Copyright
Ralph Delahaye Paine.

The Corsair in the war zone online

. (page 19 of 20)
Online LibraryRalph Delahaye PaineThe Corsair in the war zone → online text (page 19 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


top speed had been an enormous task, but it was no
slight undertaking to pull it down again. Winter
rains and sodden skies made Queenstown even
drearier than when the liberty parties of destroyer
men had piled ashore to fill the American Sailors'
Club, or surge madly around and around in the
roller-skating rink, or live in hope of cracking the
head of a Sinn Feiner as the most zestf ul pastime
that could be offered.

277



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

Dashing young destroyer officers no longer lin-
gered a little in the pub of the Queen's Hotel for a
smile from a rosy barmaid with the gift of the
blarney, and a farewell toast before going to sea
again, while the Royal Cork Yacht Club, down by
the landing pier, seemed almost forlorn without
the sociable evenings when American and British
naval officers had swapped yarns of the day's work
and talked the "hush stuff" about mystery ships
and U-boats that would never see their own ports
again.

High up the steep hillside, the White Ensign flew
from the mast in front of Admiral House, and
Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, austere, efficient, but
very human, one of the ablest officers of the British
Navy, still toiled at his desk or puttered among his
flower gardens in the rare hours of leisure, but his
occupation as Commander-in-Chief of the Coasts
of Ireland was mostly in the past tense. Soon he
was to retire, with the stripes of a full admiral on
his sleeve and a long list of distinctions following
his name, Knight Commander of the Bath, Com-
panion of the Victorian Order, the Legion of Honor
of France; but more than these he valued the
friendship and high respect of the American naval
force at Queenstown, memorable because it was
here that, for the first time, the British and the
American navies had worked and dared as one,
salty brothers-in-arms, to conquer the sea and
make it safe against a mutual foe.

278



. .



THE LONG ROAD HOME

All of this the Corsair perceived in retrospect
while Captain Pringle finished his fine record of
service by disposing of all the odds and ends of
work demanded of him before the Stars and Stripes
could be hauled down and Queenstown finally
abandoned as a base. As soon as the Corsair arrived
in port, opportunity was offered the Reserve officers
and men to quit the ship and go home, instead of
detaining them longer on foreign service. Three
officers and thirty men took advantage of the
chance and felt, fairly enough, that the war was
over and the call of duty no longer imperative.
Other officers came to the ship in their places —
Lieutenant A. T. Agnew, Assistant Surgeon, who had
joined at Rosyth, Ensign C. R. Bloomer, Boatswain
A. R. Beach, and Boatswain H. W. Honeck.

It was a long and tedious duty, lasting almost
three months, this serving as the flagship at Queens-
town, but he also serves who only stands and waits,
and this was true of the Corsair, The aftermath of
the war was mostly drudgery, with all the fiery
incentive and thrilling stimulus removed, but the
need was just as urgent and the Navy responded,
displaying the spirit which was best exemplified
by Rear Admiral Strauss and his mine-laying fleet
which placed a barrier of forty thousand mines
across the upper end of the North Sea and then
manfully, uncomplainingly, spent a whole year in
sweeping them up again.

One pleasant souvenir of the stay at Queenstown

279



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

was a copy of the following letter from Admiral Sir
Lewis Bayly:

The Captain of the Dockyard has informed me that
valuable assistance was given by officers and men of
the U.S. Navy in extinguishing the fire in the Dock-
yard yesterday, Tuesday. I desire to thank you very
much for the assistance so smartly and ably given.

On March 20th the Corsair left Queenstown for
Spithead and Cowes to meet a number of large
German merchant ships and, as the flagship of
Admiral Sims, represent the United States in the
business of transfer to the American flag, as pro-
vided in the terms of the armistice. The departure
from Ireland caused no heart-breaking regrets,
although many congenial friendships had been
formed ashore. For weeks the crew had been more
interested in sewing stitches in the homeward-
bound pennant than in any attractions that foreign
ports could afford. Rumor had been misleading as
usual, and hopes often deferred.

At Cowes the Corsair found four American de-
stroyers, the Woolsey, Lea, Yarnell, and Tarbell,
and the naval tug Gypsum Queen which had been
sent to do the work in hand. Drafts of American
sailors had been brought from Brest, La Pallice,
Queenstown, and English ports to man the German
liners after their own crews had been taken out of
them. Commander T. G. Ellyson, U.S.N., acted as
the representative of Admiral Sims and was in
charge of the transfer. While at Cowes he lived on

280



THE LONG ROAD HOME

board the Corsair, with his staff. The London Times
described the episode as follows:

During the last few days a number of German mer-
chant ships which have been surrendered to the Allies
under the Armistice conditions have arrived at Cowes
roadstead. The Hamburg- American liners Cleveland
and Patricia were the first to arrive, and they were fol-
lowed by the Cap Finisterre, the Kaiser in Auguste
Victoria, the Graf Waldersee f the Zeppelin, and the
Kronprinz Friedrich Wilhelm, making seven of the
eight expected at this port. The La Plata is expected
to arrive in a day or two.

In place of the smart, spick-and-span German mer-
chant sailors of pre-war days, these large vessels,
ranging up to 24,500 tons, were mostly manned by
motley crews of Germans, many wearing bowler hats
and untidy civilian dress. Many of them speak English
and in conversation showed that they were familiar
with the Solent and local shipping, while others had
been to Cowes in Regatta times. One officer stated
that he had been there on the ex- Kaiser's yacht Meteor.
These Germans are not allowed ashore but are trans-
ferred to the Cap Finisterre, in which they will return
to Germany when the La Plata arrives. They have
brought their own provisions with them but they have
been reprovisioned here.

New crews have been provided for the surrendered
ships by the American Navy, representatives of which
are superintending the transfer of the crews and the
dispersal of the German ships which have left for
other ports. The Cleveland, Kronprinz Friedrich Wil-
helm, and Pretoria have sailed for Liverpool, the
Kaiser in Auguste Victoria and Graf W alder see for Brest
and the Zeppelin for Plymouth. The German ships fly

281



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

the blue and white flag of the Inter-Allied Nations and
have an American escort, including the armed yacht
Corsair, destroyers, submarine chasers, and store-ships.

The North German Lloyd liner Zeppelin, with an
American crew on board, arrived at Devonport yester-
day. The remainder of the American naval forces at
Plymouth will embark on her to-day, and after coaling
and taking on stores, the Zeppelin will leave for Brest
and the United States.

Up to yesterday twenty-four of the one hundred
German vessels allocated to Leith had arrived there.
A number of the ships were new; in fact this voyage
was their maiden one. When the total is complete, the
vessels will form a very handsome addition to the ship-
ping in the port. The conduct of the sailors is said to
be satisfactory. There were rumors that there was
among the crews of some of the vessels a revolutionary
spirit, but these had no foundation. The crews are
reported to be eager and willing to do all that is re-
quired of them.

The duty of taking part in the distribution of
German shipping, in which the naval representa-
tives of the United States were concerned, took the
Corsair next to Harwich, the important East Coast
base of England, at which the main fleet of German
submarines was surrendered to Rear Admiral
Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, R.N. It was at Harwich
that the British submarines had rested and refitted
between their perilous patrol tours across the North
Sea when they stalked the U-boat in a deadly game
of hide-and-seek which Fritz lacked the courage to
play. The British losses had been heavy, many a

282



^s




^^HSBa




J


Iiil* k; ' S "4^.. |ps i^l '-fl



O

o
h

w
W
o*
o

o 5
cu »

w H

H
<

a

CO

0!

w

O



Cfl




,J I J* J



THE LONG ROAD HOME

gallant submarine erased from the list as missing
with all hands, but the toll of U-boats had been
much greater and the results were worth the price
they cost.

Out of Harwich had dashed that wonderful light
cruiser division under Admiral Tyrwhitt, always
under two hours* steaming notice to run north as a
tactical unit of the Grand Fleet or to tear at thirty
knots for the Strait of Dover to help defend and
keep clear the main road to France. And now the
cruisers and destroyers and submarines no longer
moved restlessly in and out of Harwich Harbor to
patrol the North Sea, and Harwich was again a
railway terminus on the route to Antwerp and the
Hook of Holland. As the American flagship, the
Corsair tarried there through part of April before
sailing to Southend to execute similar orders and
duties. England was green and blooming with the
loveliness of its rare springtime, and the men of the
lonely American yacht were more than ever ab-
sorbed in thoughts of flying that homeward-bound
pennant.

At length there came an order from London,
transmitted through the cruiser Galveston which was
also at Southend, that seemed to promise the
Corsair a start on the long road home:

On completion of transfer of stores and quota of
draft of the German steamship Brandenburg, you will
proceed to Plymouth, England, with the vessel under
your command, arranging to arrive in the afternoon of

283



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

May 7th. On arrival report to the Commander-in-
Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, European Waters, for use
of the Secretary of the Navy.

Secretary Daniels and his party were at this time
on their way to France and the United States after
visiting the Allied naval organizations. The Corsair
was designated to carry them from Plymouth to
Brest, and the British Admiralty carried out its
part of the programme with the most punctilious
attention to detail, as is shown in the printed memo-
randum under u Devonport General Orders" which
was signed by Admiral Cecil F. Thursby :

Embarkation of Mr. J. Daniels, Secretary of the U.S.
Navy.

U.S. Yacht Corsair and one U.S.T.B.D. will arrive
p.m. 7th May and will be berthed as follows, — Corsair
alongside Resolution, bows to southward, if possible.
T.B.D. alongside No. i wharf, unless she requires oil
when she will proceed to Orangeleaf and complete with
fuel.

The train conveying Mr. Daniels and party will
arrive at No. 6 wharf at 0800 on Thursday, 8th May.
The Commander-in-Chief will receive Mr. Daniels.
The Vice Admiral Commanding First Battle Squadron
and staff and the Admiral Superintendent are re-
quested also to be present at the wharf. (Dress No. 5
without swords.)

A working party of three petty officers and twenty
men in No. 5 dress, in charge of a warrant officer, is
to be provided by Depot, and to be at No. 6 wharf by
0745 to transfer baggage from train to Corsair. As soon
as Mr. Daniels and party and all baggage have been

284



THE LONG ROAD HOME

embarked, Corsair will proceed down harbor. Admiral
Superintendent is requested to arrange for a tug to be
in attendance.

The Corsair arrived punctually at Plymouth and
was waiting to obey the foregoing instructions
when, at midnight, there came a telegram which
quite overshadowed the episode of carrying the
Secretary of the Navy, with all due respect to the
dignity of his office. The message, for which the
yacht had waited so long, came in the form of a
smudged carbon copy as sent through the U.S.
Naval Post-Office, but in the eyes of those who
scanned it the document was beautiful. It read:

U.S.S. Corsair hereby detached duty European
Waters. Proceed Brest with Secretary of Navy and
report to Admiral Halstead. Load any personnel for
which space is available and then proceed New York,
touching at Azores if necessary. Transfer any flag
records to U.S.S. Chattanooga before leaving Plymouth.

Escorted by the American destroyer Conner, the
Corsair made a fast and comfortable run to Brest.
The passengers were the Secretary and Mrs.
Daniels; Rear Admiral David W. Taylor, Chief of
the Bureau of Construction and Repair; Rear
Admiral Robert S. Griffin, Chief of the Bureau of
Steam Engineering; Rear Admiral Ralph Earle,
Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance; Commander
Stewart E. Barber, Pay Corps, who was officially
attached to the Corsair; Commander Percy W.

285



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

Foote, personal aide to the Secretary; and Private
Secretary May.

Brest Harbor was a familiar panorama to the
few men aboard the Corsair who had shared the toil
and excitement of those early months of patrol
work offshore, almost a year before. Now, however,
the transports were crammed with troops home-
ward bound, and there was no more convoying the
"empty buckets" out of Saint-Nazaire and Bor-
deaux and Quiberon Bay, nor was there any chance
of a brush with the persistent U-boat which had
been dubbed "Penmarch Pete."

The Corsair undertook her good-bye courtesies
and ceremonies, one of them a luncheon party on
board, at which the guests were Rear Admiral A. S.
Halstead who succeeded Admiral Wilson as com-
mander of the naval forces in France; Major Gen-
eral Smedley D. Butler, commanding the embar-
kation camp at Brest; Vice- Admiral Moreau and
Rear Admiral Grout of the French Navy and Mme.
Grout; and Commander Robert E. Tod, Director
of Public Works at Brest.

Not much time was wasted in port. Two days
after arriving, on May ioth, the bunkers were
filled with coal, and there was precious little cursing
over the hard and dirty job which had so often
caused the crew to agree that what General Sher-
man said about war was absurdly inadequate. It
was different now. Every shovel and basket of coal
meant steam to shove the old boat nearer home.

286



THE LONG ROAD HOME fal.

That homeward-bound pennant trailed jubilantly
from the masthead, a silk streamer of red, white,
and blue, one hundred and eighty feet long, into
whose folds had been fondly stitched the desires,
the yearnings, the anticipations of every man in
the ship. Only a few of them had stood, with bared
heads, on the Corsair's deck when she had been
formally commissioned as a fourth-rate gunboat of
the United States Navy in May of 1917, and the
bright ensign had whipped in the breeze.

Many of that company had seen service in other
ships and some were civilians again, but memory
was apt to hark back to the Corsair with a certain
affection and regret. And wherever they were to be,
these youthful sailors would feel a thrill of pride
and kinship at sight of a Navy man and they would
kindle to the sentiment:

"But there's something at the heart-strings that tautens
when I meet
A blue-clad sailor-man adrift, on shore leave from the
fleet."

Lieutenant McGuire, bred to the sea and experi-
enced in ships, thought it over after he came home
and wrote these opinions of the Corsair's company
and the work they did :

It was a pleasure to watch how eagerly the boys
took hold of their new jobs and how rapidly they be-
came good sailors. For a comrade to stand by in danger,
give me first of all a plain, every-day, American gob.
He is not so much on the parade stuff, but offer him

287



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

a chance to risk his skin or his life for his friend or his
flag and he is there every time.

a- If this war has helped us as a nation in no other
way, it has, I believe, taught hundreds of thousands of
men the meaning of their country's flag, taught them
to love it as their own, and that to die for it is an honor
to be prized.

While the duty abroad was pretty strenuous at
tinies, yet the average American has the faculty of
making friends in every port, which helped to pass the
few hours at his disposal when not engaged in coaling
ship. How we did envy the boys in the oil-burners !

The chief petty officers and petty officers of the
American Navy are exceptionally intelligent and pro-
ficient in their duties, and on many occasions helped
the average Reserve officer over rough places. I also
felt great admiration for the officers with whom I
served and came in contact, both Regular and
Reserve.



CHAPTER XIII
HONORABLY DISCHARGED

OF the old crew, the crew which had sailed with
Pershing's First Expeditionary Force, only
two officers and eighteen men watched the frown-
ing headlands of Brittany sink into the sea as the
Corsair turned her bow to follow the long trail
that led to the twin lights of Navesink and the sky-
line of New York. A day at the Azores for coal and
she laid a course for Bermuda and another brief
call before straightening out for the last stretch of
the journey. On May 28th she steamed into her
home port after an absence just a little short of
two years. There was no uproarious welcome when
the gray Corsair slipped through the Narrows and
sought a berth at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The
war had ended more than half a year earlier. It
was already an old story, but the ship had done her
duty and was content with this.

A few days later she ceased to be enrolled in the
United States Navy. There was no ceremonious for-
mality and the documents in the case were exceed-
ingly brief, but they signified the end of a story
which had added a worthy page to the annals of
American manhood. "Ships are all right. It is the
men in them, ,, said one of Joseph Conrad's wise old
mariners. This was true of the Corsair and the other

289



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

yachts of the Breton Patrol. And so the Navy De-
partment spoke the last word in this concise order:

Headquarters of the Third Naval
District, Brooklyn, New York
June 6, 1919

From: Officer in Charge, Material Department.
To: Commanding Officer U.S.S. Corsair ; S.P. 159.

Subject: Orders.

Proceed to W. & A. Fletcher Shipyard, Hoboken,
N.J., June 9, 1919. Place the vessel out of commis-
sion in accordance with orders enclosed herewith, and
deliver the vessel to representative of the owner, Mr.
J. P. Morgan. Have enclosed receipts in duplicate
signed and return to this office.

(Signed) C. L. Arnold,

Captain, U.S.N.

(Enclosure.) The U.S.S. Corsair is hereby placed
out of commission, June 9th, 191 9.

Her owner surmised that the Corsair had been
run to death and worn out in the Bay of Biscay,
that she was to be regarded rather as a relic than a
yacht; but in this Mr. Morgan was happily disap-
pointed. The staunch ship was still fit to be over-
hauled and made ready for the peaceful and lei-
surely service of other days. In her old berth at
Fletchers Yard she swarmed with artisans instead
of bluejackets, and they found many things to be
done besides restoring the furniture, fittings, parti-
tions, and so on.

A stalwart man may tumble down three flights
of stairs and escape without a broken neck, but he

290



< V



r 4 - * ' «.



'■> j; ;- '



HONORABLY DISCHARGED

is bound to be considerably shaken up. This was
painfully the case with a yacht which had been
kept going month in and month out, the fires drawn
from under her boilers only when she positively
declined to make steam enough and was in a mood
to protest against such unfair treatment. That
December hurricane had been a bruising, almost
fatal experience, and the repairs made at Lisbon
could not be called final.

As a ship, however, the Corsair had strongly sur-
vived the ordeal, and soon she began to resume the
semblance of a shapely, seagoing yacht. The grace-
ful bowsprit was restored to the clipper stem, the
deck cleared of gun mountings, and the overhang
was no longer cluttered with the gear of the depth
bombs. Chief Engineer Hutchison returned to his
own engine-room, and there was clangor and clatter
as gangs of mechanics repaired, replaced, and tuned
up machinery which had been driven to the limit
of endurance.

The Corsair's steaming record in foreign service
had amounted to 49,983.6 miles from June, 1917, to
December, 19 18, when she ceased cruising to spend
her time in English ports and at Queenstown. The
distance, by months, was as follows:



1917:


1918:


June


3244.4 miles January 880.9 miles




(at Lisbon)


July


3358.7 February 2635.8


August


3441.5 March 2519



291



I*



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

1917: 1918:

September 3343.7 miles April 1279.3 miles

October 2994.4 May 3554-5

November 3045.6 June 3823.8*

December 557.1 July 3609.8

(Engine counter dis- August 4300
abled in hurricane) September 4027*

October 1 155.7

(Repairs)
November 1030.4
December 11 82

* Mileage for this month greater than any of the yachts or smaller destroyers.

On July 31st, less than two months after being
placed out of commission as a naval vessel, the
Corsair hoisted the Commodore's flag of the New
York Yacht Club. Trim and immaculate, she pro-
ceeded to her anchorage at Glen Cove, to await
cruising orders. There were differences, however,
and the Corsair was not the same as of old. Freshly
painted, the hue of her funnel and hull was the
gray of the Navy. For a season, at least, the glis-
tening black of her hull was not to be restored. It
seemed more fitting, somehow, that in this way she
should recall her long service in helping guard the
road to France.

Upon her funnel were two service chevrons. The
regulations awarded a stripe for the first three
months overseas and another for a full year there-
after, until the date of the armistice. The decks
were scraped and holystoned and spotless, but
where the guns had been there were wooden plugs

292



HONORABLY DISCHARGED

to mark the half-circles of the mounts, and the
pine planking was scarred where cases of shells had
been dragged to be ready for the swift team-work
of the agile gun crews. These, too, were marks of
honor which it seemed a pity to obliterate. They
signified that the Corsair was something more than
a yacht.

Another memento and reminder, to be highly
regarded by the ship's company of those stirring
days, is a letter from the Commander-in-Chief of
the United States Naval Forces in European
Waters, who desired that his "well done" should
be included in this record. It is placed here by way
of "good-bye and fare-ye-well," as the old chantey^
sang it. Admiral Sims writes as follows:

Naval War College

Newport, Rhode Island

I December, 19 19

My dear Mr. Paine:

To undertake to write the complete story of any one
ship of the American Navy and its experiences in the
war zone seems to me a task very well worth while.
Needless to say, the work of the yachts and their per-
sonnel on the coast of France was splendid, and I am
only too glad to have an opportunity to express my
appreciation of them.

Because of the shortage of vessels suitable for con-
voy and escort duty, and the gravely urgent circum-
stances, the yachts were sent across with little time
for preparation or training and with few officers and
men of the Regular Navy in their complements. They
were an emergency flotilla, but I felt confident that

293



THE CORSAIR IN THE WAR ZONE

they would quickly adapt themselves to the arduous
conditions of their service in European waters.

What did surprise me was that they were able to
weather a winter in the Bay of Biscay and to stay at
sea with the convoys when yachts were presumed to
be tucked in harbor. This was greatly to the credit of
the courage, seamanship, and hardihood of the men
who served in them. It was conspicuously true of the
Corsair's encounter with the December hurricane in
which she almost foundered, but succeeded in making
port at Lisbon. A similar spirit was shown when this
vessel stood by the disabled steamer Dagfin and towed
her three hundred miles through an area in which
enemy submarines were operating.

With a steaming record of 50,000 miles on foreign
service, with the unusual number of fourteen enlisted
men appointed as commissioned officers, and with
repeated commendations from the Force Commander
in France, such a yacht served with honor to the flag
and the Navy and deserves the verdict of "Well Done,
Corsair. 11

Very sincerely yours

Wm. S. Sims
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy

The yacht will always be tenanted with brave
memories. And I am sure that to her owner and to
Captain Porter, as long as she shall float, the


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19

Online LibraryRalph Delahaye PaineThe Corsair in the war zone → online text (page 19 of 20)