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In Memory of Chief Yeoman of Signals George Smith, DSM, Royal Navy 1904-28 (Part 3 of 7)

Diary and Photographs

1. Naval Service Record 1904-28

2. North Russian Expeditionary Force 1919

3. HMS Vanquisher, Baltic Cruise 1921 (here)

4. HMS Curlew, America & West Indies 1922-25

5. Point Honda Disaster 1923

6. HMS Durban, China Station 1926-28

7. Royal Naval Shore Signal Service 1929-48

his son, Ordnance Artificer George Smith

son-in-law, Lt Cdr (A) James Summerlee MID, RN

as Yeoman of Signals in North Russia 1919 (click to enlarge) return to inter-war, 1918-1939

by his grandson, Gordon Smith,

 "V" class destroyer HMS Vanquisher, shown here with post-WW1 pennant number (Photo Ships). All the surviving "V & W"'s, often with major modifications played an important part throughout World War 2

The images or "snaps" were taken by my grandfather. I have no idea what camera he used, but setting the right exposure was obviously a challenge. By the time he was serving in HMS Curlew in 1922, apparently as ships' photographer, he had made great strides in the art.

The Cruise, from Plymouth to May Island via the Baltic and Scandinavia








Cover and Page One







The Contents



Six weeks cruise in the Baltic

Squadron composed of 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron and 2nd Destroyer Flotilla under the Command of Rear Admiral onboard H.M.S. "Curacoa".


Names of ships as follows:

1st Division

2nd Division

Curacoa Flagship




Flotilla leader Spenser. Capt (D)

3rd Div Destroyers

4th Div Destroyers


Vanquisher (onboard)







List of Places to be visited


Brunsbuttel, North Sea entrance to Kiel Canal
Helsingfors Finland
Stockholm Sweden
Copenhagen Denmark
Gothenberg Sweden
Christiania Norway




August 31st/21


9 AM H.M.S. Vanquisher, Venetia & Viceroy left Plymouth Sound to rendezvous with Spenser, Vectis & Winchelsea off Isle of Wight at 9.30 pm.


9.50 pm joined forces & proceeded to Deal off Kentish coast to wait for arrival of 2nd L.C.S. & Viscount, Violent & Wolfhound, anchored off Deal at 7 AM Thursday Sept 1st, at 11.15 AM 2nd LCS & 3 destroyers were sighted, so anchor was weighed & Cruising formation taken up for passage to Brunsbuttel where we are due to arrive on Friday night.


Friday  morning (2 Sept) Heligoland was sighted through a slight haze, a loud explosion was heard, which apparently was caused by the blowing up of the Forts under the Allied terms of the Armistice.


5 PM arrived off Cuxhaven. As the Squadron formed into single line while proceeding through the narrow channel leading from Cuxhaven to the Canal locks at Brunsbuttel. The promenade alongside the Canal at Cuxhaven was packed with spectators as the Squadron steamed quite close to the Front. I expect there was a few uncomplimentary remarks passed by the "Jerrys".

I didn't get the chance of taking any snaps as we passed.


Brunsbuttel was reached just before 8 PM. The Light Cruisers proceeded straight into the locks, the Destroyers remaining outside until they were securely berthed.


Shortly after 8 PM the signal was received for us to proceed into the locks, by the time we entered it was very dark so I didn't get much opportunity of seeing anything of interest, except that I noticed it was on a more elaborate & up to date scale than the Suez Canal. It commenced to rain heavily now, but the rain didn't prevent a decent crowd of sightseers being present. At 10 PM the lock gates were closed & the whole squadron raised ?10 feet to bring the water level to the canal, when the gates were opened & we were ordered to proceed at 5 minute intervals as soon as the German pilots were onboard. At 10.30 our pilot arrived & Vanquisher was ordered to take charge of the remaining destroyers & proceed through the Canal.


The Canal was brilliantly lit up with Electric light standards at intervals of about 200 yards, several British & Foreign steamers loaded with pine passed us. Nothing of interest occurred during the night with the exception of changing Pilots half way through the Canal.


Kiel was reached at daylight, all the Squadron proceeded into the locks to be lowered 4ft to the level of the Baltic. Several German Battleships & Cruisers were at anchor off Kiel mostly of an obsolete type.


The Squadron formed up off Kiel & proceeded enroute for Dantzig, our first Port of call, where we were due to arrive at noon on Sunday (4 Sept).


On Saturday night the Destroyers made a night attack on the Light Cruisers which was successfully carried out.


Dantzig Sunday Sept 4th


9 AM Sighted Dantzig & proceeded up harbour, Pilots being obtained on entry.


We were ordered to secure alongside the Torpedo Harbour in the Naval Dockyard. The Dockyard presented a forlorn appearance as the Dockyard had ceased to be used since the signing of the Peace Terms, consequently the place was overgrown with grass.


Monday Sept 5th


Went onshore with two others to have look around the place. Was met at the gates by the usual crowd of money changers offering German Marks for 1£ notes. Took the best offer which was 320 marks to the 1£. The rate of exchange being 330 so didn't do so bad.


Dantzig appeared to be in a fairly thriving condition, well set out & clean, but with a peculiar smell like burning Pine trees. I got into conversation with a German who spoke very good English, before the war he served onboard British Merchant vessels & had lived at Barrow (Barry?) in Wales. He was interned at the Isle of Man during the war. He told me that the skilled workman got 30 marks a day equal to the pre war value of about 29/- but he said it cost him 25 marks for bed & breakfast  in quite a modest Hotel. After leaving him in a German cafe we proceeded by way of the back streets to the main thoroughfare. While passing through one of the narrow lanes someone in the one of the houses on the opposite side threw a stone at us which happily missed me by inches, otherwise should possibly have gone out for the count. We didn't stay to argue but went on. No more back streets for us.


The place was very cheap according to what we got for the English Pound note, so the majority took the opportunity of visiting the large stores & bought curios etc.




We left Dantzig at 2 PM on Wednesday Sept 7th for our next Port of call viz Memel which was only a distance of 60 miles. As we had to make a night trip of it, the opportunity was taken of making a night torpedo attack on the Light Cruisers commencing at 10 PM & finishing up about midnight. We expected to make Memel at 5AM but owing to a thick fog speed had to be reduced & all ships arrived at different intervals and anchored about 2 miles from the coast with the exception of the Flagship Curacoa, Spenser & Wolfhound who proceeded alongside the jetty there, entertainments in the way of shooting & horse riding was provided for the officers, also a football match against the French Chasseurs, leave was also given. I did not land & from all accounts I didn't miss much as it was a miserable place, nothing to be seen except mean streets & nothing to be bought.


We left Memel at 11.30 PM on Friday Sept 9th for Libau. I had been here previously in the Cassandra in December 1918 shortly after the Armistice.




Alongside the Jetty at Libau


We arrived Libau at 6 AM on Saturday (10 Sept) but had to anchor in the Commercial harbour for the time being on account of the high wind. Orders were received for us to go up & secure alongside the jetty at quarter of an hour intervals so as to give each ship plenty of time to secure alongside. We got alongside about 10 PM & was immediately surrounded by a horde of women & children begging for bread & clothes. Some awful sights were seen here as the majority of the people were half starved with the exception of the Jews who apparently are the chief heads of all Departments in Latvia.


A Policeman in a nondescript rig patrolled up & down the jetty alongside the ships armed with a rifle & sword to keep the women & children on the move. He hit one old woman & nearly got murdered for his pains by some of our chaps, so he kept a respectful distance after that & later was withdrawn. We gave away to some young lads, old sailors suits etc & they went all the way on them. Photo (left) shows a few of them and an old organ grinder with the proverbial monkey.


Four of us went ashore to view the sights. We had to cross the river by a small ferry. None of us had any Latvian Roubles so one suggested we should give a cigarette each. We didn't say anything until we got to the other side & was agreeably surprised when the man took the four cigarettes with a smile all over his face & tons of thanks. We thought that a good start anyhow, so we changed £1 note each at the money changers & received 1300 Roubles for it.


Libau is a noted place for Amber necklaces so that was the next thing we searched for. Several shops were visited, but either the specimens shown had flaws or else the price was too excessive, a decent one cost about 6500 roubles so we gave it up as a bad job and decided that as the streets were all cobbly and full of ruts we should view the sights from a Drosky. As we couldn't speak Latvian we found a young boy who could speak a little English, the bargain being that for 100 roubles each the Drosky driver would take us around the town. We had the drive, more like a switchback ride than anything else & was very glad when it was all over, as the sights were disappointing. We eventually had to pay 200 Roubles each before we could get clear away or else get a crowd round & stop all the traffic, so we paid up & looked pleasant, and searched for a café where the succulent hop could be obtained. That too was disappointing, the taste of it being like onion water kept over night, plenty of froth on the top though. One bottle each was quite sufficient to make us move. The bill of costs said 40 Roubles a bottle, when we came to pay up, it had run up to 55 a bottle, the extra it was pointed out to us as follows - 5 Roubles for tax, 5 for the waiter & 5 for the proprietor of the café, so we were had again, but that was equalised by the other two walking out without paying so they didn't gain much from after all. After that lot we decided we had had enough so bought a few postcards & came onboard for tea.


On arrival onboard, the amber merchant was there with a few decent specimens, and I bought one for 1100 Roubles.


The following day the General of the Latvians paid his official visit followed by the band. "Some Band"!! The General looked more like an old farmer than a distinguished Soldier. I suppose he was distinguished according to the marks of respect paid to him by the whole population. Probably he was got rid of the next week. Little things like that doesn't trouble the Latvians. I took a couple of snaps of beggars alongside, but didn't get very good results out of them.


We received orders to leave at 4 PM today Monday (12 Sept).


During the afternoon the Lettish Band arrived in full force on the jetty & played a few selections and as we slipped the jetty the Band stayed at the entrance & gave us a farewell tune as we steamed past. I can't say I was much impressed with my stay at Libau.



Peasant woman (above) with 5 children begging alongside the ship at Libau. The woman at the Palisades with 2 children sent away rejoicing with a can full of Haricot beans & roast potatoes with a loaf of bread to make the meal complete.





Riga (above) - note the barrels of dried fish for the starving inhabitants of the interior (destroyers alongside on right)


The Chief seaport on the Baltic for Russia, large exports of timber, hides etc.


On our way here from Libau, the Light Cruiser Cordelia at 3.20 this morning had a man fall overboard. The first intimation we got was when we heard the cry for help from the man in the water. We switched on our 10" searchlight projectors & luckily the rays dropped on him straight away, so the engines were stopped & a boat lowered to pick him up. It was rather cold too and being in the middle of the night he was a very lucky man to be picked up.


As we neared the entrance to Riga which by the way is about 10 miles from the entrance up a broad River called the DUNA a flight of aeroplanes came out to escort us in. They performed all the usual stunts just to impress us I suppose, but we were pretty used to all that sort of thing after five years of war, still we admired & appreciated the compliment paid to us.


The first view of Riga is very impressive, the town seems one mass of gilded domed churches, & incidentally it is one the most magnificent cities I have ever been to. Onshore the City is well laid out having broad avenues flanked with trees on either side, the roads are divided up, one part for carriages & the other for bicycles. The buses are built on a magnificent scale, being both large & imposing. It was hard to believe the Bolsheviks had only recently been evicted from Riga. The people seemed fairly well clad & the shops well filled with eatables. Both black & white bread was displayed & plenty of confectionery.


A football match had been arranged between the Destroyers & the Union Club, also Light Cruisers & Y.M.C.A. The Destroyers won 1-0, but the L Crs lost 2-1. They played a very good game of football and both matches were well worth watching. After the match we explored the place as far as possible, and fell in with a Lettish Soldier who could speak a few words of English. He gave us an invitation to his place which we accepted with some misgivings as to whether we were doing the correct thing or not. Anyway there was three of us so we chanced it. He took us to a large house opposite the Opera House. We were introduced to his Father & Mother, Aunt, four Brothers & two Sisters. They could all speak a little English. They informed us that we were in time for dinner. This was 8 PM, but we assured them that we weren't hungry, although there was a decent spread on the table, consisting of boiled fish with a kind of Irish stew mixed up with it, cold beef & boiled potatoes, fruit, tea, coffee, black & white bread. I plumped for a glass of coffee & and apple, I didn't like tackling the other stuff. Another brother arrived who could speak perfect English. He said he had been several years in England, but on the outbreak of war he returned to Russia. After the revolution he was taken prisoner by the Bolsheviks & twice stood up against a wall to be shot, but was reprieved each time, through influence he informed us afterwards. They were Russian Jews & big merchants in pre war days so perhaps that accounted for it.


We had a very pleasant & sociable evening smoking long Russian cigarettes & drinking glasses of coffee & eventually left at 11 PM escorted by two of the sons back to the Custom House as it was pitch dark & there were no lights in the place.


We left (Riga) at 4 PM Thursday Sept 25th (should read 15th) for Reval.


While on passage (right) from Riga to Reval a floating mine was sighted.


H.M.S. Violent was ordered to sink it.


It proved to be a large 500lb mine with horns on. As it didn't have a rusty appearance it was probably laid during the last 12 months





Reval (above) from the outer arm of the jetty showing the narrow entrance the ships had to come through.


Saturday (17 Sept) At 8 PM a mine was sighted at the entrance to Reval, and the Violent was ordered to sink it (see above).


While the Fleet was stopped during this operation Petty Officer Mitchell (listed as Officer's Cook 1c Frederick C MITCHELL L 4508 on the 17th) of the Flagship Curacoa was caught in one the Paravane wires & dragged over the side and cut in two, his body passed between the lines partly submerged, and before it could be picked up, sank. Search was made for the body for half an hour without results, so Ensigns were half-masted & the Funeral Service read over the spot where he sank. The Fleet then proceeded underway for Reval.


On arriving off the entrance the Fleet was met by a squadron of Seaplanes which manoeuvred very well considering the very high wind & rough state of the sea.


The Fleet formed into 3 columns in line abreast 3rd Division of Destroyers leading followed by the 4 Light Cruiser at 2 1/2 cables apart, the fourth Division of Destroyers bringing up the rear.


As we rounded the point to the harbour, Reval presented a very pleasing appearance with its large domed churches showing up against a clear sky & back ground. We were given to understand that we were to go alongside the jetty, so steam was kept raised ready to go alongside.


10 o'clock on Sunday morning (18 Sept). The destroyers were ordered to proceed alongside the outer arm of the Jetty, Vanquisher leading the way. It was rather a ticklish piece of work as the ships had to be manoeuvred through a small gap which didn't allow for much room for turning as the channel was very narrow with mud banks on either side, and owing to the strong wind it was anything but an easy job. We made two attempts before we successfully negotiated the turn, but eventually we secured alongside a small steamer, the other boats coming in as the other ahead cleared the entrance.


The President of Foreign Ministers invited all Captains to lunch with him, while a concert was arranged at the Town Hall for the men. An hours entertainment was arranged, but as assistance in the way of turns from the Fleet was asked for, it finished with a 3 1/2 hours entertainment.


I didn't go ashore here, but from the reports the outside appearance was far superior to the interior, the streets were very narrow & dirty, the homes badly needing repair etc.


Monday (19 Sept) at 6 AM we left for Helsingfors the capital of Finland, about 64 miles across the Gulf.


Helsingfors Capital of Finland


Entrance to Helsingfors, Finland


Helsingfors was reached about 11 AM today Monday after a rough passage across the Gulf from Reval


Sept 20th . The entrance to Helsingfors is surrounded by numerous small islands, so it was necessary to have Finnish pilots. Our pilot couldn't speak English or French, but as he could speak Russian, one of our Petty Officers who had been in Russia for 2 or 3 years & could speak a little Russian and so did the interpreting part of the business & so got over the difficulty.


All the Destroyers proceeded to the inner harbour & the Light Cruiser to the other side of the Island.


The people here were very civil & obliging. It is one of the prettiest little seaports I've been to. The streets were well laid out. The main street especially was very pretty with extensive gardens running through the centre.


Owing to the rate of exchange which was 230 marks to the £1 we found things very cheap. I purchased a lot of glass ware, scent & several other things at a very cheap rate.


The Franco Restaurant that I went into gave a very good spread for 12 marks equivalent to 1/-. The orchestra played while you had lunch. The lunch consisted of steak, onions, potatoes & cabbage, with cheese, Black & White bread & pats of butter all for a bob.


I had a thorough good walk round here & it seemed hard to realise Helsingfors is ice bound for 4 months of the year.


Our stay at Helsingfors lasted for three days. I think we all enjoyed ourselves here and would have liked to stay for at least another week, but we had to adhere to our original programme so the Fleet left at 2 PM on Thursday (22 Sept) for out next port of call, Stockholm the Capital of Sweden.


Cathedral at Helsingfors (left) with gilt domes. The General Post Office & Archeological Society's building is just behind the Cathedral




Stockholm, Sweden


View of the Pilot Station where pilots were changed


After leaving Helsingfors we caught rough weather crossing the Baltic & all night long we were ploughing through heavy head seas, tossing & rolling about like corks, but as it was only a nights trip across we didn't mind much. At 5 AM we were well under the shelter of the Aland Islands & picked up Pilots off the Island of Upsala to begin our 60 mile trip up the Fjords to Stockholm.


The scenery was magnificent all the way up, although towards the close of the summer season the riverside bungalows were gaily decorated. We passed a Swedish Naval Base & Garrison about 20 miles before we got to Stockholm, the Swedish Sailors standing to attention as we passed quite close to the shore at this point. Am afraid the snaps I took don't give a very adequate view as to what it really looked like.


We arrived off Stockholm at noon & proceeded direct to the jetty to land Lt Donnell from our ship to Hospital seriously ill.


The remainder of the Fleet went & anchored close to the oiler Petroleum that had been sent out from England to fill us up with oil fuel as we had by this time run fairly short of oil.


After oiling all ships proceeded independently and anchored in pairs off Stockholm.


The Football team were to play the Swedish Navy at the Stadium. The City is built something like Venice i.e. on a group of Islands. I believe it is called the Venice of the Baltic.


The Royal Palace was quite close to our anchorage but the King & Queen were away at the time. Concerts & Balls were arranged for the Officers as usual, the men having to shift for themselves. We played the Swedish Navy at the Stadium & lost 3-4.


Things were very dear here. The rate of exchange 16.80 against the pre war 18.44 made things much worse. It cost you 1 Krona to open your mouth & 2 Krona to shut it, not reckoning the cost to fill it.


Three of us went into a Café & ordered steak, vegetables & stout. The piece of steak was about half the size of the palm or the hand with 2 potatoes & a spoonful of onions with a glass of stout, price 21/- the three. Next move, exit the three of us.


Everyone here seemed to be the owner of a bicycle.


What I saw of the place I thought very nice, but owing to the lack of funds as the banks were closed & if you wanted to change any money at the Café's they diddled you over so that the £1 dropped in value from 17/- at the banks to 13/- in the Café's, so we weren't having any.


Life in this place begins when it was time for us to return onboard about 11.30 PM, so I didn't bother to go ashore here again. This night a Stoker from the flagship Curacoa fell overboard when coming off at night & was drowned before he could be picked up (believed to be Stoker 1c Arthur BILLINGHURST K 57348 on Saturday, 24 September 1921). He was buried the next day with full honours. Swedish Army & Navy lined the routes.


The ships were open to visitors on Sunday (25 Sept). We had crowds onboard, but very few of the men offered to take the visitors round owing most probably to lack of knowledge of the language, although several who came could speak a little English. Still it made it rather a stiff job trying to make them understand things & also understanding the large number of questions that were being asked.


I wasn't sorry to leave Stockholm. Why? I couldn't say, except that I was disappointed with the place.


We left at 9 AM on Tuesday Sept 27th for Copenhagen about 500 miles distant. As we also had a night attack to do we didn't anticipate reaching Copenhagen until early on Thursday morning.


The weather was still rather rough when we left.


Copenhagen, Denmark


Royal Danish Yacht proceeding up harbour after the King had disembarked


We arrived here at 8 AM today Thursday Sept 29th.


The Destroyers proceeded up harbour with the Flagship. The other three Light Cruisers remaining outside.


Friday 30th H.M King of Denmark arrived in his Yacht accompanied by three Destroyers.


As soon as H.M. the King arrived, ships were dressed & manned as the Yacht made way to her moorings just abreast us.


The King didn't remain long after arrival, but proceeded ashore in his steamboat for the palace. He was due back at 2PM to inspect the Flagship & did so as Hon British Admiral for which he received a 17 gun salute, the forts returning same.


All Captains were commanded to dine with him at 7 PM on Saturday Oct 1st.


Invitations were received for Officers to pay a visit to the Porcelain Factory.


Visitors coming alongside at Copenhagen


The Danes are a very likeable, kind people, our men made many friends here, consequently visitors came onboard in large numbers.


The town itself is planned on quite a large scale as regards the width of the roads, in the form of avenues with a special track for bicycles. As bicycles are very cheap here everyone seems to own a machine. The Langalene Gardens that run parallel to the river possess some very fine monuments of which I took snaps of several, although it was raining slightly when I went onshore. We had a very pleasant stay her of 4 days & were sorry to leave.


Bronze Mermaid  on the Langalene Front, the Destroyers
Vanquisher, Violent & Venetia are in the middle distance




We left Copenhagen (Monday) at 9.30 PM Oct 3rd for Gothenburg in a heavy gale, and arrived at 5.30 the following morning (Tuesday 4 Oct). Tugs with Pilots came out to receive us, also a tug with cinema operators onboard.


We arrived abreast the town two hours afterwards. The river here being very narrow. The Harbour swarmed with Steamers lying up for lack of cargoes, for miles there was nothing but Steamers.


An invitation was received for 500 men each night, we were to visit the cinema ashore. They also showed the view of the Squadron entering.


I didn't see anything very exciting or tempting ashore here, although the main streets looked very imposing.


The Swedish Petty Officers paid a visit to the Squadron on a tour of inspection. The ships were also open to visitors in the afternoon.


The local newspapers were full of the significance of the British Fleets visit, but as part of the German Fleet had been here some months early and had the same kind of stuff served out to them, we took it all as part of the great game ("Diplomacy"). Things were rather dear here as the rate of exchange was against us. We played Gothenburg at football & lost 10-1 so we didn't have much to be proud of.


The snaps I took I spoilt, so consequently I can't show you what Gothenburg is like. We left for Christiania our last port of call for the cruise at 4 PM on Friday Oct 7th in rough weather as per usual. The rough weather seemed to follow up about.


Christiania (now Oslo), Norway


We arrived off the entrance to Christiania about 7.30 the following morning (Saturday 8 Oct), but as we had about 40 miles to go up the Fiords we didn't arrive off the town until just after 11 AM.


After arrival we were ordered to man ship as H.M. the Queen of Norway was going to pass the Fleet on her way to England onboard SS Bessheim. The Steamer passed about 12.10 PM. A salute was fired.


Invitations were received from the Anglo-Norse Society to attend a concert in the Opera House in Carljohans Gade, at which the King of Norway was expected to be present. I went to the concert which was a tip top one. The King didn't put in an appearance.


I also had a trip up the mountains to a place called Hollamskolen about 40 minutes run by electric railway.


From the top a splendid view is obtained of Christiania & the surrounding Fiords. The people here were very friendly & fraternised a lot with the Sailors. It was rather surprising to find the number of people that could speak English. H.M. the King gave a Command Dinner to all Captains & paid an official visit to the Flagship.


We had a very nice time of it here, prices were fairly good considering and I think the majority of us would have liked to have stayed a few days longer, but as we had to adhere to our programme, we left at 4 PM on Thursday 13th Oct for home ports. The Light Cruisers going to Invergordon & the Destroyers to the Destroyer Base at Port Edgar.


We had one of the roughest trips across the North Sea that I think I've ever experienced in a Destroyer, so was very thankful when May island hove in sight about 11 AM on Saturday Oct 15th & we eventually reached our base about 2 PM very pleased to get it over.


If I went on the same cruise again I should prefer it to be of longer duration.




Two unidentified gunnery PO's on board HMS Vanquisher -
perhaps the two men, who with Yeoman of Signals George Smith,
made the threesome who went ashore together on the Baltic cruise.

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