William Charles Henry Wood.

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be made by men whom Shakespeare calls the "putters-out of five for
one." As we say now, the chances were five to one against the Sea-Dog
ship that went to foreign parts in time of war. But, when the odds
reached four to one against the German subs, the German crews began to
mutiny, refusing to go aboard of what they saw were fast becoming just
new steel coffins of the sea. A Belgian maid, compelled to slave for
officers of German submarines at Zeebrugge, kept count of those who
returned alive. The same number, twenty, always boarded in the house.
But, before the British came and drove the Germans out, no less than
sixteen of her twenty masters had stepped into dead men's shoes.

Finally, in the early morning of November the 3rd, when, in wild
despair, the Kaiser ordered the whole Fleet out for one last fight, the
men of aircraft, surface craft, and submarines alike refused point
blank to go; and the German Revolution then and there began. It was
the German Navy that rose first, brought to its senses by the might of
British sea-power. The Army followed. Then the people.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (the
11th of November, 1918) the _Cease fire!_ sounded on every front by sea
and land and air; for that supremely skilful hero, Marshal Foch, had
signed the Armistice as Commander-in-Chief of all the Allied Armies on
the Western Front. One of the terms of this famous Armistice was that
Germany should surrender her Fleet to the Allies in the Firth of Forth,
where the British Grand Fleet was waiting with a few French and
American men-of-war. Never in the whole world's history had such a
surrender taken place. But never in the whole world's history had any
navy broken the laws of war so shamefully as the German Navy had. And
never in the whole world's history had any navy been more truly great
or so gloriously strong as the British Navy had become.

On Friday the 15th of November the German cruiser _Königsberg_ steamed
into the Firth of Forth and anchored near Inchcape, which, aptly
enough, is famous in Scottish song as the death-place of a murderer and
pirate. "Beatty's destroyer," H.M.S. _Oak_, unlike all other craft in
her gala coat of gleaming white, then took Admiral von Meurer aboard
the British flagship, _Queen Elizabeth_, where Beatty sat waiting, with
the model of a British lion on the table in front of him (as a souvenir
of his former flagship, _Lion_) and a portrait of Nelson hanging on the
wall behind.

The hundred and fifty surrendered submarines went slinking into
Harwich, the great British North Sea base for submarines. But the
seventy-four surface craft came into the Firth of Forth on the 21st of
November: sixteen dreadnoughts, eight light cruisers, and fifty

"09.40 Battle Fleet meet German Fleet" was the unique order posted up
overnight in the _Queen Elizabeth_. But long before that hour the
stately procession began filing out to sea. H.M. SS. _Canada_,
_Australia_, _New Zealand_, and _South Africa_, were there to remind us
that "United we stand, divided we fall." Admiral Grasset was there in
the _Aube_ to remind us that the French and British had been
brothers-in-arms for fifty-one months of furious war. Admirals Rodman
and Sims were there in the U.S.S. _New York_ to remind us that during
the last nineteen of these fifty-one months the three greatest
self-governing peoples of the world had made common cause against the
barbarous Hun. Finally, and clinchingly, the main body of the whole
Grand Fleet was there, drawn up in two enormous lines-ahead, six miles
apart, and sixteen miles from front to rear, with eighteen flagships
leading its different squadrons, and scores of destroyers ahead,
astern, and on the flanks, not one of which was counted in the
thirty-two long miles of lines-ahead.

Before it had gone eight bells at four o'clock that morning, the
_Revenge_, flagship of Sir Charles Madden, Second-in-Command of the
Grand Fleet, led the way out to the appointed rendezvous: "X position,
latitude 56, 11 North, longitude 1, 20 West." The present _Revenge_, a
magnificent super-dreadnought, is the ninth of her name in the Navy;
and, besides her name, has three curious links to recall the gallant
days of Drake. In her cabin is a copy of the griffin which, being
Grenville's crest, the first _Revenge_ so proudly bore in the immortal
fight of "The One and the Fifty-Three." Then, had the German Fleet
come out again, Madden and this ninth _Revenge_ would have taken
exactly the same place in action as Drake and the First _Revenge_ took
just three hundred and thirty years before against the Great Armada.
Thirdly (but this, alas, was too good to come true!) Sir Charles told
his Canadian guest one day in Scapa Flow that he and Sir David Beatty
had agreed to be caught playing a little game of bowls on the Grand
Fleet clubhouse green the next time the German Fleet appeared. "And,"
he added, "we'll finish the game first, and the Germans after" - just
what Drake had said about the Spaniards.

Nearing the rendezvous at nine the bugles sounded _Action Stations!_
for though the German ships were to come unarmed and only manned by
navigating crews it was rightly thought wiser not to trust them. You
never catch the Navy napping. So, when the two fleets met, every
British gun was manned, all ready to blow the Germans out of the water
at the very first sign of treachery. Led captive by British cruisers,
and watched by a hundred and fifty fast destroyers, as well as by a
huge airship overhead, the vanquished Germans steamed in between the
two victorious lines, which then reversed by squadrons, perfect as a
piece of clockwork, and headed for the Firth of Forth. Thus the vast
procession moved on, now in three lines-ahead, but filling the same
area as before: a hundred square miles of sea. In all, there were over
three hundred men-of-war belonging to the four greatest navies the
world has ever known.

At eight bells that afternoon all hands were piped aft by the
boatswains' whistles, the bugles rang out the _Sunset_ call, and down
came every German flag, never again to be flown aboard those vessels of
the High Sea Fleet. For Germany _Der Tag_ had gone. For the British
_The Day_ had come; and they hailed it with a roar of British-Lion

Most regrettably, the Allies, headed by President Wilson, decided that
the German men-of-war should be interned, not surrendered, when sent to
Scapa Flow. If these ships, after being surrendered to the Allies, had
been put in charge of the British, or any other navy, as "surrenders,"
guards would have been put on board of them and all would have been
well. But interned ships are left to their own crews, no foreign
guards whatever being allowed to live on board. The result of this
mistake, deliberately made against the advice of the British, was that,
on the 21st of June, the Germans, with their usual treachery, opened
the sea-cocks and sank the ships they had surrendered and the Allies
had interned.

A week later, on the 28th of June, 1919, in the renowned historic
palace of Versailles, the Allies and Germany signed the Treaty of Peace
by which they ended the Great War exactly five years after the
assassination of Franz Ferdinand had given the Austro-German empires
the excuse they wanted to begin it.


Thomson's famous verses and Arne's famous air (in which Wagner said he
could see the whole character of the English people) were sung for the
first time during the Royal fête held at Clieveden, a celebrated
country residence beside "the silver Thames." This was on the 1st of
August, 1740. The 1st of August was the day on which Nelson won his
first great victory just fifty-eight years later; and Clieveden is
where the Duchess of Connaught's Canadian Hospital was established
during the Great War.

When Britain first, at Heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sung this strain:
"Rule, Britannia! Britannia rule the waves!
Britons never will be slaves."

The nations not so bless'd as thee
Must in their turn to tyrants fall;
While thou shall flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.
"Rule, Britannia, &c."

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies
Serves but to root thy native oak.
"Rule, Britannia, &c."

Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame;
All their attempts to bend thee down
Will but arouse thy generous flame,
And work their woe and thy renown.
"Rule, Britannia, &c."

To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine;
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles thine.
"Rule, Britannia, &c."

The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coast repair;
Bless'd isle! with matchless beauty crown'd,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.
"Rule, Britannia! Britannia rule the waves!
Britons never shall be slaves!"
- _James Thomson._


The words we now sing with such hearty British loyalty all round the
Seven Seas originated in the parole and countersign on board the famous
Portsmouth Fleet of 1545, when the parole was _God save the King!_ and
the answering countersign was _Long to reign over us!_ The National
Anthems of all the other Empires, Kingdoms, and Republics in the world
come from their armies and the land. Our own comes from the Royal Navy
and the Sea.

God save our gracious King,
Long live our noble King,
God save the King.
Send him victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the King.

O Lord our God, arise,
Scatter his enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On him be pleased to pour;
Long may he reign.
May he defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the King.



The day the Armistice was signed (the 11th of November, 1918) King George
sent this Royal Message to the Navy:

Now that the last and most formidable of our enemies has acknowledged the
triumph of the Allied arms on behalf of right and justice, I wish to
express my praise and thankfulness to the officers, men, and women of the
Royal Navy and Marines, with their comrades of the Fleet Auxiliaries and
the Mercantile Marine, who, for more than four years have kept open the
seas, protected our shores, and given us safety. Ever since that fateful
Fourth of August, 1914, I have remained steadfast in my confidence that,
whether fortune frowned or smiled, the Royal Navy would once more prove
the sure shield of the British Empire in the hour of trial. Never in its
history has the Royal Navy, with God's help, done greater things for us
or better sustained its old glories and the chivalry of the sea. With
full and grateful hearts the peoples of the British Empire salute the
White, the Red, and the Blue Ensigns, and those who have given their
lives for the Flag. I am proud to have served in the Navy. I am prouder
still to be its Head upon this memorable Day.


[Illustration: H.M. KING GEORGE V.]

(The "women" to whom the King referred were the famous "Wrens," so called
because the initials of the Women's Royal Naval Service - W.R.N.S. - can
easily be turned into "Wrens." Everything that women could do they did;
and did it well.)

(The White Ensign is the flag of the Navy: white, divided into four by
the red St. George's Cross, and with the Union Jack in the upper inside
quarter. The Red Ensign is for the Mercantile Marine. The Blue Ensign
is for any Government service except the Navy. The Red and Blue Ensigns
have the Union Jack in their upper inside quarters, but no St. George's

The Mercantile Marine lost nearly fifteen thousand men killed; we ought
to say murdered; for while a blockader can take ships and cargoes that
try to run contraband (that is, whatever the blockader can rightfully
proclaim to be forbidden) he must not kill the crews. The British
merchant seamen fought; and the Germans said that was why they had to
kill them. But it was the Germans who forced them to fight in
self-defence. And that makes all the difference. When our enemies,
Germans or others, can prove one case of such murder against the British
Navy we shall punish the murderer ourselves. But they have not found
that one case yet, while we have found close on fifteen thousand, not
counting soldiers, passengers, women, or children. The Germans aimed at
scaring off the sea those merchant seamen whom they could not kill,
disable, or make prisoners. But not a man refused to go to sea again,
even when his last ship had been torpedoed and his chums been killed.
That is the first glory of the Mercantile Marine. But there are many
more. And not the least is the pluck with which the British, who did
most and lost most, started the race for oversea trade again, though at
an enormous disadvantage compared with those who did least and gained

All kinds of British sea-power did magnificent work in the war, whether
building ships, sailing them with passengers and cargoes, or fighting
them. The Navy and Mercantile Marine gained eleven million tons during
the war, exactly half each. But as the Mercantile Marine lost nine
millions sunk, it ended three-and-a-half to the bad, a terrible handicap
in the race with the shipping of countries which, like the United States
have made stupendous fortunes by the war, besides gaining enormously in
shipping and oversea trade. Norway, Japan, and the States gained most.
The States came out of the war three and three-quarter million tons to
the good, thus gaining over seven millions as compared with the British.

The case of the Navy was one of life or death for us and all our Allies;
so the merchant fleet, fishing fleet, and shipbuilding yards had to let
the Navy come first, no matter what the cost might be. But we must never
forget that the Navy is only one-half of our British sea-power, that the
Mercantile Marine is the other half, and that all kinds of British
sea-power must work together or be lost. So we cannot separate one kind
from another here; and we would not if we could.

Nor should we forget that British sea-power was itself only one of the
many kinds of war-power put forth by Britain in the cause of freedom.
Britain raised by far the largest force of volunteers ever raised by any
country in any age or for any war - five million and forty-one thousand
men for the Army alone. This takes no account of conscripts, or of
naval, air force, or civilian Services; nor does it include one man
belonging to any part of the British Empire overseas.

Then she forced into the ranks those that could but would not go as long
as they got others to do their fighting for them. In the meantime her
whole population, except those slackers every country had, had put its
strenuous hand to war work of one kind or another. So, whether by sea or
land or air, whether as warriors or as civilians, the people of Great
Britain gave their united all to the noblest cause on earth. And, when
the war ended, Great Britain had the biggest army as well as the biggest
navy in the world - biggest not only in absolute numbers but also biggest
in proportion to the whole number of men fit to bear arms. Nor was this
in any way due to her having lost less than others; for she had the
greatest total loss in killed and wounded of all the Allies - greatest on
land, greatest by sea, and greatest in the air.

Besides all we have seen before, in following the more purely naval
fortunes of the war, the Navy did priceless work in October 1914, when
the huge German armies, beaten by the heroic French at the immortal
Battle of the Marne, tried to take the North-East coast of France with
the ports of Dunkirk, Calais, and Boulogne. Held by Joffre further
south, they found more than their match in the north, when French's
little British army fought them to a standstill, while the Navy simply
burnt them away from the coast by a perfect hurricane of fire.

Better still was the way the Navy finished off the submarine blockade.
Of the 203 enemy submarines destroyed 151 were finished by the British
Navy. The French, Americans, and Italians killed off the rest. All the
150 submarines surrendered came slinking into Harwich, the great British
base for submarines. All the 170 submarines the Germans were building
when the war was stopped were given up to the Allied Naval Commission
headed by a British admiral and backed by a British fleet.

But even more wonderful than this was the oversea transport done by all
kinds of British sea-power working together as one United Service. The
British carried nearly half of all the imports into Italy and France.
They repaired more than a thousand ships a month. They ferried nearly
two-thirds of all the Americans that crossed the Atlantic. They took to
the many different fronts more than half a million vehicles, from
one-horse carts to the biggest locomotives; more than two million
animals - horses, mules, and camels; and more than twenty-two millions of
men. Add to this well over a couple of hundred million tons of oil,
coal, and warlike stores; remember that this is by no means the whole
story, and that it takes no account of the regular trade; and you may
begin to understand what British sea-power meant in this war. In the
mere transportation of armies alone it meant the same thing as taking the
entire population of Canada, three times over, with all its baggage three
times over, and with its very houses three times over, across thousands
of miles of dangerous waters in the midst of the worst war ever known.
And yet, out of the more than twenty-two millions of men, less than five
thousand were killed on the way; and many of these were murdered in
hospital ships marked with the sacred Red Cross. The chances of safety
from murder and fair risks of war put together were nearly five thousand
to one. The chances of safety from fair risks of war by themselves were
nearly ten thousand to one.

No war, no navy, no sea-power since the world began, has any record to
compare with this.

"Let us be backed with God and with the seas,
Which He hath given for fence impregnable,
And with their helps, only, defend ourselves:
In them, and in ourselves, our safety lies."
- _Shakespeare._
_King Henry VI, Part III, Act IV, Scene I._



Landsmen are many while seamen are few. So the world thinks more of
armies than of fleets. Our enemies hate all British sea-power, while
our friends never know the half of what it means. So friend and foe
alike are apt to side against us by making the laws against blockading
fleets very much harder than those against besieging armies.

All we can do is to stand firmly on our perfect rights and show the
world the five good reasons why: -

1. The sea and land have equal rights. Blockading fleets are like
besieging armies. So if besieging armies have the right to stop
supplies from reaching the places they besiege, why should blockading
fleets be told to let supplies go through?

2. All parts of our great Empire are joined together, not by land, but
sea. So if we lose our rights of self-defence at sea we lose the very
breath of life.

3. We claim no rights we will not share with others. When the American
blockade of the South during the Civil War (1861-5) ruined the British
cotton trade we never interfered, though we had by far the stronger

4. We have never used the British Navy to bully weak nations out of
their oversea possessions. Who could have stopped our taking the
Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese possessions in Africa and Asia?

5. British sea-power has always been on the side of freedom; and every
time a tyrant has tried to fight his way to world-dominion the Royal
Navy has been the backbone of all the forces that have laid him low.


I never saw the cliffs of snow,
The Channel billows tipped with cream,
The restless, eddying tides that flow
About the Island of my dream.
I never saw the English downs
Upon an April day,
The quiet, old Cathedral towns,
The hedgerows white with may.

And still the name of England,
Which tyrants laugh to scorn,
Can thrill my soul. It is to me
A very bugle-horn.

A thousand leagues from Plymouth shore,
In broader lands I saw the light.
I never heard the cannon roar,
Or saw a mark of England's might;
Save that my people lived in peace,
Bronzed in the harvest sun,
And thought that tyranny would cease,
That battle-days were done.

And still the flag of England
Streamed on a friendly breeze,
And twice two hundred ships of war
Went surging through the seas.

I heard Polonius declaim
About the new, the golden age,
When Force would be the mark of shame,
And men would curb their murderous rage.
"Beat out your swords to pruning-hooks,"
He shouted to the folk,
But I - I read my history books,
And marvelled as he spoke.

For it was glorious England,
The mother of the Free,
Who loosed that foolish tongue, but sent
Her Admirals to sea.

And liberty and love were ours,
Home, and a brood of lusty sons,
The long, North sunlight and the flow'rs,
How could we think about the guns,
The searchlights on a wintry cloud,
The seamen stern and bold,
Since we were hurrying with the crowd
To rake the hills for gold?

But it was glorious England
Who scanned the threatening morn.
To me the very name of her
Is like a bugle-horn.

- _J. E. Middleton._

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