Torpedo Boats

Torpedo Boats  
From Songs and Chanteys, 1914-1916 
By Cicely Fox Smith                       

There be poets in plenty who have sung in the praise
Of the famous old names of Old Navy days,
Of Victory, Temeraire, Ajax, Orion,
Colossus, Calliope, Tiger and Lion.
But it’s hard, you’ll acknowledge, to rhyme you the fame
Of a craft that has never so much as a name.
That simply appears on the tale of the sea
As – “H.M.Torpedo Boat (One, Two or Three) !”

Likewise our destroyers have names to suggest
Their fierceness, their fleetness, their daring, their zest,
The |Insects, the Rivers, the Tribes and what not –
Not to mention selections from Shakespeare and Scott;
But though they should ransack the poets all through,
And exhaust every creature that’s known at the Zoo,
Not a name would there be in the whole bag of tricks
To spare for Torpedo Boat Four, Five and Six !

But it matters not greatly when work’s to be done
If they call you Ark Royal or Nought-Forty-One:
If you sound like a flagship of ancient renown,
Or more like a knapsack once worn by John Brown.
And whether your portion be number or name,
There are some things, you’ll find, which are always the same,
And sisters in Duty, at risk of the sea,
Are Dreadnought, Destroyer and humble T.B.

There be sea-fogs to blind her and tempests to batter,
There be shoals to decoy her and lee shores to shatter,
There be seas which engulf her and billows which roll,
With spray dashing high as a Dreadnought’s control;
While to keep her from dullness there are mines not a few
(And she knows just a bit about submarines too!),
Such lesser distractions as fall to the lot
Of H.M.Torpedo Boat – please yourself what !

And though scant be her portion on History’s page,
Recounting great battles where fleets did engage,
Though the end of her day be to perish alone.
Her deeds unrecorded, her glory unknown;
Come lightning or tempest, come gale or come sleet,
She must stick to her job on the fringe of the Fleet,
Patrolling our coast from Harwich to Humber,
H.M.Torpedo Boat – Known by a number !


1 comment:

  1. Cicely Fox Smith was born in 1882, near Warrington. She attended Manchester High School for Girls where she was "something of a rebel," she said. She published her first book of poems at the age of 17. In 1911 she sailed to Canada with her sister, living between 1912 and 1913 at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, where she absorbed the nautical atmosphere of the waterfront, reflected in her poems. Some of her subsequent work supported the war effort. Many of her readers assumed she was a man, and a sailor. Cicely Fox Smith died in 1954 in Devon. Her work has since reached a wider audience through folk music, as over 70 of her songs have been put to music. Written in praise of the un-named small ships of WW1, her poem Torpedo Boats, above, expresses the spirit of our website.