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FIVE MONTHS ON A GERMAN RAIDER

Being the Adventures of an Englishman Captured by the "Wolf"

by

F. G. TRAYES

Formerly Principal of the Royal Normal College
Bangkok, Siam


London
Headley Bros. Publishers, Ltd.
72 Oxford Street
W. 1

1919.







[Illustration: THE AUTHOR BEFORE CAPTIVITY AND WHEN RELEASED.]




DEDICATED

IN DEEP GRATITUDE TO THE DANISH NAVAL AUTHORITIES,
LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS, LIFEBOATMEN AND THEIR FAMILIES,
AND THE KINDLY INHABITANTS OF SKAGEN, DENMARK,
WHO SECURED FOR US, AND WELCOMED US BACK
TO FREEDOM, AND WHO BY THEIR OVERWHELMING
KINDNESS AND HEARTY HELP
AND HOSPITALITY LEFT WITH US SUCH
KIND AND HAPPY MEMORIES
OF THEIR COUNTRY AND
COUNTRYMEN AS
WILL NEVER BE
FORGOTTEN.




CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE CAPTURE OF THE "HITACHI MARU" 11

II. PRISONERS ON THE "WOLF" 23

III. BACK TO THE "HITACHI MARU" 37

IV. THE GERMANS SINK THEIR PRIZE 51

V. LIFE ON THE "WOLF" 66

VI. ANOTHER PRIZE - OUR FUTURE HOME 82

VII. CHRISTMAS ON THE "IGOTZ MENDI" 97

VIII. RUMOURS AND PLANS 116

IX. EN ROUTE FOR RUHLEBEN - VIA ICELAND 133

X. SAVED BY SHIPWRECK 149

XI. FREE AT LAST 166

ILLUSTRATIONS


THE AUTHOR BEFORE AND AFTER HIS FIVE MONTHS'
CAPTIVITY (Frontispiece)
FACING PAGE

"HITACHI" PASSENGERS AND CREW IN LIFEBOATS AFTER
THEIR SHIP HAD BEEN SHELLED 22

JAPANESE STEAMSHIP "HITACHI MARU" 64

THE "IGOTZ MENDI" ASHORE AT SKAGEN 150

THE SKAGEN LIFEBOAT GOING OUT TO THE "IGOTZ
MENDI" TO BRING OFF THE PRISONERS 166

THE SKAGEN LIFEBOAT BRINGING TO SHORE THE
PRISONERS FROM THE "IGOTZ MENDI" 166

AT SKAGEN: GERMAN PRIZE CREW OF THE "IGOTZ
MENDI" UNDER GUARD, AWAITING INTERNMENT 180

THE COURSE OF THE "WOLF" End paper




FIVE MONTHS ON A GERMAN RAIDER




CHAPTER I

THE CAPTURE OF THE "HITACHI MARU"


The S.S. _Hitachi Maru_, 6,716 tons, of the Nippon Yushen Kaisha (Japan
Mail Steamship Co.), left Colombo on September 24, 1917, her entire
ship's company being Japanese. Once outside the breakwater, the rough
weather made itself felt; the ship rolled a good deal and the storms of
wind and heavy rain continued more or less all day. The next day the
weather had moderated, and on the succeeding day, Wednesday, the 26th,
fine and bright weather prevailed, but the storm had left behind a long
rolling swell.

My wife and I were bound for Cape Town, and had joined the ship at
Singapore on the 15th, having left Bangkok, the capital of Siam, a week
earlier. Passengers who had embarked at Colombo were beginning to
recover from their sea-sickness and had begun to indulge in deck games,
and there seemed every prospect of a pleasant and undisturbed voyage to
Delagoa Bay, where we were due on October 7th.

The chart at noon on the 26th marked 508 miles from Colombo, 2,912 to
Delagoa Bay, and 190 to the Equator; only position, not the course,
being marked after the ship left Colombo. Most of the passengers had, as
usual, either dozed on deck or in their cabins after tiffin, my wife and
I being in deck chairs on the port side. When I woke up at 1.45 I saw
far off on the horizon, on the port bow, smoke from a steamer. I was the
only person awake on the deck at the time, and I believe no other
passenger had seen the smoke, which was so far away that it was
impossible to tell whether we were meeting or overtaking the ship.

Immediately thoughts of a raider sprang to my mind, though I did not
know one was out. But from what one could gather at Colombo, no ship was
due at that port on that track in about two days. The streets of Colombo
were certainly darkened at night, and the lighthouse was not in use when
we were there, but there was no mention of the presence of any
suspicious craft in the adjacent waters.

It is generally understood that instructions to Captains in these times
are to suspect every vessel seen at sea, and to run away from all signs
of smoke (and some of us knew that on a previous occasion, some months
before, a vessel of the same line had seen smoke in this neighbourhood,
and had at once turned tail and made tracks for Colombo, resuming her
voyage when the smoke disappeared). The officer on the bridge with his
glass must have seen the smoke long before I did, so my suspicions of a
raider were gradually disarmed as we did not alter our course a single
point, but proceeded to meet the stranger, whose course towards us
formed a diagonal one with ours. If nothing had happened she would have
crossed our track slightly astern of us.

But something did happen. More passengers were now awake, discussing the
nationality of the ship bearing down on us. Still no alteration was made
in our course, and we and she had made no sign of recognition.

Surely everything was all right and there was nothing to fear. Even the
Japanese commander of the gun crew betrayed no anxiety on the matter,
but stood with the passengers on the deck watching the oncoming
stranger. Five bells had just gone when the vessel, then about seven
hundred yards away from us, took a sudden turn to port and ran up
signals and the German Imperial Navy flag. There was no longer any
doubt - the worst had happened. We had walked blindly into the open arms
of the enemy. The signals were to tell us to stop. We did not stop. The
raider fired two shots across our bows, and they fell into the sea quite
close to where most of the passengers were standing. Still we did not
stop. It was wicked to ignore these orders and warnings, as there was no
possible chance of escape from an armed vessel of any kind. The attempt
to escape had been left too late; it should have been made immediately
the smoke of the raider was seen. Most of the passengers went to their
cabins for life-belts and life-saving waistcoats, and at once returned
to the deck to watch the raider. As we were still steaming and had not
even yet obeyed the order to stop, the raider opened fire on us in dead
earnest, firing a broadside.

While the firing was going on, a seaplane appeared above the raider;
some assert that she dropped bombs in front of us, but personally I did
not see this.

The greatest alarm now prevailed on our ship, and passengers did not
know where to go to avoid the shells which we could hear and feel
striking the ship. My wife and I returned to our cabin to fetch an extra
pair of spectacles, our passports, and my pocketbook, and at the same
time picked up her jewel-case. The alley-way between the companion-way
and our cabin was by this time strewn with splinters of wood and glass
and wreckage; pieces of shell had been embedded in the panelling and a
large hole made in the funnel. This damage had been done by a single
shot aimed at the wireless room near the bridge.

We returned once more to the port deck, where most of the first-class
passengers had assembled waiting for orders - which never came. No
instructions came from the Captain or officers or crew; in fact, we
never saw any of the ship's officers until long after all the lifeboats
were afloat on the sea.

The ship had now stopped, and the firing had apparently ceased, but we
did not know whether it would recommence, and of course imagined the
Germans were firing to sink the ship. It was useless trying to escape
the shots, as we did not then know at what part of the ship the Germans
were firing, so there was only one thing for the passengers to do - to
leave the ship as rapidly as possible, as we all thought she was
sinking. Some of the passengers attempted to go on the bridge to get to
the boat deck and help lower the boats, as it seemed nothing was being
done, but we were ordered back by the Second Steward, who, apparently
alone among the ship's officers, kept his head throughout.

No. 1 boat was now being lowered on the port side; it was full of
Japanese and Asiatics. When it was flush with the deck the falls broke,
the boat capsized, and with all its occupants it was thrown into the
sea. One or two, we afterwards heard, were drowned. The passengers now
went over to the starboard side, as apparently no more boats were being
lowered from the port side, and we did not know whether the raider would
start firing again. The No. 1 starboard boat was being lowered; still
there was no one to give orders. The passengers themselves saw to it
that the women got into this boat first, and helped them in, only the
Second Steward standing by to help. The women had to climb the rail and
gangway which was lashed thereto, and the boat was so full of gear and
tackle that at first it was quite impossible for any one to find a seat
in the boat. It was a difficult task for any woman to get into this
boat, and everybody was in a great hurry, expecting the firing to
recommence, or the ship to sink beneath us, or both; my wife fell in,
and in so doing dropped her jewel-case out of her handbag into the
bottom of the boat, and it was seen no more that day. The husbands
followed their wives into the boat, and several other men among the
first-class passengers also clambered in.

Directly after the order to lower away was given, and before any one
could settle in the boat, the stern falls broke, and for a second the
boat hung from the bow falls vertically, the occupants hanging on to
anything they could - a dreadful moment, especially in view of what we
had seen happen to the No. 1 port boat a few moments before. Then,
immediately afterwards, the bow falls broke, or were cut, the boat
dropped into the water with a loud thud and a great splash, and righted
itself. We were still alongside the ship when another boat was being
swung out and lowered immediately on to our heads. We managed to push
off just in time before the other boat, the falls of which also broke,
reached the water.

Thus, there was no preparation made for accidents - we might have been
living in the times of profoundest peace for all the trouble that had
been taken to see that everything was ready in case of accident. Instead
of which, nothing was ready - not a very creditable state of affairs for
a great steamship company in times such as these, when, thanks to the
Huns' ideas of sea chivalry, _any_ ship may have to be abandoned at a
moment's notice. Some passengers had asked for boat drill when the ship
left Singapore, but were told there was no need for it, or for any
similar preparations till after Cape Town, which, alas, never was
reached. Accordingly passengers had no places given to them in the
boats; the boats were not ready, and confusion, instead of order,
prevailed. It was nothing short of a miracle that more people were not
drowned.

If the ship had only stopped when ordered by signals to do so, there
would have been no firing at all. Even if she had stopped after the
warning shots had been fired, no more firing would have taken place and
nobody need have left the ship at all. What a vast amount of trouble,
fear, anxiety, and damage to life and property might have been saved if
only the raider's orders had been obeyed! It seemed too, at the time,
that if only the _Hitachi_ had turned tail and bolted directly the
raider's smoke was seen on the horizon by the officer on watch on the
bridge - at the latest this must have been about 1.30 - she might have
escaped altogether, as she was a much quicker boat than the German. At
any rate, she might have tried. Her fate would have been no worse if she
had failed to escape, for surely even the Germans could not deny any
ship the right to escape if she could effect it. Certainly the seaplane
might have taken up the chase, and ordered the _Hitachi_ to stop. We
heard afterwards that one ship - the _Wairuna_, from New Zealand to San
Francisco - had been caught in this way. The seaplane had hovered over
her, dropped messages on her deck ordering her to follow the plane to a
concealed harbour near, failing which bombs would be dropped to explode
the ship. Needless to say, the ship followed these instructions.

"There was no panic, and the women were splendid." How often one has
read that in these days of atrocity at sea! We were to realize it now;
the women were indeed splendid. There was no crying or screaming or
hysteria, or wild inquiries. They were perfectly calm and collected:
none of them showed the least fear, even under fire. The women took the
matter as coolly as if being shelled and leaving a ship in lifeboats
were nothing much out of the ordinary. Their sang-froid was marvellous.

As we thought the ship was slowly sinking, we pushed off from her side
as quickly as possible. There were now four lifeboats in the water at
some distance from each other. The one in which we were contained about
twenty-four persons. There was no officer or member of the crew with us,
while another boat contained officers and sailors only. No one in our
boat knew where we were to go or what we were to do. One passenger
wildly suggested that we should hoist a sail and set sail for Colombo,
two days' _steaming_ away! Search was made for provisions and water in
our boat, but she was so full of people and impedimenta that nothing
could be found. It _was_ found, however, that water was rapidly coming
into the boat, and before long it reached to our knees. The hole which
should have been plugged could not be discovered, so for more than an
hour some of the men took turns at pulling, and baling the water out
with their sun-helmets. This was very hot work, as it must be remembered
we were not far from the Equator. Ultimately, however, the hole was
found and more or less satisfactorily plugged. Water, however, continued
to come in, so baling had still to be proceeded with. An Irish Tommy,
going home from Singapore to join up, was in our boat. He was most
cheerful and in every way helpful, working hard and pulling all the
time. It was he who plugged the hole, and as he was almost the only one
among us who seemed to have any useful knowledge about the management of
lifeboats, we were very glad to reckon him among our company.

The four boats were now drifting aimlessly about over the sea, when an
order was shouted to us, apparently from a Japanese officer in one of
the other boats, to tie up with the other three boats. After some time
this was accomplished, and the four boats in line drifted on the water.
The two steamers had stopped; we did not know what was happening on
board either of them, but saw the raider's motor launch going between
the raider and her prize, picking up some of the men who had fallen into
the sea when the boat capsized. Luckily, the sharks with which these
waters are infested had been scared off by the gunfire. We realized,
when we were in the lifeboats, what a heavy swell there was on the sea,
as both steamers were occasionally hidden from us when we were in the
trough of the waves. We were, however, not inconvenienced in any way by
the swell, and the lifeboats shipped no water. There was no one in
command of any of the boats, and we simply waited to see what was going
to happen.

What a sudden, what a dramatic change in our fortunes! One that easily
might have been, might even yet be, tragic. At half-past one, less than
two hours before, we were comfortably on board a fine ship, absolutely
unsuspicious of the least danger. If any of us had thought of the matter
at all, we probably imagined we were in the safest part of the ocean.
But, at three o'clock, here we were, having undergone the trying ordeal
of shell-fire in the interval, drifting helplessly in lifeboats in
mid-ocean, all our personal belongings left behind in what we imagined
to be a sinking ship, not knowing what fate was in store for us, but
naturally, remembering what we had heard of German sea outrages,
dreading the very worst.

[Illustration: _HITACHI_ PASSENGERS AND CREW IN LIFEBOATS AFTER THEIR
SHIP HAD BEEN SHELLED.

From an enlargement of photo taken on the _Wolf_ by a German officer.]




CHAPTER II

PRISONERS ON THE "WOLF"


Escape in any way was obviously out of the question. At last the raider
got under way and began to bear down on us. Things began to look more
ugly than ever, and most of us thought that the end had come, and that
we were up against an apostle of the "sink the ships and leave no trace"
theory - which we had read about in Colombo only a couple of days
before - the latest development of "frightfulness." Our minds were not
made easier by the seaplane circling above us, ready, as we thought, to
administer the final blow to any who might survive being fired on by the
raider's guns. It was a most anxious moment for us all, and opinions
were very divided as to what was going to happen. One of the ladies
remarked that she had no fear, and reminded us that we were all in God's
hands, which cheered up some of the drooping hearts and anxious minds.
Certainly most of us thought we were soon to look our last upon the
world; what other thoughts were in our minds, as we imagined our last
moments were so near, will remain unrecorded.

However, to our intense relief, nothing of what we had feared happened,
and as the raider came slowly nearer to us - up till now we had not even
seen one of the enemy - an officer on the bridge megaphoned us to come
alongside. This we did; three boats went astern, and the one in which we
were remained near the raider's bows. An officer appeared at the
bulwarks and told us to come aboard; women first, then their husbands,
then the single men. There was no choice but to obey, but we all felt
uneasy in our minds as to what kind of treatment our women were to
receive at the hands of the Germans on board.

The ship was rolling considerably, and it is never a pleasant or easy
task for a landsman, much less a landswoman, to clamber by a rope-ladder
some twenty feet up the side of a rolling ship. However, all the ladies
acquitted themselves nobly, some even going up without a rope round
their waists. The little Japanese stewardess, terrified, but showing a
brave front to the enemy, was the last woman to go up before the men's
ascent began. Two German sailors stood at the bulwarks to help us off
the rope-ladder into the well deck forward, and by 5.20 we were all
aboard, after having spent a very anxious two hours, possibly the most
anxious in the lives of most of us. We were all wet, dirty, and
dishevelled, and looked sorry objects. One of the passengers, a tall,
stout man, was somewhat handicapped by his nether garments slipping down
and finally getting in a ruck round his ankles when he was climbing up
the ladder on to the raider. A German sailor, to ease his passage, went
down the ladder and relieved him of them altogether. He landed on the
raider's deck minus this important part of his wardrobe, amid shrieks of
laughter from captives and captors.

It was at once evident, directly we got on board, that we were in for
kindly treatment. The ship's doctor at once came forward, saluted, and
asked who was wounded and required his attention. Most of the
passengers - there were only twenty first and about a dozen second
class - were in our boat, and among the second-class passengers with us
were a few Portuguese soldiers going from Macao to Delagoa Bay.

Some of us were slightly bruised, and all were shaken, but luckily none
required medical treatment. Chairs were quickly found for the ladies,
the men seated themselves on the hatch, and the German sailors busied
themselves bringing tea and cigarettes to their latest captives. We were
then left to ourselves for a short time on deck, and just before dark a
spruce young Lieutenant came up to me, saluted, and asked me to tell all
the passengers that we were to follow him and go aft. We followed him
along the ship, which seemed to be very crowded, to the well deck aft,
where we met the remaining few passengers and some of the crew of the
_Hitachi_. We had evidently come across a new type of Hun. The young
Lieutenant was most polite, and courteous and attentive. He apologized
profusely for the discomfort which the ladies and ourselves would have
to put up with - "But it is war, you know, and your Government is to
blame for allowing you to travel when they know a raider is
out" - assured us he would do what he could to make us as comfortable as
possible, and that we should not be detained more than two or three
days. This was the first of a countless number of lies told us by the
Germans as to their intentions concerning us.

We had had nothing to eat since tiffin, so we were ordered below to the
'tween decks to have supper. We clambered down a ladder to partake of
our first meal as prisoners. What a contrast to the last meal we enjoyed
on the _Hitachi_, taken in comfort and apparent security! (But, had we
known it, we were doomed even then, for the raider's seaplane had been
up and seen us at 11 a.m., had reported our position to the raider, and
announced 3 p.m. as the time for our capture. Our captors were not far
out! It was between 2.30 and 3 when we were taken.) The meal consisted
of black bread and raw ham, with hot tea in a tin can, into which we
dipped our cups. We sat around on wooden benches, in a small
partitioned-off space, and noticed that the crockery on which the food
was served had been taken from other ships captured - one of the Burns
Philp Line, and one of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. Some
of the Japanese officers and crew were also in the 'tween decks - later
on the Japanese Captain appeared (we had not seen him since he left the
_Hitachi_ saloon after tiffin), and he was naturally very down and
distressed - and some of the German sailors came and spoke to us. Shortly
after, the young Lieutenant came down and explained why the raider,
which the German sailors told us was the _Wolf_, had fired on us. We
then learnt for the first time that many persons had been killed
outright by the firing - another direct result of the _Hitachi's_ failure
to obey the raider's orders to stop. It was impossible to discover how
many. There must have been about a dozen, as the total deaths numbered
sixteen, all Japanese or Indians; the latest death from wounds occurred
on October 28th, while one or two died while we were on the _Wolf_. The
Lieutenant, who we afterwards learnt was in charge of the prisoners,
told us that the _Wolf_ had signalled us to stop, and not to use our
wireless or our gun, for the _Hitachi_ mounted a gun on her poop for the
submarine zone. He asserted that the _Hitachi_ hoisted a signal that she
understood the order, but that she tried to use her wireless, that she
brought herself into position to fire on the _Wolf_, and that
preparations were being made to use her gun. If the _Hitachi_ had
manoeuvred at all, it was simply so that she should not[1] present her
broadside as a target for a torpedo from the raider.

The Germans professed deep regret at the _Hitachi's_ action and at the
loss of life caused, the first occasion, they said - and, we believe,
with truth - on which lives had been lost since the _Wolf's_ cruise
began. The _Wolf_, however, they said, had no choice but to fire and
put the _Hitachi_ gun out of action. This she failed to do, as the
shooting was distinctly poor, with the exception of the shot aimed at
the wireless room, which went straight through the room, without
exploding there or touching the operator, and exploded near the funnel,
killing most of the crew who met their deaths while running to help


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