« AnteriorContinuar »
that Sunday evening, to join the Ninth Cruiser Squadron; and accordingly, first, northabout round Ireland we fared, then southward-ho! for the open sea near the Canary Islands, where the tracks of the Atlantic trade routes from South America and South Africa converge.
Од Wednesday morning, early, a sailing-ship was sighted on our starboard bow. We were then in the chops of the Channel, well southward of Ireland, and we altered course slightly to bear down on her. As we approached she hoisted the German merchant flag and "made her number." She was the Excelsior, a barque of about 2500 tons, homeward bound to Bremen from New Orleans with a cargo ehiefly of tobacco, and was forty days out.
forth one of our few remaining small eruisers-the Isis-and to her, on the following morning, was entrusted our first prize (which had been kept closely under view in the searchlight all night), and we resumed our southerly course. She was taken into Berehaven, and subsequently was demned in the Prize Court.
Our next experience of warlike conditions took place on arrival at the Canaries, in seeing the serried rows of German and Austrian merchant steamers anchored at at Las Palmas and at Santa Cruz de Teneriffe, and afraid to move one yard outside those neutral Spanish waters. Many others of the same scared company we saw later on, who had taken refuge at the Azores, at Madeira, and in the Cape de Verde Islands, where they lay sheltering and sweltering until Portugal, to which country these groups belong, "came in" to the war. But those in the Spanish harbours remained at anchor for over four years, their bottoms rusting, their engines deteriorating, their coal and stores dwindling, It was too rough at the their cargoes gradually being time to send a boat to visit sold to pay for the upkeep of her, taking a prize crew, so their diminishing crew, objectshe was ordered to haul as lessons of sea-power. Even close to the wind (which was had they been able to get south-westerly) as she could, clear away from their island and to prepare to be taken anchorages, each would have into port in our company. We become a homeless wanderer Litered course suitably, and a Flying Dutchman-barred promptly and meekly she fol- from every home port and from iowed us. It was a bloodless every German colony. We Fistory! felt like terriers looking at a cage of rats! They were for us a spectacle as thrilling as
Consequently she knew nothing about the war; but when informed, by international code, of the state of affairs and that she was our prize, she made no difficulties whatever; nor did there appear to be very much excitement on board.
A wireless message to the Dearest admiral soon brought
it was tantalising; but while the latter feeling always remained, our compensating enjoyment of their helplessness was swallowed up in anxiety lest any one of them should make a bolt for it, and get away to join the Karlsrühe or other commerce-destroyer in the Atlantic, to bring her aid, coal, and provisions.
This anxiety was rendered even more poignant, shortly after, by the several arrivals at Santa Cruz of steamers fitted out as supply ships by the Germans in America, and sent to sea under neutral flags, one after the other. After fruitlessly scouring the Atlantic for several weeks, searching for the Karlsrühe or dodging our patrols, three of them arrived and anchored in the neutral shelter- already tautly strained -of the Canaries. It now became necessary, indeed, for the strain to be relieved somewhat; and accordingly "shelter" was converted inte "internment" by the Spanish authorities (after eloquent representations, and may God guard Your Excellencies many years!) But we kept just as close a guard. The little less, and what miles away might not these ships have been, "internment" and all!
Sixteen or seventeen of these German Fleet auxiliaries, it was discovered by the justly indignant United States authorities, had been ohartered in America. They cost Germany, to fit out, and for the suborning of the various captains and others concerned, about £400,000. Out of the whole lot only one, the Berwind,
succeeded in its mission. Of the remainder, many were prevented from so much as leaving American waters, and of those that got away some were sunk, some were captured, and the rest were detained in neutral ports. It was an expensive experiment in straining neutrality.
Besides the three so-called "neutrals" that reached our side, there was a fourth steamer on whom our straining eyes continually were fixed, named Telde. She was a genuine German, brand-new, and originally employed, under German colours, in the island fruit trade; but now, since war broke out, sheltering at Santa Cruz. She was of about 2500 tons, fast, convenient, inconspicuous; and accordingly she had been loaded with stores of all sorts, including gold in boxes-the whole discreetly covered over with coal (her nominal "cargo"); and having been given a Spanish "clearanee " for Antofagasta, in Chile, we expected her to sail at any moment. Nothing would have been easier for her, on some moonless night, than gently to slip the cable, and gently to move away, under the high dark eliffs of Teneriffe. Even had she been seen by us to be moving, she might easily have been mistaken for one of the small Spanish inter- island steamers she so greatly resembled, and thus to have eluded pursuit. Close and anxious watch was therefore necessary. One still remembers the agonised and frequent moments when something put
forth from the anohorage at 1 A.M. (or at any old time at dead of night), the sudden forcing of steam-the palpitating pursuit in darkness-the abortive ending when, off Anaga Point (the northern end of the island), certainty was established, and we recognised that we had been chasing, not the Telde, but the authentic Spanish steamer "on its lawful ocoasion"!
But the Telde didn't sail out of Santa Cruz, at least not voluntarily; and, later on, she fell into our hands in the following manner.
After eighteen months of watching-namely, in May 1916-there came an unexpected, fierce, squally N.-W. wind which blew down the steep arid slopes of Teneriffe with such vehemence that it carried away the Telde, body and bones, anchor, cable and all, away out to sea, until, presently, she was outside territorial waters. This happened late at night, and the Germans ashore, in frantic haste, chartered a tug to rush to the scene. But "Mañana por la Mañana" is the admirable law of Spain, and it was daylight before she actually got away. She reached the Telde, however, got her safely in tow, and started to steam, for dear life, back to Santa Cruz and safety. Too late, though! While they were still on the high seas there descended on them, out of the blue, H.M.S. Essex. The tow was transferred, and the tug returned to her island home, sad and lonely.
Long before this event all
the German commerce-destroyers had gone to Davy Jones's Looker, and our watch over their supply-ships had therefore lost much of its acuteness and intensity. Visits were made periodically, however, to "count heads"; and on the night of the involuntary flight of the Telde it chanced that the Essex was away on such an expedition, at the time that intelligence of the drifting Hun reached the Admiral. That "bird of the air," wireless, then "earried the message" to the Essex, with the aboverecounted satisfactory result.
Let us get back again now to the autumn of 1914, and to the earlier days and deeds of the Canaries patrol.
First among these was the sinking by H.M.S. Highflyer, on August 28, of the German armed merchant oruiser Friedrich der Grosse.
The great liner had started forth from her home port before war with England had actually been declared, fully equipped, and commissioned to sink, burn, and destroy. She began off Iceland with some fishing vessels of ours, which she sank, capturing the crews. With them on board she sailed southward to the more interesting and more prolifio trade-route from Cape Town. The unfortunate North Sea fishermen, fully accoutred in their thick "lamby" suits and immense thigh-boots,-their all,
began to melt inside them, in rapidly increasing rivers of perspiration, as the mild warmth of the Channel gradually deepened to temperatures
of his ship slowly filled, turned
for which Iceland, most cer-
It must, in fairness, be recorded of the captain of the Friedrich der Grosse, however, that he behaved with humanity, and even chivalry, towards his captives. He released, practically unconditionally, one steamer that he had captured, saying that he had no wish to inconvenience the lady passengers. And when, eventually, he was overtaken at the Rio de Oro, on the African coast (where he had gone for coal and repairs), and the unequal action between his ship and the Highflyer began, he sent away at once all his prisoners by the Spanish steamers, from which he had been coaling, together with all the non-fighting members of his crew— stewards and so forth - to get them out of the way of the shells. When he was called on by the Highflyer to surrender, he signalled back "A German ship never surrenders." After an hour and a quarter's respite given him for "reconsideration," the Highflyer opened the ball, and he replied - helpless at anchor as he was - with a broadside. Thereafter he stuck to it, with hopeless tenacity, until at last the great hull
When we visited the scene, three months later, the enormous rusty bilge of the Friedrich der Grosse still hove up its bulk out of the water, bearing so plausible a resemblance to a smooth, rounded, sandy islet, with sloping ends, that at first it was thought to be one. As we got nearer, a propeller blade just showing above the water, and a large dark cleft down the centre of the supposed islet tragio witness to the vessel's "broken back"-made us realise that it was indeed the mortal remains of the commerce-raider that confronted us. As her beam
man was making off hotly to the south-west, as hotly pursued. Hot indeed ! Both ships were in flames: the Cap Trafalgar from end to end; the Carmania in the fore-part only: a distinotion due to a oharacteristically German taotio. The Cap Trafalgar had
gators of Prince Henry of Portugal, in their search for treasure and slaves, gradually pushing their adventures southward into the mysterious and terrifying heat of the tropics, saw the gleaming mica in the sand, and supposing themselves to have reached a River of Gold, so concentrated her fire on the named it. It must have been navigating bridge of the Cara desperate disappointment to mania, evidently expecting those thirsty fortune-hunters that when the R.N. captain when the true state of affairs had been killed, and his con-salt water and shiny sand ning instruments-compass, -disclosed itself. engine-room telegraph, charts
A fortnight after this first destruction by a ship of our squadron of a German armed merchant cruiser, there took place that famous and monstrous battle of leviathansthe action between the Carmania (also of the Ninth C.S.) and the Cap Trafalgar, off Trinidad Island in the midAtlantic, on September 14, 1914, ending in the viotorious destruction of a second enemy A.M.C. The German was coaling near the island; but immediately on sighting the Carmania she east off her colliers, and stood away to the westward at 18 knots. The Carmania stood south-west, also at full speed, to cut her off, and opened fire at four miles' distance: a space which the converging courses of the two ships reduced, in ten minutes' time, to only two miles, or 4000 yards. It was like an action of Nelsonic times. At the end of a second ten minutes, of such hammer and tongs on one side, and sturm and drang on the other, as has rarely been seen, the Ger
had been destroyed, there would then be "nobody" left to carry on, and nothing to carry on with.
The captain was not killed, however. Even had that disaster befallen, it would certainly not have wiped out the fighting ability of our side. There were plenty more, though not R.N., still R.N.R., eager and able to "take on"! As to the navigation, there was a second conning station at the after-end of the ship-to which, indeed, the executive were presently driven by the flames in the fore-part.
Our tactics, unlike those of the Germans, were to drive as many shots as possible into every part of the great haystack opposed to She couldn't be missed; and so it was that, after a chase of an hour and a quarter, the Cap Trafalgar, burning like Sodom and Gomorrah, swerved round a complete half circle, till she headed the pursuing Carmania, then capsized to starboard, and went down, head first, with colours flying.