William Charles Henry Wood.

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the other peoples of the world agreed, any navy could enforce the laws
of war against any one who broke them. The War Party, however, said
"no," and went on tempting British seamen to desert, by offering
"dollars for shillings," a thing they could well afford, because they
were making a great deal of money out of the war, while the British
were forced to spend theirs in fighting the tyrant Napoleon.

The War Party won the vote in Congress; and war was declared in 1812,
just when Napoleon was marching to stamp out resistance in Russia.

This war sprang a double surprise on the British. First, the Americans
failed badly on land against Canada, though they outnumbered the
Canadians fifteen to one, and though the Imperial garrison of Canada
was only four thousand strong. Secondly, the little American Navy gave
the big British Navy a great deal of trouble by daring cruises on the
part of small but smart squadrons against the British trade routes,
and, as there were no squadron battles, by what counted for very much
more than squadron cruises in the eyes of the world, five ship duels
won without a break. Ship for ship of the same class the Americans had
the larger and smarter vessels of the two, and often the better crews.
Twenty years of war had worn out the reserves of British seamen.
"Dollars for shillings" had tempted many of the British who survived to
desert the hard work against Napoleon for the easier, safer, and better
paid work under the Stars and Stripes; while the mere want of any enemy
to fight for the command of the sea after Trafalgar had tended to make
the British get slack.

But, even after making all allowances in favour of the British and
against the Americans, there is no denying that the Yankee ships fought
exceedingly well. Their skilful manoeuvres and shattering broadsides
deserved to win; and the U.S. SS. _Constitution_, _Hornet_, _Wasp_, and
_United States_ richly deserve their place of honour in the story of
the sea. The turn of the tide came on the 1st of June, 1813, when the
U.S.S. _Chesapeake_ sailed out of Boston to fight H.M.S. _Shannon_.
These two frigates were about equal in size and armament. The
_Chesapeake_ carried fifty more men; but her captain, the very gallant
Lawrence, was new to her, like his officers and men, and the crew as a
whole were not nearly such veterans as the _Shannon's_, whom Broke had
trained to perfection for seven years. The duel lasted only fifteen
minutes. Every single British shot struck home; and when Broke led his
boarders on to the _Chesapeake's_ deck the fight had been won already.


The British government, never wanting this war, and doing all they
could to avoid it without endangering the side of freedom against
Napoleon, had not even now put forth their real naval strength. But in
1814 they blockaded all the ports in the United States that the War
Party could shut against them; whereupon, so far as these ports were
concerned, American sea trade simply fell dead. They also burnt the
American Government buildings at Washington as a reprisal for the
Canadian Government buildings the Americans had burnt at Newark and

Those two splendid Americans, Commodores Perry and Macdonough, than
whom the British never met a better or more generous foe, won the
command of Lakes Erie and Champlain, thus partly offsetting British
victories elsewhere. The American peace delegates were, however, still
more favoured by the state of Europe at the end of 1814, when they were
arranging the Treaty of Ghent with the British; for, while they had no
outside trouble to prevent them from driving a hard bargain, the
British had half the other troubles of the world on their shoulders as

The end of it all was that things were left as before. The Treaty said
nothing about the claims and causes for which the United States had
made the war.


Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the North-west died away;
Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
Bluish 'mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
In the dimmest North-east distance dawn'd Gibraltar grand and gray;
"Here and here did England help me: how can I help England?" - say,
Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God to praise and pray,
While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.
- _Robert Browning_.

This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true.
- _Shakespeare._
_King John, Act V, Scene VII._


Ye Mariners of England
That guard our native seas!
Whose flag has braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze!
Your glorious standard launch again
To match another foe;
And sweep through the deep,
While the stormy winds do blow!
While the battle rages loud and long,
And the stormy winds do blow.

The spirit of your fathers
Shall start from every wave;
For the deck it was their field of fame,
And Ocean was their grave:
Where Blake and mighty Nelson fell
Your manly hearts shall glow,
As ye sweep through the deep,
While the stormy winds do blow!
While the battle rages loud and long,
And the stormy winds do blow.

Britannia needs no bulwarks,
No towers along the steep;
Her march is o'er the mountain-waves,
Her home is on the deep.
With thunders from her native oak
She quells the floods below,
As they roar on the shore,
When the stormy winds do blow!
When the battle rages loud and long,
And the stormy winds do blow.

The meteor flag of England
Shall yet terrific burn;
Till danger's troubled night depart
And the star of peace return.
Then, then, ye ocean warriors!
Our song and feast shall flow
To the fame of your name,
When the storm has ceased to blow!
When the fiery fight is heard no more,
And the storm has ceased to blow.
- _Thomas Campbell._


I must go down to the seas again,
to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and
a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song
and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face
and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again,
for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day
with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume,
and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again,
to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way,
where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from
a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream
when the long trick's over.
- _John Masefield._


O, Falmouth is a fine town with ships in the bay,
And I wish from my heart it's there I was to-day;
I wish from my heart I was far away from here,
Sitting in my parlour and talking to my dear.

For it's home, dearie, home - it's home I want to be,
Our topsails are hoisted, and we'll away to sea;
O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree,
They're all growing green in the old countrie.

In Baltimore a-walking with a lady I did meet
With her babe on her arm, as she came down the street;
And I thought how I sailed, and the cradle standing ready
For the pretty little babe that has never seen its daddy.

And it's home, dearie, home, &c.

O, if it be a lass, she shall wear a golden ring;
And if it be a lad, he shall fight for his king:
With his dirk and his hat and his little jacket blue
He shall walk the quarter-deck as his daddie used to do.

And it's home, dearie, home, &c.

O, there's a wind a-blowing, a-blowing from the west,
And that of all the winds is the one I like the best,
For it blows at our backs, and it shakes our pennon free,
And it soon will blow us home to the old countrie.

For it's home, dearie, home - it's home I want to be,
Our topsails are hoisted, and we'll away to sea;
O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree,
They're all growing green in the old countrie.
- _Old Song._


This famous song was sung in the Navy all through the Sailing Age; and
it is not yet forgotten after a century of Steam and Steel. Gibraltar,
Cadiz, and many other places on the coast of Spain, were great ports of
call for the Navy as well as great ports of trade for the Mercantile
Marine. So, what with music, dance, and song in these homes of the
South, there was no end to the flirtations between the Spanish ladies
and the British tars in the piping times of peace.

Farewell, and adieu to you, gay Spanish ladies,
Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain!
For we've received orders for to sail for old England,
But we hope in a short time to see you again.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British heroes,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the channel of old England;
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

Then we hove our ship to, with the wind at sou'-west, boys,
We hove our ship to, for to strike soundings clear;
We got soundings in ninety-five fathom, and boldly
Up the channel of old England our course we did steer.

The first we made it was calléd the Deadman,
Next, Ramshead off Plymouth, Start, Portland, and Wight;
We passed by Beechy, by Fairleigh, and Dungeness,
And hove our ship to, off the South Foreland light.

Then a signal was made for the grand fleet to anchor,
All in the downs, that night for to sleep;
Then stand by your stoppers, let go your shank-painters,
Haul all your clew-garnets, stick out tacks and sheets.
- _Old Song._









Germany made 1914 a year of blood; but let us remember it as also being
the hundredth year of peace between the British, Americans, and French,
those three great peoples who will, we hope, go on as friends
henceforward, leading the world ever closer to the glorious goal of
true democracy: that happier time when every boy and girl shall have at
least the chance to learn the sacred trust of all self-government, and
when most men and women shall have learnt this lesson well enough to
use their votes for what is really best.




During the hundred and nine years between Trafalgar and the Great War
against the Germans the Royal Navy had no more fights for life or
death. But it never ceased to protect the Empire it had done so much
to make. It took part in many wars; it prevented many others; it
helped to spread law and justice in the world; and, at the end of all
this, it was as ready as ever to meet the foe.

Sometimes it acted alone; but much oftener with the Army in joint
expeditions, as it had for centuries. And here let us remind ourselves
again that the Navy by itself could no more have made the Empire than
the Army could alone. The United Service of both was needed for such
work in the past, just as the United Service of these and of the Royal
Air Force will be needed to defend the Empire in the future. Nor is
this all we must remember; for the fighting Services draw their own
strength from the strength of the whole people. So, whenever we talk
of how this great empire of the free was won and is to be defended, let
us never forget that it needed and it needs the patriotic service of
every man and woman, boy and girl, whether in the fighting Services by
sea and land and air or among those remaining quietly at home. One for
all, and all for one.

The Navy's first work after the peace of 1815 was to destroy the
stronghold of the Dey of Algiers, who was a tyrant, enslaver, and
pirate in one. This released thousands of Christian slaves and broke
up Algerian slavery for ever. A few years later (1827) the French and
British fleets, now happily allied, sank the Turkish fleet at Navarino,
because the Sultan was threatening to kill off the Greeks. Then the
Navy sent the Pasha of Egypt fleeing out of Beirut and Acre in Syria,
closed in on Alexandria, and forced him to stop bullying the people of
the whole Near East.

By this time (1840) steam had begun to be used in British men-of-war.
But the first steamer in the world that ever fired a shot in action,
and the first to cross any ocean under steam the whole way, was built
at Quebec in 1831. This was the famous _Royal William_, which steamed
from Pictou (in Nova Scotia) to London in 1833, and which, on the 5th
of May, 1836, in the Bay of San Sebastian, fired the first shot ever
fired in battle from a warship under steam. She had been sold to the
Spanish Government for use against the Carlists, who were the same sort
of curse to Spain that the Stuarts were to Britain, and was then
leading the British Auxiliary Steam Squadron under Commodore Henry.
(The American _Savannah_ is often said to have crossed the Atlantic
under steam in 1819. But her log (ship's diary) proves that she
steamed only eighty hours during her voyage of a month.)

[Illustration: THE _ROYAL WILLIAM_. Canadian built; the first boat to
cross any ocean steaming the whole way (1833), the first steamer in the
world to fire a shot in action (May 5, 1836).]

In 1854 French and British were again allied, this time against Russia,
which wanted to cut Europe off from Asia by taking Constantinople. The
Allies took Sebastopol in the Crimea because it was the Russian naval
base in the Black Sea. The Czar never thought that "bleeding his big
toe" could beat him. But it did. He had to supply his army by land,
while the Allies supplied theirs by sea; and though theirs fought
thousands of miles from their bases at home, while his fought in Russia
itself, within a few hundred miles of its bases inland, yet their
sea-power wore out his land-power in less than two years.

Russia was at that time a great world-power, stretching without a break
from the Baltic to Alaska, which she owned. What, then, kept Canada
free from the slightest touch of war? The only answer is, the Royal
Navy, that Navy which, supported by the Mother Country alone, enabled
all the oversea Dominions to grow in perfect peace and safety for this
whole hundred years of British wars. Moreover, Canada was then, and
long remained, one of the greatest shipping countries in the world,
dependent on her own and the Mother Country's shipping for her very
life. What made her shipping safe on every sea? The Royal Navy. But,
more than even this, the Mother Country spent twenty-five hundred
millions of her own money on keeping Canada Canadian and British by
land and sea. And here, again, nothing could have been done without
the Navy.

The Navy enabled the Mother Country to put down the Indian Mutiny, a
mutiny which, if it had succeeded, would have thrown India back a
thousand years, into the welter of her age-long wars; and these wars
themselves would soon have snuffed out all the "Pacifist" Indian
Nationalists who bite the British hand that feeds them, though they
want Britain to do all the paying and fighting of Indian defence. The
Navy enabled the Mother Country to save Egypt from ruin at home, from
the ruthless sword of the Mahdi in the Soudan, and from conquest by the
Germans or the Turks. The Navy also enabled the Mother Country to
change a dozen savage lands into places where people could rise above
the level of their former savage lives.

All this meant war. But if these countries had not been brought into
the British Empire they could only have had the choice of two
evils - either to have remained lands of blood and savagery or to have
been bullied by the Germans. And if the British do not make friends of
those they conquer, how is it that so many Natives fought for them
without being in any way forced to do so, and how is it that the same
Boer commander-in-chief who fought against the British in the Boer War
led a Boer army on the British side against the Germans? The fact is
that all the white man's countries of the British Empire overseas are
perfectly free commonwealths in which not only those of British blood
but those of foreign origin, like Boers and French-Canadians, can live
their lives in their own way, without the Mother Country's having the
slightest wish or power to force them to give a ship, a dollar, or a
man to defend the Empire without which they could not live a day. She
protects them for nothing. They join her or not, just as they please.
And when they do join her, her Navy is always ready to take their
soldiers safe across the sea. No League of Nations could ever better

Nor is this the only kind of freedom that flourishes under the White
Ensign of the Navy. The oversea Dominions, which govern themselves,
make what laws they please about their trade, even to charging duty on
goods imported from the Mother Country. But the parts of the Empire
which the Mother Country has to rule, (because their people, not being
whites, have not yet learnt to rule themselves), also enjoy a wonderful
amount of freedom in trade. And foreigners enjoy it too; for they are
allowed to trade with the Natives as freely as the British are
themselves. Nor is this all. During the hundred and nine years
between Trafalgar and the Great War most of the oversea colonies of
Holland, Spain, and Portugal could have easily been taken by British
joint expeditions. But not one of them was touched.

There never was the slightest doubt that the Navy's long arm could
reach all round the Seven Seas. When the Emperor of Abyssinia
imprisoned British subjects wrongly and would not let them go, the Navy
soon took an army to the east coast of Africa and kept it supplied till
it had marched inland, over the mountains, and brought the prisoners
back. When the Chinese Mandarins treated a signed agreement like a
"scrap of paper" (as the Germans treated the neutrality of Belgium)
they presently found a hundred and seventy-three British vessels coming
to know the reason why, though the Chinese coast was sixteen thousand
miles from England. No, there is no question about the Navy's strong
right arm. But it has no thievish fingers.

The Empire has grown by trade rather than by conquest. There have been
conquests, plenty of them. But they have been brought on either by the
fact that other Powers have tried to shut us out of whole continents,
as the Spaniards tried in North and South America, or by fair war, as
with the French, or by barbarians and savages who would not treat
properly the British merchants with whom they had been very glad to
trade. Of course there have been mistakes, and British wrongs as well
as British rights. But ask the conquered how they could live their own
lives so much in their own way under a flag of their own and without
the safeguard of the Royal Navy.

These things being so, the Empire, which is itself the first real
League of Nations the world has ever seen, would be wrong to give up
any of the countries it holds in trust for their inhabitants; and its
enormous size is more a blessing than a curse. The size itself is more
than we can quite take in till we measure it by something else we know
as being very large indeed. India, for instance, has three times as
many people as there are in the whole of the United States; though
India is only one of the many countries under the British Crown. So
much for population. Now for area. The area added to the British
Empire in the last fifty years is larger than that of the whole United
States. Yet we don't hear much about it. That is not the British way.
The Navy is "The Silent Service."






We have not been through the Sailing Age without learning something
about the "Handy Man" of the Royal Navy, whether he is a ship's boy or
a veteran boatswain (bo's'n), a cadet or a commander-in-chief, a
blue-jacket or a Royal Marine ("soldier and sailor too"). But we must
not enter the Age of Steam and Steel without taking another look at
him, if only to see what a great part he plays in our lives and
liberties by keeping the seaways open to friends and closed to enemies.
Without the Handy Man of the Royal Navy the Merchant Service could not
live a day, the Canadian Army could not have joined the other British
armies at the front, and the Empire itself would be all parts and no
whole, because divided, not united, by the Seven Seas. United we
stand: divided we fall.

The sea is three times bigger than the land, but three hundred times
less known. Yet even our everyday language is full of sea terms;
because so much of it, like so much of our blood, comes from the Hardy
Norsemen, and because so much of the very life of all the
English-speaking peoples depends upon the handy man at sea. Peoples
who have Norse blood, like French and Germans, but who have never lived
by sea-power, and peoples who, like the Russians and Chinese, have
neither sea-power nor a sea-folk's blood, never use sea terms in their
ordinary talk. They may dress up a landsman and put him on the stage
to talk the same sort of twaddle that our own stage sailors talk - all
about "shiver my timbers," "hitching his breeches," and "belaying the
slack of your jaw." But they do not talk the real sea sense we have
learnt from the handy man of whose strange life we know so little.

When we say "that slacker's not pulling his weight" we use a term that
has come down from the old Rowing Age, when a man who was not helping
the boat along more with his oar than he was keeping her back with his
weight really was the worst kind of "slacker." But most of the sea
terms we use in our land talk come from the Sailing Age of Drake and
Nelson. To be "A1" is to be like the best class of merchant ships that
are rated A1 for insurance. "First-rate," on the other hand, comes
from the Navy, and means ships of the largest size and strongest build,
like the super-dreadnoughts of to-day. If you make a mess of things
people say you are "on the wrong tack," may "get taken aback," and find
yourself "on your beam ends" or, worse still, "on the rocks." So you
had better remember that "if you won't be ruled by the rudder you are
sure to be ruled by the rock." If you do not "know the ropes" you will
not "keep on an even keel" when it's "blowing great guns." If you take
to drink you will soon "have three sheets in the wind," because you
will not have the sense to "steer a straight course," but, getting
"half seas over," perhaps "go by the board" or be "thrown overboard" by
friends who might have "brought you up with a round turn" before it was
too late. Remember three other bits of handy man's advice: "you'd
better not sail so close to the wind" (do not go so near to doing
something wrong), "don't speak to the man at the wheel" (because the
ship may get off her course while you are bothering him), and, when a
storm is brewing, mind you "shorten sail" and "take in a reef," instead
of being such a fool as to "carry on till all is blue." When you are
in for a fight then "clear the decks for action," by putting aside
everything that might get in your way. The list could be made very
much longer if we took the whole subject "by and large" and "trimmed
our sails to every breeze" when we were "all aboard." But here we must
"stow it," "make everything ship-shape," trust to the "sheet-anchor,"
and, leaving the age of mast and sail, go "full steam ahead" into our

"Full steam ahead" might well have been the motto of Nelson's
flag-captain, Hardy, when he was First Sea Lord of the Admiralty;
because, twenty years before the first steam armoured ship was
launched, he wrote this opinion: "Science will alter the whole Navy.
Depend on it, steam and gunnery are in their infancy." There were just
a hundred years between Trafalgar and laying the keel of the first
modern _Dreadnought_ in 1905. But Hardy foresaw the sort of change

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Online LibraryWilliam Charles Henry WoodFlag and Fleet → online text (page 12 of 19)