7700-S-HMS SOUTHAMPTON-AUG 1916 to APR 1917

HMS SOUTHAMPTON

AUG 1916 TO APR 1917

DIARIES AND LETTERS

AT SEA - LOSS OF NOTTINGHAM

Friday, 18th August

The next event was our rather sudden departure on the 18th August. On the 19th August we had a most disturbing day with submarines, having blundered right on top of their screen; this was my surmise that the Huns would try a wily move after Jutland. The Nottingham and Falmouth were lost, we saw one and had another reported by some destroyers as being close to us. Further details of this will be found in the "Confidential War Book."


H.M.S Southampton

25.8.16

Dearest Mother,

One of our songs is in London, a second follows shortly. I don't think they are bad, but I am not wildly interested in them. I have another venture on the tapis.

I find, and my experience is common to most Naval officers who are my contemporaries, that one says to oneself, if I survive this War, I shall never be content to live the rather hard and monotonous life of the Home Fleet before the War. I don't mean that we want to do nothing, but at the same time a feeling has grown up which is due to the War, which expressed in words is something like this: Admiralty : "You will, of course, have 3 months' leave, and then we shall revert to the old state of affairs."

The Naval Officer: " My dear Admiralty, there you err. I have been sufficiently lucky to escape with my life, and in consequence, I now take more interest in it than I did before. I realise that I have only one life to live, and I propose, within reasonable limits, to live it as suits my own inclinations. I have also observed that, if another War should arise (which I hope won't happen) the exigencies of modern war are such that you will be only too delighted to have me back in the Navy, should I wish to do my duty to the country in that particular service; so that you see if you want to keep me, you have to consider my life a little more than you did in 1914. To mention one point. If I marry, I propose to see something of my wife, and not remain a comparative stranger to her until I am a Rear-Admiral on half-pay.

Love and kisses,

Stevie.

P.S. If you analyse this sentiment, it is on a par with what the labour world will say to the employers. There are great changes coming, and this profession, for all its hide-bound conservatism, will not escape them. Unless they are careful, 95 per cent. of the Naval Officers will retire en masse. I daresay they will be glad to lose some, but I don't suppose they want everyone to go.


ON PATROL

Sunday, 27th August

This confounded D.N.P. has begun again. What an utterly useless affair it is! Still I suppose that until one of us gets submarined it will go on! We went out and did our turn. Luckily we had very nice weather, but the season is getting advanced and we can't hope for such good fortune for long. It is apparently the fashion to have the Emergency Squadron at 2½ hours notice. It is a curious fact that the smaller the ship, the more strenuous a time she has. The Battle Cruisers have a very comfortable time, only going to sea on genuine stunts, and nearly all their time in harbour at 4 hours notice. They are also, of course, in very nice berths.

Then come the Light Cruisers, of which there are at present 3 squadrons in the B.C.F.

1st: Galatea Phaeton Cordelia Inconstant

2nd: Southampton Dublin Birmingham

3rd: Chatham Birkenhead Chester Yarnmouth.

We have a moderately strenuous time. Our little crosses are:

  1. One of us is always Emergency Squadron.

  2. Whenever there is no moon, one of us is out on D.N.P.

Finally come the Destroyers. These latter are worked very hard in the matter of patrols, and when in harbour are continually at short notice. One always hears a great deal about the tremendous number of these craft, built and building during the war, but where are they all ? There are none too many here, where we have the 13th and a proportion of the 4th, which latter flotilla never seems to be complete.

ON PATROL

Monday, 4th September

As we were Emergency Squadron, we had every expectation of being the sacrificial lamb for D.N.P. to-night. In the middle of the forenoon we were somewhat elated to hear that the Royalist of the 4th L.C.S. (down here temporarily from the N. Base) had been detailed instead of us. Our joy was short-lived, for the arrival at about the hour of noon of three envelopes from the Lion, and sundry other signs, told us that we were "lurked" for a stunt.

At 6 p.m. this squadron, with six destroyers and the 2nd B.C.S. (N.Z., Inflex.; and Australia) and six destroyers, left harbour and steered Easterly. We picked up a gale almost at once and during the first watch at about 11 p.m. a very heavy sea landed on the Bridge, smashed up a searchlight, carried away the Bridge ladder, bust in the bridge opposite the wheel, and did other damage. The Gunner (T) (Morgans) had his head cut open. When I came on watch at Midnight we had eased to 15; it was blowing and raining very hard. I was feeling very seasick. At 3 a.m. I had a cup of cocoa, which I held on to until 3.30 a.m., when I was very sea-sick until 4 a.m.

During the forenoon we went to Control Drill, and at 1 p.m., being in the vicinity of the Little Fisher Bank, which brought back memories of 31st May, we went to Action stations. We remained thus until 4 p.m., when we turned West. I managed to snatch a couple of hours sleep on a gun cover, stretched on the floor of the After Control. It was not very nice, being extremely draughty and wet. Booth eventually came and lay down with me, and we got a little mutual warmth.

When I went on watch at 8 p.m., the sea was getting rapidly calmer. At 9 p.m. the Dublin, "coming in" from 5 miles on our port bow in the dusk at 20 knots, turned very late, and at one time I thought there was going to be a nasty smash, as did also the Captain. It was a distinctly breathless moment. At Midnight it was very calm when I went below.

In the morning watch we ran into dense fog, and as some ships were groping out of the base, we all turned 16 points for a couple of hours. In consequence, instead of arriving at 8 a.m. we are only just anchoring now, 11.15 a.m. The trip seems to have been a pretty senseless one.

BATTLE OF JUTLAND HONOURS LIST

Saturday 16th September

The honours list for the Jutland Battle came out. As was inevitable, I fear it will cause much heart burning. There must have been 100,000 officers and men engaged, and the list is about 1800, of which a large number were bound to figure in the list by virtue of their seniority, etc., irrespective of what they did. A great deal depends as well upon the dispositions of the various Captains. For example, our Admiral, or Commodore as he was then, considers it an insult to distinguish one executive officer above another. Others believe otherwise. One of the most ludicrous examples is that of the 1st Lt. and Navigator of the Canterbury, who got the D.S.O. and D.S.C. respectively for performing their duties with skill and coolness under fire. I believe the Canterbury was only hit once, if at all. Compare this with our Navigator, who was under fire for about three times as long as the C., navigated a squadron (on the accuracy of our positions depended the value of our enemy reports, which the C-in-C. and Beatty praised so highly) and had men killed alongside him in an action when the enemy were at point blank range. Or our Torpedo Lt. (Allen) who fired a torpedo which sank a German Cruiser under the same conditions, or the Gunnery Lt., who controlled from the bridge with a fire underneath him.

I have only selected one case, but there were many others of a similar nature in which comparisons could be made. The truth of the matter is that 80 per cent of Naval officers have been so rarely in action that they do not appreciate the fact that decorations are intended to mark some very special act. In consequence, one reads of fellows doing their job under fire, and being decorated for it, as if it was something remarkable. If a similar state of affairs held in the Army, one would read of every man and officer who had been over the parapet getting a decoration.

In this ship, the Flag Lt. (Peters) was the only officer mentioned, and fully earned his D.S.C., but the Navigator (Ireland) and "Torps" did equally fine work. Decorations are, of course, in the larger aspect of things, mere trifles, but at the same time it would be hypocrisy on my part to say that we do not feel keen disappointment that the great work done by this ship was not more fully recognised.

It is, of course, entirely our own fault, as we, or rather the Admiral, did not choose to say anything much about what happened. So much so, that it was only as an after thought that we stated that we had sunk the Frauenlob, a feat which has been corroborated and proved from three different sources, two of which are of enemy origin, and yet many people in the Fleet are quite unaware of what I think may legitimately be called a feather in our cap.

The great silent Navy touch is a beautiful idea, and a very fine tradition, but it can be overdone. I cannot close without mentioning the hard case of Budge, our late Senior. During the action, our chief (Sands) was on sick leave, and Budge was Senior Engineer Officer ; this should certainly have called for some recognition.

Monday, 18th September

The weather has broken badly, and the equinoctials are on us. The Push on the Somme proceeds famously, pray heaven they have good weather.

AT SCAPA FLOW

Wednesday, 4th October

Several bouts of short notice and D.N.P.'s supervened (this is written 4th October, 1916) and Dublin and ourselves did a sweep round the Dogger Bank. Vile weather. Blowing and raining. Saw nothing. We were about 150 miles from Heligoland at one time.

On the 30th we left R. and came up here, Scapa, together with all the B.C.F. There is one new ship up here, the Repulse.

A formidable looking piece of work. We are very busy with firings of different sorts in the Flow. I landed one day at Ophir Bay, in superb weather, and went to visit Hayes, who was our late No. 1 and Navigator. Deluded by the promise of a Zepp command, he and two others became attached to the R.N.A.S.; he now finds himself in command of a coast defence station, with one little baby two-man gas bag. He is very sick of it all and hopes to get back soon. I only just had time to get to his station, scrambling over boggy moor, when I had to dash back.

AT ROSYTH

We left Scapa on Sunday or Monday, I think it was, and we were all very pleased to get "back to our home in the mountains." We were, however, not to enjoy much rest, as a most trying period of short notice and false starts took place. There was some sweep into the North Sea on the tapis, and the Birmingham and ourselves were told off for it. The first day it blew so hard that it was quite impracticable outside for destroyers; it was postponed 24 hours, much to our joy. Next day we were again all of a quiver all the morning, but at the last moment it was again postponed. I landed that afternoon and it blew so hard that at 5.30 I was weatherbound and, together with several other officers, we had to scramble along the beach from Charlestown to the dockyard and there try and wheedle a tug from the depot ship Crescent, a feat in which I have no doubt we should have failed, had not Captain Scott of the Dublin been amongst us. Next day, though the weather was not nice, it was not very bad inside here, that is to say, and to our disgust we sailed. Once under way we consoled ourselves with the thought that at all events we should no longer have this business hanging over our heads, and that when we got in at the end of 48 hours we should start with a clean sheet.

We sailed at 12.45, and by 5.30 the wind having veered to W. and N.W. we were getting away from the land and finding a heavy sea. Of our four destroyers, two had their bridges burst in. So we sent them back. 8 p.m. found us labouring along in a very big sea, going about 10 knots. Everyone was delighted when we got a wireless message to return to base. We did so, and anchored at 2 a.m., a task which I performed and found a pretty chilly one. Turned out at 7 a.m. and coaled ship.

DESCRIPTION OF LIFE IN THE LIGHT CRUISER SQUADRON

Monday, 16th October

At noon that day, it was Monday, 16th October, 1916, it was our turn to be relieved by the 3rd L.C.S. as Emergency Squadron. The necessary signals were made, and we reverted to 4 hours notice for steam. We were all delighted to get settled at last, and everyone who could took the beach, or rather prepared to take the beach, when at 12.30 came a frantic signal from the Lion for Southampton and Birmingham to "raise steam with all despatch and report when ready to proceed "! It was a regular bombshell and I have never seen such a collection of moody and snappy officers as those who gathered round the Wardroom stove to curse the unknown author of all this countermarching. I had my gaiters on, and registered a vow not to take them off till the anchor left the bottom.

At 2.40, 5 minutes before we were due to weigh, a signal came through cancelling everything, and putting us to four hours. A whoop of joy went up, and we all dashed ashore for three hours. I daresay anyone reading this will say what an extraordinary lot of people they were. Didn't they want to go to sea? Didn't they want to fight? Didn't they realise they were at war? We are not extraordinary at all, everyone is the same. We know from a hundred previous experiences what these sweeps are. You see nothing except bad weather. The most exciting quarry is usually a mythical Dutch trawler suspected of acting suspiciously. There is as much chance of seeing a Hun, except in a submarine (and you probably only feel him) as there is of our flying. I imagine there is some object in these stunts, and that they serve some useful purpose, but these facts are absolutely hidden from the people who do them. I don't know whether a fellow at the Front finds himself suddenly told off to spend the night digging a trench in an apparently absolutely useless spot, but if he does, he probably feels the same as we do. We made no disguise of our pleasure to-day when, the 3rd L.C.S. being emergency squadron, the Birkenhead and Chester started off on this wretched operation. As there is another heavy gale reported from the West, I wonder how far they will get.

Meanwhile the great Battle Cruisers lie slumbering day after day at their anchors! But after all, what object is there in their thrashing about the North Sea, burning coal, and providing submarines with targets? We did enough of that of thing at the beginning of the war. However, I suppose we must keep up appearances with the neutrals in the N. Sea, and so Light Cruisers are sent out to make "Activity"!

A WARDROOM PARTY

The next event worthy of note is of a social nature, yea, a very congenial evening forsooth. It had long been known that, owing to boiler trouble, the Birmingham was going to pay off. Now the B, since the lately lamented demise of the Notts, is the only original Light Cruiser of the little band of ships which formed the 1st L.C.S. (and the only L.C.S. in the early days of war). It was therefore plainly indicated that we should dine them.

After several false starts, due to bouts of short notice, as apparently the Huns have been out a little way, we brought the event off about a week ago, I think it was 20th October, 1916. Special preparations had been made and extra tables were got into the Mess, which was crammed. The P.M.O. and Carey did water colours on the Menu cards, illustrating famous efforts in the Brum's past. The old man came in and made a speech. The band (of which, by the way, I now have the running) put its best foot forward.

After dinner we went up to the Movies for half an hour. We then came back to the Wardroom and song was started. At 10.30 what I think I may describe as one of the hits of the evening took place, when your humble servant, dressed up as a Devonshire countryman, sang the song in honour of H.M.S. Birmingham, which I had composed specially that forenoon. It was, of course, a complete surprise to our guests, who each received a typewritten copy as a memento of the evening. The chorus went splendidly.

At 11 o'clock, after more song, the cry went up "coats will be taken off." This simple operation, by removing

(a) All signs of rank.

(b) The most expensive portion of a Naval officer's uniform,

permits of much violent exercise being taken. The centres of attraction in the carnival which then followed were undoubtedly

"Ye olde arme-chair" and "Ye round Table."

Two very simple articles of furniture, and yet what a lot can be done with them. For instance, "Ye olde arme-chair" is placed in an open space if one can be found, and a furious gallop is then started on the piano. Everyone then lines up facing each other, with the chair between them, coats must be off, and at the word "go" the 1st performer runs at the chair and leaps into its back, bringing it over with a crash back on the deck. One of the opposite side now rushes at the chair, and leaping feet foremost, lands in the seat in such a manner that, if done properly, the chair pivots on its back legs and resumes its normal position. When this is done properly the chair oscillates violently with pendulum-like regularity.

The round table is a simple piece of furniture of the three legged variety. It has a diameter of about 5 feet. One pastime is analogous to the game "swat that fly." It is played as follows. Three strong gentlemen seize the table by its legs and, holding it out as a shield, endeavour, by rushing about the mess, to pin some unfortunate fly between the ship's side and the surface of the table. It is not uncommon for the flies to combine, and by pressure on the surface of the table, pin the "swatters" between the ship's side and the end of the table's legs. After a little while the top usually comes off, this is due to someone doing the "Round the world on the wheel" stunt, or perhaps the "Human Roulette" or the "Great Gyroscope" turn.

Free dancing á la Pavlova and a healthy row with the Commander on the Quarterdeck at 12.30 a.m. concluded a memorable and epic evening. And so all to bed, no one foxed, it being time of war, save your servant, for I had the middle watch! Oh, Agony!

EVENTS

Sunday, 22nd October to Sunday 5th November

On the 22nd Sir J. Jellicoe was on board, and much to my astonishment and pleasure recognised me. On 24th October we did a D.N.P. On 26th October the Brum sailed to pay off. She was cheered out. We went over to pay our final visit after dinner on the 25th. We only stayed till 10.30 p.m., as we were at short notice, but we made things hum. By special request I gave them the Brum's song again. They are very pleased with it. On or about the 1st November we, that is to say the B.C.F., went out and did some P.Z.'s. On the 5th November, being a Sunday, we went into dock at Rosyth in the forenoon. The Snottie, Potter and myself by great exertions caught the noon train from Edinburgh. It did not avail us anything, as our train was very late, and as it was the Sabbath we could get no food of any sort. When we got to King's Cross we were confronted by an absolute dearth of taxis, so were obliged to put up for the night at the hotel.

ON LEAVE

CHANGE OF C-in-C AND OTHER SENIOR OFFICERS

Tuesday, 28th November

A signal has just come saying that Sir David Beatty has hoisted his flag as an Acting Admiral in command of the Grand Fleet. This is evidently the first change as a result of the campaign against the Admiralty, fostered by the Northcliffe Press. I suppose Sir J. J. is going to be 1st Sea Lord. It is a terrible loss to the Fleet Sir J. J. having to leave us. If there is one man who holds the entire and absolute confidence of the Fleet, it is J. Jellicoe. I must confess Sir David's appointment as C-in-C. was a surprise. I should have thought him to be temperamentally much more at home in command of the B.C.F., the cavalry, as it were, of the G.F.

Our trouble is there is such an extraordinary dearth of men amongst the Vice-Admirals and Admirals who could be considered as candidates for the post. Amongst the Rear-Admirals I think there are more, but I doubt whether the Admiralty have sufficient imagination to make two or three of them Acting Admirals, even if other considerations rendered it desirable.

The cry against the Admiralty in general and Mr. Balfour in particular, based largely on the pin-prick exploits of the German craft from Zeebrugge, is that they (the Admiralty) are not sufficiently imbued with the spirit of offensive. Lord Sydenham and Charlie B. have blethered a good deal about the necessity of a Naval victory. It is easy to talk glibly about such things, but it takes two sides to make a fight. I pray that we are not going to sacrifice the foundation of the Allied Cause (the G.F.) in order to indulge in theatrical displays in submarine infested and mined waters off the German coast.

Friday, 1st December

Change follows change. It is evident a clean sweep is being made. To-day, to our universal regret, we heard very suddenly that the Admiral was leaving us. He has been in the ship 3½ years. Of those three and a half, I have served with him for three, of which 2½ have been years of war. He quite broke down when he said goodbye to us all, as I must confess I did myself. I have been longer with him than any other officer, and I love the old man. His spirit is that of a boy, he is fearless in action, and full of common sense, which he often conceals under a rather affected behaviour. He takes with him to the 2nd B.S. the good wishes of 500 men and officers in this ship.

Pakenham commands the Battle Cruiser Force. We do not know who is coming here, except that he will be a Commodore. Our great sorrow is that we lose, not only the Admiral, but his staff, Peters and Medd, who are both splendid fellows. They are the only two left of the merry crew who were in her in peace time. What days those were, when Robinson, Muir, Peters, Medd, Stoddart, Crosbie, Hayes and myself were together. And then in the first year of war when the ball was kept rolling by E. L. S. King, Stoddart, Sands, Budge, Crosbie, Hayes, Peters, Medd, Booth and myself. When we knew the people in the Nottingham and Birmingham as our own brothers. There have never been three ships more perfectly knit together by every tie than were those three. I remember as if it were yesterday standing by the Admiral as the signals came through, from 10 miles over the horizon, that the Nottingham was sinking. He said, "for two years I have led my ships across the North Sea, and till to-day I have had no loss." And now of all that cheery company, what remains?

The Nottingham is sunk, the Birmingham has paid off, and in this ship there remains one officer, a Lieutenant, writing of the days that have gone, never to return. It is I. As I sit in my cabin late at night and write these things, my mind runs lovingly over those days of the past, from Oban-Kiel to the outbreak of war. Then Heligoland, then the awful day in December '14, when we missed them on the Dogger Bank, then our revenge on January 24th, 1915; then the monotonous days and weeks and months of training and waiting, and fruitless sweeping, then at last, the day of days, the 31st of May.

The shambles in the night, when this little ship was concentrated on by four Light Cruisers and beat them off, sinking the Frauenlob into the bargain. And the scenes on the upper deck when dawn came at 2 a.m., the same upper deck which Rushton had hunted me over when I looked after it in 1914. And then the Admiral walking round smoking his cigarette, in his long blue coat, and the survivors on the upper deck, cheering him. And then the trip back. The service in the waist with the main mast half shot through, swaying giddily over our heads. And the struggles that night with the holes in the side where the shores would break with the pressure of the rising sea and wind against them. And now, these things are of the past. I am closing a chapter of my life. For years my family has served with his, and I have done likewise. Close the book and start again.


H.M.S. Southampton

Dear Father,

I should say the chances of my staying in the Service after the War are getting less with every month I see of it. Brains don't tell, there is not sufficient outlet. One is cramped by the traditions and rules and customs of a 100 years. Verily hath it been said the Navy is kind to fools.

I want, or rather I shall want after the War, a job in which success is success, and failure means failure. Not a kind of half-and-half existence, in which one ambles on, and in which chance decides in 99 cases out of a hundred, whether you rise or not. If another War comes, then outsiders in both professions (army and navy) come in with just as good a chance of distinguishing themselves as people who have been in the services all their life.

However, for the present one must do one's duty where one can best serve the Empire, and sink all thoughts of self. As to what my immediate future will be, I will have a talk with the Admiral and decide something. One does not want to be too hasty in these matters, but I think I have done nearly long enough in this ship. What one must remember is that there are very many worse ships to be in, and not many better, if any at all, from some points of view.

Yours, Stevie.

EVENTS IN DECEMBER

Monday, 18th December

Since I last wrote many changes have taken place. Commodore Lambert, 1st class, is now in command here. Sir D. Beatty is C-in-C., and Pakenham has the B.C.F.

We have also been leading a strenuous life. Hardly had the Admiral left when we went out for a 36 hours "dither round the Dogger." We were junior ship under the Wallaby, Melbourne. These latter were apparently under the impression that one instinctively went to Action stations as soon as we got outside. At any rate, we left P.M. and at 7.30 a.m., when we were closest to Heligoland, we turned for home, and "horribile dictu" went to Action stations. Now we remained there till dusk. In a big ship that doesn't matter, everyone is nicely under cover in turrets, etc., but in a Light Cruiser, where there ain't no cover, 8 hours of action stations is no jest, added to the fact that our chances of seeing anything on the home trip were as 1 is to 1000. I spent an abominably cold, cramped, and icy forenoon in the foretop, and shivered in the vicinity of the After control during the afternoon. A day later, Commodore Cecil Foley Lambert arrived. His secretary is named Jackson, a clever and pleasant individual.

As to C.F.L. himself, it is impossible to judge so early. He has a terrific reputation, and a face like a sea-boot or a scrubbed hammock, but everyone agrees he is very efficient, and that is everything. As far as we've seen he seems a very decent old sort, who inspires me with a little fear and much respect. The very day he came on board, we (2 L.C.s) came up to Scapa, arriving in the morning. The same evening we left for a patrol between the Faroes and Shetlands, as a raider had got out. We spent 3 highly unpleasant days up in those parts, and saw nothing. The Commodore was knocked up with rheumatism, which was hardly surprising considering he had come from 4 years in an office, straight to a patrol off the Faroes! It is a bit of a change. We got in here (Scapa) at 5 p.m. on Friday 15th, and started coaling at once. It was the most dreadful coaling I have ever done, and I have done nearly 200 in the war alone. An ugly great whelp of a collier came alongside (it was, of course, dark) and after a lot of juggling about we found that we could work 3 holds by landing one on the forecastle. Her derricks were not long enough and "Guns" (Burrough) and myself could not get our hoists up on to the boat deck. Her mate explained to me that she had come by an accident, and all the exhaust pipes from her winches had been broken. The consequence was, that when we started to work the winches, dense masses of steam rose between our side and the collier's side. It was quite impossible to see where the hoist was. We spent an hour and a half, sweating away in the glare of electric arc lamps, in an endeavour, partially successful, to remedy this by fitting canvas extension pieces to get the exhaust steam away. I also brought a fire hose from inboard, and played it on the joint, to try and condense some of the stuff as soon as it came out of the pipe.

As soon as we got this more or less all right, the rest of her gear broke down. To make a long-drawn agony short, instead of finishing at 10.30 as we hoped, we sat down to a much needed sardine supper at 1.30 a.m. By Jove, she was a bitch, and I would dearly love to kill the coaling officer who sent her. She was evidently a big cargo steamer in her day, and had been converted into a collier. We were her first job for 15 weeks, which is in curious contrast to the great shortage of tonnage.

We put in a day on the North Shore doing piff, and Flags took No. 1 and myself out for a day's shooting, but beyond missing a duck, I didn't do anything. I also dined with Medd and Peters in the Orion, as Barge Goodenough was dining with Beatty, so his staff borrowed his quarters, and gave a dinner party to some of their old shipmates. The others were Schofield, Orchard, and Allen. We also dined our skipper, Craufurd, who is being succeeded by Captain Halton Stirling Lecky. I hope to get appointed to the Ramillies soon.

To-day, 19th December. We are all leaving for a P.Z.


H.M.S. Southampton.

20.12.16

My dearest Mother,

Sorry you don't like the photos, it is funny as I like them so much, and everyone else thinks them excellent likenesses. I know it is very hard to satisfy one's own family.

I will send you one for Christmas, the more you look at it, the more you will like it, you will find.

The fact that my face is long ain't the photographer's fault, Mums ! . . .


1917

EVENTS IN JANUARY

Monday, 22nd January

The day after my 24th birthday, which, for the first time for many years, I spent with one of my parents, as my father is up here for a few days. I have not written anything for a long while, but the past month has not alas ! been uneventful.

With regard to the new changes, Lambert is very much what I thought he would be, a nugget, a very strong man who knows what he wants and gets it every time. But there is no question as to his absolute straightforwardness. As to Lecky, it will be interesting to observe whether he can remain as Flag Captain in the Birmingham, which ship is being fitted out as a flagship for this party. We have been out a good deal on various sweeps, but the event which has cast a gloom over the ship and obliterated all else from our minds took place last Friday morning.

LOSS OF LT CDR IRELAND

At about 7 a.m. on that day [19th] our 1st Lt., Ralph Ireland, and three men, Knight, Starkey, and Meagham, all of my division, were washed off the forecastle and drowned, approx. 100 miles due East of May Island, in a fairly heavy sea. The cover of the navel pipe had carried away, and as we were plunging into it, about 150 tons of water had got down into the cable lockers (which are upright compts. in this ship) unknown to anyone during the night. Since Mulock left us, poor Ireland had been, doing Executive officer as well as Navigator, no pleasant combination under present circumstances in this ship. When he heard of this he rushed down to get a mat over the navel pipe. "Guns" (Burrough) and Davis and three men were on the forecastle. The Captain was on the bridge and eased down. She dipped her nose and scooped up a big one, which carried everybody off their feet, "Guns" and the "Mate" fetched up in the breakwater, the others were never seen again. An hour later we turned for home, and read the burial service in the waist. Driving snowstorm added to the melancholy nature of the ceremony. Rarely, if ever, have I felt so depressed and knocked over. When I looked at the cold grey rough sea, and thought of No. 1, one of my best friends, with whom only a few hours before I had been yarning on the bridge, and with whom only 12 hours before I had been rehearsing my part in a Revue which I had written, and in which we both took leading roles, I went to my cabin and cried like a child.

I think Ralph Ireland was one of the most loveable personalities in the Service. He was extremely clever, handsome, universally and deservedly extraordinarily popular with men and women. A King's Medallist, athletic, and an officer of very great promise. He was marked for advancement. Much surprise was expressed in the ship that he did not get a D.S.O. for his splendid service as Navigator of the squadron at Jutland, apart from his work in the Birmingham at Heligoland, and the 24th January 1915. In the mess and off duty he was loved and admired by all who met him.

One of his most charming characteristics was his delightful boyishness. When he, as he himself used to express it, "took his coat off after dinner" and performed stunts, such as somersaulting over the armchairs, or giving exhibitions of fancy dancing with me as his partner, one would never have believed he was a Lt. Cdr., rather one would have said a gay young Sub. I think he was within a fortnight of his 28th birthday when his life, so rich in promise for the future, came to an end. He played the violin quite well, and many hours in the dog-watches have we spent together, as I tried to accompany him. He was very fond of dropping into my cabin and discussing the future of the Service after the war, and similar subjects. When he was at all "mouldy" over anything, he used to look in, as he kindly put it "to be cheered up" (not that he ever needed much of that). But we thought alike on many things. God rest his soul, I shall not meet his like for long years, if ever.

ANOTHER CANCELLED OPERATION

Monday, 29th January

The state of unrest in which we live has never been better exemplified than in the past two days. Yesterday morning, rather early, we all went to 2 hours' notice. This was recognized by those in the know, - and three years of it, or at least 30 months, have made us pretty knowledgeable -as a sure sign that we were going out, presumably on a stunt of our own manufacture, as the notice was obviously designed to prevent anyone going ashore. We secured for sea, and were all ready at 12.30 p.m. when it was cancelled, and we went to 1 hour's notice. This was then extended to 2½ hours' notice, and leave of a limited nature was given.

At 8 p.m. we went to 1 hour's notice, and drafts of men were hurriedly ordered away, and signals made clearly shewing that we expected to go out about 10 p.m. However, we lay at 1 hour's notice until 10 a.m. this morning, when a signal came saying that Fleet would sail at 12.40 p.m. Just now, at 11.55 a.m. comes a signal, cancelling everything. "Fleet will lie at ½ an hour's notice!" It doesn't sound much on paper, but to anyone who appreciates the influence on the internal economy of the ship, watchkeeping, boat work, etc., of the "notice" the ship is at, the cumulative strain of such a state of affairs is very obvious. It is borne out by the state of irritation into which officers and men get under these circumstances.

AT SCAPA FLOW AFTER TWO NORWEGIAN PATROLS AND COALING AT SCAPA

Saturday, 17th February

The upshot of all the alarums and excursions just mentioned is that we eventually shoved off in a great hurry for Scapa, via the Norwegian coast, as far as Dublin and ourselves were concerned.
We swept up from the Naze to about 60° N. It was a lovely day, but bitterly cold, and B.J.1 was extraordinarily unpleasant. In fact, I was chilled to the bone in the foretop, and was laid up for 24 hours on arrival in harbour. The Norwegian coast was covered with snow, and had not the cold been acute I should have appreciated the magnificent panorama of rocky coast line and distant mountains which unrolled itself along our starboard hand as we steamed North.

On arrival at Scapa we were given the Lydie, that perfect hog of a collier we had struggled with until 2 a.m. last time we were up here. Viewed in daylight her appalling deficiences were most marked, and the situation at the end of an hour and a half, in which period we had laboriously taken 40 tons out of her - our requirements being 540 tons seemed desperate. Fortunately the Commodore saw the point and signalled to the C-in-C. that we couldn't complete with fuel until we obtained a "collier." This resulted in the Lydie being hurled off and the Dublin's collier, a fine new ship, coming to us when the Dublin had finished.

We did not have long in harbour, as on Friday the 8th Feb. the Sydney and ourselves and 4 T.B.D.'s went off for a patrol in 62° N. Beyond an antique German mine we saw nothing, but were caught in a minor gale on our return on Tuesday the 13th.

To-day, the 17th, we are leaving again to go back to Rosyth. I have just had lunch with Admiral Goodenough. Having completed a rough summary of our movements, I will now record one or two changes that have taken place' oh, by the way, I quite forgot to say that on the 6th we went down to Cromarty, and on the 7th did a Full Calibre shoot. As Burrough, our Lt. (G) had gone to hospital with a nervous breakdown, I was doing his job. It was rather an ordeal, as the shoot at extreme range of 14,000 yards was a very trying one. By good fortune, though we did not do very well, we did better than the other two ships with Lts. (G) in them. At which the Commodore and Lecky were pleased to be pleased ! On our way back from Cromarty on the 7th we heard that a submarine was coming down from the Skerries on opposing courses. We did not see him. Captain Lecky has left us to go to the Birmingham, much to most people's delight, though personally I rubbed along all right with him. [He was succeeded by Capt. B. V. Brooke.]

I have now been in this ship three years, and am expecting to be appointed to the Ramillies when she commissions.

AT ROSYTH

Thursday, 1st March

Whilst we were Emergency Squadron, two of us were told off for a sweep of the usual description. To our pleasure we dodged it in this ship, as we did the last, and the Sydney and Dublin went. They picked up two lots of crews of ships which had been submarined, and the Dublin had a torpedo fired at her.

Saturday, 3rd March

I went up to a small dance at the Kintore Rooms. Quite forgot the war for a few hours.

Monday, 5th March

Still in harbour, which is indeed strange after the strenuous life we have led. I have just got a new job. I have been taken out of days altogether, and am now Mate of the Upper Deck, and Torpedo and Paravane expert in the ship.

The International situation to-day is as follows. America is apparently only held back from the war through the curious rules of her Senate, whereby apparently a minority of one can hold a Bill up. This anomaly can hardly continue to exist amongst business men, and I regard her gradual entry into the field of hostile action against Germany as inevitable. There is much speculation as to the meaning of the skilful, but marked, retreat of the Germans on the Somme.

In France we have extended our line to Roye. I am personally of the opinion that the Salonika expedition will shortly justify its existence. It would seem a more profitable front on which Italy could expend her energies than on the Corso.

In Mesopotamia, Kut has just been retaken, and we are waiting to see whether the Turks will stand before Baghdad.

In Russia and Roumania all is quiet, but the great offensives are brooding everywhere, and must soon burst.

At home, gradually, but nevertheless surely, the Nation is being disciplined to war. The huge success of the war loan has roused everyone, as had also the submarine blockade and the resultant effect on imports. National service is starting voluntarily, probably a prelude to compulsion.

The submarine campaign went off very well for the Germans to start with, as doubtless on Feb. 1st they had everything they could on the trade routes. We have, I know, not been entirely unrewarded in our efforts to strafe them. They probably reckoned on a big initial moral effect in England. In this they were mistaken, thereby proving once again that in psychology they are hopelessly bad.

Tuesday, 20th March

On the 15th (Thursday), having lain for three days at 1 hour's notice during lovely weather when the beach looked most alluring, we were just congratulating ourselves that at noon we should complete our turn for Emergency squadron, when at 6 a.m. the signal came to weigh with all despatch.

We hurried out on an Easterly course until 6 p.m., when we turned and came home. We were out in support of a force of destroyers, which were hunting a submarine down the Norwegian coast. They got her off Lindesnaes. It was a great shock to the system to open the Scotsman on Friday and see that there had been a revolution in Russia. However, mother and child seem to be doing as well as can be expected, and if order is maintained it should be a great source of strength to the Alliance for three reasons.

  1. It frees Russia from the clogging dirt of Autocracy which has been making her machinery of government creak so noisily.

  2. It covers the Achilles Heel of our Alliance from the moral point of view, for there always seemed to me something ironical about the idea of "Russianism" intent on destroying Prussianism!

  3. It undoubtedly leaves the Teutonic Powers in the position of being the most undemocratic group of nations in Europe.

The German Socialists who have (even the most moderate ones) hoped that the war would lead during its progress to electoral and Constitutional reform, will be all the more strident in their demands for reform. This strikes directly at the source of Prussian power, viz. German Military Autocracy. Two alternative courses seem open to the German government. Either they adopt the role of Pharaoh, in which case internal trouble is likely to follow, or, they give in to the liberal ideas of the Socialists. Morally this latter course seems the best, for it would undoubtedly strengthen the resolution of the German nation, and knit them together for further sacrifices, but it has the grave material disadvantage that the Prussian Military System, being the antithesis to our own, is not designed to work on a moral basis. If the government attempted to introduce a really broadminded system of Liberal government to the German people, I believe that it would go to their head like new wine, and the military machine would suffer in efficiency.

On Saturday, I received my appointment to the Ramillies.

The Captain has got Lambert to wire and ask if I may remain in the ship, observing that I am now doing very different jobs to what I was doing when I applied to leave. As I write I expect any moment to hear the reply. On Sunday, Allen, our late (T) came to lunch with me. He is now in the Tiger. He gave me an interesting insight into the mentality of the Battle Cruiser people. The attitude of a B.C. officer is in many cases as follows :"We are it, and we can learn nothing from anyone." Herein, of course, they err greatly. They can learn an immense amount from the Battle Fleet, whom they almost affect to look down on. The B.C.'s have never been very good shooting ships, which is not entirely their fault, as opportunity for practice here is nothing to what it is up North.

The proximity of Edinburgh to the B.C.F., the officers of which go there every day, is in many ways a bad thing. There is amongst them a natural tendency to live rather for the afternoons, when one can go ashore, instead of the forenoons when the turrets go round. After all, human nature is human nature, even when it is in a Battle Cruiser in Wartime. The Battle Fleet, on the other hand, with no temptation to go ashore, are rather inclined to look on the B.C.'s as a gay set of dogs, who frequent Prince's Street! This is an exaggeration. I think that Infantry and Cavalry give us a kind of comparison as to what I mean. The Infantry is the B.F. officer, the Cavalryman is the B.C. I shall be accused of conceit when I say that I believe the Light Cruisers to occupy, let us say, the position of the B.F.C. - i.e. admitted by both B.C. and B.F. to be cheery, hardworking, quite efficient little ships.

DEPARTURE FROM HMS SOUTHAMPTON

Wednesday, 12th April

I was just going to say "I have not put pen to paper for many weeks" when I thought I would just see how long it is. To my amazement I find it is barely 3 weeks.

As I have already stated, my appointment to the Ramillies arrived, and the Captain tried to get it cancelled. On Wednesday or Tuesday, 20th, the reply to his wire came, saying that the Admiralty regretted, but I must go. This wire arrived on board at 6 p.m. I had hardly started to pack, but determined to get away next morning. The business was further complicated by the fact that a ship's company concert was taking place that evening at which I was performing. I was also the guest of the mess.

To cut a long story short, I had a great reception when I came on the stage, and had to sing all the choruses of my topical songs as encores. I was also given three cheers, which was embarrassing but gratifying. A scene of much wild and furious merriment then ensued in the Ward Room, and I was finally carried to bed at 1 a.m. I would ask anyone who may read this to remember that I am a teetotaller!

Next day I had a great send-off with the band playing Lying off Lime? a delicate compliment I much appreciated. I arrived in London on Friday morning.

That night I went down to Whale Island for a short course. On Saturday morning I shook the dust of Whaley from my feet, and went up to London for the week-end.

ON LEAVE

I left London at 10.30 p.m. on Monday 9th April, and arrived Edinburgh at 8 a.m. next morning. I then got on to the Ad. Supt. at Glasgow, and after a good deal of telephoning was told I had to go to the Royal Oak at Scapa. I tried to avoid this by pointing out that I could learn all I wanted to in a ship at Rosyth, and so save the journey. However, red tape prevailed.

I caught the special Naval train which comes up from town by the West Coast route at 4 a.m. At Inverness the train stopped for breakfast, and I had a little difficulty proving my identity, as I had no passport with which to enter the Northern Area. We then crept North, in intermittent snow-storms through the black and dreary country. In the higher stretches of the line not a tree, nor a house, nothing but moor and snow.

At 3 p.m. we arrived at Thurso, and after tea crossed over to Scapa Flow in a little packet called the St. Ninian. A long and tedious wait in a drifter alongside the Imperieuse followed whilst they were sorting the mail. The R.N.R. officers in the Imperieuse have got, and, as far as my limited observation goes, deserve, a reputation for studied rudeness to officers passing to and from the Fleet. Eventually we got hold of our mail, and went out to the Fleet anchorage. At 10 p.m. I consumed a large plate of beef in the Royal Oak. This was a special exception made in my favour, as in strict letter of the law, it was one of their meatless days. I had taken exactly 48 hours from St. Pancras to the Royal Oak.

AT SCAPA FLOW

Thursday, 12th April

We moved over to the N. shore. Friday, 13th April

A very busy day firing in the Flow. I wander round and assimilate any facts that seem likely to prove useful in the Ramillies. They are a very nice crowd here at present, they tell me that they are suffering from one of their periodical attacks of Mould. They are certainly a very quiet mess. I think they are having rather more Gunnery than is good for them.

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