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NO ONE knows how the title of “The Trade” came to be applied to the Submarine Service. Some say that the cruisers invented it because they pretend that submarine officers look like unwashed chauffeurs. Others think it sprang forth by itself, which means that it was coined by the Lower Deck, where they always have the proper names for things. Whatever the truth, the submarine Service is now “the trade”; and if you ask them why, they will answer: “What else could you call it? The Trade’s ‘the trade,’ of course.”
It is a close corporation; yet it recruits its men and officers from every class that uses the sea and engines, as well as from many classes that never expected. to deal with either. It takes them; they disappear for a while and return changed to their very souls, for the Trade lives in a world without precedents, of which no generation has had any previous experience — a world still being made and enlarged daily. It creates and settles its own problems as it goes along, and if it cannot help itself no one else can. So the Trade lives in the dark and thinks out inconceivable and impossible things which it afterwards puts into practice.
It keeps books, too, as honest traders should. They are almost as bald as ledgers, and are written up, hour by hour, on a little sliding table that pulls out from beneath the commander’s bunk. In due time they go to my Lords of the Admiralty, who presently circulate a few carefully watered extracts for the confidential information of the junior officers of the Trade, that these may see what things are done and how. The juniors read but laugh. They have heard the stories, with all the flaming detail and much of the language, either from a chief actor while they perched deferentially on the edge of a mess-room fender, or from his subordinate, in which case they were not so deferential, or from some returned member of the crew present on the occasion, who, between half-shut teeth at the wheel, jerks out what really happened. There is very little going on in the Trade that the Trade does not know within a reasonable time. But the outside world must wait until my Lords of the Admiralty release the records. Some of them have been released now.
Let us take, almost at random, an episode in the life of H.M. Submarine E9. It is true that she was commanded by Comander Max Horton, but the utter impersonality of the tale makes it as though the boat herself spoke. (Also, never having met or seen any of the gentlemen concerned in the matter, the writer can be impersonal too.) Some time ago, E9 was in the Baltic, in the deeps of winter, where she used to be taken to her hunting grounds by an ice-breaker. Obviously a submarine cannot use her sensitive nose to smash heavy ice with, so the broad-beamed pushing chaperone comes along to see her clear of the thick harbour and shore ice. In the open sea apparently she is left to her own devices. In company of the ice-breaker, then, E9 “proceeded” (neither in the Senior nor the Junior Service does any one officially “go” anywhere) to a “certain position.”
Here — it is not stated in the book, but the Trade knows every aching, single detail of what is left out — she spent a certain time in testing arrangements and apparatus, which may or may not work properly when immersed in a mixture of block-ice and dirty ice-cream in a temperature well towards zero. This is a pleasant job, made the more delightful by the knowledge that if you slip off the superstructure the deadly Baltic chill will stop your heart long before even your heavy clothes can drown you. Hence (and this is not in the book either) the remark of the highly trained sailor-man in these latitudes who, on being told by his superior officer in the execution of his duty to go to Hell, did insubordinately and enviously reply: “D’you think I’d be here if I could?” Whereby he caused the entire personnel, beginning with the Commander to say “Amen,” or words to that effect. E9 evidently made things work.
Next day she reports: “As circumstances were favourable decided to attempt to bag a destroyer.” Her “certain position” must have been near a well-used destroyer-run, for shortly afterwards she sees three of them, but too far off to attack, and later, as the light is failing, a fourth destroyer towards which she manœuvres. “Depth-keeping,” she notes, “very difficult owing to heavy swell.” An observation balloon on a gusty day is almost as stable as a submarine “pumping” in a heavy swell, and since the Baltic is shallow, the submarine runs the chance of being let down with a whack on the bottom. None the less, E9 works her way to within 600 yards of the quarry; fires and waits just long enough to be sure that her torpedo is running straight, and that the destroyer is holding her course. Then she “dips to avoid detection.” The rest is deadly simple: “At the correct moment after firing, 45 to 50 seconds, heard the unmistakable noise of torpedo detonating.” Four minutes later she rose and “found destroyer had disappeared.” Then, for reasons probably connected with other destroyers, who, too, may have heard that unmistakable sound, she goes to bed below in the chill dark till it is time to turn homewards. When she rose she met storm from the north and logged it accordingly. “Spray froze as it struck, and bridge became a mass of ice. Experienced considerable difficulty in keeping the conning-tower hatch free from ice. Found it necessary to keep a man continuously employed on this work. Bridge screen immovable, ice six inches thick on it. Telegraphs frozen.” In this state she forges ahead till midnight, and any one who pleases can imagine the thoughts of the continuous employee scraping and hammering round the hatch, as well as the delight of his friends below when the ice-slush spattered down the conning-tower. At last she considered it “advisable to free the boat of ice, so went below.”
In the Senior Service the two words “as requisite” cover everything that need not be talked about. E9 next day “proceeded as requisite” through a series of snowstorms and recurring deposits of ice on the bridge till she got in touch with her friend the ice-breaker; and in her company ploughed and rooted her way back to the work we know. There is nothing to show that it was a near thing for E9, but somehow one has the idea that the ice-breaker did not arrive any too soon for E9’s comfort and progress. (But what happens in the Baltic when the ice-breaker does not arrive?)
That was in winter. In summer quite the other way, E9 had to go to bed by day very often under the long-lasting northern light when the Baltic is as smooth as a carpet, and one cannot get within a mile and a half of anything with eyes in its head without being put down. There was one time when E9, evidently on information received, took up “a certain position” and reported the sea “glassy.” She had to suffer in silence, while three heavily laden German ships went by, for an attack would have given away her position. Her reward came next day, when she sighted (the words run like Marryat’s) “enemy squadron coming up fast from eastward, proceeding inshore of us.” They were two heavy battleships with an escort of destroyers, and E9 turned to attack. She does not say how she crept up in that smooth sea within a quarter of a mile of the leading ship, “a three-funnel ship, of either the Deutschland or Braunschweig class,” but she managed it, and fired both bow torpedoes at her.
“No.1 torpedo was seen and heard to strike, her just before foremost funnel: smoke and débris appeared to go as high as masthead.” That much E9 saw before one of the guardian destroyers ran at her. “So,” says she, “observing I her took my periscope off the battleship.” This was excusable, as the destroyer was coming up with intent to kill and E9 had to flood her tanks and get down quickly. Even so, the destroyer only just missed her, and she truck bottom in 43 feet. “But,” says E9, who, if she could not see, kept her ears open, “at the correct interval (the 45 or 50 seconds mentioned in the previous case) the second torpedo was heard to explode, though not actually seen.” E9 came up twenty minutes later to make sure. The destroyer was waiting for her a couple of hundred yards away, and again E9 dipped for the life, but “just had time to see one large vessel approximately four or five miles away.”
Putting courage aside, think for a moment of the mere drill of it all — that last dive for that attack on the chosen battleship; the eye at the periscope watching “No. 1 torpedo” get home; the rush of the vengeful destroyer; the instant orders for flooding everything; the swift descent which had to be arranged for with full knowledge of the shallow sea-floors waiting below, and a guess at the course that might be taken by the seeking bows above, for assuming a destroyer to draw 10 feet and a submarine on the bottom to stand 25 feet to the top of her conning-tower, there is not much clearance in 43 feet salt water, specially if the boat jumps when she touches bottom. And through all these and half a hundred other simultaneous considerations, imagine the trained minds below, counting, as only torpedo-men can count, the run of the merciless seconds that should tell when that second shot arrived. Then “at the correct interval” as laid down in the table of distances, the boom and the jar of No. torpedo, the relief, the exhaled breath and untightened lips; the impatient waiting for a second peep, and when that had been taken and the eye at the periscope had reported one little nigger-boy in place of two on the waters, perhaps cigarettes, &c., while the destroyer sickle about at a venture overhead.
Certainly they give men rewards for doing such things, but what reward can there be in any gift of Kings or peoples to match the enduring satisfaction of having done them, not alone, but with and through and by trusty and proven companions?
E1, also a Baltic boat, her Commander F.N. Laurence, had her experiences too. She went out one summer day and late — too late — in the evening sighted three transports. The first she hit. While she was arranging for the second, the third inconsiderately tried to ram her before her sights were on. So it was necessary to go down at once and waste whole minutes of the precious scanting light. When she rose, the stricken ship was sinking and shortly afterwards blew up. The other two were patrolling near by. It would have been a fair chance in daylight, but the darkness defeated her and she had to give up the attack.
It was E1 who during thick weather came across a squadron of battle-cruisers and got in on a flanking ship — probably the Moltke. The destroyers were very much on the alert, and she had to dive at once to avoid one who only missed her by a few feet. Then the fog shut down and stopped further developments. Thus do time and chance come to every man.
The Trade has many stories, too, of watching patrols when a boat must see chance after chance go by under her nose and write — merely write — what she has seen. Naturall they do not appear in any accessible records. Nor, which is a pity, do the authorities release the records of glorious failures, when everything goes wrong; when torpedoes break surface and squatter like ducks; or arrive full square with a clang and burst of white water and — fail to explode; when the devil is in charge of all the motors, and clutches develop play that would scare a shore-going mechanic bald; when batteries begin to give off death instead of power, and atop of all, ice or wreckage of the strewn seas racks and wrenches the hull till the whole leaking bag of tricks limps home on six missing cylinders and one ditto propeller, plus the indomitable will of the red-eyed husky scarecrows in charge.
There might be worse things in this world for decent people to read than such records.
THIS war is like an iceberg. We, the public, only see an eighth of it above water. The rest is out of sight and, as with the berg, one guesses its extent by great blocks that break off and shoot up to the surface from some underlying out-running spur a quarter of a mile away. So with this war sudden tales come to light which reveal unsuspected activities in unexpected quarters. One takes it for granted such things are always going on somewhere, but the actual emergence of the record is always astonishing.
Once upon a time, there were certain E type boats who worked the Sea of Marmara with thoroughness and humanity for the two, in English hands, are compatible. The road to their hunting-grounds was strewn with peril, the waters they inhabited were full of eyes that gave them no rest, and what they lost or expended in wear and tear of the chase could not made good till they had run the gauntlet to their base again. The full tale of their improvisations and “makee-does” will probably never come to light, though fragments can be picked up at intervals in the proper places as the men concerned come and go. The Admiralty gives only the bones, but those are not so dry, of the boat’s official story.
When E14, Commander E. Courtney-Boyle, went to her work in the Sea of Marmara, she, like her sister, “proceeded” on her gas-engine up the Dardanelles; and a gas-engine by night between steep cliffs has been described by the Lower-deck as a “full brass band in a railway cutting.” So a fort picked her up with a searchlight and missed her with artillery. She dived under the minefield that guarded the Straits, and when she rose at dawn in the narrowest part of the channel, which is about one mile and a half across, all the forts fired at her. The water, too, was thick with steamboat patrols, out of which E14 selected a Turkish gunboat and gave her a torpedo. She had just time to see the great column of water shoot as high as the gunboat’s mast when she had to dip again as “the men in a small steamboat were leaning over trying to catch hold of the top of my periscope.”
This sentence, which might have come out of a French exercise book, is all lieutenant-Commander Courtney-Boyle sees fit to tell, and that officer will never understand why one taxpayer at least demands his arrest after the war till he shall have given the full tale. Did he sight the shadowy underline of the small steamboat green through the deadlights? Or did she suddenly swim, into his vision from behind and obscure, without warning, his periscope with a single brown clutching hand? Was she alone, or one of a mob of splashing, shouting small craft? He may well have been too busy to note, for there were patrols all around him, a minefield of curious design and undefined area somewhere in front, and steam trawlers vigorously sweeping for him astern and ahead. And when E14 had burrowed and bumped and scraped through six hours of blind death, she found the Sea of Marmara crawling with craft, and was kept down almost continuously and grew hot and stuffy in consequence. Nor could she charge her batteries in peace, so at the end of another hectic, hunted day of starting them up and breaking off and diving — which is bad for the temper — she decided to quit those infested waters near the coast and charge up somewhere off the traffic routes.
This accomplished, after a long, hot run, which did the motors no good, she went back to her beat, where she picked up three destroyers convoying a couple of troopships. But it was a glassy calm and the destroyers “came for me.” She got off a long-range torpedo at one transport, and ducked before she could judge results. She apologises for this on the grounds that one of her periscopes had been damaged not, as one would expect, by the gentleman leaning out of the little steamboat, but by some casual shot — calibre not specified — the day before. “And so,” says E14, “I could not risk my remaining one being bent.” However, she heard a thud, and the depth-gauges — those great clock-hands on the white-faced circles —“flicked,” which is another sign of dreadful certainty down under. When she rose again she saw a destroyer convoying one burning transport to the nearest beach. That afternoon she met a sister-boat (now gone to Valhalla), who told her that she was almost out of torpedoes, and they arranged a rendezvous for next day, but “before we could communicate we had to dive, and did not see her again.” There must be many such meetings in the Trade, under all skies — boat rising beside boat at the point agreed upon for interchange of news and materials; the talk shouted aloud with the speakers’ eyes always on the horizon and all hands standing by to dive, even in the middle of a sentence.
E14 kept to her job, on the edge of the procession of traffic. Patrol vessels annoyed her to such an extent that “as I had not seen any transports lately I decided to sink a patrol-ship as they were always firing on me.” So she torpedoed a thing that looked like a mine-layer, and must have been something of that kidney, for it sank in less than a minute. A tramp-steamer lumbering across the dead flat sea was thoughtfully headed back to Constantinople by firing rifles ahead of her. “Under fire the whole day,” E14 observes philosophically. The nature of her work made this inevitable. She was all among the patrols, which kept her down a good deal and made her draw on her batteries, and when she rose to charge, watchers ashore burned oil-flares on the beach or made smokes among the hills according to the light. In either case there would be a general rush of patrolling craft of all kinds, from steam launches to gunboats. Nobody loves the Trade, though E14 did several things which made her popular. She let off a string of very surprised dhows (they were empty) in charge of a tug which promptly fled back to Constantinople; stopped a couple of steamers full of refugees, also bound for Constantinople, who were “very pleased at being allowed to proceed” instead of being lusitaniaed as they had expected. Another refugee-boat, fleeing from goodness knows what horror, she chased into Rodosto Harbour, where, though she could not see any troops, “they opened a heavy rifle fire on us, hitting the boat several times. So I went away and chased two more small tramps who returned towards Constantinople.”
Transports, of course, were fair game, and in spite of the necessity she was under of not risking her remaining eye, E14 got a big one in a night of wind and made another hurriedly beach itself, which then opened fire on her, assisted by the local population. “Returned fire and proceeded,” says E14. The diversion of returning fire is one much appreciated by the lower-deck as furnishing a pleasant break in what otherwise might be a monotonous and odoriferous task. There is no drill laid down for this evolution, but etiquette and custom prescribe that on going up the hatch you shall not too energetically prod the next man ahead with the muzzle of your rifle. Likewise, when descending in quick time before the hatch closes, you are requested not to jump directly on the head of the next below. Otherwise you act “as requisite” on your own initiative.
When she had used up all her torpedoes E14 prepared to go home by the way she had come — there was no other — and was chased towards Gallipoli by a mixed pack composed of a gunboat, a torpedo-boat, and a tug. “They shepherded me to Gallipoli, one each side of me and one astern, evidently expecting me to be caught by the nets there.” She walked very delicately for the next eight hours or so, all down the Straits, underrunning the strong tides, ducking down when the fire from the forts got too hot, verifying her position and the position of the minefield, but always taking notes of every ship in sight, till towards teatime she saw our Navy off the entrance and “rose to the surface abeam of a French battleship who gave us a rousing cheer.” She had been away, as nearly as possible, three weeks, and a kind destroyer escorted her to the base, where we will leave her for the moment while we consider the performance of E11 (Lieutenant-Commander . E. Nasmith) in the same waters at about the same season.
E11 “proceeded” in the usual way, to the usual accompaniments of hostile destroyers, up the Straits, and meets the usual difficulties about charging-up when she gets through. Her wireless naturally takes this opportunity to give trouble, and E11 is left, deaf and dumb, somewhere in the middle of the Sea of Marmara, diving to avoid hostile destroyers in the intervals of trying to come at the fault in her aerial. (Yet it is noteworthy that the language of the Trade, though technical, is no more emphatic or incandescent than that of top-side ships.)
Then she goes towards Constantinople, finds a Turkish torpedo-gunboat off the port, sinks her, has her periscope smashed by a six-pounder, retires, fits a new top on the periscope, and at 10.30 A.M. — they must have needed it — pipes “All hands to bathe.” Much refreshed, she gets her wireless linked up at last, and is able to tell the authorities where she is and what she is after.
At this point — it was off Rodosto — enter a small steamer which does not halt when requested, and so is fired at with “several rounds” from a rife. The crew, on being told to abandon her, tumble into their boats with such haste that they capsize two out of three. “Fortunately,” says E11, “they are able to pick up everybody.” You can imagine to yourself the confusion alongside, the raffle of odds and ends floating out of the boats, and the general parti-coloured hurrah’s-nest all over the bright broken water. What you cannot imagine is this: “An American gentleman then appeared on the upper deck who informed us that his name was Silas Q. Swing, of the Chicago Sun, and that he was pleased to make our acquaintance. He then informed us that the steamer was proceeding to Chanak and he wasn’t sure if there were any stores aboard.” If anything could astonish the Trade at this late date, one would almost fancy that the apparition of Silas Swing (“very happy to meet you, gentlemen”) might have started a rivet or two on E11’s placid skin. But she never even quivered. She kept a lieutenant of the name of D’Oyley Hughes, an expert in demolition parties; and he went aboard the tramp and reported any quantity of stores — a six-inch gun, for instance, lashed across the top of the forehatch (Silas Q. Swing must have been an unobservant journalist), a six-inch gun-mounting in the forehold, pedestals for twelve-pounders thrown in as dunnage, the afterhold full of six-inch projectiles, and a scattering of other commodities. They put the demolition charge well in among the six-inch stuff, and she took it all to the bottom in a few minutes, after being touched off.
“Simultaneously with the sinking of the vessel,” the E11 goes on, “smoke was observed to the eastward.” It was a steamer who had seen the explosion and was running for Rodosto. E11 chased her till she tied up to Rodosto pier, and then torpedoed her where she lay — a heavily laden store-ship piled high with packing-cases. The water was shallow here, and though E11 bumped along the bottom, which does not make for steadiness of aim, she was forced to show a good deal of her only periscope, and had it dented, but not damaged by rifle-fire from the beach. As he moved out of Rodosto Bay she saw a paddle-boat loaded with barbed wire, which stopped on the hail, but “as we ranged alongside her, attempts to ram us, but failed owing to our superior speed.” Then she ran for the beach “very skilfully,” keeping her stern to E11 till she drove ashore beneath some cliffs. The demolition-squad were just getting to work when “a party of horsemen appeared on the cliffs above and opened a hot fire on the conning tower.” E11 got out, but owing to the shoal water it was some time before she could get under enough to fire a torpedo. The stern of a stranded paddle-boat is no great target and the thing exploded on the beach. Then she “recharged batteries and proceeded slowly on the surface towards Constantinople.” All this between the ordinary office hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.
Her next day’s work opens, as no pallid writer of fiction dare begin, thus: “Having dived unobserved into Constantinople, observed, etc.” Her observations were rather hampered by cross-tides, mud, and currents, as well as the vagaries of one of her own torpedoes which turned upside down and ran about promiscuously. It hit something at last, and so did another shot that she fired, but the waters by Constantinople Arsenal are not healthy to linger in after one has scared up the whole sea-front, so “turned to go out.” Matters were a little better below, and E11 in her perilous passage might have been a lady of the harem tied up in a sack and thrown into the Bosporus. She grounded heavily; she bounced up 30 feet, was headed down again by a manœuvre easier to shudder over than to describe, and when she came to rest on the bottom found herself being swivelled right round the compass. They watched the compass with much interest. “It was concluded, therefore, that the vessel (E11 is one of the few who speaks of herself as a ‘vessel’ as well as a ‘boat’) was resting on the shoal under the Leander Tower, and was being turned round by the current.” So they corrected her, started the motors, and “bumped. gently down into 85 feet of water” with no more knowledge than the lady in the sack where the next bump would land them.
And the following day was spent “resting in the centre of the Sea of Marmara.” That was their favourite preening perch between operations, because it gave them a chance to tidy the boat and bathe, and they were a cleanly people both in their methods and their persons. When they boarded a craft and found nothing of consequence they “parted with many expressions of good will,” and E11 “had a good wash.” She gives her reasons at length; for going in and out of Constantinople and the Straits is all in the day’s work, but going dirty, you understand, is serious. She had “of late noticed the atmosphere, in the boat becoming very oppressive, the reason doubtless being that there was a quantity of dirty linen aboard, and also the scarcity of fresh water necessitated a limit being placed on the frequency of personal washing.” Hence the centre of the Sea of Marmara; all hands playing overside and as much laundry work as time and the Service allowed. One of the reasons, by the way, why we shall be good friends with the Turk again is that he has many of our ideas about decency.
In due time E11 went back to her base. She had discovered a way of using unspent torpedoes twice over, which surprised the enemy, and she had as nearly as possible been cut down by a ship which she thought was running away from her. Instead of which (she made the discovery at three thousand yards, both craft all out) the stranger steamed straight at her. “The enemy then witnessed a somewhat spectacular dive at full speed from the surface to 20 feet in as many seconds. He then really did turn tail and was seen no more.” Going through the Straits she observed an empty troopship at anchor, but reserved her torpedoes in the hope of picking up some battleships lower down. Not finding these in the Narrows, she nosed her way back and sank the trooper, “afterwards continuing journey down the Straits.” Off Kilid Bahr something happened; she got out of trim and had to be fully flooded before she could be brought to her required depth. It might have been whirlpools under water, or — other things. (They tell a story of a boat which once went mad in these very waters, and for no reason ascertainable from within plunged to depths that contractors do not allow for; rocketed up again like a swordfish, and would doubtless have so continued till she died, had not something she had fouled dropped off and let her recover her composure.)
An hour later: “Heard a noise similar to grounding. Knowing this to be impossible in the water in which the boat then was, I came up to 20 feet to investigate, and observed a large mine preceding the periscope at a distance of about 20 feet, which was apparently hung up by its moorings to the port hydroplane.” Hydroplanes are the fins at bow and stern which regulate a submarine’s diving. A mine weighs anything from hundredweights to half-tons. Sometimes it explodes if you merely think about it; at others you can batter it like an empty sardine-tin and it submits meekly; but at no time is it meant to wear on a hydroplane. They dared not come up to unhitch it, “owing to the batteries ashore,” so they pushed the dim shape ahead of them till they got outside Kum Kale. They then went full astern, and emptied the after tanks, which brought the bows down, and in this posture rose to the surface, when “the rush of water from the screws together with the sternway gathered allowed the mine to fall clear of the vessel.”
Now a fool, said Dr. Johnson, would have tried to describe that.
BEFORE we pick up the further adventures of H.M. Submarine E14 and her partner E11, here is what you might call a cutting-out affair in the Sea of Marmara which E12 (Lieutenant-Commander K. M. Bruce) put through quite on the old lines.
E12’s main motors gave trouble from the first, and she seems to have been a cripple for most of that trip. She sighted two small steamers, one towing two, and the other three, sailing vessels making seven keels in all. She stopped the first steamer, noticed she carried a lot of stores, and, moreover, that her crew — she had no boats — were all on deck in life-belts. Not seeing any gun, E12 ran up alongside and told the first lieutenant to board. The steamer then threw a bomb at E12, which struck, but luckily did not explode, and opened fire on the boarding-party with rifles and a concealed 1-in. gun. E12 answered with her six-pounder, and also with rifles. The two sailing ships in tow, very properly, tried to foul E12’s propellers and “also opened fire with rifles.”
It was as Orientally mixed a fight as a man could wish: The first lieutenant and the boarding-party engaged on the steamer, E12 foul of the steamer, and being fouled by the sailing ships; the six-pounder methodically perforating the steamer from bow to tern; the steamer’s 1-in. gun and the rifles from the sailing ships raking everything and everybody else; E12’s coxswain on the conning-tower passing up ammunition; and E12’s one workable motor developing “slight defects” at, of course, the moment when power to manœuvre was vital.
The account is almost as difficult to disentangle as the actual mess must have been. At any rate, the six-pounder caused an explosion in the steamer’s ammunition, where by the steamer sank in a quarter of an hour, giving time — and a hot time it must have been — for E12 to get clear of her and to sink the two sailing ships. She then chased the second steamer, who slipped her three tows and ran for the shore. E12 knocked her about a good deal with gun-fire as she fled, saw her drive on the beach well alight, and then, since the beach opened fire with a gun at 1500 yards, went away to retinker her motors and write up her log. She approved of her first lieutenant’s behaviour “under very trying circumstances” (this probably refers to the explosion of the amunition by the six-pounder which, doubtless, jarred the boarding-party) and of the cox who acted as ammunition-hoist; and of the gun’s crew, who “all did very well” under rifle and small-gun fire “at a range of about ten yards.” But she never says what she really said about her motors.
Now we will take E14 on various work, either alone or as flagship of a squadron composed of herself and Lieutenant-Commander Nasmith’s boat, E11. Hers was a busy midsummer, and she came to be intimate with all sort of craft — such as the two-funnelled gunboat off Sar Kioi, who “fired at us, and missed as usual”; hospital ships going back and forth unmolested to Constantinople; “the gunboat which fired at me on Sunday,” and other old friends, afloat and ashore.
When the crew of the Turkish brigantine full of stores got into their boats by request, and then “all stood up and cursed us,” E14 did not lose her temper, even though it was too rough to lie alongside the abandoned ship. She told Acting Lieutenant R. W. Lawrence, of the Royal Naval Reserve, to swim off to her, which he did, and after a “cursory search”— Who can be expected to Sherlock Holmes for hours with nothing on? — set fire to her “with the aid of her own matches and paraffin oil.”
Then E14 had a brawl with a steamer with a yellow funnel, blue top and black band, lying at a pier among dhows. The shore took a hand in the game with small guns and rifles, and, as E14 manœuvred about the roadstead “as requisite” there was a sudden unaccountable explosion which strained her very badly. “I think,” she muses, “I must have caught the moorings of a mine with my tail as I was turning, and exploded it. It is possible that it might have been a big shell bursting over us, but I think this unlikely, as we were 30 feet at the time.” She is always a philosophical boat, anxious to arrive at the reason of facts, and when the game is against her she admits it freely.
There was nondescript craft of a few hundred tons, who “at a distance did not look very warlike,” but when chased suddenly played a couple of six-pounders and “got off two dozen rounds at us before we were under. Some of them were only about 20 yards off.” And when a wily steamer, after sidling along the shore, lay up in front of a town she became “indistinguishable from the houses,” and so was safe because we do not löwestrafe open towns.
Sailing dhows full of grain bad to be destroyed. At one rendezvous, while waiting for E11, E14 dealt with three such cases and then “towed the crews inshore and gave them biscuits, beef, and rum and water, as they were rather wet.” Passenger steamers were allowed to proceed, because they were “full of people of both sexes,” which is an unkultured way of doing business.
Here is another instance of our insular type of mind. An empty dhow is passed which E14 was going to leave alone, but it occurs to her that the boat looks “rather deserted,” and she fancies she sees two heads in the water. So she goes back half a mile, picks up a couple of badly exhausted men, frightened out of their wits, gives them food and drink, and puts them aboard their property. Crews that jump overboard have to be picked up, even if, as happened in one case, there are twenty of them and one of them is a German bank manager taking a quantity of money to the Chanak Bank. Hospital ships are carefully looked over as they come and go, and are left to their own devices; but they are rather a nuisance because they force E14 and others to dive for them when engaged in stalking warrantable game. There were a good many hospital ships, and as far as we can make out they all played fair. E11 boarded one and “reported everything satisfactory.”
A layman cannot tell from the reports which of the duties demanded the most work — whether the continuous clearing out of transports, dhows, and sailing ships, sailing generally found close to the well-gunned and attentive beach, or the equally continuous attacks on armed vessels of every kind. Whatever else might be going going on there was always the problem how to arrange for the crews of sunk ships. If a dhow has no small boats, and you cannot find one handy, you have to take the crew aboard, where they are horribly in the way, and add to the oppressiveness of the atmosphere — like “the nine people, including two very old men,” whom E14 made honorary members of her mess for several hours till she could put them ashore after dark. Oddly enough she “could not get anything out of them.” Imagine nine bewildered Moslems suddenly decanted into the reeking clamorous bowels of a fabric obviously built by Shaitan himself, and surrounded by — but our people are people of the Book and not dog-eating Kaffirs, and I will wager a great deal that that little company went ashore in better heart and stomach than when they were passed down the conning-tower hatch.
Then there were queer amphibious battles with troops who had to be shelled as they marched towards Gallipoli along the coast roads. E14 went out with E11 on this job, early one morning, each boat taking her chosen section of landscape. Thrice E14 rose to fire, thinking she saw the dust of feet, but “each time it turned out to be bullocks.” When the shelling was ended “I think the troops marching along that road must have been delayed and a good many killed.” The Turks got up a fieldgun in the course of the afternoon — your true believer never hurries — which outranged both boats, and they left accordingly.
The next day she changed billets with, E11, who had the luck to pick up and put down a battleship close to Gallipoli. It turned out to be the Barbarossa. Meantime E14 got a 5000-ton supply ship, and later had to burn a sailing ship loaded with 200 bales of leaf and cut tobacco — Turkish tobacco! Small wonder that E11 “came alongside that afternoon and remained for an hour”— probably making cigarettes.
Then E14 went back to her base. She had a hellish time among the Dardanelles nets; was, of course, fired at by the forts, just missed a torpedo from the beach, scraped a mine, and when she had time to take stock found electric mine-wires twisted round her propellers and all her hull scraped and scored with wire marks. But that, again, was only in the day’s work. The point she insisted upon was that she had been for seventy days in the Sea of Marmara with no securer base for refit than the centre of the same, and during all that while she had not had “any engine-room defect which has not been put right by the engine-room staff of the boat.” The commander and the third officer went sick for a while; the first lieutenant got gastro-enteritis and was in bed (if you could see that bed!) “for the remainder of our stay in the Sea of Marmara,” but “this boat has never been out of running order.” The credit is ascribed to “the excellence of my chief engine-room artificer, James Hollier Hague, O.N. 227715,” whose name is duly submitted to the authorities “for your consideration for advancement to the rank of warrant officer.”
Seventy days of every conceivable sort of risk, within and without, in a boat which is all engine-room, except where she is sick-bay; twelve thousand miles covered since last overhaul and “never out of running order”— thanks to Mr. Hague. Such artists as he are the kind of engine-room artificers that commanders intrigue to get hold of — each for his own boat — and when the tales are told in the Trade, their names, like Abou Ben Adhem’s, lead all the rest.
I do not know the exact line of demarcation between engine-room and gunnery repairs, but I imagine it is faint and fluid. E11, for example, while she was helping E14 to shell a beached steamer, smashed half her gun-mounting, “the gun-layer being thrown overboard, and the gun nearly following him.” However, the mischief was repaired in the next twenty-four hours, which, considering the very limited deck space of a submarine, means that all hands must have been moderately busy. One hopes that they had not to dive often during the job.
But worse is to come. E2 (Commander D. Stocks) carried an externally mounted gun which, while she was diving up the Dardanelles on business, got hung up in the wires and stays of a net. She saw them through the conning-tower scuttles at a depth of 80 ft. — one wire hawser round the gun, another round the conning-tower, and so on. There was a continuous crackling of small explosions overhead which she thought were charges aimed at her by the guard-boats who watch the nets. She considered her position for a while, backed, got up steam, barged ahead, and shore through the whole affair in one wild surge. Imagine the roof of a navigable cottage after it has snapped telegraph lines with its chimney, and you will get a small idea of what happens to the hull of a submarine when she uses her gun to break wire hawsers with.
E2 was a wet, strained, and uncomfortable boat for the rest of her cruise. She sank steamers, burned dhows; was worried by torpedo-boats and hunted by Hun planes; hit bottom freely and frequently; silenced forts that fired at her from lonely beaches; warned villages who might have joined in the game that they bad better keep to farming; shelled railway lines and stations; would have shelled a pier, but found there was a hospital built at one end of it, “so could not bombard”; came upon dhows crowded with “female refugees” which she “allowed to proceed,” and was presented with fowls in return; but through it all her chief preoccupation was that racked and strained gun and mounting. When there was nothing else doing she reports sourly that she “worked on gun.” As a philosopher of the lower deck put it: “’Tisn’t what you blanky do that matters, it’s what you blanky have to do.” In other words, worry, not work, kills.
E2’s gun did its best to knock the heart out of them all. She had to shift the wretched thing twice; once because the bolts that held it down were smashed (the wire hawser must have pretty well pulled it off its seat), and again because the hull beneath it leaked on pressure. She went down to make sure of it. But she drilled and tapped an adjusted, till in a short time the gun worked again and killed steamers as it should. Meanwhile, the whole boat leaked. All the plates under the old gun-position forward leaked; she leaked aft through damaged hydroplane guards, and on her way home they had to keep the water down by hand pumps while she was diving through the nets. Where she did not leak outside she leaked internally, tank leaking into tank, so that the petrol got into the main freshwater supply and the men had to be put on allowance. The last pint was served out when she was in the narrowest part of the Narrows, a place where one’s mouth may well go dry of a sudden.
Here for the moment the records end. I have been at some pains not to pick and choose among them. So far from doctoring or heightening any of the incidents, have rather understated them; but hope have made it clear that through all the haste and fury of these multiplied actions, when life and death and destruction turns on the twitch of a finger, not one life of any non-combatant was wittingly taken. They were carefully picked up or picked out, taken below, transferred to boats, and despatched or personally conducted in the intervals of business to the safe, unexploding beach. Sometimes they part from their chaperones “with many expressions of good will,” at others they seem greatly relieved and rather surprised at not being knocked on the head after the custom of their Allies. But the boats with a hundred things on their minds no more take credit for their humanity than their commanders explain the feats for which they won their respective decorations.
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