The Great War Part 108, September 9th 1916

War IVork o f the Mercantile Marine 197 The officer in charge of that perilous disastrous and yet glorious expedition was Captain Edward Unwin, who went straight into the Navy from the merchant service as a supplementary lieutenant in 1895 and of the six Victoria Crosses awarded in connection with that stupendous exploit one went to him another to Midshipman L.G. Drew ry of the merchant service, and a third to Seaman George Samson of the Royal Naval Reserve. No other incident of the war brought out so fully the magnificent fighting stuff of which our merchant seamen are made. Outside the actual fighting-line, the merchant service performed innumerable services without which the Fleet could not have existed. The Navy like the rest of us is dependent for its daily bread upon supplies brought into the country from oversea and of the dangers which our merchant ships cheer­fully and successfully faced in maintaining those supplies more will be said anon. A t the end of the second year of war well over a hundred cargo-boats had been put into commission as “Mercantile ”Fleet Auxiliaries charged with the duty of keeping the Fleet supplied from day today with everything it could possibly require. Petroleum for our oil-fired ships had to be brought from the termini of pipe-lines in Persia and Mexico. Coal had to be ferried round from the Welsh ports to the Fleet bases away in the north. Ammunition ranging from the 3-pounder of the semi­automatic gun to the 1950 lb. shell of the 15 in. had to be delivered with such regularity that no ship within twelve hours of the end of its latest fight had a depleted magazine. For all these things and many others the merchant service was solely responsible. After the great and exhausting action off Jutland Sir John Jellicoe reported that “at 9.30 p.m. on June 2nd ”the Grand Fleet was fuelled and replenished with ammunition and “ready for further action.” It is well that we should realise that this remark- a b 1 e performance accomplished within thirty-one hours of the Fleets departure from the scene of its victory off the coast of Denmark was rendered possible only b they regular and efficient services of the mercantile fleet auxiliaries which are manned almost exclusively b y officers and men of the Naval Reserve. In spite of the thousands of voyages which these vessels made only one was lost in the first two years of the war the Fauvette 2,644 tons which was mined in the North Sea on March 13th 1916, with a loss of two officers and twelve men. T o maintain the commercial blockade we relied almost entirely, as well for men as for ships upon the mercantile marine. When R ear-A d mira l Sir Dudley ChaireD took the blockade squadron to sea from Queenstown in August 1914 it consisted almost entirely of ancient cruisers manned for the most part b y immature ratings under training. It was a false move sacrificing efficiency to expediency and it was not long before the Admiralty effected a thorough modification of their arrangements. In December 1914 the admiral commanding the blockade CAPTAIN SCOTLAND O F THE CLAN LIND S A Y.Early in 1916 the Clan Lindsay was attacked in the Bay of Biscay b y a German submarine. Captain Scotland replied to the fire so hotly that the pirate disappeared. THE BRITISH W AR-FLAG WHICH NO STRANGER SHIP DARED TO IGNORE. All round the British coasts all ships were challenged by destroyers belonging to the Examination Service. These flew a distinguishing flag, white and red horizontal surrounded by a blue border and a blue ensign also three red vertical balls (lights at night) if the port were closed.
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