2. M30 Comes to Life

M30 under construction with M29 on adjoining slip

“I was born on an Irish sea of eggs and porter, I was born in Belfast in the McNeice country, A child of Harland and Wolff in the iron forest, My childbed a steel cradle hung from a gantry.”
Charles Causley, HMS Glory

"Don’t give us a Make and Mend, sir, We might come over faint, There’s not many Jimmies like you, sir, It’s a bloody good job there ain’t."

When Mate Francis (“Frank”) Hanna was promoted to Lieutenant on 14 June, 1915, and immediately appointed “Number One” of M30, then completing at Belfast, he had served in the Royal Navy for over 14 years and had experienced life afloat, as rating and officer, in torpedo boats, destroyers and cruisers. Joining an expanding service as a Boy Seaman (2nd Class) in January, 1901, Frank had been trained in the old “mast and yards” tradition aboard the wooden wall Boscawen at Portland and in the brig Seaflower; but the days when the upper yardman, he of the prehensile fingers and toes, was the darling of the Fleet had passed and the era of the technician had dawned.

For an ambitious sailor like Frank, the path to promotion lay in specialisation, particularly in the Gunnery or Torpedo branches which became steadily more scientific as the century progressed. “Jacky” Fisher might proclaim that “Gunnery is the watchword of the Navy” but the Gunner was not always a comfortable colleague being, so his shipmates sometimes felt, too loud of voice and overly concerned with correct dress – “all gas and gaiters” as the saying had it. On the other hand, the Torpedoman, who dealt with all shipboard electrical systems as well as with under water weapons, was, in the popular view, a less bellicose individual than the Gunner and followed his arcane trade without undue regard for outward show. As a famous gunner wrote:

“Torpedo work was not, in those days, in the same line of what I may call ‘executive smartness’ as gunnery. It was a more technical art requiring a mechanical inclination of mind - - - . The spick and span mentality of the gunnery expert was uncultivated.” (1)

Able Seaman Hanna opted to join the Torpedo branch and thereafter, in between seagoing commissions in home waters and on the China Station, he completed courses of increasing complexity in the torpedo training school which was housed in the old 2 decker Vernon which was moored in Portsmouth harbour.

In July, 1912, Francis Hanna’s name appeared in the Navy List for the first time when he was promoted to Warrant Officer, the most senior rank a man of the lower deck could reach; neither ambition nor ability could help him now, he would remain a Gunner (T) under he retired – or so it seemed (2). However, in October of that same year Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, surprised the House of Commons by announcing that 100 very carefully selected young Warrant Officers would be commissioned early in their careers (3) although he made it clear that this was a qualified advance in democratic practice for he did not envisage that these young men would reach Flag rank: “the bulk of them”, he said, “will retire content with a career that has carried them from Bluejacket to Commander.”(4) Frank seized his opportunity, being accepted for the new scheme by the Selection Board and completing successfully the requisite courses at Greenwich and Portsmouth. After receiving the King’s Commission, Frank Hanna was appointed to the cruiser Shannon as a Mate – a rank equal to Sub Lieutenant but one which distinguished, unnecessarily, those who had “come aft through the hawsehole” from the officers who had entered the Service in the usual way as Cadets.

Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, MP, had assured the House that the newly commissioned officers “would be welcomed with open arms in the Fleet”,(5) but there is some doubt whether, in those class conscious times, the reception given to the men promoted from the lower deck was as effusive as “Charley B” had predicted. Certainly, in later years, Admiral Fisher was critical of the appointments given to graduates of the Mates Scheme, commenting:

“When they make a sailor a Lieutenant they stow him away in some small vessel so that he shan’t mess with the blue bloods.” (6)

It is difficult to say whether Frank Hanna’s career as an officer was affected by his lower deck antecedents, but it may be significant that when he received his “War Appointment” he did not stay with Shannon and the crack 2nd Cruiser Squadron which went on to join the Grand Fleet and fight at Jutland, but was sent, as second-in-command, to the obsolescent TB! which spent the first months of the war on monotonous patrol duty in the Humber estuary and the North Sea from Flamborough Head down to Cromer

Mate Hanna may have heard service gossip about the strange bombardment vessels then building towards the end of his time in TB1 but he had seen none of them until he arrived in Belfast, a Lieutenant, on the very day that M30 was commissioning, where no less than 10 monitors were in various stages of construction in the Harland and Wolff and Workman, Clark yards (7). The new Number One found his ship in a state of confusion; the ship’s company, all from Devonport, (8) had arrived on the previous day but dockside gear cluttered the decks and Harland and Wolff employees were still working on board having brought with them rust and dust, all pervasive in a busy shipyard, which permeated every compartment on every deck. Frank Hanna regarded the scene with distaste; cleanliness might rank after Godliness in the outside world but there was no doubt which of these admirable qualities was of first importance in the Navy of his time. Moreover, as Number One he was responsible for the appearance of the ship although there was little he could do in the way of “housemaiding” until the vessel was formally accepted from the builders, and until that time arrived the authority of Lieutenant, Royal Navy, counted for little when compared to that of a bowlerhatted foreman of the yard. The ship’s company, urged on by “Jimmy” (9), did all that they could to clean up their new home but their efforts were constantly interrupted by the arrival of gangs of artisans from the shipbuilders for, despite passing the acceptance trials, M30 was not fully completed until the day she put to sea.

“Commissioned at Belfast. Hands employed drawing stores” was the first laconic entry in M30’s log (10) and the days that followed were the busiest that the First Lieutenant had experienced in his naval career for he had to create an efficient organisation for running a new type of ship. There was a Watch Bill to be made out allocating each man to a watch (Port or Starboard) and to a further sub-division (1st. or 2nd. Part); efficiently done this ensured that any job arising at sea or in harbour could be tackled by a body of men of the right size and mix of qualifications. Then there was a Quarter Bill to be completed recording the name, rating and function (gunlayer, sightsetter etc) of every man who was to fight the guns, work in the magazines or join shell handling parties. Also a Station Bill had to be produced showing where every man should be in a variety of emergency situations e.g. Collision, Fire or Abandon Ship Stations. Who were to be Sea Dutymen (Quartermaster, Bosun’s Mate, Sea Boats Crew)? Who were to be Special Sea Dutymen ie. Carry out these jobs entering and leaving harbour and at Quarters? “Nothing” said the current Admiralty Manual of Seamanship (Vol.2) sententiously, “especially at the commencement of a commission must be regarded as too trivial to be included in the executive officer’s plan of routine and organisation of the officers and ship’s company and the duties they have to perform.”

Number One had other worries: on commissioning day, 30 June, M30 was bare of stores, thereafter they flowed aboard in a seemingly unending stream, each item having to be entered in the Ledger. The list was endless; provisions, rum, “slops” (clothing), ropes, hawsers, boats, Bosun’s stores, Capenter’s stores, Gunner’s stores and so on and on. Ammunition arrived and 6” shells, each weighing 100lbs, were manhandled into the magazines; charts were drawn and brought up to date; Confidential Books were collected by an officer and located in a safe and all and everyday the phrases “Ask Number One” or “Ask Jimmy” echoed around the ship.

The prosaic log gives no hint of the rush and bustle which prevailed as sailing day approached, merely recording:

1.7 Basin Trials. 2.7 Hands employed drawing stores and ammunition. 3.7 Adjusted compasses and Steam Trials. Gun Trials. 4.7 Ammunitioning. Draft before 5ft.5” forward, 5ft.5” aft. After 5ft.9” forward, 5ft9” aft. 5.7 Hands employed as requisite. Gunner’s party fuzing shells (Lyddite). 6.7 Hands employed as requisite. Gunner’s party fuzing shells (Lyddite).

These matter of fact, terse entries in the log were not intended to give a full, rounded picture of life in M30 at the time nor did the flat, official tone distinguish between mundane and momentous happenings aboard: for example, there is no hint that steam was raised for the first time on 1 July and that, as required in Basin Trials, the twin screw gave a few initial turns, ahead and astern, while the ship remained moored to the quay. And who would have guessed from reading the entry for 3 July that on that date M30 ceased to be the responsibility of Harland and Wolff and became, officially, a unit of the Fleet ? So many years later it is only possible to resconstruct in barest outline the events which crowded the day when M30 came to life at last, and which were recorded in so bald a manner in the unromantic log.

In a ship under construction, the vibration to which her hull is subjected confuses the Standard Compass mounted on the bridge in its splendid, brass bound binnacle. To restore it to sanity the skills of a professional “Compass Adjuster” are required – a haughty gentleman sent down from the Admiralty. For the adjustment process the ships is anchored, or moored to a buoy, at a pre-determined point, the position of which has been carefully calculated. Then the Standard Compass is re-aligned so that the cardinal points shown on the compass correspond with those shown on the chart, the “adjustment” being made by skilful manipulation of small magnets placed inside the compass housing, a bar of iron fixed to the front of the binnacle (the “Flinders Bar”) and of 2 soft iron spheres, like lavatory cistern floats, placed on either side.

M30’s bridge was not placed halfway along the ship’s length, at the centre of the vessel’s magnetic field, but nearer the bows than the stern and, consequently, the influence of the ship’s own magnetism on the Standard Compass varied according to the direction in which the ship’s head was pointed. To determine the “deviation” – the difference between the course as indicated by the Standard Compass and that which should be followed to accord with the appropriate magnetic meridian – the ship was “swung” around the anchor or buoy, by adroit use of the engines, through the 32 compass points. At each point a bearing was taken of some distant landmark and compared with the bearing taken from the chart; the differences constituted a “deviation table” which could be displayed on the bridge and consulted when a change of course was in prospect.

With the Standard Compass performing satisfactorily (the adjustment process may well have taken up most of the forenoon) M30 proceeded to the most important event – the Steam Trials. These, in peacetime, with a ship of any size, occupied days, or weeks, or, in rare cases, months, during which the machinery was tested exhaustively by manoeuvring the vessel on a variety of courses at different speeds; only if the ship gave the utmost satisfaction did the captain receive her graciously from the builder’s representative, sign a receipt on behalf of the Admiralty and dispense sherry all round. When M30 ran her wartime trials, her Commanding Officer was under orders to have them completed in a single day and he would have received no thanks for being too fussy about the niceties. Certainly, M30 completed several laps of the measured mile, achieving 9.98 knots, almost her designed top speed, and her handling characteristics were explored although, light of fuel and other stores, her performance in Belfast Lough was hardly a reliable indication of the way she would perform fully laden at sea.

Pressed for time, the pedantic routines of the pre-war gun trial were abandoned and, as the whole procedure occupied just 1 hour, it was more a test of the First Lieutenant’s Quarter Bill organisation than of the weapons themselves. 3 “proof shells” (probing the strength of breech and barrel) were fired from each of the Mark XII 6” guns by percussion, the electrical firing circuits not having been fitted, and they were raised to their full elevation and trained to Port and Starboard, it being found that the deck stops, which prevented the weapons from firing on a dangerous bearing, were missing. It was suggested by the attendant experts that the loading lights, which were useless, should be removed and that a relieving tackle, to prevent the guns taking charge when used in a heavy sea, should be supplied. There was a sizeable list of essential items which had not yet arrived, including the 6pdr.HA gun and its mounting and the Maxims with their transportable stands, but, despite the shortcomings, it was agreed that the trials had been successful, as the Captain of Excellent, the Navy’s premier gunnery establishment, informed the Admiralty(11).

Launch of M30 0n 23 June 1915  

With so much ordered to be done in so short a time it was clear that M30 was wanted in service in a hurry; less than 4 months after her keel had been laid, 15 days after she had been launched, 8 days after she was commissioned and on the 4th day after completing her cursory trials, she put to sea. The first part of the journey to Milford Haven did not go well, as the log reveals:

“8.7. Oiled. Draft before 5ft.10” forward, 5ft10” aft. After 6ft.1”forward, 5ft.9” aft. 6.00p.m. Cast off and proceeded down Musgrave Channel. 6.20 p.m Ship suddenly sheered to Starboard and went aground. 6.55 p.m Ship floated and proceeded out of Musgrave Channel into Victoria Channel.” (12)

The grounding was undoubtedly caused by a mistake made by young Mr.Lillicrap who, working under the greatest pressure, had produced the M29 class design in a matter of days. The naval architect had been advised that the weight of 2 x 6” guns, their mountings and outfit of ammunition, was 62 tons as opposed to the comparable figure of 100 tons for the M15 class with their single 9.2” guns, and he calculated that the displacement and draft of the new vessels could be reduced to 355 tons and 4ft. respectively. What the designer, in his haste, failed to appreciate, was that 2 x 6” guns needed as much deck space, or more, as the single weapon of the larger calibre and, when the necessary adjustment had been made, the basis for his original computation was destroyed (13). Although some reference books still show the dimensions of M30 and her sisters, as being those that the designer intended, in fact they displaced 590 tons and drew 6ft. of water. Nor was this all; as M30’s log clearly shows, when fully stored and fuelled (as she was for the first time on 8 July) she, like the other members of her class, was “down by the head”, i.e the bows were lower in the water than the stern. The increased draft and the “head down stance” (although this could be easily rectified) had a serious effect on the ships’ handling qualities which, in any case, would not have been good influenced as they were by a rudder just 10 sq.ft. in extent:

“No one knew whether she intended to answer the helm or not. In a crowded anchorage with any wind about, she was just as likely to bump something before coming to rest.” (14)

One imagines that everyone aboard was relieved when the ship reached the Irish Sea but, during the short voyage across St George’s Channel and down the Welsh coast, another unpleasant characteristic of the small monitors was revealed – they rolled like pigs in a sty. Without the bilge keels and the “bulges” of their larger sisters, yet retaining the flat bottom essential to their specialised role, a lively motion was to be expected with wind and sea abeam, but the way the M29 class cavorted was really exceptional and only matched by their immediate predecessors, the 9.2” guns ships.

M30 arrived in Pembroke Dock in the early morning of 10 July, to be fitted with her 6pdr. Hotchkiss gun and, probably, with the small rangefinder mounted forward off the bridge. While in the Welsh base the ship was visited by Rear Admiral Dare, commanding at Milford Haven, and, for his benefit, the ship’s company was “mustered by ledger”, one by one as on a pay parade, and put through several drills – a testing process for a ship so recently commissioned.

When M30 set sail again in the morning of 13 July, everyone aboard knew that they were bound for the Mediterranean and not that alternative station for the monitors, the angry English Channel. Unbeknown to the ship’s company there were good reasons why the vessel had been hustled through her trials and commissioning routines and despatched to the Dardanelles; these related to the military situation on the Gallipoli peninsula (which will be dealt with later) and to the naval situation in the Straits which, in May, had been transformed by a sudden enemy stroke.

On 25 April, Kapitan Otto von Hersing left the Ems river in U21 to begin an adventurous voyage of 4,000 miles, the longest journeyever attempted by an unaccompanied submarine until that time. Avoiding attacks in the Straits of Gilbraltar, Hersing arrived in Cattaro, the Austrian naval base in the Adriatic, with only 1.8 tons of oil fuel remaining. Pausing only to refill her fuel tanks and to carry out emergency repairs, U21 set off again to the eastward, arriving off the western coast of the Gallipoli peninsula on 25 May to see, standing out to sea:

“- - the warships of the Royal Navy, their guns bombarding the Turkish lines as they paraded along the coastline, shuddering each time a salvo of 12” shells shrieked over the cliffs and exploded,” (15)

Silently U21 approached the Fleet and when Hersing raised his periscope he saw before him a battleship, barely moving:

“HMS Triumph stood in thundering majesty, broadside to us and only three hundred away. Never had a submarine such a target.”(16)

Hersing fired a single torpedo and, at the sound of a “terrible reverberating explosion”, British and Turkish troops alike sprang from their trenches to watch, dumbfounded, in full view of each other as Triumph capsized and sank. The first German U Boat to enter the Mediterranean had announced her arrival in a most dramatic manner. 2 days later Hersing struck again, sinking another battleship, Majestic. Now the fox was truly in the henhouse; in near panic, and with scant regard for the morale of the Army ashore, Vice Admiral de Roebeck, CinC of the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, ordered his capital ships back to the safety of Mudros harbour:

“Before I embarked on the Kephalo trawler I saw them in full flight, transports and battleships, the Agamemnon seeming to lead the van. The air was heavy that evening and, what wind there was being to the south, the smoke of every ship was driven down astern, which gave the effect of a number of digs running away with their tails between their legs.

The sense of abandonment was acute. There was a sudden lull in the noise of the beach, as if everyone had paused to stare at the unfamiliar emptiness of the water and then turned to his neighbour with a question in his eyes about their future here. It is certain that the Royal Navy never executed a more demoralising manoeuvre in the whole of its history.” (17)

With the departure of the capital ships little destroyers were left as the sole guardians of the Army’s flanks; though they won the “admiration and affection of the troops for their comradeship and vigilant service” (18), these lightly armed craft were no substitute for the mighty battleships – the larger calibre guns of the monitors were most urgently needed.


1. Chatfield. “It Might Happen Again.”
2. On rare occasions warrant officers were commissioned for gallantry in action or, on retirement, as a reward for faithful service.
3. Fisher, in retirement, had conceived the Mates Scheme in collusion with Lionel Yexley, an ex CPO and editor of the influential lower deck magazine “The Fleet.” Prince Louis of Battenberg, First Sea Lord, watered down the proposals before they were presented to the House by Churchill.
4. Roskill. “Churchill and the Admirals.”
5. Ibid.
6. Marder. “From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Vol.I.”
7. Havelock (14”guns), Earl of Peterborough, Sir Thomas Picton, Lord Clive, General Crauford (12” guns), M29, M30, M31, M32 and M33 (6” guns)
8. The ships’ companies of newly commissioned vessels all came from one of the 3 manning ports, Portsmouth, Chatham or Devonport, to one of which a sailor was assigned on enlistment and remained attached to throughout his service – a practice which was continued well on into WWII.
9. The First Lieutenant is known to the lower deck as “Jimmy” or “Jimmy the One”
10. This quotation from M30’s log, and others which follow, are taken from the ADM 53 series held at the Public Record Office, Kew.
11. Details of M30’s trials are taken from the Ship’s Covers held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
12. M30’s CO told E.Keble Chatterton (“Seas of Adventure”) that the ship grounded twice on leaving Belfast Lough – perhaps the 2nd grounding was of the “touch and go” variety and, therefore, was not mentioned in the log.
13. This description is a gross oversimplication of what was, in fact, a highly complicated mathematical calculation.
14. E.Keble Chatteron. “Seas of Adventure.”
15. Gray. “The Killing Time.”
16. Ibid.
17. Compton Mackenzie. “Gallipoli Memories.”
18. Keyes. “Naval Memoirs

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