Stand By! - Naval Sketches and Stories
by Henry Taprell Dorling
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E-text prepared by Al Haines

Transcriber's note:

"Taffrail" is the pseudonym of Henry Taprell Dorling.

The book from which this etext was prepared was missing the leaf containing pages 41 and 42.


Naval Sketches and Stories



Author of "Carry On!" "Pincher Martin O.D., Etc."

London C. Arthur Pearson, Limited Henrietta Street, W.C. 1916



It seems almost unnecessary to remark that the characters and ships figuring in the sketches throughout this book are entirely fictitious.

"Bunting," "The Acting Sub," "Our Happy Home," "The Lost Sheep," "The 'Muckle Flugga' Hussars," and "The Mother Ship" appeared in the Daily Mail, and "The 'Pirates'" in the Weekly Despatch. They are here reprinted, with minor alterations, by kind permission of the Editors.







He was a very junior young officer indeed when the powers that be first gladdened his heart and ruined his clothes by sending him to a destroyer. A mere sub-lieutenant with "(acting)" after his name, which, as any proper "sub" will tell you, is a sign of extreme juniority. Moreover, the single gold stripe on his monkey jacket was still suspiciously new and terribly untarnished.

Not so very long before he had been a "snotty" (midshipman) in a battleship, a mere "dog's body," who had to obey the orders of almost every officer in the ship except those few who happened to be junior to him. It is true that he exercised his authority and a severe discipline on those midshipmen who had the misfortune to be a year or so younger than himself, and that he expressed a lordly contempt for the assistant clerk. But he lived in the gun-room, slept in a hammock, kept all his worldly possessions in a sea-chest, and bathed and dressed in the company of fifteen other boisterous young gentlemen.

Then he had his watches to keep at sea and his picket boat to run in harbour, while his spare time was fully employed in mastering the subtleties of gunnery, torpedo work, and electricity, and in rubbing up his rapidly dwindling knowledge of engineering and x and y. It was well that he did so, for at some distant period when the war ceased he would have to pass certain stringent examinations before he could be confirmed in the rank of lieutenant.

So on the whole he had been kept fairly busy, more particularly as watch-keeping at the guns with the ship at sea in all weathers in war time was not all jam.

But when he was sent to a destroyer he found the life was more strenuous, for the little ship spent far more time at sea. The weather was sometimes very bad indeed, and at first he was sea-sick, but it was always a consolation to have a cabin of his own, to live in the wardroom, and to be treated as a responsible officer instead of a mere "makee learn."

He had to work at least six times harder than he had in a battleship. For one thing he had all the charts to correct and to keep up to date, no small labour with pencil, dividers, parallel rulers, and much red ink in these days of war, prolific minefields, dangerous areas, extinguished lights, and removed buoys. He also assisted with the ship's gunnery, and at sea kept a regular three watches, eight hours out of every twenty-four, with the first lieutenant and gunner. But it was the sense of responsibility and the feeling that he was doing really useful work which gladdened his heart and kept him keen and energetic.

"Have you ever been in a destroyer before?" his commanding officer had asked him as soon as he joined.

"No, sir."

"Ever kept officer of the watch at sea?"

Again the answer was in the negative.

"Well, you'll have to do it here, my son. If you want to know anything come to me. There's nothing much in it so long as you keep your eyes skinned. You'll soon learn."

* * * * *

The skipper had said there was nothing in it, but the first night at sea he found himself alone on the bridge in charge of the ship he thought differently.

A light cruiser squadron and two flotillas of destroyers were steaming at 20 knots in close formation without lights. The night was as black as the wolf's mouth, and the rapidly rising wind cut the tops off the short seas and sent them flying over the bridge in constant showers of spray. Moreover, the perpetual pitching and rolling soon gave our friend a squeamish and altogether nasty sensation in the region of his waistcoat, and in ten minutes, by which time the water had found its way through his oilskins and was trickling merrily down the back of his neck, he felt miserable.

The ship was in the middle of a line of eight destroyers. Two hundred yards ahead of him he could just discern the dim black blur of the next ahead and the occasional splutter of whity-grey foam in her wake as her stern lifted to the seas. At times, when a driving rain squall came down from windward, he seemed to lose sight of her altogether, and, through inexperience and in his anxiety to catch up, increased the revolutions of the engines not wisely but rather too much. The next thing that happened was that the squall cleared, and he found himself almost on top of her, and had to put the helm over and sheer out of line to avoid a collision. At the same time he reduced speed to drop back into station. Sometimes he reduced more than he should, with the consequence that the next astern nearly bumped him, while the leader shot ahead and vanished into the darkness like a ghost.

It was then that he had horrible thoughts of being scrubbed for the deadly sin of losing touch with the flotilla and meandering about the ocean like a lost sheep looking for his next ahead. If he did not succeed in finding her somebody's blood would be required.

It was rather trying for a novice, and many times he remembered the commanding officer's standing orders. "Do not hesitate to call me if you are in doubt or difficulty," they said, with the "Do not" underlined twice. Should he rouse the skipper or should he not? He was asleep in his clothes on the cushioned settee in the charthouse underneath the bridge and would be up in ten seconds if required. But the acting "sub" did hesitate to call him unnecessarily. After all, it was quite possible that the "C.O." might be rather peevish if he was hauled out for no reason. He was not really "in difficulty," he persuaded himself, and he certainly did not wish to patent the fact that he could not keep the ship in station, whatever the circumstances.

No; he would not call him. He solved the problem by increasing the speed of the engines ever so slightly above the normal, and five minutes later heaved a sigh of profound relief as the black shape of the next ahead hove up out of the darkness.

In an hour his helpless feeling had gone and he was jogging merrily along without any difficulty.

* * * * *

But the skipper, who was accustomed to the ways and tricks of newly-joined officers generally, and sub-lieutenants in particular, had been awake the whole time. He always slept with one eye open at sea, and as the charthouse was immediately beneath the bridge and the shafting of the wheel and engine-room telegraphs passed within a few feet of his head, he knew at once from their agitated movement when anything really desperate was happening. So when the helm went overhand the revolution telegraph revolved frantically five or six times in quick succession he yawned wearily, flung off his rug, and sat up.

"I won't go up and interfere unless he sends for me," he thought to himself. "He must learn." He had been a "sub" in a destroyer himself. The summons never came.

At three o'clock, by which time the dawn was breaking, the "C.O." did appear on the bridge.

"Well, Sub?" he asked. "What d'you think of station keeping at night?"

"Quite easy, sir," said that young officer blandly, quite unaware of the acoustic properties of the charthouse. "As easy as falling off a log."

"Did you have any difficulty in seeing the next ahead?"

"Not much, sir. It was a bit dark at times, though."

The "C.O." smiled to himself. He knew.

* * * * *

The "sub," he has passed out of the "acting" stage, is now an expert at the game, and, to use the phraseology of his latest confidential report, is "energetic and trustworthy" and a "most promising and capable officer."


Sixteen years ago, when the ships of the Royal Navy still disported themselves in black hulls, with red water-lines, white upper works, and yellow masts and funnels, she was a smart cruiser attached to one of the large fleets. She was as spick and span as elbow grease and ingenuity could make her, and the show ship of her squadron and the pampered darling of the admiral, went by the name of "the yacht."

She was easily one of the cleanest ships afloat. Her blue-black side, anointed daily with some mysterious compound rubbed on with serge, a compound the exact ingredients of which were known only to her commander and the painter who mixed it, was as smooth and as shiny as a mahogany table. Her decks were as clean as scrubbers, holystones, sand, and perspiring blue-jackets could make them, and woe betide the careless sailor who defiled their sacred whiteness with a spot of paint, or the stoker who left the imprint of a large and greasy foot on emerging into the fresh air from his labours in the engine-room or stokehold.

Her guns, steel, and brass-work winked and shimmered in the sun. Her funnels were brushed over at frequent intervals with a wash the colour and consistency of cream, and before she went to sea her yellow masts and yards used to be swathed in canvas lest they should be defiled by funnel smoke. Her boats, with their white enamel inside and out, their black gunwales with the narrow golden ribbon running round inside, the well-scrubbed masts, oars, thwarts, bottom-boards, and gratings, the brass lettered backboards, and cushioned sternsheets, were the pride of her midshipmen and the envy of nearly all the other young gentlemen in the squadron.

But then, of course, this all happened in the "good old days," the palmy days when men-of-war spent no great portion of their time at sea and when, in some ships, Messrs. Spit and Polish were still the presiding deities. No doubt, as we were sometimes asked to believe before the war, the Service has gone to the dogs since 1900, for noisy and blatant Mr. Gunnery has usurped the place of the above-mentioned pair and life generally has become more strenuous. The ability to hit a hostile ship at a distance of twenty miles or so cannot be inculcated in the fastnesses of a harbour. The job simply must be taken seriously.

* * * * *

If you turn up her name in the "Navy List" of to-day—wild horses will not make me disclose it and the Censor would not pass it if I did—you will see that she still figures as a cruiser, though the fact remains that she never goes to sea for any war-like purpose. They have even added insult to injury by removing some of her guns.

This may be a matter for deep regret on the part of her officers and men, who, since they belong to the Royal Navy or the Royal Naval Reserve, naturally long to assist in an active manner at the discomfiture of some floating Hun. Their thoughts may not exactly be pleasant when they read and hear of the warlike doings of their seagoing sisters, but they may console themselves by recollecting that the ship of 1916 is probably infinitely more valuable to the country than that of 1900, and that at the present time the Navy could not do without her.

She is still clean but is no longer a "yacht," for her purpose is strictly utilitarian. She performs the multifarious duties of a depot ship, and as such attends to the ailments, aches and pains of, caters for the needs of, and generally acts as a well-conducted mother to a large number of destroyers. You have only to ask these latter what they think of their parent, and there is not one of them who would not tell you that they could not get on without her. Of course they cannot! For destroyers, like delicate children prone to catch mumps, whooping-cough, and measles, cannot thrive without careful nursing, particularly in war time.

And so, if the depot ship receives a plaintive wail by signal to say that one of her children has been punctured through the bows by a projectile from a belligerent Hun, or that another, in a slight altercation at sea with one of her sisters, has developed a "slight dent" in herself to the accompaniment of leaky rivets and seams, she merely says, "Come alongside!"

The destroyer does so, and, lo! an army of workmen step on board with their tools, and with much hammering and drilling, the outward application of a steel plate, some oakum, and some white lead, her hurts are plastered and she is rendered seaworthy once more.

Sometimes the defects may be even more serious, as, for instance, when one of her charges, having been badly cut into in a thick fog or having unwisely sat down upon a mine, limps back into harbour with several compartments full of water and serious internal injuries as well. But the depot ship is quite equal to the emergency. She sends her shipwrights, carpenters, and other experts on board the afflicted one and, with a large wooden patch, more oakum, and buckets of red and white lead, the destroyer is made sufficiently seaworthy to proceed to the nearest dockyard.

Again, there may be engine-room defects, such things as over-heated thrust-blocks, stripped turbines, and leaky valves. There are boiler troubles and the periodical cleaning of the boiler tubes. There can be defects in the guns, torpedo-tubes, searchlights, or electrical fittings; defects anywhere and everywhere, even in the galley-stove funnel or the wardroom pantry. Mother has a large family and their ailments are very varied and diverse. But she competes with them all and, save in cases of very severe damage, rarely confesses the job to be beyond her powers and has to send her troublesome child to a dockyard.

* * * * *

But this is not all she does. If Spud Murphy, able seaman of a destroyer, carves the top off his finger or complains of "'orrible pains in th' stummick," he is sent to mother to be nursed back to health by her doctors. If Peter Jones imagines he has not received the pay to which he is entitled, if he wishes to remit a monthly sum to his wife, or if he desires to become the possessor of a pair of boots, a tooth-brush, and a pair of new trousers, mother will oblige him. Moreover, the fond parent distributes the mails and supplies the beef, vegetables, bread, rum, haricot beans, tinned salmon, raisins, sugar, tea, flour, coffee, and a hundred and one other comestibles necessary for the nourishment of those on board her protegees. She will also supply many other unconsidered trifles in the way of ammunition, torpedoes, rope, canvas, paint, emery paper, bath-brick, oil, bolts, nuts, pens, red ink, black ink, hectograph ink, foolscap, pencils, paper fasteners, postage stamps ... I will leave it at that.

Heaven alone knows what else she can disgorge. She seems to resemble a glorified Army and Navy Stores, with engineering, ship fitting, ship chandlery, outfitting, haberdashery, carpentry, chemists, dry provisions, butchers, bakers, stationery, postal, and fancy goods departments. We have forgotten the certificate office or research department, where they will tell you the colour of the eyes of any man in the flotilla, the number of moles on the back of his neck, and the interesting fact that Stoker "Ginger" Smith has a gory heart transfixed by an arrow, together with the words "True Love," indelibly tattooed on his left forearm.

The Criminal Investigation Department, which seems to be aware of the past history of everybody, will deal with offenders, while, to go to the opposite extreme, the depot ship's padre will be only too happy to publish the banns of marriage for any member of his flock.

In addition to all this the officers of the flotilla are honorary members of mother's wardroom, where, despite the fact that she sometimes has great difficulty in collecting the sums due at the end of the month, she allows them to obtain meals, drinks, and tobacco. Lastly, she gets up periodical kinematograph or variety shows to which all are invited, free, gratis, and for nothing.... What more could her children want? She is a very good mother to them. Her greatness has not departed.


Compared with that of a "27-knotter" of twenty years ago the wardroom of a modern destroyer is a palatial apartment.

Imagine a room about 15 ft. long, 25 ft. wide—the whole beam of the ship—with about 7 ft. headroom.

It has white enamelled sides and ceiling. A table, long enough to seat ten people at a pinch, runs athwartships, and ranged round it are various straight-backed chairs.

On the after bulkhead is a square mahogany cupboard with a railed top, on which reposes a gramophone, while to the right, in the corner, is another cupboard reaching to the deck above and divided into numerous square lockers. It is really intended for stationery, but provides an equally useful receptacle for bottled beer and stout.

To right and left along the ship's side, with its row of small scuttles, are cushioned settees, and on the foremost bulkhead, to the left of the door, is a bookcase with cupboard underneath. Except on Sundays, when the latter is specially tidied up for the "rounds," it will not bear close investigation. It may be found to contain half a Stilton cheese (rather fruity), pats of butter, two bottles of Worcester sauce, fruit, one tin of Bluebell polish, and a large lump of oily waste. No wonder our butter sometimes tastes peculiar!

To the right of the door is a sideboard, a solid mahogany affair, with racks for glasses and tumblers, and cupboards for wine. In the centre of it is a mirror which, on sliding down into a recess, reveals a small square hatch communicating with the pantry outside.

Overhead, secured to the beams, are various pipes, electric light fittings, brass curtain rods, and a couple of swinging oil lamps. Several more oil lamps are in the bulkheads or walls. They are used when steam is down and the dynamo is not running. The furniture and fittings are completed by a comfortable-looking, well-padded armchair, a couple of steam radiators of polished, perforated brass for warming purposes when the ship is at sea, a red and blue carpet, curtains, a letter rack and notice board, and the stove.

The latter is fitted to burn anthracite. It looks well, with its highly polished brass casing and funnel reaching up through the deck above, but it has a very decided will of its own. Sometimes, in a fit of contrariness, it persists in blazing like a blast furnace on muggy days until its sides are nearly red-hot and the heat of the wardroom is well-nigh intolerable. But on chilly mornings it occasionally rings a change by refusing to burn at all, and merely vomits forth clouds of acrid, grey smoke. This generally occurs during breakfast, when folk are sometimes apt to be snappish and irritable. We have never really quite fathomed the idiosyncrasies of the stove. Maybe it is sadly misunderstood, but at any rate we can always empty the vials of our wrath for its misdeeds upon the head of its unfortunate custodian, a newly caught officer's steward of the second class, with long hair and a mournful aspect.

We are at war, and there is little or no attempt at decoration in our habitation. The bright red and black tablecloth of the usual service pattern gives the place a touch of colour, but beyond this and a couple of vases of tightly packed flowers on the table, and on the ship's side a print of the gallant old admiral after whom the ship is named, everything serves a strictly utilitarian purpose.

But in spite of its bareness the wardroom is very snug and comfortable. It is particularly inviting on returning from a spell at sea, when one goes below from the wet and chilly upper deck, to find everybody talking at the top of their voices, and pipes, cigarettes, and the stove all going full blast together. If it is after sunset and the ship is "darkened" the scuttles will all have their deadlights down, and the place will be very, what we may call "frowsty." The atmosphere, indeed, what with tobacco smoke and various unnameable but pungent odours from the pantry outside, might well be cut with a knife; but nobody seems to mind. It is warm, at any rate, and is ten thousand times better than the piercing wind and bitter cold on deck.

At sea it is not always pleasant. In heavy weather the stern of the ship has an unwholesome knack of jumping into the air and shaking itself like the tail of a dog. It is disconcerting, to say the least of it, particularly when the water sweeps its way aft along the upper deck in solid masses which no so-called watertight ventilator can keep out.

When the helm goes over suddenly, too, and the ship slaps her stern into the heart of an advancing wave, a miniature Niagara comes pouring down the after-hatch, unless it happens to be shut. It rarely is. As a consequence the mess is sometimes inches deep in water, while the violent motion unships every moveable fitting in the place and flings it to the deck.

At times the dog Cuthbert, in his basket, the gramophone, many broken records, chairs, tumblers, apples and bananas, books, magazines, papers, knives and forks, a tinned tongue, and the cheese play a riotous game of leapfrog on the deck, with the dirty water sluicing after them.

From outside in the pantry come the crashing sounds of our rapidly disintegrating stock of crockery, and, if we dared to poke our noses inside this chamber of horrors, we should see a pale-faced officer's steward seated on a bench with his head held in his hands. A joint of cold beef, a loaf of bread, an empty pickle jar, and cups, saucers, and plates are probably playing touch-last in the sink. The floor is a noisome kedgeree of broken china and glass, sea water, pickles, chutney, condensed milk, and other articles of food. But the steward, poor wight, is past caring. He does not mind whether it is Christmas or Easter.

A good many of the others are sea-sick as well, for a destroyer in really bad weather is worse than a nightmare, while it is practically impossible to keep dry or to get proper food even if one wanted it. But yet there is a rumour going round that, through reasons of economy, we are shortly to be docked of our "hard-lying" money! But a word as to the inhabitants.

First comes the commander or lieutenant-commander in command. His cabin—which in heavy weather sometimes suffers the same fate as the wardroom, except that the litter on the deck is limited to water, clothes, books, and papers—is a good-sized apartment in the flat just forward of the wardroom. At sea he spends all his hours on the bridge or in the charthouse, and is only seen below for odd ten minutes at a time. In harbour, however, he has his meals in the wardroom with the other officers, but spends no small portion of his day at his writing-table in his cabin answering official conundrums as to why, for instance, two tablespoons and a napkin have been "lost overboard by accident in heavy weather" in the middle of a notoriously fine summer. He also grinds out official letters and reports by the sweat of his brow, and is gradually becoming a pastmaster in the art of "having the honour to be" somebody else's "obedient servant."

Living in the wardroom and knowing all the members of the ship's company by name brings him into very intimate touch with the men and their affairs. He knows of everything that goes on on board, and as most of the official correspondence of the ship is done by him he is a very busy man even in harbour. At one time he also had to write and thank those good-hearted people who sent mufflers, mittens, cigarettes, balaclava helmets, and peppermints to the "dear sailors."

Next comes the engineer-lieutenant-commander, or the "chief," as we call him. He, too, has his hands full, for besides being in charge of the turbines, boilers, and all the machinery on board, he is also responsible for practically all the stores except provisions. They range in variety from what his store books call prenolphthaline, solution of; cans, iron, tinned, 4 galls.; bits, brace, carpenter's, centre, 1 1/4 inches; to flags, hand, nainsook, white, with dark blue stripe, 2 ft. by 2 ft.; watches, stop; bolts, steel, screwed, bright, hexagonal-headed, 1 in. by 2 in.; sealing wax, foolscap, paper fasteners, and pencils; and paint, green, Brunswick, middling, whatever that may be. This is just a small selection of the articles he keeps and has to account for at stocktaking, and if you turned out his various storerooms you would find he had sufficient articles to set up a combined ironmongery, ship chandlery, and stationery emporium.

Occasionally he also is bothered with conundrums. For instance, the naval store officer at one of the dockyard ports has a cheerful habit of forwarding a communication to the effect that "brushes, paint, three in number, and broomsticks, bundle of, one, demanded" on such and such a date "are in No. 8 store awaiting removal. Kindly send for them as soon as possible, or if ship has sailed kindly say where these articles should be sent." The ship always has sailed, and by the time the letter is received is usually hundreds of miles away in Scotland, Ireland, or Timbuctoo. Moreover, as the censorship regulations strictly forbid the ship's location to be mentioned, the chief curses.

His dilemma rather reminds us of the young and giddy naval officer who, after a riotous night in London forgot whether he had been appointed to H.M.S. Chatham at Dublin or H.M.S. Dublin at Chatham!

Then we have the first lieutenant, the executive officer of the ship and the skipper's right-hand man. He is the go-between betwixt officers and men, is responsible for the ship's interior economy, cleanliness, and organisation, and has to be pretty shrewd and levelheaded. Energetic as well, for though a destroyer is a small vessel and carries under a hundred men all told, there is always something going on. In addition to his other duties, too, he takes turns in keeping watch at sea with the sub-lieutenant and gunner.

Next the sub-lieutenant. He is the veteran of our little party so far as this war is concerned, for before he came to us he was in a battleship in the Dardanelles. He is now the custodian of the charts, and has to keep them up to date, no easy matter in these strenuous times of Hun minefields. He also runs the ship's football team, which goes ashore and disports itself in green jerseys whenever it gets the opportunity. This, in itself, entails some work and an infinite amount of tact, particularly as fully half the ship's company wish to play.

Next the gunner (T), responsible for the torpedo armament, electrical fittings, and the actual mechanism and mountings of the guns. He is a very busy man, for his torpedoes, like children, always seem to have something the matter with their insides.

Then comes the surgeon probationer. He is not a fully qualified medical man, but a student from one of the large London hospitals temporarily enrolled in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He gives hygiene lectures to the ship's company, attends to their cuts, contusions, and minor ailments, and packs them off to hospital or to the mother ship if necessary. After an action he would be more useful still.

Lastly the "Snotty" of the Royal Naval Reserve, who does odd jobs of all kinds and generally assists the first lieutenant and the sub.

"Cuthbert," our dog, is a Sealyham terrier. He lives either in the wardroom or the skipper's cabin. He has bad dreams sometimes, and makes strange noises in his sleep, but is the only member of our community who is really cheerful in bad weather, and is always ready for his food.

"Bo," or "Hobo," to give him his full name—somebody was reading Jack London's "The Road" when he came aboard as a tiny kitten—is a black-and-white tom-cat of plebeian origin. He is an honorary member of our mess and occasionally pays us visits at meal-times, and after nourishment sometimes condescends to occupy the armchair in front of the stove. He is very friendly with Cuthbert.

The first steward we had was an ex-valet. He suffered from a swollen head and what he was pleased to call a "college education." He may have been an excellent valet, but was no earthly good as the steward of a destroyer, and soon departed. His sins would fill a book. He used our expensive damask table napkins as dish cloths, involving us in endless complications with the Victualling Yard authorities, who objected to their being used for such a purpose. He produced cold ham, biscuits, and pickles for breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. Excellent in their way, no doubt, but rather monotonous in the depths of winter. On one occasion he skinned a pheasant to save himself the trouble of plucking it—we will draw a veil over what happened.

The next caterer we had was an able seaman who re-entered the Navy as a volunteer for the war. He, during his time out of the Service, had been a sort of general factotum to some dark-skinned South American potentate. He is a real treasure—the A. B. I mean, not necessarily the potentate. He feeds us liberally and well, though it is true that he speedily discovered the virtues of tinned salmon. In fact we don't know what he would do without it, and the ubiquitous pig. Sometimes we have tinned salmon fish cakes and bacon for breakfast, tinned salmon kedgeree, cold ham, and pig brawn for lunch, and roast pork as a joint for dinner. By rights we should have grown cloven hooves and salmon scales, but we always have a pleasant feeling of repletion after meals and have no cause for real complaint.

Our amusements are simple. We talk a great deal of "shop" and argue a lot, read a great deal—some of us get through two "seven-pennies" a day—listen to the gramophone, write letters, play with the doctor's Meccano set, and try to persuade Cuthbert to strafe the cat.

Our arguments are of the usual naval variety. Positive assertion, followed by flat contradiction and personal abuse, terminating in a babel in which everybody shouts and no one listens.

Sometimes, before breakfast, we have our early morning "hates," and are fractious and peevish. We long to strafe someone or something, and if, like the soldiers in the trenches, we had the Huns always with us, we might vent our spleen on them. But we can't, worse luck!

But please do not imagine that we are unhappy, because we aren't. Our mouldiness in the mornings is merely temporary. If we could but catch a Hun before breakfast!


The climb had been a stiff one. The day was very hot, and, rather purple about the face and breathing heavily, the sailor relapsed on the springy, scented turf close to the cliff's edge and gazed pensively at the vista of shimmering sea spread out before him.

He was a massive, rotund, bull-necked individual, with a face the colour of a ripe tomato, and wore on the sleeves of his jumper two red good conduct badges and the single gun and star of an able seaman, seaman gunner, of His Majesty's Navy. His name was Smith, I discovered, and he was home on seven days' leave. I had met him halfway up the hill ten minutes before, toiling laboriously to the summit like an asthmatic cart-horse, and with his crimson face shining and beady with perspiration. A mutual glance and a casual remark about the excessive heat had led to conversation.

He now sat on the turf mopping his heated countenance with a mottled blue and white handkerchief; but a few minutes later, having recovered himself sufficiently to smoke, produced a pipe, tobacco box, and matches from the interior of his cap.

"You 'aint got a fill o' 'bacca abart you, I suppose, sir?" he queried, exploring the inner recesses of his brass tobacco box with a horny forefinger.

"I'm afraid it's rather weaker stuff than you're used to," I remarked deprecatingly, handing my pouch across.

"Yus," he agreed, examining its contents and proceeding to fill his pipe. "It do look a bit like 'ay, don't it? 'Owever, seein' as 'ow I carn't git no more I'm werry much obliged, sir, I'm sure."

"It's expensive hay," I said weakly, as he handed my property back and lit his pipe. "It costs well over ten shillings a pound."

The ungrateful old sinner puffed out a cloud of smoke. "'Arf a Bradbury[1]!" he grunted unsympathetically. "You're jokin', sir."

I shook my head.

"But we pays a bob a pound fur 'bacca on board o' the ship," he expostulated. "It's something like 'bacca; grips you by the neck, like."

Evidently the delicate flavour of my best John Cotton did not sufficiently tickle his brazen palate.

For a moment or two there was silence between us as we watched the gulls screaming and wheeling over some object in the water far beneath us.

"Well," I asked, merely to start a conversation, "how d'you like the Navy?"

"Suits me all right, sir," he said, "seein' as 'ow I've bin in it a matter o' fifteen year. But between you an' me, sir," he hastened to add, "it ain't like wot it wus when I fust jined. It's full o' noo-fangled notions an' sichlike."

"What d'you mean?" I asked in some amazement.

"Carn't say no more, sir. Afore we wus sent on leaf we wus all cautioned special not to git talkin' abart the Service wi' civvies."

I suppose I did look rather unlike a member of His Majesty's land forces, for I was wearing plain clothes and had only come out of hospital four days before, after being wounded for the second time on the western front. (I am speaking of the fighting line in France, not anatomically.) I hastened to explain who I was.

"Sorry I spoke, sir," he apologised. "I thought you wus one o' these 'ere la-de-dah blokes out fur an arrin'. Wot did you say your corpse wus?"

"Corpse! What corpse?"

"Corpse, sir. Rig'mint."

"Oh, I see. I'm only a doctor, a Lieutenant in the R.A.M.C. I'm on sick leave, and crawled up here to-day to get some fresh air and to ... er, meet someone I know." I looked at my wrist watch and glanced over my shoulder.

"Young lady, sir?" he queried in a husky, confidential whisper.

I nodded.

"I'm on the same lay meself," he told me, with a throaty sigh and a lovelorn look in his blue eyes. "Expectin' 'er any minit now, seein' as 'ow it's 'er arternoon art. 'Er name's Hamelia, an' I don't come up 'ere to look at the perishin' sea, not 'arf I don't. I gits fair sick o' lookin' at it on board o' the ship."

I was not in the mood for exchanging confidences as to my prospective matrimonial affairs, and my silence must have said as much.

"Beggin' your pardon, sir; but seein' as 'ow you're a doctor, I wonder if you 'appens to know our bloke in the Jackass?"

"Who, your doctor?"

"Yessir. Tall orficer 'e is, close on six foot 'igh, wi' black 'air, wot jined the Navy special fur the war. Name o' Brown."

"I'm afraid I don't know him," I said, puzzling my brains to fit any medical man of my acquaintance to his very loose description.

"'E's a fair corker, sir," my companion grinned.

"In what way?"

"The way 'e gits 'is leg pulled, sir."

I scented a story, and as there was still no flutter of a white skirt down the slope to our right, I desired him to continue.

"Well, sir," he started, "it wus like this 'ere. The Jackass is one o' these 'ere light cruisers, and one mornin' at 'arf parst nine, arter the fust lootenant,—Number One, as we calls 'im,—arter 'e 'ad finished tellin' off the 'ands for their work arter divisions, the doctor 'appened to be standin' close alongside 'im, Number One beckons to the chief buffer..."

"I beg your pardon," I put in, rather mystified. "I'm afraid I don't know very much about the Navy. What's a chief buffer?"

"Chief Bos'un's Mate, wot looks arter the upper deck, sir. Name o' Scroggins. Well, sir, Number One sez to 'im, 'Scroggins,' 'e sez. 'You knows them buoys we was usin' yesterday?'—'Yessir,' I 'ears the chief buffer say. 'You means them wot we 'ad fur that there boat racin' yesterday?'—'Yes,' sez Jimmy the One.[2] 'I wants 'em all bled before seven bells this mornin'.'—'Aye, aye, sir,' sez Scroggins, and goes off to see abart it."

"Bleed the boys!" I murmured in surprise. "Do you mean to tell me they still have these archaic methods in the Navy?"

"Course they does, sir," answered the A. B. "They won't float else."

"What, in case the ship is torpedoed or sunk by a mine?" I asked innocently, very perplexed. "I'm a medical man myself; but I never knew that bleeding people made them more buoyant!"

"If you arsks me these 'ere questions, sir, I carn't spin no yarn," the sailor interrupted with a twinkle in his eye. "Well, sir, the fust lootenant tells the chief buffer to 'ave the buoys bled, but it so 'appens that the doctor 'eard wot 'e said, so up 'e comes.—'Did I 'ear you tellin' the Chief Bos'un's Mate to 'ave the boys bled?' he arsks.—'You did indeed, Sawbones,' Number One tells 'im.—'But surely that's my bizness?' sez the doctor.—'Your bizness!' sez Number One, frownin' like. ''Ow in 'ell d'you make that art?'—''Cos I'm the medical orficer o' this 'ere ship.'—'Ah,' sez Number One, slow like and grinnin' all over 'is face and tappin' 'is nose. 'You means, doc., that I've no right to order the boys to be bled, wot?'—'That's just 'xactly wot I does mean,' sez the doctor, gittin' a bit rattled like."

"I quite agree with him," I put in. "The First Lieutenant had no business at all to order the boys to be bled. Besides, bleeding is hopelessly..."

"Is it me wot's spinnin' this 'ere yarn or is it you, sir?" interrupted the narrator. "'Cos if it's me, I loses the thread o' wot I'm sayin' if you gits arskin' questions."

"I'm sorry," I sighed. "Please go on."

"Well, sir, Number One and the doctor 'as a reg'lar hargument and bargin' match on the quarterdeck, though I see'd Number One wus larfin' to 'isself the 'ole time. The doctor sez to 'im as 'ow they'd best refer the matter to the skipper; but the fust lootenant sez they carn't do that 'cos the skipper's attendin' a court-martial and won't be back till the arternoon. Then the doc. wants to know if Number One'll give 'im an order in writin' to bleed the boys; but Number One larfs and sez 'e won't be such a fool, and sez that in 'is opinion the buoys should be bled. The doctor then sez the boys don't want bleedin', and arsks Number One if 'e's prepared to haccept 'is advice as a medical orficer. The fust lootenant sez of course 'e will, and sez as 'ow 'e'll arrange to 'ave all the buoys mustered in the sick bay at six bells, and that they needn't be bled if the doctor sez they don't want it."

"It wus all I could do to stop meself larfin', 'specially when Number One sings art fur the chief buffer. 'Scroggins,' 'e sez, ''ave all o' them there buoys wot I wus talkin' abart in the sick bay by eleven o'clock punctual.'—Scroggins seems a bit startled. 'In the sick bay, sir?' 'e arsks.—'Yus,' sez Number One, grinnin' to 'isself and winkin' at the chief buffer. 'In the sick bay by six bells sharp.'—'Werry good, sir,' sez Scroggins, tumblin' to wot wus up, 'cos 'e saw the doctor standin' there. I 'eard all o' wot 'appened, and I tells all my pals. The chief buffer does the same, and so does Number One, so at six bells, when the sick bay stooard 'ad bin sent by Jimmy the One to tell the doctor as 'ow the buoys wus ready for bleedin', almost all the orficers and abart 'arf the ship's company 'ad mustered artside the sick bay under the fo'c'sle to see wot 'appened.

"Presently the doctor comes along, sees the crowd, but goes inside without sayin' nothin'. But soon we 'ears 'im lettin' go at the sick bay stooard inside. 'Wot the devil's the meanin' o' this?' 'e wants to know.—'Fust lootenant's orders, sir,' sez the stooard.—'Fust lootenant be damned,' the doctor sings art. 'I'll report 'im to the captain. S'welp me, I will!'—And wi' that 'e comes artside werry rattled and walks aft without sayin' a word to no one. I feels a bit sorry for 'im, sir," the story teller went on, "'cos Number One 'ad bin pullin' 'is leg agen."

"Pulling his leg?" I echoed.

"Yes, sir," said the seaman, bursting with merriment. "'Cos the sick bay, and it weren't none too large, was all but filled up wi' six 'efty great casks, wi' flagstaffs and sinkers complete. They wus the buoys Number One 'ad bin talkin' abart all along."

I could not help laughing.

"I see," I said. "The First Lieutenant meant BUOYS and the doctor the ship's BOYS, what?"

He nodded.

"But tell me," I asked. "What about the bleeding?"

"Bleedin', sir! Why, d'you mean to tell me you don't know wot bleedin' a buoy is?"

"I'm afraid my nautical knowledge is very limited," I apologised.

"It's surprisin' wot some shoregoin' blokes don't know abart th' Navy, sir," said the burly one with some contempt, chuckling away to himself. "But if you reely wants to know, bleedin' a buoy means borin' a small 'ole in 'im to let the water art, 'cos they all leaks a bit arter they've bin in the sea. But I must say good arternoon, sir," he added hurriedly, glancing over his shoulder and rising to his feet. "'Ere's my gal comin', and there's another abart 'arf a cable astern of 'er wot I expec's is yourn. Good arternoon, sir, and don't git stoppin' no more o' them there bullets." He touched his forelock.

"But tell me?" I said. "Did the first lieutenant and doctor make it up all right?"

"Bet your life they did, sir," he said with a laugh, moving off. "Them haffairs wus almost o' daily hoccurrence."

"Good luck to you," I called out after him, "and thank you for a most instructive twenty minutes!"

He looked back over his shoulder; his bright red face broadened into a huge smile, and he deliberately winked twice.

I had to hurry away, for already the sailor nearly had his arm round his housemaid's waist, while my Anne, at least half an hour late, was panting wearily towards where I stood.

"Who is your sailor friend?" was her first question.

"Ananias the Second," I answered, for at the back of my mind I had a vague suspicion that the first lieutenant of the Jackass was not the only member of her ship's company who delighted in pulling people's legs.

[1] A "Bradbury" is one of the new L1 notes. So called from the signature at the bottom.

[2] "Jimmy the One," a lower-deck nickname for the First Lieutenant.


He was a short, thick-set, ruddy-faced, shrewd-eyed little person, who wore on the left sleeve of his blue jumper two good-conduct badges and the single anchor denoting his "Leading" rate, and on his right the crossed flags denoting his calling, together with a star above and below which signified that he was something of an expert at his job. In short, he was a Leading Signalman of His Majesty's Navy. His name I need not mention. To his friends he sometimes answered to "Nutty," but more often to "Buntin'."

It was always a mystery to me why he had not come to wear the crossed anchors and crown of a Yeoman of Signals, for his qualifications certainly seemed to fit him for promotion to petty-officer's rank, while his habits and character in the last ship in which I knew him were all that could be desired.

It was on board a destroyer that I came to know him really well, and here his work was onerous and responsible. He had his mate, a callow youth who was usually sea-sick in bad weather, and at sea they took 4 hours' turn and turn about on the bridge, each keeping 12 hours' watch out of the twenty-four. But the elder man always seemed to be within sight and hearing, even in his watch below; and the moment anything unusual happened, the moment flags started flapping in the breeze, semaphores started to talk, the younger man became rattled and helpless, and things generally started to go wrong, all at the same moment, "Nutty" came clambering up the ladder to the assistance of his bewildered colleague.

"Call yerself a signalman!" he would growl ferociously. "Give us the glass, an' look sharp an' 'oist the answerin' pendant. You ain't fit to be trusted up 'ere!"

It is to be feared that the youthful one sometimes found his life a misery and a burden, for his mentor was a strict disciplinarian and did not hesitate to bully and goad him into a state of proper activity. But the youngster needed it badly.

"Nutty" seemed to be blessed with the eyes of a lynx, the dexterity of a conjurer, and the tentacles of a decapod. He invariably saw a floating mine, a buoy, or a lightship long before the man whose proper work it was to see it, and at sea, with a telescope to his eye, I often saw him apparently taking in two signals from opposite points of the compass at one and the same moment, with the ship rolling heavily and sheets of spray flying over the bridge.

Somewhere at Portsmouth he had a wife and two children, whom he saw, if he was lucky, for perhaps seven days every six months. Of his domestic affairs I knew little; but, judging from his letters, which were frequent and voluminous and had to pass through the hands of the ship's censor, he was devoted to his wife and family. I hope they loved him.

Why he was not a Yeoman of Signals I never discovered. Perhaps he had a lurid past. But conjecture is useless. Promotion now would come too late to be of any use to him.

* * * * *

"Butter, Monkey, Nuts," he rattled off as a light cruiser two miles away suddenly wreathed herself in flags. "Zebra, Charlie, Fanny—Ethel, Donkey, Tommy—Ginger, Percy, Lizzie—— Got that, Bill?"

An Able Seaman, busy with a pencil and a signal pad, signified that he had.

"'Arf a mo', though," resumed the expert, re-levelling his telescope. "I ain't quite certain about that first 'oist. Why on earth they can't 'oist the things clear I dunno!" he grumbled bitterly, for some of the distant flags, as is often the case when the wind is light and uncertain, had coyly wrapped themselves round the halliards and refused to be seen.

Someone on the bridge of the distant cruiser might almost have heard his remark, for as he spoke the halliards began agitatedly to jerk up and down to allow the bunting to flutter clear.

"Ah!" he murmured. "Now we'll get 'em.... Lord!" in a piercing undertone as some misguided humorist in the cruiser's stokehold inconsiderately allowed a puff of black smoke to issue forth from the foremost funnel, completely to obliterate the strings of flags.

The Leading Signalman, not being a thought reader as well as a conjurer, put down his telescope with a grunt until the pall cleared away. "In the first 'oist," he said when the atmosphere had cleared, "in the first 'oist, 'stead o' Fanny put 'Arry.' 'H' for 'Arry."

The A.B. sucked his pencil and acquiesced, while his friend, darting to the after side of the small bridge, hoisted the white and red "Answering Pendant" to show that the signal had been seen and read. He then handed the pad across, on which, in large sprawling capital letters, he had laboriously traced "BMN—ZCF—EDT—GPL."

The "Butter, Monkey, Nuts" business, incomprehensible and startling as it might have been to any outsider, merely emphasised the difference in sound between various letters. B, C, D, E, P, and T; J and K; M and N, among others, are very much alike when pronounced by themselves; but "butter" could not well be mistaken for "Charlie," neither could "monkey" be confounded with "nuts."

The Leading Signalman looked out the meaning of the different groups of letters in the book provided for the purpose and showed the result to his commanding officer. Its purport was comparatively unimportant, something about oil-fuel on arrival in harbour.

* * * * *

But finding out the meaning of those flag signals which he did not know by heart—and he knew most of them—was only a tithe of his duty. He was equally expert at taking in a message spelt out by the whirling arms of a semaphore, arms which waved so rapidly, and whose giddy gyrations were so often well-nigh invisible against a bad background, that his performance savoured of the miraculous. At night, too, he was just as good, for then the frenzied winking of a dim light would convey its meaning just the same. It was a point of honour with him always to get a signal correctly the first time it was made. I never saw him ask for a repetition.

Only twice did I know him to laugh on the bridge, and the first time that occurred was when, through a series of circumstances which need not be entered into here, we nearly came into contact with the next ahead. Such things do happen.

Then it was that the next ahead—he was several years senior to us and a humorist—turned in his wrath and quoted the Bible. "Your attention," his semaphore said, "is drawn to the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 16, verse 23."

We sent for the Bible, looked up the reference, and read: "But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."

The quotation was apt and the Leading Signalman's eyes twinkled. Then I noticed his mouth expanding into a grin, and presently he laughed, a short, explosive sort of laugh rather like the bark of a dog.

But we had our revenge a week later, when our next ahead—he was our friend as well as our senior—nearly collided with a buoy at the entrance to a certain harbour.

"What about the Book of Proverbs?" our semaphore asked. "Chapter 22, verse 28."

"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set," he must have read. I cannot remember the reply, but the Leading Signalman had laughed once more.

* * * * *

But "Bunting" will never smile again. He went down with his ship on May 31, 1916. The North Sea is his grave and the curling whitecap his tombstone. His epitaph may be written across the sky in a trail of smoke from some passing steamer.


The glass had gone down with a thump during the afternoon, and all through the night the destroyer had been steaming home against a rapidly rising gale.

Of how she came to be alone and parted from her flotilla the less said the better. It was due to a variety of circumstances, among them being a blinding rain squall after dark the evening before, in which the officer of the watch was unable to see more than twenty yards, and some temporary trouble with an air pump which necessitated stopping to put it right.

The sea, as is usual with the wind from the south-west, had risen fast, and by midnight it was heavy and steep, while the little ship, punching against it, had pitched, rolled, thumped and thudded as only a destroyer can. The motion was dizzy and maddening—a combined pitch and heavy roll which was the very acme of discomfort. Sometimes the bows fell into the heart of an advancing, white-topped hillock of grey water with a sickening downward plunge, and the breaking sea came surging and crashing over the forecastle to dash itself against the chart-house and bridge with a shock which made the whole ship quiver and tremble. Then, with

[Transcriber's note: pages 41 and 42 missing from source book.]

edged volumes with unerring accuracy on to his long-suffering head.

The only person who really did not mind the motion at all was the wireless operator in his little cubby-bole abaft the chart-house. He, with a pair of telephone receivers clipped on over his ears ready to catch stray snatches of conversation from invisible ships and distant shore stations, sat enthroned in a chair bolted to the deck. His den was hermetically sealed to keep out the water. The smell and the heat were indescribable; but he was reading a week-old periodical with every symptom of enjoyment and calmly smoked a foul and very wheezy pipe filled with the strongest and most evil-smelling ship's tobacco. But "Buzzer," as he was known to his friends, had the constitution of an ox and an interior like the exterior of an armadillo. He could stand anything.

* * * * *

An oil-skinned apparition, dripping with wet, appeared at the chart-house door. "The orficer of the watch says it's daylight, sir," it reported. "There's nothin' in sight, but 'e thinks as 'ow the sea's goin' down a bit."

The skipper, who had actually been asleep for forty consecutive minutes, sat up with a grunt, rubbed his eyes, and yawned. Then, in the dull grey light of the dawn, he surveyed the unsavoury mixture on the floor with his nose wrinkled and an expression of intense disgust on his face. But the sight of the broken cup reminded him of something, and reaching his hand underneath the cushion he extracted a vacuum flask, applied it to his lips, and swallowed what remained of the cocoa inside it. He was hungry, poor wight, for his dinner the night before had consisted of two corned-beef sandwiches and a biscuit. Next, with a little sigh of satisfaction, he produced a pipe, tobacco, and matches from an inner pocket and lit up, examined the chart with the ship's track marked upon it, and glanced at the aneroid on the bulkhead and noticed it was rising slowly.

Two minutes later, with his pipe bowl carefully inverted, he clambered up the iron ladder to the bridge.

"Hail, smiling morn!" he remarked sarcastically, ducking his head as a sheet of spray came driving over the forecastle and across the bridge. "Well, 'Sub,' how goes it?"

"Pretty rotten, sir," answered the sub-lieutenant, whose watch it was. "The wind shows no signs of going down, but I think the sea's a little less than it was. We're not bumping quite so badly as we were."

* * * * *

The motion certainly was less violent, and after looking for a moment at the angry sea and the grey, cloud-wrapped sky streaked with its wisps of flying white scud, the skipper nodded slowly. "You're right," he said. "It has gone down a bit. We're beginning to feel the lee of the land. Work her up gradually to twelve knots and see how she takes it."

The "Sub" did so, and though the increase in speed brought heavier spray and more of it, the movement of the ship no longer synchronised with the period of the waves, and she became steadier.

Before long the sea had gone down even more and the speed was increased to twenty knots. Then, on the grey horizon ahead, appeared the smoke of many steamers, and a quarter of an hour later the destroyer was threading her way through a sea-lane so densely populated with shipping that it reminded one of dodging the traffic in Piccadilly.

The next thing which hove in sight was a red-painted lightship, and half an hour later the destroyer, her funnels white with dried salt, was steaming into the harbour where the remainder of the flotilla were lying. They, having escaped the really bad weather, had arrived the evening before, and one of them made a facetious signal to this effect as the destroyer secured to the tank steamer to replenish her supply of oil-fuel.

The lost sheep had returned to its fold.


Denis was a pig, a very special sort of pig, a pig of German origin, and perhaps the only animal of his species in whose favour a special dispensation was made by the Board of Agriculture. He originally belonged to the German light cruiser Dresden, and, after the destruction of that vessel at Juan Fernandez by the Kent, Glasgow, and Orama, was seen swimming about in the water close to the Glasgow. A blue-jacket promptly jumped overboard and rescued him from a watery grave, and Denis, instead of being converted into pork or sausages, became a prisoner of war and a pet. He did not seem the least dismayed by his change of nationality, and, being an adaptable creature of robust constitution, throve on a miscellaneous and indiscriminate diet of ships' provisions, eked out by tobacco, cigarette ends, and coal. Moreover, within a month, so history relates, he was quite accustomed to sleeping in a hammock, where he snored exactly like a human being.

But the regulations as to the importation of animals into Great Britain are necessarily stringent, and on the Glasgow's arrival in home waters there were complications as to the disposal of Denis. He could not be landed in the ordinary way, but eventually, after some correspondence, the Board of Agriculture solved the momentous question by giving special permission for him to be put ashore at Whale Island, the naval gunnery school in Portsmouth harbour. There, so far as I know, he still remains as a naturalised Briton.

But a pig is by no means the strangest animal which has made its home on board a man-of-war. In a small gunboat in China some years ago the ship's company acquired a so-called tame alligator. Algernon, as they christened him, came on board as a youngster a few weeks old and about four feet long, and soon developed a habit of appearing when the decks were being scrubbed in the mornings, when he revelled in having the hose played upon him and in having his scaly back well scrubbed with a hard broom. He devoured a tame rabbit and two cats, but the crux came when he taught himself a trick of waiting until some unsuspecting person had his back turned, of making a sudden rush at his victim and capsizing him with a well-placed whisk of his horny tail, and then running in with a good-humoured smile and a ferocious snapping and gnashing of his yellow teeth. It was all very funny, but so many innocent persons were wrought almost to the verge of nervous prostration by Algernon's ideas of sport, that at last the fiat went forth that he must die. He was shot at dawn, and, less lucky than Denis, reached England in a stuffed and rather moth-eaten condition.

Goats are comparatively common as pets in the Navy, but the goat of all the goats was a white creature rejoicing in the unromantic name of William who lived on board a cruiser. His staple articles of food seemed to consist of tobacco, cigarettes, stray rope-yarns, bristles of brooms, and odds and ends of old canvas, while he was not averse to licking the galvanised compound off the newly painted quarter-deck stanchions whenever an opportunity of doing so presented itself. He was a healthy goat of voracious appetite. His gastric juices would have dissolved a marline-spike, and he even made short work of the greater portion of a pair of ammunition boots belonging to the Sergeant-Major of Royal Marines, and devoured with every symptom of relish a sheaf of official and highly important documents lying on the writing-table in the navigator's cabin.

William, in spite of his varied diet, always looked well-nourished and in the rudest of health, and on Sundays was wont to appear at divisions with his hair and beard parted in the middle, wearing an elaborate brass collar, and with gilded horns and hooves. He had charming manners, and even condescended to drink an occasional glass of sherry in the wardroom on guest nights. Of his ultimate fate I have no knowledge, but, with the very miscellaneous contents of his interior, he would have provided a most interesting subject for a post-mortem examination.

Several ships have had bears as pets, but one in particular, which was the mascot of a cruiser on the Mediterranean station, was a bear with a pronounced sense of humour. On one occasion it so happened that the vessel to which he belonged was lying alongside the mole at Gibraltar, while another cruiser, fresh from England, was made fast just astern of her. It was Sunday afternoon, and all hands and the cook, except those on duty, followed the usual custom of the Service by selecting sunny spots on deck and then composing themselves to peaceful slumber. At about 2.30 p.m. Master Bruin, freeing himself from his chain, landed, ambled along the jetty, and approached the newly arrived vessel on a tour of investigation. The sentry, not liking the look of the animal, found something important to do at the other end of his beat, while the bear proceeding on board unmolested, frightened nearly out of his wits a burly petty officer doing duty as quartermaster, and then followed up his moral victory by chasing him round and round the upper deck. The petty officer, a well covered man, nearly dropped from heat and exhaustion, but just managed to barricade himself in the galley before being overtaken and fondly hugged. The sleepers, meanwhile, hearing unusual sounds of revelry, woke up to see a wild-looking animal seeking another victim, and thinking that Bostock's menagerie had broken loose, rose from their couches and stampeded for the mess-deck.

The bear then waddled aft in search of further recreation, and seeing the curtained doorway of one of the upper deck cabins, promptly elbowed his way in. Inside was an officer fast asleep on the bunk, who, hearing the sound of heavy breathing, opened his eyes to see the shaggy bulk of his huge visitor interposed between him and the doorway. For a moment he was non-plussed, and, keeping quite still, endeavoured to mesmerise the animal by looking him full in the eyes. But the ferocious look on the bear's face, a pair of fierce twinkling eyes, an open mouth with its rows of sharp teeth, and a long red tongue dripping with saliva, warned him that mere mesmerism would be useless if he were to avoid a tussle. There was only one other exit besides the door, so without further ado he sprang for ... the open scuttle. He wormed his way successfully through the small orifice with some loss of dignity and greatly to the detriment of his Sunday trousers, flopped gracefully into the water with a splash, and, swimming to the gangway, clambered back on board again. Then, rushing to his cabin, he slammed the door and imprisoned his unwelcome visitor inside.

Next, seeking out the sentry, he desired him to eject the intruder. But the marine, a wise man, firmly but politely intimated that he had joined his corps to fight the King's enemies, not bears of unknown origin and ferocious aspect, and added that the only conditions on which he would undertake the job was with the assistance of his rifle, a fixed bayonet, and some ball ammunition. The bear, meanwhile, locked in the cabin, was thoroughly enjoying himself in clawing and tearing to ribbons everything within reach, and by the time his breathless keeper from the other ship arrived upon the scene to conduct his charge home in disgrace, the cabin was in a state of utter desolation. A bull in a china shop is nothing to an unwieldy brute of a bear in a small apartment measuring ten feet by eight. All's well that ends well, but the officer's best trousers were completely ruined, and he himself never heard the end of his Sabbath afternoon adventure. The bear received six strokes with a cane for his share in the proceedings.

The last escapade of his that I heard of was when he hugged and removed most of the clothes from a low class Spanish workman from the dockyard at Gibraltar. The man had baited him, eventually releasing the terrified, half-naked wretch, and chasing him at full speed for nearly half a mile. A crowd of excited, laughing blue-jackets went in pursuit of the bear, but the faster they ran, the faster went the animal and his quarry. Bruin enjoyed it hugely. Not so the Spanish workman.

Dogs and cats are as common in the Navy as they are elsewhere, and it is surprising how soon they become accustomed to naval routine. The cats never go ashore unless their ship happens to be lying alongside a dockyard wall, when they usually desert en bloc and attach themselves to some other ship, a fresh detachment coming on board in their stead. The dogs are more faithful, and their wisdom becomes positively uncanny, for always at the routine times for boats going ashore they will be found waiting ready at the top of the gangway.

"Ginger" was an Irish terrier of plebeian origin belonging to a battleship. He invariably landed in the postman's boat at 6.45 a.m., and once ashore went off on his own business. Nobody ever took the trouble to discover what he did, but punctually at eight o'clock he used to reappear at the landing place and return to the ship in the boat which took off the married officers. On one occasion, however, he was badly sold, for though the postman landed at the usual time, the ship sailed at 7.30 to carry out target practice. Half an hour later, therefore, there was no boat for Ginger, and his ship was a mere speck on the horizon; but nothing daunted, the wise hound proceeded to the Sailors' Home and spent the day there. He was discovered the same afternoon when the ship returned into harbour, and his admirers always averred that his temporary absence was the result of a carefully thought out plan to avoid the sounds of gunfire, which he detested.

There must be many officers and men in the Navy who remember "North Corner Bob," another red-haired Irish terrier, who used to frequent the landing place at North Corner in Portsmouth dockyard. He was not a large dog, as terriers go, but was a ferocious creature of wild and bedraggled appearance, who seemed to regard North Corner as his own especial domain. He fought every other animal who dared to venture near the place, and many a naval dog bore the marks of Bob's teeth to his dying day.

He even boarded strange ships lying alongside and carried on his campaign of frightfulness there. In fact he terrorised all the dogs in Portsmouth dockyard, including two spaniels belonging to the Admiral Superintendent. But an officer in a certain ship whose wire-haired terrier Cuthbert had been badly beaten by Bob some days before, conceived a brilliant idea for having his revenge. Early one morning, at Bob's usual time for passing by the ship on his way to North Corner, Cuthbert, wearing a brand new muzzle, was taking his morning constitutional on deck. Bob, punctual to the minute, came trotting by in his usual don't-care-a-damn-for-anyone manner, but the sight of Cuthbert putting on an equal amount of side on board his own ship was too much for him, and rushing up the brow connecting the ship with the shore he came on board licking his lips in joyful anticipation and the lust of battle shining in his eye.

Cuthbert, a naturally good-natured dog, hurried forward to meet him, but Bob, spurning his friendly advances, circled round on tip-toe, with his teeth bared and hair bristling. Cuthbert, seeing that a fight was inevitable, adopted similar tactics, and for some moments the two animals padded softly round and round nosing each other and preparing to spring in to the attack. Then, quite suddenly and for no apparent reason, there came a shrill yelp of pain from Bob, and before anyone realised what had happened his tail went down, he rushed madly over the gangway, and shot along the jetty like a flash of greased lightning.

"What the devil's the matter with him?" queried the officer of the watch, staring in amazement after the rapidly disappearing figure of the well-known fighter.

"Matter!" spluttered Cuthbert's owner, weak with laughter. "Lord! I've never seen anything like it! Did you see the way he skipped?"

"Did I not!" answered the O.O.W., laughing himself. "But what on earth made him streak off like that?"

"Come here, Cuthbert," said his master.

The dog came forward, wagging his tail, and had his muzzle removed.

"D'you see that?" asked his owner, pointing to the end of it. 'That' was a long and very sharp-pointed pin firmly soldered to the business end of Cuthbert's headgear.

North Corner Bob never visited that particular ship again.


She was a member of that gallant and distinguished corps after which this article is named. You will not find her regiment mentioned in any British Army List, nor, so far as I am aware, and for all the foreign sound of it, in the Army List of His Imperial Majesty the Czar of All the Russias. The name does not appear in any Army List at all, for the Hussars to which she belonged are a sea regiment, pure and simple.

Her uniform of dull grey, with no facings or trimmings of any sort or description, was strictly in keeping with her surroundings, for her favourite habitat was anywhere in the wild waste of waters lying between Greenland, the North Cape, the Naze, and the Orkneys.

Some people with a libellous sense of humour referred to her as a member of "Harry Tate's Own," while others, most unkindly, said she belonged to the "Ragtime Navy." But she did not seem to mind. She knew in her heart of hearts that her work was of paramount importance, and, complacent in the knowledge, smiled sweetly as a well-conducted lady should when jibes and insults are hurled at her long-suffering head.

She had a great deal to put up with in one way and another. Thanks to her enormous fuel capacity she spent a long time at sea and had very brief spells in harbour. Her work, though important, was always dull and monotonous, while in bad weather it was even worse. She had no prospect of sharing in the excitement of a big sea battle like her more warlike sisters, though, with them, she ran the chance of encountering hostile submarines and of having an altercation with an armed raider. But, taking it all round, she had comparatively little to hope for in the way of honour and glory; she merely had to be at sea for many weeks at a time to prevent money-grabbing neutrals from reaping a rich harvest by supplying munitions of war and articles of contraband to an impoverished Hun who could not be trusted to put those commodities to any gentlemanly purpose.

Muckle Flugga, I believe, is a remote headland in the Shetlands, and she, a member of the corps called after it, flew the White Ensign of the British Navy and was an armed merchant cruiser.

* * * * *

Before the war she was a crack passenger liner. On her upper deck, and expressly designed for the use of potentates and plutocrats, she had regular suites of apartments. Gorgeous suites they were, furnished like the rooms in a mansion ashore. The sleeping cabins had white enamelled panels and comfortable brass bedsteads. The day cabins or sitting-rooms, panelled in bird's-eye maple, oak, walnut, or mahogany, had large square windows, regular fireplaces, and were fresh with flowered chintzes, while the tiled bathrooms were fitted with all the different appliances for hot baths, tepid baths, cold baths, needle baths, shower baths, and douches. One simply turned a handle and the water came. A telephone in each sitting-room communicated with a central exchange somewhere deep down in the bowels of the ship, and one could summon a barber to trim one's hair, a manicure expert to attend to one's hands, a tobacconist with samples of cigars, cigarettes, and tobacco, or the presiding genius of a haberdashery establishment with quite the latest things in shirts, collars, socks, and neckties. In fact, living in one of the expensive suites was exactly like being in a large and luxurious hotel, except that it was vastly more comfortable.

Lower down in the ship were the single, double, and treble-berthed cabins for the first and second-class passengers. They, though small, were very comfortable, and were fitted with telephones through which one could summon a stewardess with a basin or a steward with a whisky and soda. Down below, too, were the saloons, huge apartments with carved panels, ornamental pillars, glass-pictured domes, coloured frescoes, and dozens of small tables. There was also the Louis XIV. restaurant, if one preferred a simple beefsteak to the more formal dinner, and smoking-rooms, reading-rooms, libraries, drawing-rooms, writing-rooms, not to mention the swimming bath and the children's nursery.

We can imagine the great liner, spick and span in her spotless paint and gleaming brasswork, steaming through a placid summer sea. Her long promenade decks would be plastered with deck-chairs filled with recumbent passengers, some dozing, others smoking and talking. Some energetic enthusiast would be passing from group to group to collect sufficient people to play deck cricket, quoits, or bull-board, while yet another, armed with a notebook and a pencil, would be endeavouring to inveigle recalcitrant ladies with strict notions as to the sins of gambling into taking tickets for a sweepstake on the next day's mileage.

One would hear the laughter of children as they chased each other round the decks, and the sotto-voce remarks of some old gentleman roused from his afternoon nap by the sudden impact of a podgy infant of four tripping heavily over his outstretched feet.

After dark in some secluded corner one might happen upon a man and a girl. They would be sitting very close together, and behaving... well, as men and maidens sometimes do, to beguile the tedium of voyages at sea.

Everything would be calm and peaceful. Everybody would be happy, even the young gentleman with no prospects travelling second class, who having won the sweepstake on the day's run and suddenly finding himself L20 the richer, celebrated his luck with his friends in the smoking-room.

* * * * *

But then the war came and changed everything.

The Admiralty requisitioned the ship and armed her with guns. They painted her a dull grey all over, and tore down all her polished woodwork to lessen the chances of fire in action, leaving nothing but the bare steel walls. Most of the cabins were stripped of their furniture and fittings, only enough being left intact to provide accommodation for the officers.

The carved woodwork and most of the tables and chairs in the saloons were taken away, and though the painted frescoes and glass domes still remained, they were dusty and neglected.

In one corner of the first-class saloon was the wardroom, a space partitioned off by painted canvas screens to provide messing accommodation for the more senior officers. Opposite to it was the gunroom, a similar enclosure for the juniors.

They manned her with a crew of between three and four hundred Royal Navy Reserve men, with a leavening of Royal Navy ratings and a few Marines. They appointed a Captain R.N. in command and two or three other naval officers, but by far the greater proportion of officers and crew belonged to the Reserve, and excellent fellows they were.

Certain of the men had served on beard in peace-time, and had elected to remain on, but the majority came to her for the first time when she commissioned as a man-of-war. Some were Scots fishermen, men from trawlers and drifters, excellent, hardy creatures used to small craft, bad weather, and boat work. Others, having served their time in the Navy, had taken to some shore employment, and in August 1914 had been recalled to their old Service.

Nearly every imaginable trade was represented. In one of the first-class cabins was the barber's shop, presided over by a man who in pre-war days had worked in a hair-cutting establishment not far from Victoria Station. Next door lived another man who had been a bootmaker, and he, bringing all the appurtenances of his trade to sea with him, carried on a roaring business as a "snob." There was also a haberdashery emporium kept by a seaman who had been employed in some linen-draper's shop in his native town, while a professional tailor in blue-jacket's uniform spent all his spare time in making and repairing the garments of his shipmates. Even the ship's electric laundry was manned by folk who were well acquainted with starching and ironing.

Most of the cooks and stewards had left, but sufficient remained to provide for the needs of the officers and men. The catering was still run by the company to which the vessel belonged, and, as she had roomy kitchens and all manner of labour-saving devices in the way of electric dish-washers and potato-peelers, the messing was even better than that on board a battleship.

Gone were the troops of laughing children and the passengers. A pile of wicked-looking shell and boxes of cartridges for the guns lay ready to hand in the nursery, while the promenade decks resounded to the tramp of men being initiated into the mysteries of the squad and rifle drill and the work at their guns.

* * * * *

They have been at it for two years; two years of strenuous naval routine and discipline which have transformed the passenger liner into no mean man-of-war.


"It is not possible to prevent the occasional appearance of enemy submarines within the range of our shores, but I can give an assurance that the measures which have been and will be taken are such as to render proceedings of this sort increasingly dangerous to the submarines."—DR. MACNAMARA, Financial Secretary to the Admiralty.

They looked an orderly little squadron of six as they steamed jauntily out towards the open sea in single line ahead through the grey-green, tide-ripped waters of the most thickly populated river estuary in the world.

They were prosaic, snub-nosed-looking little craft, short and squat, with high, upstanding bows, prominent wheelhouses, and stumpy mizzen-masts abaft all. They hailed from many ports and still bore the letters and numbers of their peace-time vocation: F.D. for Fleetwood, G.Y. for Grimsby, B.F. for Banff, and P.D. for Peterhead. They were steam herring drifters in the ordinary, common, or garden, piping times of peace; little vessels which went to sea for days on end to pitch, wallow, and roll at the end of a mile or a mile and a half of buoyed drift-net, in the meshes of which unwary herring, in endeavouring to force a way through, presently found themselves caught by the gills.

But now, each one of them flew the tattered, smoke-stained apology for a once White Ensign, and they were men-of-war, very much men-of-war. They had been at the game for nearly twenty-four months, and, through long practice, they elbowed their way in and out of the traffic with all the fussy, devil-may-care assertiveness of His Majesty's destroyers.

Their admiral, a Royal Naval Reserve lieutenant, who, in peaceful 1914, was still the immaculate third officer of a crack Western Ocean passenger liner, looked out of his wheelhouse windows and surveyed the potbellied, lumbering cargo carriers steaming by with all the kindly tolerance of the regular man-of-war's man. He, though he did not look it, for they had been coaling an hour before and he was still grimy about the face, was the only commissioned officer in the squadron, fleet, flotilla, or whatever you like to call it. All the other craft were commanded by skippers, ex-peacetime-captains of the fishing craft, who were used to the sea and its vicissitudes, and knew the ins and cuts of their vessels far better than they could tell you. The men, for the greater part, were also fishermen enrolled in the Reserve, with here and there an ex-naval rating in the shape of a seaman gunner or signalman.

They may have lacked polish. They knew little about springing smartly to attention and nothing whatsoever about the interior economy of a 6-inch gun. Their attire was sketchy, to say the least of it. Even the admiral wore grey flannel trousers, a once white sweater, and coloured muffler, and it is to be feared that an officer from a battleship might have referred to them collectively as a "something lot of pirates." Pirates they may have been, but at the best of times a strict adherence to the uniform regulations is not a fetish of those serving on board the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol. They are, it is perfectly true, granted a sum of money by a paternal Government wherewith to purchase their kit, but brass buttons and best serge suits do not blend with life on board a herring drifter at sea in all weathers. Sea-boots, oilskins, jerseys, and any old thing in the way of trousers and headgear are far more fashionable. Indeed, one may occasionally happen upon a skipper wearing an ancient bowler hat when well out in the North Sea and away from the haunts of senior officers who might possibly take exception to his battered tile.

But they all took their job seriously, though, like most sailor folk, light-heartedly. They were inured to the sea and its hardships; many of them were part owners of their own craft, even the man in the red Salvation Army jersey tittivating the six-pounder gun in the last little ship of the line.

Exactly how they "strafed" the immoral and ubiquitous Hun submarine it is inexpedient to say. They had their little guns, of course, but were full of other 'gilguys' evolved for the same laudable purpose during a period of nearly two years of war. Moreover, the men were experts in their use, and that their 'gadgets' often worked to the detriment of Fritz may be deduced from that gentleman's extreme unwillingness to be seen in their vicinity, and a casual inspection of the records of the Auxiliary Patrol probably locked up somewhere in Whitehall. Some day these records may be made public, and then we shall read of happenings which will cause us to hold our breath, and our hair to bristle like a nail-brush. Who has not heard the story of the unarmed fishing boat which attacked a hostile periscope with nothing more formidable than a coal hammer, or the ex-fisherman who attempted to cloud Fritz's vision with a tar brush?

Striving to encompass the destruction of the wily submarine is by no means a one-sided game. Our small craft generally manage to have a credit balance on their side, but Fritz is no fool, and is not the sort of person to go nosing round an obvious trap, or to walk blindfold into a snare. Sometimes he mounts larger and heavier guns than his antagonists, and may come to the surface out of range of their weapons and bombard them at his leisure. In such cases the hunters may become the hunted, and may perchance be 'strafed' themselves. Then there are always mines, contact with one of which may pulverise an ordinary wooden drifter into mere matchwood.

The work is fraught with risk. It is every bit as dangerous as that of the mine-sweepers, and casualties, both in men and in ships, are simply bound to occur. But little is made of them. A few more names will appear in the Roll of Honour, and in some obscure newspaper paragraph we may read that "on Thursday last the armed patrol vessel ——— was blown up by a mine" or was "sunk by gunfire from a hostile submarine," and that "— members of her crew escaped in their small boat and landed at ———." That is all; no details whatsoever, nothing but the bare statement.

But the game still goes on.

The men who cheerfully undergo these risks in their anxiety to serve their country, were not professional fighters before the war: they are now; but in the palmy days of peace they were fishermen, seamen through and through, who, year in and year out, fair weather or foul, were at sea in their little craft, reaping the ocean's harvest. Their life was ever a hard and a dangerous one, and the hazards and chances of war have made it doubly so.

They have none of the excitement of a fight in the open. Much of their work in protecting the coastwise traffic is deadly in its monotony, and, as we have become used to it, has come to be looked upon as a matter of course.

Their gallant deeds are rarely the subjects of laudatory paragraphs in the newspapers, and the great majority go unrewarded. Even if we do happen to meet a man wearing a little strip of blue and white ribbon on his coat or jumper and ask him why he was decorated, he merely laughs, wags his head, and says —— nothing.

It is very unsatisfactory of him.


H.M.S. ———— c/o G.P.O., LONDON. June 30th, 1916.


You ask me for a more elaborate account of a certain little affair which took place some time ago. It was merely an episode of a few light cruisers, anything up to a score of destroyers, and some seaplanes; quite a minor and a comparatively unimportant little business which elicited a brief announcement from the Secretary of the Admiralty, and must have proved rather a Godsend to those newspapers whose readers were anxious for naval news in any shape or form.

They made a certain amount of fuss about it, and the naval correspondents were soon hard at work elaborating the simple statement according to their usual habit. Indeed, the nautical expert of Earth and Sea, with the very best intentions in the world, even went so far as to devote the greater part of a column to the business. It is to be hoped that his readers were duly edified; but we, who had taken part in the affair, were merely rather amused.

And so, for perhaps a week, and before being banished to the limbo of forgotten and unconsidered trifles, the business was a subject for intermittent conversation and a certain amount of conjecture. Then it was forgotten, and it is doubtful if it will ever be resurrected in any naval history of the war.

We had quite a good passage across the North Sea, and at dawn on the day of the operation we arrived in the vicinity of the Danish coast not far from the German frontier. The weather was good for the time of year. Bitterly cold, of course, besides which there were frequent low-lying snow flurries which came sweeping down across the sea and made it barely possible to see more than a quarter of a mile; while our decks, except where the heat of the engine and boiler rooms melted the snow as it fell, were soon covered. But in between the squalls the sky was blue, the sea was flat calm, and there was hardly any wind. Moreover, there was not a sign or a vestige of a Hun anywhere, not even a Zeppelin; nothing in sight except a few Danish fishing craft.

The seaplanes were soon hoisted out and started off on their job. They all seemed to get away without the slightest hitch, and it was a fine sight watching them taxi-ing along the calm water to get up speed, and then rising in the air one by one to disappear in the faint haze towards the horizon. What they were to do, exactly, I cannot say, but within ten minutes they had all disappeared and the squadron steamed to and fro waiting for their return. They were expected back in about an hour.

The full hour passed, and nothing happened. Another quarter of an hour; but still no signs of the 'planes. On board the ships people began to get rather anxious, thinking that they had been brought down by the Huns, and everybody with glasses was looking to the south-eastward for signs of them. But at last, when they had almost been given up, the first one suddenly reappeared in the midst of a snow squall. He was hoisted in, and within the next ten minutes the whole covey, except two, had returned.

How their business had gone off was never divulged. A story did get about afterwards,—I saw it mentioned in some of the newspapers,—to the effect that one of them had arrived within two hundred feet immediately over the object he wanted to drop his bombs on, and then found he could not let them go because the releasing gear was clogged up with frozen snow. Whether or not the yarn is true it is impossible to say, but imagine the fellow's feelings when, after planing down to two hundred feet with all the anti-aircraft guns in the place going full blast, he found he could not drop a single egg! Poor devil!

The seaplanes that did return were soon hoisted in, but in the meanwhile eight destroyers and a couple of other craft had been sent on to steam down the coast in line abreast to see if by any chance the two missing ones had come down on the water. We were with this lot, and after an hour's steaming at 20 knots, by which time the island of Sylt was plainly visible about nine or ten miles dead ahead and no trace of the lost sheep had been seen, the search had to be abandoned.

It was then that the three destroyers to seaward sighted two steam trawlers some way off to the south-westward. They were flying no colours so far as we could see, but seemed to be in single line ahead, and as they were going straight for Sylt it was pretty obvious that they were mine-sweepers or patrol boats, and not mere fishermen.

The three outer destroyers,—we happened to be one of them,—promptly altered course to cut them off from the coast, and before very long we were buzzing along at something like 30 knots with an enormous mountain of water piled up in our wake, the water being rather shallow.

The trawlers, poor chaps, hadn't a dog's chance of getting away or of doing anything; but I must say we all admired them for their pluck. They had got into line abreast, and soon, when we were within about 5,000 yards, our leading craft hoisted some signal. We had no time to look it up in the book, but took it to be a signal asking if they would surrender. But not a bit of it. They were patrol boats, and each of them had a small gun, and presently there came a flash and a little cloud of brown smoke from the nearer one of the two. The shell fell some distance short.

We had all held our fire up till then, for it was mere baby killing and we did not want to do the dirty on them if it could be avoided, but as they started the game of firing on us, we had no alternative but to reply. The sea round about the nearer craft was soon spouting with shell splashes, and between the fountains of spray and clouds of dense smoke in which she tried to hide herself, we could see the red flashes of some of our shell as they hit and burst, and the spurt of flame from her own little gun as she fired at us. Only three or four of her projectiles came anywhere near, while the havoc on board her must have been indescribable. It was a hateful business to have to fire at her at all, but what else could we do as she would not surrender?

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