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Vol. I 











WHEN the peace was broken on August 4th, 1914, 
nothing suggested that British merchant seamen would 
fare worse than their predecessors of the Napoleonic era, 
and the statement that the'y would be compelled to face 
perils in intensity and variety unparalleled in human 
experience would have been rejected as unbelievable in 
face of all the efforts made at The Hague to humanise 
warfare. Events falsified all anticipations. 

After the comparative failure of the attack on commerce 
by surface craft cruisers and auxiliary cruisers the 
enemy became convinced that in the submarine he had 
found the means of cutting the communications of the 
British Empire, and of shutting off from the European 
battle-fields the essential supplies without which the troops 
could not continue to fight. The use of the submarine 
for commerce destruction involved the infraction of inter- 
national law as well as the ignoring of the code of 
humanity, since these small craft, packed with machinery 
and equipped for war, were unable to accommodate the 
crews of ships sunk, whether by torpedo, gunfire, or 
botiibs. The German flag had already been banished from 
the highways of the world. So, in desperation, it was 
decided, whatever the loss of human life might be, and 
without respect for considerations of law, however widely 
recognised, to embark on a policy which, rightly or 
wrongly, became generally known as piracy. 

This decision changed the whole aspect of the War so 
far as merchant seamen were concerned. As the cam- 
paign made progress it became apparent that the British 
merchant seamen were being forced by circumstances, 
over which neither they nor the British naval authorities 
had any control, into the forefront of the struggle by 
sea. They had entered the Mercantile Marine with no 
thought that they would be exposed even to such trials 


and sufferings as their predecessors sustained during the 
previous Great War, for there had been much talk at 
various international Conferences of ameliorating the con- 
ditions of warfare ; they found themselves involved in a 
conflict waged by a merciless enemy with large and newly- 
developed resources. The seamen were defenceless, for this 
emergency had not been foreseen either by the Admiralty, 
by the shipowners, or by the seamen themselves. As the 
campaign continued, the Germans fornid that their best 
hope of sucdess lay in discharging their torpedoes without 
warning, leaving the crews, and in some cases passengers, 
at the mercy of the elements. 

In these cdnditions it was thought appropriate that an 
official history should be prepared, placing on record for 
all time the manner in which British seamen, refusing to 
be co l wed by the enemy's threats, confronted a ruthless 
foe, regarding their own lives as cheap if, in spite of the 
perils they willingly faced, the stream of ocean traffic, 
necessary alike for naval, military, and economic reasons, 
were maintained. This history was consequently undet- 
taken, at the suggestion of the Board of Trade, under the 
authority of the Historical Section of the Committee of 
Imperial Defence towards the close of 1917, the proposal 
receiving the cordial support of the Admiralty and the 
Ministry of Shipping. 

The ordeal to which the men of the British Mercantile 
Marine submitted with generous patriotism can be ap- 
preciated only if it is described in an appropriate setting, 
ignoring neither the plans of the naval authorities for the 
protection of merchant shipphig, elaborated in the years 
before the outbreak of war, nor the measures afterwards 
adopted to enable merchant shipping to resist with better 
hope of success the enemy's policy. On the other hand, 
no attempt has been made to deal with the naval operations 
undertaken by the Admiralty for the protection of this 
country's sea communications, except in so far as they 
immediately concerned the Mercantile Marine, nor with 
the economic effects of the naval war on ocean-borne trade. 
The former subject has been treated in the companion work 
by Sir Julian Corbett, and Mr. C. Ernest Fayle has 
become responsible for the latter. 

While British seamen, uncovenanted to the State, had 
never had to confront such an ordeal as that of 1915-18, 


it would be to misunderstand the history of the British 
Mercantile Marine, of which little has been written, to 
conclude that never before had sailors of the Merchant 
Service taken part in our wars, creating traditions handed 
down from generation to generation with increasing pride. 
On the contrary, the Merchant Navy was the defence of 
the nation's sea interests and its bulwark against 
invasion before the Royal Navy had any existence, and 
after the foundation of the Royal Navy it continued to 
bear no small share in the sea defences of the country. 
It has been thought not inappropriate to the story which 
these volumes tell to give in very brief summary, as 
a preliminary chapter, some account of the contribution of 
British merchant seamen in the past to this country's 
maritime history ; this summary furnishes a fitting back- 
ground to the unexampled record of high courage, un- 
complaining suffering, and in thousands of instances 
martyrdom, which the late struggle has provided as an 
example and inspiration to future generations. The 
theme is a great one, and there is a tendency to forget 
that the Merchant Navy was the creator of the Royal Navy. 

As soon as the task of preparing this History was 
Undertaken, it became apparent that, if the record were 
strictly confined to the experiences of merchant seamen 
in passenger and cargo-carrying ships, it would con- 
vey an inadequate impression of the dauntless courage, 
fine resource, and dogged endurance of the men serving 
by sea, who were exposed to the full fury of the 
enemy's campaign, and of the wide range of the services 
they rendered. The Germans determined to hold up, or 
destroy, merchant shipping, and their failure is traceable 
alike to the spirit exhibited by the crews of merchant 
vessels and to the manner in which merchant seamen, 
fishermen, yachtsmen, and others responded to the 
Admiralty's invitation when it was decided to build 
up a new Navy to deal with the new problems created 
by the submarine and mine. And thus it happens that 
this History embraces an account of the operations of the 
Auxiliary Patrol, constituting one of the most remarkable 
aspects of the war by sea. 

Acknowledgment is made of the assistance rendered 
by Lieutenant-Commander E. Keble Chatterton, R.N.V.R., 
in the preparation of this portion of the History. He was 


associated with that phase of the war by sea for three 
winters and three summers, and obtained first-hand 
knowledge of the sterling work done by the merchant 
seamen as belligerents in circumstances of much danger 
and difficulty. With his aid, an attempt has been made 
to convey an impression of the elaborate organisation 
which was gradually created by the Admiralty, ultimately 
comprising nearly 4,000 vessels, and of the high standard 
of seamanship of officers and men. 

Little has hithertb been revealed of the activities of 
the Auxiliary Patrol. Now, with the advantage of official 
records, the veil can be lifted arid particulars given of 
some of the most stirring incidents of the war by sea. It 
must be apparent that the story a typical British story 
of a fight against heavy odds has been little more than 
half told in the limited space available in this book. 

The writing of this record of the ordeal of British mer- 
chant seamen would have been impossible had it not been 
for the cordial help received from officers of the Royal 
Navy who, while serving at the Admiralty or elsewhere, 
were brought into intimate association with the Merchant 
Service, from the officials of the Marine Department of 
the Board of TVade, of the Ministry of Shipping, and of 
the Admiralty, from the Registrar-General of Shipping 
and Seamen, and from many others, to whom acknow- 
ledgment is made. 

Full use has also been made of the records of the various 


Mistaken conception of the Merchant Navy Traditions and romance 

Significance of sea power Growth of the world's war fleets Influence 
of the steam-engine Responsibilities of merchant shipping on the outbreak 
of war . ...... pp. l 7 




The Cinque Ports and Home Defence The Laws of Oleron Merchant- 
men at the Battle of Sluys War and piracy Issue of letters of marque 
Appointment of Admirals The Merchant Adventurers Sebastian Cabot 
English seamen in the Narrow Seas The Hanseatic League The founda- 
tion of the Royal Navy Elizabethan voyagers Drake and the Spanish 
Main The defeat of the Spanish Armada The " Adventurers for the 
Discovery of the Trade of the East Indies " The rivalry of the Dutch 

pp. 8-44 



Enemy's war on sea-borne commerce Heavy losses of merchant 
shipping Successes of French corsairs Unreadiness of the Channel 
Fleet Spirited defence by British merchant seamen The risks of com- 
merce in war time Unwieldy British convoys Man-power of the Merchant 
Navy The effect of impressment The guerre de course after Trafalgar 
The fight of the Windsor Castle The escape of the Shaw The Antelope 
and the Atlante Consideration for prisoners The value of Dunkirk, 
Calais, Boulogne, and Dieppe Raids on shipping in the English Channel 
British merchantmen captured, 1793-1812 . pp. 4469 

The aftermath of the War Prosperity and sea power The influence 
of the Navigation Laws and the movement for repeal The competency 
of masters and officers Mr. Joseph Hume's agitation Legislation to 
promote safety at sea The Foreign Office inquiry of 1843 Mr. Samuel 
Plimsoll and " coffin-ships " The work of reform Growth of the Merchant 
Navy, 1818-74 The rivalry of the United States Effect of the Civil 
War Progress of ameliorative legislation Responsibilities of the Board 
of Trade Strength of the British Mercantile Marine on the outbreak of 
the War, 1914 Liners and tramps Expansion of the world's 'sea-borne 
commerce Distribution of the Merchant Fleet . . . pp. 7097 



Changed relations of the Royal Navy and the Mercantile Marine 
Unpopularity of impressment The Registry of seamen Deterioration 
of the personnel Reports from British Consuls Discreditable conditions 
Increase in the number of apprentices A new scheme of registration 
and its failure Repeal of the Manning clauses of the Navigation Laws 
Establishment of a Voluntary Naval Reserve A chequered history 
New scheme of training of the Royal Naval Reserve introduced in 1906 
The country's resources in seamen . . pp. 97 116 



The position of the merchant seamen Discussions at The Hague 
Germany's deceptive declarations Professions of respect for the code of 
humanity Right of conversion on the high seas The Admiralty's sus- 
picions A policy of defensive armament Germany's varied resources 
for a war on commerce British merchant ships detained in German ports 
before the outbreak of war British protests The enemy's Naval Prize 
Code The status of merchant seamen The German declaration of July 
22nd, 1914 Merchant seamen as prisoners of war The opening of 
hostilities Loss of the s.s. San Wilfrido . . .pp. 117 136 



The KONIGSBERG'S attack on merchantmen A British master's early 
experiences The DRESDEN as a commerce destroyer Chase of the Pacific 
Steam Navigation Company's s.s. Ortega A fine exhibition of sea- 
manship Escape of the armed merchant cruiser KAISER WILHELM DER 
GROSSE from the North Sea Experiences of the officers and men of the 
s.s. Galicia Consideration for women and children Operations of the 
KARLSRUHE off Parnambuco An enforced cruise A British captain's 
diary A lucky escape Misfortunes of a defensively armed merchantman 
The fate of the sailing-ship Wilfred M. Capture of the armed merchant 
The sinking of the American s.s. William P. Frye Capture of the s.s. 
Elsinore by the LEIPZIG Marooned on an island . . pp. 137185 



Captain von Miiller's resource and courtesy exaggerated Record of 
the EMDEN' s captures Raid in the Bay of Bengal A passenger's ex- 
periences A rich harvest A British master's diary The attack on the 


oil-tanks at Madras Captain von Miiller's change of scene Treatment 
of British seamen Escape of the s.s. Glenturret Destruction of the 

EMDEN The gunboat GEIER'S only capture Rescue of the s.s. Southport 

A notable exploit Total captures by enemy cruisers No lives sacrificed 

pp. 186209 




The responsibilities of the Navy The Royal Commission on the Supply 
of Food and Raw Material in Time of War Changes in naval conditions 

owing to the introduction of steam Command of the sea essential 

Concentration of force the key to security Losses of merchantmen 

anticipated Shipowners and the risks of war An enemy's difficulties 

Linking up the Admiralty and the Merchant Service No fear of starva- 
tion . . pp. 210216 


Action of the Committee of Imperial Defence The basic principle of 
British defensive policy Oversea ports and their protection The danger 
of panics Limitation of local defence An enemy's probable policy 
Harbours of refuge -The compilation of the War Book Admiral of the 
Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson's declaration Influence of a policy of concentra- 
tion of naval force ....... pp. 216 223 


A Royal Commission's recommendation ignored A reversal of policy 
Captain Henry Campbell's Memorandum on an intelligence service for the 
main trade routes The creation of a Trade Division Its growth and 
organisation Relations between the Admiralty and the Merchant Navy 

pp. 224228 

Mr. Austen Chamberlain's Committee of 1907 A fresh inquiry under- 
taken in 1913 Formation of Mutual Insurance Associations, or Clubs, 
changes the situation Government action and the avoidance of publicity 
Co-operation between the State and the Clubs suggested Estimate of 
probable losses Basis of the value of shipping to be accepted Proposals 
for the insurance of cargoes " An administratively practicable scheme " 
Prompt action on the outbreak of war .... pp. 228 239 


Communications opened with ships and shipowners Co-operation of 
other State departments Counsels of weakness rejected Merchant 
shipping urged to continue its operations A policy of dispersion of ship- 
ping adopted Why the convoy system was impracticable Early in- 
structions to merchant shipping The " sea is free to all " Re-establishing 


confidence amongst shipowners An official review of the first two months 
of the War The opening of the New Year Activities of the Operations 
Division of the War Staff Daily voyage notices to the Mercantile 
Marine ... ... pp. 239252 



Scarcity of small craft for purposes of patrol Influence of the sub- 
marine and mine Organisation of the New Navy Lord Beresford's 
foresight Trawlers organised for war purposes An Admiralty Com- 
mittee appointed The purchase of trawlers in 1910 Manning policy 
Progress of recruiting The mobilisation scheme The trawler section on 
the outbreak of war A notable achievement . . . pp. 253 267 



Development of a new policy for attacking sea-borne commerce The 
sinking of the s.s. Glitra, the first merchant ship to be destroyed by a 
submarine The achievement of U2 1 in the English Channel Germany's 
decision to ignore international law and the code of humanity Interview 
with Grand Admiral von Tirpitz in December 1914 Germany's declaration 
of the War Zone on February 4th, 1915 The reply of the British Govern- 
ment The attack on the s.s. Laertes The British seamen's ordeal 
Enemy threats treated with contempt The rising toll of lives lost 
Merchant ships attacked by aeroplanes Vessels torpedoed without 
warning The escape of the s.s. Vosges The s.s. Faldba torpedoed and sunk 
A court of inquiry The tragedy of the s.s. Fulgent . pp. 268317 



Mine-laying by the Germans Operations of British mine-sweepers 
Maintaining a swept channel The needs of the Grand Fleet Trawlers 
in a new role Steam-yachts requisitioned The Motor-Boat Reserve 
Clearing three German minefields The menace of the submarine An 
anti-submarine trawler flotilla Protecting merchant shipping A new 
naval command at Dover Hunting for submarines Expansion of the 
mine-sweeping service Escape of the Norddeutscher Lloyd liner Berlin 
A minefield laid off Tory Island Foundering of H.M.S. AUDACIOUS 
Impressment of Liverpool tugs as patrols Exploration of a new mine- 
field The Gorleston raid Activity in the English Channel U18 sunk 
by a trawler Incursions into Scapa Flow The raid on Scarborough 

pp. 318366 




The enemy's dependence on the mine and submarine An attack upon 
the Grand Fleet Additional armed trawlers fitted out The development 
of the " indicator net " An extended scheme of patrol introduced The 
nucleus of the drifter fleet Submarine attack off the Mersey Reor- 
ganisation of the patrol area The war zone declaration and its influence 
on the patrol Netting the Straits of Dover Destruction of a submarine 
by the steam trawler Alex Hastie Encounters with submarines The 
value of the modified sweep The fighting spirit of the British crews 
The enemy's reply to the indicator net Loss of fishing- vessels and crews 
Protective measures devised by the Admiralty Further changes in the 
Auxiliary Patrol The discovery of an enemy minefield . pp. 367 409 



The " Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic " Enemy warning of an attack on 
the Lusitania ignored by passengers An unarmed ship, with 1,959 people 
on board Lord Mersey's judgment supported by an American judge 
The cross- Atlantic voyage Warnings from the Admiralty as to the 
presence of submarines off the Irish coast Captain Turner's decision 
The enemy's attack without warning A passenger's experience Scene 
on board the doomed ship Heroic conduct of an able seaman The first 
officer's exertions to save life Captain Turner's explanation The official 
inquiry and judgment Reception of the news in Germany pp. 410428 



The concentration of enemy craft off the Irish coast to attack the 
Lusitania The disposition of patrol vessels The S.O.S. signal and the 
response Rescue of the survivors Fine service of unarmed fishing- 
vessels Increasing constriction on the enemy's movement owing to the 
activity of the patrol A well-devised scheme The introduction of the 
hydrophone The fighting spirit of the new Navy Entrapping the 
submarine The harvest of the sea Trawler sea-fights A submarine's 
cowardly action Destruction of the U-boat Rescue of a merchant ship 
and a valuable cargo . PP- 429- 

INDEX PP. 451-473 























A HISTORY of the part which merchant seamen took in 
the war by sea, from its dramatic opening on August 4th, 
1914, to its close over four and a half years later, would 
be incomplete were no attempt made to fill in the back- 
ground against which the stirring events of those years 
must stand out in due perspective. Without such an 
historic setting it would be difficult to appreciate the 
character and extent of the services which British seamen, 
non-combatants and unpledged to the State, rendered 
with fine patriotism, never-failing resource, and a hardi- 
hood unparalleled even in British annals. 

During the long period of peace after the conclusion 
of the Napoleonic War, the British Merchant Navy was 
regarded as a trading organisation that and nothing 
more. The authority which the State had exercised in 
the past had been in general of two kinds protective and 
economic. Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth 
and the first decade of the twentieth century, it tended 
to interest itself increasingly in shipping, and especially 
to regulate it more closely in the interest of the persons 
(passengers and crews) carried in the ships, with a view 
to safeguarding life. The restricted powers formerly 
vested in the Admiralty were transferred to the Board 
of Trade and exercised by that department, overburdened 
with many and varied responsibilities, with sagacity and 
restraint, the aim being to discourage as little as possible 
the individualistic enterprise of the shipping industry. 

It was forgotten by the British people that the British 
Merchant Navy had a war history dating back to a period 
anterior to the founding of the Royal Navy. No one 



recalled the part which merchant seamen had borne in 
former wars, or remembered that in earlier periods of 
British history the merchant sailor had stood between 
this country and the invader when little or no progress 
had been made in the organisation of a fighting Navy as 
a State institution. The Merchant Navy was thought to 
be an organisation without traditions and with little 
remaining romance, owing to the advent of steam, which 
had replaced sail power. That was a narrow and mistaken 
view, as events were to show. Just as in the great period 
of the nation's expanding self-consciousness the Merchant 
Navy was the finest embodiment of the national spirit, 
so when the war clouds burst in the summer of 1914, the 
real character of the British merchant seamen was re- 
vealed as the flash of artillery lit up the battle-fields on 
the Continent of Europe. These sailors were recognised as 
no ordinary men engaged merely in facilitating the barter 
and exchange of a commercial community, but as belong- 
ing to a great brotherhood, instinct with patriotism and 
proud of the traditions dating back, in unbroken and 
glorious sequence, to the early years of British history. 

When the present struggle began, two great national 
forces, the Navy and the Army the latter supported by 
Territorials were recognised, and supported out of public 
funds. Within a few months of the opening of hostilities, 
the King, in a message of appreciation of the services 
of the merchant seamen, referred to " his Merchant Navy," 
subsequently appointing Captain H. J. Haddock, C.B., 
one of the most distinguished senior officers of the 
Mercantile Marine, as an aide-de-camp, and the Prime 
Minister, in a self- revealing phrase, described the Merchant 
Navy as " the jugular vein of the nation." Its 
officers and men in a short time set up a record of 
daring, resource, and fine seamanship, so conspicuous, 
even when studied against the background of past cen- 
turies, that it was necessary to amend the statutes and 
introduce new regulations in order to enable suitable 
recognition to be given to them. The merchant sailor, 
unassuming and modest, took his stand, with the full 
recognition of an aroused and grateful public opinion, 
beside the men of the ancient fighting services. 

During the years of fierce naval competition which 
preceded the War, when the talk was of Dreadnoughts, sea 


power was thought to be a matter of men-of-war battle- 
ships, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines organised in 
fleets, squadrons, or flotillas, and manned by highly 
trained officers and men. So long as the country possessed 
a supreme Navy, any other deficiency was of minor im- 
portance. The relationship between the Royal Navy 
and the Mercantile Marine had undergone a radical change 
since the close of the last Great War, to be reflected in the 
public attitude towards the Merchant Fleet. The former 
had become independent of the latter as a source of man- 
power, owing to the introduction of a system of continuous 
naval service in the middle of the nineteenth century. It 
was concluded that, since the necessity of compulsory 
service had disappeared, the value of the Merchant Fleet 
as an auxiliary force in time of war had been reduced, 
though its place as a food-carrier from distant markets was 
realised by open-eyed statesmen. Mahan, fresh from the 
study of naval history, had made, it is true, a significant 
declaration. " Sea power," he remarked, " primarily 
depends upon commerce which follows the most advan- 
tageous road ; military control follows upon trade for its 
furtherance and protection. Except as a system of 
highways joining country to country, the sea is an un- 
fruitful possession. The sea, or water, is the great medium 
of circulation established by Nature, just as money has 
been evolved by man for the exchange of commerce. 
Change the flow of either in direction or amount, and you 
modify the political and industrial relations of mankind." l 
This writer was groping after a truth, but even he was 
blind to the essential character of the functions of a 
merchant navy, or, rather, did not associate cause with 
effect. He and other writers, in common with Govern- 
ments throughout the world, failed to trace the wide 
influence exerted, on the one hand, by conscription for 
military purposes, and, on the other, by the introduction 
of steam as the motive power for men-of-war. 

When Napoleon decided to make a levy on the population 
of France in order to raise a vast army which was to domin- 
ate Europe, he laid the foundations of a system which 
rendered a long war in future years impossible except 
with the aid of sea carriage. Before that development, 
armies and navies made relatively small demands upon 
1 Naval Strategy (Mahan). 


the man-power of the nations engaged, and those nations 
were in large measure self-supporting. Europe had had its 
Hundred Years' War. Maritime commerce was still in 
its infancy during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic 
Wars. The Continent of Europe was engaged in hostilities 
almost without interruption for a period of nearly a 
quarter of a century without being brought to a condition 
of famine, so great were its resources. Between 1815 and 
1914, however, the standard of living in Western Europe 
had been raised ; industrialism had grown at the expense 
of agriculture ; and increasing reliance had been placed 
upon the ship of commerce, acting as the link between 
the highly developed nations of the West and the States 
overseas, which still continue to produce a surplus of 
food-stuffs and raw materials. 

In war-time conscription, as the late struggle was to 
reveal, withdraws from essential industries all the able- 
bodied men of a State ; it blights agriculture and depresses 
trade ; it converts producers into consumers. Moltke, 
after the Franco-Prussian War, admitted that long-drawn- 
out contests would in future be checked by the economic 
exhaustion which wars on the scale of national man-power 
would involve, since, from the moment such a struggle 
opened, a State, in developing fighting energy on a broad 
national basis, would begin subtracting from its economic 
strength. But in this respect, as German writers were 
among the first to recognise, a maritime Power necessarily 
enjoys advantages over a land Power, so long as it is able 
to use the pathways of the sea to replenish its supplies of 
food and raw material from neutral markets. Conscription 
casts fresh burdens on sea power, and, in particular, 
on that form of sea power represented by the ship of 

But that is not the only change which occurred during 
the nineteenth century. The great development of 
military power on shore was accompanied by a vast 
growth of military strength by sea. Owing to the advent 
of steam, the typical man-of-war of the Nelsonian era 
disappeared, and was replaced by the coal or oil consuming 
vessel. Mahan l remarked, long before the Great War 
opened, that, " The days when fleets lay becalmed are 
gone, it is true ; but gone are the days when, with four or 
1 Naval Strategy (Mahan). 


five months of food and water below, they were ready to 
follow the enemy to the other side of the world without 
stopping. Nelson, in 1803-5, had always on board 
three months' provisions and water, and aimed to have 
five months' that is, to be independent of communications 
for nearly five months. If it is sought to lessen the strategic 
difficulty by carrying more coal, there is introduced the 
technical drawback of greater draught, with consequent 
lower speed and more sluggish handling, a still more 
important consideration. The experience of Admiral 
Rodjestvensky in this matter is recent and instructive. 
His difficulties of supply, and chiefly of coal, are known : 
the most striking consequence is the inconsiderate manner 
in which, without necessity, he stuffed his vessels with 
coal for the last run of barely a thousand miles. That he 
did this can be attributed reasonably only to the impression 
produced upon his mind by his coaling difficulties, for the 
evident consequence of this injudicious action was to put 
his ships in bad condition for a battle which he knew was 
almost inevitable." Those words indicate that the Ameri- 
can historian was approaching a realisation of the changes 
which had occurred in the character of naval power, 
rendering it dependent on auxiliaries for food, ammunition, 
and stores ; but, on the other hand, he under-estimated 
the extent to which the ship of commerce loaded with coal 
and operating with the ship of war engaged in attacking 
commerce, as in the case of the EMDEN and other enemy 
cruisers, could provide a measure of compensation for the 
restrictions on naval warfare traceable to the development 
of the swift-running steam-engine with its enormous con- 
sumption of fuel. 

All those considerations were inadequately recognised 
before the War opened in 1914, which was at last to involve 
in its horrors, directly or indirectly, practically all the 
nations of the Continent of Europe, was later on to draw 
in Japan and China, and at last to bring the United States 
and other American Republics into the arena. Even 
Mahan did not go farther than to suggest that " a broad 
basis of mercantile maritime interests will doubtless con- 
duce to naval efficiency by supplying a reserve of material 
and personnel." Events were to show that his anticipation 
of reliance being placed upon the Mercantile Marine for 
men to anything like the same extent as during the wars 


of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was based upon 
an under-appreciation of the varied responsibilities de- 
volving upon a merchant navy as soon as the maritime 
State whose flag it carries becomes engaged in warfare. 
The books of British writers upon war policy may be 
studied in vain for a just appreciation of the essential part 
which the British Mercantile Marine necessarily assumed 
as soon as this country become involved in varied war 
activities overseas. 

Soon after the declaration of war, the British Mercantile 
Navy was confronted with responsibilities which in character 
and extent were without parallel in maritime history. 

1. Owing to circumstances which need not be examined 
in this connection, the Royal Navy was without defended 
bases of supply on the east coast vis-d-vis to Germany. 
Consequently, as soon as the Grand Fleet was mobilised, 
heavy demands were made upon the Mercantile Marine 
for ships to carry fuel (coal and oil), ammunition, stores, 
food, and everything required for the prosecution of the 
war in home waters. At the same time, other ships were 
requisitioned for the support of naval power in the outer 

2. The resources of the Royal Navy large as they 
were proved inadequate to maintain the patrol which 
it became necessary to organise in order to make the 
blockade of the enemy effective. Some of the swiftest 
liners were, therefore, taken up and commissioned under 
the White Ensign, and from the varied resources of the 
Merchant Navy the Auxiliary Patrol was organised. 

3. As the military commitments of the country in- 
creased, a large volume of mercantile tonnage was required 
for transport purposes. Transport facilities had to' be pro- 
vided for the Gallipoli Expedition, the army at Salonika, 
the forces based on Egypt, the operations in Mesopotamia 
and Palestine, and the campaign in East Africa. Shipping 
was also requisitioned for the troops engaged in routing 
the Germans out of their Pacific possessions, and other 
ships were employed in maintaining the military lines of 
communication between the mother-country and India, 
New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and 
Newfoundland. Hospital carriers had to be fitted out. 

4. Storeships had to be found for the growing armies 


engaged in all the widely separated theatres of war to 
carry the vast assortment of material ranging from heavy 
guns and horses to bomb-throwers and medical comforts. 

5. As the British Army grew in size, a vast expansion 
occurred in the munition movement in the British Isles, 
in India, and in Canada, as well as in the United States, 
and a large number of ships were soon engaged exclusively 
in conveying ores and other raw materials over the seas. 

6. At the same time, the sea-dependent people of the 
British Isles, numbering over forty million persons, had to 
be fed, and, owing to the isolation of Russia with its surplus 
grain production, the cutting off of beet sugar from 
Germany, and the dangers which threatened navigation 
between the British Isles and Scandinavia, new sources 
of supply had to be opened up, involving longer voyages, 
and therefore the employment of a larger amount of 

It was a fortunate circumstance that this country 
possessed about half the merchant shipping of the world ; 
otherwise it would have been seriously hampered in the 
prosecution of the War. It is also a fortunate circumstance 
that its merchant ships possessed officers and crews who 
were not to be frightened by the enemy threats or acts. 

The British Navy has never wanted historians ; its 
history has been written from every standpoint ; but the 
historian to give full credit to the British Merchant Navy, 
with its fine achievements in peace and in war, has not yet 
arisen. In approaching the study of the part taken by 
the Merchant Navy in the Great War, it has been thought 
pardonable to supply a background, consisting of a short 
survey of the place which British merchant seamen have 
filled in the evolution of the British people, a brief record 
of the heroic services they have rendered in successive 
wars, and particularly in the Revolutionary and Na- 
poleonic Wars, and some details of the gradual develop- 
ment of the Mercantile Marine during the nineteenth 
century. A contrast may thus be provided between the 
conditions existing in former wars and those with which 
the British seaman, unarmed and undefended, was con- 
fronted when, in performance of his peaceful duty, he was 
suddenly called upon to meet the menace of the raider, the 
mine, and, above all, the submarine. 




OF all the lessons taught to the inhabitants of these 
islands by the Great War, none can have been more com- 
pletely mastered than this that they owe their very 
existence to the two branches of the great Sea service the 
Mercantile Marine bringing them the bulk of their supplies, 
and the Royal Navy, the " sure shield " of that vital 
traffic as well as of the homeland itself. Viewed in the 
light of this immense debt of gratitude, the two branches 
are seen to be essentially one, the fighting arm but an 
extension of the Mercantile Marine ; and the modern 
separation of functions takes its proper place as a natural 
evolution from the days when our sea battles were fought 
by vessels temporarily converted from merchantmen to 
men-of-war. That condition did not mark in any degree 
the centuries which immediately followed the Roman 
occupation. Sunk in internecine strife, and the prey to 
successive piratical invasions, England had then no 
effective share in the sea-borne commerce of which the 
Mediterranean was the secular home ; and in constructing 
and maintaining the Fleet which has given him such a 
high place in our naval history, King Alfred was dealing 
with a simple though formidable problem of invasion, 
and, taking an accurate strategical view of the situation, he 
placed his first line of defence off his coasts. His policy 
was vigorously carried on by Athelstan, and though from 
time to time merchant shipping was drawn upon by the 
Saxon kings for their war fleets, it may be said generally 
that the basis of the navies of these troublous centuries 
was essentially a military one. The change came with 
the return to greater national security, and the consequent 
growth of maritime enterprise, and the incorporation of 



the famous Cinque Ports by the Conqueror a step directly 
due to the fear of a Danish invasion may conveniently 
be taken as inaugurating the unity of the two branches 
of the sea service. 

Upon the seamen of the Cinque Ports Dover, Sandwich, 
Romney, Winchelsea and Rye (the list was extended 
later) were conferred certain unique commercial and 
maritime privileges on condition of their raising a powerful 
force of fifty-seven ships properly manned and equipped 
for use in any sudden emergency. The period of service 
(fifteen days) could be extended at the King's pleasure, 
but in such event the cost was to be borne by the Royal 
Treasury. The fleet thus created was actively maintained 
by William Rufus, and it contributed its full share to the 
great expedition undertaken by Richard I to recover the 
Holy Land from the Saracens. In this enterprise over 
200 merchant vessels were enrolled for the task of trans- 
porting the Crusaders ; and, disastrous as it proved in some 
respects, the expedition had notable consequences for the 
country's maritime progress. In the critical days which 
followed the death of King John, the Cinque Ports Fleet 
covered itself with immortal glory by the prominent part 
it took in the defeat of the French Armada dispatched 
from Calais under Eustace the Monk. Responding to the 
patriotic appeal of Hubert de Burgh, the stout sailors and 
fishermen of Dover manned all the vessels, large and 
small, lying in the harbour, and, having taken the knights 
and men-at-arms on board, sailed out to meet the enemy. 
The battle, as recorded by Matthew Paris, took place off 
Sandwich. The English sailors proved their better sea- 
manship by getting the weather gauge, and when the 
cross-bowmen and archers had discharged their arrows 
under these favourable conditions and quick-lime had 
been thrown at close quarters, the Frenchmen were rammed 
and boarded. Such a picture presents the mariners of 
the southern ports in the most favourable colours. Their 
brilliant share in the exploit won them a generous ex- 
tension of their already existing rights, but it has to be 
admitted that the position of the seamen of the Cinque 
Ports as a privileged class was productive of many evils 
which must be set off against their great services to the 
nation. The privilege now conferred upon them in itself 
a foreshadowing of the custom of issuing Letters of Marque 


of annoying " the subjects of France and all they met 
of whatever nation," simply meant the right to plunder 
any and every foreign merchant ship. The example found 
so many imitators that before long the Channel was swarm- 
ing with pirates, the strong preying on the weak, " until 
the evil had grown to such an enormous extent that the 
most stringent measures were found necessary to sweep the 
seas of the marauders." 1 Moreover, the Cinque Ports were 
not free from the jealousy characteristic of a privileged class, 
and feuds with other ports, and notably with Yarmouth, 
broke out again and again, often marked by savage energy. 

We get a picturesque hint of the beginnings of maritime 
enterprise under the Saxon kings in Athelstan's grant of 
the rank and privileges of Thane to any merchant or 
mariner who should successfully accomplish three voyages 
on the high seas ; but for long after the Conquest the limits 
of British overseas trade appear to have been the entrance 
to the Baltic in the north and the ports of the Bay of 
Biscay to the south, nor did our wool trade with Flanders 
reach its high prosperity till a later date. Richard's last 
crusade, therefore, has a special significance as the first 
extended voyage of English ships, and it furnished results 
far removed from its idealistic purposes. For the first 
time since the Roman occupation the English now entered 
into trade relations with the Levant (though English ships 
did not penetrate there till much later) ; and not only was 
a new stimulus applied to the growth of English shipping, 
but the attempt was made to codify by regular enactment 
the rules of the sea. 

The famous Laws of Oleron, generally attributed to 
Richard himself, 8 but almost certainly derived from a 
French source, are of great interest for the light they 
throw on life on board the sea-going merchant ship of the 
period. The articles covered all matters relating to 
mercantile shipping questions of total loss, damage, 
demurrage, harbour regulation, fishing, and the like and 
in particular defined for the first time the duties and 
qualifications of the Master of the ship. The Master was 
put in charge of, and held answerable for, everything on 
board, and he was required to understand thoroughly the 

1 The British Merchant Service (Cornewall Jones). 

2 For a full discussion of this question, see The Black Book of the 
Admiralty, in the edition of Sir Travers Twiss. 


art of navigating his vessel, for the specific reason that he 
might thereby control the pilot, who was the Second Officer 
on board a merchantman. Nor could any sailor leave the 
ship without his consent. Navigation in the days before 
the compass was largely a matter of practical experience, 
and of this fact the second article of the Code affords a 
striking illustration ; for it was there laid down that if a 
vessel was delayed in port by unfavourable weather, or 
by the failure of the wind, the Master had to call the ship's 
company together, and take their opinion on the situation, 
and in the event of a division of opinion he was to abide 
by the voice of the majority. This rule, in fact, applied 
to every emergency by which the Master might be con- 
fronted. It is interesting to note that such a regulation 
in a modified form remained in active force for centuries ; 
indeed, one of the charges brought by his detractors against 
Sir Francis Drake in the period of his great voyages was 
that, by his attitude towards his officers, he had on occasion 
treated this obligation with contempt. But Drake, a giant 
among sea captains and self-reliant to his finger-tips, was 
a law unto himself in such matters. Here, surely, in this 
thirteenth- century code we perceive the beginnings of that 
spirit of freedom under discipline which has become 
traditional in the Mercantile Marine, a spirit which found 
such rich expression in Elizabethan times, and helped to 
make the British the first seamen of the world. 

The same principle, born as it were of the breath of the 
sea, is traceable in the article defining with amusing 
particularity the relations of the Master with the crew. 
It was the Master's duty to keep peace among his men. 
If one called another a liar at table, he was to be fined 
fourpence, but if the Master himself so offended he was 
mulcted in twice the amount. For impudently contradict- 
ing the Master, a seaman was fined eightpence. A single 
blow from the Master was to be accepted by a sailor 
without retaliation, but a second blow gave him the right 
to defend himself. On the other hand, if a sailor struck 
the first blow, he was either to pay a heavy fine or lose his 
hand. Finally, if a sailor received abuse from the Master, 
he was advised to hide himself in the forecastle ; but if the 
Master followed him into that retreat the Englishman's 
house at sea in the proverbial sense of his castle then the 
victim was entitled to stand on his defence. 


This significant recognition of the rights of the common 
sailor went hand-in-hand with strict discipline, and order 
and good conduct were maintained with mediaeval severity. 
Damage to the ship due to a sailor's absence without leave 
was punishable with a year's imprisonment ; a fatal 
accident due to the same cause involved a flogging a 
flogging of the period and actual desertion meant branding 
in the face with a red-hot iron. Other offences, including 
such human weaknesses as swearing and gambling, often 
incurred brutal penalties in the Middle Ages, and the punish- 
ment of keel-hauling, which seems to have been first practised 
by the English in the twelfth century, survived into modern 
times, as we know from the pages of Captain Marry att. 

By the Oleron Code, a defaulting pilot the navigating 
officer of the time was allotted treatment in full pro- 
portion to the responsibility of his task. If through his 
ignorance his vessel miscarried in entering a port, and if 
he were unable to render full satisfaction for the damage 
or loss, then he paid for the mishap with his head ; and if 
the Master or the merchants on board chose to exact the 
penalty there and then, they were not to be called on to 
answer it in law. Furthermore, any pilot who, in con- 
nivance with the " lords of the coast," ran his ship on 
shore, was to be hanged on a high gibbet at the place of 
destruction, as a caution to other vessels that might pass 
thereby. Against any " lord of the coast " involved in 
such a crime drastic measures were laid down. His goods 
were to be confiscated by way of restitution, while he 
himself was to be fastened to a stake in the midst of his 
mansion and the whole building committed to the flames. 
In the Middle Ages wreckers infested the shores, and the 
sense of this ever-present menace to shipping is fully 
expressed in the severe treatment reserved for those who 
plundered a ship or murdered castaway mariners. They 
were to be " plunged into the sea till they were half dead, 
and then drawn out from the sea and stoned to death." 
A notable example of the common practice of the impress- 
ment of sailors occurred in the following reign at a time 
when King John was preparing an expedition to Ireland. 
For the transport of the soldiers, the seamen of Wales were 
ordered to repair to Ilfracombe on pain of hanging and 
forfeiture of goods. This power of the Crown was con- 
tinuously exercised up to the beginning of the nineteenth 


century. Though never a statutory right, and occasionally 
challenged as an illegality, it is implied in numerous 
statutes, and was judicially regarded as a part of the 
Common Law of the Realm. 

Like the fight off Sandwich of 1217, the Battle of Sluys, 
early in the reign of Edward III, was a triumph for the 
merchantmen of England. The French King's fleet, largely 
composed of Norman ships, reinforced by a Genoese 
squadron, were massed in the harbour at the entrance to 
the canal leading to the great mart of Bruges so vast in 
numbers, says Froissart, that " their masts seemed to be 
like a great wood." King Edward attacked with a fleet 
drawn from the various ports of the kingdom, and carrying 
a large force of archers and men-at-arms. A fierce struggle, 
lasting all day and renewed the following morning, ended 
in a complete victory, with capture or destruction of nearly 
all the French vessels, though the Genoese mercenaries 
escaped in the night. The Harleian MSS. have preserved 
for us the list of the Armada with which, six years later, 
the King blockaded Calais. Exclusive of those of 
" forrayne Countreyes in this Ayde," the roll shows a total 
of 707 vessels, and of that number only twenty-five were 
King's ships. The detailed list is of great interest, also, as an 
indication of the relative prominence of the different mari- 
time towns. The famous Cinque Ports, their harbours 
already i beginning to silt up, were far out-distanced by the 
West Country. Sandwich, Winchelsea, Dover, Rye, and 
Hythe, together muster an average of fifteen ships each, 
but Fowey a place of little importance to-day, but then a 
centre of the tin industry sent 47 ; Dartmouth whence 
Chaucer's shipman haled 32 ; Plymouth, 26 ; Bristol, 22 ; 
and Looe, 20. On the other hand, the modern Welsh 
ports of Cardiff and Swansea were represented by only one 
ship each, and Liverpool did not even appear in the tally. 

The Battle of Sluys marked the beginning of that 
exhausting attempt at Continental conquest known as the 
Hundred Years' War, itself followed by the devastating 
civil strife of the Wars of the Roses. The long struggle 
with France interrupted trade and checked maritime 
enterprise, though it helped powerfully to evoke a new 
spirit of national consciousness at a time when municipal 
institutions were beginning to decay and our mercantile 
policy was undergoing a drastic change. Apart from the 


ravaging of seaports by the enemy those on the south 
coast being special sufferers l the country's shipping was 
continually being diverted from its normal purposes by 
the military requirements of the Sovereign. In his 
great invasion of France in 1415, Henry V sailed from 
Southampton with a vast fleet of 1,400 vessels, having 
previously impressed all the craft in the country of 20 tons 
and upwards, and obtained his crews largely by similar 
methods. Brilliant as the adventure was in its temporary 
achievements, one is apt to overlook the enormous strain 
it placed on the economic resources of the kingdom, and 
to forget such contemporary protests as the humble 
petition of Parliament representing that the conquest of 
France would be the ruin of England. 

Furthermore, the almost continuous state of war, foreign 
and civil, intensified the lawlessness which had so long 
prevailed at sea. The complex problem presented by 
mediaeval piracy baffled the efforts of even the most 
statesmanlike rulers. Sea-trading in those days was 
anything but a peaceful occupation. Professional pirates, 
whether individual ships or organised gangs like the Rovers 
of the Sea, whose activities at Scarborough anticipated 
the modern revival of unrestrained piracy, infested the 
Channel and the North Sea, adding their depredations to 
those of enemy craft ; and these marauders carried their 
daring to the extent of harrying the coast and burning 
seaside towns. At one time, the Isle of Wight was virtually 
in the possession of a certain John of Newport, whose 
misdeeds and " riot kept uppon the see " were the theme 
of a plaintive petition to Parliament. 

But apart from sheer plundering, though not always 
distinguishable from it, was the system of legalised priva- 
teering arising out of the issue of Letters of Marque. By 
the licence thus obtained from the Crown, a trader who 
had been the victim of foreign aggression, or who sought 
the means of collecting a difficult debt, was given the right 
of reprisals on the goods of the community or country to 
which the offender belonged. The first recorded instance 
of such a grant occurs in the reign of Edward I, though it 
cannot safely be assumed that none was issued earlier. It 

1 The activity of the Norman corsairs in the early years of Edward Ill's 
reign was so effective that an order was issued directing dwellers on the 
south coast to take refuge in fortresses and withdraw their goods a distance 
of four leagues from the sea. (Pol. Hist, of England, vol. iii, p. 334.) 


was made in favour of the English owner of a ship which, 
while bringing fruit from Malaga, was piratically seized 
off the coast of Portugal and carried as a prize into Lisbon. 
In this case, the licence to seize the goods of the Portuguese 
to the extent of the loss sustained was limited to five years. 
The disadvantages of such a rough-and-ready method of 
adjusting differences need no great emphasis. In the first 
place, experience showed that licence for reprisals tended 
to degenerate into licence of a more general -kind ; and, 
secondly, this method of making innocent Peter pay for 
guilty Paul often acted as a serious deterrent upon trading. 
In the British Museum may be seen a gold noble coined 
by Edward III after the taking of Calais had given him 
the command of the Channel. On the reverse it depicts 
a ship and a sword, and it possesses a peculiar interest as 
the symbol of the first claim by an English King to the 
sovereignty of the sea. In formally adopting the title of 
Dominus Maris Anglicani Circumquaque, this clear-sighted 
ruler was laying claim to no empty formula, but to a real 
sovereignty involving a number of substantial rights 
such as those of fishing, the levying of tolls for the use of 
the sea, free passage for ships-of-war, and, lastly, juris- 
diction for crimes committed at sea. It was therefore by 
the active assertion of this claim that Edward sought to 
deal with the growing practice of piracy and give protection 
at sea. His practical measures included the granting to 
merchant vessels of letters of safe-conduct and the or- 
ganising of fleets in convoy. Vessels bound for Gascony, 
for instance, were directed to assemble on the day of the 
Nativity of the Virgin outside Southampton Water, 1 
sailing thence under the charge of Royal officials. The 
main effect, however, of the first-mentioned remedy seems, 
in later times, to have aggravated the evil, for under the 
Lancastrian Kings we get many complaints of the forging 
of such documents ; and, moreover, it was found by the 
men on the English coasts that the issue of letters of 
safe- conduct prevented them from getting redress for 
pillage by taking the matter into their own hands. In 
short, the efforts of Edward III had little or no effect in 
giving protection on the seas. So it was with his successors. 
In the next reign, letters of marque were granted more 

1 " Chalcheford " in the original, which, according to Dr. Cunningham, 
was probably Calshot Castle. 


freely than ever, and it is recorded of one of the merchants 
of Dartmouth, a port which held a general privateering 
commission from the Crown, that with a fleet of his own 
he captured no fewer than thirty-three vessels with 1,500 
tuns of Rochelle wine. 

Apart from its more direct results, the long period of 
wars, by its consumption of the national energies, offered 
an opportunity to foreign rivals which they were quick 
to seize. The Hanseatic League had become the most 
important commercial association of the world at the 
beginning of the fourteenth century ; Bruges and Antwerp 
had established themselves as the great entrepots of 
Northern Europe, and the merchant vessels of the Italian 
Republics were frequenting the markets of the Nether- 
lands. To these several rivals fell, during the war, the 
bulk of the English carrying trade. Another cause 
operating against the interests of the English shipper was 
the commercial policy carried out by Edward III. His 
broad aims may be summed up as a combination of cheap 
imports for the benefit of the consumer, with high prices 
for exports as a means of providing revenue through the 
Customs ; and those aims were apparent in the regulations 
affecting wool and wine, and the liberal provisions for 
encouraging the foreign trader. A few years after Ed- 
ward's death saw the start of a reversal of this policy. 
The increased resentment of English merchants against 
the foreign trader, and the depressed condition of English 
shipping, found expression in the first of many Navigation 
Acts (1381), which provided that " to increase the Navy 
of England, 1 which is now greatly diminished, it is assented 
and accorded that none of the King's liege people do from 
henceforth ship any merchandise in going or coming 
within the realm of England in any port, but only in ships 
of the King's liegance." So diminished, indeed, was " the 
Navy " that in the following year the new ordinance had 
to be modified, owing to an insufficiency of shipping. 
Taken in conjunction with the new regulations for keeping 
bullion in the country, and the protective encouragement 
of tillage, not merely as a means of safeguarding the food- 
supply, but for the fostering of the country's military 
strength, the Navigation Act marks the beginning of a 
drastic change of mercantile policy a change, in a happy 
1 That is to say, the general shipping of the kingdom. 


phrase Bacon applies to the policy of the first Tudor King, 
" from consideration of plenty to consideration of power." 
In spite, however, of the growth of national conscious- 
ness, an effective means of providing for the due protection 
of the country's coasts and shipping seemed for a time no 
nearer. It was the plundering of English vessels by a daring 
Scottish pirate early in the reign of Richard II, and the 
ravaging of Rye and other south coast towns by a French 
fleet, which induced Parliament, alarmed for the safety of 
the realm, to pass the first law levying dues on all merchant 
vessels (with a few exceptions) frequenting English ports, 
for the specific purpose of maintaining an efficient Royal 
Navy. But the fleet, no sooner created, was led by John 
of Gaunt on the wild enterprise of the Siege of St. Malo, 
instead of being employed in its proper service. And it 
was a squadron of sturdy merchant ships which, in the 
absence of the Royal fleet, and of its own initiative, 
repelled a French marauding expedition. The usurper of 
the following reign narrowly escaped capture by pirates 
when coming up the Thames to London, and he was so 
little able to achieve his aim of establishing a Royal Navy 
that for a period of over a year the entire guardianship of 
the coasts was entrusted to the country's merchantmen. 
By this plan, which illustrates the general system of pro- 
tection by contract, the shipowners were required to main- 
tain certain ships on the sea, and to two " fit persons " 
chosen from their body the King granted commissions to 
act as his Admirals, one for the north and one for the south. 
In recompense for these services they were empowered to 
take three shillings on every cask of imported wine, as 
well as certain dues on exports. It was the Crown's 
complaint, subsequently, that the merchantmen had 
failed to fulfil their part of the contract, and the scheme 
came to nothing. A similar plan was tried, with no better 
result, under Henry VI ; in that case the Commissioners 
were the Earls of Salisbury, Shrewsbury, Worcester, and 
Wiltshire, and Lord Sturton, who were assigned the grant 
of tonnage and poundage on condition of " keeping the 
seas " for three years. The significance of the maritime 
efforts of Henry V's reign lies mainly in the improvements 
in shipbuilding. Three ships turned out at Southampton 
by the victor of Agincourt, on the models of three big 
Genoese merchantmen which traded with that port, excited 


the country's admiration; and examples of private enterprise 
are found in the great carack built by John Taverner, of Hull, 
and the fleet maintained by Bristol's merchant prince, 
William Canynges, among which was a vessel of 900 tons 
burden. It was owing to this advance in shipbuilding that, 
later in the century, Englishmen found themselves with 
vessels fit to take part in distant voyages of discovery. 

It was in such conditions of turmoil as have been 
described that our merchantmen in the Middle Ages not 
only maintained and even extended their trade, but also, 
as we have seen, provided the only means for the defence 
and security of their country. In the light of their varied 
record we clearly perceive that the mariners who won 
wide renown in the days of Queen Elizabeth were but 
carrying a step forward in the dawn of a new age the 
traditions of their predecessors " good felawes " of the 
type so vividly presented by Chaucer's shipman. The 
mariner of mediaeval England was an example of the 
hardihood of his day. " Of nyce conscience took he no 
keep," the Prologue tells us. "If that he fought and 
hadde the hyer hond By water he sente hem hoom to 
every lond." But he was " hardy " and " wys to under- 
take," and again and again in the records of these centuries 
we get proofs of that endurance and tenacity, that native 
sea sense, that ready resource, which we have come to 
regard as the birthright of the English seaman. When in 
1378, as already mentioned, the King's ships were busy 
besieging St. Malo, a squadron of French and Spanish 
galleys seized the opportunity of sailing up the Kentish 
coast and entering the mouth of the Thames, burning the 
towns and villages on its banks as far as Graves end. On 
returning by the Channel, however, intent on further 
destruction, the marauders were met by a fleet of West 
Country merchantmen and valiantly repulsed. The 
English ships were of less tonnage than those of the enemy, 
but boldness of attack and better seamanship prevailed, 
as they have on so many historic occasions since. And 
in the fifteenth century, in spite of conditions which often 
approached to social anarchy, we get evidence of the slow 
but real progress of maritime commerce fostered by the 
new mercantile policy, which was still further developed 
under the Tudor kings. The reign of Henry IV saw the 
establishment of the Merchant Adventurers and similar 


organisations of English merchants, trading to the Baltic 
and to Prussia ; commercial treaties were common from 
the reign of Edward IV onwards ; in 1480, the year of 
the birth of the great Magellan, Bristol then the most 
enterprising seaport of England, its fishermen making 
regular voyages to Iceland dispatched an exploring 
expedition in search of the " Island of Brazil " ; a score 
of years later John Cabot, sailing from the same port, had 
made two memorable voyages to the coast of Labrador, 
and though he found no precious metals, reported, what 
was far more significant, an abundance of cod-fish ; in 
1485 there appeared at Pisa the first English Consul to be 
appointed in the Mediterranean ; and the decline in power 
of the Hanseatic League in this country, destined to be 
extinguished finally under Queen Elizabeth, was rapidly 
hastened. By the new consistency in her mercantile 
policy, based on national consciousness, England was 
steadily preparing to gather, by means of her merchantmen 
of a later day, the fruits of the Age of Discovery. 

When men were bidden by law to eat fish twice a week, 
and throughout the whole of Lent, they were obeying an 
obligation which it was believed the political needs of the 
country imposed. Fish was, of course, an article of diet 
of national importance, apart from the religious considera- 
tions which entered into the matter. But the real sig- 
nificance of the act was political. The buying of fish 
stimulated the fishing industry, the fishing industry was 
the best school for seamen, and seamen and shipping 
were necessary for strengthening the country's power 
against its rivals. Another essential of the national 
ambition was wealth, and one avenue to wealth was already 
being indicated by the great explorations of the last 
decades of the century. The effects of the discovery of 
America, of the rounding of the Cape by Vasco da Gama, 
and later the accident of storm which gave Brazil to 
Portugal, were as swift as revolutionary. The Levantine 
trade with the East was ruined. For a time the Portuguese 
became the first maritime Power. Lisbon established 
itself as the great commercial depot for Western Europe. 
In their desire for wealth, as a means of national power, 
Tudor Englishmen turned their eyes to the New World 
and to the looked-for promise of a north-west route to Far 
Cathay. This sentiment found expression in 1511, in the 


protest made by certain members of King Henry VIII's 
Council against Continental conquest. 1 If we would 
enlarge ourselves, these statesmen argued, 2 " let it be that 
way we can, and to which it seems the eternal Providence 
hath destined us, which is the sea. The Indies are dis- 
covered, and vast treasure brought from thence every day. 
Let us, therefore, bend our Endeavours thitherward, and 
if the Spaniards or Portuguese suffer us not to join with 
them, there will be yet region enough for all to enjoy." 

Henry VIII himself gave effect to the prevalent ideas 
of the time by endowing the country with its first Royal 
Navy on an organised basis. But 'his establishment of the 
Royal Navy as a regular department of the State was also 
in accordance with the Tudor dynasty's principle of 
personal power, and in idea it may be compared with the 
tendency towards standing armies on the Continent. The 
importance of Henry VIII's policy must be emphasised, for 
here we have the beginnings of the differentiation between 
the naval and mercantile services. A skilled amateur in 
many arts and crafts, the King concerned himself personally 
with improvement in construction, and his famous ship, the 
GREAT HARRY, of at least 1,000 tons, was the largest vessel 
then known. The first fleet which he secretly fitted out 
at Portsmouth, small but admirably equipped, was specially 
designed to deal with the French buccaneers who infested 
the Channel, and it successfully disposed of a squadron 
of marauders which had been plundering merchant craft 
in Mounts Bay. The great fleet, assembled at Spithead 
in his last war with France, was formed, as in the old days, 
on a nucleus of the ships flying the Royal Standard, but 
that nucleus organised, as indicated above, on definite 
lines. Privateers joined the Admiral chiefly from the West 
Country ports. At his death Henry left a fleet of over 
seventy vessels ; but more important than that, he had 
applied a new principle to national defence. Nor did his 
scheme of organisation end with the provision of a Royal 
fleet and its crews. As a means of protecting London 
from pirates, he established two ports on the river at, and 
opposite to, Gravesend, so that Londoners enjoyed an 

1 This, it may be noted, was eight years after the Portuguese had tapped 
the sources of the Venetians' Eastern trade and had brought their 
first cargo of pepper to England. 

3 Recorded in Lord Herbert of Cherbury's History. 


hitherto unknown security ; he founded a Naval Arsenal 
at Deptford ; and there also he established the Fraternity 
of the Holy Trinity, that since-famous body whose Tudor 
Charter empowered it to frame " all and singular articles 
in any wise concerning the science or art of mariners," 
and to make ordinances " for the relief, increase, and 
augmentation of this our Realm of England." Nor could 
we find clearer evidence of Parliament's recognition of the 
national importance of the Mercantile Marine than in the 
preamble of the Act passed in 1540 for the " maintenance 
of the Navy." The dual purpose of the " Navy or multi- 
tude of ships of this Realm " (the sense in which we now 
use the word Navy has, of course, become more specialised) 
is explicitly set forth that is to say, first : " for the 
intercourse and concourse of merchants, transporting and 
conveying their wares and merchandise " ; and, secondly, 
for " a great defence and surety of this Realm in time of war, 
and also the maintenance of many master mariners and sea- 
men." It went on to complain of the infringement of the ex- 
isting laws against importing in foreign ships, re-enacted the 
old Navigation Laws, and, among other provisions, arranged 
for the publication in Lombard Street of notice of the sailings 
of ships. Eight years later, Parliament passed the statute 
imposing the sumptuary regulations as to the eating of 
fish, to which allusion has already been made. 

A significant event which followed the death of 
Henry VIII was the return to Bristol of Sebastian Cabot, 
who whether or not he became, as Hakluyt says, " Grand 
Pilot " of England received, at any rate, the recognition 
of a pension of 250 marks from Henry's youthful son and 
successor, who was himself a keen student of geography. 
It was Cabot who revived interest in the idea of a north- 
east passage to China, and, having formed the Company of 
Merchant Venturers to promote the scheme, he fitted out 
an expedition under the command of Sir Hugh Willoughby, 
with Richard Chancellor as Pilot-Major, which left the 
Thames on the first organised voyage of Polar discovery 
in 1553. All the famous explorer's skill and experience 
lent themselves to the preparations for this great voyage. 
Hakluyt tells us that " strong and well-seasoned planks 
for the building of the requisite ships were provided," and 
as a protection against the depredations of the worms 
which " pearceth and eateth through the strongest oak," 


parts of the keels of the ship were covered " with thin 
sheets of lead," which seems to be the first-recorded instance 
of such sheathing in this country. The little flotilla bore 
Royal Letters of Safe-Conduct, and the elaborate instruc- 
tions drawn up for its government an admirable document 
characteristic of the period suggest the sagacity and ripe 
experience of Sebastian Cabot. The contemporary fame of 
the voyage may be judged from the large concourse which, 
amid the shooting-off of the ship's ordnance, bade the 
expedition farewell on the river-shores of Greenwich. 

The auspicious start " a very triumph," says the 
chronicler was belied by speedy disaster. Violent 
storms separated the ships, and Willoughby, with two 
vessels, beaten out of his course and unable to make the 
appointed rendezvous, remained to winter in Lapland ; 
there, from cold, famine, and disease, he and all his men 
miserably perished. Chancellor was more successful. 
After waiting a few days at the rendezvous, he at length 
passed through the uncharted seas to the Bay of St. 
Nicholas, and landed at the spot near where the town of 
Archangel now stands. He entered into friendly relations 
with the natives, who were indeed " amazed at the strange 
greatnesse of the shippe," and then, after gaining a smatter- 
ing of the language, this astonishing seaman started on a 
tour of the interior, which brought him finally to Moscow, 
where Ivan the Terrible gave him a kindly reception. A 
couple of years later, after vainly attempting to rescue 
his missing companions, Chancellor returned to Moscow, 
and succeeded so well in his negotiations that a Russian 
Ambassador accompanied him on the return voyage, to 
negotiate a treaty on liberal terms with the Association 
of Merchant Venturers. His ship was wrecked in a gale 
off the north of Scotland, and Chancellor lost his life in 
an effort to save the Russian Ambassador. That func- 
tionary, at any rate, escaped, and received an enthusiastic 
welcome in London. Though a north-east passage to Far 
Cathay 1 remained as much a dream as ever, Chancellor's 
enterprise laid the foundations of British commerce in 
Russia and the East. The new opening for overseas trade 
was speedily followed up. Another merchant (Captain 

1 The north-eastern passage from Europe to the Indies was not 
achieved till the nineteenth century. In 1878-80 the VEGA doubled the 
most northern promontory of Asia, and made her celebrated circumnavi- 
gation of the two continents of the Old World. 


Anthony Jenkinson) pushed into Asia by way of the Volga 
and the Caspian Sea in 1558, and two years later was 
dispatched on a commercial mission to the Sophi of Persia. 
These beginnings led to considerable developments of 
England's Baltic trade during the next decade. 

But it was westward, not eastward, that English sea- 
men's eyes were chiefly turned ; the treasure of the Spanish 
Main, not the merchandise of Tiflis and Samarcand, called 
aloud to the adventurous spirit of the nation of islanders. 
With the accession of Elizabeth we enter upon a new phase 
of national development. The bonfires which blazed up 
on the death of Mary symbolised the new expansive spirit 
of a nation which, though by no means completely united, 
was moved to the pursuit of aggressive aims ; and the 
challenge to the domination by Spain and Portugal of the 
New Hemisphere rang out clearer and clearer with Eng- 
land's growing consciousness of power upon the seas. 
The Pope's decree, by which the New World had been 
divided between the two Catholic Sovereigns, was not at 
once actively defied either by England or France. Neither 
country, in fact, was in a state to do so at the end of the 
fifteenth century, nor had the new religion sprung into 
vigorous birth. But half a dozen decades had brought 
sweeping changes. Catholic England had become a 
Protestant State, and a long period of peace had fostered 
the growth of national self-consciousness. The almost 
submissive tone of Henry VIII's Council " if the Spani- 
ards or Portuguese suffer us not to join them " i is replaced 
with a very different note. In the third year of Elizabeth's 
reign even the cautious Cecil bluntly tells the Spanish 
Ambassador that the Pope had no right to partition the 
world. It was, however, England's seamen rough mer- 
chant sailors rather than her statesmen, who were 
challenging the pretensions and the colonial regulations 
of the Catholic Powers. The English, freed from the last 
trace of Continental entanglements even Calais had just 
been lost to them were embracing more and more 
effectually their birthright on the sea. In other ways 
they were favourably placed for extracting full advantage 
from the new conditions. Geographically, the kingdom 
lay between the King of Spain's southern dominions and 
his rich and prosperous province of Flanders a strategic 

i Vide ante, p. 20. 


position the value of which was illustrated by the frequent 
success of the reprisals at sea that marked Elizabeth's 
foreign policy. The staunch mercantile class, with which 
so much real power rested, were developing overseas trade 
at a rapid rate ; and the experiences gained from many 
a stormy voyage in the northern latitudes were applied 
to good purpose in the shipbuilding yards, which were 
beginning to turn out swifter and more weatherly ships 
than those of any other nation. The day of the oared 
galley was already passing ; its last great sea-fight was 
to come in 1571 in the Bay of Lepanto, a short-lived 
triumph for the decaying Spanish sea power. Hitherto, 
sea power had been, in a modern historian's happy phrase, 1 
" pelagic not oceanic " ; now oars, the means of propulsion 
by which the mastery of the Mediterranean had been 
maintained for centuries, had yielded precedence to sails, 
the instrument of supremacy on the ocean. It was English 
merchant vessels and English seamen who were to prove 
the full significance of that revolution in the type of 
ocean-going ships which the age of discovery had 

After his marriage with Mary Tudor, Philip of Spain 
sought for his own purposes to encourage the increase of 
the English Navy. But the unpopularity of the marriage 
was deepened by the persecuting zeal of the fanatical 
Queen, and before the end of the short reign the new 
religion had given many recruits particularly from among 
the West Country families of good blood and with sea 
associations to the ranks of the privateers. Without 
entering into the religious aspect of the matter, it may 
be noted how truly the rising Protestant States drew 
their strength from the sea. Persecution in France turned 
many Huguenots into sea adventurers, preying on the 
traffic of the Catholic nations, and even attempting settle- 
ments in Spanish America ; the dreaded " Sea Beggars " 
were a later creation of the burnings and slaughterings 
of Alva in the Netherlands. 

England's national spirit, then, found its fullest and 
fittest expression in the deeds of the sea adventurers, and 
Elizabeth, of whom the Spanish Ambassador Feria told 
his master that " she is very much wedded to her people 
and thinks as they do," adapted this formidable weapon 

1 A. F. Pollard (Pol. Hist, of England, vol. vi, p. 309). 


to the main purpose of her policy namely, the unity of 
the nation and the preservation of the realm from foreign 
intervention. It was a policy that combined bold strategy 
with circumspect tactics. The privateers, with their 
often dubious letters of marque, found in their Sovereign 
a tacit ally. The Queen might, and as the reign advanced 
often did, take a private share in the expeditions to the 
West, or even lend a Royal ship to stiffen a squadron 
of merchantmen bound for the Indies. But it was clearly 
understood that officially she had no responsibility for 
any deeds that might be called in question, or for any 
unlucky miscarriages ; and if any freebooters were caught 
red-handed, they knew they must abide their fate without 
appeal to their Queen. In fine, " it was Elizabeth's privi- 
lege to reap the fruits of public peace, while her subjects 
gleaned the spoils of private war." 

This line of policy was, indeed, almost dictated by the 
conditions with which the reign opened. The Exchequer 
was impoverished, and the letters of Sir Thomas Gresham, 
the City magnate and Elizabeth's first Ambassador at 
Antwerp, plainly indicate two facts the difficulty of 
maintaining the English Queen's credit, and the country's 
dependence for gunpowder on supplies from abroad. As 
to the Royal Navy proper, the imposing fleet which 
Henry VIII had assembled was represented at the 
accession of his daughter by a total of only twenty-two 
" great ships." These and other signs of weakness due 
to religious and political causes deceived some Spanish 
observers. Feria, bred up in the tradition of Spain's 
military strength on land, went so far as to describe 
England in a phrase which has become familiar in our own 
day as " the sick man of Europe," and recommended 
Philip to land an army promptly and turn the island into 
a Spanish province. Philip, probably, had a better idea 
of the latent strength beneath the apparent weakness. 
Elizabeth's difficulties and problems were, in truth, real 
enough ; but a dozen years of her statesmanlike handling 
of affairs and of English enterprise on the seas were enough 
to give to Feria's words an echo of mocking irony. As to 
certain elements of our naval strength, some Spaniards 
remained deceived even after the defeat of the Armada, 
but there was little self-illusion in the letter written by 
Feria's successor, Guerau, in 1570. " The whole channel," 


he said, " from Falmouth to the Downs is infested. . . . 
They assail every ship that passes, of whatever nation, 
and after capturing them, equip them for their own pur- 
poses, by this means continually increasing their fleet, 
with the intention on the part of the queen thus to make 
war on his Majesty through these pirates without its costing 
her anything, and under the specious pretence that she is 
not responsible, since the pirates carry authority from 
Chatillon, Vendome, and Orange." 

That is a vivid glimpse of the unofficial war carried on 
in the Narrow Seas by the English seamen. Nor can it 
be regarded as too highly coloured a picture of a time 
when the Mayor and principal inhabitants of a port like 
Dover were among the most active of the Rovers, and 
when even English vessels engaged in the Antwerp trade 
and the very fishermen on the coast often fell victims to 
the more reckless type of pirate. But already greater 
deeds were being accomplished in the waters of the New 
World deeds in which it is sometimes hard to distinguish 
the different elements of trading legitimate enough 
according to the ideas of the time exploring, and sheer 
piracy ; yet which, by their daring, skill, and hardihood, 
have justly won a classic place in maritime history. The 
early slave-trading voyages of John Hawkins are of special 
interest as a definite attempt to break down the Spanish 
commercial monopoly in the New World. Modern ideas 
of slavery have cast an unjust opprobrium on the name of 
one of the greatest Elizabethan seamen. Hawkins was 
no better or worse than his time, and no " guilt " attached 
to slave-owning or slave-dealing in the sixteenth century. 
It was not in any case the nature of the cargo that gave 
special significance to this expedition of a seafaring mer- 
chant ; its importance lay in its overt challenge to Spain. 
Hawkins, doubtless, spoke for a section of English mercantile 
opinion when he claimed the right, under treaties dating 
back to the first Tudor reign, to trade with the Spanish 
Colonies. Yet the challenge was a bold and new departure. 
French pirates, mostly Huguenots, had for thirty years 
been harrying Spain's trade routes in the West, and only 
ten years before a bold French corsair, with a single ship, 
had, with the help of escaped slaves, laid waste some of 
the chief settlements of the Spanish Main, and even sacked 
Havana itself. But no English squadron had yet navigated 


the waters of the Spanish Indies. And though Hawkins and 
other traders had flouted Portuguese pretensions, based on 
the papal decree already referred to, and had freely 
traded with the Guinea coasts, and even with Brazil, 
no similar invasion of Spanish claims had hitherto been 

It was while trading to the Canary Islands that Hawkins 
learnt l that " negroes were very good merchandise to 
Hispaniola, and that store of them might easily be had 
upon the coast of Guinea" ; and in 1562, with three small 
vessels, whose tonnage would make a Solent yachtsman 
smile, he sailed from Plymouth for Sierra Leone. There 
he collected two hundred negroes, " partly by the sword " 
it is a rough story of rough times, which are not to be judged 
by the ordinary standards of the twentieth century 
crossed the Atlantic, disposed of his human goods with 
much profit and little difficulty to the planters of Hispani- 
ola, where the shortage of labour was severely felt, and 
returned home " with prosperous success and much gain 
to himself and the aforesaid Adventurers." In what seems 
to have been an honest belief in the legitimacy of his 
proceedings, Hawkins, on the return voyage, had dis- 
patched two vessels chartered in the West Indies with a 
portion of his goods to a Spanish port. Philip left no 
doubt as to his view of the voyage. He seized the cargoes 
on their arrival, and dispatched peremptory orders to the 
Colonies forbidding all trading intercourse with English 
vessels. The Adventurers who had planned and financed 
the voyage, the Lord Mayor of London being of their 
number, sought in vain to obtain redress for what they 
regarded as an illegal seizure. While in American waters 
Hawkins had acted with the circumspection of an astute 
and experienced trader. He obtained the requisite licence 
to trade from the Governor at the ports of Hispaniola at 
which he had called ; he paid the local customs dues, or 
left security for any sums in dispute ; he even obtained 
from the authorities written evidence of his good conduct 
during his sojourn. These points were urged without 
avail ; nor, indeed, did they touch the main issue. Philip's 
insistence on his exclusive policy showed clearly enough 
his recognition of a threat to his sea dominion more for- 

1 Hakluyt is our authority for this, as for the other great Elizabethan 


midable than that of the French pirates, and his deter- 
mination to resist it to the uttermost. If one were to 
compile a list of single voyages which have marked the 
opening of great commercial or political epochs, the little 
squadron with which John Hawkins made his first 
expedition might well claim its place therein. 

Hawkins's second voyage, 1565, was a repetition of the 
first on a rather larger scale, and not only brought him 
and his fellow-adventurers a handsome profit of 60 per cent., 
but established his renown among his countrymen, par- 
ticularly as a seaman. In this instance he had carried 
his negroes to the Spanish Main itself, and, confronted 
by the Viceroy's order forbidding any dealings with him, 
had to back his negotiations with a show of force before 
the necessary licence to trade was forthcoming from the 
authorities. He was careful to follow his usual custom 
of obtaining certificates for good conduct. The success 
of the voyage, while it excited feverish anticipations and 
hopes, and strengthened the growing consciousness of the 
superiority of English sea power, awoke the liveliest alarm 
in Spain, and fears for the two great treasure fleets which 
annually made the voyage between the West Indies and 
Spain now found expression in the Spanish Ambassador's 
correspondence with Philip. 

Hawkins lost no time preparing for another expedition, 
and at the same time Thomas Fenner, one of the Chichester 
Fenners, was busy fitting out a trading expedition to the 
Guinea coast. Political reasons were, at the moment, 
giving a conciliatory turn to the Queen's foreign policy, 
and De Silva's remonstrances resulted in both seamen 
being required to find heavy security that they would not 
go to the Indies. Hawkins, therefore, temporarily aban- 
doned his scheme, but Fenner, having no intention, 
apparently, of going farther than the Guinea coast, sailed 
in the Castle of Comfort, with one other small vessel. 
The voyage was to prove a memorable one, and to open 
many eyes to the fighting quality of the English merchant- 
man of the day. At the Cape Verde Islands Fenner found 
all his attempts at peaceable trade prevented by the open 
hostility of the Portuguese authorities, and at the Azores, 
when separated from his consort, he was caught by a 
Portuguese squadron, consisting of a 400-ton galleon and 
two caravels. Three times that day the Castle of Com- 


fort beat off her assailants. The next day, the Portuguese 
commander, reinforced by four more caravels, again 
attacked, but so gallantly did Fenner fight his ship that 
at nightfall the powerful squadron drew off and he escaped. 
English seamen already enjoyed a wide reputation for skill 
and hard fighting on the high seas. But Fenner's splendid 
combat against heavy odds went far to establish also the 
technical superiority of English gunnery. The incident is 
the more noteworthy since, only a decade earlier, the 
Portuguese had again and again proved themselves more 
than a match for English and French gold-dust traders 
in conflicts off the Guinea coast. 

The third and most important expedition of Hawkins 
left Plymouth in October 1567, its unacknowledged 
destination, privily approved by the Queen, 1 being the 
Spanish Indies. The squadron of six vessels included two 
" great ships " of the Royal Navy, a fact in accordance 
with the universal custom of the day, by which ships-of-war 
were employed in commerce in times of peace. These 
ships were the JESUS OF LUBECK, of 700 tons, a sturdy 
survivor of Henry VIII's fleet, and the MINION, 300-350 
tons. Of the remaining four vessels, the Judith, a little 
barque of 50 tons, was commanded by Hawkins's young 
kinsman, Francis Drake, now twenty-two years of age, 
and already burning with a grievance against treacherous 
treatment at Rio de la Hacha, and destined, as a result 
of his voyage, to become the terror of the Spanish Main. 
The presence of Her Majesty's ships had a political signi- 
ficance beyond the Royal desire to take a share in what 
promised to be a highly profitable enterprise. The 
squadron was armed and organised on the lines of the 
Royal Navy ; its complement of 500 men included several 
gentlemen of good houses, whose swords were at the 
disposal of the Captain of Soldiers ; and Hawkins, who at 
this period might fairly be ranked among the merchant 
princes of his time, and who described himself in his 
letter to Cecil as an " orderly person " who had " always 
hated folly," who, moreover, as Hakluyt's pages proved, 
wielded an able pen Hawkins himself kept the state of 
one of Her Majesty's Admirals at the Seas. A man, in 

1 Sir Julian Corbett thinks it " hardly doubtful " that the agent who 
brought Hawkins a letter from Cecil, warning him to avoid damages to 
Spaniards, also conveyed the secret consent of Elizabeth to the purpose 
of the voyage. (Drake and the Tudor Navy, vol. i, p. 99.) 


short, worthy of the role with which he regarded himself 
as entrusted that of vindicating, by force if need were, 
the legitimate aspirations of English commerce ! Acts of 
illegality judged by modern standards were undoubtedly 
committed on this memorable voyage, but none of the 
great figures in the new school of adventure which was 
now arising, and Hawkins least of all, is to be classed 
with those cosmopolitan buccaneers of a later century, 
whose criminal deeds and reckless careers have surrounded 
the very name of the Spanish Main with an irresistible if 
sinister glamour of romance. Romance was far from 
wanting to the deeds of these Elizabethan mariners, but 
what gives those deeds their epic quality, as enshrined in 
the immortal pages of Hakluyt, is the national spirit and 
national purpose which inspired them. 

The course of the voyage of the JESUS OF LUBECK and 
her consorts may be followed in the Admiral's own narra- 
tive as recorded by that chronicler. Reprisals on the 
Portuguese, as well as the usual hunting for negroes, 
marked the weeks spent on the African coast ; and when 
the Atlantic had been crossed, the ship sailed from place 
to place, " making traffic " with the Spaniards " some- 
what hardly, because the King had steadily commanded 
all his Governors in those parts by no means to suffer any 
trade to be made with us." Nevertheless, they met on 
the whole with " courteous entertainment," save at Rio 
de la Hacha, the depot for the pearl trade, and a place of 
disagreeable memories for Francis Drake. Carthagena, 
which was to have been the last port of call, also proved 
officially obdurate, and then, some days later, arose the 
" extreme storm " which drove the ships out of their course, 
and ultimately involved them in the disastrous incident 
of San Juan de Ulua. Into this roadstead, the haven of 
the town of Vera Cruz, the battered squadron came to refit 
and revictual, and no doubt to force a market for the 
negroes that remained unsold. The consternation of the 
Spaniards was great when they recognised their formidable 
visitors, for lying at moorings were the treasure-ships with 
over a million on board, awaiting the annual fleet of New 
Spain and its escorts for the combined homeward voyage. 
A huge prize, in fact, lay at the Englishman's mercy. If 
Hawkins had been a mere pirate he would have seized it 
out of hand, and he proved himself the " orderly " trader 


he had always claimed to be by ignoring the treasure. 
He took certain measures of defence against treachery, 
and sent a formal message to the city authorities for 
permission to refit and obtain requisite supplies, with the 
further request that action should be taken to prevent any 
conflict between him and the expected Mexico fleet. The 
very next morning the " flota " appeared at the mouth 
of the Haven, headed by a Royal galleon. 

Of the dramatic events which followed, Sir Julian Corbett 
has given a singularly clear and unbiassed account, based 
on both English and Spanish authorities. 1 Passing over 
the details, one may state the facts broadly thus : Hawkins, 
with a couple of batteries mounted ashore for his protection, 
was strong enough to have prevented the entry of a newly- 
arrived fleet, and to have accomplished its destruction. 
But he was fully aware that an overt act of war would have 
been displeasing to the Queen, and he gave fresh evidence 
of his discretion and sense of responsibility by entering 
into negotiations with the Viceroy and the Admiral of the 
Fleet. Under the terms arranged after a good deal of 
disputation, the two fleets moored side by side within the 
protection of the breakwater, the English were permitted 
to continue their refitting, and hostages were exchanged. 
The sequel to this formal military convention was a care- 
fully matured plot on the part of the Spaniards. Secret 
reinforcements were smuggled on board the ships, and the 
signal for a cowardly attack was given with the sudden 
stabbing of several English sailors who had been drinking 
and fraternising with the Spaniards ashore. Taken 
unawares and at a complete disadvantage, Hawkins fought 
a fierce action, in which his superior gunnery silenced the 
enemy's fire and sank at least two galleons ; but discharges 
from the shore batteries, treacherously captured at the 
first signal, had sunk one of his own vessels and disabled 
another, and when the Spaniards loosed a couple of fire-ships 
at night, the badly crippled JESUS had to be abandoned to 
her fate, and Hawkins himself barely escaped by boarding 
the MINION just as her sails were filling. The only other 
vessel to get away was the Judith, Drake having worked 
out of the harbour. In the northerly gale which immedi- 
ately afterwards sprang up the two ships were separated, 
and the little barque was the first to arrive home; but 

1 Drake and the Tudor Navy (Corbett), vol. i, p. Ill et seq. 


there seems no evidence for Hawkins's complaint of de- 
sertion against his kinsman. 1 

It was a tragic and disastrous story, that lost nothing 
in its effect when told to English ears. It came at a time 
when the hostility of Spain and the activity of the counter- 
reformation were becoming more and more menacing, and 
when Catholic plots were on foot at home against Eliza- 
beth's life and throne. " The military and seafaring men 
all over England," says Camden, of the San Juan de Ulua 
affair, " fretted and demanded war against the Spaniards." 
Cautious as ever, Elizabeth remained true to her principle 
"No war, my lords," but her help to the Huguenots and to 
the rebellious subjects of Philip in the Netherlands became 
more active. Finally, in 1572, came the exposure of the 
foreign plot to assassinate Elizabeth, whichled to thedismissal 
of the Spanish Ambassador and brought the two countries 
to the verge of open war. It was in that same year that 
Francis Drake fitted out the expedition which was to achieve 
one of the greatest adventures in our maritime annals. 

The incident of San Juan de Ulua had created in the 
minds of Hawkins and Drake a feeling of bitter resentment 
and irreconcilable hostility towards Spain. Hawkins, 
whose energies were soon to become absorbed in the official 
work of the Royal Navy, had secured the release of his 
abandoned crews, as well as heavy compensation, by the 
characteristic method of a sham intrigue in which he 
completely outwitted the Spanish Ambassador. Drake 
sought another way by taking out letters of reprisal, armed 
with which commission he joined in two voyages to the 
Spanish Indies. On the second occasion he captured at 
least one valuable prize. More important still, he effected 
a valuable reconnaissance in the Gulf of Darien, estab- 
lished friendly relations with the Maroons (the escaped 
negroes of the Panama Isthmus), and even set up a regular 
base for future operations. For Drake was taking up the 
work of Hawkins, and, by infusing into it a new spirit of 
daring and a contempt ^for tradition, bettering the in- 
struction of his master. So now he sailed out of Plymouth 
Sound on the famous voyage of Nombre de Dios, bent on 
reprisals in the form of a piratical adventure, but, we cannot 
doubt, with a perfectly clear conscience, convinced, as 

1 " So," runs Hawkins's narrative in Hakluyt, " with the MINION only 
and the Judith, the small barque of ten ton, we escaped ; which barque 
the same night forsook us in our great misery." 


all his Protestant countrymen were convinced, of the ab- 
solute justice of the proceedings. The voyage may be said 
to mark a new departure in sea-going expeditions a 
change in effect from armed trading to privateering. 

The little squadron consisted of two vessels only 
the Pascha, of 70 tons, and the Swan, of which his brother, 
John Drake, was captain, of only 25 tons. But small as 
it was, its equipment was as perfect as the military science 
of the day could make it. Crossing the Atlantic in twenty- 
five days, Drake anchored to water his ships off the 
American coast, and then made the secret harbour where 
on his previous voyage he had improvised a base. To his 
chagrin, he found that the Spaniards had discovered and 
plundered his stores. While at this spot he fell in with 
another English adventurer, Captain Ranse, carrying two 
Spanish prizes along with him. To the new-comer Drake 
revealed his plans ; he meant to seize Nombre de Dios, the 
renowned depot of the Spanish traffic from Peru to seize it 
while the treasure-houses were still full. Articles of partner- 
ship were agreed on ; and after setting up the pinnaces which 
Drake had brought with him, the combined squadron sailed 
north-west along the coast to the Pine Islands, where 
Ranse remained with the three ships and the prize caravel, 
while Drake continued the voyage with the pinnaces and 
the remaining prizes and a force of seventy-three men. 

In a few days the little expedition reached the entrance 
to Nombre de Dios Bay, and an hour before dawn dashed 
in to the attack by the light of the moon. While the 
Englishmen were forming up on the sand after surprising 
the shore battery, the church bell was frantically pealing 
its alarm in the ears of the terrified inhabitants. For his 
assault on the town Drake divided his men into two forces, 
and after a brief resistance the Spaniards, caught between 
the double fusilade and over-estimating the strength of 
their assailants, broke and fled, casting away their arms 
as the sailors, with broad West Country cheers, chased them 
through the Panama gate. With the plaza held, the hunt 
for treasure began. In the Governor's house were found 
bars of silver piled high, 350 tons in all, awaiting the arrival 
of the flota of Tierra Firme the treasure fleet of the 
Spanish Main. But it was gold and jewels, not merely 
silver, that Drake was in search of, and these were stored 
within the solid masonry of the King's Treasure-House, 


down by the water. It was then that the first check 
occurred to damp the ardour of these amazing men of the 
sea. A tropical downpour of rain necessitated their seeking 
shelter for the sake of bow-strings and powder, and the 
consequent abandonment of their post in the plaza, and 
the stout walls of the treasure-house resisted all efforts 
to break in. Rumours of Spanish reinforcements produced 
something like a panic, and how natural was the feeling 
can easily be imagined. For never before had these simple 
though daring merchant seamen engaged in such an extreme 
adventure as this of Drake's the deliberately-planned 
attack by a diminutive, if well-found, land force, upon a 
town of such size that the men of Devon could only 
compare it with their well-loved port of Plymouth. 

The rain, however, ceased, and Drake controlled the 
panic with characteristic resource and courage. A de- 
tachment was sent round to break in the doors of the 
treasure-house, and the wildest , dreams of the seamen 
might well have been realised but for another unlucky 
stroke of fate. Their indomitable leader had concealed a 
wound received in the first Spanish volley, and now at the 
critical moment he suddenly fell in a swoon. That ended 
the matter. The men, vowing their captain's life more 
valuable than all the treasure of the Indies, bore him to 
the boats, and picking up on the way out, with a coolness 
that provokes a smile, a solitary wine-ship newly arrived 
at its moorings in the harbour, they installed themselves 
and their wounded on the town's victualling island just 
outside the bay. Hither in due time came, on a spying 
errand and under a flag of truce, an officer bearing a message 
from the Governor couched in terms of true Spanish 
politeness, and paying tribute to the humanity shown by 
Drake on his previous expeditions. The visitor was finally 
dismissed with a flow of equally impressive compliments, but 
with the plain assurance that Captain Drake, ere he departed, 
meant to reap some of the harvest of that commodity which 
alone would satisfy his company. The story of this interview, 
the substantial truth of which seems indubitable, reads 
like a page from some stirring romance. It is of special 
interest, also, as illustrating those qualities in the young 
commander which consistently marked his future career a 
strong regard for humane dealing, and a love of ceremonial 
and display befitting the dignity of a great sea-captain. 


For the present, however, the stroke so daringly con- 
ceived and so energetically executed had failed. Yet the 
fact remained that Nombre de Dios, the very gate of the 
Peruvian Treasure-House, had been actually taken and 
for awhile held, and Drake returned to the waiting ships 
evolving new schemes in his restless brain. These plans, 
based on the information of a runaway slave called Diego, 
did not commend themselves to Ranse, who parted 
company with the bolder man, arguing, with reason enough, 
that the affair of Nombre de Dios would have given the 
alarm to all the coast settlements. So, indeed, the event 
proved when Drake turned to his next incredible adventure 
an attempt on the capital of the Spanish Main itself. 
Carthagena, like the rest of the ports, was on the alert, 
and though he took three prizes in the bay, including a 
well-laden Seville ship, he quickly saw that some new plan 
must be evolved. What he finally decided on was a novel 
and characteristic departure from the general method of 
harrying the coast nothing less than a raid into the 
interior. And his purpose was to seize, in co-operation 
with the Maroons, the mule-train which would bring the 
treasure of Peru from Panama across the Isthmus to 
Nombre de Dios for shipment to Spain. In order to man 
the pinnaces, which would be essential to the enterprise, 
it was necessary to sacrifice one of his ships, and the secret 
scuttling of the Swan, his own vessel and a particularly 
good sailer, is one of those incidents which cast a flood of 
light on the masterful and fearless character of this born 
leader of men. Back in the Gulf of Darien a new head- 
quarters was established, and then passed months of 
waiting for the great attempt months full of the most 
diversified incidents which are none the less astonishing 
for the simplicity and directness with which the Narrative 
sets them forth. It is a wonderful tale of privation, 
extremity of tempest, daring defiance of Spanish authority, 
threatened desertion, desperate fighting, decimating sick- 
ness a succession of vicissitudes such as might have 
broken the stanchness of the bravest, and seemed only 
to stimulate the great sea-captain to fresh feats of resource 
and daring. 

At length the march inland began, with the negro allies 
as guides, and on the fourth day this devoted band of 
English seamen reached the highest ridge of the Cordilleras, 


at a point where the faithful Diego had promised his white 
master that he should set eyes on the South Sea. Pizarro 
and Cortez and Balboa had been there before him, but 
can our maritime history conjure a more dramatic scene 
than was enacted on this spot in the vast mountain forest ? 
The Maroons led Drake to a " goodly and great tree," 
notched with steps for climbing, and promised him that 
from its top he might see the two oceans at once. So the 
mightiest of our mariners ascended, and having beheld 
with what pure passion of the explorer surging in his 
heart ! " that sea of which he had heard such golden 
reports," made his memorable vow, beseeching " Almighty 
God of His goodness to give him life and leave to sail once 
in an English ship in that sea." And another contem- 
porary chronicler (Camden) adds, " From that time forward 
his mind was pricked on continually night and day to 
perform his vow." Not long after his first sight of the 
Southern Sea, Drake had accomplished the crowning feat 
of his daring raid, by the capture of the mule treasure- 
train on its way across the Panama Isthmus. 

It was not till November 1577 that Drake sailed from 
Plymouth on the immortal voyage of circumnavigation 
which was to accomplish his vow. The fame of his past 
exploits brought a throng of volunteers to his service, and 
the expedition was a considerable one for the time, con- 
sisting of the Pelican (Admiral), of 100 tons, and four 
smaller vessels, all well armed and equipped. To follow 
the course of one of the most famous voyages in history 
is beyond our scope, and excellent contemporary narratives 
have made its details familiar. Drake's purpose was to 
reach the Pacific, by way of the passage discovered by 
Magellan in his last fatal voyage ; and so, having crossed 
the Atlantic, he took a south-westerly course along the 
South American coast. Every sort of misfortune seemed 
to dog his way ; the fleet was scattered by storm, and one 
of the smaller vessels foundered ; dissensions occurred 
between the sea officers and the gentlemen volunteers ; 
and the extraordinary episode in which Thomas Doughty 
played the leading role ended with the execution of that 
officer in the little port of St. Julian. In the buffetings 
which befell the ships on rounding the American continent 
Drake discovered the open sea-passage south of Magellan's 
Straits, and it was during these terrible months of almost 


ceaseless tempests, contrary winds, and incipient mutiny, 
that the Elizabeth, Wynter's ship (Vice- Admiral), was 
separated from her consort in a fearful storm, and, giving 
up the struggle, made the best of her way home. 

Thus it was left to Drake in the Golden Hind (as the 
Pelican had been rechristened on entering the Southern 
Seas) to accomplish the voyage alone. And everyone 
knows how magnificently he accomplished it, once he had 
burst into that sea which the Spaniards imagined to be 
their sole and secure domain. All along the Spanish 
settlements of Chili and Peru he spread amazed terror. 
Prize after prize was taken, generally with little resistance ; 
the port of the world-renowned Potosi Mine was coolly 
ransacked, though without much result ; and finally, 
despite her fortnight's start, a huge treasure- ship, " the 
great glory of the South Sea," was overhauled and cap- 
tured before she could reach the shelter of Panama 
Harbour. So with 600,000 worth of treasure in his hold, 
literally ballasted with silver and gold and precious stones, 
Drake sailed north in a fruitless effort to make in reverse 
the north-west passage which Frobisher was supposed to 
have discovered in his famous voyage a few years earlier. 
Baffled by contrary gales and by conditions of Arctic 
severity, the Golden Hind, with the aid of a captured 
China pilot's chart, crossed the Pacific, reached the 
Moluccas (being nearly cast away in those perilous waters), 
and, having added a cargo of costly spices to her gold and 
silver, made her way home round the Cape of Good Hope. 

So much for a bare outline of the voyage the first cir- 
cumnavigation of the world ever achieved by a sea-captain, 
and that captain a merchant seaman. Its political con- 
sequences were far-reaching. Drake became the hero of 
his fellow-countrymen, and the example of his great 
adventure, with its direct challenge to the pelagic empire 
of Spain, was a powerful incentive to national enterprise. 
The Golden Hind's reappearance in Plymouth Sound 
came at a critical moment to widen the breach already 
growing between England and Spain, and when the now- 
famous craft had been brought round in triumph to the 
Thames, and the Queen went down to knight its captain 
and to dine in state on board, the official recognition of the 
great raid was complete. After Philip's absorption of the 
kingdom of Portugal, with its immense maritime re- 


sources, open war became only a question of time, and no 
doubt existed as to the objects with which Philip was 
already beginning to prepare a great offensive fleet. So 
now we part company with Drake, the indomitable navi- 
gator and brilliant sea adventurer. Henceforth, it was 
largely to the work of national defence that Sir Francis 
Drake, as Admiral of Her Majesty's Navy, devoted himself 
in the interval that precedes the sailing of the Armada. 
It must suffice here to record that, after the discovery of 
Spanish complicity with Throgmorton's plot, Drake, with 
Frobisher as second-in-command, conducted a raid of 
reprisals on the Spanish Indies with a fleet of thirty sail, 
plundering, sacking, and ransoming, on a scale hitherto 
unattempted ; and that, by his blockading operations off 
the Spanish coast two years later, he threw Santa Cruz's 
plans into utter confusion and delayed the sailing of the 
Armada by a twelvemonth. 

The familiar story of that determined attempt at invasion 
need not be told here, beyond noting that this great fight 
in the Narrow Seas sheds lustre on the daring of the Eliza- 
bethan merchantmen, whether trading vessels or privateers, 
and on their crews. Her Majesty's ships formed only the 
nucleus of the fleet which gathered in the Channel under 
the flag of Lord Howard of Effingham, with Drake and 
Hawkins and Frobisher, as well as others scarcely less 
famous, as his vice-admirals and captains. The defeat 
of Medina Sidonia's vast and heterogeneous concourse of 
craft was conclusive evidence of the complete superiority 
of English ships, English gunnery, and English seamen 
of the Royal Navy, which was once more to assume import- 
ance. For not only were the English ships faster and 
more weatherly than the enemy's, but their crews were 
seamen and gunners too, capable equally of sailing their 
ships and fighting them, nor did they need to crowd their 
decks with soldiers as the Spanish did. Expressed briefly 
and broadly, the English sea tactic was naval in its origin, 
the Spanish military. In justice also to those fighting 
seamen of three centuries ago, one other point should be 
noticed. With some commentators it has been a habit 
to ascribe the defeat of the Armada to the storms which 
followed the battle off Gravelines. It is well, then, to 
record here the simple fact that the Armada was a 
Beaten and utterly demoralised fleet before it turned 


northwards on its wild, storm-driven course round Scotland 
beaten by the superior dash, gunnery, and seamanship 
of English sailors. The weather and the perils of those 
northern waters completed the work of the English guns. 
The bearing of this great fleet action on the further differ- 
entiation between the naval and mercantile services may 
conveniently be referred to later. 

Drake's burst into the Southern Seas stimulated, as we 
have said, the national spirit of adventure, and, in particular, 
the minds of British merchant seamen were more than ever 
bent on the ambition of reaching the land of spices and pre- 
cious stones, so long the close preserve of the Portuguese. 
Frobisher's great voyages to the north-west early in the reign 
were originally inspired by the desire to find a north-west 
passage to India, and they degenerated into a fruitless 
quest for gold-yielding ore. In the years between Drake's 
voyage of circumnavigation and the coming of the Armada, 
John Davis, one of the most scientific of Elizabethan 
navigators, followed in Frobisher's track in three successive 
years in the hope of reaching India ; and in the same decade 
Thomas Candish, taking Drake's old route by way of the 
Magellan Straits, so far realised his ambitions as to reach 
China and the East Indies, and ended by sailing round the 
world. Sir Humphrey Gilbert's disastrous expedition to 
Newfoundland of 1583 is to be noted as one of those early 
attempts at British colonisation which seemed so fruitless 
in their immediate results ; and in the following year 
Sir Walter Raleigh obtained his letters patent " for the 
planting of new lands on the coast of America," the first 
step to the successful foundation of Virginia, the original 
seat of the Anglo-American race. 

It is, however, with the rise and prosperity of the East 
India Company that the history of the Merchant Marine 
in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is chiefly 
associated. The defeat of the Armada provided a new 
incentive to Englishmen to share in the coveted trade with 
India. Candish, who returned from his great voyage just 
in time to hear of his countrymen's triumph, brought home 
detailed observations of the greatest value to British 
seamen and British merchants. So in the following year 
we find a significant decision taken by the syndicate 
concerned in dispatching John Davis on his north-west 
voyages. Abandoning this long-cherished hope, they 


sent out yet another expedition under the great navigator, 

but this time by way of the Cape of Good Hope. It proved 

the first of a series of voyages which only ceased with the 

death of this fine seaman, who was killed by pirates off the 

coast of Malacca. More significant, however, than Davis's 

voyage of 1589 was the action taken in that year by certain 

English merchants in petitioning the Queen for licence 

and encouragement to open a trade with the East Indies. 

In support of their memorial, they urged that such trade 

would, as the example of Portugal had shown, tend to the 

increase of the strength of the Royal Navy. Elizabeth 

characteristically toyed with the proposal, but in the end 

granted the necessary authority, and in April 1591 " three 

tall ships " the Penelope, Marchant Royall, and 

Edward Bonaventure sailed out of Plymouth Sound 

under James Lancaster. Hakluyt's narrative of the 

voyage l shows that from Table Bay the Marchant Royall 

was sent back owing to the ravages of scurvy, and that 

the Penelope foundered in a " mighty storme " soon 

after rounding the Cape. With a stricken crew and a 

partially disabled ship, Lancaster kept steadfastly on his 

way through hurricanes and " electric storms," and with 

the further loss of his master and sixteen men treacherously 

slain at Comoro Islands, to Zanzibar. Here the mariners 

had their first taste of the acute jealousy with which the 

Portuguese regarded all rivals in the rich trade of the East. 

After some months on the African coast, Lancaster got a 

favourable wind to take him across the Indian Ocean, 

doubled Cape Comorin, missed the Nicobar Islands 

" through our master's default for want of due observation 

of the South Starre," and reached one of the small islands 

to the north of Sumatra. In spite of the weakness of a 

crew now reduced to thirty-three men and a boy, the 

Edward picked up two small prizes, and then, while lying 

in wait in the Malacca Straits, this resolute little fighter 

attacked and captured a Portuguese trader of 250 tons, 

and later on a ship of 750 tons with a cargo of great variety 

and value. In fact, profit was looked for from what was 

considered a legitimate form of piracy rather than from 

trade, and but for a run of ill-luck of all kinds, Lancaster 

would have remained lurking in the Nicobar Islands, 

whither he returned on the homeward voyage, in the 

1 He obtained his story from Lancaster's lieutenant, Edmund Barker, 


knowledge that many a rich merchantman from Bengal 
and Siam would be sure to pass that way on the first stage 
of the voyage to Lisbon. A mutinous spirit among his 
men, damage by storm, contrary gales, shortness of 
provisions so that off Porto Rico they were reduced to 
eating hides, culminated in the loss of the ship herself while 
the majority of the company were ashore. Finally, 
Lancaster and his companions obtained a passage home on 
board a Dieppe ship, and crossed to Rye in May 1594. In 
a sense, the voyage had been disastrous. But Lancaster's 
misfortunes had purchased a fruitful experience and a 
fund of valuable information, and offered English mer- 
chants and seamen a great and convincing proof that the 
treasure-house of the East lay open before them. 

Meanwhile, the Dutch were beginning to establish that 
trade with the Orient which was soon to enable them to 
supplant the Portuguese as our chief rivals, and their 
enterprise spurred London merchants to new action. In 
1599, a number of them, chiefly associated with the Levant 
Company, which held a charter for overland trading to 
India, petitioned for a monopoly of trade with the East 
Indies. The Queen gave her assent to the petition at the 
end of the following year, the trading privilege being 
granted for a period of fifteen years, and thus came into 
existence the first East India Company the progenitor 
of that " John Company " which was to be the means of 
adding India to the British Empire. No time was lost 
in dispatching the first expedition of these " Adventurers 
for the Discoverie of the Trade for the East Indies." The 
fleet of four vessels of tonnage ranging from 300 to 130, 
with crews to the number of 480 men left Woolwich in 
February 1601. A fitting " generall of the Fleet " was 
found in James Lancaster, who in his recent voyage had 
given such plain proof of indomitable courage and re- 
sourceful leadership, and with him as Vice- Admiral went 
John Middleton, and as Pilot-Major, the famous John 
Davis. The voyage was a complete success. Lancaster 
put his merchants ashore to trade, and established factories 
in Java and elsewhere, and while this more legitimate 
business was going on, himself got across the trade route 
and presently captured a rich carack of 900 tons. On the 
voyage home, this gallant seaman proved his rare qualities 
afresh by saving his ship in well-nigh desperate circum- 


stances, such as would have tested the nerve and endurance 
of the bravest. The little fleet returned in the early 
months of James I's reign, laden with cargoes that included 
over a million pounds of pepper, and those who had in- 
vested their money received 95 per cent, on their capital. 
The same four vessels made the company's second voyage 
in the following year, with a resulting profit of nearly 
100 per cent., to which, as before, extensive privateering 
had largely contributed; and in 1607 a third expedition 
set out, remarkable for the fact that now, for the first time, 
the company's ships entered a port of the Indian sub- 
continent itself. This port was Surat, just above Bombay, 
and an agent was landed to convey to the Great Mogul at 
Agra a letter of recommendation from King James I. A 
little later that Sovereign extended the Company's Charter, 
and in the same year (1609) was present at the launching 
of the largest contemporary East Indiaman, the Trade's 
Increase, one of the first two vessels built in the company's 
own yard at Deptford. A ship of 1,100 tons, she was one 
of the sensations of the early seventeenth century, but she 
proved clumsy and unhandy, and came to a tragic end 
after a brief and adventurous career. She may be taken 
as a fitting illustration of the rule of thumb methods of 
ship construction then prevailing, and it may be noted here 
that it was not until after the Stuart period that English 
shipbuilding began to establish itself on a scientific basis, 
largely as the result of the example of French naval models. 
At this early period in its history, the East India Com- 
pany is seen firmly established as well as earning handsome 
dividends for its shareholders, its ships built in its own 
yard (although this practice was changed at a later date) 
and victualled from its own stores, and enjoying the 
enormous advantage of a hydrographical department of 
its own, based on the journals and observations compul- 
sorily contributed at the end of each voyage by the masters 
of its fleet. Developments in India came swiftly. Sailing 
with two vessels from Gravesend in 1612, Captain Best 
encountered the Portuguese traders in Surat Roadstead, 
and beat them in a skilfully-conducted action. It was a 
small if decisive affair ; but its effects were immediate 
and far-reaching. For the prestige of the Portuguese in 
the East was sharply lowered, and the Grand Mogul 
hastened to confer trading privileges, hitherto denied it, 


upon the new Power in the East. Factories were set going 
at Surat and elsewhere, Sir Thomas Row came out three 
years later as an Ambassador to the Grand Mogul in order 
to ratify the new treaty, and by the same date the Indian 
Marine, initiated by the Corporation as a means of pro- 
tection from pirates and Portuguese alike and manned by 
British seamen, had reached the total of ten local vessels. 
Forty years later Cromwell, in pursuance of that policy 
which is so well expressed in his Navigation Act, dealt the 
last blow to Portugal's pride and sea dominance by ex- 
torting a treaty giving to English ships the right to trade 
in all the Portuguese possessions in the East. 

The Navigation Acts of the seventeenth century, how- 
ever, were mainly directed against the Dutch, for Holland 
succeeded Portugal as our supreme rival on the seas. The 
struggle with that stubborn sea-going race continued 
almost ceaselessly for twenty-five years, and, while it nearly 
exhausted the Dutch, left England buoyantly ready to 
meet the more powerful rivalry of the French. In the great 
expansion of England's sea power which followed, the 
East India Company played a conspicuous part, and before 
the end of the eighteenth century it stood virtually alone 
as the one surviving trading Power in the Orient, its 
operations embracing China as well as India. Moreover, 
these strongly built, well-armed East Indiamen, with their 
fine crews of seasoned sailors, did yeoman service for the 
country in the long series of wars which culminated in the 
Napoleonic struggle. For they constituted the chief 
element in that large commercial marine which our mer- 
cantile policy created as a reserve from which the Royal 
Navy could be almost indefinitely increased. 

It is convenient here to note one aspect of the significance 
of the Armada campaign for its effect on the movement 
towards that differentiation between the naval and mer- 
cantile services which, as we have seen, was initiated by 
the second Tudor king. Gallantly as the merchantmen 
fought in single-ship combats, the naval battle in the 
Channel showed how inadequate they were to the needs 
of a great fleet action, and from the clear perception of 
that fact sprang a strong impulse to specialisation and a 
widening of the breach between professional and amateur 
warfare at sea. The institution of Ship Money in the next 
century marked a further step in the same direction. 


The policy of Charles I expressed in that levy was to 
substitute a system of money contributions as a means of 
forming a regular fleet for the mediaeval plan of contributions 
of ships. A few years later, Cromwell's policy secured, 
under the professional soldier-admiral of the Blake type, 
an increased specialisation, which by the end of the century 
led to the practical disappearance of the merchantman as 
a fleet ship. 



IN that period of almost continuous war which began with 
the struggle with Revolutionary France in 1793, and ended 
with the downfall and exile of Napoleon in 1815, the 
strength of France on the seas was devoted to the destruc- 
tion of British commerce, and never with more determined 
persistency than in the ten years which succeeded the 
victory at Trafalgar. The conflict was maintained with 
all the resources which France, ruled by despotism, was 
able to throw into the scales, with the support of the 
resources of allies whom she made her vassals. Yet this 
result is clearly shown: that from the outbreak of hos- 
tilities the strength of the British mercantile fleet ever 
grew larger and larger, despite the unceasing onslaught 
which was maintained against it, and despite the heavy 
losses which such protracted warfare necessarily in- 

Eleven thousand British merchant ships passed out of 
the Service by capture as prizes during the French wars. 1 
Some compensation was found in the numbers of enemy 
ships taken and transferred to our flag ; but the activity 
in British shipyards was so well sustained that in 1815 this 
country possessed more ships and a greater volume of 
tonnage than at the opening of the Anglo-French struggle. 
On the other hand, French trade in a few years was almost 
swept from the seas by the British naval superiority, 
and opportunities of prize-taking by our cruisers were 

1 "Roll of English merchant vessels captured by the French during the 
war, 1793-1815" Norman's Corsairs of France. 


necessarily smaller. France maintained a coastal trade 
in the Mediterranean, but little more. 

Fortunately for the world, at the outbreak of hostilities 
in February 1793 England found herself complete mistress 
of the seas. So early as 1795 the enemy had abandoned 
all pretence of opposing fleet to fleet, and entered upon an 
unrestricted guerre de course. France, the spirit of her 
navy having Buffered during the Revolution, turned to 
her mercantile fleet to supply its place. The object of 
Revolutionary France was frankly stated by Citizen 
Boyer Fonfrede in the Convention : " We have now " 
(he said) " to wage a war of iron against gold. We 
must ruin the commerce of our enemies, and in order 
to remove all opportunity of reprisals we must suspend 
our own commerce. Our shipbuilding yards must build 
nothing but corsairs, and our manufactories turn out 
nothing but munitions of war." British seamen, on 
their part, responded with the audacity expected of 
them. Not only were our frigates and sloops engaged in 
constantly harrying the enemy and capturing his ships 
wherever they showed the flag, but our forces afloat were 
reinforced by hundreds of vessels, manned by British 
merchant seamen, which sailed from British ports under 
letters of marque. Liverpool alone had sixty-seven 
privateers armed and manned, at sea or ready for sea, four 
months after the outbreak of war. 1 Numbers were fitted 
out afterwards in the Thames and at east and south 
coast ports, and operated in the North Sea and on more 
distant cruising grounds. The significant admission was 
made by the enemy, after six years of war, that " not a 
single merchant vessel sailed under the French flag." 2 

The challenge made to our predominance at sea by the 
French Navy, revived under Napoleon, does not call for 
consideration here, but the circumstances of the two rival 
Powers at the outset coloured the whole conditions of the 
war. If unable to fight a fleet action, France, by reason 
of her geographical position, her long coasts, with so 
many favourably-placed sally ports, and her large maritime 
population, was more favourably situated than any other 
Power in the world to conduct a campaign against British 
maritime commerce. Those of her peaceful trading ships 

1 Gomer Williams, The Liverpool Privateers. 

2 Message to the Directory, January 1799. 


which escaped capture by British cruisers, or in close 
pursuit were driven into her ports, effected a quick trans- 
formation. France had in the sturdy Norman and Breton 
populations of her coasts, inured to the hardships of life 
at sea and already made familiar with war, a striking force 
ready to be used, and they were not content to remain 
idle while rich rewards were within their grasp. In 
hundreds French merchant ships were armed and trans- 
formed into privateers, new craft specially designed for 
speed were laid down in the yards, and, sailing with letters 
of marque, they harried the long lines of British ships 
beating up the English channel or traversing the North 
Sea routes. Into the single port of Dunkirk thirty-six 
English prizes were brought within three months of the 
outbreak of war. No fewer than 407 English prizes were 
sold in that port alone before the Peace of Amiens brought 
the first pause in the war. The enterprise or greed of 
profit by owners was seconded by public subscriptions. 
A club at Strasburg fitted out a corsair, the Jacobin, which 
effectively raided British trade. The municipality of 
Bordeaux equipped three corsairs, one of which, the General 
Dumourier, in her first cruise, returned with prizes valued 
at 240,000. Blank letters of marque were issued to the 
Commissionaires of Marine in every port of France, and 
from Dunkirk to St. Jean de Luz the coast was studded 
with companies whose sole aim and object was the de- 
struction of English commerce. 1 

The more venturesome French corsairs, better equipped 
and fitted, and commanded by men whose daring won for 
them a warm place in the hearts of their countrymen, lay 
in wait for the valuable cargoes passing to and from India 
and the East, and the highly important trade carried on 
between England and the West Indies. France brought 
into this service swift sailing ships, powerfully armed. 
One of these privateers, the Bordelais, captured in 1799, 
had operated at no greater distance than Tory Island, 
about which she had done great damage in the previous 
summer. Her keel was as long as that of our 38-gun 
frigates, she was pierced for twenty- two guns on deck, had 
twenty-four brass 12-pounders mounted, and carried a crew 
numbering 222 men. The Bordelais was conducted into 
Cork by His Majesty's ship REVOLUTIONNAIRE, after having 

1 Norman, The Corsairs of France, p. 292. 


been chased 129 miles in nine and a half hours, being finally 
overhauled in a gale of wind. 1 

As often before in her history, England at the outbreak 
of war was unready. Nearly six months passed before 
the Channel Fleet, under Lord Howe, got to sea. Near 
home, in the early days of the struggle, it was believed 
that British merchant shipping was best protected by the 
concentration of a main fleet in the vicinity of Torbay, 
with a reserve fleet off the Isle of Wight. Frigates 
watched Brest and other French ports, and a constant 
patrol was maintained. This disposition was afterwards 
varied, the blockade of Brest being made still closer, and 
two separate squadrons were formed, with bases at Spithead 
and the North Sea. The sealing of French outlets could 
rarely, however, as experience showed, be made effective 
against raiding craft. 

The configuration of the opposing coasts of France and 
England and the small distances to be traversed by 
fast-sailing raiders added greatly to the perplexity of the 
problem confronting the British Admiralty. The English 
Channel has nowhere a greater width than one hundred 
miles, and at the neck narrows to twenty miles ; and 
though the North Sea offered a broader expanse, the English 
coast was quickly reached from the northern ports of 
France and the Netherlands. The English south coast is 
poorly provided with natural havens, and in certain winds 
no shelter was to be obtained between Portsmouth on the 
one hand and the Downs on the other. Newhaven had 
not been developed into a port, nor had even a light been 
placed there. Opposite were the French ports of Cher- 
bourg and Havre, with St. Malo, Boulogne, Calais, and 
Dunkirk, all within easy access of the trade routes ; all 
offered admirable shelter to the French privateer able to 
wait a favourable wind and opportunity. The concavity 
of the English land-line, especially the long stretch from 
Selsey Bill to Beachy Head, the dangerous shore, the 
impossibility of weathering a southerly gale upon it at 
anchor, and the great want of lights and of convenient 
harbourage, all added to the perils to which British ships 
congregating there were exposed. If making a large offing 
to escape the bay, they ran imminent risks from privateers 
which sallied out from the ports of Normandy. LeVille, of 

1 Naval Chronicle, ii, 535. 


Dunkirk, one of the most daring of these commanders, 
cruising in the Channel in the privateer Vengeance, and 
eluding British warships on watch, in five weeks of the 
autumn of 1795 made no fewer than twenty English prizes. 

The most urgent call for naval ships being about the 
British coasts and in the West Indies, the Indian seas were 
left unprotected. When Admiral Cornwallis sailed for 
Europe with his small squadron in September 1793, a 
single sloop-of-war remained to protect the vast expanse 
of ocean covered by the commerce of the East India 
Company l ; his successor did not reach the station till a 
year later. In such circumstances severe losses were 
inevitable. They were, however, less severe than might 
have been expected. The Indiamen of a century ago were 
the monarchs of the seas, stout ships of 800 to 1,200 tons, 
some reaching 1,500 tons, fast sailers, better armed and 
manned than any others flying the mercantile flag, and 
capable of giving a good account of themselves in an 
encounter with any interfering craft short of an enemy 
frigate. The East India Company, too, fitted out several 
heavily- armed ships to cruise for the protection of trade. 
The fleets engaged in the commerce carried on with the 
West Indies in sugar, coffee, rum, and other colonial 
produce and in this connection slaves must not be 
omitted offered an easier prey for the larger class of 
French privateer fitted for long voyages and ocean service, 
and facilitated raids upon the traffic to and from the West 
Indies, varied with irruptions upon the routes to India. 
To such attacks on commerce, the more daring of the 
French corsairs men like the famous Robert Surcouf, 
of St. Malo devoted their restless energies. 

The fine spirit in which these attacks were met by British 
merchant seamen is manifested in the records of a hundred 
actions fought about the islands out in the Atlantic. This 
one is typical. The British ship Planter, in the year 
1799, was overhauled by a fast sailer. Captain John 
Watts, her "commander, backed his mainsail and laid by 
for the enemy, all hands giving three cheers. " We found 
her," he says, " to be a privateer of twenty-two guns, 
twelves, nines, and sixes, with small arms in the tops, and 
full of men. We poured in our lagrische, and used grape- 
shot with great success." The privateer sheered off to 

1 Brenton's Naval History, i, 340. 


repair damage. The action recommenced, and was fought 
with great gallantry throughout the afternoon till the 
light waned. Captain Watts adds in a letter to his 
owners : 

" At last he found we would not give out, and night 
coming on, sheered off and stood to the south-west. Our 
fire must have done great execution. My ship's company 
acted with a degree of courage which does credit to the 
flag. I cannot help mentioning the good conduct of my 
passengers during the action : Mr. McKennon and Mr. 
Hodgson, with small arms, stood to their quarters with 
a degree of noble spirit ; my two lady passengers, Mrs. 
McDowell and Miss Mary Hartley, kept conveying the 
cartridges from the magazine to the deck, and were very 
attentive to the wounded, both during and after the action, 
in dressing their wounds and administering every comfort 
the ship could afford, in which we were not deficient for a 
merchant ship. When he sheered off we saw him heaving 
dead bodies overboard in abundance. We had four killed, 
eight wounded. The force of the Planter was twelve 
9-pounders and six 6-pounders forty- three men." l 

It was the common object of a privateer-captain wherever 
possible to effect a boarding. The advantage lay with him 
in his superior numbers of men, trained in the use of arms 
and excited by the prospect of a prize, while the merchant- 
man's crew was generally weaker, and many a bloody fight 
was waged on the narrow decks. A letter from Barbadoes 
of December 1st, 1798, describes such an action, fought 
most gallantly, and in this instance successfully, by the 
Liverpool ship Barton (Captain Cutler), after being over- 
hauled twenty leagues to windward by a French privateer 
mounting eighteen guns, 9-pounders and 6-pounders. The 
chase lasted two and a half hours, the privateer repeatedly 
altering her course to board, but the heavy and well-directed 
fire from the British ship prevented her from getting near 
enough to effect her purpose. Dismantled in her rigging, 
the enemy sheered off. 

" But having refitted, commenced a second attack at noon, 
with a most sanguinary design of boarding, and notwith- 

1 Naval Chronicle, ii, 250. 


standing the incessant cannonading from the ship, ran 
plump on board, and endeavoured to throw her men into 
her, but found her well prepared to receive the enemy, 
the whole of Barton's crew being assembled on the quarter- 
deck, and headed by their gallant commander, who was 
spiritedly seconded by his passengers. An attack, sword 
in hand, commenced, and the enemy were driven back with 
considerable loss, many of them being spiked from the 
netting and shrouds of the ship, while by a well-directed 
fire from the cabin guns, numbers were swept from their 
own deck ; and a great part of her rigging being cut away 
she dropped astern and gave over the contest, amidst the 
victorious huzzahs of the British tars, whose bold com- 
mander, calling from his quarter-deck, defied the van- 
quished Republicans to return to the attack. His 
passengers bear a proportionate share of the honour with 
the captain." 1 

After such adventures in the open sea many a stout 
merchantman returned to port, badly mauled, for repairs, 
but ship and cargo saved by the dauntless conduct of 
officers and crew. 

The geographical position of the French West India 
Islands favoured the operations of the raiders, affording 
bases into which prizes could be taken, and from which 
cruisers and privateers could sally out quickly upon the 
trade routes, besides offering shelter and opportunity for 
refitting. Around these islands the war on commerce was 
carried on with ever-increasing British losses, and the 
necessity of protecting this trade involved the detachment 
of large numbers of frigates and sloops which were badly 
needed for service elsewhere. The seizure one after 
another of all the French islands eventually checked the 
depredations, though it was found impossible to stop them 
altogether. Driven from their own lairs, French privateers 
fitted out in American ports, whence they sailed under a 
thin disguise to resume their predatory warfare upon 
British merchantmen. 

The guarding of the long ocean routes to India and China 
offered far greater perplexities to the British Admiralty. 
As the years went on, the French made ever more deter- 
mined efforts to cut our trading connections, strengthening 

1 Naval Chronicle, i, 437. 


their already powerful patrols of cruising frigates and 
sloops with ships of the line. The concentration of a 
considerable fleet under Rear- Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, 
afterwards Lord Exmouth, resulted in the losses being kept 
within bounds, but throughout the long war the Eastern 
trade routes were the scenes of some of the most desperately 
contested actions between British and French frigates and 
our armed merchantmen and raiding privateers. The need 
for protection of the large British trade with the Baltic 
and that with America were other causes which made 
necessary the dissipation of British naval strength over 
many distant seas. 

When all has been said, however, the area of the 
gravest peril was the waters about our own coasts, for there 
the greatest part of our commerce borne by the merchant 
fleets necessarily congregated. Mahan has drawn in lively 
fashion a picture of the seas in Napoleonic times : 

" Fast frigates and sloops-of-war, with a host of smaller 
vessels, were disseminated over the ocean, upon the tracks 
which commerce follows and to which the hostile cruisers 
were therefore constrained. To each was assigned his 
cruising-ground, the distribution being regulated by the 
comparative dangers, and by the necessary accumulation 
of merchant shipping in particular localities, as in the 
North Sea, the approach to the English Channel, and, 
generally, the centres to which the routes of commerce 
converge. The forces thus especially assigned to patrol 
duty, the ships ' on a cruise,' to use the technical expression, 
were casually increased by the large number of vessels 
going backward and forward between England and their 
respective stations, dispatch boats, ships going in for 
repairs or returning from them, so that the seas about 
Europe were alive with British cruisers ; each one of which 
was wide awake for prizes. To these, again, were added 
the many privateers, whose cruising-ground was not, 
indeed, assigned by the Government, but which were 
constrained in their choice by the same conditions that 
dictated at once the course of the trader and the lair of the 
commerce-destroyer. Through this cloud of friends and 
foes the unprotected merchantman had to run the gauntlet, 
trusting to his heels. If he were taken, all, indeed, was 
not lost, for there remained the chance of recapture by a 


friendly cruiser ; but in that case the salvage made a large 
deduction from the profits of the voyage." 1 

The unprotected merchantman making his way over 
seas covered with friends and foes was a reality ; but this 
was not the typical British commerce-bearer. Always there 
was the individual owner willing to take the greater risks 
in order to earn enhanced profits, trusting to speed and 
good luck to avoid capture by the enemy, and crews were 
ready for high wage to tempt Fortune on an adventure. 
Such vessels were the constant cause of attention by and 
anxiety to the patrols which the Admiralty found itself 
forced to maintain. But the bulk of British ocean-borne 
commerce was not left to the hazard of chance. Convoy 
was offered and accepted ; and the merchantmen outward 
sailing or congregating near our coasts were mostly gathered 
in large fleets. Every such convoy involved delay in the 
assembling of the ships ; the speed of the fastest craft 
sailing in the company was brought down to that of the 
slowest ; and the simultaneous arrival of many ships in 
port threw large cargoes upon a choked market, thus 
tending to lower prices and reduce profits. It was the 
elimination of these effects in the balance-sheet that made 
the daring individual voyage so attractive. The evasions 
of convoy, and the many losses of ships and seamen 
consequent upon them, led to the passing of the Convoy 
Acts in 1798 and 1803, which compelled ship-masters to 
take convoy and to pay a certain sum for the protection 
afforded. The beneficial results were at once apparent in 
the fall of insurance rates, and in, what was more important 
to the nation, fewer captures of ships and men. 

British convoys during the Napoleonic Wars reached 
the most unwieldy dimensions, and the fine spectacle such 
as a cluster of sail made at sea was well calculated to rouse 
enthusiasm in every British heart. Admiral Sir William 
Parker, when a young midshipman in the ORION in 1794, 
in a letter to his mother says : 

" We left Torbay on the 13th, Saturday, and the next 
day were off Plymouth, where the convoy came out to us. 
It was the grandest sight ever was, a convoy of six hundred 
sail, besides thirty-six line- of -battle ships. The wind was 

Influence of Sea Power on the French Revolution, ii, 204-5. 


quite fair and a fine evening : as soon as the convoy was 
all out, it came on so fine a breeze that we went eight miles 
an hour, without a stitch of sail set ; in fact, in three days, 
they were all so far to southward that they were out of all 
danger ; and so we hauled off. . . . Captain Duckworth 
says if I live to be one of the oldest Admirals, it is ten 
thousand to one if I ever see so large a convoy carried so 
far to the westward, and without the least accident, and 
the wind fair enough to bring us back again in so short 
a time." i 

A stupendous convoy of no fewer than a thousand ships 
was gathered in October of the same year in The Belt, 
when Admiral Sir James (afterwards Lord) de Saumarez, 
on board the VICTORY, sailed with it, homeward bound from 
Swedish waters. An eyewitness has described the vast 
assemblage in the following passage : 

" A scene scTnovel conveyed some idea of the wealth 
and power oy the British nation a most beautiful and 
wonderful sight. The day was very fine ; the fleet was 
anchored in a close compact body, with the VICTORY in the 
centre, bearing the Admiral's red flag at the fore, sur- 
rounded by six ships of the line and six frigates, and sloops 
disposed for the complete protection of the convoy. The 
yacht, with a Swedish flag, containing the Crown Prince 
passed through ; the convoy soon after weighed anchor, 
when the Royal stranger had the pleasure of seeing them 
all under sail and proceeding to their destination, regardless 
of the enemies who occupied the adjacent shores." 8 

The congregation of so many ships in a single convoy 
and a scene like that above described convey a better 
idea of the importance of the British merchant fleets a 
century ago than any elaboration of figures. Small though 
the wooden sailing-ships were, their management required 
the signing on of large crews, and the population afloat 
was nearly three times as numerous as would be required 
to carry the same trade in days of steam-power and 
improved mechanical appliances. 

1 Phillimore, Life of Admiral Sir William Parker, i, 39-40. . 

2 Ross, Memoirs and Correspondence of Admiral Lord de Saumarez, 
ii. 214-5. 


The attack by the enemy was not only against ships 
and cargoes, but also against the seamen. Happily, the 
barbarities which attended submarine warfare, as prac- 
tised by the Germans in the European War, were then 
unknown. Ships were not sunk at sight, and merchant 
sailors often, as well, passengers, delicate women and 
helpless children left adrift in open boats at the mercy 
of the ocean, the gale, and the biting frost, sometimes when 
hundreds of miles from land. Spurlos versenken as a policy 
of warfare had not been invented. But the merchant 
seaman of the Napoleonic Wars was liable to capture and 
confinement till the end of the war or exchange, and this 
peril was ever present with him when he went to sea. He 
knew the risk, and accepted it, as seamen of the Great War 
of the twentieth century faced without flinching the far 
more serious risks of loss of life by torpedo and shell-fire or 
drowning, or maiming by exposure to frost-bite. The prac- 
tice of confining captured merchant seamen was adopted 
by both belligerents, for in days of simple armaments the 
trained merchant seaman was already more than half a 
fighting man, and his transformation into an efficient naval 
rating was quickly accomplished. The Royal Navy was 
largely manned by men recruited from the merchant 
ships, so the capture and detention of peaceful seamen 
by the enemy served him in a double purpose by injuring 
British carrying trade and by withholding a potential 
source of strength from the Navy. 

Mention has been made of the large size of the East 
India Company's ships, rising to 1,300 registered tonnage, 
and in a few exceptional instances to as much as 1,500 
tons. Such vessels exceeded the dimensions of a first-class 
frigate, and were almost equivalent to a small ship of the 
line. Early in the war their armament was increased by 
the addition of 1 8-pound ers, and they were able to put 
up a good fight with any raiding corsair. These were, 
however, exceptions in our carrying trade a class by 
themselves. The traffic between America and Europe 
was mostly done in vessels not exceeding 300 tons. From 
Macpherson's tables, quoted by Admiral Mahan, it appears 
that the ships trading to the West Indies and the Baltic, 
between 1792 and 1800, averaged about 250 tons ; to 
Germany, to Italy, and the Western Mediterranean, about 
150 tons ; to the Levant, 250 to 300 tons, with a few 


of 500 tons. Even by throwing into the scale the East 
India Company's ships (averaging about 800 tons), the 
general average of British shipping is reduced to as low 
as 125 tons, owing partly to the small capacity of the large 
number of vessels engaged in the Irish trade. In 1796 
there were 13,558 entries and clearances from English and 
Scottish ports for Ireland, and the average size of these 
ships was only 80 tons. A similar average is found from 
the returns of the Irish trade in 1806. Other indications 
in the naval literature of the time confirm the small size 
of both our own and enemy shipping. Thus Sir William 
Parker, when an active frigate captain commanding a 
single ship from the year 1801 to 1811, was in that period 
interested in fifty-two prizes, the average tonnage of which, 
excluding a ship of the line and a frigate, was 126 tons. 1 
Vessels engaged in the British coastal traffic were still 
smaller ; of 6,844 coasters which entered or left the port 
of London in the year 1798, excluding the colliers which, 
as a class, were of larger build the average size was only 
73 tons. 2 

Such was the type of vessel dotted about the oceans of 
the world. The merchant seaman of the day was a much 
harried individual, living the life of a fugitive, dreading 
not only capture by the enemy, but almost as much capture 
by the ships of war of his own country. Ashore or afloat 
the trained seaman, so much sought after, was never free 
from the attentions of the press-gang, which was the 
ultimate method of enforcing compulsory service in the 
Fleet on those who tried to avoid it. In the street, in 
the tavern, in his own home, the merchant seaman was 
marked down for seizure. He had no redress ; the appeal 
which was supposed to shield him against injustice existed 
only in the letter. At night he was dragged out of his bed, 
to be herded with a crowd of others, awaiting distribution 
among the King's ships. Close as was the man-hunt 
ashore, it was not less keen afloat. The sailors in the 
Merchant Service had to run the gauntlet for their liberty 
from one end of the world to the other. A British ship- 
of-war, falling in with a merchant vessel in any part of the 
globe, would unceremoniously take from her the best 
seamen, leaving her just enough hands to bring her home. 

1 Life of Admiral Sir William Parker, i, 412. 

2 Colquhoun's Commerce of the Thames, p. 13. 


As the vessel approached the English shore our cruisers, 
hovering in all directions, would take the pick of the 
remainder. An old Liverpool sea-captain, in reminiscences 
of the closeness of the press in that port, has declared that 
such was the dread of the ever-active press-gangs ashore 
that homecoming seamen would often take to their boats 
on the other side of the Black Rock, that they might 
conceal themselves in Cheshire, and many a vessel had to 
be brought into Liverpool by a lot of riggers and carpenters, 
sent round by the owner for that purpose. 1 

Many a merchant seaman figuring as "volunteer" was 
a pressed man, so described to get him the bounty, and 
others, when the emergency arose, volunteered to assure 
themselves of the bounty, knowing that they were liable 
to be impressed, and that the chances of escape were 
remote. Many men hid from the press-gangs while 
waiting for the offer of a bounty, which followed after 
compulsion had done its best. The importance of im- 
pressment in the scheme for manning the Royal Navy 
can best be judged from the establishment which was 
kept up for this service alone. In 1793-4, the first year 
of the long French Wars, when impressment was by no 
means at its height, nor was the Royal Navy maintained 
at anything comparable to its subsequent strength, there 
were three flag officers, twenty-nine captains, fifty-four 
lieutenants, employed in the impress service, with over 
4,000 men and on occasions many more. 2 

The rigour which marked the impressment on some 
occasions when men were badly wanted for the Royal 
Navy and the want was never satisfied is sufficiently 
illustrated by two quotations from the newspapers of 
the day : 

" The impress service, particularly in the metropolis, 
has proved uncommonly productive in the number of 
excellent seamen. The returns at the Admiralty of the 
seamen impressed on Tuesday night amounted to 1,080, 
of whom no less than two-thirds are considered prime 
hands. At Portsmouth, Portsea, Gosport, and Cowes, a 
general press took place the same night. Every merchant 
ship in the harbour and at Spithead was stripped of its 

1 Gomer Williams, The Liverpool Privateers, p. 320. 

2 Steel's Navy List, 1 794. 


hands, and all the watermen deemed fit for His Majesty's 
service were carried off. Upwards of 600 seamen were 
collected in consequence of the promptitude of the mea- 
sures adopted. . . . Government, we understand, relied 
upon increasing our naval force with 10,000 seamen, either 
volunteers or impressed men, in less than a fortnight, in 
consequence of the exertions which they are making in all 
the principal ports. . . . Several frigates and gun-brigs 
have sailed for the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, with 
impress warrants." l 

14 The impress on the Thames on Saturday, both above 
and below the bridge, was the hottest that has been for 
some time ; the boats belonging to the ships at Deptford 
were particularly active, and it is supposed they obtained 
upwards of 200 men. . . . The impressed men, for whom 
there was no room on board the ENTERPRIZE on Saturday, 
were put into the Tower, and the gates shut to prevent 
any of them effecting their escape." z 

The epoch of fleet actions between the British and French 
navies closed with the victory of Trafalgar. England had, 
thanks to her isolation by sea and her naval supremacy, 
maintained her independence and enlarged her Empire, 
while on the Continent State after State was tumbling to 
ruin and vassalage. Yet the cost had been a heavy one. 
Her merchant shipping had undergone devastation, though, 
thanks to the activity of her shipyards and her own 
wealth, the losses were more than made good. In the 
struggle lasting over twelve and a half years, broken 
by one brief interval of peace, England had lost some 
6,500 ships by capture. In the single year 1797 the 
statistics show 947 vessels captured a number, happily, 
far higher than in any other year, and only approached in 
1799, when the captures are returned at 730. In the 
single month of June 1797 no fewer than 106 ships were 
placed upon the lists of prizes taken from us. 

Trafalgar signalised the beginning of a yet more 
intense attack upon Britain's ocean-borne commerce. 
Napoleon, defeated in his efforts to oppose British naval 
strength at sea, despoiled of all hopes of effecting such a 
naval concentration as should make the invasion of 
England a practicable task, sought other means to accom- 

1 The Times, March llth, 1803. 3 Ibid., May 9th, 1803. 


plish the downfall of his chief adversary. The Berlin and 
Milan Decrees of 1806 and 1807 aimed to shut out from 
the Continent all British commerce, and, by causing wide- 
spread ruin at home, to undermine the strength of the 
great Power against which, on sea and land, he had fought 
in vain. The Emperor, unable to keep a ship at sea except 
for such a time as it could elude the stronger forces of his 
opponent, declared a blockade of Great Britain. The 
British Ministers retorted by the famous Orders in Council 
which forbade all neutral vessels to trade between the 
ports belonging to the enemy and his allies, and sought 
to divert the world's trade through England. From 
Trafalgar onwards the French fleets, though continually 
enlarged, never deliberately attacked, and at sea, as in 
the earlier Revolutionary period, the struggle again became 
that of a guerre de course. 

It was conducted with the extraordinary thoroughness 
and vigour which Napoleon, enjoying complete mastery 
over France, was able to employ in all his schemes. 
Nothing was permitted to stand in his way. Under his 
impulse the French fleet soon became stronger in material 
than it had been since the opening of the war ; and the 
new fleet was created with a single object. 1 

Nelson's one call throughout his commands had been 
for more frigates always more frigates. The larger 
number of them were employed on the protection of trade, 
and the shortage of cruising- vessels with the battle fleets 
whose eyes they were due to this cause, had a marked 
influence on many of the most important engagements. 
With the disappearance of fleet actions, the smaller ships 
were able to give less divided attention to trade protection, 
but there still remained work for the larger vessels. The 
French, for instance, detached several ships of the line 
to support the determined attacks they made on the Indian 
trade routes, and our own squadrons had similarly to be 
reinforced. England, after Trafalgar, devoted her chief 
energies in shipbuilding to launching increasing numbers 
of frigates and sloops. This growth in the number of 
cruising-ships actually employed on sea service, whilst 
the number of ships of the line remained practically 
stationary, is shown in the following table : * 

1 Brenton's Naval History. 

2 Journal of Royal United Service Institution, April 1913. 














Ships of the 

























The disposition of naval ships for the protection of trade 
necessarily underwent considerable modification. Squad- 
rons of large frigates were kept constantly at sea, ranging 
from Cherbourg to Finisterre ; the coastal trade and the 
St. George's Channel were guarded by the smaller craft; 
and a string of cruisers kept up communication between 
Falmouth and Gibraltar. The work put the greatest 
strain upon our seamen, who for yet another ten years 
were called upon to maintain their untiring vigilance. 
Collingwood, having embarked at Plymouth on the last 
day of April 1805, and after Trafalgar assumed the 
command in the Mediterranean, never found opportunity 
again to set foot in his native country, to which he was 
brought home a corpse in 1810. 

The story of fights by British merchant crews in defence 
of their ships during the fierce attack upon our trade after 
Trafalgar is told in hundreds of letters from captains to 
their owners. Many of them are addressed from ports 
which the ships had safely made, with riddled hull and 
shot-torn sails, and rigging telling of the perils safely 
passed. Not less frequently, it must be admitted, the letters 
bearing the ill news of capture came from some prisoners' 
camp. Enemy cruisers were constantly on the look-out 
for vessels detached from the large sailing convoys, and 
against a well-armed man-of-war the merchantman, with 
a lesser weight of metal and ill-trained crew, had small 
chance. An Homeric contest, waged successfully against 
overwhelming odds, was that between the British packet 
Windsor Castle and the French privateer schooner Le. 
Jeune Richard. A passenger, writing from Barbadoes on' 
October 3rd, 1807, gives the following account : 

" We are just landed here after an unpleasant passage 
of thirty-seven days, and experiencing one of the most 
desperate actions which has been fought in this war, 
though, thank God, we have been victorious, and have 
cleared those seas of one of the fastest-sailing privateers 


out of Guadaloupe, which had in the last six weeks taken 
no less than six fine-running ships viz., the America and 
Clio in company, the Margaret, the Pope, the Portsea, and 
another. When we met her she was six days on a fresh 
cruise, with eighty-six men, and six long sixes and one 
long 32-pounder gun. Our force consisted of six guns, 
short sixes, and thirty men, including three passengers. 
We lost three men killed and seven wounded, the first 
broadside ; but I am happy to say that with the remainder, 
in an hour and forty minutes, such was their gallantry, 
that they carried the privateer, after killing twenty-six, 
wounding thirty, and making prisoners thirty not wounded, 
in all sixty prisoners, almost treble the number we had left 
for duty. I cannot enter into more detail by this oppor- 
tunity, and can only say that if any man has deserved a 
token of merit from your Underwriters, Captain Rogers 
deserves it in the highest degree. He is a young man, his 
first voyage as Acting Captain (the Captain being left at 
home), and has therefore nothing but his merit to depend 
upon. He was left with only ten men about him for the 
last half-hour, rallying them to their duty, with a deter- 
mination to carry the prize, which repeatedly endeavoured 
to clear from the packet, but was too fast lashed by her 
bowsprit to escape, and he boarded her at the head of four 
men, and charged her deck, with a gallantry never excelled 
and seldom equalled. The officers of the man-of-war here 
are astonished when they look at the two vessels and their 
crews, and instantly in the handsomest manner relinquished 
all claim to the prize." 1 

Instances of such actions fought by British merchantmen, 
when practically every ship was armed for its defence, 
might be recorded indefinitely. It must suffice to mention 
the gallantry, both in defence and attack, of the little 
Falmouth packet Antelope, when chased off the Cuban 
coast by the French privateer Atlante. The packet carried 
a crew of twenty-three men, and had no better armament 
than six 3-pounders, but she had several passengers on 
board, who assisted in loading the guns with grapeshot, 
buckled on cutlasses, and primed their muskets. The 
privateer's first broadside at close range killed the Ante- 
lope's captain and the first mate. Her second mate having 

1 Gomer Williams, The Liverpool Privateers, p. 410. 


died of fever a few days before, she was left without a 
senior officer. John Pascoe, the boatswain, took com- 
mand of the ship, and the French, having boarded, were 
attacked with such vigour that they were hurled back to 
their own ship, leaving their captain run through the body 
dead, and several of their crew killed or wounded. Again 
and again the privateersmen attempted to board, but at 
each trial they were driven back by the desperate defence. 
Realising that they had " caught a Tartar " and that the 
ship was too hot for them, the French endeavoured to cut 
the grapplings and make off, but the Antelope lashed her 
foreyard to the enemy's shrouds, and poured in grape and 
musket-ball at point-blank range. Pascoe, daring every- 
thing, then determined to carry his enemy, and had 
collected a boarding party, who raised lusty cheers pre- 
liminary to the assault, when to their surprise the Atlante's 
red flag at the mainmast and the ensign at her peak were 
hauled down. The British merchantmen made their 
prize, and safely brought both ships into port at Jamaica. 
The privateer had twenty-eight killed and nineteen 
wounded, more than the entire number of the Antelope } s 
crew and passengers when she went into action. 1 

It fortunately was customary, both on the French and 
British side, that after a fight at sea the prisoners taken 
should be well treated. A privateer, unable to bring his 
prize into port, would at times hold a ship to ransom, 
accepting the captain's acknowledgment on the part of 
the owners, and such arrangements were honourably 
fulfilled. In one letter of complaint of ill-treatment a 
British captain declared that it was " disgraceful to a 
polite nation like the French." This compliment of being 
" a polite nation " was frequently paid to our determined 
enemy. The chivalry of the sea is illustrated by many 
instances in the long wars. The British ship Sally, having 
fought the French privateer VAmelie off the entrance to 
the Bristol Channel, and having been carried by boarding, 
the crew were allowed to preserve the whole of their private 
property, and given such comforts as the privateer afforded. 
Captain Lacroix promised the English commander his 
liberty and the first ship of little value that he should take, 
and he was, in fact, sent home in a captured Dundee brig 
with all his men and the brig's crew and passengers, a 

1 James Howe, History of Flushing, Cornwall, pp. 26-9. 


bargain having been struck that he should obtain the 
exchange of an equal number of French prisoners-of-war, 
to be sent from England to France. The French captain 
further declared that if the exchange were honourably 
made he would set free on the first opportunity every 
Englishman whom the fortune of war should throw into 
his power. 

No royal road to preventing losses among our shipping 
was ever found, and year after year, until peace in 1815 
crowned the titanic efforts of a nation almost exhausted 
in the struggle, the tables of statistics tell their own certain 
tale. By immense effort, continuously sustained by a 
Royal Navy which increased each year in strength of 
fighting ships, in guns and in personnel, the losses of 
merchant ships, in the ten years after Trafalgar, were so 
checked that they were not greater than in the corre- 
sponding earlier period. And it must be recollected that 
for a year and a half during that period hostilities with the 
United States added a heavy quota to the depredations 
of French privateers. The British merchant ships were 
pygmies compared with the leviathans that cross the seas 
to-day. Individually their loss counted for much less, 
but the large numbers taken each year, in a war waged 
continuously for twenty years, placed a strain upon the 
trade and resources of the nation which only the gigantic 
edifice of Britain's world- wide commerce, built up upon 
solid foundations of individual enterprise and served by a 
stalwart, seafaring race, could have borne. 

Our ocean-borne trade, attacked with untiring persist- 
ence throughout two decades of war, was the chief object 
sought out by the French naval ships and the larger 
privateers, but it by no means represented the whole body 
of British commerce exposed to sea peril. England was 
at the same time served by great numbers of small sailing- 
ships, which conducted the coastal trade round the British 
Isles and that between our island colonies ; and these lines 
of shipping were peculiarly open to raids by the enemy. 
Many such vessels undoubtedly swell the lists of captures, 
and they have complicated the tables of contemporary 
statistics, vitiating the conclusions drawn from them, both 
by their presence there and by their absence ; for a large 
proportion of the coastal ships figure on no return, and 
the vast bulk of commerce which they carried, and of 


which the enemy took toll, escaped observation, as the 
clearances made are but imperfectly recorded. 

Any estimate of losses among the ships trading from 
port to port around the coasts can only be made by 
inference, but there are abundant indications that these 
losses were severe. In a southerly gale blowing along the 
English south coast, ships-of-war guarding the Channel 
found themselves compelled to run for Portsmouth or the 
Downs, leaving the slower-sailing merchantmen, heavily 
laden, without protection or without harbourage about 
the long stretch of dangerous shore, and open to attack 
by French privateers putting out from Cherbourg, Havre, 
and Dieppe. The Frenchmen, well aware of the system 
pursued by our cruisers, and enabled constantly to keep 
to windward of them, found the merchantmen an easy prey 
in these conditions. They came out in the wildest weather, 
in which, far too often for our welfare, they achieved their 
greatest successes. 

Mixed with the ocean traders beating up- Channel was a 
not inconsiderable coastal trade, and at the Thames mouth 
this was joined by a still larger stream of small vessels 
making the journey along the east coasts of Scotland and 
England to London. There being no inland waterways, 
and the main roads being wholly insufficient to carry the 
burden of traffic, London received, not only the great 
exchange of commerce which made it the trading centre 
of the world, but also the bulk of its own supplies from the 
sea. At every hour of the day and night long lines of 
ships, numbered by thousands in all, stretched from 
Orfordness to the far north of Scotland, and from Selsey 
to Ramsgate. In the Thames estuary hundreds con- 
gregated at every tide, passing on their way or waiting to 
go up or down the river, or taking advantage of the shelter. 
Given a dark night, a fair wind, often a fog, and a daring 
enemy was rarely without an opportunity for attack, the 
quick seizure of a prize, and safe escape. Of such oppor- 
tunities he made full use. " With a fleet surpassing the 
navy of the whole world," complained a writer in the year 
1810, " and by which we are enabled to set so large a 
proportion of it at defiance, we cannot guard our coasts 
against insult." 

In addition to the cruising frigates and warships watching 
the French shore, our own coasts swarmed with brigs, 


sloops, and cutters, kept ready for instant action in every 
harbour and inlet, whose duty it was to patrol and to 
protect the coastal traffic. So numerous were these that 
at one period there were 149 stationed between Southend 
and Orfordness ; 181 between the Thames mouth and 
Hastings ; 138 from Newhaven to Poole ; 21 at Liverpool, 
Glasgow, and Greenock ; 114 on the coast of Ireland ; 
and the long stretch from Yarmouth to Leith was protected 
by 135 craft. 1 Yet in spite of the utmost vigilance the 
losses continued. The public indignation at raids effected 
within sight of our coasts was expressed in the letter of 
another writer, who declared that the audacity of French 
privateers occasioned universal indignation and regret. 
" Our merchantmen captured before our eyes the national 
colours of our enemy floating, with gasconading insolence, 
along our shores, and effecting their escape with impunity, 
is, indeed, too much for an Englishman's reflection, 
accustomed as he is to behold the vanquished streamers of 
the foe waving in submission beneath his country's flag." 

The French privateers engaged in these depredations 
upon the coastal traffic were mostly the smaller vessels 
which swarmed in the harbours of Dunkirk, Calais, Bou- 
logne, and Dieppe. Any craft could be made to serve, 
provided it had speed. The provision of a gun or two, a 
few hands collected from the desperate riff-raff of the ports, 
the very minimum of provisioning, and all was ready. 
Little was risked by the owners, whose craft was worth no 
more than the proceeds of one or two fortunate voyages. 
The crews, it was true, ran the chance of capture and of 
pining in an English prison, but the reward, quickly earned, 
was an ample incentive. Luggers, sloops, fishing- smacks, 
with a single gun placed on board, even open row-boats, 
played their part in the service ; and though individual 
prizes might be of small value compared with those made 
by the ocean-going corsairs, together they amassed a very 
considerable sum. A privateer, stealing out at dusk 
before a long winter's night, might with fortune return 
with its prize before the next day's sun was high. 

Naturally the headlands, such as Portland, Beachy 
Head, Dungeness, and others, were favourite places for 
attack, and not infrequently those watching from the shore 

1 Hannay's Short History of the Royal Navy, ii, 440. 

2 Naval Chronicle, xxiv, 460. 


were witnesses of some smart bit of " cutting out " which 
the British naval forces were powerless to prevent. Util- 
ising the British flag a frequent ruse and moving on the 
skirts of the assembled shipping, a daring raider in full 
daylight would make prizes and get clear away under the 
very eyes of watching seamen. But night was, of course, 
the most favourable time, and the very severe losses of 
trade in the winters immediately before and after Trafalgar 
led to the introduction of a system of watching, by appointed 
cruisers, each harbour and outlet on the French coast, 
thus blockading the privateers seeking to dash out from 
the ports between Cherbourg and Dunkirk ; but, notwith- 
standing this vigilance, many continued to slip through 
the cordon, as the heavy losses among the British merchant 
ships from 1805 to 1810 testify. A complete chain of 
watching cruisers to be maintained all along the French 
coast was one of the means recommended by the ship- 
owners to reduce the tale of losses. 1 

The French spirit made their men quick to adopt every 
ruse. A common peril besetting our coastal trade was 
found in innocent-looking fishing-boats, showing their 
half-dozen men busy at their work, which lay at anchor 
upon, or within, the lines joining headland to headland. 
Desperadoes out from Dunkirk or Calais, armed with 
nothing more effective than the short-range muskets 
of the day, watched the character and appearance 
of passing vessels. When night or other favourable 
opportunity came they pulled quickly alongside the 
unsuspecting merchant ship which, undermanned and 
unwatchful, from the scarcity of seamen, was first awakened 
to the danger by a volley of musketry, followed by the 
clambering of the enemy on the decks. The crews, few 
in number, poor in quality, and not paid for fighting, 
frequently could offer but slight resistance to an over- 
powering assault. 2 Typical of French daring was the 
capture of a West Indiaman, the Benjamin and Elizabeth, 
in 1799, four leagues off Dungeness, in a fog. She was 
hailed by a lugger, who, running under her quarter, asked 
her if she wanted a pilot. On being answered " No," a man 
on board the little craft who spoke good English called on 

1 Memorandum on the Protection of the Coasting Trade, presented by 
Mr. Greville, 1809. 

2 Mahan, .Influence of Sea Power on the French Revolution, n, 208. 


the Indiaman to back her mainyard and surrender, follow- 
ing this demand with a volley of musketry, after which 
men, swarming on the lugger, boarded her on the quarter. 
A sharp fight resulted in the crew being overpowered, and 
the prize was headed for France. H.M.S. RACOON came up 
on the crossing, recovered the ship, and sank the lugger 
with a broadside, all on board going down. 1 Tales of the 
sort were the common talk in every sailors' tavern. 

The total losses to which the British mercantile fleets 
and British commerce were subjected during the Revolu- 
tionary and Napoleonic Wars have been discussed by 
Commander (now Captain) K. G. B. Dewar, R.N. 2 It 
must be admitted that the material available is far from 
satisfactory, owing to various .causes : the incomplete 
manner in which statistics were kept ; their not infre- 
quently conflicting nature ; the complications introduced 
by the recapture of vessels taken by the French, and the 
additions of enemy prizes which were diverted to the British 
merchant fleets ; and the uncertain evidence concerning 
clearances and times of voyages, which require an average 
to be assumed. Admiral Mahan estimated the total losses 
of British ships in round numbers at 11,000, an annual 
average of about 2j per cent., 3 and held that the direct 
total loss to the nation by the operation of hostile cruisers 
did not exceed 2 J per cent, of the commerce of the Empire. 4 
The studies of the Naval War College have placed the 
losses at double that proportion 5 per cent. 6 Low as 
his estimate is, Mahan qualified and reduced it, adding : 

" This loss was partially made good by the prize ships 
and merchandise taken by its (Great Britain's) own naval 
vessels and privateers. A partial, if not complete, com- 
pensation for her remaining loss is also to be found in the 
great expansion of her mercantile operations carried on 
under neutral flags : for, although this too was un- 
doubtedly harassed by the enemy, yet to it almost entirely 
was due the volume of trade that poured through Great 

1 Naval Chronicle, ii, 162. 

2 " What is the Influence of Overseas Commerce in the Operations of 
War, etc." Printed in Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, 
April 1913. 

3 Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution, ii, 223. 
* Ibid., ii, 226. 

5 Official Memorandum, by Sir Julian Corbett. 


Britain to and from the Continent of Europe, every ton 
of which left a part of its value to swell the bulk of British 
wealth. The writings of the period show that the injuries 
due to captured shipping passed unremarked amid the 
common incidents and misfortunes of life ; neither their 
size nor their effects were great enough to attract public 
notice, amid the steady increase of national wealth and the 
activities concerned in amassing it." l 

The duties levied upon cargoes of neutrals who were 
forced to enter our ports, by the Orders in Council framed 
as an answer to the Berlin and Milan Decrees, certainly 
assisted Great Britain in bearing the cost of the war ; but 
it is straining the meaning of words to comprise such traffic 
within the ambit of British wealth. Mahan claimed, in 
particular, that the British returns of British losses at sea 
were larger than those made by the French, but that result 
is probably due to the very inefficient manner in which 
the French returns were compiled, and the omission of 
colonial captures. 

Without entering into detailed examination of statistics 
on which there is ground for disagreement, we may cite 
the table (p. 68) compiled by Commander Dewar as 
affording an approximate indication of the intensity of 
the attack on trade during the war. 

Neglecting the year 1793, the average column (IV) works 
out at 5*6 per cent. As, however, ships must on the 
average have cleared more than once a year, the number 
of ships must be considerably overestimated, and the 
percentage of captures in Column IV correspondingly 
underestimated. On the other hand, a large number of 
captures included ships engaged in the coastal trade, and 
if the tonnage of the coastal shipping were added to 
Column III, the percentage of captures would be 

Returns of the coasting trade were not made until 1824. 
It was a vital part of our commerce in an epoch when the 
bulk of the distribution of merchandise throughout the 
British Isles was done by water, and the many hundreds 
of small sailing-ships continuously engaged in this traffic 
traded with a comparatively small number of ports. To 

1 Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution, ii, 227. 



By Commander K. G. B. Dewar, R.N., Journal of the Royal 
United Service Institution, vol. Ivii, No. 422. 






men cap- 

Clearance of British 
Shipping engaged in 
the Foreign Trade. 

Percentage of Captures to 
British Ships engaged in 
Foreign Trade (assuming 
One Clearance a Year). 


Per Cent. 





































































AUTHOR'S NOTE. The accuracy of this table cannot be 
guaranteed, but it affords an accurate comparison between 
the various years. Columns II and III are taken from the 
Cambridge Modern History, vol. viii, pp. 485 and 486, 
vol. ix, pp. 241 and 242. The average tonnage of ships 
employed in the foreign trade in 1802 is taken as 134 tons 
(Essays on Naval Defence, by Vice-Admiral P. H. Colomb, 
p. 241). Assuming that each ship cleared once a year, 
the number of ships employed in the foreign trade is 
obtained by dividing Column III by 134. 

CH. l] 



ignore it, as too often has been the tendency, is to throw 
out all the calculations. 

Insurance rates may be taken as affording some guid- 
ance. They fluctuated violently, and seem to have been 
highest in 1805, when two strong French fleets were at 
large in the Atlantic ; but it is not without significance 
that the average rate of insurance during the long wars 
was more than 5 per cent. 1 

Although, with the materials available, anything beyond 
an approximate estimate is impossible, there appear to 
be sound reasons for the conclusion that the losses incurred 
by British commerce in the great struggle in which it was 
engaged a century ago were much nearer to 5 per cent, 
than 2 J per cent., as suggested by Admiral Mahan. The 
wonder is, not that the proportion was so large, but that 
it was not larger, in view of the advantages which lay 
with the enemy, possessing many convenient ports and a 
large number of small craft. 

A table showing the number of British-owned ships during 
the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars is appended. 
It reflects the steady growth of the British Mercantile 
Marine in spite of the losses sustained during the years of 
war. It will be seen that, mainly owing to activity of 
shipbuilding, the numbers increased from 16,329 to 24,860 
between 1793 and 1815, the year when peace was con- 


From the Appendix to Minutes taken before the Manning Committee, 








1793 . 
1794 . 

. 16,329 

. 16,806 

1801 . 
1802 . 

. 19,711 
. 20,568 

1809 . 
1810 . 

. 23,070 
. 23,703 


. 16,728 
. 16,903 

1803 . 

. 20,893 
. 21,774 

1811 . 
1812 . 

. 24,106 
. 24,107 


. 16,903 

1805 . 

. 22,051 

1813 . 

. 23,640 

1798 . 
1799 . 

. 17,295 

. 17,879 

1806 . 

. 22,182 
. 22,297 

1814 . 
1815 . 

. 24,418 
. 24,860 

1800 . 

. 17,895 


. 22,646 

1 Cambridge Modern History, i, 241. 




THE British people emerged from the Continental struggle 
victorious but exhausted. Famine is the offspring of 
war, and it seemed to contemporaries that, although the 
supremacy of the seas had been won, economic ruin con- 
fronted them. While wages had risen by about 60 per 
cent., the price of wheat had gone up by 130 per cent. 
Throughout the country the lower classes of the population 
had been reduced to a state of privation. In the rural 
districts, particularly in the south, the advent of the steam- 
engine, and the industrial movement northward, towards 
the coal-fields, in association with the economic effects of 
the war, had robbed prosperous little towns and hamlets 
of the means of livelihood. The conditions had become so 
grave that, in the absence of Parliamentary intervention, 
local justices felt compelled before the end of the century 
to grant allowances from the rates to supplement the low 
wages then ruling, the allowances being varied according 
to the price of corn. Rural England, largely owing to the 
extinction of village industries, was brought to a condition 
of misery which had not been known hitherto. The suffer- 
ings of the towns were even worse, and distress was wide- 
spread. The privations of the mass of people had seemed 
to reach a climax in 1811-12, when the harvest failed all 
over Europe. The evil was deep-rooted, and did not soon 
pass away. Riots, due in the main to the introduction 
of machinery at this period of economic disturbance from 
the effects of war, contributed to render the outlook so 
grave that men feared that industrial unrest would be 
followed by national ruin. 

Contemporary opinion failed to realise that, in liberating 
Europe by the use of sea power, this country had created 
the foundations upon which it might build on the ruins 
of the war a new and better state of society. Not only 
had the supremacy of the seas been gained, but during 
the long period covered by hostilities an organisation had 
been created to enable the British people to take advantage 
of that success, constituting themselves in process of time 
the sea carriers of the world. Both the Royal Navy and 
the Merchant Navy were stronger when peace was signed 


than they had been when it was broken in 1793. The 
Merchant Navy had grown in spite of the heavy losses 
sustained at the hands of the enemy. In other" words, 
as the conflict by sea drew to its close, British sea power, 
notwithstanding the risks to which it had been exposed 
over a period of two decades and the losses sustained, 
rose to a greater strength than it had before attained. 

In the opening years of the nineteenth century, the 
British people were so impressed with the miseries which 
they attributed too exclusively to the war that they were 
blind to the promise of prosperity which their sea power 
assured them as an island people. They had, in fact, 
suffered less in consequence of the long-drawn struggle 
than any other people in Europe, owing to the policy 
consistently adopted by successive Governments. Ministers 
had refused, in spite of temptations, to embark upon a 
policy of military expansion which would have drawn 
tens of thousands of men away from productive employ- 
ment, and in particular from the industries specially 
associated with the maintenance of the country's sea power. 
Foreign troops were subsidised, but the utmost reluctance 
was exhibited to take any step in opposition to the un- 
adulterated maritime principles of defence and offence. 
Even in 1815, the year which was marked by the overthrow 
of Napoleon at Waterloo, the number of men voted for the 
British Army was only 275,392. The country reaped the 
full advantage of this adhesion to a maritime policy. 
While the war was still in progress, and the population of 
the British Isles was suffering economically, the work of 
industrial reconstruction was undertaken. The develop- 
ment of the steam-engine had directed attention to the 
vast wealth represented in the coal seams in the northern 
counties, and the opening years of the century witnessed 
the uprising of the great manufacturing centres which 
were to transform England from a country in the main 
agricultural into one distinguished by its industrial 
pre-eminence. The foundations on which the promise of 
the future rested was the supremacy of the Royal Navy 
and the strength of the Mercantile Marine. 

Merchant shipping is not a basic industry : it produces 
nothing. It is, however, the conduit pipe of comrnerce 
from market to market. Leaders of public opinion in the 
early years of last century failed to realise that a new age 


was dawning, owing to the invention of the marine steam- 
engine, which was to contract the world and thus encourage 
ocean-borne trade. Yet events were to prove that this 
non-productive industry was the most essential element 
in the life of a people, living in a group of islands, drawing 
their raw materials, in large measure, from oversea, and 
relying upon oversea markets for customers to purchase 
their goods. British merchantmen became the shuttles 
in the great economic loom which was created in the years 
following the conclusion of peace by slow and painful 
stages and amid much political turmoil. As industry 
developed, the Merchant Navy supported it with an 
increasing strength that passed almost unnoticed. The 
shipping industry in those days owed little to the State ; 
it was an individualistic movement, its inspiration and 
mobility due to far-sighted and resourceful business men 
in the great sea-ports, who devoted themselves to the 
creation, as a commercial enterprise, of a great carrying 
trade. So long as war continued they had maintained 
their sailings, in spite of the action of enemies and the 
interference of the press-gang. With the coming of peace, 
when the demands of the Royal Navy for men were no 
longer paramount, they devoted themselves without 
embarrassment to the management of the British Merchant 
Navy, which for a hundred years was to prove the lynch- pin 
of the industrial movement of the British Isles and the 
foundation of British economic strength, for a free sea and 
a healthy marine were the bases on which the Free Trade 
policy of the latter part of the Victorian Era rested. 

Though the nation had preserved its Mercantile Marine 
in strength, that organisation was in anything but a 
healthy state. The old Navigation Laws the expression 
of a traditional mercantile policy now outgrown and soon 
to be changed were still in force. They confined the 
import trade to British ships or ships of the producing 
country, restricted to British ships the carriage of mer- 
chandise to the Colonies, and reserved the whole of the 
coasting trade to British vessels navigated by British 
masters, and manned by crews containing at least 75 per 
cent, of British subjects. The Navigation Laws limited 
competition at a moment when the marine steam-engine 
was making its appearance, and the nation was beginning 
to understand the advantages it possessed by reason of its 


coal-fields. It was apparent to far-seeing men that the iron 
ship was about to make its appearance. Even while the 
war was still going on, experiments had been made with 
iron for the construction of ships, and in 1819 the first 
vessel built entirely of iron was completed on the Clyde. 
She was intended for carrying coal on the Forth and Clyde 
Canal. In subsequent years other experiments were made. 
In view of the advent of the steam-engine and the possi- 
bility of employing iron in the shipyards in place of wood, 
shipbuilders thought it necessary to adopt a cautious policy. 
They could well afford to do so, since they were protected 
from the full brunt of foreign competition, at any rate so 
far as British and Imperial trade was concerned. 1 Between 
the signing of peace in 1815 and the close of the year 1830, 
the British Merchant Navy not only did not increase, but 
was thought to have declined slightly both in numbers 
and tonnage. The falling off, however, was more apparent 
than real. In 1823 Parliament began the task of repealing 
the Navigation Laws, but it was one beset with many 
difficulties. Further evidence of a national awakening 
to the importance of the Mercantile Marine was supplied 
in 1836, when a Committee was appointed to inquire 
into the causes of wrecks. It became apparent that all 
was not well. The Committee reported that the ships 
" were so faulty in design and as sailers so slow, that 
British shipowners feared free trade because they knew 
that successful competition on equal terms with foreign 
ships was impossible." The Committee's report contained 
the following significant passages : 

" That the frequent incompetency of masters and 
officers appears to be admitted on all hands, this incom- 
petency sometimes arising from want of skill and know- 
ledge in seamanship, but more frequently from the want 
of an adequate knowledge of navigation, it being proved 
that some masters of merchant vessels have been appointed 
to command after a very short time at sea ; that others 
have hardly known how to trace a ship's course on a chart, 
or how to ascertain the latitude by a meridian altitude of 
the sun ; that many are unacquainted with the use of the 
chronometer, and that very few indeed are competent to 

1 The rule as to the employment of English ships for imports was relaxed 
in the case of America in 1796. 


ascertain the longitude by lunar observations, while some 
are appointed to command merchant vessels at periods 
of such extreme youth (one instance is given of a boy of 
fourteen, all of whose apprentices were older than himself), 
and others so wholly destitute of maritime experience 
(another instance being given of a porter from a ship- 
owner's warehouse who was made a captain of one of his 
ships), that vessels have been met with at sea which were 
out of their reckoning by several hundred miles ; and others 
have been wrecked on coasts from which they believed 
themselves to have been hundreds of miles distant at the 

" That drunkenness, either in the masters, officers, or 
men, is a frequent cause of ships being wrecked, leading 
often to improper and contradictory orders on the part 
of the officers ; sleeping on look-out, or at the helm among 
the men, occasioning ships to run foul of each other at 
night, and one or both foundering ; to vessels being taken 
aback or overpowered by sudden squalls, and sinking, 
upsetting, or getting dismasted, for want of timely vigilance 
in preparing for the danger, and to the steering of wrong 
courses so as to run upon dangers which might have 
otherwise been avoided. 

" That the practice of taking large quantities of ardent 
spirits as part of the stores of ships, whether in the Navy 
or in the Merchant Service, and the habitual use of such 
spirits, even when diluted with water, and in what is 
ordinarily considered the moderate quantity served to 
each man at sea, is itself a very frequent cause of the loss 
of ships and crews. Ships frequently taking fire from the 
drawing off of spirits, which are always kept under hold : 
crews frequently getting access to the spirit casks, and 
becoming intoxicated, and almost all the cases of insub- 
ordination, insolence, disobedience of orders, and refusal 
to do duty, as well as the confinements and punishments 
enforced as correctives, both of which must for the time 
greatly lessen the efficiency of the crews, being clearly 
traceable to the intoxicating influence of the spirits used 
by the officers and men." 

The maritime position of the country was unsound. 
Many harbours were so shallow that the bottoms of 
ships were specially constructed to take the ground. In 


spite of the fact that some of the officers of the larger 
foreign-going ships were men of the highest attainments 
and of undoubted reputation, drunkenness and incompe- 
tency among officers of average type, as well as the seamen, 
were notorious. Ships were provided with inadequate 
charts even where any charts were supplied. The Mer- 
cantile Marine depended largely on pauper apprentices for 
its supply of seamen, and there was no examination of 
masters, mates, or engineers, to test their professional 
skill. Numerous lighthouses still remained the absolute 
property of individuals, or were leased to individuals for 
their personal benefit, and surplus light dues went to 
so-called charitable purposes and were dispersed through 
avenues entirely unconnected with shipping. Harbour 
dues, town dues, charity dues, and passing dues 
levied on ships were similarly diverted. There were no 
harbours which could be described as harbours of refuge, 
though a passing toll had to be paid by all ships off 
Whitby, Bridlington, Dover, or Ramsgate. The Tyne, 
Clyde, and Tees were navigable only by small vessels even 
at high-water, and many other ports now nourishing 
scarcely existed. " Freight was the mother of wages " ; 
payment for salvage of life was unknown ; ships did 
not carry side-lights ; no international rule of the road 
at sea existed ; neither reports of wrecks nor inquiries 
as to the cause of wrecks had been instituted ; crimps 
preyed, and preyed unchecked, on British seamen ; there 
was no system of recovering the wages or effects of 
deceased seamen ; Parliament had not thought it necessary 
to make any practical statutory provision as to the 
supply of food, or as to the accommodation of seamen ; 
there were no checks on the tyranny of masters at sea, and 
no provision for the proper execution of contracts between 
masters and seamen ; a seaman could not raise any 
question as to the unseaworthiness of his ship, but could 
be sent to prison as a deserter if he went ashore to com- 
plain ; there were no international or code signals. 1 That 
was the condition of the British merchant fleet at the 
time when a Committee was appointed to inquire into the 

1 This summarised statement of the condition of the Mercantile Marine 
is based on an address at the Mansion House, February 17th, 1887, by 
Mr. Thomas Gray, C.B., Assistant Secretary, Marine Department, Board 
of Trade. 


causes of wrecks. The investigation showed that the 
maritime interests of the nation were suffering, to the 
injury of trade and the weakening of the Imperial system. 
The Committee emphasised many of the causes of the 
decline of the shipping industry which have already been 
summarised, and in particular remarked on the increasing 
competition with foreign shipowners, " who, from the 
many advantages enjoyed by them in the superior cheap- 
ness of the materials for building, equipping, and pro- 
visioning their vessels, are enabled to realise profits on 
terms of freight which would not even cover the expenses 
of English ships." The report of this inquiry went a long 
way to confirm the statements which had been made by 
Mr. Joseph Hume, who from his place in the House of 
Commons had declared that the British Merchant Navy was 
losing its place among the mercantile marines of the world, 
and that it was urgently necessary that Parliament should, 
in particular, direct attention to the administration of 
lighthouses around the coast and the provision of harbours. 
The public attention which was attracted to the state of 
the Mercantile Marine at this period at last led Parliament 
to pass a succession of acts which, practically for the first 
time since the expansion of the country's maritime power, 1 
recognised the principle that the State had a responsibility 
towards the shipping industry beyond that which reflected 
the broad economic policy of the country, and that it was, 
especially, bound to enforce regulations fonthe protection of 
the lives of passengers and seamen. Measures were passed 
regulating the conditions under which emigrants travelled, 
establishing a registry office for seamen, and transferring to 
Trinity House a number of lighthouses which formed part 
of the hereditary estate of the Crown, and steps were also 
taken to provide better harbours. In 1846 further progress 
was made to insure greater safety at sea. It was enacted 
that all iron steamers should be divided by watertight 
compartments into three divisions ; that all sea-going 
vessels should be provided with boats in proportion to their 
tonnage ; that steamers should pass to the port side of 
each other ; that steamers when within twenty miles of 
the coast should carry lights to be prescribed by the 
Admiralty ; that passenger steamers should be surveyed 

1 The essential fact seems to have been that shipping expanded so 
enormously as to render existing regulations out of date. 


half-yearly by surveyors to be approved by the Board of 
Trade ; that accidents to steamers should be reported to 
the Board of Trade, that department having power to 
inquire into the cause of the loss. 1 

In 1843 fresh light had been thrown upon the condition 
of the Merchant Navy owing to the action of Mr. James 
Murray, of the Foreign Office, who, at the request of the 
Admiralty, addressed a letter to British Consuls abroad 
asking them to supply him with information " respecting 
the character and conduct of British ship-masters and 
seamen." He added in his circular letter that his object 
was to show " the necessity for authoritative steps on 
the part of Her Majesty's Government to remedy what 
appears to be an evil detrimental to and seriously affect- 
ing the character of our commercial marine, and therefore 
advantageous to foreign rivals, whose merchant vessels are 
said to be exceedingly well manned and navigated." 

At that time nine separate departments were concerned 
in administrating the laws affecting the Merchant Navy, 
and there was no central board to co-ordinate the work 
of these several authorities, each department being left to 
look merely to those interests committed to its charge and 
to its own convenience. The reports which were received 
fully confirmed the widespread anxiety which was enter- 
tained as to the decline of the character of the British 
Mercantile Marine. Mr. Murray summed up their general 
purport in the following statement : 

4 ' It is stated from various parts of the world that persons 
placed in command of British ships are so habitually 
addicted to drunkenness as to be unfitted for their position, 
and it will be seen that Her Majesty's Consuls allude spe- 
cifically to the notorious and gross intemperance, and to the 
ignorance and brutality of British ship-masters, many of 
whom are totally void of education. In several reports it 
is stated that there are honourable exceptions to the 
unworthy class of masters, thus showing that among 
British masters frequenting foreign ports bad conduct and 
ignorance is the rule, and intelligence and ability the 
exception ; that, on the other hand, foreign masters are 

1 This Act is of interest as marking the initiation of a new policy on the 
part of the State in its relation to the Mercantile Marine. It has since 
been modified. 


educated, sober, intelligent men, capable of commanding 
their ships, and that foreign seamen are consequently 
more orderly." 

Eventually Parliament took action on the lines suggested 
by Mr. Murray, and in 1850 the Marine Department of the 
Board of Trade was established. In the previous year 
the last remains of the Navigation Laws as to foreign trade 
had been repealed, to be followed five years later by the 
abolition of the restrictions on the coasting trade. Almost 
simultaneously, therefore, the protective system as applied 
to merchant shipping was abolished, and a special office 
created to administer the varied and often contradictory 
legislation with reference to the Mercantile Marine which 
had been passed since the opening years of Queen Victoria's 
reign. Henceforward the confusion which had hitherto 
existed with reference to the administration of the laws 
relating to shipping was mitigated, and there were many 
indications of increased public interest in the industry, 
particularly as affecting the safety of passengers and crews. 

Mr. Samuel Plimsoll was largely responsible for the 
movement of public opinion which occurred in later years. 
He directed attention, in particular, to the number of 
vessels which put to sea in an unseaworthy condition and 
overloaded, having often been heavily insured by their 
owners, who thus stood to gain in case of disaster. Mr. 
Plimsoll's agitation against " coffin- ships " greatly exag- 
gerated the extent of the evil, but the evil undoubtedly 
existed. His pertinacity led to the appointment of a 
Commission of Inquiry, and the publicity given to the 
scandal resulted in the passing of the Merchant Shipping 
Act of 1873, giving stringent powers of inspection to the 
Board of Trade, and legalising what is now known as the 
"Plimsoll Mark" as a protection against overloading. 
The evil was scotched but not killed, and the matter 
received further attention about ten years later, when 
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, President of the Board of Trade, 
introduced into the House of Commons a Bill to provide 
for " greater security of life and property at sea." In 
moving the second reading of the Bill on May 19th, 1884, 
he reverted to the controversy which had arisen as to the 
responsibility of shipowners for the abuses which had 
undoubtedly existed over a long period. He made it clear 


that he advanced no charge against shipowners generally, 
but was dealing only with a minority. He pointed out 
that, according to Mr. Hollams, a well-known lawyer, the 
law as it then stood declared to the shipowner, " buy 
your ship as cheaply as you can, equip her as poorly as 
you can, load her as fully as you can, and send her to 
sea. If she gets to the end of her voyage you will make a 
very good thing of it ; if she goes to the bottom you will 
have made a very much better thing of it. . . ." Mr. Cham- 
berlain, referring to the Report of the Commission, added : 

" The Commissioners pointed out that ' the system of 
our marine insurance, while it protects shipowners against 
losses which would otherwise be ruinous, tends to render 
them less careful in the management of their ships. . . . 
The contract of marine insurance is, in its essence, a 
contract of indemnity, and the spirit of the contract is 
violated if the insured can make the occurrence of a loss 
a means of gain.' The Commissioners added that ' our 
whole system of insurance law requires complete revision, 
for not only does it allow the shipowner in some cases 
to receive more than the amount of the loss sustained by 
him, but it also, on the other hand, deprives him of an 
indemnity in cases in which he ought to be protected by 
his insurance.' ' 

Further important and far-reaching reforms were 
introduced towards the end of the nineteenth century, 
thus completing the task of revising and codifying the 
law relating to the Mercantile Marine which had been 
attempted with a large measure of success in 1854. 

It may be profitable to turn from this survey of legis- 
lation to an examination of the progress of the Mercantile 
Marine during these years when British shipping, the 
Navigation Laws having been repealed, had to face 
world- competition, when some of the burdens imposed 
on British shipowners were lifted from them, and when 
Parliament intervened to enable the Board of Trade to 
insist upon the seaworthiness of ships and the safety of 
passengers and crews. In 1875, Sir Thomas Farrer, 1 
then Secretary to the Board of Trade, prepared a memor- 
andum with reference to the " state of British shipping 

1 Afterwards Lord Farrer. 


and seamen." He pointed out that " the actual increase 
of our Merchant Navy is a most remarkable fact," and in 
order to illustrate the progress gave a series of figures 
(see below). 

Commenting on those figures, the Secretary of the Board 
of Trade remarked that they gave a very imperfect re- 
flection of the increase in the quality and quantity of the 
work done by the Merchant Navy. " The quantity of that 
work is to be measured by the number and length of 
voyages made and the nature of the freights carried. It 
is scarcely possible to get at this accurately, but some 



Ships belonging to the British 
Empire at the End of Each Year. 

Ships belonging to the United 
K In^dom at the End of Each Year. 











































































notion of it may be found from the number of entrances 
and clearances. For the Foreign Trade of the United 
Kingdom we can give these. For the Coasting Trade we 
cannot, since a large proportion of coasting voyages do 
not appear in the Custom House books ; nor can we give 
complete returns of the employment of British ships on 
the Foreign Trade of foreign countries." In order to 
make this point clear, quotation was made of the number 
and tonnage of British vessels entered and cleared in the 
foreign trade of the United Kingdom (with cargoes and 
in ballast) between 1818 and 1874. In the former year 
the number of ships was 24,448, with a tonnage of 3,601,960; 
in the latter year the number was 73,534 and the tonnage 


30,089,683. It was remarked that, "if complete returns 
were available for the coasting trade and for the trade 
carried on between foreign ports by British ships, an even 
more remarkable indication of the progress of British 
shipping would have been possible, since the coasting 
trade has been carried on almost exclusively by British 
ships." From the statistics given it was evident that, 
whilst British tonnage nearly trebled between 1835 and 1874 
and more than doubled between 1842 and 1874, the tonnage 
entrances and clearances of British ships in the foreign trade 
of the United Kingdom in 1872 were about six times what 
they were in 1835, and more than four times what they 
were in 1842. The explanation, it was pointed out, was to 
be found in the increase of steam-vessels, making many 
voyages where a sailing-vessel makes but one. Statistics 
were quoted by the Secretary to show the great growth 
of steam tonnage and the increase in the number of men, 
exclusive of masters, in spite of the introduction of labour- 
saving devices. The number of men in 1852 was 159,563, 
and in 1874, 203,806. 

During the period when Parliament was turning its 
attention to the condition of the Mercantile Marine the 
United States was developing a great sea-carrying trade. 
The Americans had not only shown that they could build 
the finest and swiftest clipper ships, but in 1814 they 
launched their first steamship on the great waters of the 
Mississippi, and immediately proceeded to the development 
of their internal maritime communications which the new 
propulsive agent made possible. With a fine spirit of 
enterprise they cultivated their merchant navy by every 
practicable means, and by the middle of the nineteenth 
century were the most serious competitors of this country 
for sea power. By the early sixties the British lead 
amounted to little more than a quarter of a million tons. 
And then came the Civil War. The North possessed only 
a small fighting fleet, and in the emergency the authorities 
turned to the Mercantile Marine to supply the deficiencies 
in order that economic pressure, by means of a blockade 
of the numerous ports of the Confederacy, might be applied 
without delay. Warships were improvised, but at a terrible 
cost to the Merchant Marine. Prior to the Civil. War, 
two-thirds of the foreign trade of the United States was 
carried in ships flying the Stars and Stripes. American 


shipping represented 5,250,000 tons. " The extraordinary 
character of the emergency demanded that much of this 
tonnage should be impressed into the naval and military 
services. One million eight hundred thousand tons were 
taken, and $100,000,000 withdrawn from the capital em- 
barked in the shipping industry. The ALABAMA, the Con- 
federate tiger of the sea, destroyed 100,000 tons of shipping, 
and caused 'the owners of vessels to seek foreign registries 
or tie their craft to the dock, rather than send them unpro- 
tected on voyages which were likely to end in the prize 
court or destruction by fire at sea. Foreign ships and 
foreign capital eagerly entered the industry which the 
United States was compelled to abandon. 1 From the 
damage inflicted upon our Merchant Marine during the 
Civil War there has been, as yet, no full recovery ; and 
the stupendous increase in our foreign trade is the more 
remarkable in view of the fact that it has been effected in 
spite of the disadvantage of its conveyance in ships flying 
the flags of other nations than our own." ' 

The American Civil War, coming in the very midst of the 
transition from sails to steam, removed the most serious 
competitors with whom British shipowners had had to 
contend. When in 1875 the Secretary of the Board of 
Trade, continuing his examination of the state of British 
merchant shipping, investigated the progress of the 
British Mercantile Marine in relation to that of other 
countries, he was able to paint a gratifying picture. Whilst 
the British tonnage in the trade of the United Kingdom 
had increased from 65 per cent, of that trade in 1850 to 
68 per cent, in 1870, United States tonnage, which had 
60 per cent, of the trade of the United States in 1850, had 
only 38 per cent, of it in 1870. French tonnage, which 
had 41 per cent, of the trade of France in 1850, had only 
31 per cent, in 1870. Dutch tonnage, which had 42 per 
cent, of the trade of Holland in 1850, had only 28 per cent, 
in 1870. Prussian tonnage, which had 49 per cent, of 
the trade of Prussia in 1850, had 46 per cent, in 1870. 
Swedish tonnage, which had 43 per cent, of the trade of 
Sweden in 1850, had only 32 per cent, in 1870. Even in 
the case of Norway, whose marine had grown rapidly, 

1 An interesting parallel is the blow to English merchant shipping as 
the result of the Wars of the Roses. 

8 The New American Navy, by the Hon. James Long, former Secretary 
of the Navy Dept., U.S.A. (1903). 


Norwegian tonnage, which had 73 per cent, of the trade 
of Norway in 1850, had decreased to 70 per cent, in 1870. 
44 It was, of course, to be expected," the Secretary to 
the Board of Trade remarked, " that when the foreign 
trades of the different countries were opened to foreign 
ships, the native ships of each country would do a smaller 
proportion of that trade, finding their compensation in 
the new trades between other countries thus opened to 
them. And so it happened in the case of all maritime 
countries, except Great Britain. But in her case, with 
a trade far exceeding that of any other country, and 
increasing more rapidly than that of most countries, her 
shipping has not only continued to do the same proportion 
of her own trade as it did before the trade was opened to 
other nations, but has increased that proportion. Nor is 
this all. The foreign trade of each foreign country has 
also increased very largely ; and the native shipping of 
each foreign country no longer does the same proportion 
of her own trade as it formerly did. The proportion which 
native shipping no longer does must be done by ships of 
some other flag ; and though we have no complete figures 
to show how much of the trade of each of these countries 
is done by the British and how much by other foreign 
flags, we have some evidence to show that the British 
flag comes in for the lion's share of it." 

Summarising all the evidence which he had been able 
to collect, the Secretary of the Board of Trade came to 
the conclusion that "it is abundantly evident, not only 
that British merchant shipping has, in the twenty years 
succeeding the repeal of the Navigation Laws, enjoyed 
its due proportion of the increase in the trade of the world, 
which has followed on free trade and the use of steam, 
but that it has obtained much more than its due pro- 
portion, and has outdistanced many of its once-dreaded 
competitors. Having special advantages in the possession 
of coal and iron, and having the mechanical genius to 
turn these advantages to account, it has led the way, and 
secured itself, not only the largest share of the carrying 
trade of the world, but the most valuable part of that trade." 

The legislation affecting shipping which was passed 
during the latter part of the nineteenth century was 
opposed to the political sentiments of the time. State 
interference with trade, either by land or by sea, was 


regarded with suspicion and distrust. It was felt that 
Parliament was treading dangerous ground in attempting 
to regulate industry. A powerful impulse from without 
was necessary in order to secure Parliamentary action, 
even to assure the safety of passengers and crews. Ship- 
owners generally were no doubt guiltless of the gross 
charges which were levelled against them as a class by 
those who were stirred to action by the abuses which 
existed in some ships of the Mercantile Marine. The 
scandals may have been due to the neglect or criminality 
of the minority. Practically everyone who was concerned 
with financing and managing the Mercantile Marine 
opposed the earlier legislative measures, believing them 
to be harmful to an industry which had hitherto been 
individualistic. However exaggerated the statements may 
have been which were made by Mr. Joseph King, Mr. 
Samuel Plimsoll, and others and most agitations are 
based on ex-parte and overcoloured assertions it cannot 
be doubted that, had it not been for the intervention of 
such public- spirited men and the success with which they 
played on public sympathy, little would have been done 
by Parliament ; or, at any rate, action would have been 
indefinitely postponed. On the other hand, the pressure 
of uninstructed public opinion in the country led to the 
passing of measures without due consideration of details, 
and a succession of amending and consolidating Shipping 
Acts was required to unravel the tangle created by the 
legislation carried in the years of agitation. The move- 
ment was not continuous, nor was it always wisely directed, 
but its general effect was good. Stage by stage, important 
powers were conferred on the Board of Trade. Its 
Marine Department is a modern development, created 
to meet modern needs ; its duties, though numerous, are 
clearly defined and restricted. It is concerned mainly 
with the security of life and property at sea, and has had, 
directly, no share in the upbuilding of the Mercantile 
Marine. The strength of the Merchant Navy has always 
depended in the main upon the enterprise and business 
ability of the shipowning community in meeting the nation's 
needs without State subvention or State encouragement. 

The passage of merchant shipping legislation between 
1880 and 1885 was succeeded by a further period of great 
prosperity for British shipping. Freights, both homeward 

CH. l] 



and outward, with some fluctuations, continued high, 
reaching their maxima in 1889. The prosperity of the 
industry was reflected in the output of new ships. At the 
turn of the century freights fell, pointing to over-produc- 
tion, and this was reflected in the orders placed in the 
shipbuilding yards. On the eve of the outbreak of war 
in 1914, the earning capacity of shipping had for six years 
shown a gradual but healthy improvement, with the 
result that fresh capital was invested in the industry. Even 
shipyards throughout the United Kingdom benefited from 
this recovery, and in 1913 were responsible for nearly two- 
thirds of the world's new construction in spite of the 
activity in Germany. 

At the outbreak of war the British Mercantile Marine 
was the largest, the most up-to-date, and the most efficient, 
of all the merchant navies of the world. 1 It comprised 
nearly one-half of the world's steam tonnage (12,440,000 
tons out of about 26,000,000 tons net), and was four times 
as large as its nearest and most formidable rival the 
German Mercantile Marine. The tonnage owned by the 
principal maritime countries of the world on June 30th, 
1914, is shown below : 

Per Cent. 



4-2 . 


NOTE This table was prepared for the Departmental Committee on 
Shipping and Shipbuilding, Cd. 9092. The steam tonnage of the three 
Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark) amounted together 
on June 30th, 1914, to 2,185,000 tons net, or to 8-4 per cent, of the world s 
steam tonnage. 

1 This review of the strength and development of the British Mercantile 
Marine is based, in large measure textually, on the Report of the Depart- 
mental Committee on Shipping and Shipbuilding, Cd. 9092. 

* These figures do not include United States vessels engaged in trade 
on the Northern Lakes (1,693,000 tons). 

British Empire : 
United Kingdoi 
Dominions and 


United States 1 
Japan . 
Italy . 
Other Countries 




Tons Net. 
. 11.638.000 

ies . 





. 25.990,000 


The tonnage of the United Kingdom consisted mainly 
of vessels large enough for ocean voyages. If the dividing- 
line between ocean-going and other vessels is taken at 
1,000 tons net (or 1,600 tons gross), it will be found that 
90 per cent, of the tonnage of the United Kingdom was 
made up of vessels of the larger type. The number and 
net tonnage of steam- vessels (a) of less than 1,000 tons, 
and (b) of and above 1,000 tons, which were on the Register 
of the United Kingdom at the end of 1913 were as follows l : 

(a) Steam- vessels of less than 1,000 tons net 

(b) Steam-vessels of and above 1,000 tons net 



Net Tons. 




It is thus evident that the nation was dependent for 
supplies and trade on a comparatively small number of 
vessels of great size the secret of success in peace and 
danger in war. Vessels of large size are generally more 
economical than smaller vessels, but in war their loss is the 
more severely felt proportionately as their number is limited. 
The enemy's submarine warfare became vital the moment 
it began to attack the larger vessels on a great scale. 

Before the war this country led the way in most matters 
of shipowning and shipbuilding ; and not least in the 
building of merchant vessels of large size. Between the 
end of 1910 and the end of 1913 the average size of the 

Steam-Vessels on the Kegister of the 
U.K. on December 31st. 




Net Tons. 


Net Tons. 

Of 1,000 and under 2,000 tons net 
Of 2,000 and under 3,000 tons net 
Of 3,000 and under 5,000 tons net 
Of 5,000 tons net and above 



1,134 s 







1 In the more detailed survey of the position of the British Mercantile 
Marine before the war, the shipping of the United Kingdom, which repre- 
sented 93 per cent, of the Empire's shipping, is generally referred to, the 
reason being that detailed statistics were not always available for the 

a The reduction in the number of ships of less than 2,000 tons exactly 
corresponded with the increase in the number of vessels of and above 
3,000 tons. 


" ocean-going" steam- vessels on the register of the United 
Kingdom increased from 2,500 to 2,700 tons net, a 
significant movement. 

It is not necessary to make any detailed comparison 
between the British and other mercantile marines as 
regards the size of vessels employed. The average size of 
steam- vessels of and above 100 tons gross (or about 60 tons 
net) is a rough index to the kind of trade in which the 
vessels of the respective countries were principally 
employed ; and the average tonnage of such vessels which 
were on the Register on June 30th, 1914, is accordingly 
shown below : 

Net Tom. Net Tons, 

United Kingdom . ,350 France . . 1,100 

Germany . . . ,500 Denmark 

Italy . . . ,400 Norway 

Japan . . ,300 Russia . 

Netherlands . . ,300 Sweden 


The high average tonnage of German and Italian vessels 
indicated that their trades were almost wholly ocean, and 
indeed liner, trades. This was true also, though in a lesser 
degree, of Japan and Holland. The low average tonnage 
of Danish, Norwegian, Russian, and Swedish vessels was 
equally significant for the converse reason. This comparison, 
moreover, does less than justice to the United Kingdom, 
because British ocean-going tonnage alone was more than 
three times as large as the entire German Mercantile Marine. 

The British carrying trade before the war was divided 
between the regular lines with scheduled sailings, which 
traded on defined routes, and owners of vessels engaged 
in general trade, or " tramp " owners, whose vessels were 
often chartered to third parties, and traded wherever a 
cargo might be found. It is impossible, however, to state 
how much tonnage was allocated at a given time as between 
44 liners " and 44 tramps." The Lines ran passenger 
vessels and also cargo vessels, generally of a higher type 
and speed than ordinary tramp vessels, but there was 
always a class of vessel on the border-line between 44 liners " 
and 44 tramps " which might be of service in either capacity, 
as occasion required. The only available index of the 
importance of tramp tonnage is that afforded by the speed 
of the vessels. Particulars given in Lloyd's Register 


indicate that, of the steam tonnage owned by the 
British Empire on June 30th, 1914, 35 per cent, was 
capable of maintaining a sea speed of 12 knots or 
more ; and probably all vessels of that speed were liners. 
It may be estimated roughly that, of the total tonnage 
of the United Kingdom before the war, 60 per cent, 
consisted of tramps and 40 per cent, of liners. 

The importance of the tramp-owner in the shipping 
economy of the Empire cannot be too much emphasised. 
" Not only was he responsible for the larger part of 
our steam tonnage, but we were dependent on him for 
the import and export especially of what may be termed 
the rougher class of bulk cargoes, which are not as a rule 
suitable for liner business. It would be impossible for 
a country like the United Kingdom, with its enormous 
flow of trade, to depend wholly on regular lines with 
scheduled sailings." l It had been recognised for many 
years that it was essential that there should be a large 
amount of " loose " tonnage capable of supplementing 
the liner sailings, and prepared to trade at short notice 
to any part of the world. " Yet, precisely because of his 
ubiquitous presence, the tramp-owner's difficulties," the 
Committee on Shipping and Shipbuilding remarked, " were 
the least easily denned and met, and he was peculiarly 
susceptible to any serious modification of the conditions 
under which shipping is usually carried on." 8 

No account is taken of sailing tonnage. Its importance 
was small. The disadvantages of ships dependent on 
wind and weather had become obvious. Already the 
carrying-power of sailing-vessels of a given tonnage was 
incomparably lower than that of steam- vessels of equivalent 
tonnage ; and the error due to the omission of sailing 
tonnage from any estimate of the world's carry ing- power 
is almost negligible. In 1890 the United Kingdom 
possessed 3,000,000 tons of sailing-vessels ; by 1900 the 
amount had declined to a little over 2,000,000 tons, and 

1 Committee on Shipping and Shipbuilding, Cd. 9092. 

2 The speed of vessels of foreign countries did not, on the whole, compare 
favourably with British vessels. The proportion of Norwegian vessels 
of 12 knots and above was insignificant, but the number of Norwegian 
liners was small. Only 23 per cent, of German steam tonnage was 
capable of maintaining a sea speed of 12 knots or more, and yet the 
German trades were pre-eminently liner trades, their tramp interests 
being small. 


by 1913 to 850,000 tons. A similar, though a somewhat 
less rapid, decline, due to the supersession of sailing craft 
by steam and other self-propelled vessels, occurred in 
the case also of other countries. 

During the twenty-five years or so preceding the war 
there was an enormous expansion of the world's sea-borne 
commerce, and, consequently, of the world's tonnage, which 
trebled in volume. " In the twenty years up to the end of 
1913 there were built some 25,000,000 tons of steam 
shipping, of which two-thirds was built in the United 
Kingdom and over one-half for the British flag. The 
world's shipbuilding had increased progressively from 
some 700,000 tons net in 1894 to an average of about 
1,000,000 tons net a year in the period 1894 1903, to 
1,500,000 tons net a year in the period 1904 1913, and 
to 2,000,000 tons net in 1913 itself. Those figures 
illustrate the growing demand for shipping that followed 
the world's economic expansion before the war." l In 
that period the steam tonnage of the United Kingdom 
was more than doubled ; but, even so, its rate of increase 
was proportionately not so rapid as that of certain 
other countries notably Germany whose steam tonnage 
increased fourfold. The fact that the volume of British 
shipping did not grow at the same relative rate as that of 
some other countries was thus explained by the Committee 
on Shipping and Shipbuilding : 

" (1) It was not to be expected that the United Kingdom 
could maintain its great relative preponderance in the 
world's carrying trade in face of the enormous economic 
expansion taking place in such countries as Germany and 
the United States, and the opening up of new markets in 
all parts of the world. It is not surprising that the 
smaller mercantile marines should have expanded more 
rapidly than the powerful Mercantile Marine of the United 
Kingdom, more especially in view of the maritime efforts 
of most countries in the period. It is noteworthy that, 
if actual as opposed to relative growth be considered, no 
foreign country even approximated to the United Kingdom. 8 

1 Committee on Shipping and Shipbuilding, Cd. 9092. 

9 The growth of Germany's mercantile marine was proportionately much 
more rapid than that of the United Kingdom ; but whilst between 1900 
and June 1914 the United Kingdom added 4-3 million tons to its steam 
tonnage, Germany added only 1'75 million tons. 


44 (2) Great as was the expansion of the world's tonnage 
in the twenty-five years before the war, the expansion of 
the world's power of transportation was even greater, 
owing to the superiority, first of steam over sailing ships, 
and then of improved types of steamships over the older 
types. The carrying-power of the United Kingdom 
proportionately to the tonnage on the Register increased 
more rapidly than that of other countries. In any appre- 
ciation of the maritime position of this country before the 
war, this factor cannot be overlooked." 

The world's shipping was undergoing a continual process 
of renewal and replacement in the years preceding the 
outbreak of war. Immediately before the war, the 
average annual rate of expansion of the world's steam 
tonnage as a whole was rather less than 5 per cent, of 
the tonnage on the Register. The output of new tonnage 
amounted to rather over 7 per cent, of the tonnage on 
the Register ; and it may therefore be inferred that about 
2 per cent, of the world's shipping was every year lost or 
broken up. 

Nearly one-half of the world's shipping, as has been 
above indicated, was on the Register of the United King- 
dom. If the Mercantile Marine of the United Kingdom 
be taken by itself, it will be seen that the process of devel- 
opment in its case was widely different. In the years 
immediately before the war the steam tonnage of the 
United Kingdom increased by not more than 2j per cent, 
annually. But it is significant that some 600,000 tons 
net, or nearly 5 J per cent, of the total tonnage, was every 
year removed from the Register for one reason or another. 
Two-thirds, or 400,000 tons, was sold to foreign flags, 
the amount accounted for by vessels lost or broken up 
averaging only 150,000 tons. On the other hand, additions 
to the Register of the United Kingdom in the years 
1911-13 averaged about 863,000 tons a year, of which 
93 per cent, comprised vessels newly built. 

This transfer of large numbers of older British vessels 
to foreign flags was of great importance in connexion with 
the development of the Mercantile Marine. Our ship- 
owners were thus afforded a ready market for the disposal 
of vessels no longer satisfactory to them as a preliminary 
to the ordering of new vessels better suited to their 


purpose, and the merchant tonnage of foreign countries, 
as a whole, was older, and therefore less efficient, than the 
tonnage of the British Mercantile Marine. 

As a result of this process of sale and replacement, 
85 per cent, of the tonnage on the Register of the United 
Kingdom at the end of 1913 had been built since 1895, 
including 68 per cent, built since 1900, and 44 per cent, 
built since 1905. The following table shows the distri- 
bution of our steam tonnage according to age at the end 
of 1913 l : 

1890 and earlier 

1891 to 1895 
1896 to 1900 
1901 to 1905 
1906 to 1910 
Since 1910 

Net Tons. 



Per Cen 








In this short survey no account has been taken of 
those personal factors which, whilst an indispensable 
element of success, are the most difficult to appraise. " The 
initiative and enterprise of shipowners and shipbuilders 
were a vital element in the building up of the greatest 
carrying trade that the world has ever seen. A further 
element of success, on which it is impossible to lay too 
much stress, was the skill, efficiency, and seamanship of 
the officers and men who manned and navigated our vessels 
in peace, and who during the war have, by their courage 
and devotion, insured the maintenance of our sea-borne 
trade." 8 

A statistical basis for estimating the size and char- 
acter of the target exposed to enemy attack on the outbreak 
of war in 1914 is supplied by the calculations on p. 92. 

There is a discrepancy between these figures and the 
aggregate tonnage of the Mercantile Marine as recorded 
by the Board of Trade in its general statement of the 
strength of the Merchant Fleet. This is due to the 
exclusion from the table which follows of a large number 
of small vessels, yachts, and inland navigation vessels, 
which are all counted in the official enumeration of tonnage 

1 Statistics of the age of the merchant tonnage of other countries do not, 
on the whole, compare favourably with those for the United Kingdom. 

2 Cd. 9092. 


over 100 tons net. The smaller tonnage of sea-going 
trading- ships was the asset which the nation had at its 
disposal when the Great War occurred. Even this reduced 
figure may be analysed with profit. The Annual Naviga- 
tion Statement included, under the description of Home 
Trade, not only vessels employed in the coasting trade of 


In the Home 

Partly in the Home 
and Partly in the 
Foreign Trade. 

In the Foreign 





























the United Kingdom, but also those trading with the 
Continent of Europe between the River Elbe and Brest 
inclusive, and it failed to distinguish between the vessels 
employed in these two trades. But the tables published 
in 1913, to show the progress of merchant shipping, 1 
made this distinction, the number as on April 3rd, 
1911, being : 

Foreign Trade within Home limits 
Coasting Trade . . . ' . 

459 steamships 


The 2,024 steamships above referred to included only 
the vessels which on April 3rd, 1911, had crews on board, 
and if allowance be made for the ships which were not in 
commission on the given date, it is probable that in 1911 
there were in all about 2,200 steamships employed in these 
two trades. The number of steamships so employed 
remained practically the same in 1913, being made up of 
2,038 vessels described as employed in the Home Trade, 
and about one-third of the 326 vessels employed partly 
in the Home and partly in the Foreign Trade. 

1 Annual Statement of the Navigation and Shipping of the United 
Kingdom for the Year 1913, Cd. 7616. 
a Ibid., Cd. 7033. 

CH. i] BRITISH TRADE IN 1914 93 

The total number of steamships which on December 31st, 
1913, were engaged in Foreign Trade was therefore about 
4,500, made up as follows : 

(1) In Foreign Trade outside of Home limits : 

Solely employed . . . .3,791 steamships 

Partly employed, say . . . 209 


(2) Foreign Trade within Home Trade limits : 

say 500 steamships 


The matter may be carried a stage farther. 1 In the 
oversea trade the steamships of under 1,000 tons net 
were employed principally to trade with the Continent 
within Home Trade limits, ports on the western coast 
of France, and the Baltic ports; on ocean voyages the 
steamship of under 1,000 tons net is of little account. Of 
the 2,038 steam-vessels employed in 1913 in the Home 
Trade, only 54 were of over 1,000 tons net. Of the 326 
steam- vessels employed in 1913, partly in the Home Trade 
and partly in Foreign Trade, 177 were of over 1,000 tons 
net. And of the 3,791 vessels employed in 1913 in the 
Foreign Trade, 3,444 were of over 1,000 tons. The total 
number of steam- vessels of over 1,000 tons net belonging 
to the United Kingdom on December 31st, 1913, was 
therefore 3,675, and the nature and employment of these 
vessels was as under : 


Number. Tonnage. 

Home Trade 54 64,820 

Partly Home and partly Foreign Trade . 177 529,204 

Foreign Trade 3,444 9,443,838 

3,675 10,037,862 

The number of vessels belonging to the United Kingdom 
had not increased on the date of the outbreak of war in 
August 1914, although the aggregate of the tonnage may 
have slightly increased since December 1913. Of the 
vessels of importance in the Ocean Oversea Trade, the 
number belonging to the United Kingdom was, therefore, 

1 Report by the Secretary of the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Associa- 
tion, October 1915. 

2 The average size of these vessels was 2,731 tons net. 


on the outbreak of the war, 3,600 steam-vessels of over 
1,000 tons net, their tonnage being 10,000,000 tons net. 
Those steamships were classified under two heads first, 
the vessels trading in regular lines on fixed routes ; and, 
secondly, the general traders going wherever cargo offered. 
The liners numbered about 1,200 and the general traders 
about 2,400. The average size of the liner was 3,500 tons 
net, representing about 5,800 tons gross ; and that of the 
general trader about 2,400 tons net, or about 4,000 tons 

It would be an error to assume that before Parliament 
began to evince an interest in merchant shipping no control 
of any kind was exercised over the design and construction 
of vessels. Early in the seventeenth century Lloyd's 
Coffee-House had become the recognised headquarters of 
maritime business in London, and especially of marine 
insurance. " There, whether on the initiative of the pro- 
prietor or the frequenters, were kept certain records of 
shipping, termed ' ships' lists,' which contained an account 
of vessels which the underwriters who met at the house were 
likely to have offered to them for insurance." This coffee- 
house proved the foundation of a corporation which was to 
exercise a widespread and beneficial influence on the de- 
velopment of the industry. The Register became the guide 
to the insurer who was asked to risk his money, and ship- 
owners who wanted to insure on advantageous terms found 
it to their advantage to meet the views of the underwriters 
when placing their orders for vessels to be built. In 1760 
the underwriters established a society for their protection, 
and issued a register which came to be known as the Green 
Book. It was supported exclusively by underwriters, and 
was intended for their sole use. At the end of the eight- 
eenth century the shipowners, who had long objected to 
the classification of their vessels at the uncontrolled 
discretion of the body of underwriters, started the 
Red Book, which was virtually a shipowners' register. 
Not until 1834 were the competing interests led to 
make an arrangement under which Lloyd's Registry of 
British and Foreign Shipping was established, a committee 
being appointed, consisting of eight merchants, eight 
underwriters, and eight shipowners, with the chairman 
of Lloyd's and of the General Shipowners' Society as ex- 
officio members. The general principle of classification 

CH. I] 


on which the Registrar was to act was to assign characters 
which should be as nearly as possible " a correct indication 
of the real and intrinsic quality of the ship" ; the practice 
of classing vessels according to place of build or the 
decision of the surveyors was to be abandoned, and all 
characters were to be granted only by the Committee 
" after due inspection of the report of the surveyors and 
the documents which may be submitted to them." It 
was not until several years later that Lloyd's Register 
obtained an assured position, and was able to exercise 
a compelling influence on ship-construction. 

In the meantime, the industry was undergoing a revolu- 
tion. First, the marine steam-engine had made its appear- 
ance ; and, secondly, experiments in building ships of 
iron instead of wood gave rise to a controversy which 
divided the shipowning class into different camps, and 
interfered with the efficient discharge by the Registry 
of its responsibilities towards underwriters, merchants, 
and shipowners. Experience with the steam-engine had 
to be acquired and a new class of seamen educated. Later 
on, when the iron ship took the waters, a somewhat 
similar situation developed. During those years of tran- 
sition the control exercised by Lloyd's Register was 
subject to fluctuations, and it was only gradually that a 
volume of experience was built up, enabling the Society 
to lay down definite rules calculated to protect the interests 
of those intimately associated with the industry and to 
satisfy the natural concern of the nation at large particu- 
larly that part of it accustomed to travel by sea for 
the safety of ocean-going vessels. Lloyd's Register, in 
process of time, became the supreme arbiter in ship-con- 
struction, not only in this country, but, to a large extent, 
abroad. 1 In the first instance, the plans of vessels and 
of boilers of steamers for which the Society's classification 
is sought are sent for approval. Clearly, if a vessel is in- 

1 Lloyd's Register is the oldest Society of this description in the world. 
Next to Lloyd's Register in point of antiquity conies the Bureau Veritas, 
of Paris, founded in 1828. The Norske Veritas, of Christiania, was founded 
in 1864; the Germanischer Lloyd, of Berlin, in 1867; the Record of 
American and Foreign Shipping, of New York, in the same year ; the 
Registro Italiano, of Genoa, in 1870 ; the Veritas Austro-Ungarico, of 
Trieste, in 1858 ; and the British Corporation for the Survey and Registry 
of Shipping, with its headquarters at Glasgow, in 1890. In addition may- 
be mentioned the Liverpool Underwriters' Registry for Iron Vessels, which 
was established in 1862 and amalgamated with Lloyd's Register in 1885. 



tended for general trade, no class can be assigned unless 
she conforms to the standard of strength set up by the 
Rules as requisite for vessels intended to go anywhere and 
do anything though how that strength is attained may 
be immaterial. If, however, a vessel is intended for a 
special trade, she can receive a class for that trade, if her 
scantlings and arrangements are considered suitable, 
quite irrespective of the Rules governing the classification 
of general traders. The construction of vessels, including 
the machinery and boilers of steamers, then proceeds from 
start to finish under the Society's inspection, no steel 
being used which has not been produced at approved 
works and tested at the manufactories by the surveyors 
to Lloyd's Register. For the examination of large forgings 
to be employed in the structure of the vessels the Society 
employs specially trained and experienced men, who 
carefully inspect them while in process of manufacture, in 
order to detect defects which could not be observed in 
their finished state after delivery. Similarly, all heavy 
steel castings are carefully tested before they are accepted 
for use in a classed vessel. The surveyors see that the 
equipment of anchors and chain cables corresponds with 
the Rules, and that they have been tested in accordance 
with statutory requirements at public proving-houses, all 
of which are under the superintendence of the Committee 
of Lloyd's Register. Beyond the statutory requirements, 
all cast-steel anchors are required to undergo special tests at 
the manufactory in the presence of the Society's surveyors. 
Finally, detailed reports are sent to headquarters, where 
they are examined by the technical staff, being submitted 
to the Committee with a view to classes being assigned. 1 
In any effort to indicate the progress of the British 
Mercantile Marine since the opening of the nineteenth 
century, it is impossible to ignore the influence which 
Lloyd's Register exercised during the critical period when 
the industry was undergoing a succession of revolutions 
owing to the application of physical science to ship pro- 
pulsion, construction, and equipment. Lloyd's Register 
was the necessary counterpart to the responsibilities which 
were thrown by legislation on the Board of Trade. It 

1 " The Classification of Merchant Shipping," a paper read by Mr. H. J. 
Cornish, Chief Surveyor to Lloyd's Register, at the summer meeting 
of the Institution of Naval Architects, 1905. 


may, indeed, be said that, if it had not been for Lloyd's 
Register, Parliament would have been unable to take 
effective steps to enforce its will. During the sixty years 
preceding the outbreak of war, the Board of Trade and 
Lloyd's Register, in association with other classification 
societies and the shipowners, shaped the valuable economic 
and warlike weapon which proved an essential element 
to victory when at last the Great War opened. 



WITH the introduction, in 1853, of a system of continuous 
service for the Royal Navy, the relations between the 
fighting service and the Mercantile Marine underwent a 
radical change. Hitherto, on the first whisper of war, 
the Admiralty had exercised its constitutional right to 
impress seamen for service in the Fleet. The established 
principle was that the Navy should normally be maintained 
on a peace footing, and that it should draw additional 
men from the Mercantile Marine in order to enable the 
men-of-war in reserve to be commissioned. Impressment 
was, in fact, the last remaining link in that connection 
between the two services the developments of which 
have already been outlined. The resources of the 
country were large, and down to the close of the 
Napoleonic War not only were these islands largely inde- 
pendent of overseas supplies for the necessaries of life, 
but means of inland transport were so defective that 
counties were in large measure self-contained economic 
units. The population of the country, in short, could exist 
in some measure of comfort even though ocean . com- 
munications were arrested and the cumbersome means of 
conveying goods on land restricted. The naval authori- 
ties were able to exercise their power of impressment with- 
out serious injury to national interests. The Mercantile 
Marine was not at that time the loom of a great and essential 
world commerce, interference with which would mean 
starvation for the people of the British Isles and a complete 
dislocation of British industry. On the contrary, sea- 
borne commerce at the time of the last Great War, which 
closed at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was 
desirable because it was the foundation of the country's 


internal commerce ; but the British industrial machine 
could exist for a long period in spite of the laying up of 
large numbers of merchant ships. The naval authorities, 
from the earliest times down to the peace of 1815, con- 
tinued, without injury to vital interests, to regard the 
Merchant Service as a reservoir upon which almost un- 
limited drafts could be made for men. 

But from the period of the French Revolution onward 
the custom of impressing men of the Merchant Service for 
the Royal Navy became increasingly unpopular. For 
some years prior to the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, 
a strong feeling existed in the country against the Royal 
Prerogative, and no sooner was the Reform Act in operation 
than expression was given to that feeling. Many Members 
were returned to the new Parliament pledged to do all in 
their power to procure the abolition of the press-gang, 
and the adoption of a system of recruiting for the Navy 
less at variance, it was claimed, with the spirit of the British 
Constitution. A Bill dealing with the Merchant Service 
was accordingly introduced into Parliament, in 1834, by 
the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir James Graham. It 
was drawn up with a view to increasing the number of 
merchant seamen by improving their position, and to 
providing a system of registration which would secure the 
services of maritime persons generally in the event of an 
emergency. Their identity was to be established by 
means of a register ticket, " in conformity with an opinion 
expressed by Lord Nelson in a letter to Lord St. Vincent 
in 1803, that that system of registration was of great effect, 
and, in his opinion, indispensable." 1 The Bill as first 
drafted was not proceeded with ; but in 1835, the Merchant 
Seamen's Act, 5 & 6 Will. IV, cap. 19, was passed, contain- 
ing the provisions of the original measure, except that a 
register of the names of seamen was substituted for the 
personal register at first contemplated. The alteration 
was made after much deliberation ; it being finally con- 
sidered advisable not to attempt too much in that 
direction in the first instance. The full title was " An 
Act to amend and consolidate the Laws relating to 
the Merchant Seamen of the United Kingdom, and for 
forming and maintaining a Register of all the Men engaged 
in that Service." 

1 Evidence of Sir J. Graham before Manning Commission in 1858, p. 52. 


In the same session was passed " An Act for the en- 
couragement of voluntary enlistment of seamen, and to 
make regulations for the more effectual manning of His 
Majesty's Navy" (5 & 6 Will. IV, cap. 24). The 
Act reaffirmed the mediaeval principle of compulsion by 
giving a " statutory sanction to the power of the King 
to call for the services of seafaring men in the event of an 
emergency." The policy of the Government, as enunciated 
by Sir James Graham, was to maintain the prerogative of 
impressment, but " to take every measure which might 
render the use of the power of impressment even in 
time of war an exception to the rule, based only upon 
urgent necessity." Provision was made for exemp- 
ting from further impressment men who had once been 
pressed, and had served at sea for a period of five years. 
This Act was a measure of expediency and compromise, 
and the Government, doubtless, were justified for a time 
in feeling their way; but, seeing that the system of 
impressment was so widely condemned, a grave responsi- 
bility was incurred by those in authority in allowing a 
quarter of a century to elapse before another recognised 
system of providing seamen at short notice was substituted. 
Happily, no national emergency arose during the period ; 
and, ultimately, the system of registry, with the necessary 
machinery, initiated by Sir James Graham's Act, resulted 
in bringing the sailor under official control, and afforded 
a means of securing his service when occasion required. 

This legislation marked the beginning of the end of the 
system of impressment, but an old custom was slow to die. 
Senior officers of the Navy who had served throughout 
the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars were unwilling 
to agree to any weakening of the power of the Admiralty 
to make whatever claims it deemed fit upon the Merchant 
Service in time of war ; and, in point of fact, the right of 
the Crown to call upon seamen to serve the State was 
never abandoned. What happened was that the intro- 
duction on February 14th, 1853, of a system of continuous 
service for seamen in the Navy representing the last word 
in that process of specialisation which, as we have seen, 
dated from the reign of Henry VIII gradually provided 
the fighting arm of the country with a well-trained 
personnel. Prior to this event, it had become apparent 
that the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy were de- 


veloping on different lines. The fighting service was 
responding to new demands arising from the application 
of physical science to naval warfare, while the Merchant 
Service was also undergoing a change in character. The 
growth of international commerce was leading to the 
foundation of great shipping companies, making regular 
sailings over prescribed routes at definite times, and it was 
dawning on the authorities that even in war the mainten- 
ance of these communications would be essential. Owing 
to the rapid industrialism of England and the conse- 
quent depression of agriculture, the population was 
becoming increasingly dependent on overseas supplies. 
In short, the former haphazard manner of manning the 
fighting service was unsuited to conditions at sea, which 
required that men of the Fleet should be carefully trained 
over a long period of years, in order to enable them to 
handle the increasingly complicated weapons of warfare 
which were being introduced, while the country was 
becoming so dependent on oversea supplies that the 
possibility of laying up any portion of the Merchant Navy 
in order to complete the manning of the Royal Navy 
suggested peril. 

Before the introduction of long service in the Navy, 
attention had been directed to the deterioration of the 
personnel of the Merchant Fleet, and no doubt those 
revelations were not without their influence upon the 
course eventually taken by the Admiralty in providing 
the Royal Navy with a body of specially trained men who 
engaged to serve continuously, with the prospect of pension. 
Reference has already been made l to the circulars issued 
from the Foreign Office in 1843 to British Consuls abroad 
as to the manning of the Merchant Fleet. In order to 
obtain a correct view of the progress of the Merchant 
Service between the close of the last Great War and the 
opening of hostilities in 1914, it may, perhaps, be of 
interest to quote from some of the reports sent to the 
Foreign Office, which had their influence on the develop- 
ment of the two Services : 

" Our merchant seamen are picked up as they may be 
found. On discharge no writing of character is given ; on 
re -engagement, of course, no such certificate can be 

&fe p. 77. 


required. How can the good or bad character of a man 
be known ? Certificates may be false, incomplete, not 
well drawn up ; but they have been useful in the Navy, 
and they might, I imagine, be tried in the Merchant 
Service. . . . Competition and low wages, in the maddest 
excess, are the order of the day, and, of course, vessels are 
worse manned and navigated than formerly." Gothen- 

" Another very material point to which more attention 
should be given is the, more frequent than otherwise, 
lamentable condition of apprentices in these small traders, 
many of them probably more neglected and ill-used than 
a West Indian slave formerly, the interest of the owner 
of the latter being more at stake. These forlorn objects 
(here again we must not forget exceptions) often seek 
relief from their Consul without his being able to afford 
it ; for unless some glaring act of brutality is observable, 
the unhappy sufferer is sure to be in the wrong, and the 
treatment he receives is merely ' deserved wholesome 
correction ! ' which power is certainly desirable for 
masters to possess. No wonder such apprentices produce 
seamen disposed to all sorts of irregularities, and sometimes 
captains a very few degrees better. Boys ought not to be 
bound without first having been at school, to learn at 
least right from wrong, and the rudiments of education 
fitted for their station. When out of service they should 
be compelled to attend school, and by having their am- 
bition awakened, they would thus be prepared for obtaining 
the petty officer's or mate's certificate. I know the Marine 
Society, Bishopsgate Street ; such establishments, as to 
principle, should exist in every port in Britain." 

" The conduct of British shipmasters and seamen in this 
port, in general, is very disorderly, specially those belonging 
to vessels proceeding from the northern ports Sunder- 
land, Newcastle, Shields, etc. It arises principally from 
the rough and uneducated character of both masters and 
men ; their great tendency of intoxication ; the facility 
of obtaining wine and spirits in this port ; and the little 
restraint held over them by the local authorities or power 
of the Consulate, in case of misbehaviour, to exercise 
control over them. 

" During the outward voyage both masters and men 


become irritated against each other in consequence of 
harsh and violent conduct shown on one side, and dis- 
content, ill-humour, and insubordination, on the other. 
Their mutual animosities are, however, in general, sup- 
pressed, and kept within certain bounds by necessity 
during the time they are at sea. On their arrival in port 
their first thought (too generally, of masters as well as 
men) seems to be to get drunk. All their animosities then 
break out with redoubled violence, and quarrelling, 
fighting, and other disgraceful scenes ensue, which bring 
discredit upon their country, equally with themselves. . . . 

" Motives of economy are, amongst some, a source of 
disturbance. On arriving in British ports many masters 
discharge almost all their crew, in order not to be at the 
charge of maintaining and paying them while they are 
in port. They do not fill up their complements until 
they are just on the point of sailing again on their outward 
voyage ; they are then obliged to take the first persons 
they can find, who frequently prove not to be seamen, or 
very inefficient men, and often turn out to be very bad 
characters, and cause a great deal of trouble." Con- 

" In point of intelligence, address, and conduct, they 
British masters are the inferior to the American ship- 
masters, and, in consequence of their intemperance when 
in port, great dissatisfaction is expressed by their crews. 
What their knowledge of c practical navigation and 
seamanship ' may be, I am not competent to say, having 
always preferred, when visiting England, taking a passage 
in an American vessel ; but I have observed that desertions 
very seldom occur, or only to a limited extent, from vessels 
commanded by superior men, while less efficient masters 
not infrequently lose their entire crews. 

" I have in a former year ascertained the amount dis- 
bursed by every British and every American vessel fre- 
quenting this port, and the expenditure of the British 
was from 30 to 50 per cent, greater than the American. 
The British master seldom receives more than 10 per 
month whilst afloat, and consequently prefers a long to 
a short voyage. The wages of an American master, with 
his perquisites, are nearly treble that amount ; he has, 
therefore, no inducement to dishonesty to support himself. 
The British masters, I have been credibly informed, run 


up longer bills with the different tradesmen, and after 
payment of them, and a receipt in full taken, many articles 
are sent back, and the cost of them, as charged in the bill, 
refunded to the master ; the inference is, that the owners 
of the vessels never receive credit for the articles so re- 
turned . ' ' Savann ah . 

" There does not appear to be the same encouragement 
extended to British masters as there is to American. The 
average wages per month (in this trade) paid to the former 
is 8 105., together with the average of his proportion of 
the cabin freight, 2, is equal to say 10 10s. per month ; 
while to the latter, including all his perquisites, say 20 
per month. It is very usual for the American master to 
have an interest of an one-eighth to one-fourth in the 
vessel under his command, and owners of vessels, being 
so convinced that it is to their advantage that the master 
should be so interested, frequently give them a share on 
credit. As a proof that the character of British shipping 
has declined, I would instance the fact, that almost in- 
variably, American ships not only obtain a decided prefer- 
ence over British ships, but generally a higher rate of 
freight." Norfolk, Virginia. 

" If I were to mention the names of those persons whom 
I deem unfitted for command, I fear I should include 
the whole of the remaining traders to this port. With the 
former exceptions (mentioned earlier in the report), I do 
not think that a British vessel arrives at Pernambuco with- 
out some complaint being made to me from the men, of 
brutality, starvation, insulting language, overwork, or 
want of sufficient hands. In nine cases out of ten, I am 
obliged to decide in favour of the men ; and what is the 
consequence ? Why, that armed with no specific powers, 
the master laughs at the decision which he himself has 
oftentimes invoked ; even here, where the Commercial 
Treaty makes Her Majesty's Consuls arbitrators in the 
disputes of their countrymen, no powers of enforcing them 
are conferred." Pernambuco. 

Mr. James Murray, in a memorandum dated Novem- 
ber 22nd, 1847, declared that " the condition of British 
Shipping, according to evidence from the ports of foreign 
States, may not unjustly be termed discreditable to 
this country. No sufficient efforts appear to have been 


made in Great Britain to remedy the existing evils ; 
while pains have been taken by foreign Governments, and 
with success, to improve the condition of their Mercantile 

We may turn from the evils so fully illustrated in 
these reports, and so clearly emphasised in Mr. James 
Murray's memorandum, based upon them, to the related 
question of the ineffective control by the State of the 
manning of the Mercantile Marine. Beyond the muster 
rolls required since 1747, by the Seamen's Relief Act 
(20th of Geo. II, cap. 38) and subsequent Statutes, to 
be kept on board merchant ships, and the duplicates to 
be rendered to the collectors of Customs, in connection 
with the Merchant Seamen's Fund, 1 no records of the 
crews of British vessels were in existence ; and apparently 
no statistical use was made of the accounts so rendered. 
The only published figures in connection with the Merchant 
Service were contained in the Parliamentary Return, 
prepared by the Registrar-General of Seamen, subse- 
quently of Shipping and Seamen, who was for many 
years an officer of the Admiralty, and afterwards of the 
Board of Trade, showing the number of vessels, with the 
amount of their tonnage, and the aggregate number of 
men and boys usually employed in navigating them, 
that belonged to the several ports of the British 
Empire on December 31st in each year. The Admiralty 
had thus but a vague knowledge of the source from which 
the Navy was partly manned in time of peace, and from 
which it would be recruited in time of war. In short, 
the constitution of the Mercantile Marine was a matter 
of surmise and assumption, offering no basis for a scheme 
by which the supply of seamen could be increased. 

1 This was a fund established with a view to granting pensions to seamen. 
All seamen were compelled to contribute to it. After a long period of 
mismanagement it became insolvent. By an Act introduced by Mr. 
Labouchere in 1851, the Government undertook to remove the great 
grievance to seamen by winding up the fund at the cost of the country. 
The principle adopted was to take all existing assets ; to pay all existing 
pensions or claims to pension ; and to allow existing contributors to 
continue their contributions with the prospect of a pension. The amount 
of future pensions was determined by taking the average of then existing 
pensions, which, besides being frequently withheld from want of funds, 
differed in amount at the different ports. The difference between assets 
and liabilities was paid out of the Public Exchequer. The winding up 
ctett thte State aboiit 1,500,(M). 


In those circumstances the nominal register of the 
seamen belonging to the United Kingdom, provided by 
Sir James Graham's Act though, of course, it could be of 
no direct service in manning the Navy was calculated to 
be of value statistically. The Act came into operation 
on July 31st, 1835 ; and, under it, masters of British ships 
were required to deposit with the Officers of Customs at 
the several ports of the United Kingdom returns of the 
names and description of their crews at the commencement 
and termination of voyages, in the case of foreign-going 
vessels ; and half-yearly, in the case of Home Trade and 
fishing vessels. For the due supervision, scrutiny, and 
custody of these documents, sect, xix provided for the 
establishment of " The General Register Office of Merchant 
Seamen," under the control of the Admiralty. From the 
lists of crews forwarded to that office, the name of each 
seaman was entered alphabetically into a general register, 
with his age, place of birth, previous ship and latest voyage ; 
a separate book was kept for apprentices. Besides afford- 
ing the Admiralty useful and necessary information 
respecting the numbers, ages, ratings, and whereabouts 
of merchant seamen, this register proved itself of import- 
ance in bringing to light the fact that the law respecting 
the compulsory employment of apprentices was largely 
ignored. 1 It was found that only some 5,000 apprentices 
were registered, although the number to be maintained, 
according to the tonnage scale, was nearly 14,000. By 
the establishment of an office to insure that the laws for 
the Increase and Encouragement of Seamen were duly 
carried out, a material change was effected ; in seven 
years from the coming into operation of Sir James Graham's 
Act, more than 40,000 apprentices were registered, being 
at the rate of over 5,000 per annum. 

The legislation of 1835 was generally understood to be 
an instalment only. The Merchant Seamen's Act was 
useful, since under its operation there was a continual 
influx of young blood into the Service, but it did nothing 
directly towards obviating the necessity for impressment. 
In reply to awkward questions in Parliament as to what 
was to come of the registration, it was officially stated 
that " so many more thousand apprentices " served for 
a time ; but, in view of promises given, uneasiness presently 

i 4 Geo. IV, cfop. 19. 


prevailed at the Admiralty lest the necessity for issuing 
Press Warrants should arise before milder and wiser methods 
had been tried. 

The Registrar-General of Seamen was, in consequence, 
called upon by the Admiralty, in October 1838, to state 
whether he was " prepared to recommend any measure 
to insure the power of procuring a certain number of 
men for filling up the ships at short notice." Captain 
Brown, R.N., the Registrar-General, at once submitted 
his views, setting forth, as the result of his experience, 
two remedies for forcible impressment : 

41 (1) A general personal registry of all mariners of every 
degree, taking minute individual description of each as 
to age, capacity, etc., and after rejecting the aged and 
incapable from the list, to draught or ballot a certain 
number at fixed periods ; the names of men so drawn to 
be exhibited at every Custom House, with notice to come 
forward, under certain penalties for refusal or neglect, 
when called on by Proclamation. 

" (2) To form a reserve of men either in one, two or 
three classes, which may be distinguished as the ' Naval 
Reserve.' " 

He pointed out, however, many serious objections to 
the first plan, and warmly advocated the adoption of the 

The matter remained in abeyance till 1842, 1 when, in 
connection with the Merchant Seamen's Fund, the question 
of establishing a test of identity for each British seaman 
was considered by a Parliamentary Committee appointed 
to inquire into the working of that Fund. It was at 
length resolved to amend the Merchant Seamen's Act, and 
to inaugurate a new system of registry, with a twofold 
object: first, to benefit seamen by affording them a ready 
means of establishing their claims for relief or support 
from the Merchant Seamen's Fund ; and, secondly, to 
provide for the abstraction of classes of seamen from the 
general body, without resorting to indiscriminate impress- 
ment. A measure was accordingly prepared, which passed 
into law on September 5th, 1844, entitled, "An Act to 

1 This was the year in which the Foreign Office, at the request of the 
Admiralty, called for reports as to the manning of the Mercantile Marine. 


amend and consolidate the Laws relating to Merchant 
Seamen, and for keeping a Register of Seamen" (7 & 8 
Viet., cap. 112). The Act provided for the adoption of the 
register ticket, and Sir James Graham declared in the 
House of Commons, when the Bill was read a third time, 
that this provision formed part of his original intention. 
Under the new law, no person, except a master or surgeon, 
being a British subject, was to serve on board ship without 
a ticket bearing his name and description. This ticket 
each seaman was required to deposit with the master of 
the vessel in which he engaged when signing articles, and 
the master was required to return it to the seaman at the 
expiration of his agreement. 

The Registrar-General of Seamen was deputed to carry 
the measure into effect, and it fell to the Officers of Customs 
at the several ports to issue the tickets. Each ticket was 
distinguished by a number from " 1 " upwards, and bore 
the stamp of the " General Register and Record Office 
of Seamen" the words "and Record" having been 
added to the title by the new Act. 1 A numerical register 
was opened in that Office in which were recorded the 
particulars of the men to whom the register tickets were 
issued, and their subsequent movements were duly entered 
thereon, from the crew lists furnished as heretofore, with 
the addition of each man's especial number. To quote 
from a report by Captain Brown, dated November 24th, 
1847, " the measure as carried into effect became popular 
with the seamen, who adopted the opinion that the ticket, 
being issued to British subjects only, would prevent 
foreigners from usurping their berths." At this time, and 
until 1853, no foreigners were allowed to serve in coasting 
vessels, and not more than 25 per cent, of the crew in foreign- 
going vessels. It also appears from the report that the 
measure was generally popular with the shipowners, " be- 
cause they considered that the deposit of the ticket with the 
masters of vessels during the terms of a seaman's service 
gave them a lien upon him which would prevent desertion." 
Disappointment ensued, however, when it was found that 

1 A further addition to the title of the Office was made in 1872. Under 
the Merchant Shipping Act of that year, there was a transfer of 
registry work from the Customs, and the Registrar-General of Seamen 
became the Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen. The office then 
assumed its present title of the " General Register and Record Office of 
Shipping and Seamen." 


the machinery of the Register Office was not "to be 
brought to bear upon deserters to procure their conviction 
and punishment." 

However good the system was on paper, it broke down in 
practice ; mainly because there was no direct inducement 
for the men to take care of the tickets. The Merchant 
Seamen's Fund offered none, as it turned out. For some 
time in an insolvent state, owing to gross mismanagement, 
it was practically abolished, so far as nine-tenths of the 
Service was concerned, by the Winding-up Act of 1851. 
The majority of seamen had long looked upon the Fund 
with suspicion and disgust : money was stopped from 
their wages, and they understood not where the money 
went. Thus, having no palpable interest in safeguarding 
their identity, it is not surprising that the seamen resorted 
to an illegal traffic in tickets, in spite of cautions and 
penalties. With the strength of the Mercantile Marine 
then ranging from 160,000 to 170,000 British seamen 
(exclusive of masters), the issue of over half a million 
tickets in the course of six years pointed to the prevalence 
of abuses. Indeed, it was stated in evidence before the 
Lords Committee sitting in 1848 to inquire into the Navi- 
gation Laws " that in the Jews' shops at Shadwell, and 
in similar places at Bristol, sailors could purchase as many 
register tickets as they wanted, and for half the amount 
of the fine that would be asked of them if they went to the 
Custom House." 

The repeal in 1853 of the Manning clauses of the old 
Navigation Laws, which excluded foreigners from serving 
in coasting vessels and limited the number to be employed 
in foreign-going vessels, made it no longer necessary to 
prove nationality at time of engagement, and so did away 
with what little value the ticket still possessed for a British 
seaman. In the circumstances, there was but one 
thing to be done. The functions and powers vested in the 
Admiralty under the Merchant Seamen's Act and the 
amending Act of 1844 x had been transferred to the Board 
of Trade by the Mercantile Marine Act of 1850 (13 & 14 
Viet., cap. 93), with full powers to alter or dispense with 
the register-ticket system. Acting on these powers, the 
Board of Trade formally abolished the system by notice 
in the London Gazette of September 30th, 1853. 

1 Acts 5 & 6 Will. IV, cap. 19, and 7 & 8 Viet., cap. 112. 


But the story of the ticket system was not thereby closed. 
It was originally framed with a view to restricted impress- 
ment (i.e., to calling out merchant seamen of certain ages for 
service in His Majesty's ships at short notice), and it was not 
till 1853 that an Act was passed empowering the Crown to 
call out seamen in classes, according to age, described in 
" their register tickets, or otherwise." There was a virtue in 
the " otherwise," seeing that register tickets were then no 
more. In the absence of the register ticket, resort was 
had to the certificate of discharge given to every seaman 
at the end of a voyage. It is more than doubtful whether 
the provisions of the Act in question, 16 & 17 Viet., cap. 69, 
could ever have been enforced by means of this test of 
identity ; fortunately, like those of the earlier Proclamation 
Act, 5 & 6 Will. IV, cap. 24, they were allowed to remain 

Although proved to be unworkable as applied to the 
whole Mercantile Marine, the system of individual regis- 
tration was not entirely discarded, but for " Fund " 
purposes was continued in operation as regards some 
12,000 men, to whom special tickets were issued under 
the Winding-up Act, 14 & 15 Viet., cap. 102, and for over 
fifty years it has been worked with success in connection 
with the Royal Naval Reserve. The certificate R V 2, 
issued to each member of that force, corresponds to the old 
register ticket, with the difference that, whereas the 
majority of men had little or no interest in looking after 
the latter, the former is as important to a Naval Reserve 
man as a Savings Bank Book, guaranteeing to him so 
much money for so much drill performed. 1 

After 1853, however, no attempt was made to revive 
the maintenance of an individual or even nominal register 
of seamen, except as regards certificated officers, appren- 
tices, and Naval Reserve men. The general body of seamen 
were dealt with in the Seamen's Registry Office, as mere 
numbers ; they were noted in the registers of ships and 
their voyages, kept since 1857, and were periodically set 

1 A central indexed register of seamen employed in foreign-going vessels 
was started in October 1913, in the General Register and Record Office of 
Shipping and Seamen, and was found of great use. An Order in Council, 
dated August 2nd, 1918, provided that "the Shipping Controller, in 
conjunction with the Board of Trade, may make orders relative to the 
holding of a certificate of identity and service by every master, sea- 
man, or apprentice employed on a British ship, and in relation to 
kindred matters." 


forth in the Shipping and Navigation Returns under the 
head of " Persons Employed." In addition, the crew lists 
containing their signatures and descriptions were filed and 
were available for reference. 1 

The breakdown of the personal test system led to the 
consideration of Captain Brown's second plan for procuring 
men for the Navy at short notice viz., the formation and 
maintenance of a voluntary Naval Reserve. In fact, 
money was voted in the Navy Estimates of 1852-3 for 
experimenting with the scheme to the extent of 5,000 
men, but owing to a change of Government nothing was 
done. The Admiralty, however, were soon to experience 
the truth of Captain Brown's dictum that " the means 
of augmenting our naval force cannot be extemporised, 
but must be preorganised." According to the evidence 
of Rear- Admiral Milne and Sir James Graham before the 
Commissioners for manning the Navy, in 1858, immense 
difficulty was experienced in 1854 in fitting out the Baltic 
and Black Sea Fleets. The operation was slow in the 
extreme ; small vessels had to be recalled from foreign 
stations, and their crews transferred as a nucleus to the 
larger ships. Most of the men sent out to the Baltic Fleet 
were " very young, and without experience " landsmen, 
in fact. Well might Admiral Sir Charles Napier complain 
of the delay in getting his complement of men, and of the 
quality of those he did get. It was just the time when a 
reserve of seamen would have been invaluable had there 
been one. Sailors were urgently needed, and yet the 
situation was not sufficiently serious to warrant the issue 
of a proclamation, with all the inconveniences attending 
bounties and embargoes. 2 Even as it was, there was such 
a demand for seamen that wages increased nearly 40 per 
cent. With shipowners outbidding the Government, as 

1 The preparation of the statistics referred to in this paragraph calls 
for a few remarks. The first reliable figures were compiled in 1700, when 
the Registrars of Shipping in England were required to send in lists of the 
vessels on their registers, with the numbers of men usually required to 
man them. Registrars in Scotland and Ireland were brought into line 
later on. After a long period it was recognised that many vessels on the 
register were either laid up, employed inland, or out of existence, so since 
1848, only those vessels employed at some time during the year in the 
Home or Foreign Trade or in Fishing have been included in the Annual 
Statistics. A more detailed analysis of ships and crews has been made 
in the quinquennial Census returns compiled since 1891. 

1 Cf. Sir James Graham's evidence before Manning Commission in 1858, 
p. 63. 

CH. i] THE ACT OF 1859 HI 

they would have done, wages must have gone up to a 
ruinous rate. The lesson then taught the authorities was 
not forgotten, and resulted in the appointment of a Royal 
Commission in 1858 to inquire into the best means of 
manning the Navy. The Commission, presided over by 
Lord Hardwicke, favoured Captain Brown's scheme of a 
voluntary Naval Reserve. They proposed in their Report 
the substitution " of a system of defence, voluntary and 
effective, for untrained compulsory service." They were 
of opinion that from the Merchant Service could be formed 
a force of " thorough seamen, trained in gunnery, and 
qualified for immediate service on board a ship of war." 
An Act was accordingly passed in August 1859 
(22 & 23 Viet., cap. 40) giving the Admiralty power to 
raise " Royal Naval Volunteers, not to exceed 30,000 
men." The machinery for the establishment of the Force 
was ready to hand in the General Register and Record 
Office of Seamen and the various shipping offices in the 
United Kingdom. Under the Mercantile Marine Act 
of 1850, which placed the management of matters relating 
to the British Mercantile Marine under the Board of Trade, 
Shipping Masters since described as Superintendents of 
the Mercantile Marine Offices had recently been appointed 
to superintend the registry, engagement, and discharge 
of seamen, etc., and their status and duties were further 
defined by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854. These 
officers were necessarily in close touch with the seamen, 
and, acting under the direction of the Registrar- General 
of Seamen, were the best possible agents for procuring 
volunteers. It is interesting to note that as the first 
suggestion in modern times to raise an effective Naval 
Reserve originated in 1852 with Captain Brown, the original 
holder of the appointment of Registrar- General of Seamen, 
so when the scheme was adopted it was found that in that 
office, with its records and administrative machinery 
throughout the country, lay the hopes of success. Suc- 
ceeding Registrars- General notably Mr. J. J. Mayo, Mr. 
H. N. Malan, Mr. John Clark-Hall, and Mr. C. H. Jones- 
working in conjunction with the various Admirals Super- 
intendent of Naval Reserves (after 1903 Admirals Com- 
manding Coast Guard and Naval Reserves), succeeded in 
organising out of the personnel of the Mercantile Marine 
and the fishing industry a large, dependable, and readily 


available reserve force for the Royal Navy. Certain alter- 
native proposals were brought forward or given a trial, 
and the Royal Naval Coast Volunteers, established in 
1853, continued in existence for twenty years ; but 
experience at last confirmed the wisdom of obtaining a 
sea-going force, thus giving effect to suggestions made 
by leading naval officers of the war period, including 
Nelson, who on several occasions urged on the naval 
authorities the advisability of fostering the Merchant 
Navy as the source of a supply of handy and experienced 
seamen for men-of-war in a time of sudden emergency. 

The history of the Royal Naval Reserve has been a 
chequered one. Officers of the Naval Service who sat on 
the Board of Admiralty were apparently impressed increas- 
ingly, in process of time, by the wide divergence between 
the needs of the Royal Navy and those of the Merchant 
Service, as the former responded to the impulse of invention 
and developed a demand for men of special training for 
signalling, gunnery, torpedo work, and other duties. At 
first the Royal Naval Reserve consisted only of lower-deck 
ratings, and there was considerable opposition to the 
proposal that officers of the Mercantile Marine should be 
included in the Force, but an Act was passed in 1861 provid- 
ing for their appointment. It was repealed and fresh pro- 
visions were made by the Act of 1863 (26 & 27 Viet., cap. 69). 
Captain H. J. Challis, R.N., in his evidence before a General 
Committee of the Admiralty and Board of Trade in 1869, 
stated that he " objected altogether to the principle that 
officers of the Mercantile Marine be employed in the Naval 
Reserve," adding that he considered that there was 
" sufficiency of naval officers who are well fitted for the 
work." Captain Challis evidently reflected the general view 
of the Navy at the time. 1 For many years the training of the 
Force was neglected ; officers and men were relegated 
to shore batteries provided only with muzzle-loading guns 
after the breech-loader had been adopted for service at sea. 
Generally the Service suffered from unintelligent dis- 
couragement. " In January 1889 . . . there was not 
(except on board the District Coastguard ships) a single 
breech-loading or machine-gun used in the instruction of 
the Reserve, but early in 1891 we find that fourteen 5-inch 

J Even in 1879 Admiral Sir Augustus Phillimore urged that com- 
missions " should be confined to a very limited number." 


breech-loading guns, one 6-inch breech-loading gun, one 
Galling, one Gardner, and sixty-seven Nordenfeldt machine- 
guns were so employed. Since then a certain number of 
quick-firing guns have been supplied, and, doubtless, 
something more has been effected in the direction of 
increasing the modern armament, although much remains 
to be done." x In spite, however, of inadequate official 
recognition, the Force continued to expand from year to 
year; Commander W. R Caborne, C.B., R.N.R., and others, 
continually kept the subject before the public, and slowly 
the conditions of service were improved. At the begin- 
ning of the century the Force reached its maximum 
strength of ratings, 29,538 (1904). A few years previously 
the Admiralty had decided on establishing a reserve force 
of its own, to be known as the Royal Fleet Reserve. It 
consisted of men of good character who had served for a 
term in the Fleet, and who, in return for a retainer, agreed 
to keep themselves efficient for service afloat. Even so 
enthusiastic a supporter of the Royal Naval Reserve as 
Commander Caborne approved this step, though it threat- 
ened the force hitherto recognised. He admitted that 
" it is obvious, from what has gone before, that the Royal 
Fleet Reserve, consisting as it does of men who have seen 
long, or at any rate considerable, service in the Royal 
Navy and have been thoroughly trained in their respective 
duties trained far better than any other auxiliary naval 
body can be in time of peace must of necessity, so far 
as ratings are concerned, be our first and principal stand-by 
in time of war for service in the Fleet." 

No doubt this was the view taken by the Admiralty, 
for in consequence of the success attending the formation 
of the Royal Fleet Reserve, and also looking at the fact 
that the numbers in the Royal Naval Reserve had reached 
probable requirements, recruiting for the latter body was 
suspended from December 1904 until October 1906. 
The formation of the Royal Fleet Reserve was part of a 
wide-sweeping movement for assuring a supply of well- 
trained seamen for the Fleet, and the training of the Naval 
Reserve was x reconsidered. In his " Statement of 
Admiralty Policy " in 1905, the First Lord (Earl Cawdor) 
remarked : 

1 Lecture on the Royal Naval Reserve, by Commander W. F. Caborne, 
R.N.R., May 10th, 1895. 


i4 The arrangements for the drill and training of men 
of the Royal Naval Reserve have been recently reviewed 
in order to improve the efficiency of this branch of the 
Reserves, and also to reduce its cost. Hitherto, Royal 
Naval Reserve men have been drilled on board the harbour 
drill-ships and batteries established round the coasts of 
the United Kingdom, and a certain number have undergone 
a period of naval training on board the sea-going drill- 
ships, or in ships of the Channel Fleet. This system is, 
however, no longer well adapted to the requirements of 
the Service, inasmuch as the greater part of the drill has 
been devoted to gunnery, a class of duty which is very 
unlikely to devolve upon Royal Naval Reserve men in 
war, and as (except, perhaps, the limited number of men 
who embark for nine months of naval training) they do 
not acquire and maintain sufficient knowledge of the 
general routine of a man-of-war. The establishment of 
the divisions of ships in commission in reserve has now 
given an opportunity for affording the Royal Naval 
Reserve the training in which they have hitherto been 
wanting. These ships have only a portion of their crews 
on board, and can therefore accommodate a considerable 
number of Reserve men, with advantage both to themselves 
and their crews. Although the ships only go to sea for 
cruises once a quarter, the general routine is much the 
same as when they are fully commissioned for sea service ; 
and since they will change frequently, the Reserve men 
will have more facilities for becoming familiar with the 
internal economy of a modern man-of-war. It has ac- 
cordingly been decided that from April 1st next, all drill 
at batteries and in harbour drill-ships shall cease, and 
the establishments will be closed, except in a few cases, 
where the present system will be continued a little longer. 
These exceptions are the drill-ships in London, Aberdeen, 
Bristol, and Liverpool, and the Royal Naval Reserve 
batteries at Penzance, Yarmouth, Wick, Stornoway, 
Lerwick, Greenock, Upper Cove, and Rosslare. Under 
this new system of training, the men will be expected to 
embark in the first year for three months, and thereafter 
for one month every alternate year." 

The regulations for carrying into effect the foregoing 
policy were issued on March 29th, 1906 ; on March 31st 


five harbour drill-ships and five torpedo gunboats were 
paid off, and twenty-five Royal Naval Reserve batteries 
closed ; and on April 1st, 1906, the new system of training 
came into force. Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve 
were given the option of drilling at the remaining drill- 
stations under the old system for five years from April 1st, 
1906, but on promotion they were required to embrace 
the new system. Royal Naval Reserve men serving in 
the Force on April 1st, 1906, were given the option of 
carrying out their drills at the remaining harbour-ships 
or shore batteries during their current period of enrolment 
or of adopting the new system, but upon re-enrolment 
they were required to fall in with the new system. The re- 
maining harbour drill-ships and Royal Naval Reserve bat- 
teries were finally paid off and closed on March 31st, 1911. 

The effect of the formation of the Royal Fleet Reserve 
and the change in the system of training Naval Reservists 
reacted on the strength of the 'latter force, which, if it 
gained in efficiency, lost in numbers, since under the new 
system it was less convenient for merchant seamen to put 
in their training than was the case when they could go to 
a local battery and qualify. Experience confirmed the 
Admiralty in its opinion of the new scheme, and in 1910 
the First Lord (Mr. Reginald McKenna) announced that 
" the training in the ships of the Home Fleet under the new 
system is very valuable, and will render the Royal Naval 
Reserve Force an efficient portion of the naval personnel," 
as time was to show. In 19 10 a trawler section of the Royal 
Naval Reserve was formed, consisting of skippers, second 
hands, deck hands, and engine-room hands of trawlers. 

The policy of the British Government, which has been 
traced in brief summary, was developed, in some confusion, 
on the following lines : 

(1) To develop the Merchant Service by means of the 
Navigation Laws, which were repealed when it was decided 
that they were injurious. 

(2) To ascertain the number of ships and men belonging 
to the Empire by means of the laws for registering ships. 

(3) To establish suitable Reserves. 

As to the third point, the chief object was to replace 
untrained merchant seamen by " gunners with sea-legs," 


which led to the formation in 1872 of the old Second-Class 
Reserve, recruited chiefly from the fishing industry. 

Here we reach the final stage in the secular relations 
between the Navy and the Mercantile Marine. The 
nineteenth century saw the complete extinction of the 
mediaeval system. Yet within a few years of its extinction 
it had begun to be revived on new lines by the formation 
of a Reserve drawn from the Merchant Service and in 
other ways. And the general conclusion to be noted is that 
long before the European War came upon us the Admiralty, 
so far from having forgotten the historic connection 
between the two Services, was endeavouring to rev ve 
it, though to a limited extent only, in a modern form. 

As a result of these efforts, when the storm broke in 
August 1914, the Admiralty controlled a Naval Reserve 
of upwards of 18,000 trained officers and men of the 
Mercantile Marine and Fishing Industry, besides nearly 
24,000 officers and men of the Royal Fleet Reserve. In 
addition, the nation benefited by the ameliorative measures 
affecting the personnel of the Merchant Navy, which had 
been carried out in the preceding fifty years. Whereas, dur- 
ing the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the constant 
preoccupation of the naval authorities was the manning 
of the Fleet, as was also the case at the time of the Crimean 
W T ar, in the summer of 1914 the Admiralty had at its 
disposal, in addition to the regular personnel of the Royal 
Navy with its own reserve, not only 18,000 R.N.R. 
officers and men trained in war duties, but the whole 
reformed personnel of the Mercantile Marine, consisting 
of some 170,000 men of British birth, a larger number 
than at any previous date in British annals, together with 
some 100,000 fishermen. At the beginning of August 1914 
the strength of Naval personnel was 147,667 ; in November 
1918, when the Armistice was signed, it had been increased 
by some 200,000 officers and men, in addition to the making 
good of a wastage of some 80,000. It was largely from the 
170,000 men of British birth belonging to the Mercantile 
Marine and the 100,000 men employed in fishing round 
the coasts of the United Kingdom that the required recruits 
had been obtained. The history of the Merchant Navy's 
part in the war reveals the manner in which these men 
acquitted themselves in face of dangers unprecedented in 
variety and character. 



THE position of the officers and men of the British Mercan- 
tile Marine on the outbreak of war was an unenviable one. 
They had entered the Service, the youngest as well as the 
oldest, without a thought that any circumstance could 
arise bringing them into conflict with the armed forces of 
an enemy in such a manner as to endanger their lives, 
although they must have been familiar with the possibility 
that their ships and the cargoes carried in them might in 
certain conditions be seized in war-time. They had regarded 
as adequate for the defence of their lives the generally 
accepted provisions of international law, and, for the rest, 
had placed their trust in the camaraderie of the sea and 
the spirit of mutual helpfulness whfch had grown up during 
the latter half of the nineteenth century to be embodied in 
regulations universally respected. The sea had to be fought, 
and their ships were built to enable them to wage that form 
of warfare which all British seamen have conducted with fine 
courage from age to age. But their ships, as they knew, 
were not constructed for the organised violence of war : 
they could not resist attack by gun or torpedo ; and, for 
the most part, the merchantman of commerce possessed 
inadequate speed ever to permit of escape when pursued. 
The tramp, for instance, was designed to conform to 
economic conditions, and since coal is expensive, as little 
as was compatible with efficient service as a trader was 
used to attain a moderate rate of steaming. The sailing- 
ship was in a worse case. On the other hand, the leading 
liner companies owned ships capable of travelling at higher 
speeds, and there were a comparatively few large vessels, 
equipped for carrying passengers, with power enabling them 
to compete for the " blue ribbon of the Atlantic," to which 
route all such ocean greyhounds were confined. But when 
those distinctions between the various types of merchant- 
men have been admitted, it remains true that not one of 



the ships of the British Merchant Navy was capable of 
steaming as fast as the latest and swiftest cruisers of the 
national fighting fleets of the Great Powers, quite apart 
from the other disadvantages from which they suffered. 
In these circumstances, merchant officers and men con- 
fronted the new conditions, realising their defencelessness, 
but with confidence that no developments were probable 
during the course of war, when passions become excited, 
which would put their lives in danger as defenceless non- 

The sense of security of merchant seamen had been 
strengthened by the discussions affecting the interpretation 
of maritime law which had taken place at The Hague, and 
later on during the Naval Conference in London. Certain 
provisions were accepted without controversy from any 
quarter. Wider recognition was given to the distinction 
between combatants and non-combatants, and it was 
affirmed that all the Powers concerned in these delibera- 
tions, though exhibiting differences in approaching some 
details, were united in their desire to spare as much as 
possible the unprotected merchant seamen, whether of 
enemy or neutral nationality, from the sufferings incidental 
to warfare in the past. An illustration of the attitude 
assumed towards seamen generally during the discussions 
is furnished by the remarks of Baron Marschall von 
Bieberstein when the subject of the laying of mines was 
under discussion at The Hague in 1907. Admiral Siegal, 
Germany's naval adviser, objected to a proposal intended 
to adjust the diversity of opinion which had been revealed 
in the Examining Committee. Sir Ernest Satow, on 
behalf of the British Government, followed, contending that 
the draft regulations were inadequate as a safeguard to 
legitimate neutrals. In effect, he urged amendments in 
line with the dictates of humanity. Baron Marschall 
von Bieberstein (Germany) intervened, disclaiming that 
Germany intended to demand unlimited liberty in the use 
of mines or had any desire to " sow mines in profusion in 
all the seas." The subject came up later on at the eighth 
plenary meeting of the Conference (October 9th, 1908), 
when he made the following amplified statement : 

" A belligerent who lays mines assumes a very heavy 
responsibility towards neutrals and peaceful shipping. 


On that point we are all agreed. No one will resort to 
such measures unless for military reasons of an absolutely 
urgent character. But military acts are not governed 
solely by principles of international law. There are 
other factors ; conscience, good sense, and the sentiments 
of duty imposed by principles of humanity will be the 
surest guide for the conduct of sailors, and will constitute 
the most effective guarantee against abuse. The officers 
of the German Navy, I emphatically affirm (je le dis a 
voix haute), will always fulfil, in the strictest fashion, the 
duties which emanate from the unwritten law of humanity 
and civilisation. 

" I have no need to tell you," he continued, " that I 
recognise entirely the importance of the codifications of 
rules to be followed in war. But it would be well not 
to issue rules the strict observance of which might be 
rendered impossible by the force of things. It is of the 
first importance that the international maritime law 
which we desire to create should only contain clauses the 
execution of which is possible from a military point of view, 
even in exceptional circumstances. Otherwise, the respect 
for law will be lessened and its authority undermined. 
Also it would seem to us to be preferable to preserve at 
present a certain reserve, in the expectation that five 
years hence it will be easier to find a solution which will 
be acceptable to the whole world. As to the sentiments 
of humanity and civilisation, I cannot admit that 
there is any Government or country which is superior in 
these sentiments to that which I have the honour to 
represent." 1 

That statement, one of many made by the representa- 
tives of Germany and other maritime Powers, encouraged 
merchant seamen to hope that when war came it would 
bear less hardly upon them than past conflicts by sea had 
done. Whatever may have been the merits or demerits 
of the Declaration of London, it did at least confirm 
the belief that hostilities would be conducted in future 
with less risk to innocent life. 

On one matter, apart from mines, doubt existed as to 
the course which Germany would adopt. At the Second 

1 Part. Papers, Misc., No. 4 (1908). 


Conference at The Hague, as at the London Conference, 
she had stoutly opposed the British proposal, supported 
by Japan and the United States, which would have allowed 
the arming of merchant ships only in the national ports 
and territorial waters of the converting Power, or in ports 
and territorial waters occupied by that Power. Con- 
version on the high seas would have been prohibited in 
the case of all ships. Germany, on the other hand, stood 
for the utmost measure of freedom. 1 

Suspicions were subsequently aroused as to the course 
which Germany intended to pursue in the event of war. 
In 1912 the Admiralty, in view of information which had 
reached it, appointed a Committee to consider the ad- 
visability of defensively arming merchant ships. The 
Committee favoured a scheme of armament, and in 
November of the same year Rear- Admiral H. H. Campbell, 
C.V.O., was appointed to carry it out. It was agreed that 
the weapons should be mounted aft, so as to be available 
only when the ship was trying to escape. This officer de- 
termined that nothing should be done to affect the status of 
the ships provided with guns, and he decided to place the 
administration of the scheme at the three ports selected in 
the hands of officers of the Royal Naval Reserve who were 
already acquainted with the marine superintendents and 
other officers whose intimate knowledge of shipping matters 
would enable them to arrange the training of the guns' 
crews so as to cause the minimum of inconvenience and 
loss to the owners. Liverpool, London, and Southampton 
were chosen as bases for the trial of the scheme, because 
these ports were used by vessels bringing in frozen meat 
from the Plate and Australia. 

Admiral Campbell at once got into touch with the leading 
shipowners, and attention was turned to the risk of com- 
plications abroad which might arise owing to this reversion 
to the old policy of the British Mercantile Marine. The 
Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was the first i line 
to be approached. Sir Owen Philipps, the Chairman of 
that company, was so impressed by the situation that he 
agreed to fit guns in a number of the company's big 
steamers free of expense to the Admiralty, on condition 
that guns and ammunition were supplied. On April 25th, 
1913, the Aragon, one of the vessels of the Royal Mail 

1 The Hague Conference. By A. Pearce Higgins. 


Steam Packet Company, sailed for South America armed 
with two 4-7 inch guns. The patriotic lead given by 
Sir Owen Philipps, the Chairman of that line, was not 
without its influence on other shipowners, many of whom 
promptly took the same course, with the result that the 
work of arming a number of the principal food-carrying 
ships went forward smoothly and rapidly. In the following 
June the Tainui, also armed, left for Australia, and in 
July the new White Star liner Ceramic, which during con- 
struction had been given two 4 -7 inch guns with shields, 
carried out successful firing trials. The Admiralty in the 
meantime had given to each of the companies a guarantee 
of indemnity against all loss and expense due to any re- 
straint or detention of the vessels to which they might be 
put in time of peace owing to the ships being defensively 

The task of mounting the guns was carried out by the 
owners at their own cost in accordance with the advice 
given by the constructive staff of the Admiralty. A system 
of training guns' crews was also introduced, and short 
experience suggested that, if the higher ratings were trained 
in classes, the officers could efficiently train the remainder 
of the men at sea. 

The whole scheme was making good progress when it 
received an impetus from the discovery that the Kaiser 
Wilhelm //, one of the North German Lloyd vessels, was 
provided with gun mountings. This German liner had had 
to put into Southampton for repairs after collision in the 
Channel, and evidence was thus obtained that some German 
ships, as had been suspected, were fitted to facilitate 
conversion on the outbreak of war. About this time, 
British visitors who had returned from Kiel stated that 
at that naval establishment they had seen storehouses 
with the names of German merchant ships painted over 
the doors. It was added that German officers had ad- 
mitted that in those buildings armament was kept for 
a number of merchant ships. Other evidence pointing 
to a settled German policy in this respect was reluctantly 
received reluctantly, because it pointed to a new danger 
on the trade routes calling for protective measures. On 
March 26th, 1913, Mr. Churchill, then First Lord of the 
Admiralty, made his annual statement of the Navy esti- 
mates, in the course of which he remarked : 


' I turn to one aspect of trade protection which requires 
special reference. It was made clear at the Second Hague 
Conference and the London Conference, that certain of 
the Great Powers have reserved to themselves the right to 
convert merchant steamers into cruisers, not merely in 
national harbours, but, if necessary, on the high seas. 
There is now good reason to believe that a considerable 
number of foreign merchant steamers may be rapidly 
converted into armed ships by the mounting of guns. 
The sea-borne trade of the world follows well-marked 
routes, upon nearly all of which the tonnage of the British 
Mercantile Marine largely predominates. Our food-carry- 
ing liners and vessels carrying raw material following 
these trade routes would, in certain contingencies, meet 
foreign vessels armed and equipped in the manner described. 
If the British ships had no armament, they would be at 
the mercy of any foreign liner carrying one effective 
gun and a few rounds of ammunition. It would be ob- 
viously absurd to meet the contingency of considerable 
numbers of foreign armed merchant cruisers on the high 
seas by building an equal number of cruisers. That 
would expose this country to an expenditure of money 
to meet a particular danger altogether disproportionate 
to the expense caused to any foreign Power in creating 
that danger. Hostile cruisers, wherever they are found, 
will be covered and met by British ships of war, but the 
proper reply to an armed merchantman is another mer- 
chantman armed in her own defence. 

44 This is the position," Mr. Churchill added, " to which 
the Admiralty have felt it necessary to draw the attention 
of leading shipowners. We have felt justified in pointing 
out to them the danger to life and property which would 
be incurred if their vessels were totally incapable of offering 
any defence to an attack. The shipowners have responded 
to the Admiralty invitation with cordiality, and substantial 
progress has been made in the direction of meeting it, by 
preparing as a defensive measure to equip a number of 
first-class British liners to repel the attack of armed foreign 
merchant cruisers. Although these vessels have, of course, 
a wholly different status from that of the regularly com- 
missioned cruisers, such as those we obtain under the 
Cunard agreement, the Admiralty have felt that the greater 
part of the cost of the necessary equipment should not fall 


on the owners, and we have decided, therefore, to lend the 
necessary guns, to supply ammunition, and to provide 
for the training of the members of the ^ship's company 
to form the guns' crews. The owners, on their part, are 
paying the cost of the necessary structural conversion, 
which is not great. The British Mercantile Marine will, 
of course, have the protection of the British Navy under 
all possible circumstances, but it is obviously impossible 
to guarantee individual vessels from attack when they are 
scattered on their voyages all over the world. No one 
can pretend to view these measures without regret, or 
without hoping that the period of retrogression all over 
the world, which has rendered them necessary, may be 
succeeded by days of broader international confidence 
and agreement than those through which we are 
passing." l 

This decision was welcomed generally in the House of 
Commons and in the country. It was declared by Lord 
Charles Beresford 2 to be " the most important scheme of 
all those announced by the Admiralty, even more important 
than building men-of-war," for, he added, " you cannot 
build any more than you are doing." Some doubt was 
subsequently expressed as to what the status of these 
vessels would be in the time of war. The First Lord of 
the Admiralty explained that merchant vessels carrying 
guns might belong to one or other of two different 

" The first class," he added, " is that of armed merchant 
cruisers, which on the outbreak of war would be commis- 
sioned under the White Ensign, and would then be in- 
distinguishable in status and control from men-of-war. 
In this class belong the Mauretania and the Lusitania. 
The second class consist of merchant vessels which would 
(unless specially taken up by the Admiralty for any 
purpose) remain merchant vessels in war, without any 
change of status, but have been equipped by their owners, 
with Admiralty assistance, with a defensive armament 
in order to exercise their right of beating off an attack. 

1 Hansard, House of Commons, March 26th, 1913. 

2 Afterwards raised to the Peerage as Lord Beresford. 


There is no rule that the master or chief officer must belong 
to the Royal Naval Reserve, and it will be clear, from 
what I have said, that no such rule is necessary. The 
Blue Ensign would only be flown if the vessel had received 
an Admiralty warrant. Before lending the guns, the 
Admiralty satisfies itself that the handling and firing of 
them will be carried out by men who have become con- 
versant with these operations through drill." l 

The Admiralty continued to pursue with renewed energy 
and in face of a good deal of adverse criticism the policy 
which it had adopted, and at the opening of the war thirty- 
nine vessels belonging to the following companies had been 
defensively armed, each having been provided with two 
4'7 inch guns : 

Ships fitted. 

1. White Star Line . . . .11 

2. Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. . . 10 

3. Federal Houlders Argentine Line . 5 

4. G. Thompson & Co. Ltd. . . 3 

5. Wilson Line, Hull . . . .3 

6. New Zealand Shipping Co., Ltd. . 2 

7. Federal Steam S. Co., Ltd. . . 2 

8. Shaw, Savill & Albion, Ltd. . . 2 

9. Turnbull Martin & Co. . . . 1 


In those circumstances the situation was full of unwel- 
come possibilities when at length war was declared. Ger- 
many possessed a large number of vessels which were 
capable of conversion. There were about twenty such ships 
in German ports, including the following : Bremen (15 
knots) ; Cap Finisterre (17) ; Cap Poloni (18) (completing 
for sea); Cleveland (16); Colva (14'5) ; Graf Waldersee 
(13) ; Imperator (25) ; Kaiserin Auguste Victoria (17'5) ; 
Kigoma (15*5) ; Konig Friedrich August (15'5) ; Konigin 
Luise (15) ; Helsor (12'5) ; Pratonia (13) ; Prinz Ludwig 
(15*5) ; Scharnhorst (14'5) ; and Victoria Luise (18). 
The menace which these ships suggested was limited by 
the knowledge that the Grand Fleet had taken up its 

1 Hansard, House of Commons, June 10th, 1913. 


station in the northern part of the North Sea, with 
cruiser squadrons at the focal points of the trade routes, 
and that the Straits of Dover were held by more or 
less adequate forces. Escape by the narrow route to the 
southward was unlikely in view of all the circumstances, 
but there was less certainty to the northward, for the dis- 
tance from the North of Scotland to Iceland being 450 miles, 
and from Iceland to Greenland 160 miles, a line of over 
600 miles required to be watched by the Northern Patrol. 
This Northern Patrol consisted eventually of twenty-four 
armed liners, known as the 10th Cruiser Squadron, or 
blockading squadron, under the command of Rear- Admiral 
Sir Dudley de Chair. The possibility of several of the 
swiftest of the German merchant vessels, their character 
disguised, breaking out in thick weather, and taking the 
fullest advantage of the period of darkness, was one that 
it was impossible to ignore. In the outer seas the danger 
was far greater, as there were distributed in neutral ports 
a large number of ships which could be converted 
into armed vessels for use on the trade routes. They 
included : 

In North American Ports and North Atlantic : 

Friedrich der Grosse (14*5 knots), at New York on 

August 4th. 

Barbarossa (14 knots), at New York on August 4th. 
Grosser Kurfurst (15' 5 knots), at New York on 

August 4th. 
Kronprinzessin (23*5 knots), at New York on 

August 4th. 

Vaterland (26'75 knots), at New York on August 4th. 
President Grant (14*5 knots), at New York on 

August 4th. 
George Washington (19 knots), arrived New York, 

August 5th. 
Kaiser Wilhelm II (23'5 knots), arrived New York, 

August 6th. 
President Lincoln (14'5 knots), at New York on 

August 4th. 
Pennsylvania (13'5 knots), at New York on 

August 4th. 

Amerika (17'5 knots), at Boston on August 4th. 
Cincinnati (16 knots), arrived Boston, August 8th. 

126 ON THE EVE OF WAR [CH. 11 

Prinz Oskar (12 '5 knots), arrived Philadelphia, 

August 5th. 
Kronprinz Wilhelm (23 knots), sailed from New York, 

August 3rd, to meet the KARLSRUHE, by whom she 

was armed. 
Spreewald (12*5 knots), at sea; captured by the 

BERWICK, September 12th. 

Neckar (14 knots), at sea; arrived Baltimore, Sep- 
tember 2nd. 
Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse (22'5 knots), on her way 

out from Germany into the Atlantic (movements 

unknown at the time). 
Bethania (12 knots), on her way from Mediterranean 

to join the KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE, captured 

by the ESSEX, September 7th. 

In Spanish and Portuguese Ports : 

Westerwald (12*5 knots), at Lisbon on August 4th. 
Goeben (14*5 knots), at Vigo on August 4th. 
Bulow (14'5 knots), at Lisbon on August 4th. 

In Mediterranean : 

Konig Albert (15 knots), at Genoa on August 4th. 
Moltke (16*5 knots), at Genoa on August 4th. 

In Sea of Marmora : 

Corcovado (13' 5 knots), at Panderma. 

East of Suez : 

Sudmark (12 '5 knots), at sea between Colombo and 

Aden ; captured by the BLACK PRINCE, August 15th, 

in Red Sea. 
Zeiten (14*5 knots), at sea between Colombo and 

Aden, joined the KONIGSBERG. Arrived Mozam- 
bique, August 20th. 
Kleist (14-5 knots), sailed for Colombo, August 2nd ; 

arrived Padang, August 7th. 
Tabora (14'5 knots), at Dar-es-Salaam. Blocked in 

port, August 8th. 
Yorck (14-5 knots), at Tsingtau. Sailed, August 4th, 

with supplies for Admiral Von Spee. 
Prinz Eitel Friedrich (15 knots), at Tsingtau, sailed 

(armed), August 6th. 


Princess Alice (15' 5 knots), arrived Manila, August 5th ; 

moved about for some time around Philippines. 
Seydlitz (14*5 knots), sailed for Sydney, August 8rd; 

arrived Valparaiso, August 20th. 

In Suez Canal : 

Derfflinger (14'5 knots), interned by Egyptian Govern- 

In South American Ports or Waters : 

Cap Trafalgar (18 knots), at Buenos Ayres. Put to 

sea and armed from the EBER. Sunk by the 

CARMANIA, September 14th. 
Blucher (16*5 knots), at Pernambuco on August 4th. 

West Coast of Africa : 

Max Brock (11 knots), at Duala. Captured by the 

CUMBERLAND in September. 
Itolo (9 knots), sunk by French in Corisco Bay. 

In British and Belgian Ports : 

Gneisenau (14*5 knots), at Antwerp on August 4th. 

Seized by Belgians. 
Prinz Adalbert (12*5 knots), seized at Falmouth, 

August 4th. 

Some other ships, such as the Prinz Heinrich at Lisbon, 
were also suspected by the Admiralty of having been 
prepared for conversion. 

In addition to these German merchantmen, the future 
use of which was open to suspicion, there were a number 
of Austrian ships. Moreover, Germany and Austria- 
Hungary had. in foreign waters, many other ships which 
were capable of employment for intelligence purposes, or 
might be used as store-ships or colliers. 

Beyond all these elements of danger, which the Admiralty 
could not, and in fact did not, ignore, there was a powerful 
squadron of German men-of-war in the Pacific, and cruisers 
were known to be serving in other parts of the world. 1 

1 Austria- Hungary had in foreign waters only one man-of-war of im- 
portance, the light cruiser KAISERIN ELIZABETH, 3,936 tons displacement ; 
armed with eight 5 -9-inch ; fourteen 3-pounders ; 1 machine-gun. Her sea 
speed was 17-2 knots. She was at Tsingtau. 




[CH. II 

The following list conveys some idea of the added menace 
arising from these vessels 1 : 




Mediterranean : 



GOEBEN (1911) b.c. 



10-11 in. ; 12-5-9 in ; 12-22 pr. 

BRESLAU (1911) I.e. 



12-4-1 in. 1-7 pr. 2-m. 

Far East: 

SCHARNHORST (1906) a.c. 



8-8-2 in. 6-5-9 in ; 18-22 pr. 

GNEISENAU (1906) a.c. . 



8-8-2 in. 6-5-9 in ; 18-22 pr. 

EMDEN (1908) I.e. 



10-4-1 in. 1-7 pr. 2-m. 

lLTis(1898)g.b. . 



4-15 pr. 6-1 pr. 2-m. 

JAGUAR (1 898 )g.b. 



4-15 pr. 6-1 pr. 2-m. 

TIGER (1 899) g.b. 



2-4-1 in. 6-1 pr. 2-m. 

LucHS(1899) g.b. 



2-4-1 in. 6-1 pr. 2m. 

CORMORAN(1892) g.b. . 



8-4-1 in. 5-1 pr. 2-m. 

TsiNGTAU(1903)r.g.b. . 



1-4 pr. ; 2-m. ; 1-1 5 pr. 

VATERLAND (1903) r.g.b. 



1-4 pr. ; 2-m. ; 1-1 5 pr. 

OTTER (1 909) r.g.b. 



2-4 pr. ; 3-m. 

TAKU( 1898) t.b.d. 



2-4 pr. 

" S.90 " (1899) t.b.d. . 



3-4 pr. ; 2-m. 

East Pacific : 

NURNBERG (1906) I.e. . 



10-4-1 in. ; 1-7 pr. ; 2-m. 

LEIPZIG (1905) I.e. 



10-4-1 in.; 1-7 pr. ; 2-m. 

Australian Waters : 

GEIER( 1894) g.b. 



8-4-1 in. ; 5-1 pr. ; 2-m. 

PLANET (1905) s.v. 



3-1 pr. ; 2-m. 

West Coast of Africa : 

EBER( 1903) g.b. . 



2-4-1 in. ; 6-1 pr. ; 2-m. 

East Coast of Africa : 

KONIGSBERG (1905) 1.0. 



10-4-1 in. ; 1-7 pr. ; 2-m. 

West Atlantic : 

KARLSRUHE (1912) I.e. 



12-41 in. ; 2-m. 

DRESDEN (1907) I.e. . 



10-41 ; in 2-m. 

The sheet anchor of British merchant seamen, con- 4 
fronted by the unknown possibilities of war, was the 
increased regard which all the polite nations of the world 
had paid to international law for many years, and the 
anxiety which had been expressed by them to make their 
acts conform to the unwritten code the dictates of 

1 b.c battle cruiser ; a.c. armoured cruiser ; I.e. light cruiser ; 
g.b gunboat; r.g.b. river gunboat; t.b.d. torpedo-boat destroyer; 
a.v. surveying vessel. 


The evidence as to the German policy of arming merchant 
ships on a large scale on the outbreak of war was not 
confirmed by subsequent experience. Diplomatic docu- 
ments since published suggest that Germany did not 
expect that the United Kingdom would intervene, and 
she was convinced that in any event the British Navy 
would not be mobilised rapidly, and that she would have 
ample time to carry out the scheme of conversion. The 
British Admiralty was ready for eventualities, with the 
result that the German Fleet was at once thrown back on 
the defensive, not only in the North Sea, but in every sea 
in which German men-of-war were stationed, and neither 
time nor opportunity permitted full advantage being taken 
of the large scheme for attacking British commerce. In 
February 1914, the Nautical Division of the Norddeutscher 
Lloyd issued instructions of a general character to all 
merchant vessels equipped with wireless installation. They 
were told that if war broke out they would be informed 
by wireless. This action suggested that preliminary 
arrangements were then being made by the German naval 
authorities for securing the safety of the general body of 
German merchant shipping and releasing other vessels for 
offensive operations. But towards the end of July of the 
same year, the only official instructions, so far as is known, 
which were issued, were to the effect that masters should 
make for the nearest neutral port. These orders were to 
the following effect : 

" Although there are at present no reasons whatever 
to fear war complications with any other Power, still it 
appears desirable to us to issue the following instructions, 
which are to be strictly observed : 

" (Unless Requisitioned) 

' We hereby prescribe that, in case of war or compli- 
cations threatening war, you, with the ship entrusted to 
you, when lying in a neutral port, will remain there or 
will immediately endeavour to reach the nearest neutral 
port or neutral territory. You will then await there the 
further course of things, and we shall then transmit to you 
further instructions direct or through our representatives." 

Before declarations of war began to issue from the 


capitals of Europe, German merchantmen were already 
running in all haste to safety. On the other hand, the 
German authorities, ignoring the precedent they set in 
1870, 1 revealed by their acts that they intended to put 
every obstacle in the way of British merchant ships leaving 
German ports. In some cases the instructions may have 
been exceeded owing to the zeal of the local authorities, 
but it was subsequently established that the Imperial 
Government had intervened to stop sailings. On August 
1st, Sir Edward Grey sent a dispatch to the British Am- 
bassador at Berlin, in which he reported that information 
had reached the Foreign Office that the " authorities at 
Hamburg had forcibly detained a steamer belonging to the 
Great Central Railway Company and other British mer- 
chant ships." Surprise was expressed at this action, and Sir 
E. Goschen was asked to request the German Government 
to send immediate orders that vessels should be allowed 
to proceed without delay, it being added that " the effect 
on public opinion here would be deplorable unless this is 
done." An immediate reply was received from Berlin 
stating that " the Secretary of State, who expressed 
greatest surprise and annoyance, has promised to send 
orders at once to allow steamers to proceed without delay." 
In a subsequent telegram, Sir E. Goschen added that the 
" Secretary of State informs me that orders were sent last 
night to allow British ships in Hamburg to proceed on 
their way. He says that this must be regarded as a special 
favour of His Majesty's Government, as no other foreign 
ships have been allowed to leave. Reason of detention 
was that mines were being laid and other precautions 
being taken " a mere cloak for illegality. On the same 
day (August 2nd) the Foreign Office sent to Berlin another 
telegram to the following effect : "I regret to learn that 
100 tons of sugar were compulsorily unloaded from the 
British steamship Sappho at Hamburg, and detained. 
Similar action appears to have been taken with regard to 
other British vessels loaded with sugar. You should 
inform Secretary of State that, for reasons stated in my 
telegram of August 1st, I most earnestly trust that the 
orders already sent to Hamburg to allow the clearance of 
British ships covers also the release of their cargoes, the 

1 Days of grace, running to a period of six weeks, were extended to enemy 
merchant ships to enable them to leave German ports. 


detention of which cannot be justified." Sir E. Goschen 
replied on the following day that " no information was 
available." On August 4th, Sir E. Grey sent another 
message to the British Ambassador at Berlin stating : 
" I continue to receive numerous complaints from British 
firms as to the detention of their ships at Hamburg, Cux- 
haven, and other German ports. This action on the part 
of the German authorities is totally unjustifiable. It is 
in direct contravention of international law and of the 
assurances given to Your Excellency by the Imperial 
Chancellor. You should demand the release of all British 
ships, if such release has not yet been given." l On the 
same day the German Ambassador in London issued the 
following explanation, which, it will be seen, avoided the 
fact that a general policy of detention had been adopted : 
" The Wilson liner Castro was in Kiel Canal, and was 
ordered by the German authorities to proceed to Hamburg 
for military reasons, as it was not desirable that any com- 
mercial vessel should be in the canal at present. As 
regards the second case, the Government had purchased 
coal shipped for Germany to a private firm, and the order 
was given for the ship to proceed to Hamburg with her 
cargo. It was solely a matter of changing its destination. 
In both cases there was no intention whatever of inter- 
fering with the property of the vessels. It was simply 
a police measure." It was subsequently ascertained that 
in many of the German ports every possible obstacle had 
been put in the way of the British shipmasters to prevent 
them taking their ships to sea, before war had begun ; 
in some cases guards were mounted while the two countries 
still maintained friendly relations, and threats were made 
to deter masters from communicating with their owners. 
Many of the merchantmen prisoners who for many weary 
months, some almost for the entire duration of the war, 
languished in German camps belonged to vessels which had 
thus been detained contrary to the recognised practice. The 
enemy treated these seamen with great harshness, as was 
revealed when their miserable experiences were subsequently 
recounted. Some of them were maimed for life, owing to 
injury inflicted upon them by their guards, and others 
never recovered from the effects of bad food, damp and 
exposure. The Germans detained no fewer than eighty 

* Cd. 7860. 


British ships. 1 Unfortunately, the action cannot be at- 
tributed to over-zeal of the officials of one port, for the 
detentions were enforced in practically all German ports. 

This early indication of the contempt of the German 
Government for international law may be contrasted with 
the attitude of the officers of the German men-of-war 
during the first phase of the conflict. So far as is known, 
they received no special instructions as to the treatment 
of enemy merchantmen, but were left to act in accor- 
dance with the Naval Prize Code, based generally on the 
provisions of the Declaration of London. Under the first 
article it was laid down that * : " During a war the com- 
manders of His Majesty's ships of war have the right to stop 
and search enemy and neutral merchant vessels, and to seize 
and, in exceptional cases, to destroy the same, together 
with the enemy and neutral goods found thereon." The 
limits to the right of capture were dealt with at length, 
and in describing the object of stoppage and search it 
was declared that " The stoppage and search shall take 
place only if the commander deems that it will be success- 
ful." It was added : "^All acts shall be done in such a 
manner even against the enemy as to be compatible 
with the honour of the German Empire, and with such 
regard towards neutrals as may be in conformity with the 
law of nations and the interests of Germany." The ships 
specifically mentioned as being free from capture included 
hospital ships and vessels engaged exclusively in coastwise 
fishery or in the small local shipping trade, so long as they 
did not in any manner participate in the hostilities. 
" Coastwise fishery is not confined to the territorial waters 
of a particular State. It is deemed to include all fishing, 
with the exception of what is clearly deep-sea fishing." 
Enemy merchant vessels which at the beginning of hostili- 
ties were on a voyage from a German port or the port of 
an Ally to their port of destination, or to such other port 
as might have been designated to them, and were in 

1 On August 4th, 1914, a proposal from Germany, made simultaneously 
to Great Britain, France, Russia, and Belgium, that days of grace should 
be recognised reciprocally, was received by the British Government. A 
counter-proposal, incorporated in the London Gazette of August 4th, was 
communicated to Germany, the offer expiring on the 7th. The suggestion 
was not received in Berlin until the 8th, and nothing came of the matter. 

2 The Prize Code of September 30th, 1909 ; Bulletin of Laws of August 
3rd, 1914, amended to July 1st, 1915. (German Prize Law, Huberich and 
King. London: Stevens & Co.) 


possession of a pass provided, however, that they had 
not deviated from the course prescribed to them, unless 
they could explain such deviation in a satisfactory manner 
were also exempt from capture. 

The Prize Code set out the procedure to be followed in 
case of stoppage and capture, in accordance with inter- 
national precedent, and several paragraphs were devoted 
to the treatment of crews and passengers of captured 
vessels. It was laid down that, if a vessel were captured 
while making armed resistance or participating in belli- 
gerent operations, " persons on board thereof not embodied 
in the armed forces, who have participated in the belli- 
gerent operations or offered armed resistance, are dealt 
with according to the usages of war. Other persons 
belonging to the crew are made prisoners of war." In 
the case of capture of an enemy vessel or a neutral vessel 
rendering unneutral service, "the master, officers, and 
crew, if subjects of an enemy State, are not to be made 
prisoners of war, providing they enter into a formal written 
engagement not to undertake any services connected 
with the belligerent operations of the enemy during the 
pendency of the war. Members of the crew who are sub- 
jects of a neutral State must be released without the im- 
position of any conditions. If the master and officers 
are subjects of a neutral State, they are to be released, 
provided they give a formal written promise not to accept 
service on board any enemy vessel during the pendency 
of the war." It was furthermore declared that " passen- 
gers on board captured vessels are not to be deprived of 
their liberty, and are to be released as soon as possible, 
unless required as witnesses." It was added that the 
treatment of prisoners of war should, so far as the cir- 
cumstances of the naval warfare permit, be in conformity 
with Articles 4 to 20 of the Appendix to Convention 
IV of the Second Hague Conference. It was also provided 
that " the master and crew of a captured vessel, unless 
they are prisoners of war, shall continue to perform their 
former duties until they are released. So far as possible 
the use of force is to be avoided. In so far as the cir- 
cumstances of the war permit, they remain in the enjoy- 
ment of their rights." It was further laid down that " the 
rights of the passengers on board captured vessels shall 
be restricted only in urgent cases e.g., on account of 


unneutral acts." Persons on board a captured vessel 
might be placed on board another vessel, even the war- 
vessel, if the circumstances required such a course, re- 
maining on board the war- vessel " only so long as this is 
absolutely necessary." 

Other clauses of the Prize Code covered the method 
of dealing with captured vessels and seized cargoes. The 
commander, it was declared, " provides for bringing the 
vessel into a German port or the port of an Ally with all 
possible despatch and safety. A prize may be brought 
into a neutral port only if the neutral Power permits the 
bringing in of prizes. A prize may be taken into a neutral 
port on account of unseaworthiness, stress of weather, 
or lack of fuel or supplies. In the latter cases she must 
leave as soon as the cause justifying her entrance ceases 
to exist." The commander was instructed to give to the 
officer of the prize crew the necessary written instructions 
in regard to the voyage, and to make up the crew so as to 
enable the officer to bring in the vessel. It was added that, 
" before proceeding to the destruction of a vessel, the 
safety of all persons on board, and, so far as possible, 
their effects, is to be provided for, and all ship's papers 
and other evidentiary material, which, according to the 
views of the persons at interest, is of value for the for- 
mulation of the judgment of the Prize Court, are to be 
taken over by the commander." A section of the Prize 
Code was also devoted to the rights and duties of officers 
of a prize crew, it being added that " unnecessary measures 
of force are to be avoided." 1 

On June 22nd, 1914, the Chief of the Admiralty Staff 
of the German Navy addressed an order to the commanding 
officers and commanders in respect of their conduct when 
encountering armed merchant vessels during war. It was 
therein stated that : 

" The exercise of' the right of stoppage, search, and 
capture, as well as any attack made, by an armed merchant 
vessel against a German or neutral merchant vessel, is 
piracy. The crew are to be dealt with under the ordinance 
relating to extraordinary martial law. 

"If an armed enemy merchant vessel offers armed 

1 Prize Code of the German Empire as in force July 1915 (London : 
Stevens & Co.). 


resistance against measures taken under the law of prize, 
such resistance is to be overcome with all means available. 
The enemy Government bears all responsibility for any 
damages to the vessel, cargo, and passengers. The crew 
are to be taken as prisoners of war. The passengers are 
to be left to go free, unless it appears that they partici- 
pated in the resistance. In the latter case they may be 
proceeded against under extraordinary martial law." 

It will thus be seen that on the eve of hostilities the 
enemy declared that the crews of merchant vessels were 
to be treated as prisoners of war if they resisted capture, 
and that the passengers, in case of resistance, might be 
proceeded against " under extraordinary martial law." 
That exposure of policy is the primary factor in the under- 
standing of the German attitude, and an essential element 
in the due appreciation of the danger to which merchant 
seamen were exposed. Such was the position at sea when 
the war opened, which was to convert Europe into a vast 
battle-field and strew the seas with the bodies of defenceless 
men, weak women, and innocent children. 

On a date preceding the British declaration of war, 
August 3rd, evidence was supplied that Germany had 
already completed measures for the defence of her ports. 
On August 3rd, the steamship San Wilfrido (6,458 tons) 
was in the River Elbe, about eight miles above Bruns- 
buttel, when orders were received that she might proceed 
on her voyage, calling at Cuxhaven. No pilot was avail- 
able to take her through the minefield which had already 
been laid at Cuxhaven, so the San Wilfrido followed the 
usual channel. The men in charge of the harbour tugs, 
who were watching her progress, realised that the ship 
was in danger, and shouted to the master, who immediately 
attempted to go full speed astern. Before way was off 
the ship, she was caught by the strong ebb tide and 
drifted into the mine zone. Three explosions occurred, 
and then the steamship began to settle down by the stern, 
taking a heavy list to port. A German tug went along- 
side to take off the crew, and shortly afterwards the San 
Wilfrido was firmly aground. Two days later a somewhat 
similar incident occurred to the steamship Craigforth 
(2,900 tons), which had shipped a cargo of wheat at Ghe- 
nichesk consigned to Hamburg. She was proceeding 


on her voyage in the Bosphorus when she struck a mine. 
A patrol steamer came to her assistance, and the vessel 
was beached. While temporary repairs were being carried 
out the Turkish authorities seized the cargo. Within a 
week the Craigforth was refloated, and was about to resume 
her voyage to Hamburg when the master and crew were 
ordered by the British Consul to leave her. These two 
minor incidents, however, conveyed no suggestion of the 
experiences which were to befall British merchant seamen 
during the first phase of the enemy's operations against 
sea-borne commerce. Both ships had suffered injury in 
territorial waters. But, in the meantime, an event had 
occurred in the North Sea which indicated that the 
Germans intended to take the fullest advantage of a mining 
policy, the Konigin Luise being caught off Aldeburgh, on 
the morning of August 5th, laying mines in the track of 
merchantmen. In spite of these developments, shipping 
in British waters was conducted for several weeks without 
mishap, except for the damage from a mine sustained by 
the Oakby off Seaham on August 30th ; that vessel, 
however, succeeded in reaching the Tyne. 



WITHIN less than two days of the outbreak of war an 
incident occurred off the Gulf of Aden which showed that 
enemy cruisers which were at large in the outer seas in- 
tended to make the best of what was to prove a compara- 
tively short period of freedom from interference. For 
as soon as war was declared, the Admiralty put into opera- 
tion the plans for the protection of merchant shipping 
which had been prepared in advance. 

On July 23rd, the s.s. City of Winchester (6,601 tons), 
of the Hall Line, had left Calcutta with a general cargo 
for London and Dunkirk. The voyage was marked by no 
notable incident until the evening of August 5th, when 
the master (Mr. George R. Boyck) received news of the 
outbreak of war in a dramatic manner. At 8.30 p.m., 
when the vessel was steaming at full speed in the Gulf 
of Aden, a strange cruiser, afterwards recognised as the 
KONIGSBERG, drew towards her, making no signal and firing 
no gun. The significance of the movement was not missed 
by the captain of the British vessel. The warship's guns 
could be seen in the moonlight trained upon the defenceless 
merchant ship, and, when the signal was received to 
stop, Captain Boyck had no alternative but to comply. 
A boat was immediately sent off from the KONIGSBERG 
with an armed crew, and after the ship's papers had been 
seized, and the ship's wireless installation destroyed, 
orders were given for her to proceed in accordance with 
direct ions received from theK6NiGSBERG,an officer and four 
men remaining on board to insure obedience. During 
the whole of that night and until the afternoon of the 
next day, the captain, the first British merchant officer 
on the high seas to experience the annoyances and delays 
of war, was directed to steam various courses, bu always 
to the westward, until anchor was at last dropped in the bay 



of the small port of Makalla, about 200 miles from Aden 
on the Arabian coast. At this point the KONIGSBERG was 
joined by the Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship Zieten, 
and the Ostmark, of the Hamburg Amerika Line, acting 
as supply ships. A steam- pinnace, with an officer and a 
party of men, was then sent to the City of Winchester, 
and they took away all the charts and sailing directions. 
Another prize crew, consisting of two lieutenants and 
fifteen men, all well armed, was placed on board, and 
that evening the four ships put to sea with all lights 
out, the Zieten leading. After leaving the bay, the 
KONIGSBERG and Ostmark disappeared, and for the time 
nothing more was seen of them. For the next two days 
the City of Winchester continued to follow the Zieten, 
always making to the north-east, until anchor was cast 
in the north-east bay of Hallaniya, the largest island 
of the Khorya Morya group. On the following morning 
the Zieten went alongside the City of Winchester and com- 
menced to take about 300 tons of her bunker coal, as well 
as her stores of food and drink. In the meantime the cap- 
tain and the European crew, with the exception of the 
second officer, the third engineer, and the carpenter, were 
transferred to the German ship, and early on the following 
morning, the coaling being completed, the Zieten dis- 
appeared in the darkness. During the day the prize 
crew completed the task of seizing all the foodstuffs to 
be found in the cargo. The same afternoon the KONIGS- 
BERG reappeared, and, making fast on the port side of the 
City of Winchester, took the remainder of the coal (about 
250 tons), all the fresh water, and what was left of foodstuffs. 
Throughout the night, work continued with carefully 
screened lights. At 4.30 on the following morning, 
August 12th, the remaining officers and the lascar crew 
were ordered on board the cruiser with their personal 
belongings. While the third engineer, under compulsion, 
was pointing out to the German officer the steps which 
could be taken to flood the ship, the task of dismantling 
all that was portable of her equipment was completed by 
the enemy. In a short space measures were taken 
to insure the sinking of the vessel, and then the KONIGS- 
BERG, having embarked the boarding- party, stood off, 
fired three shells into the abandoned vessel, and steamed 
away. Two hours later, the KONIGSBERG reached a bay 


of Soda Island, where she met the German merchant 
ship Goldenfels, which was encountered at a convenient 
moment when homeward bound from Hankow ; to her the 
second officer, the third engineer, the carpenter, and 
the lascars, were transferred. For some unexplained 
reason the Goldenfels then returned to the spot where 
the City of Winchester had been left in a sinking con- 
dition. It was the unhappy experience of the former 
officers and men of this ship to spend the remainder 
of the day watching her founder until only the black 
top of the funnel, the wireless mast, and part of the 
top of the mast remained in view. The elaborate 
and lengthy ritual had at last been completed after an 
interval of a week. " We were afterwards conveyed in 
the Goldenfels to Sabang, where," the second officer re- 
corded in his report to the owners, " I safely arrived 
with all my men, and I have obtained a paper from the 
master of the Goldenfels certifying that he saw the ship 
sink ; it is witnessed by the commander of a Dutch gun- 
boat." The Zieten reached Mozambique with her funnels 
disguised so as to represent a vessel of the British India 
Steam Navigation Company, and sfye hoisted the British 
red ensign on entering the port. In the meantime, the 
master and his companions had already been landed at 
Mozambique, leaving on record that he and his companions 
" were treated with every civility and respect by the 
Germans." l 

While these adventures were befalling the officers and 
men of the City of Winchester, the German cruiser DRESDEN 
had begun her short career as a commerce destroyer, 
making her presence felt on the trade route from South 
America to the United States. Two days after the opening 
of the war, she fell in with three British vessels, the 
Drumcliffe (4,072 tons), the Lynton Grange (4,252 tons), 
and the Hostilius (3,325 tons). The first of these vessels 
had left Buenos Ayres in ballast on July 24th with in- 
structions to call at Trinidad to replenish her bunkers 
for her voyage to New York. Captain Evans was un- 
aware of the outbreak of war, and was proceeding on his 

1 The City of Winchester was the only capture of the KONIGSBERO. At 
the end of October 1914, this German cruiser was found to have taken 
refuge in the Rufigi River (German East Africa). There she was blockaded, 
and in the following July she was destroyed by British men-of-war. 


course, unconcerned, when he was stopped by a strange 
man-of-war off the mouth of the Amazon. The warship 
proved to be the German light cruiser DRESDEN on her way 
round the Horn to the Pacific, possibly intending to join 
Admiral von Spee, commanding the German Pacific 
Squadron. The meeting was as unwelcome to her captain 
as it was to the master of the Drumcliffe, who had on 
board his wife and child. The British seaman had, of 
course, received no instructions from the Admiralty, 
while Captain Liidecke found himself in a situation 
which had not been anticipated in his orders. A party 
was sent to the Drumcliffe, and it was at once reported 
that a woman and child were on board. Three courses 
were open to the German officer conversant with the 
humane sentiments expressed at The Hague Conference, 
and embodied in the German Naval Prize Code. He could 
either send the Drumcliffe with a prize crew into port, 
but none of a suitable character existed in the vicinity ; 
he could order the ship to follow his movements ; or he 
could release her on parole. He chose the last course. 
The vessel's wireless installation was dismantled, and the 
officers and crew were called upon to sign a declaration 
not to take service against Germany during the war. 
Captain Evans feared that a refusal to comply with this 
demand might jeopardise the safety of his wife and child, 
and he and his men gave the necessary undertaking. 
Within two hours or so the Drumcliffe was again under way. 
The troubles of the captain of the DRESDEN were not 
yet at an end. The Drumcliffe having been released at 
3.40 on the afternoon of August 6th, it was his misfortune 
at 4.45 to fall in with the Houlder liner Lynton Grange, 
on passage from Rosario to Barbadoes. By signal 
from the DRESDEN, the master of the Lynton Grange 
(Mr. H. L. Simpson) learnt that a state of war existed 
between his country and Germany. While the signals 
were passing between the two ships, the Houston liner 
Hostilius, on her voyage from Montevideo to Cienfuegos, 
Cuba, via Barbadoes, came in view. She also had put to 
sea before the outbreak of war, and was proceeding in 
company with the Lynton Grange. The captain of the 
DRESDEN sent boarding-parties to both ships. In the 
case of the Lynton Grange the ship's papers were examined 
on board the cruiser, and then a naval officer returned 


and required that the British officers and men should 
sign a declaration to the following effect : 

" We, the captain, officers, and crew of the s.s. Lynton 
Grange, declare formally that we will not do any service 
in the British Navy or Army, and will not give any assis- 
tance to the British Government against Germany during 
the present war." 

A threat was made that, if the declaration was not 
signed, the officers and men would be taken on board the 
cruiser as prisoners of war, and the Lynton Grange sunk. 
If, on the other hand, the pledge were given and subse- 
quently contraband were carried during the war, the crew, 
if caught, would be shot and their vessel destroyed. In 
the circumstances, the master and the other officers 
and the men decided to comply with the demand, and the 
vessel was released. In the case of the Hostilius, the 
boarding officer took the papers, which were in Spanish, 
back to the cruiser to be translated. He returned with 
them in about an hour, bringing with him the form of 
parole. The master (Mr. James Jones) conferred with his 
officers, and told them that he himself would not sign this 
document. It was then agreed to refuse unanimously to 
give the parole. The German boarding officer, on being 
informed of that decision, himself called the crew together 
and read the document to them. The men stated that they 
would stand by Captain Jones. A signal was then made to 
the DRESDEN, and, to the surprise of everyone on board, 
the ship was ordered to be released. Before the boarding 
officer left, however, he made the following entry in the 
chief officer's log book : 

" Hostilius. 

" Held up by S.M.S. DRESDEN : Commander-Frigate 
Captain Liidecke. 

"Lat. 1 21" N., long. 45 1" W. Held up, August 6th, 
1914, 5.20 p.m.; let go, August 6th, 1914, 7.40 p.m. 

"Let go because her destruction did not seem worth 

" Lieut. Captain," 

The first ship to be sunk by the DRESDEN was the 


s.s. Hyades (3, .352 tons), which left Pernambuco on August 
14th, the master having put into that port for instructions 
on his passage from Rosario to Rotterdam with a cargo 
of maize and foodstuffs shipped by a German firm. 
She was not fitted with wireless, but the master (Mr. 
John Morrison) had fallen in with the cruiser GLASGOW 
on August 8th, and, as a result of the warning given, put 
into Pernambuco on the 10th. The Vice-Consul at Per- 
nambuco had taken some pains to ascertain the extent 
of the danger threatening British ships, having interro- 
gated masters of three British vessels arriving from 
British or American ports. The reply in each case was 
identical : nothing had been seen of enemy cruisers. 
In the meantime the agent of the Houston Company, 
in reply to an inquiry, had received a telegram from the 
owners stating that, unless the British authorities specially 
detained the steamer, he was to instruct the master 
to proceed to Las Palmas, adding, " German cruisers 
allowing British steamers proceed unmolested, with ex- 
ception removing wireless apparatus." The master was 
therefore directed to avoid the regular route. The ship was 
considerably to the eastward of the most easterly track to 
Brazilian ports and River Plate from the Canary Islands, 
when smoke was seen on the horizon off the port bow. 
The smoke, it was found, came from the German cruiser 
DRESDEN, which was accompanied by two tenders, 
the Baden and Prussia. As the DRESDEN approached, 
she was seen to be flying the French flag, a familiar decoy, 
but this was replaced by the German ensign when about a 
mile and a half distant. The Hyades continued on her 
course until signalled to stop. A boarding- party took the 
ship's papers, and Captain Morrison was told that it would 
be impossible for him to reach Rotterdam, as he would 
be diverted to a British port on entering the Channel. 
The officers and men were given an hour to leave the ship 
with their effects, and boats from the DRESDEN conveyed 
them to the Prussia. The Hyades was afterwards sunk 
by gunfire, explosives having been previously placed on 
board and the covers taken off the condensers. The Prussia, 
accompanied by the DRESDEN and Baden, then proceeded 
south. As the Hyades carried a cargo destined for Ger- 
many, the loss of the vessel, as the British Consul at Buenos 
Ayres remarked, was " not an unmixed evil." The 


gunnery of the DRESDEN, according to the master's state- 
ment, was "noticeably bad"; the sea at the time the 
Hyades was sunk was quite calm, the range was barely 
a quarter of a mile, yet it took the DRESDEN some forty 
minutes to sink her. The officers and crew of the Hyades 
were landed at Rio de Janeiro, the master leaving it on 
record that " he and his men were well and kindly treated 
while on board the s.s. Prussia." 

Before the Prussia parted company with the DRESDEN, 
that cruiser met the s.s. Siamese Prince (4,847 tons), on 
her way from London to the River Plate with a neutral 
cargo. The vessel was stopped and boarded, but after 
a delay of two hours was allowed to proceed, this leniency 
being apparently due to the character of her cargo. 

At this period in her career, the DRESDEN fell in with 
only two other British ships, the Holm-wood (4,223 tons), 
outward bound form Newport with coal for Bahia Blanca, 
and the Katharine Park (4,854 tons), on passage from Santa 
F6 and Buenos Ayres to New York. Both ships were off the 
usual track in accordance with Admiralty instructions. The 
story of the experiences of these two ships became known 
when the Katharine Park (master, Mr. H. Paterson) put into 
Rio de Janeiro on August 30th for the purpose of landing 
the captain and crew of the Holmwood. It was then re- 
ported that the Holmwood (master, Mr. R. H. Hill) had put 
into Las Palmas and had met with no incident at sea 
on leaving that port until the morning of August 26th, 
when she encountered the DRESDEN. The German officer 
of the boarding-party which went on board ordered the 
captain and crew to collect their personal effects and to 
proceed on board the Baden, a tender which was standing 
by. After these instructions had been carried out and 
some provisions had been transferred to the DRESDEN, 
a mine which had been placed in the Holmwood was ex- 
ploded and the vessel sunk. At the moment when this 
ship was being despatched, the Katharine Park arrived on 
the scene. The DRESDEN immediately sent a party on 
board, the ship's papers were examined, half an hour 
was given to the surprised master and crew to pack their 
belongings, and preparations were made to sink the ship. 
As an alternative, the captain was told he would be re- 
leased if he and his men entered into the usual parole. 
The latter course was adopted, and forthwith the master 



and crew of the Holmwood were transferred to the Katharine 
Park, which owed her release to the fact that she carried 
an American cargo. The DRESDEN and her supply ship 
then made off. 

The captain of the DRESDEN was denied a further success 
owing to the competency with which the Pacific Steam 
Navigation Company's s.s. Ortega (8,075 tons) was handled. 
She escaped capture and destruction in circumstances 
which later on drew from the Admiralty, in a letter to the 
owners, a glowing appreciation " of the courageous con- 
duct of the master, Capain Douglas R. Kinneir, in throwing 
off his pursuers by successfully navigating the uncharted 
and dangerous passage of Nelson's Strait." Three hun- 
dred Frenchmen were thus saved from becoming prisoners 
of war, and eventually joined the Army of our Ally. 
Nothing might have been known of this incident but for the 
action of His Majesty's Consul-General at Rio de Janeiro, 
who, learning the details, embodied them in a despatch to 
the Foreign Office. In this statement he recalled that the 
Ortega sailed from Valparaiso with some 300 French 
Reservists on board towards the close of September. 
These men were in considerable danger of falling into the 
hands of any enemy cruiser which sighted the Ortega, as 
the ship possessed a speed of only about 14 knots, whereas, 
as has been noted already, the Germans had at sea a number 
of ships of twenty or more knots. When the British 
vessel was close to the western entrance of the Magellan 
Straits, a German man-of-war, which was subsequently 
identified as the DRESDEN, appeared and gave chase. The 
Ortega, being the slower ship, ought speedily to have been 
captured, but, in fact, she made her escape in the manner 
narrated by the Consul-General at Rio de Janeiro : 

" Under these circumstances the master of the Ortega 
took a heroic resolve. He called for volunteers to assist 
in stoking his vessel : that appeal met with hearty re- 
sponse : firemen, engineers, and volunteers, stripped to 
the waist, set to work with a will, and the master assured 
me that they actually succeeded in whacking the old ship 
(she was built in 1906) up to a good 18 knots : the master 
headed his ship straight for the entrance of a passage 
known as Nelson's Strait ; and he made for the Strait 
at full speed, hotly pursued by the German cruiser, which 


kept firing at him with two heavy bow guns. Luckily 
none of the shot took effect, and the Ortega succeeded 
in entering Nelson's Strait, where the German cruiser did 
not dare to follow her. 

44 In order to realise the hardihood of this action upon 
the part of the master of the Ortega, it must be remembered 
that Nelson's Strait is entirely uncharted, and that the 
narrow, tortuous passage in question constitutes a veri- 
table nightmare for navigators, bristling as it does with 
reefs and pinnacle rock, swept by fierce currents and tide- 
rips, and with the cliffs on either side sheer-to, without 
any anchorage. I can speak from personal experience as 
to the terrifying nature of the navigation of Nelson's 
Strait, having once passed through it many years ago in 
a small sealing schooner. 

44 However, the master of the Ortega managed to get 
his vessel safely through this dangerous passage, employing 
the device of sending boats ahead, to sound every yard 
of the passage. Eventually, by a miracle of luck and good 
seamanship, he worked his way into Smyth's Channel, 
without having sustained even a scratch to his plates, 
and finally brought his vessel to this port." 

It will be admitted that to take an 8, 000 -ton steamer 
safely through so perilous a passage constituted a most 
notable feat of pluck and skilful seamanship. Captain 
Kinneir, confronted with the possibility of falling the 
victim of an enemy cruiser, had exhibited once more 
the resourcefulness, daring, and skill which British sea- 
men have so frequently displayed, to the admiration of 
the world. The publication of the story of his escape 
raised the spirits of the nation at a moment when, 
unaccustomed to the hazards of naval warfare, it was 
inclined to wonder what further misfortune was to 
happen, while at the same time it inspired the whole 
Merchant Navy with a high pride in its mission. 

Before her career ended, the DRESDEN encountered 
two other British ships, the s.s. North Wales (3,661 tons ; 
master, Mr. G. Owen) ; and the Conway Castle (1,694 
tons; master, Mr. J. Williams). The former vessel was 
on passage from Juan Fernandez Island, on charter by the 
Admiralty, with 704 tons of coal for the Falkland Islands, 
when she was captured by the DRESDEN on the morning of 


November 16th, in lat. 37 30' S., long. 77 0' W. The 
day had just dawned when the lookout of the North 
Wales noticed what he took to be two war- vessels on the 
starboard bow, distant about nine miles. The British 
vessel immediately altered course, hoping to avoid being 
seen by the two strange ships, which, in fact, kept on their 
course until about 6.30 a.m., as though not noticing the 
merchantman, when one of them, which proved to be the 
DRESDEN, turned towards the North Wales. An hour 
later she signalled to her to stop. The order was obeyed, 
and the British ensign was hoisted under the impression 
that the strange ship was a Japanese cruiser. As the 
master had been observing the Admiralty's instructions, 
steering a course which took him well clear of the trade 
route, the encounter with the DRESDEN was an unfortunate 
sequel to his well-directed efforts to avoid enemy ships. 
As soon as the German boarding-party had examined 
the ship's papers, the master was informed that the vessel 
would be sunk, time being allowed for the officers and 
men to collect their clothes ' and personal effects. Half 
an hour later the North Wales was sunk, and on the follow- 
ing day the crew were transferred to the German 
s.s. Rhakotis, which was in company with the DRESDEN. 
Several days later an officer from the DRESDEN demanded 
that the master and men should sign a formal declaration 
to take no part in the war, and they were subsequently 
landed by the Rhakotis at Callao on December 14th. The 
master of the North Wales, putting a strict interpretation 
on the parole into which he had entered, refused to give any 
information to the British Consul at the port as to what 
had happened on board the Rhakotis during the inter- 
vening weeks since the capture of his ship, beyond stating 
that " during our whole time on board the s.s. Rhakotis 
we were very well treated." 

The last vessel to be captured by the DRESDEN was the 
sailing-vessel Conway Castle, which had left Valparaiso on 
February 17th, 1915, for Queenstown, with a cargo of barley. 
All went well for ten days. In lat. 3721 / S., long. 81 58'W., 
the DRESDEN appeared, and when still three miles 
distant exchanged signals, ordering the ship to stop. 
The boarding-party then proceeded on board, and after 
the ship's stores and provisions had been transferred to 
the DRESDEN, to which the crew had been ordered to row 


in their own boat, the Conway Castle was sunk. On 
March 7th, master (Mr. John Williams) and men were 
transferred to the Peruvian barque LORTON, and reached 
Valparaiso five days later. This proved to be the last 
exploit of the DRESDEN, which was sunk at Juan Fer- 
nandez Island on March 14th by British cruisers. The 
narrative of the experiences of British shipmasters shows 
that the captain of the DRESDEN had a proper appreciation 
of the mandates of humanity, and respected them in his 
dealings with the unfortunate officers and men of British 
merchant ships which he encountered during his cruise 
as a corsair. 

Nor does the story of the career of the armed merchant 
cruiser KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE reveal any less 
respect for the laws of the brotherhood of the sea which 
had obtained general acceptance throughout the world 
before the outbreak of war. Of the swift merchant ships 
in German ports which were capable of offensive use on 
the trade routes, this was the only one to put to sea in 
the early days of the war. It is probable that she was 
despatched in order to test the efficiency of the British 
control of the seas. She must have moved up the Nor- 
wegian coast at full speed, taking the fullest advantage 
of the darkness, and proceeded on an extreme northerly 
route, since at 7 o'clock on the evening of August 7th she 
came upon the British steam trawler Tubal Cain (227 tons). 
A heavy sea was running, and the skipper of the Tubal 
Cain (Mr. Charles Smith) had just got his gear on board 
and was preparing to light a buoy near which he intended to 
" dodge," when the KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE ap- 
peared. The scene of the incident was about fifty miles west- 
north-west from Staalbierghuk, on the west coast of Iceland. 
The German vessel put out a boat, and two officers boarded 
the Tubal Cain. They asked the skipper if he had heard 
that war had broken out between Germany and England. 
The reply was in the affirmative, as he had heard it two 
days ago, although the ketch had left Grimsby on July 25th. 
A demand was made for the ship's papers, and the crew of 
fourteen hands was directed to get into the trawler's small 
boat and proceed on board the KAISER WILHELM DER 
GROSSE. As there was a heavy sea running with a strong 
wind, two journeys had to be made, but by 9 o'clock 
the transfer had been completed, and then the KAISER 


WILHELM DER GROSSE moved a short distance from the 
Tubal Cain and began firing. Altogether forty-eight shots 
were fired before the vessel was sunk. The firing officer 
remarked to the skipper by way of apology for the bad 
gunnery, that " the trawler, being British, took a lot of 
sinking." The skipper and the chief engineer were 
taken to the officers' quarters, an act of consideration 
which was appreciated, but the rest of the crew were 
sent below. 

In those circumstances the KAISER WILHELM DER 
GROSSE began her career, in the course of which she was 
attended from time to time by at least four supply ships, 
and sank only two British merchantmen. On August 15th 
she fell in with the Union Castle liner Galician (6,762 tons), 
which had left Table Bay on July 28th for London. The 
Galician was in lat. 27 30' N., long. 18 W., being about 
sixty miles off the usual track from South Africa to 
Tenerife, when the KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE over- 
hauled her. According to the German officers, the pre- 
sence of the liner had been revealed by a wireless message 
which she had sent. The narrative of events can best 
be given in the words of Captain E. M. Day, the master 
of the Galician : 

" On August 15th, at 2.45 p.m. in lat. 27 30' N., long. 
18 W., we were overhauled by the German armed cruiser 
KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE, who signalled, ' If you 
communicate by wireless I will sink you.' He then 
ordered us to lower our aerial and to follow him at full 
speed. At 3.15 p.m. we were ordered to stop. The cruiser 
then sent a boat manned by two officers and men who 
destroyed the wireless, inspected the ship's papers, and 
mustered and inspected all passengers and crew. At 
5.30 p.m. the Germans left the ship, taking with them 
Lieutenant Deane, first-class passenger, and C. Sheerman 
(gunner), third-class passenger, also all ship's papers and 
documents, etc. At 5.40 p.m. we were ordered to precede 
cruiser at full speed and to steer S. 25 W. (magnetic). 
At 6 p.m. we received orders to keep all lights extinguished, 
and to have all effects belonging to passengers and crew 
ready on deck, to provision all boats, and to have every- 
thing in order for leaving the ship at daylight. At 8.30 
we were ordered to alter course to S. 17 E. (magnetic), 


on which course we continued until 3.40, August 16th, 
when we received orders to steer S. 45 W. (magnetic), 
the cruiser throughout following closely in our wake. 
At 5 a.m. the cruiser sent the following message : ' To 
Captain Day : I will not destroy your ship on account 
of the women and children on board you are dismissed 
good-bye.' To which the following reply was sent : 
4 To German Captain Most grateful thanks from passengers 
and crew good-bye.' Lat. 25 25' N., long. 17 20' W. 
The cruiser then left us at full speed, and we turned ship 
and shaped a course for Tenerife." 

A further statement was made by Captain Day in the 
following terms : 

"Having made a verbal report this forenoon at the 
Admiralty, I now beg to add the following observations 
regarding the points with which I was then desired by 
Captain Webb l to deal specially in my formal report : 

" Courses. The KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE did not 
approach the Galician directly, but at first kept wide of 
us on a parallel course, flying no colours, and it was only 
when turning in towards us that she hoisted the German 
ensign. I then ran up the Red Ensign, and it was at this 
time the German cruiser threatened to sink me unless 
I stopped wireless communication. The commander of 
the cruiser then ordered me to follow him, and ultimately 
to come alongside on his starboard side. 

" As will be seen from my report above, after the German 
officer had taken away my papers, we were ordered to 
alter our courses from time to time, at a speed of 12 knots, 
in such a way that we steered three triangular courses, 
obviously as if the cruiser were looking out for some other 
vessels, and it was possibly owing to failing in this attempt 
that he at last dismissed my ship and allowed me to pro- 
ceed on my voyage. 

" Wireless Apparatus. The manner in which I was 
boarded has already been dealt with, but I may now say 
that, after my aerials had been sent down, the wireless 
installation was broken up by the Germans. I am pleased 
to add that, as our aerials had not been thrown overboard, 
the Senior Marconi Operator of my ship went ashore, 

1 Director of the Trade Division of the War Staff, now Rear-Admiral 
Sir Richard Webb, K.C.M.G., C.B, 


upon our arrival at Tenerife, and obtained some spare 
parts which enabled him to fit up an emergency apparatus 
of moderate power. When this had been done, I instructed 
him that, while he should take every opportunity of 
receiving messages, he was on no account to transmit 
any messages or to communicate with other ships until 
we reached the English Channel. The fitting of this 
temporary apparatus enabled me later on to communicate 
with my owners. In my opinion great credit is due to the 
operator for the steps he took to enable me thus to maintain 
communication, and I have every reason to believe, not 
only that he strictly carried out my orders in listening for 
messages, as we afterwards received several, but that he 
also avoided sending any messages without my authority. 

" Tobacco. Having heard that some of the German 
boatmen were trying to purchase cigars and cigarettes 
from our men on the lower deck, I passed along word that 
there must be no trading with this German ship, and this 
I believe was also done by the German officer who was 
then in my cabin. After the mustering of the crew and 
passengers, and the examination and removal of the ship' s 
papers, I asked the German officer if he would take a cigar, 
and he laughingly observed, ' Yes, we have no cigars left.' 
This I felt to be a convenient opportunity for showing 
my sense of the courtesy with which this individual officer 
had treated myself and my ship, and I said to him, 4 If 
you will have a few cigars or cigarettes, I shall be very 
pleased.' I then sent a steward to fetch 300 cigars and 
1,200 cigarettes, which I asked the officer to accept, and 
he expressed his thanks for this act of courtesy. 

" In this connection I may add that, after the German 
cruiser had left us, I was told by several of my first-class 
passengers that the men in the German boat did not appear 
to relish their task, and that when asking for cigarettes 
and tobacco they said, in what appeared almost a state 
of trembling anxiety : ' We do not want to fight ; we have 
no grudge against your English ships.' 

" Medical Stores. From casual conversation afterwards 
with passengers, I learned that some of them had been 
told by the men in the German boat alongside that the 
KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE had a crew of about 450 
men, very largely R.N.R. men, and it is significant of the 
possibility of a considerable amount of sickness being on 


board that the German officer in charge of the boat's crew 
took away all the quinine from the surgery of my ship." * 

Early on the morning of August 16th, when the New 
Zealand Shipping Company's s.s. Kaipara (7,392 tons) 
was on passage to England from Montevideo with a large 
cargo, the KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE, which had just 
released the Galician, appeared, making signals which the 
master (Mr. H. Makepeace) " could not understand." 
He realised, however, that he was in danger. He was 
sending wireless messages for assistance when the KAISER 
WILHELM DER GROSSE steamed up and hailed him through 
a megaphone : " Stop your wireless or I will sink you." 
A boarding- party then went on board, threw several parts 
of the wireless apparatus overboard, examined the ship's 
papers, and, sending the officers and men on board 
the merchant cruiser, sank the British vessel. A charge 
of gun-cotton was put in the stokehole, the condenser 
doors were opened, and then fifty-three shots were fired. 

On the following day the Royal Mail Steam Packet Com- 
pany's liner Arlanza (15,044 tons) was intercepted on her 
voyage from Buenos Ayres to Southampton. She had left 
the former port on July 31st, and was in lat. 24 40' N., long. 
17 14' W. The procedure in the case of the Galician was 
repeated. The Arlanza first received a signal, " Heave 
to, or I will fire into you." When that order had been 
complied with, the enemy vessel, which was then within 
200 or 300 yards, sent another signal : " Lower away 
and throw overboard all your wireless installation." A 
later inquiry elicited the fact that the Arlanza was carrying 
a number of passengers. That was followed by the wel- 
come notification : " Dismissed on account of your having 
women and children on board." That signal was twice 
repeated. Then came the final message : " I have no 
further commands for your captain." Commander C. E. 
Down, in a report to his owners, stated that his passen- 
gers were naturally rather excited during the exchange 

1 In his report to the Union Castle Steamship Company, Captain Day 
recorded that " the German officers were most courteous throughout." 
The Admiralty sent through the Union Castle Mail Steamship Company 
a special message of commendation to Captain Day and the wireless opera- 
tor of the Galician : "To the former for the tact which he had displayed in 
difficult circumstances, and to the latter for the promptitude and resource 
with which he replaced the wireless installation." 


of signals, wondering what their fate would be; "but 
there was no panic or noise, and the relief was very marked 
when they heard the verdict that we could proceed." 
The Arlanza reached Las Palmas at 7 a.m. on the following 
morning, having by 8 p.m. on the preceding night, or 
six hours after the arrest, fitted up and put in working 
order the ship's duplicate wireless set and sent warning 
messages to the cruiser CORNWALL, which was known to 
be cruising in the neighbourhood of the Canary Islands, 
and that vessel passed them on to the CUMBERLAND. 

The KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE next fell in with 
the Elder liner Nyanga (3,066 tons). That vessel had 
sailed from Calabar, on the West Coast of Africa, on 
July 28th with a cargo of African produce for Hamburg ; 
but on arrival at Sierra Leone, the master (Mr. C. H. 
Jones) received orders to proceed to Liverpool, war 
having broken out. The Nyanga was about 230 miles 
south-west of Cape Blanco, being to the eastward of the 
usual track, when the German cruiser was reported about 
seven miles on her port bow, drawing in. A short time 
afterwards the Nyanga was ordered to stop, and, after 
the preliminary inquiries had been answered by signal, 
a boarding-party instructed the officers and crew to collect 
their belongings and proceed on board the KAISER 
WILHELM DER GROSSE. The sea-cocks were opened, the 
condenser covers removed, and the Nyanga was then 
sunk by means of a dynamite charge, which blew the 
ship's side out. 1 

While the KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE was operating, 
with small results, in the south-east Atlantic, the German 
cruiser KARLSRUHE, the whereabouts of which had been for 
some time the subject of anxiety to the Admiralty, was 
busy in the neighbourhood of the West Indies, afterwards 
reaching out to South American waters. Elaborate 
arrangements had been made to insure adequate supplies 
of coal and stores, tenders being placed under orders to 
meet the warship as directed from time to time. The 
cruise of the KARLSRUHE stands out from the history of 
the warfare on commerce as a notable success achieved 
by a weak sea power in face of superior force. After 

1 The crews of the Kaipara and Nyanga were sent off in the German 
tender Arucas before the action with the HIGHFLYER and landed at Las 
Palmas on August 28th. 


escaping from Rear- Admiral Cradock's squadron in the 
West Indies on August 6th, she revealed her presence to 
the east of Barbadoes on August 18th. The steamship 
Bowes Castle (4,650 tons), of the Lancashire Shipping 
Company, had left Montevideo for New York on the very 
day war was declared. Three days later the ship was 
stopped by the British cruiser GLASGOW and warned 
that, as war had broken out, she should proceed direct 
to New York, avoiding the usual course and screening 
lights. On noticing a warship of unknown nationality 
at sea, about ten miles away on the port bow, the 
master of the Bowes Castle (Mr. E. Howe) apparently 
thought little of the incident, and proceeded on his 
course. The strange ship, however, gradually drew in, 
and at length fired a shot as a warning to the Bowes 
Castle to stop. This signal was immediately complied 
with, and it was then found that the stranger was 
the KARLSRUHE. The usual routine with which other 
masters had already become familiar was then followed. 
The crew was sent on board the supply ship Patagonia, 
and the Bowes Castle was sunk by explosive charges. 
The Patagonia, with her involuntary passengers, subse- 
quently followed the movements of the KARLSRUHE, 
and on the 21st the two ships anchored off Maraca Island, 
at the mouth of the River Amazon, and the cruiser pro- 
ceeded to coal from the Patagonia. Six days later the 
British seamen were transferred to another of the KARLS- 
RUHE'S attendant ships, the collier Stadt Schleswig, and 
were eventually landed at Maranham on September 2nd. 
The German cruiser's bunkers having been filled, she 
resumed her career of commerce destruction. On 
the evening of August 31st, at 5 p.m., she fell in with the 
steamship Strathroy (4,336 tons) 120 miles N.N.E. of Cape 
St. Roque. This Glasgow-owned vessel was a valuable 
prize, as she was carrying a large cargo of coal from Nor- 
folk, Virginia, to Rio de Janeiro. She left the former 
port on August 15th. The Strathroy was overhauled 
by the warship and ordered to follow her to the lee side 
of Rocas Island, where anchor was cast about three- 
quarters of a mile from the shore. An armed guard then 
proceeded on board the Strathroy and took possession of 
her, in spite of the protests of the master (Mr. J. Mason), 
who urged that the ship was in neutral waters. The 


officer in command of the guard disregarded this plea. 
Possibly in a spirit of bluff, he explained that the enemy 
had learnt of the ship's departure from Norfolk, and 
that her coal was badly needed, adding that he could 
not let legal trifles stand in his way when the success 
of the cruiser's operations was at stake. All the crew, 
with the exception of some Chinamen, who were retained 
to transfer a portion of the coal to the KARLSRUHE, were 
ordered to leave the ship, which was taken away and sunk 
some days later when she had served the enemy's purpose. 

Her bunkers replenished,' the KARLSRUHE again put 
to sea and overhauled the s.s. Maple Branch (4,338 tons), 
on passage from Liverpool to Punta Arenas, Chile. Al- 
though the Maple Branch carried a valuable cargo of 2,000 
tons and prize cattle stated to be worth 4,0.00, the ship 
was destroyed without compunction, the master and crew 
being removed to the Crefeld, of Bremen, which was in 
company with the KARLSRUHE. For service as scouts, 
the captain of the KARLSRUHE kept in attendance on 
him two other vessels, the Rio Negro and Asuncion, both 
being fitted with wireless, thus facilitating their use for 
intelligence purposes. Provided with eyes and ears, the 
KARLSRUHE remained in the neighbourhood of Pernam- 
buco, where she had already done so well, and in the 
second fortnight of September added four more large 
ships to her list of captures the Highland Hope (5,150 
tons), the Indrani (5,706 tons) ; the Cornish City (3,816 
tons) ; and the Rio Iguassu (3,817 tons). All these ships, 
except the Indrani, which, under the name of Hoffnung, 
joined the KARLSRUHE'S force of supply ships, were sunk. 

When the Germans boarded the Highland Hope, Lieu- 
tenant Shrovder, with his armed party standing behind 
him, confronted the British captain in his cabin. He de- 
manded in a peremptory manner why the Highland Hope 
had not stopped when requested to do so ; his displeasure 
probably was not lessened by an arresting caricature 
of the Kaiser which could hardly have escaped his notice. 
He was so incensed that he threatened to have the master 
(Mr. J. B. Thompson) taken to the cruiser and put in 
irons. This intention was not, however, carried out, but 
officers and men were directed to get their personal 
belongings together, and in the meantime the German 
seamen rummaged the ship, eating anything they could 


lay their hands on. The transfer to the Crefeld was not 
effected without difficulty, and the engineer, weighing 
about seventeen stone, in climbing up the rope ladder 
while the ship was rising and falling in the swell, fell 
back on the captain, who was attempting to help him. 
The British seamen joined on board this German vessel 
the captured crews of the Straihroy and the Maple 
Branch. The men fairly took charge of the ship, all 
hands singing, " It's a long way to Tipper ary." Thus 
these brothers in misfortune began their enforced cruise 
in the Crefeld. The cruiser remained stationary while 
the Crefeld steamed to the west and the Rio Negro 
steamed to the east, at distances enabling them to keep 
in visual touch with the cruiser. Owing to the clear 
atmosphere and the crow's nests at the mastheads, the 
enemy covered a field with a front of about 140 miles. 
On the 17th the Indrani l was captured, and then the 
scouting was resumed. On the 21st the Dutch steamer 
Maria, laden with wheat, from Portland, Oregon, for 
Belfast and Dublin, was captured. 8 The crew, consisting 
of a motley crowd of Greeks, Chilians, and Arabs, had little 
time to make their final preparations ; some of them 
arrived on board the Crefeld in hard hats and wearing 
their best suits ; others had no shirts or singlets, and were 
without stockings. Some of the firemen had been called 
straight from the stokehold, and were black with grime. 
These men, like those of the Indrani, were greeted on 
board with the singing of " It's a long way to Tipperary," 
and were then submitted to close questioning to learn the 
latest news of the progress of the war. 

A further interesting sidelight on the procedure followed 
by the KARLSRUHE is furnished by the master of the 
Cornish City (Mr. J. Bethke), who, together with his crew, 
was taken on board the Rio Negro, where they were 
" received with all friendliness" : 

" By this time the cruiser's crew were busy connecting 
fuses, etc., from the ship to the cruiser ready for blowing 
up the Cornish City. The sea-cocks had already been 

1 Master,- Mr. N. B. Pilcher. 

a The Maria left Punta Arenas with a cargo of wheat for Belfast and 
Dublin. She was sailing under the Dutch flag, and was subsequently 
condemned by the German Prize Court on the plea that Belfast, the first 
port of destination, had been declared a naval harbour on August 14th. 


opened, and already the steamer could be seen to settle 
down slowly. About this time we were joined by another 
German steamer, the Crefeld, who, we were told, had 
already on board five British crews of steamers that had 
been captured and sunk. Only the same morning she 
had taken a crew off a steamer which was found to be 
carrying contraband, and therefore sunk. All our crew 
were standing about the deck waiting to see the last of 
the Cornish City, but only a small hole two feet square 
had been blown into her, and she took a long time to sink, 
and when she did finally take her last dive it was too dark 
to see anything of her. She sank at 7.35 p.m. At 9 p.m. 
the cruiser KARLSRUHE proceeded again, followed by the 
Crefeld and the Rio Negro, steaming to the southward. 
As I have already said, we were received with the utmost 
kindness on board the Rio Negro and made as comfortable 
as possible. This steamer is a passenger boat fitted to 
carry 60 first-class and 200 second-class passengers. We 
were all given first-class berths, with the exception of the 
sailors and firemen, who were put into the third-class. Far 
from being regarded as prisoners of war, we were treated 
like first-class passengers throughout, everybody on board 
combining to make us comfortable. 

" September 22nd. On this day, at 5 a.m., the cruisers 
stopped an Italian and an Austrian steamer, but, after 
being examined, they were allowed to proceed. At 7 a.m. 
another steamer was sighted ; this turned out to be the 
Rio Iguassu, 1 a British steamer loaded with coal. She 
was stopped and examined and the crew told to clear out. 
But just then a Swedish steamer came along, and she must 
have given the cruiser some information about a British 
cruiser, for a few minutes later we were all under way again, 
followed by the Rio Iguassu, and steering due west to 
get clear of the track. As in the case of the Cornish City, 
these steamers were held up right in the usual shipping 
track, where at any moment a British cruiser might have 
turned up. We steamed west until 1 p.m., when a stop 
was made and the cruiser went alongside the Rio Iguassu 
to bunker. Owing to the heavy swell, she found this to 
be impossible, and she cast off again at 2 p.m., after which 
a crowd of marines were sent on board to take off any 
provisions. Several boat-loads were taken away, and then 
1 Master, Mr. George Johnstone. 


she too was made ready to be blown up. The crew were 
transferred to the Crefeld. Her sea-cocks were opened, 
and at 5 p.m. she began to settle down by the stern. At 
5.30 p.m. a hole was blown in her, and now she seemed to 
be heeling over to port rapidly. We had a good view of 
this steamer, and could see her going over all the time. 
At 6 p.m. she suddenly turned right over on her beam 
ends, and then, with a noise like a last groan, disappeared 
beneath the water head first. It was a pitiful sight to see 
a good ship like that destroyed, and it made us wish that 
a British cruiser would come along and put a stop to this 
ruthless and absolutely useless destruction of British 
merchant ships. However, we were helpless in this matter, 
and must put up with it. This evening we passed in 
the saloon playing cards, draughts, and chess, with the 
officers of this steamer, and we had a very pleasant time. 
We are now beginning to wonder what they intend to do 
with us, and when and where we are likely to be landed. The 
worst trouble is that there is no means of letting our families 
know what has happened, and we are afraid that if we do 
not arrive at Rio by next Monday or Tuesday they will 
begin to wonder, and of course at once imagine the worst. 
We hope now that the Crefeld, having six crews on board, 
must be nearly full, and that they will therefore transfer 
us to her and send us in to one of the Brazilian ports. 

" September 23rd. Nothing of any consequence occurred 
to-day. The cruiser and her two consorts are cruising 
about all day looking for any foreign steamers, but none 
are to be seen. A masthead lookout is being kept on board 
the steamer continuously day and night. We are hoping 
a British cruiser will come along soon, but it looks as if 
we were fixed here for some time to come. We are passing 
our time playing shuffleboard on deck in daytime, and cards 
or chess in the cabin at nights. The captain and the 
second mate are the only deck officers left on board here 
now, and they are keeping an hour watch, as the chief 
mate and the third mate were left in charge of a British 
steamer in some port on the African coast, where they 
are waiting ready to coal the cruiser if she should run short 
of bunkers. I can't find out the name of this steamer, 
but I have heard it is one of the Wilson liners. The crew 
of her are on board the Crefeld. 

" September 24>th. Everybody is beginning to feel pretty 


sick at being held up like this, as there seems no chance 
of our being set ashore anywhere for some time. We are 
still being treated as well as we could wish, but the time 
hangs heavily on our hands, and we want to be on our 
way home again. Even this steamer's crew wish a British 
cruiser would come along and capture us, as they have 
been out here cruising around for the last seven weeks, 
and they begin to get tired of it, and they think, if a British 
cruiser would capture us, she would send them all home. 
This afternoon the news got around that the KARLSRUHE 
is only looking for one more capture before sending us 
all to Para, and nothing would suit us better if it were 
only true. But I am afraid things will be pretty bad at 
Para too, and we shall have a good deal of trouble to get 
home from there. Well, we are hoping for the best, and 
if we have to stay here for a month or so we shall be half 
dead with ennui. 

" September 25th. This seems to be a day of rest, as 
the cruiser and her two escorts are lying still and not 
moving through the water for once. It appears that the 
former is cleaning out some of her boilers. Our boats 
have been over to her several times to-day taking pro- 
visions, such as flour, beef, and sugar, and have brought 
back an injured sailor for attendance by the doctor. Of 
course, they have a surgeon on board the cruiser, but I 
take it they wish to keep their hospitals clear, and have no 
sick people on board, in case they should have to fight. 

44 September 26th. The three of us are still lying motion- 
less in the same place, apparently while the cruiser is 
executing repairs. I wish I could find out our where- 
abouts, but the movements are kept very close. I think 
we should be very near the Rocas and to the westward 
of them, as we have been steering to the westward since 
we left the track. The time passes very slowly with us 
all, and we shall be glad when they land us. 

44 Sunday, September 27th. This is the first Sunday 
we have spent as prisoners of war, and we earnestly hope 
it will be the last, and that before next Sunday we shall 
all have been landed at some port where we shall be able 
to get a steamer for home. We have been lying idle all 
the morning again, but at 2 p.m. we commenced to steam 
again, taking a course to the southward. I heard there 
was a steamer in some port on the South American coast, 


or rather in some unfrequented bay, where we are to go 
to coal the cruiser. This may be true or not ; we hear 
so many tales that we can't tell which to believe. If it 
is true, we should reach the coast some time to-morrow 
that is, if I am right in my approximate position of the 
ship. We are now twenty-four days out from home, and 
to-morrow the owners will be expecting to hear of our arrival 
at Rio de Janeiro. It's not likely they will have heard of 
our capture, but if they don't hear by Wednesday they will 
probably imagine something of the sort. I wish it were 
possible to let them know about our being safe, because 
our people will be sure to begin inquiring of the owners, 
and if they can't hear anything definite about us they will 
begin to worry about our safety. But we must wait 
until we get to some port from where I can cable home. 
Let's hope that it won't be too long to wait. 

" September 28th. We kept steaming all this morning 
to the southward, and at 10 a.m. stopped, and the three 
ships spread out so that each ship was just within sight 
of one of the others. This looked as if we were looking 
for something, and sure enough, at 2 a.m., we met another 
German steamer, the Asuncion, of this same company. 
Until 5 p.m. she kept in constant communication with 
the cruiser and the Crefeld, and then she again steamed 
away the same way she had come. We then remained 
stationary for the remainder of the day and part of the 

44 September 2Qth. In the early morning of this day we 
again began to steam, but this time to the south-east, 
and proceeded until 2 p.m., when we were again joined by 
two other steamers. One of these steamers had the prize 
crew of the Strathroy on board. She (the KARLSRUHE) had 
taken the last of the coal out of her, and then, after 
taking the prize crew off, had scuttled her. The Strathroy 
is another British steamer the Germans had captured 
and hid away in one of the many unfrequented bays on 
the North Brazilian coast, to wait until her cargo of 
coal would be wanted. Her original crew is on the 
Crefeld now. At 3 p.m. the cruiser and the two strangers 
steamed away, leaving the Crefeld and ourselves here to 
wait for orders. 

"September 30th. This day has been a very gloomy 
one for everyone on board, and has left everyone feeling 



pretty miserable. At 7 o'clock this morning, whilst some 
beef and potatoes were being sent over from our ship to 
the Crefeld, the boat capsized and all the provisions were 
spilt into the sea. This happened while the boat was being 
lowered into the water, so that, luckily, no men were in her 
and no lives were lost. At 10 a.m. the ship's doctor was 
found dead in his room next to mine. He had been com- 
plaining for a long time about a severe pain in his chest, 
but no one dreamt that he was seriously ill, because he 
always used to be about joking and playing with everyone. 
It appears, however, that he had been unable to sleep 
at nights for some time, and was in the habit of taking 
morphia to induce sleep, and, his heart being weak, it was 
unable to stand it. When he was found he had not been 
dead for more than half an hour or so, but although the 
doctor from the Crefeld came over at once, he was not able 
to do anything. We buried him at 5 p.m., his body being 
laid in a teak wood coffin and, covered with a German flag, 
lowered into the sea. We feel awfully sorry for him, be- 
cause he was a well-to-do man who only came to sea for 
the benefit of his health, and was kept at sea owing to 
the war. 

" October 1st. At daylight we were joined again by the 
Asuncion, and she remained with us all day. We were 
continually steaming at about half-speed all day, waiting 
for the cruiser to return, but all we saw were one or two 
merchant vessels, who got away all right, as there was no 
one to chase them. We are all longing to hear some news 
from home, and how the war is getting on. Yesterday 
the doctor and the mate of the Crefeld told us that the 
Germans had taken Paris and had driven the Russians 
out of East Prussia altogether, but, of course, we don't 
know how much of this is true. 

" October 2nd. At 9 o'clock this morning we sighted 
the cruiser, accompanied by another large steamer, coming 
towards us. This steamer turned out to be the Indrani, 
of Liverpool. She is a large cargo steamer, and was cap- 
tured by these people some weeks ago. Laden with 
coal, she had been kept out of the way somewhere as a 
collier for the cruiser, and a new name painted on her bows, 
the Hoffnung. I suppose, after bunkering out of her, 
the cruiser brought her back to act as a kind of scout 
for us, for after getting under way for the track again, 


about noon, the Asuncion steamed away to the northward, 
while the Indrani went to the southward, both steamers 
keeping just within sight on the horizon. To-day we heard 
that a big battle has been won by the Germans against 
the British Fleet, where the former are supposed to have 
lost twenty-five torpedo-boats, while the losses of the 
British were ninety torpedo-boats and six Dreadnoughts 
and cruisers. I suspect these news are like all the war news 
we get here, specially got up to cheer the hearts of the 
Germans, and we don't take much notice of them. We 
are now cruising around looking for other harmless mer- 
chant vessels to sink ; wish we could run against the 
GLASGOW or some other British cruiser, to put an end to 
this destruction of British ships and send us home. There 
has been no more talk as to when we are likely to be trans- 
ferred and sent into a neutral port, so we have to just 
sit and wait. 

" October 3rd. Nothing of any consequence occurred 
to-day. The cruiser and her consorts were steaming due 
east again until 5 p.m., when she stopped for the night, 
apparently near the track. Of the Asuncion and the 
Hoffnung we have seen nothing all day ; they have prob- 
ably gone back to shelter. 

" October 4th. This is the second Sunday since we 
came on board here, and everyone wishes they were at 
home instead. As far as comfort is concerned, we have 
nothing to complain about ; we have first-class cabins 
and are having splendid food ; in fact, are living a kind of 
hotel life, with nothing to do save eat, sleep, and drink. 
There is no doubt we are a jolly sight better off than the 
crews on board the Crefeld. Exclusive of her own crew, 
there are now six other crews, of steamers that have been 
sunk, on board her, in all about 200 people. She is so 
crowded that we have heard the captains and officers 
have to have their meals on deck ; and as she is only fitted 
out for forty first-class passengers, a good few of them have 
to sleep in the steerage. Besides this, she has no refri- 
gerating machinery, being a much older ship than this, 
so that they have to live on salt provisions practically. 
Once or twice a week we send some fresh beef over to 
her from this ship, and a few potatoes, but that, is all. 
Now we are getting everything of the very best fresh 
provisions and fresh fruit every day, and can have as 


much beer as we want. So we really have nothing 
much to complain about; but we wish to get home, 
and even good living does not make up for that. We 
are in the track again now looking for ships, but there 
do not seem to be any about. The three ships are lying 
scattered all day, but before dark they are all close 
together and lie all night. The weather is keeping very 
warm and fine. 

44 October 5th. Still lying scattered looking for ships, 
the three ships just within sight of one another. At 
4 p.m. the cruiser sighted something, for she was off in 
chase of some steamer, ourselves following at full speed. 
At 6 o'clock the cruiser caught her quarry and stopped her, 
but we did not get up to her until 7 p.m., and by this time 
it was too dark to see who the steamer was. She seemed a 
large boat, and must have been either English or French, 
but the crew was transferred to the Crefeld and a prize 
crew put on board to take charge. We heard she was 
laden with coal, so they probably intend to keep her 
for bunkering purposes like the Indrani. At midnight 
she steamed away, leaving the cruiser and her two escorts 
behind, and we stopped where we were all night. I 
wonder if they will transfer us now and send us in to be 
landed; as I mentioned some time ago, there has been 
some talk of the Crefeld being nearly full of prisoners, 
and that as soon as one more steamer was caught and 
captured, we should be transferred to her and the lot of 
us sent to be landed at a South American port. I only 
hope it will turn out to be true. 

" October 6th. This morning we heard that the steamer 
caught last night was the JParn, 1 outward bound from 
Cardiff. We had expected that she might have some news 
about the war, but if she had it has been suppressed, and 
we have heard nothing. The crew may have been able 
to tell us something, but, as I have said, they have been 
sent to the Crefeld. We were cruising around again this 
morning looking for steamers, and at 3 p.m. one was sighted 

1 After her capture the Farn (4,393 tons ; master, Mr. G. T. Alleyne) 
put into San Juan (Porto Rico) on January llth, 1915, under the 
command of a lieutenant taken out of the cruiser KARLSRUHE, her 
mission being to obtain 'provisions. The State Department at Washington 
declared that she was to be regarded as a naval tender, and twenty-four 
hours were given for her to leave. At the end of that period the vessel 
was interned. 


steering to the north-eastwards. She turned out to be the 
Niceto de Larrinaga, l of Liverpool, homeward bound from 
the River Plate with a cargo of foodstuffs. She was sighted 
from this ship first, and the signal given to the cruiser, who 
at once set off in chase. At 5 p.m. we came up with her, 
a boat from the cruiser boarded her, and a little afterwards 
we could see all the crew getting ready to leave the ship. 
She is a fine steamer and looked nearly new, but of course, 
being laden with grain, she was of no use to the cruiser, 
and had to be sunk. It is a shame to see so many fine 
steamers sunk, but so long as no British cruisers come here 
to put a stop to it, they will no doubt continue. A lot 
of time was taken up taking stores out of the ship for the 
cruiser, especially potatoes, of which these ships are run- 
oing short. At 9 p.m. the steamer began to settle, but the 
hole blown into her must have been very small, for she was 
a long time going down, taking a list first one way and then 
the other. She settled down bodily until her engine- 
room skylight was awash, after which she went down by 
the head. I suppose her cargo helped to keep her afloat, 
because it was 2 p.m. when at last she took her last 

" October 7th. This morning we could still see a lot of 
wreckage floating around belonging to the steamer sunk 
last night, such as boats, spars, and boxes. At 8 a.m. two 
other steamers were seen, and the cruiser set off after 
one of them, ourselves following him. The other steamer, 
of course, managed to get away, so she had something to be 
thankful for, because if the two of them had not happened 
to be seen together, at the same time, both of them would 
have been caught. The one we followed was the Lyn- 
rott'an, 8 of Liverpool, also homeward bound from the River 
Plate, and laden with sugar, oats, etc. She also was 
condemned and the crew transferred to the Crefeld, like 
the crew of the steamer caught last night. Among her 
crew were two ladies, and I was surprised they were taken 
to the Crefeld, because that steamer must be getting pretty 
overcrowded with all her ' prisoners of war.' She must 
have at least 300 on board now, and, seeing that this 
steamer is bigger and better than she is, it seems strange 
that they should overcrowd her like that and leave this 

1 Niceto de Larrinaga (5,018 tons; master, Mr. R F Nagle). 
1 Lynrowan (3,384 tons ; master, Mr. Arthur Jones). 


steamer with only one ship's crew on board. As far as 
we are concerned, we should welcome some new arrivals, 
for we may get some fresh news from them, but I suppose 
they have their reasons for putting all the people on board 
there. Each of the three steamers took a couple of boat- 
loads of sugar out of the ship, and at 11 a.m. all the crew 
were away and the ship ready for sinking. We did not 
get a chance to see her sink at close quarters, because 
both the Crefeld and the Rio Negro that is, ourselves 
were ordered away to look for other steamers. However, 
we could see from a distance that the cruiser was using 
her for target practice, and was shooting at her. She 
sank at 2 p.m. this is now two ships sunk within 
three days, and another one captured and detained, and 
it seems strange to us that this should be allowed to go on. 
Surely long before this the news must have reached home, 
if not definitely, still, so many ships being so long overdue 
must have given them some idea of what is going on here. 
And yet the track is said to be clear clear of British ship- 
ping ; it will be before long if this goes on much longer. 
We hear that there are some British cruisers on the South 
American coast, and indeed there must be, for so many ships 
to get as far as this in safety only to be caught here ; but 
it is sure enough there is no British cruiser anywhere 
around here, or it could not help spotting us, for we seldom 
go far off the track. 

44 October 8th. At 6 a.m. a steamer was sighted, and the 
cruiser set off in chase of her, bringing her up about 8 a.m. 
She turned out to be the s.s. Cervantes, 1 of Liverpool, 
bound from the West Coast to Liverpool. Crew was 
ordered off the ship ; the cruiser took a lot of provisions 
off, and a hole was blown into her. At 11 a.m. she began 
to sink. We were then ordered away to scout, and at 
12.40 p.m. saw her disappear stern first. At 1 p.m. our 
crew received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to be 
transferred to the s.s. Crefeld. All this afternoon the Rio 
Negro was away scouting, while the cruiser and the Crefeld 
kept close together. At 6 p.m. closed up for the night. 

44 October 9th. At 1 a.m. another steamer was sighted, 
and stopped by a shot across her bows, turning out to be 
the s.s. Pruth,* of London, on a voyage from the West 

1 Cervantes (4,635 tons; master, Mr. E. J. Holton). 
a Pruth (4,408 tons; master, Mr. J. Evans). 

CH. in] THE " FARN " AS A DECOY i 65 

Coast to St. Vincent for orders, with a cargo of nitrate. 
Crew ordered to leave : at 6 a.m. crew transferred to the 
s.s. Crefeld, and at 8 a.m. ourselves were ordered to be 
sent across to the same steamer. By the time we came 
on board, the Pruth was abandoned, and fuses fixed. 
Two explosions occurred, one at 10.30 a.m. and the second 
at 10.45, in the after part of the ship. She then began 
to settle down rapidly, and at 11.20 sank stern first. 
1 p.m., steaming to westward for scouting purposes. 
At 4 p.m. turned to east-south-east. 7.30 p.m. we joined the 
cruiser for the night. (3 p.m., stopped a large Spanish 
steamer and examined her, but she was allowed to proceed 
homeward. ) 

" October 10th. At 3 a.m. the cruiser stopped and 
examined an Italian steamer, allowing her to proceed 
at 4 a.m. ; 9.30 a.m. the Cre/eld steamed away for scouting 
purposes ; 5.45 rejoined the cruiser and the s.s. Rio 
Negro and set a westerly course. Continued steaming all 
night, apparently for the Rocas Islands to bunker the 

" October llth. Still steaming to westward at full 
speed, about twelve miles per hour. We are finding a 
great difference in the food and quarters to those we had 
on the Rio Negro, but this is probably due to the great 
number of prisoners of war and the fact that there is no 
refrigerating machinery on board here. There are now 
about 389 people on board here, prisoners of war, besides 
the crew belonging to this steamer, so it can be imagined 
that the ship is pretty crowded. 5 p.m. we came up 
to the Farn. She was lying in company with a British 
steamer, the Condor, 1 bound from New York to the West 
Coast with a general cargo. It appears that she found the 
Farn flying the British flag, and signalled, asking the 
Condor to stand by her, as she had trouble with her machin- 
ery. The Farn is, of course, a British steamer of that 
name, which was captured on October 5th and put under 

1 The s.s. Condor (3,053 tons ; master, Mr. S. Purdy) constituted some- 
what of a problem for the captain of the KARLSRUHE, as she carried a 
general cargo of about 4,000 tons belonging to neutrals. At first it was 
decided that, in view of the ownership of the cargo, the ship should not 
be sunk. In the meantime, the work of discharging such goods as the 
KARLSRUHE required went on by day and by night on October 12th and 
13th. The captain of the KARLSRUHE took the master and crew out 
of the ship later on, and on the 13th they left in the Crefeld, in company 
with the other British seamen, for Tenerife. 


the German flag. She knew that the cruiser was due to 
arrive here, and tried to detain the Condor so that she 
would be captured. Anyway, the ruse succeeded, and then 
the cruiser came on the scene just in time. She then 
boarded her, and the crew was ordered to leave her. She 
was abandoned at 8 p.m., and the steamer kept till the 
morning, to allow the crew of the cruiser to get at some 
of the cargo. 

" October 12th. The cruiser is busy all this morning 
getting some of the cargo out of the Condor. She has a 
lot of oils and milk among her cargo, and this is just 
what the cruiser and her escorts need. Our boats are help- 
ing her, so there seems no chance of getting away to-day. 

" October I3th. Boats still busy this morning getting 
cargo from the Condor. 11.30 a.m., heard that we are 
to leave at 4 o'clock this afternoon. 4 p.m., cruiser 
hoisted signals L E X & T D L, which meant 4 Dismissed ; 
wish you a pleasant voyage.' Began our homeward jour- 
ney at 4.30 p.m., steering to the north-eastward, bound 
for Tenerife." 

The cruise of the KARLSRUHE was nearing its end. 
Reports of the destruction she was spreading had already 
led to the necessary measures being taken by the British 
naval authorities to put a stop to her career. But before 
the end came she effected three more captures the 
Glanton (3,021 tons) on October 18th; the Hurstdale 
(2,752 tons) on the 23rd ; and the Vandyck (10,328 tons) 
on the 26th, the last-named being captured 410 miles 
from Cape St. Roque. The Glanton (master, Mr. George 
Arthur) had shipped a cargo of coal and general merchandise 
from Barry to Montevideo. When she was overhauled 
by the KARLSRUHE, at 10 a.m. on October 18th, the vessel 
was on the usual trade route between Cape Verde Islands 
and Fernando Noronha. After the master and crew had 
been taken off, and everything in the shape of oil, stores, 
rope, etc., had been commandeered, the Glanton was sunk 
by explosive charges. The KARLSRUHE then resumed her 
cruise, and five days later fell in with the Hurstdale (master, 
Mr. John Williams), which was on passage from Rosario 
to Bristol with maize ; and three days afterwards she came 
across the Vandyck (master, Mr. Anthony Cadogan), which 
was proceeding to New York. She shared the same fate 


as the other ships. If it were only because the Vandyck 
was the KARLSRUHE'S last success, her fate and the ex- 
periences of those on board would be of interest ; and it 
happens that in this instance some notes are available 
of an American citizen who was travelling on board this 
British ship at the time : 

44 Our ship Vandyck, captured October 26th, lat. 
1 14' S. and long. 40 42' W., by the German cruiser 

44 All on board the Vandyck were transferred to the old 
(1895) Hamburg South American cargo-boat Ascuncion. 

44 If you refer to Register of Shipping, you will appreciate 
the conditions confronting our passengers and crew of 
410 souls, added to fifty-one officers and crew of two pre- 
viously captured British cargo steamers, together with 
fifty officers and crew of the said Asuncion. 

44 Under stress, men alone usually fear for themselves 
and say little about it, but when you realise that more 
than fifty of the people sent on board the old Asuncion 
were women and children, most of them ladies unaccus- 
tomed to those roughest of conditions, you will understand 
the intolerable state of affairs that met them when the 
transfer was made from the Vandyck to the Asuncion. 
The nearest port Para could have been reached in thirty 
hours ; instead of which the Asuncion was kept going at 
about 2 knots per hour, on longitude (more or less) 45 
W., just above the Equator, until our days of probation 
were ended, and we were landed at Para, November 2nd. 
44 The women behaved remarkably well from the first 
shock of being under the guns of the man-of-war until the 
end, relying on the men who surrounded them and 
their faith was not misplaced. 

44 Once on board the Asuncion, the women and children 
were packed in the few cabins on board, including the 
officers' quarters, and the men slept on the decks and any- 
where they could find stowage place. 

44 Food was brought on board from the Vandyck and 
cooked as best might be, and served by the volunteer 
cooks and stewards of our English crew all praise be 
given to them for the fact ! 

44 The officers of the KARLSRUHE, as well as of the 
Asuncion, were courteous but then, Navy men and 


sailors aie gentlemen all over the world, and live up to the 
standard, particularly where ladies are concerned. . . . 

44 When captured we were on the accustomed route 
from Cape St. Roque to Trinidad, and had steamed all 
our voyage in darkness at night all to no avail, as we 
were captured in full daylight, 11.30 a.m. 

44 The five merchant steamers (captured or otherwise) 
spread out, and scouting in zigzag, in touch by wireless 
with the KARLSRUHE, formed a net impossible to evade, 
no matter what course we might have made. 

44 KARLSRUHE has no intention of fighting, her mission 
is to destroy shipping. She can easily escape anything 
so far sent after her. From horizon to being under her guns 
she was twenty-six minutes. She came down on us at 
the rate of 28 knots. They say she can do 30 despite 
her months in commission and consequent fouling. 

44 She has captured, up to October 24th, sixteen British 
cargo steamers, having sunk all but three. Vandyck was 
number seventeen October 26th. 

44 The weather was good during our cruise about the 
Equator fortunately so, as the old Asuncion was flying 
light, very little coal, no ballast excepting some hard- 
wood beams (for gun mounting) on the main deck just 
where they would do the most damage in case of bad 
weather. As much as was possible we were kept in ignor- 
ance of our ship's position, probable port of landing 
and date of same, until the night of October 31st, when we 
bore away to the westward for Para and finally landed 
there on November 2nd. Two hotels were presented for 
our passengers, and the good people on shore lent every 
assistance. It was a new lease of life to all of us. Some 
of the ladies collapsed when relieved of the greater strain, 
but finally they recovered. 

44 Six days more of waiting cheerfully passed, despite 
the great heat, and on November 8th, the Brazilian 
steamer San Paulo took on board all of the ladies and chil- 
ren (excepting fotfr couples who chose to remain for the 
next boat), together with the men to the extent of fifty 
more than the San Paulo's passenger certificate as arranged 
officially. The men continued to sleep on the deck and 
in the passages. 

44 We arrived New York, November 19th, and were thank- 
ful. S.s. Byron and s.s. Sceptre bring on remainder of 


our passengers, crews, and third class all of whom were 
comfortably cared for in the meantime. 

*' A tribute is certainly due to our English officers 
and crew of the Vandyck, also to the owners, Lamport & 
Holt, who, although there was no legal obligation whatever 
to do so, paid our ordinary hotel expenses at Para and our 
passage to New York." 

Before she was at length forced to abandon her 
career, the KARLSRUHE came across the steamer Royal 
Sceptre (3,838 tons) on passage from Santos, Brazil, to 
New York, with a cargo of coffee valued at 230,000. 
The master (Mr. W. H. Estill) was successful in saving 
not only the ship, but the cargo. He was proceeding 
on his course on the night of October 27th when, under 
the light of the moon, a four- funnelled warship, accom- 
panied by three steamers, was noticed. They appeared 
to be stopped and showed no lights. " I suspected," 
the master afterwards stated, "that the former was a 
German vessel; but thinking any attempt on my part 
to elude it was only the more likely to cause suspicion, 
I decided to keep on my course. On getting closer, 
my suspicions were confirmed, and when abeam of her 
at 11.30 p.m. I was ordered to stop. An officer and 
an armed guard were put on board, the former informing 
me I was stopped by the German cruiser KARLSRUHE." 
And then the master gave particulars of how he outwitted 
the enemy : " Previous to this, I must state, I had taken 
the precaution to hide my seventy-five Bills of Lading 
and other papers relating to the cargo, relying for exami- 
nation on my Brazilian clearance, Brazilian and American 
Bills of Health, detailed manifest of cargo for Customs 
New York Register, and Articles. Seeing that 60,025 
bags of coffee were via New York in transit for Toronto, 
Canada, and were specified to this effect on Bills of Lading, 
I felt sure it would be disastrous to the ship if they were seen 
by the Germans; hence my reason for this action. On 
being asked by the officer for my papers, etc., I produced 
the aforementioned, and after replying to the numerous 
questions re cargo, etc., in a way I thought suitable for 
the occasion, and, if not altogether truthful, quite in order 
considering the serious position I was in, he appeared 
satisfied that the cargo was for New York only, and even- 


tually conveyed the necessary information to the captain 
of the "KARLSRUHE. At 12.30 a.m. on October 28th, I 
was informed I could proceed, and at once ran full speed 
ahead again, thinking I was very lucky, which was the last 
remark the officer made as he left me." 

The cruiser was fortunate in intercepting a number of 
large coal cargoes, and the captain obtained, in all, 
nearly 20,000 tons of coal from his prizes. Similarly, 
from all the ships which were intercepted, stores, foodstuffs, 
and wines were abstracted in order to replenish the cruiser's 
supplies, as well as any plate or crockery which took the 
fancy of the boarding-parties. The Germans, as has been 
indicated, treated the captured crews generally with 
courtesy, and returned to the merchant officers all their 
private property, including their revolvers and guns. 

Before passing on to describe the memorable exploits 
of the German cruiser EMDEN, some reference must be 
made to another corsair, the armed merchant cruiser 
KRONPRINZ WILHELM. On the outbreak of war the Nord- 
deutscher liner KRONPRINZ WILHELM was one of the large 
German ships in New York Harbour which caused the 
Admiralty a good deal of anxiety in view of the reports 
that they were being armed and might put to sea at any 
moment. These rumours had various sources, and they 
seemed to fit in with the theoiies which had inspired Ger- 
many's action at The Hague Conference, and later on at 
the Naval Conference at London. The KRONPRINZ WIL- 
HELM, however, was the only one of the enemy ships 
which got to sea from New York, and she broke out on 
the eve of the British declaration of war, before the Ameri- 
can authorities had perfected their arrangements for watch- 
ing enemy shipping. This liner, indeed, left as though 
she had no belligerent purpose. All doubts, however, 
as to her mission were set at rest on August 6th, when 
Rear-Admiral Christopher Cradock, with his flag in the 
cruiser SUFFOLK, came upon the KRONPRINZ WILHELM, 
about 120 miles north-east of Watling Island, in the West 
Indies, in company with the cruiser KARLSRUHE. Guns 
and guns' crews were being transferred when the SUFFOLK, 
in company with the light cruiser BRISTOL, appeared. 
The KRONPRINZ WILHELM made off in one direction, and 
her consort in the other. The British Admiral had to make 
choice of his quarry, and he selected the man-of-war, 


sending the BRISTOL on ahead at full speed, and at the 
same time calling up by wireless the armoured cruiser 
BERWICK. Neither of the British ships equalled the 
speed of the German cruiser, which was consequently 
able to elude capture, though she nearly fell to the BER- 
WICK, as subsequently appeared. The KRONPRINZ WIL- 
HELM seems then to have coaled from the Walhalla off 
the Azores, and on September 19th took her first prize 
the s.s. Indian Prince (2,846 tons). The capture took place 
210 miles east of Pernambuco, indicating that the liner 
was operating in the same waters as the KARLSRUHE. 
The Indian Prince left the port of Bahia, Brazil, on Sep- 
tember 2nd, for New York. On the evening of Septem- 
ber 4th, when the Indian Prince was well off the usual 
trade route, in accordance with Admiralty instructions, 
the KRONPRINZ WILHELM was sighted. No resistance to 
capture was made, the British vessel steaming ahead of 
the German auxiliary cruiser throughout the night. The 
following day two German naval officers boarded the 
Indian Prince and took away with them her papers, as 
well as all charts, chronometers, binoculars, rockets, 
blue lights, and the British Ensign. In accordance with 
orders from the KRONPRINZ WILHELM, the British vessel 
steered on various courses until September 8th, when she 
was directed to stop in mid-ocean and the German auxi- 
liary cruiser came alongside. An officer, accompanied by 
an armed guard, proceeded on board, and handed the master 
(Mr. J. R. Gray) a notification in German, accompanied 
by an English translation, as follows : 

" 1 hereby give you the official proclamation : 
" 1. Your ship is hostile. 
" 2. The cargo of your ship are hostile goods. 
"3. You must immediately go with all your crew on 
board of the auxiliary. Personal goods may be taken 

"4. Resistance will result compulsion (sic). 

" (Signed) THIERFELDER, 

* ' Lieutenant Commander. ' ' 

The crew, passengers, and effects having been transferred 
to the KRONPRINZ WILHELM, the work of looting the ship 
was begun, and continued throughout the night, all the 


stores and coal being transferred to the KRONPRINZ WIL- 
HELM. Finally the British vessel was sunk. 

More than a month elapsed before this German auxiliary 
cruiser captured another British vessel. The s.s. La 
Correntina (8,529 tons), the Vice-Consul at La Plata 
having stated that no local danger had been reported, 
was on her way to Liverpool with a cargo of frozen 
meat weighing 3,500 tons, the property of the British 
military authorities, when the KRONPRINZ WILHELM was 
sighted early on the morning of October 7th. " I then 
kept the ship away to the eastward," the master (Mr. 
A. Murrison) subsequently recorded, " to see if the 
vessel would follow. He still kept end on and ap- 
peared to be steaming slowly towards us, allowing us to 
pass. Consequently I took him to be a British or French 
auxiliary cruiser. But when well astern on our port quarter 
he came rushing on at full speed and, when half a mile 
off, he opened out his starboard side, and at the same time 
signalled to us to stop instantly. He also hoisted his 
ensign, and then we found he was a German. I complied 
and stopped our ship, and he came alongside our port 
side (about fifty yards), and I then found that he had about 
200 men with rifles, and other men stationed at two 
12-pounders on his forecastle head, covering our ship 
fore and aft." The wireless operator of the La Correntina 
sent out a signal for help, but no reply was received. 
The ship was subsequently ordered to be abandoned, the 
passengers and crew being transferred, with their personal 
belongings, to the KRONPRINZ WILHELM, as the ship, so 
it was stated, would be sunk in an hour. However, they 
did not sink her as threatened. "In the meantime 
the cruiser backed astern and came up on our starboard 
side, smashing our boats and davits and bridge deck, 
and her men swarmed on board and took charge of the 
bridge, engine-room, and the ship generally. Then a gang- 
way was put out between the vessels, and passengers and 
crew and their baggage were transferred to the cruiser, 
after which the ships parted and steamed away to the 
eastward in company." l The British vessel was sunk on 

1 The crew and passengers of La Correntina were transferred about a 
week later to the supply ship Sierra Cordoba, which met the KBONPBINZ 
WILHELM at a rendezvous with a quantity of coal, but it was not until 
November 9th that the two vessels parted company, the Sierra Cordoba 
eventually landing her British passengers at Montevideo on the 22nd. 


October 14th, after being stripped of all the stores and a good 
deal of coal, besides some deck gear, provisions, and guns. 

This vessel was one of the ships embraced in the Ad- 
miralty scheme of defensive armament. When she left 
Liverpool on her voyage to La Plata, she mounted two 
4 "7-inch guns aft, and was provided with complete gun 
crews ; but, having sailed before the outbreak of war, she 
had no ammunition on board. This was an unfortunate 
circumstance, as the KRONPRINZ WILHELM had only a 
light armament. In his report the master stated that, 
" owing to the suddenness of the attack, the two 4 "7-inch 
guns fell into the enemy's hands complete, as we had no 
time to disable them." A bag of dispatches from the 
British Legation was, however, weighted and thrown 
overboard in accordance with instructions received from 
the Consul-General of Buenos Ayres. After the British 
ship had been sunk, the KRONPRINZ WILHELM steamed 
north-westward, making for Cape Frio, off which she 
arrived about midnight on October 16th. She was appar- 
ently on the lookout for another vessel. From statements 
made by the captain of the s.s. Niceto de Larranaga, 
the suspicion was strengthened that the German ships 
operating in the neighbourhood of Pernambuco were kept 
closely informed of the names of steamers traversing the 
American and English tracks to and from the River Plate, 
learning their dates of departure as well as the character 
of their cargoes. The enemy, it was alleged, was aware 
that the s.s. La Correntina had no ammunition on board. 1 

The KRONPRINZ WILHELM did not capture another British 
ship until December 4th. She then met the Bellevue (3,814 
tons). This vessel was well laden with a coal and general 
cargo, and was on her way from Glasgow to Montevideo. 
The Bellevue (master, Mr. Iver Iversen) was about forty-six 
miles east- north- east of Pernambuco when the German mer- 
chant cruiser overtook her at full speed in the early morning. 
The usual routine was followed, the crew was transferred 

1 On August 4th, as soon as war was declared, Messrs. Houlder Bros., 
the owners of the La Correntina and other ships of the same line, wrote 
to the Admiralty suggesting that the ammunition for La Correntina 
should be sent to Buenos Ayres by their La Roserina, leaving Liverpool on 
August 8th and due at Buenos Ayres on August 30th. This arrangement 
was approved, but the ammunition on board the La Roserina was unshipped 
in the belief that she would not reach the Plate before the sailing of the 
La Correntina. 


to the KRONPRINZ WILHELM, and the British ship, navi- 
gated by a prize crew, was taken to the westward, when the 
work of transhipping the cargo and stores to the cruiser 
was begun. This operation lasted from December 8th 
to 20th, when the Bellevue was sunk. In this case, the 
ship had been kept well off the usual trade route, and the 
master was complimented by the Admiralty on the manner 
in which he had conformed to Admiralty instructions. 
The KRONPRINZ WILHELM rounded off the month with 
another capture not far from the scene of her meeting 
with the Bellevue. The Hemisphere (3,486 tons ; master, 
Mr. Richard Jones) was on passage from Hull to Buenos 
Ayres with coal when the KRONPRINZ WILHELM headed 
for her on the 28th. After the capture had been effected, 
both vessels steamed away to the eastward until early in 
the morning of December 30th, when the Hemisphere was 
brought alongside the cruiser and her cargo, stores, and 
most useful fittings were taken on board the. KRONPRINZ 
WILHELM. In this case, as in others, the master and 
crew were called upon to sign a declaration undertaking 
not to take up arms against the German Empire during 
the war. The German vessel was joined by her tender, 
the s.s. Holger, to which the Hemisphere's officers and 
men were transferred, after which the KRONPRINZ WILHELM 
steamed away to the northward. 

About this time the Royal Mail Steamship Company's 
s.s. Potaro (4,419 tons), which had left Liverpool in 
ballast on December 25th, was on her way to Monte- 
video. Half an hour after midnight on January 10th, 
she sighted, at a distance of about three miles, a large 
steamer, which turned out to be the KRONPRINZ WILHELM. 
The British master's attempt to escape failed, and after 
an hour's chase the Potaro was captured. A call for 
help was sent out three times during the pursuit, but 
the wireless operator of the German ship jambed all 
messages. A prize crew having been placed on board, 
the two vessels proceeded in a south-easterly direction, 
and the same afternoon the master and crew were trans- 
ferred to the KRONPRINZ WILHELM. The Potaro then 
steamed away, and according to the master (Mr. Henry 
J. Bennett) was not seen again till January 19th. Then 
she appeared with everything painted man-of-war colour 
and with extra aerials aloft. In the meantime the 


German ship had secured two more prizes the s.s. Highland 
Brae (7,634 tons; master, Mr. R. R. Pond), which was 
on passage from Gravesend to Buenos Ayres, and the 
sailing-ship Wilfrid M. (258 tons ; master, Mr. C. W. 
Parks), proceeding to Bahia from St. John's, Newfound- 
land. The former ship was taken by surprise. She was 
well off the usual track, in obedience to Admiralty in- 
structions, when the KRONPRINZ WILHELM appeared 
" keeping end on and enveloped in smoke, so that we were 
unable to distinguish whether she was British or German 
until within half or three-quarters of a mile off, when she 
hoisted the German ensign, fired a gun, and signalled to 
us to stop." Subsequently a prize crew was put on board, 
and the two steamers proceeded in company until the Wilfrid 
M. was sighted. The captain of the German ship could 
not resist the temptation to intercept this vessel, small 
as she was, but later on he probably regretted his decision. 
She was carrying a cargo of dried fish. The gunners of 
the German ship had already proved, by demonstration, 
their inefficiency, and there was a shortage of ammunition. 
At any rate, it was decided to ram the small wooden vessel. 
Probably the subsequent course of events constitutes one 
of the most curious incidents in this war. After the crew 
had been taken on board, the great German liner proceeded 
to ram the Wilfrid M. Four times in succession the bow 
of the KRONPRINZ WILHELM was driven into the little 
ship, and even then she was not sunk. At the end of April 
1915, the General Registrar of Shipping at Grenada 
reported to the Board of Trade that " a large portion of 
a derelict ship was seen drifting off the south coast of 
the Island of Carriacou, a dependency of the Government 
of this island, which finally settled off the reef of Dumfries 
Bay, about 600 yards from shore." On examination it 
was found to be the remains of the Wilfrid M. 9 which the 
German liner, in spite of all her efforts, had failed to sink. 
During the rest of January the Germans were busy 
looting the Highland Brae, and afterwards the Potaro 
was dealt with in the same way. Early in February the 
four-masted Norwegian barque Semantha, carrying grain 
from Portland, Oregon, to Falmouth or Queenstown for 
orders, was captured and afterwards sunk, the crew having 
been transferred to the German vessel. In this instance 
again the gunners of the KRONPRINZ WILHELM showed a 



lack of practice, since, of the thirteen shots which were 
fired at the barque, only one took effect. The looting of 
the Potaro was then resumed, and on February 12th the 
tender Holger was brought alongside ; a high sea was 
running, and the two ships bumped heavily as the 
transfer of passengers took place. The transhipment 
proved a dangerous task, but was at last completed, and 
then the Holger parted company, landing her passengers, on 
February 18th, at Buenos Ayres, where she was interned. 

The KRONPRINZ WILHELM met with no further success 
until February 22nd, when the British s.s. Chasehill 
(4,583 tons) was intercepted on her passage from Newport 
News to Zarate, La Plata, with coal. The master (Mr. 
R. H. Kidd) and the crew were transferred to the KRON- 
PRINZ WILHELM, and a prize crew was put on board the 
Chasehill. The German vessel then took out of the British 
ship practically all the coal. On March 9th the crew were 
retransferred to the Chasehill, together with the crew 
and passengers of the French mail steamer Guadaloupe, 
which the KRONPRINZ WILHELM had captured some days 
before, to find that their ship had been much damaged 
during the process of transhipping the coal. The Chasehill, 
with her French passengers and seamen, reached Pernam- 
buco early on the morning of March 12th. 

It appeared later on that the KRONPRINZ WILHELM, 
though she had obtained considerable quantities of coal 
and general stores which would have enabled her to seek 
fresh scenes of activity, still continued her depredations 
on the trade route which had already proved so fruitful. 
On March 24th, the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company's 
s.s. Tamar (3,207 tons), with a large cargo of coffee, from 
Santos to Havre, was captured. On sailing, the master 
(Mr. F. S. Hannan) was warned to stand to the eastward, 
and was attempting to avoid danger when he was over- 
hauled by the German raider. As usual, the British crew 
were transferred, and then the Tamar was sunk by gun- 
fire. A declaration of neutrality during the war was 
required from the crew and passengers. The KRONPRINZ 
WILHELM then resumed her course, and on the 27th fell 
in with the British s.s. Coleby (3,824 tons), which was bound 
from Rosario with a cargo of wheat. By this time, 
according to the master of the Tamar, the KRONPRINZ 
WILHELM showed signs of damage through having several 


vessels lashed alongside of her, and practically every plate 
on the port side was standing out throughout her length. 
In this case also the capture was due to mischance, as the 
master of the Coleby (Mr. William Crighton) was well off 
the usual track. With the sinking of this vessel the 
active career of the KRONPRINZ WILHELM came to an end. 
Her captain, in view of her condition, including shortage 
of coal and stores, decided to abandon his depredations. 
The cruiser cast anchor in Hampden Roads on April llth, 
after a cruise covering a period of over eight months. 
A fortnight later she was interned at Newport News. 1 

The only other German liner which engaged in commerce- 
destruction was the PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH, which got 
out of Tsingtau on the outbreak of war, and finally reached 
Newport News, Virginia, on March llth, 1915, after a cruise 
of seven months, during which she sank five British mer- 
chant ships, and in addition excited American public 
opinion by destroying the United States' William P. 
Frye. The PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH was homeward bound 
at the end of July when she was recalled to Tsingtau, 
and, mails and passengers having been disembarked, she 
was filled up with coal, armed with guns taken from 
the gunboats LUCHS and TIGER, repainted, and sent to 
sea, proceeding to the Mariana Islands, where she joined 
the ScHARNfloRST, GNEISENAU, and other German men- 
of-war. Her subsequent career was, in the main, dis- 
appointing to the Germans. She joined von Spee at the 
Marshall Islands, and was detached by him in company 
with the CORMORAN (ex RIASAN), a Russian capture made 
by the EMDEN and armed at Tsingtau, for commerce- 
destruction. After an unsuccessful cruise she went to 
look for coal among the German Pacific Islands, and finally 
obtained some at Malekula (Pelew Islands). Then she 
rejoined von Spee off Valparaiso, but parted from him before 
the Falklands action. Though she had chased the British 
s.s. Colusa on November 1st, it was not until December 5th 
that the PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH made her first capture. 

1 In order to enable a good lookout to be kept, the captain of the KRON- 
PRINZ WILHELM had a barrel lashed to the mast about 200 feet above sea- 
level, and later on another barrel was lashed to the mainmast, and thus 
a double lookout was kept by men provided with powerful glasses. Ac- 
cording to the master of the Bellevue, an officer of the KRONPRINZ WILHELM 
stated that British cruisers had been seen on several occasions, but the 
German corsair had not been observed by them, and had had time to run 


She was cruising about seventy miles south of Valparaiso, 
in a fog, when she came upon the British s.s. Charcas 
(5,067 tons), steaming from Corral to Guayacan, Chile, 
en route to New York, with a small load of nitrate of 
soda. The master (Mr. A. C. Norris) was hugging the shore 
as closely as possible when the PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH 
intercepted her, following the same routine as in the case 
of the other raider's. On December 12th the German ship 
fell in with the sailing-vessel Kildalton, on passage from 
Liverpool to Callao. Before the ship was sunk, the master 
(Mr. W. Sharp) and crew were taken on board the cruiser 
and eventually landed at Easter Island. There they re- 
mained marooned from the last day of the year which had 
seen the outbreak of the war till February 26th, when they 
were taken off by a Swedish steamer and landed at Panama 
on March 12th. 

Exactly two months elapsed before the PRINZ EITEL 
FRIEDRICH had another success, and again her capture 
was a small ship the s.v. Invercoe (1,421 tons), which was 
carrying wheat from Portland, Oregon, to a British port. 
This proved an easy capture, and after the master (Mr. 
Wm. J. King) and crew had been transferred, she was 
sunk. Less than a week later the PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH 
had better fortune. When off Pernambuco, in the area 
had operated with such effect, she fell in with the s.s. 
Mary Ada Short (3,605 tons ; master, Mr. A. E. Bob- 
bing) on February 18th. This ship, loaded with maize, 
was proceeding from Rosario and St. Nicholas (St. Vin- 
cent) for orders, when the PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH was 
sighted. After provisions had been removed, a dyna- 
mite charge was placed in the engine-room, and, as this 
proved ineffective, two shots were fired into the hull, 
and the vessel then disappeared. Two days later it was 
the ill-fortune of the s.s. Willerby (3,630 tons) to be en- 
countered by the German merchant cruiser while proceed- 
ing from Marseilles to Buenos Ayres in water ballast. All 
went well until February 20th, when the master (Mr. 
J. Wedgwood) was ordered by the PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH 
to stop. He ignored the signal, but three-quarters of an 
hour later was overhauled. On March llth, the PRINZ 
EITEL FRIEDRICH, whose cruise had been barren since 
the capture of the Willerby, put into Newport News for 


repairs. On arrival the captain found he had gravely 
prejudiced himself in the eyes of the American public by 
sinking the American s.s. William P. Frye, which had on 
board wheat consigned to a British port. The story of 
the destruction of this ship, though she was not of British 
nationality, is of such historical importance from many 
points of view that it may be of interest to give the state- 
ment made by her captain (Mr. H. H. Kiehne) after he 
had been landed by the PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH at New- 
port News. 

On January 27th he was approached by the PRINZ 
EITEL FRIEDRICH in the South Atlantic. Having made 
the usual inquiries, the German captain told him that he 
deemed his cargo contraband, and proposed to destroy 
it. Captain Kiehne protested, but German officers and 
men came on board and began to jettison the grain. 
The PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH then disappeared after 
another ship, and when she reappeared, to use Captain 
Kiehne's words, " evidently the grain was not being 
thrown overboard fast enough to suit the German skipper, 
for he sent half a hundred men aboard soon afterwards, 
and the work went on for hours without interruption. 
However, it was slow at the best, and I was informed the 
next morning that my ship would be sent to the bottom. 
It was originally the intention of the German captain to 
leave enough cargo in the hold of the ship for ballast. 
That part of the grain was to be rendered useless by salt 
water. As soon as I was informed that my ship was to be 
sent to the bottom, I and my wife, with our two boys 
and the crew, made for the German steamer in our own 
boats. We were taken on board and shown every courtesy 
throughout the remainder of the voyage." 

Investigation after her arrival at Newport News showed 
that the PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH required new boilers, 
and on April 8th she was interned on the application of 
her captain, who handed to the collector of the port the 
following statement : 

" I inform you that I intend to intern S.M.S. PRINZ 
EITEL FRIEDRICH. The relief I expected appear not to 
arrive in time, so number and force of enemy cruisers 
watching the entrance of the bay makes to me impossible 
the dash for the open sea with any ho^e of success. I 


have decided not to deliver the crew and the ship to fruit- 
less and certain destruction. Being obliged for the 
courtesy shown by all the United States authorities, I am 
expecting your orders. I have sent same information to 
Rear- Admiral Helm, of the United States ship ALABAMA." 

Another commerce-destroyer was the cruiser LEIPZIG, 
a vessel of small tonnage which formed one of the units 
under the command of Admiral von Spee. Within about 
six weeks of the opening of the war, the LEIPZIG made 
her first capture. On September llth the s.s. Elsinore 
(6,542 tons) was on her passage from Corinto to San Luis 
Obispo, California, in ballast, when she was encountered 
by the LEIPZIG, a warning shot announcing that the 
stranger was a foreign cruiser. In this case the master 
(Mr. J. Roberts) was taken on board the German ship, 
and received orders to return and navigate his vessel 
in accordance with instructions received from the German 
commander. Various courses were then steered, the 
German s.s. Marie being at that time in company with 
the LEIPZIG. Captain Roberts made the following state- 
ment as to his experience, which indicates the course 
pursued by the commander of the LEIPZIG in his efforts 
to intercept British merchantmen : 

" September llth. At 4.10 a.m. I arrived on board of 
my own vessel, and set the engines at full speed and course 
was set N. 62 E. 

" 5.20 a.m. I was signalled by Morse to alter my course 
to S. 15 E., and again at 9.25 a.m. was signalled to steer 
S. 45 E. ; then I began to get anxious wondering when we 
were to leave (the ship), as I was at this time fifty miles 
from the land. 

" At 10.10 a.m. I was signalled to make the best possible 
speed, and at 10.30 a.m. we sighted a cargo steamer ahead 
which proved to be a German ship named the Marie, 
but which at first I thought to be a poor unfortunate 
like myself owing to his movements, but I afterwards 
found out that he was only obeying orders from the 
LEIPZIG, and that the meeting was prearranged, and that 
the Marie was in company with the LEIPZIG, supplying 
her with coal and stores. 

" At 11.15 a.m. I was again signalled to heave to and to 


proceed on board of the Marie, taking sufficient stores for 
eight days, and they allowed us two hours to be out of the 
vessel, so I immediately proceeded to carry out these 
orders ; in the meantime a number of armed officers 
and men from the LEIPZIG came on board and commenced 
ransacking the ship, taking all stores and articles which 
were of any use to them, and they also took our boats 
and hoisted them up in the davits of the Marie ; our 
position at this time was 19 31' 00" N., and 105 56' 00" W. 

" At 12.30 p.m. myself and crew boarded the Marie, 
and at 1.10 p.m. the cruiser commenced firing upon the 
Elsinore at about a mile distant ; the sight was too heart- 
breaking for me to witness, so I kept to my room, but my 
officers afterwards informed me that (they) put twelve 
shots into her and she became ablaze, and that she sank 
stern first ; before my vessel sank the captain of the 
Marie was ordered to go full speed on a south-easterly 
course ; and so came the end of one of the finest oil- 
steamers on the Pacific Coast. 

" When first taken prisoner by the Germans, the com- 
mander promised to cast me off a few mites from Cape 
Corrientes, which he afterwards failed to do, and I think 
the reason was that he was rather anxious for his own 

" September 12th. The Marie proceeding on the same 
course S.E., and during the day the cruiser would lead 
ahead at about three miles distant, and by night about 
the same distance astern. There was an armed crew of 
about fourteen men placed on board the Marie from the 
cruiser to guard my men. The commander of the cruiser 
signalled to the officer in charge to treat my men as well 
as possible. 

" September 13th. Ordered to stop by the cruiser, when 
they passed several hundred coal-bags on board to be 
filled by my men, whom they would pay their usual rate of 
wages. Both ships proceeding same course and direction. 

" September I4>th. Again stopped by cruiser, and more 
coal-bags passed on board to be filled by my men : ship's 
course the same and convoyed by the cruiser. 

" September 15th and 16th. Proceeding same and posi- 
tion of ship the same ; we are steering for the Galapagos 

" September 17th. Sighted Galapagos Islands, 7 a.m. ; 


came to anchor in Tagus Cove, Atternave Island, and at 
11.30 p.m. the cruiser came alongside and commenced to 
bunker. 7 p.m., owing to cove being so small, the cruiser 
cast off and went to a safer anchorage. Previous to her 
going away the commander sent for me to come on board ; 
he then told me that he would faithfully land us all safe 
at Callao, and how sorry he felt for me in such a position, 
and, being a sailor himself, he was sorry that he had been 
obliged to destroy such a fine ship. Then I informed him 
that I had a bag of mail on board from the American 
cruiser DENVER for San Francisco, which he promised he 
would safely deliver. 

" September 18th; The cruiser came alongside at 6 a.m., 
and again commenced to bunker, and at 9 a.m. completed 
500 tons. At 11.30 a.m. both ships got under weigh 
and proceeded out of the cove at full speed, and course 
was set south. 

44 September 19th. Came to anchor off Hood Island, 
Galapagos, at 8.80 a.m., and the cruiser left and proceeded 
for Chatham Island for fresh provisions, which I still 
believe was not necessary, as he had more important 
business in view. 

" September 2Qth. Ship still at anchor off Hood Island, 
and at 6 p.m. I am positive I saw two distinct smokes 
from steamers in the direction of Chatham Island, and this 
proved to be correct, as the cruiser had another steamer 
awaiting with her stores, etc., and equipped with wireless. 

" At 6 p.m. the cruiser returned and anchored close to, 
and signalled that the commander would send his boat to 
take me on board, as he wished to speak to me. On arrival 
on board of the cruiser, he informed me that, owing to 
information he had received, he was unable to fulfil his 
promise to land me at Callao, but he had made arrange- 
ments at Chatham Island for our board, etc., and that after 
fourteen days a vessel would take us off for Guayaquil, 
and I was to prepare to leave at 8.30 the following morning. 
The commander now seemed to be working in some 
mysterious way as if he were anxious to get clear of us. 
He invited me to take dinner with him, but I was obliged 
to refuse, owing to being so depressed to find the precarious 
position that Fate had placed both my crew and myself 
in, so I came back on board and called my officers together 
and told them the exact words the commander of the 


LEIPZIG had said ; and when the crew were informed 
they became very dissatisfied, which caused the cruiser's 
people to double up the armed guard, but, however, the 
night passed quietly. 

44 September 21st. At 3 a.m. both ships got under way 
and proceeded towards Chatham Island, and at 7 a.m. 
came to anchor in the roadstead. 

"At 8 a.m. we all embarked in the cruiser's boats with 
our remaining effects and small amount of provisions, 
and at 9 a.m. we landed on Chatham Island, with only 
two houses in sight and a large store shed, in which place 
the crew were lodged. (This island belongs to Ecuador, 
and is used as a convict station.) 

" I arranged for two officers to remain with the crew 
to keep order, and taking the chief officer, chief signaller, 
and second engineer, we rode on horseback to the settle- 
ment six miles inland (a sugar and coffee plantation), 
and even here we fared very badly with regard to food and 
beds ; but the crew fared very bad, as the provisions were 
very scarce and had to be carefully rationed. 

44 September 22nd. This day passed away after many 
troubles regarding sleeping accommodation, etc., but my 
crew seemed to be getting very dissatisfied, though up to the 
present they had borne the hardships bravely. 

44 September 24h. To-day I made arrangements with 
the Governor of the Island, a Mr. Araz, to take me and 
half of the crew to Ecuador, as this was the only means of 
getting into communication and reporting the loss of my 
ship ; and he arranged to send us away in a small sloop 
of fifty tons, the distance to Guayaquil being about 670 
miles, so he provisioned her accordingly, she being about 
half loaded with a cargo of dried fish and hides, and ordin- 
arily would not have sailed for another ten days. 

44 The commander of the LEIPZIG'S intention was to 
detain me on the island as long as possible, so as to prevent 
me communicating with the authorities and spoiling 
his chances of sinking merchant vessels, for when the 
Governor of the island offered to assist me, one of the 
German officers remaining on the island strongly objected; 
but the Governor insisted on our leaving owing to the 
scarcity of food, there not being sufficient to keep all the 
men for any length of time, and also owing to his good 
feeling towards us. 


" So, after some considerable trouble, I picked out half 
of the crew that was to accompany me on what turned 
out to be one of the most monotonous and hardest five 
days at sea I ever experienced. The accommodation for 
the crew was in the hold, where they slept on the hides 
and dried fish, and the smell at times was something 

"So at 3 p.m., after saying good-bye to the remaining 
crew, we boarded our small craft, lifted anchor and 
set sail for Guayaquil. I may mention that this is the 
most isolated and unfrequented stretch of water in the 

" Mr. Araz, the Governor, accompanied us, and we occu- 
pied the cabin together, and he was most kind and con- 
siderate to us all right through the trip and did all possible 
for our comfort. 

" October 1st. This day we arrived at Guayaquil, after 
a most eventful trip in many ways ; the total number of 
persons on board the small craft was twenty-nine, so our 
comfort and living can be better imagined than described." l 

As soon as the Elsinore had been dispatched, the 
LEIPZIG again got to work, and in the Gulf of Guaya- 
quil, on September 25th, she met the s.s. Bankfields 
(3,763 tons ; master, Mr. John Ingham) just out of 
Eten bound for a British port with a cargo of sugar 
and copper ore. Rumours had already reached Callao 
that a German cruiser was off the Peruvian coast, 
but the warning, which was immediately issued, did not 
reach Eten until some hours after the Bankfields had left, 
the official telegram being delayed in transit. Thus it 
happened that this fine British ship fell an easy prey 
to the LEIPZIG, by whom she was forthwith sunk. The 
rather unprofitable career of the LEIPZIG was next varied 
by the capture of the sailing-vesselDrwrttrawr (1,844 tons), 
on December 2nd, when off Staten Island near Cape Horn. 
She was carrying a cargo of anthracite coal, which was 
too valuable to be sunk, so she was taken to the east 
side of Picton Island, about one mile from the shore. 

1 The remainder of the crew of the Elsinore left Chatham Island a few 
days after the departure of the master ; they were conveyed to Panama 
in the s.s. Ecuador, and proceeded thence to Colon, arriving in London on 
November 25th by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company's Danube, 


The coal transports Baden and Santa Isabel, which were 
in attendance upon the German cruiser, were placed one 
on each side of the Drummuir, and the cargo of coal was 
discharged. The ship was then ransacked for food, 
stores, and other things which might be of use to the 
Germans, and was sunk four days after her seizure, the 
master (Mr. J. C. Eagles) and crew having in the meantime 
been transferred to the Norddeutscher Lloyd s.s. Seydlitz, 
which was in company with the LEIPZIG. The capture 
had been effected on the very eve of what was to prove 
one of the most decisive events of the war by sea, for 
two days after the Drummuir was sunk the battle of 
the Falkland Islands occurred, the LEIPZIG sharing the 
fate of all the other ships under Admiral von Spec's flag, 
except the DRESDEN, which, as has already been noted, 
came to her end early in the following year. The Baden 
and Santa Isabel were sunk by the cruiser BRISTOL, but 
the Seydlitz managed to escape, and on December 
18th she arrived with British seamen at San Antonio, 
Patagonia. According to the master of the Drummuir, 
the loss of that vessel prevented the Germans capturing 
the Falkland Islands, as the days which were occu- 
pied in looting the ship gave Admiral Sturdee time to 
reach the islands. " I understand," the captain declared 
in a subsequent statement, " that there were men armed 
ready to occupy the islands as soon as they had been taken 
by the fleet, and if this is the case, the loss of the Drum- 
muir was a providential act." 



THE story of the raids on British shipping by the German 
cruiser EMDEN still remains to be told. It is perhaps an 
advantage that the experiences of merchant seamen at 
the hands of other enemy vessels should have already been 
described. A standard had thus been afforded by which 
the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and humanity of Captain 
von Miiller of the EMDEN can be measured. When brief 
particulars of his exploits were first published in England, 
there was a tendency to regard this German naval officer's 
consideration towards the passengers and crews of cap- 
tured merchant ships as quite exceptional. The legend 
also grew up that the EMDEN alone among the German 
ships had succeeded in carrying on commerce-destruction 
with any considerable degree of success. In the light of 
the fuller revelation of the operations of German men-of- 
war and converted merchantmen, we are able to correct 
the somewhat exaggerated estimate which was formed by 
contemporary British opinion of the resource and sea- 
manship of Captain von Miiller. He did better than his 
compeers, but will hold no such place in the history of 
this war as was accorded to Captain Semmes in the 
American Civil War, and to Captain Paul Jones in the 
War of Independence. 

Captain von Miiller struck where he could produce the 
maximum effects, political and commercial, though he 
profited by an element of luck. Moreover, he, like the 
officers who commanded other German men-of-war 
during the period when attack was being made on British 
merchant shipping by surface ships, besmirched his repu- 
tation with no act contrary to the principles of the 
brotherhood of the sea, or opposed to the dictates of human- 



ity. The day was to come when German naval officers 
and men were to earn the contempt of other seamen 
owing to the callousness and inhumanity which many of 
them exhibited. During the opening phase of the war 
the world welcomed many indications of an intention, 
so far as naval hostilities were concerned, to fulfil the 
undertakings which Germany's representatives had given 
at The Hague and at London, when the rules governing 
the conduct of war were discussed. 

In the course of her career, the EMDEN captured and 
sank fifteen merchant ships, the same number as the 
KARLSRUHE : she overhauled seven other vessels, of which 
one escaped, two were captured and utilised, and the other 
four were released. The story of the EMDEN'S operations, 
therefore, resolves itself into the narrative of the ex- 
periences of the officers and men of twenty-two British 
merchant ships. From the time when the cruiser, on the 
eve of the war, was reported to be at Tsingtau until she 
appeared dramatically in the Bay of Bengal, little or no 
authentic information had reached the British Admiralty 
as to her whereabouts. The war had run its course for 
a period of over a month before the Indian Government 
was suddenly forced to admit that it was confronted 
with a situation which had not been foreseen, and against 
which no adequate precautions had been taken. Re- 
viewing the depredations of the EMDEN in the light of 
the subsequent attack on ocean-borne commerce as 
waged by the enemy, and the heavy losses inflicted, the 
widespread irritation which she occasioned both in the 
Eastern and Western world is notable. The first full 
and authentic news of the character of the EMDEN'S 
operations in the Bay of Bengal to reach England was a 
message to the Morning Post of September 19th. The 
Colombo correspondent of that journal related an inter- 
view which he had had with a passenger in the s.s. Dip- 
lomat (7,615 tons), which had sailed from that port on 
the previous Friday. Squally weather had been expe- 
rienced in the Bay of Bengal for some weeks before the 
EMDEN appeared, and that condition contributed to the 
enemy's success. " From the morning when we left the 
Sand Heads and dropped our pilot until the moment when, 
eighteen hours later, the EMDEN captured us by Puri, 
there were intermittent rain showers, when it was impossible 


to see fifty yards ahead. On the Saturday night we never 
troubled to extinguish lights, so confident were we, although 
we subsequently learnt that three British ships the Indus, 
Lovat, and Killin had already been sunk. " Continuing his 
narrative, this passenger stated that : " About noon on 
Sunday we saw ahead a group of four vessels, in the centre 
of which was a warship, which the first officer on our 
bridge supposed to be British, with convoys. The manner 
in which the supposed convoys were lying raised our 
suspicions, however, and these were subsequently con- 
firmed by the sight of the Prussian Eagle on the EMDEN'S 
bows, and the shell which whistled across our bows. An 
officer, late of the Hamburg- Amerika Line, who was 
serving his two months' annual reserve training when war 
broke out, was deputed to board us. The boat's crew 
carried Mausers and side-arms. The first act was to hoist 
the German flag in the Diplomat, and the next to smash 
our wireless. Otherwise every courtesy was shown, and 
we were allowed to take our personal effects on board the 
previously- captured Kabinga, which subsequently brought 
us back. The EMDEN was in a dreadfully dirty con- 
dition, having been seven weeks at sea without touching 

Some time elapsed before it was possible to piece to- 
gether the story of the EMDEN'S attack upon British 
shipping in the Bay of Bengal. An account of her ex- 
periences, the general accuracy of which was subsequently 
confirmed, was obtained later on from the diary of a 
German petty officer of the EMDEN who became a 
prisoner of war. The EMDEN was ordered to prepare for 
war on July 28th ; she was then lying at Tsingtau. Thirty- 
six hours later, in the evening, she put to sea with all 
lights out. The early days of August, when the German 
cruiser was moving in Japanese waters, were comparatively 
uneventful. The only variation of the monotony was the 
capture of the Russian volunteer ship RiASAN, 1 which, 
being without guns or ammunition, became an easy prize, 
and. was taken back to Tsingtau. War with England 
having been declared, the EMDEN again put to sea, on the 
evening of August 6th, in company with the collier Marko- 
mannia, loaded with 6,000 tons of coal and 1,000 tons of 
provisions. Evening was chosen as the time for departure, 
1 Renamed CORMORAN and utilised. See p. 177. 


and the ships showed no lights as they crept out of the 
harbour. During subsequent days the EMDEN was intent 
upon avoiding the British China Squadron, and passage 
was made into the Bay of Bengal by a circuitous route, 
so as to cut across the network of converging trade routes. 
The Indian port authorities had no suspicion of the danger 
which threatened shipping, and consequently British 
vessels in those waters received no special warning, and 
proceeded on their voyages in a false sense of security. 
Captain von Miiller was favoured in this, as in other respects. 
The first vessel he met was the Greek steamer Pontoporos, 
which was on her way from Calcutta to Karachi with a 
cargo of Bengal coal. The ship was retained, and shortly 
afterwards the British steamer Indus (3,393 tons ; master, 
Mr. H. S. Smaridge) hove in sight. She had left Calcutta 
on September 7th for Bombay, in ballast, and was three 
days out when a man-of-war was sighted. Captain Sma- 
ridge, convinced that she was of British nationality, 
made no attempt to escape until it was too late, and thus 
he fell an unresisting victim to the enemy, who dismantled 
the wireless, transhipped several cases of soap, put the 
crew on board the Markomannia, and then sank the ship, 
after firing ten shots. On the following afternoon the 
EMDEN had a further success in similar circumstances. 
The Lovat (6,102 tons) had left Calcutta for Bombay 
two days after the Indus. She had, like the Indus, been 
fitted up as a transport. Late in the afternoon the man-of- 
war, accompanied by two steamers, was sighted, and the 
master of the Lovat (Mr. Robert Clegg) also assumed that 
the stranger was British, and that the two steamers formed 
part of a convoy which he should join. Unsuspectingly, 
therefore, he continued on his course. As the unknown 
cruiser drew in, however, the German ensign was run up, 
a signal to stop was broken, and a blank shot fired across 
the bows of the Lovat. Within a short time the crew had 
been transferred to the Markomannia, with the exception 
of six Indian firemen, who were sent to the Pontoporos, 
and the Lovat was sunk by gunfire. 

The EMDEN then resumed her cruise. She steamed in 
the centre, with the Markomannia on one side and the 
Pontoporos on the other at a considerable distance, but 
within signalling range. Captain von Miiller was con- 
vinced that he was in a good position for reaping a rich 


harvest, and his judgment was confirmed on the following 
night September 12th when he captured the Kabinga 
(4,657 tons). This ship had left Calcutta for Colombo the 
previous day, and was almost on the usual track, steering a 
south-south-westerly course from the Sand Heads with lights 
burning, when at 11 o'clock the EMDEN appeared. At the 
time the Kabinga put to sea there was still no suspicion at 
Calcutta of the EMDEN'S presence in the Bay of Bengal, so 
her captain had no idea that he was running any particular 
danger. Suddenly the flash of gunfire pierced the darkness 
and a cruiser was observed on the port quarter, signalling 
to the merchantman to stop instantly and not to use her 
wireless. Shortly afterwards a boar ding- party reached 
the Kabinga, her wireless installation was damaged, and 
orders were given to the officers and men to leave the ship 
in two hours, as it was intended to sink her. The weather 
was bad at the time. The crew was forthwith mustered 
in readiness to take to the boats. The boarding officer 
then discovered that the captain (Mr. Thomas Robinson) 
had his wife and child on board. A signal was at once 
made to the EMDEN, and a reply received that the transfer 
would not be made that night in consideration of the 
rough sea and the hardship which the woman and child 
would suffer. It was, however, anticipated that the 
order to destroy the ship would be carried out on the 
following morning, but in the early hours of the morning 
the Glasgow steamer Killin (3,544 tons; master, Mr. J. K. 
Wilson), which was on her way from Calcutta to Colombo, 
loomed out of the darkness and nearly ran into the EMDEN. 
She was carrying 4,980 tons of Bengal coal. At the 
moment the EMDEN was well supplied with fuel, so the 
Kabinga was ordered to receive the Killings crew on board, 
and the latter ship was sunk.' Accompanied by her two 
improvised tenders and the Kabinga, the EMDEN cruised 
until noon, when the Harrison liner Diplomat (7,615 tons) 
was captured on her way from Colombo to London with 
a valuable consignment of tea. When she left the former 
port on the evening of September 12th, the master (Mr. 
R. J. Thompson) had seen an official message from Simla 
in the office of the Calcutta agent of his firm to the effect 
that navigation in the Bay of Bengal was reasonably 
safe. Captain Thompson, like other masters, appears to 
have accepted this assurance as a guarantee of security, 


which was not the meaning it really bore. When shortly 
before noon on September 13th a cruiser, followed by three 
merchant ships, came in sight, he at once assumed that 
the man-of-war was British and that she was bringing 
in three German prizes. He was supported in this belief 
by a report which had reached Calcutta before he had left. 
He was more or less on the trade route when the EMDEN 
appeared on the Diplomat's starboard quarter, fired a 
warning shot, and at the same time hoisted the German 
ensign. On the boarding-party reaching the Diplomat, 
the officer in command informed the master that the 
British vessel was an hour late. The crew were permitted 
to collect some clothes and were then taken on board the 
Kabinga, and the Diplomat was sunk. The Trabboch 
(4,014 tons) was the next British ship to fall a victim to 
the raider. She was proceeding in ballast from Negapatam 
to Calcutta. At 6 p.m. on September 14th she came out 
of a rain squall and the chief officer reported land on the 
port bow, but, to his unspeakable surprise, " the land " 
proved to be a cruiser in company with three other ships. 
The master (Mr. W. H. Ross) of the Trabboch made the 
same error as other masters in thinking that he had fallen 
in with a British cruiser with prizes bound for Colombo. 
When the unrecognised man-of-war was about three- 
quarters of a mile distant, she fired a shot, ran up the 
German ensign, made a signal to stop, and the Trabboch 
was then rounded up close to the other strange ships. 
In this manner another success was achieved by the 
EMDEN, more by luck than judgment, and, the crew of 
the merchantman having been transferred to the Kabinga, 
which was already crowded, the Trabboch was sunk. 

Just before this the Italian steamer Loredano had ap- 
peared. Captain von Miiller asked the master, Captain 
Giacopolo, to take off all the crews now assembled on board 
the Kabinga, and stated that he was about to sink that 
vessel. The captain of the Loredano refused to comply 
with the request, pleading that he had insufficient room 
on board his ship. In the circumstances, therefore, Captain 
von Miiller had no alternative but to release this neutral 
vessel, which proceeded on her voyage and, in fact, con- 
veyed to the Indian Port authorities information of the 
EMDEN'S activities, enabling them to take precautionary 
measures which resulted in the saving of a considerable 



volume of tonnage from capture. 1 The captain of the 
EMDEN apparently realised that he could not much longer 
keep his movements secret, since it was essential that the 
Kabinga, with the captured crews on board, should be 
sent into a neighbouring port. He doubtless regarded any 
action taken by the Italian merchant officer as of little 
importance. At any rate, the crews of the Indus and 
Lovat, who had been on board the Markomannia, were 
transferred to the Kabinga, and that ship was released to 
proceed to Calcutta ; her captain 2 was warned to " take 
care when approaching Sand Heads, as the lights are 
out." That caution was typical of the consideration 
which Captain von Muller exhibited throughout his raiding 

Just after the Kabinga had been released, the EMDEN 
sighted the Clan Matheson (4,775 tons) coming up to the 
eastward. When she left Madras on September 12th, 
the Bay of Bengal was still believed to be fairly safe. 
Captain William Harris, in an interview with Lloyd's 
agent at Rangoon, subsequently gave the following details 
of the circumstances in which he was captured : 

" The steamer was bound from Madras to Calcutta. 
On Monday, the 14th, the third officer called me and re- 
ported that a steamer on the port beam had shown a red 
flare. I went out on deck and saw a steamer on the port 
beam, some distance away, with two masthead lights 
showing clearly. There was a steamer on the port bow 
with all lights showing, both at the masthead and on 
deck. It was about four miles distant. Both vessels 
were apparently heading the same course as ourselves. 
About 11.30 I perceived some signals from a point on the 
port quarter, but the midshipman on watch could not 
read them, as they seemed to say 4 Do as,' repeated again 
and again. At 11.40 there was a gunshot on the port 

1 Captain Giacopolo, of the Loredano, made every effort to warn British 
shipping of the danger, and he succeeded in stopping the City of Rangoon. 
His information was passed on to other vessels, and gave sufficient warning 
to prevent the Itonus, Lotusmere, and Rajput from falling into the enemy's 
hands. This Italian captain's action also enabled the port officer at Cal- 
cutta to withdraw the pilot vessel, to extinguish the trading lights in 
channels, and to warn Akyab, Chittagong, False Point, Vizagapatam, 
and Cocanada. 

2 Captain Robinson and the wireless operator (Mr. A. Weselly) of the 
Kabinga showed considerable enterprise and ingenuity in restoring the 
wireless installation, enabling messages to be sent to Calcutta. 


quarter, apparently aimed at the steamer. A few minutes 
later a second shot came from the same position. I rang 
' Stand by,' and after another short interval a third gun 
was fired, the shot passing across the steamer's bows. 
A few minutes later a large three-funnelled cruiser ranged 
up alongside with all lights out, signalling by Morse, 4 Stop 
at once ; do not use wireless ; I will send a boat.' An 
armed boat with three lieutenants and some fifteen or 
twenty men came alongside, but not until that moment 
did we realise that the vessel was a German cruiser. The 
senior officer inspected the ship's papers and signalled to 
the warship, thereafter announcing to me that the crew 
would be transferred to a German transport immediately 
and the ship sunk. I was informed that the crew would be 
allowed to take part of their effects, personal property 
only. The whole of the steamer's crew, with such of 
their effects as they wanted most, were then transferred 
to the s.s. Markomannia in the boats of the EMDEN. This 
was at 2 a.m. on September 15th. In the meantime 
dynamite charges were placed in several positions in the 
steamer's hold, and these were fired, and the ship not 
sinking sufficiently quickly for the Germans' purposes, 
the vessel was fired upon by the cruiser four times, their 
searchlight playing upon her meanwhile. Thereafter the 
steamer sank by the head, and finally, at 2.35 a.m., all 
lights went out and the vessel disappeared. 

"At 4 p.m. on September 17th steamer's smoke was 
sighted on the eastern horizon, and the course was altered 
to cut her off. At 6 p.m. the cruiser stopped the Nor- 
wegian s.s. Dovre, and signalled the Markomannia to 
ship the Clan Mathesori's crew, which work was started 
at 7.15 and finished at 8 p.m. The whole seventy men 
were carried in the EMDEN'S boats. The Dovre arrived 
at Rangoon on the morning of September 19th." 

On September 15th the EMDEN still continued her north- 
ward cruise, steaming to within forty miles of Calcutta. 
She then turned south-east in the direction of Rangoon. 
By this time the captain of the EMDEN appears to have 
conjectured that he might be interrupted by British 
cruisers. He determined, however, to carry out a dramatic 
coup intended to produce psychological effects along the 
Indian coast. At the entrance to Madras Harbour there 


were a number of oil-tanks ; Captain von Miiller decided 
to fire into them. At 9.30 on the evening of September 
22nd, the cruiser therefore crept in towards the harbour, 
and, playing her searchlights on the tanks, fired some 
preliminary shots in order to get the range. The search- 
lights were then turned off, leaving the cruiser in darkness, 
and the EMDEN poured in a series of broadsides, altogether 
125 shells. Within a short time the harbour was lighted 
up by the fierce flames of the burning oil. The British 
s.s. Chupra was among the vessels in harbour which 
suffered damage by gunfire. Her dramatic purpose 
achieved, the German cruiser then steamed away at full 
speed in a north-easterly direction, the forts on shore 
opening fire without effect. The intention of Captain 
von Miiller was to suggest that he was proceeding 
towards Calcutta, but when well out of touch with land 
he turned south, sailing round the east coast of Ceylon. 
At the same time the Pontoporos was sent away to a 
rendezvous. Good fortune again attended his cruise, for 
the EMDEN encountered the King Lud (3,650 tons), on 
passage from Alexandria for Calcutta. The ship was on 
time charter, and, at Perim, Lloyd's signal-station signalled 
that the King Lud was to proceed as fast as possible to 
Calcutta, in order to reach that port on September 30th. 
Captain David Harris subsequently stated that he under- 
stood that "the road was reasonably safe." He met 
with no incident until he arrived off Point de Galle, Ceylon, 
when the EMDEN hove in sight, flying no flag, and ordered 
the British merchant ship to stop. The usual routine 
was followed, the King Lud being sunk after the removal 
of her officers and men to the German tender Marko- 
mannia, where, according to Captain Harris, " we were all 
well treated." 

Off Colombo the following day (September 25th) the 
EMDEN saw the British steamer Tymeric (3,314 tons) just 
coming out of harbour and followed her to about forty 
miles west. The Tymeric was carrying a cargo of sugar 
from Java to England, with orders to call at Falmouth 
for orders. The master (Mr. T. T. Tulloch) was taken 
by surprise, as he had not anticipated trouble. He was 
continuing his course to Minikoi when, shortly before 
midnight, he saw a vessel, showing no lights, coming up 
on the port quarter, only two or three miles distant. The 


stranger, which proved to be the German cruiser, drew 
in and then sent the familiar signal. An armed party from 
the EMDEN afterwards took possession of the merchant- 
man, and Captain Tulloch was instructed to follow the 
EMDEN. This he refused to do, saying that his captors 
must navigate the ship themselves. An exchange of 
signals took place. The captain of the EMDEN decided 
to sink the Tymeric as soon as the officers and men had been 
removed to the Markomannia, the captain himself being 
taken on board the EMDEN, from whose quarter-deck 
he watched his ship settle down. On the following day 
the German cruiser met the Gryfevale (4,424 tons), which 
was proceeding from Bombay to Colombo in ballast. The 
Gryjevale had been detained in Bombay owing to reports 
of the presence of an enemy cruiser in the Bay of Bengal ; 
on September 22nd, however, clearance was given as far 
as Colombo. The ship, therefore, put to sea on the 23rd ; 
a good lookout was kept, and no lights were shown at night. 
At midday on the 26th, when about thirty-five miles to 
the south-east of Cape Comorin, a man-of-war was sighted, 
and an hour later a signal to stop was received. In 
these circumstances the EMDEN made another capture. 
Captain Steel was told that he might either follow 
the cruiser or have his ship sunk. He accepted the former 

" We steamed out to the westward until 1 a.m.," he 
stated in a subsequent report to his owners, " when lights 
were sighted, and shortly afterwards the Admiralty- char- 
tered collier Buresk was stopped. 1 This was a valuable 
prize for the Germans. The crew, with the exception of 
the captain, chief officer, chief and second engineers, steward 
and cook, were sent on board us, and at the same time 
the prisoners from the Markomannia were sent on board ; 
they consisted of the crew of the King Lud (sunk on the 
25th off Galle, Ceylon) and part of the crew of the Tymeric 
(sunk outside Colombo at midnight on the 25th), third 
officer, fourth engineer, and carpenter ; the captain and 
chief engineer were prisoners on board the EMDEN, and the 

1 The Buresk (4,337 tons) was on passage from Barry to Hong Kong with 
coal. She was utilised by the captain of the EMDEN during the remainder 
of his cruise, and was eventually sunk on November 9th, 1914, off North 
Keeling Island, Cocos Islands, when the Australian cruiser SYDNEY defeated 
and sank the EMDEN. Such of the officers and men as had not already 
been landed by the Germans were rescued by the SYDNEY. 


Chinese crew were transferred to the Buresk. It appears 
that the captain and chief engineer of the Tymeric had 
refused to follow the EMDEN ; they were given ten minutes 
to get their boats out and leave the ship ; the ship was sunk 
at once. In all other cases where the crews made no 
trouble, but submitted to the orders given, the crews were 
allowed from one to three hours to pack up their effects 
and leave the ship. About 4 a.m. we steamed out to the 
westward, the Buresk accompanying us. Shortly after 
daylight the Ribera l in ballast was stopped, the crew 
transferred to us, and the ship sunk by shell fire. The 
course was again set to the westward, it evidently being 
the intention to get us as far as possible from Colombo 
before releasing us. Before dark another vessel, which 
proved to be the Foyle,* from Malta to Rangoon, light, 
was stopped, the crew transhipped to us, and the vessel 
sunk. At 10 o'clock much to my relief, you may be sure 
I was told that we were free to resume our voyage. I 
wish here to say that I appreciate very much the courtesy 
shown to us by the officer in charge of the prize crew, and 
also the good behaviour of the men ; they one and all 
performed their duties with every consideration for every- 
one on board." 

Interesting sidelights on the proceedings of the EMDEN 
in her attacks upon commerce were afterwards furnished 
by a diary which was kept by the master of the Buresk 
(Mr. F. G. Taylor), in which he recounted his remarkable 
experiences during the period when he was compelled to 
accompany the EMDEN : 

" September 27th. 1 a.m. stopped by German cruiser 
EMDEN ; officers came aboard and told crew to go on board 
Gryfevale. 2 a.m. proceeded full speed after EMDEN ; 
9 a.m. sank Ribera, proceeded west towards Minikoi. 

1 The Ribera (3,500 tons; master, Mr. John Isdale) was proceeding in 
ballast from Glasgow to Batavia when she encountered the EMDEN, north- 
west of Colombo. 

2 The Foyle (4,147 tons) was on passage from Dunstan-on-Tyne to 
Colombo and Rangoon in water ballast. According to Captain W. H. 
Gibson, he was informed at the Admiral Superintendent's office at Malta 
that " the eastern route was all clear," and, calling at Port Said, he received 
no instructions, and sailed on September llth "with every confidence 
that the route was clear, having received no information to the contrary." 
The normal conditions in the Arabian Sea contributed to a false sense of 

en. iv] FOLLOWING THE " EMDEN " 197 

9 p.m. sank Foyle ; 10 p.m. released Gryjevale ; EMDEN 
proceeded south full speed, Buresk and Markomannia 

" September 28th. Proceeding south full speed. 

44 September 29th. Arrived off group Maldive Islands ; 

9 a.m. EMDEN took coal from Markomannia ; 9 p.m. 
stopped coaling and proceeded south. 

44 September 30th. Stopped off Maldive group ; Marko- 
mannia came alongside Buresk with engine-oil and water 
for boilers ; 1 p.m. Markomannia went alongside EMDEN 
to coal; 9 p.m. Markomannia left EMDEN and proceeded 
east ; EMDEN proceeded south. 

"October 1st. Steaming south to Australian route. 

"October 2nd. Steaming south; EMDEN receiving wire- 
less that trade route from Aden to Colombo was clear for 

" October 3rd. EMDEN steering on route from Aden to 
Cape Lemvin, south of Chagos Islands. 

44 October 4>th. Steaming on route, having big gun 
practice in the afternoon. 

44 October 5th. Steaming slow all day on trade route, 
first north-west and then south-west, having rifle 
practice, etc. ; also in wireless communication with 


" October 6th. Steaming zigzag on trade route. 

" October 7th. Steaming zigzag on trade route, having 
target practice with big guns ; shooting good and quick. 

" October 8th. Still cruising on trade route. 

" October 9th. Arrived in Diego Garcia at 7 a.m. ; 
anchored ; EMDEN scrubbed bottom and painted boot 
topping with paint taken from Buresk ; at 2 p.m. finished 
painting, came alongside Buresk and took coal on board ; 

10 p.m. stopped coaling for the night. 

" October 10th. Coaling continued ; noon, completed 
coaling, 1,300 tons coal on board ; hove up anchors and 
proceeded north full speed. 

"October llth. Proceeding north full speed, fresh wind 
and rain. 

" October 12th. Steering north full speed, crossed the line 
6 p.m. Heavy rain and strong winds. 

" October 13th. Similar conditions, still steaming 

" October 14>th, Steaming for the north group of the 


Maldives to coal ; received wireless that HAMPSHIRE was 500 
miles off, also cruisers DUKE OF EDINBURGH, CHATHAM, 
WEYMOUTH were searching for them but knew their 
positions ; also got wireless that Antwerp had fallen and 
Russians driven back to Warsaw. 

" October 15th. Arrived in the north group of Maldives 
to coal at 8 a.m. ; left at 4 p.m. and steered for Minikoi 

" October 16th. Captured at 1 a.m. the Clan Grant 1 and 
dredger Ponrabbel? also Benmohr * at 10 a.m. All sunk 
same day. 

" October 17th. Cruising round Minikoi Light. 

" October ISth. Noon, received wireless that steamers 
were steering sixty miles north of track ; EMDEN proceeded 
north and captured Troilus 4 at 3 p.m., and St. Egbert at 
9 p.m. 

" October 19th. 1 a.m. captured Eccford ; sank Troilus 
and Chilkana 8 at 4 p.m . ; released St. Egbert at 6 p.m." 

Another first-hand story of the EMDEN is that of Mr. 
Somers Ellis, who was one of the seven passengers on 

1 The Clan Grant (3,948 tons; master, Mr. N. Leslie) was on the track 
Minikoi to Colombo when captured, shortly after midnight on October 16th. 
She was proceeding from Glasgow to Liverpool to Colombo with a general 

2 The dredger Ponrdbbel (473 tons; master, Mr. E. G. Gare) left Barry 
Dock on August 23rd, and was captured when eighteen miles north-west 
of Minikoi Lighthouse. 

3 The Benmohr (4,806 tons) left Leith on September 4th for Yokohama. 
The EMDEN, showing no lights, was indistinguishable in the darkness, 
when the British vessel was hailed. It was not until the boarding-party 
had examined the ship's papers and asked a number of questions in 
perfect English that the identity of the raider was revealed. Captain J. B. 
Sarchet, in reporting his experiences, subsequently stated : " I steered the 
usual track from Suez to Guardafui. From there I shaped my course to 
pass about thirty-five miles north of Minikoi. I inquired at the British 
Consul, Port Said, if they had any instructions to give me ; they told me 
' No,' but I was to signal at Perim or Aden for instructions. I stopped at 
Perim in the afternoon and signalled, asking if they had any instructions 
to give ; their reply was ' No.' I then asked if there was any war news ; 
they also replied ' No.' My intention was to ask at Colombo or Point de 
Galle for instructions. In all previous voyages I have always shaped my 
course, after passing Guardafui, to pass five miles south of Minikoi. I 
calculate I was about forty miles to the north of my usual track when the 
Benmohr was captured." 

4 The Troilus (7,562 tons) cleared Colombo on October 17th for London 
with a general cargo. The master affirmed that he was carrying out the 
instructions received from the Intelligence Officer at Colombo when he 
met the EMDEN. 

6 The Chilkana (3,244 tons; master, Mr. L. N. Archdeacon) was making 
for Calcutta when she encountered the EMDEN off Minikoi and was sunk. 


board the Troilus, and was accompanied by his wife. 
According to Mr. Ellis : 

" Captain Long called on the Naval Intelligence Officer 
twice while at Colombo the last time just before leaving 
and was told that the route to Aden was clear and safe, 
but that, as an additional precaution, it would be well 
for him to go about forty miles north of the usual track 
by Minikoi, first passing near Cape Comorin, and then 
setting a course parallel to the regular route. Captain 
Long carried out these instructions exactly, and informed 
me on Sunday morning that he had sighted the light on 
Cape Comorin during the night, and was then about forty 
miles north of the direct track from Colombo to Minikoi. 

" Sunday, the 18th instant, was a brilliantly clear day after 
rain at early morning. At about 2 p.m. Captain Long 
said to me that a suspicious-looking vessel was approaching 
from the south ; and after a short time we were able to 
identify it as a German cruiser of the EMDEN type. A 
little behind her was a merchant vessel, afterwards found 
to be the British coal transport steamer Buresk. The 
EMDEN rapidly came on, in a direction calculated to cut 
us off (an officer afterwards told me that they were steam- 
ing at 19 knots), and when between one and two miles 
away hoisted signal flags, which we could not at once 
identify. We were afterwards told that they signified 
' Don't use your wireless,' and then ' Stop.' The EMDEN 
then fired a blank shot, and the engines of the Troilus 
were promptly stopped, at about 2.40 p.m. When about 
a quarter of a mile away, the EMDEN lowered a boat and we 
were boarded by a lieutenant, a petty officer, and (I think) 
twelve men, including artificers, who took charge of the 
engine-room. I did not hear the instructions given, but 
a commencement was at once made to swing out six boats 
and lower them to the level of the upper deck, where they 
were left hanging from the davits and lashed to prevent 
swinging. This operation was carried out smartly and 
well. We passengers were told to prepare all our private 
effects for transhipment to another vessel. Towards 
evening the German officer in command told us that the 
captured collier in attendance on the EMDEN had already 
several crews on board, and that the accommodation was 
very poor, so that we might remain on the Troilus that night. 


He said that they expected another vessel that evening 
with better accommodation, and that we should probably 
be moved to her in the morning. This officer, a Naval 
Reserve lieutenant, Lauterbach by name, had been for 
some years in command of Hamburg- Amerika coasting 
steamers running between Shanghai and Tientsin, and knew 
both Captain Long (of the s.s. Troilus) and myself by name. 

" They obviously expected the Troilus, and as obviously 
knew the course we (and other ships) were likely to take 
if not on the direct run to Minikoi. 

" Immediately the boarding-party had taken charge, 
the head of the Troilus was turned round to a little south 
of east, and we proceeded at half speed for nearly six hours 
(say from 2.50 to 8.50 p.m.) in nearly the same direction in 
company with the EMDEN and Buresk. At about 8.30 p.m. 
a light was seen on the horizon to eastward, and the 
Troilus and Buresk were shortly afterwards stopped (we 
had all lights out), while the EMDEN went forward and 
captured the expected vessel, the St. Egbert, bound (last) 
from Colombo for Aden and New York. We all then went 
about south-south-east, slow, and at about 1 a.m. next 
morning the British collier Exford, 1 outward bound with 6,000 
tons Welsh coal, was captured. . . . 

" At 6 a.m. on the 19th we commenced to load the boats 
with baggage, and at about 7 a.m. we transferred therein 
to the St. Egbert, and met with the most kind attention 
from her commander, Captain Barr. 

" The sea was smooth, with a south-east swell, and a gang- 
way was lowered on both boats for my wife's use. Previous 
to our leaving the Troilus, twelve Chinese firemen and a 
Chinese steward were sent to the Buresk by the German 
officer's orders, and twelve other firemen were afterwards 
sent to the Exford. These men were promised the same 
pay as before. 

" At about 7.30 a.m. smoke was seen on the horizon, 
and the EMDEN went away to welcome the British India 
boat Chilkana, a new ship of 6,000 tons, 8 outward bound. 

" We soon afterwards received her captain, twelve 

1 The Exford (4,542 tons ; master, Mr. W. C. Donovan) was on passage 
from Cardiff to Hong Kong under Admiralty sealed orders. The vessel 
was presumably expected by the enemy; at any rate, her commander 
was greeted by name by the EMDEN'S officer who boarded her. 

2 The s.s. Chilkana (3,244 gross tons) was sunk by gun-fire, 110 miles 
E.N.E. from Minikoi. 


passengers (all company's employees) and crew on the 
St. Egbert, and afterwards the captains and crews of the 
Buresk and of the Benmohr, Clan Grant, and a Tasmanian 
dredger, all of whom were on the Buresk. 

" At 10.40 a.m. (on the 19th) the EMDEN fired three 
shells at the water-line of the Troilus, all forward (I think) 
of the bridge. She sank very slowly, and at 1.30 the 
EMDEN fired another shell or two forward, and one aft ; 
all shots were on the port side. At 2.40 p.m. the Troilus 
sank, after listing heavily and then rolling over to her port 
side and diving stem first. It was a most distressing 
sight. The B.I. steamer Chilkana was sunk (in half an 
hour after being fired on) just before sunset. At about 
7 p.m. the captain of the St. Egbert was told to set a course 
for the Indian Ocean between Calicut and Tuticorin, 
and we reached Cochin at 6 p.m. on the 20th instant. The 
Buresk and Exford were kept with the EMDEN, each having 
about 6,000 tons of coal on board. The St. Egbert was 
spared owing to her cargo being for the U.S.A." Mr. Ellis 
added that : " We have met with the utmost kindness 
and consideration from all concerned, including the officers 
of the EMDEN." 

The experience of the St. Egbert (5,596 tons), mentioned 
in Mr. Ellis' s statement, was exceptional. The ship had 
a neutral cargo for American consignees, and was on her 
passage from Yokohama to New York. She left the former 
port on July 18th, and therefore before the declaration of 
war, and, calling at Colombo, sailed thence on October 17th. 
Captain Barr learnt at Colombo that the route was 
reasonably safe, and was advised to keep close to Cape 
Comorin, and from thence to shape a course to pass forty 
miles north of Minikoi Island. The St. Egbert steered the 
course recommended, but at 9.30 p.m. on the following 
day the EMDEN stopped and boarded her. In the course 
of conversation with Captain Barr, the lieutenant who was 
in charge of the prize crew stated that the Germans had 
learnt of his departure from Colombo on the previous 
day, and were aware that he had received orders " to 
proceed on a more northerly track than usual," adding 
that he had been informed that the British cruiser 
HAMPSHIRE had arrived at Colombo that morning, and 


that her crew were ashore playing football. This em- 
broidery, as in so many similar instances, was probably 
mere bluff. The next morning the EMDEN rounded up 
the captured vessels, and all the passengers and crews 
of the steamers Benmohr, Clan Grant, Buresk, Troilus, 
Exford, Chilkana, and Ponrabbel, were sent on board the 
St. Egbert, which was released on October 19th with orders 
to proceed to Aden. In view of the large number of 
persons on board and consequent restricted accommodation 
and food-supplies, Captain Barr was subsequently per- 
mitted to make for Cochin, where he arrived on the 
morning of October 20th. 

The month of October was drawing to its close, and the 
captain of the EMDEN suspected that news of his captures 
must have become known on shore, and suitable measures 
taken by the British naval authorities to arrest his career 
of destruction. He determined to pay a visit to Penang 
and see what mischief he could do there. The EMDEN, 
as on the occasion of the Madras raid, erected a dummy 
funnel made of canvas, in the hope that she might be 
mistaken for one of the British cruisers which Captain von 
Miiller thought to be in the vicinity of Penang. It is 
beyond the scope of this book to describe in detail the 
torpedoing of the Russian cruiser ZHEMCHUG, which was 
lying in the harbour. The EMDEN, having completed that 
task, turned and steamed out of the harbour at full speed. 
Outside she encountered the Glenturret (4,696 tons), which 
had left London on September 23rd for Yokohama, calling 
at Penang, Singapore, and Hong Kong. She was loaded 
with Government munitions and explosives, and would 
have proved a valuable capture for the Germans. On 
the night of October 26th, when in the neighbourhood of 
Sabang, the Glenturret sent a wireless signal that she 
would arrive at Penang on October 28th, and asking that 
a lighter should be provided to take off twenty tons of 
explosives. Arriving off the entrance to Penang Harbour 
in the early hours of the morning of the 27th, the Glen- 
turret stopped, the master (Mr. H. Jones) deciding to wait 
until daylight before entering. She was on her way into 
the harbour later in the morning, with the B flag (ex- 
plosives) flying, when the EMDEN ranged alongside her, 
being only about thirty feet distant. Captain Jones 
was hailed in English and asked his reasons for flying the 




B flag. He replied that the Glenturret was carrying 
paraffin. The EMDEN then lowered a boat for the pur- 
pose of boarding her, when the French destroyer MOUS- 
QUET, which had been in Penang Harbour, appeared. In 
the circumstances the captain of the EMDEN had no further 
interest in the Glenturret, but immediately made off to 
ascertain the identity of the strange destroyer on the 
horizon. Captain von Miiller did not know what to make 
of the intruder, for at 6,000 yards the strange man-of- 
war appeared much larger than she really was, owing to 
the mirage of the early morning. As the EMDEN closed 
in to about 4,800 yards, she was recognised as the French 
torpedo-boat destroyer MOUSQUET. The subsequent fight 
was an unequal one. As the destroyer sank, the EMDEN 
rescued the crew, numbering in all thirty-six, three of 
whom afterwards died in the EMDEN owing to the severity 
of their wounds. The EMDEN had lost much time in deal- 
ing with the MOUSQUET, and now saw a torpedo-boat ap- 
proaching her from Penang, so she at once steamed for 
the Indian Ocean at full speed with the torpedo-boat in 
chase. After being pursued for four hours, she lost sight 
of the torpedo-boat in heavy rain, and was free to proceed 
to her collier. 

In the meantime the Glenturret had made her escape, 
but on the following day the EMDEN came across the 
s.s. Newburn (3,554 tons; master, Mr. J. R. Matthews), on 
passage from the Tyne to Singapore and Samarang. She 
was carrying a neutral cargo, so the captain of the EMDEN 
decided to release her. Before doing so, however, he put 
the survivors of the MOUSQUET on board, and the Newburn 
reached Penang on October 31st. 

The cruise of the EMDEN was now nearing its close. 
Captain von Miiller, suspecting that a hue and cry had 
been raised, decided that he would do well to change the 
scene of his activities. With the idea of cutting the cable, 
he steamed for Cocos Islands, which were reached on Sun- 
day evening, November 8th. The German cruiser sailed 
round the islands in order to see that everything was 
clear, and then proceeded towards Direction Island, the 
dummy funnel being again in place, and landed a party 
of fifty men with instructions to destroy the wireless 
station and cut the cable. In the meantime, the wireless 
station had sent out an urgent message for help ; it was 


picked up by the Allied men-of-war on convoy duty with 
the First Australian Contingent. On instructions from 
the senior officer, H.M.A.S. SYDNEY raised steam for full 
speed and proceeded to Direction Island. The story 
of the destruction of the EMDEN does not come within 
the scope of this history : it is sufficient to add that the 
German cruiser's career was brought to an end, the men 
on board the Buresk being rescued. When Captain Glossop 
reached this ship, he found that she was sinking, as the 
Kingston had been " knocked out and damaged to prevent 

The story of the first phase of the attack on British 
commerce would be incomplete were no reference made 
to the circumstances in which the gunboat GEIER captured 
the s.s. Southport (3,588 tons). The adventurous story, 
which afterwards moved the Admiralty to express their 
approbation of the action of Captain A. Clopet and the 
officers and men, cannot be better told than in the form 
of a paraphrase of the narrative as related by the first- 

The s.s. Southport left Auckland, New Zealand, on 
June 12th, to load a cargo of phosphates for the Pacific 
Phosphate Company at Nauru, calling at Ocean Island 
for orders. The voyage was uneventful. Off Nauru, 
information was sent by the manager of the Phosphate 
Company that loading had been delayed, owing to dan- 
gerous weather, strong currents, and the exposed position 
of the island, and that, in consequence of tonnage 
having precedence over the Southport, that vessel need 
not present herself for loading for some time. Captain 
Clopet decided to follow the example of other captains 
placed in similar circumstances, and wait at Tarawa 
(Gilbert Islands), where further orders could be conveyed 
to him, in preference to steaming round the island against 
the strong prevailing easterly current. The Southport 
returned to Nauru on July 28th. The captain found that 
only some 450 tons of phosphates had been loaded, and 
there was still a balance of 13,000 tons to be shipped before 
the Southport would be required. In order to save coal, 
he decided to bear up for Kusaie, the most easterly island 
in the Caroline group (German), where the conditions 
appeared to be better than at Taraiva. It was also 
arranged that the manager at Nauru should forward loading 


orders by the steamer Germania, due at Kusaie on August 
28th. The Southport arrived at Kusaie on August 4th, 
and remained there awaiting instructions. The non-arrival 
of the Germania on the stipulated date caused surprise, 
owing to the regularity of her previous voyages. No 
news being forthcoming, it was decided to sail for Nauru 
on September 6th. On the 4th, the captain being ashore 
at the time, the German gunboat GEIER and the transport 
Tsintau, of Bremen, came to anchor in the harbour, and 
a boat full of armed officers and sailors put off from the 
GEIER and boarded the British ship. Captain Clopet, on 
returning on board his ship shortly afterwards, was in- 
formed by the German officers that, " war having been 
declared by England on Germany," they demanded that 
all the ship's papers, register, ship's articles, load-line, 
etc., be handed over. It was explained that the ship 
was chartered to load phosphates at Nauru for Stettin. 
The engineers of the warship then came on board and 
began disabling the vessel, principally by removing the 
four eccentrics of the L.P. and H.P. engines and other 
connected parts, as well as the intermediate stop valve. 
The following day the transport Tsintau proceeded along- 
side and started transhipping the Southport's coal into 
her bunkers, the work continuing until 6 a.m. on 
August 7th (Monday). The same day at 10 a.m. a boat 
full of armed officers and men boarded the Southport and 
came on the lower bridge, when a formal act of seizure 
was read over to the captain by the officer in charge, 
appropriating the vessel to the Imperial German Govern- 
ment. The armed sailors were lined up on one side of 
the lower bridge, and, the British ensign having been 
previously hauled down, the German naval ensign was 
hoisted on 1^ie flagstaff, the German officers and sailors 
saluting theiteflag. Everything was done in the most 
formal manner, as though the scene were being enacted 
on the stage before an appreciative audience. Captain 
Clopet was subsequently informed that he would remain 
in charge of the ship and responsible for it, as well as for 
the discipline of the crew, pending any future action on 
the part of the German Government. It should be men- 
tioned that the commander of the GEIER at first decided 
to sink the Southport. He learnt afterwards that, owing 
to the non-arrival of the Germania with provisions, the 


Southport was exceedingly short of food, and he was told 
that the crew would be faced with starvation unless the 
situation was relieved. The German officer was not un- 
sympathetic, but urged that he could not send provisions, 
having himself an insufficient supply. Ultimately he did 
in fact send four loaves of bread, which were accepted. 
But his more effective aid took the form of an order on 
the King of Kusaie, in the name of the Imperial German 
Government, to supply the ship with such food as the 
island produced. 

The GEIER and Tsintau left on the afternoon of the 7th, 
the Germans apparently satisfied that the Southport could 
not move ; they disappeared in a south-easterly direction. 
After their departure, the captain consulted the chief 
engineer (Mr. J. C. Dodd) as to the possibility of repairing the 
engines in such a manner as to enable the Southport to put to 
sea. Mr. Dodd, nothing daunted by the damage which had 
been done, decided that the position was not hopeless. His 
confidence was justified. The work of repair was carried 
on from day to day until September 15th, when Captain 
Clopet had the satisfaction of learning that the engines 
were ready. Steam was raised and orders were given for 
a trial that night. The trial began shortly after midnight, 
the captain being present in the engine-room in order to 
judge the reliability of the engines. After two attempts 
the engines started. They were stopped after a few 
revolutions, the chief engineer stating that he was confident 
that everything was as satisfactory as could be expected. 
A statement was handed to the captain in confirmation 
of this opinion. The following evening, Captain Clopet 
called the officers and engineers of the ship to the cabin, 
and then told them that he intended to make an attempt 
to recapture the steamer and take her into Australian 
waters, Brisbane being the nearest port. As an alternative, 
it was suggested that the vessel might remain in Kusaie 
until the end of hostilities, when in all probability an ex- 
change of vessels would take place between England and 
Germany. Captain Clopet pointed out, however, that the 
value represented by the Southport was at stake, and that 
at that moment, to all intents and purposes, the ship 
was the property of the German Government ; if the 
attempt to bring the vessel to a safe Australian port was 
successful, the money represented in the ship would revert 

CH. iv] A BOLD STROKE 207 

to the original flag. The captain's decision was unani- 
mously accepted by the officers present, and on the following 
morning the crew gave their support. In anticipation of 
the voyage, since there was a shortage of provisions, the 
captain obtained from the shore some 400 pounds of roots, 
which are used by the natives only when on the verge of 
starvation, besides about 350 cocoanuts, the latter being 
provided by the King of Kusaie, who was by this time 
aware that an attempt to escape was to be made. Though 
other provisions were taken on board as a precautionary 
measure, the voyage was begun on straitened rations. 

A word may be added as to the manner in which the 
engines were repaired. The German engineers had left 
the two eccentric rods for the L.P. engines ; one of these 
was put on the ahead sheave of the H.P. engine, the other 
rod being kept in place on the ahead sheave of the L.P. 
engine. Thus the engineers were able to work the engines 
subject to the disadvantage that they could move only 
in one direction, i.e., ahead ; it was impossible to reverse 
the engines, however great the need. There was also some 
difficulty in restarting the engines once they were stopped. 
These circumstances rendered the task of handling the 
ship difficult. The attempt to move the Southport was 
made early on the morning of September 8th. The 
harbour of Kusaie is very small, having on one side land 
and on the other a coral reef. It provided barely sufficient 
room for the steamer to swing, and at the time of 
starting, Captain Clopet swung her stem towards the 
entrance, the channel having been buoyed by his orders 
previous to heaving up the anchor. With the assistance 
of warps, the steamer's stern was brought into the wind, 
the anchor hove barely clear of the bottom, and her head 
started to pay off with the wind towards the entrance. 
When nearly square in the channel, the telegraph was rung 
" Full ahead," and the last rope was let go as soon as the 
engines started. 

The voyage was uneventful; lights were carefully screened 
up to 9 p.m., when they were put out. The steamer 
passed to the westward of San Christoval (Solomon Islands) 
on September 23rd, and arrived to the north-east of Sandy 
Cape on September 28th when, in reply to inquiries, 
the s.s. Westminster reported the coast clear of enemy 
ships. A course was then shaped towards Brisbane. 



On the same day the Southport observed the Dutch steamer 
Tasman, of Batavia, altering her course towards the coast, 
and shortly afterwards a steamer ashore at right angles 
to the beach was observed. The Southport also turned 
towards the steamer, which was flying the International 
Distress Signal N.C. (" Want immediate assistance "). 
The vessel was the s.s. Marlvo. As the first impression 
conveyed by the steamer's position was that she must 
have gone ashore during the night, the captain of the 
Southport decided to come to anchor in a position to render 
help. It was a characteristic act on the part of a British 
seaman who had so recently been himself in trouble. 
The Southport drew in between the Tasman and the 
stranded vessel. Assistance had unfortunately come too 
late, for the Marlvo already had her after compartments 
full of water, through striking some obstruction off Sandy 
Cape. Her passengers were transferred to the Tasman, 
and the Southport proceeded on her voyage to Brisbane. 
She completed the passage without further incident. In 
these circumstances the GEIER was deprived of the only 
prize which she made during her career as a commerce- 

Though the enemy's attack on merchant shipping in 
the early days of the war was conducted on a much smaller 
scale than had been anticipated by many students of 
German naval policy in pre-war days, the measure of 
success which was attained made a deep impression on 
the public mind unaccustomed to the vicissitudes of naval 
warfare. The injury inflicted was, however, slight when 
studied in relation to the experiences of British shipping 
during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the 
varied resources of the German Navy, or the size of the 
target offered by the British Mercantile Marine, comprising 
44*4 per cent, of sea-going steam- vessels of the world, 
or 47* 9 per cent, if the tonnage of the Dominions be in- 
cluded. At the end of the first quarter of 1915 the volume 
of British tonnage which had been lost through the 
agency of enemy vessels and mines since the opening 
of the war was only 232,824 gross tons, 1 a very small 
percentage of the tonnage afloat. Seventy-two vessels 8 

1 Merchant Shipping (Losses), 199. 

2 Excluding the small sailing-vessels Frau Minna Petersen (captured 
by a torpedo-boat on August 7th) and Ayesha (captured November 9th). 


were captured by enemy cruisers and armed merchantmen, 
including the Glenturret, which was not actually boarded, 
and the Southport, which escaped. The depredations were 
inflicted upon the Merchant Navy without the sacrifice of 
a single life. More than that, officers and men of the 
German ships, whether men-of-war or auxiliary cruisers, 
exhibited a high respect for the dictates of humanity, and 
showed to passengers and crews a consideration and a 
courtesy which, in view of later events, deserve to be 

Name of Vessel. 








15 1 





1 The total ex- 

eludes the 

small sailing- 

vessel Ayesha, 

captured by 

the EMDEN'S 


2 TheExford was 









15 1 




i The/rcdramwas 

utilised and 





9 1 



1 The Potara was 

utilised and 
























THE opening phase of the war by sea was marked by 
an attack by German cruisers and armed merchant ships 
upon British shipping. The effects of that campaign 
have already been described. It would be unfair to leave 
the records of the sinkings of British merchant tonnage 
during these early days without some reference to the steps 
taken by the Admiralty and other departments to afford 
protection to the Mercantile Marine. Strategical and tacti- 
cal considerations are dealt with elsewhere, 1 but it is 
appropriate to an account of the part taken by the Mer- 
chant Navy in the war to examine the bases of national 
policy as determined before the outbreak of hostilities. 


Time and again the subject of the relation of the Royal 
and Merchant Navies was considered, either directly or 
indirectly, by Royal Commissions and Select Committees. 
In particular, the responsibility of the Navy for the security 
of British ocean-borne commerce came under examination 
by the Royal Commission on the Supply of Food and Raw 
Material in Time of War, which was appointed on April 27th, 
1903. The trading community was largely represented, 
and among the members were Vice- Admiral afterwards 
Admiral Sir Gerard H. U. Noel (who was succeeded 
in January 1904 by Admiral Sir Day Hort Bosanquet) 
and Sir John C. R. Colomb, M.P., who had devoted great 
attention to the matters with which the Commission 
was instructed to deal. The Commissioners were in con- 
stant communication with the Admiralty, and examined 
a number of naval officers of standing, including Captain 

1 Cf. Naval Operations, by Sir Julian Corbett. 


Prince Louis of Battenberg later Admiral the Marquis 
of Milford Haven who was then Director of Naval In- 
telligence, Admiral Sir John O. Hopkins, who had held 
the command of the Mediterranean Fleet, and Admiral 
Sir Cyprian A. G. Bridge, a former Director of Naval 
Intelligence, who was in command of His Majesty's ships 
in the China Seas at the time of the outbreak of war 
between Russia and Japan. 

The Report of the Commission was issued in 1905, and 
it is of interest in that it provides evidence of the attention 
which was then being given by the naval authorities to 
the protection of the Mercantile Marine. The Commission 
was appointed to inquire into the supplies of food and raw 
material in time of war and, inter alia, " to advise whether 
it is desirable to adopt any measures, in addition to the 
maintenance of a strong fleet, by which such supplies 
can be better secured and violent fluctuations avoided." 
It was assumed by the Commissioners that the term " a 
strong fleet " might be taken to imply the maintenance 
of the fleet at such a level of strength, compared with that 
of other nations, that there was no reasonable prospect 
of this country's maritime supremacy in time of war being 
seriously in danger. It was on that assumption that the 
inquiry was conducted. 

At the very outset, the Commissioners were at pains 
to explain, after hearing a considerable body of expert 
evidence, the standpoint from which they approached this 
particular branch of their investigation. " We do not 
fail to take into account," they declared, " that a little 
time might elapse after the outbreak of war before our 
Navy was able to assert its supremacy, nor that at a later 
date some reverse might take place. However great our 
confidence in the Navy may be, such a contingency as 
a reverse is not impossible ; but it is necessary to define 
very carefully what we mean by the term. A reverse 
may be of varying degrees of importance ; it may affect 
a particular fleet or only a detached squadron ; but 
broadly, for our purpose, it is only necessary to distinguish 
between a reverse that would cost us the command of the 
sea, and one which would not. The former, which would 
place our whole maritime trade at the mercy of an enemy, 
would be a disaster of the gravest possible character. 
Any lesser calamity, from the very fact that it would not 


cost us the command of the sea, would not produce a set 
of circumstances so far different from those with which 
we are now about to deal as to require separate considera- 

The report emphasised the fact that the Admiralty had 
constantly, and with ever-increasing solicitude, considered 
the steps to .be taken to afford adequate protection to 
the Merchant Service. In this connection the Com- 
missioners remarked that there was a certain degree of 
misconception in some quarters as to the nature of the 
protection which could be afforded by the Navy, or rather 
in respect to the methods by which it could be given. 
" It has sometimes been assumed that such protection 
can only be given either by sending a number of cruisers 
to protect the trade routes or by a system of convoy." 
The Commissioners, having had the advantage of con- 
sulting with the Admiralty, made a comment which, in 
the light of war experience, was significant. In their 
opinion protection of commerce could often be more 
adequately given in other ways. They were impressed 
by the knowledge that the supplies of food and raw 
material on passage to the United Kingdom were distributed 
among many ships rather than concentrated in a few, and 
that the trade itself was conducted in a fairly constant 
stream, and was not confined either to one period of the 
year or to a single route. " These facts, especially when 
taken in conjunction with the power afforded by steam of 
varying the routes according to the necessities of any given 
period, make the conditions of the chief trade routes 
an extremely favourable one for successful defence." 
The possibility of an effective blockade of the United 
Kingdom was dismissed ; at that time the submarine 
had only recently appeared on the naval horizon, the 
small vessels of the type being always accompanied 
by " parent ships," and possessing only limited radius 
of action and low speed. 

This conclusion having been reached, the ground was 
cleared for an investigation of the important problem 
the protection which could be afforded to the Mercantile 
Marine on the trade routes. Two general principles were 
accepted. The first was that the command of the sea is 
essential for the successful attack or defence of commerce, 
and should, therefore, be the primary aim. The second 


was that the attack on, or defence of, commerce is best 
effected by concentration of force, and that a dispersion 
of strength for either of those objects is the strategy of 
the weak, and cannot materially influence the ultimate 
results of the war. They remarked that " best opinions 
all tend in the direction that the first and principal object 
on both sides, in case of future maritime war, will be 
to obtain command of the sea." 

Reviewing the volume of authoritative evidence sub- 
mitted to them, the Commissioners reached the following 
conclusion : "It follows from this that concentration of 
our forces will be the most effective protection that can 
be given to our trade from attack by the regular men-of- 
war of the enemy during, at any rate, the initial stages 
of a maritime contest, and that the policy of an organised 
attack on our commerce, if adopted, is not likely to meet 
with any great measure of success. The enemy, in fact, 
would find himself in this dilemma: on the one hand, 
if he should endeavour to organise an extensive attack 
on our trade, the inevitable result would be the serious 
weakening of his fleet in the contest for the really decisive 
factor namely, the command of the seas : on the other, 
if he should merely detach one or two cruisers for haras- 
sing our commerce, and if these cruisers should escape 
from the surveillance of our squadrons, the Admiralty 
have pointed out . . . that we could always spare a superior 
number of vessels to follow them. No doubt a considerable 
number of ships might be required to effect the actual 
capture of a single hostile commerce- destroyer, so long 
at least as her coal lasted ; but it has been explained to 
us by Sir Cyprian Bridge that, even if only one of our 
cruisers were in pursuit, it could be made too dangerous 
for a hostile cruiser to remain on or about a trade route. 
Obviously, under these circumstances, her freedom of 
action would be much hampered, and the damage she would 
be able to inflict would be limited. It is, however, right 
to mention that Sir Cyprian Bridge pointed out that it 
is possible to overdo concentration, and he instanced the 
mistaken policy of the Federal States in allowing the 
ALABAMA to remain at sea practically unmolested. His 
view was that protection can be best assured by having 
sufficient cruisers to keep the enemy's commerce- destroyers 
continually on the lookout for their own safety, while 


concentrating the main force in the right place from a 
purely strategic point of view." 

Some members of the Royal Commission were still in 
doubt as to the ability of the Fleet to fulfil its mission 
of protection, assuming the country to be at war with any 
two of the great ^maritime Powers. So a communication 
was made to the Admiralty, in reply to which the Admiralty 
stated that no guarantee could be given that no capture 
whatever could be made by the enemy " a position 
impossible to maintain in argument " but it was believed 
that there would be no material -diminution in the supply 
of wheat and flour reaching the United Kingdom. Finally, 
in commenting upon the apprehension that the disposition 
of the British Fleet, squadrons, or ships might be adversely 
affected and the free action of the Admiralty impaired 
by popular pressure, exercised through Parliament upon 
the Government, thus influencing the Admiralty in- 
structions to the admirals, it was remarked that the Ad- 
miralty could never allow their action to be influenced 
by any pressure, and yet consent to remain responsible 
for the conduct of war. 

The Commissioners afterwards turned to another aspect 
of the question viz., the policy which would most likely 
be adopted by shipowners either voluntarily or by stress 
of circumstances during a naval war. The evidence sub- 
mitted on this question showed conclusively that any 
general laying-up of steamers, either liners or tramps, 
need not be expected, although a general rise in freights 
would occur. Assuming, as the Commissioners generally 
assumed, that shipowners would do their best to keep 
their vessels running, attention was then directed to the 
influence of steam on the enemy's operations against 
merchantmen. This section of the report reflected the 
best naval opinion of the day, and it is instructive, in 
the light of actual war experience, to recall the views 
which were expressed : " It is an interesting subject for 
conjecture, whether the change from sails to steam will 
or will not tell in favour of the chances of capture of mer- 
chant vessels at sea. If it stood alone, it is probable that 
the balance of evidence would tell in the direction of greater 
immunity from capture. A steamer has freedom to choose 
the least dangerous route, and to enter at the least danger- 
ous time upon the area of the sea most likely to be in- 


fested with hostile cruisers ; and, moreover, when such 
an area is entered, it can be passed through with greater 
rapidity and certainty than was ever possible in the case 
of a sailing-vessel. It seems also obvious that a steamer 
is exposed to less danger than a sailing-vessel, which was 
always at the mercy of winds and currents, and whose 
escape was always barred for twelve points out of the 
thirty- two of the compass. Moreover, the merchant vessel 
can now change her course at will, and, by leaving directly 
astern any possible pursuer so soon as sighted, can lengthen 
the chase to the utmost possible limit. 

" These considerations," it was added, " tell powerfully 
in favour of the merchant vessel, though it may be said 
that, if flight can be taken in any direction, attack may now 
also come from any quarter so far as weather is concerned. 
On the other hand, the telegraph is a powerful ally to the 
attacking force, because it is now much less possible to 
conceal the movements of important merchant vessels. 
Without doubt, the telegraph will also to a certain extent 
disclose the movements of the attacking force, but we think 
the balance of advantage will be against the private 
owners. In any case, the existence of submarine telegraphy 
has probably put an end to the old system of collecting 
merchant vessels together for the purpose of giving them 
protection under the convoy of men-of-war. No assembly 
of vessels for convoy can be kept secret, and the enemy 
would, therefore, have an excellent chance of preparing 
an attack. The Admiralty pointed out to us that a mass 
of smoke by day, and even at times by night, would attract 
any hostile cruiser that might be about. It may be added 
that for commercial reasons the convoy system would not 
now be of advantage, owing to the loss of time involved 
in waiting for an escort, as well as to the fact that the 
speed of the whole convoy would have to be regulated to 
suit that of the slowest vessel." 

Attention was also directed to another consideration. 
" Engines and machinery have reduced the space available 
for the personnel of warships as compared to that available 
in the days of sailing-ships. A modern warship could 
only to a very limited extent furnish prize crews, and she 
would impair her fighting and steaming efficiency by so 
doing." The restricted accommodation available for the 
crews of captured merchantmen was also commented on. 


It was declared that " modern conditions tend to limit the 
capturing-power of regular war cruisers, it being remarked 
that these observations do not, however, apply to ocean- 
trading steamers converted and armed for the purpose of 
attacking commerce." It was added that torpedo-craft 
(i.e. destroyers and torpedo-boats) can neither spare prize 
crews nor accommodate anyone above their complement 
numbers. " If, therefore, employed against commerce, for 
which they were never intended, such craft could only 
compel merchant ships to follow them into port under 
threat of being torpedoed. Moreover, these craft can only 
operate within a comparatively short distance of their 
shore bases." 

After noting that the Admiralty had in process of for- 
mation an organisation for keeping in touch with, and 
giving advice to, the Mercantile Marine in the event of 
an outbreak of hostilities, and urging that the matter 
" should receive the earnest attention of those in authority, 
as well on the part of the civil community as the Ad- 
miralty," the Commissioners proceeded to sum up their 
conclusions. They remarked that " It must not be thought 
from anything we have said that we are of opinion that 
there will be no capture of British ships engaged in the 
carrying trade. Whatever our naval strength might be, 
some captures, as has already been pointed out, would 
certainly take place. But with a strong fleet we find no 
reason to fear such an interruption of our supplies as would 
lead to the starvation of our people, nor do we see any 
evidence that there is likely to be any serious shortage." l 
At that time the submarine was as yet in its infancy, 
and few craft of this type had been built by any 
country, though in the year in which the Commission 
reported Germany launched an experimental submarine 
from the Germania Yard, Kiel. 


During the nine years which intervened between the 
publication of the Report of the Royal Commission on 
Supply of Food and Raw Material in Time of War and the 

1 Minority reports were issued : the quotations given are from the main 
report of the Royal Commission. 


actual outbreak of hostilities, in August 1914, considerable 
attention was devoted to the measures to be taken to safe- 
guard merchant shipping. In particular, the Committee 
of Imperial Defence dealt with the matter in the course 
of the elaboration of steps to be adopted to protect British 
interests overseas. On May 19th, 1896, the Colonial 
Defence Committee, which subsequently became a sub- 
ordinate branch of the Committee of Imperial Defence, 
had laid down the principle that " The maintenance 
of sea supremacy has been assumed as the basis of the 
system of Imperial Defence against attack from over the 
sea. This is the determinating factor in shaping the whole 
defensive policy of the Empire, and is fully recognised by 
the Admiralty, who have accepted the responsibility of 
protecting all British territory abroad against organised 
invasion from the sea. To fulfil this great charge, they 
claim the absolute power of disposing of their forces in 
the manner they consider most certain to secure success, 
and object to limit the action of any part of them to the 
immediate neighbourhood of places which they consider 
may be more effectively protected by operations at a 

That principle became the foundation upon which all 
questions affecting the Mercantile Marine were considered. 
As a consequence, the scale of defence to be provided at 
oversea ports of the British Empire, which might be used 
by merchant ships as well as men-of-war, was considered 
in the light of that primary understanding. At the same 
time, it was recognised that His Majesty's ships engaged 
in seeking out and destroying the squadrons of an enemy 
might not be in a position to prevent predatory raids on 
British ports by hostile cruisers, which might temporarily 
have succeeded in eluding their vigilance, and that 
the capture of British shipping had also to be provided 
against. It was also essential that the squadrons of His 
Majesty's ships engaged in defending the trade routes 
against such raids should have adequately defended bases. 
"The object of the coast defences," it was declared, "is 
to deter attack by a hostile fleet not supreme at sea, and 
therefore not in a position to risk serious loss of fighting 
efficiency. Such defences must, therefore, be strong enough 
to be able to inflict substantial damage upon a squadron 
suddenly attacking them ; but they are not required to 


sustain a deliberate duel between forts and ships for a 
prolonged period." 

The whole subject of oversea port defence was recon- 
sidered by the Colonial Defence Committee in 1910. The 
assurance was then given that the Admiralty were of the 
opinion that, so long as the then existing standard of naval 
strength was maintained, British fleets would be in a 
position effectually to frustrate any movements of enemy 
ships on a large scale within a comparatively brief period 
of their commencement, and it was assumed that any 
movement of enemy ships on a large scale would be followed 
up by a British foice with the least possible delay. It 
was added in this connection that " the decisive advantages 
accruing to the belligerent who succeeds in establishing 
sea supremacy over his opponent are now well understood ; 
and it is to be expected that any naval Powers hoping to 
inflict serious injury upon us will, on the outbreak of war, 
attempt to neutralise our naval superiority, and, if possible, 
wrest from us the command of the sea. This object can 
only be attained as the result of great naval battles, in 
which the main fleets of the contending Powers are con- 
centrated for decisive encounters. It is immaterial where 
the great battles are fought. In whatever waters they 
may take place, the result will be felt throughout the 
world ; for after having disposed of the battle squadrons 
of the enemy, the victor will be able to spread his force 
with a view to capturing or destroying any detached force 
of the enemy that may remain at sea. He will then be 
in a position to gather the fruits of victory, in the shape 
of the enemy's outlying possessions and his shipping and 
commerce, or to prosecute an overseas campaign." 

In the succeeding paragraph of the Committee's report, 
attention was directed to a danger which the public, in 
the early period of the war which was to break out in the 
summer of 1914, was inclined to overlook. It was remarked 
that, with a view to impairing the measures of concentration 
in war and inducing a weakening of the main fleets, an 
enemy might endeavour to create a widespread feeling of 
insecurity and alarm throughout the Empire by utilising 
such classes of vessels as were unfitted for taking part 
in the decisive actions in raiding British sea-borne trade 
and threatening distant portions of the Empire. It was 
recognised that in themselves such raiding operations 


would be of only secondary importance, since the ultimate 
issue of a naval war must depend on the result of the 
fleet actions. It would, however, be necessary, it 
was admitted, to take a vigorous offensive against all 
such outlying raiding vessels in order to prevent the 
demoralisation and disturbance of trade due to their 

The intelligence organisation which was maintained in 
time of peace would, it was believed, enable the Admiralty 
to learn the distribution at any moment of foreign navies, 
and of all foreign merchant vessels likely to be employed 
as armed auxiliaries. During the period of strained 
relations preceding the outbreak of hostilities every effort 
would be made, it was assumed, to keep the ships of the 
prospective enemy under observation. The great increase 
in the rapidity and certainty of transmission of intelligence 
consequent upon the development of submarine cables 
and radio-telegraphy were held to add to the difficulties of 
raiding operations, depending for success, as they would, 
on tactics of evasion and surprise. " Having regard to 
our present naval strength and dispositions, attacks on 
floating trade in distant seas will offer to an enemy but 
slight prospect of any but transitory successes." 

The policy elaborated by the Colonial Defence Com- 
mittee, and endorsed by the Committee of Imperial De- 
fence, was accepted by the Government of the day for its 
guidance in framing the general defence policy not only 
of the Empire, but of the Merchant Navy, its life-line. 
Emphasis was laid upon the false strategy which might 
lead to the premature dispatch of reinforcements to distant 
seas, instead of delaying till a force could be sent so 
superior to the squadrons of the enemy that there would 
be practical certainty of engaging them with success. In 
order to avoid exposing fleets to the risk of suffering 
defeat in detail, naval action in remote waters, it was 
admitted, might have to be postponed until, by the clearing 
of the situation in home waters, adequate naval force could 
be brought to bear. 

Attention was devoted to local defences both by naval 
and military forces, and to the necessity which might arise 
for establishing temporary naval bases, and the require- 
ments in the matter of defence of commercial ports were 
also considered. In this connection the conclusions of the 


Committee, endorsed at the time by naval and military 
opinion, have a peculiar interest in view of the course 
adopted by the enemy after the declaration of war. " An 
enemy possessing a powerful battle fleet is unlikely to 
undertake organised attacks on commerce in commercial 
ports until an attempt at least has been made to cripple 
our naval power, for which purpose his cruisers are likely 
to be required, in the first instance, to act in conjunction 
with his battleships. Isolated attacks on merchant 
vessels met during the progress of some strategic move- 
ments may indeed occur, but regular attacks on commerce 
in distant waters, if they take place at all at the beginning 
of a war, are more likely to be carried out by armed mer- 
chant vessels than by hostile cruisers, which are not 
likely, at that stage, to be available for such service. In 
view of the supreme value of armoured vessels in war, 
and of their great cost and consequent small numbers, 
it is improbable that a squadron would undertake a sub- 
sidiary operation such as the attack on a commercial port, 
if the defence were of such a nature that the attackers 
would run the risk of losing even one of their number, 
or of receiving such injuries as to involve risk of capture 
or immediate return to a base. Of recent years, foreign 
naval Powers have almost without exception ceased to 
lay down any but small unarmoured cruisers, and the 
armoured cruisers now under construction approximate 
to the battleship type. The great value of such armoured 
vessels as adjuncts to the battle fleet renders it improbable 
that they would be detached for attacks on commerce 
or on commerical ports until the struggle for the command 
of the sea has been decided. The older types of armoured 
cruisers may, however, become available in the future 
for subsidiary operations of this nature." 

An attempt was made to forecast the probable policy 
of the enemy with a view to suggesting the measures 
which should be taken by the British Government to frus- 
trate attempts to interfere with merchant shipping. The 
British naval reply to attacks on commerce, it was re- 
marked, would probably involve extended operations 
with cruiser squadrons and single ships, taking full advan- 
tage of the facilities afforded by our numerous commercial 
ports as coaling places and as centres for the collection 
and distribution of intelligence relating to the movements 

CH. v] THE "WAR-BOOK" 221 

of the enemy. In the circumstances anticipated, it was 
decided that certain fortified commercial ports on fre- 
quented trade routes would be useful as coaling-stations 
and harbours of refuge, where merchant vessels could, in 
case of need, seek protection from capture or molestation, 
and await a favourable opportunity of proceeding on 
their voyages. The need for fixed defence at certain great 
commercial ports was also admitted. The measure of 
protection, it was suggested, should be such as would 
"involve such risk of injury to the attacking cruiser as 
would not, in the opinion of a naval commander, be justi- 
fied by the possible advantages to be obtained." 

These statements are of interest as an indication that 
long before the probability of war was realised by the nation 
generally, and certainly before public attention had been 
directed to the dangers which would threaten merchant 
shipping at the outbreak of hostilities, the Government 
of the day, acting through the Committee of Imperial 
Defence, had been studying all the associated problems 
with a view of proper action being taken to support the 
influence exercised by the Fleet. 

Furthermore, the Committee of Imperial Defence set 
up a number of Sub- committees which considered the re- 
sponsibilities which would be thrown upon the various 
departments of the Government at the outbreak of war. 
With the assistance of these bodies, upon which the Ad- 
miralty, the Board of Trade, and the Post Office were 
represented, as well as the shipping industry, the Standing 
Sub- committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence 
gradually built up what afterwards came to be known as the 
4 War- Book." The object was to co-ordinate depart- 
mental action on the occurrence of (a) strained relations 
and (b) the outbreak of war. The volume covered a 
wide field. But the present purpose is merely to refer to 
that portion which dealt with British Merchant Shipping. 
It is not necessary to consider in detail the large number 
of orders which had been prepared in advance in order 
to protect merchantmen cruising in distant waters, but 
it is of interest to recall that provision was made for 
appropriate action. On receipt of the notification of the 
outbreak of war, His Majesty's diplomatic representatives 
abroad had instructions to telegraph to every consular 
officer stationed at a port in the country in which he 


resided or its colonial possessions, directing warnings to be 
given to British merchant ships not to proceed to or 
enter enemy ports. Similar provision was made for the 
warning of vessels in ports of British possessions abroad. 
Steps were also taken for instructing representatives 
abroad in the responsibilities with reference to merchant 
shipping which would devolve upon them as soon as 
war was declared, with a view to safeguarding British 
merchant ships. 

In the view of the Committee of Imperial Defence, 
the main security to the Mercantile Marine was to be 
found in the general naval arrangements made by the 
Admiralty in the years preceding the outbreak of war. 
In reply to Germany's policy of naval concentration, 
the Grand Fleet, as it was subsequently described, came 
into existence, changing the whole character of the 
problem of providing for the safety of British merchant 
shipping. The aim of the naval authorities was not to 
blockade the enemy fleet an intention which Nelson 
always disclaimed but to make such a disposition of the 
main forces of the country as to reduce to a minimum the 
probability of cruisers concentrated in the North Sea or 
Baltic ports of Germany escaping on to the trade routes. 
That object became in the course of time the decisive 
principle of Admiralty policy. Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, 
who succeeded Lord Fisher as First Sea Lord, was led to 
give an exposition of the views of the Admiralty when 
the question of the possibility of invasion by the enemy 
was agitating the public mind. In a memorandum which 
he prepared for the Army Council in November 1910, he 
declared that " the really serious danger that this country 
has to guard against in war is not invasion, but interruption 
of our trade and the destruction of our merchant shipping." 
In the light of that conclusion, which reinforced the 
views of previous Boards of Admiralty, he remarked 
that " the strength of our fleet is determined by what is 
necessary to protect our trade, and, if it is sufficient for 
that, it will be almost necessarily sufficient to prevent 
invasion, since the same disposition of the ships to a great 
extent answers both purposes." That exposition of 
policy showed that, even four years before the outbreak 
of war, the Admiralty possessed what events were to show 
to be a correct perception of the main duty which, 

en. v] THE TRADE ROUTES 228 

in the event of war, would devolve upon the fleet of a 
sea- dependent country, itself the centre of a maritime 

The adoption of the principle of concentration of naval 
force in the main theatre of war reduced the proportions 
of the problem of protecting merchant shipping, but it 
did not eliminate that problem. The Admiralty provided 
for squadrons to be stationed in the outer seas under peace 
conditions. Plans were also drawn up for commissioning 
special squadrons which on the outbreak of war would be 
dispatched for the patrol of the areas where the great trade 
routes, in turning in towards the British Isles, converge. 
The accompanying charts give a general idea of the dis- 
tribution of naval force on the outbreak of war, and carry 
a reminder of the vast area of the sea, water covering 
nearly three-quarters of the earth's surface, and of the 
limited influence exerted by the restricted number of cruisers 
available after provision had been made for the needs of 
the Grand Fleet. Reference to those charts supplies the 
necessary corrective to any opinion unfavourable to the 
naval authorities which the narrative of the capture of 
British shipping during the early period of hostilities 
may have suggested. As has been indicated, both from 
the declaration of policy made by the Admiralty to the 
Royal Commission on Supply of Food and Raw Material 
in time of War, and from the reports of the Committee 
of Imperial Defence which have already been quoted, 
the naval authorities gave no guarantee, and believed 
that no guarantee could be given, that British merchant 
shipping would not suffer loss before enemy cruisers 
in distant seas could be rounded up and destroyed. 
It was foreseen that a considerable period might elapse 
before this object could be achieved, since the enemy 
would operate with many advantages in a trackless waste, 
and the Admiralty also foresaw that ships engaged in 
raiding British ocean-borne commerce might extend their 
careers by living upon merchant shipping captured, 
taking from such vessels coal, food, and stores, and then 
destroying the hulls. 




During the proceedings of the Royal Commission on 
Supply of Food and Raw Materials in Time of War, at- 
tention was drawn to the need of an organisation at the 
Admiralty to receive from the shipping community in- 
formation as to the movements of merchant ships, and to 
give advice to shipowners, in the event of an outbreak of 
hostilities, as to the voyages which their vessels might 
undertake with comparative safety, with more special 
reference to those points at which such vessels might expect 
to find protection. It was then stated by the Admiralty 
that is, ten years before the opening of the war that 
44 an organisation of the kind is now in process of forma- 
tion." The Commissioners stated that they were not 
satisfied that the means of communication between the 
Royal Navy and the Mercantile Fleet would on the out- 
break of war be found sufficient to enable information 
to be conveyed to merchant vessels at sea, or that the 
orders of the Admiralty conveyed through the admirals 
by His Majesty's ships to merchant vessels would be under- 
stood. In the main report of the Commission a strong 
recommendation was made that " this matter should 
receive the early attention of those in authority, as well 
on the part of the shipping community as on the part of 
the Admiralty." 

The problem of the best means of protecting trade 
continued under almost uninterrupted consideration by 
successive Directors of the Naval Intelligence Department. 
The matter was one which fell specially within the pro- 
vince of the Trade Division of that Department. During 
the early phases of the investigation, Captain Inglefield, 
Captain Harry Jones, and Captain Scott were concerned in 
the matter. In August 1906, Captain Henry Campbell was 
appointed to the Trade Division, and he at once began a 
very thorough investigation of the whole subject, Captain 
Charles Ottley having become Director of Naval Intelli- 
gence. Some progress was made, but it was not until 
Captain Edmond Slade became Director of Naval Intelli- 
gence that a practicable scheme began to take shape. In 
March 1908, Captain Campbell submitted a memorandum 
consisting of a complete and detailed examination of the 


problem. He received orders from the Director to amplify 
his arguments in favour of a system of advice, assistance, 
and decentralisation, in association with an intelligence 
scheme on the main trade routes. Captain Campbell 
suggested that " by leaving the owners in charge of their 
own ships, the control would be sectional ; every vessel 
would have its own brain, so to speak, working out its 
own safety." He urged that under war conditions the 
owners, captains, and crews of merchant ships would be 
all personally interested in the safe arrivals of the vessels. 
" If they could be given some idea of what and where the 
dangers awaiting them were . . . they would be perfectly 
capable of avoiding and running through those dangers, 
for that is, after all, what their ordinary life is daily fitting 
them to do. And they would know, too, not only what was 
the best method of getting home, but also probably the 
quickest, and each would do this for his own individual 
case, and never bother with generalities." The purpose 
of this intelligence scheme was to obtain information, 
both positive and negative, from as wide an area as possible 
in order to make the best use of the protective force avail- 
able and give advice to shipping. The aim was to provide 
the nucleus of an organisation, practised and developed 
in peace-time, which would combine all the facilities for 
receiving and disseminating intelligence through various 
channels naval, diplomatic, Indian, Colonial, Customs, 
Lloyd's and other commercial organisations and it was 
proposed to operate it by appointing officers at the 
principal commercial ports throughout the world, who 
would form a complete system of information bureaux. 
It is not too much to say that the action taken in this 
direction before the opening of the war saved the country 
from heavy loss, and at the same time enabled the trade 
routes to be kept open. 

The nucleus of an organisation having been formed, the 
Trade Division was abolished in October 1909 and not 
resuscitated until August 1913, when it was re-formed as 
the Trade Branch of the Operations Division of the 
recently formed War Staff, being placed under Captain 
Richard Webb, assisted by a small staff. The reconstitution 
of this branch of the War Staff indicated that the naval 
authorities had finally come to the conclusion that special 
provision was necessary for dealing with matters affecting 


merchant shipping when war occurred, but the smallness 
of the personnel might have suggested that there was an 
inadequate appreciation of the number and complexity of 
the problems which war would raise in an acute form. 
On the other hand, such an organisation under peace 
conditions was necessarily on a modest scale, as its 
duty consisted merely in laying the foundations for 
action after hostilities had broken out ; it formed the 
nucleus upon which an adequately-staffed branch of 
the War Staff could be built up when the necessity 
arose. Before the end of August 1914 it was, how- 
ever, found necessary to expand this branch of the 
Operations Division into a separate division of the War 
Staff, known as the Trade Division. As the war pro- 
gressed, its personnel was gradually increased in order to 
enable it to deal with this aspect of the war, and, in 
particular, to meet the requirements of the Mercantile 
Marine, the fishing industry, and the blockade of the 
enemy. As the organisation grew, the division was split 
up into separate sections to deal with various phases 
of the work, and, owing to the decision to institute a general 
system of Convoys which had been arrived at in June 
1917, the Route-giving Section of the Trade Division 
was, at the end of September 1917, placed under Captain 
Frederic A. Whitehead as Director of Mercantile Move- 
ments, as was also the Convoy organisation for which 
Paymaster-Captain H. Eldon Manisty had been directly 
responsible since his appointment as Organising Manager 
of Convoys on June 25th, 1917. Under Captain Alan 
Hotham, who at the same time succeeded Captain Webb, 
the duties of the Trade Division were grouped into three 
main sections, each under a Captain R.N., to deal with 
(a) Trade and Blockade ; (b) Equipment of Ships and 
Instruction of Personnel ; (c) Shipping Intelligence, 
Casualties, etc. No department of the Admiralty responded 
more efficiently to the urgent demands of war than the 
Trade Division of the War Staff in the early phase 
of the operations at sea and during its subsequent 
course. Step by step, as the necessity demanded, the 
organisation was strengthened, until it became in 
time one of the most important divisions of the War 

Previous to the outbreak of the war, with the exception 


of R.N.R. officers and naval chief petty officers ap- 
pointed for duties with defensively armed merchant 
vessels at the ports of London, Liverpool, and Southamp- 
ton, no direct link existed between the Admiralty and the 
Mercantile Marine ; officers and men of the Royal Naval 
Reserve came, of course, under Admiralty instructions 
when under training, and when called up for war service, 
but the Mercantile Marine itself carried out its operations 
without naval control or jurisdiction. It was subject only 
to the Board of Trade, and the duties of that department, 
as has already been stated, were confined generally to 
enforcing provision for the safety of life and the proper 
treatment of seamen. The Merchant Service was regarded 
as a trade organisation, and the influence of legislation for 
some years previous to the opening of the war had been 
in the direction of weakening the disciplinary authority 
of masters over their crews. In a military sense, the 
Merchant Navy was an undisciplined force. While the 
great shipping firms maintained a regular body of officers, 
they drew upon the labour market as necessary for man- 
ning the ships, men in the oversea trade signing on for the 
voyage and then being discharged. 

The occurrence of war revealed the rather unsatisfactory 
character of the limited control exercised over the per- 
sonnel of the Merchant Navy. The Admiralty had at 
once to take up a large number of ships for fleet purposes, 
apart from the vessels required as transports, and the naval 
authorities had also to accept responsibility for the safety 
of about half the mercantile shipping of the world, 
which was at once exposed to enemy attack. Ten years 
previously the Admiralty had stated that " the number of 
British merchant steamers which would be taken up by 
the Government in war-time is so small, compared to the 
total number available, that it is not believed that the 
British carrying trade could be seriously interfered with." l 
At that time the Grand Fleet did not exist, and the Ex- 
peditionary Force had not been organised. The naval 
and military conditions affecting shipping had undergone 
a radical change by the time hostilities opened. In ad- 
dition, Germany had revealed herself as the probable 
enemy in the event of war, and she had gradually increased 

1 Report of the Royal Commission on Supply of Food and Raw Material 
in Time of War, vol. i, Annex A. 


her naval representation in foreign waters. The menace 
to the British Mercantile Marine from German men-of-war 
had consequently increased by 1914, apart from the 
threat which the Austro-Hungarian Fleet offered in the 


The Admiralty's admission that a guarantee could not 
be given that no merchant ships would be sunk by an 
enemy brought home to the Government and the shipping 
industry a clearer apprehension of the conditions which 
would exist in the event of war. The Royal Commission 
on Supply of Food and Raw Material in Time of War 
had expressed the belief that a guarded and well-con- 
sidered scheme of national indemnity would act as a 
powerful addition to our resources, but a Treasury Com- 
mittee, appointed in 1907 with Mr. Austen Chamberlain 
as Chairman, declined to recommend the adoption of 
any form of national guarantee against the war risks 
of shipping and maritime trade "except that which 
is provided by the maintenance of a powerful navy." 
While Sir Frederick Bolton, of Lloyd's, was quietly 
working on the problem at the Admiralty, shipowners, 
in order to meet the situation which they feared 
would be created on the outbreak of war, determined 
to organise themselves, following the example already 
set by the North of England Association. On the 
outbreak of war nearly three-fourths of the British 
steamship tonnage employed in the overseas trade was 
embraced in the various War Risks Insurance Clubs or 

In May 1913 the Prime Minister formed a Sub- com- 
mittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence " to consider 
the insurance of British ships in time of war." This 
Committee consisted of the Right Honourable F. Huth 
Jackson, Lord Inchcape, Sir Norman Hill, Secretary of 
the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association, Sir Ray- 
mond Beck, Deputy Chairman of Lloyd's, and Mr. Arthur 
Lindley, with Captain Maurice Hankey J as Secretary, 

i Now Lieut. -Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, G.C.B, 


It adopted a series of general principles in the following 
terms : 

(1) As laid down in the terms of reference, the scheme 
must be on the basis of reasonable contributions being 
paid by the owners of ships and cargoes towards the cost 
of insurance. 

(2) The main object of the State is to keep the trade of 
the country going, and not to make a profit. 

(3) Nevertheless, it is necessary to safeguard the State 
against incalculable financial liabilities, and more particu- 
larly against fraud. 

(4) If the scheme is to have any prospect of success, 
it is essential to avoid the hostility of any of the 
interests concerned. It is, therefore, necessary to avoid 
any step prejudicial to the legitimate business of ship- 
owners, insurance brokers, underwriters, merchants, or 

(5) The scheme should avoid the appearance of a 
gratuitous gift from the State to a particular trade, 
at a time when all branches of trade will be very 
much hampered, and every class of the population will 
be subject to unforeseen and incalculable risks of 

(6) It should, on the other hand, avoid disclosing to 
the enemy the real conditions prevailing at any moment, 
by the quotation of official rates of insurance corresponding 
to the actual risks as known to the Admiralty. 

(7) It should avoid or minimise, as far as possible, the 
administrative difficulties which will fall upon the State 
e.g., of valuation, avoidance of fraud, congestion of business, 

At the outset it was apparent that the formation of 
the mutual insurance associations, or clubs, had eliminated 
some of the difficulties which had hindered action in the 
past. The North of England Protecting and Indemnity 
Association comprised, in its war risks class, steamers of 
a value of about 30,000,000. The London group of War 
Risks Associations had steamers of a value of 27,000,000 
on its books. The London and Liverpool War Risks 
Insurance Association (Limited) comprised steamers of a 
value of about 60,000,000, Thus the total values insured, 


in these three associations amounted to about 87,000,000, 
while the total steamer tonnage of the United Kingdom 
engaged in foreign trade was valued in 1911 at 127,000,000. 
The risks covered by these associations differed somewhat in 
detail, but the main principles embodied in their insurance 
were the same. They covered fully the risks incident to 
a war, so long as the United Kingdom was neutral, but the 
risks covered incident to a war in which this country 
was a party were strictly limited. 

In its report, this Sub-committee of the Committee of 
Imperial Defence pointed out that " the losses and claims 
to meet which these Insurance Clubs were formed are those 
which are excluded from the ordinary marine insurance 
policy by the following, or similar clause : 4 Warranted 
free from capture, seizure, and detention, and the con- 
sequences thereof, or any attempt thereat, barratry, 
piracy, riots, and civil commotions excepted, and also 
from all consequences of hostilities or warlike operations, 
whether before or after declaration of war.' ' This cover 
applied both in the case of war between two foreign nations, 
and also when Great Britain was one of the belligerents ; 
but when Great Britain was at war the cover was limited 
in the case of vessels actually at sea, or in any enemy 
port, on the declaration of war or the outbreak of hostilities, 
until the time of first arrival at a British or neutral port 
which was a safe port for the ship to lie in. The period 
of cover while in such safe places varied. In one Club it was 
limited to ten days, in another to thirty days, while in a 
third it extended to the date of expiry of the policy. 
Vessels which were not at sea on the outbreak of hostilities, 
but were in a safe port, were held insured while they re- 
mained there, for a similar period. Every vessel was 
deemed to be insured against all perils covered by an or- 
dinary marine insurance policy, so long, of course, as it 
sailed under the British flag. There were a number of 
other conditions which it is not necessary to mention in 
detail. Only a nominal initial premium, amounting to 
a few pence per cent, on the value entered, was charged 
to cover the expenses of management, but the members 
shared all losses on the basis of the insured values. The 
Club insurances were effected on February 20th in 
each year, running until the same date in the following 
year, when, in ordinary circumstances, the policies were 


automatically renewed for another year. One essential 
fact emphasised by the Sub-committee was this that it 
might happen that, " within a very short period after the 
outbreak of war in which we were one of the belligerents, 
the movements of practically the whole of the shipping 
under the British flag would be arrested, except, perhaps, 
in such areas (if any) as were outside the possibility of 
interference by the enemy." 

The first point, then, to claim the Sub-committee's 
attention was the provision for the completion of voyages 
current at the outbreak of war, which would be automati- 
cally interrupted under the mutual insurance arrangements. 
Sir Norman Hill, the Secretary of the Liverpool and Lon- 
don War Risks Insurance Association, suggested that the 
Associations might be induced to run a maximum of 20 
per cent, of the total King's enemy risks on current voy- 
ages, on condition that the State undertook the remaining 
80 per cent, of these risks. He was quite convinced that 
shipowners would not be prepared to pay any premium 
to cover these additional risks which they would be under 
no obligation to incur at a time when, for the most part, 
they would be running at peace freights. Under the 
conditions of many bills of lading, they could, on the out- 
break of war, discharge their cargo at a safe port, and start 
on a new voyage, at war rates of freight, as soon as in- 
surance could be arranged. Failing this, it would probably 
suit them better, it was added, to lay up their ships for six 
or twelve months a policy which some firms had adopted 
in recent years when they had been unable to obtain 
remunerative freights. The Sub-committee were in- 
formed that " managers of shipping companies might con- 
sider themselves under an obligation to their shareholders 
not to send ships to sea without war risk insurance, and 
that every mortgage deed or debenture bond had a 
stipulation of some kind that the vessel shall be amply 

Passing on to a closer examination of the problem, 
the Sub- committee thought it desirable to consider 
whether any scheme was possible which would avoid 
publicity before the outbreak of war. The plan that 
suggested itself was that the State should, immediately 
on the opening of war, make a public announcement that 
it was willing to accept 80 per cent, of the King's enemy 


risks for the completion of all current voyages from the 
time when the cover provided by the Club policies ceased. 
The difficulties which this scheme raised were weighed 
by the Sub-committee, and eventually it was decided 
to propose that the existing standard form of policy of 
the Associations should be altered so as to include the 
additional risks involved. This new form of policy would 
run from year to year as was at the time the case, a list 
of the policies issued by each Club being given to the State 
every year. The State would enter into a general agree- 
ment with each Association, accepting responsibility for 
80 per cent, of the King's enemy losses incurred under 
these policies in the case of a war in which we were one 
of the belligerents. The insurance would remain in force 
for ten clear days following the arrival of the ship at her 
port of destination. The war risks, other than King's 
enemy risks, would be covered under the same Club policy, 
but for these the Club would alone be responsible. 

Going a step further, the Sub-committee agreed that 
words should be introduced into the new policies providing 
a warranty that after the outbreak of war ships should, 
as far as possible, carry out any orders that the 
Admiralty might give in regard to routes, ports of call, and 
stoppages. If they failed to carry out the orders, it was 
provided that they should lose the benefit of insurance, 
unless the insured could satisfy the Committee of the Club 
that the breach of orders happened without the fault 
or privity of the assured and of the owners and of the 
managers of the ship. Even in those circumstances, it 
was thought that the shipowners should be liable to some 
penalty, and it was suggested that the State should require 
that the rules of every approved Club should contain 
provision for an appropriate penalty, taking the form of a 
levy of an extra premium payable by the member to the 
Club on the insured value of the ship in which the breach 
had taken place, or of a deduction in the settlement of 
a claim of an amount to be fixed, within reasonable limits, 
by the Committee of the Club. In extreme cases, the 
Committee, it was suggested, might have the power of 
expelling a member from the Club. 

The Sub- committee, in its recommendations relating to 
ships afloat at the time of the outbreak of war, considered 
that the fact that the Clubs, and through them the ship- 


owners, would retain 20 per cent, of the risks involved, and 
pay the whole cost of administration, might be looked upon 
as a "reasonable contribution to wards the cost of insurance." 
The managers of the Clubs stated that some arrangement 
for the completion of the current voyages without payment 
of premium would probably be necessary as an inducement 
to the members of the Clubs to accept the proposals for 
covering the insurance of vessels starting after the out- 
break of war. It was calculated that the scheme would 
involve a State liability of 3,000,000. In explanation of 
its recommendations, the Sub-committee added : " It 
may be argued that, even if our suggestions are adopted, 
they will not compel any ship to complete its voyage after 
the outbreak of war. It will still be optional for the ship- 
owner to give directions that his ship is to go to a safe port 
and remain there until the war is over. We admit that, 
if this policy were generally adopted, our scheme would 
fail in its main object ; but we think that few, if any, 
shipowners are likely to adopt this policy. In the first 
place, the vessels on voyages current at the outbreak of 
war will only be earning peace freights, and it will be a 
strong inducement to the owner to get his present voyage 
completed, so that he may be able to take advantage of 
the higher freights for new voyages which would pre- 
sumably be offered after the outbreak of war. And, 
further, the shipowner would realise that, even if he laid 
up his ship, he would not thereby escape his liability to 
contribute pro rata to the loss of other ships insured in 
his Club which had run the risks he was afraid of." 

Turning to the insurance of hulls of ships on voyages 
commenced after the outbreak' of hostilities, it was pro- 
posed that these should be similarly insured by the As- 
sociations, and reinsured by the State to the extent of 
80 per cent, of such risks. The premiums would be 
collected by the Associations when issuing their policies, 
and 80 per cent, of them would be accounted for to the 
State in consideration of its taking 80 per cent, of the risks 
insured under the Club policies, " a warranty being in- 
serted that ships will not sail when ordered by His Majesty's 
Government not to do' so." The Sub-committee proposed 
that the rates of premium for such new voyages should 
be fixed by the State, varied from time to time, and it was 
added : " It will, in our opinion, be necessary to have 


different rates of premium for different zones, and it may be 
found advisable, during the course of the war, to change the 
rates for certain of these zones. But we are strongly of 
opinion that the different rates should be as few as possible, 
and also that the changes in these rates should be as in- 
frequent as possible. It is admitted that the State is 
not undertaking this business with a view to making a 
profit out of it, but solely with the object of preventing 
the interruption of our overseas commerce in time of war, 
owing to inability to insure against war risks through the 
usual channels. The rates charged by the State must not, 
therefore, be so low as to compete with the rates that the 
insurance market may be willing to quote, nor must they 
be so high as to be prohibitive, or materially to affect 
the cost of the food or other merchandise being brought 
to or carried from these shores. At the same time, it 
would be obviously unfair to the State's partners in this 
business the individual shipowners in the Clubs that 
they should be called upon either to pay premiums out of all 
proportion to the risks of the voyages undertaken, or to 
bear their share of losses in respect of voyages insured at 
much too low a premium. It is for this reason that we 
recommend that the premium charged should to some 
extent depend upon the risks involved. But we should 
like to suggest that the maximum rate for any voyage 
should be 5 per cent., and the minimum rate 1 per cent., 
and that any rate accepted for a particular voyage shall 
hold good, provided that the ship starts within fourteen 
days after acceptance of the risk." 

Provision was suggested for representation of the State 
on the Committee of each Club or Association : the claims, 
it was added, would be dealt with by the Committee of the 
Club. Some difference of opinion was expressed as to when 
and how payment of claims should be made. On this 
matter the Sub-committee reported that " the general 
principle underlying the proposed arrangements between 
the State and the Clubs is that the Clubs take the whole 
of the risks, and reinsure 80 per cent, of them with the 
State. A Club would, therefore, be primarily liable for 
the settlement of the amount involved." The conclusion 
was reached that " the State had no concern with the in- 
ternal arrangements of the Clubs with regard to the 
collection of the contributions from their members to an 


ascertained loss. Even if the Club were unable to collect 
from its members the whole amount required, this would 
not affect the State's liability to pay over its 80 per cent, 
of an agreed claim to the Club." The rules of all the 
Clubs then existing provided that if a ship were captured, 
seized, or detained, the owner should have no claim for 
total loss unless the capture, seizure, or detention, should 
have continued for a certain period. This period varied 
in the different Clubs from one month to six months. 
The Sub-committee proposed that, under the arrangement 
with the State, the Clubs should not be bound to pay a 
total loss if the ship were recaptured, released, or restored 
to the owner within six months of the date of capture ; 
but if the vessel was restored, the Club should pay the 
cost of repair or damage to and expenses incurred by 
the ship by reason of such capture, together with a sum 
equal to 10 per cent, per annum on the insured value from 
the date of capture. Also, in the event of loss by destruc- 
tion, it was decided that no payment should be made 
within a period of six months of the loss. It followed, 
therefore, that the earliest time of payment by the State 
for a total loss or capture would be six months after the 
event. In those circumstances, the Sub-committee recom- 
mended that the liability of the State should be dis- 
charged in three equal instalments : at six, nine, and 
twelve months from the date of loss or capture, with in- 
terest at the rate of 4 per cent, per annum. One of the 
principal objects in suggesting deferred payments was to 
relieve the State as far as possible from immediate and, 
perhaps, heavy calls on its resources to meet these losses, 
at a time when its revenue would be strained to the ut- 
most to meet the expense of carrying on the war. 

Turning to the basis of the value of shipping for the 
purpose of war risks insurance which should be accepted, 
the Sub-committee found that the practice of the various 
Associations differed in this respect. " We suggest that, 
for the purposes of this arrangement, the basis of values 
should be the first cost of the vessel, without allowance 
for the cost of alterations or additions, less depreciation 
at the rate of 4 per cent, per annum, but without any 
minimum limit per ton. This is the basis accepted for 
income-tax purposes, and we consider it a reasonable 
one ; but we think the Committee of each Club should have 


the right, at its discretion, to refuse to accept a vessel 
for insurance on this basis, if they are of opinion that the 
value thus arrived at is excessive. The agreement for 
valuation on this basis will be provided for in the articles 
of association or rules of the Club which will, in accordance 
with the practice of the Clubs, be incorporated in the 

It is unnecessary in this connection to deal at length 
with the proposals for the insurance of cargoes. 1 The 
Sub-committee, in the concluding remarks in its Report, 
dated April 30th, 1914, suggested that, if its proposals 
were approved, they should be made public as soon as 
possible. It was urged that the earliest possible publicity 
was essential, " not only in order that the necessary 
changes in the present arrangements for mutual insurance 
of hulls should be made by the Clubs, but also in order 
that the details of our proposals for insuring cargoes 
may be carefully prepared and periodically revised by 
the Board of Advisers which we recommend should be 
appointed for the purpose." While admitting that, in the 
absence of experience of the effect of naval warfare on 
British overseas trade, it was impossible to form any 
reliable estimate of the State's liability, it was estimated 
that " the total losses on hulls insured against premiums 
would be 6,133,750, and the State's share of those losses 
would be 4,907,000." " We estimate the value of the 
steamship tonnage remaining available for foreign trade 
during the six months following the outbreak of war at 
122,675,000. Under normal conditions each vessel in 
that part of our foreign trade which is with the United 
Kingdom makes, on the average, ten voyages each year, 
counting each outward and inward voyage as a separate 
voyage. If that average can be taken as generally ap- 
plicable, and if the number of voyages be maintained 
after the outbreak of war, premiums at the average rate 
of 1 per cent, per voyage on the new voyages would in six 
months be sufficient to cover the whole of the losses on hulls 
insured against premiums." The difficulty of estimating 
the total value of cargoes carried in British steam- 
ships in foreign trade during the six months following 
the outbreak of war was greater. In the circumstances, 
the Sub-committee accepted, as a basis for its calculations, 

1 Cf. Seaborne Trade, by Mr. C. E. Fayle. 


that the values would be 800,000,000. If the whole of 
these cargoes were insured with the State Office, the as- 
sumed loss would be covered by premiums at the rate 
of 1 per cent, per voyage. It was added that, " It is pro- 
bable that at average premiums of 1 per cent, per voyage 
the greater part of the hulls would, through the Clubs, 
be insured with the State, but the amount of cargo so 
insured, and therefore the amount of cargo at the risk 
of the State, would depend largely on the facilities offered 
by the insurance market." Finally, it was remarked 
that, " when every allowance is made, it will be seen that, 
even on an assumed loss of nearly 10 per cent, of all 
British steamers employed in our foreign trade, which 
on the outbreak of war, and for six months thereafter, 
are at risk, the claim on the State in respect of hulls and 
cargo would be but a very small percentage on the total 
volume of our trade." 

In concluding its report, the Sub-committee submitted 
that they had prepared " an administratively practicable 
scheme." " We believe that it will secure that, in case 
of war, British steamships will not be generally laid up, 
and that oversea commerce will not be interrupted, by 
reason of the inability to cover the war risks of ships and 
cargoes by insurance. Even if the maximum premium 
of 5 per cent, on ships and of 5 per cent, on cargoes is 
charged for all voyages, and the whole of this premium 
is borne by cargoes, the total increased cost of such cargoes, 
on account of war risk insurance, will not be excessive, 
and will not, in our opinion, approach the extreme fluctu- 
ation in prices of many articles, especially of articles of 
food, in recent years." 

It was a fortunate circumstance that the subject of war 
risk insurance had been considered, and a practical scheme 
dealing with hulls and cargoes drawn up, before the shadow 
of war was thrown across the country. As the report 
of the Sub-committee had not been published, the nation 
generally was in ignorance of the steps which had been 
taken to grapple with the situation which rapidly de- 
veloped towards the end of July 1914. The Board of 
Trade kept itself informed of the trend of events, and during 
the days of uncertainty as to the issue of the action which 
diplomatists were taking, it was in constant communication 
with the managers of the three Clubs to which reference 


has been made. On Saturday, July 31st, Sir H. Llewelyn 
Smith, the Secretary of the Board of Trade, informed 
them that the Government had determined to adopt 
the scheme of the reinsurance of hulls, and requested them 
to arrange at once for the issue of revised forms of policy. 
This was done with the utmost dispatch. As an illustra- 
tion, it may be added that on August 4th, when the British 
declaration of war expired, Sir Norman Hill addressed a 
circular to the members of the Liverpool Association 
explaining the Government scheme, and stating that his 
Committee had decided to bring the new forms of insurance 
into operation " without waiting for completion of legal 
formalities as to the actual issue of the new form of 
policies." He added that, " pending the completion of 
all such formalities, an undertaking had been given on 
behalf of the Government that the State will hold itself 
bound as if the reinsurance had been given." 

The prompt action of the Government, in association 
with a certain feeling of nervousness, led many large 
firms who had previously effected their own insurances 
to join the Clubs. In this way, practically the whole 
work of reinsurance of steamships under the Government 
scheme was conducted from the first by the three 
Associations. Forms of policy were immediately drawn up 
by the Clubs for issue to their members for current and 
new voyages, together with a form of reinsurance in regard 
to each such policy as between the Board of Trade and the 
Associations. In illustration of the celerity with which the 
scheme was put into operation, it may be added that the 
agreement between the Board of Trade and the Associations 
was dated August 14th, 1914, although some of its details 
were not completed until a few weeks later. This delay 
did not interfere with the operations of the scheme, which 
from the first centred in the Marine Department of the 
Board of Trade. The managers of the various Associations 
rendered the most efficient help in this department. Sir 
Maurice Hill, K.C., placed his services at the disposal 
of the Board as a legal adviser, and gave valuable assistance 
both in drafting and in interpreting. From the very 
outset the relations between the central department and the 
Associations were placed on a satisfactory footing, with 
the result that the scheme worked smoothly and the danger- 
ous dislocation of ocean-borne commerce which the enemy 


no doubt hoped to produce was averted. As to cargoes, 
it need only be added that the Sub- committee's recom- 
mendations were also adopted, the Advisory Committee 
for the National Insurance of British Shipping, with Mr. 
(afterwards Sir) Douglas Owen as Chairman, holding its 
first meeting on August 5th, and a War Risks Insurance 
Office was opened forthwith at Cannon Street Hotel, to be 
moved later on to 33-35 King William Street. 

The precautionary measures adopted by the Admiralty, 
and the prompt action of the Board of Trade, saved the 
situation. Shipowners, charterers, masters and men were 
given confidence at a moment when there was a possibility 
of panic, and from the first day of hostilities the British 
Mercantile Marine continued its sailings under Admiralty 
advice with almost the same freedom as under the con- 
ditions of peace. 


The imminence of hostilities in July 1914 prompted the 
Admiralty to get into direct touch with the shipping 
community as soon as possible. In the emergency, the 
Customs, Lloyd's, and the War Risks Clubs, as well as the 
Brethren of Trinity House, rendered invaluable aid ; all 
their resources were placed unreservedly at the disposal of 
the Admiralty. The officers at Whitehall dealing with 
trade matters were thus enabled to get at once into com- 
munication with ships and shipowners more quickly and 
with more satisfactory results than would otherwise have 
been the case. It is impossible to lay too much stress on 
the salutary influence of the close relations between the 
naval authorities and the shipping industry which came 
into existence in the summer of 1914. The Consular and 
Colonial services also gave great assistance, and the Foreign, 
Colonial, and Indian Offices promptly transmitted Ad- 
miralty instructions to their officials for the information 
of ships in distant waters, through the medium of the 
Intelligence Scheme already described, thus enabling the 
Admiralty to establish a very complete chain of commu- 
nications all over the world. That intelligence service, 
varied in character and efficient in operation, proved of 
incalculable value. 

The first and most urgent necessity which confronted 



the Admiralty was to convey to the British Mercantile 
Marine, distributed in all the seas, short and compre- 
hensive instructions embodying the policy of the naval 
authorities in relation to the protection of trade. Orders 
to His Majesty's ships operating in and about the trade 
routes had been in existence for some time, and they formed 
the basis on which the early directions to merchant ship- 
ping were framed. As a normal matter of peace routine, 
commanders-in- chief and senior officers of British naval 
forces had received instructions from the Admiralty as 
to the action to be taken in the event of war in order to 
afford protection to merchant shipping. These orders 
were based upon the well-established principle that the 
surest way of striking an effective blow at the enemy, and 
at the same time safeguarding tonnage and territory, 
was a prompt attack upon the enemy's fighting-ships. 
That principle had guided British policy for centuries. 
The primary object the annihilation of the enemy's 
forces included the secondary, the security of British 
ocean-borne commerce. Subsidiary to both those objects 
was the capture of enemy merchant vessels with the 
object of stopping his trade and all contraband destined 
for his use. It was suggested by the Admiralty, in its 
earliest orders, that the patrolling of areas or routes on 
the chance of meeting an enemy on them was not feasible, 
and the allotting of single vessels along the routes was 
also condemned. It was declared that the salient points 
and the confluences of the various ocean routes used by the 
British Merchant Marine were the most profitable places 
for its destruction by enemy vessels, and if those points 
were in W.T. communication with British W.T. stations, 
they were the best positions in which to work and await in- 
telligence of the enemy's movements. It was added that 
the forces employed in company should be of such a 
strength as to afford reasonable prospects of searching for 
and engaging the enemy with success. Those instructions 
embodied rudimentary principles. Their restatement was 
necessary in view of the tendency to confusion of thought 
which had occurred since the steam-engine made its 
appearance, suggesting that the character of the menace 
offered by enemy ships, and the best means of combating 
that menace, had undergone changes deep, permanent, 
and revolutionary. However widespread those opinions 


may have been during the Victorian period, the clouds 
of doubt had been dispersed long before the opening of 
hostilities. It is apparent, from the action of Admirals 
and other senior officers during the opening phase of the 
war, that the naval authorities had reached a right con- 
clusion as to the policy to be adopted by a supreme 
navy in protecting the Mercantile Marine under its 
national flag. 

Although the possibility that the enemy might employ 
submarines to prey on commerce could not be ignored 
after the sinking of the HOGUE, CRESSY, and ABOUKIR on 
September 22nd, 1914, and the destruction of the merchant 
ship Glitra in the following October, the primary concern of 
the Admiralty during the early phase of the war was for 
the safety of vessels, both naval and mercantile, attacked 
by enemy cruisers. The naval authorities had always 
admitted that, if sailings were maintained during the first 
few weeks of war, some losses were inevitable. It had been 
suggested in some quarters that it might be advisable 
for all ships, on the outbreak of war, to be warned to put 
into the nearest friendly port, and remain there until a 
guarantee of safety could be given by the Admiralty. 
That policy would have freed the naval authorities from 
a heavy responsibility, while attention was devoted ex- 
clusively to hunting down enemy cruisers and providing 
escort for the transports which were on passage from India, 
the Dominions, the Crown Colonies, and the Dependencies. 
These counsels were, however, rejected. The bold 
policy was adopted of urging merchant shipping to 
continue its operations. In these circumstances, the 
Admiralty had to choose between three courses. The 
first was the concentration of trade on definite fixed 
routes, these routes being closely patrolled by British 
cruisers ; the second, a dispersal of trade away from 
the usual routes, thus taking advantage of the vast tracts 
of ocean as a means of protection, and leaving British 
cruisers free to hunt down enemy warships. The third 
course consisted of either of the alternatives men- 
tioned in association with convoy. That policy, how- 
ever, would have involved a weakening of the offensive 
action against the enemy in order to provide direct pro- 
tection to shipping. Shipowners and masters were 
generally opposed to a system of convoys, while naval 


opinion as to its wisdom was divided. Reviewing the 
situation broadly, and having regard to the limited number 
of cruisers available for trade protection, the Admiralty 
decided upon as wide a dispersal of ships as possible during 
the period when enemy cruisers were being tracked down. 
Orders were promulgated to the Mercantile Marine in 
accordance with this decision through the channels of 
communication then available at home and abroad. 

In order to convey to the Mercantile Shipping the In- 
structions, Route Orders, and Advice necessary to enable 
vessels to navigate with the least possible risk, both from 
direct enemy action and also from mines, a number of 
Shipping Intelligence Officers were appointed at the prin- 
l cipal commercial home ports, and the system was gradually 
\ extended to other ports in the United Kingdom. These 
\ officers were in direct touch with the Admiralty (Trade 
\Division), and received instructions from time to time as to 
y*outes to be followed, etc., while somewhat similar arrange- 
jnents were made at ports abroad so that masters could 
obtain the latest Admiralty instructions as to their routes 
from reporting officers, who were usually Consular or 
Colonial officers. As has already been pointed out, Lloyd's 
and the War Risks Clubs were also used as channels 
of communication where this was the most convenient 
means, the existing channels being gradually co-ordinated 
to form a rapid means of communication between the 
Admiralty and the Mercantile Marine. The Board of 
Customs and Excise likewise placed their entire organisa- 
tions at the disposal of the Admiralty, and throughout the 
war rendered invaluable assistance in the dissemination 
of " Traffic Instructions " to merchant vessels. These 
Traffic Instructions consisted principally of directions for 
coastal voyages, which every vessel had to obtain from 
the Customs Authorities at the port of departure im- 
mediately before sailing. It is impossible to speak 
too highly of the cordial support and co-operation re- 
ceived by the Admiralty from the Board of Customs and 

Except on special short sea and coastal routes where 
concentration of naval forces was possible, the convoy 
system was not employed for merchant ships in the early 
part of the war ; this was due partly to delays regarded 
as inevitable with any system of convoy, and partly to 


the congestion which it was considered would have been 
caused in British ports by the sudden entry of large 
convoys ; but the chief obstacle, as already indicated, 
was the lack of protective vessels. When the Admiralty 
found themselves in a position to spare destroyers and 
cruisers for convoy work, due to the increased output of 
destroyers and the advent of the United States of America 
into the war, the convoy system for overseas trade was 
adopted, and gradually increased to include practically all 
vessels trading to and from the United Kingdom. After 
the system had become properly organised it was found 
that delays in the voyages of ships were not in fact 
greater than had been experienced by ships sailing indi- 
vidually under war conditions, which entailed the periodi- 
cal suspension of sailings in certain areas owing to enemy 
activity, and the lengthening of voyages due to diversion 
and the necessity for observance of Admiralty instructions 
for the protection of merchant ships in the danger area. 
Partly for the same reason, but mainly due to the sailing 
of convoys at more frequent intervals as a greater number 
of escort vessels became available, no appreciable difference 
was experienced in the conditions obtaining at the principal 
commercial ports for dealing with the cargoes of the ships 
as they arrived. 

In conformity with the Admiralty decision to adopt the 
policy of dispersal, the Trade Division, on August 3rd, 
sent out an instruction to Lloyd's and the War Risks 
Clubs in the following terms : 

" Advise British shipping to abandon regular tracks. 
Complete voyages without bunkering, if possible; reduce 
brilliancy of lights. Make use of territorial waters when 
possible. Homeward-bound vessels call for orders at 
any Signal-station on South coast of Devon or Cornwall, 
or on South or North or West coasts of Ireland. Pass this 
as far as possible to all British ships." 

On the following day a short message in the same sense 
was dispatched by cable or wireless telegraph to Lloyd's 
agents in all parts of the world, numbering 265. Orders 
of a somewhat more detailed character were issued simul- 
taneously to all Intelligence Officers and Reporting Officers 
to the following effect : 


44 Advise British shipping to steer course parallel to 
and from 80 to 150 miles distant from regular track. 
Endeavour to fill up sufficiently with coal to avoid bunker- 
ing on passage. Reduce brilliancy of lights. When 
obliged to pass through localities where traffic is most con- 
gested, endeavour to do so at night. Use neutral territorial 
waters when possible. Homeward-bound vessels call for 
orders at any Signal-station on South coast of Devon or 
Cornwall, or on South, North, or West coasts of Ireland. 
Pass this secretly by visual to any British ships met with." 

During the succeeding week it became apparent that, 
in spite of the action of the naval authorities and the cover 
provided under the War Insurance scheme, some ships 
were being held up. Further instructions to check this 
development were decided upon on August 13th, and com- 
municated to all British possessions and to His Majesty's 
representatives and others throughout the world. After re- 
commending that navigation lights should be extinguished 
only when an immediate attack was apprehended, and 
that, the danger passed, they should be relighted, the Ad- 
miralty added that it was most important that British 
trade should be interrupted as little as possible, and that 
" British vessels should not be held up nor advised to 
remain in port unless such a course should be deemed abso- 
lutely necessary." A week later, an enemy armed merchant 
cruiser having interfered with vessels south of the Canaries, 
it was suggested to Lines using this route that, under the cir- 
cumstances then existing, vessels should be directed where 
possible to avoid passing the Canaries, and that in other 
cases they should go well clear to the westward of those 
islands, the exact distance depending upon the importance 
of the voyage, the amount of coal available, and other 
special considerations. " If ships are so diverted," it was 
added, " it is considered that the chance of capture will 
be considerably modified." 

In spite of the action which the Admiralty had taken, 
a feeling of nervousness in commercial circles still existed 
owing to news of captures by the KONIGSBERG, DRESDEN, 
to arrest anything approaching a feeling of panic as to the 
danger on the trade routes, fresh instructions were issued 
to the Intelligence Officers on August 29th, advising them 

CH. v] " SEA IS FREE TO ALL " 245 

not to hold up British shipping except for good reasons, 
it being added that " the Government Insurance Scheme 
provides for a small percentage of loss, and it is most 
important to keep the trade moving, even if slight loss 
is incurred." In further reference to the same tendency 
to check the flow of shipping, and therefore of trade, 
another telegram was dispatched on the following day to 
all Naval, Indian, and Colonial authorities in the East. 
Reference was made in that message to the continual 
complaints received from shipowners as to their vessels 
being detained, " especially in Far Eastern and Australian 
waters," and it was added that the " essential trade of 
the Empire should continue uninterrupted." The tele- 
gram added that, " If vessels sail after dark, make good 
offing, avoid regular tracks, danger of capture small. 
Most essential impress this on all concerned. No ships 
should ever be detained unless definite news of presence 
enemy's cruisers in immediate vicinity." In order that 
commercial communities throughout the Empire should 
be in no doubt as to the policy which was being pursued 
by the naval authorities, a statement was drawn up headed 
44 Sea is free to all." It appeared in the newspapers on 
September 3rd : 

44 There appears to be an impression in shipping circles 
that the Admiralty have prohibited the use of certain 
trade routes for mercantile shipping. This is quite erro- 
neous. The Admiralty policy is that the sea is free to 
all. Any limitations which the Admiralty may advise are 
intended solely to assist shipowners in safeguarding their 
vessels, and no routes are prohibited. 

44 Owing to the German policy of laying mines in waters 
principally frequented by peaceful trading vessels, and 
other threats to the safety of shipping, the Admiralty 
have, in some cases, considered it advisable to warn ship- 
owners that certain routes are exceptionally dangerous, 
and are, therefore, not covered by the War Risks Insurance 
scheme. But should the shipowners decide to use those 
routes, there is no desire on the part of the Admiralty to 
interfere with the shipowners' absolute discretion in the 

By the following day the Trade Division was able tg 


modify the advice previously given with reference to the 
Canary Islands, since its information suggested that the 
danger was not for the time so acute as formerly. Ship- 
owners desirous of sending their vessels to the Canaries were 
therefore informed that they could do so without undue risk. 
Knowledge of the activities of the KARLSRUHE led the Trade 
Division to issue an instruction to the effect that, in the 
absence of definite news of the presence of enemy cruisers 
in the vicinity of ports, ships should not be detained. 

By these measures the Trade Division endeavoured to 
give shipowners confidence to continue running their 
vessels in order that the maritime trade of the Empire 
might not be endangered during the critical period of the 
transition from the conditions of peace to the conditions 
of war. By the end of September, although in the mean- 
time the EMDEN had made her appearance off Madras, 
the War Staff was encouraged to issue a further instruc- 
tion to His Majesty's representatives abroad. They were 
advised that the experience of the first two months of 
the war had shown that " no increase in the loss of merchant 
shipping will be incurred by always keeping trade routes 
open. When a hostile cruiser makes her presence known 
by sending crews or prizes into port, she is unlikely to 
remain on the same route ; short of closing all routes 
for indefinite time, there is no remedy, as next point of 
attack is matter for conjecture." It was also pointed out 
that " the detention of insured vessels in port was ex- 
tremely costly to owners and merchants, and if continued 
defeats the object of Government Insurance Scheme.'* 
That British representatives abroad might have confidence, 
they were reminded that " vessels sailing after dark and 
making good offing with dimmed lights run little chance 
of capture." So insistent was the Trade Division on the 
absolute necessity of checking any nervous action on 
the part of British representatives abroad, that instruc- 
tions were issued " that any detention of shipping should 
at once be reported by cable." That instruction conveyed 
to His Majesty's representatives an intimation that deten- 
tion of shipping was to be regarded as justified only 
in very exceptional circumstances, and that the policy 
should not be adopted unless it became imperatively 
necessary owing to local conditions. Similar warning 
notices were sent through the Colonial Office to all self- 


governing Dominions and to the principal Crown 

In the meantime, the Trade Division had drawn up a 
Memorandum in which it set forth the conclusions which 
had been reached as to the best course to be adopted for 
securing the safety of British shipping : 

" The experience gained during the first two months of 
war clearly proves that the most effective manner of 
evading capture is by a complete abandonment of the 
regular tracks. Closely associated with this is the neces- 
sity for reducing the number of lights carried by vessels 
at night to a minimum, and for dimming their brilliancy 
as much as possible consistent with safety of navigation. 

' 4 Vessels should always endeavour to pass through focal 
areas at night. 

44 When leaving a port in the vicinity of which an enemy 
cruiser is suspected of operating, the departure should 
be made soon after dark, the intention to sail being kept as 
secret as possible. A good offing should be made during 
the night, care being taken to be well off the usual route 
at daylight. 

44 Similarly, it is advisable to make a port at or just 
before daylight, thus insuring that the usual route is only 
approached in the dark, and at the latest possible moment. 

44 Masters should be warned, when abandoning a track, 
to make sure that such deviation does not place them on 
other routes. Neglect of this precaution has been the 
immediate cause of at least three captures in the Atlantic. 

* 4 In the case of the EMDEN'S recent captures in Indian 
waters, two main features present themselves : 

44 (1) So far as can be ascertained at present, the vessels 
themselves, when captured, were adhering very closely 
to the usual trade routes. 

44 (2) No attempt seems to have been made by the vessels 
in the way of obscuring 'lights, or of otherwise avoiding 

44 (The only exception seems to have been the Gryfevale, 
which made a practice of putting out her lights. This 
vessel, however, was captured during daylight, but it is 
satisfactory to know that she was released.) 

14 The EMDEN was thus enabled to effect more captures 
in Indian waters in the space of a few days than all 


the German cruisers in the Atlantic have hitherto 

" Trade routes in the Indian Ocean are admittedly 
somewhat more constricted than in the Atlantic, but a 
divergence of 100 miles from the normal course would have 
probably ensured safety, except in the case of three vessels 
captured near ports. 

" Several reports which have reached the Admiralty of 
late point to the fact that the comparatively small number 
of captures is inducing some masters to return more nearly 
to the usual trade routes. 

" Masters should be constantly reminded that the 
farther from the trade routes, the greater will be the 
safety ; this will continue throughout the war. 

" Wireless communication should be reduced to a mini- 
mum, and the vessel's position and future movements 
should always be kept secret. 

44 It is assumed that no vessel carries any enemy subject 
as part of her crew, and that no enemy subjects are em- 
ployed in any capacity by owners whose vessels are 
covered by the Government Insurance Scheme. 

" It is pointed out that even one spy in a vessel would 
most seriously compromise the secrecy of instructions upon 
which the safety of British shipping so largely depends." 

This Memorandum was immediately given wide cir- 
culation among His Majesty's diplomatic representatives 
and Reporting Officers in British Dominions, Colonies, and 

The Trade Division, in spite of all the action which had 
been taken, was still not fully satisfied, in view of the 
day-to-day reports which reached it, that its policy was 
clearly understood. So, on October 26th, further instruc- 
tions were issued all over the world as to the necessity of 
keeping open the trade routes. At that time the KARLS- 
RUHE and EMDEN were busy, the former off Pernambuco 
and the latter off Minikoi. " It is undesirable," it was 
remarked, 4t that vessels on passage should be directed 
to converge on focal points such as Colombo or Singapore 
merely for orders, and unless absolutely necessary. Ship- 
ping must be more scattered off the routes, and where a 
choice of passages exists, this should be taken full advantage 
of. As enemy is evidently aware of present scattering 


limits, substitute general order that vessels must scatter 
widely both sides of usual track, so that distribution of 
shipping shall be as effective as possible. Instructions 
by Reporting or Intelligence Officers should, wherever 
possible, be handed to the masters in writing, and a record 
of such instructions should be kept. Masters must be 
warned to destroy these instructions if in danger of capture. 
Colours are no indication of nationality until the vessel 
opens fire. It must, therefore, be impressed on all masters 
that measures should be taken to avoid vessels directly 
they, or their smoke, are sighted. All lights except 
Navigation Lights should be hidden, and Navigation 
Lights should not exceed brilliancy laid down in Rules 
for Prevention of Collisions at Sea. The second mast- 
head light is unnecessary." On the following day instruc- 
tions of a very similar character were issued to His Majesty's 
representatives in the areas chiefly affected by the opera- 
tions of enemy ships. An additional paragraph suggested 
that an endeavour should be made to advise British 
shipping secretly of the best measures of evading capture 
by hostile vessels. 

At the opening of the new year the naval situation 
changed for the better, the KRONPRINZ WILHELM, PRINZ 
EITEL FRIEDRICH, and the DRESDEN being the only enemy 
vessels known then to be at large. In the meantime, 
shipowners had made complaints that merchant vessels 
had been captured very shortly after official advice had 
been given that certain routes were " safe " or *' clear." In 
a telegram to Intelligence Officers at the ports most affected, 
the Trade Division remarked that such statements could 
only be personal opinions, which might be formed on 
unavoidably imperfect information. " These and similar 
expressions should never Ipe used J)y anyone s giving advice 
or instructions as to routes. They imply assurances of 
security which are obviously impossible in war-time ; 
this tends to discredit the value of Admiralty advice. 
Events have proved that such statements may be mis- 
leading, may cause relaxation of the vigilance which is 
so essential, and may -cause serious disaster. Advice 
should be confined to statement of facts as to course to 
steer and similar matters. Any helpful information should 
be given which does not disclose our plans or the position 
of our own war-vessels." 


While the Trade Division was advising and shepherding 
the Merchant Navy during these early days of the war, 
the Operations Division of the War Staff, under Rear- 
Admiral Arthur C. Leveson, was also busy in its own 
particular sphere. The Operations Division was charged 
with taking a wide survey of the naval situation, and close 
touch was maintained between it and the Intelligence and 
Trade Divisions. From August 5th onwards, the Trade 
Division was in a position to issue daily voyage notices, 1 
specifying the passages forbidden under the War Insurance 
Scheme in view of the Admiralty's knowledge of the enemy's 
actions and probable plans. The character of the services 
which this branch of the War Staff rendered in this respect 
may best be illustrated by the " daily voyage notice " of 
August 5th, in which passages were forbidden to the 
Baltic, to the North Sea Continental ports east and north 
of Dunkirk, the North Atlantic, from Canadian ports 
and ports of the United States as far south as, but not 
including, Philadelphia, and trade on the North Pacific 
coast. It would be tedious and unnecessary to trace the 
gradual development of this work during succeeding 
months as the British naval authorities gained a fuller 
appreciation of the situation. It may be of interest, 
however, to give by way of contrast the daily voyage 
notice which was issued on the last day of 1914 : 

" For the purposes of the Government War Insurance 
scheme, the Admiralty consider all voyages may be 
undertaken subject to local conditions, except the follow- 

" (1) All ports in Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and Ger- 

" (2), All ports in Sweden, except Gothenburg. 

" (3) All Russian Baltic ports. 

" (4) Adriatic, North of Viesti. 

" (5) All Black Sea and Turkish ports. 

" Note 1. Vessels from the Atlantic bound to Gothen- 
burg or Norwegian ports are required to call at a port 
in the United Kingdom for orders, before proceeding to 

" Note 2. Owners whose ships are trading to and from 

1 The daily voyage notices subsequently became known as " Standing 
Orders under the Government War Insurance Scheme." 


Norwegian ports or Gothenburg should send a representa- 
tive to the Trade Division, Admiralty, for special instruc- 

"Note 3. A mine area exists between lat. 51 15' N. 
and 51 40' N., and between long. 1 35' E. and 3 E. 

" Note 4. Vessels trading to Gothenburg and Norwegian 
ports are warned that it is unlawful to carry goods that 
are contraband of war or the export of which is prohibited, 
unless they have a licence from the Privy Council to do so. 
Very serious consequences may ensue if vessels knowingly 
carry such cargo. 

" Note 5. The route along the East Coast is now open. 
When passing coast between Filey Brig and Scarborough, 
vessels must do so during daylight only. They must 
keep as close to the shore as possible, and must pass to 
the westward of the position 1 J miles E. by S. Scarborough 
Rock and 1 mile N.E. J E. Filey Brig Buoy. 

" Note 6. No Atlantic traffic is to pass round North of 
Ireland until further orders." 

With the rounding up of the enemy's cruisers and 
armed merchantmen, a feeling of security began to in- 
fluence shipowners and masters. It was assumed by some 
of them that no further trouble was to be apprehended, 
and that the precautions hitherto observed might there- 
fore be disregarded. The Trade Division considered it 
desirable to check without delay the growth of any such 
idea. They let it be known that " the suggestion that 
certain routes are now safe, and that vessels can safely 
follow the usual route, is a most dangerous one, and should 
be combated whenever it is mooted, either formally or in 
conversation." It was pointed out that it would never 
be known from day to day when German vessels might 
break out through the North Sea and appear suddenly upon 
the great trade routes. The shipping interest was re- 
minded that the surest way of encouraging such raids 
was to let it be generally known that precautions had been 
relaxed : "If precautions are in any way relaxed, enor- 
mous losses might be inflicted on trade in a few days 
before we were even aware that raiders had escaped." 

Wise as these precautions were, experience was to show 
that the Admiralty credited the enemy with a greater 
degree of enterprise than he had, in fact, any intention 


of exhibiting. During the whole of March, only two 
vessels were destroyed by enemy surface vessels the 
Tamar (3,207 tons) on the 25th, and the Coleby (3,824 
tons) two days later, both by the KRONPRINZ WILHELM 
and both off Pernambuco. These two incidents marked 
the end of the enemy's cruiser warfare, and in subsequent 
months the Admiralty's main preoccupation was the 
protection of merchant shipping against submarine 



IT may be said of the Admiralties of the world, even 
those responsible for ocean commerce on a large scale, 
that none foresaw the course which the war by sea would 
take, and consequently there was a good deal of hasty 
improvisation to meet its needs, particularly on the part 
of the Entente navies, which had to keep open the maritime 
communications of armies and peoples. For ten years 
or more attention had been directed almost exclusively 
to the building of big men-of-war, battleships, and battle 
cruisers ; and in 1914 the number of small craft light 
cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo-boats possessed by the 
Great Powers, not excluding Germany and Austria-Hun- 
gary, was relatively small. That was a matter of slight 
importance to the enemy, because he relinquished, almost 
from the first, all attempt to use the sea for military or 
economic purposes ; but it would have proved a grave 
embarrassment to the Entente Powers if they had not 
had a reserve, to be called upon as required, consisting 
of the unconsidered and uncatalogued latent elements of 
naval power possessed by the British people with ancient sea 
traditions. Because it was responsible for protecting about 
half the ocean tonnage of the world, and was better pro- 
vided with small craft than the French or Italian navies, 
the burden of sea command bore mainly on the British 
Fleet throughout the war. It had not been foreseen that 
it would be necessary to organise what at length reached 
the proportions of a second fleet under Admiralty control, 
consisting of craft which were never intended for the 
violence of warfare, but when the need arose it was met 
with complete success. 

There had been no intention of making heavy demands 
upon the ships or men of the Mercantile Marine, though 



the Admiralty was prepared to take up a limited number 
of steamships for use as store, ammunition, and hospital 
ships, while other vessels were held available for employ- 
ment as auxiliary cruisers and transports. The necessity 
for organising a great auxiliary fleet would not have 
arisen, or, at any rate, it would not have assumed such 
large proportions as it did assume, had it not been for 
the enemy's decision to dispatch submarines to attack 
merchant shipping. That policy was an afterthought. 
It is hardly too much to say that before the outbreak 
of war no naval officer, whatever his nationality, 
seriously contemplated the possibility of vessels being 
used for attacking ocean-borne commerce which could 
not supply prize crews or make provision, in case the 
prize was destroyed, for the safety of the crew as well as 
passengers, if passengers were carried. For a number of 
years torpedo-boats, swift and carrying guns as well as 
torpedoes, had been in commission, but it had never been 
suggested that these small vessels, the forerunners of the 
submarines, should be pressed into such service, because 
it was realised that such a departure involved the in- 
fraction of the generally-accepted law of nations, and, if 
human life was lost, the flouting of the dictates of hu- 
manity. The Germans themselves entertained no such 
proposal. When the submarine appeared and proved its 
efficiency, no idea was held of converting it into an in- 
strument for attacking commerce, as is proved by the fact 
that in the summer of 1914 the enemy possessed only 
twenty-eight completed vessels of this type. If any such 
scheme had been determined upon as part of the war plans 
of the Germans, many more submarines would certainly 
have been in readiness to be thrown into the war when the 
struggle by sea opened. It was not until after the British 
cruisers HOGUE, CRESS Y, and ABOUKIR had been sunk 
by U9, and the German flag had been banished from 
the outer seas, that the idea was conceived that, if men-of- 
war, armed and armoured and with highly trained crews, 
could be so easily destroyed as experience had shown, 
submarines should be employed against unarmed merchant- 
men, manned by crews unfamiliar with war conditions. 

That determination on the part of the enemy, reached 
in the late autumn of 1914, vitally affected the naval 
situation as it had been studied by the British naval 


authorities in pre-war days. It forced them to assume an 
added responsibility, as unexpected as it was embarrassing. 
The Fleet had been organised to take its part in surface 
warfare ; within a few months it had to adapt itself to a 
new form of warfare, pursued by the enemy with determina- 
tion, with vessels capable of operating below the surface. 

In conjunction with the appearance of the submarine 
the enemy's resort to indiscriminate mining changed the 
character of the British naval problem, and thus it came 
about that gradually a supplementary fleet was evolved 
the Auxiliary Patrol. It eventually consistted of a great 
assemblage of small vessels of varied types trawlers, 
whalers, drifters, steam-yachts, paddle-steamers, motor- 
launches, and motor-boats. Those vessels were manned by 
merchant seamen, fishermen, yachtsmen, and naval en- 
thusiasts drawn promiscuously from the coast and inland 
towns and villages, from counting-house and shop and 
factory. Few persons before the war imagined that the 
stately white enamelled yachts seen in the Solent during 
Cowes Week would one day be painted grey, and, mounting 
guns fore and aft, would be commissioned under the White 
Ensign to hunt German submarines and assist in patrolling 
the ocean highways. Certainly the fishermen of the North 
Sea, the Irish Sea, and the English Channel did not fore- 
see that they would spend several of the best years of 
their lives in sweeping up German mines and assuring the 
safety of merchant shipping from a deadly peril, besides 
assisting to bring to the British Isles the food and raw 
material required by the crowded population. Similarly, 
none of the yachtsmen who sought service under the 
Admiralty later dreamed that the summer cruises which 
they had been accustomed to make would furnish sea 
training and sea experience to fit them to take a foremost 
part in the world war. And yet, owing to the force 
of circumstances, this apparently miscellaneous collection 
of ships and men was to be welded together into a great 
disciplined force which bore no mean share of the burden 
of the war by sea during the whole of the long period 
covered by hostilities. 

It was because the Royal Navy was so powerful that 
it needed these small ships, claiming them as necessary 
auxiliaries, arming them and sending them to sea in all 
weathers to fight the enemy and to assist in protecting 



the supreme weapon the Grand Fleet on which the 
fortunes of war mainly depended. Owing to the prepon- 
derating strength of the Grand Fleet over the High Sea 
Fleet, the enemy, thrown back on the defensive, decided to 
rely almost exclusively on two methods of offence, the mine 
and, afterwards, the submarine. They constituted deadly 
perils, not only to ships of commerce, but to men-of-war, 
and it was realised from the first that battleships, battle 
cruisers, and light cruisers were unsuited to offer an 
adequate defence against such instruments of warfare. A 
battleship or cruiser carries too many lives in her vul- 
nerable hull, is too costly to build, is too difficult to re- 
place, and has too great a turning circle, to engage in 
harrying, chasing, and sinking submarines. Destroyers 
were admirably suited to the work, but they were required 
as screens for the battle and cruiser squadrons, and the 
British Navy, in common with the other Allied navies, 
was short of these small craft. It soon became apparent 
that the Navy must have assistance, and, once the need 
was recognised, it was met by one of the most remarkable 
voluntary movements for which the war was responsible. 
The unexpected development of the enemy's naval policy 
suggested the employment in this service of the steam- 
yacht, the paddle-steamer with its moderate draught, 
the motor- vessel, the drifter, and the trawler, thus utilising 
in fighting at sea the tonnage of the country which in normal 
times was used either in the pursuit of pleasure or in the 
fisheries. Fishing vessels were admirably adapted to meet 
the Navy's urgent requirements, carrying small crews, 
being handy in a seaway, drawing little water, and being 
cheap to build. These were the ships which were con- 
sequently taken up soon after the outbreak of war, fitted 
out, and placed on duty in the waters surrounding the 
British Isles. On these vessels devolved the duty of 
examining and controlling millions of tons of shipping 
passing through the narrow seas ; day by day they swept 
channels of safety, destroying thousands of mines in the 
process; they encircled the British Isles with their ever- 
vigilant patrol, in fog and in storm, in summer and in 
winter ; they escorted merchant ships, warning them 
from dangerous areas ; they towed torpedoed vessels 
into safety ; they sent enemy submarines to their 
doom by ramming, shelling, dropping explosives, or 


other means. These auxiliary craft proved the salvation 
of the Royal Navy as of the Merchant Fleet. Gradually 
the sphere of operations of the Auxiliary Patrol was ex- 
tended as far north as the White Sea, as far south as the 
Mediterranean and JSgean, and as far west as the West 
Indies. Wherever these vessels were employed, their 
officers and men performed redoubtable service in the 
common cause. They were the heroes of some of the most 
gallant exploits in naval history, as was attested by the 
long list of decorations won in unequal contests against 
the mine and submarine. The story of the part taken in 
the naval war by the Auxiliary Patrol, consisting of nearly 
4,000 vessels and manned by nearly 50,000 officers and 
men, constitutes a chapter in our naval annals of im- 
perishable renown. It is a story which proves that 
the British seaman, even in the days of highly developed 
mechanically-driven ships, has nothing to fear by com* 
parison with the standards of the golden age of the sailing- 
ship. Side by side with the personal achievements of the 
seamen, an endeavour will be made to show how a fortuitous 
and unorganised assemblage of shipping, with crews un- 
disciplined to the demands of war, developed into what 
was in effect a supplementary navy. 

When the war broke out in August 1914, a modest 
organisation was already in existence for the employment 
of fishing craft under the White Ensign, which enabled 
trawlers to be dispatched within a few hours to sweep 
up the first minefield laid by the enemy off our coast. 

In 1907 Admiral Lord Charles Beresford was Com- 
mander-in- Chief of the Channel Fleet, with his flag in the 
KING EDWARD VII. For some time past he had been 
concerned with the best method of clearing a channel for 
a battle-fleet leaving harbour during strained relations or 
in time of war. When earlier he had been Commander- 
in- Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet he had tried sweeping 
experiments with tugs and destroyers, but both classes of 
vessels were found to be unsuitable. Whilst on a visit to 
Grimsby he saw about 800 trawlers congregated in the 
harbour. He inspected some of them, and talked with 
the skippers. Here were men accustomed to deal with 
trawl-ropes and trawls, the equivalent to mine-sweeps. 
These fishermen were so expert at their work that they 
never fouled their screws with the wire ropes, and their 


ships were fitted with steam winches and all the necessary 
gear required for sweeping. What could be more suitable 
than these ships and men for mine-sweeping ? In July 
1907 he therefore suggested to the Admiralty that a trial 
should be made with these craft, and, further, that, if suc- 
cessful, a certain number of trawlers should be requisitioned 
for the different ports so as to be ready for service when the 
period of strained relations with a foreign Power arrived. 

In response to this suggestion, the Admiralty approved 
of Lord Charles making a practical test. At the begin- 
ning of the following year, Commander E. L. Booty of the 
KING EDWARD VII was sent to Grimsby, where he selected 
two typical steam trawlers, the Andes and Algoma. They 
reached Portland on February 5th, with their skippers 
and crews of nine apiece ; and for the next eight days 
they proceeded to sweep up dummy mines. The trials 
were carried out under the supervision of a Channel 
Fleet Mining Committee, of which Captain F. C. D. 
Sturdee, 1 then commanding officer of the NEW ZEALAND, 
was President. Associated with him were Captain 
R. F. Phillimore and two torpedo lieutenants, together 
with a mining expert from the VERNON. The Committee 
reported that the experiments had proved sufficiently satis- 
factory to justify the taking up of trawlers for service in 
war, to assist in keeping clear the approaches to harbours 
that were likely to be mined. Lord Charles Beresford 
stated in his report that the trawlers would prove in- 
valuable for sweeping duties, as the crews had been accus- 
tomed to earning their livelihood by this class of work. 
Skippers and crews had entered into the trials with both 
enthusiasm and delight ; as to the trawlers themselves, 
their shape and build rendered sweeping easy, and prac- 
tically no additional gear was required. In other words, 
a trawler with its crew, when ready to proceed to the 
fishing-grounds, was equally prepared for mine-sweeping. 

As these trials actually brought about the creation of 
the mine-sweeping service, which rendered such gallant 
assistance throughout the war, it may be not out of place 
to set down the details of the Andes and Algoma. They 
measured 105 feet in length, 21 feet beam, with a draught 
of 13 feet aft and about 9 feet forward. Their speed was 
8j knots ; i.h.p. 240, and they carried 80 tons of coal, 
1 Afterwards Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee. 


having an expenditure of five to six tons a day. Each 
trawl warp consisted of 250 fathoms of 3-inch wire, and 
at first the trawlers' own otter-boards were used as kites, 
though later, after further experiments, the right size and 
type of kite for mine-sweeping was evolved. The crew in 
each case consisted of skipper, mate, third hand, two deck 
hands, steward, chief engineer, second engineer, and 
trimmer. After the outbreak of war, when fishing trawlers 
became His Majesty's ships, the Admiralty made the 
fewest possible modifications in the personnel and the 
running of these vessels. 

The result of the experiments at Portland was to con- 
vince the Admiralty that trawlers could be depended on 
to clear a channel with practically only their own resources. 
One distinguished officer, Captain Bernard Currey (after- 
wards Director of Naval Ordnance), pointed out that they 
would be indispensable in war-time as an Auxiliary Sweep- 
ing Service, and suggested the desirability of preparing 
a contract with the trawler-owners so as to enable a 
number of these craft to be taken up on the Approach of 
war. With this suggestion Captain E. J. W. Slade, 1 then 
Director of Naval Intelligence, concurred, and he further 
emphasised the fact that trawls were obviously more 
efficiently worked by men accustomed to their use than 
by untrained crews. The solution of the manning problem, 
therefore, appeared to lie in employing Royal Naval 
Reserve men, of whom a large number were fishermen. 
The proposal was approved by Admiral Sir John Fisher, 
the First Sea Lord. 

On August 1st, 1908, five months afterwards, an im- 
portant Mining Committee was formed at the Admiralty 
under the presidency of Rear- Admiral G. A. Callaghan to 
consider the general question of mine-laying and mine- 
clearing. It was evident to anyone able to read the signs 
of the times that war with Germany was sooner or later 
possible, and that mines might play no inconsiderable 
part in the enemy's operations. Hitherto the method of 
destroying a minefield was to countermine. But after 
going into the matter very carefully, the Committee recom- 
mended that a mine-sweeping service should be instituted 
in lieu of countermining ; that the wire-sweep should be 
adopted ; that 6-foot kites should be used for small craft, 
1 Afterwards Admiral Sir Edmond J. W. Slade. 


and 9-foot kites, or even 12-foot, for larger craft. They 
further suggested that six trawlers should be purchased 
immediately for experimental and instructional service, 
and that trawler-owners should be approached by the 
Admiralty to ascertain if they could provide crews in peace- 
time for instruction, as well as in war-time for sweeping 

Little time was wasted, for by the middle of August 
both Sir John Fisher and the First Lord, Mr. Reginald 
McKenna, had approved of six trawlers being obtained 
(two for each of the three Torpedo Schools) in order to 
enable instruction in mine-sweeping to proceed without 
delay. There was still much to be learnt in regard to the 
best types of kites and the most suitable wires, and, further- 
more, officers and men required a certain amount of in- 
struction. The urgency of the matter arose from the 
fact that foreign Powers were known to be increasing the 
numbers of their blockade mines. There was the conse- 
quential danger that at the outbreak of war the British 
Fleet might be taken by surprise, blockaded by mine- 
fields, and unable to emerge from its bases. 

In spite of the urgency of the matter, there followed 
some delay in obtaining financial sanction for the pur- 
chase of these trawlers ; but in the Naval Estimates for 
1909-10 this was provided for. In March 1910 Mr. 
McKenna stated that during the year great attention had 
been paid to mine-sweeping, and that six trawlers had 
been bought for " subsidiary services." More than this 
was not revealed publicly, as there was a desire to keep all 
mine-sweeping details secret. The first four trawlers were 
purchased in April 1909, their names being the Spider, 
Sparrow, Seaflower, and Seamew. From this date prac- 
tice and experimental work in mine-sweeping were carried 
out continuously, and the results were eminently satis- 
factory. In December it was decided to allocate the 
Sparrow and Spider to the VERNON at Portsmouth, the 
Seamew and Seaflower to the ACTION at the Nore, whilst 
the two others still to be bought were to be attached to 
the DEFIANCE at Devonport. But from June to the end 
of September every year these six trawlers were to be 
used for visiting the fishing ports and training ratings. 

The Admiralty having obtained these trawlers, the 
next step was to secure the personnel. It was necessary 


to detail naval officers to take charge of the units of 
trawlers when sweeping, but a difficulty arose. In the 
first place there were very few officers who had experi- 
ence of sweeping, and it was clear that in time of war 
every available officer on the active list would be required 
for service in the Royal Navy. The difficulty was met 
when it was decided, early in 1910, to detail and train 
certain officers on the emergency and retired lists for this 
special purpose. At the outset twenty-two lieutenants 
or commanders were required, each of whom in time of 
war would command a unit consisting of six trawlers. 
Of those who were invited, about twenty commanders 
and lieutenants accepted the call and underwent a fourteen 
days' course in the VERNON. This was soon followed by 
another course for an additional number, and thus a fairly 
big nucleus of trained officers became available. These 
details of organisation were arranged none too early. 
Since the year 1906, Germany had been expending large 
sums of money on the construction of mine-layers, the 
manufacture of mines, and the training of officers and 
men in mine-laying. The Russo-Japanese War had 
shown the value of mines, for no fewer than thirty-seven 
craft, from battleships to picket-boats, had struck mines, 
and there were also losses to merchant shipping. 

Officers for the units having been obtained, the next 
step was to get together a special section of the Royal 
Naval Reserve, to be known as the Trawler Section, which 
would man these craft. Men were not to be drawn from 
the existing Royal Naval Reserve, as obviously such a 
step would interfere with the manning of some of the 
bigger ships in time of war. The regulations for this 
Trawler Section were drawn up in October 1910. It 
was decided to retain for the men their existing titles 
of ranks and ratings " Skipper," " Second-hand," and 
so on. The pay was based on the wages normally ob- 
taining in the trawling industry, but about 20 per cent, 
lower. The skipper was to be given the rank of a 
warrant officer ; it was determined that he must have 
commanded a trawler for at least two years, possess a 
Board of Trade certificate, and before receiving the 
Admiralty warrant must undergo eight days' training in 
one of His Majesty's steam trawlers. 

The slack season in the trawling trade occurs immedi- 


ately after Lent, especially between June and September, 
and the decision was made that the training season 
should coincide with the slack season as far as possible. 
The first enrolment of fishermen for the Royal Naval 
Reserve (T.) was postponed until the beginning of 1911, 
when the Admiralty endeavoured to obtain fifty skippers 
and fifty second-hands. The training was to be 
carried out on board the six trawlers now attached to 
the Torpedo Schools, the names of the recently-added 
pair being the Rose and Driver, attached to Devonport. 
For the commencement of this training Aberdeen was 
selected, and there the six Admiralty trawlers were to 
assemble, together with H.M.S. JASON and CIRCE, those 
two gunboats having been selected by reason of the 
training and experience of their commanding officers in 
mine-sweeping. The first course at Aberdeen began on 
January 30, 1911, and ended by the middle of April, 
during which time twenty-eight skippers, twenty-seven 
second-hands, twenty deck-hands, twenty-one engineers, 
and twenty trimmers, had been recruited and trained. 
Thus the first batch of the Trawler Reserve was ob- 
tained. Commander Holland of the CIRCE afterwards 
reported that the class of men enrolled was very good, 
and much better than had been expected; they all 
took very keen interest in their work, and were amenable 
to discipline. The eight days' instruction included 
sweeping independently in pairs, reeving sweeps, wheeling 
and slipping the sweep, sweeping up dummy mines, and 
so on. 

At the beginning of April recruiting began at Grimsby, 
but the results were by no means encouraging. Not more 
than a dozen men volunteered, and not one of these was 
a skipper. There was no disguising the fact that Grimsby, 
which had been the birthplace of this Trawler Reserve 
scheme, and was also the home of the great fishing industry, 
showed itself very far from enthusiastic. There was 
something not quite as it should be. What was it ? 
Anyone acquainted with these rough, hearty fishermen 
knows that in many ways they are just delightful big 
children. If one man " throws his hand in," practically 
the whole crew will do the same. The trouble in this 
case began with the skippers, some of whom made what 
the seaman calls " a bit of a moan " over some apparent 


injustice. Most of their companions took up the same 
attitude, and the result was failure. It is only fair to 
state that there were defects in the scheme, which, con- 
sidering its novelty, was scarcely surprising. For instance, 
the Admiralty had made the age limit for skippers twenty- 
five to thirty- five. The Grimsby men objected to this as 
being too young, seeing that the best skippers in the port 
were much older than thirty-five. Another grievance 
was that the pay was not attractive. The Admiralty 
were quick to see where the trouble lay, and a number of 
modifications were devised to meet the difficulty. It 
was afterwards possible to smile at all this, since 
throughout the long war which was to follow no men 
did more gallant and persevering service in the mine- 
fields and on patrol than the Grimsby skippers and 
Grimsby crews. These men revealed themselves as no 
sea-lawyers, but the bravest of the brave. Time after 
time a Grimsby trawler foundered on a mine, and the 
first thing that the sole survivor did on getting back to 
his port was to sign on for a mine-sweeping job. And as 
to the skippers' ages well, many of the best men were of 
the same age as some of the best Admirals ! 

Down to the autumn of 1911 the recruiting and training 
went on. In addition to Aberdeen and Grimsby, the 
fishing ports of Hull, Fleetwood, and Milford were visited. 
From these there were obtained 52 skippers, 94 second- 
hands, 198 deck-hands, 88 enginemen, and 94 trimmers ; a 
total of 526. 

This was the nucleus of what was to develop into a 
great Auxiliary Navy. But it was patent that its useful- 
ness would depend very considerably on the rapidity 
with which it could be mobilised at the time of war's 
approach. The sphere of utility for these trawlers, as 
conceived in the mind of the Admiralty, was not to act 
as fleet sweepers that is, sweeping ahead of the Grand 
Fleet. For this purpose the trawlers were too slow of 
speed, and a number of old gunboats were already ear- 
marked for that duty. But it was for clearing the 
entrances to harbours and fairways that the trawlers were 
to be relied on. The moment war was declared the enemy 
might lay his mines off the entrances to our East Coast 
ports ; perhaps he would not even wait for the declara- 
tion of war. Unless ships were to be either blown up or 


virtually blockaded, sweepers must be ready to work 
almost at once. 

The Admiralty realised in November of this same year 
that there should be appointed for each of these trawler- 
ports a mobilising officer, whose duty was laid down. 
Just before the outbreak of war this officer would, on 
receipt of a telegram ordering him to take up his mobilisa- 
tion appointment, proceed to his assigned port. There 
he would receive in due course another telegram ordering 
him to take up so many trawlers, call on the Registrar of 
the Royal Naval Reserve for that port, and warn him to 
prepare crews for these craft. The Registrar of Shipping 
and Seamen would furnish the mobilising officer with a list 
of the trawlers in port, or likely to arrive very shortly. 
Arrangements would be made to have these craft prepared 
for sea, coaled, and filled up with water, oil, and provisions 
to last seven days. The owners were to take out all the 
fish, the ice, and the fishing-gear, excepting the warps. 
Having selected from the available trawlers those which 
were suitable, the mobilising officer was to give the skippers 
their charts and sailing orders, and away they would sail 
to their port. Having proceeded thither at full speed, 
the trawler's skipper would then draw his special sweep- 
ing stores, such as his kite, White Ensign, flags, cone, 
and signal book, and be informed to which group of 
sweepers he was to belong, as well as the name of the 
parent ship of the officer in charge of his group. He 
would also be given a number, which was to be painted 
n white figures two feet long on each bow, and his ship 
would in future be known officially by that number. 
His fishing letters and number were to be painted out. A 
naval petty officer would also join the trawler in order 
to assist the skipper with advice, especially in purely 
naval matters, in signalling and keeping accounts ; and this 
petty officer would be third in command. By this time 
the ship would also have been painted a navy grey and 
be flying the White Ensign ; she would, in fact, have 
changed her character from that of a peaceful fisherman 
to a man-of-war. 

Mention must not be omitted of the arrangement 
which had been made, also prior to the war, between the 
Admiralty and the trawler-owners. It was realised that 
in the event of hostilities the fishing industry would, 


except in certain areas removed from the theatre of 
operations, automatically stop ; that the trawlers would 
have to remain in port, and therefore the owners would 
cease to receive dividends. The Admiralty scheme, by 
taking over these vessels in war-time at a certain rate of 
hire, was to be considered as offering a sound business 
proposition. Before the war an arrangement existed 
between certain owners and the naval authorities whereby 
such vessels would be chartered in priority of any other 
trawlers in the event of hostilities. The owners agreed that 
as soon as possible after receipt of notice they would hire 
their vessels to the Navy upon terms which had already 
been arranged. The payment in respect of hire was to 
be 12 per cent, per annum on the then value of the trawler. 
The first cost was to be ascertained by valuing the hull 
and outfit at 18 per ton of the gross tonnage on the 
Board of Trade certificate, and the machinery and boilers 
at 40 per nominal horse-power. This estimated first 
cost was to be depreciated at the rate of 4 per cent, for 
every year of the trawler's age ; the class of vessel aimed 
at was craft not more than ten years old, and able to 
carry enough coal to steam at least 1,000 miles at 8 knots. 
In the month of March 1912, a number of retired naval 
officers were selected to take charge of mine-sweeping 
trawlers at Sheerness, the Firth of Forth, Dover, Ports- 
mouth, Portland, Devonport, and Milford. As soon as 
these officers should receive a telegram ordering them to 
mobilise, they were to proceed to their respective ports. 
They were not, of course, the mobilising officers, but were 
to go to sea in charge of their respective groups of sweepers. 
In July of that year a further number were also selected 
as mobilising officers at Aberdeen, Hull, Grimsby, Milford 
Haven, North Shields, Granton (near Leith), and Fleet- 
wood ; and, in order to leave no loophole for misunder- 
standings, these officers were required to undergo an 
annual course of three days at their appointed ports with 
a view to getting in touch with the Registrars of the Royal 
Naval Reserve, the local harbour authorities, and trawler- 
owners, and in order to become acquainted generally with 
the docks and locality. Prior to these three days, they 
were to visit the Admiralty for one day each year 
in order to confer with the Inspecting Captain of Mine- 


It will be seen with what meticulous care the Navy had 
prepared against one particular form of warfare which it 
was suspected the enemy would pursue. For years these 
preparations had continued, but they were not complete. 
In September of 1912 another stage was reached, when 
an allocation of mine-sweeping trawlers was made right 
away down the coast from Scotland along the North Sea, 
down the Channel, up the Irish Sea to Milford Haven, and 
even as far west as Queenstown. In November there were 
sixty-four trawlers on the Admiralty list, each allocated to 
one of these ports, each with its skipper and crew trained 
for sweeping, and with a naval officer ready to take 
charge of a group whenever ordered to leave his retire- 
ment and go to sea. The crew was to consist of the 
skipper, second-hand, four deck-hands, two enginemen, 
and one trimmer, in addition to one naval petty officer, 
whose knowledge of signalling would be found not the 
least useful of his qualifications. 

By August 1914 the Trawler Section had so far ad- 
vanced that there were already eighty-two trawlers under 
the above arrangement, to be based on Cromarty, the Firth 
of Forth, North Shields, the Humber, Harwich, the 
Nore, Dover, Portsmouth, Portland, and Devonport. 
In addition to these eighty-two fishing trawlers, there 
were, of course, the six Admiralty-owned trawlers already 
mentioned, as well as the surveying trawlers Esther and 
Daisy which appeared in the Navy List, for some years 
before the war, as surveying-vessels. It was intended 
that on the outbreak of war these two should sweep at the 
Nore, but as soon as they were relieved by hired trawlers 
they were to proceed, the one to Harwich and the other 
to the Humber. Thus the commanding officers of both 
the Daisy and Esther were each able to take charge of a 
unit of detached trawlers. 

The Admiralty also owned the trawlers Javelin, Jasper, 
Janus, and had chartered some time prior to the war the 
trawlers Alnmouth, Xylopia, Daniel Stroud, and Osborne 
Stroud. These had been employed in peace-time in tow- 
ing targets, and were at that period commanded by war- 
rant officers of the Royal Navy. Nor was the Admiralty 
ignorant of the mining preparations which Germany had 
been making stealthily and determinedly during the 
years of peace. It was known that practically every 

CH. vi] READY FOR WAR 267 

German man-of-war, from battleship to torpedo-boat, 
had been fitted to carry mines ; and for a long time the 
personnel of the German torpedo- craft had been trained 
in mine-laying. It was known, also, -that our future enemy 
possessed over 10,000 mines, chiefly of the horned type, 
ready to be scattered at our very doors at the earliest 
moment. The naval authorities were prepared for this. 
On the other hand, whilst it was realised that the mine 
would be a serious menace, no one could have foreseen 
that it would usurp to itself, in conjunction with the sub- 
marine, the task of carrying out the main operations of 
the enemy by sea. 

Such, then, was the situation at the outbreak of hos- 
tilities. The country possessed a defensive organisation 
when the first act of warfare by sea occurred in the laying 
of the minefield off the Suffolk coast by the enemy. This 
organisation had taken just seven years to create and 
to perfect. During those years great difficulties had been 
overcome, for unsuspected obstacles were continually arising. 
To have created a mine-sweeping fleet ready for service 
as a reserve force with a minimum of cost to the country 
was indeed no mean achievement. It is not possible to 
realise how shipping could have gone up and down the 
North Sea as it did during the first few months of the war 
if it had not been for this trawler organisation. Within 
ten days of the declaration of hostilities there were 100 of 
these fishing- vessels serving under the White Ensign. 
They kept a channel up the coast swept clear for tramp 
steamer and man-of-war alike. They had come straight 
in from their fishing-grounds, landed their catch and their 
gear, coaled, turned round, and away they had gone to sea 
again, with the least possible delay, to begin one of the 
most dangerous occupations which, in the whole history 
of marine warfare, has ever been devised by the wit of 
man. To these men the country owes an immeasurable 



THE Germans must have realised at an early stage in the 
war that they could not hope seriously to interrupt British 
sea-borne traffic, immense in volume and widely distri- 
buted, with the comparatively few men-of-war and armed 
merchantmen which they had operating on the trade 
routes. The ultimate fate of those enemy vessels was also 
certain in view of the large forces which the Allied fleets 
were able to employ in hunting them down. The Germans 
may also have been impressed by the confident statements 
issued by the British Admiralty from time to time as to 
the flow of traffic, and must have foreseen that month by 
month the Allies, drawing from the inexhaustible resources 
of the sea, would continue to grow in strength, while Ger- 
many and the Powers associated with her would suffer 
from increasing exhaustion due to the slow but relentless 
pressure of superior sea-power. Before hostilities had been 
in progress three months, there were indications that the 
German naval authorities were searching for some means 
by which they could strike an effective blow at the mer- 
chant shipping of the Allies, and the United Kingdom in 
particular, without endangering the existence of the High 
Sea Fleet. 

The whole civilised world was shocked, towards the end 
of October 1914, by the story of the barbarous attack by a 
German submarine upon the French s.s. Amiral Ganteaume, 
crowded with Belgian refugees, about forty of whom were 
killed. 1 A charitable view was at first taken of the 
incident, it being assumed that this attempt to sink a 
vessel engaged on an errand of mercy was due to the ill- 
considered act of an individual naval officer. That opinion 

1 Subsequent examination of one of the damaged lifeboats of the Amiral 
Oanteaume led to the discovery of the fragment of a German torpedo. 



had, however, to be abandoned subsequently in face of 
incidents which indicated that the Germans were defin- 
itely testing the suitability of the submarine for cutting 
the sea communications of the Allies. 

Six days before this incident, on October 20th, the British 
steamship Glitra, 866 tons, had been attacked in the North 
Sea. That ship, which was old, slow, and, of course, un- 
armed, left Grangemouth, at the head of the Firth of 
Forth, for Stavanger on October 18th with a general cargo ; 
the crew numbered seventeen. She followed the route laid 
down by the Admiralty, steaming at about 8 knots. When 
some fourteen miles west-south-west from Skudesnaes on 
the Norwegian coast, at noon on the 21st, she unsuspect- 
ingly hoisted the signal for a pilot, for no suspicious vessel 
was in view. The response was instant. But as the 
motor pilot-boat approached a low, long object, about 
three miles to the seaward, was observed by the Glitra's 
master (Mr. L. A. Johnston) and chief officer, who were 
on the bridge. It proved to be Ul7 (Oberleutnant z. S. 
Feldkirchner). The pilot-boat turned back, evidently 
fearing trouble, and the master of the Glitra altered course 
more to the north, in order to increase the distance be- 
tween himself and the submarine. He had no reason to 
anticipate molestation by the submarine, a thing unheard 
of hitherto. The submarine, which had 5 knots superior 
speed, followed the Glitra, subsequently describing a com- 
plete circle round the defenceless merchant ship, and 
carrying out a leisurely inspection. A gun mounted abaft 
the conning-tower of the submarine was then fired, and 
on the Glitra stopping, the Germans approached within 
a ship's length and launched a collapsible boat. An officer 
and two men forthwith boarded the merchantman. They 
were fully armed and evidently in ruthless mood. The 
master of the Glitra was immediately ordered off the 
bridge, the German officer placing the muzzle of a re- 
volver against his neck and excitedly warning him in 
passable English that he would be allowed ten minutes 
in which to get his crew away in the boats, and that then 
his ship would be sunk. 

While preparations were being made to leave the ship, 
the Germans covered the crew with revolvers, and two 
guns mounted in the submarine were trained threaten- 
ingly on the vessel. Captain Johnston and his men 


were refused permission to collect their clothes and other 
belongings, and the Germans, having seized the ship's 
papers, lowered the British flag, which was torn to 
pieces and trampled underfoot with maniacal rage. 
These actions were indicative of the spirit of the enemy's 
seamen on entering upon the new campaign. As soon as 
the crew had taken to the boats, the Germans transferred 
to the submarine the charts and compasses of the Glitra, 
without a word of apology for such acts of theft. In the 
meantime, the commanding officer of the Ul7 had sent 
an engineer into the engine-room, evidently to open the 
valves, for shortly afterwards the ship began to settle 
down, her late crew being helpless spectators. The sub- 
marine towed the crowded boats for about a quarter of 
an hour, and, having then cast them loose with direc- 
tions to the men to row towards the land, returned 
to complete the destruction of the Glitra. The pilot-boat 
subsequently came to the rescue of the abandoned sea- 
men and towed the boats until the Norwegian torpedo- 
boat Hai appeared. This craft eventually landed Captain 
Johnston and his men at Skudesnaes, from which place 
they were taken on by a passenger steamer to Stavanger. 
At the time this action of the Germans was regarded as 
merely an isolated outrage of a despicable character, but 
later events contradicted that impression. That the 
officer commanding U17 had acted on instructions received 
from superior authority, and that a definite policy of attack 
was being tested before its adoption on a larger scale, was 
afterwards suggested by the fate of the s.s. Malachite (718 
tons). This vessel left Liverpool on November 19th for 
Havre with a general cargo. She was about four miles 
north by west from Cape la H&ve on the afternoon of the 
23rd when she sighted U21, commanded by Kapitan- 
Leutnant Otto Hersing, about two miles away on the star- 
board beam. Warned by a shot fired across his bow, the 
British master (Mr. Stephen Masson) stopped his engines. 
The submarine then closed in, and particulars of the 
voyage and the cargo were demanded in English. Question 
and answer were shouted from deck to deck. The Germans, 
realising that they had the British seamen at their mercy, 
then hoisted their ensign, and directed the master to 
carry all his papers to the enemy ship. When the crew were 
taking to the boats, the officer remarked, as though 

CH. vn] U21'S TEST CRUISE 271 

ashamed of his conduct, that he was sorry he could not 
accommodate the men on board the submarine, but " war 
is war." Meantime the master had asked permission to 
retain the logbook and the ship's articles. The request was 
refused. When the men were clear of the ship, the sub- 
marine began firing at the Malachite at a range of about 
200 yards with a gun mounted abaft the conning-tower. 
As the boats were being rowed towards Havre, which was 
reached the same evening, the Germans were still firing 
on the Malachite, and incidentally on the German flag, 
which the doomed vessel continued to fly. It was after- 
wards ascertained that the ship remained afloat and on 
fire for twenty-four hours. 

Three days later the same submarine encountered the 
Primo (1,366 tons), which was on passage from Jarrow-on- 
Tyne to Rouen with coal. She was six miles north-west by 
north from Cape d'Antifer when the submarine, flying no 
flag, appeared. As in the case of the Glitra and Malachite, 
the attack was made by daylight, the Primo falling in with 
the submarine at about 8 a.m. The captain of the sub- 
marine adopted the same procedure as before, apologising 
shamefacedly to the master (Mr. C. A. Whincop) for 
the trouble caused, remarking that " This is war." The 
master and crew, cast adrift in their boats, endeavoured 
to reach a steamer which they saw at some distance, but 
on hearing the firing of the submarine directed on the 
Primo, that vessel sheered off in order to avoid sharing the 
Primo 's fate. The seamen then rowed towards Fecamp, 
and about two hours later were picked up by the s.s. 
Clermiston and put ashore. The captain of the U21 ex- 
perienced considerable difficulty in sinking the Primo. 
Gunfire failed to achieve the purpose. When Captain 
Whincop and his men last saw the vessel, she was still 
afloat with the submarine standing by. Two days later 
various vessels reported her as on fire and adrift. 
The French naval authorities at Boulogne, learning that 
an abandoned ship was afloat, a danger to traffic, dis- 
patched a division of torpedo-boats on the last day of the 
month to carry out a search. According to a report from 
the Vice-Consul at Tre*port, the battered Primo was 
ultimately sunk by a French torpedo-boat. 

The sinking of these two merchant ships was the result 
of the first cruise for commerce-destruction carried out 



in the Channel by Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing. He was 
dispatched, there is every reason to believe, to test 
the adaptability of the submarine to a campaign on mer- 
chant shipping, being chosen for this mission by reason of 
the success which he had already achieved in the North 
Sea. About the same time rumours were current of a 
German plan to establish submarine bases in Flanders, 
which had recently passed into the enemy's possession; 
this intention, however, did not materialise until the fol- 
lowing spring, and no other merchant ship was destroyed 
before the close of the year, though one vessel had a 
narrow escape. On December llth, the Colchester (1,209 
tons), a passenger vessel of the Great Eastern Railway 
Company, with a speed of about 13 knots, was crossing from 
Rotterdam to Parkeston Quay, Harwich. When some 
twenty-two miles from the Hook of Holland, at 8.20 a.m., 
she saw a submarine on the starboard bow steering approxi- 
mately south-west by west. The master (Mr. F. Lawrence), 
being at first doubtful of the nationality of the stranger 
which was closing on his ship, ported his helm, bringing 
the submarine on the starboard bow. The submarine 
then turned to starboard and steamed direct for the 
Colchester, at the same time rising well out of the water. 
The Germans began to signal, but Captain Lawrence was 
too busy watching his pursuer to pay attention to 
signals, and in any case he was determined to spare no 
effort to escape. As the submarine turned towards his 
ship, he ported his helm again so as to bring the enemy 
astern of him. His seaman's instinct prompted him to 
turn out all the stokers, and the fires were double-banked 
to obtain the utmost speed. In these exciting conditions 
the chase continued for about twenty minutes. Finding 
the British vessel was drawing away from her, the sub- 
marine at last steered away south-west. The Admiralty 
came to the conclusion that the submarine was a German 
vessel, and commended the master of the Colchester for his 
spirited action. 

These incidents indicated the policy which the enemy 
had determined to adopt. The High Sea Fleet dared not 
face a general action against superior forces ; the whole 
Austrian Navy was held firmly in the Adriatic ; the 
enemy cruisers armed merchantmen as well as men-of- 
war had been nearly all rounded up, and enemy com- 


merce had been swept off the seas. Driven to desperation 
by the complete failure to interfere with the transport of 
the British Army or to interrupt seriously British ocean 
commerce, the German authorities had searched round for 
some method of striking a vital blow at the one Power 
which, encompassed by the sea, they could not reach 
with their army or navy. When the war opened Ger- 
many possessed only twenty-eight submarines ; the oldest 
of these craft, eighteen in number, were built between 
1905 and 1912, but ten of them, U19 to U28, of later and 
improved construction, were thoroughly reliable vessels. 

During the early phase of hostilities, the German General 
Staff was encouraged by events, judging by the comments 
in the German newspapers, to believe that, with the aid 
of the submarine, a war of attrition could be pursued 
until at last the two fighting fleets the Grand Fleet and 
the High Sea Fleet stood at something approaching 
parity in strength. As early as September 5th, the 
light cruiser PATHFINDER had been sunk at the entrance to 
the Firth of Forth by U21. Later in the same month a 
single submarine, U9, under the command of Otto von 
Weddigen, had destroyed in rapid succession the armoured 
cruisers HOGUE, CRESSY, and ABOUKIR, with heavy loss of 
life. These successes produced a great effect on German 
opinion, and it was intensified when, on October 15th, 
the cruiser HAWKE was sunk in the North Sea. Orders 
must almost immediately have been given to a certain 
number of submarine commanders to prove whether 
U-boats might be employed against merchant shipping. 
The incidents already recorded brought conviction to the 
German Naval Staff that submarines could, at one and 
the same time, wage war against the British Navy and 
the British Mercantile Marine, thus week by week wearing 
down the essential sea power of the British people. 

The attack upon commerce involved the infraction of 
international law and a denial of the common dictates of 
humanity, since submarines, owing to their limited 
accommodation, could not become " places of safety " 
for the crews of the ships destroyed. But those were not 
matters to trouble the Germans, ready to believe that the 
end a German victory would justify the means. . The 
subsequent action of the German Government and the 
character of its pronouncements support the impression 


that the belief existed that the mere threat of a sub- 
marine campaign, supported by a comparatively few ruth- 
less acts, would intimidate British seamen, with the result 
that the seas would be cleared of British shipping, thus 
preparing the foundations for the conclusion of a German 
peace. By that time it had become apparent to the 
German authorities that their military machine had failed 
to realise the hopes which rested in it within the limit of 
time laid down by the General Staff. Germany had become 
involved, not in a short campaign resembling those waged 
in 1864, in 1866, and in 1870-1, but, owing to the inter- 
vention of British sea power, in a long and exhausting war, 
the issue of which was uncertain. They had under-esti- 
mated the influence of sea power, and they hailed the 
submarine as offering them an escape from an exceedingly 
embarrassing situation. 

In these circumstances, the submarine, with all it im- 
plied of inhuman terrorism, was adopted as giving the 
promise of an early peace on Germany's own terms. The 
enemy's growing intention was revealed before the end 
of the year in an interview with Grand-Admiral von 
Tirpitz, then Naval Secretary, which was published in the 
New York Sun on December 22nd. Referring to the 
possibilities of a submarine campaign, he declared, " It 
is difficult to draw conclusions just yet, but it is unques- 
tionable that submarines are a new and powerful weapon 
of naval warfare." At the same time he confessed and 
the confession indicates the restrictions which it was then 
believed limited the activity of these craft " One must 
not forget that submarines do their best work along the 
coast and in shallow waters, and that for this reason the 
Channel is particularly suitable for this craft. The suc- 
cesses which have been achieved hitherto do not warrant 
the conclusion that the day of large ships is past. It is 
still questionable whether submarines would have made 
such a fine show in other waters. We have learnt a good 
deal about submarines in this war. We thought that 
they would not be able to remain much longer than three 
days away from their base, as the crews would then neces- 
sarily be exhausted. But we soon learnt that the larger 
type of these boats can navigate round the whole of 
England, and can remain absent as long as a fortnight. 
All that is necessary is that the crew gets an opportunity 

CH. vii] U19 AND THE " DUE WARD " 275 

of resting and recuperating, and this opportunity can be 
afforded the men by taking the boat to the shallow and 
still waters, where it can rest on the bottom and, remain- 
ing still in the water, the crew can have a good sleep. 
This is only possible where the water is comparatively 
shallow." He put the further query, " What would 
America say if Germany should declare a submarine war 
against all enemy trading vessels ? " 

That this was something more than a mere academic 
expression of professional views became clear in the light 
of later events. After the appearance of this interview, 
which was no doubt intended to test public opinion in the 
United States and other neutral countries, a period of 
nearly a month occurred, during which no British vessel 
was attacked by a submarine. It was soon apparent 
that the enemy had devoted attention to the study of the 
problem which the new policy, directly foreshadowed by 
Grand- Admiral von Tirpitz, presented. German sub- 
marines were provided with bombs to be used in circum- 
stances in which such comparatively cheap and light 
weapons could be employed, thus economising the expendi- 
ture of torpedoes, of which each vessel could carry only a 
few. At this stage of the war, therefore, the German sub- 
marines, particularly susceptible to surface attack owing 
to the vulnerability of their hulls, depended for offensive 
purposes on the bomb, and in the last resort on the tor- 
pedo, though some of them were provided with light guns. 

On January 21st, 1915, in rainy but clear weather, the 
s.s. Durward (1,301 tons) was two days out from Leith, 
on passage to Rotterdam, when the chief officer, who 
was on the bridge, reported to the master (Mr. John 
Wood) that a suspicious submarine was about Ij points 
before the steamer's starboard beam. On going on deck 
and looking through his glasses, ^Captain Wood saw that the 
strange ship was flying the signal to stop instantly. The 
submarine was only about a mile and a half distant and 
was showing no colours ; she was steaming towards the 
Durward on an opposite course. The British ship was 
travelling at about 12 knots. Captain Wood at once 
determined to ignore the signal, and, going into the 
engine-room, gave directions to put on all possible speed. 
When he returned to the deck, he saw that the submarine 
had altered course and was heading for the Durward's 


starboard side, at the same time flying the signal " Stop, 
or I fire." Within half an hour of the first sighting of 
the enemy craft, the submarine, in spite of the best endea- 
vours of the Durward's engine-room staff, had managed to 
get under the ship's starboard quarter, and shortly after- 
wards a warning rocket was fired. Captain Wood realised 
that further effort to escape was impossible, and stopped 
his engines. The submarine proved to be U19 (which had 
recently been rammed by H.M.S. BADGER), and the conduct 
of the commanding officer, Oberleutnant Kolbe, towards 
the British seamen merits being recalled in view of later 
events. In reply to a signal, the chief officer of the Dur- 
ward and three men of the crew carried the ship's papers on 
board the submarine. As soon as the boat got alongside 
the enemy vessel, a group of German seamen put off, them- 
selves using the Durwctrd's boat, and an officer, speaking 
in good English, ordered Captain Wood to get everyone 
into the boats as quickly as possible. After the crew 
had left and while the British master was on board U19, 
to which he had been taken, the boarding-party placed 
two bombs against the ship's side. About twenty minutes 
afterwards explosions occurred, the vessel beginning at 
once to settle down in the water, to the grief and con- 
sternation of the British seamen. The German commander 
towed the two British boats for about half an hour in a 
northerly direction. Casting them adrift, he went back 
to the Durward, subsequently returning to give a further 
tow until he was within one mile north of the Maas light- 
ship, as though anxious to do what he could for members 
of the same great brotherhood of the sea while conform- 
ing to the orders he had received from his superiors. From 
first to last the British seamen had been well treated, and, 
having been placed in a position of comparative safety, 
they were left to their own resources. Eventually a 
Dutch pilot steamer took them on board and towed the 
two boats as far as the Hook of Holland. The craft were 
returned later on to their owners, and, apart from the 
loss of the ship and the crews' effects, the incident was 
marked by no exhibition of Prussianism. 

On the last day of January no fewer than seven ships 
were attacked, and only one, the Graphic (1,871 tons), 
escaped. Of the six vessels which were destroyed, three 
were intercepted by the enemy outside Liverpool, point- 


ing to a carefully prepared plan of attack by the submarine 
under Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing to test the possibilities of 
virtually blockading a great commercial port. At 10. 30 a. m. 
the Ben Cruachan (3,092 tons ; master, Mr. D. W. Heggie) 
was sunk by bombs, the crew, who had taken to the two 
lifeboats, being directed to steer towards the sailing trawler 
Margaret, by which they were landed at Fleetwood. About 
an hour later the same submarine, U21, fell in with the 
Linda Blanche, a small steamer of 369 tons. The pro- 
cedure was the same as in the case of the Ben Cruachan, 
the crew being advised to steer towards the trawler Niblet, 
by which they were taken to Fleetwood. When the 
boarding-party reached the Linda Blanche, some of the 
Germans gave cigars and cigarettes to the British crew, as 
though to indicate that they did not care for their work. 
At 1.30 p.m. the s.s. Kilcoan was sunk. The mate, who was 
on deck in charge of this little ship of 456 tons, shouted 
down to the master (Mr. James Maneely) to come on 
deck, as a submarine wished to speak to him. On going 
up, Captain Maneely found the submarine close to the 
starboard side, with a machine-gun trained on the Kilcoan. 
Her hull was painted a dull white, the conning-tower 
being of a darker colour. Ten men stood on the deck of 
the enemy craft, most of them armed with revolvers, but 
two carrying rifles. In face of this menacing exhibition, 
what could the British seaman do but comply with any 
demands ? Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing shouted in English, 
" Get into your boats." The men promptly launched the 
starboard and port boats, and all hands took their places. 
The boats were then ordered alongside the submarine, and 
the crew were directed to get on board. The master was 
asked peremptorily for his papers and, as he had not brought 
them with him, he was sent for them. Four fully armed 
German seamen, carrying an explosive bomb fitted with 
about two yards of fuse, accompanied him. The Germans 
remained on deck while the master went below to obtain 
the ship's certificate of register and other papers, which 
he handed over to a petty officer. The logbook was saved, 
Captain Maneely suggesting in his answers to questions 
that he did not know where it was. The enemy, however, 
secured the ship's ensign and the Union Jack. 

In the meantime, one of the German seamen had fixed 
the bomb amidship and set the fuse alight. The skipper 


and the boarding-party then left the Kilcoan to return to 
the submarine. While they were on their way back, the 
bomb exploded, tearing a hole in the port side of the 
steamer. The members of the crew of the British ship, 
still on board the submarine and wondering what their 
fate would be, were ordered back into their boats. Then 
occurred an unexpected diversion. In the distance the 
German officer discerned the steamer Gladys from Liverpool 
to Douglas. He made off towards her and directed her 
captain to pick up the Kilcoaris men. He then returned 
to the Kilcoan and fired at that vessel in order to hasten 
her destruction. The submarine at length disappeared, 
and late that night the British seamen's adventure ended 
when they were landed at Fleetwood without further 
mishap. On the same day the Graphic, twenty-two miles 
from Liverpool Bar light-vessel, was chased, but, thanks 
to her speed, succeeded in making her escape. 

In the meantime, another submarine U20 was busy 
farther south, pursuing a policy of torpedoing ships at sight, 
no warning of any kind being given. The Shaw Savill liner 
Tokomaru (6,084 tons) was sunk seven miles north-west 
from Havre light- vessel, and the Ikaria (4,335 tons) nearly 
twenty miles farther away, both on January 30th. The 
former vessel was on her way from Wellington, New Zea- 
land, and Tenerife. At nine o'clock on the morning of that 
day, in fine, clear weather, the sea being smooth, she was 
slowly steaming towards Havre looking for a pilot. The 
master (Mr. Francis Greene) had no suspicion of the menace 
which threatened him. He was on the bridge, with the 
second and third mates, an A.B. being on the lookout for- 
ward. Suddenly an explosion occurred on the port side, 
sending the water up over the bridge and filling the stoke- 
hold. The ship at once listed heavily and commenced to 
sink. It was evident that the submarine was watching the 
effect of its torpedo, for a periscope was seen by Captain 
Greene three cables away. The commander of the sub- 
marine, his act of savagery consummated, then disappeared, 
caring nothing as to the fate of the British sailors. The 
experience of the Tokomaru 's crew was one which no sea- 
man had hitherto suffered, but nevertheless discipline was 
maintained and all the hands succeeded in getting into 
the boats the captain going over the side last in accord- 
ance with tradition. Within an hour the men were 


safely on board the French mine-sweeper Saint Pierre. 
Before being landed at Havre, Captain Greene and his 
companions saw their ship disappear beneath the 

Shortly after noon on the same day the Leyland liner 
Ikaria, which left Santos and other South American ports for 
Havre, stopped off Cape la Heve to pick up a pilot. The 
ship still had slight headway on her when the master (Mr. 
Matthew Robertson), who was on the bridge, saw the wake 
of a torpedo, fired, there is no reason to doubt, by U20. 
There was no time to use the helm, for almost immediately 
afterwards the vessel was struck on the port side abreast 
of No. 1 hatch and began to sink gradually by the head. 
The boats were ordered out and the officers and men 
proceeded on board a tug which happened, fortunately, 
to be close by. About an hour later, the Ikaria being still 
afloat, Captain Robertson, with some of his men, boarded 
her. He came to the conclusion that the ship could be 
saved. She was only about twenty-five miles from 
Havre, the sea was smooth and there was no wind. With 
the assistance of a tug, the Ikaria was got into Havre and 
berthed alongside Quai d'Escale, where she remained 
until midday on January 31st. The port authorities, 
becoming nervous lest she should sink and thus impede 
traffic, removed her to the west of the Avant Port, to- 
wards the breakwater, where she sank on February 2nd, 
leaving her afterpart showing. 

There is no reason to doubt that the General Steam 
Navigation Company's steamer Oriole (1,489 tons) met 
her fate also at the hands of U20, but her end was mysteri- 
ous. The Oriole left London for Havre on January 29th, 
and passed the s.s. London Trader off Dungeness on the 
afternoon of the following day. The distance from Dunge- 
ness to Havre being from ninety to ninety-five miles, the 
Oriole should have reached the latter port about ten o'clock 
that evening. She was never heard of again. Later in the 
year, Mr. Justice Bailhache had to decide in the High 
Court the fate of the vessel. In the course of his judg- 
ment, he told of two pathetic incidents. On February 6th, 
two lifebuoys were found on the coast between Hastings 
and Dymchurch, a little seaside place to the north of 
Dungeness. The name Oriole was painted upon them. In 
the following month on March 20th a Guernsey fisher- 


man picked out of the sea an ordinary beer-bottle con- 
taining a piece of paper. On the bottle being broken, 
the paper was found to be an envelope embossed with 
the name of the General Steam Navigation Company, 
and written in pencil was the message, "Oriole tor- 
pedoed sinking." The widow of the ship's carpenter 
identified the handwriting as that of her husband. After 
considering all the evidence, Mr. Justice Bailhache came to 
the conclusion that the only reasonable explanation of the 
disappearance of the Oriole was that she was torpedoed 
by the enemy, the master (Mr. William G. Dale) and his 
crew of twenty men perishing. The story has an historical 
interest since, whereas the Glitra was the first vessel to 
be sunk by a submarine on October 20th, 1914 the 
Tokomaru and the Ikaria were the first to be torpedoed 
without warning, while the Oriole 9 destroyed in the same 
barbarous way, was the first British loss which involved 
the death of the crew. Later events were to overshadow 
this tragedy of the war, presenting a picture of such large, 
dramatic, and terrible proportions that in a few months 
the story of the fate of these defenceless British seamen 
shrank into comparative oblivion. 

These first outbursts of terrorism by sea, though suc- 
ceeded by an interval of a fortnight during which no 
British vessel was sunk and only two were attacked, proved 
merely the preliminary acts to the declaration of a definite 
policy on the part of the enemy. Since the sinking of 
the Glitra the practicability of employing submarines in 
attacking commerce had been tested under varying con- 
ditions. The reports received had encouraged hopes that 
at last a means had been discovered for bringing the war 
to a speedy end. A good deal had been written of the 
submarine and its psychological influence, and the enemy 
embarked upon the new policy in full confidence that 
the war would be ended by the severance of the maritime 
communications of the British people, even if the mere 
announcement of the intention to employ submarines 
on a large scale in an attack upon British shipping 
did not break the courage of the officers and men. 
Accordingly, on February 4th, 1915, the following memo- 
randum was issued by the German Government: 

" Since the commencement of the present war Great 


Britain's conduct of commercial warfare against Germany 
has been a mockery of all the principles of the law 
of nations. While the British Government have by 
several orders declared that their naval forces should 
be guided by the stipulations of the Declaration of Lon- 
don, they have in reality repudiated this declaration in 
the most essential points, notwithstanding the fact that 
their own delegates at the Maritime Conference of London 
acknowledged its acts as forming part of existing inter- 
national law. The British Government have placed a 
number of articles on the contraband list which are not 
at all, or only very indirectly, capable of use in warfare, 
and consequently cannot be treated as contraband either 
under the Declaration of London or under the generally 
acknowledged rules of international law. 

" In addition, they have in fact obliterated the dis- 
tinction between absolute and conditional contraband 
by confiscating all articles of conditional contraband 
destined for Germany, whatever may be the port where 
these articles are to be unloaded, and without regard 
to whether they are destined for uses of war or peace. 
They have not even hesitated to violate the Declaration of 
Paris, since their naval forces have captured on neutral 
ships German property which was not contraband of war. 
Furthermore, they have gone further than their own orders 
respecting the Declaration of London, and caused numerous 
German subjects capable of bearing arms to be taken from 
neutral ships and made prisoners of war. 

" Finally, they have declared the North Sea in its whole 
extent to be the seat of war, thereby rendering difficult 
and extremely dangerous, if not impossible, all navigation 
on the high seas between Scotland and Norway, so that 
they have in a way established a blockade of neutral coasts 
and ports, which is contrary to the elementary principles 
of generally accepted international law. Clearly all these 
measures are part of a plan to strike not only at the Ger- 
man military operations, but also at the economic system 
of Germany, and in the end to deliver the whole German 
people to reduction by famine, by intercepting legitimate 
neutral commerce by methods contrary to international 

" The neutral Powers have in the main acquiesced in 
the measures of the British Government ; in particular 


they have not been successful in securing the release by the 
British Government of the German subjects and German 
merchandise illegally taken from their vessels. To a cer- 
tain extent they have even contributed towards the 
execution of the measures adopted by England in defiance 
of the principle of the freedom of the seas by prohibiting 
the export and transit of goods destined for peaceable 
purposes in Germany, thus evidently yielding to pressure 
by England. 

" The German Government have in vain called the 
attention of the neutral Powers to the fact that Germany 
must seriously question whether it can any longer adhere 
to the stipulations of the Declaration of London, hitherto 
strictly observed by it, in case England continues to 
adhere to its practice, and the neutral Powers persist in 
looking with indulgence upon all these violations of 
neutrality to the detriment of Germany. Great Britain 
invokes the vital interest of the British Empire which 
are at stake in justification of its violations of the law of 
nations, and the neutral Powers appear to be satisfied 
with theoretical protests, thus actually admitting the 
vital interests of a belligerent as a sufficient excuse for 
methods of waging war of whatever description. 

" The time has now come for Germany also to invoke 
such vital interests. It therefore finds itself under the 
necessity, to its regret, of taking military measures against 
England in retaliation of the practice followed by England. 
Just as England declared the whole North Sea between 
Scotland and Norway to be comprised within the seat of 
war, so does Germany now declare the waters surrounding 
Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole English 
Channel, to be comprised within the seat of war, and will 
prevent by all the military means at its disposal all navi- 
gation by the enemy in those waters. 

" To this end it will endeavour to destroy, after Feb- 
ruary 18th next, any merchant vessels of the enemy 
which present themselves at the seat of war above 
indicated, although it may not always be possible to avert 
the dangers which may menace persons and merchandise. 

" Neutral Powers are accordingly forewarned not to 
continue to entrust their crews, passengers, or merchandise 
to such vessels. Their attention is furthermore called to 
the fact that it is of urgency to recommend to their own 

CH. vn] THE "WAR ZONE" 283 

vessels to steer clear of these waters. It is true that the 
German Navy has received instructions to abstain from 
all violence against neutral vessels recognisable as such ; 
but in view of the hazards of war, and of the misuse of the 
neutral flag ordered by the British Government, it will 
not always be possible to prevent a neutral vessel from 
becoming the victim of an attack intended to be directed 
against a vessel of the enemy. It is expressly declared that 
navigation in waters north of the Shetland Islands is out- 
side the danger zone, as well as navigation in the eastern 
part of the North Sea and in a zone thirty miles wide 
along the Dutch coast. 

" The German Government announces this measure at 
a time permitting enemy and neutral ships to make the 
necessary arrangements to reach the ports situated at 
the seat of war. They hope that the neutral Powers will 
accord consideration to the vital interests of Germany 
equally with those of England, and will on their part assist 
in keeping their subjects and their goods far from the 
seat of war : the more so since they likewise have a great 
interest in seeing the termination at an early day of the 
war now raging. Berlin, February 4th, 1915." 

This declaration was epitomised in a proclamation of 
the same date, signed by Admiral von Pohl, Chief of the 
Admiralty Staff of the German Navy, in the following 
terms : 

"1. The waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, 
including the whole English Channel, are hereby declared 
to be a War Zone. On and after February 18th, 1915, every 
enemy merchant ship found in the said war zone will be 
destroyed without it being always possible to avert the 
dangers threatening the crews and passengers on that 

" 2. Even neutral ships are exposed to danger in the 
war zone, as in view of the misuse of neutral flags ordered 
on January 31st by the British Government, and of the 
accidents of naval war, it cannot always be avoided to 
strike even neutral ships in attacks that are directed on 
enemy ships. 

" 3. Northward navigation around the Shetland Islands, 
in the eastern waters of the North Sea, and in a strip of 


not less than thirty miles width from the northward coast, 
is in no danger. 


" Chief of the Admiralty Staff of the Navy. 


"February 4th, 1915." l 

To this announcement the British Government issued 
the following reply on March 1st, 1915 : 

" Germany has declared that the English Channel, the 
north and west coasts of France, and the waters round 
the British Isles are a ' war area,' and has officially notified 
that ' all enemy ships found in that area will be destroyed.' 
This is, in effect, a claim to torpedo at sight, without re- 
gard to the safety of the crew or passengers, any merchant 
vessel under any flag. As it is not in the power of the 
German Admiralty to maintain any surface craft in these 
waters, this attack can only be delivered by submarine 
agency. The law and custom of nations in regard to 
attacks on commerce have always presumed that the first 
duty of the captor of a merchant vessel is to bring it 
before a Prize Court, where it may be tried, where the 
regularity of the capture may be challenged, and where 
neutrals may recover their cargoes. 

" The sinking of prizes is, in itself, a questionable act, 
to be resorted to only in extraordinary circumstances, and 
after provision has been made for the safety of all the 
crew or passengers (if there are passengers on board). 
The responsibility for discriminating between neutral and 
enemy vessels, and between neutral and enemy cargo, 
obviously rests with the attacking ship, whose duty 
it is to verify the status and character of the vessel and 
cargo and to preserve all papers before sinking or even 
capturing it. So also is the humane duty of providing 
for the safety of the crews of merchant vessels, whether 
neutral or enemy, an obligation upon every belligerent. 
It is upon this basis that all previous discussions of the 
law for regulating warfare at sea have proceeded. 

" A German submarine, however, fulfils none of these 

1 A translation accompanying the dispatch of Ambassador Gerard to 
the Secretary of State, February 6th, 1915. This proclamation was pub- 
lished in the Reichsanzeiger of February 4th, 1915. (No. 29.) 


obligations. She enjoys no local command of the waters 
in which she operates. She does not take her captures 
within the jurisdiction of a Prize Court. She carries no 
prize crew which she can put on board a prize. She uses 
no effective means of discriminating between a neutral 
and an enemy vessel. She does not receive on board for 
safety the crew of the vessel she sinks. Her methods of 
warfare are, therefore, entirely outside the scope of any of 
the international instruments regulating operations against 
commerce in time of war. The German declaration sub- 
stitutes indiscriminate destruction for regulated capture. 

" Germany is adopting these methods against peaceful 
traders and non-combatant crews with the avowed object 
of preventing commodities of all kinds (including food 
for the civil population) from reaching or leaving the 
British Isles or Northern France. Her opponents are, 
therefore, driven to frame retaliatory measures in order 
in their turn to prevent commodities of any kind from 
reaching or leaving Germany. These measures will, how- 
ever, be enforced by the British and French Governments 
without risk to neutral ships or to neutral or non-com- 
batant life, and in strict observance of the dictates of 
humanity. ..." 

As already stated, it was evidently anticipated by the 
Germans that the announcement of their intention to 
employ submarines in an attack upon British shipping 
would break the courage of officers and men. That this 
expectation was ill-founded was proved by the continued 
flow of traffic to and from the British Isles, and the 
hardihood and seamanship which were exhibited during 
the next few weeks, not by one ship merely, but by many. 
Between the beginning of February and the end of May, 
123 vessels were molested by submarines, and more than 
half of them sixty-four to be exact managed to escape. 
Thirty-one of these ships, slow tramps though they were 
for the most part, owed their good fortune to their speed, 
of which the captains took the fullest advantage. At this 
period of the war the Germans were able to employ only a 
comparatively small number of submarines, and the surface 
speed of these was slow. After Grand- Admiral von Tirpitz 
had relinquished office some months later, he was severely 
criticised for having failed to provide a sufficient number 


of submarines of suitable types to insure the success of 
Germany's policy. Down to the end of April the loss of 
British tonnage, in comparison with the great volume 
operating in the waters surrounding the British Isles, 
proved a great disappointment to the eneiny, who was 
compelled to readjust his estimate of the character of the 
British seamen and their seamanlike qualities. 

The story of the Laertes (4,541 tons) provided a con- 
spicuous illustration of the spirit which animated the 
service. This ship (master, Mr. William H. Propert) left 
Liverpool on Sunday, February 7th, with a general cargo 
for Java, being under orders to call at Amsterdam. Captain 
Propert had been in charge of the ship for two voyages to 
the Far East, and had come to the conclusion that the 
vessel's best speed was llf knots. The vessel had a crew 
of fifty-one officers and men, including twenty-four Chinese. 
By four o'clock on the 10th, the Laertes reached a point 
about twelve miles from the Schouwen Bank lightship. The 
master and the second officer were on the bridge, a good 
lookout was being kept by men stationed on the poop 
and in the crow's-nest on the foremast, and the ship was 
making her best speed, when a submarine was seen about 
v three miles away bearing two points on the starboard 
bow. Captain Propert promptly ordered the helm to be 
starboarded one point, and almost at the same moment 
the submarine hoisted a signal directing the vessel to 
heave to, and threatening to fire if the order was not 
obeyed. Captain Propert ignored the signal and deter- 
mined to make an effort to escape ; the enemy submarine 
made straight for the Laertes at top speed. What happened 
can, perhaps, best be told in Captain Propert's own words : 

" My engines were well opened out, and I kept star- 
boarding my helm to avoid him, but he gained steadily ; 
and at 4.15 p.m., when he was about one point and a half 
on the starboard quarter, distant about three-quarters 
of a mile, he opened fire with a machine-gun, directing his 
fire on the bridge. I then starboarded further and brought 
him right astern, keeping the ship going at the highest 
speed she could make. Just at this time four or five 
single shots were heard, indicating that we were also 
being subjected to rifle fire. (Three bullets of different 
kinds were found later in various parts of the ship.) 


' This was about 4.20 p.m., and the firing was kept up 
continuously until about 5.15 p.m., the submarine being 
kept all the time as much astern as possible by the use of 
our helm. In order to deceive him, I also hoisted the 
answering pennant indicating that I had read his signals. 
This I did twice, but he did not appear to reduce his 
speed, and when he had come within less than a quarter 
of a mile from the Laertes, at about 5.15, he gave one 
continued discharge from the machine-gun and then fell 
astern. About six minutes later, when he was well astern 
slightly on our starboard quarter, I ported the helm one 
point and immediately noticed a torpedo coming straight 
for the ship about two cables off on the starboard quarter. 
My helm was at once put hard aport, and the torpedo 
passed astern very close to the ship. 

;t The submarine at this time was enveloped in a cloud 
of steam and appeared to be in difficulties. It was dusk 
by this time, and a steamer, which came up on my port 
side steering directly towards the submarine, was given 
the signal, ' You are steering into danger.' The other 
ship altered her course, but appeared to resume the former 
course a little later. I had no means of ascertaining the 
name of the other vessel, and she made no attempt to 
speak further with us. 

" I now hauled the Laertes round and steered in a 
northerly direction, gradually swinging her in towards 
the land and taking continual soundings as we approached. 
When we had reached a point about seventeen miles off 
Ymuiden, a green light appeared on my port bow three 
miles distant. I put the helm hard astarboard, and the 
light suddenly disappeared and was not seen again. As 
this was suspicious, I put the helm hard aport, but no 
further lights were observed. I then took in the regula- 
tion lights, and, while they were kept ready at hand, 
they were not again exhibited until we had come close to 
Ymuiden, which port we reached at about 10.30 p.m. 
on February 10th. No lives were lost and no injury 
received by any person on board the Laertes. The upper 
bridge, the casing of the standard compass, two boats, 
several ventilators, the main funnel, donkey funnel, and 
exhaust pipe, were pierced by bullets, and there may be 
some further damage. I cannot estimate the amount 
of this damage. The Dutch flag had been hoisted at 



about 4 p.m. on February 9th, and was kept con- 
tinually flying during daylight. The name of the port 
of registry had also been obscured. Two boats had been 
swung out ready for loading and two lifted from the chocks 
on February 9th." 

That is the modest record of an escape from the enemy 
which suggested, in association with a hundred other 
incidents, that British seamen were not prepared to sur- 
render to the enemy without a struggle. The Admiralty 
marked their appreciation of Captain Propert's " gallant 
and spirited conduct " by granting him a temporary 
commission as lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, 
and awarding him the Distinguished Service Cross ; a 
gold watch, with a letter of commendation, was presented 
to each of the officers, and a complimentary grant of 3 
was made to every member of the crew. 

By this time it was evident that the enemy, with limited 
resources how limited was not known to the British 
Government at the time was determined to make a 
desperate attack on the British Mercantile Marine, paying 
no regard to the ordinary humanities which in previous 
wars had restricted the action of belligerents. The 
number of cases in which torpedoes were fired against 
ships unarmed, and therefore incapable of resisting 
visit and search, steadily increased. The Membland 
(3,027 tons) was destroyed in the North Sea either by 
mine or by submarine ; she disappeared about Febru- 
ary 15th, together with her officers and men, numbering 
twenty, and the cause of the loss of this valuable cargo- 
carrier and the destruction of so many lives will probably 
never be known. Nothing, perhaps, is more remarkable 
than the comparatively small loss of life which, in fact, 
occurred during this early period of the submarine cam- 
paign. That immunity must be attributed to the high 
standard of seamanship maintained in the British Mer- 
cantile Marine, and the skill exhibited by officers and men 
in the management of the small boats to which they 
were compelled to confide their fortunes after their ships 
had sunk. Typical illustrations of the hazardous ex- 
periences which fell to the crews of ships destroyed at 
sight are supplied by the stories of the Dulwich (3,289 
tons) and Cambank (3,112 tons), the former attacked 

CH. vii] LOSS OF LIFE 289 

off Cape la Heve on February 15th, and the latter ten 
miles east of Lynns Point, on the north-eastern coast of 
Anglesey. The Dulwich was on her way to Rouen, when 
an explosion occurred on the starboard side. Night had 
descended, and it is not difficult to imagine the momentary 
consternation which was caused as the ship listed slightly 
to starboard, and then began to settle by the stern. 
Fortunately, the boats had been swung out and were 
uninjured. The master (Mr. J. A. Hunter) soon had his 
men transhipped, twenty-two being allotted to one boat 
and nine to the other. Within about twenty minutes 
the Dulwich had disappeared in a swirl of foaming water, 
and then a submarine was dimly seen travelling on the 
surface of the water, a menacing spectacle for the British 
seamen who had been left to the mercy of the sea on this 
winter's night. The enemy, callous as to the fate of these 
men, was evidently watching the effects of the explosion 
making sure that the ship sank. The boats soon after- 
wards became separated. A French torpedo-destroyer 
picked up the master and his twenty-one companions 
shortly after eight o'clock that night and took them into 
Havre. The other boat, with only seven men on board, 
reached Fecamp, and thus two lives were added to the 
death roll of the campaign. How these two men came to 
their end is uncertain, as they were seen leaving the fore- 
castle to enter the boats by Captain Hunter when he and 
the chief officer made their final round of inspection. 

The loss of life in the case of the s.s. Cambank was 
heavier. This ship was on passage from Huelva to Liverpool 
with a cargo of copper and sulphur ore. The voyage 
proceeded uneventfully until February 12th. At mid- 
night on that date a gale from the south-west sprang up 
and continued to blow throughout the following day. 
Early on the 14th the wind shifted to the north-west. 
A heavy sea struck the ship at 9 a.m. on the port side, 
staving in No. 1 hatch. The master (Mr. T. R. Prescott) 
kept his vessel away before the wind and sea and was able 
to reach Falmouth. Temporary repairs were effected 
at that port, and on the 17th the vessel left to resume 
her voyage. Three days later, after taking up a pilot 
at Lynns Point, the Cambank saw the periscope of a sub- 
marine 1 about 250 yards on the port beam, and immediately 
1 U30, according to German accounts. 


afterwards the track of a torpedo was noticed making for 
the merchantman. The Cambank's helm was put hard 
aport, but, before the ship could answer, the torpedo 
struck her near the engine-room. It was at once evident 
to Captain Prescott that the vessel would speedily sink, 
and he ordered the crew to take to the boats. Midnight, 
the enemy near at hand, and their ship so fatally 
damaged that officers and men had no choice but to confide 
their lives to frail boats ! The starboard lifeboat was 
successfully lowered, and into her scrambled twenty-one 
of the twenty-five men on board, including the pilot. 
What happened to the other four men is a matter of 
speculation. For a quarter of an hour the survivors lay 
off the doomed ship, which at last broke in two amidships 
and was swallowed up in the waters. Eventually these 
men, having been buffeted in a hurricane and then at- 
tacked by the enemy, succeeded in reaching port. 

On the evening of the same day the steam collier Down- 
shire (337 tons) was steaming at about 10 knots off the Calf 
of Man, when she saw a submarine standing to the north- 
ward on the starboard bow, being about one and a half 
to two miles distant. The enemy gained rapidly on the 
British ship and, when about a quarter of a mile away, 
fired a shot from a gun on the fore-deck. The master 
of the Downshire (Mr. W. H. Connor) ignored the warning, 
and then a second shot was fired. The collier, which 
was travelling at full speed, still stood on her course. 
A third shot followed. The submarine was then close 
up, and as it was apparent that escape was impossible the 
engines were stopped. The crew were ordered to the boats, 
a bomb was placed against the side of the vessel by the Ger- 
mans, and the ship was sunk. Fortunately in this instance 
there was no> loss of life, but that was due to no considera- 
tion on the part of the commander of the submarine. 

Three days later on February 23rd two vessels were 
sunk without warning, the Oakby (1,976 tons ; master, Mr. 
F. J. Bartlett), off the Royal Sovereign light- vessel, and the 
Branksome Chine (2,026 tons ; master, Mr. F. J. Anstey), 
six miles E. by S. f S. from Beachy Head evidently by 
the same submarine. Within five minutes of the torpedo 
striking the port side of the Oakby, the forecastle was level 
with the water. It seemed as though the ship must 
founder rapidly. Nevertheless, the second engineer went 


below and stopped the engines so as to enable the boats 
to be lowered. 1 The vessel took so long in settling 
down that an attempt was made by the patrol-boat ISLE 
OF MAN, which had come on the scene, to tow her to 
Dover. The effort was unsuccessful, the Oakby sinking 
near the Varne Lightship. The loss of the Branksome 
Chine was marked by no noticeable incident, the crew 
managing to make their escape in safety. 

On the following day undoubted evidence was furnished 
that an enemy submarine, commanded by an experienced 
and daring, if callous, officer, was operating in this part 
of the English Channel, the Rio Parana (4,015 tons) and 
the Western Coast (1,165 tons) being destroyed off Beachy 
Head. In the first case no submarine was sighted, but 
the ship was struck on the starboard side, with the result 
that ports and doors were stove in, jammed, or broken, 
and a great volume of water entered the saloon. In these 
conditions, the master (Mr. J. Williams) and the crew 
prepared to abandon the ship. By the time their prepara- 
tions were completed, the ship was considerably down at 
the head, and the water was flush with her deck. It was 
at first suggested that the casualty was due to a mine, 
but the Admiralty, in view of all the circumstances, came 
to a contrary conclusion. This was supported by in- 
telligence as to the fate of the Western Coast. This 
vessel was on her way from London to Plymouth, 
where warnings of the presence of enemy submarines were 
given by a destroyer, and shortly afterwards a ship in 
distress was noticed. The second officer of the Western 
Coast (master, Mr. J. Ratcliffe) was on his way to report 
the incident when an explosion occurred, a column of water 
rising forty or fifty feet. The ship immediately began to 
settle down, but, though she sank in two or three minutes, 
Captain Ratcliffe and his men managed to make their 
escape. The month's losses closed with the sinking of 
another ship the Harpalion (5,867 tons ; master, Mr. A. 
Widders) not far from the Royal Sovereign light -vessel. 
A violent explosion occurred which killed three firemen, 
and then the ship was enveloped in steam and water 
poured over the port side. 

Though enemy submarines secured eight British ships 

1 The second engineer, Mr. Stanley Robinson, was awarded the Bronze 
Medal for gallantry in saving life at sea. 


during the month of February, ten succeeded in escaping. 
Of these, in addition to the Laertes, a notable experience was 
that of the master and men of the Thordis (501 tons). Her 
case attracted a good deal of attention at the time owing to 
the fine spirit exhibited by master and men. The Thordis 
(master, Mr. J. W. Bell) left Blyth on the afternoon of 
February 24th, with a cargo of coal for Plymouth. Every- 
thing went well until the 28th, when the ship was about 
eight or ten miles off Beachy Head, which bore north-east 
by east. The Thordis was steaming at about 5 knots, 
her maximum being 10 \ knots. A heavy head sea was run- 
ning, and Captain Bell, who was on the bridge, noticed 
what he thought to be a periscope on the starboard bow, 
twenty or thirty yards away. Then began a contest be- 
tween the little steamer and the enemy craft, which ended 
in the discomfiture of the latter. Captain Bell instantly 
gave instructions for full speed and all hands were ordered 
on deck. The submarine crossed the bow of the Thordis t 
taking up a position thirty or forty yards on her port side. 
Shortly afterwards Captain Bell noticed the wake of a 
torpedo on the starboard beam. He put the helm 
hard over to starboard, the engines in the meantime 
going full speed. The Thordis responded well and ran 
over the submarine's periscope. Everyone on board the 
merchantman heard a crash, and an oily substance was 
afterwards noticed on the surface of the water. The sub- 
marine was not seen again. The severity of the blow 
which the Thordis had dealt the submarine was suggested 
by the damage to the keel and propeller, revealed when the 
vessel was docked immediately afterwards at Devonport. 
The Germans subsequently asserted that the submarine, 
though put out of action, had managed to return to port. If 
that was so, she must have been badly damaged. The 
Admiralty marked their high appreciation of the master's 
conduct by conferring on him a commission in the 
Royal Naval Reserve, and awarding him the Distinguished 
Service Cross, and 200 was distributed among the officers 
and men of the ship, Captain Bell or, rather, Lieutenant 
Bell, R.N.R., as he had become receiving half that sum. 1 
The month of February furnished another conspicuous 
example of British seamanship.! On the 17th the Col- 

1 A reward of 500 offered by The Syren and Shipping for the destruction 
f an enemy submarine was also paid to the officers and men of the Thordis. 


Chester, which had already been under attack, again escaped 
from the enemy when on passage from Parkeston Quay to 
Rotterdam, Captain Charles A. Fryatt, who afterwards be- 
came the victim of one of the foulest crimes committed by 
the Germans, having in the meantime succeeded to the com- 
mand. During a southerly gale, with heavy seas and thick 
rain, a submarine was sighted about two miles ahead of the 
ship. The submarine was steering about W.S.W. and the 
British vessel E. J S. Captain Fryatt had only a moment 
in which to decide what he should do. In a report to the 
British Consulate at Rotterdam he explained how, by 
prompt action, he had saved his ship : " I at once altered 
my ship's course until her head was north-west by the com- 
pass on the bridge, so I brought the submarine right astern 
of me, and I ordered the chief engineer to get all the steam 
he could and get all the speed he could with the engines, 
and after about fifteen minutes steaming north-west, I 
lost sight of the submarine in the thick rain. I then 
brought my ship gradually back to her course again 
E. J S., and proceeded on my passage, and I never saw 
the submarine again." 

During March and April the enemy campaign was evi- 
dently conducted with all his available resources, the officers 
commanding submarines apparently receiving instructions 
to use their torpedoes freely, discharging them without 
warning, and without consideration for the lives of British 
seamen, who had treated all previous threats and acts 
with contempt. No fewer than sixty-seven ships were 
attacked by submarines during that period. Aircraft were 
also called in aid to intensify the sense of terror which it 
was intended to create, and ten vessels were bombed by aero- 
planes near the North Hinder and Galloper light- vessels. 
But of the ships attacked, all those which were molested 
by aircraft, as well as thirty-five which attracted the 
attention of submarines, escaped, in addition to a mined 
ship, which was towed in, and a merchantman which a 
Turkish torpedo-boat vainly chased in the Mediterranean. 

It is difficult to judge the motives which inspire a 
nation's policy in time of war, but there are indications 
which suggest that the Germans anticipated that the 
aeroplane, or seaplane, would prove a valuable comple- 
ment to the submarine in closing the North Sea against 
Allied merchantmen. It was only when the new ruthless, 


submarine policy had failed to intimidate British seamen 
that attacks by enemy aircraft began. The first ship to 
be molested was the Blonde (613 tons; master, Mr. A. 
B. Milne), on her way from Cowes to the Tyne in ballast. 
On the morning of March 15th the ship was about three 
miles to the eastward of the North Foreland, when 
the second mate, who was on the bridge, noticed an 
aeroplane approaching from the east. The master at 
the time was down below looking for a screwdriver, as 
was afterwards explained, when he heard the sound of 
an explosion which caused him to run to the engine-room 
door, thinking that something was wrong with the engines. 
The engineer had reached the same conclusion, and im- 
mediately stopped the engines. This officer was engaged 
in searching for the damage when the second mate, running 
along the deck, called out that an aeroplane of enemy 
nationality was dropping bombs. It was a novel ex- 
perience for these seamen, who had certainly never given 
a thought to such a possibility representing a fresh 
menace to navigation. Captain Milne at once gave orders 
for full speed. The first two bombs fell about twenty feet 
astern, exploding on reaching the water, and the next 
about the same distance ahead. During this attack 
on the vessel, the aeroplane circled about the ship, en- 
deavouring to get immediately above her. The fifth 
bomb was dropped even closer on the starboard side. 
The utmost endeavours of the airmen, however, failed. 
Captain Milne, realising his danger, adopted a zigzag 
course, and in the meantime kept his whistle blowing. 
His distress call attracted the attention of a trawler, a 
single shot from which caused the aeroplane to disappear. 
The Elfland (4,190 tons), a Belgian relief ship, was at- 
tacked in very similar circumstances off the North Hinder 
on the 21st, and the Lestris (1,384 tons) fourteen miles 
east of the Galloper on the same day, when the Pandion 
(1,279 tons) was also bombed without result. On the two 
following days the Osceola (393 tons) and the Teal 
(764 tons) shared the same experience. The Ousel (1,284 
tons) was attacked on the 29th, and the Staffa (1,008 
tons) on the 30th. 

On April llth the Serula (1,388 tons) was exposed to 
a determined attack, two machines concentrating on 
Jier. The ship was five miles west of the North Hinder 


light- vessel at 3.50 p.m., when a seaplane of large size 
and one smaller machine appeared. The large one was 
first seen coming down towards the ship from high up 
on the starboard side abaft the beam, and dropped a small 
bomb showing a white trail of smoke, followed by three 
bombs which fell just before the bridge on the starboard 
side. The undismayed master (Mr. J. T. Sharp) ordered 
the helm to be put hard aport. Shortly afterwards three 
more bombs came down on the port side, also on the fore- 
side of the bridge, distant about twenty-five feet. The 
smaller machine, following the example of the larger one, 
started to come lower down to co-operate in the attack, 
but, being met with rifle fire from the ship, she straightened 
up and flew across, dropping bombs on each side of the 
vessel. The two machines then proceeded aft, on the port 
side, turned, and came back together, evidently with the 
intention of dropping bombs all along the steamer. The 
ship's course was altered backwards and forwards from 
port to starboard, so as to confuse the airmen. At last 
Captain Sharp got both machines on the starboard side, 
and then the helm was put hard aport and the engines 
full astern. Both airmen dropped their bombs on the 
port side forward. 

So far the enemy airmen had failed, but they were not 
discouraged. The machines again went aft and attacked 
a third time. On this occasion they came singly and 
dropped bombs on each side of the bridge, doing no damage 
to the ship. On the last occasion the smaller aeroplane, 
on passing over the vessel, appeared to have been struck 
by the rifle fire which was then being maintained from the 
Serula, as she tilted up, then recovered herself, and flew 
directly away to the south with part of the left wing hang- 
ing down. The larger seaplane remained around the ship 
for about ten minutes longer, and then, passing over a 
Dutch ship which was close by, disappeared to the south- 
ward. The attack lasted from 3.50 to 4.30, and twelve 
shots were fired at the two machines, one rocket distress 
signal also being sent up. Later events suggested that 
the Germans regarded these attempts with aircraft as 
unsatisfactory, and this conclusion reacted on their policy, 
for such attacks were in future spasmodic mere casual 
incidents of the war in the North Sea. 

To return to the submarine campaign, the fact that so 


large a proportion of the vessels attacked made good 
their escape from under-water craft was evidently noted 
by the German Naval Staff. Hitherto crowded passenger 
liners had not been interfered with, but the failure 
of the campaign during March and April to realise the 
expectations formed in Berlin was to lead to a change of 
policy in this respect. During the first week of March 
the enemy secured only one vessel the Bengrove (3,840 
tons), which was destroyed five miles north-north-east 
from Ilfracombe on the 7th. During the same period 
three other vessels succeeded in escaping the Wrexham 
(1,414 tons) in the North Sea on March 2nd ; iheiNingchow 
(9,021 tons) in the Bristol Channel on the 4th ; and the 
Lydia (1,138 tons) in the English Channel on the 5th. 

The experience of the Wrexham attracted the attention 
of the Admiralty owing to the spirited manner in which 
the enemy was eluded. The Wrexham (master, Mr. 
Charles A. Fryatt) 1 was one of the Great Eastern 
Railway Company's vessels, running between Harwich 
and Rotterdam, and this further attack on a ship of this 
line supports the belief that the enemy was endeavouring 
to cut communications between England and Holland. 
The submarine appeared at thirty-five minutes after noon 
on March 2nd, when the Wrexham was approximately 
in lat. 51 50' N., long. 3 0' E. The enemy circled 
to the northward, and then made towards the British 
ship. Captain Fryatt immediately altered course to 
south-east by south, and ordered the engineer to increase 
speed to the utmost. Deck hands were mustered and sent 
below to assist the firemen, everyone realising that a chase 
for life had begun. Under ordinary conditions the Wrex- 
ham was capable of about 14 knots. But, in the face of 
such a peril, she was soon travelling at nearly 16 knots 
through the heavy, northerly swell. In these circum- 
stances the chase continued, the submarine in the 
meantime flying imperative signals. Though the weather 
was fine and clear, Captain Fryatt kept his ship so far 
away that the signals could not be read. No doubt they 
were calling upon him to stop, but this was the last thing 
he had in his mind, as the Wrexham slowly drew away 

1 Captain Fryatt (whose spirited action on February 17th has already 
been mentioned) was taken prisoner by the Germans on June 23rd, 1916, 
when in command of s.s. Brussels, and afterwards shot. 


from the submarine. The British skipper had to exhibit 
a high standard of seamanship owing to the proximity 
of the Schouwen Bank on his starboard hand. The 
course was altered time after time so as to keep the enemy 
on the port beam (abaft), and at a distance of about one 
and a half miles. For about forty miles the Germans 
maintained the chase, and only abandoned it when the 
Wrexham had approached within a mile of the Maas 
light-vessel. The incident provided a fine demonstration 
of British seamanship and British pluck. In making his 
report to his owners, Captain Fryatt remarked : " Had 
it not been for the good work put in by the engineers 
and the men firing, and the speed they were thus able 
to get up, I could not have escaped, as the submarine was 
doing well over 14 knots and chased us for about forty 
miles, only giving up when we were safe in Dutch waters." 
The Admiralty commended the conduct of the master, 
officers, and crew of the Wrexham, laying special emphasis 
on the spirit exhibited by the engine-room com- 
plement ; the chief engineer, Mr. F. A. Goddison, was 
" mentioned " in the London Gazette. 

Throughout the remainder of the month the enemy 
maintained a vigorous attack upon merchant shipping, 
alike in the North Sea, in the Irish Sea, and in the English 
Channel. Two ships were sunk without warning on March 
9th the Princess Victoria (1,108 tons ; master, Mr. John 
Cubbin), sixteen miles north-west by north from Liverpool 
Bar light- vessel ; and the Blackwood (1,230 tons ; master, 
Mr. John Souter), eighteen miles south-west by south from 
Dungeness. On the same day the Tangistan (3,738 tons) 
foundered nine miles north from Flamborough Head. The 
sinking of the last ship was accompanied by the heaviest 
loss of life which had hitherto occurred, whether due to 
enemy cruiser, submarine, or mine. The Tangistan was 
on passage from Ben-isaf to Middlesbrough with a cargo 
of iron ore. The voyage from the Mediterranean had been 
like scores of other voyages which the crew had previously 
made ; they had seen no enemy ships, and they had run 
into no mines. As the ship approached Middlesbrough, 
it was realised that she was early for the tide, so speed 
was reduced. Night fell, and all on board were anticipating 
their early arrival in port, when suddenly the ship 
trembled from end to end and then stopped. The hour 


of midnight was just striking ; the lights went out. All 
hands rushed up on deck, to find the Tangistan was rapidly 
sinking under their feet. There was little or no confusion 
as orders were shouted from the bridge for the boats to 
be lowered. Before this could be done, however, the 
tragedy was completed ; the Tangistan, on an even keel, 
disappeared in the dark waters, with all on board. Several 
of the men came to the surface, and cries rang out in the 
night, but only one of them survived the night's horror a 
seaman named J. C. Toole. He managed to secure a 
spar, and he clung to it in desperation as offering him the 
only hope of life. Benumbed with the cold, he noticed 
the other voices around him were soon silenced, and he 
remained the lonely survivor of the whole ship's company ! 
All he could do was to shout in the hope that he might 
attract the attention of some passing steamer, and this 
he did with all his remaining strength. One ship had 
passed in the night soon after he had reached the surface, 
and then he descried yet another vessel, but failed to 
attract her attention. Three times hope of rescue was 
excited, but each time the desperate man was disappointed. 
He had been in the water for two hours when at last the 
s.s. Woodville passed near him, heard his cries, now faint 
with increasing exhaustion, and picked him up. He was 
afterwards landed at West Hartlepool. Of the crew of 
thirty-nine, consequently, only one man survived to tell 
the tale of the loss of the Tangistan. Whether the Tangi- 
stan was, as in the case of the Princess Victoria and 
Blackwood, the victim of a submarine, or whether she 
exploded a mine, was a matter of some doubt, but it 
is significant that " Die Deutschen U-Boote in ihrer 
Kriegsfiihrung, 1914-18 " claims the Tangistan as a victim 
of U12, whose destruction the following day is described 
in a later chapter (p. 390). 

It was indubitably a submarine which was responsible 
for the destruction two days later of the Florazan (4,658 
tons; master, Mr. E. J. Cawsey) when fifty-three miles 
N.E. J E. from the Longships, the lighthouse which 
stands on the rocks off Land's End. In this instance the 
violence of the explosion of the torpedo not only gave the 
ship a list to port, but lifted the oil lamps in the cabins 
from their sockets, with the result that the ship was soon 
ablaze amidships as she began to settle slowly by the head. 


Fortunately the steam drifter Wenlock, then about two 
miles away, noticed that the Florazan was in distress, 
and rescued all the officers and men, who in the meantime 
had taken to the boats, with the exception of one fireman, 
who was presumably killed by the explosion. The survivors 
stood by the burning vessel for two or three hours, but it 
was impossible to board her on account of the flames, 
and, no sign of life being observable, the Wenlock con- 
tinued on her course. On the following day the Florazan 
was still afloat and was taken in tow by eight drifters, 
but she sank on the morning of the 18th. 

On the same day the Adenwen (3,798 tons) had a curious 
experience off the Casquets. In the early morning light, 
submarine U29 appeared, and firing rockets ordered the 
merchantman to stop. The master (Mr. W. H. Ladd) 
paid no attention to what was intended to be a peremptory 
injunction, but, on the contrary, increased speed and 
steered varying courses in order to keep the submarine 
right astern. Again the signals were made, and again 
they were ignored. But the chase was a hopeless one, 
for the submarine had the advantage of speed and soon 
overhauled the Adenwen. Speaking through a mega- 
phone, the commander of U29 threatened to torpedo the 
ship unless she was stopped. There was no alternative 
but compliance with this order. In a few minutes the 
crew had taken to the boats, and a German party pro- 
ceeded on board the Adenwen and placed bombs in the hold, 
which subsequently exploded. The crew were towed by 
the submarine for some time, and were then transferred 
to the Norwegian s.s. Bothnia, which landed them at 
Brixham the same afternoon. The enemy assumed that 
the British ship would sink, but, on the contrary, she 
remained afloat, was noticed by the French destroyer 
CLAYMORE later in the day, and, having been towed 
into Cherbourg and temporarily repaired, arrived at 
Cardiff on April 1st, to be taken later on into the Admiralty 

The campaign continued on the 12th, when five ships 
were attacked, four being sunk. One, the Invergyle (1,794 
tons ; master, Mr. D. K. Minto), was torpedoed off the 
Tyne, and the other three in the neighbourhood of the 
Scilly Islands. This group consisted of the Headlands 
(2,988 tons), the Indian City (4,645 tons; master, Mr. 


John Williams), and the Andalusian (2,349 tons; master, 
Mr. L. Malley), and they were all sunk by the U29 under 
the redoubtable Otto Weddigen. As in the case of the 
three armoured cruisers ABOUKIR, CRESSY, and HOGUE, 
this officer profited by the code of humanity which 
the seamen of the great maritime Powers had always 
hitherto observed. The s.s. Headlands was entering 
the English Channel from the west when the master 
(Mr. Herbert Lugg) saw a burning ship about five miles 
away to the eastward. Without a thought except for the 
men of the vessel from which the smoke was rising, he 
altered course in the hope that he might be able to save the 
lives of brother seamen. He had been steaming towards 
the mass of smoke for a matter of twenty minutes, when 
he observed a submarine approaching him at full speed. 
In the track of the submarine was a patrol-boat, and inter- 
mittently flashes of gunfire reminded him that in obeying 
the humane custom of the sea he had run into danger. 
When his own ship had disappeared, he learnt that the U29 
had attacked the Indian City, which had been torpedoed 
when the patrol-boat came on the scene. As the Indian 
City, which did not sink until the following day, was in 
no immediate danger, the patrol-vessel had given chase 
to the submarine. By keeping on the surface, at the risk 
of being hit by a shell, the German commander was able 
to outdistance his pursuer. As soon as Captain Lugg 
realised the danger, he put his helm hard astarboard 
in the hope of avoiding pursuit. Owing to the Headlands 9 
slow speed, it was soon apparent that his case was hopeless. 
The merchant ship was still holding to her course when 
the submarine commander drew up close astern and shouted 
to the Headlands to stop. The challenge was unheeded. 
The submarine then manoeuvred for position and fired a 
torpedo, which struck the Headlands abaft the engine-room. 
The ship began to settle down as the submarine, with a group 
of patrol vessels in pursuit, made off at high speed. Within 
a few minutes everyone on board the Headlands had taken 
to the boats, which were afterwards towed into port by 
a patrol craft. 1 

1 On March 18th, 1915, Otto Weddigen, who, as a reward for his 
successes, had been promoted from U9 to U29 since he began his raids 
on commerce, attempted to attack one of the battle squadrons of 
the Grand Fleet, and was appropriately rammed and sunk by H.M.S. 
DREADNOUGHT " Picked up on her ram like a winkle on a pin," as an 


On the following day the Hartdale (3,839 tons ; master, 
Mr. Thomas Martin), after being chased off the coast of 
County Down, was torpedoed, two lives being lost. Four 
ships were attacked on the 14th ; none was sunk, and all 
managed to escape uninjured except the Atalanta (519 
tons). This ship was the first defensively armed British 
merchantman to fall in with a submarine. She was on 
passage from Galway to Glasgow, and was steaming about 
eleven miles off Inishturk Island, which lies about half-way 
between Blacksod Bay and Styne Head, when she sighted a 
submarine which was coming up astern and gaining rapidly 
on her. The master (Mr. J. MacLarnon) decided to withhold 
his fire. But when the submarine had come within a 
range of three or four thousand yards, the marine gunners 
could be restrained no longer and action was opened, the 
submarine replying with guns and rifle. By the time four 
rounds had been fired by the Atalantcfs gunners, the ship 
stopped, rolling heavily in the swell. The submarine, con- 
cluding that the short chase was over, came abreast of her 
on the port beam. As the 12-pounder gun could not be 
brought to bear owing to the ship having stopped, Private 
Gilgallon blew away a davit by gunfire ; three more rounds 
were then fired, causing the submarine to submerge. Ac- 
cording to a statement subsequently made by the two 
marine gunners, the boats had in the meantime been 
lowered; officers and crew got into them and rowed 
away from the ship, with the exception of Mr. Mackey, 
first mate, who remained on the bridge and rang orders 
to the engine-room for steam until it was found that all 
the men had left ; and, as the vessel was now helpless, 
and the submarine appeared to be preparing to discharge a 
torpedo at short range from a position in which she could 
not be fired on, the mate and two marines got into a boat 
which was lying alongside and shoved off. According to 
the report of the chief engineer, Mr. James Fraser, the 
master, after he had got into the port boat, went on board 
the Atalanta again, and while he was there the submarine 
appeared on the starboard bow. "When the boat got 
round the starboard side and the master got on deck, 

eyewitness expressed it. This incident, one of the most striking in the 
whole history of submarine warfare, was kept secret from the Germans, 
who never tired of inquiring the fate of Otto Weddigen, though thousands 
of people in and out of the Grand Fleet must have known the facts* 


he called on those in the boat to go on board, but those 
who had the oars would not pull back." Captain Mac- 
Larnon then left the ship with the rest of the hands. 
The crew were eventually landed at Inishturk Island. 
In the meantime the enemy devoted attention to the ship, 
which was soon well afire. She was subsequently found 
adrift by the patrol-boat Greta and towed into Cleggan 
Bay, about ten miles to the southward, where, already 
gutted by the flames, she was beached. 

During the remainder of the month of March the cam- 
paign was pressed by the enemy with energy and eleven 
ships were lost, together with 115 lives. Eighteen other 
vessels were attacked, but managed to escape. None 
of these ships possessed any armament, but owed their 
safety in most cases to speed and good seamanship. A 
typical illustration of resourcefulness under adverse con- 
ditions was furnished by the master (Mr. John Home) 
of the Hyndford (4,286 tons). The Hyndford was on her 
way home from Bahia with a cargo of wheat and oats. 
On the afternoon of March 15th she was steaming up- 
Channel at full speed, making for London, and when about 
twelve miles south of Beachy Head an explosion occurred. 
The weather was fine and there was a smooth sea. The 
ship shook from end to end. On rushing out of the chart- 
house, the master encountered a great volume of falling 
water and debris. After a moment's delay he was, how- 
ever, able to reach the bridge in time to see the wake of 
a submarine, with its periscope showing. The enemy vessel 
was going away from the ship in a south-westerly direction, 
and soon disappeared beneath the water. The second 
officer had also seen the periscope, and there was no doubt, 
therefore, that the vessel had been attacked by a sub- 
marine without warning. The outrage was so unexpected 
that considerable confusion occurred on board the 
Hyndford. As the ship's head was sinking fast, the 
engineers left the engine-room, and the crew were hurrying 
towards the boats, which had already been swung out, 
when the master took command of the situation. He 
immediately directed that the boats were not to be 
lowered, but, owing to an accident, the port lifeboat slipped 
and two hands were thrown into the water. Captain Home 
then endeavoured to calm the men and ordered an engineer 
to stop the engines. As soon as way was sufficiently off 


the ship, a boat was put out to rescue the two men who 
had fallen into the water, and one of them was, in fact, 
saved. Gradually more or less normal conditions were 
established on board. In the meantime it had been found 
that water in the fore hold was at sea-level, but No. 2 hold 
was dry, so, firing two rockets of distress, Captain Home 
put his engines half speed ahead for ten minutes as a test, 
and, finding the bulkhead stood the strain, he proceeded 
at full speed towards the Downs, filling the after ballast 
tanks in order to trim the ship. The Hyndford arrived 
at the Downs half an hour after midnight on March 16th, 
and eventually was towed to Gray's Flats and beached 
for temporary repairs. 

The attack on the Delmira (3,459 tons) on the 25th 
attracted the special attention of the Admiralty owing 
to the pluck and resource exhibited by Mr. Jonathan 
Evans, the master of the s.s. Lizzie (802 tons). The 
Delmira had a crew of thirty-two hands, but only eight 
of these were English, the rest being Chinese. She was 
proceeding from Boulogne to Port Talbot, and was twenty- 
three miles north-north-east from Cape d'Antifer, when the 
U37 appeared aft at a distance of about two miles. The 
master of the large British merchant ship (Mr. William 
Lancefield) took no notice of a signal directing him to 
stop, and the Germans then began firing and gradually 
gained on the Delmira, which was making only about 
9 knots. The usual procedure was followed, but in this case 
the commander of the U-boat showed consideration for 
the officers and men. He volunteered to tow their boats 
until some vessel was met with to which they could transfer. 
For an hour and a half the little procession, consisting 
of the submarine and the three boats of the Delmira, 
maintained its course towards the English coast, and then 
the s.s. Lizzie appeared to the eastward. The submarine 
immediately cut the tow and began to dive in the direction of 
the Lizzie. The master of the little British vessel promptly 
steamed full speed towards the submarine with the intention 
of ramming her. The Lizzie passed over the enemy vessel, 
but felt no shock, and it is doubtful if even the periscope 
was struck. In spite of the danger which the presence 
of the enemy boat must have suggested, Captain Evans 
of the Lizzie stopped his ship and picked up the men out 
of the three boats, who were eventually landed at Ports- 


mouth. The Delmira grounded later on at Cape La Hogue, 
where temporary repairs were carried out. 

By this time evidence was accumulating of the deter- 
mination of the enemy to break, if he could, the spirit of 
British merchant seamen, while, on the other hand, the 
stories that reached the Admiralty bore testimony to the 
dogged courage with which these men, in face of unparal- 
leled dangers, continued to go about the nation's business. 
Almost every incident suggested that no amount of fright- 
fulness on the part of the enemy would succeed in terroris- 
ing the descendants of the men who had thrown open the 
navigation of the seas freely to the nations of the world. 
The record of these days of heroic resistance to a cruel 
campaign must be studied in the knowledge that these 
men, untrained for the violence of war, were also, for the 
most part, unprovided with armament to enable them to 
defend themselves and their vessels against craft possessing, 
in addition to the powers of submergence, powerful guns, 
deadly torpedoes, and easily portable bombs. It was an 
unequal contest, but British seamen pursued it with 
high courage and tenacity. The official records reveal 
the generous feeling of admiration excited in naval officers 
serving at the Admiralty as tale after tale came in from 
the sea. 

A particularly noteworthy story is that of the Vosges 
(1,295 tons). She was on passage from Bordeaux to 
Liverpool, carrying a general cargo, with two first-class 
passengers and five consular passengers, when she was 
attacked on March 27th, 1915, at 10.15 a.m., by a German 
submarine in lat. 50 27', long. 6 W. The merchant- 
man was unarmed. Immediately the submarine came 
into view the master (Mr. John R. Green) ordered all 
the firemen below and asked the consular passengers to 
volunteer to assist in maintaining steam pressure. This 
aid was willingly given. A fight was in prospect that made 
the blood course freely through the veins of every man 
on board. The submarine opened fire from astern, the 
first shot being immediately followed by one which hit 
the British vessel aft. In the meantime the Vosges 
was steaming at her highest speed, Captain Green altering 
course as necessary to keep the enemy behind him, and 
with her head to the sea, so that she could not use her gun. 
On the other hand, the submarine was all the time en- 


deavouring to get on the beam of the merchantman, so as 
to obtain a good target for his torpedoes. This manoeuv- 
ring and counter-manoeuvring continued for an hour 
and a half, the enemy, firing as opportunity offered, 
refusing to abandon her quarry. The British vessel was 
struck repeatedly by shells, a round hole about two feet 
in diameter being made in the starboard side, and another 
about one foot in diameter being pierced on the starboard 
quarter ; there were other small holes about the waterline 
aft. The funnel was riddled, the bridgehouse smashed, 
and the engine-room badly holed. The chief engineer, 
Mr. Harry Davies, was killed instantaneously when 
standing near the stokehold door exhorting the firemen 
and volunteers to further efforts, a shell striking him in 
the chest. The second mate was hit on the arm while 
on the bridge ; a fireman was injured in the wrist ; the 
mess-room boy had a leg hurt ; the mate was slightly 
wounded in the hand ; and splinters grazed the captain's 
hand. Among the passengers, the only injury suffered 
was in the case of a lady who was struck in the foot. 

At about a quarter to twelve, the submarine, having 
failed to effect her purpose owing to the skill of Captain 
Green and the manner in which he was supported in the 
engine-room, sheered off. It was hoped that it would be 
possible to get the damaged vessel into Milford Haven. 
Water, however, was gaining rapidly on the pumps, 
and it became evident that the ship was sinking. At 
this moment, the armed yacht Wintonia (Lieutenant- 
Commander W. E. Kelway, R.N.R.) was sighted about 
twenty -two miles north-west of Trevose Head. This 
vessel immediately bore down on the Vosges, and shortly 
afterwards the boats were manned and lowered, and, 
by the captain's orders, officers and men took their 
places. There was no fuss or excitement in spite of 
the unnerving experience through which everyone on 
board had so recently passed. After making sure that 
everyone else had left the ship, Captain Green cast 
off both painters, and, getting into the starboard lifeboat, 
rowed over to the patrol yacht. In spite of the strong 
wind and heavy rain, everyone got on board a difficult 
operation in the circumstances. " The only remark I have 
to make," Captain Green reported, " is that, had I had a 
gun, I have not the slightest doubt but that I should have 


sunk the submarine." The Vosges disappeared bow first 
at 2 o'clock after an explosion had occurred. " Gentlemen, 
I did not give her away," the captain concluded in his 
report to his owners. The Admiralty, on receiving in- 
formation, at once expressed their appreciation of the 
conduct of all concerned, it being remarked that " the 
chief engineer, both by his energy and his example, was 
largely instrumental in enabling the vessel to shake off 
the submarine." Official appreciation was afterwards 
formally expressed of the gallantry of officers and crew : 
Captain Green was awarded a commission in the Royal 
Naval Reserve and received the D.S.O. for " his gallant 
and resolute conduct " ; gold watches were presented 
to the other officers, the widow of chief engineer Harry 
Davies receiving the gold watch which would have been 
handed to her husband if he had lived ; and the members 
of the crew were paid a gratuity of 3 each. 

A duel lasting ninety minutes between an old British 
merchant ship and a German submarine occurred at this 
period of the war, reflecting the utmost credit on British 
seamanship. The City of Cambridge was a four-masted 
ship of 3,844 tons, and her compound engines gave her a 
normal speed when loaded of about 10 knots. She was 
thirty-three years old, having been built by Messrs. Work- 
men, Clark & Co. at Belfast in 1882. She left Alexandria 
for Liverpool on March 16th with a general cargo. The 
master (Mr. Alfred C. Fry) was determined not to be 
caught unprepared for an emergency, and on the 27th he 
mustered all hands at their respective boat stations in 
order that every officer and man should practise putting 
on his life-belt in its proper position, " for, believe me," 
Captain Fry afterwards remarked, " familiarity breeds 
contempt, and there are numbers of persons on board 
most ships who do not know how to put on life-belts 
properly." Strong north-east winds were encountered in 
crossing the Bay, and at 4.30 on the following afternoon, 
the City of Cambridge passed Bishop Rock at a distance 
of about thirty-eight miles, and course was then altered 
to pass about twenty miles west of the Smalls, to the 
westward of Milford Haven. At noon Captain Fry had 
doubled the lookout, and he " kept his eye skinned " 
for any suspicious craft or for the sight of a periscope. 
At 6.30, nothing being observable on the horizon, he 


left the bridge to go down to dinner, the third 
officer with the lookout men and the man at the wheel 
remaining on the bridge. He had just sat down with 
the chief and second officers, when a sharp report was 
heard on the starboard side of the vessel. " I raced 
from the table to the bridge," he stated in his subsequent 
narrative of events, " and did it, I think, in record time- 
say fifteen seconds. I climbed the port ladder and rushed 
to the wheel. Looking over the side, I saw close to us, 
say half a ship's length away, the conning tower of a 
submarine with several men in it. She was heading the 
same way as ourselves. I at once myself pulled the wheel 
over to the starboard, shaking them up below at the same 
time; then, knowing that the bridge would be fired at, 
I lay flat for a minute. The chief and second officers 
were with me by this time, and the second officer took 
the wheel and kept it for the rest of the time of our trial. 
After a short time I looked for the enemy/and found that 
he was a couple of points or so on the starboard quarter 
and our own ship swinging off good to port. This gave 
us courage and the hope that he would not have it all 
his own way ; if we could only keep her going and the 
enemy astern, we had a good chance of getting away, 
unless holed below the water-line. As soon as he under- 
stood we were going to make a try for it, he fired a shell, 
and then for an hour and a half it was very hot work. 
He would gain on us till one could count the heads in 
the conning tower. At one time I think he could not have 
been 200 feet from us, a mass of foam with just the top 
of the tower showing, and then he was hard aport or star- 
board (generally port) till he stood at right angles, trying 
to get far enough out to smash the bridge, at the same 
time he was shepherding us so that we were before the 
wind and swell, which, although it was small, probably upset 
his shooting platform. We managed to baffle him at 
every move. At one time I was afraid our speed was 
going down, but with the best of firemen below and the 
mighty efforts of the engineers, we recovered speed and 
worked her up to a little over 13 knots (our top speed). 
At this time we were heading into both wind and sea 
(he had forced us to turn round the compass twice) and 
going slowly away from him. The light by now had 
settled into a bright moonlight night, and as he got 


farther astern we gradually lost sight of him, but he gave 
us one parting shot, which did a lot of damage. 

" That ninety minutes was such as I do not wish to 
experience again. Thinking it possible that some of our 
armed ships might be within range, I fired two distress 
signals one after another to attract their attention. Then 
he brought a Morse lamp on deck and started Morsing, 
but knowing this was only a trick to divert our attention, 
I took no notice of it." 

For the courage and resource exhibited in face of the 
enemy, Captain Fry was presented with a gold watch 
from the Admiralty as well as Lloyd's Medal, and was 
commended in the London Gazette, besides receiving a 
reward from the War Risks Association. Though his 
ship was entirely without armament, he had opposed his 
seamanship to all the offensive qualities possessed by the 
submarine, and, splendidly supported by his officers and 
the staff in the engine-room, he had won. The devotion 
of the master, officers, and engineers saved the ship and 
its cargo, but the City oj Cambridge did not escape unin- 
jured. One German shell carried away a 6j-inch davit, 
destroying the boat which it helped to support. Another 
penetrated the boatswain's room and part of the lamp 
locker, one of these holes being about 30 inches by 50 inches. 
The after-works were injured, and one shell which passed 
over the bridge carried away the signal halyard. " This 
was a close call," Captain Fry remarked, " as, had it struck 
any of the short awning spars, it would have exploded, 
and that would have finished us." Except for a slight 
splinter wound sustained by a fireman, no one was the 
worse for the encounter. " With a bit of luck and owing 
to the hard determination of the officers and men above 
and below deck," the master related afterwards, " we 
managed to bring our ship home." l 

Another incident which occurred in the closing days of 
March must be noted, because, apart from the loss of life 
involved, it figured in the Notes which afterwards passed 
between the Government of the United States and Germany, 
and was the subject of a special inquiry by the Board 
of Trade. When approximately sixty miles W. J N. 

1 The City of Cambridge, after a second escape from a submarine in 
the same year, was sunk in the Mediterranean (July 3rd, 1917) when 
under the command of another master. 

CH. vn] STORY OF THE " FALABA " 309 

off St. Ann's Head at 12.30 p.m. on March 27th, the 
master (Mr. George Wright) of the Eileen Emma, who was 
fishing from Milford Haven, sighted the periscope of a 
submarine. He immediately rang for full speed and tried 
to cut her off. The enemy, realising what was happening, 
altered course again and again, trying to avoid collision. 
The speeds of the two ships were about equal, and for some 
time these manoeuvres continued, until a steamer appeared 
on the horizon steering south-west. The submarine then 
increased her buoyancy until she was well above the water, 
and in this trim outpaced the Eileen Emma and proceeded 
towards a steamship which proved to be the Falaba 
(4,806 tons ; master, Mr. F. J. Davies). She was unarmed, 
and had on board a crew of ninety-five men and 147 
passengers, including seven women and an American 
citizen, when she left Liverpool on the previous evening 
on her passage to Sierra Leone. Passengers and crew had 
had insufficient time to adjust themselves to war condi- 
tions when they sighted the submarine about two points 
abaft the starboard beam and three miles distant. In 
approaching the Falaba the submarine at first showed a 
British ensign, for which the German colours were after- 
wards substituted. She was noticed by Mr. Pengilly, the 
Falaba 9 s third officer, at 11.40 a.m. The sequence of 
later events was settled by the considered judgment of 
Lord Mersey, acting as Wreck Commissioner : 

" The captain immediately altered the course of the 
Falaba so as to get the submarine directly astern, and 
at the same time he rang up the engine-room to in- 
crease the speed. The best was done in the engine- 
room to respond to this call, but it was found impossible 
to effect any material improvement in the short time 
available. The captain then sent Baxter to instruct 
the Marconi operator to signal all stations as follows : 
' Submarine overhauling us ; flying British flag. 51 32', 
6 86'.' This message was sent out at 11.50 a.m. Baxter 
then obtained a telescope and observed that the sub- 
marine was flying a German ensign. It is, in my 
opinion, uncertain whether the ensign had been changed, 
or whether the ensign already observed was not, in 
fact, a German flag. The point, however, is not material, 
because from the first the captain believed the submarine 


to be an enemy craft. The submarine was at this time 
making about 18 knots and was rapidly overhauling the 
Faldba. Shortly before noon she fired a detonating signal 
to call attention, and by flags signalled the Faldba to ' stop 
and abandon ship.' The Faldba did not stop, but still 
manoeuvred to keep the submarine astern. The submarine 
then signalled ' Stop or I fire.' The captain and the chief 
officer then conferred and decided that it was impossible 
to escape. They accordingly rang to the engine-room 
to stop the engines. The signal ' Stop or I fire ' was given 
a minute or two before noon. The submarine then sig- 
nalled ' Abandon ship immediately,' and hailed through a 
megaphone to the Faldba to take to the boats, as they were 
going ' to sink the ship in five minutes.' The captain 
answered that he was taking to the boats. The Marconi 
operator heard the hail, and sent out a second message, 
' Position 51 32' N., 6 36' W. ; torpedo ; going boats/ 
The warning that the submarine was going to sink the ship 
in five minutes was given as nearly as possible at noon. 
The Faldba stopped at 12.4 or 12.5, and at 12.10 the sub- 
marine fired a torpedo into her. At this moment the sub- 
marine was within about 100 yards of the Faldba. The 
torpedo struck the Faldba on the starboard side by No. 3 
hatch aft of No. 1 lifeboat and just alongside the Mar- 
coni house. The blow was fatal. The Faldba at once 
took a list to starboard, and in eight minutes (namely, 
at 12.18) she sank. This was within twenty minutes 
of the notice from the submarine of her intention to sink 
the ship. An affidavit by Mr. Baxter, the chief officer, 
which had been put in has satisfied me that no rockets 
or other signals were fired or shown from the Faldba on 
March 28th." 

Lord Mersey held that he was not required to find 
whether the submarine was within her rights as an enemy 
craft in sinking the Falaba, but he was called upon to as- 
sume that " in any event she was bound to afford the men 
and women on board a reasonable opportunity of getting 
to the boats and of saving their lives. This those in charge 
of the submarine did not do. And so grossly insufficient 
was the opportunity in fact afforded that I am driven 
to the conclusion that the captain of the submarine 
desired and designed not merely to sink the ship, but, in 


doing so, also to sacrifice the lives of the passengers and 
crew." The Wreck Commissioner added that evidence 
was given by the witnesses of laughing and jeering from 
the submarine while the men and women from the Falaba 
were struggling in the water, but Lord Mersey stated 
that he preferred to hope that the witnesses were mis- 
taken. Corporal Turnbull of the Royal Army Medical 
Corps, one of the survivors, in a statement to the Press, 1 
said that " the barbarity of the crew of the submarine 
was frightful. They waited to see the last of the Falaba 
before they dived, but, of course, they made no attempt 
to save any of us. That was not the worst part. The most 
maddening thing was to see the crew of the submarine 
after they had torpedoed us. The Falaba listed over, 
and the passengers and crew were clinging like flies trying 
to get a grip of the deck, and dropping one by one into the 
water, while the crew of the submarine laughed and jeered 
at them." The ascertained loss of life was 104. 

Continuing his judgment, Lord Mersey added that, 
" between the first signal of the submarine to stop and the 
actual stopping of the Falaba, the chief officer directed 
the first and second stewards to assemble the passengers 
on deck and to tell them to put on their life-belts. The 
captain also sent the fourth officer below to see that these 
orders were carried out. After the engines were stopped, 
the chief engineer and the third engineer ordered all men 
in the engine-room and stokehold on deck, and the order 
was obeyed. By the time the Falaba was stopped, a 
large number of the passengers were already on the boat 
deck. The captain was on the bridge. He sent the third 
officer and the quartermaster to see to the lowering and 
filling of the boats, and the order to man the boats was 
passed round the ship." The Wreck Commissioner then 
dealt with the " serious complaints which were made by 
some of the witnesses as to the condition of the boats 
and as to the launching of them." After referring to these 
statements and to the technical evidence given before 
him, he said that he was satisfied " that the witnesses 
who described the boats as having been ' rotten ' are 
mistaken, and that, in truth, the boats were sound and 
in good order up to the time of the attack by the submarine. 
What ? however, the witnesses probably mean, when they 
* Times, March 30th, 1915, 


say the boats were rotten, is that when afloat some of them 
were found to be unseaworthy. And this, no doubt, is 
true. But this condition of things was, in my opinion, 
wholly due to the damage sustained by the boats after 
the operation of launching began, and not to any previous 
defect. Upon the subject of the launching, it is, therefore, 
necessary to say a few words. It is to be remembered 
that the submarine had given the Falaba only about 
five minutes in which to man, to fill, and to launch these 
boats ; in which, in short, to save the lives of 242 persons. 
This was an operation quite incapable of efficient perfor- 
mance in anything like that short space of time. There 
was unavoidable hurry and disorder ; the falls of one 
of the boats slipped : the falls of another jammed ; 
some boats were dashed against the side of the ship and 
damaged ; one (No. 8) was seriously injured by the ex- 
plosion of the torpedo while still hanging from the davits. 
It is in these circumstances that some of the witnesses 
apparently desire me to find that the damage done to the 
boats was due to the neglect of the officers and crew in 
connection with the launching. I cannot do this. I 
have no doubt that, had there been more time for the 
work, it might have been better carried out, but, in my 
opinion, all on board captain, officers, crew, and passengers 
did their very best. People were fighting for their lives 
and for the lives of others about them, and in the struggle 
the captain, half the crew, and a large number of the pas- 
sengers were drowned. It is impossible for me to fix 
any man on board the ship with a failure of duty or with 
incompetence. The responsibility for the consequences 
of this catastrophe must rest exclusively with the officers 
and crew of the German submarine." 

Two more ships were sunk on the last two days of 
March, happily without loss of life. The Flaminian 
(3,500 tons ; master, Mr. David Cruikshank) was destroyed 
on the 29th by gunfire, fifty miles south-west by west from 
the Scilly Isles, and the Crown of Castile (4,505 tons; 
master, Mr. T. S. Fyfe) on the 30th, when thirty-one miles 
south-west from the Bishop Rock. Submarine U28 was 
responsible for the sinking of both vessels. 

By the end of March the depredations of enemy surface 
craft had ceased, and no further losses on this account were 
incurred until the following January ; the mine peril had 


been for the moment checked ; but the destruction due to 
submarines, which had amounted to 17,126 tons in January, 
with a loss of twenty-one lives, and had reached only 
21,787 tons, with the death of nine persons, in February, 
had suddenly jumped up to 64,448 tons, and the number 
of lives lost was 161. After this exhibition of frightful- 
ness, the intensity of the attack became for a time less 
marked. During April only 22,453 tons were destroyed, 
thirty-eight lives being lost, and only six other ships 
were molested. On the first day of the month the Seven 
Seas (1,194 tons ; master, Mr. Barnes) was about six miles 
south of Beachy Head when an explosion occurred forward, 
the vessel sinking almost immediately. The destroyer 
FLIRT picked up nine of the crew, but the captain, chief 
engineer, both mates, steward, three seamen and a boy 
were drowned. No doubt existed that the ship was 
torpedoed without warning. The Lochwood (2,042 tons; 
master, Mr. T. H. Scott) fell a victim to the enemy on the 
following day off the Start. On the 4th four more lives 
were lost in the City of Bremen (1,258 tons ; master, Mr. 
Richard Martin), which was destroyed twenty miles south 
by west from the Wolf Rock, and the same day the Olivine 
(634 tons 1 ; master, Mr. A. Lament) also went down near 
St. Catherine's Point. The Northlands (2,776 tons ; master, 
Mr. A. S. Taylor) came to a similar end off Beachy Head 
on the 5th, and then an interval occurred of four clear 
days, the only noticeable incident being the escape of 
the tug Homer, which furnished further confirmatory 
evidence of the spirit in which British seamen were deter- 
mined to meet the enemy's threats and murderous acts. 

The Homer (150 tons) was proceeding from Queenstown 
to Sunderland towing the French barque General de Santos. 
On the afternoon of April 8th, twenty-five miles south- 
west by south from the Owers Lightship, a German 
submarine approached within three or four hundred yards 
of the Homer's port side. The enemy vessel was travelling 
on the surface, and hoisted a signal which the master 
of the Homer (Mr. H. J. Gibson) ignored, although an 
officer in the submarine shouted and pointed at the flags. 
The submarine then steamed round the bow of the tug, 
speed in the British vessel having in the meantime been 
eased. She soon came up on the starboard side, both 
vessels steaming in the same direction. A shot was fired 


over the Homer and the German officer resumed shouting 
in English, ordering Captain Gibson to get into his boat. 
The enemy craft, considering the issue practically decided, 
came within a hundred yards, and then the Homer, having 
cast loose the General de Santos, turned towards her. It 
was a critical moment. As soon as the enemy realised 
the intention of the master of the Homer, he put his helm 
hard aport and opened fire, continuing a desperate attack 
until the Homer was almost on top of him, missing his 
stern by about three feet. The Homer's head was then 
reversed, and, the submarine still firing, the vessel pro- 
ceeded in the direction of the Owers. The submarine 
followed, firing a torpedo which passed close to the British 
vessel's starboard quarter. At this time the Homer was 
travelling at about 12 knots. The submarine continued 
to chase her for half an hour, but had fallen half a mile 
astern when she abandoned the pursuit and turned back, 
evidently with the intention of dealing with a French 
barque which was in sight. The tug, with seven holes as 
evidence of the enemy's persistency, reached Bembridge 
some time later. The Admiralty marked their appreciation 
of the resource and courage of the master by presenting 
him with a gold watch and a letter on vellum. 

Five other ships managed to make their escape during 
April, La Rosarina (8,332 tons) experiencing a narrow 
escape on the 17th, when she was chased by a submarine, 
and beat off the attack by gunfire. But during the last 
twenty days of April the Harpalyce (5,940 tons), The 
President (647 tons ; master, Mr. Neil Robertson), Ptar- 
migan (784 tons; master, Mr. W. A. W. Hore), Mobile 
(1,950 tons; master, Mr. W. C. Fortune), Cherbury (3,220 
tons; master, Mr. James Davidson), and Fulgent (2,008 
tons) were all sunk, with loss of life in the case of the 
Harpalyce, Ptarmigan, and Fulgent. The end of the 
Harpalyce (master, Mr. Wawn) was marked by some 
features which appeared particularly revolting to still 
tender consciences at that early period of the struggle. 
This ship was working for the Commission of Relief 
in Belgium. When she left Rotterdam for Norfolk, 
Virginia, U.S.A., in addition to her Red Ensign she 
was flying the large flag of the Commission, and painted 
on her sides in large letters was the name of the Com- 
mission. Her status had been recognised by the German 


Minister at The Hague, who had issued a safe-conduct, 
covering risks from attack by German submarines during 
her voyage. This permit was of the most specific character, 
but contained a warning "against navigating the waters 
declared by Germany to be a war zone," especially through 
the English Channel. In those circumstances there should 
have been no cause for anxiety. The Harpalyce left Rot- 
terdam about 2.30 a.m. on Saturday morning, April 10th, 
and all went well until the ship was about seven miles 
south-south-east from the North Hinder light-vessel, 
when at 10 a.m. a loud report was heard on the starboard 
quarter. An explosion had blown in the ship's side. 
In less than two minutes the whole of the poop and after- 
well deck were submerged. The ship was doomed. Ac- 
cording to the statements of the second officer (Mr. W. J. 
George) and the second engineer (Mr. J. S. Turnbull), 
" It was impossible to swing out the boats, as by now the 
top of the funnel was nearly in the water, the engine- 
room being filled up and the decks beginning to blow up." 
Within a short time the ship went down. The crew 
consisted of forty-four officers and men, including thirty- 
three Chinese hands. They would all undoubtedly have 
been drowned but for the fortunate appearance upon the 
scene of the Netherlands s.s. Elizabeth and s.s. Con- 
stance Catherine, which, in company with the United States 
schooner Ruby, managed to save all but fifteen of the crew. 
These neutral vessels not only exhibited fine seamanship 
during this rescue work, but illustrated that chivalry of 
the sea which, prior to Germany's decision, had united 
the seamen of the world. Two possibilities called for 
investigation. In the first place, it had to be settled 
whether the ship had been sunk by mine or torpedo. As 
to that, not only was it improbable that a mine would 
strike the vessel on the starboard quarter, as was the case, 
but the second mate distinctly saw the periscope of a sub- 
marine and its wash as it made off to the northwards; 
corroborative evidence on this point was also given by 
the master of the Elizabeth. Nor was there any lack of 
testimony as to the position in which the Harpalyce was 
sunk well outside the so-called German war zone. No 
doubt existed that this vessel, engaged on an errand of 
mercy to " the suffering civil population of Belgium," 
to quote from the German permit, was torpedoed without 


warning and in broad daylight outside the area designated 
by the enemy, although she carried every mark of her 
distinctive mission. 

The last day of April was marked by a tragedy which, 
conspicuous at the moment, was afterwards to be com- 
pletely overshadowed by events which focused the at- 
tention of the world on the enemy's inhuman campaign. 
The Fulgent sailed from Cardiff on the evening of April 
28th under Admiralty orders for Scapa Flow. She was 
taking a roundabout course for safety, evidently under 
orders, and had passed the Blaskets Lighthouse, off the 
coast of Kerry, on the morning of April 30th, when 
the silence was broken by the report of a gun. It 
was then noticed that, unobserved by anyone on board, 
a submarine had crept up within about 200 yards of the 
Fulgent. The master of the merchantman (Mr. C. W. 
Brown) at once realised the peril in which he stood, and 
began zigzagging in order to keep the enemy vessel 
astern of him and thus in an unfavourable position 
for attack. The contest, however, was an unequal one, 
as the submarine, stated to be the U7, had the advantage 
of speed. Captain Brown, with dogged courage, refused 
to believe that his position was hopeless. Even when the 
submarine had gained a position about three points on 
the port quarter, he continued to handle his ship with 
courage and competency. A flash from the gun mounted 
on the deck of the submarine told him that a shot had been 
fired. A few seconds later the vessel's funnel and chart- 
room had been shattered, an A.B. named Williams, 
who was at the wheel, being killed, and Captain Brown 
himself being mortally injured. The struggle was then 
over, and all that could be done was to get out the boats 
with all speed, in order that the remaining officers and men 
might leave the doomed ship. Without a thought for 
the British seamen, the officer commanding the submarine 
then sank the Fulgent out of hand and disappeared, 
leaving these unfortunate men to whatever fate might 
overtake them. During the remainder of the day the 
two boats managed to keep together and then night fell, 
and in the darkness they got separated. The most slug- 
gish imagination can fill in the broad details of the sufferings 
of these men as hour after hour passed and hope of rescue 
rose and fell as ships appeared on the horizon, to disappear 


again unconscious of these men's distress. But at last, 
on Sunday, May 2nd, the s.s. Tosto of Newcastle picked 
up the first mate and eight hands, exhausted physically and 
mentally by the ordeal through which they had passed, 
and the trawler Angle landed nine other men at Cappa 
(Kilrush), where the body of Captain Brown was silently 
borne ashore. 

The destruction of the Fulgent provided an extreme 
example of the fate to which at this period the seamen of 
torpedoed merchant vessels were liable, and in considering 
the first stage of Germany's submarine campaign as here 
described it is necessary, in view of the subsequent develop- 
ments, to preserve a sense of proportion. Grievous as 
were the experiences of crews set adrift in open boats, their 
sufferings, generally speaking, were as nothing in comparison 
with those endured later in the war by survivors from ships 
torpedoed in mid- Atlantic a phase of the enemy's savage 
warfare by sea which is dealt with in the second volume 
of this work. 



IN those fateful summer days which immediately preceded 
the British ultimatum to Germany little information was 
revealed as to the preparations of the Royal Navy. Of 
the steps which were taken none was, in fact, more thorough 
than the precautions against our fleets being blockaded 
by means of a potential enemy's mine-fields. But the 
vigilant work of the destroyer flotillas off the coast does not 
come within the scope of this history. 

Allusion has already been made to the flotilla of old 
gunboats, whose duty was to attend on the Grand Fleet, 
while the trawlers were relied upon to keep the channels 
and harbour approaches swept clear. As far back as 
July 28th, 1914, Commander Lionel Preston, R.N., 
had received his orders to take charge of these gunboats 
and to assemble them at Dover. On the first day of 
August they steamed away from that great national harbour 
for Queensferry, having been instructed by Admiral Sir 
George Callaghan, then Commander-in-Chief of the Grand 
Fleet, to begin sweeping on their way north as soon as 
they got to the Inner Dowsing, near the Wash. And 
it was on this same day that the inspecting Captain of 
Mine-sweepers received his orders in regard to the traw- 
lers. The Admiralty had decided to charter these for 
mine- sweeping, and preparations were to be made so that 
they could be sent to their assigned ports as soon as possible. 
There were then eighty-two such vessels on the Ad- 
miralty list, and the ranks and ratings of the trawler section 
numbered 1,025. 

On the next day the Admiralty-chartered trawlers, 
which had been usually employed in towing targets, were 
ordered to the Nore from their various ports, where, 
being completed with mine-sweeping stores, they were 



ready for eventualities. On the coast of Scotland, and at 
the fishing ports of the North Sea and West of England, 
steam trawlers were being taken in hand as they came in 
from their fishing, though it had been foreseen that probably 
25 per cent, of these would not have succeeded in getting 
back from Iceland and other fishing waters in time for 
the commencement of hostilities. Meanwhile Germany 
was also availing herself of her fishing fleets, and on 
August 3rd, a telegram from the British Ambassador at Berlin 
announced that that country had obtained thirty trawlers 
from Geestemunde, and was equipping them with a couple 
of searchlights each, and fitting them out as mine-layers. 

The first mine-field to be discovered was that which was 
laid by the KONIGIN LUISE, an auxiliary vessel of the 
German Navy resembling one of the steamers that had been 
on the service between Harwich and the Hook of Holland. 
At ten o'clock on the morning of August 5th she was seen 
laying mines not far from Orfordness, and was herself sunk 
by the Third Destroyer Flotilla, issuing from Harwich. She 
had not quite completed her work when her career so 
suddenly terminated, for survivors stated that many mines 
were still aboard her. They further asserted that she had 
laid a long line of mines from a position in lat. 52 10' N., 
long. 2 25' E., to the eastward. This position is about 
thirty miles to the eastward of Orfordness, and it is clear 
enough that such mines were laid for the express purpose 
of sinking any British forces proceeding from Harwich 
towards Germany. In this intention they partially 
succeeded, for H.M.S. AMPHION foundered on one of them 
the next day. 

Meanwhile the Senior Naval Officer at Harwich was 
ordered to hasten the preparation of the mine-sweeping 
trawlers. On August 6th they put to sea and proceeded 
to sweep from Orfordness to Southwold. The Admiral 
of the patrols was also directed to send Grimsby trawlers 
to sweep off Aldeburgh as soon as possible. Nothing 
could have given a greater impetus to the work of the traw- 
lers than the discovery of a mine-field on the first morning 
of the war. From the Firth of Forth, Admiral Lowry, 
the Senior Officer on the coast of Scotland, telegraphed 
to say that the mine-sweepers which he had taken up 
had almost completed their equipment at Queensferry 
and Invergordon, and he had given orders that as many 



trawlers as possible should be commissioned from the 
northern Scottish ports for patrolling the Moray Firth. 
Such was the call on the destroyer flotillas that there 
was only one torpedo craft patrolling that big bay. To 
Devonport, Portsmouth, and Portland urgent telegrams 
were dispatched by the Admiralty for the temporary loan 
of trawlers for mine-sweeping, and meantime shipping had 
been warned that mines had been laid off the Suffolk 
coast as far seaward as the third meridian East, and all 
vessels were ordered not to enter the North Sea without 
calling for orders at a South Coast port. 

On the third day of the war, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe 
was informed that a permanent mine-sweeping flotilla 
of trawlers was being established with a view to ensuring 
a clear channel from the Outer Dowsing to the South 
Goodwins. This extensive lane would mean that mer- 
chant ships could be guaranteed a safe journey from the 
eastern entrance of the English Channel almost as far 
north as the Humber. The flotilla was to consist of 
eighty trawlers, to be formed as vessels became available. 
Captain Ellison was summoned to the Admiralty, and 
instructed to bring this huge flotilla into being. He was 
at the time commanding officer of the HALCYON, the 
senior ship of the North Sea Fisheries, based on Lowestoft. 
He immediately began to get together suitable fishing- 
craft, and in a short time the North Sea became again 
a safe highway. The trawlers got to work with such 
zeal that by August llth they had swept a channel four 
cables wide from as far south as the North Foreland to 
as far north as Southwold. From that night, also, the 
whole channel from the Outer Dowsing light- vessel to the 
Downs began to be patrolled by steam drifters, manned by 
Trawler Reserve officers and men and flying the White 
Ensign. Night and day, without so much a*? a gun with 
which to defend themselves, these little craft kept up 
their patrol, ever on the alert against enemy mine-laying 
vessels. No one who passed up the North Sea about this 
time will ever forget the sight of this continuous patrol 
of little vessels engaged on a new sphere of work. 

And whilst Lowestoft was busily getting craft together, 
Chatham was also rapidly fitting out mine-sweeping trawlers, 
so that in about a fortnight seventy-four hired and other 
trawlers had been equipped on the Medway. Some of 


these were engaged in sweeping the Thames Estuary ; 
others were dispatched to Lowestoft ; some to Peterhead. 
These trawlers had been provided with their mine-sweeping 
gear, given a month's consumable stores, coal and water, 
as well as rifles, ammunition, charts, tide-tables, Morse 
lamps, and so on. Free kits had been issued to all deck- 
hands and trimmers, and a week's pay advanced. Before 
sailing, both skippers and crews had been taken out in 
the Admiralty trawlers Seamew or Seaflower and instructed 
in sweeping, reeving of gear, and station-keeping. 

By the middle of August the special channel from the 
Outer Dowsing to the Downs was already buoyed, and 
thirty steam drifters, equally spaced, were patrolling it 
from end to end. Such duty essentially belonged to our 
torpedo flotillas, and not to the smallest type of fishing 
steamers, but what did it matter, seeing that the destroyers 
and torpedo-boats were wanted elsewhere, and that drifters 
were the finest little steamships ever built to withstand 
bad weather ? But besides these Lowestoft drifters, 
other drifters were being taken up on the north-east 
corner of Scotland. From Banff, Fraserburgh, Port 
Mahomack, and Wick, they were being speedily sent to sea 
to look for mine-layers, and thus afford some protection 
to Moray Firth. The task which was imposed on some 
of these Scotch crews was anything but safe. They were 
unarmed, they were to perform no hostile act, and if 
captured were to give no indication of their being in 
the Government service. Their duty was simply to pose 
as fishermen, keeping their fishing gear on board and their 
eyes open. The moment they sighted any suspicious 
movement of ships, they were to run into harbour as fast 
as they could and report the facts. 

At Lowestoft great activity continued. The Com- 
mander-in- Chief was calling for more mine-sweeping 
trawlers for the North. Eight he wanted to sweep round 
Kinnaird Head, in addition to those already sent to Cro- 
marty. These were being fitted out at Lowestoft, besides 
some more for the Humber and elsewhere. When on 
August 15th the Grand Fleet made its sweep down the 
North Sea, the mine-sweeping gunboats went ahead of 
the battle-cruisers and battleships, leaving the trawlers 
to keep clear of mines the approaches to the Grand Fleet's 
base, and to sweep the Pentlands daily. 


Notwithstanding the large number of vessels which 
had now been taken up, and the speed with which they 
were being sent forth on their duties, the demand was 
still far in excess of the supply. For towards the end of 
August the enemy's mine-layers had been very busy. 
On the 27th the steam drifter Barley Rig had been blown 
up about thirty-five miles E. \ S. of Blyth, and thus 
the existence of the Tyne mine-field was discovered. Two 
mine-sweeping trawlers, the Thomas W. Irvine and the 
Crathie, were also blown up whilst endeavouring to sweep 
this new field. H.M. Torpedo-boat No. 13 found her- 
self surrounded by mines, being unable to discover a way 
out, and the same day a mine-field was discovered also 
off the Humber. On the top of this intelligence came a 
request for four trawlers to be sent to Admiral Christian, 
who was flying his flag in the EURYALUS, and was engaged 
in operations off Ostend. He urgently required sweepers, 
as the weather had recently been particularly suitable 
for mine-laying. These trawlers were therefore sent to 
him; they left Lowestoft in charge of the navigating 
officer of the HALCYON, but the next day Captain Ellison 
was compelled to request their return, as it was impossible 
to carry on without them. On the day that this request 
reached Ostend, Admiral Jellicoe was also asking for 
twenty more trawlers, and two days later he expressed 
a desire for a score of drifters to act as lookouts to 
Scapa Flow, since the enemy was now mining the salient 
points of the coast. 

The mine-sweeping trawlers were doing yeoman service. 
Their draught of water, which was in many cases as much 
as fifteen feet, made them dangerous to themselves in a 
mine-field, but they went about their work with fine dis- 
regard of their own peril. Already the Humber trawlers 
had been able to sweep from Spurn Head to the Outer 
Dowsing, and thus connect up with the swept channel 
running down to the North Foreland, ensuring a safe 
passage for the heavy traffic from the English Channel 
to Hull. In the north, the trawlers based on Granton, 
in the Firth of Forth, had swept fifteen miles to the 
eastward of St. Abb's Head, and the Scapa trawlers 
had swept a channel for the Third Battle Squadron into 

It had been suggested that the opening phase of the war 


would be marked by a determined torpedo attack by the 
enemy, pushed right into the base where the British Fleet 
might be lying, ready to strike. It was urged that enemy 
destroyers would rush across the North Sea, penetrate 
the British line of patrols, torpedo one or two capital 
ships, and then dash out again. Probably a whole division 
of German destroyers would be lost in the attempt, but 
the loss to the enemy would be well worth the gain. 

It is clear that something of this strategy was actually 
attempted, but with two differences : First, the attack 
was timed to take place only after the first mine-laying 
had been carried out ; and, secondly, the torpedoes were 
to be fired by submarines and not destroyers. Within 
four days of the outbreak of war enemy submarines were 
assuredly seeking out the Grand Fleet. Of this there is 
no doubt, for on August 8th the battleships MONARCH, 
named being Admiral Jellicoe's flagship, each reported 
having sighted a submarine. It was impossible that the 
lookouts of all these ships should have been mistaken, 
and their reports were confirmed by the fact that H.M.S. 
BIRMINGHAM early the next morning, when off the north- 
east coast of Scotland, rammed and sank U15. 

It was obvious enough that the Navy could not afford 
to take unnecessary risks. Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was 
forthwith ordered to move all his heavy ships at once to 
the western side of the Orkneys, and a few days later he 
expressed the opinion that, when the Grand Fleet went to 
sea, its object should be definite, and as soon as that object 
was accomplished, it should withdraw ; for the risk of 
mines and submarines was not to be regarded lightly. 
The enemy had already discovered that Scapa Flow was 
the main anchorage of the Grand Fleet, and a base at Loch 
Ewe had now to be established. 

But that was only a temporary measure. A definite, 
settled defensive policy was necessary, and in this respect 
the trawlers and their fishing crews were to prove invalu- 
able, not merely for mine-sweeping, but in protecting the 
Grand Fleet from the stealthy under-sea boat. A fort- 
night after hostilities began, on August 17th, the Ad- 
miralty decided to form the Northern Trawler Flotilla. 
This was to consist of sixteen trawlers, each one fitted with 
a modified sweep, and in addition each vessel was to carry a 


couple of 3-pounders. These trawlers were to be based on 
Scapa, and to be used for the special service of hunting sub- 
marines off the Eastern Orkneys. Orders were promptly 
sent to Lowestoft, where the craft were fitted out and 
manned by ratings of the Trawler Section, Royal Naval 
Reserve. It was a sound scheme, and their presence 
fulfilled a real need in the north, for only the day previous 
the battle-cruiser NEW ZEALAND had sighted another sub- 
marine in the North Sea, with her deck almost awash. 
Within ten days the first six ships of this Northern Trawler 
Flotilla were on their way to Scapa. 

This, then, was an entirely new r61e for the trawlers to 
play, and one that had not been contemplated prior to the 
war. It meant that actually they were to perform the 
duties of destroyers. Inferior to the latter as regards 
speed, they possessed much superior sea-keeping ability ; 
and their hardy crews, accustomed to North Sea weather 
and possessing an excellent fighting spirit, now found their 
vessels transformed into lightly-armed men-of-war. The 
decision to employ fishing-vessels to hunt submarines was 
justified by subsequent events. Within a week the Ad- 
miralty were considering the advisability of employing even 
steam-yachts as patrol craft, and Admiral Sir John Jellicoe 
favoured the suggestion. It was most important that as 
many small craft as possible should be taken up and used 
as mine-sweepers or as submarine-chasers. Before the end 
of August the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty 
that trawlers were much required off the Orkneys, as the 
danger of mine-laying in that area was increasing. He 
wanted twenty more at once. All that the Admiralty 
could inform Sir John Jellicoe was that they were arming 
trawlers for patrol duties as quickly as possible ; and 
meantime Lowestoft was working at high pressure and 
doing the best to meet the heavy demands. 

Thus for two purposes the Royal Navy was hastily taking 
up trawlers, first for mine-sweeping, secondly for harrying 
submarines and mine-layers. But before the first month 
of hostilities had come to an end, it was clear enough that 
this was to be, in the main, a war of small craft. The 
Admiralty therefore determined at the beginning of Sep- 
tember to utilise all available steam-yachts, trawlers, and 
motor-boats, and to form these into units ; each unit 
was to consist of one yacht, four trawlers, and four motor- 


boats, which were to be sent where they were required. 
The first places would be Scapa, Loch Ewe, Rosyth, 
Humber, and Cromarty. As more vessels became avail- 
able, additional units were to be formed. The yachts' 
and trawlers' armament would be either 3-pounders or 
6-pounders, the yachts having two guns and the trawlers 

Forthwith the Admiralty began to take up all the steam- 
yachts fit for service, and to send them to Portsmouth 
and Devonport, to have their gun-mountings placed for- 
ward and aft. Many of these yachts had but recently 
finished their summer cruising, and as soon as their guns 
were in position, their hulls painted grey, and their wireless 
gear installed, they were dispatched to the North Sea. 
Prior to this decision, two yachts had already been taken up 
for other services. The s.y. Venetia had been commis- 
sioned at the commencement of hostilities and sent to 
Scapa Flow, where, under the command of Lieutenant- 
Commander A. T. Wilson, R.N., she was looking after 
the Northern Trawler Flotilla. The s.y. Zarefah, com- 
manded by Lieutenant-Commander Stuart Garnett, and 
officered and manned almost entirely by Cambridge rowing 
men and Ratcliffe sea scouts, was at work in the North 
Sea in connection with the swept channel. 

These additional yachts which were now to be taken up 
were to work inshore, thus enabling the destroyer patrol 
flotillas to go farther out to sea, and they were to capture 
any vessel, of whatever nationality, suspected of laying 
mines. At this time the amount of traffic, both merchant 
ships and fishing craft, using the North Sea was consider- 
able. The destroyers and torpedo-boats were doing their 
best, but they could not board and examine more than a 
small percentage of suspicious ships. At first these yachts 
were lent by their owners free of charge, the Admiralty 
paying all expenses of equipment and running. At the 
end of three months, provided the yachts were found 
suitable for service, they were chartered at an agreed rate 
per ton per month. Owners who possessed the necessary 
qualifications were invited to take command and accept 
commissions as lieutenants of the Royal Naval Volunteer 
Reserve, though subsequently they were transferred to the 
Royal Naval Reserve. 

As to the motor-boats, there was already an organisation. 


in existence. Its origin dated back a year or two before 
the European crisis developed, and a working scheme was 
just being completed when hostilities began. For a long 
time past yachtsmen in England and Scotland had been 
anxious to place their sea experience at the disposal of 
the Royal Navy in the event of war. The difficulty was 
to ^discover a way in which their enthusiasm and ability 
could be utilised. Most of these yachtsmen were experts 
in the art of handling sailing craft, but the age of sail 
in the Royal Navy had long since passed. A suggestion, 
however, came from the principal motor-yacht clubs that 
in the event of war the Navy might find it useful to have a 
number of motor craft at their disposal, officered by yachts- 
men, and that these craft might prove of service in various 
capacities round our coasts. Already there were in exis- 
tence roughly three types. First was the cruiser type of 
motor-yacht, able to keep the sea in moderate weather 
and capable of being armed so as to act as a scout against 
submarines. Secondly there was the small type of craft, 
about the size of a picket-boat, which would be useful for 
patrolling harbour mouths and estuaries. Finally came the 
small motor-boat which could be used in a dozen ways for 
policing harbours, taking despatches to shipping in the 
roads, and in other miscellaneous duties. 

The Admiralty were approached on the matter, and were 
so far interested that they formed a Motor-Boat Reserve 
Committee, under the presidency of Admiral Sir Frederick 
S. Inglefield, which was instructed to report on the motor- 
boats in the United Kingdom, and for what services in war 
they could be utilised. This was in November 1912, and 
in the following March, Admiral Inglefield reported that 
the boats would be capable of patrolling and performing 
examination service in estuaries and harbours ; assisting 
in controlling traffic, berthing and detaining merchant 
shipping in ports ; detecting hostile submarines that might 
endeavour to enter a harbour ; acting as dispatch-boats 
to ships in roadsteads ; attending on aircraft ; and, 
finally, augmenting the present torpedo flotillas. This 
corps, it was suggested, should consist of commanding 
officers of divisions, with the rank of Commander ; owners 
of boats with the rank of lieutenant ; and their assistants 
with the rank of sub-lieutenant. The whole organisation 
was to be a volunteer reserve. As a result of the first 


report the Admiralty were so favourably impressed that in 
January 1914 they proposed that the Motor-Boat Reserve 
should be affiliated to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 
and they requested the Committee to send a further 

In the meantime, Admiral de Robeck, who was about 
to relinquish his appointment as Admiral of Patrols, made 
a number of suggestions and worked out a scheme of 
organisation and of training for both officers and men in 
the Motor-Boat Reserve. This was to include small-arm 
drill, 3-pounder and machine-gun drill, signalling, tor- 
pedoes, detection of submarines, wireless telegraphy, 
visits to war-stations, lectures on International Law, and 
so on. It was realised that a highly educated and intelli- 
gent personnel would be available, and that a few would go 
through a longer course equivalent to the short course 
undertaken by naval officers. Admiral de Robeck further 
showed his interest by attending a Motor-Boat Reserve 
Committee in March 1914, when the various suggestions 
which had been put forward were considered. The result 
was so encouraging that just before the end of July the 
Admiralty appointed a small Committee to draw up a 
detailed scheme for the training and organisation of the 
Motor-Boat Section of the Royal Naval Volunteer Re- 
serve. It was to be under the chairmanship of Commodore 
George Ballard, the new Admiral of Patrols, and included 
officers of the three leading British Motor- Yacht Clubs. 

That stage of affairs had been reached when suddenly 
the country was plunged into the European War. The 
scheme for training had to be dropped, and there were 
other duties to occupy the attention of the Admiral of 
Patrols. Still, it was fortunate that the organisation had 
been developed so far, for the time had arrived to act ; 
and, unless this preliminary spade-work had been done 
quietly and thoughtfully in peace, it would have been 
impossible to produce at once so useful an organisation. 
Motor-boats were forthwith lent by their owners, and 
during the first few days of the war the little craft were 
employed principally in acting as despatch-boats in con- 
nection with the transports that were carrying the British 
Army from Southampton across to France. But towards 
the end of September 1914, the first eight armed auxiliary 
patrol units had been established at Loch Ewe, Dover, the 


Humber, the Tyne, the Shetlands, and at Cromarty. The 
biggest and best sea-going motor-yachts were selected and 
sent to these stations. The officers had been given com- 
missions in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the ratings 
being known as motor-boatmen. 

Arrived at their bases, these motor craft patrolled 
the harbours, estuaries, and coasts in conjunction with 
the steam-yachts and trawlers. There was work enough 
for every sort and description of vessel, for the enemy was 
engaged in extensive operations with both submarines 
and mine-layers. Before the end of August already three 
known German mine-fields had been laid. There was the 
Southwold mine-field, of which the first mines had been laid 
by the KONIGIN LUISE ; then the Tyne mine-field ; and, 
lastly, the mine-fields off Flamborough and the Humber. 
It is true that a swept and buoyed channel existed at the 
beginning of September from the Goodwins as far north 
as Flamborough, and was being patrolled. But outside 
this narrow lane, four cables wide, the risks to shipping 
were considerable. On September 3rd the patrol drifter 
Linsdell had struck a mine near the Outer Dowsing (that 
is, to the eastward of the Humber) and sunk ; fifteen 
minutes later the gunboat SPEEDY also struck a mine, 
with fatal results. Reports were received that this Humber 
mine area was an extensive one, the mines being within 
three feet of the surface. Similarly, from Newcastle 
came the significant news that four vessels, apparently 
drifters, had been seen forty-four miles east-south-east of 
the Tyne, and three more thirty-five miles off. This was 
on September 7th ; and inasmuch as there are no herrings 
in that part of the North Sea at that season, the local 
fishermen drew their own conclusions. British fishing 
skippers recognised them as vessels which three months 
before were German, and were fishing in the North Sea. 
Now, in the track of merchant shipping, they were 
laying mines. 

Four days after the loss of the SPEEDY and Linsdell, the 
fishing- vessel Revigo foundered on this Humber mine-field, 
and the s.s. Runo had just been sunk on the Tyne mine-field, 
a disaster that was followed next day by the loss of the 
fishing-vessel Imperialist in the same manner forty miles 
east-north-east of the Tyne. Admiral Jellicoe pointed out 
that the difficulty of keeping the North Sea clear of mines 


was rendered more difficult because of the impossibility 
of boarding and examining the East Coast shipping. His 
opinion was that mine-laying would never be stopped until 
the East Coast traffic was diminished. 

The work of the armed units of the Auxiliary Patrol 
became now more strenuous than ever. Up to this time 
the submarine had been a menace a most serious 
menace but nothing more. But on September 5th the 
first submarine success by the enemy was achieved when 
H.M.S. PATHFINDER was torpedoed ten miles south-east of 
May Island, off the entrance to the Firth of Forth. At 
first it was believed that the loss had been caused by 
a mine, but the mine-sweeping trawlers sent out by 
Admiral Lowry from the Forth swept from Inchkeith 
to May Island, then on to Bell Rock and all round the 
position where the PATHFINDER had struck, and not a single 
mine was found. It was evident that a submarine had been 
lying in wait off the Forth in the hope of catching a warship 
bound to or from Rosyth, and it was afterwards established 
that a torpedo from U21 sank the PATHFINDER. Only a few 
days later, a fishing- vessel called the Defender unmistakably 
sighted a submarine eleven miles east by south of the Isle 
of May, in practically the same spot where the PATHFINDER 
had sunk ; and, true to her name, this trawler determined to 
protect the Navy as far as she could. Leaving her fishing, 
she at once hurried westward, gave the information to 
Torpedo-Boat 32, and went up to the Forth to report the 
fact also to H.M.S. RINGDOVE. She thus lost her day's 
catch, but she had done the right thing, and the Admiralty 
awarded her the sum of 62 for having so promptly given 
valuable intelligence. 

Three days later another submarine or perhaps the same 
one fired a couple of torpedoes at the destroyer CHEERFUL 
three miles west of Fidra, in the Firth of Forth ; the 
destroyer STAG had also reported that torpedoes had been 
aimed at her a few hours before off the Isle of May. But 
nothing brought home the submarine peril more acutely 
than the loss of the three big cruisers HOGUE, ABOUKIR, 
and CRESS Y, which were sunk in the southern portion of 
the North Sea by U9 on September 22nd. This triple 
disaster showed to what dangers British ships were exposed. 
More than ever the demand was for small armed craft. 

On the Humber a special anti-submarine trawler flotilla 


was being got ready. From Grimsby, too, four more 
trawlers, specially fitted with a modified explosive sweep, 
were sent to the Forth to act as submarine-hunters. These 
were additional to the armed patrol. Rear-Admiral 
George Ballard, 1 the Admiral of Patrols, was ordered to 
have the entrance to the Humber patrolled by trawlers 
with their modified sweep in addition to his armed trawlers ; 
and finally, with a view to checking mine-laying and the 
dissemination of information useful to the enemy, the Ad- 
miralty announced on September 27th that all East Coast 
ports would be closed to neutral fishing craft from Octo- 
ber 1st. This was a sharp measure, but it was absolutely 
necessary if success was to attend the plans for dealing with 
mine-layers and potential supply-ships acting as tenders 
to German submarines. 

When Sir John Jellicoe informed the Admiralty that 
his destroyers were all too few for stopping and examining 
traffic, he advocated the employment of armed trawlers, 
fitted with wireless, in certain areas. He expressed his 
belief in the freest possible use of these vessels. Some, he 
urged, should be armed, but as their stems were a good 
weapon for ramming, it was not necessary to arm all, and 
there were not at the time sufficient guns to go round. 
The Germans, he remarked, were making the greatest use 
of trawlers, and we should do the same. Much the same 
opinion came from Admiral Lowry at Rosyth, in whose 
area the submarine activity in the Firth of Forth still 
continued. On September 29th one submarine had been 
seen as far up the Forth as Burntisland, and, owing to this 
and other incidents, he had been compelled to suspend 
in that neighbourhood all mine-sweeping operations. 
Altogether no fewer than nine torpedoes had within a 
few days been fired at British torpedo craft in the Forth, 
and in view of the value of such vessels and their numerous 
crews, he considered it was advisable to replace them by 
armed trawlers or drifters as far as possible. Nor was the 
menace confined to the North Sea ; for on September 27th, 
H.M.S. ATTENTIVE had been attacked by two submarines 
in the Straits of Dover. 

Mines were being reported frequently in the North Sea, 
and steamers were still foundering on them. But by this 
date the whole organisation for dealing with mines, mine- 

i Now Vice-Admiral George Ballard, C.B. 


layers, and submarines was well in hand. So important 
had the mine-sweeping service become that it had been 
decided to appoint a flag officer in charge, and Rear- 
Admiral E. F. B. Charlton, C.B., 1 was selected, with the 
title " A.M.S." (Admiral of the East Coast Mine-sweepers). 
This was in the middle of September. 

Under this scheme the Mine-sweeping Service was to 
consist of gunboats, drifters, trawlers, and other vessels 
employed in mine-sweeping ; the sphere of operations 
extending from St. Abb's Head to the South Goodwins, 
exclusive of the Nore and Harwich areas. Under Admiral 
Charlton were the Port Mine- sweeping Officers at Lowes- 
toft, Eyemouth, Grimsby, and North Shields, the In- 
specting Captain of Mine- sweepers continuing his duties 
in connection with the chartering of trawlers as before. 
This concentration of the whole of the mine-sweeping 
on the East Coast under one senior officer was essential, 
owing to the very large increase in mine- sweeping trawlers 
and other vessels. It was a service quite distinct from 
the armed patrol trawlers, yachts, and motor craft. It 
did, however, include the drifters and armed trawlers 
which were engaged in watching the swept channels. 

During this first autumn no seamen more thoroughly 
earned the gratitude of their nation than those of the busy 
mine-sweepers, whose work was never finished. From each 
East Coast port, day after day, six of them steamed out in 
line ahead just before dawn to their stations ; and then 
they would get sweeps out and go rolling down the North 
Sea until relieved a few days later by another six ; all the 
time they offered an easy target for the enemy's submarines, 
and were equally liable to be blown up on an unseen mine. 

From the North Foreland to Flamborough Head they 
were now hard at work, keeping a clean highway a couple 
of hundred miles long and eight hundred yards wide. 
Every day this long road was swept twice. In the extreme 
north, three pairs of trawlers were sweeping two channels 
at each end of the boisterous Pentland Firth twice daily, 
necessitating an actual steaming distance of eighty-five 
miles for each trawler during the daylight hours of a short 
autumn day. The Cromarty and Peterhead trawlers 
were sweeping round the headlands of their own area, lest 
the enemy should have laid his snares ; and all down the 

1 Now Vice-Admiral Sir Edward F. B. Charlton, K.C.M.G., C.B. 


coast from the Forth, the Tyne, the Humber, Lowestoft, 
Harwich, the Nore, Dover, Portsmouth, Portland, and 
Devonport they issued forth on their monotonous and 
dangerous routine. 

The sea was witnessing some strange sights. Scarcely 
had the excursion paddle-steamers which used to ply 
from so many piers been laid up, little expecting to be 
brought into use until the return of peace, than they were 
placed under the White Ensign. What earthly good did 
the Navy expect to find in a Bank Holiday paddler ? 
When the first of these ships came churning up the muddy 
waters of the Humber and bumped into Grimsby Docks 
alongside the steel trawlers, every seaman rubbed his eyes 
and wondered. And yet those craft, drawing only about 
seven and a half feet, did splendid work as mine-sweepers. 
They could go into a mine-field with half the risk of the 
deep-draught trawler, and they could steam at good 
speed. The result was that two or three pairs soon 
cleared up any suspected area and set merchant ships 
free to proceed to their destinations. The first of these 
paddle sweepers to be taken up were the Brighton Queen 
and Devonia. They were sent round from Bristol to 
Devonport, where they were fitted out, and thence they 
steamed up the Channel and North Sea, encountering 
very heavy weather on the way. In this manner still 
another type of small craft was pressed into the Service. 
Built for the purpose of giving pleasure, they were now 
engaged in war. Some of them ended their days on mines, 
but not before they had been the means of thwarting 
certain of the enemy's best-laid schemes. 

By the end of September good progress had been made 
in adding to the number of auxiliary craft. Already fifteen 
armed yachts were in commission, and about another 
fifteen were being fitted out. There were roughly 300 
trawlers and drifters and 100 motor craft at work, but 
all the while the enemy was increasing his activities. 
It was impossible to estimate exactly the intensity of the 
submarine warfare, owing to the fact that the submarines 
were mostly invisible. The only absolute evidence of 
their activities was found in the number of ships sunk, 
the number of times such craft were sighted, or in the 
number of torpedoes whose wake might momentarily be 
seen. It was equally impossible to say whether in a 


given area, at a given time, these attacks were the work 
of one or more submarines. 

But the next month brought ample indication that 
Germany was embarking whole-heartedly on a submarine 
campaign of great dimensions, and scarcely a day went by 
without supplying evidence. On the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 
9th, llth, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 21st, and 24th of 
October, His Majesty's ships either sighted or were 
attacked by enemy under-water craft. In this one month 
alone enemy submarines made attempts on such varied 
types of British warships as cruisers, destroyers, a gun- 
boat, a monitor, a torpedo-boat, and a submarine, apart 
from the refugee ship Amiral Ganteaume and s.s. Glitra, 
mentioned in a previous chapter. Nor was this danger 
in one area only, for in the Dover Straits the British sub- 
marine B3 was attacked on October 2nd. During the next 
few days in the same locality the destroyers COQUETTE 
and MOHAWK chased submarines ; several drifters sighted 
a submarine off the Smith's Knoll Buoy that is, off 
Great Yarmouth ; and a submarine was seen in Loch Ewe. 
On the 9th, the cruiser ANTRIM was attacked off 
Skudesnaes, and the next day the destroyer ATTACK off 
the Schouwen Bank had a similar experience. A few 
hours later a British torpedo-boat chased a submarine 
off the Isle of Wight, the monitor SEVERN was attacked 
in the Straits of Dover, and the destroyer GOSHAWK was 
molested off the Dutch coast. On the 15th the cruiser 
HAWKE was sunk in the North Sea, and the THESEUS, 
another cruiser, was molested, both vessels belonging to 
the Tenth Cruiser Squadron; and the destroyer leader 
SWIFT was actually attacked three times whilst engaged 
in picking up the HAWKE'S survivors. Next day the 
destroyer ALARM just missed being hit by a torpedo, and 
the destroyer NYMPHE, off the Orkneys, possibly struck 
a submarine. On the 17th the mine-sweeping gunboat 
LEDA, and again the SWIFT, had torpedoes fired at them 
whilst entering Scapa Flow, and on the 21st the destroyer 
LYNX saw a submarine off Cromarty Firth. Three days 
later the destroyer BADGER was fired at. The torpedo 
missed her, and the destroyer managed to ram the sub- 
marine. Although the BADGER'S bows were damaged, the 
enemy claimed that the submarine got home safely, and this 
seems probable. The same day submarines were seen off the 


west coast of Scotland in the neighbourhood of Loch Ewe 
and Loch Shell. Finally, on the 31st the seaplane-carrier 
HERMES was torpedoed and sunk not far from Dunkirk. 

Such, then, was the enemy with whom the British Navy 
had to contend. He showed respect neither for a refugee 
ship nor for a merchant ship. What were the steps taken 
to meet this violence ? All that could be done, besides 
laying a British mine-field across the Straits of Dover 
at the beginning of the month and extinguishing all lights 
on the East Coast at the end of the month, from Orfordness 
to Wick, was to strengthen the armed auxiliary patrol 
in every way possible in numbers, in organisation, and 
in offensive devices. More and more guns were wanted for 
these craft, but, unfortunately, they were not available. 
The Royal Navy had never counted on so many demands 
being made upon it, and the Army in France called for 
every gun that could be turned out. But as an anti- 
submarine device, the Admiralty attached great importance 
to the explosive sweep. These sweeps were being made 
in large numbers, and fitted to patrol trawlers. At Ports- 
mouth alone fifty trawlers were thus being fitted, two 
dozen more were prepared at Lowestoft, and Commander 
L. A. B. Donaldson, R.N., was specially appointed to 
the Admiralty to look after this device, his title being 
" Commander Superintendent of Modified Sweeping." 

Similarly, an improvement was made in jurisdiction, 
the Dover and the East Coast being divided into two sepa- 
rate commands. On October 12th Rear- Admiral the Hon. 
H. L. A. Hood was appointed in command of the Dover 
Patrol as Senior Naval Officer at Dover. In addition 
to a destroyer flotilla and two submarine flotillas, he had 
some trawlers and drifters placed in his command, and the 
latter were presently to increase to considerable numbers. 
Rear-Admiral George Ballard, the Admiral of Patrols, 
now became responsible for the area extending from the 
Naze to St. Abb's Head, an area in which were working 
many trawlers fitted with explosive sweeps. 

Admiral Jellicoe continued to ask for more trawlers for 
Scapa Flow, Pentland Firth, Loch Ewe, and Moray 
Firth. Submarines were still reported off the Grand 
Fleet's northern base and in the Minch. Destroyers, he 
said, were unsuitable for searching out the lochs and creeks, 
and only got badly knocked about ; he also wanted trawlers 


for examining neutral ships in the"Minch and vicinity of 
Pentland Firth, as the submarines prevented such work 
being done by cruisers. Small flotillas of trawlers working 
under a yacht were required, and so, on October 23rd, a 
yacht and the trawlers were sent to him. 

Three trawlers specially fitted with the explosive sweep 
were also sent to the Straits of Dover under Lieutenant- 
Commander George E. Tillard, R.N., to hunt submarines. 
More motor-boats were being fitted out and sent to 
the East Coast to examine the estuaries, harbours, 
and inlets, but the demand still exceeded the supply. 
Seven were working at Scapa Flow in connection with the 
local defences, and the Rear-Admiral at Cromarty was 
asking for eight to perform the duties of the Auxiliary 
Patrol. Before the end of the month, the Admiralty were 
able to inform Sir John Jellicoe that they were increasing 
the number of armed trawlers at Cromarty, Peterhead, 
Methil (Firth of Forth), Scapa, Rosyth, Loch Ewe, Great 
Yarmouth, and Dover. The geographical position of 
these places is a sufficient indication of their strategical 
value in regard to submarines. As more trawlers became 
available, they were armed with one or more guns and an 
explosive sweep, and organised into divisions of six 
trawlers to the unit. From each unit one trawler was to 
be selected as divisional leader. She was to be fitted 
up with a suitable officer's cabin, then placed under the 
command of a lieutenant or sub-lieutenant of the Royal 
Naval Reserve, and to be given also wireless telegraphy. 
In addition, an armed yacht was to be attached to each 
unit, and at certain important bases captains-in-charge 
were to be appointed. 

Granton, on the Forth, was becoming an important 
war base for trawlers and yachts, and was destined soon 
to be one of the largest auxiliary stations on the coast. 
Sixty additional trawlers were now taken up as armed 
patrol vessels. There were a hundred of these already 
in the Service or being fitted out, and the full 160 were 
being organised into twenty-six divisions of six vessels 
each, and one of four vessels. These, of course, were quite 
apart from the mine-sweeping trawlers and the watching 
drifters. In fact, before October was ended that is to 
say, within less than three months of the declaration 
of war there were 130 armed trawlers either in commission 


or nearly ready ; and thirty-seven armed yachts either 
patrolling or fitting out, in addition to 246 mine-sweeping 
trawlers, two paddle mine-sweepers, and forty-two drifters. 
With admirable zeal and energy a new navy had been 
created in a few weeks which already exceeded in numbers 
the navy that flew the White Ensign at the beginning of 
August. In spite of the haste with which the ships and 
men had been assembled and sent out to their strange 
duties, in spite of the dangers from weather, fogs, sub- 
marines, and mines, only half a dozen trawlers and drifters 
had been lost during the period. The decision to use for 
warlike purposes, under modern conditions, ships which 
were never intended for the contest of organised violence, 
and men without war training, had abundantly justified 
itself, to the great advantage of the country and the 
welfare of British shipping. 

Warfare by means of the mine, and warfare by means 
of the submarine, are practically identical. The aim in 
each case is to sink the ship attacked by a violent explosive 
without the victim having so much as a chance of escaping. 
The only difference between the torpedo and the mine 
is that the former goes to meet the ship, and the latter 
waits for the ship's coming. The result in the two cases 
is the same. 

There were only two courses open to the Admiralty. 
The first was to make mine-laying for the enemy as 
difficult as possible, and the second was to continue in- 
creasing the resources of mine-sweeping. These obvious 
measures were carried out. To begin with, not only had 
all the East Coast ports been closed to neutral fishing- 
vessels from October 1st, but any neutral fishing- vessel 
found fishing west of a certain line in the North Sea was 
regarded as under suspicion of mine-laying. The British 
Government were determined to take no half-measures, 
and gave warning that any trawlers not in the exclusive 
employment of the German Government found illicitly 
laying mines would be sunk, while their crews would be 
liable to be treated as war criminals and shot after trial 
by court martial. 

It will be recollected that when discussing the pre-war 
arrangements the Admiralty had established the principle 
that trawlers were suitable for sweeping fairways and 
the entrances to harbours, but not for sweeping ahead 


of the Fleet, owing to their comparatively slow speed. 
Before the end of the autumn, after Commander Preston's 
gunboats had been doing much service in the North, 
Admiral Jellicoe asked for some Fleet sweepers. He in- 
sisted that they should possess good speed and be sea- 
worthy, and be capable of standing the heavy weather which 
prevails off the north of Scotland. The Admiralty, there- 
fore, took up four pairs of steamers owned by various rail- 
way companies and fitted them out with the requisite gear. 
These vessels were the Reindeer, the Roebuck, the Lynx, 
and Gazelle, all owned by the Great Western Railway ; 
the Folkestone and Hythe belonging to the South-Eastern 
and Chatham Company, and the Clacton and Newmarket, 
which were the property of the Great Eastern Company. 
The first pair was taken in hand at the beginning of October. 
The policy adopted by the Admiralty in regard to the 
mine-fields was as follows : The trawlers were to sweep 
the North Foreland to Flamborough Head channel clear 
and safe ; the limits of all suspicious areas were to be 
defined and therefore avoided ; the mine-fields, once their 
extent and position had been discovered, were to be left 
intact, and not swept up. Thus the three mine-fields off 
the East Coast acted as a means of protection against the 
enemy's possible aggression. Inasmuch as the safe channel 
for shipping ran between the coast and the mine-field, it 
was obvious that the enemy was doing us a good turn in 
laying mines, when once the limitations of these areas 
had been ascertained. For his measures to be effective, 
he should have gone close inshore and fouled the swept 
channel. But to lay mines inshore was not so easy as 
it seemed, for there were only three possible methods. 
The first was to employ small craft, especially fishing- vessels, 
but this sort of thing had already been rendered too risky 
a proceeding, owing to the careful watch maintained by 
the British patrols. The second method was to lay the 
mines invisibly, but the submarine mine-layer had still to 
be commissioned. Lastly, there was always a possibility of 
a strong raiding force coming across and overpowering the 
British patrols, leaving German mine-layers free to do what 
they liked. It was this third alternative which was adopted 
by the enemy at the time of the Scarborough and Gorleston 
raids, when, under the feint of bombarding the cbast, 
dangerous mine areas were laid. These developments will 


be considered separately in so far as they concern this 
History, but for the moment attention must be devoted 
to another locality. 

Germany now developed on fresh lines her campaign 
against ocean traffic. From the Dominion of Canada a 
number of transports would soon be crossing the Atlantic 
on their way to England, bringing troops to aid British 
arms. If Germany could lay a mine-field in the path of 
these vessels, and blow any of them up, that would be sound 
strategy. It was on October 3rd that the first Canadian 
convoy left Canadian waters, and on the very day that this 
convoy began to arrive in Plymouth Sound an exception- 
ally large mine-layer was leaving Germany. This auxiliary 
vessel was the Norddeutscher Lloyd liner BERLIN, of 
over 17,000 registered tonnage, and a speed of about 
17 knots. In peace-time she had been well known on the 
New York service, and the reasons for employing her in 
mine-laying were twofold. If she were seen in the track 
of Atlantic shipping she would not excite much suspicion, 
for she looked what she was an Atlantic liner. More- 
over, she had ample capacity for carrying many hundreds 
of mines, and a long after-deck from which to lay them. 
She was, however, a little unfortunate at first, for she acted 
on faulty information. She arrived too late to interfere 
with the big convoy of thirty-one transports, and she 
had erroneously assumed that the transports would come 
to Liverpool via the North of Ireland. 

She had already made one attempt to pass through the 
North Sea at the end of September, when, having got 
up towards the Norwegian coast, she sighted a number 
of British men-of-war, and therefore put back to Germany. 
On October 14th, however, she steamed away from Wil- 
helmshaven with 2,000 mines on board, being escorted 
by a couple of submarines. Passing round the north 
and west of Scotland, she arrived off the North of Ireland 
and laid a big mine-field off Tory Island on October 22nd 
and 23rd. It happened that there steamed out of the 
Manchester Ship Canal, on October 24th, a 5,000 ton 
steamship called the Manchester Commerce, bound for the 
River St. Lawrence, whence the Canadian convoy had 
started, and on the afternoon of the 27th she struck one 
of the mines off Tory Island and sank ; the explosion 
occurred between Nos. 2 and 3 holds, the ship drawing 


at the time 19 feet 5 inches forward and 22 J feet aft. 
Next day at 9 a.m., whilst the Second Battle Squadron 
was steaming in this locality, the third ship in the 
line, H.M.S. AUDACIOUS, struck a mine and eventually 

This event suggested more work for the trawlers in an 
unexpected quarter. It happened that at this time 
part of the Grand Fleet, with Admiral Jellicoe's flagship, 
had anchored in Lough Swilly, and until this mine-field 
was cleared the ships were practically blockaded the very 
thing, as has been explained already, that was feared would 
happen when war broke out. Admiral Jellicoe the same 
day telegraphed to the Admiralty asking for eight mine- 
sweeping trawlers to be sent to Lough Swilly at once. 
Nothing was then known about the Berlin having been 
there ; the only information was that a mine-field was in 
existence about eighteen to twenty miles N. ^ E. of Tory 
Island. To what extent and in what direction it spread, 
absolutely no information was available. In response to 
the Commander-in-Chief's request, four mine-sweeping 
trawlers were at once ordered to leave Milford Haven for 
Lough Swilly. For an enemy wishing to mine the shipping 
track to Liverpool and the Atlantic the obvious strategic 
points are firstly that strip of sea called the North Channel 
between the north-east coast of Ireland and the Mull of 
Cantyre ; and, secondly, the St. George's Channel. As 
it was suspected that the enemy might have fouled these 
approaches, orders were sent the day after the disaster 
to the AUDACIOUS that two groups of six trawlers, each 
attended by an armed vessel, were to be dispatched from 
Lowestoft to the westward. Of these two groups, one 
was to proceed to Larne in order to sweep the North 
Channel, the other was to go to Milford to sweep the St. 
George's Channel. Nor was this all. The Admiralty 
decided at once that energetic action was essential 
in order to cope with this mine-laying on the West Coast 
and on the trade approaches. Two additional squadrons 
of about twenty trawlers each, with a proportion of mine- 
sweepers, were to be formed without delay for the purpose 
of searching and picketing these areas. 

As this dramatic revelation of the Tory Island death- 
trap suggested that other new mine-fields might be laid 
off the anchorages used by the Grand Fleet, Sir John 


Jellicoe, on October 28th, ordered the Vice-Admiral 
commanding the Orkneys and Shetlands to send trawlers 
to sweep for mines up to within thirty miles of the bases. 
The same day, also, special instructions were sent to the 
Senior Naval Officer at Liverpool to proceed with the 
utmost dispatch with the organisation of a special 
auxiliary patrol for the prevention of mine -lay ing. Thus 
yet another type of merchant vessel came to be pressed 
suddenly into the war. Who is there familiar with ships 
and seafaring matters that has not heard of the wonderful 
achievements of the famous Liverpool tugs, which can go 
anywhere and do almost anything ? These powerful 
little craft have made some wonderful voyages across the 
world towing floating docks, disabled liners, or dismasted 
sailing-ships. The war was certainly becoming far-reach- 
ing when it needed these craft. However, two days after 
the AUDACIOUS had foundered, a dozen of these Liverpool 
tugs were commandeered, six of them to patrol the North 
Channel, board suspicious ships and prevent mine-laying, 
while the other six were to be sent to Milford to patrol the 
southern part of the Irish Sea. This was only a temporary 
measure until more trawlers could be chartered, and before 
the end of the year the tugs were sent back to Liverpool. 
Meanwhile, in addition to the tugs, the armed yacht 
Oriana and a number of drifters were ordered to patrol 
the vicinity of the Mull of Cantyre, and to search such 
places as Loch Indail, the west coast of Islay, and its 
northern side. 

Within three days of the AUDACIOUS disaster, six mine- 
sweeping trawlers were hard at work sweeping from 
Lough Swilly entrance to the west and south of Tory 
Island, but found no mines ; they had yet to learn that 
the mines were farther to the northward, but their first 
duty was to insure a safe channel close to the coast. 
While the Grand Fleet was unable to leave its anchorage, 
the entrance to Lough Swilly was being patrolled by the 
armed yacht Lorna and six trawlers ; more drifters 
were also taken up at Kingstown and sent to swell the 
list of small craft. The experience of war had upset 
many preconceived ideas, but it was a strange fact that, 
while yachts, tugs, trawlers, and drifters could use the 
sea, it was not safe for battleships and cruisers to venture 


An inquiry into the manner by which the BERLIN 
managed to pass through the North Sea and down the 
Atlantic right to the coast of Ireland, without being 
intercepted by any of the vessels belonging to the Grand 
Fleet, would yield interesting reading, but it is foreign 
to the present purpose. It is, however, pertinent to ask 
what our Auxiliary Patrol vessels in the neighbourhood 
of Ireland were doing at the time the Berlin was acting 
as she pleased. The answer is simple. This incident 
happened within the first few weeks of the war, when every 
available patrol craft had been sent to the North Sea, 
for the obvious reason that that was the main theatre of 
war. It had scarcely seemed credible then that the coast of 
Ireland could have much strategical value, and the western 
areas were almost bare in respect of patrols. At the time 
when the Berlin paid her visit, the only auxiliary craft in 
Ireland were : at Queenstown, an armed yacht, four 
drifters, and two or three motor-boats ; and at Belfast, the 
armed yacht Ilex and four armed trawlers. That was all. 
There were two bigger craft patrolling to the westward 
and eastward of the North of Ireland. The old-fashioned 
light cruiser Isis was cruising about remarkably close to 
where the mine-layer had been ; for the noon position of 
the Isis on October 22nd was seventy miles west of Tory 
Island, and at noon of the following day she was forty- 
five miles west by north of Bloody Foreland. The Tar a, 
another of the commissioned railway steamers, was also 
patrolling the North Channel, and she proceeded to Larne 
on the 21st to coal. To the north was the armed yacht 
Hersilia, on her way from Peterhead to Loch Ewe, her 
station ; on the 24th she sighted a submarine off Loch 
Shell, and the same day a submarine had also been sighted 
five miles north-east of lona Island. It is probable that 
these were the two submarines which had accompanied the 

There were, too, four armed trawlers and four motor- 
boats based on Loch Ewe, but there were only the armed 
yacht Oriana and four drifters working out from Liver- 
pool. The auxiliary force, then, was inadequate for keep- 
ing the trade approaches in this part of the British Isles 
well patrolled and shipping watched for suspicious move- 
ments. But the foundering of the Manchester Commerce 
and AUDACIOUS had shown that it was impossible to 


treat this area as almost negligible ; it needed plenty of 
patrol craft and proper organisation. So Commander H. 
Berkeley, R.N., was selected and sent to Larne to act 
as Senior Naval Officer, and to organise for the North 
Channel the patrol force now being dispatched. At 
first he had only the Oriana and her four drifters and 
six Liverpool tugs, until other vessels could be obtained. 
While each drifter carried a 3-pounder gun, the tugs had 
nothing beyond rifles for weapons, but they had been 
provided with explosive signals and flares, so that, if a 
mine-layer or other suspicious ship was sighted, they could 
instantly warn the other patrols. 

Meanwhile, the greatest activity was being manifested 
to increase the patrols at the most important points. 
Four more yachts and forty-eight additional trawlers 
were ordered to Scapa from various ports within a week 
of the Manchester Commerce's sinking, and the dockyards 
were being asked how many trawlers they could fit out 
for service. It was no easy problem for the Admiralty, 
as already the resources of our fishing fleets had been 
called upon to an extraordinary extent. More patrol 
vessels, the Director of Operations pointed out, were 
required for the West, but he confessed 'that it was diffi- 
cult to see where they could be obtained. Considerable 
progress was being made with the manufacture of the 
modified sweep explosive charges for dealing with the 
submarines. These sweeps were being prepared for 
another seventy trawlers, and orders had been placed 
for a still further supply of sixty ; but the manufacture 
took time, and Woolwich could not turn out more than 
a hundred a week. 

The Admiralty needed nearly a couple of hundred more 
trawlers, despite the large number of the little ships they 
had already chartered. It was a strange experience 
for these fishing craft suddenly to find themselves every- 
where in so much demand. Off the North Irish coast 
they were having a strenuous time sweeping for mines 
in the heavy Atlantic swell ; it was certainly no yachting 
trip, and presently a long series of gales interfered con- 
siderably with their operations. Some of Commander 
Preston's old mine-sweepers had been sent down from 
Scapa to assist. The CIRCE and LEDA came first, and by 
October 29th they had been joined at Lough Swilly by the 


JASON, the SPEEDWELL, and the SKIPJACK, which swept 
the channel along the shore to the east and west of the 
entrance of Lough Swilly. Thus at length a safe passage 
inshore of Tory Island and Inishtrahull could be guaran- 
teed, and the Grand Fleet was freed to put to sea once 

On November 2nd six trawlers again endeavoured to find 
where the BERLIN'S mine-field began and ended. They 
made an exploratory sweep from Fanad Point, the western 
headland of Lough Swilly, well out into the Atlantic, but 
found nothing ; and then, having swept out as far north as 
the fifty fathom line, they swept in three directions from 
Tory Island, north-north-west, north, and north-north- 
east, but still without result. Six drifters, which had been 
sent with their nets to search for mines, had no better 
fortune. In the last week of November another six mine- 
sweeping' r M trawlers under the command of Lieutenant Sir 
James Domville, Bart., R.N., arrived. These craft had 
come from Scapa Flow to locate the mine-field. It was 
important that no time should be lost, but exceptionally 
heavy weather set in, and it was not till late in December 
that the trawlers could get to work again. A special sweep 
was carried out from Skerryvore to the Mull of Cantyre, 
a route likely to have been fouled because it was that 
traversed by Grand Fleet ships bound for Liverpool for 
docking Jor repairs. No mines were found. Then, on 
December 19th, another disaster occurred, when the 
Donaldson liner Tritonia foundered on a mine in almost 
the same spot where the AUDACIOUS and Manchester Com- 
merce had been sunk. 

Fortunately during the next three days the trawlers 
at last succeeded in finding the dangerous area, a task 
that is far harder than may be realised by those unfamiliar 
with such work. Search for mines in the Atlantic in 
the winter, and never finding them until they suddenly 
appear in the sweep or blow the trawler to destruction, is 
an operation not to be undertaken either lightly or inad- 
visedly. It needs determination to stick it out, enduring 
the monotonous routine and boisterous weather ; but it 
also needs pluck to go blindly where mines may be found, 
and a special kind of intuition to guess where the enemy 
may have laid them. Between December 20th and 22nd, 
Sir James Domville's trawlers managed to sweep up and 


explode no fewer than a dozen of the Berlin's mines. 
Five of them were discovered sixteen miles north-east 
by north of Tory Island, and three more eighteen miles 
north-north-east of the same island. It was many weeks 
before the whole mine-field was completely cleared up, but 
a good beginning had been made, and the trawlers kept 
doggedly at work. The danger was increased by the 
heavy weather, which had caused many of the mines to drift 
in roughly a north-easterly direction. On December 2nd 
one was even found by the battleship NEPTUNE on the 
direct line between Oronsay and Skerryvore, and was 
sunk by her, but others drifted up the west coast of Scot- 

And whilst all this increased activity in regard to patrols 
and mine-sweepers was proceeding in the North of Ireland, 
a similar impetus had been created also in the south of 
the Irish Sea. About the time when Commander Berkeley 
was appointed to Larne, the Admiralty instituted another 
base for auxiliary craft. This was at Milford, and 
thither Captain K. C. Gibbons, R.N., was sent to take 
charge of the patrol vessels working the St. George's 
Channel and the outer part of the Bristol Channel. 
Milford began [to [develop into a most important base, 
and before very long its spacious haven was alive with 
all sorts of auxiliary craft. As a beginning, twenty 
armed trawlers, in addition to some mine-sweepers and 
armed yachts, were ordered there, as well as six Liverpool 
tugs. The armed yachts Aster and Greta, both small 
enough for the work, and typical fine-weather pleasure 
vessels, were based on Milford temporarily. But the 
mine-sweeping trawlers had an equally important office 
to perform as soon as they could get to sea. It was essen- 
tial that they should ascertain whether the enemy had laid 
a mine-field in the south of the Irish Sea, as he had in the 
north. They were accordingly ordered to sweep the 
Irish coast from the Tuskar and Coningbeg against the tide, 
and then work across the St. George's Channel in about 
six tides. This exploratory sweep was duly carried out, 
but happily no mines had been laid there. 

Reference has been made to the increasing difficulty 
which the enemy was finding in laying mine-fields in the 
North Sea, consequent on the improvement of the British 
patrols. The line of demarcation which the Admiralty 


had ruled down this sea suffered neutral fishing craft to 
proceed no farther west than the Dogger Bank, unless they 
wished to be treated as suspicious ships. The Dogger 
Bank for hundreds of years has been one of the most 
productive fishing areas in the world, and the British 
fisherman continued to use it in war-time, even though he 
went there knowing full well the risks he ran. Farther 
down the coast, the Lowestoft and Yarmouth men went 
on fishing pretty much as usual, and the Ramsgate 
smacks also sailed up the coast, trawling as they went. 
These men had nothing to gain by the war, and everything 
to lose, for if the freedom of the seas were denied to them, 
their means of livelihood disappeared and people ashore 
would have no fish. As the demand for crews and ships 
increased, the younger men joined the Trawler Section of 
the Royal Naval Reserve, but the older men carried on 
with that fine spirit which had always been the glory of 
British seamanhood. Their co-operation with the British 
Navy was admirable. They realised all that the war 
by sea meant to them. Moreover, their spirit had been 
roused by the way the enemy had laid his mines in the 
areas which they, as peaceful fishermen, had always 
frequented, and though these fishermen had little regard 
for the niceties of international law and the subtleties 
of regulations, they were determined to do their utmost 
to hinder the enemy to the full extent of their ability. 

At the beginning of November there existed in the 
North Sea one British and three German mine-fields. 
There was the Tyne area, the Flamborough Head to the 
Spurn area, the Southwold area, and the area which in- 
cluded the British mines laid across the Dover Straits. 
But it had become evident towards the end of October 
that the enemy was at work on some undefined fresh 
attack. Three suspicious vessels had been seen to the 
north of the area where the upper end of the Southwold 
mine ended that is to say, not far from Smith's Knoll, in 
the vicinity of Yarmouth. A report came in that, when a 
Ramsgate smack which was fishing in that neighbourhood 
approached these suspicious ships, she was fired on. Very 
shortly afterwards this smack, whilst sailing about, got 
a couple of mines in her trawl, and one of the mines blew 
up. The incident was a little mysterious at the .time, 
but in the light of after-events it became intelligible. 


A few miles off Yarmouth is the Smith's Knoll shoal, 
which runs parallel with the shore. It was marked by 
a lighted buoy at its southern end. From this buoy a 
short channel had been kept swept, so that it formed a 
safe highway for ships from the North Sea into the other 
swept channel which ran from the North Foreland to 
Flamborough. It was evident, from what subsequently 
occurred, that the enemy had obtained information of this 
secret channel, and he certainly was about to make use 
of it in connection with the Gorleston raid. It is signi- 
ficant of both the raid on Gorleston, and that which oc- 
curred a few weeks later on the Yorkshire coast, that the 
actual bombardment was of secondary importance, and 
the laying of mines was the main object, for the enemy 
realised that as soon as he opened fire on the shore the 
British naval forces would be sent to attack the Germans. 
In other words, it was an obvious invitation to battle, 
but without any intention on the part of the enemy to 
fight ; since before the two forces could engage, the Ger- 
man squadron would have scattered plenty of mines 
across the line of pursuit, thus imperilling valuable war- 
ships whose loss we could not afford. 

The scheme also included the laying of additional 
mine-fields just before the raid took place, with the same 
intention of entrapping His Majesty's ships. Thus the 
enemy hoped to inflict on us losses from three separate 
traps. He reasoned that, as soon as the news of his bom- 
bardment was telegraphed up and down the country, 
some of the Grand Fleet squadrons and flotillas would 
come steaming down from the North across the Dogger 
Bank ; local patrol- ships would emerge in haste from 
Yarmouth ; and some of Commodore Tyrwhitt's destroyer 
force would steam north from Harwich up the Suffolk 
coast to the scene of the bombardment. For each of 
these three forces a mine-field was to be laid, and there 
is circumstantial evidence that this project was carried 

The suspicious ships seen by the Ramsgate trawler 
had almost certainly been laying some of the mines. It 
was the definite opinion of Admiral Charlton, in charge 
of the East Coast mine-sweepers, that the mines, on which 
later on the British submarine D5 foundered, had been laid 
just prior to the raid, " with the intention of trapping 


any of our vessels leaving Yarmouth in pursuit." Be 
that as it may, on November 2nd, the Smith's Knoll Light 
Buoy was found to have mysteriously disappeared, and 
that same afternoon a so-called "neutral" fishing- vessel 
was reported in circumstances which were at least 
suspicious. The spot was sixty-five miles north-east of 
the Spurn, at the south-west corner of the Dogger Bank. 
It was just inside the imaginary line drawn by the 
Admiralty, so neutral fishing-vessels sighted were not 
necessarily suspected as mine-layers. 

About three o'clock the Hull steam trawler Alonso 
was in that neighbourhood. She was not a patrol vessel, 
but had come out there to fish, and as she was steaming, 
her skipper, Mr. Charles Read, who was on the bridge, 
noticed another vessel about four miles away to the south- 
ward with her mainsail and mizzen set. She appeared 
to be a foreign sailing drifter. It was a hazy afternoon 
and there were no other vessels in sight, but when half 
an hour later he got nearer he noticed that the strange ship 
had steam as well as sail and that she had white bows. 
She had lowered her mainsail and hoisted a flag on her 
mizzen. Skipper Read, having been all his life familiar 
with the ways of trawlers and drifters, decided in his 
own mind that she was acting suspiciously. He there- 
fore steamed up to her and found that she was riding to a 
floating anchor. She had no nets out, nor were there any 
buoys or pellets visible such as one would expect to find 
on a drifter's deck. The Alonso passed right under her 
stern, and her skipper noticed that the drifter had a derrick 
swung out from her bridge with a tackle from the end of 
the derrick to the mizzenmast head. This derrick, 
which reached out from the ship's rail about eight feet, 
was made either of iron or steel, and caused the vessel 
to appear still more suspicious. 

What was the obvious inference to be drawn from a 
drifter with no nets, lying practically stationary, and with 
a heavy derrick already swung out for use ? Appearances 
suggested to Skipper Read that she was there for the 
purpose of laying mines during the haze. For twenty- 
five years he had been fishing, but he had never before 
seen a drifter with a derrick; "Nor," he remarked, "is 
a derrick used by drifters in their fishing." He expressed 
his suspicions to his crew, and suggested that the best 


thing to do would be to run her down. The evidence, 
however, was insufficient to warrant his taking such a 
drastic step, so, to quote his own words, " As I could not 
see any mines I decided not to do this, but to break my 
voyage by ceasing fishing operations and make for the 
Humber as quickly as possible, to give the information 
to one of the Admiralty vessels." He steamed back to 
the Spurn and came up the Humber, where H.M.S. VIC- 
TORIOUS was lying as guardship, and gave her the informa- 
tion. He had done the right thing, had patriotically 
sacrificed his fishing, and wasted no time. The Admiralty 
showed their appreciation of his devotion to duty by 
making a present of 25 to the skipper and crew, in 
addition to another 25 to the owners. 

The next morning the Gorleston raid occurred. 1 Briefly, 
the facts are as follows : Just after seven o'clock in the 
morning of November 3rd, H.M.S. HALCYON, which had 
just left Yarmouth to look for mines, sighted a four- 
funnelled cruiser steering south- south- west towards the 
shore, and two minutes later there appeared four German 
Dreadnought vessels as well. This was an enemy squadron, 
which is supposed to have left Heligoland Bight the pre- 
vious evening. Within a quarter of an hour of being 
sighted the enemy opened fire, and it was seen that there 
were two cruisers following astern of the Dreadnoughts. 
About the same time two British destroyers, the LIVELY 
and LEOPARD, also came under fire, but the former made 
a smoke-screen to windward of HALCYON and thus shielded 
her. At twenty minutes to eight, by which time the 
HALCYON'S steering compass had been shot away, but 
practically no other damage done, the enemy ceased fire, 
and was seen to be steering to the south-eastward. Shortly 
afterwards the squadron was lost sight of. The enemy had 
come down from Smith's Knoll, and having proceeded 
thence towards the shore, had begun to lay mines from the 
rearmost ship just before altering course to the south-east. 
The LEOPARD endeavoured to keep in touch with the 
enemy, but he was soon lost to sight. Presently the 
submarine D5 came out from Yarmouth in pursuit, but 
she had only covered a couple of miles south-east of the 
South Cross Sand when she struck a mine and was lost. 

1 Fuller and later information supported the conclusion that all the 
mines discovered after the Gorleston raid were laid by enemy men-of-war. 


As to the raiding squadron, they had apparently 
dropped mines as they approached Smith's Knoll, 
then all the way down the swept Smith's Knoll passage, 
for six or seven miles towards the Cross Sand Lightship ; 
and, having altered course, they continued to lay mines 
as they proceeded seawards. They had thus laid a veri- 
table trap, but again a fisherman, by his intelligence, 
rendered excellent service and saved valuable lives and 
ships. About 3.30 in the afternoon a fishing-vessel re- 
turned to Lowestoft, and her skipper reported that the 
enemy had laid these mines. He had seen the Germans 
engaged in the very act, and had observed that one of 
the ships had her quarter-deck covered with mines ready 
to be dropped overboard. 

The object of the enemy became clear. He had fouled 
the Smith's Knoll passage, and had scattered mines in the 
track of any pursuers. The actual shore bombardment had 
been little more than a blind. For our part, the first duty 
was to save British ships, and the Columbia was forthwith 
recalled to Lowestoft, bringing with her all the mine- 
sweepers available, and ordered to keep well to the north- 
ward of the Smith's Knoll buoy. Unfortunately, three 
fishing-vessels the same day foundered on this new mine- 
field ; but the next day the mine-sweeping trawlers went 
out on their dangerous job, groping about to find where 
the mines had been strewn. To add to their dangers 
a fog settled down, and on the following day, November 5th, 
the Mary, one of the mine-sweeping trawlers, struck a 
mine whilst at work and sank. This put an end tempor- 
arily to the sweeping operations, but before long the passage 
was cleared and a new channel was in existence. Once 
again the best-laid scheme of a ruthless enemy had been 
brought to naught by the good work oi* the trawlers, 
though at the expense of valuable lives. Not a single 
merchant ship or big man-of-war had fallen into the 
trap, though, unhappily, a submarine, besides several 
fishing craft, had been lost. 

So much for the mine-laying efforts of the enemy. 
During the first week of November the Admiralty became 
aware that he was increasing his submarine attacks. 
Almost simultaneously twenty armed trawlers reached 
Scapa Flow for local defence, but still the Commander- 
in-Chief required more. Eighteen he was using to work 


in the Minch and between Cape Wrath and Pentland 
Firth, those wild, boisterous waters where seaworthy, 
well-built craft are thoroughly tried. The Shetlands 
Patrol had been further strengthened by six trawlers, 
but another dozen trawlers were required for the Moray 
Firth, to provide for the safety of the battle cruisers. 
Nor was this all. The Admiralty began to take up a 
number of stoutly-built Scotch motor fishing-boats for 
patrol work. They are wonderful sea-boats, double ended, 
though rather slow. Sixteen of them were soon put into 
service by the Motor-Boat Reserve, each manned by a 
crew of five hardy Scotch fishermen, with two officers 
of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. These boats 
were about sixty feet long, and were sent to Lerwick, 
Scapa, Cromarty, and the Firth of Forth, but presently 
there were also to be based on Cromarty three armed 
yachts with wireless, and eighteen trawlers fitted with 
the explosive sweep, in addition to ten motor-boats for 
patrolling narrow waters. Granton, too, now became 
a very important naval base for trawlers, under Captain 
Cecil Fox ; and having regard to the extent to which 
submarines had frequented the vicinity of the Firth of 
Forth, its development was undertaken none too soon. 
Within eight weeks eighteen enemy submarines had been 
sighted inside the limits of Rosyth Naval Centre, apart 
from those which had been seen up the Forth itself. At 
least six submarines had been identified near the Long- 
stone, and it seemed probable that they were using this 
spot for making the land. Though the Longstone light 
had been extinguished in the first week of September, 
submarines continued to be sighted off there during the 
next two months. 

Before attention is devoted to the North, something 
must be said of what was happening in the English Channel. 
It was expected that submarines were about to operate 
off the South Coast, and with the limited available auxiliary 
patrols efforts were made to cope with this activity. 
The task was most difficult. Prior to the war there had 
been a disposition to underrate the capacity of the sub- 
marine, and when its offensive ability was demonstrate 
only too forcibly, it was painfully realised that our countei 
measures were by no means adequate. The Grand Fle< 
had to be preserved intact, at all costs, on the principl 


that the final contest is decided by the capital ship. Con- 
sequently, nearly all the destroyers, and a great part of 
the armed auxiliary patrols, were attracted to northern 
latitudes. Small ships on the South Coast were few in 
numbers, and the problem to be solved was rendered no 
easier by the fact that the enemy had developed a type 
of mine-laying submarine which could do its work without 
breaking the surface. 

Portsmouth was asking for eight drifters to patrol 
outside the Solent ; Portland required trawler patrols 
for the Dorset coast ; and we were compelled to invite 
the French to organise a trawler patrol in order to pursue 
submarines by day and night in the area between the lines 
Dungeness-Boulogne and Beachy Head-Dieppe. The sub- 
marine came and went like a will-o'-the-wisp. On 
November 6th three torpedoes were fired at H.M. 
Torpedo-boat 91 while patrolling off the Girdler in the 
Thames Estuary ; the same day H.M.S. DRAKE sighted a 
periscope off Hoy Sound at the western entrance to Scapa 
Flow. Five days later H.M.S. NIGER, an old-fashioned 
gunboat, was torpedoed close to Deal Pier. On the 18th 
H.M.S. SKIPJACK chased a submarine north of the Orkneys. 
Submarines continued to be reported off the Hebrides and 
Cape Wrath. H.M.S. AJAX also sighted a periscope about 
midway between the Faroe Islands and Cape Wrath. 

These incidents in no wise lessened the demand for 
auxiliary craft. Yet again the Commander-in-Chief asked 
for more and more trawlers twelve to be based on Storn- 
oway for patrolling the east coast of the Hebrides and the 
west coast of Skye and Mull ; six to be based on West Loch 
Tarbert for the west coast of the Hebrides ; and twelve to 
be at Loch Ewe for the outer coast of Scotland. He also 
desired one yacht for the west coast of the Hebrides, one at 
Stornoway, and one at Loch Ewe. But already the Ad- 
miralty was working out a bold and comprehensive scheme 
for dealing with the whole coast-line, and meanwhile every- 
thing possible was done by improvisation to strengthen 
our defensive measures against the mine and submarine. 
Instructions were issued to accelerate the fitting out of 
trawlers with modified explosive sweeps. Admiral Sir 
Percy Scott, who, just prior to the war, had suggested in 
the face of some criticism the great possibilities of the sub- 
marine, was in the middle of November appointed to the 


Admiralty to investigate the best methods for counter- 
acting this invisible vessel. As a further step, the Ad- 
miralty elaborated a scheme for modifying the lighting 
and buoyage from Great Yarmouth to the Isle of Wight, 
and this came into force early in December. 

Meanwhile the task of the mine-sweeping trawlers grew 
no lighter. For, besides keeping clear that long lane from 
the North Foreland to Flamborough Head, they had to 
meet many demands made upon them. Towards the 
end of November Rear- Admiral Stuart Nicholson had been 
directed to bombard Zeebrugge with the battleships 
RUSSELL and EXMOUTH. To sweep ahead of his ships 
he required eight trawlers, and so, at a time when they 
could ill be spared, four had to be sent from Lowestoft 
and another four from Great Yarmouth. They proceeded 
to Dover and thence to Dunkirk, sweeping a clear way for 
the battleships, but such craft were hardly suited for this 
kind of work, as they were wanting in speed. Presently 
trawlers were sent from Dunkirk to sweep the West Deep, 
off Nieuport, clear of floating mines, work which they could 
perform admirably. But the strain put upon the East 
Coast mine-sweepers became intolerably heavy. Many of 
them had been taken away to Lough Swilly, to Milford, 
and now to the Belgian coast, with the result that it was 
possible to sweep the North Foreland-Flamborough lane 
only once a day instead of twice. This, of course, increased 
the risks to our coastwise traffic, but in view of the limited 
number of trawlers and the demands made upon their 
services, such risks could not be avoided. 

On November 17th, 1914, there came out from Heligo- 
land a submarine with the number " U18 " painted on 
the hull. Never did a craft leave port with so much 
hatred of her enemy, nor with greater assurance of achiev- 
ing success. She was a vessel of about 200 feet length, 
with surface speed of 20 knots and radius of 3,000 miles. 
Her crew consisted of a Kapitan-Leutnant, a Leutnant 
zur Zee, and a Marine Oberingenieur as officers, am 
twenty-four ratings. All were animated with the 
intention of seeking out the Grand Fleet and attacl 
it, no matter at what cost. Proceeding across the Noi 
Sea, the submarine arrived off the southern end of t] 
Dogger Bank at night, running on the surface, but when 
British destroyer approached at high speed soon aft 


4 a.m., she was compelled to submerge to a depth of 
9j fathoms, and did not dare to rise again to the surface 
until about half-past eight. While awash she had sighted 
many fishing craft on the Dogger Bank, and had avoided 
them successfully, though one had signalled to her. At 
nine o'clock on the morning of the 19th, U18 was off 
Whitby, and she continued on her northerly journey, 
coming up to the surface every hour for her commander to 
look round and take bearings. Two days later she was off 
the Moray Firth, and patrolled there all day at slow speed, 
sighting one of the mine-sweeping gunboats in the distance. 

Off the Pentland Firth the submarine observed the armed 
trawlers towing their explosive sweeps, and saw also some 
destroyers. Then her commander perceived how difficult 
it would be for him to penetrate the close screen protecting 
the Grand Fleet. In Germany among naval officers no 
place was so much talked about at this time as Scapa Flow, 
but so far no submarine had succeeded in getting right 
inside. It was the fixed intention of this U-boat captain 
to succeed where others had failed, and to torpedo the 
IRON DUKE. Having proceeded farther north, the sub- 
marine was off Fair Island about midnight of Novem- 
ber 22nd-23rd, and in the early hours of the morning, 
whilst it was still dark, she passed through the British 
patrol lines and made towards Scapa Flow. At 7.30 a.m. 
she entered Pentland Firth, having waited till slack water, 
and then, in the sure hope of finding the Grand Fleet 
and of attacking it, passed north of the Pentland Skerries. 
A steamer was seen to be heading for Scapa Flow, so the 
submarine followed in her wake, making for the entrance, 
and hoping to be able to slip into the harbour astern of her 
unobserved. Looking through his periscope, the German 
captain noticed that Scapa Flow was protected by means 
of an anti-submarine boom, and he took his craft close up 
towards it until he could scan the whole of the harbour. 

This was the crest of his success and the beginning of 
his downfall ; for the nest which he had hoped to foul 
was empty ; the Grand Fleet was not there ! It was a 
bitter disappointment after so long and trying a voyage. 
The men had not been out of their clothes since leaving 
Heligoland. The captain at once surmised that the Fleet 
was at Cromarty, and he determined to follow there. 
His supposition was incorrect ; for, had he but known it, 


the Grand Fleet had coaled during the night of the 21st 
and put to sea early on the following morning, to 
make a sweep down the North Sea towards Heligoland. 
The helm of the U18 was now put hard over, and she 
came out again, intending to get to the Moray Firth. She 
had not run more than about a mile and a quarter from 
Hoxa Head, which is on the eastern side of the entrance 
to Scapa Flow, when suddenly a violent blow was felt. 
The captain and first lieutenant realised the situation 
when the submarine took a list of fifteen degrees. What 
was worst, the most effective periscope had been carried 
away. The fact was that above them, on the surface, 
thanks to a good lookout and skilful handling, the Scapa 
mine-sweeper Dorothy Gray had been able to ram the 
periscope, bending it over, and to strike the submarine's 
hull aft, causing considerable damage. Another trawler, 
the Tokio, had been the first to see the periscope. The 
Dorothy Gray, being nearer, acted promptly and effectively. 
The ramming happened at 12.20 p.m., and the submarine 
was not seen again for another hour, during which time 
twenty-seven German officers and men spent some of the 
most anxious and exciting moments of their lives. 

After the blow struck by the Dorothy Gray, the lower 
tube of the damaged periscope at once filled with water, 
but the submarine went on in a mad endeavour to escape. 
She submerged to eleven fathoms. Half an hour later 
she managed to fix her position, and then, getting on to 
her course, submerged again to the previous depth. Life 
thereafter to those confined in U18 became an unceasing 
struggle to escape from the most horrible of deaths. The 
trawler's attack had put much of her mechanism out of 
gear. First, the hydroplane motor gave out and suddenly 
jammed. The result was that the craft could not be con- 
trolled to a normal depth. She rose and sank erratically, 
at alarming angles, so that at one time she was rushing 
upwards and about to break surface, whilst the next 
moment the vessel nose-dived towards the bed of the sea. 
Tanks were emptied and again flooded ; the submarine 
descended to 27 J fathoms 165 feet ! Then twice in quick 
succession there came a bump, indicating that the hull had 
touched the hard bottom of the sea. Up the submarine 
came to the surface, and then followed another crash. 
This time she had been rammed by the destroyer GABBY. 


What happened during the ensuing period is best de- 
scribed in the words of Oberleutnant Neuerburg, second 
in command : " The boat shot upwards and down- 
wards ; the men rushed forward and aft ; the flooring 
became slippery with the oil carried out of the engine- 
room by the men's feet ; the men slipped." Down the 
craft went again, striking the sea bottom, then rose, and 
descended once more, this time to over 230 feet. " Then," 
declared Oberleutnant Neuerburg in his narrative, " we 
shot upwards so violently that I gave up all hope. . . . 
From the conning-tower came the report, ' Steering gear 
jammed man the hand wheel.' And then from the 
engine-room : * The motors have broken down ! ' " The 
boat eventually began to rise, and then suddenly the cap- 
tain pushed open the conning-tower hatch. She had a 
heavy list, a hole torn in her starboard tanks, rudder 
gone, propellers badly damaged. " As I came on deck 
I saw how the periscope was almost broken off short. . . . 
Suddenly there was a smell of burning. Someone shouted, 
' The battery is on fire ! ' The captain gave orders that 
the boat was to be sunk. We drifted helplessly in the 
currents of Pentland Skerries. No. 2 fired star-signals 
to draw the attention of the signal-station . . . two 
destroyers were approaching at full speed. The captain 
fired off the stern torpedoes in order to allow the water 
to enter through the tubes. . . . Spreuger (the engineer 
officer) tore open the flooding valves . . . then the boat 
sank. ..." 

It was at 1.30 p.m. that the submarine had for the last 
time come to the surface, and the crew were seen on deck 
with a white flag flying. She had foundered about five 
miles east by south of Muckle Skerry, the largest of the 
group of rocks which lie at the eastern entrance to the 
Pentland Firth. The two destroyers which came up were 
the ERNE, with Admiral Sir Stanley Colville on board, 
and the GAKRY. The latter picked up all the officers 
and men with the exception of one man, a stoker, who 
was drowned. So ended the career of the craft which 
had proposed to sink Admiral Jellicoe's flagship. 1 Up 

1 " Bi Deutschen U-Boot in ihrer Kriegsfftkrung, 1914-18," states 
(vol. i, p. 18) that U18, as she was returning from Scapa Flow, was sighted 
a*d chased, and that she struck the rocks whilst proceeding submerged, 
and was compelled to come to the surface and surrender ewing to the 
damage sustained. 


to this date, though the Auxiliary Patrol had been 
doing most excellent work, no chance had come their way 
of sinking a submarine, and to trawler Dorothy Gray, 
No. 96, belonged the honour of being the first auxiliary 
vessel in naval history to achieve such a feat. This in- 
cident was most wholesome in its effect ; it convinced 
the Admiralty that these small ships and fishermen crews 
could do all that might be asked of them, and to the crews 
themselves it imparted an increased confidence in their 
ability. A healthy spirit of rivalry was excited, and 
amidst the depressing monotony of the patrol there was 
no man who was not cheered by the belief that some day 
he might help to send a submarine to the bottom. 

" I wish," wrote Admiral Colville to the Admiralty, 
44 to draw their lordships' attention to the excellent work 
done by Trawler No. 96, the skipper of which worked his 
craft most successfully in chasing and ramming the 
submarine." 4C Hearty congratulations to Trawler 96," 
telegraphed the First Lord, " for brilliant service, which 
their lordships will mark by a substantial reward." In due 
time came the reward : 500 to the skipper (Chief Skipper A. 
Youngson, R.N.R.) and crew of the Dorothy Gray, and 100 
to Tokio. But, apart from any pecuniary prize, there was the 
knowledge that a fishing- vessel, manned by a fishing crew, 
had performed distinguished service in ridding the sea of 
a dangerous enemy, and had created a most encouraging 
precedent. That the enemy was determined to penetrate 
into the area known to be frequented by the Grand Fleet 
was made evident by the persistence with which submarines 
cruised off the Orkneys. On the day after U18 was 
rammed and sunk another of these craft was seen by 
H.M.S. DRYAD off the east side of the Orkneys, and again 
on the following day the trawlers won the praise of the 
Royal Navy. That day, off the same part of the coast, 
a submarine was netted, though she was not destroyed. 
As soon as she was sighted trawlers gave chase, whilst 
an outlying trawler got the intelligence through to H.M.S. 
SKIPJACK, which followed the submarine till, as she was 
approaching gun range, the craft dived and was not seen 
again. " I consider most praiseworthy," reported Com- 
mander Preston of the incident, " the way these two 
trawlers, 79 and 80, carried out the chase and promptly 
gave information." Such evidence of the trawler's effec- 


tive value was as welcome to the Commander-in- Chief 
as to Whitehall. The Lords of the Admiralty wrote to 
Sir John Jellicoe that they noted with satisfaction the 
apparent increase in the value of the trawler patrols, 
and desired that he would cause an expression of com- 
mendation to be transmitted to the commanding officers 
of these two trawlers. 

The raid on the Yorkshire coast on December 16th was 
in strategy, and to a great extent in tactics, practically 
a repetition of the raid which had occurred off Gorleston 
a few weeks before. In results, however, this Yorkshire 
raid was the more serious. Each of these raids revealed 
the same deliberate, well-planned scheme ; in each oc- 
curred the arrival off the coast at dawn, the bombardment, 
and the endeavour to entice British squadrons on to 
mine-fields in carefully chosen areas, mines being sown 
close inshore in the hope of destroying British flotillas 
and light forces, as well as out to sea where the battle 
fleet might be expected to pass. But the mines laid off 
Flamborough Head were far more numerous than those 
which had been scattered off Yarmouth. 

On the morning of December 15th a portion of the 
Grand Fleet left Scapa, Cromarty, and Rosyth, and swept 
down the North Sea, accompanied by seven destroyers. 
About 5 a.m. these destroyers suddenly encountered a 
German force, consisting of cruisers and destroyers, to the 
eastward of the Dogger Bank, proceeding in an opposite 
direction that is to say, on a north-westerly course. An 
engagement ensued, and three of our destroyers were 
badly hit, though one of the latter claimed to have tor- 
pedoed an enemy cruiser. This proved to be the advanced 
screen of the German High Sea Fleet, and just before eight 
o'clock, as it was getting light, enemy cruisers appeared 
off Scarborough. Whilst three of them bombarded the 
town, the fourth cruiser steamed east- south-east towards 
Flamborough Head and laid an extensive mine-field. 
These four ships represented only part of the main force, 
for prior to reaching Scarborough the squadron had split 
up, the VON DER TANN and DERFFLINGER making for this 
seaside resort ; the other division, consisting of the 
SEYDLITZ, MOLTKE, and BLUCHER, steering for Hartlepool, 
which was also bombarded till just before nine o'.clock, 
when these vessels made off to the eastward. A few 


minutes later, the two Scarborough raiders appeared off 
Whitby and also bombarded that place, after which the 
whole of the force made its escape. It had come via 
the open passage existing between the Tyne and Humber 
mine-fields, and the ships which had gone north to Whitby 
and Hartlepool had kept shoreward of the Tyne mine 
area. But on their return journey, between these two 
old mine areas, the enemy's light cruisers and destroyers, 
forming the German screen, were sighted and fired on by 
the British light cruisers about 11.30 a.m. Owing to the 
mist they escaped. About midday the Second Battle 
Squadron also sighted enemy cruisers and destroyers 
steering east by south at full speed ; and again the raiders 
eluded puisuit. It was a very fortunate adventure for 
the Germans ; but for the bad luck in regard to the mist 
and rain, they would have been severely handled. 

This raid is of immediate interest as illustrating the 
part which the Auxiliary Patrol had in the affair. There 
was afterwards reason to assume that the force which 
had encountered British destroyers in the morning 
had steamed up to the north-west corner of the 
Dogger Bank, and there laid some mines to entrap the 
Grand Fleet. At any rate, a quarter-past nine that morn- 
ing, the fishing trawler Blanche, which had come to the 
Dogger Bank to fish, sighted a mine, the position being 
about seventy miles N.E. $ E. of Flamborough iHead. 
The skipper, Mr. John Wilson, took his ship close up to 
it, and as he had no weapons for sinking it he dropped 
a dan-buoy to mark it, lay alongside it for an hour, and 
definitely ascertained that it was a moored mine and that 
it had five horns. The trawler then steamed half a dozen 
miles, when she sighted a destroyer ; there is a reason 
to think that this was a German destroyer which had 
accompanied the first squadron, encountered at five o'clock 
farther to the south-east, and had just finished laying 
mines. " As we altered our course to go to him," stated 
Skipper Wilson, " he steamed away in the east by north 
direction. When we first saw him he had his head on 
the east-south-east course, and the wind was north-north- 
west, fine breeze and rain. I saw it was no good steaming 
after him, so proceeded homewards, as I think he was the 
one that laid the mine. If he had been English he would 
have waited, as he could see we altered our course towards 

S5 1 


him." This destroyer had evidently been in action, for 
her mast appeared to have been shot away, but the Blanche 
at this time was unaware of the Scarborough raid. Skipper 
Wilson acted as one might have expected him to do ; and 
as he could not sink the mine, he abandoned all thought 
of fishing, steamed back to the Humber, and gave infor- 
mation to the guardship H.M.S. VICTORIOUS in the river. 
Then he steamed out to his fishing-ground again, and 
when about sixty-five miles N.E. J E. from Flamborough, 
shot his trawl and fished all night. When daylight came 
he found another mine waiting for him. He was deter- 
mined to sink it, though many men would have been 
content to leave it alone. " We hove our gear," he said, 
" and then made fast a liver barrel half filled with water, 
attached to a 50-fathom wire buoy- line, and this we towed 
with the object of bursting the mine." The intention was 
by this means to strike the horns and so explode the mine. 
The attempt was made four or five times, and then, as 
the effort failed and darkness was coming on, he gave it 
up, buoyed the mine with a dan- buoy, and for the next 
two or three days continued fishing in its vicinity. It 
was a risky thing to do, for his ship might at any moment 
have been blown up by striking a mine, or his trawl might 
have caught the mooring wire and brought about an 
explosion. There can be no question that these were 
mines. Within a few days the fishing- vessel Ocana, in 
almost the very spot where the Blanche buoyed her first 
mine, hit one of the horns of a mine and foundered. 

Another fishing steam trawler, the Cassandra, had an 
excellent view of the retreating enemy on the day of 
the raid. This Hull trawler suddenly found herself in 
the midst of a modern naval engagement between powerful 
ships, while she was quietly trawling as if the sea were as 
safe as in peace-time. Her skipper, Mr. H. Pegg, after 
wards related his experience : " On December 16th, 1914 
at noon, I had just left the bridge to get a bit of tobacco, 
when the mate shouted down the cabin that he could 
hear the firing of big guns. I immediately went on deck, 
and there rushing towards us was a big German cruiser 
accompanied by a torpedo flotilla, steaming about south- 
east. About seven or eight miles to the westward were 
our Fleet, firing as hard as they could. Immediately, we 
were surrounded by flying shells. You could hear them 


whistling overhead and see them falling all round us. 
As the Germans were passing us, the big cruiser fired a 
shot which passed between our bridge and funnel and hit 
the water about fifty yards away from us. Simultaneously 
I saw two shells hit one of their destroyers, and all I saw 
was a tremendous upheaval of water and then nothing 
more. This all lasted about fifteen minutes." By this 
time the trawler's skipper had got in his gear and was 
steaming towards the land. " About 3 p.m., no warships 
then being in sight, I saw what looked like a mast sticking 
up out of the water, about south-west of us, and immedi- 
ately bore away towards it. Getting a better view, I 
made it out to be a submarine with two masts, the fore 
one longer than the after one, and having a cross-tree 
to it (the fore one). This I surmised must be a German, 
and we kept after him for about a quarter of an hour, 
but he outdistanced our ship easily. Last seen, he was 
going about south by east to south, time being 3.45 p.m." 

It was not long before the mine-field laid by the raiders 
off Scarborough began to bring forth disaster upon dis- 
aster. Happily the battleships, battle cruisers, cruisers, 
and destroyers, in spite of the risks they ran in the chase, 
had escaped the danger. Thus one portion of the enemy's 
plan had miscarried ; but the losses to merchant shipping 
were to be alarming, and the toll of human life was great. 
The enemy had barely finished laying his mines when the 
Norwegian s.s. Vaaren struck a mine about three and a half 
miles north-east by north of Filey and foundered, her crew 
being picked up by the trawler Clon at 9.15 a.m. Twelve 
hours later the British s.s. Elterwater also ran on a mine and 
foundered three miles east of Scarborough ; and the same 
evening the Princess Olga went down five miles east-north- 
east of Scarborough. Still further to increase the peril to 
our shipping, three German torpedo-boats at sunset laid 
more mines on the Dogger Bank, seventy miles north- 
east by east of the Spurn. Next day the City, which 
had on board several of the dead seamen from the collier 
Elterwater^ reported that the sea off Scarborough was strewn 
with mines. The extent and direction of this latest 
mine-field was then, of course, unknown, but the day after 
the raid all traffic between Flamborough and the Tyne 
was stopped, except during the hours of daylight. 

Down to the day of the Scarborough raid, as has been 


stated, a swept channel existed from the North Foreland 
to Flamborough. Up and down this channel streams of 
ships passed. Owing to the existence of other mine-fields 
already mentioned, vessels were practically restricted to 
this lane. It had been swept daily and patrolled daily 
and was used with confidence. But now the enemy had 
laid snares along this sea road, and the results were serious. 
Until the Clon had picked up the Vaaren's crew it was not 
known that a new mine-field had been laid, and only the 
disappearance of the other merchant ships that day gave 
even a vague indication of the mine-field's actual position. 
It was now the duty of the mine-sweepers to ascertain 
the limits of this danger area, and to get rid of the mines 
as quickly as possible. Orders were sent by Admiral 
Charlton instructing the mine-sweepers to work from 
Flamborough Head to Hartlepool, with a pair of Fleet 
sweepers, and destroyers from the Ninth Flotilla were 
sent to sea so as to stop all south-going ships from entering 
the mine-field. 

Although arrangements were made to extend the 
swept channel northward from Flamborough, and the 
passage of merchant shipping was stopped, the situation 
was embarrassing. A hold-up of cargo vessels throttled 
trade, besides causing an inconvenient congestion of 
traffic at focal points. On the other hand, if they were 
allowed to proceed, they ran considerable risk. It was 
therefore decided to make a compromise, and to allow 
ships to pass by daylight, warning them to keep within 
two miles of the shore. The actual mine-sweeping com- 
menced on December 19th. From Grimsby came groups 
of trawlers which not many weeks ago had been fishing 
for food. There came, too, the paddle-steamer Brighton 
Queen, which had early that summer been running excursion 
trips on the South Coast. From Lowestoft were sent eight 
sturdy drifters to assist in keeping merchant ships off 
the mine-field ; and, as if to complete the representative 
character of the auxiliary craft, from the northward came 
a motor-vessel usually engaged in summer cruising which 
at the beginning of the war had been transferred to the 
White Ensign. H.M.S. SKIPJACK, under Commander L. 
G. Preston, R.N., also arrived to assist the trawlers. 
The personnel engaged on this big scheme had come from 
most parts of the world. North Sea fishermen who had 


been trawling off Iceland, sportsmen fresh from fishing 
in Canadian waters, seamen working in cross-Channel 
packets or liners when the war broke out, others, again, 
who were yachting as recently as the preceding July, as 
well as naval officers, were soon busy, all bearing testimony 
to the great brotherhood of the sea. 

In order to ascertain how the mines lay, it was essential 
to sweep at all states of the tide. None except those who 
have served off this inhospitable coast during the few 
daylight hours of a December day can realise the anxieties 
and difficulties of the task. Gales spring up at short 
warning, and as Bridlington and Scarborough, the only 
adjacent harbours, could not be entered at all states of 
the tide, Grimsby involving a long passage for small craft 
along an unlighted coast was the nearest port available. 
Trawlers keep the sea in almost any weather, but they 
draw a good deal of water, especially aft, and thus at 
any moment they were in peril of falling victims to the 
hidden mines. 

Thus the operations began, Commander R. H. 
Walters, R.N., in the Brighton Queen, being the officer in 
charge. The trawlers passed out with their sweeps to 
clear the seas of hidden death. It was not long before 
the inevitable happened. The mine-sweeping trawler 
Passing, commanded by Lieutenant G. C. Parsons, R.N., 
ran into a mine, which blew a hole into her bow so large 
that a small motor-car could have been driven through it. 
She was a magnificent type of trawler, stoutly built, and 
fortunately her bulkheads held. The Brighton Queen was 
able to take her in tow and beached her on the Scarborough 
sands, whence she returned later on to Grimsby to be 
repaired. But immediately after the accident to the 
Passing, the mine-sweeping trawler Orianda (Lieutenant 
H. Boothby, R.N.R.) hit a mine a mile and a half south- 
east of Scarborough Castle and blew up. One of the crew 
was killed, but Lieutenant Boothby got the rest of his 
men away safely. The next trawler to suffer misfortune 
was the Star oj Britain (Lieutenant C. V. Crossley, R.N.R.), 
three violent explosions revealing the cause of the injuries 
she had received. On the first day's sweeping, and within 
ten minutes, three trawlers had struck German mines. 
Commander Preston took the SKIPJACK very gallantly to 
the middle f the mine-field where explosions had taken 


place, and there anchored his ship between the trawlers 
and the mines which had been swept up. The mines 
which had occasioned so much trouble were then sunk. 

The first day's sweeping failed to define the extent of 
the dangerous area, but at least it was established that 
mines had been sown thickly from a position in lat. 54 18', 
long. 15' W. to the shore. Next morning the sweeping 
was continued, and further disasters occurred, the first 
about 9 a.m. The steam-yacht Valiant, under the com- 
mand of Admiral Barlow (one of a good many retired 
flag officers who had volunteered for this, or other, perilous 
work), on passage up the coast on her way to Cromarty, 
struck a mine near Filey, disabling both her propellers 
and rudder ; she soon began to leak badly. Two trawlers, 
at no mean risk, crossed the mine-field to her assistance, 
bringing her to anchor off Scarborough. This action 
was all the more meritorious since it was low water at 
the time. Next day the Valiant was taken in tow by 
the steam-yacht Eileen, commanded by Admiral Sir 
Alfred Paget, who had also returned to the Service on 
the outbreak of war. After temporary repairs in the 
Humber, she was towed down the North Sea and English 
Channel and up the Irish Sea for overhaul. 

About an hour after the Valiant's accident, the armed 
patrol trawler Gar mo also struck a mine off Scarborough. 
She turned right over and sank, one officer and five men 
being lost. So the dangerous work went on during the 
cold, depressing December day. Groups of trawlers 
under Lieutenant G. C. Parsons, R.N., and Lieutenant- 
Commander Bernays, R.N., worked their hardest under 
most trying conditions. By December 22nd, Commander 
Walters was able to report a safe passage from Flamborough 
Head to Filey Brig buoy within half a mile of the shore ; 
but north of that point the channel was only partially 
swept. Meanwhile the Humber had become crowded 
with shipping. Unable to proceed on their voyages, 
merchant vessels had run up the river and come to anchor 
in its sandy waters. No fewer than forty-eight commer- 
cial vessels of all sizes tramp steamers, transports, colliers, 
food ships, timber ships, oilers were waiting, and the 
numbers were daily increasing. But, again, there was a 
difficulty. Serious as was this delay financially to- the 
owners and others, yet it could not have been avoided, 


as was suggested by the further report that the Norwegian 
s.s. Boston had struck a mine three miles east-south-east 
of Scarborough. She was beached on the north side of 
Filey Brig. 

Already a flotilla of fourteen trawlers was sweeping 
off Scarborough, in addition to the drifters and the motor- 
boat Euan Mara. No fewer than thirty-five mines had 
so far been destroyed, and it was impossible to tell how 
many more might be hidden. Christmas Day, 1914, 
will long be remembered by East Coast fishermen as a day 
of tribulation, but a day on which these fishermen made 
heroic history. At 11 a.m., whilst sweeping south from 
Whitby, the trawler Night Hawk struck a mine and foun- 
dered about five and a half miles east of Scarborough. 
Only seven of her crew of thirteen were saved, including 
the commanding officer, Sub-Lieutenant W. A. Senior, 
R.N.R. The s.s. Gem came along, struck a mine and blew 
up seven and a half miles south-east of Scarborough Rock, 
with the loss of ten lives, including her master. The 
s.s. Eli, under the Norwegian flag, also struck a mine and 
eventually sank three miles south-east of Scarborough. 
The day was marked by a fine exhibition of pluck on the 
part of these Lowestoft drifters. The " Commodore " 
was Skipper E. V. Snowline, of the Trawler Reserve. 
Although a gale was blowing, this seaman, instead of 
running for shelter, stuck it out and kept his station in 
order to prevent other vessels getting into the mined area. 
In spite of the heavy seas, his drifter, the Hilda and Ernest, 
faced the weather and the risk of being mined and stood 
by the Gallier, a British steamer which had also struck 
a mine, Skipper Allerton in the drifter Eager showing 
the same hardihood. Not to be outdone by the drifters, 
Skipper T. W. Trendall, in the mine-sweeping trawler 
Solon, on his own responsibility went to the assistance of 
this ship. It was low water ; it was dark ; the Gallier 
was showing no lights. The Solon had to search for her 
during the gale in the middle of the mine-field, yet in 
the end she was safely brought into Scarborough. Never 
did British sailors in peace or war perform a more unselfish 
and heroic act on Christmas night. For their gallantry 
the King awarded the D.S.C. to both Skipper Snowline 
and Skipper Trendall. 

The following day a channel had been cleared, and traffic 


was permitted to pass, but only in daylight. The s.s. 
Linaria next foundered two and a half miles north-north- 
east of Filey Brig. Destroyers were sent from the seventh 
and Ninth Flotillas to patrol the extremity of the Scar- 
borough mine-field until the channel had been completely 
swept and buoyed, to prevent commercial traffic from pas- 
sing through at night or by any unauthorised routes, and 
to check further mine-laying. But on the last day of the 
year 1914, still another steamer was blown up four miles 
north-north-east of Filey Brig. By that date, however, 
a channel had been swept and the principal buoys laid ; 
most of the work had been done, and the paddle-steamers, 
which drew less water than trawlers, were pressed into 
the Service. The trawlers were, indeed, wanted every- 
where. They were required to sweep up the Tory Island 
mine-field, and still more were needed for service in the 
North Sea in order to prevent mining activity being 
resumed. The sweep off Scarborough continued, and 
on January 6th the Banyers struck a mine off that port 
and sank. Her commanding officer, Lieutenant H. 
Boothby, R.N.R., had already been blown up on December 
19th in the Orianda, but again he escaped death, and 
afterwards he was awarded the D.S.C. Next day the s.s. 
Eljrida also hit a mine and went down two miles north- 
north-east of Scarborough. But at last, in spite of the 
hindrances through heavy weather, this dangerous mine- 
field was so far swept up that a buoyed channel was 
established right up to a point abreast of Hartlepool, 
and the merchant traffic, thanks to the vigilance of our 
patrols and the daily diligence of the mine-sweepers, 
was able again to carry on right away down the North 
Sea to the English Channel. 

Such is the narrative of the Scarborough mine-field. 
Although it brought about the loss of valuable lives, as 
well as of a few trawlers and merchant ships, it did not 
diminish the strength of the Grand Fleet by a single unit. 
Undoubtedly the laying of mines on the Dogger Bank, 
just before and on the day of the raid, was part of the 
scheme to entrap the Grand Fleet. On December llth 
and the two following days, Skipper W. Pearce, of the 
fishing steam trawler Dane, sighted seven floating mines 
in various positions approximately between seventy and 
ninety-eight miles north-east by east of Scarborough, 


and, as has already been mentioned, the trawler Blanche 
found a mine on the day of the raid and a German destroyer 
near-by in a position roughly seventy-five miles north- 
east by east of Flamborough, where on December 23rd 
the trawler Ocana foundered on a mine. On December 
18th the Blanche observed another mine in much the same 
position. On January 31st mines were also reported 
between eighty-five and 100 miles north-east of the Spurn. 
These may or may not have been laid in connection 
with the Scarborough raid. At any rate, the Dogger 
Bank mine-field was in existence, in addition to the other 
areas, and thus the lot of the fisherman was rendered 
still more dangerous. 



As the war progressed, the Royal Navy became increas- 
ingly dependent upon the ships of the Auxiliary Patrol. 
The chances of the Grand Fleet ever meeting the High 
Sea Fleet in decisive action, so long as German hopes 
rested on the war of attrition, grew more than ever remote. 
Warfare by means of mine and submarine was seen to be 
the enemy's settled policy, and therefore the demand for 
small craft continued unabated. The trawlers and paddle 
craft, employed in great numbers, were proving effective 
in keeping down the mines, but the problem of the sub- 
marine presented greater difficulties. In November 1914 
it became manifest that the Germans were about to 
make a determined attack on vessels using the English 
Channel ; in other words, they would try to cut the lines 
of communication with France, and thus strike a deadly 
blow at the British armies. 

The object of the Germans, apart from any damage 
which they might inflict upon merchant ships and trans- 
ports, was to draw away to the south anti-submarine 
craft which could not be spared from the north, and 
thus cause a dispersion of British effort. The naval 
authorities were consequently confronted with an em- 
barrassing situation, for the condition in northern waters 
had not improved. As an illustration, on December 3rd 
another effort was made by the enemy to attack the 
Grand Fleet, when a submarine penetrated the eastern 
entrance of Scapa Flow. The patrol was on the alert ; 
the destroyer GARRY, which had been in at the death of 
Ul8, engaged this other submarine twice. The enemy 
fired a torpedo and then managed to escape. Simul- 
taneously, therefore, the war of attrition was being con- 
ducted with energy in the North Sea as well as in the 
25 367 


English Channel. The immediate needs of the Grand 
Fleet, so far as enemy mining operations were concerned, 
was met by dispatching further railway steamers to act 
as Fleet sweepers, and in the meantime attention was also 
directed to the protection of the main base of the Fleet 
against submarines. 

An incident on November 23rd concentrated attention 
on the English Channel. On the afternoon of that day 
submarine U21 sank by gunfire the s.s. Malachite, near 
Havre. Two days later three trawlers, Cleopatra, Jackdaw, 
and Warier Priory > were ordered from Yarmouth to Ports- 
mouth, with three R.N.R. officers in command. Twelve 
armed trawlers fitted with guns and the modified explosive 
sweep were also sent. This flotilla was intended to 
operate in the English Channel against submarines, to 
sink drifting mines, and to board any suspicious small 
craft which might be supplying submarines. These 
trawlers were directed to patrol the transport route between 
Spithead and Havre. Thus began a new system of coastal 
patrols which was to make for increased efficiency in 
combating the submarine. 

By the first week of December about sixty lieutenants 
and sub-lieutenants R.N.R., trained in the Merchant 
Service, had been drafted to bases of the Auxiliary Patrol 
for the command of armed trawlers and as leaders of 
units ; another fifty officers of the same force were also 
undergoing instruction in Torpedo School ships prepara- 
tory to being sent to trawlers. In vessels where there was 
no suitable cabin a temporary cabin was being erected, 
and one in every six trawlers was fitted with wireless 
telegraphy, although the supply of telegraphists had 
become temporarily exhausted. Trawlers were still being 
taken up and fitted out with the utmost dispatch. Four 
were sent to Queenstown, though some time was yet to 
pass before submarines penetrated Irish waters. 

Prior to the war, there existed at the Admiralty a 
Committee which dealt with the submarine problem ; 
but for some reason this had been disbanded when hos- 
tilities broke out. It was now obvious that the submarine 
menace had to be carefully studied and guarded against. 
Early in December a Submarine Attack Committee was 
setup at the Admiralty, Captain Leonard A. B. Donaldson, 
R.N., being president. At this date there were only four 


known methods of dealing with the submarine. A patrol 
vessel could sink it by ramming ; she could blow it up 
with the explosive sweep ; she could sink it by gunfire ; 
or she could entrap it by means of nets, which were 
then being evolved. Owing to the shortage of guns, 
many patrol vessels were still unarmed, and thus their 
only weapon was their stem. But ramming, as every 
student of past naval history is aware, is a far more 
difficult operation than appears at first sight. Modified 
sweeps, for the purpose of exploding over a submarine, 
were being supplied as fast as possible, but before an 
enemy can be blown up it must be known where he is. 
It was on the development of the net that attention was 
now centred. Preliminary experiments had been going 
on for some time. As far back as October a scheme 
had been suggested by Captain H. M. Doughty, the 
commanding officer of the Devonport Gunnery School, 
for the employment of nets and floating buoys with or 
without explosives ; and experiments with nets were 
made at Harwich and Lowestoft under Captain Ellison 
and Lieutenant Menzies, the original idea being to employ 
fishing-nets such as are used by drifters. These soon 
developed into what were technically known as " indi- 
cator nets," the purpose of the buoys being to indicate or 
" watch " as soon as the submarine got into the net. 
The idea was that when a submarine became entangled, 
the section of the mesh would be broken off and thus the 
propeller would be fouled. Simultaneously, the sub- 
marine would announce its presence by causing the buoys 
to " watch." Nets are employed in peace-time by 
drifters which put to sea for the herring fishery. Drift-net 
fishing is quite different from trawling along the sea-bed. 
Just as the trawlermen's experience had so happily fitted 
them for sweeping up mines, so the driftermen with their 
ships were the experts at hand to go out and entrap sub- 
marines. During the winter of 1914-15 the Admiralty 
took up a considerable number of drifters from the east 
coast, forty-four being hired from the little port of Lossie- 
mouth alone. Instructions were sent to Lowestoft that 
these craft were to be fitted out with the utmost dispatch. 
This task was to go on day and night, all other work being 
deferred if necessary. Thus by January the Admiralty 
had quite a large flotilla of these vessels ready for service. 


The increasing efficiency of the yacht and trawler 
patrols had already impressed the Board of Admiralty, 
and a scheme was planned for the armed patrol of the 
entire coasts of Great Britain and Ireland by auxiliary 
craft. It had been drawn up by the Admiralty in con- 
junction with the War Staff, and was modified slightly in 
detail to meet the criticisms of Admiral Jellicoe. In the 
fewest words, the scheme divided the British Isles into 
twenty-one areas, plus the Clyde and the Nore areas. 
These different areas were to be patrolled by 74 yachts 
and 462 trawlers and drifters. Their duty was to pre- 
vent mine-laying, and capture or destroy mine-layers ; 
prevent the operations of submarines and destroy such 
craft ; prevent spying and capture spies. Motor-boats 
were to assist in these duties in sheltered waters. The 
needs of each area strategically were carefully considered, 
regard being paid to the indented nature of the coastline, 
the proximity of trade routes, and the opportunities for 
submarine activity and successful mine-laying. Under 
the scheme every part of the British Isles would be sys- 
tematically patrolled, thus making the work of the enemy 
more difficult. With this improved organisation was 
instituted a general revision of the allocation of auxiliary 
ships. Some stations had their numbers increased, others 
had vessels taken away, according to the strategical neces- 
sity. The Northern Trawler Flotilla came under the same 
control as the Scapa Flow Flotilla, thus making it possible 
for trawlers to be detached in case the Grand Fleet left 
the Scapa base. The following were the areas now con- 
stituted, provision being made to ensure rapid trans- 
mission of the intelligence gained by the yachts and 
trawlers : 

I. Loch Ewe and Stor- 

II. Shetland Islands. 

III. Orkney Islands. 

IV. Cromarty. 
V. Peterhead. 

VI. Rosyth. 
VII. Granton. 
VIII. Tyne. 
IX. Humber. 

X. Yarmouth and Har- 

XI. Dover. 
XII. Portsmouth. 

XIII. Portland. 

XIV. Devonport. 

XV. Milford (with base at 

XVI. Liverpool, Kingstown. 

and Belfast. 


XVII. Lough Lame. XX. Galway Bay. 

XVIII. Lough Swilly. XXI. Queenstown and 

XIX. Blacksod Bay. Berehaven. 

In addition there were the Clyde and Nore areas, as 
already mentioned. 

Submarine activity rather than mine-laying was at this 
period causing the Admiralty the greatest amount of 
anxiety, and especially in the English Channel. At one 
time it had seemed almost unthinkable that German sub- 
marines would dare to penetrate the Straits of Dover and 
sink merchant and passenger ships at their will. Gradu- 
ally the awakening came. First on October 14th a sub- 
marine torpedoed the Amiral Ganteaume carrying refugees 
from Calais to Havre; on October 31st H.M.S. HERMES 
was torpedoed in the Dover Straits ; then on November llth 
H.M.S. NIGER was torpedoed close inshore near Deal; 
on November 23rd the Malachite was sunk, as has been 
already mentioned, not by torpedo, but by a submarine's 
gunfire near Havre ; and finally, on November 26th, the 
s.s. Primo was destroyed also by submarine gunfire off 
Cape d'Antifer. These incidents, which have already been 
described, showed that the enemy was able to disregard 
the British mine-field across the Dover Straits, and was 
determined to attack any kind of ship, without restricting 
himself to the recognised limitations of legitimate warfare. 
On December 22nd Admiral von Tirpitz forecasted a 
submarine campaign against our commerce. The crisis 
was reached when in the dark hours of the morning of 
January 1st H.M.S. FORMIDABLE was sunk off the Devon- 
shire coast by U24. Thus the submarine operations had 
developed in a brief space from a dangerous menace into 
an offensive campaign of a deadly nature. If, for the 
moment, the English Channel seemed to be the chief area 
of attack, evidence was not wanting that the North Sea 
was not being neglected. On Christmas Day two torpedo- 
boats patrolling well up the Firth of Forth had torpedoes 
fired at them, and submarines were sighted out at sea by 
three of the Town class light cruisers which had come from 
Rosyth. Such places as the Fame Islands in Area VIII, 
Kinnaird and Rattray Heads were being used as points 
of arrival by enemy U-boats from the other side of the 
sea. There was, therefore, wide scope for the work of 


the Auxiliary Patrol in watching wherever submarines 
were likely to operate. In the twenty-three areas men- 
tioned patrol vessels maintained constant vigilance, and 
in addition to these the mine-sweepers carried on their 
routine duties wherever required. Thus, by the end of 
the year 1914 there were in all 750 yachts, patrol trawlers, 
mine-sweeping trawlers, drifters, paddle sweepers, motor- 
drifters, and motor-boats, in which 190 officers of the 
Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve and 250 officers of 
the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve were serving. Officers 
and men were keen and needed only improved devices 
for the arduous work entrusted to them, and these gradually 
were perfected. 

On January 2nd, 1915, the First Lord of the Admiralty 
(Mr. Winston Churchill) made a request for four drifters 
to be sent to Dover. They were to carry out a number 
of experiments under Captain E. C. Carver, R.N., in the 
laying of nets under a system devised by Admiral of the 
Fleet Sir A. Wilson. Four drifters were accordingly ordered 
next day from Lowestoft, and formed the nucleus of a huge 
fleet which was presently to be transferred to the White 
Ensign for the special service of entrapping submarines. 

To those unfamiliar with ships the difference between 
a trawler and a drifter may not be evident. They are 
built for entirely different purposes, and have distinctive 
features in size, construction, design, and personnel. The 
drifter is smaller than the trawler, and usually is built of 
wood, though a few are of steel ; she has no powerful 
winches and but one capstan ; in lines she is but slightly 
modified from the old sailing drifters ; and, unlike the 
steam trawlers, she relies very much on her mizzen, not 
for speed, but for sea-keeping ability in bad weather and 
for riding to her nets. Her engine speed is rarely more 
than 9 knots, and she puts ito sea for only a few days 
at a time, returning to port to land her fish and take in 
coal and water before going out again. The drifter's 
crew is small, usually numbering not more than eight or 
nine all told ; and she is more often than not manned by 
members of one family. Frequently the skipper is the 
father or father-in-law of the mate. The engine-man is as 
likely as not the latter' s cousin, and the rest of the crew, 
if not having some sort of relationship to the skipper, at 
least come from the same fishing-village. The result in 


working is that the drifter, while nominally in command of 
the skipper, is actually run by a kind of committee. To 
split up this co-operation would have impaired the efficiency 
of the ship. Consequently, when the Admiralty took over 
hundreds of drifters they usually accepted the crews en bloc, 
and the men served in most cases till the end of the war. 

Nothing afloat is more clannish than a drifter crew, 
especially if the men happen to come from the same 
village on the north-east coast of Scotland. The very 
names of the drifters are typical of the crews a curious 
mixture of Old Testament piety blended with modern 
ambitions and family pride. Such names as Integrity, 
Breadwinner, Courage, Diligence, Direct Me, Effort, Enter- 
prise, Faithful Friend, Friendly Star, Girl Margaret, Boy 
Bob, Golden Effort, Good Tidings, Hope, Peacemaker, 
Present Help, Protect Me, Star of Faith, Sublime, suggest 
the simple, straightforward, plucky, homely men usually 
found in these craft. The four drifters sent to Dover as 
the forerunners of the great fleet that was to follow were 
the Young Fisherman, Sedulous 9 Nine Sisters, and Ocean 
Comrade. Dover became the cradle of the indicator-net 
method of anti-submarine warfare. Large numbers of 
drifters were taken up at Lowestoft and Yarmouth, thirty 
of which were sent to Dover alone. 

Their arrival, fresh from their fishing occupation, came 
rather as a surprise to naval men at Dover, accustomed to 
smartness and well-found gear. These were an ordinary 
group of fishermen in their warm jumpers, without naval 
kit, unaccustomed to discipline, and banded together in 
ships that obviously needed a refit, for they had defects 
in hull and machinery and were ill-found in respect of 
lamps, warps, and other gear of the sea. But the main 
thing was to get the ships to Dover, and then as soon as 
possible to train the crews, so that with no avoidable 
delay nets might be strung across the Dover Straits and 
submarines prevented from entering the Channel to sink 
our shipping. Captain Humphrey W. Bowring, R.N., 
was appointed to take charge of this new drifter organisa- 
tion, and the first trial at shooting indicator nets from 
these craft was made on January 15th, 1915, under the 
superintendence of Rear- Admiral the Hon. Horace Hood, 1 

1 Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace L. A. Hood, C.B., M.V.O., D.'S.O. 

lost his life in the Battle of Jutland. 


commanding the Dover Patrol. Day after day the 
drifters went out into the Channel to learn their lesson, 
and as if to show the urgent need for nets, submarines were 
being reported from all parts of the English Channel 
from Christchurch Bay, the Channel Islands, West Bay, 
Berry Head, and elsewhere. 

A hundred miles of nets were sent to Dover. More and 
more drifters kept arriving, together with sinkers with 
which to moor the nets, dan-buoys with which to mark 
them, clips with which to secure them. There were all 
sorts of difficulties to overcome. The clips, for instance, 
were a constant source of trouble. They had to be strong 
to stand the strain when the nets were being hauled in ; 
at the same time it was necessary that they should be 
weak enough to carry away as soon as the strain of the 
submarine in the nets came. Then there were the strong 
tides in the Dover Straits to contend with. Nets dis- 
appeared under the water and were carried away ; others 
caught on wreckage. For a time the whole scheme 
seemed doomed to failure. However, by dint of dogged 
perseverance, the co-operation of many brains, and the 
adaptability of the fishing crews, one after another of the 
problems approached solution. By the middle of January 
nets had been moored just N.N.E. of the Varne Buoy, 
and it was found that a drifter could shoot 300 yards 
of nets in a heavy sea within half an hour, though even- 
tually this time was very considerably shortened. By 
the end of January Dover Harbour was becoming pretty 
full of these small craft ; for there were already fifty or 
sixty drifters and more were arriving. 

A really satisfactory net- ship had yet to be designed, 
but with improvements in apparatus and training it had 
become possible to shoot 800 yards of nets in eight minutes. 
At that speed a submarine could quickly be surrounded 
by an awkward mesh. Preparations were soon on foot 
to send a few of these drifters to lay their nets off the 
Belgian coast. On February 3rd the Sedulous and four 
other drifters, escorted by destroyers, left Dover in charge 
of Captain Bowring for a rendezvous two miles south of 
the North Hinder Lightship, where they arrived early next 
morning. The drifters shot their nets in the neighbour- 
hood of Thornton Ridge, the destroyers meanwhile 
patrolling. On the 5th the drifters returned to Dover. 


No submarines had been trapped, but valuable experience 
had been gained. Next day a conference took place at 
the Admiralty on the laying of indicator nets, at which 
Admiral Hood was present, and a week later the Dover 
Net Drifter Flotilla was in full working order, endeavour- 
ing to close the Straits to hostile submarines. Thirty 
little drifters stretched across the Channel, riding to their 
nets and forming a curtain between England and France 
in the strong tideway that goes rushing by. Every 
evening the drifters took their nets aboard, and at day- 
light shot them again. Having regard to the force of the 
tides, the bad weather, and the difficulties of working the 
nets, the Admiralty considered the progress made to be 
encouraging. It was determined to employ drifters and 
indicator nets in other areas as well. Preparations were 
made for establishing net -bases at Cromarty, Peterhead, 
Firth of Forth, Yarmouth, Harwich, the Nore, Portsmouth, 
Portland, Poole, Falmouth, and Devonport. The nets used 
were of two types, one 30 feet deep and the other 60 feet 
deep, each net being 100 yards in length. So quickly did 
the organisations grow that by the third week in January 
there were sixty-three drifters stationed at Poole, twenty 
at Falmouth, fifty-four at Dover, a dozen at Scapa, and 
four each at Portsmouth, Firth of Forth, and Cromarty. 
Sixteen drifters were also sent to Harwich to lay eight 
miles of indicator nets two miles on either side of the 
Cork Lightship in case a submarine were to be sighted 
inside the Cork, and two miles on either side of the Ship- 
wash in case the U-boats were seen inside the Sunk. 

It appeared for a time as if the Navy had in the indicator 
net the solution of the main submarine problem. The 
Admiralty wasted not a moment in equipping every suit- 
able base. And then occurred a series of events, sudden 
and ominous, which gave a still further impetus to this 
newly- adopted device. Hitherto submarines had pene- 
trated to the north of Scotland and well down the English 
Channel, but at last a submarine appeared in the Irish 
Sea and acted pretty much as she liked. On January 28th 
the armed drifter R.R.S., when about three miles north- 
west of Bardsey Island, sighted what she believed to be 
two submarines. Next day, at 1.45 p.m., Walney Island 
Battery, Barrow, sighted a submarine about 7,000 yards 
out at sea. The enemy craft opened fire, but all her 


shots fell short. The battery returned the fire with eleven 
rounds, and the submarine disappeared. 

It proved to have been the U21, commanded by that 
enterprising officer, Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing, whose 
destruction of the Malachite and Primo in the English 
Channel has already been described. She had travelled 
much farther to the westward than a submarine had 
attempted before. U21 was not long in the Irish Sea, 
but during her stay she caused havoc and consternation. 
From Walney Island she cruised about for a while, 
and on the next day, January 30th, hovered off the 
approaches to Liverpool and sank three merchant ships, 
the Ben Cruachan, the Linda Blanche, and Kilcoan, 
in practically the same position. From there she may 
have taken a tack over towards the Irish coast, for on 
January 31st the Holyhead- Kingstown packet Leinster, 
which was at last torpedoed and sunk in the autumn of 
1918, sighted a submarine twenty miles east of the Kish 
Lightship. Thence the U21 probably cruised south, for 
at 8.30 a.m. on February 1st she had an unsuccessful 
encounter with a vessel of the Auxiliary Patrol. The 
yacht Vanduara was on passage from the Clyde to Ports- 
mouth, and, when well down the Irish Sea, about thirty- 
three miles north-west of Fishguard, she sighted a sub- 
marine on the surface, trying to head her off. The sea 
at the time was fairly smooth. The Vanduara altered 
course so as to bring the yacht's bow on to the enemy, 
and the submarine began to submerge. The yacht opened 
fire at 3,000 yards, and finally closed at 2,000 yards, her 
last four shots falling extremely close. The submarine, 
however, was not hit, and got back safely to Germany, to 
spread a false report that the " auxiliary war vessel " did 
not hoist the British " war flag." This was denied by 
the British Admiralty on the strength of a statement by 
the Vanduard's captain : "I was flying no colours, but 
hoisted the White Ensign before opening fire." 

It was reported that all the crew of U21 received from 
the Kaiser the Iron Cross as a reward for their work for 
the Fatherland. This cruise undoubtedly gave a great 
stimulus to the enemy and suggested endless possibilities 
for the overseas submarine. The immediate affect was 
twofold. All shipping was forbidden to enter or leave 
Liverpool, and the Holy head- Kingstown service was 


suspended for the next few days. It proved also the 
necessity of strengthening the patrols in an area in 
which under-water craft had not been expected. Admiral 
Jellicoe suggested the use of indicator nets across the 
North Channel, to which the Admiralty agreed. Mean- 
while, British merchantmen were instructed to keep a 
sharp lookout for submarines, display the ensign of a 
neutral country, and show neither house-flag nor identifi- 
cation marks. 

On January 21st submarine U19 had overhauled and 
sunk by bombs the s.s. Durward, twenty-two miles north- 
west of the Maas Lightship that is, well off the Hook of 
Holland. Admiral Hood stated that there was little 
doubt that enemy submarines were passing through the 
Downs at night-time, and one was reported every few 
days. On February 1st, the day of the Vanduarcfs 
engagement, the hospital ship Asturias was attacked by 
submarines fifteen miles north-north-east of Havre, but 
happily the torpedo missed. On the following day 
trawlers fired on a submarine off Dieppe. 

Evidence accumulated on every hand that submarine 
warfare was increasing in intensity. At the beginning of 
February three large submarines left Cuxhaven to operate 
in British waters. It was well known to the British 
Admiralty that Germany had become possessed of sub- 
marines capable of going to and operating in the Mediter- 
ranean. This was not a little alarming, and to meet the 
menace still more small craft were required. Many 
yachts had voluntarily been offered for charter, others 
had to be requisitioned ; and of these last one fine vessel 
was taken compulsorily because the owner, a lady with 
a fine spirit, refused to let the yacht go unless she was 
allowed herself " to share the perils of the crew." As the 
number of yachts in the service increased, the shortage 
of guns became an embarrassment, and some of the bigger 
yachts had to surrender part of their armament. No 
yacht could be spared more than a couple of guns, and 
the net drifters received none. Some drifters were given 
the modified explosive sweeps, and all were supplied with 

Not only was the number of patrol vessels increased, 
but simultaneously improvements were made in . the 
organisation of patrol areas. For instance, Area I, which 


had been originally based on Aultbea, an out-of-the-way 
place forty miles from the nearest railway-station, was 
now based on Stornoway, and Admiral Sir Reginald Tupper 
was appointed in charge there. Alterations were also 
made in Areas IV, V, and VI, it being realised that enemy 
submarines desiring to attack British warships in Cromarty 
or Scapa Flow would probably seek the very convenient 
landfall in the vicinity of Buchan Ness, Rattray Head, 
and Kinnaird Head, after the voyage across the North 
Sea from Heligoland or the Skaw. By placing the various 
units of Auxiliary Patrol craft in the modified Areas V 
and VII, an off-shore squadron was available to prevent 
submarines making a landfall or entering Areas IV and VI. 
The Admiral of Patrols was relieved of the control of all 
auxiliary vessels in Area X, these being placed under 
Commodore George C. Cayley l at Harwich, whilst the 
northern portion was allotted to Captain Alfred A. Ellison, 
C.B., at Lowestoft. 

Simultaneously with a careful reconsideration of anti- 
submarine patrols, the ever-present mine question had 
to be studied afresh. In order to safeguard ships, especi- 
ally mine-sweepers, various mine-catching devices were 
tried, affixed to the ships' bows, but they were clumsy 
and in bad weather soon carried away. Mines were being 
found in unexpected places, some of them having drifted 
from their original areas. From the Tory Island field 
mines had been carried up the west coast of Scotland 
and had become a menace to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, 
employed on important patrol duties ; several ships had 
sighted and sunk some of them ; and the armed merchant 
cruiser CLAN MACNAUGHTON of this squadron, which 
mysteriously disappeared on the night of February 2nd, 
1915, almost certainly struck one of these mines off the 
Hebrides. Mines were reported off Whitby. Some had 
exploded in fishermen's nets out in the Nortu Sea twenty- 
four miles east-north-east of Smith's Knoll. The sailing 
trawler Fleurette caught mines in her trawl whilst fishing 
forty miles east of Lowestoft. 

Early in February the Admiralty commissioned at 
Barrow two paddle steamers, the Queen Victoria and Prince 
Edward, and fitted them to lay nets on a very extensive 
scale. Each could carry no less than 4,680 feet of net 

1 Afterwards Rear- Admiral George C. Cayley, C.B. 


of a specially designed heavy mesh, with sinkers and 
buoys complete. The intention was to lay the net in 
the quickest possible time without stopping. The secret 
of quick net-laying is to arrange that the net shall run 
out freely without any check. For this purpose these 
two vessels had all superstructures removed, and special 
troughs were fitted from which the nets could run out 
over the stern whilst under way. Acetylene lamps, care- 
fully screened, were provided, as the net-laying was to 
be done at night. 

After six months of war Germany's naval position was 
already determined, and then came the " war zone " 
declaration of February 1915. The British Admiralty 
was not unprepared for this development. All round the 
coasts of the British Isles the various patrols were active, 
having had the advantage of several months' experience 
in their duties. Two routes were possible for enemy 
submarines seeking to get far afield. They would penetrate 
either via the North of Scotland or through the Dover 
Straits. The organisation at the time was as follows : 
Assuming the enemy should proceed north of the Shet- 
lands, .the Shetlands Patrol, consisting of three yachts 
and eighteen trawlers, was on duty. It was considered 
more likely that a submarine would pass through the Fair 
Island Channel, the north side of which formed part of 
the Shetlands Patrol area, the southern part being con- 
trolled by the Orkneys Auxiliary Patrol. The duty in 
this area was divided among three patrols : the Northern, 
the Western, and the Southern Patrols, based on Kirk- 
wall, Stromness, and Longhope respectively. These three 
patrols comprised between them no fewer than ten yachts 
and seventy-two trawlers. Drifters with indicator nets 
were also employed in the northern portion of the Orkneys 
and at the entrance to Scapa Flow. As it was known that 
enemy submarines were accustomed to dive to about 
eleven fathoms when harassed by small craft, the patrol 
vessels fitted with the single sweep were ordered to tow 
it at this depth. 

Similarly in the South of England there was a detailed 
organisation. Besides the British mine-field across the 
Dover Straits, which actually proved of little practical or 
moral effect, for the reason that most of the mines drifted 
away, there were a number of armed drifters guarding 


the northern approach to the Downs, patrolling north 
and south in line abreast. These craft, under Captain 
H. E. Grace, R.N., were based on Ramsgate. They were 
worked in three divisions, each under its own leader, and 
two divisions were always on patrol, the third resting in 
harbour. They patrolled four days and nights, spending 
the two next in port. A few miles below them was the 
Dover Net Flotilla, riding to their nets across the Straits. 

Having received intelligence of impending activity in 
the English Channel, the Admiralty issued instructions 
on February llth warning the bases that submarines were 
expected to pass through the Straits on the next and 
following days, and that they had been lately making 
the Varne Lightship and Buoy when so passing into the 
Channel. Captain E. C. Carver, R.N., was given orders 
to keep as many as possible of his Poole drifters cruising 
on February 12th and the following days between St. 
Alban's Head and St. Catherine's and twenty miles to 
seaward. The Commodore at Portland was similarly 
advised that his trawlers should cruise between Portland 
Bill and St. Alban's Head and twenty miles to seaward. 
The Commander-in- Chief at Devonport was directed to 
have his trawlers patrolling between the Eddystone and 
Start and twenty miles to the seaward. But, in spite 
of this vigilance, submarines passed through the patrols. 
On the 13th one was sighted off St. Valery-en-Caux, and 
another twenty- five miles west- south- west of Cape Gris 
Nez. On the 15th U16, while on her way south from 
Heligoland, chased the s.s. Laertes between the Schouwen 
Bank and the Maas, after having been compelled to 
remain submerged for some hours owing to fog off Calais 
afterwards torpedoing the British collier Dulwich 
miles north of Cape d'Antifer. On the same day H.M.I 
UNDAUNTED and eight destroyers had a torpedo fired 
them when off Dungeness. Next day, ai 2 p.m., UK 
sank the French steamship Ville de Lille close to Caj 
Barfleur. On February 18th she torpedoed the Fren< 
s.s. Dinorah north of Dieppe, and then returned 

Already twenty- five net drifters were on their wa] 
from Falmouth to Larne, where they were to operate ii 
the North Channel, as suggested by Admiral Jellicoe, 
and to deny that passage to submarines. They stai 


with only their fishing-nets on board, but as soon as 
they could be supplied wire indicator nets were to be 
sent. Another twenty-five drifters were under orders 
for Milford, this number being increased eventually to 
fifty. Their mission was to foil the enemy at the southern 
end of St. George's Channel. Indicator nets were also 
laid in the Firth of Forth, from the east end of Inchgarvie 
to Longcraig Pier. 

On the day that the German submarine blockade began 
the Admiralty were already making bold alterations in 
the organisation of the Auxiliary Patrols, in order to meet 
this intensive warfare. It was obvious from recent events 
that the patrols in the Irish Sea required strengthening con- 
siderably. Rear- Admiral H. H. Stileman, 1 of Liverpool, 
had enough to do in looking after the local Liverpool area, 
for which duty his force consisted of a yacht, two armed 
trawlers, and ten armed drifters. Hitherto he had been 
in command also of the Kingstown and Belfast patrol 
craft, but these areas were to be modified as follows : 
The Auxiliary Patrol force in Area XVII (Larne) was 
placed under a flag officer, Admiral C. J. Barlow, late in 
command of the yacht Valiant, being appointed. He 
was stationed at Larne and given general control of Areas 
XV and XVI that is to say, the whole Irish Sea. At 
his disposal was a " flying squadron " of six large armed 
yachts, in addition to his other auxiliary craft. These 
were the Valiant, Jeanette, Marynthea, Medusa, Narcissus, 
and Sapphire, based on Belfast, but available for use 
anywhere in Areas XV, XVI, and XVII for concerted 
action or otherwise. The motor-boats at Belfast remained 
there, but the Belfast Patrol unit was withdrawn to 
Kingstown, where Rear- Admiral E. R. Le Marchant 2 was 
appointed in charge of the base and in immediate com- 
mand of Area XVI. For this purpose he was allotted 
three yachts and eighteen trawlers, with an additional two 
dozen drifters shortly to be sent out to him. Besides 
these two flag appointments, Rear-Admiral Charles H. 
Dare 3 was appointed to command the auxiliary base at 
Milford Haven and in immediate charge of Area XV, the 
force assigned to him being four yachts, twenty- four 

1 Afterwards Rear-Admiral Sir H. H. Stileman, K.B.E. 

2 Afterwards Vice- Admiral E. B. Le Marchant, D.S.O. 

3 Afterwards Admiral Sir Charles H. Dare, K.C.M.G., C.B., M.V.O. 


trawlers, and fifty drifters ; ten of the latter were 

Strategically the North Channel between Antrim and 
the Mull of Cantyre resembles the Straits of Dover between 
England and France. The instructions to Admiral Barlow 
were to deny the North Channel to enemy submarines and 
mine-layers. For this purpose he was to have a yacht, 
eighty drifters, and eighteen armed trawlers, and from 
February 22nd all merchant ships were forbidden to use 
the channel. These drifters were to be disposed about 
a parallelogram thirty miles long and twenty- two miles 
wide, towing their nets across the channel, thus making it 
a very unhealthy place for a U-boat. A five-mile space at 
each end of the area was to be occupied by advanced 
patrol lines. Thus, it was hoped, a submarine would 
either have to pass through the channel south of Rathlin 
Island, or else, having dived to a depth of 90 feet, would 
reach the vicinity of Lough Larne almost at the end of 
her diving powers. Orders were given that the passage 
south of Rathlin Island should be thoroughly patrolled 
and denied absolutely to the enemy. Each drifter carried 
at least 800 yards of net, which when laid out would be 
almost invisible to a submarine at a distance of three 

The instructions to Admiral Le Marchant were that his 
principal duty was to watch the mail route from Holyhead 
to Kingstown against submarines and mine-layers. 
Admiral Dare was to hold the southern end of the Irish 
Sea and the Bristol Channel, and always to have nets 
down in positions where submarines might be expected to 
make landfalls. When opportunity offered, the St. 
George's Channel was to be netted, and he was to be ready 
to send out all his drifters to shoot their nets across this 
channel. On March 15th it was decided to establish a 
sub-base for the Auxiliary Patrols at Rosslare. Larne 
and Dover, because of their strategical similarity, now 
became the two greatest net-bases. In both areas net- 
drifters were at work in a strong tideway, at the entrance 
to a region where submarines had proved exceptionally 
dangerous. The tactical principle was identical in the 
two areas. If the submarine should get into the nets, 
each section of net was so easily detached that the one in 
which the craft was entoiled would come away from the 


rest and foul the propellers, causing the enemy craft to 
rise to the surface. For this purpose two things were 
necessary : satisfactory clips that would allow the nets 
to be detached at the right amount of strain, and indicator 
buoys to announce that the net was about the U-boat. 
It was only after weeks and months of experience and 
much experimenting that these two essentials were 

By the last week of February the nets were in operation. 
Across the Dover Straits they were kept in position by 
night as well as day, except in bad weather. Each drifter 
watched its own eight nets, and altogether there were 
many miles of nets in use. Across the North Channel the 
nets were working satisfactorily, except that the kapok 
floats soon became waterlogged. This difficulty was 
experienced in many other areas, so gradually kapok gave 
way to small glass globes, which answered the purpose 
very well. 

The working of the indicator nets was a task entirely 
new to officers of the Royal Navy ; the only people who 
were at all expert were the drifter crews themselves, and 
to their suggestions and skill the success achieved was 
largely due. Without the fisherman and his drifter, it 
would have been impossible to carry out this particular 
method of harassing the submarine. Before February was 
out, the merchant steamers on their way up and down 
the English Channel and North Sea saw these wooden 
ships with mizzen set looking after their nets near the 
Shipwash Lightship, the Downs, Dover Straits, St. Alban's 
Head, Start Bay, and in the vicinity of Falmouth, as well 
as up the Irish Sea off the Smalls and North Channel. 

There were many difficulties to contend with apart from 
the securing of efficient clips and indicator buoys. Nets 
were frequently lost in bad weather ; at Dover no fewer 
than ninety nets were lost in a three days' gale. Another 
sixty- eight nets were lost within two days and nights of 
fine weather owing to various causes, especially by fouling 
submerged objects. There was, moreover, a shortage of 
officers, most of whom were junior Royal Naval Reserve 
officers, to take charge of drifter divisions. The drifter 
skippers themselves were found, generally speaking, to be 
good, competent men, keen and enthusiastic in their work. 
They stuck to their job in all sorts of weather, risking 


destruction from mines and submarines, and keeping a 
vigilant watch for the enemy. 

The outlook was promising at this period. On Feb- 
ruary 20th a submarine was reported by H.M. Destroyer 
VIKING to be in the nets near the Varne. "It is 
quite certain," stated Admiral Hood, " that a submarine 
was in the net when it moved away from the VIKING. 
I believe the net tore away, and when the buoy stopped, 
the submarine got away." Nor was this the only incident 
of the kind at this early stage. Information came to 
hand that a submarine had been sighted fifteen miles 
south of St. Alban's Head, and on February 19th a 
Royal Naval Reserve sub-lieutenant was sent from Poole 
with three drifters to lie to their nets near this spot for 
twenty-four hours. They shot the nets about 2.30 p.m. 
Nothing occurred until about twelve hours later, when 
the skipper of the drifter White Oak saw a bright white 
light to the northward crossing his bows to the west- 
north-west. It was visible for a quarter of an hour, 
and then disappeared. Twenty minutes later he saw a 
dark object moving towards him, and called the ship's 
boy to confirm his opinion. The indicating buoy of 
the net next to the drifter then flashed, thus showing 
there was something foul of the nets. The skipper called 
the sub-lieutenant. For five minutes the light burned, 
and then disappeared, and the nets seemed to move 
towards the White Oak, the engines of which were moved 
slowly astern for a couple of minutes to keep clear. Shortly 
after this the warp began to tauten, and in order to 
prevent its parting, three bladders were bent on to the 
warp and the end let go. While this was being done, 
several more lights were seen flashing in the direction of 
the nets, but these and the buoyed end of the warp dis- 
appeared almost at once. The drifter was then turned 
to the eastward, and when daylight came she steamed 
round about, but nothing more was seen of the buoys or 
nets. Next day the same officer was again sent to the 
spot, and repeated the procedure at 7.30 a.m. on the 
following morning. He shot his nets, and they again 
fouled some obstruction. This incident, though not con- 
clusive, made it highly probable that a submarine had got 
entangled in the nets. At the least, it afforded some 
encouragement to the drifters. This was by no means 


unwelcome, for the submarines were unusually active. 
Steamships were being attacked in the English Channel 
and the Irish Sea. The neighbourhood of Beachy Head 
was becoming a favourite resort for the enemy, five ships 
having been sunk in that locality within two days. The 
hospital ship St. Andrew was attacked ten miles north- 
west by west from Boulogne, probably by one of the 
same submarines, and three days later the s.s. Thordis 
had an experience which has already been described. 

In another area a trawler sealed the fate of a submarine 
in somewhat exceptional circumstances. At about 3 p.m. 
on February 23rd the steam trawler Alex Hastie, though 
a Government vessel, was fishing 105 miles east- north- 
east of the Longstone Lighthouse. She had recently put 
down her trawl, and all available hands were working 
at the catch which had just been hauled in, when a peri- 
scope was seen approaching at great speed. It was too 
late to slip the fishing-gear and try to ram. The sub- 
marine's captain must have been either very inexperi- 
enced or else certain that this was a disguised trawler, 
and showed anxiety to keep astern of her, so that the 
trawler's gun would not bear. The Alex Hastie, however, 
was neither disguised nor armed. The submarine, in 
attempting to pass close under the trawler's stern, appar- 
ently did not count upon the trawl wires leading down 
from the ship many feet below the surface. Suddenly 
she fouled the wires, and on board the trawler the crew 
listened expectantly to the twanging and creaking of the 
! gear as it withstood the heavy strain. Then after a brief 
I interval there rose to the surface a strange object, with 
i no periscope or conning-tower showing. The U-boat was 
on her beam ends. Having been caught in the trawl 
wires, she had capsized, and twenty minutes later she 
sank to the bottom, leaving a large quantity of oil on the 
j water. 

What had probably happened was that the submarine 
| had caught her periscopes in the wires. As trawler wires 
jare of 2 J inch, they stand a good deal of tension. There- 
upon the periscopes were badly strained, causing the 
glands through which they pass into the hull to leak. 
Water poured into the vessel, and prevented her attaining 
her upright position on coming to the surface. Further^ 
!nore, whilst on her beam ends the batteries would have 


capsized their contents, and before long the ship's company 
must have been asphyxiated. The Alex Hastie came into 
port a proud ship, having by good fortune performed a 
most valuable service, and the Admiralty divided 100 
between the owners and crew. 

This experience was followed by another curious incident. 
On the last day of February 1915, a number of drifters, 
based on Portland, shot their nets at daylight in a position 
between the Skerries Buoy and Combe Point, Start Bay. 
This was an area which it was believed was being used 
by submarines. These drifters were under the command 
of Sub- Lieutenant E. L. Owen, R.N.R. About 4 o'clock 
in the afternoon of March 1st, when twenty nets were 
down, a section of them was seen to sink, form a bight, 
and then travel in a south-west direction. This was an 
extraordinary phenomenon, because the wind was blowing 
from the west, "and the west- going tide had not yet begun 
to make. There was no possibility of mistake, for the 
nets travelled about a mile and a half, and then were 
found to be foul and could not be hauled in. Occasionally 
they had to be veered out in response to violent pulls, as 
if playing a fish. Vibration also was noticeable. A cast 
taken with the lead showed only six fathoms, whereas the 
chart gave nine and a half fathoms at that spot. It was 
noticed, moreover, that the lead struck something hard. 
This was followed by a sharp pull on the net, about 
thirty yards being suddenly dragged out of the hold. A 
dan-buoy was made fast to the net, which was then let 
go. The nets continued to travel to the south-west inside 
the Skerries until about 10.30 p.m., when they were 
made fast to the stem of the drifter Sarepta, and she 

Early on the morning of March 2nd Sub- Lieutenant 
Owen proceeded into Dartmouth in the drifter The Boys 
to make his report, and then returned to the Sarepta, 
finding her still at anchor with the strain on the nets. He 
presently ordered her to let the nets go. At one end of 
the nets the armed trawler SHELOMI had been patrolling. 
An explosive charge was made fast to her sweep wire, 
with a If-cwt. sinker. This was towed over the position 
marked by the dan-buoy. About noon the wire fouled 
twenty yards south- south- west of the buoy, and the 
charge was exploded. A black patch of oil then came 

CH. ix] THE STORY OF U8 387 

to the surface, and widened to an area of over a hundred 
yards in diameter. Two more ships also fired their explo- 
sive sweeps over the spot. A diver was sent down on the 
following day, and was unable to find anything ; yet it 
seems extremely likely that a submarine had been in the 
nets and was blown up, for oil was observed two days 
after the explosion in thick patches about a mile away 
from the spot, and large bubbles about a foot in diameter 
rose and burst, spreading oil on the surface. Sweeping 
operations continued throughout the day, but no obstruc- 
tion was found. This was one instance in a long list of 
highly probable sinkings of submarines, though the fate 
of the craft could not be ascertained with certainty. 

On the day that these operations closed, another enemy 
submarine farther up the Channel met with certain 
destruction, the best possible evidence being forthcoming 
in the shape of German prisoners. The craft was U8, 
commanded by Kapitan-Leutnant Stoss, the second in 
command being Leutnant Morgenroth. The captain 
was a very experienced submarine officer, having been 
in that branch of the service for seven years. U8 was a 
vessel of about 800 tons, fitted with four torpedo tubes, 
and at various times she had been in most of the waters 
of the British Isles. She had come out of Ostend in com- 
pany with another submarine, and the sequence of events 
was interesting. March 4th was a day such as is often 
experienced in the English Channel during the early spring. 
Periodically fog settled down. About 1 p.m., during a 
sudden lift, a submarine was sighted five miles east-north- 
east of the north-east Varne Buoy, by the officer of the 
watch in the destroyer VIKING, whose captain at the time 
was Commander E. R. G. R. Evans, second in command 
of Scott's last Antarctic Expedition, who was destined 
to add to his laurels in the famous BROKE and SWIFT 
destroyer action in 1917. As soon as the VIKING saw 
the submarine out of the fog, she attempted to ram her, 
and promptly opened fire with the foremost gun. It was 
too late, however, as the U-boat dived immediately. The 
destroyer circled round, passed over the submarine's 
wash, and began to follow a series of swirling pools which 
moved north-west slowly for half an hour. The pools 
then turned to the westward, and were followed for fifteen 
minutes, when they turned west-south-west until about 


4 p.m. The sea was calm, and the track of the under- 
water craft was quite clear, so the modified explosive sweep 
was fired by the first lieutenant. The swirl continued 
for about 150 yards, and then ceased. Although the 
VIKING waited near the spot for forty minutes, nothing 
more was seen except some patches of oil. This may 
have been the companion vessel of the U8, as Admiral 
Hood suggested on examination of all the available facts. 
No corroborative evidence, however, exists as to the 
sinking of any U-boat as a result of this operation. 

As to the U8 herself, the first incident in the narrative 
is that the drifter Roburn got separated from the rest of 
the drifters. When found, she was four miles south-east 
of Dover, and she reported that about 12.30 p.m. she saw 
a line of five pellets proceeding in a westerly direction 
against the tide at about four knots. The skipper in- 
formed the destroyer COSSACK, giving the bearing of the 
object when last sighted. Undoubtedly there must have 
been a submarine in the nets, for the movements of the 
pellets indicated the struggle made by a U-boat to get 
clear by going ahead and astern. At 1.15 p.m. wireless 
signals from the VIKING concerning her submarine reached 
Dover, and the stand-by destroyers of the Sixth Flotilla 
at once proceeded to sea. 

The information to the COSSACK was that a drifter had 
caught something in her nets six miles north-east from 
the north-east Varne Buoy. When Captain C. D. Johnson, 
in the destroyer MAORI, with the stand-by destroyers left 
Dover, he found the VIKING getting out her sweep. At 
2.17 the destroyer KANGAROO sighted a buoy moving 
fast to the eastward. An hour later a periscope was 
sighted one mile north of the north-east Varne Buoy, and 
at 3.51 the VIKING exploded her sweep four and a half 
miles N. 30 E. of the north-east Varne Buoy. Five 
minutes later a periscope was again sighted one mile 
N. 20 E. of the centre Varne Buoy. The destroyers were 
now ordered to close on this position, and at 4.10 a peri- 
scope was seen a mile from the centre Varne Buoy. The 
destroyer GHURKA got out her explosive sweep and ran 
on a line of bearing north-west from the Varne Lightship 
at right angles to the submarine's course, which was 
signalled as S. 65 W., speed about six knots. At 4.40 the 
MAORI again sighted a periscope proceeding in the same 


direction. At 5 p.m. the GHURKA fired her explosive 
sweep. Half a minute later the stern of the submarine 
U8 appeared out of the water at an angle of 45 degrees. 
Then gradually she came to an even keel, with her conning- 
tower showing. The MAORI and the GHURKA each fired 
a shot, hitting the conning-tower. Several Germans came 
on deck, holding up their hands in token of surrender, 
whereupon the order to cease fire was given. The de- 
stroyers closed to the rescue, as the submarine's crew, 
emerging from the conning-tower, rapidly followed one 
another on to the deck. A German officer was seen to 
throw documents overboard. The submarine sank within 
ten minutes of breaking the surface. Meanwhile, ten men 
were taken off by the destroyer NUBIAN'S boat, and four 
officers and fifteen men by the MAORI'S boat. These 
twenty- nine, the German captain declared, composed the 
whole of the crew. 

After the submarine went down, a large quantity of air 
rose to the surface, but no oil. The pris6ners admitted 
that for four hours they had been chased by destroyers. 
Whilst U8 was travelling submerged at a depth of 65 feet, 
an external noise was heard, which some of the men 
likened to a slight explosion and others to a jar, as if a 
lump of iron had been dropped on the deck. Later a 
violent explosion occurred, which had the effect of causing 
the vessel to leak. Water entered two compartments, 
and there was a bad hole in the ship's hull. Orders were 
given to blow out the main ballast tank, whereupon the 
submarine came to the surface, the second engineer re- 
maining below to sink her after the rest of the crew had 
made sure of their lives. The captain appears to have 
lost his presence of mind, the explosion having been so 
violent that the bull's-eyes of the conning-tower were 
either cracked or blown in ; some sea- water connection 
was also shattered ; and, owing to a short circuit, the 
engine suddenly stopped. Though the drifters had not 
actually sunk the U8, they had rendered most valuable 
help in her destruction. It was the opinion of Admiral 
Hood that she had got foul of the drifters' nets, and so 
eventually was forced to come to the surface. " The 
destruction of the submarine," wrote the Admiral, " is 
a great proof of the value of the modified sweep. It 
appears that, in conjunction with the indicator nets, it is 


of the greatest value." The Admiralty rightly considered 
that the crews of the trawlers and drifters which took 
part in the hunt had contributed to the destruction of 
the submarine, and they awarded 500 to be distributed 
among them. 

A day or two later Admiral Hood reported that eleven 
miles of net had been laid across the Straits. " I am quite 
confident," he stated, " that they form a real obstacle for 
the enemy's submarines in the Straits. I was sure of this 
before the destruction of U8, and I am quite certain now. 
One of the most certain reports received from prisoners 
of U8 was that she had been harried for a considerable 
time ; she can only have been harried by the drifter fleet 
and their destroyer support. . . . The destruction of U8 has 
caused a real encouragement to the officers and men of 
the flotilla." 

Six days after the sinking of U8, another enemy sub- 
marine, U12, met with a like fate. Again the Auxiliary 
Patrol co-operated with the destroyers. For the best 
part of four days the patrol yachts and trawlers hunted 
this craft, the chase extending over 120 miles, until at 
last, on March 10th, U12 was rammed by the destroyer 
ARIEL outside the Firth of Forth and sunk. " Great 
perseverance and skill," wrote Admiral Lowry to the 
Admiralty, " were displayed by the officers and men of 
the yachts and trawlers concerned. . . . The yachts and 
trawlers, by their skill and steady persistence in antici- 
pating the probable movements of the submarine, and 
sighting her when she again came to the surface, materially 
contributed to her destruction." Not only the Auxiliary 
Patrol vessels, but private fishing trawlers as well, helped 
in bringing about this satisfactory result of a long chase. 
It was directly owing to information given by the private 
trawler May Island that the submarine was sunk, and 
to her owners and crew the Admiralty awarded 500. 
To each of the three private trawlers Straihisla, Ben 
Strome, and Olive Branch they sent 62. In addition, 
five vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol received awards. The 
armed trawlers Duster, Coote, Chester, and Martin were 
each paid 62, and a similar amount went to the armed 
yacht Portia. 

There is reason to believe that on the day when the 
ARIEL sank the U12, still another submarine was destroyed 


in the Dover Straits. On the previous day a submarine 
had shelled and sunk the French steam fishing- vessel 
Grisnez, belonging to Boulogne, at a spot twenty miles 
west- south- west of Beachy Head. On the same day, 
also, the s.s. Blackwood was torpedoed eighteen miles 
south-west by south of Dungeness, and five minutes later 
a second submarine was sighted. There was, therefore, 
plenty of evidence that the enemy was still able to use 
the Straits. Commander Evans, of the VIKING, observed 
a chain of swirling pools one mile north-east of the north- 
east Varne Buoy, and he proceeded to follow them. This 
was at 1 p.m. At 4.8 p.m. the destroyer GHURKA came 
along to assist, and the swirls eventually settled down to 
a course N. 75 E. Both ships got out modified explosive 
sweeps, and at 4.25 p.m. the GHURKA fired hers right in 
line of the track three miles from the Varne Buoy. The 
track immediately ceased. All the circumstances were 
thus similar to those of the second submarine encounter 
of March 4th. Again the drifters gave help. They were 
with their nets to the east of the Varne, and the peculiar 
track of the submarine suggested that she was trying to 
avoid them on the west side of the Buoy. 

The fighting spirit of the fishermen could scarcely have 
been better in any age of our country's history. There 
is something suggestive of Elizabethan sea-hardihood in 
some of these fights against heavy odds. Nothing is more 
typical of their daring than the cool audacity of the un- 
armed drifter Rival. In the month of March submarines 
were again infesting the Irish Sea, and in order to thwart 
them, drifters were operating off the Smalls. One of these 
was the Rival. On March 16th reports were received of a 
submarine which obviously was lying in wait for a large 
steamer that was making up -Channel. The Rival, though 
she had no gun, determined to attack the enemy with her 
stem, and the skipper did his best to ram with such deter- 
mination that twice she narrowly missed hitting the sub- 
marine, which, after a pursuit lasting a quarter of an hour, 
dived and was not seen again. The Admiralty so highly 
regarded this prompt action that they sent the skipper 
an expression of their appreciation. 

By the end of March the issue was made to Auxiliary 
Patrol vessels of bomb- lances intended to be thrown at 
submarines whenever the latter came near enough. Mean- 


while an improved type of indicator buoy was required, 
and experiments were being made at various bases. The 
difficulty was to devise a buoy that would not strip its 
piece of tin in a tideway and so expose its calcium phos- 
phide, thus causing a light, and yet would strip and show 
the light at the slow speed of a submarine dragging on 
the nets. 

There are no fishermen more hardy than those who 
earn their livelihood in drifters ; they are unacquainted 
with fear, and their ships, with their bold sheer and 
pleasing lines and easy behaviour in a seaway, are exactly 
suited for the crews who sail in them. April 3rd supplied 
an illustration of courage and resource on the part of 
one of these crews. The drifter Boy Willie was proceeding 
down the English Channel bound for Milford, where a 
very large flotilla of these craft were collecting to serve 
under Admiral Dare. It was a wild day, with a westerly 
gale blowing, showers of heavy rain, and thick weather 
generally. At 8.30 a.m., the Boy Willie, when five miles 
west- north- west of the Lizard, sighted a submarine. Near 
the enemy vessel was a neutral steamer, whose conduct 
seemed suspicious to the skipper of the drifter. The 
submarine was travelling at such a pace that chase was 
useless ; the drifter, too, had no gun, so the only thing to 
do was to pass the news on. The Boy Willie put her 
helm hard over, and hastened to inform the Falmouth 
net- drifters which were operating off the Lizard. They set 
to work to look for the enemy in spite of the nasty sea 
that was running. At 1.30 p.m. a submarine was reported 
off the Runnelstone. Four hours later she was again 
sighted, the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol keeping her 
busy. Orders were sent for ten drifters to lay nets from 
Lamorna Cove to the south-west before daylight, in case 
the enemy craft should go into Penzance Bay. Nothing 
was actually found, but one of the drifters, the Lily Oak, 
on returning from patrol the next day, brought convincing 
evidence that a submarine had gone through her nets on 
April 4th, causing damage. 

It was known at the Admiralty that in consequence of 
our use of indicator nets the German submarines were 
being fitted with a net- cutting device at the bows, by 
means of which it was hoped to cut a way through these 
entanglements. On more than one occasion a U-boat 


made her escape by this means,- after having been well 
caught in the nets. In other instances the submarine 
seems to have got away with the nets about her, either 
to sink or, with good fortune, to manoeuvre herself free. 
Some such escapes were narrowly separated from total 
destruction. Three days before the submarine had got 
entangled in the Lily Oak's nets, the drifter Jeannies, 
based on Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, was operating off 
Christchurch Head in company with Torpedo-boat No. 027. 
At 6.30 p.m. she had shot her nets. Two hours later the 
Jeannies' skipper was standing by, when he noticed a 
violent tug on the net wire. This could only mean a 
submarine. The fast-revolving propellers were at the 
same time distinctly heard, as if a submarine were right 
underneath the drifter. Everyone familiar with the sea 
knows that down in the hull of a ship sounds can be heard 
much more distinctly than on deck. Wooden ships have 
been known to pick up warning signals in foggy weather 
by sending a man below, when nothing was audible above. 
In this case so clearly were the noises heard in the drifter's 
hull that the engineer came running up on deck, expecting 
the ship every moment to be rammed by an approaching 
vessel. The skipper fired a couple of green rockets to 
inform the torpedo-boat that a submarine was in the 
nets. The searchlight was switched on, whereupon the 
submarine's engines stopped immediately and were not 
heard again. It was found that the strain on the wire 
warp had gone, and when it was hauled in the nets were 
gone also. Unfortunately at this early period in the war 
the depth-charge was not in use, or another would cer- 
tainly have been added to the long list of destroyed 

Attention must now be turned to another aspect of 
the enemy's offensive. German seamen were never favour- 
ites with British sailors. Among the " square-heads," 
to use sea language, there were undoubtedly some first- 
rate sailors, principally to be found in full- rigged ships 
trading across the Atlantic, round the Horn, and up the 
west coast of South America. But these men were the 
exception. The outrages and horrors committed by 
the German Army in its advance towards Paris, the sink- 
ing of peaceful craft, with their passengers and crews, by 
submarines, and the losses caused by the German raiders 


on the high seas all these incidents served to increase the 
dislike of British seamen of everyone and everything of 
German origin. In proportion as the submarines sank 
British trawlers engaged in fishing, so the racial antipathy 
deepened. The flame of resentment burnt not only among 
the fishermen crews ; it was not less strong with the 
trawler- owners. One firm wrote to the Admiralty : " We 
beg respectfully to suggest that an Admiralty representative 
at the principal fishing-ports might have the trawler 
skippers before them, and instruct them as to how they 
should act on sighting a submarine." This was a prac- 
tical suggestion, and the Admiralty at once acted on it. 
Arrangements were made to give instruction to skippers 
of fishing- vessels in anti-submarine tactics. They were 
advised not to work alone, but to navigate and fish in 
close company for mutual support. They were warned 
to keep a sharp lookout and maintain a good head of 
steam, always being prepared to cut away their gear ; 
if a periscope were sighted, the trawler was to be headed 
straight for the submarine. Where ramming was im- 
practicable, the skipper of a trawler was advised to blow 
his whistle, fire a rocket, steer to windward of the enemy, 
and stoke the furnaces so as to place a dense cloud of 
smoke between the submarine and trawler, thus increasing 
the chances of escape. 

The sinking of our fishing craft during the spring and 
summer of 1915 became a most serious menace, not only 
because of the loss of ships, often accompanied by valuable 
lives, but for the reason that it might cripple the fishing 
industry, already reduced by the requisitioning of so 
many hundreds of fishing-vessels for Admiralty service. 
Between April 18th and May 4th eighteen fishing-vessels 
had been lost in the North Sea by the action of submarines. 
How to protect the industry was not an easy problem to 
solve. There were two alternatives : either all the 
fishing-vessels must be concentrated into a very few 
fleets, with an Auxiliary Patrol operating close to hand, 
or else, in order to prevent further disasters, they must be 
kept in port. This second alternative, if adopted, would 
have deprived the country of a valuable food commodity, 
caused distress along the coast, and ruined trades depen- 
dent on fishing ; in short, it would have brought about the 
very conditions which the enemy was anxious to produce. 


In these circumstances a conference was held on May 8th, 
1915, at the Admiralty. Officials from the British Vessels 
War Risks Club of Hull, from the Board of Trade and 
the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries were present, in 
addition to the Admirals of Patrols and the Fourth Sea 
Lord. The whole subject of naval protection of fishing- 
vessels of the North Sea was thoroughly investigated. 
Roughly, the North Sea fishing craft were divided into 
four classes, each of which required special consideration. 
The largest number of craft were those which fished on 
the Dogger Bank. These fleets comprised 150 to 200 
vessels, and so far neither mines nor submarines nor enemy 
warships had prevented them from going about their 
business. It was decided that the best means to protect 
the Dogger Bank craft was to have naval patrols ; later 
Auxiliary Patrol trawlers and steam-yachts were sent out 
to ensure their safety. 

The Aberdeen Fleet of about seventy vessels presented 
somewhat different conditions. These vessels were accus- 
tomed to fishing some distance off the coast, and arrange- 
ments were made to protect them by two or three of 
Admiral Simpson's armed trawlers from Peterhead. The 
Grant on and Dundee fleets, it was suggested, should be 
concentrated near Bell Rock. These vessels numbered 
about forty- five. Finally, there were some fifty English 
vessels working from Scarborough, Shields, Hartlepool, 
and Sunderland, which fished between Sunderland and 
Whitby. These also had to be concentrated in a place 
convenient for patrol vessels. Experience had shown that 
submarines usually avoided fishing fleets which kept well 
together. Thus, in addition to its special work of hunting 
and destroying submarines, the Auxiliary Patrol was now 
charged with the duty of protecting the fishing fleets. 

The need for protection had been brought home by 
several unhappy experiences. A case in point may be 
cited. On May 3rd the steam trawler Coquet was fishing 
160 miles north-east of the Spurn. It was a fine, clear 
day, with a light north-east breeze and a moderate 
swell. Two miles away in one direction was the trawler 
Progress, while the Hector was two and a half miles distant 
in another. During the afternoon the Coquet was steaming 
ahead at 3 knots, with her trawl out, when the conning- 
tower of a submarine came up a mile away. The German 


vessel headed straight for the trawler, and brought up 
quickly on the Coquet' 's port beam, with engines going 
astern and deck awash. On the submarine's deck were 
seven men, holding on to the wire lifelines which ran 
from the top and on the conning- tower to each end of 
the craft. In the conning-tower were five others, 
who were peering through Zeiss glasses. The submarine 
captain hailed Skipper Odell, saying in good English, " I 
will give you five minutes to leave your ship and come 
on board here." The skipper stopped his engines and 
the crew of nine got the trawler's boat over the side, amid 
repeated shouts to them to " hurry up," and rowed 
alongside the submarine, the men being then hauled up 
on her deck. Five of the submarine's crew thereupon 
jumped into the boat with an explosive charge and a 
coil of time fuse. Meanwhile the submarine headed for 
the trawler Progress, who had taken her for a British 
submarine. The Progress now realised her mistake, and 
getting in her trawl steamed away as hard as she could 
go. For a while it was a keen chase, but the submarine 
soon overhauled her. Skipper Odell and his men were 
cleared from forward of the conning-tower to aft, as the 
submarine was about to use her gun. During this chase 
the water was washing the Coquet's men up to their 
waists, their hold on the lifelines alone preventing them 
from being washed overboard. 

When at effective range of a quarter of a mile, the 
submarine fired four shots at the Progress, whereupon 
the latter stopped her engines, and the submarine 
brought up about twenty feet off the trawler's starboard 
side. Again the submarine gave the trawler's men five 
minutes in which to leave their ship, and removed them 
to the U-boat, from which a demolition party set off. 
After the Germans had returned to the submarine, the 
Progress's crew pulled away in their own boat, and when 
300 yards away they saw the port side of their ship blown 
right out, and she sank like a stone. The submarine 
returned to the Coquet, having been away half an hour. 
The demolition party had rummaged the ship, and brought 
off all the charts, including one of the North Sea which 
had marked upon it all mine-fields, both German and 
British, as well as the fishing-areas. This chart the sub- 
marine captain opened and scanned with great interest. 


Then, having taken the trawler's provisions and other 
articles, the Germans gave the men a few biscuits and 
some butter and milk, in addition to the binnacle compass, 
and cast them off in their own boat. The Coquet sank, 
and the submarine, staying only to send the Hector to 
the bottom with twenty rounds of gunfire, made away 
to chase two more craft to the north-west. This in- 
cident furnishes a typical instance of the way the enemy 
sank fishing craft and cast their crews adrift. Such 
conduct fired these fishermen's patriotic endeavours to 
co-operate with the Navy. 

Enthusiasm in the work was exhibited as much by 
the Brixham smacks as by the Humber steam trawlers. 
Information given by the Brixham smack Addax, when 
fishing in the English Channel, to the armed boarding 
steamer Sarnia brought about a spirited engagement 
with under-water craft. The submarine was not sunk, 
but, thanks to the prompt intelligence given, a valuable 
ship was saved. The smack reported at 7 o'clock on the 
morning of April llth that half an hour previously she 
had seen a submarine following a steamship going south- 
east. The Sarnia made off at full speed to search for 
the enemy, and soon after 7.30 sighted the French s.s. 
Frederic Franck, bound for London. The crew had 
already left her, and were in the boats, and a submarine, 
U24, was seen alongside the steamer, then about three 
and a half miles off. As soon as the Sarnia approached, 
the enemy submerged. The Sarnia then commenced to 
circle round the steamer at 20 knots. At 8.15 the peri- 
scope was seen about 800 yards away two points abaft 
the port beam. Fire was opened on the U-boat, and the 
Sarnia made towards her, but the periscope disappeared. 
At 8.20 the periscope again appeared 700 yards distant 
six points on the Sarnid's port beam, and a torpedo 
was fired which the vessel avoided by skilful use of the 
helm. The wake of a second torpedo was recognised, and 
this torpedo was also avoided by the use of the helm 
and engines. This torpedo, the Sarnia 's captain reported, 
" would have been a certain hit had there been one 
moment's delay in carrying out my orders either with 
helm or engines." The Sarnia then made a signal by 
wireless for destroyers to come to her assistance, and 
proceeded to zigzag at full speed close to the Frederic 


Franck so as to prevent the enemy from completing the 
destruction of the French ship, and to keep him from 
attacking other steamers which were passing within a 
short distance, one of them being a Donaldson liner bound 

Every time the captain of the Sarnia sighted a peri- 
scope he did his best to ram, but without success. At 9.15 
it became certain that two submarines were operating, as 
the periscopes of both were seen simultaneously, one four 
points on the port bow and the other two points on the 
port quarter. Fire was opened, and the Sarnia turned 
to starboard to avoid exposing her beam to either enemy. 
A shot from the after-gun struck the periscope of one of 
the submarines, and a few seconds later the conning-tower 
was just awash. The second shot fell a little short. Nothing 
else occurred until 9.55 a.m., when the Sarnia missed 
ramming one periscope by only a few seconds. The 
Sarnia' s captain concluded that the submarine with the 
damaged periscope then headed away, and the second also 
broke off the action, for after 10.20 a.m. no trace was 
seen of either of them. The destroyers presently arrived 
and took the crew of the French ship on board. The 
destroyer BITTERN towed the Frederic Franck until a 
couple of tugs came out and brought her safely into 
Plymouth. The Sarnia's captain, Commander H. G. 
Muir, R.N.R., had fought his ship with great skill and 
determination, and received an expression of appreciation 
from the Lords of the Admiralty. The Addax having given 
accurate information which enabled the Frederic Franck to 
be salved, the Admiralty awarded the Brixham men 120. 

These incidents illustrate the manner in which every 
branch of the nation's sea services contributed to harass 
and defeat the enemy. Fishermen, with their wonderful 
eyesight, combined with alertness of movement and 
quickness of decision, supported with fine loyalty the 
Royal Naval Reserve officers, themselves possessed of an 
intimate knowledge of merchant shipping and its ways; 
destroyer officers and men showed a devotion beyond 
praise ; the masters and men of handy tugs marshalled 
all their peculiar knowledge and experience in coaxing 
into port ships which could scarcely float; and finally, 
officers and crews of merchant ships, threading their way 
among unforeseen perils, played their part nobly in the 


struggle. Never before in the world-seas had the great 
brotherhood of seamen co-operated with such singleness 
of purpose. 

At the beginning of the campaign nothing was known 
of the enemy's submarine strategy and tactics, and it was 
only after many losses had been incurred and much careful 
consideration given to the facts disclosed that these 
began to be revealed. It was made clear by actual events 
that Germany regulated her submarine operations with 
characteristic thoroughness and system. The persistence 
with which her under-water craft endeavoured to pene- 
trate into the northern bases of the Grand Fleet, and 
waited day after day to entrap squadrons and single ships, 
showed that part of her plan was to reduce our prepon- 
derance in sea- power. Collaterally with this attack on 
the men-of-war she designed to destroy merchant shipping. 
To this end Germany sent her U-boats to operate off those 
points where merchant vessels most thickly congregated 
off the approaches to Liverpool, at the western mouth of 
the English Channel, in the neighbourhood of Beachy 
Head and Dungeness. 

The enemy's plan having been revealed, at least par- 
tially, the task which fell upon the Admiralty was so to 
arrange the Auxiliary Patrol as to defeat the submarine 
strategy. To be strong at every part of the coast was 
impossible, but to have strong concentrations at likely 
points of attack was at least feasible. The great drawback 
was that the naval authorities were compelled to act 
largely on the defensive. The defence of the English 
Channel at its eastern end became daily more efficient 
through the increased activity of the patrols and the use 
of the indicator nets. In order to improve conditions at 
the western end, trawlers were ordered to hasten from 
Devonport to the Scillies, where shipping was being sunk 
with impunity. By the middle of April a complete re- 
organisation had been made of Area XIV, which included 
the Scillies and the Plymouth neighbourhood. Falmouth 
became the headquarters for the yachts, trawlers, and 
drifters, Captain V. E. B. Phillimore, R.N., being placed 
in charge of them. In this reorganisation the principle 
of decentralisation was carried out. The area was sub- 
divided into four sections : (a) Newquay to the Lizard ; 
(b) Lizard to Looe ; (c) Looe to Dartmouth ; (d) the 



Scilly Islands. To each of these sections was allotted a 
steam-yacht and one and a half trawler units, excepting 
the Scillies, which had two and a half trawler units. A 
wireless station was installed at St. Mary's, Scilly. 

Similarly, the Beachy Head vicinity in Area XII was 
reorganised. This section extended from St. Alban's 
Head to Dungeness. In order to strengthen it, the yacht 
Conqueror and two divisions of trawlers were sent from 
Great Yarmouth to Newhaven. From St. Alban's Head 
to St. Catherine's the patrol of the area was maintained by 
patrol drifters ; from St. Catherine's to Beachy Head by 
a division of six trawlers ; from Beachy Head to Dunge- 
ness by two divisions of eight trawlers. In addition, the 
northern section of the transport route from Spithead to 
France was watched by a division of six trawlers, and an 
anti- submarine boom across the Channel from Folkestone 
to Gris Nez was being constructed, to be watched by the 
yacht Diane and her armed trawlers. From Dover nearly 
200 trawlers and drifters were working in the Straits by 
the beginning of April. But though the improvement in 
the working of the nets there caused enemy submarines 
to get caught and run away with the nets almost every 
day, yet, as no satisfactory type of indicator buoy had been 
evolved, it was almost impossible to tell when the sub- 
marine had fouled the nets. However, in the course of 
time the right kind of buoy was devised. 

The Admiralty concluded that, since the sinkings off 
Beachy Head had become so numerous, submarines were 
accustomed to go to ground for the night in an eleven- 
fathom hole two miles west of the Horse of Willingdon 
Shoal. Before April was out they laid a number of sub- 
Merged mines off Beachy Head, hoping thereby to destroy 
the enemy. These mines were safe for vessels travelling 
on the surface, but dangerous for any submerged vessel 
or for one anchoring or fishing. The area was consequently 
forbidden for the last-named purposes. At tiie same time 
still more fishing-vessels were being taken up for the 
patrols. A hundred were ordered to increase the Dover 
Fleet. It was estimated that the total available number 
of steam-trawlers in the United Kingdom was about 
1,400. Of these the Admiralty had already taken up 975. 
In some ports as much as 90 per cent, of the fishery fleets 
had thus been requisitioned, in others practically the 


whole number. Admiral Jellicoe again telegraphed that 
the apparent increase in the number of enemy submarines 
passing north about rendered the Orkneys, Shetland, and 
Stornoway patrol specially important, and he asked for 
more trawlers. The vicinity of the Butt of Lewis and 
Cape Wrath required strong forces to protect the colliers 
and other ships which supplied the Grand Fleet. On 
April 29th the collier Mobile had been sunk by a submarine 
oft the Butt of Lewis, although a special patrol had been 
established in that vicinity. 

With the design of entrapping enemy submarines as 
they emerged from their own waters, the two paddle- 
steamers, the Queen Victoria and Prince Edward, already 
mentioned, were employed in April in a special operation. 
On the evening of April 7th they left Harwich under Com- 
mander Maurice Evans, R.N., escorted by the destroyers 
LAERTES and LYSANDER, with orders to lay their nets off 
the Belgian coast. For this operation they had long been 
rehearsing. During the night they reached the Belgian 
coast, but it was not possible to begin work until dawn, 
as all the sea-marks had been removed. At 4.50 a.m. a 
mile and a half of nets were laid off Ostend in twelve 
minutes, the nets being 24 feet deep. Then, just as the 
paddlers were finishing their task, the enemy's forts opened 
fire and got off a hundred rounds at the Queen Victoria 
and Prince Edward and the destroyers, as it happened 
without causing damage. The intended surprise failed, 
but the paddle-steamers and their escort made home 
safely. On April 12th the Prince Edward laid a "trot" 
a mile long east of the South Goodwins, to which in- 
dicator nets were presently moored. 

While developing their submarine attacks upon the 
British merchant ships, the Germans in no way relaxed 
their activities in mine-laying, and to meet the menace 
the British Admiralty, by the summer of 1915, had five 
separate classes of mine- sweepers in the Service. They 
were (1) the Fleet sweepers, including the old gunboats 
SKIPJACK and JASON ; (2) eight auxiliary sweepers char- 
tered from the railway companies for the Grand Fleet ; 
(3) the paddle-steamers which had been taken up for 
rapid sweeping near the coast; (4) the mine-sweeping 
trawlers ; and (5) another class lately introduced bearing 
the old historic name of " sloop." 


It being known to Germany that the armed merchant 
cruisers of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, engaged upon its 
assigned mission to the north of Scotland in intercepting 
ships, were using Liverpool for coaling and refitting, it 
was deemed likely that mines would be laid on the route 
to this base. The duty accordingly fell to the Lough 
Swilly sweepers from Barra Head to Inistrahull periodi- 
cally to sweep this area. There was also reason to suspect 
that mines had been laid between the Humber and 
Southwold mine-fields, and on April 17th the suspected 
area was swept. No mines were discovered, though on 
the way out from Grimsby, whilst crossing the centre of 
the Humber area, the paddle- ships destroyed five moored 
mines. A curious incident occurred on the day following 
the exploratory sweep. Near the spot where the five 
mines were found, two British trawlers, the Vanilla and 
Fermo, were fishing. Three miles south-west of the Swarte 
Bank a submarine torpedoed the Vanilla. The Fermo was 
only 300 yards off, and she immediately went to pick 
up survivors ; whereupon the submarine fired a torpedo 
also at her, forcing her to abandon the rescue and 
escape. The explanation of this incident was that the 
Vanilla was suspected to have witnessed the laying of the 
mines, and for this reason the enemy was determined 
that none of her crew should live to tell the tale. From 
quarters far and near the enemy's activities in mine- 
laying were continually being reported. On April 26th 
the British fishing trawler Recolo foundered on a mine 
south of the Dogger Bank. 

In preparation for an intended bombardment of the 
Belgian coast from the sea, four Grimsby paddle-steamers 
were sent to sweep from April 26th to 28th, and on their 
way back across the North Sea they commenced a sweep 
four cables wide in an area where the Sutterton had found 
a mine in her trawl a few days before: Whilst the Sagitta 
and Westward Ho ! were turning south, a mine exploded 
in their sweep. A few minutes later another mine rose 
to the surface in the same sweep. It was very desirable 
that a specimen of these mines should be salved for 
examination by British naval experts. The commanding 
officer of the Sagitta was Lieutenant- Commander W. H. S. 
Garnett, R.N.R., a Cambridge wrangler and an enthu- 
siastic yachtsman, who had volunteered and received a 


commission at the beginning of the war. This gallant 
officer, disregarding the peril, went overboard, swam to 
the mine, and dexterously cut the electric wires about 
it, after which it was hoisted inboard without further 
incident. For this plucky act the Admiralty sent him an 
expression of appreciation. It is to be regretted that 
some months later Lieutenant- Commander Garnett, having 
in the meantime transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, 
met his death in a flying accident. 

From the condition of the paint on these Swarte mines, 
it was evident that they had been laid quite recently. 
Meanwhile the Tory Island mine-field was being swept up ; 
seven more mines had been destroyed by the Lough 
Swilly sweepers, and altogether forty-five mines had 
been accounted for in the mine-field, seventy- one others 
having drifted away and been destroyed on the Irish and 
Scottish coasts. On April 23rd still another ship had 
blundered into the field, hit a mine, and foundered. This 
was the Norwegian s.s. Caprivi, which was sixteen miles 
north- north- east of Tory Island at the time, just a mile 
to westward of where the sweeping was going on. Although 
the eastern part of the area had been pretty well cleared, 
yet many mines still remained, and prolonged spells of 
bad weather did not lessen the difficulties of the task. 

In the meantime, enemy submarines were engaged upon 
many daring enterprises, in spite of the persistency of the 
patrols. They were seen south of the Goodwins and near 
the Lizard ; a ship was torpedoed off the Start, in a strong 
south-west wind and rough sea. They were operating 
successfully off the French coast, and in mid- Channel, 
and a ship was chased twenty miles south of the Eddystone. 
Other merchant ships were sunk south of St. Catherine's, 
off the Wolf Rock, and off Beachy Head. Submarines 
were reported in the Irish Sea, off the entrance to the 
Bristol Channel, and off the Owers. A cork life-jacket 
picked up at Trevose Head, Padstow, marked U21, with 
an impression of the Iron Cross, and a torpedo picked 
up off Farn by a steamer and marked U22, showed where 
the enemy had been. Off Hartlepool two trawlers sighted 
U16 on the surface about the middle of April ; another 
trawler sighted a submarine east of Aberdeen ; an armed 
yacht attacked still another near May Island ; the New- 
haven Patrol vessels had chased yet another off Beachy 


Head ; and a Falmouth drifter pursued one for two 
hours, a torpedo being fired at her which passed under her 
forefoot. On the same day a trawler reported having 
seen and run over a submarine off Land's End. It was 
even reported, with some show of credibility, that two 
German officers had come ashore in a collapsible boat 
and landed at Cairn Ryan, near Stranraer. Ships were 
being attacked or sunk near the North Hinder and other 
parts of the North Sea. Auxiliary Patrol vessels were in 
action with submarines off Fair Island and Anvil Point ; 
and off St. Abb's Head the trawler Ben Lawers fired forty 
rounds at an enemy craft and claimed to have hit her. 
Dense black smoke was observed, and the submarine, 
apparently damaged, made off, being chased by the 
trawler until lost to sight. She was unable to dive, and 
only her fast surface speed saved her. At the end of April 
the enemy sank a couple of ships off the west coast of 
Ireland, near the Blaskets, supplying further evidence of 
the radius of action of these craft. The Auxiliary Patrol 
in these embarrassing conditions had to maintain its 
operations with vigilance and alertness. Surprise followed 
surprise, but it was never long before each new develop- 
ment was countered by fresh strategy, novel tactics, or 
improved weapons. Scarcely had the patrols become 
accustomed to mine and submarine warfare than they 
had to prepare for offence and defence against aeroplanes 
and Zeppelins. Harwich and Lowestoft trawlers, in con- 
sequence of repeated flights of Zeppelins over Lowestoft 
and the neighbourhood of Orfordness, were fitted with 
anti-aircraft guns. By night and by day, below the sur- 
face and on the surface, there was little rest for the already 
overworked patrol craft, and to their routine duties was 
added, this month of April 1915, and in the first days of 
May, that of protecting the lines of communication when 
the 10th Division of the British Army crossed the Irish 
Sea from Kingstown to Holyhead. The whole of this 
route was carefully patrolled by auxiliary ships in the 
following manner : 

At intervals a chain of trawlers was placed just outside 
Kingstown, past the Kish Lightship right across until 
near Holyhead. In addition, five steam-yachts guarded 
the route, while a division of drifters, with their indicator 
nets, were stationed to the west of the South Stack (at the 


approach to Holyhead) and off the Codling Bank, to the 
southward of the Kish. Actually no transport was tor- 
pedoed, but on the day when the last of the troops crossed, 
a submarine was seen by the trawler Garu three miles 
west-north-west of the South Stack, that is close to the 
route of passenger ships. The trawler gave chase, but 
the enemy dived. 

That these troops were moved without the loss of a 
single life furnished further proof of the increasing 
efficiency of the patrols and of the respect in which these 
craft were held by the enemy. The keenness exhibited 
by the crews was all the more notable in view of the 
exacting conditions of service which war imposed upon 
them, in association with many days on end unvaried by 
any incident to relieve the creeping feeling of boredom. 
But the imagination of these fishermen had been stirred 
by events at sea since the opening of hostilities, and they 
did not fail to realise the possibilities of disaster associated 
with the passage of this division of the British Army, 
whose safe crossing from Ireland to England constituted 
a further conspicuous success to the credit of this impro- 
vised force which had already shown its value as an 
extension of the long arm of the British Fleet. From the 
outbreak of war down to the end of April 1915, twenty- seven 
trawlers and three drifters of the great fleet of auxiliary 
craft engaged in fighting the enemy had become total 
losses. Having regard to the risks of mine- sweeping in 
dangerous areas, attacks by submarines, and losses inci- 
dental to navigation during winter months off unlighted 
coasts, the Auxiliary Patrol had been fortunate in suffering 
so lightly. The immunity which the vast majority of 
these vessels had experienced was due not to any want of 
daring and resource on the part of the enemy, but to the 
seamanship, courage, and adaptability which the officers 
and men of these British auxiliary craft had exhibited in 
conditions of uninterrupted danger and difficulty. 

With the passing of the long nights of the winter of 
1914-15 and an improvement in weather conditions at 
sea, it was expected that the enemy would redouble his 
attack upon sea-borne commerce. The construction of 
better types of submarines and the manufacture of thou- 
sands of additional mines had kept the German shipyards 
and engineering shops busy since the outbreak of war. 


Simultaneously the strength of the British patrols had 
increased as fast as ships, guns, and men were available. 
In the summer of 1915 a new type of British mine the 
" Cruiser " mine, which was the direct ancestor of the 
depth-charge was being distributed among trawlers and 
drifters, the idea being that, when circumstances were 
favourable, it should be dropped upon submarines from 
shoots specially fitted for the purpose. In the North 
Channel a dozen sections of net drifters were denying the 
passage to the enemy, each section consisting of ten or 
eleven drifters, commanded by a sub- lieutenant Royal 
Naval Reserve, whose ship was armed with a gun, a bomb, 
a mine, and, later, with the depth-charge ; so that the 
chances of escape of any submarine which found itself 
entangled in the nets became fewer. 

The whole organisation was improving and increasing. 
At the end of the first nine months of war there were 
either at their stations or fitting-out 63 armed yachts 
and 524 trawlers and drifters ; arrangements were in hand 
to increase the number to 83 and 631 respectively. Apart 
from these, about 350 trawlers and drifters were employed 
in mine- sweeping and watching the cleared channels, the 
auxiliary craft were co-operating in the Dardanelles opera- 
tions, and there were the motor-boats. 

At Dover Rear-Admiral Hood had been succeeded by 
Rear-Admiral R. H. S. Bacon, D.S.O., 1 who had disposed 
his drifters in a four- sided area in the Straits where 
submarines were very likely to be caught. The limits 
of this area were : 

(a) Lat. 51 3' 10", long. 1 19' 0" E. 

(b) Lat. 51 8' 50", long. 1 29' 10" E. 

(c) Lat. 51 5' 20", long. 1 51' 30" E. 

(d) Lat. 50 54' 30", long. 1 31' 20" E. 

The Scarborough area, after being most carefully swept, 
was by the end of April declared free of mines. The clear- 
ing-up had been a long and arduous task, but it was a satis- 
faction to know that the passage of this Yorkshire coast 
was at length freed from the mine peril. Almost simul- 
taneously with the elimination of this mine-field it became 
known that another had been laid in the Swarte area, the 
beginning of which has already been noticed. It was 

i Afterwards Admiral Sir Reginald H. Bacon, K.C.B., D.S.O. 


discovered, as has been stated, by the trawler Sutterton. 
Apparently the enemy had assumed that this channel 
was being used by vessels of the Grand Fleet, or at least 
of Commodore Tyrwhitt's Harwich force, as a short-cut 
when bound north. Possibly the new mine-field was laid 
with the intention of another raid, or the design was to 
entice out the capital ships and thus cause losses. It was 
significant that the mines were found at a greater depth 
than was usual, allowing merchant ships mostly neutral 
which were accustomed to pass along this route in 
considerable numbers, to steam over them in safety. 
Obviously it was desirable, from the enemy's point of view, 
that nothing should happen which would cause the new 
mine-field to be prematurely revealed. The chance dis- 
covery by the Sutterton of a mine in her trawl disclosed 
the enemy's plan, and was the means of saving lives and 
ships, although not before two British fishing craft had 
foundered in the field. On May 3rd the trawler Uxbridge 
caught a mine in her trawl and the explosion destroyed 
the ship. Three days later, very near to the same position, 
the trawler Don shared a like fate. 

On the Swarte mine -field being reported, large numbers 
of the auxiliary craft were sent out to ascertain its boun- 
daries, and meantime merchant traffic between Britain 
and Holland was suspended. The northern limit was 
found to be somewhere south of lat. 53 32', and the 
eastern limit to be long. 2 40' E. Mines were destroyed 
in plenty. The effect of the enemy's activity was to dis- 
arrange the routine work in the swept channel on which 
the coastwise traffic was dependent. The menace of the 
Swarte area was met with imagination and insight, and it 
soon became known that the lines of mines had been laid 
in an easterly direction from a position in lat. 53 26', 
long. 2 25' E. By the end of the first week in May most 
of the mines for the first seventeen miles had been destroyed, 
the only other casualty being the loss of the fishing-trawler 
Hellenic, which had blown up with a mine in her trawl. The 
mines were observed to be newly painted, and of a type 
hitherto unknown. The line extended for about thirty 

Other areas at the same time required constant attention. 
The Northern Dogger Bank area was examined and 
found to be clear ; but there was a very large area under 


suspicion right in the middle of the North Sea, bounded 
by lat. 54 40' and 56, and long. 2 30' E. and 5 E., and 
covering a space of 6,000 square miles. ' From this it 
may be seen with what thoroughness and sound strategy 
the enemy had laid his mines. Lines joining the points 
given bring out a four- sided area embracing that through 
which the Grand Fleet must have passed in making a 
sweep towards Heligoland down the North Sea. Had the 
High Sea Fleet come out as far as the southern boundary 
of this area, refused action, and then run back home, the 
mine-field, it was calculated, would have caused heavy 
losses to the Grand Fleet engaged in the pursuit. 

Large numbers of mines were found. In addition to 
forty- one mines which quite early had been swept up and 
exploded, the trawler Reverto on May 18th fished up a 
newly-painted mine in her trawl. The gear was cut 
away and the mine sank without exploding. Two days 
later the s.s. Maricopa struck a mine in the field, but 
did not sink. The Sagitta and her group of trawlers pro- 
ceeded to sweep from close to where the Maricopa had 
struck, and promptly destroyed forty- three mines. This 
was on May 23rd. Next day ten more mines were 
accounted for. Two were actually brought into port 
by the Sagitta, having been found floating, only just 
awash and nearly full of water. They had been set to a 
depth of 5*4 metres. Mine-sweeping gunboats, which 
also were engaged in the search, destroyed a number of 
mines. Once more the new Navy was in the happy posi- 
tion of having saved the old from possible disaster. For 
some days the Sagitta and her paddlers continued to search 
the field, escorted by destroyers and supported by light 
cruisers, the destroyers being of great service in examining 
and warning passing vessels. By the end of May eighty- 
six mines had been swept up between lat. 54 40', lat. 
55 20', and long. 3 E. to 3 20' E. The lines of mines 
had been laid just inside the 20- fathom line, with a very 
pronounced tongue running diagonally across the great 
area throughout its whole breadth. 

The Lough Swilly sweepers proceeded to clear the area 
west of Tory Island before continuing to sweep the northern 
part, in order to ensure a passage across the field on an 
east and west course passing within thirteen miles of the 
island. This work was desirable, it being seven months 


since this field had been laid ; several ships had foundered 
upon it, and the mine-field was placed in a most important 
position. Bad weather during the winter months had 
interrupted operations. 

Simultaneously with more intensified mine-laying, the 
enemy's submarine activities became more pronounced. 
During May submarines sank fishing-vessels in the North 
Sea, and merchant ships in areas as widely scattered as 
the North Sea, off the Scillies, the south of Ireland, the 
Irish Sea, Bristol Channel, and the western end of the 
English Channel. Six fishing-vessels were sunk on 
May 2nd off Aberdeen and May Island ; eight more the 
next day off the Dogger Bank and east Scottish coast, all 
by submarines. Between May 13th and May 18th four 
more trawlers met the same fate near the north-west 
corner of the Dogger Bank, the crews being taken 
prisoners. Altogether there were no fewer than twenty- 
two fishing-vessels destroyed in the North Sea in the 
month of May. 



THE month of April 1915 had proved an unsatisfactory 
month for the enemy ; only seventeen merchant ships 
had been attacked, and of these six had escaped. It 
must have been apparent to the German authorities that 
neither the threats nor the acts in which they had indulged 
had produced the desired effect on British merchant 
seamen. Hitherto the farthest the declared policy of 
Germany had gone was the announcement that, " on and 
after February 18th, 1915, every enemy merchant ship 
found in the said War Zone will be destroyed without it 
being always possible to avoid the dangers threatening 
the crews and passengers on that account." The sug- 
gestion was that loss of life would be due to accidental 
causes, and would not be deliberately pursued as a feature 
of German submarine policy. But towards the end of 
April a demonstration of " frightfulness," exceeding any- 
thing hitherto recorded, was determined upon, and on 
May 7th the great Cunard liner Lusitania was sunk 
without warning by U20, commanded by Kapitan- 
Leutnant Schwieger, resulting in the loss of 1,198 lives. 
During the six preceding days the enemy had destroyed six 
ships, of which three went down on the 6th. In only one 
case did loss of life result, two of the crew of the Minterne 
(3,018 tons) being drowned on the 3rd of the month. 
There was evidence, however, that enemy submarines 
were working off the Irish coast, for the s.v. Earl of Lathom 
(132 tons) was sunk eight miles south by west from Old 
Head of Kinsale, where, two days later, was enacted the 
greatest maritime crime in history, revealing the full 
significance of Germany's new policy. It would scarcely 
be an exaggeration to say that no single event of the whole 
war, whether by sea, by land, or in the air, produced 



such an instant universal and ineffaceable impression, 
or was more pregnant in its moral and ultimate political 
significance, since it was probably the determining factor 
in America's decision to intervene on the side of the 
Entente Powers, although this event did not actually 
take effect for another two years. 

Several factors combined to make the sinking of the 
Lusitania the touchstone, as it were, of civilisation's 
judgment, and to confer upon the event a tragic repre- 
sentative value in respect of Germany's whole assault 
upon merchant shipping. One of the largest, swiftest, 
and most lavishly equipped vessels afloat, the Lusitania 
at the time of her sinking was only eight years old. Built 
by Messrs. John Brown & Co., Ltd., of Clydebank, in 
1907, she was a vessel of 30,393 gross tonnage. She was 
785 feet in length, 88 feet in breadth, 60 feet 4j inches 
in depth, and with a load draught of 36 feet, her displace- 
ment being 41,440 tons. She had nine decks, including 
the hold, and accommodation for 550 first-class, 500 second- 
class, and 1,300 third-class passengers. The crew num- 
bered 750 in normal conditions, and with all berths filled 
the Lusitania could therefore carry a population of no 
fewer than 3,100 persons. Built to attain a speed of 
25 knots, she was driven by six Parsons turbines, four 
ahead and two astern, the former being capable of 
developing 68,000 indicated horse-power. The twenty- 
five boilers, twenty-three of them double-ended, were 
fitted with eight furnaces apiece, the boilers being divided 
into four groups, and each stokehold having its uptake with 
a funnel. The four funnels rose to a height of 184 feet 
above the keel, their diameter being 24 feet. The navi- 
gating bridge stood 110 feet above the keel, while the 
masts were 210 feet high. The initial cost of this great 
vessel was estimated at 1,250,000, and insurance, main- 
tenance, depreciation and other charges amounted to 
30,000 per month. As a moderate estimate, the cost of 
running the Lusitania on a voyage to New York and back, 
including wages, victualling, and coal supplies, was about 
20,000, and an agreement with the British Government 
stipulated that at least three-quarters of the crew must 
be British subjects. With her sister-ship, the Mauretania, 
she had been built at the suggestion of the British Govern- 
ment at a time when the North-German and Hamburg- 


American liners were making a strong bid for the com- 
mercial mastery of the Atlantic ; and though she was not, 
in the acutal event, employed on war service, she had 
been definitely subsidised as a reserve merchant cruiser, 
the Government having placed at the disposal of the Cu- 
nard Company, at a moderate rate of interest, the sum of 
2,600,000 for her construction and that of the Mauretania. 
The Lusitania stood, therefore, for somewhat more than 
a merely up-to-date Atlantic liner, in that by her means 
the British Mercantile Marine had regained what was 
known at the time as the " blue ribbon " of the Atlantic. 

Though little heed was paid to the matter either by the 
general public or even by responsible persons, rumours 
had been very widely spread in New York that the Lusi- 
tania was to be attacked, and indeed an advertisement 
had appeared in several American newspapers on May 1st 
in the following terms : 

" NOTICE. Travellers intending to embark on Atlantic 
voyages are reminded that the state of war exists between 
Germany and her Allies and Great Britain and her Allies ; 
that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the 
British Isles ; that in accordance with formal notice given 
by the Imperial German Government vessels flying the 
flag of Great Britain or of any of her Allies are liable to 
destruction in those waters; and that travellers sailing 
in the war zone in ships of Great Britain or her Allies 
do so at their own risk. Imperial German Embassy, 
Washington, B.C., April, 22nd, 1915." 

No direct warning was given either to the Cunard 
Company or to the captain of the Lusitania. Judge 
Mayer, of the Federal District Court of New York, was 
subsequently called upon to investigate the circumstances 
of the sailing of the Lusitania, a petition having been 
lodged by the Cunard Steamship Company, Ltd., for 
limitation of liability. In the course of his judgment on 
August 24th, 1918, Judge Mayer stated that " the captain 
was fully justified in sailing on the appointed day from 
a neutral port with many neutral and non-combatant 
passengers, unless he and his company were willing to 
yield to the attempt of the German Government to terrify 
British shipping. No one familiar with the British char- 


acter would expect that such a threat would accomplish 
more than to emphasise the necessity of taking every 
precaution to protect life and property which the exercise 
of judgment would invite. And so the Lusitania sailed 
undisguised, with her four funnels, and a figure so familiar 
as to be readily discernible not only by naval officers 
and mariners, but by the ocean-going public generally." 
Few intending passengers of any nationality believed 
that such a threat as had been made by the Germans 
could be meant seriously or would ever be carried out. 
When the Lusitania sailed, it was with a total of 1,959 
people on board, including 440 women and children. The 
crew on this voyage numbered 702 instead of 750. 
With regard to the cargo, this was a general one of 
the usual kind, but, as was entered on the ship's manifest, 
a certain number of cartridges were carried. These were 
stowed well forward in the ship on the orlop and lower 
decks and about fifty yards away from where the torpedo 
struck the vessel. There was no other explosive on 

It was afterwards alleged by the German Government 
that the Lusitania was equipped with guns, trained gunners, 
and special ammunition, that she was transporting Cana- 
dian troops, and that she was violating the laws of the 
United States. The investigation subsequently held by 
Lord Mersey proved that all these statements were untrue. 
The Lusitania, in fact, carried neither guns nor gunners, and 
no troops, and in no wise violated the laws of the United 
States. In response to the suggestion of the German 
Government, the United States in a subsequent note 
stated : 

" Fortunately these are matters concerning which the 
Government of the United States is in a position to give 
the Imperial German Government official information. 
Of the facts alleged in Your Excellency's Note, if true, 
the Government of the United States would have been 
bound to take official cognizance. Performing its recog- 
nised duty as a neutral Power and enforcing its national 
laws, it was its duty to see to it that the Lusitania was not 
armed for offensive action, that she was not serving as a 
transport, that she did not carry cargo prohibited by the 
statutes of the United States, and that if, in fact, she was 


a naval vessel of Great Britain, she should not receive 
a clearance as a merchantman. It performed that duty. 
It enforced its statutes with scrupulous vigilance through 
its regularly constituted officials, and it is able there- 
fore to assure the Imperial German Government that it 
has been misinformed. If the Imperial German Govern- 
ment should deem itself to be in possession of convincing 
evidence that the officials of the Government of the United 
States did not perform these duties with thoroughness, 
the Government of the United States sincerely hopes 
that it will submit that evidence for consideration. 
Whatever may be the contentions of the Imperial German 
Government regarding the carriage of contraband of war 
on board the Lusitania or regarding the explosion of that 
material by a torpedo, it need only be said that in the 
view of this Government these contentions are irrelevant 
to the question of the legality of the methods used by the 
German naval authorities in sinking the vessel." 

Judge Mayer, of the Federal District Court of New 
York, referring to this allegation by the Germans, declared 
that the Lusitania did carry some eighteen fuse cases and 
125 shrapnel cases consisting merely of empty shells 
without any powder charges, 4,200 cases of safety cart- 
ridges, and 189 cases of infantry equipment, such as leather 
fittings, pouches, and the like. All these were for delivery 
abroad, but none of these munitions could be exploded 
by setting them on fire in mass or in bulk, nor by sub- 
jecting them to impact. He learnt in evidence that the 
ship " had been duly inspected on March 17th, April 15th, 
16th, and 17th, all in 1915, and before she left New York 
the boat gear and boats were examined, overhauled, 
checked up, and defective articles properly replaced." 

The great liner set out from New York on May 1st, under 
the command of Captain W. T. Turner, an old and trusted 
servant of the Cunard Company. The voyage across the 
Atlantic was uneventful, and was accompanied by smooth 
seas and fine weather. The name of the ship and port of 
registry were painted out in accordance with Admiralty 
advice to merchant shipping generally; no flag, not 
even the house flag, was flown. An average speed of 
about 21 knots was maintained throughout the Atlantic 
crossing. This was lower than the usual pre-war speed 


of the Lusitania, for reasons that were made clear by Mr. 
(afterwards Sir) Alfred Allen Booth, Chairman of the 
Cunard Company, in his evidence before Lord Mersey's 
Commission, on June 16th, 1915. From this it appeared 
that, after the rush of homeward-bound American traffic 
was over, towards the end of October 1914, it had become 
a serious question as to whether or not the Cunard Company 
could continue to run their two large steamers, the Lusi- 
tania and the Mauretania. Having gone into the matter 
very carefu