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North Sea Diary, 1914-1918,
by Stephen King-Hall

(Excerpted, with notations by wwi-list members)

[WWI Resource Centre's Dr. M. Geoffrey Miller writes: Many years ago, at a second hand bookshop, I bought a book called North Sea Diary, 1914-18, written by Commander Stephen King-Hall. It is undated but King-Hall (1893-1966) was promoted to Commander in 1928. He resigned from the Navy in 1929 to take a research post in the Royal Institute of International Affairs, having previously been awarded their Gold Medal for his 1920 thesis, Submarines in the Future of Naval Warfare. In 1921, he published a forecast of military developments covering tanks and the importance of land mine fields. Stephen King-Hall entered the Royal Navy (RN) though Dartmouth and was appointed a sub-lieutenant on board the 6 inch cruiser, HMS Southampton in February 1914 and wrote this book in her honour.

WWI-list member Brett Holman notes that according to the British Library catalogue, it was originally published in 1919 as A Naval Lieutenant, 1914-1918, under the pseudonym Etienne. It looks like it was republished in 1936 under King-Hall's own name, possibly because by this time he had become a popular commentator on events of the day, in print and on the BBC.

Stephen King-Hall entered the House of Commons in 1939 as Member of Parliament for Ormskirk standing as the National Labour Party candidate. He later changed his affiliation and continued to stand as an Independent, subsequently losing the seat to future Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the 1945 General Election. He was subsequently elevated to a Baronetcy and took the title of Baron William Stephen Richard King-Hall of Headley

King-Hall's book is in narrative, not diary, form, but is based on the diary that he kept throughout the Great War. He was present during the actions of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and both the day and night actions at Jutland. I shall be excerpting from the book concerning life aboard a light cruiser in the North Sea during the First World War.

At the start of the Great War, Stephen King-Hall was a watch-keeping officer on board HMS Southampton. The Cruiser was armed with eight six inch guns and two submerged tubes for 21 inch torpedoes. She was capable of a speed of 25.5 knots and had 3 inches of armour.

The first extract from the book is a description of Scapa Flow where she was part of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron along with HMS Birmingham and HMS Nottingham. Baron King-Hall doesn't state it in his book, but according to Naval Operations, Vol. 1, by Corbett, page 76, the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron were screening the High Seas Fleet in a practice sweep. Thanks to wwi-list members Jim Broshot and Peter Farrell-Vinay for information about on-line sources for the text version of the book. -- G. Miller]

[image: sinking of the SMS Blücher]
(Click for large image)

The end of the SMS Blücher; See section No. 7

[image: HMS Southampton]
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HMS Southampton; See section No. 17

[image: U153, one of the Deutschland class Mercantile 
submarines after conversion into a combatant vessel]
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German U153; See section No. 21

1914: No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3 | No. 4 | No. 5 |

1915: No. 6 | No. 7 | No. 8 | No. 9

1916: No. 10 | No. 11 | No. 12 | No. 13 | No. 14 | No. 15 | No. 16 | No. 17 | No. 18

1917-1918: No. 19 | No. 20 | No. 21 | No. 22 | No. 23 | No. 24

North Sea Diary #1

[This is the first extract from the book A North Sea Diary 1914-1918. HMS Southampton was based at Scapa Flow throughout the war; here is Stephen King-Hall's description.]

Scapa had one slight disadvantage from the military point of view, and that was that the Fleet based on Scapa was not able to prevent tip-and-run raids by the German battle-cruisers on the east coast of England. The Germans were well aware of this, and carried out their raids on Scarborough and Yarmouth, not so much to do material damage, but to try and get British public opinion to stampede the Admiralty into an alteration of their strategic plan, and possibly a policy of dispersion of the Fleet.

Their hopes were in vain. The Press and people of England thought imperially, and the strangle-hold directed from Scapa, which prevented the Germans even attempting to obtain command of the sea with surface craft, was maintained.

Scapa was undefended in any way at the outbreak of war, and like all ports on the cast coast of Britain there were no submarine defences of any kind. The first business of the Fleet was to block the entrances on the eastern side. Time was precious, and for this purpose a few ancient steamers were sunk. Later on in the war, I have often looked with envy at these wrecks and calculated the profits they might have been making at a time when every ton of shipping earned its value each voyage it made.

The only other possible extemporized defences were batteries placed on the bluffs at either side of Hoxa Sound, which is the southern and main entrance. These batteries were originally 12- and 18-pounder field-guns landed from the Fleet, manned by the Orkney Territorial gunners. In the course of time these minor weapons were replaced by heavier stuff under the R.M.A.

As soon as possible, steps were taken to protect the place against submarines by the construction of a boom and net, at one end of which a gate operated by two trawlers permitted the incoming and outgoing of the Fleet. This boom eventually developed into three booms and various minefield defences. The western entrance was also mined and netted. In addition to the above defences trawlers were constantly on patrol between the booms and in the entrance to Hoxa Sound. Destroyers were perpetually cruising farther afield, the Duty Division of which craft used to lie at . Longhope (another southern entrance) at five minutes notice for steam.

Every now and then they would receive the signal which meant "Round the Orkneys," and off they dashed at 28 knots, went right round the group of islands, and six or seven hours later were back again in Longhope. This annoyed the U-boats.

The construction of these various defences was the labour of months, though by December 1914 Scapa was very fairly secure from submarine attack.

So much for Scapa from the warlike point of view. From the human point of view it is a place which will loom large in the memories of many thousand officers and men. Looking down from an aeroplane over the centre of Scapa, one saw a large sheet of land-locked water, roughly circular in shape, of a radius of 412 miles. The mainland of Orkney stretches two arms to the southward in a broad angle something like a "V" where the top of the"V" is to the north. The space between the ends of the arms is filled in by a circle of islands, such as Burra, South Ronaldshay, Swona, Flotta, and Hoy. These islands overlap each other, and the spaces between them are the various entrances to Scapa. The general impression looking from above is that a giant has put his finger through the middle of the Orkneys, and that the sea has trickled in and filled up the hole.

The land on the west and south-west side of the harbour is mountainous moor; to the south and east and north it rises barely 300 feet from the sea, and is dotted with low, sturdily built farms. Like everything else in those parts, the farms lie close to the ground in order to withstand the winter gales. Of real trees there are none to speak of, and except for the grandeur of the cliffs and mountains on Hoy the scenery is dull and uninteresting. The bird life on Hoy is wonderful, and there is plenty of shooting and fishing for those who are lucky enough to know the right people.

In the summer and early autumn, when the Fleet was at four or six hours' notice and twilight lasted all night, life could be very pleasant at Scapa, and the atmosphere being of that glorious limpid clarity which seems to speak of great open spaces in the far north, the most wonderful colour effects were of frequent occurrence.

Scapa was really beastly in the winter, though some hardened souls professed to like it even then. It could be dark at half-past three, and it could blow so hard for days on end, that the sea inside the harbour prevented any boats being lowered into the water. I know of nothing more irritating than to see a trawler loaded up with mail-bags (and one lived for mails) crashing about in a heavy sea, whilst the trawler skipper bellowed through a megaphone that: " I dout ma abeelity to come alongside ye, owin' ta the prevalin' condeetions." 1 must admit that if it was physically possible they got the mails and their load of vomiting mess-men and stewards on board the ships.

Every morning, except Sundays (the C.-in-C. [Jellicoe] was rigid on this point), the Flow was the scene of great activity. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers followed each other at regular intervals carrying out gun and torpedo practices. At night the Flow was lit by the gun flashes and searchlights of the ships carrying out night firing. During the day the various bays around the harbour were each occupied by a ship carrying out 1-inch aiming or " Piff," at a target towed by a steamboat. The object of life was "WAR", and the C.-in-C. saw that this point was never overlooked. At regular intervals a complete battle-squadron went to sea, and carried out heavy firing in the western entrance of the Pentland Firth, the battle-practice target being towed by the 'King Orry', and the keeneyed spies and marking party from the 'Iron Duke' taking passage in the destroyer 'Oak.'

Any account of Scapa in war-time would be incomplete without some reference to the 'Gourko' and the 'Borodino'. The 'Borodino' was run by the Junior Army and Navy Stores, and was either alongside some battleship or anchored conveniently in the middle of the Fleet. When one felt opulent, a party was organized to go shopping, and returned laden with novels, games, and luxuries such as bottles of stuffed olives or salted almonds. The 'Gourko' was the theatre ship. She could seat about 600 in her main hold, one end of which was an excellent stage, on which various ships gave performances of home-made revues and well known plays. In a big ship of the Queen Elizabeth class with a complement of 1000 officers and men, it is wonderful what can be done by the theatrical party. Costumes and scenery were frequently imported from London.

The destroyers, hospital ships, the host of colliers, oilers, ammunition ships, and other fleet auxiliaries lived up "Gutter Sound" at Longhope. They used a different entrance from the Hoxa one, and were rather far away from the Fleet for social intercourse. Later in the war, the Fleet submarines added to the company of small craft.

Contrary to the popular idea ashore, Scapa Flow is not a very cold place, and though personally I am a lover of cities and prefer Princes Street to Hoxa Sound, I do not agree with the officer who on being asked his opinion of Scapa said: 'It's gallons of water surrounded by miles and miles of --- all.'

North Sea Diary #2 - the sinking of U-15

[Extract from "The German Submarine War 1914-1918" by Gibson & Prendergast, page 3:

"About dawn next morning, [August 9, 1914] the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, forming a screen ahead of the battle-squadrons, came into contact with the elusive foe. The look-out of the questing Birmingham suddenly sighted, amidst the wraiths of mist, the hull of U15, lying immobile and hove-to. It would seem that no watch was being kept in the submarine, and, from the sounds of hammering which pierced the haze, the crew was apparently trying to remedy an engine breakdown. Altering course, and making sure that U15 was within her turning circle, the Birmingham bore down, opening a rapid fire at close range. The submarine slowly began to move through the water, but it was too late. The bows of the light cruiser caught her fair and square, cutting her completely in two. The two severed parts of U15 appeared to float for a short time, possibly because the sheared plating was folded over at the point where her hull had been rammed, so partially sealing and making watertight the severed ends. Only temporary repairs could be effected to the light cruiser, owing to the urgent demand for her services; for several months the Birmingham bore evidence of her success in the shape of two long scars, almost exactly symmetrical in length and pattern, which defaced her bows."]

We coaled at Scapa, and in twenty-four hours the First Light Cruiser Squadron, which in those days consisted of the Southampton, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Falmouth, was once more at sea. On the evening of Sunday the 9th [August 1914] we were to the northward of Kinnaird Head. I had been keeping the first watch, and at about 3 a.m. I was awakened by the noise of the alarm bells ringing furiously.

To quote some notes: 'I pulled on some clothes and ran up on deck, to find it was early dawn, rainy and misty. Every second or so the mistiness ahead was illuminated by a yellow flash, and the crash of a gun followed. Suddenly the Birmingham loomed up straight ahead, or a shade on our starboard bow, distant about 21 cables (500 yards).

It was difficult at the moment to say whether the shells falling between us and the Birmingham were being fired by the Birmingham, or at her from a ship on the far side. I restrained our quarter-deck guns' crew from firing,into the Birmingham; she looked rather Teutonic in the early morning light.

The mystery of the alarm was settled by the sudden appearance of part of the conning-tower of a German submarine, exactly between ourselves and the Birmingham. How the Birmingham actually turned and rammed her I could not see; but she did, and when the Birmingham turned away, a large oily pool, bubbling furiously, with three black objects resembling air flasks floating in it, was all that remained of the U-Boat. This was U-15 and the first of the 200 odd submarines the British navy has disposed of during the war.

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North Sea Diary #3 - engagement of Heligoland Bight

[The engagement of Heligoland Bight was hampered by poor Admiralty staff work and poor planning. Tyrrhitt and Keyes were not informed that they would be supported by Beatty's battle-cruisers with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron; the submarines were told that only the Fearless and Arethusa were friendly, all other cruisers were to be considered hostile. Visibility was also poor due to the mists and funnel smoke. It was only Jellicoe's intervention (he had not been informed of the proposed sweep until the last moment) that caused Beatty and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron to be made available in support. Without them the engagement would have been a British naval defeat instead of a victory. Stephen King-Hall continues:]

During the month of August our submarines had been in the [Heligoland] Bight. The British E-boats [submarines], based on Harwich, nosed about round Heligoland and penetrated into the mouths of the German rivers. Little escaped their curious periscopes, and they soon discovered that the Germans were working a night patrol off the Bight with destroyers and light cruisers. It was the habit of these gentry to retire into the Bight at dawn each day; and it was decided to cut them out.

This task was entrusted to Sir David Beatty in the Lion, with the battle-cruisers; our Commodore in the Southampton, with the light cruisers; and Commodore Tyrwhitt in the newly commissioned Arethusa, leading the Harwich force of destroyers. At 3 a.m. on the 28th August, the forces concerned rendezvoused near the Horn's Reef light-vessel, which is about 80 miles north of Heligoland.

At 4 a.m. the sweep started.

The day dawned calm and foggy. This mist hung over the water all day, and on the whole was an advantage to us, as it added to the confusion and the uncertainty of the Germans, and protected us from the batteries of Heligoland, which were unable to fire a shot. At the same time it made it difficult for our three squadrons to keep alignment with each other during the sweep, and in the course of the day we lost touch with two of our light cruisers for several hours.

At 8 a.m., when a few miles to the west-by-north of Heligoland, we altered course from south to southwest, and received a signal to say that destroyers were engaging destroyers, whilst at the same time we heard gun-fire to the south-east of us, where we knew Commodore Tyrwhitt to be. We acted on the good old maxim of going where you hear a gun, and stood over towards the firing. It was impossible to see anything, but at the same time it was undeniably a most thrilling sensation to be moving through the mist at 24 knots towards the first sounds of gun-fire in battle that most of us had ever heard.

At 8.25 a.m. two black shapes, which revealed themselves to be German destroyers travelling at a very high rate of speed, appeared on our starboard bow. We got the forecastle and starboard-bow gun to bear on them and opened fire, but, as the mist prevented any ranging, we could only hope for a lucky hit. Two white puffs or splashes were seen to proceed from the enemy, and it was not until some ten minutes later, when three witnesses saw the track of a torpedo across our stern, that we realized that the Germans had fired two torpedoes at us. The hostile destroyers were going at least 32 knots and were moving between enormous bow waves, with their sterns tucked well down, and in about three minutes they had crossed our bows and disappeared in the mist.

Shortly after this episode we were unfortunately observed by H.M.S. Lurcher, the destroyer in which the Commodore of Submarines, the present Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, used in those early days to cruise about the Bight. As usual, several of our ubiquitous submarines were in the Bight on this occasion.

I say 'unfortunately' the Lurcher saw us, as she obtained only a fleeting glimpse of us, and at once reported by wireless two German light cruisers in a position a few miles to the south-west of where we calculated we were. This sounded like business, so we hastily shaped course to where we understood the two German cruisers had been seen.

Sad to say, we were chasing ourselves ; the discrepancy in our position and that calculated by the Lurcher, led us astray, and for about an hour we were on a wild goose chase. ...when suddenly every one was electrified to see a periscope on the starboard bow, distant 500 yards. The helm was put hard over, the ship heeled, and we prepared to ram her. The submarine [E6] made a steep dive, and some people on the forebridge stated that she went down at such an angle that her tail nearly came out of the water.

A few seconds later we thundered over the place where she had been, and they must have heard the roar of our propellers as we passed over them. In about ten minutes time the Lurcher suddenly appeared, and asked us why we were attacking her submarines. Luckily the submarine we had tried to ram had recognized our red ensign, which was flying as a battleflag, just as he intended to torpedo us. Explanations with the Lurcher ensued, and the mystery of the two German light cruisers was cleared up.

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North Sea Diary #4 - The sinking of the Mainz

[HMS Arethusa had only been commissioned two days previously and deficiencies soon became apparent. Two guns jammed and she was slowed by a shell from SMS Frauenlob. The German cruisers were emerging from harbour, luckily they were committed piecemeal by Rear Admiral Maas and were not concentrated. However HMS Arethusa would have suffered severely at their hands, and was already badly damaged by the German light cruiser SMS Mainz, when the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron were able to engage the Germans just in time to save her.

Incidentally it is surprising that King-Hall was able to recognise Tirpitz's son at 300 yards. WWI-list member Jim Broshot notes that King-Hall probably added this after the fact. In The King'S Ships Were At Sea, by James Goldrick (1984), the author notes that among the German survivors of the Mainz who were picked up in the water by the British ships Firedrake and Liverpool after the cruiser sunk was "the son of Admiral von Tirpitz." Date of sinking was 28 August 1914. Stephen King-Hall continues:]

At 11.40 a number of destroyers, which turned out to be British, steamed out of the mist, evidently retiring from something, and a moment later we sighted the Arethusa on our port bow in action at close range with the German light cruiser Mainz.

Our squadron at that moment consisted of the Southampton, Effingham, Nottingham, Lowestoft, Liverpool, and Falmouth, posed in quarter line, and as soon as the Mainz saw us she ceased fire on the sorely tried Arethusa and very wisely fled like a stag. At 10,000 yards the squadron opened fire, and the German replied with a straggling fire from her after 4-1 inch guns. Most of her shots fell short, but a few hummed over us.

The Mainz was now under the fire of about fifteen 6-inch guns, and suddenly there were two yellow flashes amidships of a different nature from the red jabs of flame from her own guns, and I realized she had been hit twice.

Though she was being hit, she was not being hit enough, as at the range of 10,000 yards in that mist it was nearly impossible to see the splashes of the shells and thus control the fire. Also she still had the legs of us. To our dismay, the mist came down, and for five minutes we drove on without sight of her.

Suddenly we came on top of the Mainz only 7,000 yards away, and the range decreasing every moment. Something had happened to her whilst she was in the mist, for she was lying nearly stopped. It is now almost certain that she was torpedoed forward by a destroyer, though it will never be known which destroyer flashing past her in the mist launched the blow which permitted us to overtake her. At all events, one got home on the Mainz, and we closed down on her, hitting with every salvo. She was a mass of yellow flame and smoke as the lyddite detonated along her length. Her two after funnels melted away and collapsed. Red glows, indicating internal fires, showed through gaping wounds in her sides. At irregular intervals one of her after guns fired a solitary shot, which passed miles overhead.

In ten minutes she was silenced and lay a smoking, battered wreck, her foremost anchor flush with the water. Antlike figures could be seen jumping into the water as we approached. The sun dispersed the mist, and we steamed slowly to within 300 yards of her, flying as we did so the signal "Do you surrender?" in International Code. As we stopped the mainmast slowly leant forward, and, like a great tree, quite gradually lay down along the deck. As it reached the deck a man got out of the main control top and walked aft, it was Tirpitz junior. I have a photograph of him standing, solitary figure, on the extreme end of his ship.

Her bridge was knocked to pieces and there was no one to read our signal, which signal seems incongruous in 1918, but the last precedent was years old in 1914. Nevertheless, as we watched, a flag fluttered down from the foretopmast head; it had been lowered by the boatswain.

The feeling of exultation was succeeded by one of pity as I looked at this thing that had been a ship. Through glasses I could see that her deck was a shambles, a headless corpse, stripped to the waist, hung over the forecastle side. This was indeed war, and the first realisation of war is like one's first love, a landmark in life.

The hundred or so survivors in the water were wearing lifebelts and raising their heads, shouting for help. We were debating what could be done, when we were roused from the contemplation of our handiwork by the sudden outbreak of firing to the northward. The Liverpool was detailed to rescue survivors and sink the Mainz, whilst the Southampton with the rest of the light cruisers started to get under way towards the new action.

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North Sea Diary #5 - The arrival of the Battle-Cruisers

[Commodore Tyrwhitt knew that low water prevented the German capital ships from crossing the Jade bar during the morning but was heavily engaged with the German light cruisers and was in difficulties. He began to withdraw and also signalled for assistance at 11 am. The British battle-cruisers were about 40 miles away when Tyrwhitt asked for help. Beatty did not think that the first light cruisers were capable of handling the German cruisers on their own and, despite the poor visibility and the possibilities of mines and German submarines, he made the difficult decision to intervene with his battle-cruisers. In the event this intervention with overwhelming force was to turn a near defeat into a victory.

I note that King-Hall referred to SMS Köhn, this is a printer's error, he was referring to the light cruiser SMS Köln.]

We had hardly began to move through the water, [after engaging Mainz] ere I saw a magnificent sight; it was the battle-cruisers. They had been coming up at full speed from the southwest towards all the firing, they had also of course received the Arethusa's call for help. It was undoubtedly a bold and dashing decision to bring these great ships into the Bight, and, as often happens in war, this decision was successful. The battle-cruisers arrived too late to do anything to the Mainz but they were determined to get up in time to participate in the firing to the north which had just started.

It is difficult to describe the impression produced by these monsters as, following in each other's wake, they emerged one by one from the mist, and flashed past like express trains. Not a man could be seen on their decks ; volumes of smoke poured from their funnels ; their turret guns, trained expectantly on the port bow, seemed eager for battle.

We were just able to work up sufficient speed to get astern of the Indomitable, when we sighted the unfortunate Germans, which were two small cruisers, the Köhn [sic Köln] and the Ariadne. They had run into a detached group of our destroyers, hence the firing. A succession of salvos rolled out from the Lion and her squadron. One German disappeared in a cloud of steam and smoke ; the other drifted away in the mist, burning furiously and sinking.

I was watching this spectacle on our port bow, when I heard a 'crump! crump! crump!' and turning round saw a salvo of splashes stand up in the water, a few hundred yards from our starboard side. I could not make out where these shells had come from, until I noticed a four-funnelled cruiser on the horizon about 14,000 yards away, where there happened to be a clear patch, for I could see the German coast and some chimneys behind her. As I watched her a ripple of flame ran down her side, and I knew another flight of shells were on their way. They arrived with a 'whump' exactly right for range, but between the Birmingham and ourselves, about 50 yards astern of us.

We exchanged several salvos with her, and she straddled us once without hitting, whilst we saw one of our shells detonate on board her. We discovered months afterwards that this shell had landed on her quarter-deck and killed about sixty men, as the Germans had a habit in those days of taking spare guns' crews to sea with them, and these gentry were being mustered when our shell arrived. She turned and went into port, and we followed the battle cruisers. It was now 4 p.m., and as we were within 15 miles of the German Fleet their arrival on the scene of action was expected any moment. I believe, as a matter of fact, that the sound of the firing could be heard on the ships in Wilhelmshaven, where they were making desperate efforts to raise steam in the big ships and come out and drive us off.

At 4.15 p.m. we left the Bight and steered at high speed for Scapa. I started the day at midnight on the 27th-28th [August 1914] and ended it at 4 a.m. on the 29th.

I have forgotten to mention that we saw a number of floating mines in the Bight, which were avoided by quick use of the helm.

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North Sea Diary #6 - Dogger Bank- The beginning

[British Naval Intelligence, Room 40, had intercepted a German order ordering Hipper to reconnoitre the Dogger Bank on 23rd January 1915, believing that fishing boats in that area were warning the Admiralty of German Fleet movement. Knowing this, the British laid a trap ordering Beatty with five battle-cruisers and the First Light Cruiser Squadron to rendezvous with Tyrwhitt's Harwich Force of three light cruisers and 35 destroyers near the Dogger Bank on the 24th January 1915. Stephen King-Hall continues:]
(Very large satellite image of Dogger Bank, from NASA.)

We expected to meet the Harwich force at dawn, and at that hour the southern horizon was lit by a number of flashes, and the sound of gun-fire told everyone that something in the nature of business was to hand.

As we pushed on at full speed daylight made rapid headway, and we saw German battle-cruisers which had been steering north, turn 16 points and make off home at full speed. At 7 am it was fully light and the whole situation became plain. "Imagine a /\ upside down. The German battle-cruisers, disposed in starboard quarter line, were at the apex, steering an cast by south course for Heligoland. They were preceded by a cloud of destroyers and light cruisers who were practically hull down from us. At the bottom of the right-hand leg of the /\ were our own battle-cruisers. Across the base of the /\ were many of our destroyers. At the bottom of the left-hand leg of the /\ was the First Light Cruiser Squadron, consisting of the Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Lowestoft.

The visibility was extreme, the day was young, the Germans were running, everything was favourable provided we could catch them. It was then seen that the Germans had a fatal handicap, in that the last ship of their line was the Blücher, a big armoured cruiser, standing half-way between a battle-cruiser and an armoured cruiser and barely capable of 26 knots. She was armed with 8.2-inch guns.

Shortly after 7 a.m. all ships had settled down to what was evidently going to be a stern chase. There was something uncanny in the spectacle of all those ships rushing along in two great groups ten miles apart and not a gun being fired. By 8 a.m. we seemed to have gained slightly on the enemy, who were evidently adjusting their speed to that of the Blücher. At 9 a.m. we had gained appreciably, and a few minutes later the Lion and Tiger opened a deliberate fire from their foremost guns. The Princess Royal also joined in. At the third salvo the Blücher was hit, and it must have been borne in on her crew that the hour of their destruction was at hand.

The Germans opened fire in reply at our battle-cruisers, the range being about 18,000 yards, and after a time of flight of 20 to 25 seconds, huge splashes rose up around our leading battle-cruisers, which ships had begun to draw clear of our slower battle-cruisers of the Indomitable class. The firing was very deliberate and methodical, and for an hour without much visible result.

To us, [on HMS Southampton] it was like sitting in the front row of the dress circle at a play. Everyone who could get there crowded tom the starboard side of the boat deck and sat there smoking their pipes.

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North Sea Diary #7 - The end of the Blücher

[At the time that he wrote the book, King-Hall was unaware of the reasons why the Battle-Cruisers ceased to chase the German Battle-Cruisers and concentrated on the damaged SMS Blücher at their rear.

Damage inflicted on HMS Lion, Beatty's Flagship, had caused her to lose speed and also damaged her signal halyards, interfering with communications but the signal to maintain course north-east was still flying. He had already ordered the slower HMS Indomitable to concentrate on SMS Blücher.

At 10.54, thinking (incorrectly) that he had seen a periscope, Beatty ordered a turn to 90 degrees to port, However the signal "Course north-east" was still flying and when Seymour, Beatty's Flag-Lieutenant was ordered to signal "Engage the enemy's main body" he found that there was no signal in the signal book for this and substituted "Attack the enemy's rear", forgetting that the signal "course north-east" was still flying. The result was that the British battle-cruisers interpreted the order to engage the enemy's rear bearing north-east! As the result of this, the British Battle-Cruisers ceased chasing the German Battle-Cruisers and concentrated on the badly damaged SMS Blücher. This mistake allowed the German fleet to escape. Date, 24 January 1915]

At 10.30 the Blücher was being badly hit [by HMS Indomitable]; repeatedly fires broke out on board her and were got under again. She began to gradually drop in position on her consorts, who were abandoning her to her fate. Firing was now very lively, and both groups of big ships were surrounded by splashes.

At 11 a.m. the Blücher stopped, and seeing her do this, proud ideas of administering the 'coup de grace' entered our heads. We put the helm over and, followed by our squadron, dashed in to 14,000 yards, when, turning to port, the 6-inch broadsides of four light cruisers opened fire upon the tormented ship. We could see our lyddite bursting all over her very plainly, but she was by no means dead.

Our first group of battle-cruisers, the First Battlecruiser Squadron, was passing the Blücher, intent on catching the Derflinger, Seydlitz, and Moltke, our Second Battle-cruiser Squadron was slightly astern, and for the moment the Blücher had only us to attend to. She had four 8-2-inch left in action on our side, and with these she opened on us and made some very creditable shooting, the splash of one shell falling like a cataract on the side of our quarter-deck. Furthermore, she pulled herself together for a last effort, and, smoking and burning in a dozen places, she got under control again and staggered along at about 20 knots. Beyond her our battle-cruisers spread out in chase, foamed forward, firing steadily at the flying Germans. We were able to tell the Tiger by wireless that her shot were falling over.

A Zeppelin had appeared at 10.30, and hung like a silver sausage between the two fleets. He cruised over towards us, but we fired our forecastle 6-inch with extreme elevation and a time-fused shrapnel at him, and he ponderously turned round and made off.

As we saw that the Indomitable was just about to come up with the Blücher, we resumed the main chase. Two of the three remaining German battle-cruisers had big fires on board, but they were still steaming steadily and firing with vigour. At this juncture we were somewhat surprised to see the Tiger and Princess Royal turn round and come back towards the Blücher. A hail of shell was poured into the doomed ship, which as we passed her once more stopped and, evidently no longer under control, began to wander very slowly from south-cast to north-east.

We were still following the other Germans, not understanding what had happened, and as we passed to the southward the Tiger suddenly advanced on the Blücher steaming full speed and firing furiously. Again and again the Blücher was hit. I saw a shell burst against her foretop, and another obliterated her foremost funnel. It seemed amazing to think that human beings could be in that hell. Clouds of grey smoke were pouring from inside her, and in places her very hull seemed to glow with a red heat.

Once more she fired, a last wild shot, and then utter silence as the Tiger ceased fire. ... We found she had been sunk by a torpedo from the Arethusa, and the latter ship together with some destroyers was picking up survivors.

We were approaching to assist, when we were surprised to see a line of splashes stand up one after the other on the sea. The general direction of the splashes was across the large oily pool which marked the last resting place of the Blücher. A whirring noise made everyone look up, and we saw the ugly snout of the old Zeppelin slipping along between low-lying clouds.

Our Commodore, who was the senior officer present, directed all ships to clear out at once; and we were obliged to leave a number of Germans swimming in the North Sea. In those days we regretted this considerably, for the Blücher had put up a stout fight against heavy odds, which we admired.

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North Sea Diary #8 - The end of Dogger Bank

[Although the signaling debacle aboard Beatty's flagship, HMS Lion, had resulted in the escape of the German battle-cruisers, the British had still won their first naval victory in the war.

The effect of the Battle of the Dogger Bank caused the Kaiser to place restrictions on his fleet, the commander in chief of the High Seas Fleet was required to obtain the Kaiser's permission before engaging in a fleet action. At least four capital ships were required to remain outside the Jade for the rest of the war and all capital ships would remain at two hours notice for steaming and two large minefields were laid to the west of Heligoland.

However, perhaps the most serious result of the battle, from the British point of view, was to alert the Germans to defects in the delivery of cordite to the gun turrets, a defect that passed un-noticed by the British and which caused the loss of HMS Queen Mary, HMS Indefatigable and HMS Invincible at Jutland.

Jim Broshot, wwi-l list member, noted that Naval Firepower Battleship Guns And Gunnery In The Dreadnought Era (2008), by Norman Friedman, states: "Both Admiral Jellicoe and Admiral Beatty were to have reprimanded for reversing magazine regulations (several wartime orders repeated that cordite was not to be stowed outside magazines). However, when Admiral Jellicoe was promoted to First Sea Lord and Admiral Beatty to Grand Fleet commander, the reprimands were cancelled. Third Sea Lord Rear Admiral Frederick Tudor, responsible for the investigation, was sent to command the China Station.

"The fleet could not be told that its own efforts to fire rapidly had been fatal. Soon after the battle it was claimed that plunging fire had destroyed the battlecruisers, and considerable deck armor was added, presumably as a way of convincing the Grand Fleet that its ships were safe." Date, 24 January 1915]

Getting under way, we proceeded north and heard for the first time that the Lion had been damaged by a plunging shot and was in difficulties. We soon overtook her, with a nasty list to port, in tow of, I think, the Indomitable. En passant, it may be a matter of curiosity to some to know why the Zepp bombed us when we were picking up survivors. All British capital ships are fitted with tripod masts, and one German ship was so fitted, this was the Blücher!

The Zepp had seen the Lion fall out of the line, and soon afterwards, from a distance, she had seen a ship with tripod masts sink. Putting two and two together and making five, she had planted some bombs on what she imagined to be the Lion's rescue party. Doubtless the idea that we should waste our time rescuing our enemies never entered the mind of the fool in command of the Zepp. The above theory would also account for the persistent manner in which the German Admiralty, doubtless acting on the evidence of the only witness they had, that is the Zepp commander, repeated the statement that the Lion had sunk.

Though the action was over at noon - and the surface of the sea was devoid of Germans, our anxieties were by no means over. The great question in all minds was, "What is the state of the Lion? Can she stick it ? Luckily the weather was perfect, which gave her every chance. There were only about eleven men killed in the Lion, and four men killed and one officer (Engineer Captain Taylor) in the Tiger, also a few wounded in each ship.

At 3 p.m. we gathered round the wounded Lion, Sir David Beatty having transferred his flag to the Princess Royal as soon as the Lion fell out, he having made the passage in a destroyer. Slowly the procession crawled north at about 7 knots. The day was succeeded by the night, but it brought little relief, as there was a bright moon. The Second Light Cruiser Squadron, ourselves, and forty-eight destroyers ringed her round.

On the 25th of January, tugs met the Lion, and the rest of us swept south to see if anyone was following us. There were no jackals in the Lion's footsteps. We received two good signals on the night of the 25th. One was that the Lion had got into Rosyth at 2 a.m., and the other was a congratulatory message from His Majesty. On the morning of the 26th we entered Rosyth and passed close to the Lion. There was little sign of external damage.

Thus ended the first action between ships of the Dreadnought era.

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North Sea Diary #9 - Change in naval activity

[In this chapter, entitled "The Ordinary Routine of War", King-Hall describes changes in naval activity in the North Sea following the engagements of Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank and discusses the role of a light cruiser in 1915.]

By the beginning of 1915 a distinct change had begun to take place in the character of the war in the North Sea, at least as regards surface ships. The policy of large ships, such as battle-cruisers and battleships, cruising about on the chance of seeing something was the first thing to be abandoned. Still the light cruisers were employed in patrolling "areas" and sweeping portions of the North Sea. By the term "sweeping" I do not, of course, mean mine-sweeping.

But it was not long ere this method of using the scouting forces of the Grand Fleet fell into disfavour. It was evident in the spring of 1915 that ships went to sea for three reasons.
(1) To intercept, or bring to action, blockade runners or enemy ships whose presence was known or suspected.
(2) To carry out an offensive operation, in so far as the strategical situation ever offered us scope for such operations.
(3) For exercise.

If none of these three reasons was valid, the ships were in harbour. Being in harbour did not mean going ashore, for this pleasure was only possible, and then as far as light cruisers were concerned with many limitations, when the ships were at more than two and a half hours' notice for steam.

The policy outlined above as opposed to being at sea, on general principles, came into being for the following reasons.

It became obvious that the Germans were not going to come out in the North Sea without a very definite object in the "operations" line ; and secondly, the presence of submarines and mines in the North Sea tended to make it an unhealthy place in which to cruise for the mere sake of cruising.

The year 1915 was not marked by an action of any size, but a great many operations of various kinds were carried out, in most of which, if not in all, the Southampton and most of her squadron participated. These operations were of three kinds.

The first kind, known as a "stunt," either good or bad, was an operation in which we went over to the other side, and in which, from the position of the Fleet and the fact that we were at action stations, it required no inside knowledge on the part of an observer for him to deduce that the powers that be thought that there was a sporting chance of meeting something. A "stunt " lasted from three to five days, and was usually preceded by a " flap" or " panic". I hope no one will conjure up a vision of the British Navy in a state of nerves because an order had arrived ordering us to sea.

The second kind of operations, viz. those in which we proceeded out to try and get at the inaccessible Hun, were chiefly air-raid parties on the Zepp sheds at Tondern, mine-laying parties in the region of the Bight, or "lucky dips" into the bran-tub of the Skajerack [sic] or up the Norwegian coast to try and pick up a few Hun patrols and un-neutral shipping.

Then there were the trips when we went out and steered steadily north till we reached the Grand Fleet's front garden, between the Shetlands, Iceland, and the grim Norwegian coast deep cut with fjords and dented by the eternal succession of Atlantic gales. Here, beneath the lace light of the Northern Lights, we did tactical exercises, playing with our big brothers the battleships and coming under the critical eye of J. J. [John Jellicoe] in the Iron Duke. Here we dropped targets and scouted around on the lookout for stray submarines, whilst the thunder of 13.5 inch and 12-inch broadsides rolled round the horizon.

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North Sea Diary #10 - Jutland, the preliminaries

[This account of the Battle of Jutland (Skagerrakschlact) is that as seen by Lieutenant King-Hall on board HMS Southampton, a light cruiser now attached to the Second Light Cruiser Squadron, and King-Hall had little knowledge of why the Grand Fleet was leaving harbour. In fact the sortie occurred because both sides were trying to bait traps for the other. Admiral John Jellicoe intended to lure the High Seas Fleet away from the coast and German Admiral von Scheer tried to destroy an isolated portion of the Grand Fleet.

Scheer intended to bombard Sunderland and bring out out the British. Submarines, concentrated off British naval bases, were to torpedo the ships as they set out and he was going to use his cruisers to lure the surviving British battlecruisers to destruction by the High Seas Fleet; his plan envisaged reconnaissance by Zeppelins to ensure that Jellicoe's dreadnoughts were not at sea. Due to weather conditions and condenser troubles in his newest battleships, Hipper changed his plan and ordered his battlecruisers deliberately to show themselves off the Norwegian coast.

He was unaware that Room 40, (British Naval Intelligence) had decrypted his message that the Germans were preparing to put to sea. The Admiralty then ordered Jellicoe and Beatty to concentrate on the Long Forties (a shoal 100 miles north of the Dogger Bank) and trap what was thought to be only German raiders. The British were unaware that the whole High Seas Fleet was at sea because of poor communications between Captain Jackson, director of the Operation Division of the Admiralty and Admiral Oliver who ran Room 40. Jackson asked where was the German call sign of their flagship and was told, correctly, that it was at Wilhelmhaven. He did not ask where the actual German Flagship was and so was not told that the call sign was transferred to a wireless station on shore when the German flagship put to sea. Jackson then informed Jellicoe that the High Seas Fleet was still in the Jade!

In effect the world's greatest naval battle occurred as the result of errors on both sides and an accidental contact between German destroyers and HMS Galatea, a light cruiser, when the Germans stopped a Danish steamer, the N. J. Fjord who blew off steam that was seen by the HMS Galatea.]

There is no doubt that this action at which the most powerful fleets that have ever sailed the seas met in battle, will provide material for discussion for many years. Trafalgar has been discussed and studied for over hundred years, and it seems likely that the problems of Jutland will displace the problems of Trafalgar in the minds of the students of naval war. Such being the case, I feel that anything written about Jutland should be written, if it is meant to be a serious contribution to naval literature, with a due sense of responsibility.

At the battle of Jutland, I was by the chance of war placed in certain positions, at certain times, in such manner that in looking back on the action, I do not believe that a single observer could have seen more, except from an aeroplane Most of the time I was engaged in taking notes, and it is of what I saw that I proposed to write. It may thus be accepted that, unless otherwise stated, the incidents described are facts for which 1 am prepared to vouch to the extent of my belief in my own eyesight.

On the afternoon of the 30th May, 1916, we were lying at Rosyth, and I was walking up and down the quarterdeck on watch when a string of flags rose from the Lion's signal bridge. 1 recognized it to be a steaming signal, and it turned out to be " Flag: Lion to Battle-cruiser Force and Fifth Battle Squadron. Raise steam and report when ready to proceed." We sailed at 9 p.m.

The three light cruiser squadrons were up to strength, but the Third Battle-cruiser Squadron was at Scapa doing gunnery exercises; they were commanded by Admiral Hood. We were reinforced by the Fifth Battle Squadron, consisting of the Malaya, Warspite, Barham, and Valiant, under the command of Rear-Admiral Evan Thomas. The only other absentee was the Australia, away refitting.

We did not know why we were going out, and to this moment I have never been able to find out officially what we hoped to do, but the 'on dit' [scuttlebutt] was and still is, that we were to support an air raid or perhaps a minelaying expedition in the Bight. At all events our immediate destination was a rendezvous near the Horns Reef. The Germans stated after the action that their forces were engaged on an enterprise to the North.

I strongly suspect that this enterprise consisted in getting the British Battle-cruiser Force between their battle-cruisers and battle-fleet, for they knew very well that the region of the Horns Reef was a favourite spot of ours when we were making a reconnaissance towards the German coast. Everything points to the fact that for once they expected us there and laid their plans accordingly; or else they were out to do a raid on North-sea trade.

It will be seen how very nearly this former state of affairs materialized, though it is impossible to assert definitely whether it was by accident or design. We did not appear to be expecting Huns, as we cruised along to the eastward at no great speed ; 'I think we were making good either 17 or 18 knots. At noon we received orders to have full speed ready at half an hour's notice, but as we were getting well over towards the Danish coast, this order partook of.the nature of precautionary routine. The order of the Fleet was the usual cruising formation by day. Course approximately east.

The battle-cruisers were in two lines and close to them was the cruiser Champion and the attached destroyers. The seaplane-carrier Engadine was also in company. Five miles ahead of the Lion, the light cruiser screen was spread on a line of bearing roughly north and south.

Those of us who were off watch were dozing in the smoking-room after lunch, when the secretary put his head in, and said, 'Galatea at the northern end of the line has sighted and is chasing two hostile cruisers.' This was at 2.23 and woke us all up with a jump.

I quickly went to my cabin and made certain preparations which I always did when there was a chance of something happening. These preparations consisted in putting on as many clothes as possible, collecting my camera, notebook and pencils, chocolate, and other aids to war in comfort in case of a prolonged stay at action stations.

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North Sea Diary #11 - The run to the south

[King-Hall gives a first hand account of the loss of HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary and the near loss of HMS Lion, as seen from HMS Southampton. HMS Lion would have joined the other two battlecruisers and blown up if it were not for the heroism of Major Harvey who, with both legs blown off, dragged himself to the speaking tube and ordered the flooding of the magazine serving the Q turret, just before it caught fire.]

At 2.56 the Galatea reported that she had sighted the German battle-cruisers, and we went to action stations, and the ship began to throb as we worked up to full speed. At about 3 p.m. we all turned to the N.E. to close the reported position of the enemy, who had turned from their original course of north to south. As the northern edge of our screen only just made contact with the western edge of their screen it will be seen how nearly we missed them.

The turn towards the north-east had brought us (Second Light Cruiser Squadron) on the starboard quarter of the Lion and distant but 2 miles from her. At 3.55 the Lion turned to south-east and the battlecruisers assumed line of battle. This placed us before her starboard beam, and without orders we pressed at our utmost speed, followed by our three light cruisers to a position ahead of the Lion. The First and. Third Light Cruiser Squadrons,without signal, took station astern of the battle cruisers.

As the battle-cruisers turned into line, I caught a faint distant glimpse of the silvery hulls of the German battle-cruisers, though owing to the great range only parts of their upper works were visible for short intervals. They appeared to be steering a slightly converging course. As the battle-cruisers came into line, with the Champion, her destroyers, and ourselves ahead of them, both our own battle-cruisers and the Germans opened fire practically simultaneously. Our line consisted of the Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary, Tiger, New Zealand, and Indefatigable, in the order named.

The Germans were almost entirely merged into a long, smoky cloud on the eastern horizon, the sort of cloud that presages a thunderstorm, and from this gloomy retreat a series of red flashes darting out in our direction indicated the presence of five German battlecruisers. It was at once evident that though the Germans were but indifferently visible to us, we on the other hand were silhouetted against a bright and clear western horizon, as far as the enemy were concerned. The German shooting, as has been the case throughout the war, was initially of an excellent quality. Our battle-cruisers about a mile away just on our port quarter were moving along in a forest of tremendous splashes. Their guns trained over on the port beam were firing regular salvos.

At 4.15 (approx.) I as watching our line from my position in the after-control, when without any warning an immense column of grey smoke with a fiery base and a flaming top stood up on the sea, where the Indefatigable should have been. It hung there for I don't know how many seconds, and then a hole appeared in this pillar of smoke, through which I caught a glimpse of the forepart of the Indefatigable lying on its side; then there was a streak of flame and a fresh outpouring of smoke.

I turned with a sinking heart and watched the remaining five battle-cruisers. I can - nor could I next day - remember no noise [sic]. We [the light cruisers] were not, of course, firing ourselves, and it seemed to me that I was being carried along in a kind of dream. I wondered what would happen next; each time the splashes rose on either side of the line of great ships it was like a blow to the body. We could not see from our low deck where the 13.5-inch shells were falling on that sinister eastern horizon from which the maddening jets of flame darted in and out.

At 4.23, in the flicker of an eyelid, the beautiful Queen Mary was no more. A huge stem of grey smoke shot up to perhaps a thousand feet, swaying slightly at the base. The top of this stem of smoke expanded and rolled downwards. Flames rose and fell in the stalk of this monstrous mushroom. The bows of a ship, a bridge, a mast, slid out of the smoke - perhaps after all the Queen Mary was still there? No! it was the next astern - the Tiger. Incredible as it may sound, the Tiger passed right over the spot on which the Queen Mary had been destroyed, and felt nothing. The time interval between her passage over the grave of the Queen,Mary and the destruction of the latter ship would be about 40-60 seconds.

Just before the Tiger appeared, I saw some piece of debris go whirling up a full 1,000 feet above the top of the smoke - it might have been the armour plates from the top of a turret. I remember that I found it impossible to realize that I had just seen 2,000 men, and many personal friends, killed; it seemed more like a wonderful cinematograph picture.

What did worry me was that we were now reduced to four. We were by now right ahead of the Lion, and as I watched her, I saw a tremendous flash amidships, as she was hit by a shell or shells. I saw the whole ship stagger; for what seemed eternity I held my breath, half expecting her to blow up, but she held on and showed no signs of outward injury.

Actually her midship turret, manned by the marines, was completely put out of action, and had it not been for the heroism of the major of marines the ship might have gone. He lost his life and gained the V.C.

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North Sea Diary #12 - Jutland: Beatty turns north

[Admiral Sir David Beatty had allowed the 5th Battle Squadron of powerful 15 inch gun battleships, sent specifically to support the battle-cruisers, to lag behind his battle-cruisers on the run to the south. He thus lacked their support when he encountered the German battle-cruisers. Unfortunately the 5th Battle Squadron also failed to receive Beatty's order to turn 16 points to the north when the remaining British battlecruisers encountered the High Seas Fleet. When Beatty turned to the north, the 5th Battle Squadron therefore still headed south until it came under the concentrated fire of the German battleships. Lieutenant King-Hall, on board HMS Southampton, was of course unaware that there had been a communications problem with the 5th Battle-Squadron. The Second Light Cruiser Squadron ignored Beatty's order to turn north, hoping to deliver a torpedo attack on the German battleships.]

At 4.38 a very startling development took place. We suddenly saw and reported the High Seas Fleet bearing south-east. Sir David Beatty at once signalled to the battle-cruiser Force to alter course 16 points (180 degrees). This manoeuvre was executed by the battle-cruisers in succession. The German battle-cruisers were doing the same thing at the same moment.

We disobeyed the signal, or rather delayed obeying it for two reasons: Firstly, we wished to get close enough to the High Seas Fleet to examine them and report accurately on their composition and disposition. Secondly, we had hopes of delivering a torpedo attack on the long crescent-shaped line of heavy ships which were stretched round on our port bow.

It was a strain steaming at 25 knots straight for this formidable line of battleships, with our own friends going fast away from us in the opposite direction. As we got closer I counted sixteen or seventeen battleships with the four KÖnig class in the van and the six older pre-Dreadnoughts in the rear. Seconds became minutes and still they did not open fire. I can only account for this strange inactivity on their part by the theory that as they only saw us end on, and we were steering on opposite courses to the remaining British ships, they assumed we were a German light cruiser squadron that had been running away from the British battle-cruisers.

The Commodore saw that we could not get into a position for a torpedo attack, and gave the order for the turning signal, which had been flying for five minutes, to be hauled down. Over went the helms, and the four ships slewed round, bringing our sterns to the enemy. As we turned the fun began, and half a dozen German battleships opened a deliberate fire on the squadron. ... I took a general look round, and the situation was as follows: About three or four miles north of us our battlecruisers were steaming along, making a good deal of smoke and firing steadily at the German battle-cruisers' distant hulls on our starboard bow. Then came a gap of two miles between the battlecruisers and the Fifth Battle Squadron. These latter four ships had passed the battle-cruisers on opposite courses when Sir David Beatty turned north, and as soon as they had passed him, Rear Admiral Evan Thomas turned his squadron to north by-west, and followed up the battle-cruisers.

It will be remembered that whilst this was going on we (Second Light Cruiser Squadron) had still been going south. When we turned to north, we found ourselves about a mile behind the last ship of the Fifth Battle Squadron. As flagship we had the post of honour nearest to the enemy. We maintained this position for one hour, during which time we were under persistent shell-fire from the rear six ships of the German line.

The Fifth Battle Squadron just ahead of us were a brave sight. They were receiving the concentrated fire of some twelve German heavy ships. Our own position was not pleasant. The half-dozen older battleships at the tail of the German line were out of range to fire at the Fifth Battle-cruiser, but though we had gradually drawn out to 15,000 -16,000 yards, we were inside their range, and they began to do a sort of target practice in slow time on our squadron. We all compared notes afterwards and decided that during this hour about fifty to sixty shells fell within 100 yards of the ship, and many more slightly farther off. I attribute our escape, as far as we were able to contribute towards it, to the very clever manner in which our navigator, zig-zagged the ship according to where he estimated the next salvo would fall.

At 6.17 p.m. the news that the Grand Fleet had been sighted right ahead spread round the ship like wild-fire. Forgotten was the steady shelling - now we'd give them hell. The battle drew on to its dramatic climax when as faintly ahead in the smoke and haze the great line of Grand Fleet battleships became visible curling across to the eastward. They had just deployed.

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North Sea Diary #13 - Jutland: HMS Defence, Warspite and SMS Wiesbaden

[Just after Lt. King-Hall had witnessed the deployment of the Grand Fleet, (a deployment significantly hampered by the communications inadequacies of Admiral Beatty and his incompetent signals Lieutenant, Ralph Seymour), he described the loss of the 9.2 inch armoured cruiser, HMS Defence. This ship was the Flagship of Admiral Arbuthnott, but being unaware in the poor visibility that the High Seas Fleet was so near, Arbuthnott made a misguided attempt to finish off the crippled SMS Wiesbaden and had cut right across the bows of HMS Lion forcing her to turn away to avoid collision in his impetuosity. King-Hall then described the steering failure of HMS Warspite, who turned a complete circle in front of the German High Seas Fleet and HMS Southampton's abortive attack on the sinking SMS Wiesbaden.]

Then two armoured cruisers appeared from right ahead between ourselves and the German line. They were steering about south-west, and were moving in an appalling concentration of fire from the German battleships. Whom could they be ? As I watched, the leading ship glowed red all over and seemed to burst in every direction. Our men cheered frantically thinking it was a Hun. Alas! I had caught a brief glimpse of a white ensign high above the smoke and flame, it was the Defence flying the flag of the gallant Sir Robert Arbuthnot. The ship astern was the Warrior, and it was evident that she was hard hit.

The Huns redoubled their efforts upon her, when a most extraordinary incident amazed both sides. The Warspite, just ahead of us, altered course to starboard and proceeded straight for the centre of the Hun line. For some moments she was unfired at, then as she continued to go straight for the Germans the tornado of fire lifted from the Warrior, hovered as it seemed in space, and fell with a crash about the Warspite. The Warrior, burning in several places, battered and wrecked, with steam escaping from many broken pipes, dragged slowly out of the battle to the westward; she passed about 400 yards under our stern.

Meanwhile with sinking hearts the sub[lieutenant] and I watched the Warspite and wondered what her amazing career portended. I focused her in my reflex camera, but so certain did I feel that she would be destroyed that I could not bring myself to expose the plate. I should guess that she reached a position about 8,000 yards from the German line when to our relief she slowly turned round, and still lashing out viciously with all her 15-inch guns she rejoined the British lines. At our end of the line there was a distinct lull. In fact, the speed of the tail of the Fleet became so slow that our squadron turned 32 points (a complete circle) in order not to bunch up on the battleships. In the course of this manoeuvre we very nearly had a collision with one of the Fifth Battle Squadron, the Valiant or Malaya.

It was now possible to try and take a general survey of the battle. It was evident that the day of days had dawned though too near sunset to suit us. At last the Grand Fleet and High Seas Fleet were up against each other, and the fate of nations was being decided. For a seemingly endless distance the line of Grand Fleet battleships stretched away to the east. To the south, the German line, partially obscured in mist, lay in the shape of a shallow convex arc. The Grand Fleet were loosing off salvos with splendid rapidity. The German shooting was simply ludicrously bad. Looking up our line, I sometimes saw a stray shell fall short of our battle fleet, and every now and then I saw a few fall over. Otherwise nothing anywhere near them. I remember seeing the Agincourt, a few ships ahead of us, let off a 10-gun salvo - a truly Kolossal spectacle, as a Hun would say.

It was about now that I noticed that though the surface of the sea was quite calm, yet the ship was rolling quite appreciably. I then discovered that the whole surface of the sea was heaving up and down in a confused swell, which was simply due to the wash created by the two-hundred-odd ships which were moving about at high speeds. Far ahead, rapid flashes and much smoke indicated that furious attacks and counter-attacks were taking place between the rival destroyer flotillas and their supporting light cruisers. The battle area of these desperate conflicts between gun platforms of 1-inch steel, moving at the speed of an express train, was the space between the vans of the two Fleets.

We were too far off to see any details of this fighting; but at 6.47 we reached the spot where it had taken place. The first thing we saw was a German three funnel cruiser, the Wiesbaden. She was battered badly, as she had been lying inert between the two lines, and whenever a British battleship could not see her target she opened on the Wiesbaden. We were simply longing to hit something, and this seemed our chance. Increasing speed to 20 knots we turned and led our squadron in to administer the 'coup de grace'. Turning to bring our broadsides to bear at 6,000 yards, we directed a stream of 6-inch on the Hun, who replied feebly with one gun. There is no doubt that the men who worked that gun had the right spirit in them.

Beyond the Wiesbaden, at a range of about 14,000 yards, our old friends the pre-dreadnoughts were toddling along at the stern of the German line. During our approach to the Wiesbaden they had preserved an ominous silence. It did not remain thus for long. The six of them opened a rapid fire on us, and we were at once obliged to open the range without delay. We scuttled back to the tail of the British line as hard as we could, zig-zagging like snipe, with 11-inch crumping down ahead, on both sides, and astern of us. I counted a bunch of three about 40 yards on the starboard beam of the ship, and [the sub-lieutenant], who was hanging out over the other side of the after-control, reported a group of seven close to the ship on the port beam.

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North Sea Diary #14 - Jutland: The escape of the High Seas Fleet!

[Lieutenant King-Hall was not aware of the High Seas Fleet's second attempt to break through the line of the Grand Fleet and knew nothing of the 'death ride of the battlecruisers!

Incidentally no U-Boats were present at Jutland but as a counter to them and to the torpedoes fired from the German destroyers, as well as the possibility of floating mines, Jellicoe turned away four points to the SSE at 1923 hrs and a further two points to SE two minutes later. In fact 32 torpedoes were fired at the Grand Fleet by the German torpedo boats after the battlecruisers attacked to distract from Hipper's second 'Battle-Turn-Away'.

Jellicoe's disengaging from the enemy has been criticised. Andrew Gordon ('The Rules of the Game -Jutland and British Naval Command') wrote (page 464): "But to spare the enemy from one's primary-weapon system through fear of his secondary weapon-system does seem 'prima facie' an unsound proposition.' However night was approaching, visibility was poor and Jellicoe had advised, long before the battle in his Grand Fleet Orders, that he would turn away from any torpedo attack to comb the torpedoes, rather than turn towards them." King-hall, who knew nothing of the above, continued:]

At this period (7.5 p.m.) twilight was beginning and the visibility was partly spoiled by low-lying clouds of funnel and brown cordite smoke, which hung like a gloomy pall over the scene.

It was apparent from the curve of our line that we were gradually working round to the eastward of the Huns, and at 7.30 p.m. the Germans decided to make a supreme effort to get out of the nasty position they were being forced into, viz. the centre of a semicircle, of which the British Fleet was the circumference. That they got out very cleverly must be admitted. A few destroyers crept out at the head of their line, and almost immediately afterwards a dense smokescreen unfurled itself between us and the enemy. Before this screen had reached its full length the Germans were altering course 8 points together to starboard, and escaping from the deadly fire of the British battleships.

One of the minor incidents of battle now took place. A German destroyer, part of the débris of the destroyer actions some twenty minutes earlier, was lying, incapable of movement between the two Fleets. Unfortunately for her, she was in such a position that the smokescreen rolled to the southward of her. She was alone for her sins in front of the British Fleet. No battleship fired at her; but we gave her a salvo at 6,000 yards as we came abreast of her. We hit, and a large explosion took place amidships. However, she still managed to float, and the Faulkner and some destroyers, who were hanging about near us, went over and finished her off. It rather annoyed us, as we intended to do some more target practice on her.

The Germans had disappeared somewhere to the south-west behind their smoke, and for a few minutes everything was strangely calm. At 8.50 p.m. the Birmingham sighted a submarine, and I saw that the Grand Fleet had got into five columns for the night. Four columns were abreast of each other, and the fifth, composed of the Valiant, Malaya, and Barham, was astern of them. We were on the starboard beam of this latter column. The course of the Fleet was south, and the Germans were somewhere to the westward of us in the growing darkness.

At 8.50 p.m. we sighted four German destroyers approaching us on the starboard bow, apparently intending to deliver an attack on the Fifth Battle Squadron. We opened fire at once, and hit the leading destroyer amidships. All four turned round and, pursued by our shells, disappeared behind a smoke-screen. This feeble little destroyer attack may be said to mark the conclusion of the day action as far as we were concerned. Directly afterwards we went to night defence stations, and nerve- strings were tightened up another turn.

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North Sea Diary #15 - Jutland: Night Action with 4th Scouting Group

[At the time that Lt. King-Hall describes below, the High Seas Fleet was astern of Beatty and between the battlecruisers's wake and the Grand Fleet. The most eastward German ships, on Scheer's port bow, were the five light cruisers of the Fourth Scouting Group under Commodore Ludwig von Reuter and these ships came into contact with the British 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron and HMS Southampton was the Flag-ship. The British were not used to night fighting but the Germans were well trained in search-light and gunnery coordination; their searchlights also blinded the British and interfered with their gunnery. The range between the British and German light cruisers was about 800 yards.]

At 9 p.m. heavy firing started and the south-eastern horizon was lit by flashes. I subsequently discovered that this was the Third Light Cruiser Squadron and our battle-cruisers still worrying and harassing the head of the German line and forcing them farther and farther away from their bases and out into the North Sea.

I groped my way on to the bridge and had a chat with the gunnery lieutenant, as a result of which he arranged that in the event of night action he would control the guns from the forebridge and I would be in general charge aft. A signalman, and the navigator suddenly whispered, " Five ships on the beam." The Commodore looked at them through night glasses, and I heard a whispered discussion going on as to whether they were the enemy or the Third Light Cruiser Squadron. From their faint silhouettes it was impossible to discover more than the fact that they were light cruisers. I decided to go aft as quickly as possible. On the way aft I looked in at the after-control, where H. B- said to me, 'There are five Huns on the beam. What on earth is going on ?'

We began to challenge; the Germans switched on coloured lights at their fore yardarms. A second later a solitary gun crashed forth from the Dublin, who was next astern of us. Simultaneously I saw the shell hit a ship just above the water-line and about 8oo yards away. As I caught a nightmare-like glimpse of her interior which has remained photographed on my mind to this day, I said to myself: 'My G--, they are alongside us.' At that moment the Germans switched on their searchlights, and we switched on ours. Before I was blinded by the lights in my eyes I caught sight of a line of light grey ships. Then the gun behind which I was standing answered my shout of 'Fire!'

The action lasted three and a half minutes. The four leading German ships concentrated their lights and guns on the Southampton; the fifth and perhaps the fourth as well fired at the Dublin. The Nottingham and Birmingham, third and fourth in our line, with great wisdom did not switch on their lights and were not fired at. In those three and a half minutes we had 89 casualties, and 75 per cent. of the personnel on the upper deck were killed or wounded.

The range was amazingly close - no two groups of such ships have ever fought so close in the history of this war. There could be no missing. A gun was fired and a hit obtained - the gun was loaded, it flamed, it roared, it leapt to the rear, it slid to the front - there was another hit. But to load guns, there must be men, flesh and blood must lift the shells and cordite and open and close the hungry breeches. But flesh and blood cannot stand high explosives, and there was a great deal of H.E. bursting all along H.M.S. Southampton's upper deck from her after-screen to the forebridge.

The range was so close, the German shots went high, just high enough to burst on the upper deck and around the after superstructure and bridge. And in a light cruiser that's where all the flesh and blood has to stand. So in a very few seconds my guns stopped firing, all through lack of flesh and blood - it was a great pity. Why had the men on each side of me fallen down in such funny heaps? It was curious, very curious; as a matter of fact, daylight revealed that it wasn't so very remarkable. The really remarkable thing was that the sergeant-major, with his burnt face, and myself were still standing about and representing flesh and blood. One shell had burst on the side just below the gun, and the fragments had whipped over the top of the low bulwark and mowed the men down as standing corn falls before the reaper.

Another shell had burst on the searchlight just above us, and hurled the remains of this expensive instrument many feet. Three men who looked after it and had guided its beam on to the enemy died instantaneously. The fragments from this shell descended upon 'the waist' like hail, and scoured out the insides of the gunshields of the two 6-inch, manned by marines, one gun each side. And then I seemed to be standing in a fire. The flash of some exploding shell had ignited half a dozen rounds of cordite. A shell exploding in the half-deck had severed the connection to the upper deck fire main. I put my head down a hatch and shouted for a good hose. The wine steward came up on deck with one, someone turned on the water down below, and the fire was quickly out.

Then it became lighter than the day. I looked forward. Two pillars of white flame rose splendidly aloft. One roared up the foremast, the other reached above the tops of the second and third funnels. This then was the end! The heat warmed the cheek. it was bad luck, just after we had got the small fire aft extinguished. But there could be no doubt ; the central ammunition hoist was between those two funnels. What was it going to feel like to blow up? Let me see, how had the Queen Mary looked ? By Heaven, the centre one had turned red, it wavered, it decreased in height, it grew again; but the spell was broken and I rushed to the ladder which led from the waist to the boat deck in order to get up to the fire and assist.

I ran a few steps and tripped up, over a heap of bodies. I got up, tried not to tread on soft things, and arrived on the boat deck. The firing had ceased, the Commander and H. B- were at the central fire. It suddenly went out, so did the foremost one. Everything was pitch black.

Where were the Germans? Nothing but groans from dark corners. Though I did not know it at the time, the Germans had fled. They fled because our torpedo lieutenant, had fired a 21-inch torpedo. At 41 knots the torpedo had shot across and, striking the Frauenlob, had blown her in half. Out of 300 Huns in her, 7 survived.

I have their account of the action before me. They say, 'The leading ship of the British line burst into flames and blew up . . . then we were torpedoed.' They were wrong - their friends sheered off just a few seconds too soon. I will admit that they probably think they saw us blown up.

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North Sea Diary #16 - Jutland: Night Action casualties and damage

[As a result of the short but ferocious engagement with the German Fourth Scouting Group at close quarters, HMS Southampton had several spectacular cordite fires and it was feared by the other light cruisers that she had blown up, her Wireless Transmission was disabled and her crew had suffered many casualties, mainly from the upper deck.

After sinking SMS Frauenlob with a torpedo, she staggered out of the line and set about tending to her wounded and assessing the damage after day had broken. Because the German light cruisers were so close, her damage was mainly limited to the upper parts of the ship and she was still able to steam.]

A friend of mine, McG-- , who was five miles away in one of the Fifth Battle Squadron, read a signal on the bridge by the light of our fires. In the ships of our squadron astern they thought we had gone, and took shelter from the bits they expected to come down, It was a near thing. It is after the firing is over that the real horror of a night action begins. We did not know where the Germans were, our guns' crews were practically non existent, the voice-pipes and telephones to the guns were in shreds. We simply had to have time to reorganize, so we didn't dare show a light.

Yet the upper deck was strewn with dead and wounded. One stumbled on them as one walked. By the aid of discreetly struck matches and shaded torches the upper deck was searched. I heard a groan and came upon a poor boy named Mellish. He could only say, 'My leg - my arm' Another man and myself got him down one of the two steep hatches that led to the lower deck. His injuries were sickening, but with a smile he said: 'It's no good worrying about me, sir!' and then he died. I don't think he felt any pain.

I went up to the bridge to see B-- about reorganizing the men left for guns' crews and rigging up temporary communications. As I passed the chart house a well-known voice called me in. It was the Commodore. He told me to go down to the fleet surgeon and find out what our casualties were. And once more I went below. I went down the foremost hatch and along the central passage -nicknamed the twopenny tube - which in this class of ship runs down the centre of the ship above the boiler and engine-rooms. There was about six inches of water in this passage, which had slopped in from some holes almost exactly on the water-lines. The operating room - at the after end of this passage - was the stokers' bathroom. Imagine a small room which a shore-goer might hesitate to use as a dark room in his house, it might get so stuffy. The size of this room was about 8 feet high, 12 feet broad and 12 feet long. The centre of the room was occupied by a light portable operating table. A row of wash basins ran down one side, and the steel walls streamed with sweat.

Four bright electric lights were fixed to the roof, but with its faults the stokers' bathroom had some advantages. It had a tiled floor and a drain in the corner. Stepping carefully between rows of shapes who were lying in lines down each side of the passage - way, I put my head inside the narrow doorway. Bare-armed the fleet surgeon and C-, the young doctor, were working with desperate but methodical haste. They were just taking a man's leg off above the knee, so I did not interrupt. When they had finished and the patient had been carried out, I gave the P.M.O. [Principal Medical Officer] the Cemmodore's message, whilst his assistants went outside to get another man. 'About 40 killed and 40 or 50 wounded,' he said. I thanked him, and went back to the bridge. He was hard at it for eleven hours: truly the doctor is one of the finest products of modern civilization.

I told the Commodore what I had learned. He made a remark. I realized we were only one light cruiser in a very big fleet. I went aft again and down to the ward-room. The mess presented an extraordinary appearance. As it was the largest room in the ship, we placed all the seriously wounded cases in it. The long table was covered with men, all lying very still and silently white. The young doctor was in charge, and as I came in he signalled to the sick-berth steward to remove one man over whom he had been bending. Four stokers, still grimy from the stoke-hole, lifted the body and carried it out. Two men were on top of the sideboard, others were in arm-chairs.

A hole in the side admitted water to the wardroom, which sploshed about as the ship gently rolled. In this ankle-deep flood, bloodstained bandages and countless pieces of the small débris of war floated to and fro. All the wounded who could speak were very cheerful and only wanted one thing-cigarettes. The most dreadful cases were the 'burns' - but this subject cannot be written about.

An hour's work on deck connected with the reorganization of the guns' crews, the impressment of stokers off watch for this duty, and the testing of communications followed. Then H. B- and myself decided we'd sit down somewhere. We went up to the fore-bridge, and rolled ourselves up in the canvas cover of a compass. Horrors! it was wet. We hastily shifted to a less gruesome bed.

We had just lain down when fresh gun-firing broke out right astern, and every one was on the 'qui vive' with a jump. It died down - I wasn't sorry, we were not as ready for action as we could have wished. We increased speed to 20 knots, and as dawn slowly grew the ghostly shapes of some battleships loomed out of the mist. I heard a pessimist on the upper bridge hazard the opinion that we were about to take station astern of the German Battle Fleet, but as the light grew brighter we saw that we had rejoined the British Fleet.

Complete daylight enabled us to survey the damage. The funnels were riddled through with hundreds of small holes, and the decks were slashed and ripped with splinters. There were several holes along the side, but the general effect was as if handfuls of splinters had been thrown against the upper works of the ship. The protective mattresses round the bridge and control position were slashed with splinters. The foremast, the rigging, the boats, the signal lockers, the funnel casing, the mainmast, everything was a mass of splinter holes. Our sailors firmly believed, and continued to do so up to the day on which I left the ship, that we had been deluged with shrapnel. It was certainly surprising that anyone on the upper deck remained unhit.

The flag lieutenant, one P- by name, had a remarkable escape. The secretary asked him what he had done to his cap during the night. P- took it off, and there was a large rent where a splinter, which must have been shaped something like a skewer, had entered his cap just above his ear and gone out again through the crown. P- had felt nothing. This sounds almost impossible, but I can vouch for its absolute truth.

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North Sea Diary #17 - Jutland: HMS Southampton returns to Rosyth

[HMS Southampton had suffered 35 killed and 41 injured as the result of the engagement with the German 4th Scouting Group. King-Hall had apparently been so occupied with his ship that he had no knowledge of the other actions that took place that night.

HMS Warrior would have suffered the same fate as HMS Defence but was able to avoid being sunk immediately because the steering defect of HMS Warspite caused that ship to alter course to starboard and proceeded straight for the centre of the German line. This distracted the German fire from HMS Warrior, and though burning and listing she was able to drag herself away from danger. She was taken under tow by the Seaplane Carrier HMS Engadine but sank while under tow; 77 of her crew perished.]

There were other curious escapes. The paymaster was sitting in the decoding office under the waist when the action began. A shell came through the side, passed through the canvas walls of the decoding office and burst near the ward-room, taking a man's head off en route. The paymaster "felt a wind "! H. B-- was leaning over the ledge of the aftercontrol when a shell passed through a bracket supporting the ledge he was leaning over. From here it went through the funnel and burst with deadly effect in the inside of a gun shield of one of the guns on the disengaged side.

The Commodore walked round the upper deck at about 9 o'clock, and was loudly cheered. The morale of the crew was splendid.

It suddenly occurred to me that I might as well go and have a look at my cabin. I got through the watertight doors and discovered an extraordinary scene of confusion in the foremost cabin flat. Three shells had burst therein, and one had apparently chosen my cabin for its final effort. The place was smashed to pieces, and water was splashing in through a small hole in the ship's side. I've only seen one sight comparable to it, and that was the inside of a German submarine after a strong party of souvenir hunters had been invited to go round her. I paddled about, feeling like a lost soul, for a few moments in what had been a rather fashionable cabin, and then retired, closing the water-tight door on the beastly scene. My first impulse, which I obeyed, was to find S. B-- and one or two others and invite them to look at their cabins - even thus can joy be extracted from the sorrows of others.

To return to the movements of the ship. As soon as it was daylight, squadrons had sorted themselves out, and we searched about until we discovered the Lion and other battle-cruisers, to whom we attached ourselves. A Zepp. passed overhead at 10 a.m., but otherwise we saw no signs of the enemy, though we cruised about in different directions. At noon it became evident that the Huns had got in, and so the signal was made for the Fleet to return to its bases.

Soon after lunch on our way north we passed the bow of a destroyer sticking up out of the water, and near by we steamed through an immense oily and smooth pool of water, which doubtless marked the resting-place of some great ship. In the afternoon the Commodore held a short service in the waist. It was a moving scene. Overhead the main-top mast, which had been half-shot through, swayed giddily about and seemed likely to go over the side or come down on the boat deck at any moment. In serried lines the officers and men stood bare-headed round the Commodore, who read a few of the wonderful prayers for the use of those at sea. I think we all felt strangely moved.

That night the weather became nasty, and we had trouble with the temporary shores and plugs that had been improvised for the holes near the water-line. We had to heave to for short periods. I spent most of the night either on the bridge or searching for a sleeping billet. Next day we continued on our course for Rosyth, which place we reached at 2 p.m. We were the last ship of the Battle-cruiser Force to enter harbour, and as the battle-cruisers had been in since 2 a.m. our belated appearance caused much relief amongst certain ladies ashore.

On our way in we had buried a poor fellow, who had lain like a marble statue on the ward-room table for thirty-six hours. There were no injuries upon him - he died of shock. I used to go in and look at him; he seemed so peaceful and still that it was almost impossible to believe that in that body life was yielding inch by inch to death. The burial service at sea is the most poignant of all ceremonies. Doubtless he had welcomed the sight of May Island many times as we returned from trips in the North Sea, and as his body slid from beneath the Union Jack into the waters bubbling along our side there was a silence in which as if by a prearranged signal the voice of the lookout floated aft - 'Land on the port bow.' It was May Island.

As soon as we anchored, hospital drifters came alongside and the wounded were lifted out in cots and transferred to an adjacent hospital ship. There were horrible rumours (with a basis of truth I regret to say) that men landing from ships like the Warspite had been the object of hostile demonstrations ashore.

It was impossible to find out any facts as to what damage the Gennans had sustained; and our own losses had been only too apparent. There were depressing gaps in the lines of battle-cruisers where the three lost ships had been in the habit of lying. I felt very miserable, largely due, I think, to lack of sleep, and to the fact that the ward-room being uninhabitable, and my cabin wrecked, I had nowhere to go to. There was also the official communique - a bit of damper. I felt I wanted to burst into tears, hit somebody, or do something equally foolish.

At 5 p.m. a definite order to go into the basin of Rosyth dockyard relieved the strain, and, with a job in hand, everyone became cheery again. As we slowly wharfed through the lock gates, large crowds assembled to greet us, chiefly composed of dockyard men, and men from the Warspite, and survivors of the Warrior, which had sunk some 80 miles from the action after being towed by the Engadine. The survivors of the Warrior were garbed in mixture of uniform and plain clothes, and were in good spirits. They were making much of the men of the Warspite, to which ship they rightly ascribed their salvation, as had the Warspite not turned in towards the German line when she did, there is little doubt Warrior would have followed the Defence in a very short space of time.

Next day most of the officers and crew went on leave, a few men under my command being left to superintend the refit. The Commodore shifted his broad pennant to the Birmingham whilst we were out of action. Before our ship's company went on leave Sir David Beatty came on board and made us a very charming and complimentary speech.

During the three weeks in which we were being repaired at Rosyth, we had a great many visitors board, including His Majesty the King, to whom I had the honour of being presented. The Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith) and a party visited the ship. 1 was showing him my cabin, and he commented on the damage to my private effects. I was about to strike when the iron was hot, and hint at the desirability of bringing pressure to bear on the Treasury to treat all claims in a broad-minded manner, when I suddenly recollected that, as my guest was First Lord of the Treasury, he might think it somewhat pointed if I enlarged on the iniquities of that department. Large parties of technical sight-seers came up from the Admiralty, the gunnery school (Whaley), and the torpedo school (Vernon), and swarmed over the ship, asking innumerable questions and taking notes.

The Tiger, Princess Royal, and Warspite were in dock alongside us, and 1 had a good look at all their damage, and heard many interesting stories of their share in the action.

On the 17th June I went on leave, and was more than glad to see dear old London again. When I returned in a penniless condition, on the 29th June, we were once more back in our old billet off Charlestown and flagship of the Second Light Cruiser Squadron. In one way we were changed. There were sixty new faces amongst the ship's company, and as these new arrivals had joined no ordinary ship, but a ship with a reputation, we started as hard as we could to train them up in the way they should go.

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North Sea Diary #18 - Jutland: King-Hall on Jutland

[Stephen King-Hall reflects on the Battle of Jutland. It is interesting, in the light of the fate of HMS Hood in WW2, that he considered that the constructional defects in the battlecruisers were remedied after the battle! However he is correct in his opinion on aerial scouting and his comments on the failure of the smaller ships to communicate with Jellicoe during the Night Action are very valid.

This chapter was obviously written after the war was over, and was not derived from his Diary, but it gives an interesting contemporary insight into what a junior officer in the WW1 Royal Navy thought about the battle. It is noteworthy that he makes no criticism of Sir David Beatty's handling of his command.]

We now know as a result of the Great Surrender that the German Fleet received such a hammering on the 31st May, 1916, that from that date they decided never to try an engagement with heavy ships again. That they did not lose more ships than they did although at least ten were struck by British torpedoes, may be ascribed to the excellent underwater construction and subdivision into minute compartments of their ships, coupled with the fortune of war.

The causes of the constructional defects which led to the loss of three battle-cruisers on our side by single shots, which striking anywhere else would have done little harm, were investigated in due course, and no good purpose can be served by trying to inquire into these things in the pages of a book of this description, The constructional defects themselves were remedied in a short time as a result of a conference held immediately after the battle.

Our system of fire control, possibly inferior to the German system in the opening moments of an action, but certainly superior after the first few minutes, was modified with a view to improving the rate of hitting when action commences. The great value of aerial scouts was shown at Jutland. Had Scheer made use of Zeppelins during the afternoon of the 31st he would have known exactly when to break off action in order to avoid having to meet Sir John Jellicoe.

The importance of "light" conditions, from the gunnery point of view, was shown to be very great. Our handicap in this respect during the battle-cruiser action was very noticeable. There was only one way to avoid it, and that was to break off action ; but that's not the way to conduct war when the enemy is sighted for the first time for sixteen months,

As to whether the distance between the Grand Fleet battleships and the battle-cruisers was excessive, I prefer to offer no opinion. The facts are plain, let each judge for himself. One thing is certain, if the Battle Fleet had been in visual touch with our battle-cruisers, there would have been no battle. One of the cleverest tactical moves of the day was the German smoke-screen. It was executed with precision and accuracy at the psychological moment, and taught us a lesson as to the value of smoke-screens when properly used. There is a lot of talk flying about and a certain amount of nonsense has been written, more to follow, I'm sure, about what the leading divisions of our Battle Fleet ought or ought not to have done. As I was at the other end of the line I don't propose to add to the aforesaid flood of eloquence by the critics on the hearthrugs.

At 8.30 P.m. Scheer was in a very nasty hole. He'd not done badly up till then, for he had inflicted considerable losses on the British battle-cruisers, though his subordinate Hipper's flagship, the Lutzow, was in a sinking condition and he had managed to remain under the fire of the British Battle Fleet for a sufficiently short period to avoid annihilation. But, and it must have been a very big BUT, it was a case of out of the frying-pan into the fire, for he was in a position which, to the commander of an inferior fleet should be like holy water to the Devil. Scheer found himself being forced out into the North Sea with Sir John Jellicoe insinuating himself between him and his bases in the Bight.

There must have been some anxious moments in the staff-room of the German Fleet flagship between 9 p.rn. and 3 a.m. Scheer had three choices
(1) Try and get home round the Skaw.
(2) Try and get into the Bight by Horns Reef.
(3) Try and get into the Bight by Borkum.

And the British destroyer flotillas hanging on to him like grim death throughout the dark hours.

His battleships rammed them, they bumped down their sides, so close the guns couldn't depress enough to hit them. His battleships sank some by 6-inch gunfire, others came out of the night. Like a nightmare they were with him till the day.

Day - ah! that was the rub. Another day action must be avoided at all costs. Choices (i) and (3) meant daylight and many miles to go, and so I believe for this reason he chose (2). "It is true," 1 can imagine him saying, "the British Fleet is there, but I may miss them, and at the worst it will be a colossal mix-up in the night-all in favour of the weaker side." And so, as soon as he had shaken Sir David off at about 9.30 p.m., he sent the Fourth Scouting Group to the south-east to reconnoitre. As already described, this group of German light cruisers encountered the Second Light Cruiser Squadron and retired back to the west - minus the Frauenlob.

When the news of this engagement reached Scheer he must have felt that it would be well-nigh impossible for him to get to Horns Reef without encountering the British Fleet. However, the hours of darkness were few, and he pushed east in detached divisions of battleships continually being harassed by our destroyer flotillas.

Once the Germans were well to the eastward they steered south, and as at dawn the British Grand Fleet turned north again, the Germans were slipping south through their minefields and coastal channels. Had the day been moderately clear we should have seen them -- but the visibility was about 2 miles, and hidden from each other by the mist, we passed on opposite courses, probably scarcely 10 miles apart. At 10 a.m. we were once more sweeping south, but by that time they must have been practically home.

How had we missed them? How had they crossed our wakes during the night without our Battle Fleet knowing exactly where they were in the morning ? There are a great many contributory causes to this misfortune from our point of view. It must be admitted that certain sections of the British Fleet were in touch with the Germans until dawn - these were our destroyer flotillas. It was from them that information could have come. One destroyer, at the least, did send a wireless message reporting exactly where the Huns were. I am told it was jammed by Telefunken. The Germans were fully alive to the necessity of spoiling our wireless signals and the ether jangled with discordant and high-power Telefunken wireless notes. It must also be remembered that the Tipperary (Captain D.'s destroyer) was blown up, and in the heat and fury and bewildering uncertainty of the continuous night attacks it is very probable that several people thought others were doing the reporting. It is so easy to sit down comfortably, two or three years after the event, and say what might have been done; but, when the first Fleet action of the war is fought, everything can hardly be expected to "develop according to plan." I wish to mention another point. The British Grand Fleet has been the hub of the Allied wheel during this war. In my opinion it is absurd to say, as has been said, that once battle was joined, the above fact should have no place in the minds of those who directed the movements of the Fleet. That it did not weigh unduly in those minds is my firm personal opinion.

Amongst other tactical lessons which were brought home to our ship in a very forcible manner, was the fact that searchlights, unless used with great care, can be of more harm than value to the side using them. The difficulty of challenging doubtful craft at night was emphasized. The first ship to start a flashing signal gets a broadside in reply if the other ship is enemy.

Again, in the personal account of the action which I have endeavoured to set out on the previous pages, I have omitted many facts which, though of my knowledge, did not come under my observation or affect in any way the ship in which I served. Such incidents are the destruction of the armoured cruiser Black Prince by one stupendous salvo from a German battleship at point-blank range in the middle of the night, or the hazardous work of the Abdiel, which ship laid down a minefield in the approaches to the Bight whilst the night action was going on - mines wich were subsequently heard to detonate by one of our submarines which was lying on the bottom some 30 miles away.

I myself have an impression of the after-effects of Jutland which stays obstinately in my mind. It was on the 3rd June, and the embargo on people leaving the dockyard had been removed. I decided to go to Dunfermline, and walking past the shell-scarred battlecruisers I went through the gates and boarded a tram. It was packed, and the air of excitement and babel of noise were intense. Doubtless the action, I thought, and listened to hear what they were saying. Not so. The cause of the excitement was a football match in which Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath strove together in a League Semi-Final.

We are a remarkable nation - and doubtless that is why Providence has allowed us a remarkable Empire.

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North Sea Diary #19 - HMS Maidstone

[Following Jutland, Lt King-Hall was posted away from HMS Southampton for a short time to HMS Ramillies but then left this battleship to take an Electrical and Torpedo course. At the end of April 1917 he was posted to the Submarine Depot Ship, HMS Maidstone as assistant torpedo lieutenant for duty with the Harwich submarines. Here he describes HMS Maidstone and his responsibilities.]

On the 20th April or thereabouts I found myself on the platform of Parkestone Quay surrounded by fifteen bits of luggage. Vague recollections of previous departures for Germany from Parkestone Quay came back to me as I walked on to the quay and saw two large steamers moored alongside.

I was directed to the Maidstone and there found that the other ship was an overflow ship known as the Pandora. It was about 6 p.m., and I inquired for the commander in order to report my arrival. I was direct to "The Badminton Shed," where I found the officer in question amongst a lot of ladies playing Badminton with more energy than skill. My opinion of the Maidstone at once rose to great heights. A day or two was spent exploring the depot and I found that there was a third ship further down the jetty - HMS Forth. Amongst other places of interest I discovered a billiard room, a whole series of torpedo, electrical and mining workshops and stores, a theatre, a rabbit warren of offices, and a chapel.

Later on, when I had settled down, I bought a horse, and I found stables in the establishment. In fact, it would be difficult to say what we could not find in Parkestone. I could continue for pages describing the piggeries, the duckeries, the heneries, the Petty Officers' Club, the periscope room, the wet canteen, the dry canteen, the barber's shop, etc. etc. It was, in fact, a small town in many ways. Over all these shore establishments the commander of the depot presided as Chief Magistrate under Captain (S).

The warlike side of the depot consisted of a flotilla of 'E' and 'C' boats, mostly 'E' boats with the first of the 'L' class of boats joining up as they were finished. The bulk of the flotilla were 'E', boats of pre-war design, but many of them war construction - excellent boats that have dived beneath all the waters from the Murman Coast to the Azores, and from Gibraltar to Constantinople.

As soon as I had looked round the depot I decided that I had better start learning my job; as a torpedo lieutenant's business in a submarine flotilla is quite different to what it is anywhere else. My knowledge of submarines was contained in the instinctive idea, which three years in the Fleet had imbued into me, that if one saw a periscope, one rammed it on sight.

In the course of the first six months at Harwich I was able to learn quite a lot about submarines. I found that my job was really a species of staff job on the staff of the Captain (S). The torpedo department carried out big electrical repairs beyond the capacity of the boats and supplied the boats with good torpedoes as necessary. Every day when the weather permitted, three of the boats in harbour went outside Harwich accompanied by a destroyer, and dived in what was known as the exercising ground firing their torpedoes at the destroyer. It was frequently my business to go out in the destroyer as marking officer. Sometimes one submarine submerged, fired at another one on the surface. If a torpedo behaved badly when fired for exercise we withdrew it from the boat and gave them another one.

I had immediate charge of the torpedo allocation, and used to play a game with the first lieutenants of the boats. If a torpedo ran badly, they said it was a horrible thing given to them in bad condition by my minions, whilst I said that the best torpedo in the world required a little looking after. The game consisted in both sides endeavouring to obtain definite proof to bolster up the preliminary statements and accusations which were made from both sides as soon as the boat came in from exercising. When the pile of papers to be dealt with in the office became too nauseating, I generally accepted a standing invitation which had been extended to me to go out for a day's running in the boats. On black days, torpedoes sank, and then I had to go out and look for them, using an abomination known as the single torpedo trawl.

Besides the torpedo work and electrical and wireless matters, it was our duty in the torpedo department to prepare the mines and load them into the submarine mine-layers. The mines were given a thorough test before they went to the loading jetty in railway trucks, where a crane lifted each mine and lowered it head downwards into the empty tubes each side of the submarine.

The mine-layers were not out for more than three days, as a rule, as their procedure was to go straight over to the other side, insinuate themselves amongst the minefields, lie on the bottom until a suitable moment arrived, having regard to the tide, then rise, lay the 'eggs' and return as fast as possible.

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North Sea Diary #20 - Submarines

[Lieutenant (T) King-Hall, having left HMS Southampton, is now Assistant Torpedo Officer to the submarine depot ship, HMS Maidstone, at Harwich. The Officers and crew of the submarines do not live in their boats but on board the depot ship and have all the comforts of life on shore when they are in harbour. King-Hall's duties no longer required sea time but he still occasionally went to sea in a submarine.]

The submarine has ever been a secret thing, and its very raison d'etre presupposes secrecy and concealment, and this perhaps is why so little is known about submarines, outside the submarine service itself. The ignorance is not by any means confined to the general public, but is to be found on an extensive scale in the general service of the Navy. Before this war, submarine officers naturally knew to a certain extent what their boats could do, though it is certain that on neither side of the North Sea did the average submarine officer realize what great potentialities were possessed by the best boats in 1914.

The rest of the Navy knew very little about submarines. The average lieutenant, commander or captain looked on submarines as dangerous craft into which light-hearted and nerveless officers descended and went out to the open sea, escorted by a ship flying a red flag; the submarine then dived and, after an uncertain period, rose again in an unexpected spot. Sometimes she never came up at all, and it was the general opinion in the Service that the submarine fellows fully deserved their extra six shillings a day. Then came the war.

Until the advent of the big fleet submarines, towards 1917, the Grand Fleet hardly ever met a British submarine. In my three years in the Southampton I met British submarines at sea three times, and on two of these occasions we thought they were Fritzes. The Hogue-Aboukir-Cressy disaster [when U9 sank three armoured cruisers on September 22, 1914] woke everybody up to the submarine menace, and from that day every periscope seen at sea was an enemy to every surface ship, and the submarine was never given the benefit of the doubt, even when on the surface herself.

The work of the British submarines in and out of the North Sea has been of a very dangerous nature, as is testified by the fact that their casualties in killed are a higher percentage of the whole than the casualties in killed of either the surface Navy, the Air Force, or the Army. Their work in the North Sea has been of two kinds. Firstly, they have carried out the work of observation. Secondly, they have played a large share in the plans of the anti-submarine division at the Admiralty. Their work of observation has perhaps been the most important of all their duties, though they have, of course, attacked and sunk German surface craft on those infrequent occasions when the vision of a man-of-war through the periscope has created a red-letter day in the monotonous calendar of patrols.

In the Napoleonic wars Lord Nelson relied on his in shore squadrons, when he was cruising with his fleets off Toulon or Brest, for information concerning the movements of the enemy. In 1914 Sir John Jellicoe was equally anxious to obtain information of German movements, but it was obviously impossible to keep a squadron of observation hovering in the Bight. The Submarine Service stepped into the breach, and, though the losses were heavy, from 6th August, 1914 to 16th November, 1918, British submarines were keeping observation on the Bight and reporting by wireless any enemy movements.

At first, indeed, our submarines had it very much their own way, and they dived about with comparative impunity inside Heligoland and even nosed about in the entrances of the German rivers, one of our boats sticking on the mud of the German coast for some time. But the Germans soon decided to try and drive these intruders out of the Bight, and, as it is a comparatively small area of water, it was soon infested with every antisubmarine device.

Our boats withdrew slightly, but still the Germans found it almost impossible to get to the open sea without being reported, and still the British boats penetrated into the Bight in search of targets. This "going in," as it was called, though eagerly hoped for by submarine captains, was attended by heavy risks, as the way in led between our own minefields and those laid by the enemy. Concerning the former, their position could be stated with some certainty, but of the latter dimensions there was inevitably an element of doubt.

Life in a submarine is quite different to that in any other kind of depot, as the officers and crews of the submarines do not live in their boats when in harbour, but they have quarters in the depot ship. Consequently the depot ship is like a floating club, and the submarines lie in serried rows alongside her. As life in a submarine on a ten-days' patrol, in even the finest weather, is not exactly a picnic, whilst in bad weather it approaches the indescribable, everything possible is done to refresh and rest the submarine crews whilst they are in harbour between trips.

Every branch of the Service produces its own special type, and the Submarine Service is no exception to this rule. The submarine officer's job is more a one-man show than any other job in the Service, and in this fact lies its attraction ; and this explains why there are always quantities of volunteers from the best type of officers. The submarine officer holds in the hollow of his hand the lives of his crew and the safety of his boat; so, might it be argued, does the company officer, or the lieutenant in command of a destroyer. In a sense, this is true; but at least in the latter cases the men see where they are being led to. In submarines they do not. Only about three of the crew can see the gauges which tell them whether they are at 3 feet or 300 feet below the surface. They may not even know if they are being hunted, or whether they are the hunter.

Suppose a submarine is cruising along on patrol, and a flight of German seaplanes swoop down along the glare of the sun's rays, as has often happened to our boats, down she goes in a crash dive. If they are near the German coast probably the seaplanes will soon have destroyers on the scene. Bombs begin to fall. What is to be done next? Keep the boat where she is, in the hope that they will think she will move away? Or move away in the hope that they will think she has stayed where she is? Fascinating psychological problem, but, meanwhile - more bombs fall - sudden thought, is the depth insufficient? Do they see a long, cigar-shaped shadow under the sea? No! hardly possible in 150 feet. But perhaps a tank is leaking! Is there a trail of oil meandering to the surface? Silence. They seem to have gone. Is it safe to come up and have a peep, or are they sitting on the water waiting for the boat to do this very thing? Better give them another half an hour.

The first lieutenant is told to start the gramophone, the sailors start eating. What is this faint drumming noise that gets louder and louder until it roars overhead like an express train? Destroyers' propellers without a doubt. All is silence again. It would be dangerous to move now; probably the destroyers are lying with their engines stopped, listening on their hydrophones for the sound of the submarine's propellers. The boat stays where she is.

Ominous faint scratching sound heard aft, gets louder and becomes a rasping sound which passes overhead and dies away for'ard. Every one breathes again. The jumping wire which stretches from the bow to the stern over the conning-tower has successfully deflected the wire or chair sweep which the Germans are dragging along the bottom.

Question is: Do the Huns know roughly where the boat is, or don't they? BANG! The boat shakes, and a few lights go out. This looks bad; depth charging so close as that would seem to show they do know where the boat is. BANG! Good! farther away. BANG! Excellent ! still farther away. That first one must have been a lucky fluke.

BANG! BANG! BANG! Hullo ! they seem to have got the idea there's something over there - what's the rough bearing? North! Then this is her chance and slowly the boat creeps away to the southward, to rise at nightfall and charge her electric batteries, and raise the slender mast from which runs the delicate aerial with which she speaks nightly to distant England. And some one at a rolltop desk a few minutes later receives a flimsy signal sheet on which is laconically recorded that In Lat. X.y. Long. P.q. bombed by seaplanes, and subsequently attacked unsuccessfully by surface craft, considered to be destroyers.

To revert to submarine officers. To them responsibility is the breath of life. Once clear of the harbour and on their billet it's each for himself and a torpedo take the hindmost. A submarine officer in the British Service, which differs in this respect from the U-boat service, is also au fait with all the technical details of his boat. He thus has to be a bit of an oil-engine engineer, an electrical engineer, and an hydraulic engineer, besides being a navigator and a leader of men; though it is true the last quality is inborn and can hardly be made. And yet with all these accomplishments the average submarine officer is rather distrustful of novelties, especially if they are of the nature of scientific instruments.

When in harbour the submarine officer very sensibly, like everyone else, has as good a time as he possibly can. But the contrast between sea and harbour is so great for a submarine officer that I think he enjoys the delights of harbour, or perhaps I should say he appreciates them, more than his brother in a battleship. After all, even in a destroyer you can get a bath at sea if you take the trouble to do so. You can also get fresh air and sunlight. Also, in war-time, with the submarine officer there is an underlying feeling of, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow--" Such a feeling is inevitable in an admittedly dangerous Service."

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North Sea Diary #21 - Patrol in submarine E31

[When torpedo officer on the submarine depot ship, HMS Maidstone, Lt. King-Hall was invited to go on patrol on board HMS E31 in June 1918.]

Whilst out in the boat I scribbled some notes as to what went on, as has often been my amusement when enjoying new experiences. I propose quoting these notes, in the original, as illustrating the daily life and ordinary routine in a submarine at sea.

June 1, 1918, 8 a.m. - Having victualled the ship the day previous with all things necessary, including white bread and fresh butter, which submariners alone are entitled to these hard times, and also two tins (large) of pineapple as my small share, we sailed in fine weather from Parkestone Quay; being on board Lieutenant R. B-- in command, Lieutenant M. B--, hereinafter known as Maurice, as second hand, Lieutenant G--, R.N.R., in lieu of the proper navigator, he being stricken down by Spanish flu the night before, myself, some twenty-five sailors, also ten torpedoes.

An E-boat is divided into-the fore-end, which contains two tubes and four torpedoes; from this compartment three steps lead down to the ward-room and control-room. On the port side of the boat are the electric switchboards, and on the starboard side are two bunks, a few drawers and a table which slides out from under a cupboard, and this starboard side of the boat, screened off by a curtain, is the ward-room. At the after end of this part of the boat, about halfway between the stem and the stern, is a place called the "control-room." Here are the periscopes, hydroplane motors, etc., and the vertical ladder which leads up through a hatch to the conning-tower: from which a further ladder leads through another hatch to the top of the conning-tower, which is the fore-bridge. These two hatches are known as the upper and lower lids.'

Proceeding aft down the centre of the boat, one scrambles over two beam torpedo tubes, and leaving an extraordinary little cubby hole on the right (the wireless cabinet) one enters a narrow passage between the two Diesel engines. This leads to the after-end, which contains the motors and the stern tube. Outside the boat are 'saddle tanks known as the externals; these give her buoyancy, and when the boat is on the surface they are empty. Inside the pressure hull are various 'internal tanks' used for trimming the boat in a longitudinal direction and for compensating for the loss in weight due to fuel, lubricating oil, fresh water, etc. The electric batteries extend under the centre compartments before the engine-room. The methods used for shifting water from tank to tank, or passing it overboard, are either by using a pump, or else by compressed air. So much for the general arrangement of the boat.

We are now (9 a.m.) proceeding in a north-easterly direction to a spot about 40 miles east of Orfordness. 3.30 pm. Arrived at our patrol billet and found extraordinarily high visibility - buoys showing up 10 to 12 miles. At this juncture Colonel Sperry [the Sperry gyroscopic compass] went wrong and tried to 'chuck his hand in.' Maurice and I played with the old gentleman and got him more or less right - one of the hunting contacts had jammed over.

At 1 p.m. we surfaced to communicate by wireless, but we failed to get through.

Dived at 1.15 p.m. and resumed periscope lookout. The procedure at the periscope is that one of us takes his station at that instrument and very slowly walks round in a circle, turning the periscope as he goes, using one eye with the periscope in high power. Then the operator puts the periscope to 3o degrees elevation up, and sweeps rapidly round the sky for aeroplanes, then he puts the periscope to horizontal and goes slowly round the sea, using the other eye at the periscope. We each do this for two hours, and it is a considerable strain on the eyes.

At 3.50 surfaced for wireless. The sea was wonderfully calm, and the day brilliantly fine. To the southeastward, the guns in France were rumbling very clearly. We lengthened the spark right out and succeeded in establishing communication.

At 4 p.m. dived - ordered tea, and renewed periscope lookout. At 6 p.m. I went to the periscope until 6.50, p.m., when we surfaced for wireless. B-- and I had just got up on the bridge, when he noticed something suspicious to the south-west. We dived at once, and proceeded at full speed under water to try and cut it off. At the expiration of twenty minutes, nothing having been seen through the periscope, we rose again and saw nothing from the bridge. B-- had just given the order to dive again, when a Fritz surfaced about 4 miles south-west of us, off the entrance to X1 channel. Simultaneously, to our intense annoyance, destroyers and sweepers appeared out of some haze to the north-east of us. The destroyers at once rushed towards us, and we hastily shot up recognition signals and challenged with a lamp. They were the leading ships of a 'beef trip' coming back from Holland, and their arrival was most inopportune, as Fritz at once dived. He was evidently plunging about, waiting for the convoy.

Having established our identity, we closed the convoy, which consisted of sweepers, eleven destroyers, and nine merchant ships. We passed a floating mine en route. We told the convoy there was a Fritz ahead of them, and then we ambled to the north-east on the surface, charging our batteries as we went along. The convoy made a beautiful picture, the merchant ships steaming steadily along, and the destroyers shooting about round them, leaving broad wakes and rolling washes across the glassy sea, in which the rays of the setting sun were reflected blood-red.

Between 9 and 10 we got through a massive dinner. As musical entertainment we counted twenty-six depth charge concussions to the southward of us, so evidently Fritz is being well hotted up by the destroyers; evidently they located him or else he attacked the convoy.

I have arranged to help with the watch-keeping from midnight until we dive, so I think I'll snatch an hour's sleep. We intend dodging about between the north and south minefields during the night, charging batteries on one engine.

Went up at 12.30 a.m. last night, or rather this morning, to relieve Maurice, not having been able to sleep at all in the lower bunk. It was an absolutely still, calm night, with a sickle moon just rising, The sea was extremely phosphorescent, and the millions of small bubbles and sparkling phosphorescence from our saddle tanks gave the boat the appearance of a diamond-brooch submarine moving in a sea of liquid fire. To be practical - I wonder if it shows up at a distance. The bridge is very small to keep watch on, as one can walk only three steps in a fore and aft direction and nothing at all sideways. There were three of us on the bridge: B--, who dozed in a chair, a lookout, and myself.

At 3 a.m. it began to dawn, and as we were making smoke, we stopped and trimmed, down ready for instant diving, and thus lay waiting and watching, rolling to a very gentle swell. At 4 a.m. it was quite daylight, so, having drawn a blank, we dived to 70 feet and trimmed the boat for the day. I then turned in and slept like a log on the camp-bed till 8.30, when I got up and relieved G-- at the periscope, whilst Maurice had his breakfast. Then I had mine.

11.11 a.m. - Surface for wireless - very calm - nothing in sight. Tried to get through to Felixstowe -no luck. I cannot make out why, for radiation seems good; probably because we are working on that very congested wave. D--, Telegraphist, has a temperature of 102' F, which does not help. Other cases of flu in the boat; Maurice sickening for it. Heard the guns in France - a continuous impressive rumble.

11.30 a.m. - Plunged, and resumed periscope lookout. I lay comatose till lunch, which I ate by myself; the others were at the war, a suspicious object having been sighted at 1 p.m. We lost it again, whatever it was, though we attacked it. Submerged for about an hour.

11.45 p.m. - At the periscope, walking round like a squirrel in its cage - bit of a lop on the sea.

11.53 p.m. - Tea and the Shipwash Lightship in sight. As there are mines in this direction, at six o clock we surfaced to ventilate the boat and get away to the north-east on the surface.

6.30 p.m. - Plunged

8 p.m.. We are now waiting for dark to surface and start charging.

10 p.m - Surfaced.

10.4 p.m. - Crash dived. B-- has just told me that the reason for the sudden manner in which he trod on my head as I followed him up the conning-tower was that, as he put his head out of the top, he saw the conning-tower of a Fritz emerge from the sea about 800 yards away. It has been quite an exciting half an hour, as at the moment of writing we have come up again and are now proceeding on one engine, in the hope that he may come up to charge. All tubes are ready, as we might run into him at any moment, though it is too dark to hope for much. I am about to go up on watch.

11 p.m.- On watch, altering course 16 Points each hour; sea force 3 to 4, but a clear night.

At 1 am. was relieved by G--, upon which I got into a sleeping-bag and dozed till 6.30, when I relieved Maurice at the periscope, the boat having dived at dawn - nothing in sight.

At 8 a.m. had breakfast with B--, after which meal we surfaced at the eastern end of X1 Channel and sighted our sweepers right ahead. Proceeded into War Channel, and passing down same arrived at Parkestone after lunch.

The boat (C21) which relieved us on this job was attacked by seaplanes just off the Shipwash. They bombed her, and when she was unable to dive attacked her with machine-gun fire. Her captain, Lieutenant Bell, and several men were shot down on the bridge. Bell fought to the last with a Lewis gun. The Germans claim to have sunk C21 ; this was not correct, as she came into Harwich in tow of a destroyer that evening.

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North Sea Diary #22 - Surrender of the U-Boats, Pt 1

[This important chapter that ends Stephen King-Hall's book is rather long so I propose to split it up into three parts.]

The 20th November, 1918, will ever rank as an anniversary without precedent in the history of sea warfare. For upon that date the first instalment of the German submarines surrendered to the British Navy in general, and to the British Submarine Service in particular. The surrender of these first ships of the German Navy had a double interest, firstly, in that, preceding as it did by twenty-four hours the surrender of the surface craft to the Grand Fleet, it was a test case as to the willingness of the German Navy to submit to this unprecedented humiliation; and, secondly, there was something altogether incredible in the idea that submarines would arrive at a position on the sea and surrender. Most of us felt that a surface ship might possibly be expected to surrender; but we found it extraordinarily hard to imagine that very shy bird Fritz walking into the cage. It was decided that Harwich should be the port of surrender, and the honour of receiving these surrenders was reserved for the officers and men of the British Submarine Service.

That they have fully earned such an honour is testified by the fact that our Submarine Service has the melancholy privilege of possessing a higher percentage of casualties than any other branch of the three services. 1 have said this once, but I repeat it, lest one forgets. In the fullness of time the records will show what was gained for the Empire in exchange for the long list of boats that never came back. Harwich, or to be accurate, Parkeston Quay, had been the home of the 8th and 9th flotillas since August 1914. It was from here that two boats went into the Bight on patrol on 6th August, 1914 at 2 a.m., and on the night of the Armistice the depot had her boats on the observation billets across the other side. The watch had been kept for four years and a hundred days.

The start was at 7 a.m., at which hour the boarding parties under Captain S--, the reporters, and camp followers, embarked on two destroyers, the Melampus and Firedrake. Both these ships had met Fritz before during the war, with in each case disastrous results to Fritz.

The Harwich forces of light cruisers and destroyers left on the evening of the 18th to meet the Huns and escort them to the place of surrender, which was at the southern end of the Sledway, or about seven miles east-north-east of Felixstowe. The appointed hour was 10 a.m., and a thick fog hung over the water as the two destroyers cautiously felt their way down harbour ; but once through the boom defences it cleared somewhat, and we were at the rendezvous by 9.30 a.m. The whole time one had to pinch oneself to make sure that one was really out there to collect U.-boats and that the whole thing was not a dream. Suddenly a British Zepp droned out of the mist, circled round and vanished again to the northward.

At 9.55 a hull appeared, which resolved itself into the Danae, one of the latest light cruisers. Close behind her, and looking sadly in need of a coat of paint, came a white transport. She was flanked on either side by destroyers. This seemed promising, but where were the Fritzes? A gap of half a mile, and then a smaller transport ambled out of the fog-more British destroyers-a 'Blimp' overhead, then a startled voice broke the silence with 'By jove : there's a ruddy Fritz.'

More boats drifted out of the fog and anchored under the guns of the British destroyers. Motor-launches came alongside the Firedrake and Melampus, to take our crews over to the Huns. Each party consisted of two or three officers and about 15 men. Actually I was with the party that boarded U.90, and as the proceedings in each case were very similar, I shall describe what happened here. The four officers composing our party were armed, and it may safely be said that we were prepared for any eventuality except that which actually took place.

One officer voiced the feelings of many when, as we discussed the events of the day that evening, he remarked, 'My Hun might have been trying to sell me the boat, the blighter tried to be so obliging.'

To return to the story. We left the Firedrake in a motor-launch and went alongside a fair-sized Hun mounting two guns, one each side of the conning-tower, K- (our senior officer) jumped on board, followed by the Engineer Commander, an Engineer Lieutenant Commander, and myself. The two engineer officers had come out to try and pick up as much as they could about the Hun Diesel engines during the trip in. We were received by the German captain together with his torpedo officer and engineer. They saluted us, which salutes were returned.

" Do you speak English ? " said K--. 'Yes, a little,' replied the Hun. 'Give me your papers.' The German then produced a list of his crew and the signed terms of surrender, which he translated into English. These terms were as follows:

(i) The boat was to be in an efficient condition, with periscopes, main motors, Diesel engines, and auxiliary engines in good working order.

(2) She was to be in surface trim, with all diving tanks blown.

(3) Her torpedoes were to be on board, without their war-heads, and the torpedoes Were to be clear of the tubes.

(4) Her wireless was to be complete.

(5) There were to be no explosives on board.

(6) There were to be no booby traps or infernal machines on board.

This captain was a well-fed-looking individual with quite a pleasant appearance, and he was wearing the Iron Cross of the first class. He had apparently sunk much tonnage in another boat, but had done only one trip in U.90. Curiously enough, his old boat was next ahead of us going up harbour K-- then informed him that he would give him instructions where to go, but that otherwise the German crew would work the boat under the supervision of our people. This surprised the Hun, who showed us his orders, which stated that he was to hand the boat over to us and then leave at once for the transport. His subordinates urged him to protest, but he was too sensible and at once agreed to do whatever we ordered. The German crew were clustered round the after-gun, taking a detached interest in the proceedings.

Our own men, in submarine rig of white sweaters, blue trousers, white stockings, and sea-boots, looked very smart, fallen in right aft. The formalities having been concluded, we made a rapid tour of the boat and then went on to the bridge. Various things about the boat were defective, the German explaining that he had only just returned from a thirty-five-day trip and was about to refit when ordered to bring her over. He also stated that the mutineers at Kiel had descended into the boat and looted a good deal of gear. Many of the captains spoke with much bitterness of this looting by the big ship crews, which seems to have been pretty general.

Getting under way on the Diesels, we proceeded towards Harwich, the white ensign being run up as the anchor left the ground. A tragi-comic incident took place at this stage, for as the white ensign and final sign of surrender was displayed to the world, the torpedo and engineer officers shifted into plain clothes of a peculiarly German type. Each donned a long blue overcoat and a green felt hat; it needed only the feathers in the latter to complete the picture of the two German tourists visiting Harwich for the first time. At first I thought this change of garb indicated that a touch of Prussianism was imminent and that they were going to be surly, but they still appeared to consider themselves as officers of the boat, moving about directing operations amongst the crew when any work had to be done.

We proceeded into Harwich and up to the head of the harbour, past Parkeston Quay, to what the reporters now say we call "U.-boat Avenue." The ships in harbour were crowded with spectators, but a complete silence was preserved which was more impressive than cheers. On arrival at our buoy the German manoeuvred his late command very skilfully on the oil engines, which in German boats are made reversible, whereas in British boats the electric motors are invariably used for manoeuvring purposes.

As soon as we had secured to the buoy, an operation which in every case the Germans had to do for themselves, the German was instructed to take us round the boat in a more detailed manner. This he did ; and auxiliary machinery was started, periscopes raised and lowered, etc. etc. At 4 p.m. a motor-launch came alongside and the Germans were ordered to gather up their personal belongings and get into her. The captain, without a sign of that emotion which he must have felt, took a last look at his boat and saluted. We returned his salute, he bowed, and then joined his crew in the motor-launch, which took them to the destroyer in which they made passage to the transport outside.

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North Sea Diary #23 - Surrender of the U-Boats, Pt 2

[Paul Wagenführer, commanding officer of U44, sank SS Belgian Prince on July 31 1917. He ordered her crew to be mustered on the deck of his submarine and, after removing their life belts, he then dived! Three crew members survived and were picked up by a destroyer. Nemesis was swift as U44 was sunk with all hands when she was rammed, and a depth-charge dropped on her, by the destroyer HMS Oracle on August 12th 1917. The story about U44 having closed to RMS Mauretania, but refraining from firing, is confirmed on page 86 of Gibson & Prendergast's "The German Submarine War 1914-1918".

King-Hall makes an interesting reference to four merchant submarines of the Deutschland class, They were built as merchant blockade runners to US ports; one mercantile submarine, Bremen, was lost, believed to have been accidentally rammed by one of the armed merchant cruisers of the 10th Cruiser Squadron sent out to intercept blockade runners. The others were converted to warships, as U151-U157, after America entered the war. U154 was torpedoed by HMS E35, based on Gibraltar, and U155 having laid mines off the US coast was herself sunk by the Northern Mine Barrage.]

Next day, nineteen more boats were added to the line. One sank or was scuttled on the way over. The supercrock of the German Submarine Service came over on this day, U.24. She was their instructional submarine; her crew were very sea-sick, very unhappy, nothing worked, and she struggled exceedingly to get 6 knots.

On the third day, twenty-one came over, one more to make up for the lost lamb. On this day the weather changed from the foggy calmness of the preceding days to a day of tumbling seas, which made boarding outside a dangerous operation. Whilst waiting for the Huns we had the misfortune to lose a man overboard from one of the tenders; wearing sea-boots, he sank after a gallant struggle before he could be reached.

The U-boats were boarded inside the gate, opposite Felixstowe air-station. On their way in, one of our destroyers sank a mine, which blew up when it was hit, about 80 yards in front of the leading submarine. The crews of the next five boats bolted up on deck like rabbits on hearing the explosion. On this day my party boarded a large U.100 class, fitted as a mine-layer. She carried about thirty-six mines in a mining-room aft, and she laid her eggs through two tunnels right aft. She was commanded by a reserve officer, who had sailed a great deal from Southampton before the war. We had rather a long wait before they were taken off, and in the course of the somewhat lengthy conversation, which is unavoidable when one is trying to find out in an hour how to work a strange submarine, the captain of this boat stated that he had been Wagenführer's first lieutenant [Paul Wagenfürhrer, commanding U44], and that he had left the boat two trips before she was lost. This reserve officer stated that some eight months after the sinking of the Lusitania, he and Wagenfuhrer had been within 400 yards of the Mauretania with all tubes ready and trained on her, but owing to the critical state of the political situation between the United States and Germany, they had not fired. On their return to Germany they had received an autographed letter from the Kaiser commending them for their discretion. He also stated that all the reservist officers in the German Navy had stated at the beginning of submarine warfare that it was ridiculous to imagine that England could be starved out in six months, or that her merchant seamen could be terrorized, as they being reserve officers had worked with and knew the British Merchant Service. He added, " When you dig your teeth in, you hold. In my mess I was called traitor when I say that."

Amongst other incidents was a case in which two Huns refused to leave their submarine and go back to Germany, not for any heroic reason, but because they wished to remain in England and receive 'work and good food.'

The reservist officer whom I have mentioned felt that his nationality was going to make things difficult for him in the future. He kept on asking whereabouts in the world he might be able to get a job in the Merchant Service. He finally said: 'Do you think if I went to China or Japan I could find a job for a German? ' He was told it was unlikely. As he left the boat he saluted and delivered himself of this little speech: 'For the future all is uncertain, thank God I am not married.'

On Saturday, 23rd. November, there was a respite from the pleasant task of collecting the U.-boats, but on Sunday the business was very brisk. Twenty-eight boats underwent the great humiliation. Among these were two or three flying the Imperial Ensign. In the previous batches, most of them had come over without flags, though some of them had red flags on board. Whenever a German ensign could be found it was hoisted inferior to the white ensign. In one or two cases the Huns protested against this, but needless to say without any success. Whenever one felt any undue sympathy for these individuals-and the naval officer who has not been able to get into personal contact with the Hun is liable to feel sorry for men whom we once thought worthy members of the fellowship of the sea - one only had to remember the number of women and children these men had murdered, one only had to imagine how we should have been treated if we had been obliged to take a British ship into Kiel. One's imagination in this respect was assisted by the palpable relief of all the Huns on finding that they were not going anywhere near the shore. One Hun on being told to get his ensign up, summed up the situation with the remark: 'All right, sir, I put up my flag; you have the power'. Amongst the twenty-eight that came across on U.boat Sunday were four Deutschland class of commercial submarines, including the name vessel of the class [U155]. They look somewhat like a floating bridge across a river.

The captain of my submarine, which was a small brand-new mine-layer, indicated one of the floating haystacks with his glasses, and when I asked him his opinion of them tersely remarked: 'As submarines, HOGS.' This captain was again a reservist officer and spoke fluent English. He appeared to know the entrance to Harwich harbour very well. I remarked on this, and he volunteered this statement as to his career in the war. He said that on the outbreak of war he had joined the Dresden, and in her he had fought at Coronel and at the Falkland Islands. At the final destruction of the Dresden at Robinson Crusoe Island he had been interned in Chili, from whence he had escaped to England, presumably with a forged passport. He then startled me by saying, with a smile, that he had lived for four weeks in England, 'visiting my relatives, and moving openly,' and that finally, without 'great difficulty,' he had got over to Germany and joined the submarine service. From certain other evidence, I am inclined to think he was speaking the truth.

Another captain who came over in this batch stated that he had landed twice in the early days of the war on islands in the Orkneys and made off with a sheep. Perhaps this piece of news will clear up some long-standing mystery in the Northern Isles."

One of the boats which comprised the twenty-eight was U.I39 - a big cruiser with two 5.9 guns, one each side of the conning~tower; she also carried a range finder. This boat belonged to von Arnauld de la Periere, the most successful and famous of all U.-boat captains. A. de la Periere was in command of the German fishery gunboat on the east coast of England before the war, and was well known to many British naval officers. His fame in the German Navy is almost legendary. I believe nothing is known to his discredit, that is to say, nothing exceptionally beastly, and he is known to have saved life on certain occasions, and he has a reputation of being a gentleman. He first made his name in a U.-boat (35, 1 think, was its number) in the Mediterranean. He worked on original lines, making little use of his torpedoes, but specializing with his guns for which he had picked gun-layers from the High Seas Fleet. When the U. 139 arrived here on Sunday, she had a periscope missing and part of her bridge smashed in ; this damage was the result of an encounter with a steamer which she had torpedoed, but the steamer in her dying struggles had managed partly to sit on the U. 139. The first lieutenant and four officers brought her over; he said that von Arnauld de la Periere was too sad to come. All the officers and crew of this boat were evidently very proud of having served with their captain, and the discipline and esprit de corps were noticeably good. The interior of the boat was very nicely finished as far as the officers' quarters were concerned, and evidently von Arnauld had plenty of 'pull' in the German dockyard.

From one of the Deutschland class, two American naval officers emerged. They had been through a remarkable experience. On 30th September they were torpedoed in the Ticonderoga at a spot about half-way across the Atlantic. They had got away on a raft, and, being officers, the Huns had picked them up. They had spent some 40 days in the submarine, during which period they had experienced the unpleasant sensation of being depth-charged by some British patrols. They had also seen the crew of a Norwegian sailing ship turned adrift in their boats 1300 miles from land. Consider what this means in the Atlantic in October. When these officers got back to Kiel the Armistice was just being prepared, and eventually they were told that they could go back to England in a submarine if they wished to. They jumped at the chance, and were told to go in the same boat that had picked them up. The crew of this boat then sat down and held a meeting as to whether they should give them a passage or not. On a vote being taken, it was seen that the majority was for taking them, so they came across. The opinion of these Americans was that if a man can stand 45 days in a German submarine under war conditions he can stand anything; and, looking over the boats, I am inclined to think they are right.

North Sea Diary #24 - Surrender of the U-Boats, Pt 3

[Here is the last excerpt from "North Sea Diary, 1914-1918" by Commander Stephen King-Hall.

It is worth noting that U55 was commanded by one, Wilhelm Werner. Werner is known to have sunk the Hospital Ship HMHS Rewa and, like the notorious Wagenführer, Werner assembled the crew of the captured S.S. Torrington on U55's deck and murdered them by submerging his submarine. However King-Hall was not to know that Werner managed to escape punishment. He was charged with war crimes at the end of the war by the British Government but could not be found for trial.

Incidentally, HMS Hermes, a sea plane carrier, was sunk in the Dover Straights by U27, not U9 as King-Hall thought.

There is also a paragraph devoted to the converted "Mercantile" submarines of the Deutschland class. U155, ex-Deutschland, had six external torpedo tubes in two tiers under the casing, angled to 15 degrees. The others carried 18 torpedoes for two internal bow tubes. (according to Compton-Hall, "Submarines and the War at Sea 1914-1918", page 284) although King-Hall refers to all the class having three internal tubes.]

On Wednesday the 27th a batch of twenty-seven boats came over. Two notorious boats were amongst them. One was the U.9. This boat sank the Hogue, Aboukir, and Cressy her commander being Otto Weddigen; she is also thought to have sunk the Hermes. Otto Weddigen was rammed and sunk by the Dreadnought when he attacked the Grand Fleet in U.29. The other boat has a criminal record. This boat's number is U.55; she is suspected of having specialized in hospital ships. As to her commander's name, more may be heard of him anon.

The U.9 had a large Iron Cross painted on her bows, as the boat was decorated with this honour after her exploits. Another boat has an evil-looking eye on her bow, and another has a prawn on her conning-tower. These marks are quite in accordance with the best practice of Chinese pirates, whose junks are decorated in this manner.

As regards the officers who have come over with the submarines, they have seemed to be of three types. Few of the proper captains of the big boats have come across, and when these have turned up they have appeared to feel their position keenly, and have shifted into plain clothes as soon as possible. One did this with the remark that they had all sworn an oath never again to wear a uniform which had been disgraced by the mutiny in the High Seas Fleet. When the senior captains did not come across, their boats were usually brought over by their first lieutenants, mere boys, in some cases rather nervous boys; they were reported generally as being 'Willing to feed out of one's hand.' The other class of officer was usually found in the smaller boats. These vessels were commanded by 'reserve' officers, elderly men who had been in the German merchant service in pre-war days. These officers did not appear to feel the humiliation as keenly as the regular officers, and their chief anxiety seemed to be to try and be friendly and find out whereabouts in the world they would be able to get a job when the war is over. One of these officers said that the feeling over this war would last twenty-five years. He was told that the reason for this was the beastly manner in which the Germans had fought the war. He said that he did not believe in all the reports of atrocities. He was then asked why it was that all the world hated the Germans? He looked away for a moment, and then said, 'If I ask myself that question once, I ask it a hundred times a day.' A delightful sidelight on the absolute inability of the Hun to appreciate psychology.

As to the crews, they seemed very sharply divided into revolutionaries and royalists. In some boats nothing could be noticed that would lead one to suppose that discipline was not perfect. In other boats, discipline was good, but the captains had been elected by the crews and held commissions signed by the Sailors' and Soldiers' Committee. Again, in other boats the crews paid little attention to the orders of their officers, except when it was obvious that the order would be backed up by the British officer. In one case, as an officer was scrambling up the side of the transport, his crew in the destroyer shouted and, pointing to their officer, drew their fingers across their throats and made threatening remarks about him.

In about three cases the crews showed a certain amount of morale by giving, three cheers for their boats as they were taken away. One boat's crew hung a wreath of evergreens on their boat before they left her. In our destroyers they tried hard to get some soap, of which there seems to be a great shortage in the Fatherland.

A few remarks as to the boats may be of interest. The biggest are the U139 class. These are the cruiser submarines. They are nearly 300 feet long, and carry two big guns of 5.9-inch size. The accommodation for the officers is good, and resembles three cabins and a saloon in a sleeping-car. The accommodation for the crew, who number about seventy, is not good. These craft represent the latest development in ocean-going, commerce-destroying submarines, and rely chiefly on their guns, though they carry torpedoes as well. Not many of these formidable craft had been completed when the German Navy collapsed.

We next have four Deutschland class; originally designed as commercial vessels to carry about 1,000 tons of cargo, their raison d'etre disappeared with the entry of the United States into the war. These craft were then converted into cruisers, and armed with three torpedo tubes, two 5.9 guns, and mines. These last were laid by the primitive method of rolling them over the side. As they are compromises, they have many disadvantages; they are slow on the surface, having apparently two speeds, i.e. full speed and stop. Full speed is about 9 knots. They were chiefly used for long-distance work off the coasts of North and South America, as they were quite capable of a three months' cruise. This may have been very trying for the crew, though it must be remembered that when operating in the tropics and on the ocean trade routes she would drift about on the surface waiting for shipping, and her crew, as shown by the wooden seats on the upper deck, would laze away the time in the fresh air.

The next class is the U.130 class. Most of these are mine-layers intended to lay mines overseas, as, for example, off Gibraltar, and then prey on the trade in these localities. Slightly smaller than these, but still large boats, are the U.90 class. This is the standard ocean-going submarine which worked off the Spanish coast, up the west coast of Ireland, and in the Irish Sea. The length of their trips used to be about three to six weeks. Their armament consists Of two 4-inch guns and six torpedo tubes, four forward and two in the stern. A large number of this type of craft are in the cage, but probably a larger number are at the bottom of the sea.

We have also a considerable number of U.B. boats in store; these, though a separate type, are practically a smaller edition of the standard U. They battened on trade up the east coast of England and in the English Channel, after they had negotiated the Dover barrage, which towards the end of the war was becoming a very unpopular institution in the German Submarine Service.

The next class are the U.C. boats, of which a singularly complete collection of the latest editions is on view. These boats are small mine-layers, with twelve to sixteen mines held in vertical tubes which fill in the forepart of the boat. They have also got a small gun and three torpedo tubes, one aft, and two outside the boat on the side of the upper deck. Their work was to attack traffic in the North Sea and lay mines off the English ports. The collection is completed by a miscellaneous crowd of antique pre-war U-boats and similar veterans.

As far as is known at the moment of writing, the bulk of the U-boat navy is now in the fold, though there remain perhaps twenty odd craft scattered about in neutral ports, including some over in the German harbours which are not capable of coming over. It thus appears that we must have sunk rather more than we thought, or, to be correct, than we officially claimed, as the Navy was always convinced that the casualty list stood at a higher figure than the number of proved cases. Speaking generally, the outstanding feature of all the boats is their filthy condition. How much of this is normal and how much is due to present conditions in the German Fleet, it is difficult to say. I personally find it quite hard to go round some of the boats without being almost physically sick. The condition of these boats after a six weeks` trip, with washing water at a premium, must have been very horrid.

As regards technical fittings, the periscopes, as was expected, are excellent. The Hun has always been a cunning man at making optical instruments. The Diesel engines are also expected to prove very good. In other respects there is much of purely technical interest for our people to study. It is obvious from many points of view that the German Submarine Service was organized on different lines from our own. For example, in a U-boat the captain is there to command the boat from the disciplinary point of view and to make the attack; his technical knowledge may be very poor. He merely said, 'Dive the boat,' and if anything went wrong it is probable that he could not correct the mistake. All the electrical machinery and the trimming of the boat was done by the engineer officer of the boat. A lot of their gear is also inaccessible, which in a British boat would have to be accessible because the crew would be expected to repair it themselves if it went wrong. The German idea is apparently based on the principle that gear is placed in a boat and expected to remain efficient for a certain definite time, at the end of which period it is removed by the dockyard and fresh stuff put in. One of the most curious impressions that one gets on going round a boat is due to the manner in which the crews walked out of them leaving bedding, books letters, knives, spoons, forks, china, provisions, and a mass of small personal gear, all horribly dirty. We had expected to find the boats more or less stripped of their upholstery, and that each boat would be simply a hull with machinery in it. As it is the boats look as if some sudden panic had stricken their crews and they had vanished from the boat at five minutes' notice.

Postscript. Eight more boats came in a few days later, including a boat with one engine, and U.3, an ancient petrol-driven craft.

Britain And The Future: An Address By Commander Stephen King-hall, R.N., October 21, 1943, The Empire Club of Canada Speeches 1943-1944.
For more from Sir Stephen King-Hall (using nom de plume 'Etienne') see: The Diary Of A U-boat Commander, with an Introduction and Explanatory Notes by Etienne, Project Gutenberg

Also see: North Sea Diary, 1914-1918 , full text version at Internet Archive

Related: WWW-VL: Military History: World War One History
Posted January 2008. Updated: 23 March 2008.
North Sea Diary, 1914-1918, by Commander Stephen King-Hall
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