Provenance and Methodology, George H. J. Hanks Diary
This document is the memoir of my Grandfather, George H. J. Hanks, who was a Sick Bay Attendant (S. B. A.) on board the H.M.S. Carnarvon during the First World War. He wrote this memoir in Montreal in 1915 while the Carnarvon was undergoing major repairs after having hit an uncharted reef off the coast of Brazil. The memoir is just over 6300 words long, filling a 40 page school exercise book. The manuscript remained in family possession until 2003, when it was donated to the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, McMaster University Library.
Based on the high level of factual accuracy (dates, locations, ships encountered), it seems clear that Grandfather took notes of some kind during the Carnarvon's voyage. When I asked my Father, Dr. George Edward Hanks, about the unusual level of detail, he told me that Grandfather had a friend on the bridge, which seems probable because page 40 of the memoir contains an extract from the ship's log for the Battle of the Falklands Island. Apparently, keeping a diary was against regulations, so it seems likely that Grandfather took advantage of the extended shore leave in Montreal to write up a full account of his notes and memories.
In order to preserve the spirit and structure of the original memoir, I have decided to maintain its original spelling, sentence structure and pagination. Where possible, I have tried to corroborate or to explain certain points in greater depth with explanatory footnotes. In this spirit, I have also appended several supplementary documents, including profiles of the opposing fleets, maps, and the most illuminating excerpts from the Carnarvon's Night Order Book.
Robert K. Hanks, Ph. D.
(Diary)By George H. J. Hanks, S. B. A. (Sick Berth Attendant)
(N. B. Words in brackets are probable words associated with tears or illegibility of the original handwritten diary; editorial footnotes in the original translation are in italics).
The following will give a slight idea of how we spent our time during the War of 1914 - on board H.M.S. Carnarvon. flagship of Rear-Admiral Stoddart.
On the morning of July 29th everything was as calm & peaceful as any other day. @ 4 p.m. leave was given as usual & nobody thought or even dreamt that in a few hours every person in the services would have to mobilise. Eight p.m. arrives & everything is changed, great excitement prevails, perhaps for war has come through. Patrols are sent ashore & everyone who is seen has [to] return to his ship at once.
What a splendid answer there was to this call nearly everyone returns, the only absent ones being those that lived in the outlying districts, & therefore knew nothing about it. On the 31stJuly, we took in 60 days stores of all sorts. In the evening leave was given, but to natives of Plymouth & Devonport only. A good few of [those] who were on board had to go ashore & fetch the natives off. The Carnarvon being a Devonport manned ship it made it a big task, but so splendidly & orderly was the response that only 6 men were away when 5 a.m. arrived on 31st July. At 7 a.m. on July 31st, we leave Devonport & proceed to Plymouth & drop anchor in the Sound - the picket boat comes alongside at 7.45 with 4 of the remaining 6 absentees.
Up anchor & away we go to protect our commerce & when needs be to destroy that of our enemy. At 9. a.m. we go to General Quarters, that is every man to his action station, later we come across a German cruiser called the "Strass[burg]" making for Germany at full speed. We pass v[ery] close to her & observe that she is prepared for action. She does not salute us, which is of course a direct insult, her excuse being that her guns are choked - no doubt meaning that they were loaded for action. Perhaps we may have a chance to return this insult with interest one day by shooting her flag down. She disappears & we get on to the trade-route as we have orders to protect several of our liners that are on their way from Cape-Town & South America. By Monday afternoon we had passed & reported the state of affairs to all the liners. About 3 p.m. we are off the south coast of Spain & on our way to the famous rock of Gibralta [sic]. At 6:30 we tie up alongside the coaling jetty. This is August bank-holiday, supper was first partaken of, then coaling operations were commenced & continued throughout the night until 5 A.M. during which time 750 tons had been taken inboard.
The cruiser 'Cumberland' then arrives & commences to coal at @ 6.30 a.m. We are underway again in a south-westerly direction, waiting for the 'Cumberland', & we begin to carry out our allotted task together. The climate was beginning to get warm so white trousers was the rig of the day. (The Carnarvon's Night Order Book [NOB] stipulated white uniforms for all on 6 August 1914. HMS Carnarvon Fonds, William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, McMaster University Library [CF]). On 5th, August at dinner-time the Captain informs us that a state of war exists between Germany & Great Britain from 11 p.m. Aug. 4th, 1914. The ship was now partially cleared for action in anticipation of a scrap with a prowling German Ship. This evening we have some mild excitement for we are in the vicinity of the "Salvage Islands" off the west coast of Africa, & it was suspected that 2 German Cruisers were hiding in these islands & it was piped that the ships would go into action in the morning. Naturally everyone was delighted @ the chance of having some sport so soon.
The next morning @ 4 a.m. everyone was aroused & after having cocoa & attiring in the authorized rig i.e. clean flannels, white trousers & black silk. - decks flooded (It was standard pre-battle procedure to flood with several inches of water as a precaution against fire. Midshipman, "The Battle of the Falkland Islands" Cornhill Magazine, vol. 38, n.s., p. 542). - General Quarters were sounded. It is now day break & every man is at his station ready to do or die for England - "what an enviable opportunity"
- All prepared we steam around the islands in a small bay, the boats are manned & with a couple of armed Officers proceed to the shore & endeavor to obtain information off a few natives "whose habitation appears to he anyone looking from the ship to be crude huts" of the the [sic] movements of any German ships - meanwhile a couple of Guns are trained on the place of disembarking should anything unforeseen occur; the boats return to the ship & no information having been obtained - anchor is weighed & we proceed to St. Vincent, leaving the 'Cumberland' to patrol the islands. After steaming a distance of about 900 miles south of the Canary Islands - St. Vincent is reached. Aug. 12th, preparations are made for coaling & during the whole of the time we are at anchor, the waters around the ship are infested with small boats the occupants of which are dark brown men & boys who sell fruit & cocoa-nuts & cadge (Oxford English Dictionary. Cadge, v.i. go about begging). It is here that coins are thrown into the water, with hopes of them being fished up by these natives, who will deserve retaining them after diving so far they catch them before they reached [the] bed of the ocean. Our dress hem was all whites & it was jolly hot @ times. At 6 p.m. we commenced to take in 1,300 tons of coal. We were helped by natives but owing to lack of appliances we were 24 hours coaling.
Thursday 13th Aug. the ill fated - as events subsequently proved "Monmouth" arrived to coal, (The HM,S. Monmouth was one of the British ships sunk by Admiral von Spee's. squadron at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914.) also to transfer 13 cadets to us. Several German merchant [ships] are in here but as long as they paid the necessary harbour dues, they are immune from interference from warships of the belligerents. We leave St. Vincent & occasionally pass a British ship - exchange signals & tell the Captains to avoid the usual trade routes. several ships were not aware of the declaration of war, owing to them not having wireless installations.
Whilst @ sea we received from the Admiralty the declaration of war between England & Austria.
Monday 17', Aug. we return to St. Vincent & whilst there receive a wireless call for help from the "Galicia", she was being attacked by the German cruiser "Kaiser Wilhelm de Grosse" so we proceeded to sea in search of her, but although we searched until the 20th inst. there was no joy. (On August 19' the Camarvon's NOB advised the Night Watch that the Kaiser Wilhelm had four funnels. CF. The Kaiser Wilhelm was a famous German passenger liner. In 1897 it won the Blue Riband for crossing a record crossing of the Atlantic. In 1914, it was outfitted as an armed liner by the German government and sent to patrol the Canary Islands, where it sunk two small ships and a trawler totalling 10,000 tons. On August 26, it was attacked in neutral Spanish waters by the HMS Highflyer and was so badly damaged that it was scuttled by its crew. David Ramsay, Lusitania. Saga and Myth (New York; W.W. Norton, 2002), p. 35). We met a British Armed Liner who carried on our search & we proceed to Cape de Verde Islands, arriving back at St. Vincent on 22" Aug. - we do not drop anchor, but search the islands to try & discover some german [sic] vessels - but no success. We leave the islands & proceed south to Sierre-Leone, about 500 miles of our journey has been accomplished when a German Liner appears on the horizon. We catch her up & find that she is the "Proffessor Woermann" (The Professor Woerman was a valuable prize, carrying coal and ammunition. Commander H. Spencer-Cooper, The Battle of the Falkland Islands. Before and After (London; Cassell and Company, 1919), P. 24). She is unarmed & was bound for Duala - our guns are trained on her - a cutter is lowered & manned with 2 armed Officers row over to her, examine her papers & take possession of same, as well as a German Naval Officer who is made a prisoner of war. Another boat goes away with the Torpedo Lieutenant & an Electrical Artificer for the purpose of putting her wireless installation out of action - during the stop of the ship our officers are endeavoring to catch a shark - several of w[hich] are seen around the ship. success crowns their effort by securing one. (Game hunting was part of military culture, but crews were encouraged to fish in order to supplement ship's stores.) After a couple of hours the "Carnarvon" continues her voyage to "Sierra Lcon[e] with the "Professor Woermann" following in her trail - arriving @ that place on 26th Aug.")(On 23 August 1914, the NOB warned the night watch: "Report at once if our prize drops astern or shows any sign of escaping. Call me if weather becomes thick & at daybreak." CF. ").
The crew of the German ship were sent ashore & made prisoners of war under a guard of West African Rifles (Natives). Coaling operations commence during the afternoon assisted by natives & the ship is made a bit clean again the following evening.
Whilst coaling we receive news of the achievement of the H.M.S. Highflyer in her scrap with the "Kaiser Wilhelm De [sic] Grosse" & sinking her. The climate in spite of the incessant rains is very hot indeed. The place was very fertile. 'Freetown' is the capital.
We expected to stop until the saturday [sic], as a British steamer was expected in with provisions & mails, but unfortunately the unexpected happened & we left on Friday without our mails. The "Highflyer' was the cause of our trouble, having been damaged in her skirmish with the armed Liner, we had to take her place whilst she went to Gibralta for [repairs]." On Wednesday evening we sighted all that remained of the "Kaiser Wilhelm De Grosse" She was lying on her side & had the appearance of a huge whale. We meet the "Canopus" [,] "Highflyer" & "Victorious" (an Armed Liner) off the Canary Islands. After receiving orders the "Canopus" &'Victorious' & the "Highflyer" proceeds [sic] to Gibralta to repair. The "Highflyer" does not look damaged to any extent, only a couple of holes being visible - we stop & patrols [sic] the islands. Wednesday 9th, September we went into 'Santa Cruza' a port in the Canary Islands, & after some Spanish officials had come on board. left again, weighed anchor & proceeds [sic] to 'Las Palmas' arriving @ 6 a.m. the following morning. Coaling is commenced @ 8 a.m. & we proceed to sea the next day Sept. 11th & on Sunday met six Troop Ships carrying troops from South Africa, escorted by the cruisers "Europa" & "Leviathon" we relieved the latter ship owing to her having engine defects.
A red letter day this for we receive a mail naturally the excitement was intense, & only those who have experienced the conditions can imagine what a splendid tonic a letter is after such a time. ("It may appear a paltry thing to those who get their daily post regularly, but the arrival of a mail at sea is a very real joy, even to those who get but few letters. The newspapers are eagerly fevoured, and events whose bare occurrence may have only become known through meager wireless communiques , are at length made comprehensible" Spencer-Cooper, p. 33) Relieved off "Ushant" on Tuesday 15th Sept. away we go south again. 'Madeira' is reached on Thursday - the ship coaled & owing to a report of the proximity of the German armed Liner "Cap Trafalgar" we put to sea but do not see her. (Cap Trafalgar, Hamburg-Sud-Amerik SS Co. -18,710 tons, 590 feet long. Sunk by the Carmania, Cunnard S.S. Co. on 14th September 1914. Spencer-Cooper pp. 35-36) The "Highflyer" having made good her damaged parts, joins the flag on 19thSept. & together we search the islands until Sunday morning, when the "Highflyer" parts company & we go to St. Vincent. (The Carnarvon's Night Order Book advised the watch on 19 September 1914 that the Highflyer would be joining the ship. Carnarvon Fonds) Leaving next day we proceed to "Sierra Leone" arriving @ Freetown on Sat. Sept. 26, when we receive a mail.
A stay of a week is made here, during which the machinery is overhauled, yards are removed[,] half the bridge is cut away & various other improvements made. On Monday we coal ship. Tuesday the ship is cleaned & stores taken in and until Saturday morning when we proceeded to sea. The ship is given a light grey coat of paint. This has been the longest stay in harbour. On Sunday whilst @ sea we were caught in a real tropical shower. Oct. 5th we meet the armed liner "Edinborough Castle", she had a mail and until Saturday morning when we proceeded to sea. The ship is given a light grey coat of paint. This has been the longest stay in harbour. On Sunday whilst @ sea we were caught in a real tropical shower. Oct. 5th we meet the armed liner "Edinborough Castle", she had a mail & provisions for us. A [illegible] number of boys are given to us in exchange for a few able seamen, the latter proceed home in the liner to go through a course at the Gunnery School, prior to being drafted to a Super-Dreadnought. Tuesday we chased & stopped after firing a couple of blanks at her, a Norwegian ship & after thoroughly searching her we allowed her to proceed. At 10:40 p.m. Engineer lieutenant Jeffery dies & is buried off the Cape Verde Islands the following day. We next made our way to Taviafal Bay arriving there next morning. Here we coaled finishing at 6. p.m. This is a wild looking place, consisting of a few cottages & mud huts. 9 p.m. anchor is weighed& we go to St. Vincent arriving there next morning. About 8 p.m. a fine mail boat comes in called the "Ortega" her decks are crowded with passengers, which we learned afterwards included a number of French reservists. gave three cheers for the "Carnarvon" & also singing "Rule Britannia". "Sons of the Sea", the British & French national anthems. Such grand singing I have never heard as came from the "Ortega" quite spontaneously. We are at the time in darkness for night defence & we did not reply (although we longed to) as discipline forbade it, all the same it was greatly appreciated by us all; gradually their magnificent voices die away, as we steam away to sea to carry out our duties. We remain at sea until thursday [sic] 15th October when we again visit St. Vincent to coal. We now are taken off our usual station, being ordered to join Admiral Craddock's squadron off the west of South America to go & fight the German cruisers in the Pacific. The German cruisers are known to have left Chinese waters & are coming across the Pacific. Monday 19" October we crossed the Equator & to break the monotony carried out the usual custom & had a visit from Father Neptune & his Court.
Owing to the ship being under war conditions the ceremony was not so elaborately carried out as during peace conditions, but we had a bit of fun all the same. Unfortunately it came to an abrupt end as the bath broke down. It was suggested that it should finish then & for the benefit of those who had not made the acquaintance of Father Neptune & his court, another ceremony should be carried out on our return journey, although we anticipated a fight with the Germans first. During the dinner hour of 21st, October we arrived at Pernambuco a Brazilian port. here could be seen in the harbour several German Liners & merchant ships. After a stay of a few hours we left for Abrolhos Rocks, which we made a coaling Base. (Aquipélago dos Abrolhos (approximately 525 kilometers south of Bahia (Salvador): 18 degrees south, 34 degrees east). Spencer-Cooper writes: "Our coaling base in these waters was admirably selected. There was sufficient anchorage for a large number of ships four or five miles from any land, but protected from anything but a heavy swell or a sea by surrounding ledges of coral awash at low water. Sometimes colliers got slightly damaged by bumping against our ships when there was a swell, but in other respects it suited its purpose excellently. The Brazilians sent a destroyer to investigate once or twice, but could find nothing to arouse their susceptibilities, for our ships were always well outside the three-mile limit. Our sole amusement was fishing, frequently for sharks." Spencer-Cooper, p. 26.) Several colliers guarded by H.M.S. "Cornwall" were at anchor 3 miles from the rocks. On arrival 24th, October we started coaling & on completion of same, left for Rio de Janeiro arriving there on the evening of the 26th. The harbour is very beautiful & is the finest natural harbour it has been my luck to see. (Crews enjoyed Rio, but the South American ports were considered to be full of German spies, a reputation that was enhanced by the large number of German merchantmen that sought refuge in them. On October 26th, the Camarvon's NOB issued the following instructions against German spies in Rio's harbour "Picket boat to patrol round ship until daylight. Any boats approaching ship are to be warned to keep away; should a [pulling ?] boat containing Germans again come near the ship she is to be warned once & then rammed if she doesn't take the warning...." NOB, CF. See also: Spencer-Cooper, pp. 16, 25). The following evening we left & went back to Abrolhos Rocks & meet the 'Defence' and 'Cornwall' on 29th. We remained there while the Cornwall left for 'Rio de Janiero'.
On Thursday 5th. Nov. we coaled again & received news from Chilian [sic] sources. that the "Good-Hope" "Monmouth" & "Glasgow" had been in action with the German Squadron - but with disastrous results to the first two, whilst the "Glasgow" had to retire. The cruiser "Cornwall" arrives from Rio-de-Janeiro with provisions for us. We leave for Rio & arrive there Sat morning 7th, November. Our stay is only a few hours duration, for we depart for "Monte Video" arriving 5:30 p.m Nov 10th. The "Defence" 'Cornwall'& Orama (armed liner) are with us. Our Admiral & his Staff transfer to the 'Defence' which proceeded to sea. (Stoddart transferred his flag on November 10, 1914 to the Defence, which was one of the newest and most modem British cruisers. He later returned to the Carnarvon presumably when the Defence left the squadron and sailed to Capetown on November 26. Spencer-Cooper, pp. 65,79. Although Stoddart was probably hampered by conflicting missions, he was widely criticized for his conduct during this search. T.B. Dixon of the H.M.S. Kent recorded in his diary on 30 November 1914: "Admiral Stoddart on the Carnarvon has the reputation of being a fool. He is alleged to have had the Karlsruhe within 15 miles of him and when information of the fact was brought to him he first ordered immediate pursuit she was coaling up a river off Brazil - then changed his mind and said he had been ordered to Abrolhos and went on. His officers fell in and almost mutinied over it." Dixon expressed relief when Stoddart was put under Sturdee's orders during the operations around the Falklands. T.B. Dixon, The Enemy Fought Splendidly. Being the 1914-1915 diary of the Battle of the Falklands & its aftermath by Surgeon T.B. Dixon R.N.V.R. of HM.S. Kent (Poole, Dorset; Blandford Press, 1983), p. 24.) The "Orama" goes out & only a few miles away captures a German store ship - takes her crew prisoners & send the ship to "Davey Jone's Locker." During the afternoon the 'Cornwall' & the 'Carnarvon' put to sea, all ships meet at sea & make our way to Abrolhos Rocks, keeping a sharp lookout for the 'Karlsruhe' which we thought may be looking for the store ship. We reach our destination on 16h, November & meet the armed liner 'Ortranto' which has a mail for us, the 'Kent' & three other armed liners are here, along with several colliers. Rumour being current that reinforcements are being sent out from England we anxiously expect day by day to see a couple of powerful warships on the horizon. (On November 25, the NOB warned: "Battle cruisers should be insight to southward by daylight." CF. ) We are rewarded on the 26th November when the battle cruisers "Invincible" and "Infexible" [sic] arrive. Coaling operations ensue & on 28th Nov. the squadron consisting of the "Invincible" (Vice Admiral Sturdee) "Inflexible" "Camarvon" (Rear Admiral Stoddart) "Cornwall", "Kent", "Glasgow" & "Bristol" followed in the rear several miles distant by the Colliers & armed Liners which escort them we steam south, with the purpose of sweeping for the German Squadron. The Squadron spreads out several miles & the speed is 11 knots.(According to the NOB, the fleet travelled in a wide sweeping formation at a speed of 11 knots. CF.) We proceed on the way carrying out a little firing practise [sic] & eventually arrive @ Port Stanley, (Falkland Islands) at noon 7th, December. The intentions were to that all ships were to fill with coal & then round Cape Horn into the Pacific.
We took it in turns coaling 'Bristol'& the 'Carnarvon' coaled first. We started at 1:30 that afternoon - worked hard all night & got the coal 1,400 tons inboard by 4.30 the following morning. It came in too quick to stow, so of course the upper deck was covered with coal. About 5 A.M. the collier was cast off & sent across to one of the Battle Cruisers. We were then allowed a couple of hours rest & by 8.30 a.m. were once more at the game of stowing the coal. Now rumours were current that the Germans were appearing on the horizon. Suddenly the report of a couple of shots from heavy guns were heard. This proved to be the 12" guns of the 'Canopus' - she being anchored in the harbour as a guard ship. (The Canopus was so old and slow that it had been deliberately beached in shallow waters to guard the harbor). Of course great excitement prevails, the colliers are cast off & every ship prepares for Action - At 9 A.M.
The Battle of the Falkland Islands
Action quarters being sounded the "Kent" now proceeds to the mouth of the harbour to watch the enemy's movements. Naturally we all expected her to get a few shots into
but not one shot was fired, which proved that the German's had received the greatest shock of their lives. They had not expected a couple of Battle-Cruisers. By 9.20 A.M.
every ship was clear of the harbour & then the chase commenced. The smoke of the German squadron could just be seen on the horizon. ("Midshipman" also comments that all the deckhands could see at this stage of the pursuit were just five plumes of smoke rising over the horizon. Midshipman, p. 542.) The 'Glasgow' was well ahead of us just keeping the enemy in sight, H.M.S. Kent was second, 'Carnarvon' third, followed by the Battle Cruisers 'Invincible' & 'Inflexible' & they were brought up in the rear by the 'Cornwall'; the 'Bristol' & Macedonia were left by the entrance to the harbour. We the 'Carnarvon' were however quickly passed by the Battle Cruisers & a fine sight they made. They passed us as though we were stopped - our speed was 16 knots, accounted for by the fact that all boilers were not connected up. (The Carnarvon had been ordered to adjust its valves and engine machinery in order to get ready for a long journey. Spencer-Cooper, p. 85.) Water was being put over the decks in case of fire. Hoses were rigged & everything was made ready to deal with any contingency. The Glasgow & dreadnoughts owing to their superior speed were now well away. It was a stern chase as can easilybe judged & we were chasing until 1 pm before out leading ship opened fire to be precise 12.56 noon. The German squadron seeing that they were doomed, scattered, & their three smaller cruisers, 'Dresden', 'Nurnberg' &'Leipzic' [sic] were doing their level best to escape. They were fast disappearing out of sight. Our Vice Admiral [Sturdee] sends the Cornwall, [']Kent' & 'Glasgow' after them, whilst we the "Carnarvon" stopped with the Battle Cruisers to give battle to the big German ships the "Scharnhorst' & "Gneisenau". We first went to action stations about 9 A.M. - about 10 a.m. we fell out to wash if possible. The condition of the ship was far from pleasant, as all the coal was not quite stowed away, when we started to chase. At 1' o'clock after dinner as if nothing unusual was taken [sic] place - we were ordered to action stations again, (The crew of the Cornwall was. also ordered to wash off coal grime and, if possible, to eat, so they would not fight on an empty stomach. Spencer-Cooper, p. 92.) the Battle Cruisers having opened fire. The firing only continued for 15 mins., owing to the German's (sic) altering their course a few points to Starboard, to get out of range of the 12" gun's. About 2. p.m. firing again commenced in earnest on both sides. Our superior speed & gun's gave us a great advantage & it must be said that the German's fought very bravely in face of great odds. Their 8.2 guns having a range of 15.000 yards the projectiles were practically non-effective on reaching their destination. From 2 pm until 4. o'clock the battle was very furious, smoke nearly obscuring all the vessels - unfortunately all this time we were acting as observation ship.
About 3. p.m. a big sailing ship appears on the horizon & no doubt but what those on board her had a magnificent view of the battle just as it was at its zenith. (Apparently this was a French sailing ship that did not know that war had broken out. It left the scene of battle as quickly as possible. Richard Hough, The Pursuit of Admiral von Spee (London; George Allen and Unwin, Ltd, 1969), pp. 153-54.) At last we have a go about 3.45 p.m. the 'Scharnhorst' is observed to be in a bad way so we receive the signal to close in & engage her, but by the time we manage to get within range, she is fast disappearing. We manage to get off one salvo, before she gives her final plunge & sinks with (including Admiral Von Spee) all hands. The 'Gneisenau' is still going strong so the Battle Cruisers concentrate their fire on her, & we follow in their wake once again. The "Gneisenau is very game, fighting splendidly up to the last. Gradually our superior guns tell & she is worn down. We let rip with our guns about 530 p.m. for about 15 mins the three English ships engage her & she eventually by her slackening fire, gives us the impression that she is running short of ammunition, for at 5.45 she ceases firing & we also cease fire, expecting her to haul down her flag. her flag did come down, it must have been shot down, for it was hoisted again & she again opens fire to be followed by us. After a game but hopeless fight, she turns turtle & takes a plunge into the deep Atlantic. We come now to what was the worst part of it, the awful sights during the work of the rescue. The weather was very cold 45' degrees & miserable and a choppy sea was running. The water
was covered with bobbing heads & dead bodies. Boats were lowered as soon as possible from the three ships (Admiral Sturdee apparently thought that the Carnarvon's rescue efforts were tardy, angrily signalling to it twice to lower its boats immediately. Keith Yates, Graf Spee's Raiders. Challenge to the Royal Navy 1914-1915 (Annapolis, Maryland; Naval Institute Press, 1995), p. 212. However, there may have been extenuating factors. Spencer-Cooper explained that it was difficult to lower rescue boats after an action: "as the boats are turned inboard, resting on their crutches, and are kept partially filled with water in case a shell might strike them and cause a fire. This water must first be drained out, then the weight of the ship is hoisted on to the slips to enable it to be swung outboard, which is not easy if the ship has been hit near the water-line, causing a list. Finally, several of the boats are certain to be riddled with shell splinters." Spencer-Cooper, p. 104) - men were going down on all sides owing to the intense coldness of the water. Bodies were passing the ship, some nude, while others had on their uniforms. We rescued 40 but 8 failed to show signs of animation & during the night were passed overboard. The weather soon became rough & one of our whaler's went to the bottom alongside the ship, but not one of our fellows were lost. What pitiable sights we witnessed whilst the survivors were being taken aboard. They were all carried swiftly to the sick-bay - artificial respiration carried out & of course well attended to & made prisoners of war. We then got under way & parted Company with the Battle Cruisers, which returned to the Falklands whilst we proceeded North in search of the armed liner 'Orama' which had to escort six colliers from Abrolhos Rocks to the Falklands. Next morning we came across the 'Orama' minus the colliers which had been lost during a mist & rough weather. we also heard by wireless of the success of the "Kent', 'Glasgow'& 'Cornwall'. The colliers eventually found their way to the falklands (sic). The Commander in Chief (Vice Admiral Sturdee) made the following signal to all ships. The German Cruisen "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau", "Nurnberg" & "Liepzic" have been sunk by a British Squadron.
The German prisoners were now quite well again except two who had received injuries & were in the Sick-Bay. A couple of them could speak broken English & from them we learnt that they had intended to bombard (Falkland Islands) which would have been an easy thing as the only protection the islands had was a mine-field & H.M.S. 'Canopus'. Their desires were unfortunately for them not fulfilled. The next day Friday 11thDec. we were still tossing about in a fierce gale, but at 6. p.m we reached the shelter of the Falkland Islands where we found the remainder of the Squadron. The 'Cornwall' had a list to port apparently to enable her holes to be patched up. We could also see some of the damage to the Battle-Cruisers. On Sunday 13th, we filled up with provision[s] & the German prisoners left the ship going to the 'Macedonia" an armed liner in which they went to England. The Admiralty grant of winter clothing was served out to us.
The following signal was sent to us.
- The Rear Admiral, Captain & Officers & all concerned, South Atlantic & South Pacific Stations, - The Commander in Chief wishes to congratulate all the ships of the squadron on the success in their main encounter with the Enemy's Squadron, & to thank the Rear Admiral, Officers & men for their individual assistance in attaining this great result. The zeal & steadiness under fire of all hands was very noticeable- Therefore all concerned can feel that they have performed a National service on the 8th December 1914 off the Falkland Islands. The victory will not be complete until the remaining ship is accounted for & directly the squadron has coaled a further search will be made. Signed. Commander in Chief,
Vice Admiral Sturdee.
(A prize bounty of £12,160 for the destruction of the German fleet was divided between the crews of the British fleet. This worked out to £5 per man. Spencer-Cooper, p. 139.) In the evening we went to sea & every man was ordered to fall in on the Quarter Deck, where the Captain read out the King's congratulations on our victory over the German squadron. We are also informed that we are to search for the Dresden.
About 9. am., Wednesday 16th, Decr we arrived at Port Madryn a port in Argentine where we came, across a Battleship of that nationality. The customary salutes & visits are of course exchanged. We also receive congratulations of our success in the recent battle from the crew. After a stay of a few hours, we pick up the 'Cornwall' at sea & search the coast together. On the evening of 19th., Decr we entered the Straits of Magellan, here we part company with the 'Cornwall'. 2.30 next morning we dropped anchor at a Chilian Port halfway through the Straits called Punta - Arenas. The following day we left to search the Straits for the 'Dresden' she was at this port a week previous for stores. It was said that she had her hiding place in one of the many channels. On Decr 24thwe anchored in Possession Bay (a barren place situated at the entrance of the Straits.) About 2..15 a.m. hands were called to coal ship & it was a miserable Christmas day morning - raining & cold at any rate we struggled through & finished at 2 pm. The remainder of the christmas [sic] day was devoted to cleaning ship. (Coal dust not only made the ship and the crew, filthy, but often got into the food. Spencer-Cooper, pp. 30-31.) After supper we were all glad to turn in & forget one beautiful Christmas Day in the Royal Navy on Active Service. The following day we had the usual "Divisions" & "Prayers" about 10. AM and after that we had the remainder of the day to ourselves, this being our Christmas day. We had plenty to eat & smoke but nothing to drink, except the usual tot of rum. A bit of a sing-song was indulged in on the seamen's mess deck.
About 530 p.m, we came across a German Liner the "Sierra Cordoba" in a small bay in the straits - all we could do was search her- we could not sink her, as of course she was in neutral waters. The next morning 27th Decr we were joined by a Chilian destroyer - we get under way & she leads us up a channel in the straits (On 26 December the NOB warned the night watch that there may be a Chilian destroyer nearby. CF.). There are over 700 channels in the Straits of Magellan. After 2 hours the destroyer turns back but we continued through the channel. We dropped anchor at 5.30 p.m. in a small bay. H.M.S. Glasgow was already there. The next morning we continued our search through the Straits - the scenery was great.
At noon on 3 1'., Dec. we met H.M.S "Australia" which had come through the straits from the Pacific. We dropped anchor in Willis Bay at 7.30 p.m & we spent New Year's Day there. Petty officers were allowed ashore here. It is a well wooded place & contains a few woodmen's huts. Owing to the mixing machine (bread) breaking down we had to go on biscuits for a few days. Next day we left for Punta-Arenas arriving there at 11.30 am., stopping there 24 hours (which is the time allowed by International law) we proceed to Possession Bay. On the way we passed some beautiful Glaciers & the heigths [sic] on the shore were covered with snow as it is all the year round. In the night which was a bitter one, cold & dark, a groan like that of a drowning man was heard. The sea boats crew were ordered away- the boat being manned & lowered in 30 seconds a jolly smart performance. Searchlights were brought into play & the water around the ship was searched, but nothing could be seen for some time. At last the object was sighted and it proved to be a Bull-seal. The boat returns & the excitement dies down, but the joke of how we were had was heard for several days.
Next day we left for Falkands & near the entrance to the straits we sighted a steamer & as soon as she spotted us, she steamed her best to get into neutral waters (That is within three miles of the shore) but we were too smart for her & catching her up she proved to be a Dutch vessel the "Josephine" & on being searched she was found to be carring [sic] contraband of war. so we put a prize crew aboard of her consisting of marines & took her to the Falklands. The 'Celtic' armed liner was there waiting for us with mail & stores. We were nearly 3 weeks after this searching the Straits of Magellan, for the 'Dresden' during which time we touched the Pacific Ocean. There was no luck however as the bird had flown. So on Friday 5th Feby we leave port Stanley in the Falklands & steam -north, arriving at Port Madryn in the Argentine 11th Feby leaving at 1.45 pm we continued our journey north to Monte Video. Monte Video is reached & we receive our Xmas mail nearly 6 weeks after Xmas. Here the British residents are very kind to us sending a boat load of gear, Fruit, Chocolate, cigarettes & Vegetables. The same day we left for the Abrolhos rocks arriving there 21st Feby & meeting the "Vindictive" & four colliers and an oil tank. Coaling commenced on arrival & continued until 8 p.m. 1300 tons. At 5.20 p.m. the next day we were off again, destination unknown. Our speed was to be 18 knots, but a little unforeseen thing happened, About 10 miles from the Rock the ship struck something & gave a lurch. About 200 of the ships company were washing - but no one lost their head the general comment being "Whats the buzz". We had struck a Corral Reef an the starboard side. The first order was "close all water- tight doors". Water was gaining fast in the two foremost stokeholds - so much that the boiler's in those stokeholds had to be shut off & fires drawn. The next pipe was "Boat's Crews get your boats ready for swinging out" this was of course to abandon ship should the worst happen. All the stokers in A & B Stokeholds had to leave by this time they were full of water. (On March 2 the NOB ordered that special watch be kept on water levels in Boiler Rooms A and B. CF.) We continued to steam with the other boilers & headed back for the Rocks. All pumps were working but still the water was gaining fast - which caused a heavy list to Starboard. Fortunately the water tight doors held & we anchored in very shallow water at 8 p.m. Now, of course we were relieved of much anxiety. As soon as possible the diver's went down to ascertain the damaged bottom. (On 22 February 1915 the NOB ordered divers to be ready at 6:30 am. the next day, Divers regularly worked on the hull thereafter. NOB, 22-27 February 1915, CF) They reported a rip of 50 feet. Naturally we all thought that we were safe, at any rate from sinking, so lights were turned out & we went to night defence. A few minutes after midnight we had a rude awakening. Every person in the ship had to fall in on the Quarter Deck, up we all go, most of us with our life saving collars, expecting almost any order. There was no excitement after all as it was only to bring as much weight as possible aft, so as to bring her bows higher for the purpose of grounding. Water was gaining rapidly so the Admiral had decided to beach the ship. After Ten days the gaps were filled with blankets & wedges & a huge mat made on board was placed over the damaged part (Diary correct- NOB orders special watch on the mat wired to ship's side. NOB, 1, 6, March 1915, CF.). Now the water was under control & we steamed away & dropped anchor about a mile away from the rocks. On 4h, March we left for Rio de Janeiro, accompanied by a collier. As we left the "Celtic" & H.M.S. Sydney (Of Emden fame) arrived. After [a] successful & uneventful journey Rio de Janeiro was reached. On Tuesday morning we were taken several miles up the harbour into a Floating Dock & by 6 p.m. we were high & dry (Again, special precautions were ordered to ensure the Carnarvon's security in Rio. Marines were given orders to fire at any suspicious vessels that disregarded warnings and approached too close. NOB, 7-16 March 1915, CF.). Of course we were all very anxious to see the extent of the damage. What a shock we all received - the rip was about 110 feet long, & half of the Starboard side of the ship bottom was buckled. The job of putting a patch on was undertaken by a Brazilian firm, which took 3 weeks. (Orders were given to leave the floating dock on the night of March 3 I- April 1, 1915. NOB. CF.) Every evening a portion of the ships company went ashore for a bathe or a walk at an island about a couple of miles from the dock. The island was used as a magazine station for the Brazilian Navy. Swimming was indulged in from the dock also. Saturday 17" April we received an order to coal so we took in 450 tons. That evening we left for Pernambuco. At 4 p.m., on Monday we meet the "Glasgow" & "Macedonia", but we continue our journey to Pernambuco & arrive at that place on Thursday 20th April. (Here the diary is a little sketchy, but nonetheless accurate. The Carnarvon left Rio on April 2 for Abrolhos Rocks, where it recoaled and then sailed for Pernambuco. On the night of April 18th, the NOB warned that she might encounter the Glasgow and Macedonia. NOB, 3, 18, 20, April 1915, CF.) We left again that night & on the 23' April recrossed the equator, but did not have another ceremony with Father Neptune. On 28P April we arrived at Bridgetown'a port in the island of Babadoes [sic] (which is in the West Indies). Trader's were allowed on board & did a fairly good business with banana's & oranges. There are sugar plantations here. At 8 p.m. we got under way again arriving at Bermuda on 4th May.(On the night of May 3. 1915. NOB warned that Bermuda would be spotted soon. CF). which is about two days from New York.
A stay of three days was made here [in Bermuda] - leave being granted. We left here on the r May for Canada arriving at halifax [sic] on the 10th May. Leave was granted here & we left on the 13' for Quebec. The weather now became intensely cold & on proceeding through Northumberland Straits innumerable ice - flows were met. Quebec was reached after a fine trip up the St. Lawrence about 10 am on 17" May. Left Quebec on 26th& arrived at Montreal next morning & docked 28th May.
July 12th left dock. Leave was given during our stay here. Nearly half the population are French-Canadians - & more so in Quebec. Dollars and cents are used here in Canada the same as United States.
Left Montreal 10th July. Arrived Quebec 15th
" Quebec 17th " Halifax 19th
" Halifax 22nd July arrived in Plymouth Aug. 3.
Taken from Ships log.
8 -12 -14- Completed with coal. left Port Stanley.
Carried out action against Scharnhorst & Gneisenau.
Expenditure 7.5 Common Shell 85.
" 6" " 60
Shell ranges 14,000 to 7,000
Speed of ship 20 knots. Enemy 22 kts to 12 kts.
Hits on "Scharnhorst 2, on Gneisenau 4 on armour remainder not seen. Fired both sides during action. Motion slight at first Then moderate forward end[.] much smoke interference from Battle Cruisers. also cordite smoke from our own gun's.
The bursting of 12" shell around enemy interfered considerably with spotting fall of shot only burst of shell striking on armoured Cruisers could be seen. (A 12" shell weighed 840 pounds and threw up a column of water 150 feet high. Spencer-Cooper, p. 95). P.M. Watch at night defence stations.