THE DIARY OF A U-BOAT COMMANDER
WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND EXPLANATORY NOTES BY ETIENNE
18 Illustrations on Art Paper by Frank H. Mason.
* * * * *
BOOKS BY ETIENNE
STRANGE TALES FROM THE FLEET
A NAVAL LIEUTENANT
"In collaboration with Navallus.
Five Songs from the Grand Fleet."
* * * * *
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"We rammed a destroyer, passing through her like a knife through cheese"
"...they are so black and swift I don't go near them"
"Steering north-westerly ... to lay a small minefield off Newcastle"
"He had suddenly seen the bow waves of a destroyer approaching at full speed to ram"
"We were put down by a trawler at dawn"
"The torpedo had jumped clean out of the water a hundred yards short of the steamer and had then dived under her"
"A moment later there was a severe jar; we had struck the bottom"
"As the dim lights on the mole disappeared, the ceaseless fountain of star-shells, mingling with the flashing of guns, rose inland on our port beam"
"We hit her aft for the second time...."
"The track met our ram"
"In the flash I caught a glimpse of his conning tower"
"The 1,000 kilogrammes of metal crashed down"
"Good-bye! Steer west for America!"
"It is a snug anchorage, and here I intend to remain"
"A trapdoor near her bows fell down, the White Ensign was broken at the fore, and a 4-inch gun opened fire from the embrasure that was revealed on her side"
"I sighted two convoys, but there were destroyers there...."
"... when there was a blinding flash and the air seemed filled with moaning fragments"
"When I put up my periscope at 9 a.m. the horizon seemed to be ringed with patrols"
* * * * *
"I would ask you a favour," said the German captain, as we sat in the cabin of a U-boat which had just been added to the long line of bedraggled captives which stretched themselves for a mile or more in Harwich Harbour, in November, 1918.
I made no reply; I had just granted him a favour by allowing him to leave the upper deck of the submarine, in order that he might await the motor launch in some sort of privacy; why should he ask for more?
Undeterred by my silence, he continued: "I have a great friend, Lieutenant-zu-See Von Schenk, who brought U.122 over last week; he has lost a diary, quite private, he left it in error; can he have it?"
I deliberated, felt a certain pity, then remembered the Belgian Prince and other things, and so, looking the German in the face, I said:
"I can do nothing."
I shook my head, then, to my astonishment, the German placed his head in his hands and wept, his massive frame (for he was a very big man) shook in irregular spasms; it was a most extraordinary spectacle.
It seemed to me absurd that a man who had suffered, without visible emotion, the monstrous humiliation of handing over his command intact, should break down over a trivial incident concerning a diary, and not even his own diary, and yet there was this man crying openly before me.
It rather impressed me, and I felt a curious shyness at being present, as if I had stumbled accidentally into some private recess of his mind. I closed the cabin door, for I heard the voices of my crew approaching.
He wept for some time, perhaps ten minutes, and I wished very much to know of what he was thinking, but I couldn't imagine how it would be possible to find out.
I think that my behaviour in connection with his friend's diary added the last necessary drop of water to the floods of emotion which he had striven, and striven successfully, to hold in check during the agony of handing over the boat, and now the dam had crumbled and broken away.
It struck me that, down in the brilliantly-lit, stuffy little cabin, the result of the war was epitomized. On the table were some instruments I had forbidden him to remove, but which my first lieutenant had discovered in the engineer officer's bag.
On the settee lay a cheap, imitation leather suit-case, containing his spare clothes and a few books. At the table sat Germany in defeat, weeping, but not the tears of repentance, rather the tears of bitter regret for humiliations undergone and ambitions unrealized.
We did not speak again, for I heard the launch come alongside, and, as she bumped against the U-boat, the noise echoed through the hull into the cabin, and aroused him from his sorrows. He wiped his eyes, and, with an attempt at his former hardiness, he followed me on deck and boarded the motor launch.
Next day I visited U.122, and these papers are presented to the public, with such additional remarks as seemed desirable; for some curious reason the author seems to have omitted nearly all dates. This may have been due to the fear that the book, if captured, would be of great value to the British Intelligence Department if the entries were dated. The papers are in the form of two volumes in black leather binding, with a long letter inside the cover of the second volume.
Internal evidence has permitted me to add the dates as regards the years. My thanks are due to K. for assistance in translation.
* * * * *
The Diary of a U-boat Commander
One volume of my war-journal completed, and I must confess it is dull reading.
I could not help smiling as I read my enthusiastic remarks at the outbreak of war, when we visualized battles by the week. What a contrast between our expectations and the actual facts.
Months of monotony, and I haven't even seen an Englishman yet.
Our battle cruisers have had a little amusement with the coast raids at Scarborough and elsewhere, but we battle-fleet fellows have seen nothing, and done nothing.
So I have decided to volunteer for the U-boat service, and my name went in last week, though I am told it may be months before I am taken, as there are about 250 lieutenants already on the waiting list.
But sooner or later I suppose something will come of it.
I shall have no cause to complain of inactivity in that Service, if I get there.
* * * * *
I am off to-night for a six-days trip, two days of which are to be spent in the train, to the Verdun sector.
It has been a great piece of luck. The trip had been arranged by the Military and Naval Inter-communication Department; and two officers from this squadron were to go.
There were 130 candidates, so we drew lots; as usual I was lucky and drew one of the two chances.
It should be intensely interesting.
* * * * *
I arrived here last night after a slow and tiresome journey, which was somewhat alleviated by an excellent bottle of French wine which I purchased whilst in the Champagne district.
Long before we reached the vicinity of Verdun it was obvious to the most casual observer that we were heading for a centre of unusual activity.
Hospital trains travelling north-east and east were numerous, and twice our train, which was one of the ordinary military trains, was shunted on to a siding to allow troop trains to rumble past.
As we approached Verdun the noise of artillery, which I had heard distantly once or twice during the day, as the casual railway train approached the front, became more intense and grew from a low murmur into a steady noise of a kind of growling description, punctuated at irregular intervals by very deep booms as some especially heavy piece was discharged, or an ammunition dump went up.
The country here is very different from the mud flats of Flanders, as it is hilly and well wooded. The Meuse, in the course of centuries, has cut its way through the rampart of hills which surround Verdun, and we are attacking the place from three directions. On the north we are slowly forcing the French back on either river bank—a very costly proceeding, as each wing must advance an equal amount, or the one that advances is enfiladed from across the river.
We are also slowly creeping forward from the east and north-east in the direction of Douaumont.
I am attached to a 105-cm. battery, a young Major von Markel in command, a most charming fellow. I spent all to-day in the advanced observing position with a young subaltern called Grabel, also a nice young fellow. I was in position at 6 a.m., and, as apparently is common here, mist hides everything from view until the sun attains a certain strength. Our battery was supporting the attack on the north side of the river, though the battery itself was on the south side, and firing over a hill called L'Homme Mort.
Von Markel told me that the fighting here has not been previously equalled in the war, such is the intensity of the combat and the price each side is paying.
I could see for myself that this was so, and the whole atmosphere of the place is pregnant with the supreme importance of this struggle, which may well be the dying convulsions of decadent France.
His Imperial Majesty himself has arrived on the scene to witness the final triumph of our arms, and all agree that the end is imminent.
Once we get Verdun, it is the general opinion that this portion of the French front will break completely, carrying with it the adjacent sectors, and the French Armies in the Vosges and Argonne will be committed to a general retreat on converging lines.
But, favourable as this would be to us, it is generally considered here that the fall of Verdun will break the moral resistance of the French nation.
The feeling is, that infinitely more is involved than the capture of a French town, or even the destruction of a French Army; it is a question of stamina; it is the climax of the world war, the focal point of the colossal struggle between the Latin and the Teuton, and on the battlefields of Verdun the gods will decide the destinies of nations.
When I got to the forward observing position, which was situated among the ruins of a house, a most amazing noise made conversation difficult.
The orchestra was in full blast and something approaching 12,000 pieces of all sizes were in action on our side alone, this being the greatest artillery concentration yet effected during the war.
We were situated on one side of a valley which ran up at right angles to the river, whose actual course was hidden by mist, which also obscured the bottom of our valley. The front line was down in this little valley, and as I arrived we lifted our barrage on to the far hill-side to cover an attack which we were delivering at dawn.
Nothing could be seen of the conflict down below, but after half an hour we received orders to bring back our barrage again, and Grabel informed me that the attack had evidently failed. This afternoon I heard that it was indeed so, and that one division (the 58th), which had tried to work along the river bank and outflank the hill, had been caught by a concentration of six batteries of French 75's, which were situated across the river. The unfortunate 58th, forced back from the river-side, had heroically fought their way up the side of the hill, only to encounter our barrage, which, owing to the mist, we thought was well above and ahead of where they would be.
Under this fresh blow the 58th had retired to their trenches at the bottom of the small valley. As the day warmed up the mist disappeared, and, like a theatre curtain, the lifting of this veil revealed the whole scene in its terrible and yet mechanical splendour.
I say mechanical, for it all seemed unreal to me. I knew I should not see cavalry charges, guns in the open, and all the old-world panoply of war, but I was not prepared for this barren and shell-torn circle of hills, continually being freshly, and, to an uninformed observer, aimlessly lashed by shell fire.
Not a man in sight, though below us the ground was thickly strewn with corpses. Overhead a few aeroplanes circled round amidst balls of white shell bursts.
During the day the slow-circling aeroplanes (which were artillery observing machines) were galvanized into frightful activity by the sudden appearance of a fighting machine on one side or the other; this happened several times; it reminded me of a pike amongst young trout.
After lunch I saw a Spad shot down in flames, it was like Lucifer falling down from high heavens. The whole scene was enframed by a sluggish line of observation balloons.
Sometimes groups of these would hastily sink to earth, to rise again when the menace of the aeroplane had passed. These balloons seemed more like phlegmatic spectators at some athletic contest than actual participants in the events.
I wish my pen could convey to paper the varied impressions created within my mind in the course of the past day; but it cannot. I have the consolation that, though I think that I have considerable ability as a writer, yet abler pens than mine have abandoned in despair the task of describing a modern battle.
I can but reiterate that the dominant impression that remains is of the mechanical nature of this business of modern war, and yet such an impression is a false one, for as in the past so to-day, and so in the future, it is the human element which is, has been, and will be the foundation of all things.
Once only in the course of the day did I see men in any numbers, and that was when at 3 p.m. the French were detected massing for a counter-attack on the south side of the river. It was doomed to be still-born. As they left their trenches, distant pigmy figures in horizon blue, apparently plodding slowly across the ground, they were lashed by an intensive barrage and the little figures were obliterated in a series of spouting shell bursts.
Five minutes later the barrage ceased, the smoke drifted away and not a man was to be seen. Grabel told me that it had probably cost them 750 casualties. What an amazing and efficient destruction of living organism!
* * * * *
Another most interesting day, though of a different nature.
To-day was spent witnessing the arrangements for dealing with the wounded. I spent the morning at an advanced dressing station on the south bank of the river. It was in a cellar, beneath the ruins of a house, about 400 yards from the front line and under heavy shell-fire, as close at hand was the remains of what had been a wood, which was being used as a concentration point for reserves.
The cover afforded by this so-called wood was extremely slight, and the troops were concentrating for the innumerable attacks and counter-attacks which were taking place under shell fire. This caused the surgeon in charge of the cellar to describe the wood as our main supply station!
I entered the cellar at 8 a.m., taking advantage of a partial lull in the shelling, but a machine-gun bullet viciously flipped into a wooden beam at the entrance as I ducked to go in. I was not sorry to get underground. A sloping path brought me into the cellar, on one side of which sappers were digging away the earth to increase the accommodation.
The illumination consisted of candles set in bottles and some electric hand lamps. The centre of the cellar was occupied by two portable operating tables, rarely untenanted during the three hours I spent in this hell.
The atmosphere—for there was no ventilation—stank of sweat, blood, and chloroform.
By a powerful effort I countered my natural tendency to vomit, and looked around me. The sides of the cellar were lined with figures on stretchers. Some lay still and silent, others writhed and groaned. At intervals, one of the attendants would call the doctor's attention to one of the still forms. A hasty examination ensued, and the stretcher and its contents were removed. A few minutes later the stretcher— empty—returned. The surgeon explained to me that there was no room for corpses in the cellar; business, he genially remarked, was too brisk at the present crucial stage of the great battle.
The first feelings of revulsion having been mastered, I determined to make the most of my opportunities, as I have always felt that the naval officer is at a great disadvantage in war as compared with his military brother, in that he but rarely has a chance of accustoming himself to the unpleasant spectacle of torn flesh and bones.
This morning there was no lack of material, and many of the intestinal wounds were peculiarly revolting, so that at lunch-time, when another convenient lull in the torrent of shell fire enabled me to leave the cellar, I felt thoroughly hardened; in fact I had assisted in a humble degree at one or two operations.
I had lunch at the 11th Army Medical Headquarters Mess, and it was a sumptuous meal to which I did full justice.
After lunch, whilst waiting to be motored to a field hospital, I happened to see a battalion of Silesian troops about to go up to the front line.
It was rather curious feeling that one was looking at men, each in himself a unit of civilization, and yet many of whom were about to die in the interests thereof.
Their faces were an interesting study.
Some looked careless and debonair, and seemed to swing past with a touch of recklessness in their stride, others were grave and serious, and seemed almost to plod forward to the dictates of an inevitable fatalism.
The field hospital, where we met some very charming nurses, on one of whom I think I created a distinct impression, was not particularly interesting. It was clean, well-organized and radiated the efficiency inseparable from the German Army.
* * * * *
Back at Wilhelmshaven—curse it!
Yesterday morning, when about to start on a tour of the ammunition supply arrangements, I received an urgent wire recalling me at once!
There was nothing for it but to obey.
I was lucky enough to get a passage as far as Mons in an albatross scout which was taking dispatches to that place.
From there I managed to bluff a motor car out of the town commandant—a most obliging fellow. This took me to Aachen where I got an express.
The reason for my recall was that Witneisser went sick and Arnheim being away, this has left only two in the operations ciphering department.
My arrival has made us three. It is pretty strenuous work and, being of a clerical nature, suits me little. The only consolation is that many of the messages are most interesting. I was looking through the back files the other day and amongst other interesting information I came across the wireless report from the boat that had sunk the Lusitania.
It has always been a mystery to me why we sank her, as I do not believe those things pay.
* * * * *
Arnheim has come back, so I have got out of the ciphering department, to my great delight.
I have received official information that my application for U-boats has been received. Meanwhile all there is to do is to sit at this —— hole and wait.
2nd June, 1916.
I have fought in the greatest sea battle of the ages; it has been a wonderful and terrible experience.
All the details of the battle will be history, but I feel that I must place on record my personal experiences.
We have not escaped without marks, and the good old Koenig brought 67 dead and 125 wounded into port as the price of the victory off Skajerack, but of the English there are thousands who slept their last sleep in the wrecked hulls of the battle cruisers which will rust for eternal ages upon the Jutland banks.
Sad as our losses are—and the gallant Lutzow has sunk in sight of home—I am filled with pride.
We have met that great armada the British Fleet, we have struck them with a hammer blow and we have returned. I was asleep in my cabin when the news came that Hipper was coming south with the British battle cruisers on his beam. In five minutes we were at our action stations. We made contact with Hipper at 5.30 p.m.,  and Beatty turned north with his cruisers and fast battleships and we pursued.
[Footnote 1: This is 4.30 G.M.T.—Etienne]
Two of the great ships had been sunk by our battle cruisers, and we had hopes of destroying the remainder, when at 6.55 the mist on the northern horizon was pierced by the formidable line of the British Battle Fleet.
Jellicoe had arrived!
Three battle cruisers became involved between the lines, and in an instant one was blown up, and another crawled west in a sinking condition. Sudden and terrible are events in a modern sea-battle.
Confronted with the concentrated force of Britain's Battle Fleet we turned to east, and for twenty minutes our High Seas Fleet sustained the unequal contest.
It was during this period that we were hit seventeen times by heavy shell, though, in my position in the after torpedo control tower, I only realized one hit had taken place, which was when a shell plunged into the after turret and, blowing the roof off, killed every member of the turret's crew.
From my position, when the smoke and dust had blown away, I looked down into a mass of twisted machinery, amongst which I seemed to detect the charred remains of bodies.
At about 7.40 we turned, under cover of our smoke screen, and steered south-west.
Our position was not satisfactory, as the last information of the enemy reported them as turning to the southward; consequently they were between us and Heligoland.
At 11 p.m. we received a signal for divisions of battle fleets to steer independently for the Horn Reef swept channel.
Ten minutes later we underwent the first of five destroyer attacks.
The British destroyers, searching wide in the night, had located us, and with desperate gallantry pressed home the attack again and again. So close did they come that about 1.30 a.m. we rammed one, passing through her like a knife through a cheese.
It was a wonderful spectacle to see those sinister craft, rushing madly to their destruction down the bright beam of our powerful searchlights. It was an avenue of death for them, but to the credit of their Service it must stand that throughout the long nightmare they did not hesitate.
The surrounding darkness seemed to vomit forth flotilla after flotilla of these cavalry of the sea.
And they struck us once, a torpedo right forward, which will keep us in dock for a month, but did no vital injury.
When morning dawned, misty and soft, as is its way in June in the Bight, we were to the eastward of the British, and so we came honourably home to Wilhelmshaven, feeling that the young Navy had laid worthy foundations for its tradition to grow upon.
We are to report at Kiel, and shall be six weeks upon the job.
Back on seventeen days' leave, and everyone here very anxious to hear details of the battle of Skajerack.
It is very pleasant to have something to talk to the women about. Usually the gallant field greys hold the drawing-room floor, with their startling tales from the Western Front, of how they nearly took Verdun, and would have if the British hadn't insisted on being slaughtered on the Somme.
It is quite impossible in many ways to tell that there is a war on as far as social life in this place is concerned.
There is a shortage of good coffee and that is about all.
* * * * *
Arrived back on board last night.
They have made a fine job of us, and we go through the canal to the Schillig Roads early next week.
We are to do three weeks' gunnery practices from there, to train the new drafts.
1916 (about August).
At last! Thank Heavens, my application has been granted. Schmitt (the Secretary) told me this morning that a letter has come from the Admiralty to say that I am to present myself for medical examination at the board at Wilhelmshaven to-morrow.
What joy! to strike a blow at last, finished for ever the cursed monotony of inactivity of this High Seas Fleet life. But the U-boat war! Ah! that goes well. We shall bring those stubborn, blood-sucking islanders to their knees by striking at them through their bellies.
When I think of London and no food, and Glasgow and no food, then who can say what will happen? Revolt! rebellion in England, and our brave field greys on the west will smash them to atoms in the spring of 1917, and I, Karl Schenk, will have helped directly in this! Great thought—but calm! I am not there yet, there is still this confounded medical board. I almost wish I had not drunk so much last night, not that it makes any difference, but still one must run no risks, for I hear that the medical is terribly strict for the U-boat service. Only the cream is skimmed! Well, to-morrow we shall see.
* * * * *
Passed! and with flying colours; it seemed absurdly easy and only took ten minutes, but then my physique is magnificent, thanks to the physical training I have always done. I am now due to get three weeks' leave, and then to Zeebrugge.
I have wired to the little mother at Frankfurt.
* * * * *
At Zeebrugge, or rather Bruges.
I spent three weeks at home, all the family are pleased except mother; she has a woman's dread of danger; it is a pleasing characteristic in peace time, but a cloy on pleasure in days of war. To her, with the narrowness of a female's intellect, I really believe I am of more importance than the Fatherland—how absurd. Whilst at Frankfurt I saw a good deal of Rosa; she seems better looking each time I meet her; doubtless she is still developing to full womanhood. Moritz was home from Flanders. He had ten days' leave from Ypres, and, though I have a dislike for him, he certainly was interesting, though why the English cling to those wretched ruins is more than I can understand.
I felt instinctively that in a sense Moritz and I were rivals where Rosa was concerned, though I have never considered her in that light—as yet. One day, perhaps? These women are much the same everywhere, and I could see that having entered the U-boat service made a difference with Rosa, though her logic should have told her that I was no different. But is that right? After all, it is something to have joined this service; the Guards themselves have no better cachet, and it is certainly cheaper.
Here we live in billets and in a commandeered hotel. The life ashore is pleasant enough; the damned Belgians are sometimes sulky, but they know who is master. Bissing (a splendid chap) sees to that.
As a matter of fact we have benefited them by our occupation, the shops do a roaring trade at preposterous prices, and shamefully enough the German shopkeepers are most guilty. These pot-bellied merchants don't seem to realize that they exist owing to our exertions.
I was much struck with the beautiful orderliness of the small gardens which we have laid out since 1914, and, in fact, wherever one looks there is evidence of the genius of the German race for thorough organization. Yet these Belgians don't seem to appreciate it. I can't understand it.
I find here that social life is very much gayer than at that mad town of Wilhelmshaven. At the High Seas Fleet bases there was the strictness and austerity that some people seem to consider necessary to show that we are at war, though Heaven knows there was precious little war in the High Seas Fleet; perhaps that was why the "blood and iron" regime was in full order ashore. Here, in Bruges, at any rate as far as the submarine officers are concerned, the matter is far different. When the boats are in, one seems to do as one likes, with a perfunctory visit to the ship in the course of the day.
Witnitz (the Commodore) favours complete relaxation when in from a trip. In the evenings there are parties, for which there are always ladies, and I find it is necessary to have a "smoking." I went to the best tailor to buy one, and found that I must have one made at the damnable price of 140 marks; the fitter, an oily Jew, had the incredible impertinence to assure me it would be cut on London lines!
[Footnote 1: A dinner jacket.]
I nearly felled him to the ground; can one never get away from England and things English? I'll see his account waits a bit before I settle it.
There are several fellows I know here. Karl Mueller, who was 3rd watchkeeper in the Yorck, and Adolf Hilfsbaumer, who was captain of G.176, are the two I know best. They are both doing a few trips as second in commands of the later U.C. boats, which are mine-laying off the English coasts. This is a most dangerous operation, and nearly all the U.C. boats are commanded by reserve officers, of whom there are a good many in the Mess.
Excellent fellows, no doubt, but somewhat uncouth and lacking the finer points of breeding; as far as I can see in the short time I have been here they keep themselves to themselves a good deal. I certainly don't wish to mix with them. Unfortunately, it appears that I am almost bound to be appointed as second in command of one of the U.C. boats, for at least one trip before I go to the periscope school and train for a command of my own. The idea of being bottled up in an elongated cigar and under the command of one of those nautical plough-boys is repellent. However, the Von Schenks have never been too proud to obey in order to learn how to command.
* * * * *
I have been appointed second in command to U.C.47. Her captain is one Max Alten by name. Beyond the fact that I saw him drunk one night in the Mess I know nothing of him.
I reported to him and he seems rather in awe of me. His fears are groundless.
I shall make it as easy as possible for him, for it must be as awkward for him as it is unpleasant for me.
To celebrate my proper entry into the U-boat service, I gave a dinner party last night in a private room at "Le Coq d'Or." I asked Karl and Adolf, and told them to bring three girls. My opposite number was a lovely girl called Zoe something or other. I wore my "smoking" for the first time; it is certainly a becoming costume.
We drank a good deal of champagne and had a very pleasant little debauch; the girls got very merry, and I kissed Zoe once. She was not very angry. I think she is thoroughly charming, and I have accepted an invitation to take tea at her flat. She is either the wife or the chere amie of a colonel in the Brandenburgers, I could not make out which. Luckily the gallant "Cockchafer" is at the moment on the La Bassee sector, where I was interested to observe that heavy fighting has broken out to-day. I must console the fair Zoe!
Both Karl and Adolf got rather drunk, Adolf hopelessly so, but I, as usual, was hardly affected. I have a head of iron, provided the liquor is good, and I saw to that point.
* * * * *
We were sailing, or rather going down the canal to Zeebrugge on Friday, but the starting resistance of the port main motor burnt out and we were delayed till Sunday, as they will fit a new one.
I must confess the organization for repair work here is admirable, as very little is done by the crews in the U-boats, all work being carried out by the permanent staff, who are quartered at Bruges docks. Taking advantage of the delay I called on Zoe Stein, as I find she is named.
It appears she is not married to Colonel Stein. She told me he was fat and ugly, and laughed a good deal about him. She showed me his photograph, and certainly he is no beauty. However, he must be a man of means, as he has given her a charming flat, beautifully decorated with water-colours which the Colonel salved from the French chateau in the early days—these army fellows had all the chances.
I bade an affectionate farewell to Zoe, and I trust Stein will be still busily engaged at La Bassee when I return in a fortnight's time! I am greatly obliged to Karl for the introduction, and told him so; he himself is running after a little grass widow whose husband has been missing for some months. I think Karl finds it an expensive game; luckily Zoe seems well supplied with money—the essential ingredient in a joyous life.
On Friday night we had an air-raid—a frequent event here, but my first experience in this line. Unpleasant, but a fine spectacle, considerable damage done near the docks and an unexploded bomb fell in a street near our headquarters.
Two machines (British) brought down in flames. I saw the green balls  for the first time. A most fascinating sight to see them floating up in waving chains into the vault of heaven; they reminded me of making daisy chains as a child.
[Footnote 1: Known as "Flying-onions."]
We are alongside the mole in one of the new submarine shelters that has been built.
The boat is under a concrete roof over three feet thick, which would defy the heaviest bomb.
We have much improved the port since our arrival. The port, so-called, is purely artificial, and actually consists of a long mole with a gentle curve in it, which reaches out to seaward and protects the mouth of the canal. The tides are very strong up and down the coast, and constant dredging is carried out to keep 20 feet of water over the sill at the lock gates.
On arrival last night we went straight into No. 11 shelter, as an air-raid was expected, but nothing happened, so I went up to the "Flandre," which seems to be the best hotel here, full of submarine people, and I heard many interesting stories. There seems no doubt this U-boat war is dangerous work; I find the U.C. boats are beginning to be called the Suicide Club, after the famous English story of that name, which, curiously enough, I saw on the kinematograph at Frankfurt last leave. We Germans are extraordinarily broad-minded; I doubt if the works of German authors are seen on the screens in England or France.
The news from the West is good, the English are hurling themselves to destruction against our steel front. We are now to load up with mines. I must stop writing to superintend this work.
At sea. Near the South Dogger Light.
We loaded up the ten mines we carry in an hour and five minutes. They were lifted from a railway truck by a big crane and delicately lowered into the mine tubes, of which we have five in the bows.
The tubes extend from the upper deck of the ship to her keel, and slope aft to facilitate release. Having completed with fuel at Bruges, we took in a store of provisions and Alten went up to the Commodore's office to get our sailing orders.
We sailed at 6 p.m. and at last I felt I was off. To-day, the 22nd, we are just north of the South Dogger, steering north-westerly at 9-1/2 knots.
The sea is quite calm and everything is very pleasant. Our mission is to lay a small minefield off Newcastle in the East Coast war channel. I have, of course, never been to sea for any length of time in a U-boat, and it is all very novel.
I find the roar of the Diesel engine very relentless, and last night slept badly in a wretched bunk, which was a poor substitute for my lovely quarters in the barracks at Wilhelmshaven. One thing I appreciate, and that is the food; it is really excellent: fresh milk, fresh butter, white bread and many other luxuries.
I have spent most of the day picking up things about the boat. Her general arrangement is as follows:
Starting in the bows, mine tubes occupy the centre of the boat, leaving two narrow passages, one each side. In the port passage is the wireless cabinet and signal flag lockers, with store rooms underneath. In the starboard passage are one or two small pumps and the kitchen.
The next compartment contains four bunks, two each side, these are occupied by Alten, myself, the engineer, and the Navigating Warrant Officer. Proceeding further aft one enters the control room, in which one periscope is situated, and the necessary valves and pumps for diving the boat.
The next compartment is the crew space; ten of the company exist here.
Overhead on each side is the gear for releasing the torpedoes from the external torpedo tubes, of which we carry one each side. I think we borrowed this idea from the Russians.
Then comes the engine-room, an inferno of rattling noises, but excellent engines, I believe. At the after end of the engine-room are the two main switchboards, of whose manner of working I am at present in some ignorance.
The two main sets of electric motors are underneath the boards, in the stern, where we have a third torpedo tube.
* * * * *
I had hardly written the above words when a message came that the captain would like me to come to the bridge.
I went up in a leisurely fashion, through the conning tower, which is over the control room, and reported myself. He indicated a low-lying patch of smoke on the horizon far away on the starboard bow. I was obliged to confess that it conveyed nothing to me, when he aroused my intense interest by stating that it was, without doubt, being emitted from a British submarine, who are known to frequent these waters. He was proceeding away from us, and was, even then, six or seven miles away, so an attack was out of the question. The engineer, who had joined us, drew my attention to the thin wisp of almost invisible blue-grey smoke from our own stern. The contrast was certainly striking!
Over dinner I gave it as my opinion that the British boats were pretty useless. Alten would not agree, and stated that, though in certain technical aspects they were in a position of inferiority, yet in personnel and skill in attacking they were fully our equals. He seemed to hold them in considerable respect, and he remarked that, when making a passage, he was more anxious on their account than in any other way. He informed me that, on the last passage he made, he was attacked by a British boat which he never saw, the only indication he received being a torpedo which jumped out of the water almost over his tail. Luckily it was very rough at the time, which made the torpedo run erratically, otherwise they would undoubtedly have been hit.
What appeared to astonish him was the fact that the British boat had been able to make an attack in such weather. We are now charging on one engine, 500 amperes on each half-battery.
* * * * *
We are due back at Zeebrugge at 10 p.m. to-night. We should have been in at dawn to-day, but we received a wireless from the senior officer, Zeebrugge, to say that mine-laying was suspected, and we were to wait till the "Q.R." channel, from the Blankenberg buoy, had been swept. We lay in the bottom for eight hours, a few miles from the western end of the channel.
Our trip was quite successful, but not without certain excitements.
On the night of the 23rd we passed fairly close to a fishing fleet on the Dogger Bank, and saw the lights of several steamers in the distance. As our first business was to lay our mines in the appointed place, we did not worry them.
We burnt usual navigation lights, or rather side lights which appear to be usual, except that, by a little fitting which Alten has made himself, the arcs of bearing on which the lights show can be changed at will. His idea is that, should we appear to be approaching a steamer which he wishes to avoid, in many cases, by shining a little more or less red and green light, we can make her think that we are a steamer on such a course that it is her duty by the rules of the road to keep clear of us.
He tells me it has worked on several occasions, and he has also found it useful to have two small auxiliary side lights fitted which are the wrong colours for the sides they are on. It is, of course, only neutral shipping which carry lights nowadays, though Alten says that many British ships are still incredibly careless in the matter of lights.
However, to resume my account of what happened. We reached our position at dawn or slightly after, the weather was beautifully calm and the sea like glass. As we were only three miles from the English coast, and close to the mouth of the Tyne, we were extraordinarily lucky to have nothing in sight, if one excepts a long smudge of smoke which trailed across the horizon to the southward.
The land itself was obscured by early morning banks of mist, yet everything was so still that we actually faintly heard the whistle of a train. I could hardly restrain from suggesting to Alten that we should elevate the 10-cm. gun to fifteen degrees and fire a few rounds on to "proud Albion's virgin shores," but I did not do so as I felt fairly certain that he would not approve, and I do not wish to lay myself open to rebuffs from him after his behaviour concerning the smoking incident. I boil with rage at the thought, but again I digress.
The fact that the land was obscured was favourable from the point of view that we were not worried by coast watchers, but unfavourable from the standpoint that we were unable to take bearings of anything and so ascertain our exact position.
The importance of this point in submarine mine-laying is obvious, for, owing to our small cargo of eggs, it is quite possible that we may be sent here again, to lay an adjacent field, in which case it is highly desirable to know the exact position of one's previous effort.
We were somewhat assisted in our efforts to locate ourselves by the fact that a seven-fathom patch existed exactly where we had to lay. We picked up the edge of this bank with our sounding machine, and steering north half a mile, laid our mines in latitude—No! on second thoughts I will omit the precise position, for, though I shall take every precaution, there is no saying that through some misfortune this Journal might not get into the wrong hands.
I am very glad I decided to keep these notes, as I shall take much pleasure in reading them when Victory crowns our efforts and the joys of a peaceful life return.
I found it a delightful sensation being so close to the enemy coast, in his territorial waters, in fact. For the first time since the Skajerack battle I experienced the personal joys of war, the sensation of intimate and successful contact with the enemy, and the most hated enemy at that.
We had hardly finished laying our eggs when a droning noise was heard. With marvellous celerity we dived, that damned fellow Alten, who, under these circumstances leaves the bridge last, treading on my fingers as he followed me down the conning tower ladder.
The engineer endeavoured to sympathize with me, and made some idiotic remark about my being quicker when I had had more practice. I bit his head off. I can't stand this hail-fellow-well-met attitude in these U.C. boats, from any lout dressed in an officer's uniform. They wouldn't be holding commissions if it wasn't for the war, and they should remember that fact. I suppose they think I'm stand-offish. Well, if they had my family tree behind them they would understand.
We dived to sixty feet, and then came up to twenty. Alten looked through the periscope, and then invited me to look. Curiosity impelled me to accept this favour and, putting the focussing lever to "skyscrape" I swept round the sky.
At last I saw him; he was a small gas-bag of diminutive size, beneath which was suspended a little car, the most ridiculous little travesty of an airship I have ever seen. He was nosing along at about 800 feet and making about 40 knots.
Suddenly he must have seen the wake of our periscope, for he turned towards us. Simultaneously Alten, from the conning tower (I was using the other periscope in the control room), ordered the boat to sixty feet, and put the helm hard over.
We had turned sixteen points,  and in about two minutes heard a series of reports right astern of us. It was evident that our ruse had succeeded and that he had overshot the mark.
[Footnote 1: 180 degrees]
Inside the boat one felt a slight jar as each bomb went off.
We gradually came round to our proper course, and cruised all day submerged at dead slow speed. Every time we lifted our periscope he was still hanging about sufficiently close to make it foolish for us to come to the surface.
Towards noon a group of trawlers, doubtless summoned by wireless, appeared, and proceeded to wander about. These seemed to concern Alten far more than the airship, and he informed me that from their, to me, aimless movements he deduced they were hunting for us by hydroplanes. Occasionally we lay on the bottom in nineteen fathoms.
By 4 p.m. the atmosphere was becoming rather unpleasant and hot, and gradually we took off more clothes. Curiously enough, I longed for a smoke, but wild horses would not have made me ask Alten for permission.
At 8 p.m. it was sufficiently dark to enable us to rise, which gave me great pleasure, though the first rush of fresh air down the hatch made me vomit after hours of breathing the vitiated muck. On coming to the surface we saw nothing in sight, but a breeze had sprung up which caused spray to break over the bridge as we chugged along at 9 knots.
Everyone was in high spirits, as always on the return journey, when the mind turns to the Fatherland and all it holds.
My mind turns to Zoe. I confess it to myself frankly. I hardly realized to what extent this woman had begun to influence me until we received the wireless signal ordering us to delay entering for twelve hours. The receipt of this news, trivial though the delay has been, threw a mantle of gloom over the crew. I participated in the depression and, upon thought, rather wondered that this should be so. Self-analysis on the lines laid down by Schessmanweil  revealed to me that the basis of my annoyance is the fact that my next meeting with Zoe is deferred! I feel instinctively that I shall have trouble here, and that I had better haul off a lee shore whilst there is manoeuvring room, and yet—and yet I secretly rejoice that every revolution of the propeller, every clank and rattle of the Diesels brings us closer together.
[Footnote 1: Apparently some German author, of obscure origin, as I cannot find him in any book of reference.—ETIENNE.]
Alten has just come down from the bridge, and we chatted for some moments; it is evident that he wishes to apologize for his rudeness over the smoking incident.
I was in error, I admit it frankly; at the same time I did not know that the battery was on charge, and to dash a match from my hand! I could have shot him where he stood. However, I am not vindictive, and as far as I am concerned the incident is ended.
One thing I find trying in this small boat, and that is that I can find no space in which to do half my Mueller exercises, the leg- and-arm-swinging ones. I must see whether I can't invent a set of U-boat exercises!
Good! in two hours we reach the Mole-end light buoy.
* * * * *
Submarine Mess, Bruges.
It is midnight, and as I write in my room at the top of the house the low rumble of the guns from the south-west vibrates faintly through the open window, for it is extraordinarily warm for the time of year, and I have flung back the curtains and risked the light shining.
We spent the night at Zeebrugge and came up to the docks here next day. We shall probably be in for a week, and I am on four days' "extended absence from the boat," which practically means that I can go where I like in the neighbourhood provided I am handy to a telephone.
After a short inward struggle I rang Zoe up on the telephone; fortunately I did not call first.
A man's voice answered, and for a moment I was dumbfounded. I guessed at once it was the Colonel, and I had counted so confidently on his being still away at the front.
For an instant I felt speechless, an impulse came to me to ring off without further ado, but I restrained myself, and then a fine idea came into my head.
"Who is that?" I said.
"Colonel Stein!" replied the voice, and my fears were confirmed, but my plan of campaign held good.
"I am speaking," I continued, "on behalf of Lieutenant Von Schenk——"
"Ah, yes!" growled the voice, and for an instant a panic seized me, but I resumed:
"He met Madame Stein at dinner some days ago, and she kindly asked him to call; he has asked me to ring up and inquire when it would be convenient, as he would like to meet you, sir, as well. He has been unable to ring up himself, as he was sent away from Bruges on duty early this morning."
I smiled to myself at this little lie and listened.
"Your friend had better call to-morrow then, for I leave to-morrow evening for the Somme front; will you tell him?"
I replied that I would, and left the telephone well satisfied, but cursing the fates that made it advisable to keep clear of No. 10, Kafelle Strasse for thirty-six hours. Needless to say next day I rang up again in order to tell the Colonel that Lieutenant Schenk had apparently been detained, as he was not yet back in Bruges, and how I felt sure that he would be sorry at missing the Colonel, etc., etc., but all this camouflage was unnecessary, as she herself came to the 'phone. I could have kissed the instrument when I told her of my stratagem and heard her silvery laughter in my ear.
"It is arranged that to-morrow, starting at 10.30, we motor for the day to the Forest of Meten, taking our lunch and tea with us—pray Heaven the weather holds."
To-night in the Mess it is generally considered that U.B.40 has been lost; she is ten days overdue and was operating off Havre, she has made no signal for a fortnight. Such is the price of victory and the cost of war—death, perhaps, in some terrible form, but bah! away with such thoughts, to-morrow there is love and life and Zoe!
* * * * *
Once more it is night, still the guns rumble on the same old dismal tones, and as it is raining now it must be getting bad up at the front. Except for the rain it might have been last night, but much has happened to me in the meanwhile.
To-day in the forest by Ruysslede I found that I loved Zoe, loved her as I have never yet loved woman, loved her with my soul and all that is me.
The day was gloriously fine when we started, and an hour's run took us to the forest. We left the car at an inn and wandered down one of the glades.
I carried the basket and we strolled on and on until we found a suitable place deep in the heart of the forest.
I have the sailor's love for woods, for their depths, their shadows, their mysteries, which are so vivid a contrast to the monotony of the sea, with the everlasting circle of the horizon and the half-bowl of the heavens above.
In the forest to-day, though the leaves had turned to gold and red and brown, the beeches were still well covered, and overhead we were tented with a russet canopy.
I say, at last we found a spot, or rather Zoe, who, with girlish pleasure in the adventure, had run ahead, called to me, and as I write I seem to hear the echoes of "Karl! Karl!" which rang through the wood. When I came up to her she proudly pointed to the place she had found.
It was ideal. An outcrop of rock formed a miniature Matterhorn in the forest, and beneath its shelter with the old trees as silent witnesses we sat and joked and laughed, and made twenty attempts to light a fire.
After lunch, a little incident happened which had an enormous effect on me; Zoe asked me whether I would mind if she smoked.
How many women in these days would think of doing that? And yet, had she but known it, I am still sufficiently old-fashioned to appreciate the implied respect for any possible prejudices which was contained in her request.
After lunch, I asked her a question to which I dreaded the answer.
I asked her whether, now that the old Colonel had gone to the Somme, whether that meant that she would be leaving Bruges.
She laughed and teasingly said: "Quien sabe, senor," but seeing my real anxiety on this point, she assured me that she was not leaving for the present. The Colonel, she said, had a strange belief that once a man had served on the Flanders Front, and especially on the Ypres salient, he always came back to die there.
It appears that the Colonel has done fourteen months' service on the salient alone, and is firmly convinced he will end his career on that great burial ground. As we were talking about the Colonel I longed to ask her how she had met him, and perhaps find out why she lives with him, for I cannot believe she loves him, but I did not dare.
Strangely enough I found that a curious shyness had taken hold of me with regard to Zoe.
I said to myself, "Fool! you are alone with her, you long to kiss her; you have kissed her, first at the dinner-party, secondly when you said good-bye at her flat," and yet to-day it was different.
Then I was kissing a pretty woman, I was on the eve of a dangerous life, and I was simply extracting the animal pleasures whilst I lived.
To-day it was a case of Zoe, the personality I loved; I still longed to kiss her, but I wanted to have the unquestioned right to kiss her, as much as I wanted the kisses.
I wanted to have her for my own, away from the contaminating ownership of the old Colonel, and I determined to get her.
I think she noticed the changed attitude on my part, and perhaps she felt herself that a subtle change in our relationship had taken place, and whilst I meditated on these things she fell into a doze at my side.
I was sitting slightly above her, smoking to keep the midges away, and as I looked down on her childish figure a great tenderness for her filled my mind. She is very beautiful and to me desirable above all women; I can see her as she lay there trustfully at my feet. I will describe her, and then, when I get her photograph, I will read this when I am far away on a trip.
She is of average height, for I am just over six feet and she reaches to just above my shoulder. Her hair is gloriously thick and of a deep black colour, and lies low on her forehead. Her complexion is of the purest whiteness beyond compare, which but accentuates the red warmth of the lips which encircle her little mouth. Her figure is slight and her ankles are my delight, but her crowning glories, which I have purposely left till last, are her eyes.
I feel I could lose my soul; I have lost it, if I have one, in the violet depths of those eyes, which were veiled as she slept by the long black eyelashes which curled up delicately as they rested on her cheeks. I have re-read this description, and it is oh, so unsatisfying; would I had the pen of a Goethe or a Shakespeare, yet for want of more skill the description shall stand.
How I long for her to be mine, and yet, unfortunate that I am, I cannot for certain declare that she loves me.
A thousand doubts arise. I torment myself with recollections of her behaviour at the dinner-party, when within two hours of our first meeting she gave me her lips.
Yet did I not first roughly kiss her as we danced?
I find consolation in the fact that, though she has said nothing, yet her conduct to-day was different. She was so quiet after tea as we wandered back through the forests with the setting sun striking golden beams aslant the tree trunks.
Before we left I sang to her Tchaikowsky's beautiful song, "To the Forest," and I think she was pleased, for I may say with justice that my voice is of high quality for an amateur, and the song goes well without an accompaniment, whilst the atmosphere and surroundings were ideal.
There was only one jarring note in a perfect day; when we returned to the car the chauffeur permitted himself a sardonic grin. Zoe unfortunately saw it and blushed scarlet.
I could have struck him on his impudent mouth, but for her sake I judged it advisable to notice nothing.
I feel I could go on writing about her all night, but it is nearly 2 a.m. I must get some sleep.
The guns rumble steadily in the south-west, and the sky is lit by their flashes; may the fighting on the Somme be bloody these coming days.
[Probably about ten days later.—Etienne.]
We leave to-night, having had a longer spell than usual. I am in a distracted state of mind. Since our glorious day in the forest I have seen her nearly every afternoon, though twice that swine Alten has kept me in the boat in connection with some replacements of the battery.
I have found out that, like me, she is intensely musical. She plays beautifully on the piano, and we had long hours together playing Chopin and Beethoven; we also played some of Moussorgsky's duets, but I love her best when she plays Chopin, the composer pre-eminent of love and passion.
She has masses of music, as the Colonel gives her what she likes. We also played a lot of Debussy. At first I demurred at playing a living French composer's works, but she pouted and looked so adorable that all my scruples vanished in an instant, so we closed all the doors and she played it for hours very softly whilst I forgot the war and all its horrors and remembered only that I was with the well-beloved girl.
The Colonel writes from Thiepval, where the British are pouring out their blood like water. He writes very interesting letters, and has had many narrow escapes, but unfortunately he seems to bear a charmed life. His letters are full of details, and I wonder he gets them past the Field Censorship, but I suppose he censors his own.
She laughs at them and calls them her Colonel's dispatches; she says he is so accustomed to writing official reports that the poor old man can't write an ordinary letter.
I told her that I thought the way he mentioned regiments and dispositions rather indiscreet, and she agrees, but she says he has asked her to keep them, with a view to forming a collection of letters written from the front whilst the incidents he describes are vivid in his mind. I suppose the old ass knows his own business, and one day the collection may be completed by a telegram "Regretting to announce, etc. etc." The sooner the better.
So the days passed pleasantly enough, and never by a gesture or word of mouth did she show that I was more to her than any other pleasant young man.
I kissed her when I arrived, I kissed her when I left, each day was the same. She would put her arms round my neck and look long and deeply into my eyes, then she would gently kiss my lips. Not an atom of emotion! not a spark from the fires which I feel must be raging beneath that diabolically  extraordinary  amazingly calm exterior.
[Footnote 1: These words are crossed out.—ETIENNE.]
On ordinary subjects she would chatter vivaciously enough and she can talk in a fascinating manner on every subject I care to bring up, but as soon as I drew the conversation round to a personal line she gradually became more silent and a far-away and distant look came into those wonderful eyes.
I have found out nothing about her beyond the fact that she has travelled all over Europe. I don't even know how old she is, but I should guess twenty-six.
I tried to find out a few details by means of discreet remarks at the Club and elsewhere.
She simply arrived here about a year ago—as a singer, and met the Colonel—beyond that, all is mystery. Everything about her attracts me powerfully, and this mystery adds subtleties to her charms.
This afternoon I went to say good-bye; I told her we were leaving "shortly," and she gently reproved me for disobeying the order which forbids discussion of movements, but I could see she was not greatly displeased.
After tea she played to me, music of the modern Russian school—Arensky, Sibelius and Pilsuki; a storm was brewing and we both felt sad.
She played for an hour or so, and then came and sat by me on a low divan by the fire. We were silent for a long while in the gathering gloom, whilst a thousand thoughts chased each other swiftly through my brain, as I endeavoured to summon up courage to say what I had determined I must say before I left her, perhaps for ever.
At last, when only her profile was visible against the glow of the logs, I spoke.
I told her quietly, calmly and almost dispassionately that I had grown to love her and that to me she was life itself. I told her that I had tried not to speak until I could endure no longer.
She sat very still as I spoke, and when I had finished there was a long silence and I gently stretched out my hand and stroked her lovely black hair. At last she rose and with averted face walked across the room, and stood looking at the storm through the big bow windows. I watched her, but did not dare follow.
At length she returned to me, and I saw what I had instinctively known the whole time—that she had been crying. I could not think why.
She put her arms round my neck, kissed me on the forehead and murmured, "Poor Karl."
I felt crushed; I dared not move for fear of breaking the magic of the moment, yet I longed to know more; I felt overwhelmed by some colossal mystery that seemed to be enveloping me in its folds. Why did she pity me? Why did she weep? Why didn't she answer my avowal? Why didn't she tell me something? Such were some of the problems that perplexed me.
It was thus when the clock chimed seven. I told her that my leave was up at seven o'clock, and that at 7.15 I had to be back on board the boat. She remembered this, and in an instant the past quarter of an hour might never have existed. She was all agitation and nervousness lest I should be late on board—though at the moment I would have cheerfully missed the boat to hear her say she loved me.
I tried to protest, but in vain. With feminine quickness she utilized the incident to avoid a situation she evidently found full of difficulty, and at 7.10, with the memory of a light kiss on my lips and her God-speed in my ears I was in a taxi driving to the docks in a blinding rain-storm—and we sail to-night.
For five, six, seven, perhaps ten days at the least, and at the most for ever, I am doomed to be away from her and without news of her. And I don't even know whether she loves me!
I think I can say she cares for me up to a certain point, but I want more.
"Oh Zoe! of the violet eyes, And hair of blackest night Thy lips are brightest crimson, Thy skin is dazzling white.
"Oh! lay your head upon my breast, And lift your lips to mine; Then murmur in soft breathings, Drink deep from what is thine.
"Then let the war rage onward, Let kingdoms rise and fall; To each shall be the other, Their life, their hope, their all."
[Footnote: I am indebted to Commander C. C. for the above rough translation of Karl's effusion.—ETIENNE.]
We are bound for the same old spot as last time.
Alten must have been drinking like a fish lately; his breath smells like a distillery; he is apparently partial to schnapps, which he gets easily in Bruges.
I can't help admiring the man, as he is a rigid teetotaller at sea, though he must find the strain well nigh intolerable, judging from the condition he was in when he came on board last night. He was really totally unfit to take charge of the boat, and I virtually took her down the canal, though with sottish obstinacy he insisted on remaining on the bridge.
This morning, though his complexion was a hideous yellow colour, he seems quite all right. I shall play a little trick on him at dinner to-night.
I have begun to get to know some of the crew by now; they are a fine lot of youngsters with a seasoning of half a dozen older men. The coxswain, Schmitt by name, is a splendid old petty officer who has been in the U-boat service since 1911.
His favourite enjoyment is to spin yarns to the younger members of the crew, who know of his weakness and play up to it.
He has a favourite expression which runs thus:
"His Majesty the Kaiser said Germany's future lies on the sea; I say Germany's future lies under the sea."
He is inordinately fond of this statement, and the youngsters continually say: "What made you take to U-boat work, Schmitt?" and the invariable reply is as above. When he has been asked the question about half a dozen times in the course of a day, he is liable to become suspicious, and if his questioner is within range Schmitt stares at him for a few seconds in an absent-minded way, then an arm like that of a gorilla shoots out, and the quizzer (Untersucher) receives a resounding box on the ears to the huge delight of his companions. The old man then permits his iron-lipped mouth to relax into a caustic smile, after which he is left in peace for some time.
At the wheel he is an artist, for he seems to divine what the next order is going to be, or if he is steering her on a course he predicts the direction of the next wave even as a skilful chess player works out the moves ahead.
* * * * *
I am rather weary and ought to go to bed, but before I lose the savour I must record the splendid fun I had with Alten at dinner.
We were dining alone, as the navigator was on the bridge, and the engineer was busy with a slight leak in the cooking water service. I have said that, though a heavy drinker by nature, Alten is a strict abstainer at sea. Accordingly I produced a small flask of rum, half-way through dinner, and helped myself to a liberal tot, placing the liquor between us on the table. As the sight met his eyes and the aroma greeted his nostrils, a gleam of joy flashed across his face, to be succeeded by a frown.
With an amiable smile I proffered the flask to him, remarking at the same time: "You don't drink at sea, do you?"
In a thick voice he muttered, "No! Yes—no! thank you."
With an air of having noticed nothing, I resumed my meal, but out of the corner of my eye I watched his left hand on the table near the flask. It was most interesting, all the veins stood out like ropes, and his knuckles almost burst through the skin.
This went on for about thirty seconds, when he choked out something about needing a breath of fresh air. As he got up his face was brick red, and I almost thought he'd have a fit.
Whether by accident or design he pulled the cloth as he got out from between the settee and the table and upset the flask.
He was apparently incapable of apologizing, for he rushed up on deck.
A few minutes later the navigating officer came down and asked what was up?
I said: "What do you mean?"
He said: "Well, the Captain came up just now, swearing like a trooper, and told me to get to the devil out of it; it didn't seem advisable to question him, so I got out of it and came down."
I expressed my opinion that the Captain must be feeling sea-sick and was ashamed to say so. I also suggested to the navigator that he should take the Captain a little brandy in case he was not feeling well, but the navigator declared he was going to stay down in the warmth till he was sent for. Alten is a great coarse brute. Fancy allowing a material substance such as alcohol to grip one's mentality.
Thank Heaven I have nerves of iron; nothing would affect me!
And now to bed, though I must just read my account of our day in the forest. Darling girl, may I dream of thee.
* * * * *
We laid our mines without trouble at 5 a.m. this morning, though at midnight we had a most unpleasant experience.
I was asleep, as it was my morning watch, when I was awakened by the harsh rattle of the diving alarms.
The Diesel subsided with a few spasmodic coughs into silence, and as I jumped out of my bunk and groped for my short sea boots, the navigator and helmsman came tumbling down the conning tower, with the navigator shouting, "Take her down," as hard as you like.
The men at the planes had them "hard-to-dive" in an instant.
The vents had been opened as the hooters sounded, and Alten, who had jumped into the control room, immediately rang down, "All out on the electric motors."
In thirty seconds from the original alarm we were at an angle of twenty degrees down by the bow, and I had sat down heavily on the battery boards, completely surprised by the sudden tilt of the deck.
It occurred to me that the air was escaping through the vents with a strangely loud noise, but before I could consider the matter further or even inquire the reason for this sudden dive, the noise increased to a terrifying extent, and whilst I prepared myself for the worst it culminated into a roar as of fifty express trains going through a tunnel, mingled with the noise of a high-powered aeroplane engine.
The roar drummed and beat and shook the boat, then died away as suddenly as it came; a moment later there was a severe jar. We had struck the bottom, still maintaining our angle.
I painfully got to my feet and then discovered from the navigator that he had suddenly seen two white patches of foam 800 yards on the starboard bow, which resolved themselves into the bow waves of a destroyer approaching at full speed to ram.
We had dived just in time, and her knife-edged bow, driven by 30,000 horse power, had slid through the water a very few feet above our conning tower.
Luckily he had not dropped any depth charges. We were not, however, completely free of our troubles, though we had cheated the destroyer.
Examination of the chart, showed the bottom to be mud, and on attempting to move the foremost hydroplanes, the plane motor fuses blew out. This showed that the boat was buried in the mud right up to her foremost planes, which were immovable.
The hydrophone watchkeeper reported that he could still hear fast-running propellers, though probably some distance away, and as this showed that our old enemy was still nosing about we were very anxious not to break surface. We just blew "A."  At least we started to blow "A," but Alten wisely decided that, as it was a calm night with a half-moon, the bubbles on the surface might be rather conspicuous, so we stopped the blow and put the pump on. We also flooded "W".  This had no effect on her at all.
[Footnote 1: Probably their foremost internal tank.—ETIENNE.]
[Footnote 2: Presumably their after internal tank.—ETIENNE.]
We then pumped out "Q" and "P," leaving "W" full, and adjusted our trim to give her only three tons negative buoyancy, just enough to keep us on the bottom if she came out of the mud.
In this position we went full speed astern on the motors, 1,500 amps on each, and all the crew in the after-compartment. No result. We then pumped the outer diving tanks on the port side to give her a list to starboard. Still she remained fixed.
So at 2 a.m. we decided to risk it and we put a slow blow on all tanks.
When she had about fifty tons positive buoyancy she suddenly bucketed up, and, as the motors were running full speed astern at the time, we came up and broke surface stern first. In a few seconds we were trimmed down again, and as a precautionary measure we proceeded for a couple of miles at twenty metres, when, coming up to periscope depth, we surfaced, and finding all clear we proceeded. We were put down by a trawler at dawn, though she never saw us. After half an hour's hanging about she moved off, which was lucky, as she was right on our billet.
We are now proceeding to a spot somewhat to the eastward of Cape St. Abbs,  as we have instructions to do a two-days patrol here and sink shipping.
[Footnote 3: St. Abbs Head.—ETIENNE]
We ought to start business to-morrow morning.
* * * * *
We should be in to-night, then for my little Zoe!
But I must record what we have done. Already I am getting much pleasure from reading my diary. Strange how it amuses one to see little bits of oneself on paper, and the less garnished and franker the truths the more entertaining it is.
The hours here are so long and boring at times that I feel I want to talk intimately with someone. Failing Zoe I turn to my notebooks.
The first steamer we sighted raised high hopes, at least her smoke did, for we saw enough smoke on the horizon to make us think we were to see the Grand Fleet, and we promptly dived. We cruised towards her for about half an hour, and then hung about where we were, as we found that her course would take the ship close to us.
As the situation developed, Alten, who was up in the conning tower at the "A" periscope, gave us a certain amount of information, and we gathered that all this smoke was pouring out of the pipe-stem tunnel of a wretched little English tramp.
I found it most irritating, standing in the control room (my action station) and not knowing what was going on.
There is only one good job in a submarine and that is the Captain's. He knows and decides everything. The rest of us are in his hands and take things on trust. I object on principle to my life being held in Alten's hands. It is all very well for the crew, for, to start with, they have no imagination, and to most of them their mental horizon stops at the walls of the boat. Secondly, they have the consolation of mechanical activities; they make and break switches and open and close valves—they work with their hands. An officer has imagination, and only works with his head.
As we attacked the steamer, all one heard was murmurs from Alten, such as: "Raise!" "Lower!" "Take her down to ten metres!" "Half speed!" "Slow!" "Bring her up to five metres!" "Raise!" "Lower!"
I endeavoured to simulate an air of unconcern which I was far from feeling.
Not that I was a prey to physical fear; I flatter myself it is so far unknown to me, and there was no great danger, but simply that I longed to know what was happening. At length I heard the welcome order:
"Starboard tube. Stand by!"
Which was followed almost immediately by the order: "Fire!"
There was a kind of coughing grunt, and the starboard torpedo proceeded on its errand of destruction.
Every ear was strained for the sound of the explosion, but all we were vouchsafed was a torrent of blasphemy from Alten.
The torpedo had jumped clean out of the water a hundred yards short of the steamer, and had then evidently dived under the ship; so I gathered later when Alten had calmed down somewhat. We were about to surface and give her the gun, when luckily Alten took a good sweep round with the skyscraper and discovered one of those wretched little airships about a mile away, coming towards the steamer, which was wailing piteously, on her syren.
As the chart showed forty metres we decided to bottom and have lunch.
Over lunch we discussed the misadventure. Alten was loud in his curses of Tanzerman (the torpedo lieutenant at Bruges), from whom he had got the torpedo in guaranteed good condition only forty-eight hours before we sailed. He launched forth into a tirade against the torpedo staff at Bruges, and, warming to his subject, he roundly abused the whole of the depot personnel, whom he stigmatized as a set of hard-drinking, shore-loafing ruffians, who were incapable of realizing that they existed for the benefit of the boats' personnel and "material."
I naturally disagreed, and did so the more readily that I conscientiously disagree with him. I find that there is a tendency on the part of some of these submarine officers, who have been U-boating a long time, to get into narrow grooves. Most reserve officers are not like this, as they have only been in during the war. Alten is an exception; he left the Hamburg-Amerika on two years' half pay in 1912, and was, of course, kept on in 1914. After all, the depot staff are Germans, and as such labour for the Fatherland, and though their work in office and workship is not so dangerous as ours, on the other hand they have not got the stimulation before their eyes, of glory to be gained. Personally I am of the opinion that the torpedo broke surface because, being fired from the outside tubes, it probably started too shallow, dived deep, recovered shallow and dived deep, broke surface and dived very deep. A sticky motor or sluggish weight would give this effect.
And are these external tubes water-tight? Theoretically, yes, but what of practice? We have been down to forty metres several times during this trip, and not once have we had a chance on the surface of getting at the two external tubes; add to which our depth gear, with the pivots of the weight exposed to water if the tube does flood and then you have rust, corrosion and heaven knows what complications.
I saw a British Mark 11.50 torpedo at the torpedo shop at Bruges the other day, and I was much struck with their deep depth gear, which is of the unrestrained Uhlan type, i.e., weight and valve interdependent. But then the main feature is that the whole gear is contained in a separate water-tight chamber.
Our system is certainly a great saving in space, and is much neater in design, whilst I prefer the Uhlan principle of valve conjuncting with weight, but it would be interesting to know whether the British have much trouble with the depth-keeping of their torpedo.
I have written quite a disquisition on depth gears; I must get on with my record of events.
After lunch we had a good look round, but the small airship was still hanging about, flying slowly in large circles.
We were rather surprised to meet one of these despicable little sausages or "Zeppelin's Spawn," as the navigator calls them, so far from land, and at dark we surfaced and proceeded on one engine on an easterly course, charging the battery right up with the other engine.
Dawn revealed a blank horizon, not a vestige of mast, funnel or smoke in sight.
We ambled along in fine though cold weather, and I took advantage of the peacefulness of everything to do a really good series of Mueller on the upper deck, stripped to the waist, and allowed the keen air to play its invigorating currents on my torso.
Alten silently watched me from the conning tower, with a sneering expression on his face. The navigator, who is quite a decent youngster, though of no family, was, I could plainly see, struck by my development, and asked to be initiated into the series of exercises. I agreed willingly enough to show them to him. I will confess I wish Zoe could have seen me as I perspired with healthy exercise.
At about 11 a.m. a couple of masts, then two more, then another, appeared above the horizon. The visibility was extreme, so we at once dived and proceeded at full speed, ten metres.
We had been going thus for perhaps half an hour when Alten remarked that he would have another look at the convoy. We eased speed, came up to six metres, and Alten proceeded up into the conning tower to use "A" periscope.
He had hardly applied his eye to the lens when he sharply ordered the boat to ten metres, accompanying this order with another to the motor room demanding utmost speed (Ausserste Kraft). I went up to the conning tower and found him white with excitement.
"Look!" he exclaimed, pointing to the periscope, entirely forgetful of the fact that we were at ten metres. I looked, and of course saw nothing; furious at the trick I considered he had played on me I turned on him, to be disarmed by his apology.
"Sorry! I forgot! The whole British battle cruiser force is there."
It was now my turn to be excited, and I rushed down to the motor room determined to give her every amp she would take. The port foremost motor was sparking like the devil, rings of cursed sparks shooting round the commutator, but this was no time for ceremony. I relentlessly ordered the field current to be still further reduced.
We were actually running with an F.C. of 3.75 amps,  for a period, when the sparking assumed the appearance of a ring of fire and, fearing a commutator strip would melt, I ordered an F.C. of five amps.
[Footnote 1: The lower the field current the faster the motor goes. 3.75 is almost incredibly low for a motor of this type—at least according to British practice.—ETIENNE.]
We thus passed a quarter of an hour full of strain, the tension of which was reflected in the attitude of all the men. Alten had announced his intention of using the stern torpedo tube after his failure in the morning, and the crew of this tube were crouched at their stations like a gun's crew in the last few seconds preparatory to opening fire. The switchboard attendants gripped the regulating rheostatts as if by their personal efforts they could urge the boat on faster. Old Schmitt, at the helm, never lifted his eyes from the compass repeater.
At length: "Slow both!" "Bring her to six metres!" came from the conning tower, to which place I proceeded to hear the news.
Slowly the periscope was raised and I held my breath; a groan came from Alten and he turned away. For a fraction of a second I was almost pleased at his obvious pain, then, sick with disappointment, I took his place.
Yes! it was all over. There they were, and with hungry eyes and depressed heart I saw five great battle cruisers, of which I recognized the Tiger with her three great funnels, the Princess Royal, Lion and two others, zigzagging along at 25 knots, at a distance of 12,000 metres, across our bow.
They were surrounded by a numerous screen of destroyers and light cruisers, the former at that range through the periscope appearing as black smudges.
It is not often one is permitted such a spectacle in modern war, and I could not tear myself away from the sight of those great brutes, whom I had fought when in the Derflingger at Dogger Bank and again when in the Koenig at Jutland. So near and yet so far, and as they rapidly drew away so did all the visions of an Iron Cross. As soon as they were out of sight, we surfaced in order to report what we had seen to Zeebrugge and Heligoland.
Everything seemed against us. I had gone on the bridge with the navigator; Alten, with a face as black as hell, had gone to the wardroom. About ten minutes elapsed when I heard a fearful altercation going on below. I stepped down to find the young wireless operator trembling in front of Alten, who was overwhelming him with a flood of abuse. As I reached the wardroom, Alten shook his fist in the man's face and bellowed:
"Make the d—— thing work, I tell you."
"Impossible, Captain, the main condenser——" the man began.
Purple with rage, Alten seized a heavy pair of parallel rulers, and before I could check him hurled them full in the operator's face. Bleeding copiously, the youth fell to the deck in a stunned condition.
It was then, for the first time, that I noticed a half-empty bottle of spirits on the table, which colossal quantity he must have consumed in about a quarter of an hour.
Turning to me, this semi-madman pointed to the wireless operator with his foot and growled:
"Have him removed."
This I did, and then, lowering the periscope, I ordered the boat to fifteen metres. We proceeded at this depth until 8 p.m., when I was informed that the Captain was in his bunk and wished to see me.
I discovered him with his face to the ship's side, and upon my reporting myself he ordered me, firstly to throw that blasted bottle overboard (an unnecessary proceeding, as it was empty), and secondly to surface and shape course for Zeebrugge.
At midnight he relieved me, apparently perfectly normal.
The wireless operator has been laid up all day and has a nasty cut on the head. The navigator, a great scandal-monger, has heard from the engineer that Alten was speaking to him alone this morning, and the engineer believes that Alten has given him five hundred marks to say he fell down a hatch.
Hooray! Blankenberg buoy has just been reported in sight! Soon I shall see my Zoe!
* * * * *
With what high hopes did I write the last few lines a few hours ago, and how they were dashed to the ground, for on going into the Mess at Bruges I found amongst my letters a note from her, which was terrible in its brevity. She simply said:
"I am going away for some days, and as I shall be travelling it is no good giving you an address. To our next meeting!
How horribly vague; not an indication of her destination, her object, or the probable length of her absence. Of course I rushed round to the flat, but found the place shut up. The porter told me she had gone away with her maid. He couldn't say when she'd be back—if at all! I gave him ten marks, and he said she might be away a fortnight. If I'd given him twenty he'd have said a week; he obviously didn't know.
I feel I could do anything to-night; any mad, evil thing would appeal to me.
There is a most fearful uproar coming from the guest-room, where a large and rowdy party are entertaining the chorus of a travelling revue company. I saw them when they arrived, horribly common-looking women, with legs like mine tubes.
* * * * *
Another day and still no news; I don't know how I shall stick it. She might have had the softness of heart to write to me. She knows my address.
This evening a letter from the little mother, who asks whether I can find time to go to Frankfurt when I have leave; at the end of the letter she mentions that Rosa has joined the Women's Voluntary Auxiliary Corps of Army Nurses. I suppose she thought she'd like her photograph taken in some fancy uniform as "Rosa Freinland, one of our Frankfurt beauties, now on war work!" Holding the patient's hand is about the only work she intends doing.
Women as a class are the same the world over. We are well supplied with English papers in the Mess here; they come regularly from Amsterdam, and in their pages I see, just as in ours, pictures of the Countess this and the Lord that, photographed in becoming attitudes doing war work. It seems agricultural pursuits are the fashion in England at present—wait till our U-boat war gets its knife well into their fat guts, it will be more than fashionable to work in the fields then.
The British Empire is undeniably a great creation, or rather not so much a creation as a thing arrived at accidentally, but it lacks solidarity. It sprawls, a confused mass of races and creeds, around the world. Its very immensity lays it open to attack, it has a dozen Achilles heels from Ireland to Egypt and South Africa to India.
I met a man only yesterday who was recently at the propaganda department of the Foreign Office, and without going into details he gave me a very good idea of the good work that is going on in Britain's canker spots.
Ireland is considered particularly promising to those in the know.
Now for an agitated night! To think that a girl should disturb me so!
* * * * *
Two days have passed, or, rather, dragged their interminable lengths away, for there is still not a vestige of news. I have been twice to the flat with no result, except to receive a piece of impertinence from the porter the last time I was there.
* * * * *
Still no news, and we sail in forty-eight hours.
At sea, off the Isle of Wight.
It is some days since I turned for solace and enjoyment, amidst the discomforts of this life, to my pen and notebook.