The Boy Allies With the Victorious Fleets
OR The Fall of the German Navy
By ENSIGN ROBERT L. DRAKE
"The Boy Allies With the Navy Series"
The Boy Allies
(Registered in the United States Patent Office)
With the Navy Series
* * * * *
By Ensign ROBERT L. DRAKE
* * * * *
The Boy Allies on the North Sea Patrol or, Striking the First Blow at the German Fleet
The Boy Allies Under Two Flags or, Sweeping the Enemy from the Sea.
The Boy Allies with the Flying Squadron or, The Naval Raiders of the Great War.
The Boy Allies with the Terror of the Seas or, The Last Shot of the Submarine D-16.
The Boy Allies in the Baltic or, Through Fields of Ice to Aid the Czar.
The Boy Allies at Jutland or, The Greatest Naval Battle in History.
The Boys Allies Under the Sea or, The Vanishing Submarine.
The Boy Allies with Uncle Sam's Cruisers or, Convoying the American Army Across the Atlantic.
The Boy Allies with the Submarine D-32 or, The Fall of the Russian Empire.
The Boy Allies with the Victorious Fleet or, The Fall of the German Navy.
By A.L. BURT COMPANY
* * * * *
THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE VICTORIOUS FLEET
ABOARD U.S.S. PLYMOUTH
"Sail at 4 a.m.," said Captain Jack Templeton of the U.S.S. Plymouth, laying down the long manila envelope marked "Secret." "Acknowledge by signal," he directed the ship's messenger, and then looked inquiringly about the wardroom table.
"Aye, aye, sir," said the first officer, Lieutenant Frank Chadwick.
"Ready at four, sir," said the engineer officer, Thomas; and left his dinner for a short trip to the engine room to push some belated repairs.
"Send a patrol ashore to round up the liberty party," continued Captain Templeton, this time addressing the junior watch officer. "Tell them to be aboard at midnight instead of eight in the morning."
"Aye, aye, sir," said the junior watch officer, and departed in haste.
There was none of the bustle and confusion aboard the U.S.S. Plymouth, at that moment lying idle in a British port, that the landsman would commonly associate with sailing orders to a great destroyer. Blowers began to hum in the fire rooms. The torpedo gunner's mates slipped detonators in the warheads and looked to the rack load of depth charges. The steward made a last trip across to the depot ship. Otherwise, things ran on very much as before.
At midnight the junior watch officer called the captain, who had turned in several hours earlier, and reported:
"Liberty party all on board, sir."
Then he turned in for a few hours' rest himself.
The junior watch was astir again at three o'clock. He routed out a sleepy crew to hoist boats and secure for sea. Seven bells struck on the Plymouth.
Captain Templeton appeared on the bridge. Lieutenant Chadwick was at his side, as were Lieutenants Shinnick and Craib, second and third officers respectively. Captain Templeton gave a command. The cable was slipped from the mooring buoy. Ports were darkened and the Plymouth slipped out. A bit inside the protection of the submarine nets, but just outside the channel, she lay to, breasting the flood tide. There she lay for almost an hour.
"Coffee for the men," said Captain Templeton.
The morning coffee was served on deck in the darkness.
Lights appeared in the distance, and presently another destroyer joined the Plymouth. Running lights of two more appeared as the clock struck 4 a.m.
Captain Templeton signalled the engine room for two-thirds speed ahead. Running lights were blanketed on the four destroyers, and the ships fell into column.
Lieutenant Chadwick felt a drop on his face. He held out a hand.
"Rain," he said briefly.
"So much the better, Frank," he replied.
The four destroyers cleared the channel light and spread out like a fan into line formation.
"Full speed ahead!" came Jack's next command.
The Plymouth leaped ahead, as did her sister ships on either side.
"We're off," said Frank.
Away they sped in the darkness, a division of four Yankee destroyers, tearing through the Irish sea on a rainy morning; Frank knew there were four ships in line, but all he could see was his guide, a black smudge in the darkness, a few ship lengths away on his port bow. Directly she was blotted from sight by a rain squall.
"Running lights!" shouted Frank.
The lights flashed. Frank kept an eye forward. Directly he got a return flash from the ship ahead, and then picked up her shape again.
Morning dawned and still the fleet sped on. Toward noon the weather cleared. Officer and men kept their watches by regular turn during the day. At sundown the four destroyers slowed down and circled around in a slow column. The eyes of every officer watched the clock. They were watching for something. Directly it came—a line of other ships, transports filled with wounded soldiers returning to America. These must be safely convoyed to a certain point beyond the submarine zone by the Plymouth and her sister ships.
On came the transports camouflaged like zebras. The Plymouth and the other destroyers fell into line on either side of the transports.
"Full speed ahead," was Captain Templeton's signal to the engine room.
"Take a look below, Frank," said Jack to his first officer.
"Aye, aye, sir."
Frank descended a manhole in the deck. He closed the cover and secured it behind him. At the foot of the ladder was a locked door. As it opened, came a pressure on Frank's ear drums like the air-lock of a caisson. Frank threaded his way amid pumps and feed water heaters and descended still further to the furnace level.
Twenty-five knots—twenty-eight land miles an hour—was the speed of the Plymouth at that moment. It was good going.
Below, instead of dust, heat, the clatter of shovels, grimy, sweating fireman, such as the thought of the furnace room of a ship of war calls to the mind of the landsman, a watertender stood calmly watching the glow of oil jets feeding the furnace fire. Now and then he cast an eye to the gauge glasses. The vibration of the hull and the hum of the blower were the only sounds below.
For the motive power of the Plymouth was not furnished by coal. Rather, it was oil—crude petroleum—that drove the vessel along. And though oil has its advantage over coal, it has its disadvantages as well. It was Frank's first experience aboard an oil-burner, and he had not become used to it yet. He smelled oil in the smoke from the funnels, he breathed it from the oil range in the galley. His clothes gathered it from stanchions and rails.
The water tanks were flavored with the seepage from neighboring compartments. Frank drank petroleum in the water and tasted it in the soup. The butter, he thought, tasted like some queer vaseline. But Frank knew that eventually he would get used to it.
"How's she heading?" Frank asked of the chief engineer.
"All right, sir," was the reply. "Everything perfectly trim. I can get more speed if necessary."
"Let's hope it won't be necessary, chief," he replied.
He inspected the room closely for some moments, then returned to the bridge and reported to Captain Templeton.
The sea was rough, but nevertheless the speed of the flotilla was not slackened. It was the desire of Captain Petlow, in charge of the destroyer fleet, to convoy the transports beyond the danger point at the earliest possible moment.
The Plymouth lurched up on top of a crest, then dived head-first into the trough. On the bridge the heave and pitch of the vessel was felt subconsciously, but the eyes and minds of the officers were busied with other things. At every touch of the helm the vessel vibrated heavily.
Eight bells struck.
"Twelve o'clock," said Frank. "Time to eat."
The bridge was turned over to the second officer, and Frank and Jack went below.
"Eat is right, Frank," said Jack as they sat down. "We can't dine in this weather."
It was true. The rolling boards, well enough for easy weather, proved a mockery in a sea like the one that raged now. Butter balls, meat and vegetables shot from plates and went sailing about. It was necessary to drink soup from teacups and such solid foods as Jack and Frank put into their stomachs was only what they succeeded in grabbing as they leaped about on the table.
The two returned on deck.
The day passed quietly. No submarines were sighted, and at last the flotilla reached the point where the destroyers were to leave the homeward bound transports to pursue their voyage alone. The transports soon grew indistinguishable, almost, in the semi-darkness. The senior naval officer aboard the Plymouth hoisted signal flags.
"Bon Voyage," they read.
Through a glass Jack read the reply.
"Thank you for your good work. Best of luck."
From the S.N.O. (senior naval officer) came another message. Frank picked it up.
"Set course 188 degrees. Keep lookout for inbound transports to be convoyed. Ten ships."
Again the destroyer swung into line. It was almost seven o'clock—after dark—when the lookout aboard the Plymouth reported:
Instantly all was activity aboard the destroyers. Directly, through his glass, Jack sighted nine rusty, English tramp steamers, of perhaps eight thousand tons, and a big liner auxiliary flying the Royal Navy ensign.
Under the protection of the destroyers, the ships made for an English port. The night passed quietly. With the coming of morning, the flotilla was divided. The Plymouth stood by to protect the big liner, while the other three destroyers and the tramp steamers moved away toward the east.
"This destroyer game is no better than driving a taxi," Frank protested to Jack on the bridge that afternoon. You never see anything. I'd like to get ashore for a change. I've steamed sixty thousand miles since last May and what have I seen? Three ports, besides six days' leave in London."
"You had plenty of time ashore before that," replied Jack.
"Maybe I did. But I'd like to have some more. Besides, this isn't very exciting business."
Night fell again, and still nothing had happened to break the quiet monotony of the trip. Lights of trawlers flashed up ahead. Interest on the bridge picked up.
"Object off the port bow," called the lookout.
"Looks like a periscope," reported the quartermaster.
Frank snapped his binoculars on a bobbing black spar.
"Buoy and fishnet," he decided after a quick scrutiny.
Frank kept the late watch that night. At 4 a.m. he turned in. At five he climbed hastily from his bunk at the jingle of general alarm, and reached the bridge on the run in time to see the exchange of recognition signals with a British man-o'-war, which vessel had run into a submarine while the latter was on the surface in a fog. The warship had just rammed the U-boat.
"Can we help you?" Frank called across the water.
"Thanks. Drop a few depth charges," was the reply.
This was done, but nothing came of it Frank returned to his bunk.
"Pretty slow life, this, if you ask me," he told himself.
He went back to sleep.
THE BOY CAPTAIN AND HIS LIEUTENANT
The U.S.S. Plymouth was Jack Templeton's first command. He had been elevated to the rank of captain only a few weeks before. Naturally he was not a little proud of his vessel. When Jack was given his ship, it was only natural, too, that Frank Chadwick, who had been his associate and chum through all the days of the great war, should become Jack's first officer.
In spite of the fact that Jack's rating as captain was in the British navy, he was at this moment in command of an American vessel. This came about through a queer combination of circumstances.
The American commander of the Plymouth had been taken suddenly ill. At almost the same time the Plymouth had been ordered to proceed from Dover to Liverpool to join other American vessels. Almost on the eve of departure, the first officer also was taken ill. It was to him the command naturally would have fallen in the captain's absence. The second officer was on leave of absence. Thus, without a skipper, the Plymouth could not have sailed.
Jack and Frank had recently returned with a British convoy from America. They were in Dover at the time. From his sick bed in a hospital, the captain of the Plymouth had appealed to the British naval authorities. In spite of the fact that he was in no condition to leave when he received his orders, he did not wish to deny his crew the privilege of seeing active service, which the call to Liverpool, he knew, meant.
The captain's appeal had been turned over to Lord Hastings, now connected prominently with the British admiralty. Lord Hastings, in the early days of the war, had been the commander under whom Jack and Frank had served. In fact, the lads were visiting the temporary quarters of Lord Hastings in Dover when the appeal was received from the commander of the Plymouth.
"How would you like to tackle this job, Jack?" Lord Hastings asked.
"I'd like it," the lad replied, "if you think I can do it, sir."
"Of course you can do it," was Lord Hastings' prompt reply. "I haven't sailed with you almost four years for nothing."
"You mean, sir," replied Jack with a smile, "that I haven't sailed with you that long for nothing."
"That's more like it, Jack," put in Frank laughingly. "I've learned a few things from Lord Hastings myself."
"It is hardly probable," continued Lord Hastings, "that your promotion has been unearned, Jack. No, I believe you can fill the bill."
"In that case, I shall be glad to take command of the Plymouth temporarily, sir."
"And how about me?" Frank wanted to know. "Where do I come in, sir?"
"Why," said Lord Hastings, "I have no doubt it can be arranged so you can go along as first officer. I understand the first officer of the Plymouth is also under the weather."
"But isn't all this a bit irregular, sir?" Jack asked.
"Very much so," was Lord Hastings' reply. "At the same time, many precedents are being broken every day, and I can see no reason why two British officers cannot lend their services to an ally if they are asked to do so."
"It is a little different with me, sir," said Frank. I'm an American."
"All the same," said Lord Hastings, "you're a British naval officer, no matter what your nativity."
"That's true, too, sir," Frank agreed. "I haven't thought of it in just that way."
"Well," said Lord Hastings, "I shall report then that Captain Templeton and First Lieutenant Chadwick will go aboard the Plymouth this evening."
"Very well, sir," said Jack.
This is the reason then that Jack and Frank found themselves aboard an American destroyer in the Irish sea.
Frank Chadwick, as we have seen, was an American. He had been in Italy with his father when the great war began. He had been shanghaied in Naples soon after Germany's declaration of war on France. When he came to his senses he found that his captors were a band of mutinous sailors. Aboard the vessel he found a second prisoner, who turned out to be a member of the British secret service.
Frank met Jack Templeton, a British youth, aboard the schooner. Jack came aboard in a peculiar way.
The schooner, in control of the mutineers, had put into a north African port for provisions. Now it chanced that the store where the mutineers sought to buy provisions was conducted by Jack. The lad was absent when the supplies were purchased and returned a few moments later to find that the mutineers had departed without making payment.
Jack's anger bubbled over. He put off for the schooner in a small boat. Aboard, the chief of the mutineers refused the demand for payment. A fight ensued. Jack, facing heavy odds, sought refuge in the hold of the vessel, where he was made a prisoner.
During the night Jack was able to force his way from the hold into the cabin where Frank and the British secret service agent were held captives. He released them, and joining forces, the three were able to overcome the mutineers and make themselves masters of the ship.
Now Jack Templeton was an experienced seaman and knew more than the rudiments of navigation. Under his direction the schooner returned to the little African port that he called home. There the three erstwhile prisoners left the ship to the mutineers.
Later, through the good offices of the British secret service, Frank and Jack made the acquaintance of Lord Hastings, also in the diplomatic service. They were able to render some service to the latter and later accompanied him to his home in London. There, at their request, Lord Hastings, who in the meantime had been given command of a ship of war, had them attached to his ship with the rank of midshipmen.
Both Jack and Frank had risen swiftly in the British service. They had seen active service in all quarters of the globe and had fought under many flags.
Under Lord Hastings' command they had been with the British fleet in the North Sea when it struck the first decisive blow against the Germans just off Helgoland. Later they were found under the Tricolor of France and with the Italians in the Adriatic. With the British fleet again when it sallied forth to clear the seven seas of enemy vessels, they had traversed the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian oceans. It had been their fortune, too, to see considerable land fighting. They had been with the Anglo-Japanese forces in the east and had conducted raiding parties in some of the German colonial possessions.
Several times they had successfully run the blockade in the Kiel canal, passing through the narrow straits in submarines just out of reach of the foe. In Russia, they had, early in the war, lent invaluable assistance to the Czar; and more lately, they had been in the eastern monarchy when Czar Nicholas had been forced to renounce his throne.
Once since the war began they had been to America. This was shortly after the United States entered the war. They were ordered to the North Atlantic in order to help the American authorities snare a German commerce raider which, in some unaccountable manner, had run the British blockade in the North sea, and was wreaking havoc with allied shipping. Later they went to New York, and then returned to Europe with a combined British-American convoy for the first expeditionary force to cross the seas.
In temperament and disposition Jack and Frank were as unlike as one could conceive. Jack, big for his age, broad-shouldered and strong, was always cool and collected. Frank, on the other hand, was of a more fiery nature, easily angered and often rash and reckless. Jack's steadying influence had often kept the two out of trouble, or brought them through safely when they were in difficulties.
Both lads spoke French and German fluently and each had a smattering of Italian. Also, as the result of several trips to Russia, they had a few words of the Russian tongue at their command.
In physical strength, Jack excelled Frank by far, although the latter was by no means a weakling. On the other hand again, Frank was a crack shot with either rifle or revolver; in fact, he was such an excellent marksman as to cause his chum no little degree of envy. Then, too, both lads were proficient in the art of self defense and both had learned to hold their own with the sword.
Up to the time this story opens the combined allied fleets had succeeded in keeping the Germans bottled up in the strong fortress of Helgoland. True, the enemy several times had sallied forth in few numbers, apparently seeking to run the blockade in an effort to prey upon allied merchant ships. But every time they had offered battle they had received the worst of it. They had been staggered with a terrible defeat at Jutland almost a year before this story opens, and since that time had not ventured forth.
But even now, in the security of their hiding places, the Germans were meditating a bold stroke. Submarines were being coaled and victualed in preparation for a dash across the Atlantic. Already, one enemy submarine—a merchantman—had passed the allied ships blocking the English channel and had crossed to America and returned. Some months later, a U-Boat of the war type had followed suit. A cordon of ally ships had been thrown around American ports to snare this venturesome submarine on its return, but it had eluded them and returned safely to its home port.
But soon—very soon, indeed—German undersea craft were to strike a more severe blow at allied shipping, carrying, for the moment, the war in all its horrors to the very door of America. While the United States was arming and equipping its millions to send across the sea to destroy the kaiser and German militarism, these enemy undersea craft were crossing the Atlantic determined to reap a rich harvest upon American, allied and neutral shipping off the American coast.
And the blow was to be delivered without warning—almost.
When the U.S.S. Plymouth, under Jack's command, returned to Liverpool, the captain of the vessel, having somewhat recovered, came aboard and relieved Jack of command.
"I'm obliged for your services, Captain," he said, "but I'll take charge of the old scow again myself, with your leave."
Jack and Frank went ashore, where, at their hotel, they received a brief telegram from Lord Hastings. It read as follows:
"Return to Dover at once. Important."
"Now I wonder what is up," said Frank after reading the message.
"The simplest way to find out," replied Jack, "is to go and see."
OFF FOR AMERICA
"Then everything went first rate your first trip, Captain?" questioned Lord Hastings.
"First rate, sir," Jack replied.
The lads were back in Dover where, the first thing after their arrival, they sought an audience with their former commander.
"Yes, sir," Frank agreed, "Jack makes an A-1 captain."
"I'm glad to hear it," was Lord Hastings' comment. "I've other work in hand and I wouldn't want to trust it to a man who is nervous under fire."
"But we were not under fire this time, sir," said Jack.
"You mustn't always take me literally, Jack," smiled Lord Hastings. "It was your first venture in your present rank and you acquitted yourself creditably. That is what I meant."
"And what is the other venture, sir?" Frank asked eagerly.
"There you go again, Frank," said Lord Hastings. "How many times have I told you that you must restrain your impatience."
Frank was abashed.
"Your warnings don't seem to do much good, I'll admit, sir. Nevertheless, I'll try to do better."
"See that you do," returned Lord Hastings gravely. "Nothing was ever gained by too great impatience. Remember that."
"I'll try, sir."
"Very well. Then I shall acquaint you with the nature of the work in hand."
The boys listened intently to Lord Hastings' next words.
"As you know," His Lordship began, "the seas have virtually been cleared of all enemy ships. All German merchant vessels have been captured or sunk. What few raiders that preyed on our commerce for a time have been put out of business."
"Yes, sir," said Jack. "Our merchant vessels no longer have anything to fear from the foe."
"They shouldn't, that's true enough," replied Lord Hastings.
"You mean they have, sir?" asked Jack, incredulously.
Lord Hastings nodded.
"I do," he admitted gravely. "Particularly shipping on the other side of the Atlantic."
"But surely," Frank put in, "surely our blockade is tight enough to prevent the enemy from breaking through."
"We have not yet found means," replied Lord Hastings, "of effectually blockading the submarine."
"Oh, I see," said Frank. "You mean that the Germans plan to open a submarine campaign upon allied shipping in American waters."
"Such is my information," declared Lord Hastings.
"And," said Jack, "you wish us to cross the Atlantic and take a hand in the game of taming the U-Boats, sir."
"Such is my idea," Lord Hastings admitted. "Let me explain. My information is not authentic, but nevertheless, knowing the Germans as I do, I am tempted to credit it."
"Then why not warn the United States, sir?" asked Frank. "There are enough American ships of war off the coast to deal effectually with all the submarines the Germans can get across."
"So I would," was Lord Hastings' reply, "but for the fact that some officials of the admiralty are opposed to it."
"Opposed?" exclaimed Jack. "And why, sir?"
"Because they labor under the delusion that such a warning would throw the people of the United States into a panic and would prevent the sending of additional troops to France."
"What a fool idea! By George!" exclaimed Frank, "what do they think the American people are made of?"
"You'll have to ask them," was Lord Hastings' answer to this question. "For my own part, I feel that it is hardly fair to keep this information from the American authorities."
"I should say it isn't fair," declared Frank.
"I agree with you," said Jack. "But just where do Frank and I come in, sir?"
"I'll make that plain to you very quickly," replied Lord Hastings.
He drew a paper from his pocket and passed it to Jack.
"Here," he said, "is your commission as captain of H.M.S. Brigadier." He passed a second paper to Frank. "This," he continued, "is your commission as first officer of the same vessel. Now, through channels known only to myself, I have induced the admiralty to send you to America with certain papers for Secretary Daniels of the navy department. At the same time, I have other personal papers which I shall have you deliver to the secretary of the navy for me. These will acquaint him with the facts I have just laid before you."
"I see, sir," said Jack. "But, if you will pardon my asking, what will happen to you sir should it be found out you have acted contrary to the wishes of the admiralty majority?"
Lord Hastings shrugged his shoulders disdainfully.
"What's the difference?" he wanted to know. "Our allies must be warned."
"I agree with you, sir," declared Jack.
"And I, sir," said Frank.
"It is possible," said Lord Hastings, "that should I take the matter up with the King or with the war ministry I might get action; but that would take time, and I want this message delivered at the earliest possible moment. Should I entrust it to the cables, under the circumstances, there is nothing certain of its arrival."
"I see, sir," said Jack. "Then you may be sure that I shall deliver the message personally to Secretary Daniels."
"It is well," said Lord Hastings. "I knew I could depend upon you boys."
"Always, sir," replied Jack simply.
"Then be off with you," said Lord Hastings, rising. "You can go aboard your ship to-night. Here is the message I wish delivered to the American secretary of the navy," and he passed a second paper to Jack. "The admiralty message you are to take will probably reach you some time in the morning, together with your sailing orders."
Lord Hastings extended his hand.
"Good-bye and good luck," he said.
Jack and Frank shook hands with him and took their departure.
"I'll be glad to get back to America if only for a short time," said Frank, as they walked toward the water front.
"I won't mind another look at the United States myself," Jack declared. "It looks like a pretty good country to me, from what I saw of it last trip. Almost as good as England, I guess."
"Almost?" repeated Frank. "Say, let me tell you something. The United States is the greatest country under the sun and don't you forget it. You Johnny Bulls seem to think that England is the only spot on the map."
"Well," returned Jack with a smile, "it strikes me that you boast considerably about your own land."
Frank's face reddened a trifle.
"Maybe I do," he admitted, "but it's worth it."
"So is England," said Jack quietly.
"By George! So it is, Jack," said Frank. "Maybe it is a fact that I talk too much sometimes."
"No 'maybes' about it," declared Jack. "It's just a plain fact."
"Look here," said Frank, somewhat nettled, "you may be my boss aboard ship, but right now, with no witnesses present to hear what I say, I'll say what I like."
"Come, come, now," said Jack with a smile, "don't get all out of humor just because I joke you a little bit."
"Well, then don't always thinks I'm angry just because I make a hot reply," he said.
Jack let it go at that.
"Well, here we are at the water front," he said a few moments later, "and if I'm not mistaken that's the Brigadier about a hundred yards off shore there."
"That's the Brigadier, all right," said Frank, "I can see her name forward even at this distance. By George! but the camouflage artists have certainly done a good job on her."
"So they have," Jack agreed. "But we may as well go aboard."
They commandeered a small boat and rowed rapidly to the Brigadier. Jack swung himself up on deck and Frank climbed up behind him.
A young lieutenant greeted Jack respectfully after a quick glance at the latter's bars.
"What can I do for you, sir?" he asked.
"You may go below and tell the engineer to get steam up immediately," replied Jack. "We may not sail before morning, but I may desire to leave before."
"Very well, sir," replied the young officer, "but may I ask who you are, sir?"
"Certainly," replied Jack, "I'm the commander of this ship, Captain Templeton. This is Mr. Chadwick, my first officer. What is your name, sir?"
"Hetherton, sir, second officer of the Brigadier."
"Very good, Lieutenant. You shall stay on here as second officer until further notice. Now below with you."
Lieutenant Hetherton disappeared.
"I guess he won't ask many more questions," said Frank grimly.
"Perhaps not," said Jack. "Now, Mr. Chadwick, will you be so kind as to take the deck while I go to my cabin."
Frank seemed about to remark upon Jack's sudden change in manner. Then he thought better of it and walked off, grumbling to himself.
"Wonder what he's in such an all-fired rush about? He's not wasting any time, that's sure."
He took the deck. Ten minutes later Lieutenant Hetherton reported to him, saluting at the same time.
"Engineer says he'll have steam up in two hours, sir."
"Very well," replied Frank, returning the salute. "Will you kindly take the deck, Lieutenant Hetherton? I'm going below."
Lieutenant Hetherton took the deck, and thus relieved, Frank went below and sought out Jack's cabin.
"Now," he said, "I'll find out what all this rush is about."
Without the formality of a knock, he went in.
Inside Jack's cabin, Frank found his commander and chum engaged in conversation with the engineer officer, who had sought his new commander immediately after giving instructions below. He saluted Frank as the lad entered.
"My first officer, Lieutenant Chadwick, Mr. Winslow," Jack introduced them. "I am sure you will get along together."
"So am I, sir," agreed the engineer. "And when shall we be moving, sir?"
"I can't say, exactly," replied Jack. "Probably not before morning, but I wish to be ready to leave on a moment's notice."
"Very well, sir," said the engineer, "As I said before, I'll have steam up in two hours."
"Do so, sir."
The engineer saluted and left Jack's cabin.
Jack turned to Frank.
"Now," he said, "what are you doing here? I thought I left you to take the deck?"
"I turned the deck over to Hetherton," replied Frank with a grin. "I wanted to find out what all this rush is about?"
"Don't you know it's bad form to ask questions of your commander?" Jack said severely.
"Maybe it is," Frank agreed, "but I just wanted to find out."
"Well, I wouldn't do it in front of any of the other officers or the men," said Jack. "It's bad for the ship's discipline. However, I'll tell you, I just wanted to have things ready, that's all. Come, we'll go on deck."
They ascended to the bridge. Jack addressed Lieutenant Hetherton.
"Pipe all hands on deck for inspection, Lieutenant," he ordered.
Lieutenant Hetherton passed the word. A moment later men came tumbling up the companion way and fell into line aft. Jack and Frank walked forward to look them over. Jack addressed a few words to the men.
"I've just taken over command of the Brigadier," he said. "To-morrow morning, or sooner, we shall sail, our destination temporarily to be known only to myself. I believe that I may safely promise you some action before many days have passed."
A hearty British cheer swept the ship.
"Hurrah!" cried the men.
A few moments later Jack dismissed them. Then the officers returned to the bridge, where Jack told off the watches.
"Now," he said, "I'll have to look over the ship."
Frank accompanied him on his tour of inspection. They found everything absolutely clean and ship-shape. The muzzles of the big guns were shining brightly beneath their coat of polish. After the inspection, Jack and Frank went below for a look at the ship's papers.
The Brigadier was a small destroyer, not more than 200 feet long. It had a complement of 250 men, officers and crew; carried two batteries of 9-inch guns in turrets forward and aft and was equipped with three 2-inch torpedo tubes. It was not one of the latest of British destroyers, but still it was modern in many respects.
"A good ship," said Jack, after a careful examination of the papers. "As to speed, we should get twenty-three knots on a pinch. Her fighting equipment is excellent, everything is spick and span, and I was impressed with the officers and crew. Yes, she is a good ship."
"And you're the boss of the whole ranch, Jack," said Frank. "Think of it. Less than four years ago you knew nothing at all of naval tactics, and now you're in command of a British destroyer. By George! I wouldn't mind having your job myself."
"Never mind," he said. "You'll get yours some day. I've just been more fortunate, that's all. Besides, I knew something of navigation before you did, and while you have mastered it now, I had a long start."
"That's true enough," Frank admitted, "but at the same time you are considerably more fit for the job than I am. Another thing. I don't know that I would trade my berth here for a command of a ship."
Jack looked his surprise.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because it would separate us," was Frank's reply. "We've been together now since the war began, almost. I hope that we may see it through together."
"Here, too," declared the commander of the Brigadier, "but at the same time you should not let a matter of friendship stand between you and what may be your big opportunity."
"Oh, I'd probably take the job if it were offered me," said Frank. "I'm just hoping the offer will not be made; that's all."
The lads conversed for some moments longer. Then Frank looked at his watch.
"My watch," he said quietly. "I'll be going on deck."
"Right," said Jack. "Call me if anything happens."
"Yes, sir," said Frank, saluting his commander gravely.
"By Jove! It seems funny to have you talk like that to me," he said. "At the same time I suppose it must be done for the sake of discipline. However, it is not necessary in private."
"Nevertheless," said Frank, "I had better stick to it or I'm liable to forget in public some time."
"Well, maybe you're right," said Jack.
Frank turned on his heel and went on deck, where he relieved Lieutenant Hetherton, who had been on watch.
"Nothing to report, sir," said Lieutenant Hetherton, saluting.
"Very well, sir," was Frank's reply, as he, too, saluted.
It was after midnight, and Frank's watch was nearing its end when the lookout on the port side called:
"Boat off the port bow, sir."
Frank advanced to the rail. A moment later there was a hail from the water.
"What ship is that?'
"His Majesty's Ship Brigadier," Frank called back.
"I'm coming aboard you," said the voice from the darkness. "Lower a ladder."
Frank gave the necessary command. A few moments later a man attired in the uniform of a British captain came over the side. He approached Frank, who was barely visible in the darkness.
"Captain Templeton?" he asked.
"No, sir. I'm Lieutenant Chadwick. A moment, sir, and I'll call the captain."
"If you please," said the visitor.
Frank passed the word for the quartermaster, who arrived within a few moments.
"Call Captain Templeton," Frank directed.
Jack arrived on deck a few moments later and exchanged greetings with his visitor. The latter produced a packet of papers.
"From the admiralty," he said. "You will know what to do with them."
Jack took the papers and stowed them in his pocket.
"Yes, sir," he said.
"That is all, then," said the visitor. "I shall be going."
He stepped to the side of the vessel and disappeared.
"This means," said Jack, after the other had gone, "that we can sail any time now."
"Then why not at once?" asked Frank.
"You anticipated me," replied Jack. "Will you kindly pipe all hands on deck, Mr. Chadwick?"
Frank passed the word.
Sleepy men came tumbling from their bunks below. All became bustle and hurry aboard the Brigadier. Jack himself took the bridge. Frank stood beside him. Other officers took their places.
"Man the guns!" came Jack's order.
It was the lad's intention to overlook nothing that would protect the ship should it encounter an enemy submarine en route, and, as the lad knew, it was just as possible they would encounter one in the English Channel as elsewhere.
For, despite all precautions taken by British naval authorities, enemy submarines more than once had crept through the channel, once penetrating Dover harbor itself, where they had wreaked considerable damage before being driven away by British destroyers and submarine chasers.
A few moments later Jack signaled the engine room.
"Half speed ahead."
Slowly the Brigadier slipped from her anchorage and moved through the still waters of the harbor. Directly she pushed her nose into the channel, then headed east.
"Full speed ahead!" Jack signaled the engine room.
The Brigadier leaped forward.
"Better turn in, Jack," said Frank. "It's Thompson's watch."
"No, I'll stick until we reach the Atlantic," returned Jack.
"Then I'll stick along," said Frank.
This they did.
It was hours later when the Brigadier ran clear of the channel and breasted the heavy swell of the Atlantic. Jack spoke to Thompson, the third officer.
"I'm going to turn in," he said. "If anything happens, call me at once."
"Very well, sir," was the third officer's reply.
He saluted briefly. Jack and Frank went below.
"Come in a moment before you turn in, if you wish," Jack said to Frank.
"May as well," replied the latter. "I don't feel like turning in for an hour yet."
"Well, you can't keep me out of bed that long," declared Jack. "I've got to be stirring before you go on watch again. But I thought we might talk a few moments."
Nevertheless, it was an hour later that Frank went to his own cabin. He turned in at once and was soon fast asleep.
On the other hand, sleep did not come to Jack so soon. For an hour or more he lay in his bunk, reviewing the events of the past and his responsibilities of the present.
"It's a big job I have now," he told himself. "I hope I can carry it through successfully."
But he didn't have the slightest doubt that he could. Jack's one best characteristic was absolute confidence in himself.
H.M.S. Brigadier was steaming steadily along at a speed of twenty knots. Jack himself held the bridge. Frank and Lieutenant Hetherton, who stood nearby, were discussing the sinking several days before of a large allied transport by a German submarine in the Irish sea.
"She was sunk without warning, the same as usual," said Hetherton.
"The Germans never give warning any more," replied Frank, "Of course, the reason is obvious enough. To give warning it would be necessary for the submarine to come to the surface, in which case the merchant ship might be able to place a shell aboard the U-Boat before she could submerge again. So to take time to give warning would be a disadvantage to the submarine."
"At the same time," said Hetherton, "it's an act of barbarism to sink a big ship without giving passengers and crew a word of warning."
"Oh, I'm not defending the German system," declared Frank. "I am just giving you what I believe is the German viewpoint."
"Nevertheless," said Hetherton, "it's about time such activities were stopped."
"It certainly is. But it seems that the U-Boats are growing bolder each day."
"It wouldn't surprise me," declared Lieutenant Hetherton, "to hear almost any day that U-Boats had crossed the Atlantic to prey on shipping in American waters."
Frank looked at the second officer sharply. He was sure that Jack had not divulged the real reason for their present voyage, and he had said nothing about the matter himself.
"Just a chance remark, I guess," Frank told himself. Aloud he said: "I hardly think it will come to that."
"I hope not," replied Hetherton, "but you never can tell, you know."
"That's true enough, too," Frank agreed, "but at the same—"
He broke off suddenly as he caught the sharp hail of the forward lookout.
"Ship in distress off the port bow, sir," came the cry.
Jack was at once called to the deck.
Instantly Frank and Lieutenant Hetherton sprang to Jack's side. At almost the same moment the radio operator emerged from below on the run.
"Message, sir," he exclaimed, and thrust a piece of paper in Jack's hand. Jack read it quickly. It ran like this:
"Merchant steamer Hazelton, eight thousand tons, New York to Liverpool with munitions and supplies, torpedoed by submarine. Sinking. Help."
"Did you get her position?" demanded Jack of the wireless operator.
"No, sir. The wireless failed before he could give it."
"Don't you think it may be the vessel ahead, sir?" asked Lieutenant Hetherton.
"Can't tell," was Jack's reply. "It may be, in which case there are probably more submarines about. Clear ship for action, Mr. Chadwick."
No sooner said than done.
Frank and others of the ship's officers darted hither and yon, making sure that everything was in readiness. At the guns, the gunners grinned cheerfully. Frank approached the battery in the forward turret.
"All right?" he asked.
"O.K., sir," replied the officer in command of the gun crew. "Show us a submarine, that's all we ask."
"There are probably a dozen or so about here some place," returned Frank. "Keep your eyes peeled and don't wait an order to fire if you see anything that looks like one."
The officer turned to his men with a sharp command.
Frank continued his inspection of the ship as the Brigadier dashed toward the vessel in distress, probably ten miles ahead.
Every man aboard the Brigadier was on the alert as the destroyer plowed swiftly through the water. It was possible, of course, that the submarines had made off after attacking the vessel, but there was always the possibility that some were still lurking in the neighborhood.
"Can't be too careful," Jack told himself.
Fifteen minutes later, the lookout was able to make out more clearly the ship ahead of them.
"Steamer Hazelton," he called to the quartermaster, who reported to Jack.
"Same vessel that sent the wireless, Frank," was Jack's comment. "We will have to look sharp. It's more than an even bet that some of those undersea sharks are watching for a ship to come to the rescue so they can have a shot at her also."
"We're ready for 'em," said Frank significantly.
"All right," said Jack. "In the meantime we'll stand by the Hazelton and see if we can lend a hand."
As the Brigadier drew closer those on deck could see signs of confusion aboard the Hazelton. Then there arose a large cloud of smoke that for a moment hid the Hazelton from view. This was followed by a loud explosion.
When the smoke cleared away, the water nearby was filled with struggling figures.
"Lower the boats," shouted Jack.
Instantly men sprang to obey the command, while others of the British tars still stood quietly behind their guns, their eyes scanning the sea.
Aboard the Hazelton, the crew, or what remained of the crew, were attempting to lower lifeboats. Directly one was lowered safely, and loaded to the guards with human freight. A second and a third were lowered safely, and put off toward the Brigadier.
In the meantime, lifeboats from the destroyer had darted in among the struggling figures and willing hands were lifting the victims to safety. Then these, in turn, started back to the destroyer.
"I guess they're all off," said Frank to Jack.
"I hope so," was Jack's reply. "If I am not mistaken, there are women among the survivors."
"By George! I thought I saw some myself," was Frank's answer.
Suddenly there was a crash as the forward turret guns aboard the Brigadier burst into action. Looking ahead, Jack gave a startled cry, and no wonder.
For, from beneath the water, appeared a periscope and then the long low outline of a German submarine came into view.
Again the Brigadier's guns crashed, but the shells did not strike home.
Before the destroyer could fire again, a gun appeared as if by magic on the submarine's deck, and a hail of bullets was poured into the first of the nearby lifeboats. At the same time the U-Boat launched a torpedo at the Brigadier.
Jack gave a cry of horror at the predicament of those in the small boats. But he did not lose his head, and at the same time maneuvered his ship out of the path of the torpedo.
Came a hail from the lookout aft.
"Submarine off the stern, sir!"
At the same moment the battery in the Brigadier's turret aft burst into action.
"Forward with you, Mr. Chadwick," cried Jack, "and see if you can't get better results there. The men seem to have lost their nerve."
Frank sprang forward. Jack's words were true. It appeared that the crew in the forward turret were so anxious to sink the first submarine that they had not taken time to find the range.
"Cease firing!" shouted Frank as he sprang into the turret.
The order was obeyed, but there came a grumble from the men at what they deemed such a strange command under the circumstances.
"I thought you fellows were gunners," said Frank angrily. "Smith, get the range."
Smith did so, and announced it a moment later.
"Now," said Frank, "get your aim, men."
No longer was there confusion in the forward turret. The guns were trained carefully.
"Ready," cried Frank. "Fire!"
A moment and there was a loud cheer from the crew. The German submarine seemed to leap high from the water, and then fell back in a dozen pieces.
Frank wasted no further time on the first submarine. Leaving the forward turret, he dashed aft to where other guns were firing on the second submarine. Meantime Jack, perfectly cool on the bridge, had maneuvered his vessel out of the way of several torpedoes from the second U-Boat. But, as he very well knew, this combat must be brought to a quick end or one of the torpedoes was likely to find its mark.
From the deck of the second submarine, a hail of fire from a machine gun was still being poured into the helpless lifeboats. What execution had been done Jack had no means of telling at the moment, but he knew there must have been some casualties.
"The brutes!" he muttered.
The duel between the submarine and the destroyer still raged. It appeared that the commander of the submarine was a capable officer, for he had succeeded in keeping his vessel from being struck by a shell from the Brigadier.
In the aft turret of the Brigadier the British tars were sweating and muttering imprecations at their inability to put a shell aboard the enemy.
"Here," said Frank, "let me get at that gun."
The crew stepped aside and the lad sighted the weapon himself. Then he fired.
Again a cheer arose aboard the Brigadier. Frank's shot had been successful. The shell struck the submersible squarely amidships, and carried away the periscope.
"Fire!" cried Frank, and the other guns broke into action.
Again there was a wild cheer.
The submarine began to settle a few moments later. Men emerged from below and sprang into the sea.
"Lower a boat!" cried Jack. "I want a few of those fellows."
A boat was lowered instantly and strong hands pulled it toward the Germans floundering in the water.
By this time the lifeboats that had escaped the German fire came alongside the Brigadier and the occupants climbed aboard the destroyer. These were quickly fitted out with dry clothing. It developed that there had been three women passengers aboard the Hazelton and all of these had been saved. A dozen members of the crew, however, had been killed by the enemy in the lifeboats.
Jack assigned quarters to the victims as quickly as he was able, and then calling his officers about him, awaited the return of the boat which had gone after the Germans who had leaped into the sea.
"If the act I have just seen is a sample of the German heart," Jack said, "I never want another German within sight of me so long as I live."
As the Germans came aboard—ten of them—they were herded before Jack. They stood there sullenly, their eyes on the deck. One of them wore a heavily braided and imposing uniform. Jack addressed him.
"You are the commander of that submarine?" he questioned.
"I was," answered the German.
"You were, what?" asked Jack sharply.
"I was the commander."
"You don't seem to catch my meaning," said Jack, taking a step forward. "When you speak to me say 'sir.'"
"Then you shall say 'sir' to me," said the German.
"Oh, no I won't," Jack declared. "I never say sir to a murderer."
The German's eyes lighted angrily.
"It would be well to be more careful of your words," he said.
"Nevertheless," said Jack, "I repeat them. You, are a murderer, and as such should be hanged at once. I'm not sure it is in my province to string you up, but I'm strongly tempted to do so and take the consequences."
"But I guess you won't," sneered the German.
"Then don't try me too far," said Jack quietly. "To my mind, men like you and your cowardly followers should be put out of the way the same as a mad dog; and certainly there is no law against killing a dog."
"I warn you," said the German, taking a step nearer the lad, "to be more choice in your words."
"Silence!" Jack thundered, "and don't you dare step toward me unless I tell you to do so." He turned to Frank. "Take those men below and put them in irons," he ordered.
Frank stepped forward to obey, and again the German commander protested.
"You can't do that," he said. "My men are prisoners of war and as such are entitled to all the usual courtesies."
"They are, eh?" asked Jack. "Then I'll modify that order a bit, temporarily, Mr. Chadwick, will you kindly bring irons for this man here," and he indicated the German officer. "I want his men and all our passengers to see how he looks in shackles, which he should have been made to wear long ago."
Frank hurried away. The German commander, after taking one step back at Jack's words, stepped quickly forward again. His hand went to his side and he produced a long knife. Then he sprang.
Jack smiled slightly, stepped quickly to one side and with his left hand caught the German's knife arm. He twisted sharply, and the knife dropped to the deck.
Jack released his hold and the German staggered back. Deliberately Jack cuffed the man across the face with his right hand, then with his left. Twice more he did this, following the German as he retreated across the deck.
"Let that teach you," he said, "that attempting to stab a British naval officer is very bad business. But here comes something that will teach you more," and he pointed to Frank, who reappeared at that moment followed by two sailors bearing heavy chains. "These irons," Jack continued, "will show you just what is in store for you when you are landed in England. Hold out your hands."
The German did so. Quickly handcuffs were snapped on.
"Shackle his legs," said Jack.
The sailors needed no urging. Quickly the German's legs were shackled with the heavy iron. Jack took a couple of steps back and surveyed his prisoner.
"If you had been dressed up in those several years ago," he said, "I've no doubt lots of innocent women and children now at the bottom of the sea would be alive still."
The German commander scowled, but he said nothing.
"Now, Frank," said Jack, "you will take the other prisoners below and put them in irons. I guess our friend here will no longer object."
The German sailors were led below, where they were soon safely chained and Frank returned to the bridge.
"Kindly pass the word for all the passengers and the crew to come on deck, Mr. Hetherton," ordered Jack.
The second officer obeyed and soon the deck was crowded. The German commander became the center of an angry group.
"I've just called you all here," said Jack, "that you may cast your eyes upon one of the kaiser's paid murderers. It is men like this who have made an outcast of Germany. Not satisfied with killing in battle, they fire on helpless lifeboats, sending women and children as well as unarmed noncombatants to the bottom of the sea. In fact, it is men like this, or a man like this, who so recently took a heavy toll in lives from the crew of the Hazelton, after the vessel had been put out of commission."
There was an angry murmur among the crowd on deck.
"Hang him," said a voice.
The German officer's face turned a chalky white.
"I'd be pleased to do so," said Jack, "were it not for the fact that I must retain him as a prisoner of war and turn him over to the proper authorities. However, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if he were tried for murder and hanged, and I'm not sure that even such a fate isn't too good for him."
"Hang him!" came a voice from the crowd again.
"No," said Jack quietly, "it can't be done. Take him away."
These last words were addressed to Lieutenant Hetherton, who stepped forward and took the German commander by the arm.
"Come on," he said somewhat roughly.
The German commander was led below, where he was made secure.
The passengers and crew rescued from the Hazelton dispersed and Jack held a consultation with his officers.
"If we were not so far from land," he said, "I would land those we have rescued. As it stands, I am under rush orders, so I am afraid I shall have to take them to America."
"That cannot be helped, sir," said Lieutenant Hetherton. "I am sure they will understand that, sir."
"I think so, too," agreed Frank.
"At all events," said Jack, "there seems nothing else to do under the circumstances. Ring for full speed ahead, Mr. Chadwick."
Frank did so.
At that moment the radio operator again emerged from below and hurried to Jack.
"Admiralty orders, sir," he said, passing a slip of paper to the commander of the Brigadier.
Jack read the paper quickly, then turned to Frank with a sharp command.
"Slow to half speed," he said. "Then come about and head for Dover."
Frank asked no questions. He knew that Jack would explain the reason for the change soon enough. Besides, the matter was none of his business. He gave the necessary orders. Jack turned to the second officer.
"Will you take the bridge, Mr. Hetherton? Mr. Chadwick, please come to my cabin."
The lads went below together.
"Now," said Frank, after he had taken a seat, "what's it all about?"
"Well," was Jack's reply, "the admiralty wants the Brigadier back in Dover. That's all I know about it. I'm instructed to report to Lord Hastings immediately on my return."
"No other explanation?"
"Funny," commented Frank. "Must be something up, though."
"So it would seem. However, I guess we'll learn soon enough. Hope they are not going to deprive me of my command."
"No fear, I guess," declared Frank.
The return trip was made in record time and without incident. Jack saw the victims of the Hazelton landed safely and then, turning the ship over to Lieutenant Hetherton, went ashore with Frank to report to Lord Hastings.
The latter greeted them with a wry smile.
"It seems that my warning to America is not to be delivered after all," he said.
"And why, sir?" asked Jack. "Are you not still convinced that the warning is necessary?"
"I am," declared Lord Hastings, "but, as I told you, I was sending the warning without knowledge of the Admiralty. Naturally, then, when it was announced that the Brigadier was to be recalled to take part in other operations, I could not announce that you carried secret dispatches from me."
"I see," said Jack. "And what is the nature of the other operation?"
"It is a desperate undertaking," said Lord Hastings slowly, "and one that, at first, I was tempted to advise against. And still, if successful it will do much toward insuring an allied victory."
"Since when have you become so cautious, sir?" asked Frank with a smile.
"It's not a matter of caution, Frank," replied Lord Hastings. "It's simply a matter of prudence. In a word, the Admiralty is determined to block the harbors of Ostend and Zeebrugge."
Frank was on his feet and clapping his hands.
"Fine!" he exclaimed. "I don't see why it hasn't been done sooner. I remember what Hobson did to the Spanish fleet at Santiago in the Spanish-American war."
"It's an exploit of the same nature," Lord Hastings admitted, "though it will be attended with even greater danger. If successful, as I say, it will do inestimable good. The admiralty has been training specially for this move for months, but the matter has now come to a head."
"And how does it happen that we shall be fortunate enough to lend a hand?" asked Jack.
"My fault, I suppose," returned Lord Hastings. "Admiral Keyes, the day after your departure, was bemoaning the fact that one ship had been taken away from him at the last moment. I said that if Captain Templeton and the Brigadier were here, you could easily replace the other vessel. The admiral was of the opinion that you had not had the necessary training. I said you didn't need it. Apparently he was convinced, for the next I heard you had been recalled to Dover. Thus, through talking too much, I balked my own plans."
"Perhaps," said Frank, "it won't be too late for the other when the harbors of Ostend and Zeebrugge have been sealed."
"But perhaps you won't come back," said Lord Hastings.
"Oh, we'll be back, never fear," grinned Jack. "But what are we to do now?"
"You will report to Admiral Keyes aboard the Warwick at once. If you return safely, report to me. Good-bye and good luck."
The lads shook hands with Lord Hastings and left him.
"Here," said Frank, "is what I call a piece of luck."
A BIT OF EXPLANATION
It is probable that the sealing of the harbors of Ostend and Zeebrugge, two of the most important German submarine bases, was one of the greatest feats of the whole European war. The attempt was extremely hazardous and could never have been successful except for the gallantry and heroism of the British crews.
Not the least of the bravest among them were Jack and Frank and the other officers and crew of the destroyer Brigadier. It is true that the operation has been planned primarily with the idea of having the destroyer Daffodil in line, but it was the withdrawal of this vessel that permitted Jack and Frank to have a hand in the operation.
In order that all parts of the naval service might share in the expedition, representative bodies of men had been drawn from the Grand Fleet, the three home depots, the Royal marine artillery and light infantry. The ships and torpedo craft were furnished by the Dover patrol, which was reinforced by vessels from the Harwich force and the French and American navies. The Royal Australian navy and the admiralty experimental station at Stratford and Dover were also represented.
A force thus composed and armed, obviously needed collective training and special preparation to adapt both the men and their weapons to their purpose. With these objects, the blocking ships and the storming forces were assembled toward the end of February, and from the fourth of April on in the West Swim Anchorage—where training especially adapted to the plan of operation was given—and the organization of the expedition was carried on.
The material as it was prepared was used to make the training practical and was itself tested thereby. Moreover, valuable practice was afforded by endeavors to carry out the project on two previous occasions, on which the conditions of wind and weather compelled its postponement, and much was learned from these temporary failures.
The Hindustan, at first at Chatham and later at the Swim, was the parent ship and training depot. After the second attempt, when it became apparent that there would be a long delay, the Dominion joined the Hindustan and the pressure upon the available accommodation was relieved by the transfer of about 350 seamen and marines to her.
Two special craft, Liverpool ferry steamers, Iris and Gloucester, were selected after a long search by Captain Herbert Grant. They were selected because of their shallow draft, with a view in the first place to their pushing the Vindictive, which was to bear the brunt of the work, alongside Zeebrugge Mole; to the possibility, should the Vindictive be sunk, of their bringing away all her crew and the landing parties; and to their ability to maneuver in shallow water or clear of mine fields or torpedoes. The blocking ships and the Vindictive were especially prepared for their work long before the start.
Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes devoted personal attention and time to working out the plan of operations and the preparation of the personnel and material. Rear Admiral Cecil F. Dampier, second in command of the Dover flotilla, and Commodore Algernon Boyle, chief of staff, gave considerable assistance.
When, as vice-admiral of the Dover patrol, Admiral Keyes first began to prepare for the operation, it became apparent that without an effective system of smoke screening such an attack could hardly hope to succeed. The system of making smoke previously employed in the Dover patrol was unsuitable for a night operation, as this production generated a fierce flame, and no other means of making an effective smoke screen was available. Nevertheless Wing Commander Brock, at last devised the way.
The commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet, Admiral Beatty, sent to Admiral Keyes a picked body of officers and men. Support also was received from the neighboring commands at Portsmouth and the Nore, the adjutant general, Royal Marines, and the depot at Chatham. The rear-admiral commanding the Harwich force sent a flotilla leader and six destroyers, besides protecting the northern flank of the area in which operations were to be conducted.
To afford protection at a certain point in the route and to maintain the aids to navigation during the approach and retirement of the expedition, a force consisting of the flotilla leaders Scott and the destroyers Ulleswater, Teazer and Stork, and the light cruiser Attentive, flying the pennant of Commodore Boyle, was organized. This force, as it developed, was instrumental in patroling and directing the movements of detached craft in both directions, and relieved Admiral Keyes of all anxiety on that score.
At the moment of departing the forces were disposed as follows:
In the Swim—For the attack on the Zeebrugge Mole: Vindictive, Iris, Gloucester. To block the Bruges canal: Thetis, Interprid and Iphigenia. To block the entrance to Ostend: Sirius and Brilliant.
At Dover—Warwick, flagship of Vice-Admiral Keyes; Phoebe, North Star, Brigadier, Trident, Mansfield, Whirlwind, Myngs, Velox, Morris, Moorsom, Melpomene, Tempest and Tetrarch.
To damage Zeebrugge—Submarines C-1 and C-3.
A special picket boat to rescue crews of C-1 and C-3.
Minesweeper Lingfield to take off surplus steaming parties of block ships, which had 100 miles to steam.
Eighteen coastal motorboats.
Thirty-three motor launches.
To bombard vicinity of Zeebrugge—Monitors Erebus and Terror.
To attend monitors—Termagant, Truculent, and Manly.
Outer patrol off Zeebrugge—Attentive, Scot, Ulleswater, Teazer and Stork.
At Dunkirk—Monitors for bombarding Ostend: Marshal Soult, Lord Clive, Prince Eugene, General Sraufurd, M-24 and M-26.
For operating off Ostend—Swift, Faulknor, Matchless, Mastiff and Afridi.
The British destroyers Mentor, Lightfoot, Zubian and French torpedo boats Lestin, Capitaine Mehl, Francis Garnier, Roux and Boucier to accompany the monitors.
There were in addition to these, three American destroyers—the Taylor, the Alert and the Cyprus.
Eighteen British motor launches for smoke screening duty inshore and rescue work, and six for attending big monitors.
Four French motor launches attending M-24 and M-26 and five coastal motor boats.
Navigational aids having been established on the routes, the forces from the Swim and Dover were directed to join Admiral Keyes off the Goodwin Sands and to proceed in company to a rendezvous, and thereafter as requisite to their respective stations.
Those from Dunkirk were given their orders by the commodore.
An operation time table was issued to govern the movements of all the forces. Wireless signals were prohibited, visual signals of every sort were reduced to a minimum and maneuvering prearranged as far as foresight could provide.
With few and slight delays the program for the passage was carried out as laid down, the special aids to navigation being found of great assistance.
The Harwich force, under Rear-Admiral Tyrwhitt, was posted to cover the operations and prevent interference from the north.
Jack and Frank, having reported to Admiral Keyes upon leaving Lord Hastings, had received necessary instructions as to their part in the raid. They had passed the word to the other officers of the Brigadier, who in turn had informed members of the crew what was about to happen.
There was wild cheering among the British tars on the Brigadier when they learned they were to have a hand in one of the greatest and most dangerous enterprises attempted in the whole war. Needless to say, Jack and Frank also were immensely pleased.
"Tell you what, Jack," said Frank, after they had returned aboard the Brigadier, "it seems to me as though your work had come to the ears of the Admiralty with a vengeance."
"Oh, I guess that isn't it," Jack laughed. "They just happened to need another ship and picked on me. That's all."
"Perhaps," Frank admitted. "But just the same it seems that we are always in the midst of things. I wouldn't call it all luck, if I were you."
"Well, it's not good judgment, that much is certain," said Jack. "For good judgment would tell me to keep in a safe place as long as possible."
"If you want to know what I think about it," said Frank, "this raid is going to be one of the greatest blows struck at the enemy."
"It certainly will do the enemy a lot of harm if it's successful," Jack confessed.
"It'll be successful all right. I can feel that."
"A hunch, eh?" laughed Jack.
"Call it what you like. Nevertheless, I am absolutely certain Admiral Keyes will not fail. And what are the Germans going to do for submarine bases if Ostend and Zeebrugge are bottled up?"
"Maybe we'll catch most of them in there," said Jack hopefully.
"They won't be able to get out again if we do," declared Frank.
"Right," Jack agreed, "and the ones that are outside won't be able to get back in again."
"So you see," Frank continued, "we have them coming and going, as we say in America."
"I see," said Jack.
"And what time are we to start?" asked Frank. "You must remember you were in private conference with Admiral Keyes. You're a captain now, and the big fellows talk to you. I'm still only a lieutenant."
"The passage will most likely be made by daylight," said Jack. "That has been decided in order that we may do our work there under the cover of darkness so far as possible. Of course, this may be changed, but that's the way the plan lies now."
"Strikes me we are taking a pretty big force along, from what you say."
"Necessary, I guess," said Jack. "It seems that the admiral has overlooked nothing that will go toward making the attack a success."
"Well, we can't start any too soon to suit me," declared Frank. "When do you expect to get orders to move?"
"I'm not certain, but I wouldn't be surprised to receive them early in the morning."
As it developed Jack was a good prophet.
Bright and early next morning, a small boat approached the Brigadier. A few moments later an officer came aboard and presented Jack with a document. Then he departed.
Jack read the paper, then leaped to the bridge.
"To your post, Mr. Chadwick," he called to Frank, who had been standing near by. "Pipe all men to quarters and signal for half speed ahead."
The passage was about to begin.
THE ATTACK BEGINS
The main force was divided into three columns. The center column was led by the Vindictive, with the Brigadier second and the Iris in tow, followed by the five blocking ships and the paddle mine-sweeper Lingfield, escorting five motor launches for taking off the surplus steaming parties of the blocking ships. The starboard column was led by the Warwick, flying the flag of Admiral Keyes, followed by the Phoebe and North Star, which three ships were to cover the Vindictive from torpedo attack while the storming operations were in progress.
The submarines were towed by the Trident and Mansfield. The Tempest escorted the two Ostend block ships.
The port column was led by the Whirlwind, followed by Myngs and Moorsom, which ships were to patrol to the northward of Zeebrugge; and the Tetrarch, also to escort the Ostend block ships. Every craft was towing one or more coastal motor boats, and between the columns were motor launches.
The greater part of the passage, as Jack had explained, had to be carried out in broad daylight, with the consequent likelihood of discovery by enemy aircraft or submarines. This risk was largely countered by the escort of all the scouting escort under Admiral Keyes' command.
On arrival at a certain position, it being then apparent that the conditions were favorable and that there was every prospect of carrying through the enterprise on schedule, a short prearranged wireless signal was made to the detached forces that the program would be adhered to.
On arrival at a position a mile and a half short of where Commodore Boyle's force was stationed, the whole force stopped for fifteen minutes to enable the surplus steaming parties of the block ships to be disembarked and the coastal motor boats slipped. These and the motor launches then proceeded in execution of previous orders. On resuming the course, the Warwick and Whirlwind, followed by the destroyers, drew ahead on either bow to clear the passage of enemy outpost vessels.
When the Vindictive arrived at a position where it was necessary to alter her course for the Mole, the Warwick, Phoebe and North Star swung to starboard and cruised in the vicinity of the Mole until after the final withdrawal of all the attacking forces. During the movement and through the subsequent operations, the Warwick was maneuvered to place smoke screens wherever they seemed to be most required, and when the wind shifted from northeast to southwest, her services in this respect were particularly valuable.
The monitors Erebus and Terror, with the destroyers Termagant, Truculent and Manly, were stationed at a position suitable for the long range bombardment of Zeebrugge in co-operation with the attack.
Similarly, the monitors Marshal Soult, General Sraufurd, Prince Eugene and Lord Clive, and the small monitors M-21, M-24 and M-26 were stationed in suitable positions to bombard specified batteries. These craft were attended by the British destroyers Mentor, Lightfoot and Zubian, and the French Capitaine Mehl, Francis Garnier, Roux and Bouclier. The bombardment that ensued was undoubtedly useful in keeping down the fire of the shore batteries.
The attack on the Mole was primarily intended to distract the enemy's attention from the ships engaged in blocking the Bruges canal. Its immediate objectives were, first, the capture of the four 1-inch batteries at the sea end of the Mole, which were a serious menace to the passage of the block ships, and, second, the doing of as much damage to the material on the Mole as time would permit, for it was not the intention of Admiral Keyes to remain on the Mole after the primary object of the expedition had been accomplished.
The attack was to consist of two parts: The landing of storming and demolition parties and the destruction of the iron viaduct between the shore and the stone Mole.
The units detailed for the attack were:
H.M.S. Vindictive, Captain Alfred F.B. Carpenter; the Brigadier, Captain Jack Templeton; special steamers Iris, Commander Valentine Gibbs; Gloucester, Lieutenant H.G. Campbell, the latter detailed to push the Vindictive alongside the Mole and keep her there as long as might be necessary.
Submarines C-3 and C-1, commanded by Lieutenants Richard Sanford and Aubrey Newbold, respectively, attended by picket boat under Lieutenant Commander Francis H. Sanford.
Besides these, a flotilla of twenty-four motor launches and eight coastal motorboats were told off for rescue work and to make smoke screens or lay smoke floats, and nine more coastal motorboats to attack the Mole and enemy vessels inside it.
At 11.40 p.m. on April 22, 1918, the coastal motorboats detailed to lay the first smoke screen ran in to very close range and proceeded to lay smoke floats and by other methods make the necessary "fog." These craft immediately were under fire, and only their small size and great speed saved them from destruction.
At this moment the Blankenberghe light buoy was abeam of the Vindictive and the enemy had presumably seen or heard the approaching forces. Star shells lighted the heavens. But still no enemy patrol craft were sighted. At this time the wind had been from the northeast, and therefore favorable to the success of the smoke screens. It now died away and began to blow from a southerly direction.
Many of the smoke floats laid just off the Mole extension were sunk by the fire of the enemy, which now began to grow in volume. This, in conjunction with the wind, lessened the effectiveness of the smoke screen.
At 11.56 the Vindictive, the Brigadier close behind, having just passed through a smoke screen, sighted the Mole in the semi-darkness about three hundred yards off on the port bow. Speed was increased to full and the course of both vessels altered so that, allowing for cross tide, the Vindictive would make good a closing course of forty-five degrees to the Mole. The Vindictive purposely withheld her fire to avoid being discovered, but almost at the moment of her emerging from the smoke the enemy opened fire.
So promptly, under the orders of the commander, was this replied to by the port 6-inch battery, the upper deck pompoms and the gun in the foretop that the firing on both sides appeared to be almost simultaneous.
The Brigadier, under Jack's command, opened fire at almost the same moment. Heavy shells flew screaming into the enemy lines. German projectiles began to kick up the water close to the Vindictive and the Brigadier. But in the first few volleys, none of the enemy shells found their marks. Jack was conning the ship from the port forward, the flame-thrower hut. Frank, with directions as to handling of the ship should Jack be disabled, was in the conning tower, from which the Brigadier was being steered.
At one minute after midnight on April 23, the program time for attack being midnight, the Vindictive was put alongside the Mole and the starboard anchor was let go.
At this time the noise of cannonading was terrific. During the previous few minutes, the ship had been hit by a large number of shells, which had resulted in heavy casualties.
As there was some doubt as to the starboard anchor having gone clear, the port anchor was dropped close to the foot of the Mole and the cable bowsed-to, with less than a shackle out. A three-knot tide was running past the Mole, and the scene alongside, created by the slight swell, caused the ship to roll. There was an interval of three or four minutes before the Brigadier or the Gloucester could arrive and commence to push the Vindictive bodily alongside.
During the interval the Vindictive could not be got close enough for the special Mole anchors to hook and it was a very trying period. Many of the brows had been broken by shell fire and the heavy roll had broken the foremost Mole anchor as it was being placed. The two foremost brows, however, reached the wall and enabled storming parties, led by Lieutenant-Commander Bryan F. Adams, to land and run out alongside them, closely followed by the Royal marines.
It was at this juncture that a slight change was made in the original program. It developed, as the first storming party moved out, that Commander Adams' men were not in sufficient strength for the work ahead. Captain Carpenter of the Vindictive called for support from the Brigadier. Jack acted promptly.
"Lieutenant Chadwick!" he called.
Frank stepped forward and saluted.
"You will take one hundred men and join the storming party," said Jack.
At this moment the Brigadier was rubbing close to the Vindictive. This was fortunate at the moment, for there was then no other means by which a party from the Brigadier could reach the Mole.
Hurriedly Frank gathered the men, and then leaped from his own vessel to the deck of the Vindictive. A moment later they joined Commander Adams and his party.
Owing to the rolling of the ship, a most disconcerting motion was imparted to the brows, the outer ends of which were "sawing" considerably on the Mole parapet. Officers and men were equipped with Lewis guns, bombs, ammunition, etc., and were under heavy machine-gun fire at close range; add to this a drop of thirty feet between the ship and the Mole, and some idea of the conditions which had to be faced may be realized.
Yet the storming of the Mole was carried out without the slightest delay and without any apparent consideration of self preservation. Some of the first men on the Mole dropped in their tracks under the German fire, but the others pushed on, with the object of hauling one of the large Mole anchors across the parapet.
The Brigadier arrived alongside the Mole three minutes after Frank and his men had leaped to the deck of the other ship, followed by the little Iris. Both suffered less in their approach, the Vindictive occupying all the enemy's attention. The Gloucester also came up now to push the Vindictive bodily on to the Mole to enable her to be secured, after doing which the Gloucester landed her parties over that ship. Her men disembarked from her bows on to the Vindictive, as it was found essential to continue to push the Vindictive on to the Mole throughout the entire action.
This duty was magnificently carried out. Without the assistance of the Gloucester very few of the storming parties from the Vindictive could have landed, or could have re-embarked.
The landing from the Iris was made under even more trying circumstances. She rolled heavily in the sea, which rendered the use of the scaling ladders very difficult. But at this time, according to calculations, enough men had been landed to complete the work.
The fighting on the Mole became hand-to-hand.
THE BATTLE CONTINUES
A shell suddenly exploded among the Vindictive's foremost 7.5-inch howitzer's marine crew. Many were killed or wounded. A naval crew from a 6-inch gun took their places and were almost annihilated.
At this time the Vindictive was being hit every few seconds, chiefly in the upper works, from which the splinters caused many casualties. It was difficult for the British to locate the guns which were doing the most damage, but Jack, from the Brigadier, with men posted in the fortop of the vessel, kept up a continuous fire with pompoms and Lewis machine-guns, changing rapidly from one target to another in an attempt to destroy the guns that were raking the Vindictive fore and aft.
Two heavy shells struck the foretop of the Brigadier almost simultaneously. Half a dozen men were killed. A score of others were wounded.
To return for a moment to Frank and his men.
The attack on the Mole had been designed to be carried out by a storming force to prepare the way for, and afterward to cover and protect, the operations of a second force, which was to carry out the actual work of destruction. The storming force, which had embarked in the Vindictive, was now reinforced by a hundred British tars from the Brigadier, headed by Frank, and additional sailors from the Iris and Gloucester.
For the first time it was now ascertained that the Vindictive, in anchoring off the Mole, had over-run her station and was berthed some four hundred yards farther to the westward than had been intended.
It had been realized beforehand that the Vindictive might not exactly reach the exact position mapped out, but the fact that the landing was carried out in an unexpected place, combined with the heavy losses already sustained by the vessel, seriously disorganized the attacking force. The intention had been to land the storming parties right on top of the 4 1-inch guns in position on the seaward end of the Mole, the silencing of which was of the first importance, as they menaced the approach of the block ships.
The leading block ship had been timed to pass the lighthouse twenty-five minutes after the Vindictive came alongside. This period of time proved insufficient to organize and carry through an attack against the enemy on the seaward end of the Mole, the enemy, it developed, being able to bring heavy machine-gun fire to bear on the attacking forces. As a result the block ships, when they approached, came under an unexpected fire from the light guns on the Mole extension, though the 4.1-inch batteries on the Mole had remained silent.
Commander Adams, followed by Frank and his men, were the first to land. At that moment no enemy was seen on the Mole. They found themselves on a pathway on the Mole parapet about eight feet wide, with a wall four feet high on the seaward side, and an iron railing on the Mole side. From this pathway, there was a drop of fifteen feet on the Mole proper.
Followed by his men and Frank and the latter's command, Commander Adams went alongside the parapet to the left, where he found a lookout station or control, with a range finder behind and above it.
"Blow it up!" he shouted to Frank, who was close to him at that moment.
Frank gave a command to one of his men. A moment later there was an explosion and the station disappeared as though by magic.
Near the lookout station aft iron ladder led down to the Mole and three of Frank's men descended it. Frank went with them. Below they encountered half a dozen of the enemy.
It was no time to hesitate and Frank knew it.
"Bombs, men," he said simply.
Three hands drew back, then were brought forward. Three hand grenades dropped among the foes. There were three short blasts, and when the smoke cleared away, there were no Germans to be seen at that point. Then Frank and his men rejoined the others.
The situation now was that Commander Adams, Frank, their few men and a few Lewis guns, were beyond the lookout station protected from machine-gun fire from the direction of the Mole head, but exposed to fire from their own destroyers, alongside the Mole.
Commander Adams called Frank to him.
"We're in a ticklish position here, lieutenant," he said. "We're in danger of being shot down by our own guns. At the same time, if we move from behind this station, we are not in sufficient strength to drive the enemy away."
"Why not risk our own, fire, sir," said Frank, "and ask for reinforcements."
"That's a request that will have to be made in person," said Commander Adams, "and it will be rather risky."
"I'll be glad to try it sir," said Frank.
Commander Adams shrugged.
"It'd about as broad as it is long," he said. "If you're shot on the way I guess it will be no worse than dying here. Go ahead, if you wish."
Now to gain the needed reinforcements, Frank knew that it would be necessary to return to the side of the Vindictive. To reach that vessel it would be necessary to pass through places exposed to enemy machine-gun fire. However, at the moment, the German guns covering those particular spots were silent, so Frank decided to take the risk.
He set out at a run. At first his appearance was apparently unnoticed, but soon a rain of bullets poured after him. Two or three times the lad threw himself to the ground just in time. He was on his feet again a moment later, however, and at last reached his destination safely.
As the lad reached the side of the Vindictive he saw a second storming party coming over the side, equipped with Lewis machine-guns and rifles and hand bombs. Frank approached the commander of the party, Lieutenant-Commander Hastings, and outlined the plight of those he had left behind.
"Come with us," said Commander Hastings, "we'll soon clear those fellows out back there."
Machine-guns were wheeled into position and the British raked the German line wherever heads appeared. In this method they relieved the hard-pressed party under Commander Adams.
The first objective of the storming party ashore was a fortified zone situated about a hundred and fifty yards from the seaward end of the Mole proper. Its capture was of the first importance, as an enemy holding it could bring a heavy fire to bear on the parties still to land from the Vindictive.
Commander Adams ordered an advance.
Frank was placed in command of the left wing of the little army, Commander Hastings of the right wing. Commander Adams led the center himself. The British spread out.
"Charge!" cried Commander Adams.
"Charge!" repeated Frank and Commander Hastings a moment later.
The British seamen went forward on the double, bayonets fixed.
From out of their fortified positions the Germans sprang forth to meet them, machine-guns from behind covering their advance. At the same moment Frank ordered his own machine-guns wheeled into position, and swept the advancing enemy with a hail of bullets.
But neither side paid much attention to this rain of lead, and directly the fighting became too close for either side to utilize its machine-guns. Steel clashed on steel. Revolvers in the hands of the officers cracked. Men fell to the right and to the left.
For a moment it appeared that the attacking force must be hurled back by the very weight of the numbers against them. But they rallied after one brief moment in which it seemed that they must yield, and hurled themselves forward again. This time there was no stopping them.
Directly the thin German line wavered. Then it broke, and the enemy dashed for the protection of their fortified position at top speed. But the British sailors kept close on their heels, and they reached the coveted spot at almost the same time. There the fighting was resumed, but after a short resistance the enemy again retreated, leaving the position in the hands of the British.
Immediately Commander Adams ordered the machine-guns which had been abandoned by the foe in his flight turned on them and the Germans were mowed down in great numbers.
Having gained his objective, Commander Adams ordered his men to proceed down the Mole and hold a position there so as to cover the operations of the party of destruction, which was now hard at work. To expel these British, German troops were now advancing from the landward end of the Mole.
The destruction of the viaduct by the submarine C-3 had been designed to aid the efforts of the landing party by preventing reinforcements reaching the Mole from the shore. Owing to the Vindictive coming alongside to landward of this zone, Commander Adams' men were now faced with a double duty of preventing an enemy attack from the shore and of themselves attacking a second fortified zone ahead of them. The casualties already sustained were so great that the Iris could not remain alongside the Vindictive to land her company of Royal Marines. This left insufficient men in the early stages of the landing to carry out both operations.
The situation was a difficult one, for to attack the fortified zone first might enable the enemy to advance up the Mole and seize positions abreast of the Vindictive, with the most serious consequences to the whole landing force, whereas, by not attacking the fortified positions, the guns at the Mole head could not be prevented from firing at the block ships.
Therefore, Commander Adams instructed Frank to secure the landward side, at the same time instructing Commander Hastings to attack the fortified zone. Commander Adams knew that he was taking a long chance by thus dividing his forces, but in no other manner, it seemed to him, could the success of the expedition be assured.