from the submarine of her intention to sink the ship. An affidavit by Mr. Baxter, the chief officer, which had been put in has satisfied me that no rockets or other signals were fired or shown from the Falaba on March 28th."

 

Lord Mersey held that he was not required to find whether the submarine was within her rights as an enemy craft in sinking the Falaba, but he was called upon to assume that "in any event she was bound to afford the men and women on board a reasonable opportunity of getting to the boats and of saving their lives. This those in charge of the submarine did not do. And so grossly insufficient was the opportunity in fact afforded that I am driven to the conclusion that the captain of the submarine desired and designed not merely to sink the ship, but, in

 

GERMAN BARBARITY

 

doing so, also to sacrifice the lives of the passengers and crew." The Wreck Commissioner added that evidence was given by the witnesses of laughing and jeering from the submarine while the men and women from the Falaba were struggling in the water, but Lord Mersey stated that he preferred to hope that the witnesses were mistaken. Corporal Turnbull of the Royal Army Medical Corps, one of the survivors, in a statement to the Press, (Times, March 30th, 1915,) said that "the barbarity of the crew of the submarine was frightful. They waited to see the last of the Falaba before they dived, but, of course, they made no attempt to save any of us. That was not the worst part. The most maddening thing was to see the crew of the submarine after they had torpedoed us. The Falaba listed over, and the passengers and crew were clinging like flies trying to get a grip of the deck, and dropping one by one into the water, while the crew of the submarine laughed and jeered at them." The ascertained loss of life was 104.

 

Continuing his judgment, Lord Mersey added that, "between the first signal of the submarine to stop and the actual stopping of the Falaba, the chief officer directed the first and second stewards to assemble the passengers on deck and to tell them to put on their life-belts. The captain also sent the fourth officer below to see that these orders were carried out. After the engines were stopped, the chief engineer and the third engineer ordered all men in the engine-room and stokehold on deck, and the order was obeyed. By the time the Falaba was stopped, a large number of the passengers were already on the boat deck.The captain was on the bridge. He sent the third officer and the quartermaster to see to the lowering and filling of the boats, and the order to man the boatswas passed round the ship."

 

The Wreck Commissioner then dealt with the "serious complaints which were made by some of the witnesses as to the condition of the boats and as to the launching of them." After referring to these statements and to the technical evidence given before him, he said that he was satisfied "that the witnesses who described the boats as having been 'rotten ' are mistaken, and that, in truth, the boats were sound and in good order up to the time of the attack by the submarine. What, however, the witnesses probably mean, when they say the boats were rotten, is that when afloat some of them were found to be unseaworthy. And this, no doubt, is true. But this condition of things was, in my opinion, wholly due to the damage sustained by the boats after the operation of launching began, and not to any previous defect.

 

"Upon the subject of the launching, it is, therefore, necessary to say a few words. It is to be remembered that the submarine had given the Falaba only about five minutes in which to man, to fill, and to launch these boats; in which, in short, to save the lives of 242 persons. This was an operation quite incapable of efficient performance in anything like that short space of time. There was unavoidable hurry and disorder; the falls of one of the boats slipped: the falls of another jammed; some boats were dashed against the side of the ship and damaged; one (No. 8) was seriously injured by the explosion of the torpedo while still hanging from the davits. It is in these circumstances that some of the witnesses apparently desire me to find that the damage done to the boats was due to the neglect of the officers and crew in connection with the launching. I cannot do this. I have no doubt that, had there been more time for the work, it might have been better carried out, but, in my opinion, all on board captain, officers, crew, and passengers did their very best. People were fighting for their lives and for the lives of others about them, and in the struggle the captain, half the crew, and a large number of the passengers were drowned. It is impossible for me to fix any man on board the ship with a failure of duty or with incompetence. The responsibility for the consequences of this catastrophe must rest exclusively with the officers and crew of the German submarine."

 

Two more ships were sunk on the last two days of March, happily without loss of life. The Flaminian (3,500 tons; master, Mr. David Cruikshank) was destroyed on the 29th by gunfire, fifty miles south-west by west from the Scilly Isles, and the Crown of Castile (4,505 tons; master, Mr. T. S. Fyfe) on the 30th, when thirty-one miles south-west from the Bishop Rock. Submarine U28 was responsible for the sinking of both vessels.

 

By the end of March the depredations of enemy surface craft had ceased, and no further losses on this account were incurred until the following January; the mine peril had

 

A TUG'S PLUCKY FIGHT

 

been for the moment checked; but the destruction due to submarines, which had amounted to 17,126 tons in January, with a loss of twenty-one lives, and had reached only 21,787 tons, with the death of nine persons, in February, had suddenly jumped up to 64,448 tons, and the number of lives lost was 161. After this exhibition of frightfulness, the intensity of the attack became for a time less marked. During April only 22,453 tons were destroyed, thirty-eight lives being lost, and only six other ships were molested. On the first day of the month the Seven Seas (1,194 tons; master, Mr. Barnes) was about six miles south of Beachy Head when an explosion occurred forward, the vessel sinking almost immediately. The destroyer Flirt picked up nine of the crew, but the captain, chief engineer, both mates, steward, three seamen and a boy were drowned. No doubt existed that the ship was torpedoed without warning.

 

The Lochwood (2,042 tons; master, Mr. T. H. Scott) fell a victim to the enemy on the following day off the Start. On the 4th four more lives were lost in the City of Bremen (1,258 tons; master, Mr. Richard Martin), which was destroyed twenty miles south by west from the Wolf Rock, and the same day the Olivine (634 tons; master, Mr. A. Lamont) also went down near St. Catherine's Point. The Northlands (2,776 tons; master, Mr. A. S. Taylor) came to a similar end off Beachy Head on the 5th, and then an interval occurred of four clear days, the only noticeable incident being the escape of the tug Homer, which furnished further confirmatory evidence of the spirit in which British seamen were determined to meet the enemy's threats and murderous acts.

 

The Homer (150 tons) was proceeding from Queenstown to Sunderland towing the French barque General de Santos. On the afternoon of April 8th, twenty-five miles southwest by south from the Owers Lightship, a German submarine approached within three or four hundred yards of the Homer's port side. The enemy vessel was travelling on the surface, and hoisted a signal which the master of the Homer (Mr. H. J. Gibson) ignored, although an officer in the submarine shouted and pointed at the flags. The submarine then steamed round the bow of the tug, speed in the British vessel having in the meantime been eased. She soon came up on the starboard side, both vessels steaming in the same direction. A shot was fired over the Homer and the German officer resumed shouting in English, ordering Captain Gibson to get into his boat.

 

The enemy craft, considering the issue practically decided, came within a hundred yards, and then the Homer, having cast loose the General de Santos, turned towards her. It was a critical moment. As soon as the enemy realised the intention of the master of the Homer, he put his helm hard aport and opened fire, continuing a desperate attack until the Homer was almost on top of him, missing his stern by about three feet. The Homer's head was then reversed, and, the submarine still firing, the vessel proceeded in the direction of the Owers. The submarine followed, firing a torpedo which passed close to the British vessel's starboard quarter. At this time the Homer was travelling at about 12 knots. The submarine continued to chase her for half an hour, but had fallen half a mile astern when she abandoned the pursuit and turned back, evidently with the intention of dealing with a French barque which was in sight. The tug, with seven holes as evidence of the enemy's persistency, reached Bembridge some time later. The Admiralty marked their appreciation of the resource and courage of the master by presenting him with a gold watch and a letter on vellum.

 

Five other ships managed to make their escape during April, La Rosarina (8,332 tons) experiencing a narrow escape on the 17th, when she was chased by a submarine, and beat off the attack by gunfire. But during the last twenty days of April the Harpalyce (5,940 tons), The President (647 tons; master, Mr. Neil Robertson), Ptarmigan (784 tons; master, Mr. W. A. W. Hore), Mobile (1,950 tons; master, Mr. W. C. Fortune), Cherbury (3,220 tons; master, Mr. James Davidson), and Fulgent (2,008 tons) were all sunk, with loss of life in the case of the Harpalyce, Ptarmigan, and Fulgent. The end of the Harpalyce (master, Mr. Wawn) was marked by some features which appeared particularly revolting to still tender consciences at that early period of the struggle.

 

This ship was working for the Commission of Relief in Belgium. When she left Rotterdam for Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.A., in addition to her Red Ensign she was flying the large flag of the Commission, and painted on her sides in large letters was the name of the Commission. Her status had been recognised by the German

 

A RELIEF SHIP'S FATE

 

Minister at The Hague, who had issued a safe-conduct, covering risks from attack by German submarines during her voyage. This permit was of the most specific character, but contained a warning "against navigating the waters declared by Germany to be a war zone," especially through the English Channel. In those circumstances there should have been no cause for anxiety. The Harpalyce left Rotterdam about 2.30 a.m. on Saturday morning, April 10th, and all went well until the ship was about seven miles south-south-east from the North Hinder light-vessel, when at 10 a.m. a loud report was heard on the starboard quarter. An explosion had blown in the ship's side. In less than two minutes the whole of the poop and afterwell deck were submerged. The ship was doomed.

 

According to the statements of the second officer (Mr. W. J. George) and the second engineer (Mr. J. S. Turnbull), "It was impossible to swing out the boats, as by now the top of the funnel was nearly in the water, the engine-room being filled up and the decks beginning to blow up." Within a short time the ship went down. The crew consisted of forty-four officers and men, including thirty-three Chinese hands. They would all undoubtedly have been drowned but for the fortunate appearance upon the scene of the Netherlands s.s. Elizabeth and s.s. Constance Catherine, which, in company with the United States schooner Ruby, managed to save all but fifteen of the crew. These neutral vessels not only exhibited fine seamanship during this rescue work, but illustrated that chivalry of the sea which, prior to Germany's decision, had united the seamen of the world.

 

Two possibilities called for investigation. In the first place, it had to be settled whether the ship had been sunk by mine or torpedo. As to that, not only was it improbable that a mine would strike the vessel on the starboard quarter, as was the case, but the second mate distinctly saw the periscope of a submarine and its wash as it made off to the northwards; corroborative evidence on this point was also given by the master of the Elizabeth. Nor was there any lack of testimony as to the position in which the Harpalyce was sunk well outside the so-called German war zone. No doubt existed that this vessel, engaged on an errand of mercy to "the suffering civil population of Belgium," to quote from the German permit, was torpedoed without warning and in broad daylight outside the area designated by the enemy, although she carried every mark of her distinctive mission.

 

The last day of April was marked by a tragedy which, conspicuous at the moment, was afterwards to be completely overshadowed by events which focused the attention of the world on the enemy's inhuman campaign. The Fulgent sailed from Cardiff on the evening of April 28th under Admiralty orders for Scapa Flow. She was taking a roundabout course for safety, evidently under orders, and had passed the Blaskets Lighthouse, off the coast of Kerry, on the morning of April 30th, when the silence was broken by the report of a gun. It was then noticed that, unobserved by anyone on board, a submarine had crept up within about 200 yards of the Fulgent. The master of the merchantman (Mr. C. W. Brown) at once realised the peril in which he stood, and began zigzagging in order to keep the enemy vessel astern of him and thus in an unfavourable position for attack. The contest, however, was an unequal one, as the submarine, stated to be the U7, had the advantage of speed.

 

Captain Brown, with dogged courage, refused to believe that his position was hopeless. Even when the submarine had gained a position about three points on the port quarter, he continued to handle his ship with courage and competency. A flash from the gun mounted on the deck of the submarine told him that a shot had been fired. A few seconds later the vessel's funnel and chartroom had been shattered, an A.B. named Williams, who was at the wheel, being killed, and Captain Brown himself being mortally injured. The struggle was then over, and all that could be done was to get out the boats with all speed, in order that the remaining officers and men might leave the doomed ship. Without a thought for the British seamen, the officer commanding the submarine then sank the Fulgent out of hand and disappeared, leaving these unfortunate men to whatever fate might overtake them. During the remainder of the day the two boats managed to keep together and then night fell, and in the darkness they got separated. The most sluggish imagination can fill in the broad details of the sufferings of these men as hour after hour passed and hope of rescue rose and fell as ships appeared on the horizon, to disappear

 

DESTRUCTION OF THE "FULGENT"

 

again unconscious of these men's distress. But at last, on Sunday, May 2nd, the s.s. Tosto of Newcastle picked up the first mate and eight hands, exhausted physically and mentally by the ordeal through which they had passed, and the trawler Angle landed nine other men at Cappa (Kilrush), where the body of Captain Brown was silently borne ashore.

 

The destruction of the Fulgent provided an extreme example of the fate to which at this period the seamen of torpedoed merchant vessels were liable, and in considering the first stage of Germany's submarine campaign as here described it is necessary, in view of the subsequent developments, to preserve a sense of proportion. Grievous as were the experiences of crews set adrift in open boats, their sufferings, generally speaking, were as nothing in comparison with those endured later in the war by survivors from ships torpedoed in mid-Atlantic a phase of the enemy's savage warfare by sea which is dealt with in the second volume of this work.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

THE AUXILIARY PATROL AT WORK

 

IN those fateful summer days which immediately preceded the British ultimatum to Germany little information was revealed as to the preparations of the Royal Navy. Of the steps which were taken none was, in fact, more thorough than the precautions against our fleets being blockaded by means of a potential enemy's mine-fields. But the vigilant work of the destroyer flotillas off the coast does not come within the scope of this history.

 

Allusion has already been made to the flotilla of old gunboats, whose duty was to attend on the Grand Fleet, while the trawlers were relied upon to keep the channels and harbour approaches swept clear. As far back as July 28th, 1914, Commander Lionel Preston, R.N., had received his orders to take charge of these gunboats and to assemble them at Dover. On the first day of August they steamed away from that great national harbour for Queensferry, having been instructed by Admiral Sir George Callaghan, then Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, to begin sweeping on their way north as soon as they got to the Inner Dowsing, near the Wash. And it was on this same day that the inspecting Captain of Mine-sweepers received his orders in regard to the trawlers. The Admiralty had decided to charter these for minesweeping, and preparations were to be made so that they could be sent to their assigned ports as soon as possible. There were then eighty-two such vessels on the Admiralty list, and the ranks and ratings of the trawler section numbered 1,025.

 

On the next day the Admiralty-chartered trawlers, which had been usually employed in towing targets, were ordered to the Nore from their various ports, where, being completed with mine-sweeping stores, they were

 

THE FIRST MINE-FIELD

 

ready for eventualities. On the coast of Scotland, and at the fishing ports of the North Sea and West of England, steam trawlers were being taken in hand as they came in from their fishing, though it had been foreseen that probably 25 per cent, of these would not have succeeded in getting back from Iceland and other fishing waters in time for the commencement of hostilities. Meanwhile Germany was also availing herself of her fishing fleets, and on August 3rd, a telegram from the British Ambassador at Berlin announced that that country had obtained thirty trawlers from Geestemunde, and was equipping them with a couple of searchlights each, and fitting them out as mine-layers.

 

The first mine-field to be discovered was that which was laid by the Konigin Luise, an auxiliary vessel of the German Navy resembling one of the steamers that had been on the service between Harwich and the Hook of Holland. At ten o'clock on the morning of August 5th she was seen laying mines not far from Orfordness, and was herself sunk by the Third Destroyer Flotilla, issuing from Harwich. She had not quite completed her work when her career so suddenly terminated, for survivors stated that many mines were still aboard her. They further asserted that she had laid a long line of mines from a position in lat. 52 10' N., long. 2 25' E., to the eastward. This position is about thirty miles to the eastward of Orfordness, and it is clear enough that such mines were laid for the express purpose of sinking any British forces proceeding from Harwich towards Germany. In this intention they partially succeeded, for H.M.S. Amphion foundered on one of them the next day.

 

Meanwhile the Senior Naval Officer at Harwich was ordered to hasten the preparation of the mine-sweeping trawlers. On August 6th they put to sea and proceeded to sweep from Orfordness to Southwold. The Admiral of the patrols was also directed to send Grimsby trawlers to sweep off Aldeburgh as soon as possible. Nothing could have given a greater impetus to the work of the trawlers than the discovery of a mine-field on the first morning of the war. From the Firth of Forth, Admiral Lowry, the Senior Officer on the coast of Scotland, telegraphed to say that the mine-sweepers which he had taken up had almost completed their equipment at Queensferry and Invergordon, and he had given orders that as many trawlers as possible should be commissioned from the northern Scottish ports for patrolling the Moray Firth. Such was the call on the destroyer flotillas that there was only one torpedo craft patrolling that big bay. To Devonport, Portsmouth, and Portland urgent telegrams were dispatched by the Admiralty for the temporary loan of trawlers for mine-sweeping, and meantime shipping had been warned that mines had been laid off the Suffolk coast as far seaward as the third meridian East, and all vessels were ordered not to enter the North Sea without calling for orders at a South Coast port.

 

On the third day of the war, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was informed that a permanent mine-sweeping flotilla of trawlers was being established with a view to ensuring a clear channel from the Outer Dowsing to the South Goodwins. This extensive lane would mean that merchant ships could be guaranteed a safe journey from the eastern entrance of the English Channel almost as far north as the Humber. The flotilla was to consist of eighty trawlers, to be formed as vessels became available. Captain Ellison was summoned to the Admiralty, and instructed to bring this huge flotilla into being. He was at the time commanding officer of the Halcyon, the senior ship of the North Sea Fisheries, based on Lowestoft.

 

He immediately began to get together suitable fishing-craft, and in a short time the North Sea became again a safe highway. The trawlers got to work with such zeal that by August 11th they had swept a channel four cables wide from as far south as the North Foreland to as far north as Southwold. From that night, also, the whole channel from the Outer Dowsing light-vessel to the Downs began to be patrolled by steam drifters, manned by Trawler Reserve officers and men and flying the White Ensign. Night and day, without so much as a gun with which to defend themselves, these little craft kept up their patrol, ever on the alert against enemy mine-laying vessels. No one who passed up the North Sea about this time will ever forget the sight of this continuous patrol of little vessels engaged on a new sphere of work.

 

 

 

A Drifter Fleet at Sea

 

And whilst Lowestoft was busily getting craft together, Chatham was also rapidly fitting out mine-sweeping trawlers, so that in about a fortnight seventy-four hired and other trawlers had been equipped on the Medway. Some of

 

DRIFTERS ON PATROL

 

these were engaged in sweeping the Thames Estuary; others were dispatched to Lowestoft; some to Peterhead. These trawlers had been provided with their mine-sweeping gear, given a month's consumable stores, coal and water, as well as rifles, ammunition, charts, tide-tables, Morse lamps, and so on. Free kits had been issued to all deckhands and trimmers, and a week's pay advanced. Before sailing, both skippers and crews had been taken out in the Admiralty trawlers Seamew or Seaflower and instructed in sweeping, reeving of gear, and station-keeping.

 

By the middle of August the special channel from the Outer Dowsing to the Downs was already buoyed, and thirty steam drifters, equally spaced, were patrolling it from end to end. Such duty essentially belonged to our torpedo flotillas, and not to the smallest type of fishing steamers, but what did it matter, seeing that the destroyers and torpedo-boats were wanted elsewhere, and that drifters were the finest little steamships ever built to withstand bad weather? But besides these Lowestoft drifters, other drifters were being taken up on the north-east corner of Scotland. From Banff, Fraserburgh, Port Mahomack, and Wick, they were being speedily sent to sea to look for mine-layers, and thus afford some protection to Moray Firth. The task which was imposed on some of these Scotch crews was anything but safe. They were unarmed, they were to perform no hostile act, and if captured were to give no indication of their being in the Government service. Their duty was simply to pose as fishermen, keeping their fishing gear on board and their eyes open. The moment they sighted any suspicious movement of ships, they were to run into harbour as fast as they could and report the facts.

 

At Lowestoft great activity continued. The Commander-in-Chief was calling for more mine-sweeping trawlers for the North. Eight he wanted to sweep round Kinnaird Head, in addition to those already sent to Cromarty. These were being fitted out at Lowestoft, besides some more for the Humber and elsewhere. When on August 15th the Grand Fleet made its sweep down the North Sea, the mine-sweeping gunboats went ahead of the battle-cruisers and battleships, leaving the trawlers to keep clear of mines the approaches to the Grand Fleet's base, and to sweep the Pentlands daily.

 

Notwithstanding the large number of vessels which had now been taken up, and the speed with which they were being sent forth on their duties, the demand was still far in excess of the supply. For towards the end of August the enemy's mine-layers had been very busy. On the 27th the steam drifter Barley Rig had been blown up about thirty-five miles E. 1/2 S. of Blyth, and thus the existence of the Tyne mine-field was discovered. Two mine-sweeping trawlers, the Thomas W. Irvine and the Crathie, were also blown up whilst endeavouring to sweep this new field. H.M. Torpedo-boat No. 13 found herself surrounded by mines, being unable to discover a way out, and the same day a mine-field was discovered also off the Humber. On the top of this intelligence came a request for four trawlers to be sent to Admiral Christian, who was flying his flag in the Euryalus, and was engaged in operations off Ostend. He urgently required sweepers, as the weather had recently been particularly suitable for mine-laying. These trawlers were therefore sent to him; they left Lowestoft in charge of the navigating officer of the Halcyon, but the next day Captain Ellison was compelled to request their return, as it was impossible to carry on without them. On the day that this request reached Ostend, Admiral Jellicoe was also asking for twenty more trawlers, and two days later he expressed a desire for a score of drifters to act as lookouts to Scapa Flow, since the enemy was now mining the salient points of the coast.

 

The mine-sweeping trawlers were doing yeoman service. Their draught of water, which was in many cases as much as fifteen feet, made them dangerous to themselves in a mine-field, but they went about their work with fine disregard of their own peril. Already the Humber trawlers had been able to sweep from Spurn Head to the Outer Dowsing, and thus connect up with the swept channel running down to the North Foreland, ensuring a safe passage for the heavy traffic from the English Channel to Hull. In the north, the trawlers based on Granton, in the Firth of Forth, had swept fifteen miles to the eastward of St. Abb's Head, and the Scapa trawlers had swept a channel for the Third Battle Squadron into Scapa.

 

It had been suggested that the opening phase of the war

 

SUBMARINES AND THE GRAND FLEET

 

would be marked by a determined torpedo attack by the enemy, pushed right into the base where the British Fleet might be lying, ready to strike. It was urged that enemy destroyers would rush across the North Sea, penetrate the British line of patrols, torpedo one or two capital ships, and then dash out again. Probably a whole division of German destroyers would be lost in the attempt, but the loss to the enemy would be well worth the gain.

 

It is clear that something of this strategy was actually attempted, but with two differences: First, the attack was timed to take place only after the first mine-laying had been carried out; and, secondly, the torpedoes were to be fired by submarines and not destroyers. Within four days of the outbreak of war enemy submarines were assuredly seeking out the Grand Fleet. Of this there is no doubt, for on August 8th the battleships Monarch, Orion, Ajax, Dreadnought and Iron Duke, the last-named being Admiral Jellicoe's flagship, each reported having sighted a submarine. It was impossible that the lookouts of all these ships should have been mistaken, and their reports were confirmed by the fact that H.M.S. Birmingham early the next morning, when off the northeast coast of Scotland, rammed and sank U15.

 

It was obvious enough that the Navy could not afford to take unnecessary risks. Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was forthwith ordered to move all his heavy ships at once to the western side of the Orkneys, and a few days later he expressed the opinion that, when the Grand Fleet went to sea, its object should be definite, and as soon as that object was accomplished, it should withdraw; for the risk of mines and submarines was not to be regarded lightly. The enemy had already discovered that Scapa Flow was the main anchorage of the Grand Fleet, and a base at Loch Ewe had now to be established.

 

But that was only a temporary measure. A definite, settled defensive policy was necessary, and in this respect the trawlers and their fishing crews were to prove invaluable, not merely for mine-sweeping, but in protecting the Grand Fleet from the stealthy under-sea boat. A fortnight after hostilities began, on August 17th, the Admiralty decided to form the Northern Trawler Flotilla. This was to consist of sixteen trawlers, each one fitted with a modified sweep, and in addition each vessel was to carry a couple of 3-pounders. These trawlers were to be based on Scapa, and to be used for the special service of hunting submarines off the Eastern Orkneys. Orders were promptly sent to Lowestoft, where the craft were fitted out and manned by ratings of the Trawler Section, Royal Naval Reserve. It was a sound scheme, and their presence fulfilled a real need in the north, for only the day previous the battle-cruiser New Zealand had sighted another submarine in the North Sea, with her deck almost awash. Within ten days the first six ships of this Northern Trawler Flotilla were on their way to Scapa.

 

This, then, was an entirely new ro1e for the trawlers to play, and one that had not been contemplated prior to the war. It meant that actually they were to perform the duties of destroyers. Inferior to the latter as regards speed, they possessed much superior sea-keeping ability; and their hardy crews, accustomed to North Sea weather and possessing an excellent fighting spirit, now found their vessels transformed into lightly-armed men-of-war. The decision to employ fishing-vessels to hunt submarines was justified by subsequent events. Within a week the Admiralty were considering the advisability of employing even steam-yachts as patrol craft, and Admiral Sir John Jellicoe favoured the suggestion. It was most important that as many small craft as possible should be taken up and used as mine-sweepers or as submarine-chasers. Before the end of August the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty that trawlers were much required off the Orkneys, as the danger of mine-laying in that area was increasing. He wanted twenty more at once. All that the Admiralty could inform Sir John Jellicoe was that they were arming trawlers for patrol duties as quickly as possible; and meantime Lowestoft was working at high pressure and doing the best to meet the heavy demands.

 

Thus for two purposes the Royal Navy was hastily taking up trawlers, first for mine-sweeping, secondly for harrying submarines and mine-layers. But before the first month of hostilities had come to an end, it was clear enough that this was to be, in the main, a war of small craft. The Admiralty therefore determined at the beginning of September to utilise all available steam-yachts, trawlers, and motor-boats, and to form these into units; each unit was to consist of one yacht, four trawlers, and four motor

 

STEAM YACHTS TAKEN UP

 

boats, which were to be sent where they were required. The first places would be Scapa, Loch Ewe, Rosyth, Humber, and Cromarty. As more vessels became available, additional units were to be formed. The yachts' and trawlers' armament would be either 3-pounders or 6-pounders, the yachts having two guns and the trawlers one.

 

Forthwith the Admiralty began to take up all the steam-yachts fit for service, and to send them to Portsmouth and Devonport, to have their gun-mountings placed forward and aft. Many of these yachts had but recently finished their summer cruising, and as soon as their guns were in position, their hulls painted grey, and their wireless gear installed, they were dispatched to the North Sea. Prior to this decision, two yachts had already been taken up for other services. The s.y. Venetia had been commissioned at the commencement of hostilities and sent to Scapa Flow, where, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander A. T. Wilson, R.N., she was looking after the Northern Trawler Flotilla. The s.y. Zarefah, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Stuart Garnett, and officered and manned almost entirely by Cambridge rowing men and Ratcliffe sea scouts, was at work in the North Sea in connection with the swept channel.

 

These additional yachts which were now to be taken up were to work inshore, thus enabling the destroyer patrol flotillas to go farther out to sea, and they were to capture any vessel, of whatever nationality, suspected of laying mines. At this time the amount of traffic, both merchant ships and fishing craft, using the North Sea was considerable. The destroyers and torpedo-boats were doing their best, but they could not board and examine more than a small percentage of suspicious ships. At first these yachts were lent by their owners free of charge, the Admiralty paying all expenses of equipment and running. At the end of three months, provided the yachts were found suitable for service, they were chartered at an agreed rate per ton per month. Owners who possessed the necessary qualifications were invited to take command and accept commissions as lieutenants of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, though subsequently they were transferred to the Royal Naval Reserve.

 

As to the motor-boats, there was already an organisation in existence. Its origin dated back a year or two before the European crisis developed, and a working scheme was just being completed when hostilities began. For a long time past yachtsmen in England and Scotland had been anxious to place their sea experience at the disposal of the Royal Navy in the event of war. The difficulty was to discover a way in which their enthusiasm and ability could be utilised. Most of these yachtsmen were experts in the art of handling sailing craft, but the age of sail in the Royal Navy had long since passed. A suggestion, however, came from the principal motor-yacht clubs that in the event of war the Navy might find it useful to have a number of motor craft at their disposal, officered by yachtsmen, and that these craft might prove of service in various capacities round our coasts. Already there were in existence roughly three types. First was the cruiser type of motor-yacht, able to keep the sea in moderate weather and capable of being armed so as to act as a scout against submarines. Secondly there was the small type of craft, about the size of a picket-boat, which would be useful for patrolling harbour mouths and estuaries. Finally came the small motor-boat which could be used in a dozen ways for policing harbours, taking despatches to shipping in the roads, and in other miscellaneous duties.

 

The Admiralty were approached on the matter, and were so far interested that they formed a Motor-Boat Reserve Committee, under the presidency of Admiral Sir Frederick S. Inglefield, which was instructed to report on the motorboats in the United Kingdom, and for what services in war they could be utilised. This was in November 1912, and in the following March, Admiral Inglefield reported that the boats would be capable of patrolling and performing examination service in estuaries and harbours; assisting in controlling traffic, berthing and detaining merchant shipping in ports; detecting hostile submarines that might endeavour to enter a harbour; acting as dispatch-boats to ships in roadsteads; attending on aircraft; and, finally, augmenting the present torpedo flotillas. This corps, it was suggested, should consist of commanding officers of divisions, with the rank of Commander; owners of boats with the rank of lieutenant; and their assistants with the rank of sub-lieutenant. The whole organisation was to be a volunteer reserve. As a result of the first

 

THE MOTOR-BOAT RESERVE

 

report the Admiralty were so favourably impressed that in January 1914 they proposed that the Motor-Boat Reserve should be affiliated to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and they requested the Committee to send a further report.

 

In the meantime, Admiral de Robeck, who was about to relinquish his appointment as Admiral of Patrols, made a number of suggestions and worked out a scheme of organisation and of training for both officers and men in the Motor-Boat Reserve. This was to include small-arm drill, 3-pounder and machine-gun drill, signalling, torpedoes, detection of submarines, wireless telegraphy, visits to war-stations, lectures on International Law, and so on. It was realised that a highly educated and intelligent personnel would be available, and that a few would go through a longer course equivalent to the short course undertaken by naval officers. Admiral de Robeck further showed his interest by attending a Motor-Boat Reserve Committee in March 1914, when the various suggestions which had been put forward were considered. The result was so encouraging that just before the end of July the Admiralty appointed a small Committee to draw up a detailed scheme for the training and organisation of the Motor-Boat Section of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. It was to be under the chairmanship of Commodore George Ballard, the new Admiral of Patrols, and included officers of the three leading British Motor Yacht Clubs.

 

That stage of affairs had been reached when suddenly the country was plunged into the European War. The scheme for training had to be dropped, and there were other duties to occupy the attention of the Admiral of Patrols. Still, it was fortunate that the organisation had been developed so far, for the time had arrived to act; and, unless this preliminary spade-work had been done quietly and thoughtfully in peace, it would have been impossible to produce at once so useful an organisation. Motor-boats were forthwith lent by their owners, and during the first few days of the war the little craft were employed principally in acting as despatch-boats in connection with the transports that were carrying the British Army from Southampton across to France. But towards the end of September 1914, the first eight armed auxiliary patrol units had been established at Loch Ewe, Dover, the Humber, the Tyne, the Shetlands, and at Cromarty. The biggest and best sea-going motor-yachts were selected and sent to these stations. The officers had been given commissions in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the ratings being known as motor-boatmen.

 

Arrived at their bases, these motor craft patrolled the harbours, estuaries, and coasts in conjunction with the steam-yachts and trawlers. There was work enough for every sort and description of vessel, for the enemy was engaged in extensive operations with both submarines and mine-layers. Before the end of August already three known German mine-fields had been laid. There was the Southwold mine-field, of which the first mines had been laid by the Konigin Luise; then the Tyne mine-field; and, lastly, the mine-fields off Flamborough and the Humber. It is true that a swept and buoyed channel existed at the beginning of September from the Goodwins as far north as Flamborough, and was being patrolled. But outside this narrow lane, four cables wide, the risks to shipping were considerable. On September 3rd the patrol drifter Linsdell had struck a mine near the Outer Dowsing (that is, to the eastward of the Humber) and sunk; fifteen minutes later the gunboat Speedy also struck a mine, with fatal results. Reports were received that this Humber mine area was an extensive one, the mines being within three feet of the surface. Similarly, from Newcastle came the significant news that four vessels, apparently drifters, had been seen forty-four miles east-south-east of the Tyne, and three more thirty-five miles off. This was on September 7th; and inasmuch as there are no herrings in that part of the North Sea at that season, the local fishermen drew their own conclusions. British fishing skippers recognised them as vessels which three months before were German, and were fishing in the North Sea. Now, in the track of merchant shipping, they were laying mines.

 

Four days after the loss of the Speedy and Linsdell, the fishing-vessel Revigo foundered on this Humber mine-field, and the s.s. Runo had just been sunk on the Tyne mine-field, a disaster that was followed next day by the loss of the fishing-vessel Imperialist in the same manner forty miles east-north-east of the Tyne. Admiral Jellicoe pointed out that the difficulty of keeping the North Sea clear of mines

 

THE FIRST U-BOAT SUCCESSES

 

was rendered more difficult because of the impossibility of boarding and examining the East Coast shipping. His opinion was that mine-laying would never be stopped until the East Coast traffic was diminished.

 

The work of the armed units of the Auxiliary Patrol became now more strenuous than ever. Up to this time the submarine had been a menace - a most serious menace - but nothing more. But on September 5th the first submarine success by the enemy was achieved when H.M.S. Pathfinder was torpedoed ten miles south-east of May Island, off the entrance to the Firth of Forth. At first it was believed that the loss had been caused by a mine, but the mine-sweeping trawlers sent out by Admiral Lowry from the Forth swept from Inchkeith to May Island, then on to Bell Rock and all round the position where the Pathfinder had struck, and not a single mine was found. It was evident that a submarine had been lying in wait off the Forth in the hope of catching a warship bound to or from Rosyth, and it was afterwards established that a torpedo from U21 sank the Pathfinder. Only a few days later, a fishing-vessel called the Defender unmistakably sighted a submarine eleven miles east by south of the Isle of May, in practically the same spot where the Pathfinder had sunk; and, true to her name, this trawler determined to protect the Navy as far as she could. Leaving her fishing, she at once hurried westward, gave the information to Torpedo-Boat 32, and went up to the Forth to report the fact also to H.M.S. Ringdove. She thus lost her day's catch, but she had done the right thing, and the Admiralty awarded her the sum of 62 for having so promptly given valuable intelligence.

 

Three days later another submarine - or perhaps the same one - fired a couple of torpedoes at the destroyer Cheerful three miles west of Fidra, in the Firth of Forth; the destroyer Stag had also reported that torpedoes had been aimed at her a few hours before off the Isle of May. But nothing brought home the submarine peril more acutely than the loss of the three big cruisers Hogue, Aboukir, and Cressy, which were sunk in the southern portion of the North Sea by U9 on September 22nd. This triple disaster showed to what dangers British ships were exposed. More than ever the demand was for small armed craft.

 

On the Humber a special anti-submarine trawler flotilla was being got ready. From Grimsby, too, four more trawlers, specially fitted with a modified explosive sweep, were sent to the Forth to act as submarine-hunters. These were additional to the armed patrol. Rear-Admiral George Ballard, (Now Vice-Admiral George Ballard, C.B.) the Admiral of Patrols, was ordered to have the entrance to the Humber patrolled by trawlers with their modified sweep in addition to his armed trawlers; and finally, with a view to checking mine-laying and the dissemination of information useful to the enemy, the Admiralty announced on September 27th that all East Coast ports would be closed to neutral fishing craft from October 1st. This was a sharp measure, but it was absolutely necessary if success was to attend the plans for dealing with mine-layers and potential supply-ships acting as tenders to German submarines.

 

When Sir John Jellicoe informed the Admiralty that his destroyers were all too few for stopping and examining traffic, he advocated the employment of armed trawlers, fitted with wireless, in certain areas. He expressed his belief in the freest possible use of these vessels. Some, he urged, should be armed, but as their stems were a good weapon for ramming, it was not necessary to arm all, and there were not at the time sufficient guns to go round. The Germans, he remarked, were making the greatest use of trawlers, and we should do the same. Much the same opinion came from Admiral Lowry at Rosyth, in whose area the submarine activity in the Firth of Forth still continued. On September 29th one submarine had been seen as far up the Forth as Burntisland, and, owing to this and other incidents, he had been compelled to suspend in that neighbourhood all mine-sweeping operations. Altogether no fewer than nine torpedoes had within a few days been fired at British torpedo craft in the Forth, and in view of the value of such vessels and their numerous crews, he considered it was advisable to replace them by armed trawlers or drifters as far as possible. Nor was the menace confined to the North Sea; for on September 27th, H.M.S. Attentive had been attacked by two submarines in the Straits of Dover.

 

 

Flagship of a Drifter Fleet

 

 

THE MINE-SWEEPING SERVICE

 

Mines were being reported frequently in the North Sea, and steamers were still foundering on them. But by this date the whole organisation for dealing with mines, mine-layers, and submarines was well in hand. So important had the mine-sweeping service become that it had been decided to appoint a flag officer in charge, and Rear-Admiral E. F. B. Charlton, C.B., (Now Vice-Admiral Sir Edward F. B. Charlton, K.C.M.G., C.B.) was selected, with the title "A.M.S." (Admiral of the East Coast Mine-sweepers). This was in the middle of September.

 

Under this scheme the Mine-sweeping Service was to consist of gunboats, drifters, trawlers, and other vessels employed in mine-sweeping; the sphere of operations extending from St. Abb's Head to the South Goodwins, exclusive of the Nore and Harwich areas. Under Admiral Charlton were the Port Minesweeping Officers at Lowestoft, Eyemouth, Grimsby, and North Shields, the Inspecting Captain of Minesweepers continuing his duties in connection with the chartering of trawlers as before. This concentration of the whole of the mine-sweeping on the East Coast under one senior officer was essential, owing to the very large increase in minesweeping trawlers and other vessels. It was a service quite distinct from the armed patrol trawlers, yachts, and motor craft. It did, however, include the drifters and armed trawlers which were engaged in watching the swept channels.

 

During this first autumn no seamen more thoroughly earned the gratitude of their nation than those of the busy mine-sweepers, whose work was never finished. From each East Coast port, day after day, six of them steamed out in line ahead just before dawn to their stations; and then they would get sweeps out and go rolling down the North Sea until relieved a few days later by another six; all the time they offered an easy target for the enemy's submarines, and were equally liable to be blown up on an unseen mine.

 

From the North Foreland to Flamborough Head they were now hard at work, keeping a clean highway a couple of hundred miles long and eight hundred yards wide. Every day this long road was swept twice. In the extreme north, three pairs of trawlers were sweeping two channels at each end of the boisterous Pentland Firth twice daily, necessitating an actual steaming distance of eighty-five miles for each trawler during the daylight hours of a short autumn day. The Cromarty and Peterhead trawlers were sweeping round the headlands of their own area, lest the enemy should have laid his snares; and all down the coast - from the Forth, the Tyne, the Humber, Lowestoft, Harwich, the Nore, Dover, Portsmouth, Portland, and Devonport they issued forth on their monotonous and dangerous routine.

 

The sea was witnessing some strange sights. Scarcely had the excursion paddle-steamers which used to ply from so many piers been laid up, little expecting to be brought into use until the return of peace, than they were placed under the White Ensign. What earthly good did the Navy expect to find in a Bank Holiday paddler? When the first of these ships came churning up the muddy waters of the Humber and bumped into Grimsby Docks alongside the steel trawlers, every seaman rubbed his eyes and wondered. And yet those craft, drawing only about seven and a half feet, did splendid work as mine-sweepers. They could go into a mine-field with half the risk of the deep-draught trawler, and they could steam at good speed. The result was that two or three pairs soon cleared up any suspected area and set merchant ships free to proceed to their destinations. The first of these paddle sweepers to be taken up were the Brighton Queen and Devonia. They were sent round from Bristol to Devonport, where they were fitted out, and thence they steamed up the Channel and North Sea, encountering very heavy weather on the way. In this manner still another type of small craft was pressed into the Service. Built for the purpose of giving pleasure, they were now engaged in war. Some of them ended their days on mines, but not before they had been the means of thwarting certain of the enemy's best-laid schemes.

 

By the end of September good progress had been made in adding to the number of auxiliary craft. Already fifteen armed yachts were in commission, and about another fifteen were being fitted out. There were roughly 300 trawlers and drifters and 100 motor craft at work, but all the while the enemy was increasing his activities. It was impossible to estimate exactly the intensity of the submarine warfare, owing to the fact that the submarines were mostly invisible. The only absolute evidence of their activities was found in the number of ships sunk, the number of times such craft were sighted, or in the number of torpedoes whose wake might momentarily be seen. It was equally impossible to say whether in a

 

SUBMARINES ACTIVITIES

 

given area, at a given time, these attacks were the work of one or more submarines.

 

But the next month brought ample indication that Germany was embarking whole-heartedly on a submarine campaign of great dimensions, and scarcely a day went by without supplying evidence. On the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 21st, and 24th of October, His Majesty's ships either sighted or were attacked by enemy under-water craft. In this one month alone enemy submarines made attempts on such varied types of British warships as cruisers, destroyers, a gunboat, a monitor, a torpedo-boat, and a submarine, apart from the refugee ship Amiral Ganteaume and s.s. Glitra, mentioned in a previous chapter. Nor was this danger in one area only, for in the Dover Straits the British submarine B3 was attacked on October 2nd.

 

During the next few days in the same locality the destroyers Coquette and Mohawk chased submarines; several drifters sighted a submarine off the Smith's Knoll Buoy that is, off Great Yarmouth; and a submarine was seen in Loch Ewe. On the 9th, the cruiser Antrim was attacked off Skudesnaes, and the next day the destroyer Attack off the Schouwen Bank had a similar experience. A few hours later a British torpedo-boat chased a submarine off the Isle of Wight, the monitor Severn was attacked in the Straits of Dover, and the destroyer Goshawk was molested off the Dutch coast. On the 15th the cruiser Hawke was sunk in the North Sea, and the Theseus, another cruiser, was molested, both vessels belonging to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron; and the destroyer leader Swift was actually attacked three times whilst engaged in picking up the Hawke's survivors.

 

Next day the destroyer Alarm just missed being hit by a torpedo, and the destroyer Nymphe, off the Orkneys, possibly struck a submarine. On the 17th the mine-sweeping gunboat Leda, and again the Swift, had torpedoes fired at them whilst entering Scapa Flow, and on the 21st the destroyer Lynx saw a submarine off Cromarty Firth. Three days later the destroyer Badger was fired at. The torpedo missed her, and the destroyer managed to ram the submarine. Although the Badger's bows were damaged, the enemy claimed that the submarine got home safely, and this seems probable. The same day submarines were seen off the west coast of Scotland in the neighbourhood of Loch Ewe and Loch Shell. Finally, on the 31st the seaplane-carrier Hermes was torpedoed and sunk not far from Dunkirk.

 

Such, then, was the enemy with whom the British Navy had to contend. He showed respect neither for a refugee ship nor for a merchant ship. What were the steps taken to meet this violence? All that could be done, besides laying a British mine-field across the Straits of Dover at the beginning of the month and extinguishing all lights on the East Coast at the end of the month, from Orfordness to Wick, was to strengthen the armed auxiliary patrol in every way possible in numbers, in organisation, and in offensive devices. More and more guns were wanted for these craft, but, unfortunately, they were not available. The Royal Navy had never counted on so many demands being made upon it, and the Army in France called for every gun that could be turned out. But as an antisubmarine device, the Admiralty attached great importance to the explosive sweep. These sweeps were being made in large numbers, and fitted to patrol trawlers. At Portsmouth alone fifty trawlers were thus being fitted, two dozen more were prepared at Lowestoft, and Commander L. A. B. Donaldson, R.N., was specially appointed to the Admiralty to look after this device, his title being "Commander Superintendent of Modified Sweeping."

 

Similarly, an improvement was made in jurisdiction, the Dover and the East Coast being divided into two separate commands. On October 12th Rear-Admiral the Hon. H. L. A. Hood was appointed in command of the Dover Patrol as Senior Naval Officer at Dover. In addition to a destroyer flotilla and two submarine flotillas, he had some trawlers and drifters placed in his command, and the latter were presently to increase to considerable numbers. Rear-Admiral George Ballard, the Admiral of Patrols, now became responsible for the area extending from the Naze to St. Abb's Head, an area in which were working many trawlers fitted with explosive sweeps.

 

Admiral Jellicoe continued to ask for more trawlers for Scapa Flow, Pentland Firth, Loch Ewe, and Moray Firth. Submarines were still reported off the Grand Fleet's northern base and in the Minch. Destroyers, he said, were unsuitable for searching out the lochs and creeks, and only got badly knocked about; he also wanted trawlers

 

A NEW NAVY FORMING

 

for examining neutral ships in the Minch and vicinity of Pentland Firth, as the submarines prevented such work being done by cruisers. Small flotillas of trawlers working under a yacht were required, and so, on October 23rd, a yacht and the trawlers were sent to him.

 

Three trawlers specially fitted with the explosive sweep were also sent to the Straits of Dover under Lieutenant-Commander George E. Tillard, R.N., to hunt submarines. More motor-boats were being fitted out and sent to the East Coast to examine the estuaries, harbours, and inlets, but the demand still exceeded the supply. Seven were working at Scapa Flow in connection with the local defences, and the Rear-Admiral at Cromarty was asking for eight to perform the duties of the Auxiliary Patrol. Before the end of the month, the Admiralty were able to inform Sir John Jellicoe that they were increasing the number of armed trawlers at Cromarty, Peterhead, Methil (Firth of Forth), Scapa, Rosyth, Loch Ewe, Great Yarmouth, and Dover. The geographical position of these places is a sufficient indication of their strategical value in regard to submarines. As more trawlers became available, they were armed with one or more guns and an explosive sweep, and organised into divisions of six trawlers to the unit. From each unit one trawler was to be selected as divisional leader. She was to be fitted up with a suitable officer's cabin, then placed under the command of a lieutenant or sub-lieutenant of the Royal Naval Reserve, and to be given also wireless telegraphy. In addition, an armed yacht was to be attached to each unit, and at certain important bases captains-in-charge were to be appointed.

 

Granton, on the Forth, was becoming an important war base for trawlers and yachts, and was destined soon to be one of the largest auxiliary stations on the coast. Sixty additional trawlers were now taken up as armed patrol vessels. There were a hundred of these already in the Service or being fitted out, and the full 160 were being organised into twenty-six divisions of six vessels each, and one of four vessels. These, of course, were quite apart from the mine-sweeping trawlers and the watching drifters. In fact, before October was ended - that is to say, within less than three months of the declaration of war - there were 130 armed trawlers either in commission or nearly ready; and thirty-seven armed yachts either patrolling or fitting out, in addition to 246 mine-sweeping trawlers, two paddle mine-sweepers, and forty-two drifters. With admirable zeal and energy a new navy had been created in a few weeks which already exceeded in numbers the navy that flew the White Ensign at the beginning of August. In spite of the haste with which the ships and men had been assembled and sent out to their strange duties, in spite of the dangers from weather, fogs, submarines, and mines, only half a dozen trawlers and drifters had been lost during the period. The decision to use for warlike purposes, under modern conditions, ships which were never intended for the contest of organised violence, and men without war training, had abundantly justified itself, to the great advantage of the country and the welfare of British shipping.

 

Warfare by means of the mine, and warfare by means of the submarine, are practically identical. The aim in each case is to sink the ship attacked by a violent explosive without the victim having so much as a chance of escaping. The only difference between the torpedo and the mine is that the former goes to meet the ship, and the latter waits for the ship's coming. The result in the two cases is the same.

 

There were only two courses open to the Admiralty. The first was to make mine-laying for the enemy as difficult as possible, and the second was to continue increasing the resources of mine-sweeping. These obvious measures were carried out. To begin with, not only had all the East Coast ports been closed to neutral fishing-vessels from October 1st, but any neutral fishing-vessel found fishing west of a certain line in the North Sea was regarded as under suspicion of mine-laying. The British Government were determined to take no half-measures, and gave warning that any trawlers not in the exclusive employment of the German Government found illicitly laying mines would be sunk, while their crews would be liable to be treated as war criminals and shot after trial by court martial.

 

It will be recollected that when discussing the pre-war arrangements the Admiralty had established the principle that trawlers were suitable for sweeping fairways and the entrances to harbours, but not for sweeping ahead

 

MINE-LAYING RAIDS

 

of the Fleet, owing to their comparatively slow speed. Before the end of the autumn, after Commander Preston's gunboats had been doing much service in the North, Admiral Jellicoe asked for some Fleet sweepers. He insisted that they should possess good speed and be seaworthy, and be capable of standing the heavy weather which prevails off the north of Scotland. The Admiralty, therefore, took up four pairs of steamers owned by various railway companies and fitted them out with the requisite gear. These vessels were the Reindeer, the Roebuck, the Lynx, and Gazelle, all owned by the Great Western Railway; the Folkestone and Hythe belonging to the South-Eastern and Chatham Company, and the Clacton and Newmarket, which were the property of the Great Eastern Company. The first pair was taken in hand at the beginning of October.

 

The policy adopted by the Admiralty in regard to the mine-fields was as follows: The trawlers were to sweep the North Foreland to Flamborough Head channel clear and safe; the limits of all suspicious areas were to be defined and therefore avoided; the mine-fields, once their extent and position had been discovered, were to be left intact, and not swept up. Thus the three mine-fields off the East Coast acted as a means of protection against the enemy's possible aggression. Inasmuch as the safe channel for shipping ran between the coast and the mine-field, it was obvious that the enemy was doing us a good turn in laying mines, when once the limitations of these areas had been ascertained. For his measures to be effective, he should have gone close inshore and fouled the swept channel. But to lay mines inshore was not so easy as it seemed, for there were only three possible methods. The first was to employ small craft, especially fishing-vessels, but this sort of thing had already been rendered too risky a proceeding, owing to the careful watch maintained by the British patrols. The second method was to lay the mines invisibly, but the submarine mine-layer had still to be commissioned. Lastly, there was always a possibility of a strong raiding force coming across and overpowering the British patrols, leaving German mine-layers free to do what they liked.

 

It was this third alternative which was adopted by the enemy at the time of the Scarborough and Gorleston raids, when, under the feint of bombarding the coast, dangerous mine areas were laid. These developments will be considered separately in so far as they concern this History, but for the moment attention must be devoted to another locality.

 

Germany now developed on fresh lines her campaign against ocean traffic. From the Dominion of Canada a number of transports would soon be crossing the Atlantic on their way to England, bringing troops to aid British arms. If Germany could lay a mine-field in the path of these vessels, and blow any of them up, that would be sound strategy. It was on October 3rd that the first Canadian convoy left Canadian waters, and on the very day that this convoy began to arrive in Plymouth Sound an exceptionally large mine-layer was leaving Germany. This auxiliary vessel was the Norddeutscher Lloyd liner Berlin, of over 17,000 registered tonnage, and a speed of about 17 knots. In peace-time she had been well known on the New York service, and the reasons for employing her in mine-laying were twofold. If she were seen in the track of Atlantic shipping she would not excite much suspicion, for she looked what she was - an Atlantic liner. Moreover, she had ample capacity for carrying many hundreds of mines, and a long after-deck from which to lay them. She was, however, a little unfortunate at first, for she acted on faulty information. She arrived too late to interfere with the big convoy of thirty-one transports, and she had erroneously assumed that the transports would come to Liverpool via the North of Ireland.

 

She had already made one attempt to pass through the North Sea at the end of September, when, having got up towards the Norwegian coast, she sighted a number of British men-of-war, and therefore put back to Germany. On October 14th, however, she steamed away from Wilhelmshaven with 2,000 mines on board, being escorted by a couple of submarines. Passing round the north and west of Scotland, she arrived off the North of Ireland and laid a big mine-field off Tory Island on October 22nd and 23rd. It happened that there steamed out of the Manchester Ship Canal, on October 24th, a 5,000 ton steamship called the Manchester Commerce, bound for the River St. Lawrence, whence the Canadian convoy had started, and on the afternoon of the 27th she struck one of the mines off Tory Island and sank; the explosion occurred between Nos. 2 and 3 holds, the ship drawing

 

THE TORY ISLAND MINE-FIELD

 

at the time 19 feet 5 inches forward and 22   feet aft. Next day at 9 a.m., whilst the Second Battle Squadron was steaming in this locality, the third ship in the line, H.M.S. Audacious, struck a mine and eventually foundered.

 

This event suggested more work for the trawlers in an unexpected quarter. It happened that at this time part of the Grand Fleet, with Admiral Jellicoe's flagship, had anchored in Lough Swilly, and until this mine-field was cleared the ships were practically blockaded - the very thing, as has been explained already, that was feared would happen when war broke out. Admiral Jellicoe the same day telegraphed to the Admiralty asking for eight minesweeping trawlers to be sent to Lough Swilly at once. Nothing was then known about the Berlin having been there; the only information was that a mine-field was in existence about eighteen to twenty miles N.   E. of Tory Island. To what extent and in what direction it spread, absolutely no information was available. In response to the Commander-in-Chief's request, four mine-sweeping trawlers were at once ordered to leave Milford Haven for Lough Swilly.

 

For an enemy wishing to mine the shipping track to Liverpool and the Atlantic the obvious strategic points are firstly that strip of sea called the North Channel between the north-east coast of Ireland and the Mull of Cantyre; and, secondly, the St. George's Channel. As it was suspected that the enemy might have fouled these approaches, orders were sent the day after the disaster to the Audacious that two groups of six trawlers, each attended by an armed vessel, were to be dispatched from Lowestoft to the westward. Of these two groups, one was to proceed to Larne in order to sweep the North Channel, the other was to go to Milford to sweep the St. George's Channel. Nor was this all. The Admiralty decided at once that energetic action was essential in order to cope with this mine-laying on the West Coast and on the trade approaches. Two additional squadrons of about twenty trawlers each, with a proportion of minesweepers, were to be formed without delay for the purpose of searching and picketing these areas.

 

As this dramatic revelation of the Tory Island death-trap suggested that other new mine-fields might be laid off the anchorages used by the Grand Fleet, Sir John Jellicoe, on October 28th, ordered the Vice-Admiral commanding the Orkneys and Shetlands to send trawlers to sweep for mines up to within thirty miles of the bases. The same day, also, special instructions were sent to the Senior Naval Officer at Liverpool to proceed with the utmost dispatch with the organisation of a special auxiliary patrol for the prevention of mine-laying. Thus yet another type of merchant vessel came to be pressed suddenly into the war. Who is there familiar with ships and seafaring matters that has not heard of the wonderful achievements of the famous Liverpool tugs, which can go anywhere and do almost anything?

 

These powerful little craft have made some wonderful voyages across the world towing floating docks, disabled liners, or dismasted sailing-ships. The war was certainly becoming far-reaching when it needed these craft. However, two days after the Audacious had foundered, a dozen of these Liverpool tugs were commandeered, six of them to patrol the North Channel, board suspicious ships and prevent mine-laying, while the other six were to be sent to Milford to patrol the southern part of the Irish Sea. This was only a temporary measure until more trawlers could be chartered, and before the end of the year the tugs were sent back to Liverpool. Meanwhile, in addition to the tugs, the armed yacht Oriana and a number of drifters were ordered to patrol the vicinity of the Mull of Cantyre, and to search such places as Loch Indail, the west coast of Islay, and its northern side.

 

Within three days of the Audacious disaster, six minesweeping trawlers were hard at work sweeping from Lough Swilly entrance to the west and south of Tory Island, but found no mines; they had yet to learn that the mines were farther to the northward, but their first duty was to insure a safe channel close to the coast. While the Grand Fleet was unable to leave its anchorage, the entrance to Lough Swilly was being patrolled by the armed yacht Lorna and six trawlers; more drifters were also taken up at Kingstown and sent to swell the list of small craft. The experience of war had upset many preconceived ideas, but it was a strange fact that, while yachts, tugs, trawlers, and drifters could use the sea, it was not safe for battleships and cruisers to venture forth.

 

WEAKNESS OF THE WESTERN PATROL

 

An inquiry into the manner by which the Berlin managed to pass through the North Sea and down the Atlantic right to the coast of Ireland, without being intercepted by any of the vessels belonging to the Grand Fleet, would yield interesting reading, but it is foreign to the present purpose. It is, however, pertinent to ask what our Auxiliary Patrol vessels in the neighbourhood of Ireland were doing at the time the Berlin was acting as she pleased. The answer is simple. This incident happened within the first few weeks of the war, when every available patrol craft had been sent to the North Sea, for the obvious reason that that was the main theatre of war. It had scarcely seemed credible then that the coast of Ireland could have much strategical value, and the western areas were almost bare in respect of patrols.

 

At the time when the Berlin paid her visit, the only auxiliary craft in Ireland were: at Queenstown, an armed yacht, four drifters, and two or three motor-boats; and at Belfast, the armed yacht Ilex and four armed trawlers. That was all. There were two bigger craft patrolling to the westward and eastward of the North of Ireland. The old-fashioned light cruiser Isis was cruising about remarkably close to where the mine-layer had been; for the noon position of the Isis on October 22nd was seventy miles west of Tory Island, and at noon of the following day she was forty-five miles west by north of Bloody Foreland. The Tara, another of the commissioned railway steamers, was also patrolling the North Channel, and she proceeded to Larne on the 21st to coal. To the north was the armed yacht Hersilia, on her way from Peterhead to Loch Ewe, her station; on the 24th she sighted a submarine off Loch Shell, and the same day a submarine had also been sighted five miles north-east of lona Island. It is probable that these were the two submarines which had accompanied the Berlin.

 

There were, too, four armed trawlers and four motorboats based on Loch Ewe, but there were only the armed yacht Oriana and four drifters working out from Liverpool. The auxiliary force, then, was inadequate for keeping the trade approaches in this part of the British Isles well patrolled and shipping watched for suspicious movements. But the foundering of the Manchester Commerce and Audacious had shown that it was impossible to treat this area as almost negligible; it needed plenty of patrol craft and proper organisation. So Commander H. Berkeley, R.N., was selected and sent to Larne to act as Senior Naval Officer, and to organise for the North Channel the patrol force now being dispatched. At first he had only the Oriana and her four drifters and six Liverpool tugs, until other vessels could be obtained. While each drifter carried a 3-pounder gun, the tugs had nothing beyond rifles for weapons, but they had been provided with explosive signals and flares, so that, if a mine-layer or other suspicious ship was sighted, they could instantly warn the other patrols.

 

Meanwhile, the greatest activity was being manifested to increase the patrols at the most important points. Four more yachts and forty-eight additional trawlers were ordered to Scapa from various ports within a week of the Manchester Commerce's sinking, and the dockyards were being asked how many trawlers they could fit out for service. It was no easy problem for the Admiralty, as already the resources of our fishing fleets had been called upon to an extraordinary extent. More patrol vessels, the Director of Operations pointed out, were required for the West, but he confessed that it was difficult to see where they could be obtained. Considerable progress was being made with the manufacture of the modified sweep explosive charges for dealing with the submarines. These sweeps were being prepared for another seventy trawlers, and orders had been placed for a still further supply of sixty; but the manufacture took time, and Woolwich could not turn out more than a hundred a week.

 

The Admiralty needed nearly a couple of hundred more trawlers, despite the large number of the little ships they had already chartered. It was a strange experience for these fishing craft suddenly to find themselves everywhere in so much demand. Off the North Irish coast they were having a strenuous time sweeping for mines in the heavy Atlantic swell; it was certainly no yachting trip, and presently a long series of gales interfered considerably with their operations. Some of Commander Preston's old mine-sweepers had been sent down from Scapa to assist. The Circe and Leda came first, and by October 29th they had been joined at Lough Swilly by the

 

LOCATING THE MINE-FIELD

 

Jason, the Speedwell, and the Skipjack, which swept the channel along the shore to the east and west of the entrance of Lough Swilly. Thus at length a safe passage inshore of Tory Island and Inishtrahull could be guaranteed, and the Grand Fleet was freed to put to sea once more.

 

On November 2nd six trawlers again endeavoured to find where the Berlin's mine-field began and ended. They made an exploratory sweep from Fanad Point, the western headland of Lough Swilly, well out into the Atlantic, but found nothing; and then, having swept out as far north as the fifty fathom line, they swept in three directions from Tory Island, north-north-west, north, and north-northeast, but still without result. Six drifters, which had been sent with their nets to search for mines, had no better fortune. In the last week of November another six minesweeping trawlers under the command of Lieutenant Sir James Domville, Bart., R.N., arrived. These craft had come from Scapa Flow to locate the mine-field. It was important that no time should be lost, but exceptionally heavy weather set in, and it was not till late in December that the trawlers could get to work again. A special sweep was carried out from Skerryvore to the Mull of Cantyre, a route likely to have been fouled because it was that traversed by Grand Fleet ships bound for Liverpool for docking for repairs. No mines were found. Then, on December 19th, another disaster occurred, when the Donaldson liner Tritonia foundered on a mine in almost the same spot where the Audacious and Manchester Commerce had been sunk.

 

Fortunately during the next three days the trawlers at last succeeded in finding the dangerous area, a task that is far harder than may be realised by those unfamiliar with such work. Search for mines in the Atlantic in the winter, and never finding them until they suddenly appear in the sweep or blow the trawler to destruction, is an operation not to be undertaken either lightly or inadvisedly. It needs determination to stick it out, enduring the monotonous routine and boisterous weather; but it also needs pluck to go blindly where mines may be found, and a special kind of intuition to guess where the enemy may have laid them. Between December 20th and 22nd, Sir James Domville's trawlers managed to sweep up and explode no fewer than a dozen of the Berlin's mines. Five of them were discovered sixteen miles north-east by north of Tory Island, and three more eighteen miles north-north-east of the same island. It was many weeks before the whole mine-field was completely cleared up, but a good beginning had been made, and the trawlers kept doggedly at work. The danger was increased by the heavy weather, which had caused many of the mines to drift in roughly a north-easterly direction. On December 2nd one was even found by the battleship Neptune on the direct line between Oronsay and Skerryvore, and was sunk by her, but others drifted up the west coast of Scotland.

 

And whilst all this increased activity in regard to patrols and mine-sweepers was proceeding in the North of Ireland, a similar impetus had been created also in the south of the Irish Sea. About the time when Commander Berkeley was appointed to Larne, the Admiralty instituted another base for auxiliary craft. This was at Milford, and thither Captain K. C. Gibbons, R.N., was sent to take charge of the patrol vessels working the St. George's Channel and the outer part of the Bristol Channel. Milford began to develop into a most important base, and before very long its spacious haven was alive with all sorts of auxiliary craft. As a beginning, twenty armed trawlers, in addition to some mine-sweepers and armed yachts, were ordered there, as well as six Liverpool tugs. The armed yachts Aster and Greta, both small enough for the work, and typical fine-weather pleasure vessels, were based on Milford temporarily. But the mine-sweeping trawlers had an equally important office to perform as soon as they could get to sea. It was essential that they should ascertain whether the enemy had laid a mine-field in the south of the Irish Sea, as he had in the north. They were accordingly ordered to sweep the Irish coast from the Tuskar and Coningbeg against the tide, and then work across the St. George's Channel in about six tides. This exploratory sweep was duly carried out, but happily no mines had been laid there.

 

Reference has been made to the increasing difficulty which the enemy was finding in laying mine-fields in the North Sea, consequent on the improvement of the British patrols. The line of demarcation which the Admiralty

 

SPIRIT OF THE FISHERMEN

 

had ruled down this sea suffered neutral fishing craft to proceed no farther west than the Dogger Bank, unless they wished to be treated as suspicious ships. The Dogger Bank for hundreds of years has been one of the most productive fishing areas in the world, and the British fisherman continued to use it in war-time, even though he went there knowing full well the risks he ran. Farther down the coast, the Lowestoft and Yarmouth men went on fishing pretty much as usual, and the Ramsgate smacks also sailed up the coast, trawling as they went. These men had nothing to gain by the war, and everything to lose, for if the freedom of the seas were denied to them, their means of livelihood disappeared and people ashore would have no fish. As the demand for crews and ships increased, the younger men joined the Trawler Section of the Royal Naval Reserve, but the older men carried on with that fine spirit which had always been the glory of British seamanhood. Their co-operation with the British Navy was admirable. They realised all that the war by sea meant to them. Moreover, their spirit had been roused by the way the enemy had laid his mines in the areas which they, as peaceful fishermen, had always frequented, and though these fishermen had little regard for the niceties of international law and the subtleties of regulations, they were determined to do their utmost to hinder the enemy to the full extent of their ability.

 

At the beginning of November there existed in the North Sea one British and three German mine-fields. There was the Tyne area, the Flamborough Head to the Spurn area, the Southwold area, and the area which included the British mines laid across the Dover Straits. But it had become evident towards the end of October that the enemy was at work on some undefined fresh attack. Three suspicious vessels had been seen to the north of the area where the upper end of the Southwold mine ended that is to say, not far from Smith's Knoll, in the vicinity of Yarmouth. A report came in that, when a Ramsgate smack which was fishing in that neighbourhood approached these suspicious ships, she was fired on. Very shortly afterwards this smack, whilst sailing about, got a couple of mines in her trawl, and one of the mines blew up. The incident was a little mysterious at the time, but in the light of after-events it became intelligible.

 

A few miles off Yarmouth is the Smith's Knoll shoal, which runs parallel with the shore. It was marked by a lighted buoy at its southern end. From this buoy a short channel had been kept swept, so that it formed a safe highway for ships from the North Sea into the other swept channel which ran from the North Foreland to Flamborough. It was evident, from what subsequently occurred, that the enemy had obtained information of this secret channel, and he certainly was about to make use of it in connection with the Gorleston raid. It is significant of both the raid on Gorleston, and that which occurred a few weeks later on the Yorkshire coast, that the actual bombardment was of secondary importance, and the laying of mines was the main object, for the enemy realised that as soon as he opened fire on the shore the British naval forces would be sent to attack the Germans. In other words, it was an obvious invitation to battle, but without any intention on the part of the enemy to fight; since before the two forces could engage, the German squadron would have scattered plenty of mines across the line of pursuit, thus imperilling valuable warships whose loss we could not afford.

 

The scheme also included the laying of additional mine-fields just before the raid took place, with the same intention of entrapping His Majesty's ships. Thus the enemy hoped to inflict on us losses from three separate traps. He reasoned that, as soon as the news of his bombardment was telegraphed up and down the country, some of the Grand Fleet squadrons and flotillas would come steaming down from the North across the Dogger Bank; local patrol-ships would emerge in haste from Yarmouth; and some of Commodore Tyrwhitt's destroyer force would steam north from Harwich up the Suffolk coast to the scene of the bombardment. For each of these three forces a mine-field was to be laid, and there is circumstantial evidence that this project was carried out.

 

The suspicious ships seen by the Ramsgate trawler had almost certainly been laying some of the mines. It was the definite opinion of Admiral Charlton, in charge of the East Coast mine-sweepers, that the mines, on which later on the British submarine D5 foundered, had been laid just prior to the raid, "with the intention of trapping

 

A SUSPICIOUS DRIFTER

 

any of our vessels leaving Yarmouth in pursuit." Be that as it may, on November 2nd, the Smith's Knoll Light Buoy was found to have mysteriously disappeared, and that same afternoon a so-called "neutral" fishing-vessel was reported in circumstances which were at least suspicious. The spot was sixty-five miles north-east of the Spurn, at the south-west corner of the Dogger Bank. It was just inside the imaginary line drawn by the Admiralty, so neutral fishing-vessels sighted were not necessarily suspected as mine-layers.

 

About three o'clock the Hull steam trawler Alonso was in that neighbourhood. She was not a patrol vessel, but had come out there to fish, and as she was steaming, her skipper, Mr. Charles Read, who was on the bridge, noticed another vessel about four miles away to the southward with her mainsail and mizzen set. She appeared to be a foreign sailing drifter. It was a hazy afternoon and there were no other vessels in sight, but when half an hour later he got nearer he noticed that the strange ship had steam as well as sail and that she had white bows. She had lowered her mainsail and hoisted a flag on her mizzen. Skipper Read, having been all his life familiar with the ways of trawlers and drifters, decided in his own mind that she was acting suspiciously. He therefore steamed up to her and found that she was riding to a floating anchor. She had no nets out, nor were there any buoys or pellets visible such as one would expect to find on a drifter's deck. The Alonso passed right under her stern, and her skipper noticed that the drifter had a derrick swung out from her bridge with a tackle from the end of the derrick to the mizzenmast head. This derrick, which reached out from the ship's rail about eight feet, was made either of iron or steel, and caused the vessel to appear still more suspicious.

 

What was the obvious inference to be drawn from a drifter with no nets, lying practically stationary, and with a heavy derrick already swung out for use? Appearances suggested to Skipper Read that she was there for the purpose of laying mines during the haze. For twenty-five years he had been fishing, but he had never before seen a drifter with a derrick; "Nor," he remarked, "is a derrick used by drifters in their fishing." He expressed his suspicions to his crew, and suggested that the best thing to do would be to run her down. The evidence, however, was insufficient to warrant his taking such a drastic step, so, to quote his own words, " As I could not see any mines I decided not to do this, but to break my voyage by ceasing fishing operations and make for the Humber as quickly as possible, to give the information to one of the Admiralty vessels." He steamed back to the Spurn and came up the Humber, where H.M.S. Victorious was lying as guardship, and gave her the information. He had done the right thing, had patriotically sacrificed his fishing, and wasted no time. The Admiralty showed their appreciation of his devotion to duty by making a present of 25 to the skipper and crew, in addition to another 25 to the owners.

 

The next morning the Gorleston raid occurred. (Fuller and later information supported the conclusion that all the mines discovered after the Gorleston raid were laid by enemy men-of-war.) Briefly, the facts are as follows: Just after seven o'clock in the morning of November 3rd, H.M.S. Halcyon, which had just left Yarmouth to look for mines, sighted a four-funnelled cruiser steering south-southwest towards the shore, and two minutes later there appeared four German Dreadnought vessels as well. This was an enemy squadron, which is supposed to have left Heligoland Bight the previous evening. Within a quarter of an hour of being sighted the enemy opened fire, and it was seen that there were two cruisers following astern of the Dreadnoughts. About the same time two British destroyers, the Lively and Leopard, also came under fire, but the former made a smoke-screen to windward of Halcyon and thus shielded her. At twenty minutes to eight, by which time the Halcyon's steering compass had been shot away, but practically no other damage done, the enemy ceased fire, and was seen to be steering to the south-eastward. Shortly afterwards the squadron was lost sight of. The enemy had come down from Smith's Knoll, and having proceeded thence towards the shore, had begun to lay mines from the rearmost ship just before altering course to the south-east. The Leopard endeavoured to keep in touch with the enemy, but he was soon lost to sight. Presently the submarine D5 came out from Yarmouth in pursuit, but she had only covered a couple of miles south-east of the South Cross Sand when she struck a mine and was lost.

 

SWEEPING UP THE NEW MINES

 

As to the raiding squadron, they had apparently dropped mines as they approached Smith's Knoll, then all the way down the swept Smith's Knoll passage, for six or seven miles towards the Cross Sand Lightship; and, having altered course, they continued to lay mines as they proceeded seawards. They had thus laid a veritable trap, but again a fisherman, by his intelligence, rendered excellent service and saved valuable lives and ships. About 3.30 in the afternoon a fishing-vessel returned to Lowestoft, and her skipper reported that the enemy had laid these mines. He had seen the Germans engaged in the very act, and had observed that one of the ships had her quarter-deck covered with mines ready to be dropped overboard.

 

The object of the enemy became clear. He had fouled the Smith's Knoll passage, and had scattered mines in the track of any pursuers. The actual shore bombardment had been little more than a blind. For our part, the first duty was to save British ships, and the Columbia was forthwith recalled to Lowestoft, bringing with her all the minesweepers available, and ordered to keep well to the northward of the Smith's Knoll buoy. Unfortunately, three fishing-vessels the same day foundered on this new minefield; but the next day the mine-sweeping trawlers went out on their dangerous job, groping about to find where the mines had been strewn. To add to their dangers a fog settled down, and on the following day, November 5th, the Mary, one of the mine-sweeping trawlers, struck a mine whilst at work and sank. This put an end temporarily to the sweeping operations, but before long the passage was cleared and a new channel was in existence. Once again the best-laid scheme of a ruthless enemy had been brought to naught by the good work of the trawlers, though at the expense of valuable lives. Not a single merchant ship or big man-of-war had fallen into the trap, though, unhappily, a submarine, besides several fishing craft, had been lost.

 

So much for the mine-laying efforts of the enemy. During the first week of November the Admiralty became aware that he was increasing his submarine attacks. Almost simultaneously twenty armed trawlers reached Scapa Flow for local defence, but still the Commander-in-Chief required more. Eighteen he was using to work in the Minch and between Cape Wrath and Pentland Firth, those wild, boisterous waters where seaworthy, well-built craft are thoroughly tried. The Shetlands Patrol had been further strengthened by six trawlers, but another dozen trawlers were required for the Moray Firth, to provide for the safety of the battle cruisers. Nor was this all. The Admiralty began to take up a number of stoutly-built Scotch motor fishing-boats for patrol work. They are wonderful sea-boats, double ended, though rather slow. Sixteen of them were soon put into service by the Motor-Boat Reserve, each manned by a crew of five hardy Scotch fishermen, with two officers of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. These boats were about sixty feet long, and were sent to Lerwick, Scapa, Cromarty, and the Firth of Forth, but presently there were also to be based on Cromarty three armed yachts with wireless, and eighteen trawlers fitted with the explosive sweep, in addition to ten motor-boats for patrolling narrow waters.

 

Granton, too, now became a very important naval base for trawlers, under Captain Cecil Fox; and having regard to the extent to which submarines had frequented the vicinity of the Firth of Forth, its development was undertaken none too soon. Within eight weeks, eighteen enemy submarines had been sighted inside the limits of Rosyth Naval Centre, apart from those which had been seen up the Forth itself. At least six submarines had been identified near the Longstone, and it seemed probable that they were using this spot for making the land. Though the Longstone light had been extinguished in the first week of September, submarines continued to be sighted off there during the next two months.

 

Before attention is devoted to the North, something must be said of what was happening in the English Channel. It was expected that submarines were about to operate off the South Coast, and with the limited available auxiliary patrols efforts were made to cope with this activity. The task was most difficult. Prior to the war there had been a disposition to underrate the capacity of the submarine, and when its offensive ability was demonstrate only too forcibly, it was painfully realised that our counter- measures were by no means adequate. The Grand Fleet had to be preserved intact, at all costs, on the principle

 

INCREASED NEED FOR AUXILIARIES

 

that the final contest is decided by the capital ship. Consequently, nearly all the destroyers, and a great part of the armed auxiliary patrols, were attracted to northern latitudes. Small ships on the South Coast were few in numbers, and the problem to be solved was rendered no easier by the fact that the enemy had developed a type of mine-laying submarine which could do its work without breaking the surface.

 

Portsmouth was asking for eight drifters to patrol outside the Solent; Portland required trawler patrols for the Dorset coast; and we were compelled to invite the French to organise a trawler patrol in order to pursue submarines by day and night in the area between the lines Dungeness-Boulogne and Beachy Head-Dieppe. The submarine came and went like a will-o'-the-wisp. On November 6th three torpedoes were fired at H.M. Torpedo-boat 91 while patrolling off the Girdler in the Thames Estuary; the same day H.M.S. Drake sighted a periscope off Hoy Sound at the western entrance to Scapa Flow. Five days later H.M.S. Niger, an old-fashioned gunboat, was torpedoed close to Deal Pier. On the 18th H.M.S. Skipjack chased a submarine north of the Orkneys. Submarines continued to be reported off the Hebrides and Cape Wrath. H.M.S. Ajax also sighted a periscope about midway between the Faroe Islands and Cape Wrath.

 

These incidents in no wise lessened the demand for auxiliary craft. Yet again the Commander-in-Chief asked for more and more trawlers - twelve to be based on Stornoway for patrolling the east coast of the Hebrides and the west coast of Skye and Mull; six to be based on West Loch Tarbert for the west coast of the Hebrides; and twelve to be at Loch Ewe for the outer coast of Scotland. He also desired one yacht for the west coast of the Hebrides, one at Stornoway, and one at Loch Ewe. But already the Admiralty was working out a bold and comprehensive scheme for dealing with the whole coast-line, and meanwhile everything possible was done by improvisation to strengthen our defensive measures against the mine and submarine. Instructions were issued to accelerate the fitting out of trawlers with modified explosive sweeps. Admiral Sir Percy Scott, who, just prior to the war, had suggested in the face of some criticism the great possibilities of the submarine, was in the middle of November appointed to the Admiralty to investigate the best methods for counteracting this invisible vessel. As a further step, the Admiralty elaborated a scheme for modifying the lighting and buoyage from Great Yarmouth to the Isle of Wight, and this came into force early in December.

 

Meanwhile the task of the mine-sweeping trawlers grew no lighter. For, besides keeping clear that long lane from the North Foreland to Flamborough Head, they had to meet many demands made upon them. Towards the end of November Rear-Admiral Stuart Nicholson had been directed to bombard Zeebrugge with the battleships Russell and Exmouth. To sweep ahead of his ships he required eight trawlers, and so, at a time when they could ill be spared, four had to be sent from Lowestoft and another four from Great Yarmouth. They proceeded to Dover and thence to Dunkirk, sweeping a clear way for the battleships, but such craft were hardly suited for this kind of work, as they were wanting in speed. Presently trawlers were sent from Dunkirk to sweep the West Deep, off Nieuport, clear of floating mines, work which they could perform admirably. But the strain put upon the East Coast mine-sweepers became intolerably heavy. Many of them had been taken away to Lough Swilly, to Milford, and now to the Belgian coast, with the result that it was possible to sweep the North Foreland-Flamborough lane only once a day instead of twice. This, of course, increased the risks to our coastwise traffic, but in view of the limited number of trawlers and the demands made upon their services, such risks could not be avoided.

 

On November 17th, 1914, there came out from Heligoland a submarine with the number "U18" painted on the hull. Never did a craft leave port with so much hatred of her enemy, nor with greater assurance of achieving success. She was a vessel of about 200 feet length, with surface speed of 20 knots and radius of 3,000 miles. Her crew consisted of a Kapitan-Leutnant, a Leutnant zur Zee, and a Marine Oberingenieur as officers, and twenty-four ratings. All were animated with the intention of seeking out the Grand Fleet and attacking it, no matter at what cost. Proceeding across the North Sea, the submarine arrived off the southern end of the Dogger Bank at night, running on the surface, but when a British destroyer approached at high speed soon after

 

U18's DISAPPOINTMENT

 

4 a.m., she was compelled to submerge to a depth of 9 fathoms, and did not dare to rise again to the surface until about half-past eight. While awash she had sighted many fishing craft on the Dogger Bank, and had avoided them successfully, though one had signalled to her. At nine o'clock on the morning of the 19th, U18 was off Whitby, and she continued on her northerly journey, coming up to the surface every hour for her commander to look round and take bearings. Two days later she was off the Moray Firth, and patrolled there all day at slow speed, sighting one of the mine-sweeping gunboats in the distance.

 

Off the Pentland Firth the submarine observed the armed trawlers towing their explosive sweeps, and saw also some destroyers. Then her commander perceived how difficult it would be for him to penetrate the close screen protecting the Grand Fleet. In Germany among naval officers no place was so much talked about at this time as Scapa Flow, but so far no submarine had succeeded in getting right inside. It was the fixed intention of this U-boat captain to succeed where others had failed, and to torpedo the Iron Duke. Having proceeded farther north, the submarine was off Fair Island about midnight of November 22nd-23rd, and in the early hours of the morning, whilst it was still dark, she passed through the British patrol lines and made towards Scapa Flow. At 7.30 a.m. she entered Pentland Firth, having waited till slack water, and then, in the sure hope of finding the Grand Fleet and of attacking it, passed north of the Pentland Skerries. A steamer was seen to be heading for Scapa Flow, so the submarine followed in her wake, making for the entrance, and hoping to be able to slip into the harbour astern of her unobserved. Looking through his periscope, the German captain noticed that Scapa Flow was protected by means of an anti-submarine boom, and he took his craft close up towards it until he could scan the whole of the harbour.

 

This was the crest of his success and the beginning of his downfall; for the nest which he had hoped to foul was empty; the Grand Fleet was not there! It was a bitter disappointment after so long and trying a voyage. The men had not been out of their clothes since leaving Heligoland. The captain at once surmised that the Fleet was at Cromarty, and he determined to follow there. His supposition was incorrect; for, had he but known it, the Grand Fleet had coaled during the night of the 21st and put to sea early on the following morning, to make a sweep down the North Sea towards Heligoland. The helm of the U18 was now put hard over, and she came out again, intending to get to the Moray Firth. She had not run more than about a mile and a quarter from Hoxa Head, which is on the eastern side of the entrance to Scapa Flow, when suddenly a violent blow was felt. The captain and first lieutenant realised the situation when the submarine took a list of fifteen degrees. What was worst, the most effective periscope had been carried away. The fact was that above them, on the surface, thanks to a good lookout and skilful handling, the Scapa mine-sweeper Dorothy Gray had been able to ram the periscope, bending it over, and to strike the submarine's hull aft, causing considerable damage. Another trawler, the Tokio, had been the first to see the periscope. The Dorothy Gray, being nearer, acted promptly and effectively. The ramming happened at 12.20 p.m., and the submarine was not seen again for another hour, during which time twenty-seven German officers and men spent some of the most anxious and exciting moments of their lives.

 

After the blow struck by the Dorothy Gray, the lower tube of the damaged periscope at once filled with water, but the submarine went on in a mad endeavour to escape. She submerged to eleven fathoms. Half an hour later she managed to fix her position, and then, getting on to her course, submerged again to the previous depth. Life thereafter to those confined in U18 became an unceasing struggle to escape from the most horrible of deaths. The trawler's attack had put much of her mechanism out of gear. First, the hydroplane motor gave out and suddenly jammed. The result was that the craft could not be controlled to a normal depth. She rose and sank erratically, at alarming angles, so that at one time she was rushing upwards and about to break surface, whilst the next moment the vessel nose-dived towards the bed of the sea. Tanks were emptied and again flooded; the submarine descended to 27   fathoms - 165 feet! Then twice in quick succession there came a bump, indicating that the hull had touched the hard bottom of the sea. Up the submarine came to the surface, and then followed another crash. This time she had been rammed by the destroyer Garry.

 

THE DOOMED U-BOAT

 

What happened during the ensuing period is best described in the words of Oberleutnant Neuerburg, second in command: "The boat shot upwards and downwards; the men rushed forward and aft; the flooring became slippery with the oil carried out of the engine-room by the men's feet; the men slipped." Down the craft went again, striking the sea bottom, then rose, and descended once more, this time to over 230 feet. "Then," declared Oberleutnant Neuerburg in his narrative, "we shot upwards so violently that I gave up all hope. . . . From the conning-tower came the report, 'Steering gear jammed man the hand wheel.' And then from the engine-room: 'The motors have broken down! ' "The boat eventually began to rise, and then suddenly the captain pushed open the conning-tower hatch. She had a heavy list, a hole torn in her starboard tanks, rudder gone, propellers badly damaged. " As I came on deck I saw how the periscope was almost broken off short. . . . Suddenly there was a smell of burning. Someone shouted, 'The battery is on fire! ' The captain gave orders that the boat was to be sunk. We drifted helplessly in the currents of Pentland Skerries. No. 2 fired star-signals to draw the attention of the signal-station . . . two destroyers were approaching at full speed. The captain fired off the stern torpedoes in order to allow the water to enter through the tubes. . . . Spreuger (the engineer officer) tore open the flooding valves . . . then the boat sank. ..."

 

It was at 1.30 p.m. that the submarine had for the last time come to the surface, and the crew were seen on deck with a white flag flying. She had foundered about five miles east by south of Muckle Skerry, the largest of the group of rocks which lie at the eastern entrance to the Pentland Firth. The two destroyers which came up were the Erne, with Admiral Sir Stanley Colville on board, and the Garry. The latter picked up all the officers and men with the exception of one man, a stoker, who was drowned. So ended the career of the craft which had proposed to sink Admiral Jellicoe's flagship. ("Die Deutschen U-Boot in ihrer Kriegsfuhrung, 1914-18," states (vol. i, p. 18) that U18, as she was returning from Scapa Flow, was sighted and chased, and that she struck the rocks whilst proceeding submerged, and was compelled to come to the surface and surrender owing to the damage sustained.)

 

Up to this date, though the Auxiliary Patrol had been doing most excellent work, no chance had come their way of sinking a submarine, and to trawler Dorothy Gray, No. 96, belonged the honour of being the first auxiliary vessel in naval history to achieve such a feat. This incident was most wholesome in its effect; it convinced the Admiralty that these small ships and fishermen crews could do all that might be asked of them, and to the crews themselves it imparted an increased confidence in their ability. A healthy spirit of rivalry was excited, and amidst the depressing monotony of the patrol there was no man who was not cheered by the belief that some day he might help to send a submarine to the bottom.

 

"I wish," wrote Admiral Colville to the Admiralty, "to draw their lordships' attention to the excellent work done by Trawler No. 96, the skipper of which worked his craft most successfully in chasing and ramming the submarine." "Hearty congratulations to Trawler 96," telegraphed the First Lord, "for brilliant service, which their lordships will mark by a substantial reward." In due time came the reward: 500 to the skipper (Chief Skipper A. Youngson, R.N.R.) and crew of the Dorothy Gray, and 100 to Tokio. But, apart from any pecuniary prize, there was the knowledge that a fishing-vessel, manned by a fishing crew, had performed distinguished service in ridding the sea of a dangerous enemy, and had created a most encouraging precedent.

 

That the enemy was determined to penetrate into the area known to be frequented by the Grand Fleet was made evident by the persistence with which submarines cruised off the Orkneys. On the day after U18 was rammed and sunk another of these craft was seen by H.M.S. Dryad off the east side of the Orkneys, and again on the following day the trawlers won the praise of the Royal Navy. That day, off the same part of the coast, a submarine was netted, though she was not destroyed. As soon as she was sighted trawlers gave chase, whilst an outlying trawler got the intelligence through to H.M.S. Skipjack, which followed the submarine till, as she was approaching gun range, the craft dived and was not seen again. "I consider most praiseworthy," reported Commander Preston of the incident, "the way these two trawlers, 79 and 80, carried out the chase and promptly gave information." Such evidence of the trawler's effective

 

THE SCARBOROUGH RAID

 

value was as welcome to the Commander-in-Chief as to Whitehall. The Lords of the Admiralty wrote to Sir John Jellicoe that they noted with satisfaction the apparent increase in the value of the trawler patrols, and desired that he would cause an expression of commendation to be transmitted to the commanding officers of these two trawlers.

 

The raid on the Yorkshire coast on December 16th was in strategy, and to a great extent in tactics, practically a repetition of the raid which had occurred off Gorleston a few weeks before. In results, however, this Yorkshire raid was the more serious. Each of these raids revealed the same deliberate, well-planned scheme; in each occurred the arrival off the coast at dawn, the bombardment, and the endeavour to entice British squadrons on to mine-fields in carefully chosen areas, mines being sown close inshore in the hope of destroying British flotillas and light forces, as well as out to sea where the battle fleet might be expected to pass. But the mines laid off Flamborough Head were far more numerous than those which had been scattered off Yarmouth.

 

On the morning of December 15th a portion of the Grand Fleet left Scapa, Cromarty, and Rosyth, and swept down the North Sea, accompanied by seven destroyers. About 5 a.m. these destroyers suddenly encountered a German force, consisting of cruisers and destroyers, to the eastward of the Dogger Bank, proceeding in an opposite direction that is to say, on a north-westerly course. An engagement ensued, and three of our destroyers were badly hit, though one of the latter claimed to have torpedoed an enemy cruiser. This proved to be the advanced screen of the German High Sea Fleet, and just before eight o'clock, as it was getting light, enemy cruisers appeared off Scarborough. Whilst three of them bombarded the town, the fourth cruiser steamed east-south-east towards Flamborough Head and laid an extensive mine-field.

 

These four ships represented only part of the main force, for prior to reaching Scarborough the squadron had split up, the Von der Tann and Derfflinger making for this seaside resort; the other division, consisting of the Seydlitz, Moltke, and Blucher, steering for Hartlepool, which was also bombarded till just before nine o'clock, when these vessels made off to the eastward. A few minutes later, the two Scarborough raiders appeared off Whitby and also bombarded that place, after which the whole of the force made its escape. It had come via the open passage existing between the Tyne and Humber mine-fields, and the ships which had gone north to Whitby and Hartlepool had kept shoreward of the Tyne mine area. But on their return journey, between these two old mine areas, the enemy's light cruisers and destroyers, forming the German screen, were sighted and fired on by the British light cruisers about 11.30 a.m. Owing to the mist they escaped. About midday the Second Battle Squadron also sighted enemy cruisers and destroyers steering east by south at full speed; and again the raiders eluded pursuit. It was a very fortunate adventure for the Germans; but for the bad luck in regard to the mist and rain, they would have been severely handled.

 

 

 

A Drifter on Patrol

 

This raid is of immediate interest as illustrating the part which the Auxiliary Patrol had in the affair. There was afterwards reason to assume that the force which had encountered British destroyers in the morning had steamed up to the north-west corner of the Dogger Bank, and there laid some mines to entrap the Grand Fleet. At any rate, a quarter-past nine that morning, the fishing trawler Blanche, which had come to the Dogger Bank to fish, sighted a mine, the position being about seventy miles N.E.   E. of Flamborough Head. The skipper, Mr. John Wilson, took his ship close up to it, and as he had no weapons for sinking it he dropped a dan-buoy to mark it, lay alongside it for an hour, and definitely ascertained that it was a moored mine and that it had five horns. The trawler then steamed half a dozen miles, when she sighted a destroyer; there is a reason to think that this was a German destroyer which had accompanied the first squadron, encountered at five o'clock farther to the south-east, and had just finished laying mines. "As we altered our course to go to him," stated Skipper Wilson, "he steamed away in the east by north direction. When we first saw him he had his head on the east-south-east course, and the wind was north-northwest, fine breeze and rain. I saw it was no good steaming after him, so proceeded homewards, as I think he was the one that laid the mine. If he had been English he would have waited, as he could see we altered our course towards him."

 

A TRAWLER'S PREDICAMENT

 

This destroyer had evidently been in action, for her mast appeared to have been shot away, but the Blanche at this time was unaware of the Scarborough raid. Skipper Wilson acted as one might have expected him to do; and as he could not sink the mine, he abandoned all thought of fishing, steamed back to the Humber, and gave information to the guardship H.M.S. Victorious in the river. Then he steamed out to his fishing-ground again, and when about sixty-five miles N.E.   E. from Flamborough, shot his trawl and fished all night. When daylight came he found another mine waiting for him. He was determined to sink it, though many men would have been content to leave it alone. "We hove our gear," he said, "and then made fast a liver barrel half filled with water, attached to a 50-fathom wire buoyline, and this we towed with the object of bursting the mine." The intention was by this means to strike the horns and so explode the mine. The attempt was made four or five times, and then, as the effort failed and darkness was coming on, he gave it up, buoyed the mine with a danbuoy, and for the next two or three days continued fishing in its vicinity. It was a risky thing to do, for his ship might at any moment have been blown up by striking a mine, or his trawl might have caught the mooring wire and brought about an explosion. There can be no question that these were mines. Within a few days the fishing-vessel Ocana, in almost the very spot where the Blanche buoyed her first mine, hit one of the horns of a mine and foundered.

 

Another fishing steam trawler, the Cassandra, had an excellent view of the retreating enemy on the day of the raid. This Hull trawler suddenly found herself in the midst of a modern naval engagement between powerful ships, while she was quietly trawling as if the sea were as safe as in peace-time. Her skipper, Mr. H. Pegg, afterwards related his experience: "On December 16th, 1914 at noon, I had just left the bridge to get a bit of tobacco, when the mate shouted down the cabin that he could hear the firing of big guns. I immediately went on deck, and there rushing towards us was a big German cruiser accompanied by a torpedo flotilla, steaming about southeast. About seven or eight miles to the westward were our Fleet, firing as hard as they could. Immediately, we were surrounded by flying shells. You could hear them whistling overhead and see them falling all round us. As the Germans were passing us, the big cruiser fired a shot which passed between our bridge and funnel and hit the water about fifty yards away from us. Simultaneously I saw two shells hit one of their destroyers, and all I saw was a tremendous upheaval of water and then nothing more. This all lasted about fifteen minutes."

 

By this time the trawler's skipper had got in his gear and was steaming towards the land. "About 3 p.m., no warships then being in sight, I saw what looked like a mast sticking up out of the water, about south-west of us, and immediately bore away towards it. Getting a better view, I made it out to be a submarine with two masts, the fore one longer than the after one, and having a cross-tree to it (the fore one). This I surmised must be a German, and we kept after him for about a quarter of an hour, but he outdistanced our ship easily. Last seen, he was going about south by east to south, time being 3.45 p.m."

 

It was not long before the mine-field laid by the raiders off Scarborough began to bring forth disaster upon disaster. Happily the battleships, battle cruisers, cruisers, and destroyers, in spite of the risks they ran in the chase, had escaped the danger. Thus one portion of the enemy's plan had miscarried; but the losses to merchant shipping were to be alarming, and the toll of human life was great. The enemy had barely finished laying his mines when the Norwegian s.s. Vaaren struck a mine about three and a half miles north-east by north of Filey and foundered, her crew being picked up by the trawler Clon at 9.15 a.m. Twelve hours later the British s.s. Elterwater also ran on a mine and foundered three miles east of Scarborough; and the same evening the Princess Olga went down five miles east-northeast of Scarborough.

 

Still further to increase the peril to our shipping, three German torpedo-boats at sunset laid more mines on the Dogger Bank, seventy miles northeast by east of the Spurn. Next day the City, which had on board several of the dead seamen from the collier Elterwater reported that the sea off Scarborough was strewn with mines. The extent and direction of this latest mine-field was then, of course, unknown, but the day after the raid all traffic between Flamborough and the Tyne was stopped, except during the hours of daylight.

 

Down to the day of the Scarborough raid, as has been

 

THE FOULED SEA-ROAD

 

stated, a swept channel existed from the North Foreland to Flamborough. Up and down this channel streams of ships passed. Owing to the existence of other mine-fields already mentioned, vessels were practically restricted to this lane. It had been swept daily and patrolled daily and was used with confidence. But now the enemy had laid snares along this sea road, and the results were serious. Until the Clon had picked up the Vaaren's crew it was not known that a new mine-field had been laid, and only the disappearance of the other merchant ships that day gave even a vague indication of the mine-field's actual position. It was now the duty of the mine-sweepers to ascertain the limits of this danger area, and to get rid of the mines as quickly as possible. Orders were sent by Admiral Charlton instructing the mine-sweepers to work from Flamborough Head to Hartlepool, with a pair of Fleet sweepers, and destroyers from the Ninth Flotilla were sent to sea so as to stop all south-going ships from entering the mine-field.

 

Although arrangements were made to extend the swept channel northward from Flamborough, and the passage of merchant shipping was stopped, the situation was embarrassing. A hold-up of cargo vessels throttled trade, besides causing an inconvenient congestion of traffic at focal points. On the other hand, if they were allowed to proceed, they ran considerable risk. It was therefore decided to make a compromise, and to allow ships to pass by daylight, warning them to keep within two miles of the shore.

 

The actual mine-sweeping commenced on December 19th. From Grimsby came groups of trawlers which not many weeks ago had been fishing for food. There came, too, the paddle-steamer Brighton Queen, which had early that summer been running excursion trips on the South Coast. From Lowestoft were sent eight sturdy drifters to assist in keeping merchant ships off the mine-field; and, as if to complete the representative character of the auxiliary craft, from the northward came a motor-vessel usually engaged in summer cruising which at the beginning of the war had been transferred to the White Ensign. H.M.S. Skipjack, under Commander L. G. Preston, R.N., also arrived to assist the trawlers.

 

The personnel engaged on this big scheme had come from most parts of the world. North Sea fishermen who had been trawling off Iceland, sportsmen fresh from fishing in Canadian waters, seamen working in cross-Channel packets or liners when the war broke out, others, again, who were yachting as recently as the preceding July, as well as naval officers, were soon busy, all bearing testimony to the great brotherhood of the sea.

 

In order to ascertain how the mines lay, it was essential to sweep at all states of the tide. None except those who have served off this inhospitable coast during the few daylight hours of a December day can realise the anxieties and difficulties of the task. Gales spring up at short warning, and as Bridlington and Scarborough, the only adjacent harbours, could not be entered at all states of the tide, Grimsby involving a long passage for small craft along an unlighted coast was the nearest port available. Trawlers keep the sea in almost any weather, but they draw a good deal of water, especially aft, and thus at any moment they were in peril of falling victims to the hidden mines.

 

Thus the operations began, Commander R. H. Walters, R.N., in the Brighton Queen, being the officer in charge. The trawlers passed out with their sweeps to clear the seas of hidden death. It was not long before the inevitable happened. The mine-sweeping trawler Passing, commanded by Lieutenant G. C. Parsons, R.N., ran into a mine, which blew a hole into her bow so large that a small motor-car could have been driven through it. She was a magnificent type of trawler, stoutly built, and fortunately her bulkheads held. The Brighton Queen was able to take her in tow and beached her on the Scarborough sands, whence she returned later on to Grimsby to be repaired. But immediately after the accident to the Passing, the mine-sweeping trawler Orianda (Lieutenant H. Boothby, R.N.R.) hit a mine a mile and a half southeast of Scarborough Castle and blew up. One of the crew was killed, but Lieutenant Boothby got the rest of his men away safely. The next trawler to suffer misfortune was the Star of Britain (Lieutenant C. V. Crossley, R.N.R.), three violent explosions revealing the cause of the injuries she had received. On the first day's sweeping, and within ten minutes, three trawlers had struck German mines. Commander Preston took the Skipjack very gallantly to the middle of the mine-field where explosions had taken

 

SHIPPING HELD UP

 

place, and there anchored his ship between the trawlers and the mines which had been swept up. The mines which had occasioned so much trouble were then sunk.

 

The first day's sweeping failed to define the extent of the dangerous area, but at least it was established that mines had been sown thickly from a position in lat. 54 18', long. 15' W. to the shore. Next morning the sweeping was continued, and further disasters occurred, the first about 9 a.m. The steam-yacht Valiant, under the command of Admiral Barlow (one of a good many retired flag officers who had volunteered for this, or other, perilous work), on passage up the coast on her way to Cromarty, struck a mine near Filey, disabling both her propellers and rudder; she soon began to leak badly. Two trawlers, at no mean risk, crossed the mine-field to her assistance, bringing her to anchor off Scarborough. This action was all the more meritorious since it was low water at the time. Next day the Valiant was taken in tow by the steam-yacht Eileen, commanded by Admiral Sir Alfred Paget, who had also returned to the Service on the outbreak of war. After temporary repairs in the Humber, she was towed down the North Sea and English Channel and up the Irish Sea for overhaul.

 

About an hour after the Valiant's accident, the armed patrol trawler Garmo also struck a mine off Scarborough. She turned right over and sank, one officer and five men being lost. So the dangerous work went on during the cold, depressing December day. Groups of trawlers under Lieutenant G. C. Parsons, R.N., and Lieutenant-Commander Bernays, R.N., worked their hardest under most trying conditions. By December 22nd, Commander Walters was able to report a safe passage from Flamborough Head to Filey Brig buoy within half a mile of the shore; but north of that point the channel was only partially swept. Meanwhile the Humber had become crowded with shipping. Unable to proceed on their voyages, merchant vessels had run up the river and come to anchor in its sandy waters. No fewer than forty-eight commercial vessels of all sizes - tramp steamers, transports, colliers, food ships, timber ships, oilers - were waiting, and the numbers were daily increasing. But, again, there was a difficulty. Serious as was this delay financially to the owners and others, yet it could not have been avoided, as was suggested by the further report that the Norwegian s.s. Boston had struck a mine three miles east-south-east of Scarborough. She was beached on the north side of Filey Brig.

 

Already a flotilla of fourteen trawlers was sweeping off Scarborough, in addition to the drifters and the motor-boat Euan Mara. No fewer than thirty-five mines had so far been destroyed, and it was impossible to tell how many more might be hidden. Christmas Day, 1914, will long be remembered by East Coast fishermen as a day of tribulation, but a day on which these fishermen made heroic history. At 11 a.m., whilst sweeping south from Whitby, the trawler Night Hawk struck a mine and foundered about five and a half miles east of Scarborough. Only seven of her crew of thirteen were saved, including the commanding officer, Sub-Lieutenant W. A. Senior, R.N.R. The s.s. Gem came along, struck a mine and blew up seven and a half miles south-east of Scarborough Rock, with the loss of ten lives, including her master. The s.s. Eli, under the Norwegian flag, also struck a mine and eventually sank three miles south-east of Scarborough.

 

The day was marked by a fine exhibition of pluck on the part of these Lowestoft drifters. The "Commodore" was Skipper E. V. Snowline, of the Trawler Reserve. Although a gale was blowing, this seaman, instead of running for shelter, stuck it out and kept his station in order to prevent other vessels getting into the mined area. In spite of the heavy seas, his drifter, the Hilda and Ernest, faced the weather and the risk of being mined and stood by the Gallier, a British steamer which had also struck a mine, Skipper Allerton in the drifter Eager showing the same hardihood. Not to be outdone by the drifters, Skipper T. W. Trendall, in the mine-sweeping trawler Solon, on his own responsibility went to the assistance of this ship. It was low water; it was dark; the Gallier was showing no lights. The Solon had to search for her during the gale in the middle of the mine-field, yet in the end she was safely brought into Scarborough. Never did British sailors in peace or war perform a more unselfish and heroic act on Christmas night. For their gallantry the King awarded the D.S.C. to both Skipper Snowline and Skipper Trendall.

 

The following day a channel had been cleared, and traffic

 

CLEARED AT LAST

 

was permitted to pass, but only in daylight. The s.s. Linaria next foundered two and a half miles north-northeast of Filey Brig. Destroyers were sent from the seventh and Ninth Flotillas to patrol the extremity of the Scarborough mine-field until the channel had been completely swept and buoyed, to prevent commercial traffic from passing through at night or by any unauthorised routes, and to check further mine-laying. But on the last day of the year 1914, still another steamer was blown up four miles north-north-east of Filey Brig. By that date, however, a channel had been swept and the principal buoys laid; most of the work had been done, and the paddle-steamers, which drew less water than trawlers, were pressed into the Service.

 

The trawlers were, indeed, wanted everywhere. They were required to sweep up the Tory Island mine-field, and still more were needed for service in the North Sea in order to prevent mining activity being resumed. The sweep off Scarborough continued, and on January 6th the Banyers struck a mine off that port and sank. Her commanding officer, Lieutenant H. Boothby, R.N.R., had already been blown up on December 19th in the Orianda, but again he escaped death, and afterwards he was awarded the D.S.C. Next day the s.s. Eljrida also hit a mine and went down two miles north-north-east of Scarborough. But at last, in spite of the hindrances through heavy weather, this dangerous minefield was so far swept up that a buoyed channel was established right up to a point abreast of Hartlepool, and the merchant traffic, thanks to the vigilance of our patrols and the daily diligence of the mine-sweepers, was able again to carry on right away down the North Sea to the English Channel.

 

Such is the narrative of the Scarborough mine-field. Although it brought about the loss of valuable lives, as well as of a few trawlers and merchant ships, it did not diminish the strength of the Grand Fleet by a single unit. Undoubtedly the laying of mines on the Dogger Bank, just before and on the day of the raid, was part of the scheme to entrap the Grand Fleet. On December 11th and the two following days, Skipper W. Pearce, of the fishing steam trawler Dane, sighted seven floating mines in various positions approximately between seventy and ninety-eight miles north-east by east of Scarborough, and, as has already been mentioned, the trawler Blanche found a mine on the day of the raid and a German destroyer near-by in a position roughly seventy-five miles northeast by east of Flamborough, where on December 23rd the trawler Ocana foundered on a mine. On December 18th the Blanche observed another mine in much the same position. On January 31st mines were also reported between eighty-five and 100 miles north-east of the Spurn. These may or may not have been laid in connection with the Scarborough raid. At any rate, the Dogger Bank mine-field was in existence, in addition to the other areas, and thus the lot of the fisherman was rendered still more dangerous.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

THE GROWTH OF THE SUBMARINE MENACE

 

As the war progressed, the Royal Navy became increasingly dependent upon the ships of the Auxiliary Patrol. The chances of the Grand Fleet ever meeting the High Sea Fleet in decisive action, so long as German hopes rested on the war of attrition, grew more than ever remote. Warfare by means of mine and submarine was seen to be the enemy's settled policy, and therefore the demand for small craft continued unabated. The trawlers and paddle craft, employed in great numbers, were proving effective in keeping down the mines, but the problem of the submarine presented greater difficulties. In November 1914 it became manifest that the Germans were about to make a determined attack on vessels using the English Channel; in other words, they would try to cut the lines of communication with France, and thus strike a deadly blow at the British armies.

 

The object of the Germans, apart from any damage which they might inflict upon merchant ships and transports, was to draw away to the south anti-submarine craft which could not be spared from the north, and thus cause a dispersion of British effort. The naval authorities were consequently confronted with an embarrassing situation, for the condition in northern waters had not improved. As an illustration, on December 3rd another effort was made by the enemy to attack the Grand Fleet, when a submarine penetrated the eastern entrance of Scapa Flow. The patrol was on the alert; the destroyer Garry, which had been in at the death of U18, engaged this other submarine twice. The enemy fired a torpedo and then managed to escape. Simultaneously, therefore, the war of attrition was being conducted with energy in the North Sea as well as in the English Channel. The immediate needs of the Grand Fleet, so far as enemy mining operations were concerned, was met by dispatching further railway steamers to act as Fleet sweepers, and in the meantime attention was also directed to the protection of the main base of the Fleet against submarines.

 

An incident on November 23rd concentrated attention on the English Channel. On the afternoon of that day submarine U21 sank by gunfire the s.s. Malachite, near Havre. Two days later three trawlers, Cleopatra, Jackdaw, and Warter Priory were ordered from Yarmouth to Portsmouth, with three R.N.R. officers in command. Twelve armed trawlers fitted with guns and the modified explosive sweep were also sent. This flotilla was intended to operate in the English Channel against submarines, to sink drifting mines, and to board any suspicious small craft which might be supplying submarines. These trawlers were directed to patrol the transport route between Spithead and Havre. Thus began a new system of coastal patrols which was to make for increased efficiency in combating the submarine.

 

By the first week of December about sixty lieutenants and sub-lieutenants R.N.R., trained in the Merchant Service, had been drafted to bases of the Auxiliary Patrol for the command of armed trawlers and as leaders of units; another fifty officers of the same force were also undergoing instruction in Torpedo School ships preparatory to being sent to trawlers. In vessels where there was no suitable cabin a temporary cabin was being erected, and one in every six trawlers was fitted with wireless telegraphy, although the supply of telegraphists had become temporarily exhausted. Trawlers were still being taken up and fitted out with the utmost dispatch. Four were sent to Queenstown, though some time was yet to pass before submarines penetrated Irish waters.

 

Prior to the war, there existed at the Admiralty a Committee which dealt with the submarine problem; but for some reason this had been disbanded when hostilities broke out. It was now obvious that the submarine menace had to be carefully studied and guarded against. Early in December a Submarine Attack Committee was setup at the Admiralty, Captain Leonard A. B. Donaldson, R.N., being president. At this date there were only four

 

INDICATOR NETS

 

known methods of dealing with the submarine. A patrol vessel could sink it by ramming; she could blow it up with the explosive sweep; she could sink it by gunfire; or she could entrap it by means of nets, which were then being evolved. Owing to the shortage of guns, many patrol vessels were still unarmed, and thus their only weapon was their stem. But ramming, as every student of past naval history is aware, is a far more difficult operation than appears at first sight. Modified sweeps, for the purpose of exploding over a submarine, were being supplied as fast as possible, but before an enemy can be blown up it must be known where he is. It was on the development of the net that attention was now centred.

 

Preliminary experiments had been going on for some time. As far back as October a scheme had been suggested by Captain H. M. Doughty, the commanding officer of the Devonport Gunnery School, for the employment of nets and floating buoys with or without explosives; and experiments with nets were made at Harwich and Lowestoft under Captain Ellison and Lieutenant Menzies, the original idea being to employ fishing-nets such as are used by drifters. These soon developed into what were technically known as "indicator nets," the purpose of the buoys being to indicate or "watch" as soon as the submarine got into the net. The idea was that when a submarine became entangled, the section of the mesh would be broken off and thus the propeller would be fouled. Simultaneously, the submarine would announce its presence by causing the buoys to "watch."

 

Nets are employed in peace-time by drifters which put to sea for the herring fishery. Drift-net fishing is quite different from trawling along the sea-bed. Just as the trawlermen's experience had so happily fitted them for sweeping up mines, so the driftermen with their ships were the experts at hand to go out and entrap submarines. During the winter of 1914-15 the Admiralty took up a considerable number of drifters from the east coast, forty-four being hired from the little port of Lossiemouth alone. Instructions were sent to Lowestoft that these craft were to be fitted out with the utmost dispatch. This task was to go on day and night, all other work being deferred if necessary. Thus by January the Admiralty had quite a large flotilla of these vessels ready for service.

 

The increasing efficiency of the yacht and trawler patrols had already impressed the Board of Admiralty, and a scheme was planned for the armed patrol of the entire coasts of Great Britain and Ireland by auxiliary craft. It had been drawn up by the Admiralty in conjunction with the War Staff, and was modified slightly in detail to meet the criticisms of Admiral Jellicoe. In the fewest words, the scheme divided the British Isles into twenty-one areas, plus the Clyde and the Nore areas. These different areas were to be patrolled by 74 yachts and 462 trawlers and drifters. Their duty was to prevent mine-laying, and capture or destroy mine-layers; prevent the operations of submarines and destroy such craft; prevent spying and capture spies. Motor-boats were to assist in these duties in sheltered waters.

 

The needs of each area strategically were carefully considered, regard being paid to the indented nature of the coastline, the proximity of trade routes, and the opportunities for submarine activity and successful mine-laying. Under the scheme every part of the British Isles would be systematically patrolled, thus making the work of the enemy more difficult. With this improved organisation was instituted a general revision of the allocation of auxiliary ships. Some stations had their numbers increased, others had vessels taken away, according to the strategical necessity. The Northern Trawler Flotilla came under the same control as the Scapa Flow Flotilla, thus making it possible for trawlers to be detached in case the Grand Fleet left the Scapa base. The following were the areas now constituted, provision being made to ensure rapid transmission of the intelligence gained by the yachts and trawlers:

 

I. Loch Ewe and Stornoway.

II. Shetland Islands.

III. Orkney Islands.

IV. Cromarty.

V. Peterhead.

VI. Rosyth.

VII. Granton.

VIII. Tyne.

IX. Humber.

X. Yarmouth and Harwich.

XI. Dover.

XII. Portsmouth.

XIII. Portland.

XIV. Devonport.

XV. Milford (with base at Rosslare).

XVI. Liverpool, Kingstown. and Belfast.

 

SUBMARINES IN THE CHANNEL

 

XVII. Lough Larne.

XX. Galway Bay.

XVIII. Lough Swilly.

XXI. Queenstown and

XIX. Blacksod Bay. Berehaven.

 

In addition there were the Clyde and Nore areas, as already mentioned.

 

Submarine activity rather than mine-laying was at this period causing the Admiralty the greatest amount of anxiety, and especially in the English Channel. At one time it had seemed almost unthinkable that German submarines would dare to penetrate the Straits of Dover and sink merchant and passenger ships at their will. Gradually the awakening came. First on October 14th a submarine torpedoed the Amiral Ganteaume carrying refugees from Calais to Havre; on October 31st H.M.S. Hermes was torpedoed in the Dover Straits; then on November 11th H.M.S. Niger was torpedoed close inshore near Deal; on November 23rd the Malachite was sunk, as has been already mentioned, not by torpedo, but by a submarine's gunfire near Havre; and finally, on November 26th, the s.s. Primo was destroyed also by submarine gunfire off Cape d'Antifer. These incidents, which have already been described, showed that the enemy was able to disregard the British mine-field across the Dover Straits, and was determined to attack any kind of ship, without restricting himself to the recognised limitations of legitimate warfare.

 

On December 22nd Admiral von Tirpitz forecasted a submarine campaign against our commerce. The crisis was reached when in the dark hours of the morning of January 1st H.M.S. Formidable was sunk off the Devonshire coast by U24. Thus the submarine operations had developed in a brief space from a dangerous menace into an offensive campaign of a deadly nature. If, for the moment, the English Channel seemed to be the chief area of attack, evidence was not wanting that the North Sea was not being neglected. On Christmas Day two torpedo-boats patrolling well up the Firth of Forth had torpedoes fired at them, and submarines were sighted out at sea by three of the Town class light cruisers which had come from Rosyth.

 

Such places as the Fame Islands in Area VIII, Kinnaird and Rattray Heads were being used as points of arrival by enemy U-boats from the other side of the sea. There was, therefore, wide scope for the work of the Auxiliary Patrol in watching wherever submarines were likely to operate. In the twenty-three areas mentioned patrol vessels maintained constant vigilance, and in addition to these the mine-sweepers carried on their routine duties wherever required. Thus, by the end of the year 1914 there were in all 750 yachts, patrol trawlers, mine-sweeping trawlers, drifters, paddle sweepers, motor-drifters, and motor-boats, in which 190 officers of the Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve and 250 officers of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve were serving. Officers and men were keen and needed only improved devices for the arduous work entrusted to them, and these gradually were perfected.

 

On January 2nd, 1915, the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Winston Churchill) made a request for four drifters to be sent to Dover. They were to carry out a number of experiments under Captain E. C. Carver, R.N., in the laying of nets under a system devised by Admiral of the Fleet Sir A. Wilson. Four drifters were accordingly ordered next day from Lowestoft, and formed the nucleus of a huge fleet which was presently to be transferred to the White Ensign for the special service of entrapping submarines.

 

To those unfamiliar with ships the difference between a trawler and a drifter may not be evident. They are built for entirely different purposes, and have distinctive features in size, construction, design, and personnel. The drifter is smaller than the trawler, and usually is built of wood, though a few are of steel; she has no powerful winches and but one capstan; in lines she is but slightly modified from the old sailing drifters; and, unlike the steam trawlers, she relies very much on her mizzen, not for speed, but for sea-keeping ability in bad weather and for riding to her nets. Her engine speed is rarely more than 9 knots, and she puts ito sea for only a few days at a time, returning to port to land her fish and take in coal and water before going out again. The drifter's crew is small, usually numbering not more than eight or nine all told; and she is more often than not manned by members of one family. Frequently the skipper is the father or father-in-law of the mate. The engine-man is as likely as not the latter' s cousin, and the rest of the crew, if not having some sort of relationship to the skipper, at least come from the same fishing-village. The result in

 

DRIFTERS AND THEIR CREWS

 

working is that the drifter, while nominally in command of the skipper, is actually run by a kind of committee. To split up this co-operation would have impaired the efficiency of the ship. Consequently, when the Admiralty took over hundreds of drifters they usually accepted the crews en bloc, and the men served in most cases till the end of the war.

 

Nothing afloat is more clannish than a drifter crew, especially if the men happen to come from the same village on the north-east coast of Scotland. The very names of the drifters are typical of the crews a curious mixture of Old Testament piety blended with modern ambitions and family pride. Such names as Integrity, Breadwinner, Courage, Diligence, Direct Me, Effort, Enterprise, Faithful Friend, Friendly Star, Girl Margaret, Boy Bob, Golden Effort, Good Tidings, Hope, Peacemaker, Present Help, Protect Me, Star of Faith, Sublime, suggest the simple, straightforward, plucky, homely men usually found in these craft. The four drifters sent to Dover as the forerunners of the great fleet that was to follow were the Young Fisherman, Sedulous, Nine Sisters, and Ocean Comrade. Dover became the cradle of the indicator-net method of anti-submarine warfare. Large numbers of drifters were taken up at Lowestoft and Yarmouth, thirty of which were sent to Dover alone.

 

Their arrival, fresh from their fishing occupation, came rather as a surprise to naval men at Dover, accustomed to smartness and well-found gear. These were an ordinary group of fishermen in their warm jumpers, without naval kit, unaccustomed to discipline, and banded together in ships that obviously needed a refit, for they had defects in hull and machinery and were ill-found in respect of lamps, warps, and other gear of the sea. But the main thing was to get the ships to Dover, and then as soon as possible to train the crews, so that with no avoidable delay nets might be strung across the Dover Straits and submarines prevented from entering the Channel to sink our shipping.

 

Captain Humphrey W. Bowring, R.N., was appointed to take charge of this new drifter organisation, and the first trial at shooting indicator nets from these craft was made on January 15th, 1915, under the superintendence of Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace Hood, (Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace L. A. Hood, C.B., M.V.O., D.S.O. lost his life in the Battle of Jutland.) commanding the Dover Patrol. Day after day the drifters went out into the Channel to learn their lesson, and as if to show the urgent need for nets, submarines were being reported from all parts of the English Channel from Christchurch Bay, the Channel Islands, West Bay, Berry Head, and elsewhere.

 

A hundred miles of nets were sent to Dover. More and more drifters kept arriving, together with sinkers with which to moor the nets, dan-buoys with which to mark them, clips with which to secure them. There were all sorts of difficulties to overcome. The clips, for instance, were a constant source of trouble. They had to be strong to stand the strain when the nets were being hauled in; at the same time it was necessary that they should be weak enough to carry away as soon as the strain of the submarine in the nets came. Then there were the strong tides in the Dover Straits to contend with. Nets disappeared under the water and were carried away; others caught on wreckage. For a time the whole scheme seemed doomed to failure. However, by dint of dogged perseverance, the co-operation of many brains, and the adaptability of the fishing crews, one after another of the problems approached solution. By the middle of January nets had been moored just N.N.E. of the Varne Buoy, and it was found that a drifter could shoot 300 yards of nets in a heavy sea within half an hour, though eventually this time was very considerably shortened. By the end of January Dover Harbour was becoming pretty full of these small craft; for there were already fifty or sixty drifters and more were arriving.

 

 

 

Net Mines Being Thrown Overboard

 

A really satisfactory netship had yet to be designed, but with improvements in apparatus and training it had become possible to shoot 800 yards of nets in eight minutes. At that speed a submarine could quickly be surrounded by an awkward mesh. Preparations were soon on foot to send a few of these drifters to lay their nets off the Belgian coast. On February 3rd the Sedulous and four other drifters, escorted by destroyers, left Dover in charge of Captain Bowring for a rendezvous two miles south of the North Hinder Lightship, where they arrived early next morning. The drifters shot their nets in the neighbourhood of Thornton Ridge, the destroyers meanwhile patrolling. On the 5th the drifters returned to Dover.

 

NETS ACROSS THE STRAITS

 

No submarines had been trapped, but valuable experience had been gained. Next day a conference took place at the Admiralty on the laying of indicator nets, at which Admiral Hood was present, and a week later the Dover Net Drifter Flotilla was in full working order, endeavouring to close the Straits to hostile submarines. Thirty little drifters stretched across the Channel, riding to their nets and forming a curtain between England and France in the strong tideway that goes rushing by. Every evening the drifters took their nets aboard, and at daylight shot them again. Having regard to the force of the tides, the bad weather, and the difficulties of working the nets, the Admiralty considered the progress made to be encouraging. It was determined to employ drifters and indicator nets in other areas as well.

 

Preparations were made for establishing net-bases at Cromarty, Peterhead, Firth of Forth, Yarmouth, Harwich, the Nore, Portsmouth, Portland, Poole, Falmouth, and Devonport. The nets used were of two types, one 30 feet deep and the other 60 feet deep, each net being 100 yards in length. So quickly did the organisations grow that by the third week in January there were sixty-three drifters stationed at Poole, twenty at Falmouth, fifty-four at Dover, a dozen at Scapa, and four each at Portsmouth, Firth of Forth, and Cromarty. Sixteen drifters were also sent to Harwich to lay eight miles of indicator nets two miles on either side of the Cork Lightship in case a submarine were to be sighted inside the Cork, and two miles on either side of the Shipwash in case the U-boats were seen inside the Sunk.

 

It appeared for a time as if the Navy had in the indicator net the solution of the main submarine problem. The Admiralty wasted not a moment in equipping every suitable base. And then occurred a series of events, sudden and ominous, which gave a still further impetus to this newly-adopted device. Hitherto submarines had penetrated to the north of Scotland and well down the English Channel, but at last a submarine appeared in the Irish Sea and acted pretty much as she liked. On January 28th the armed drifter R.R.S., when about three miles northwest of Bardsey Island, sighted what she believed to be two submarines. Next day, at 1.45 p.m., Walney Island Battery, Barrow, sighted a submarine about 7,000 yards out at sea. The enemy craft opened fire, but all her shots fell short. The battery returned the fire with eleven rounds, and the submarine disappeared.

 

It proved to have been the U21, commanded by that enterprising officer, Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing, whose destruction of the Malachite and Primo in the English Channel has already been described. She had travelled much farther to the westward than a submarine had attempted before. U21 was not long in the Irish Sea, but during her stay she caused havoc and consternation. From Walney Island she cruised about for a while, and on the next day, January 30th, hovered off the approaches to Liverpool and sank three merchant ships, the Ben Cruachan, the Linda Blanche, and Kilcoan, in practically the same position. From there she may have taken a tack over towards the Irish coast, for on January 31st the Holyhead-Kingstown packet Leinster, which was at last torpedoed and sunk in the autumn of 1918, sighted a submarine twenty miles east of the Kish Lightship.


Thence the U21 probably cruised south, for at 8.30 a.m. on February 1st she had an unsuccessful encounter with a vessel of the Auxiliary Patrol. The yacht Vanduara was on passage from the Clyde to Portsmouth, and, when well down the Irish Sea, about thirty-three miles north-west of Fishguard, she sighted a submarine on the surface, trying to head her off. The sea at the time was fairly smooth. The Vanduara altered course so as to bring the yacht's bow on to the enemy, and the submarine began to submerge. The yacht opened fire at 3,000 yards, and finally closed at 2,000 yards, her last four shots falling extremely close. The submarine, however, was not hit, and got back safely to Germany, to spread a false report that the "auxiliary war vessel" did not hoist the British "war flag." This was denied by the British Admiralty on the strength of a statement by the Vanduard's captain: "I was flying no colours, but hoisted the White Ensign before opening fire."

 

It was reported that all the crew of U21 received from the Kaiser the Iron Cross as a reward for their work for the Fatherland. This cruise undoubtedly gave a great stimulus to the enemy and suggested endless possibilities for the overseas submarine. The immediate affect was twofold. All shipping was forbidden to enter or leave Liverpool, and the Holyhead-Kingstown service was

 

MORE YACHTS COMMISSIONED

 

suspended for the next few days. It proved also the necessity of strengthening the patrols in an area in which under-water craft had not been expected. Admiral Jellicoe suggested the use of indicator nets across the North Channel, to which the Admiralty agreed. Meanwhile, British merchantmen were instructed to keep a sharp lookout for submarines, display the ensign of a neutral country, and show neither house-flag nor identification marks.

 

On January 21st submarine U19 had overhauled and sunk by bombs the s.s. Durward, twenty-two miles northwest of the Maas Lightship that is, well off the Hook of Holland. Admiral Hood stated that there was little doubt that enemy submarines were passing through the Downs at night-time, and one was reported every few days. On February 1st, the day of the Vanduara's engagement, the hospital ship Asturias was attacked by submarines fifteen miles north-north-east of Havre, but happily the torpedo missed. On the following day trawlers fired on a submarine off Dieppe.

 

Evidence accumulated on every hand that submarine warfare was increasing in intensity. At the beginning of February three large submarines left Cuxhaven to operate in British waters. It was well known to the British Admiralty that Germany had become possessed of submarines capable of going to and operating in the Mediterranean. This was not a little alarming, and to meet the menace still more small craft were required. Many yachts had voluntarily been offered for charter, others had to be requisitioned; and of these last one fine vessel was taken compulsorily because the owner, a lady with a fine spirit, refused to let the yacht go unless she was allowed herself "to share the perils of the crew." As the number of yachts in the service increased, the shortage of guns became an embarrassment, and some of the bigger yachts had to surrender part of their armament. No yacht could be spared more than a couple of guns, and the net drifters received none. Some drifters were given the modified explosive sweeps, and all were supplied with bombs.

 

Not only was the number of patrol vessels increased, but simultaneously improvements were made in the organisation of patrol areas. For instance, Area I, which had been originally based on Aultbea, an out-of-the-way place forty miles from the nearest railway-station, was now based on Stornoway, and Admiral Sir Reginald Tupper was appointed in charge there. Alterations were also made in Areas IV, V, and VI, it being realised that enemy submarines desiring to attack British warships in Cromarty or Scapa Flow would probably seek the very convenient landfall in the vicinity of Buchan Ness, Rattray Head, and Kinnaird Head, after the voyage across the North Sea from Heligoland or the Skaw. By placing the various units of Auxiliary Patrol craft in the modified Areas V and VII, an off-shore squadron was available to prevent submarines making a landfall or entering Areas IV and VI. The Admiral of Patrols was relieved of the control of all auxiliary vessels in Area X, these being placed under Commodore George C. Cayley (Afterwards Rear-Admiral George C. Cayley, C.B. CH.)  at Harwich, whilst the northern portion was allotted to Captain Alfred A. Ellison, C.B., at Lowestoft.

 

Simultaneously with a careful reconsideration of anti-submarine patrols, the ever-present mine question had to be studied afresh. In order to safeguard ships, especially mine-sweepers, various mine-catching devices were tried, affixed to the ships' bows, but they were clumsy and in bad weather soon carried away. Mines were being found in unexpected places, some of them having drifted from their original areas. From the Tory Island field mines had been carried up the west coast of Scotland and had become a menace to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, employed on important patrol duties; several ships had sighted and sunk some of them; and the armed merchant cruiser Clan MacNaughton of this squadron, which mysteriously disappeared on the night of February 2nd, 1915, almost certainly struck one of these mines off the Hebrides. Mines were reported off Whitby. Some had exploded in fishermen's nets out in the North Sea twenty-four miles east-north-east of Smith's Knoll. The sailing trawler Fleurette caught mines in her trawl whilst fishing forty miles east of Lowestoft.

 

Early in February the Admiralty commissioned at Barrow two paddle steamers, the Queen Victoria and Prince Edward, and fitted them to lay nets on a very extensive scale. Each could carry no less than 4,680 feet of net

 

ORGANISATION OF PATROLS

 

of a specially designed heavy mesh, with sinkers and buoys complete. The intention was to lay the net in the quickest possible time without stopping. The secret of quick net-laying is to arrange that the net shall run out freely without any check. For this purpose these two vessels had all superstructures removed, and special troughs were fitted from which the nets could run out over the stern whilst under way. Acetylene lamps, carefully screened, were provided, as the net-laying was to be done at night.

 

After six months of war Germany's naval position was already determined, and then came the "war zone" declaration of February 1915. The British Admiralty was not unprepared for this development. All round the coasts of the British Isles the various patrols were active, having had the advantage of several months' experience in their duties. Two routes were possible for enemy submarines seeking to get far afield. They would penetrate either via the North of Scotland or through the Dover Straits. The organisation at the time was as follows: Assuming the enemy should proceed north of the Shetlands, the Shetlands Patrol, consisting of three yachts and eighteen trawlers, was on duty. It was considered more likely that a submarine would pass through the Fair Island Channel, the north side of which formed part of the Shetlands Patrol area, the southern part being controlled by the Orkneys Auxiliary Patrol. The duty in this area was divided among three patrols: the Northern, the Western, and the Southern Patrols, based on Kirkwall, Stromness, and Longhope respectively. These three patrols comprised between them no fewer than ten yachts and seventy-two trawlers. Drifters with indicator nets were also employed in the northern portion of the Orkneys and at the entrance to Scapa Flow. As it was known that enemy submarines were accustomed to dive to about eleven fathoms when harassed by small craft, the patrol vessels fitted with the single sweep were ordered to tow it at this depth.

 

Similarly in the South of England there was a detailed organisation. Besides the British mine-field across the Dover Straits, which actually proved of little practical or moral effect, for the reason that most of the mines drifted away, there were a number of armed drifters guarding the northern approach to the Downs, patrolling north and south in line abreast. These craft, under Captain H. E. Grace, R.N., were based on Ramsgate. They were worked in three divisions, each under its own leader, and two divisions were always on patrol, the third resting in harbour. They patrolled four days and nights, spending the two next in port. A few miles below them was the Dover Net Flotilla, riding to their nets across the Straits.

 

Having received intelligence of impending activity in the English Channel, the Admiralty issued instructions on February 11th warning the bases that submarines were expected to pass through the Straits on the next and following days, and that they had been lately making the Varne Lightship and Buoy when so passing into the Channel. Captain E. C. Carver, R.N., was given orders to keep as many as possible of his Poole drifters cruising on February 12th and the following days between St. Alban's Head and St. Catherine's and twenty miles to seaward. The Commodore at Portland was similarly advised that his trawlers should cruise between Portland Bill and St. Alban's Head and twenty miles to seaward. The Commander-in-Chief at Devonport was directed to have his trawlers patrolling between the Eddystone and Start and twenty miles to the seaward. But, in spite of this vigilance, submarines passed through the patrols.

 

On the 13th one was sighted off St. Valery-en-Caux, and another twenty-five miles west-southwest of Cape Gris Nez. On the 15th U16, while on her way south from Heligoland, chased the s.s. Laertes between the Schouwen Bank and the Maas, after having been compelled to remain submerged for some hours owing to fog off Calais afterwards torpedoing the British collier Dulwich miles north of Cape d'Antifer. On the same day H.M.S. Undaunted and eight destroyers had a torpedo fired at them when off Dungeness. Next day, at 2 p.m., U16 sank the French steamship Ville de Lille close to Cape Barfleur. On February 18th she torpedoed the French s.s. Dinorah north of Dieppe, and then returned to Heligoland.

 

Already twenty-five net drifters were on their way from Falmouth to Larne, where they were to operate in the North Channel, as suggested by Admiral Jellicoe, and to deny that passage to submarines. They started

 

IN IRISH WATERS

 

with only their fishing-nets on board, but as soon as they could be supplied wire indicator nets were to be sent. Another twenty-five drifters were under orders for Milford, this number being increased eventually to fifty. Their mission was to foil the enemy at the southern end of St. George's Channel. Indicator nets were also laid in the Firth of Forth, from the east end of Inchgarvie to Longcraig Pier.

 

On the day that the German submarine blockade began the Admiralty were already making bold alterations in the organisation of the Auxiliary Patrols, in order to meet this intensive warfare. It was obvious from recent events that the patrols in the Irish Sea required strengthening considerably. Rear-Admiral H. H. Stileman,  of Liverpool, had enough to do in looking after the local Liverpool area, for which duty his force consisted of a yacht, two armed trawlers, and ten armed drifters. Hitherto he had been in command also of the Kingstown and Belfast patrol craft, but these areas were to be modified as follows:

 

The Auxiliary Patrol force in Area XVII (Larne) was placed under a flag officer, Admiral C. J. Barlow, late in command of the yacht Valiant, being appointed. He was stationed at Larne and given general control of Areas XV and XVI that is to say, the whole Irish Sea. At his disposal was a "flying squadron" of six large armed yachts, in addition to his other auxiliary craft. These were the Valiant, Jeanette, Marynthea, Medusa, Narcissus, and Sapphire, based on Belfast, but available for use anywhere in Areas XV, XVI, and XVII for concerted action or otherwise. The motor-boats at Belfast remained there, but the Belfast Patrol unit was withdrawn to Kingstown, where Rear-Admiral E. R. Le Marchant was appointed in charge of the base and in immediate command of Area XVI. For this purpose he was allotted three yachts and eighteen trawlers, with an additional two dozen drifters shortly to be sent out to him.

 

Besides these two flag appointments, Rear-Admiral Charles H. Dare was appointed to command the auxiliary base at Milford Haven and in immediate charge of Area XV, the force assigned to him being four yachts, twenty-four trawlers, and fifty drifters; ten of the latter were armed.

 

Strategically the North Channel between Antrim and the Mull of Cantyre resembles the Straits of Dover between England and France. The instructions to Admiral Barlow were to deny the North Channel to enemy submarines and mine-layers. For this purpose he was to have a yacht, eighty drifters, and eighteen armed trawlers, and from February 22nd all merchant ships were forbidden to use the channel. These drifters were to be disposed about a parallelogram thirty miles long and twenty-two miles wide, towing their nets across the channel, thus making it a very unhealthy place for a U-boat. A five-mile space at each end of the area was to be occupied by advanced patrol lines. Thus, it was hoped, a submarine would either have to pass through the channel south of Rathlin Island, or else, having dived to a depth of 90 feet, would reach the vicinity of Lough Larne almost at the end of her diving powers. Orders were given that the passage south of Rathlin Island should be thoroughly patrolled and denied absolutely to the enemy. Each drifter carried at least 800 yards of net, which when laid out would be almost invisible to a submarine at a distance of three cables.

 

The instructions to Admiral Le Marchant were that his principal duty was to watch the mail route from Holyhead to Kingstown against submarines and mine-layers. Admiral Dare was to hold the southern end of the Irish Sea and the Bristol Channel, and always to have nets down in positions where submarines might be expected to make landfalls. When opportunity offered, the St. George's Channel was to be netted, and he was to be ready to send out all his drifters to shoot their nets across this channel. On March 15th it was decided to establish a sub-base for the Auxiliary Patrols at Rosslare. Larne and Dover, because of their strategical similarity, now became the two greatest net-bases. In both areas net-drifters were at work in a strong tideway, at the entrance to a region where submarines had proved exceptionally dangerous. The tactical principle was identical in the two areas. If the submarine should get into the nets, each section of net was so easily detached that the one in which the craft was entoiled would come away from the

 

THE DRIFTERS AT WORK

 

rest and foul the propellers, causing the enemy craft to rise to the surface. For this purpose two things were necessary: satisfactory clips that would allow the nets to be detached at the right amount of strain, and indicator buoys to announce that the net was about the U-boat. It was only after weeks and months of experience and much experimenting that these two essentials were achieved.

 

By the last week of February the nets were in operation. Across the Dover Straits they were kept in position by night as well as day, except in bad weather. Each drifter watched its own eight nets, and altogether there were many miles of nets in use. Across the North Channel the nets were working satisfactorily, except that the kapok floats soon became waterlogged. This difficulty was experienced in many other areas, so gradually kapok gave way to small glass globes, which answered the purpose very well.

 

The working of the indicator nets was a task entirely new to officers of the Royal Navy; the only people who were at all expert were the drifter crews themselves, and to their suggestions and skill the success achieved was largely due. Without the fisherman and his drifter, it would have been impossible to carry out this particular method of harassing the submarine. Before February was out, the merchant steamers on their way up and down the English Channel and North Sea saw these wooden ships with mizzen set looking after their nets near the Shipwash Lightship, the Downs, Dover Straits, St. Alban's Head, Start Bay, and in the vicinity of Falmouth, as well as up the Irish Sea off the Smalls and North Channel.

 

There were many difficulties to contend with apart from the securing of efficient clips and indicator buoys. Nets were frequently lost in bad weather; at Dover no fewer than ninety nets were lost in a three days' gale. Another sixty-eight nets were lost within two days and nights of fine weather owing to various causes, especially by fouling submerged objects. There was, moreover, a shortage of officers, most of whom were junior Royal Naval Reserve officers, to take charge of drifter divisions. The drifter skippers themselves were found, generally speaking, to be good, competent men, keen and enthusiastic in their work. They stuck to their job in all sorts of weather, risking destruction from mines and submarines, and keeping a vigilant watch for the enemy.

 

The outlook was promising at this period. On February 20th a submarine was reported by H.M. Destroyer Viking to be in the nets near the Varne. "It is quite certain," stated Admiral Hood, "that a submarine was in the net when it moved away from the Viking. I believe the net tore away, and when the buoy stopped, the submarine got away." Nor was this the only incident of the kind at this early stage. Information came to hand that a submarine had been sighted fifteen miles south of St. Alban's Head, and on February 19th a Royal Naval Reserve sub-lieutenant was sent from Poole with three drifters to lie to their nets near this spot for twenty-four hours. They shot the nets about 2.30 p.m. Nothing occurred until about twelve hours later, when the skipper of the drifter White Oak saw a bright white light to the northward crossing his bows to the west-north-west. It was visible for a quarter of an hour, and then disappeared. Twenty minutes later he saw a dark object moving towards him, and called the ship's boy to confirm his opinion. The indicating buoy of the net next to the drifter then flashed, thus showing there was something foul of the nets. The skipper called the sub-lieutenant. For five minutes the light burned, and then disappeared, and the nets seemed to move towards the White Oak, the engines of which were moved slowly astern for a couple of minutes to keep clear.

 

Shortly after this the warp began to tauten, and in order to prevent its parting, three bladders were bent on to the warp and the end let go. While this was being done, several more lights were seen flashing in the direction of the nets, but these and the buoyed end of the warp disappeared almost at once. The drifter was then turned to the eastward, and when daylight came she steamed round about, but nothing more was seen of the buoys or nets. Next day the same officer was again sent to the spot, and repeated the procedure at 7.30 a.m. on the following morning. He shot his nets, and they again fouled some obstruction. This incident, though not conclusive, made it highly probable that a submarine had got entangled in the nets. At the least, it afforded some encouragement to the drifters. This was by no means

 

A SUBMARINE NETTED

 

unwelcome, for the submarines were unusually active. Steamships were being attacked in the English Channel and the Irish Sea. The neighbourhood of Beachy Head was becoming a favourite resort for the enemy, five ships having been sunk in that locality within two days. The hospital ship St. Andrew was attacked ten miles northwest by west from Boulogne, probably by one of the same submarines, and three days later the s.s. Thordis had an experience which has already been described.

 

In another area a trawler sealed the fate of a submarine in somewhat exceptional circumstances. At about 3 p.m. on February 23rd the steam trawler Alex Hastie, though a Government vessel, was fishing 105 miles east-northeast of the Longstone Lighthouse. She had recently put down her trawl, and all available hands were working at the catch which had just been hauled in, when a periscope was seen approaching at great speed. It was too late to slip the fishing-gear and try to ram. The submarine's captain must have been either very inexperienced or else certain that this was a disguised trawler, and showed anxiety to keep astern of her, so that the trawler's gun would not bear. The Alex Hastie, however, was neither disguised nor armed. The submarine, in attempting to pass close under the trawler's stern, apparently did not count upon the trawl wires leading down from the ship many feet below the surface. Suddenly she fouled the wires, and on board the trawler the crew listened expectantly to the twanging and creaking of the gear as it withstood the heavy strain. Then after a brief interval there rose to the surface a strange object, with no periscope or conning-tower showing. The U-boat was on her beam ends. Having been caught in the trawl wires, she had capsized, and twenty minutes later she sank to the bottom, leaving a large quantity of oil on the the water.

 

What had probably happened was that the submarine had caught her periscopes in the wires. As trawler wires are of 2   inch, they stand a good deal of tension. Thereupon the periscopes were badly strained, causing the glands through which they pass into the hull to leak. Water poured into the vessel, and prevented her attaining her upright position on coming to the surface. Furthermore, whilst on her beam ends the batteries would have capsized their contents, and before long the ship's company must have been asphyxiated. The Alex Hastie came into port a proud ship, having by good fortune performed a most valuable service, and the Admiralty divided 100 between the owners and crew.

 

This experience was followed by another curious incident. On the last day of February 1915, a number of drifters, based on Portland, shot their nets at daylight in a position between the Skerries Buoy and Combe Point, Start Bay. This was an area which it was believed was being used by submarines. These drifters were under the command of Sub-Lieutenant E. L. Owen, R.N.R.

 

About 4 o'clock in the afternoon of March 1st, when twenty nets were down, a section of them was seen to sink, form a bight, and then travel in a south-west direction. This was an extraordinary phenomenon, because the wind was blowing from the west, and the west-going tide had not yet begun to make. There was no possibility of mistake, for the nets travelled about a mile and a half, and then were found to be foul and could not be hauled in. Occasionally they had to be veered out in response to violent pulls, as if playing a fish. Vibration also was noticeable. A cast taken with the lead showed only six fathoms, whereas the chart gave nine and a half fathoms at that spot. It was noticed, moreover, that the lead struck something hard. This was followed by a sharp pull on the net, about thirty yards being suddenly dragged out of the hold. A dan-buoy was made fast to the net, which was then let go. The nets continued to travel to the south-west inside the Skerries until about 10.30 p.m., when they were made fast to the stem of the drifter Sarepta, and she anchored.

 

Early on the morning of March 2nd Sub-Lieutenant Owen proceeded into Dartmouth in the drifter The Boys to make his report, and then returned to the Sarepta, finding her still at anchor with the strain on the nets. He presently ordered her to let the nets go. At one end of the nets the armed trawler Shelomi had been patrolling. An explosive charge was made fast to her sweep wire, with a 1 cwt. sinker. This was towed over the position marked by the dan-buoy. About noon the wire fouled twenty yards south-southwest of the buoy, and the charge was exploded. A black patch of oil then came

 

THE STORY OF U8

 

to the surface, and widened to an area of over a hundred yards in diameter. Two more ships also fired their explosive sweeps over the spot. A diver was sent down on the following day, and was unable to find anything; yet it seems extremely likely that a submarine had been in the nets and was blown up, for oil was observed two days after the explosion in thick patches about a mile away from the spot, and large bubbles about a foot in diameter rose and burst, spreading oil on the surface. Sweeping operations continued throughout the day, but no obstruction was found. This was one instance in a long list of highly probable sinkings of submarines, though the fate of the craft could not be ascertained with certainty.

 

On the day that these operations closed, another enemy submarine farther up the Channel met with certain destruction, the best possible evidence being forthcoming in the shape of German prisoners. The craft was U8, commanded by Kapitan-Leutnant Stoss, the second in command being Leutnant Morgenroth. The captain was a very experienced submarine officer, having been in that branch of the service for seven years. U8 was a vessel of about 800 tons, fitted with four torpedo tubes, and at various times she had been in most of the waters of the British Isles. She had come out of Ostend in company with another submarine, and the sequence of events was interesting.

 

March 4th was a day such as is often experienced in the English Channel during the early spring. Periodically fog settled down. About 1 p.m., during a sudden lift, a submarine was sighted five miles east-northeast of the north-east Varne Buoy, by the officer of the watch in the destroyer Viking, whose captain at the time was Commander E. R. G. R. Evans, second in command of Scott's last Antarctic Expedition, who was destined to add to his laurels in the famous Broke and Swift destroyer action in 1917. As soon as the Viking saw the submarine out of the fog, she attempted to ram her, and promptly opened fire with the foremost gun. It was too late, however, as the U-boat dived immediately. The destroyer circled round, passed over the submarine's wash, and began to follow a series of swirling pools which moved north-west slowly for half an hour. The pools then turned to the westward, and were followed for fifteen minutes, when they turned west-south-west until about 4 p.m. The sea was calm, and the track of the underwater craft was quite clear, so the modified explosive sweep was fired by the first lieutenant. The swirl continued for about 150 yards, and then ceased.

 

Although the Viking waited near the spot for forty minutes, nothing more was seen except some patches of oil. This may have been the companion vessel of the U8, as Admiral Hood suggested on examination of all the available facts. No corroborative evidence, however, exists as to the sinking of any U-boat as a result of this operation.

 

As to the U8 herself, the first incident in the narrative is that the drifter Roburn got separated from the rest of the drifters. When found, she was four miles south-east of Dover, and she reported that about 12.30 p.m. she saw a line of five pellets proceeding in a westerly direction against the tide at about four knots. The skipper informed the destroyer Cossack, giving the bearing of the object when last sighted. Undoubtedly there must have been a submarine in the nets, for the movements of the pellets indicated the struggle made by a U-boat to get clear by going ahead and astern. At 1.15 p.m. wireless signals from the Viking concerning her submarine reached Dover, and the stand-by destroyers of the Sixth Flotilla at once proceeded to sea.

 

The information to the Cossack was that a drifter had caught something in her nets six miles north-east from the north-east Varne Buoy. When Captain C. D. Johnson, in the destroyer Maori, with the stand-by destroyers left Dover, he found the Viking getting out her sweep. At 2.17 the destroyer Kangaroo sighted a buoy moving fast to the eastward. An hour later a periscope was sighted one mile north of the north-east Varne Buoy, and at 3.51 the Viking exploded her sweep four and a half miles N. 30 E. of the north-east Varne Buoy. Five minutes later a periscope was again sighted one mile N. 20 E. of the centre Varne Buoy. The destroyers were now ordered to close on this position, and at 4.10 a periscope was seen a mile from the centre Varne Buoy. The destroyer Ghurka got out her explosive sweep and ran on a line of bearing north-west from the Varne Lightship at right angles to the submarine's course, which was signalled as S. 65 W., speed about six knots. At 4.40 the Maori again sighted a periscope proceeding in the same

 

THE SUBMARINE'S DESTRUCTION

 

direction. At 5 p.m. the Ghurka fired her explosive sweep. Half a minute later the stern of the submarine U8 appeared out of the water at an angle of 45 degrees. Then gradually she came to an even keel, with her conning-tower showing. The Maori and the Ghurka each fired a shot, hitting the conning-tower. Several Germans came on deck, holding up their hands in token of surrender, whereupon the order to cease fire was given. The destroyers closed to the rescue, as the submarine's crew, emerging from the conning-tower, rapidly followed one another on to the deck. A German officer was seen to throw documents overboard. The submarine sank within ten minutes of breaking the surface. Meanwhile, ten men were taken off by the