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   Chapter 1 INTO GERMAN WATERS

To Kiel in the 'Hercules' By Lewis R. Freeman Characters: 38351

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"The Regensburg has been calling us for some time," said the chief signal officer as he came down for his belated "watch" luncheon in the ward-room, "and it looks as though we might expect to see her come nosing up out of the mist any time after two o'clock. She excuses herself for being late at the rendezvous by saying that the fog has been so thick in the Bight that she had to anchor during the night. It's not any too good a prospect for a look-see at Heligoland, for our course hardly takes us within three miles of it at the nearest."

It was in a fog that the Hercules had dropped down through the moored lines of the Grand Fleet the previous morning, it was in a fog that she had felt her way out of the Firth of Forth and by devious mine-swept channels to the North Sea, and it was still in a fog that she-the first surface warship of the Allies to penetrate deeply into them since the Battle of the Bight, not long after the outbreak of the war-was approaching German waters. Indeed, the whole last act of the great naval drama-from the coming of the K?nigsberg to the Forth, with a delegation to receive the terms of surrender, to the incomparable pageant of the surrender itself-had been played out behind the fitful and uncertain raisings and lowerings of a fog-curtain; and now the epilogue-wherein there was promise that much, if not all, that had remained a mystery throughout the unfolding of the war drama itself should be finally revealed-was being held up through the wilfulness of this same perverse scene-shifter. The light cruiser, Regensburg, which, "according to plan," was to have met us at nine that morning at a rendezvous suggested by the German Naval Staff, and pilot the Hercules through the mine-fields, had not been sighted by early afternoon. Numerous floating mines, rolling lazily in the bow-wave spreading to port and starboard and ogling us with leering, moon-faced impudence in the fog, had been sighted since daybreak, auguring darkly of the explosive barrier through which we were passing by the "safe course" the Germans (in lieu of the promised charts which had failed to arrive) had advised us by wireless to follow.

Now mines, floating or submerged, are not pleasant things to navigate among. Although, theoretically, it is impossible for any ship to run into a floating mine even if she tries (the bow-wave tending to throw it off, as many experiments have proved); and although, theoretically, a ship fitted with paravanes cannot bring her hull into contact with a moored mine; yet the fact remained that ships were being lost right along from both kinds. It seemed high time, then, in the case of the Hercules and her escorting destroyers, that the German Navy, which had undertaken to see them safely through the mine barrier, and which knew more about the pattern of its death-traps than any one else, should begin to shoulder some of its responsibilities. It was good news that the Regensburg was about to make a tardy appearance and hand over a hostage in the form of a German pilot.

*****

The blank grey fog-curtain which trailed its misty folds across the ward-room scuttles discouraged all of the grate-side loungers whom I tried to bestir to go up at two o'clock to watch for the appearance of the Regensburg, and, meeting, with no better success in the snugly comfortable "commission-room" into which the former gun-room had been converted for the voyage, I mounted alone the iron ladders which led to the lofty vantage of the signal bridge. There was only a few hundred yards of visibility, but the even throb of the engines, the swift run of the foam along the sides, and the sharp sting of the air on my cheek told that there had been little if any abatement of the steady speed of seventeen knots at which Hercules had been steaming since she passed May Island the previous day at noon. The Regensburg, the chief yeoman of signals told me, had made a W.T. to say that she had been compelled by the fog to slow down again, and this, he figured, might make it between three and four o'clock before we picked her up. "There's no use waiting for the Huns, sir," he said, with a tired smile. "The hanging back habit, which they were four years in cultivating, seems to have grown on them so that they're hanging back even yet. Best go down and wait where it's warm, and I'll send a boy to call you when we know for certain when she'll turn up."

My foot was on the ladder, when the sight of a seagull dancing a giddy pas seul on the titillating horn of a mine bobbing off astern recalled a story an Italian destroyer skipper had once told me, of how he had seen an Albanian sea eagle blow itself up as a consequence of executing a precisely similar man?uvre. I lingered to get the chief yeoman's opinion of what I had hitherto considered a highly apocryphal yarn, and when he was called away to take down a signal to pass back to the destroyers, the loom of what looked to me like a ship taking shape in the fog drew me over to the starboard rail. It dissolved and disappeared as my glass focussed on it, only to raise its amorphous blur again a point or so further abeam. Then I recognized it, and smiled indulgent welcome to an old friend of many watches-the first cousin to the mirage, the looming shape which a man peering hard into thick fog keeps thinking he sees at one end or the other of the arc of his angle of vision.

Any man actually on watch knows better than to let his mind take liberties with "fog pictures," and not a few of those who have done so have had the last picture of the series merge into a reality of wind and water and a good ship banging itself to pieces on a line of submerged rocks. But I-as so often in voyages of late-was on the bridge without duties or responsibilities. I was free to let the pictures take what form they would; and it must have been what the chief yeoman had just said about the weariness of waiting for the Huns that turned my mind to what I had heard and seen of the four-year vigil of the Grand Fleet.

There was a picture of Scapa as I had seen it on my earliest visit from the basket of a kite balloon towed from the old Campania, the same Campania which now rested on the bottom of the Firth of Forth, and the top-masts of which we had passed a half cable's length to port as the Hercules steamed out the day before. There were golden sun-notes weaving in a Maypole dance with rollicking slate-black cloud shadows in that picture; but in the next-where the surface of the Flow was beaten to the whiteness of the snow-clad hills hemming it in-the brooding light was darkly sinister and ominous of import, for that was the winter day when we had word that two destroyers, which the might of the Grand Fleet was powerless to save, were being banged to bits against a cliff a few miles outside the gates. Then there was a picture of an Orkney midsummer midnight-just such a night, the officer of the watch told me, as the one on which he had seen the Hampshire, with Kitchener pacing the quarter-deck alone, pass out to her doom two years previously-with a fitful green light flooding the Flow, reflected from the sun circling just below the northern horizon, and every kite balloon in the air at the time being torn from its cable and sent flying towards Scandinavia before the ninety-mile gale which had sprung up from nowhere without warning.

Visions of golf on Flotta, picnics under the cliffs of Hoy, and climbs up the peat-boggy sides of the Ward Hill of the "Mainland," gave place to those of squadron boxing competitions-savage but cleanly fought bouts in a squared circle under the elevated guns of "Q" turret, with the funnels, superstructures, and improvised grandstands alive with bluejackets-and regattas, pulled off in various and sundry craft between the long lines of anchored battleships. A long series (these more like panoramas) of hurried unmoorings and departures-by division, by squadron, and with all the Grand Fleet, through every square mile of the North Sea from the Bight to far up the coast of Norway-finished up at Rosyth, in that strange fortnight just before the end, when all but those on the "inside" thought the persistent "short notice" was due to a desire to keep the men aboard on account of the 'flu, and not to the fact of which the Admiralty appear to have been so well advised, that the German naval authorities-for the first and last time-were making desperate efforts to get their ships out for the long-deferred Tag.

Then the fog-bank ahead-or so it seemed-was splashed with the gay colour of "Armistice Night," when all the spare signal lights (to say nothing of a lot that couldn't be spared) of the Grand Fleet streaked the sky with joyous spurts and fountains of fire, when stealthy pirate bands from the K-boats dropped through the ward-room skylights of the light cruisers and carried off prisoners who had to be ransomed with champagne, when Admirals danced with matelots on the forecastles of the battle-cruisers, and all the pent-up feelings of four years ascended in one great expansive "whouf" of gladness. I recalled with a chuckle how the "General" signal which the Commander-in-Chief had made ordering the historic occasion to be celebrated by "splicing the main brace" according to immemorial custom in the Navy, was preceded by "Negative 6th B.S.," in consideration of the sad fact that the Yankee ships had nothing aboard to "splice" with. That didn't prevent them, though, from bending a white ensign on their flag halliards, hoisting it to the main topmast of the New York, and illuminating it with all the searchlights of the squadron. That happy tribute, I recalled, to the flag of the Navy with which the Americans had served with such distinction for a year, had started the sacking of the signal light lockers, and that picture ended as it began, with the dour Scotch heavens lanced with coloured flame spurts which the dark tide of the Firth gave back in crinkly reflections.

The next picture to sharpen into focus on the fog-curtain was that of a long, trim three-funnelled cruiser, with a white flag at her fore and the German naval ensign at her main, heading in toward the mouth of the Firth of Forth under the escort of a squadron of British light cruisers and destroyers. I had witnessed the meeting of the K?nigsberg, which was bringing over Admiral Meurer and other German naval officers to arrange the details of the surrender of the High Sea Fleet, from the foretop of the Cassandra. The rendezvous, at which the K?nigsberg had been directed by wireless to meet the Sixth Light Cruiser Squadron ordered to escort her in, chanced to fall in an area under which a German submarine, a fortnight previously, had planted its full load of mines. These, in the regular course of patrol, had been discovered and swept up within a day or two, but since that fact had not been communicated to the Germans, the K?nigsberg, doubtless thinking the English sense of humour had prompted them to prepare for her a bit of a surprise in the way of a lift by a German petard, skulked off to the southward, where she was only rounded up after two hours of rending the ether with wireless calls. There were two things I remembered especially in connection with that historic meeting-one was the mob of civilians (probably would-be delegates from the Workmen's and Soldiers' Council) jostling the officers on the roomy bridge of the K?nigsberg, and the other was the fluent cursing of the gunnery lieutenant of the Cassandra, who was with me in the foretop, over the unkind fate which had robbed him of the chance of opening up with his six-inch guns on the first Hun warship he had set eyes on since the war began. I thought I had heard in the course of the past year all that the British sailor had to say of the German as a naval foe; but L-- said several new things that afternoon, and said them well.

Poor old Cassandra! Although we did not get word of it until a day or two after our arrival in Wilhelmshaven, within a very few hours of the time I was thinking of her there in the fog of the Bight, she had collided with a mine in the Baltic and gone to the bottom.

There was another picture of the K?nigsberg ready to follow on as the first dissolved. This was the brilliantly lighted hull of her-the only undarkened ship of the hundreds in the Firth of Forth that night-as I saw it an hour before daybreak the following morning, when I set off from the Cassandra in a motor launch to be present in the Queen Elizabeth during the historic conference which was to take place there that day. Admiral Beatty had refused to receive the revolutionary delegates at the preliminary conference which had been held in the British flagship the previous night, and as a consequence it appears that Admiral Meurer and his staff were summoned to make a report to their "superiors" on their return. This strange meeting had been convened shortly after midnight (so the captain of the M.L., which had been patrolling round the K?nigsberg all night, told me), but still, five hours later, as "M.L. 262" slid quietly by at quarter speed, the rumble of guttural Teutonic voices raised in heated argument welled out of the open scuttles of what had probably been the ward-room. It occurred to me even then that this rumble of angry dispute was prophetic of what Germany had ahead in the long night that was closing upon her.

Although "M.L. 262" ended up an hour later with her propellers tangled in the cable of Ox-Guard boom, I managed to get on the flagship in time to see Admiral Meurer and his party come climbing up out of the fog to her quarter-deck. The conference lasted, with short intervals, until long after dark, and the next picture I saw was that of five German naval officers, chagrined and crestfallen, being piped over the side to the barge which was to take them to the destroyer standing by in the fog to return with them to the K?nigsberg at her anchorage, Inchkeith. It was "Officers' Night" for the kinema in the "Q.E.," and they were showing a "made-in-California" film called the "Rise and Fall of Julius C?sar." I remember distinctly that Casca had just driven the first thrust, and the mob of conspirators were thronging upon C?sar round the "base of Pompey's statue," when the commander sent me word that the guests were about to depart.

The captain of the fleet, the captain, the commander, the officer of the watch and the boatswain were waiting at the head of the starboard gangway as I stepped on deck, and out of the fog, which had thickened till I could not see the muzzles of the guns of "Y" turret, the Germans were advancing from aft. The frown on Admiral Meurer's heavy brows was magnified by the cross light of the "yard-arm group" at the gangway, and his mouth, with its thin hard lips, showed as a straight black line. With a click of the heels and the characteristic automaton bow of the German, he saluted the British officers in turn, beginning with the captain of the fleet, stepped down the short gangway and disappeared into the waiting barge to the shrilling of the pipes. Bowing and clicking, the others followed suit, a weedy "sub," with an enormous roll of papers under his arm, going over last.

The Oak, herself invisible in the fog, groped blindly with her searchlight to pick up the barge. "We must hold the light steady," facetiously quoted the Press correspondent at my elbow from a speech of President Wilson's which had appeared in the morning papers, and then added thoughtfully, "It may be a light that kind need for guidance, but if I had the leading of them for the next generation it would be by a ring in the nose."

Now, panorama resumed. It was the day of the surrender, and the Cardiff, with her high-flown kite balloon in tow, was leading the line of German battle-cruisers out of the eastern mist. I was watching from the bridge of the Erin, and an officer beside me, recognizing the Seydlitz, flying the rear-admiral's flag, in the lead, with the Moltke and Derfflinger next in line, told how, from the light cruiser in which he had chased them at Dogger Bank, he had seen at least two of the three, leaving the Blücher to her fate, dashing for the shelter of their minefields with flames swirling about their mastheads. Another spoke casually of how, in the Tiger at Jutland, he had been for a wild minute or two, while his ship was rounding a "windy corner" as Beatty turned north to meet the British Battle Fleet, under the concentrated fire of all the battle-cruisers-with the exception of the Hindenburg, but with the Lützow added-now steaming past us. We remarked the "flattery of imitation" in the resemblance of the Hindenburg with her long run of forecastle and "flare" bows, to the Repulse and Renown, and of the symmetrical, two-funnelled Bayern as she appeared between the Kaisers and the K?nigs in the German battleship line to the British Queen Elizabeth class laid down before the war. The Queen Elizabeth herself, falling out of line to take the salute of the ships of the fleet she had led to victory as they passed, brought that reel of panorama to an end.

The next was of five ships of the Kaiser class, as they had appeared from the Emperor of India, which, with the rest of the Second Division, was escorting a squadron of the enemy to Scapa for internment. We saw the German ships at closer range now, and the better we saw them the worse they looked. Their fine solidity was less impressive than from a distance, for now our glasses revealed the filth of the decks, the lack of paint, and the slovenly, sullen attitude of the motley garbed figures lounging along the rails. We passed within a biscuit toss of the Kaiserin when their leading ship, the Friedrich der Grosse, lost her bearings in some way and failed to follow the Canada through the anti-submarine boom off the end of Flotta, an action which only the smartest kind of seamanship on the part of the division of Iron Dukes prevented from developing into a serious disaster. Most of the Huns-to judge by the expression on the faces leering across at us-would have welcomed a smash; but it was avoided by a hair, and they ultimately straightened themselves out, straggled through into the Flow, and on to their more or less final resting-place, off the inner entrance to Gutter Sound.

The final picture, as it chanced, which my fancy projected on the curtain of the fog was one that embraced what I saw from the steam pinnace which was taking me to the Impérieuse, on my way back to Rosyth. An angry Orkney sunset was flaring over the hills of Hoy-a sullenly red glow, gridironed by thin strata of black cloud like the bars of a grate-and a sinister squall was advancing from the direction of Stromness to the northward. For a few moments the hot light of the sunset had silhouetted the confused hulls of battleships and battle-cruisers against the silvered seas beyond, and revealed the disordered phalanx of the moored destroyers blocking the mouth of Gutter Sound; then it was quenched by the onrush of the storm clouds, and all that was left of the High Seas Fleet disappeared into shadow and driving rain.

It

was a far cry, I reflected, from the Kaiser's "Our future lies upon the seas!" and Admiral Rodman's "The German ships are of no use to anybody; the simplest solution of the problem of their disposition is to take the whole lot to sea and sink them." And yet-

Suddenly, stereoscopically clear, on the blank sheet of the fog left as the High Sea Fleet faded from sight, the head-on silhouette of an unmistakably German light cruiser appeared. For an instant the soaring mast and the broad bridge suggested that my fancy had materialized the K?nigsberg again. Then the rat-a-tat of a signal searchlight recalled me to my senses, and it did not need the chief yeoman of signals' "There she is, sir; sending away a boat to bring us a pilot," to tell me we had finally rendezvoused with the Regensburg. I descended to the quarter-deck to see the pilot come over the side.

Very smartly handled was that cutter from the Regensburg. I remember that especially because it was almost the only German boat that came alongside during all the visit which did not either ram the gangway, or else miss it more than the length of a boat-hook. They explained this by saying that most of the skilled men had left the navy, and that their boats, as a consequence, were in the hands of comparative novices. At any rate, at least one first-class crew of boat-pullers had remained in the Regensburg, and they brought their cutter alongside the gangway as neatly as though the Hercules were lying in harbour.

Three men, each carrying a small suit-case, came over the side and saluted the officer of the day and the intelligence officer of the admiral's staff, who awaited them at the head of the gangway. The first was a three-stripe officer of the rank the Germans call Korvettenkapit?n, the second a warrant officer, and the third (as we presently were informed) a qualified merchant pilot. The Korvettenkapit?n was slender of figure, and had a well-bred, gentlemanly appearance not in the least suggestive of the "Hunnishness" one associated-and with good reason, too, as subsequent experience proved-with the German naval officer. His flushed expression showed plainly that he felt deeply the humiliation of the task assigned him of taking the first enemy warships into a German harbour. His head remained bowed a moment after his final salute; then he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and asked to be conducted to the bridge at once in order to take advantage of the improved visibility in pushing on in through the minefields.

If one felt a touch of involuntary sympathy for the senior naval officer, a glance at the sinister figure of the merchant pilot was an efficacious antidote. Thick-set and muscular of build, with slack-hanging ape-like arms and bandy legs, his corded bull neck was crowned with the prognathous-jawed head of a gorilla, and a countenance that might well have been a composite of the saturnine phizzes of Trotsky and Liebknecht. One knew in an instant that here was the super-Bolshevik, and looked for the red band on his sleeve, which could only have been temporarily removed while he appeared among the Engl?nders to spy upon the naval officer whom the revolutionists would not permit to act alone. The way things stood between the two became evident almost at once, for the officer informed the British interpreter at the first opportunity that he could not be responsible for the pilot, while the latter, when some query from the Korvettenkapit?n respecting the position of a certain buoy was repeated to him, contented himself with drawing his fingers significantly across his throat, clucking in apparent imitation of a severed wind-pipe, and continuing the guzzling of the plate of "kedgeree" which had been engaging his undivided attention at the moment of interruption.

HELIGOLAND IN SIGHT!

After putting a German pilot aboard each of the four destroyers, the Regensburg's cutter was hoisted in, and we got under weigh again. The visibility had improved considerably, and presently a darker blur on the misty skyline resolved itself into the familiar profile of Heligoland. At first only the loom of the great cliff was discernible, but by the time this had been brought abeam a slender strip of low-lying ground with warehouses, cranes, and the masts of ships, was distinctly visible. All hands crowded to the starboard side to have a glimpse of Germany's famous island outpost, but the nearest thing to a demonstration I saw was by two marines, who were doing a bit of a shuffle on the precarious footing of a turret top and singing lustily:

"Oh, won't it be grand out in Hel-i-go-land,

When we've wound up the Watch on the Rhine!"

Whatever illusions they had formed of the "grandness" of Heligoland they were allowed to keep, for the only ones who were given to see at close range the dismal greyness of the island fortress were the members of one of the "air" parties, who made a hurried visit in a destroyer to see that the provisions of the Armistice had been carried out at the seaplane station.

The thickening fog-banks which shut off our view of Heligoland were not long in thinning the guiding Regensburg to a dusky phantom nosing uncertainly into the misty smother in the direction of where our charts indicated the Bight should be narrowing to the shallow waters of Jade Bay, in an inner corner of which lay Wilhelmshaven. We had counted on getting there that evening, and a wireless had already been received saying that a German Naval Commission was standing by to come off for a preliminary conference. After heading in for a couple of hours through seas which I heard an officer coming off watch describe as "composed of about equal parts of water, misplaced buoys and floating mines," all hopes of arriving that night were dashed by a signal from the Regensburg, saying that she had been compelled to anchor on account of the fog. Calling her destroyer "chicks" about her to mother them for the night, the Hercules let go what was probably the first anchor a British surface ship had dropped into German mud since the outbreak of the war.

The unexpected delay made it necessary for both the Hercules and the destroyer to put up their pilots for the night. This was managed in the former by giving the officer the flag captain's sea-cabin, and slinging hammocks for his two assistants outside. Doubtless the opportunity to enjoy a change of food was not unwelcome to any of them. They were served with the regular ward-room dinner. The officer declined the offer of drinks, and said he had his own cigarettes. The other two made a clean sweep of anything that they could get hold of. Even these had cigarettes, but the young signalman who had the temerity to smoke one which was proffered him in exchange for one of his own, advanced that as an excuse for a mess he made of taking down a searchlight signal from a destroyer two hours later.

"That -- Bolshevik," said the lad the next day, in telling me about the tragedy, "declared the fag he giv' me was made of baccy smuggled into Germany by a friend of his. I tells him that was no kind of reason for him using me to smuggle the smoke out of Germany. And I tells him it tastes to me like rope end, that baccy, and, what's more, that I'd be very happy to return it to him with a rope end. I can't say for certain whether he twigged that little joke or not."

From one of the destroyers, too, there came the next day a story of similar friction in the matter of dispensing hospitality to the guest of the night. The latter, unlike the one who was sent to the Hercules, appears to have been a typical Hun. Beginning by introducing himself as a relative of the ex-Kaiser, he ended up by all but going on strike because no sheets could be provided for the bunk in the cabin which-through turning out its owner to "sling" in the ward-room-had been given him for the night. That alone had been a considerable concession under the circumstances, for, through the presence of two extra flying officers, two "subs" had given up their cabins, and were sleeping in the ward-room already. It must have been a really amusing show that young sprig of Junkerism put up. He mentioned the matter of linen several times, finally rising to the crescendo of "I must have the sheets by nine o'clock, and it now lacks but five minutes of that time." I was never able to verify the story that the steward really gave him the sheets of notepaper that one of the Yankee officers volunteered to contribute. How mad the young exquisite was about the whole affair may be judged from the fact that he left behind him in the morning his own personal and private cake-only slightly used-of toilet soap. Whether this was pure swank-high princely disdain of an object of value-or whether he was blind with passion and overlooked it, they could never quite make up their minds in the V--.

The fog lapped and curled dankly round the Hercules that night, wrapping the ship in a clammy shroud of cold moisture that dripped eerily from the rigging and sent a chill to the marrow of the bones of the men and officers on watch. But below there was warmth and comfort. The ward-room celebrated the occasion with a "rag" to the music of its own Jazz band, while in the admiral's cabin the kinema man, who had been brought along to film the historic features of the voyage, entertained with a movie of a South American revolution, a picture full of the play of hot passion and fierce jealousy, enacted in and around an ancient castle which none but a Californian could have recognized as a building of the recent San Diego Exposition. "The Admiral's Movies," "With a Complete Change of Program Nightly," became one of the star turns of the voyage from that time on.

Cut off though we were by the fog from sighting anything farther away than the riding lights of the nearest destroyer, strange voices of the new world we had moved into since morning kept reaching the Hercules on the wings of the wireless. Now it was the Regensburg calling to say, "I am lying off Outer Jade Lightship and illuminating it with my searchlight." Not much help, that, on a night when a searchlight itself was quenched to a will-o'-the-wisp at a cable's length. Then there was a message from the main fount of some "Workmen's and Soldiers' Council" requesting that the Allied Naval Commission should receive a delegation of its members at Wilhelmshaven. It was not a long message, but the reply flashed back to it was, I understand, a good deal shorter. There was chatter between ship and ship, and even the call-from somewhere in the Baltic, I believe-of a steamer in distress. The name of the Moewe, in an otherwise unintelligible message, caused hardly the flutter it would have had we picked it up in the same waters a month earlier.

There was little news to us in a message from some land station telling all and sundry that the "high-sea-ship" Regensburg was "zu Anker bei aussen Jade Feuerschiff," that the Hercules and destroyers were "zu Anker bei Weser Feuerschiff," and that there was "noch Nebel." The Regensburg had already told us where she was and our own position we knew: also the fact that "fog continues."

A groan from Germany in travail reached us in a message from the "Soldatenrat" of the "Fortress of Borkum" to the Council in Berlin. They disapproved most heartily of the attitude of the meeting of the "Gross Berliner" councils for Greater Germany. They greatly regretted the attempt of one part of the people to establish a dictatorship over another, and considered that this showed a lamentable lack of confidence in "unserem Volke"-"our people." "Wir wollen Demokratie und keine Diktatur," they concluded; "we want a democracy and no dictator."

Then we heard the German battleship K?nig (which, in company with the Dresden, a destroyer and two transports, we had sighted that morning tardily en voyage to make up the promised quota at Scapa) calling to the Revenge-at that time the flagship of the squadron watching the interned ships-for guidance. "Am near to the point of assembly with the other ships," she said in German, "and bad weather is coming on. Cannot stop with Dresden in tow. What course can I take from point of assembly?"

Deep called to deep when the C.-in-C. of the Grand Fleet at Rosyth told the C.-in-C. of the High Sea Fleet what arrangements were being made to send back the surplus crews of the interned ships, and for a while the vibrant ether let fall such familiar names as Karlsruhe, Emden, Nürnberg, Hindenburg, Kaiser, Von der Tann and Friedrich der Grosse, men from all of which, we learned, were to be started homeward in a transport called the Pretoria.

There was hint of "family trouble" in the German Navy in a signal from Admiral Von Reuter at Scapa to the Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet at Wilhelmshaven. "Request that third group (of transports) may include a flag officer to relieve me," it ran in translation, "as I am returning home with it on account of sickness."

That signal, I think, gave the ward-room more quiet enjoyment than any of the others, for it was the first forerunning flutter of the German wings beginning to beat against the bars of Scapa. "I've often been a prey to that same complaint during our four years at Scapa," said the commander musingly, in the interval following the passing round of the wireless wail. "Of course Admiral Von Reuter is sick-homesick. Who wasn't? Who isn't? But there was no use in sending a signal to any one complaining about it. But isn't it worth just about all we went through in sticking it there for four years to be able to think of the Huns being interned there, and in their own ships? They're not quite so comfy as ours to live in, you know. I wonder what Herr C.-in-C.'s answer will be."

That answer was picked up in good time. "First group of transports have arrived back safely," the Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet began inconsequentially, adding abruptly, "Admiral Von Beuter is advised to stay where he is, if at all possible." That pleased the ward-room so much that the Junior Officers' Glee Club was sent to the piano to create a "Scapa atmosphere" by singing songs of the strenuous early months of the war. "Coaling, coaling, coaling, always jolly well coaling," to the air of "Holy, Holy, Holy!" reached my ears even in the secluded retreat of the "commission-room," to which I had retired to write up my diary.

But the most amusing message of all was one which the senior interpreter-one time a distinguished Cambridge professor of modern languages-was dragged out of his bunk at something like three o'clock in the morning to translate. Everything sent out in German was being meshed in our wireless net on the off-chance that information of importance might be picked up, and, for some reason, the message in question impressed the night operator-as it lay before him, fresh caught, upon his pad, as being of especial significance. This was what I deciphered on the sheet of naval signal paper which the senior interpreter, returning all a-shiver to his bunk after making the desired translation in the coding room, threw at my head when I awoke in the next bunk and asked sleepily for the news.

(?) to (?).

"Good morning. Request the time according to you. My watch is fast, I think."

It was probably from the skipper of one trawler to his "opposite number" in another. It was on my lips to ask Lieut. B-- if he expected to be called when the reply was picked up, but the ominous glare in the unpillowed eye he turned in my direction as I started to speak made me change my mind.

The fog was still thick at daybreak of the following morning, but by ten o'clock the visibility had improved sufficiently to appear to make it worth while to get under weigh. Heading easterly at twelve knots, we shortly came to a buoy-marked channel which, according to our directions, promised to lead in to the anchorage off Wilhelmshaven we desired to reach. The Regensburg, which had evidently gone in ahead, was not sighted again, but two powerful armed patrol boats came out to keep us company. It was soon possible to see for several miles, the low line of the Frisian coast coming into sight to port and starboard.

Presently we passed, on opposite courses, a German merchant steamer. Luckily, some one on the bridge observed in time that she had a man standing by the flag halyards at her stern, and so we were prepared to return with the white ensign what must have been the first dip a British ship had had from a German since August, 1914. When the second and third steamers encountered also dipped their red, white, and black bunting, followed by similar action on the part of two tugs and a lighthouse tender, it became evident that general orders in that connection had been issued. That was our first hint of the "conciliatory" tactics which it soon became apparent all of that part of Northern Germany with which there was a chance of any of the Allied Naval Armistice Commission coming in contact had been instructed to follow.

The steeples and factory chimneys of Wilhelmshaven began appearing over the port bow at noon, and a half-hour later Hercules had dropped anchor about a mile off a long stone mole which curved out from the dockyard. Almost immediately a launch was seen putting out of the entrance, and presently it came bumping alongside the starboard gangway. Rear-Admiral Goette, a smooth-shaven, heavy set man of about fifty, was the first up to the quarter-deck, where his salute was returned by the captain, commander, the officer of the day, and several officers of Admiral Browning's staff. His puckered brow indicated something of the mental strain he was under, a strain the effects of which became more and more evident every time he came off for a conference.

The thirteen other members of the Commission under Admiral Goette's presidency followed him up the gangway. The first of these, a tall blond officer of fine bearing, was on the list as Kapitan z. S. von Müller, but it was not until after the final conference, over a fortnight later, that we learned for certain that he was the able and resolute commander of the Emden, famous in the first year of the war for her destruction of Allied commerce and the fine fight he had put up before being forced to the beach of North Cocos Island by the faster and heavier armed Sydney. If it was a fact, as has been suggested, that the Germans put Von Müller on their Naval Armistice Commission because of the admiration that had been expressed in the British papers of his brave and sporting conduct on the latter occasion, the effect of this fine piece of Teutonic subtlety was completely lost. As I have said, his real identity was not discovered until the last of the conferences was over.

As soon as the last of the German officers had reached the quarter-deck and completed his round of heel-clicking salutes, the party was conducted directly to Admiral Browning's cabin, where the first of a series of conferences calculated deeply to influence Germany's naval future for many years to come was entered into without delay.

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