3. On Passage


M30's officers (Lto R): Ch.Gnr.H.Martin, RN, Lt.F.Hanna, RN Lt.Cdr.E.Lockyer, DSO, RN (Retd), Temp. Surgeon H.Bates,RN, and Sub Lt. (n) D. Muir, RNR.  

“Where lies the land to which the ship would go? Far, far ahead is all her seaman know, And where the land she travels from? Far, far behind is all that they can say.”
Arthur Hugh Clough, Where lies the land?

“And when we started rolling, we rolled an awful lot, Some people lost their balance, or their dinner, on the spot, But the whole of bloody Two Mess went and lost their soddin’ tot, And that’s what its like in the Navy.”
Anon


To the officers of M30 there was one very unsatisfactory feature of the Sailing Orders; the ship was to be towed the 3,000 miles to the Dardanelles and by a vessel of the Merchant Service at that! This was an indignity forced on all the M29 class monitors (and, for different reasons, on most of their larger sisters) by the capacity of the oil bunkers which could sustain the engines for a bare 3 days of continuous steaming.

Towing as an operation requires seamanship of a high order from the crews of both vessels involved, and for this reason senior officers of the peacetime era often ordered the ships under their command to perform the evolutions “Prepare to tow” and “Prepare to be taken in tow”. M30’s First Lieutenant had responded to these signals on countless occasions, participating in the highly competitive exercises which followed as each ship strove to outrace her flotilla or squadronmates. In the cruisers Andromeda and Shannon Frank Hanna had seen these drills completed in minutes, whereas in M30, a new ship with a green ship’s company, they might well take hours. Moreover, SS Glenmore, the appointed nursemaid, an elderly vessel destined to become a blockship, was not manned to naval standards, and her small crew, though doubtless good seamen, were hardly likely to carry out their tasks “at the rush” in true Navy fashion. For these reasons, perhaps, M30 was not taken in tow until she was 2 days out of Milford Haven, away from the busy inshore traffic lanes and into the open sea.

By naval custom the First Lieutenant took charge on the fo’c’sle and so M30’s Number One was in his rightful place at 1.45 p.m on 15 July to supervise the first performance of an operation in which the men of both the ships involved were to be well practiced by the time the Straits were reached. First a bower anchor was unshackled, hoisted from the hawsehole and secured on deck; then 4 shackles (50’) of anchor chain was dragged from the cable locker, ranged on the fo’c’sle and coupled to a wire hawser which was “flaked down”, each obstinate hank being prevented from entangling with its neighbour by a light spunyard lashing. The end of M30’s hawser is now passed to Glenmore, by boat or secured to a heaving line, and taken to the after windlass which, as the barrel revolves, pulls the wire out over the monitor’s bows, each ”stop” being cut in succession as hank after hank streams forward. With the first few fathoms of wire secured on board, Glenmore steams cautiously ahead as M30’s anchor cable is dragged, protesting, into the sea. Now is the crisis time and tension rises aboard each ship as the towing hawser straightens and rises, dripping, from the water; one misjudgement and the tow will part, leading at best to more hours of heavy work or, at worst, to casualties inflicted by the vicious whiplash of the hawser breaking under stress. But all is well; the 2 ships move steadily forward to the length of the tow line is adjusted until both vessels are rising and falling in unison to the rhythm of the waves.

So linked to Glenmore, M30 set out on what to some aboard was a wearisome passage of 24 days. No seaman likes to be in a ship lying helpless at the end of a tow rope, but to the stokers, free to enjoy fresh air and “all night in”, the trip was almost a holiday, as it was for the signalman seconded to Glenmore away from strict naval discipline and the eagle eyes of his superiors.

As day followed day, officers and men at last had a chance to become closely acquainted and, together, work the ship to a peak of efficiency. Of the inner life of that community of 72 souls, the friendships and emnities which flourished, nothing is known. Was there a “sea lawyer” aboard M30, well versed in the intricacies of the Naval Discipline Act and prepared to “argue the toss” whatever the circumstances? Was there a “skate”, always “under punishment” and deprived of his daily tot? Was there a “stripey”, an elderly AB with 3 Long Service and Good Conduct badges on this arm (the signs, it was said, of long years of “undetected crime”) who had avoided responsibility and promotion alike but who was accepted as the final arbiter in any dispute about lower deck custom and tradition? Alas, as M30’s Muster records were destroyed by enemy action in 1941, it is not possible to discover the composition of the ship’s company although the Navy List of 1915 identifies the officers.


(L to R) "Number One", "The Owner", and "Pilot"

The captain of the monitor was Lieutenant Commander Edmund Laurence Braithwaite Lockyer, Royal Navy, a gunnery specialist who had qualified in the early years of the century as the “Gunnery Revolution”, led by Fisher, Scott and Jellicoe, was beginning to take hold. Edmund Lockyer had retired from the Service, possibly through ill health, in 1913 but had been recalled to active duty on the outbreak of war; on his breast he wore the red and blue ribbon of the Distinguished Service Order and the story of how he won this decoration in a celebrated, rare single-ship action was as well known in the wardroom as it was on the lower deck.

The tale began on 7 August, 1914, when, restored to full pay, Lt. Commander Lockyer stood on the landing stage of Liverpool docks gazing up at the massive hull of the 20,000 ton Cunarder, which had arrived that day from New York and of which he had been appointed “1st, and G” (First Lieutenant and and Gunnery Officer). With the help of a government subsidy paid to the ship owners, Carmania had been built with 8 4.7” gun mountings below deck and in little more than a week she was ready to assume her wartime role of Armed Merchant Cruiser and was steaming to join Admiral Craddock’s West Indies Squadron in the search for German commerce raiders in the South Atlantic.

The ship’s company took a little time to settle down, composed as it was of a mixture of Fleet Reservists, Royal Marines and volunteers from the peacetime crew. In particular there were difficulties with the 60 Scottish fishermen drafted to the ship who were new to steamship ways and the naval practice of giving orders by bosun’s pipe:

“First the first few days at sea the morning disciplinary proceedings - - - were a sorry procession of Scotsmen excusing themselves for not instantly obeying what they called ‘yon silly wee man with his silly wee whistle.’”(1)

While Edmund Lockyer drilled his gun crews and devised a workable system of fire control, on the other side of the Atlantic another great merchant ship, Cap Trafalgar, flagship of the Hamburg – South America line, was adapting herself for war. Named after Nelson’s last great victory, and commanded by an enthusiastic admirer of the little admiral, there was a certain irony in the fact that this beautiful ship was preparing herself to prey on England’s commerce. As a raider, Cap Trafalgar was at a disadvantage for her arrival in Buenos Aires on her maiden voyage had been well publicised and she was the only merchant vessel on the South American coast to have 3 funnels. Could she be disguised as a British ship of similar tonnage and, if so, what ships should she choose to represent? As chance would have it, one of the crew had served in Carmania and possessed a fading newspaper photographer of her. The choice was made; down came on of the funnels while carpenters and painters fashioned a new silhouette in Cunard colours.

Early in the morning of 14 September, Carmania was approaching Trinindade Island, a tiny smudge of land 617 miles off the Brazilian coast which, it was suspected, was being used by the Germans as a coaling station. Now it was Captain Grant of Carmania who had a problem: the ships identified as potential commerce raiders were faster than his own and if any of them were using Trinidade they would be off and away at the first glimpse of the stately Cunarder. But suppose Carmania was disguised as a German vessel; would it then be possible for the ship to get close enough to the enemy for Lt. Cdr. Lockyer’s guns to be brought to bear before the ruse was discovered? The plan was adopted; a dummy funnel was erected and soon the merchant cruiser bore a strong resemblance to the pre-war Cap Trafalgar.

The last act of what Shakespeare’s Bottom would have called “this lamentable comedy” was about to begin for while Cap Trafalgar disguised as Carmania was patrolling, all unknowing, to the south, Carmania resembling Cap Trafalgar was steaming towards the northern shore of Trinidade Island. Of course, there was the inevitable meeting. After initial doubt about respective nationalities a fierce action began which continued for one and a half hours at ranges varying between 2,000 and 8,000 yards. Both ships were heavily damaged and furiously ablaze when the pride of the German merchant navy finally succumbed, leaving Carmania to steam unsteadily for the safety of the Albrohos rocks. Lt. Commander Lockyer stayed aboard the Armed Merchant Cruiser until she had completed a lengthy refit at Gibraltar and was decorated for his part in the victorious action in January, 1915. M30’s commanding officer has been described as having poor eyesight and being unfit for service at sea (2) but if this was so then, despite physical frailty, he was a man of spirit.

Next to the captain in authority, and his right hand man, was Lieutenant Francis Hanna, Royal Navy, whose early career has been described in the preceding chapter. The days when Frank, a carefree, barefoot (3) Boy Seaman, had manned the main royal yard of the brig Seaflower were now just a precious memory and he had the most difficult job aboard M30 for Edumund Lockyer expected that his “Number One” would fashion for him an efficient ship’s company while the lower deck looked to “Jimmy” to ensure that they had fair play and justice within the circumscribed regulations which governed service life.

The monitor’s third executive officer, and the ship’s navigator, was Sub Lieutenant (N) Douglas Sellars Muir, Royal Naval Reserve, who signed the monthly logs which are now preserved at the Public Record Office. Douglas Muir had exchanged the lapel patches which distinguished the Midshipman for the single gold stripe of the Sub Lieutenant just 3 months before joining M30 and, presumably, had first gone to sea as a Cadet in the Merchant Navy.

On arrival at Gibraltar on 21 July, M30 was joined by “Pills”, the ship’s doctor, Temporary Surgeon Howard J. Bates, Royal Navy, who, for the remainder of the outward voyage, was surely the idlest man aboard even if he helped, as a doctor often did, with the coding and decoding of signals and kept the accounts for the wardroom bar.

Shown in a surviving photograph of M30’s officers is Chief Gunner Henry Martin, Royal Navy, a most important man aboard the floating gun platform. Martin, who had previously served in a the battleship Magnificent (one of those from whom the 12” guns were removed to be re-mounted in monitors) looks four square and burly as a man of his status should, an imposing representative of the warrant officers who were (there is no avoiding the cliché) the backbone of the Navy. Henry Martin had been appointed to M30 on 9 June, 1915, and had “stood by” the ship whilst she was completing, arriving in the shipyard every morning from his Belfast billet to cast an experienced eye on progress and, doubtless, by a nod or a wink to Harland and Wolff workmen, or by the judicious passage of half a crown from one horny hand to another, had ensured that minor alternations had been made to the specification to improve the accommodation for officers and men. In gunnery, as in much else, the Navy believed that competition produced perfection so that Martin pitted gun crew against gun crew in frequent “dummy runs” until rivalry welded 9 individuals into the well knit team upon which good gunnery depended:

“Now every six inch projectile weighs 100lb, and it has to be put into the gun by hand, followed as quickly as possible by the cartridge, much the same as a shot gun, and the speed at which it was put in governed the whole speed of firing the gun. This was a competitive drill, the sailors of each gun crew vying with one another as to how many projectiles they could load in one minute. Timing of opening and closing the breech as well as putting in the projectiles was judged nicely to a split second by the crews and excitement sometimes ran high.” (4)

It has been stated that the officers of the monitors, large and small, “were either older men passed over for further promotion or were relatively junior” (5) and, bearing in mind that Edmund Lockyer had retired before the outbreak of war, that Frank Hanna had only a few weeks seniority as a Lieutenant and that Douglas Muir was a recently promoted reservist, this generalisation could be fairly applied to M30. But this did not mean that this ship, like the other monitors, was not “well run and efficiently handled” (6) and regular routines were soon established on the “shake down” voyage eastwards.

However much time the captain of a ship may spend on deck, he does not keep a formal watch; his Standing Orders (supplemented by regular entries in the Night Order Book) lay down the occasions on which he is to be summoned to the bridge – on altering course, sighting land or another ship, for example – and there is always included a blanket phrase such as “or in any other circumstances which, in the opinion of the Officer of the Watch, demand my presence.” It was quite usual for the Chief Gunner of a small ship, a warrant officer (7), to stand a watch and if this was the case in M30 than Frank Hanna and Douglas Muir were spared the tyranny of being “watch on, watch off” every 4 hours throughout the day and night, a routine varied only by the 2 hour stints of the Dog Watches. In a ship provided with an adequate number of watchkeepers, “Number One” did not keep the Forenoon Watch (8 a.m. to 12 noon) for in those hours much of the major business of the ship as done – cleaning, painting, maintenance, practice drills etc – and during this period also “Requestmen and Defaulters” came before “Jimmy” to be dealt with. Whatever watchkeeping system was established aboard M30 Frank Hanna had little rest for a good First Lieutenant was always busy:

“Put two seamen and a Number One adrift on a raft in the North Atlantic and in twenty minutes he will have them organised into watches and will have them painting ship” (8)

Once the malevolent Bay of Biscay had been left astern there were enjoyable features of a necessarily leisurely voyage – the warm Mediterranean sun, the calm blue sea and in harbour (Pembroke Dock, Gibraltar, Malta, Mudros and Port Kephalo) the company of sister ship M31. These 2 vessels which were built in the same yard, and were launched and commissioned within two days of one another, undoubtedly became “chummy ships” (9), a phrase which describes the special relationship which sometimes develops between craft which have shared similar experiences. When “chummy ships” are in port at the same time, the respective captains dine together, cryptic, unofficial signals passing to and fro foreshadow yet another combined wardroom party while, in the bars ashore, the ships’ companies drink together and, if necessary, fight together for an insult to one “chummy ship” is an insult to both. And ribald comment there must have been on M30 and M31’s ability to “roll on wet grass” and, in a breeze, their idiosyncratic way of entering or leaving harbour.

Pleasant or tiresome, all voyages must have an end and so, early in the morning of 5 August, M30’s tow rope was cast off for the last time in the approaches to the Greek island of Lemnos where, so legend said, the Argonauts were seduced by amorous women as they made their way to the Hellespont. Enticing Lemnos may have been to the weary voyagers of ancient myth, but to the servicemen of 1915 it lacked attraction:

“A desert island the colour of strawboard, that gave off the heavy reek of herbal exhalation arising from the sunscorched juniper, camel thorn, wild thyme, saltbush, myrtle, peppermint and decaying stubble.” (10)

The “Governor” of the nominally neutral island was Rear Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss, known throughout the Navy as “Rosy”, who, with the connivance of the Greek Prime Minister Venizelos and to the astonishment of the local inhabitants, had been appointed in February, 1915, 5 months before M30’s arrival. No one in the Admiralty had been able to tell Wemyss what his duties were to be when he reached Mudros except to say that he was to prepare for the arrival and accommodation of an army. “Rosy” did not find this lack of guidance inhibiting:

“There was but one bright spot – I had received no instructions, I would ask for none and would choose my own way to salvation or damnation” (11)

Despite his aristocratic expression and monocle Wemyss was a man of resource and ability, although even he must have been shaken to find that at Mudros:

There were no facilities for loading and unloading ships; that there was only one tiny pier, no depot ships or supplies of any kind, no accommodation ashore for the Army, if and when it arrived, and wholly insufficient water resources.” (12)

Undeterred, “Rosy” Wemyss installed his personal staff – a sub lieutenant, 2 able seamen, an officers’ cook and a steward – in an old gunboat in the harbour and set in hand a massive programme, largely improvised, which by August, when M30 arrived, had transformed Mudros into an adequate supply port and transit camp for the peninsula forces and a functioning naval base for the supporting ships. That the fighting troops referred scornfully to “Lemnos, Imbros and Chaos” was no reflection on “Rosy’s” capabilities for he was one of the small group of senior naval and military officers who survived the Gallipoli campaign with their professional reputations intact or enhanced. (13) The chaos arose from the ill organised supply chain which stretched first from Mudros to Alexandria and then back across thousands of miles of ocean to Great Britain:

“Ships arrived without manifests, and had to be unloaded before the transport officers knew what was in them. Often cargoes were sent in the wrong vessels to the wrong places and became lost or mixed up with other cargoes. New shells arrived without the new keys which were essential to them. Mail disappeared. A polyglot crowd of men in transit hung about the shore waiting for orders.” (14)

After the arrival of the U boats in the Mediterranean in May, Wemyss’ difficulties increased for then:

“As transports and store ships could no longer lie off the peninsula in safety, it was necessary to have small craft ply between Mudros, which was now proof against submarine attack, and the Gallipoli beaches. Small cargo steamers, fast little passenger steamers, tugs, trawlers, drifters (to work the submarine indicator nets), motor lighters and other small craft arrived in great numbers. We never seemed to have enough for casualties, due to gunfire and bad weather, were very heavy.” (15)

Troops and stores despatched from England to Gallipoli were first routed to Egypt (where they were often transhipped) and then sent on to Mudros. Here they were transferred to smaller ships, usually after a long wait ashore, and ferried at night to the mainland. The ships which carried troops (never more than 500 in one vessel) brought back the wounded on the return journey. The strain on the Merchant Navy, or ex-Merchant Navy, crews of the ferry service, to whom 19 successive nights at sea was not unknown, was very great, a fact not always recognised by some senior naval officers who, from the safe bridges of their anchored capital ships, deplored the laxity of dress and lack of punctilio displayed by the ships’ companies of the little craft. Commander McNeil, RNR, of the fleet minesweeper, and former cross-channel steamer, Reindeer, disliked the Royal Navy and detested admirals. Nevertheless, he wrote of “Rosy” Wemyss:

“I liked this Admiral because you could talk to him, and he would not only listen, but often enough would be guided by what you told him, especially if it was a matter in which you had some experience.” (16)

Over a period of 9 months, the men of M30 were to become well acquainted with the great harbour of Mudros, set amongst barren, rocky hills, and on the occasion of their first visit on 5 August, 1915, they were to see, as the massive anti-submarine net was dragged aside, a congregation of shipping such as was never again to be gathered together in one port in their lifetime. There were troopers (including the former transatlantic liners Mauretania and Aquitania), colliers, oilers, meat and store ships of every description, cable layers, balloon ships, paddle steamers, impotent battleships, cruisers, destroyers, trawlers and drifters. In one corner of the harbour lay the overworked repair ship Reliance (17) with, close at hand, the depot ships Adamant and Hindu Kush, aboard which lived, whey they were not at sea, the crews of the submarines which were establishing a psychological ascendancy in the Sea of Marmora matching that of the U boats in the Aegean. Of the 3 submariners of the Mediterranean flotilla who had already won the Victoria Cross, only Lt.Cdr. Nasmith of E11 was in port, and he was to sail that day on one more courageous and destructive voyage.

As he waited on the fo’c’sle for the order to anchor, M30’s First Lieutenant could see ashore the mean, tented encampments in which soldiers from the battlefront enjoyed a brief period of what would now be called “rest and recreation”. Of rest there was little, of recreation there was none, of boredom there was a very great deal. Unlike their comrades on the peninsula, the men in the camps were safe from the torment of bullet and shell, but they shared with them the oppressive heat, the attacks of pestilential insects and the awful diet. As many writers have testified, once deprived of the brisk comradeship enjoyed in the frontline, the morale of the men of the rest camps fell to a very low level.

Also encamped ashore were men of the Xth (Irish) Division who had arrived in Mudros a week before M30 in the White Star- Dominion liner Canada. As the great ship had left the quay at Devonport the drum and fife band of the Irish Fusiliers had played the rebel song “The Wearing of the Green” but none of the members of that band were to survive their first battle. Sergeant Hargrave, RAMC, on disembarking from Canada, had asked a straw hatted sailor of the launch taking him ashore what Lemnos were like:

“he grinned and said ‘there’s no think ‘ere, only sand and flies, flies and sand.” (18)

Once ashore the men of the newly arrived division soon became victims of:

“a strangely enervating malaise that made you wonder whether you were ill or malingering without meaning to . To begin with, just listlessness and an on-and-off looseness of the large intestine, with slight nausea.” (19)

M30’s ship’s company had no time to succumb to the rotten atmosphere of Lemnos for, after an 8 hour stay in Mudros harbour, they sailed again on a short, night passage across 65 miles of ocean to Imbros, another Greek island of legend. Port Kephalo was as crowded as Mudros had been, but here there were only naval vessels, amongst them the destroyer Scorpion (Commander A.B.Cunningham) (20) with Able Seaman Arthur Hanna aboard. In defiance of naval protocol but with the help of Cunningham’s First Lieutenant McKenna (21), who turned a blind eye to the proceedings, M30’s Number One arranged a meeting with his younger brother:

“On arrival at Imbros, opposite Gallipoli, I had the great joy of sending a boat along for Art, who was still in Scorpion - - - Art is very clear to me as I write, sitting in my cabin in M30, rather bashful as the steward brought tea and cakes, but warming to the situation later on and keeping everyone alive with his yarns.” (22)

As the brothers reminisced, men of the XIth. (Northern ) Division were filing aboard the craft which were to carry them into battle. As the sun set ships began to leave the harbour:

“Soon after dark on the 6th., ten destroyers (under the command of Captain C.P.R.Goode), each carrying 530 men, towing ten motor lighters, each carrying 500 men and accompanied by a picket boat, left Kephalo Bay and steamed in complete darkness, a cable (200 yards) apart.” (23)

Standing alone on a Port Kephalo beach was the slim figure of General Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, who, after bidding his men a quiet farewell, returned to his sparsely furnished tent to write in his diary in his weird, poetic style:

“August 6, Imbros. - - - I am wishing that very rare wish that it was the day after tomorrow. Men or mice we shall be then. - - - The empty harbour frightens me. Nothing in legend stranger or more terrible than the silent departure of this silent army.” (24)

At 11 p.m M30 weighed anchor and followed the destroyers into the night. The prime reason for the hasty commissioning and the rushed trials was now fully evident for the little monitor had arrived at Imbros on the opening day of a massive offensive which, so it was hoped, would at last drive the Turks from the Gallipoli peninsula and lead to the collapse of their ramshackle empire.

Notes

1. Simpson. “The Ship that Hunted Itself.”
2. Ibid. The author also states that Edmund Lockyer was almost 70 years old, which is manifestly untrue – he was in his middle thirties.
3. Boys on the training ships only wore boots on Sundays.
4. Agar. “Footprints in the Sea.”
5. Buxton. “Big Gun Monitors.”
6. Ibid.
7. Chief Gunners were redesignated Commissioned Gunners in 1920 and then ranked with Sub Lieutenants.
8. Brookes. “Proud Waters.”
9. M30’s log, which is rarely concerned with happenings outside the ship, records the arrival of M31 at Pembroke Dock, Gibraltar, Malta, Mudros and Port Kaphalo.
10. Hargrave. “The Suvla Bay Landing.”
11. Wemyss. “The Navy in the Dardanelles Campaign.”
12. Rhodes James. “Gallipoli.”
13. Wemyss was the surprise choice for First Sea Lord when Jelllicoe left the Admiralty in 1917. He was the only senior member of the British armed forces present in the famous railway carriage in Compiegne when the Germans asked Foch for an armistice in 1918.
14. Moorehead. “Gallipoli.”
15. Keyes. “Naval Memoirs.”
16. McNeil. “In Great Waters.”
17. There was a “work to rule”, technically a mutiny, aboard Reliance in July, 1915. 18. Hargrave. “The Suvla Bay Landing.”
19. Ibid.
20. Admiral of the Fleet, Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, as he became, commanded Scorpion for a record period of 7 years.
21. Cunningham was notorious for sacking First Lieutenants – he had at least 13 while commanding Scorpion.
22. This quotation is taken from a document called “Frank’s Story” which Frank Hanna wrote, at the insistence of his sister, in hospital towards the end of his life. A vivid picture is painted of family affairs but, alas, there is all too little detail about naval matters.
23. Keyes. “Naval Memoirs.” 24. Hamilton. “Gallipoli Diary.”

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