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refused to budge. The men of the gun's crew and
their Serbian soldiers were working up to their knees
in water all this time, and it was freezing fairly hard.
The rest of the cavalcade had managed to squeeze
9



Uo THE NAVY IN SERBIA

past the obstruction, so it was finally decided to
destroy the breech-block, recoil-springs, and sights,
and leave the old gun to its fate. The other gun
belonging to No. 2 Battery had still to cross the
swamp, and, though it was past nine o'clock at night,
there was nothing for it but to make the attempt.
The oxen from the first gun were transferred to the
second, and an alternative route was tried. All went
swimmingly at the start, and the gun was hauled safely
over the river, but the bank on the other side proved
too much for it. It slid back gracefully into the
mud, until the axles of the gun-carriage were lost to
view, and the combined efforts of 80 oxen and 250
men failed to budge it. They laboured until after
midnight, but the climax of misfortune came when
the driver of the first pair of oxen slipped in the mud,
and was trampled under the feet of the struggling
beasts. Before he could be extricated the gun-limber
passed over his legs and broke both of them. For-
tunately two sick berth attendants were on the spot
to render first aid.

So the second gun had also to be demolished, and
now only two guns were left out of the original eight.
The men lit a fire and sat round it until two o'clock
waiting for No. 4 Battery to come up. When they
arrived they were able to benefit by the experience
of their unfortunate shipmates, and, by dint of a
combined effort of the oxen and crews of the two
batteries, they succeeded in getting the last two guns
across the swamp. And so they continued their
trek towards the moinitains of Montenegro. Here
are one or two extracts from the diary of one of the
trekkers :

" Struck camp at 1 p.m. and started off through
wooded hills — no people, no roads, no notliing,
except wonderful scenery. A very cold wind
struck up about sundown. Progress was very



THE GREAT RETREAT 131

slow. Halted at 5.30 p.m., and got a bit of sleep
in an ox-waggon."

" Thursday, 25th November. — Moved on at 2.30
a.m. Progress a little better. . . . Not a sign
of cultivation, and very few inhabitants — only a
few Albanian hovels. Passing through forests
during the day ; quantities of rifle ammunition
on all sides, as well as Q.F. and field-gun stuff,
all thrown aside to lighten the carts. For the
moment we seem to have passed the region of
dead and dying beasts. Marched on until 8p.m.,
when we made our bivouac, pitched tents, and
settled down for the night."

" Friday, 26th November. — Up at 8.30 a.m.
Snowing hard, but no wind, and therefore not
so cold. Mud, slush, and small rivulets to be
encountered all the way, and a great deal of
traffic. Mud sometimes 18 to 24 inches deep.
Stopped at 8 p.m. in a snowy plain, where we
pitched our tents. Two of our men adrift.
Whistjing them up until midnight, when they
turned up, having lost their way in the dark.
The men get one biscuit a day from the Serbian
authorities, but luckily we still have some of our
provisions left. Water is very difficult to get.
What we find is chocolate-coloured and muddy,
so we prefer eating snow."

It was on this day (26th November) that No, 4
Battery had its first disaster. One of its guns, while
crossing a small stream, fell right through the bridge,
which had not been built for a weight of that kind.
For four hours they tried to extricate it, but found
the task hopeless, so they stripped the gun and left
it. Only one gun remained, and finally that also had
to be destroyed, for the difficulties of transport went
on increasing, until it became practically impossible
to take the gun any farther.



132 THE NAVY IN SERBIA

The diary carries on the story of the travellers,
toiling over the mountains all through the days, camp-
ing at night by the roadside. " Very hard frost
during the night. My towel and valise frozen stiff."
On 29th November they drew near to Ipek, and
here they found a recurrence of the old familiar
sight — dead and dying oxen on all sides. Ipek was
crammed with refugees, and everything was in a state
of sublime confusion. " Dead horses and oxen all
over the place, and the cold continues." But the
cold unfortunately did not continue. " A thaw has
set in, and mud and slush, mingled with decomposing
horses and oxen, compel us to pick our way carefully.
Yesterday, going into Ipek, we found some nice firm
stepping-stones across a brook ; but to-day the thaw
has melted the ' stones,' and we discovered them to
be the half-submerged corpses of horses."

On 3rd December the journey began from Ipek to
Scutari. The track lay over the mountains of Monte-
negro, where nothing larger than two-wheeled carts
could hope to pass. So all the waggons were destroyed,
and there was a general holocaust of vehicles, range-
finders, telescopes, and even clothing. The scene of
destruction spread for miles round, for a whole army,
as well as bands of civilian refugees, were about to
take to the mountains. The men of the batteries
started at two o'clock in the morning A petty officer
and a leading seaman were too ill to walk, and had
to ride in the two-wheeled carts, whose wheels were
soon buried in mud nearly to their axles. Soon it
came on to rain in torrents, and in the thick of the
downpour they had to halt in order to stow their
provisions and stores in the carts, as the things kept
on falling off into the mud. At two o'clock in the
afternoon they decided to camp, because the conges-
tion on the road had l)ecomc so great that progress
was almost impossil)le. In the twelve hours they
had covered little more than six miles. All next



THE GREAT RETREAT 133

day and the day after they remained in their camp,
watching the procession of refugees and of all that
was left of the Serbian army stream past them — a
sorry spectacle of half-starved men in soaking rags,
which fluttered in the wind, as though they clothed
some decaying scarecrows rather than live human
beings.

On 5th December, in the evening, the order came
to destroy the two-wheeled carts and their contents,
for these carts were the main cause of the congestion,
and there was grave danger that the rations of the
fugitive army — such as they were — might come to a
full stop at any moment. In fact, every Serbian
soldier on leaving Ipek had been given five biscuits
to last him throughout the journey, and already they
had been three days en route. Moreover, there were
rumours that parties of Albanians, instigated by
Austrian leaders, were contemplating an attack on
this miserable remnant of an army.

The men of the batteries were not yet reduced to
such straits as the Serbian soldiers in the matter of
food, because they had brought with them the re-
mainder of a store which had been originally pro-
vided by the Admiralty. By means of careful
management it was hoped to eke out this scanty
store until the men reached Scutari. If, perchance,
any of the Serbian soldiers, with their miserable bis-
cuits, saw our men sharing out their few ounces of
bully beef, they very probably made some kind of
exclamation of which the nearest English equivalent
would be " food hogs," but it was manifestly impos-
sible to share out such meagre provisions with the
whole Serbian army, so the charge had to be tacitly
ignored. Just beyond Ipek, however, a fresh com-
plication arose. A Serbian officer, who had been
closely associated with Lieutenant-Commander Kerr
and the batteries, introduced a party of five women
and two children into the family circle. Generous



134 THE NAVY IN SERBIA

hospitality is one of the oldest traditions of the Navy,
but it is a tradition which occasionally has its incon-
venient side. Fortunately Lieutenant-Commander
Kerr had supplemented the official stores by the
private purchase of some " ward-room stores," in-
cluding cakes and some bottles of rakia (a drink made
from the juice of plums). So he made a gallant effort
to maintain the Navy's reputation for hospitality,
but the diary records that " the Serbian w^omenfolk
are not backward in asking for what they want, and
expect us to provide them with jam, cakes, and rakia
ad lihr

The food problem was increased when the order
came to destroy all the carts, for the two horses were
required to carry the two sick men, and so there was
nothing for it but for each man to carry his food on
his back, in addition to his kit. Under these circum-
stances the sacred rites of hospitality are apt to
become a trifle irksome. Moreover, the new recruits
to the party required other privileges. " The women
and children," the diary tells us, " bought up all the
room round the camp-fire, so I made another one and
slept by it, but was somewhat disturbed during the
night by a colt, which kept on breaking away and
walking over me," They had, of course, been obliged
to leave all tents behind them, as there were no means
of transport.

At last they came to the pass through the mountain
summits, and here they found a vast concourse of
fugitives blocking the trail.

" We fought our way through a scene of panic
and disorder, occasioned bv a few mountain
tribesmen firing on the congested multitude from
behind rocks. Horses and oxen were dropping
from fatigue on all sides, and many pcoj^lc were
crushed to death. Eventually we slij)pcd tlirough
the entrance of the pass with all our horses and



THE GREAT RETREAT 135

men, and continued marching through a rocky
defile until seven o'clock. It had been snowing for
some time past, and the snow lay so thick that
progress became dilficult. We rested from seven
till eight, and then we trudged on over the Zleb
pass until midnight, when we made a bit of fire
in the snow and took another hour's rest. After
that we tramped on through the rocks and
snow until, at seven in the morning, we arrived
at Rosarj, the worst part of the journey over."

They arrived at Andreovitza on 10th December,
but by that time their provisions were running very
low, and the rations had to be very strictly limited.
The diet was tinned mutton and ship's biscuit. The
mountain tribes had shown themselves extremely
unfriendly all the way, and very little in the nature
of food could be bought from them. Occasionally a
few rotten potatoes, and occasionally some rakia,
and for these they extorted such prices as would have
made Shylock blush for shame. The diarist has
some pathetic little touches on the subject of food.
Here is a note of his reflections, as he sat by the
camp-fire near Andreovitza.

" Most glorious scenery from our bivouac — a
wide, swift-running river flowing between the
high mountains on each side of us. It is a
regular fairyland at night, with all the camp
fires on the hills burning, but few of us are in the
mood to appreciate feasts of the eye, being
more inclined for feasts of another description."

The biscuit had come to an end, and bread was
unobtainable locally, but a supply was sent from
Podgoritza by motor-lorry to the Serbian army, and
the batteries managed to secure two maize loaves
for the whole party — the first taste of bread since



186 THE NAVY IN SERBIA

leaving Prishtina. Then the tinned meat began to
run low, and we come to this pathetic entry :

" A beastly evening and night, raining hard,
and the men a bit down on their luck. We
issued the last ration of tinned mutton."

On 13th December they had a breakfast consisting
of some tea and the biscuit crumbs scraped from
their pockets, but later in the day they had the good
fortune to secure two more maize loaves, bought at
a village for twenty-four francs in hard cash, for no
one would look at notes. At Podgoritza they found
the usual scene of dire confusion, and rain coming
down in sheets. After a hard struggle they managed
to get a soup ration and a little maize bread. The
rain continued all through the night, -which they
spent in a field without any cover. The next day
was one long chase to find something to eat, and
eventually they succeeded in getting a little bread
from the headquarters of the Third Army ; but no
one parted readily with food of any kind, for all were
in the same extreme of necessity. The next quest
was for a roof to cover their heads and a fire to dry
their clothes, and they eventually succeeded in find-
ing a cafe, where they were allowed to spend the
night. At last, after many disappointments, they
secured a passage in two motor-lorries to Plavnitza,
on the borders of the lake of Scutari. Here, after
another long wait, they went aboard a schooner
driven by a petrol engine, which landed them at the
town of Scutari about six o'clock in the evening of
15th December. Here were Admiral Troubridge and
the officers of the Adriatic Mission — a British mission
sent to co-opcratc with the Italian (iovornmcnt in
providing the necessaries of life to the soldiers and
refugees from Serbia — and, needless to say, the
admiral was much relieved in his mind when he saw



THE GREAT RETREAT 137

the men of the batteries safely arrived. Here, too,
were tidings at last from the outside world — news of
the war, news from dear old England. But the best
news of all was that the admiral's coxswain had a
good square meal ready for them, and when they
heard that, everything else paled into insignifieance.
The admiral, with his party, had crossed the
Serbian border by another route, via Prizrend, Ber-
betz, and Sika to Scutari. It was a six days' march
through the mountains ; the cold was intense, and
snow fell at frequent intervals. A party of French
aviators who followed immediately behind the ad-
miral's party had twenty men incapacitated by
frost-bite, and lost many of their horses, which walked
over the precipices in the blinding snow. Behind
them came the members of the Serbian Headquarters
Staff, who lost most of their baggage in the same
way. But the tail end of the procession had the
worst time of all, for they were continually harassed
by Albanian tribesmen, who sniped at them from
behind the rocks, and, moreover, they had the ad-
vancing Bulgarians hard on their heels. It was
noticeable that the only fugitives to meet with
friendly treatment from the warlike tribes in the
Albanian mountains were the admiral and his party.
The explanation of this distinction was afiorded when
the admiral reached Scutari, and it is certainly a
striking tribute to British prestige. The Mufti of
Scutari called on Rear-Admiral Troubridge as soon
as he arrived and ofi'ered him the hospitality of the
town. " I knew," he said, " the precise moment of
your departure from Prisrend, and I knew that you
and those with you were unarmed, and that no
Serbian soldiers were guarding you. I am proud —
all Albania is proud— to think that your great country
showed this confidence in us, and I want you to
know that throughout your journey a thousand un-
seen eyes watched you as you walked, a thousand



138 THE NAVY IN SERBIA

unseen eyes watched you as you slept, and no harm
could possibly have come to you."

The sequel to the story of the great retreat concerns
the activities of Admiral Troubridge and the officers
of the Adriatic Mission at the little port of Medua di
Giovanni, where a stupendous eflort was made to
import sufficient food for the refugees, and to organise
its distribution. The food ships, after unloading,
took on board as many as possible of the refugees,
and in the meantime the Serbian army made good
their retreat to Durazzo, whence they embarked for
Salonika to continue the great struggle against the
invaders. But of what went on at Medua an excel-
lent account has already been written by Lieutenant
E. Hilton Young, R.N.V.R., M.P.,^ and it is suffi-
cient for me to add that, when the Austrians poured
into Albania and Medua had to be evacuated, the
last persons to leave for Brindisi were Admiral Trou-
bridge and his staff.

» In the " Cornhill Review " for Juiio 1016.



THE FIRST KITEBALLOOK SHIP



139



CHAPTER XI

I. H.M.S. "MANICA" at GALLIPOLI

Early in October 1914 the Royal Naval Division at
Antwerp sent in a demand for observation balloons
to direct our artillery. For the moment the Admir-
alty was completely nonplussed, until someone
thought of the captive balloons which were used in
the South African War. They had been turned over
to the Royal Naval Air Service — a few old spherical
balloons, two hand-power winches, another winch
with a petrol engine, and some cable. These were
got together, a Naval Balloon Section was mobilised,
and they were standing by, ready to cross the Channel,
when news came through that Antwerp had fallen.

About a week later the British monitors, bombard-
ing the Belgian coast, began to complain that the
sand-dunes, wliich lay between themselves and the
enemy, made accurate firing very difficult, and the
late Rear- Admiral Hood asked that captive balloons
should be sent over. So on 14th October, 1914, the
Naval Balloon Section arrived at Dunkirk, and next
day one of the balloons was in readiness to make an
ascent. The section found plenty of proljlems con-
fronting it as time went on. The visibility was bad
as a rule, and worse still was the roundabout method
of communicating with the fleet of monitors — by
telephone to the Belgian Headquarters, thence by
messenger to a field wireless station, and thence by
wireless to the fleet. Later on an improvement was
made, and by means of a wireless set in a motor-car

141



142 THE FIRST KITE-BALLOON SHIP

more direct communication was established, both
with the fleet and with the French artillery. But
the main trouble was the balloon itself. A spherical
balloon does not take kindly to captivity ; it plunges,
and pirouettes, and turns and twists, and longs to
break away from its thraldom and to chase the
drifting clouds into realms unknown. Even in a
light wind it never seems really happy, and in a
heavy wind it gets beyond the pale of parliamentary
language.

One day, our observers noticed a queer-looking
object in the air in the direction of the village of
Slype, and wondered what it was. What they saw
was a Drachen — not at all like the dragon which
Siegfried slays in the opera at Covent Garden, but
most unromantically like a big sausage. They made
enquiries about it, and were told by some French
officers that sometliing of the kind had been tried by
the French Army at their peace-time manoeuvres,
but it happened to be a breathless day in summer,
and the advantage of the Drachen over the spherical
balloon was not very palpable.

The Belgians also knew about the Brachen ; in
fact, they had a baby Drachen of their own, which
had been presented to them by the Germans, when,
in a thoughtless moment, Germany had forgotten
that the treaty undertaking to safeguard Belgium's
neutrality might turn out some day to be merely a
scrap of paper. When a Belgian balloon section
appeared on the scene with their baby Drachen, our
naval airmen became keenly interested in the crea-
ture. They had been daily watching the perform-
ances of its father at Slype ; they had noticed how
much higher he could ascend on his cable than a
spherical l)all()on, how steadily he behaved in a still
breeze, and, above all, how accurate were the observa-
tions he made and transmitted to the German artil-
lery. So they crowded round llie baby Drachen like



II.M.S. "MANICA" AT GALLIPOLI 143

a lot of matrons invited to a tea-fight where the
firstborn is on show. They examined its nose, and
declared that it was the image of its father ; they
examined its tail, and said that it took after its
mother ; they examined its stabilisers and came to
the conclusion that it really favoured both its parents.
They photographed it, took drawings of it, talked
about it from morning till night, and then wrote
home about it, and said that they would never be
happy until they had a Drachen all their very own.

So a firm of balloon manufacturei-s was instructed
to make a baby Drachen by way of experiment; but,
as the work was quite new to them, they had to pro-
ceed very cautiously. Unfortunately, the tide of war
could not wait for them. The naval bombardment
of the Dardanelles forts in February 1915 had dis-
closed the fact that the Turks had concealed their
batteries on the peninsula very cleverly, and that
aeroplanes and seaplanes had their limitations as
directors of gunfire. Apart from troubles with their
engines, there was always the sell-evident axiom that
an observer moving rapidly through the air cannot
spot as accurately as an observer sitting in the
basket of a stationary balloon. The Dardanelles
followed the examples of Antwerp and Dunkirk, and
sent out S.O.S. signals for observation balloons, urg-
ing that they should be despatched from England
at once, so as to arrive in time for the landing on the
Gallipoli peninsula.

When this message came through on 8th March
1915, the R.N.A.S. had got as far as the estabhsh-
ment of a kite-balloon division with a training centre
at Roehampton, where the owner of Upper Grove
House had generously placed his house and grounds
at the disposal of the Admiralty. A nucleus of
officers and men trained in airship work had been
collected, and were busily imparting their knowledge
to the new recruits. But there were no kite-balloons,



144 THE FIRST KITE-BALLOON SHIP

no winches, no cables, no telephones, when the order
was received to proceed at once to Lemnos with a
kite-balloon section fully equipped. Now it was
quite useless for them to say, " We are not ready,"
because that is one of the things that no one in the
Navy is ever allowed to say, and because the answer
is obvious — " Then you have jolly well got to be
ready." The only thing that could possibly be said
in the circumstances was, "Aye, aye, sir; we'll
carry on at once, and pvish off at the earliest possible
moment," and when that is said in a cheerful tone
of voice by a much-harassed commanding officer,
it goes far to persuade the Admiralty that almost
anything, short of a miracle, will be accomplished
by him.

The first thing to do was to get hold of a kite
balloon. Luckily the French had been making some,
so an officer was packed off to Paris, who could talk
French, and had a winning smile. He came back
in a very short time and announced that he had
borrowed not only a kite-balloon, but also a winch
for its cable, and spoke as eloquently as circumstances
would permit about French generosity and French
hospitality. The next problem required some careful
thought. According to all established precedents,
it required a large open space like Salisbury Plain or
Kichmond Park to negotiate a balloon ascent, and
how were they to fhul such a space on the Gallipoli
Peninsula, seeing that the whole of it was in the
hands of the enemy ? Only one possible solution
presented itself — the balloon must be flown from a
ship.

They found the ship — it was an <;1(1 tramp un-
loading manure from Australia, and was called the
Manica — and they proceeded to convert it to their
needs, by lifting up a long sloping deck from fore-
castle to waist, fixing a dynamo to drive a hydrogen
compressor, instalhng their winch and connecting it



H.M.S. "MANICA" AT GALLIPOLI 145

with the main engines, building a wireless telegraphy
house, building quarters for ofliecrs and men, and
generally adapting the fittings and appointments to
what they conceived to be the requirements of a
kite-balloon ship. Then they collected the necessary
personnel and stores, and in an incredibly short space
of time — within seventeen days of receiving the
order from Gallipoli — they sailed from England.

The Manic A arrived at Lemnos on IGth April 1915,
and a few days later she was in the thick of it. Dur-
ing the next three weeks her observers spotted for
various ships of the squadron, including the Triumph,
Lord Nelson, and Prince George, but latterly
they devoted most of their time to the Queen
Elizabeth. On 19th April a Turkish camp was
shelled under their direction, and thrown into con-
fusion ; on 24th April the Gaba Tepe position was
shelled and the Turkish barracks destroyed.

On 27th April they had a red-letter day. The
observers sitting up aloft in their basket saw some-
thing of more than usual interest on the other side of
the peninsula, so one of them put his mouth to the
telephone and told the fellows in the Manica about
it. "There's a nice fat Turkish transport in the
Straits," he said ; " she is lying in Square 215 W.


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