The Great War Part 108, September 9th 1916

198 The Great War squadron transferred his flag from the twenty-two-year-old cruiser Crescent to the Allan liner Alsatian and within avery short time the whole network of warships patrolling the area between Kirkw all Iceland and Norway was com­posed of converted merchantmen. Speaking once to an interviewer regarding the nature of his work Admiral ChaireD said :“Although there is an adequate sprinkling of Royal Navy men in command, b y far the majority of blockade officers are drawn from the Royal Naval Reserve. These men many of whom have had splendid careers in the British mercantile marine, are peculiarly fitted for blockade work. They are accustomed to manifests and ships papers they know how to make a quick comprehensive and judicial in­spection of cargoes.” The admiral might have added that it really takes a merchant service officer to see through such tricks as Germany and What the her friends devised in order to smuggle merchantman saw past the blockade the goods of which the enemy stood inmost need. It is no disparagement to the British naval officer to say that he would have been wholly taken bin y many of the devices which the mercantile man detected with very little trouble thanks to his deeper knowledge of merchant-ship construction. To give but one instance of this: A ship was stopped done a yon her way from America laden to all superficial appearance with cotton (this b they way was in those times of folly when the Government declined to class cotton as contraband, and so permitted the enemy to receive vast quantities of material necessary for the manufacture of explosives). The ships manifest said she carried cotton. A few bales were hauled out of the hold opened and found to contain nothing but cotton. The boarding-party was about to leave satisfied when a Naval Reserve man suggested to the officer in charge that for a ship loaded with nothing but cotton which is very light in comparison with the space it occupies she was lying strangely low in the water. The naval officer took a glance at the ships side and his suspicions were aroused. He ordered the stranger to make another dip among his cotton bale sand when one was brought up from the lower layers it was found to contain practically nothing but copper. There were in fact several hundred tons of the metal on board and it would all have got through to Germany if that Naval Reserve man had not brought to bear his special knowledge of the character­istics of merchant ships. It is a remarkable testimony to the efficiency of the blockade and of the merchant service officers and men who were mainly responsible for its maintenance that in two years of fighting only one enemy ship submarines apart managed to get out of the North Sea. The Mowe, blatantly disguised as a neutral trader managed to sneak out into the Atlantic in the midwinter of 1915-16 when the hours of darkness in the northern latitudes where the patrol worked are abnormally long and fogs are frequent. The only other known attempt was that of the Greif a similar vessel to the Mowe Only three blockade which was rounded up and sunk on breakers February 29th 1916 b they converted Royal Mail liner Alcantara which in turn succumbed to a torpedo fired just as the German was about togo under. To be strictly accurate we probably ought to include among the enemy vessels that slipped past the blockade the “Nor­wegian ”ship Aude which convoyed the submarine in which Roger Casement travelled from Germany to the coast of Tralee but as the Aude was quietly shepherded b they British Fleet for the whole of her journey and, when her object was partly accomplished was duly taken in charge b they armed sloop Bluebell she is hardly to be reckoned as a blockade-breaker. In no department of our glorious .naval service has the merchant searoan shone more conspicuously than in the manning of those almost innumerable groups of steam trawlers and drifters upon which the Navy largely depended
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