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To Kiel in the 'Hercules' By Lewis R. Freeman Characters: 39140

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

There had been a half-mile or more of visibility when we got under weigh at eight o'clock, but in the mouth of Kiel Fiord a solid wall of fog was encountered, behind the impenetrable pall of which all objects more than a few yards ahead were completely cut off. The mist-muffled wails of horns and whistles coughed eerily in the depths of the blank smother to port and starboard, and once the beating of a bucket or saucepan heralded the spectre of a "bluff lee-boarded fishing lugger" as the bare steerage way imparted by its flapping yellow mainsail carried it clear of the Viceroy's sharp stem.

Three or four more units of that same fatalistic fishing fleet had been missed by equally narrow margins when, looming high above us as they sharpened out of the fog, appeared the bulging bows of what looked to be a large merchantman. At the same instant, too late by many seconds to be of any use as a warning, the snort of a deep-toned whistle ripped out in response to the querulous shriek of our own syren.

When two ships, steaming on opposite courses at something like ten knots, meet in a fog the usual result is a collision, and nothing but the quick-wittedness of the captain of the Viceroy prevented one on this occasion. The stranger, in starboarding his helm, bared a long expanse of rusty paunch for the nose of the destroyer to bury itself in, as a sword-fish stabs a whale, and that is what must inevitably have happened-with disastrous consequences to both vessels in all probability-had the Viceroy also attempted to avoid collision by turning to port. Realizing this with a sure judgment, the captain fell back on an alternative which would hardly have been open to him with a destroyer less powerfully built and engined than the latest "V's." I have already told how, in the lock at Brunsbüttel, he had stopped his ship dead, just short of the gates, by going astern with the engines at the proper moment. Here, in scarcely more time than it takes to tell it, he not only stopped her dead but had her backing (at constantly accelerating speed) away from the slowly turning merchantman. The jar (followed by a prolonged throbbing) was almost as sharp as when the air-brakes are set on the wheels of a speeding express, and the outraged wake of her, like the back of a cat whose fur has been rubbed the wrong way, arched in a tumbling fountain high above her quivering stern. But back she went, and so gave the burly freighter room to blunder by in.

There was just time to note her high bulwarks, two or three suspicious-looking superstructures (which one's passing acquaintance with "Q" boats suggested as possibly masking guns), and a folded seaplane housed on the poop, before the menacing apparition thinned and melted into the fog as suddenly as it had appeared.

"I think that ship is the Wolf," volunteered the pilot, watching with side-cast eyes the effects of the announcement. "You will perhaps remember it as the great raider of the Indian Ocean."

The captain looked up quickly from the chart as though about to say something; then thought better of it, and, with a wistful smile, turned back to his study of the channel. I had seen him smile resignedly like that a few days previously off the Elbe estuary when a speeding widgeon, whose line of flight had promised to carry it right over the forecastle, had sheered off without giving him a shot. What he had said on that occasion was, "Hang the blighter; another chance missed!"

Going aft to breakfast, I was hailed by Korvettenkapit?n M-- (the officer commanding all Baltic air stations who was accompanying us to Warnemünde and Rügen), warming himself at the engine-room hatchway, and informed that the ship just sighted was "the famous raider, Moewe, that has been so many times through the English blockade." It was he that was correct, as it turned out. We found the Moewe anchored three or four cables' lengths on the port bow of the Hercules when we returned to Kiel the following evening.

They were two thoroughly typical specimens of their kind, the pilot and the flight commander, so much so that either would have been pounced on with delight by a cartoonist looking for a model for a figure of "Hun Brutality." The former claimed to have served most of the war in U-boats, and from the fact that he was only a "one-striper," one reckoned that he was a promoted rating of some kind. He was tall, dark, and powerful of build, with hard black eyes glowering from under bushy brows. He talked of his submarine exploits with the greatest gusto, among these being (according to his claim) the launching of the torpedo which damaged the Sussex. It is possible that he was quite as useful a U-boat officer as he said he was (for he looked fully capable of doing a number of the things one had heard of U-boat officers doing); but he turned out, as the sequel proved, only an indifferent pilot.

The flight officer is easiest described by saying that he was like what one would imagine Hindenburg to have been at thirty-five or thereabouts. The resemblance to the great Field-Marshal was physical only, for the anti-type, far from having the "bluff, blunt fighter" air of the former, was a subtle intriguer of the highest order. Just how "subtle" he was may be judged from the fact that within ten minutes of coming aboard that morning he had drawn one of the British officers aside to warn him of the menace to England in Wilson's "fourteen points," and that, a quarter of an hour after the snub this kindly advice won him, he had cornered one of the American officers to bid him beware of the inevitable attack his country must very soon expect from England and Japan.


A half-hour more "by luck and lead" took us out of the fog, and an almost normal visibility made it possible for the Viceroy to increase to her "economic" cruising speed of seventeen knots. The red roofs of the summer hotels along Warnemünde's waterfront began pushing above the horizon a little after noon, and by one we were heading in to where the mouth of a broad canal opened up behind a long stone breakwater. A large ferry steamer, flying the Danish flag, was just rounding the end of the breakwater and turning off to the north-west, and from the word "Armistice" painted on her sides in huge white letters we took it she was engaged in repatriating Allied prisoners by way of Copenhagen. As we closed her, this impression was confirmed by the sight of two men in the unmistakable uniforms of British officers pacing the after-deck arm-in-arm. Surprised that they appeared to be taking no notice of the Viceroy, with the White Ensign at her stern doing its best to flap them a message of encouragement, I raised my glass and scanned them closely. Then the dark glasses both were wearing, and their slow uncertain steps, at once suggested the sad explanation of their indifference. There was no doubt the sight of both was seriously affected, and that they were probably hardly able more than to feel their way around. As nothing less than "Rule Britannia" or "God Save the King" on the syren would have given them any hint of how things stood, we had to pass on unrecognized.

Running a quarter of a mile up the canal, the Viceroy went alongside the wall a hundred yards above the railway station. The news of our arrival had spread quickly in the town, and among a considerable crowd which assembled along the waterfront were a number of British prisoners, most of them in their khaki. Several German sailors-one or two of them with white bands on their arms-to whom the Tommies had been talking, kept discreetly in the background, but the latter, grinning with delight and exchanging good-natured chaff with the bluejackets, caught our mooring lines and helped make them fast. They looked in extremely good condition and spirits, the consequence-as we learned presently-of having had a considerable accumulation of prisoners' stores turned over to them since the armistice. Beer, they said, was the only thing they were short of, and this difficulty they seemed in a fair way to remedy when I left with the "air" party for the seaplane station.

The great Warnemünde experiment station occupied the grounds of what appeared to have been some kind of a pre-war industrial or agricultural exposition. Crossing the canal in a launch, a few steps took us to and through a somewhat pretentious entrance arch, from where it was several hundred yards to the first of a long row of wood and steel hangars. The Commander of the station had received us at the landing; the rest of the officers met us in the roadway in front of the first shed to be inspected. Evidences of the resentment they undoubtedly felt over having to give way in the matter of the visit (it had been the German contention that Warnemünde, not being a service station, was not liable to inspection under the terms of the armistice) were not lacking, but as these were mostly confined to scowling glances they did not interfere seriously with the work in hand.

As the Allied Commission, in the conference of a couple of days previously at Kiel, had insisted on the visit to Warnemünde on the grounds of satisfying itself that what the Germans claimed was an experiment station was not used for service work, inspection was limited to the comparatively perfunctory checking over of the machines against a list furnished in advance, seeing that they displayed no evidences of having been used for anything more than experimental flights, and ascertaining that they had been properly disarmed. This, as soon as it became evident that the station was in fact quite what the Germans had claimed it to be, was done very rapidly, the inspection of well over a hundred machines, housed in eight or ten different sheds, being completed within three hours.

The machines were, of course, an extremely interesting assortment, for practically all of them were either new designs or else old ones in process of development. There was the last word in steel pontoons, with which the Germans have been so successful, and also a number of the very striking all-metal Junker machines, in the construction of which wood, and even fabric, has been replaced by the light but tough alloy called "duraluminum." One of the German officers volunteered the information that the principal advantage of the latter over the ordinary machine was the fact that more of it could be salved after a crash. The fact that there was nothing to burn sometimes rendered it possible to save an injured pilot entangled in the wreckage, where the wood and fabric of an ordinary machine would have made him a funeral pyre. Against these advantages, he added, stood the handicap of greater weight and the fact that the metal wings occasionally deflected into the pilot or petrol tank a bullet which would have passed harmlessly through wood and fabric.

There were several of the late Travemunde and Sablatnig types, medium-sized machines which, with their powerful engines and trim lines, looked extremely useful. A large double-engined Gotha torpedo-launching seaplane was viewed with a good deal of interest by the experts of the party, because it was a type to the development of which it had been expected that the Germans had given a great deal of attention. Down to the very day of the armistice the Grand Fleet-whether at Rosyth or Scapa-was never considered entirely free from the menace of an attack by a flotilla of torpedo-carrying seaplanes, and it was a matter of considerable surprise to the sub-commission for naval air stations when it transpired in the course of their visits to the German North Sea and Baltic bases to find a practically negligible strength in these types. The almost prohibitive odds against getting a seaplane carrier within striking distance of either of the Grand Fleet bases-handicap imposed by the complete surface command of the North Sea by the British-was undoubtedly responsible for Germany's failure to develop a type of machine which there was little chance of finding an occasion to use. Even this one at Warnemünde-representing as it did the latest development of its type-was far from being equal to machines with which the British were practising torpedo-launching a year before the end of the war.

The most imposing exhibit at Warnemünde was a "giant" seaplane rivalling in size the great monoplane flying boat we had seen at Norderney. The two were so different in type that it was difficult to compare them, though it is probable that in engine power-both of them had four engines of from 250 to 300 horse-power each-and in wing area they were about equal. The Warnemünde machine-which was a biplane, with two pontoons instead of a "boat"-had a somewhat greater spread of wing, but this must have been compensated for by the vastly greater breadth of those of the monoplane. Superior seaworthiness had been claimed for the latter on account of the greater height of its wings from the water when afloat; but that was ex parte evidence, and we had no chance to hear what Warnemünde had to say in favour of its pet.

An incident which occurred in connection with the inspection of the "giant" furnished a very graphic idea of the really colossal size of it. In order to get over it the more quickly, all of the several members of the Allied party climbed up and took a hand in the work. Whether the German officers thought some of the gear might be carried off by the visitors, whether they were afraid the secrets of some of their technical instruments might be discovered, or whether they were simply "doing the honours of the occasion," we were never quite sure. At any rate, up swarmed at least a dozen of them, scrambling like a crowd at a ticket turnstile to get inside. In a jiffy they had disappeared, swallowed completely by the capacious fuselage. Not even a head was in sight. Only the clatter of many tongues and the clang of boots tramping on steel plates told that close to a score of men were jostling each other in the cavernous maw of the mighty "amphibian."

Only the Commander of the station-a somewhat porcine-looking individual, whose rotund figure furnished ample explanation why he had not joined the scramble-and myself were left on terra firma. Plainly disturbed by the thought that Germany's supreme achievement in aerial science was passing under the eye of the enemy, he paced up and down moodily for a minute or two and then, with clearing brow, came over and asked me what was the horse-power of the largest "Inglisch Zeeblane."

"I really can't tell you," I replied, half angry, half amused at the supreme cheek of the man.

"Ach, but vy will you not tell me?" he urged wheedlingly. "Der war iss over; ve vill now have no more zeecrets. Today you see all ve haf. Preddy soon ve come und see all you haf. There iss much ve can learn from you, und much you can learn from us. Ve vill haf no more zeecrets."

There were several things that I wanted to say to that Hun optimist, and it required no little restraint to pass them over and confine myself to suggesting that he should take up the matter of the exchange of "zeecrets" with Commander C--, the Senior Officer of-the party. He looked at the latter (who was just descending) irresolutely once or twice, and then, doubtless seeing nothing encouraging in the set of Commander C-- 's lean Yankee jaw, shrugged his fat shoulders and resumed his moody pacings. We encountered a number of eager "searchers for knowledge" in the course of the visit, but no other that I heard of who employed quite such a "Prussian mass tactics" style of attack as this one.

Going from shed to shed as the inspection progressed, one noticed at once the much greater extent to which wood had figured in their construction than in that of those of the North Sea stations. Only the frames were of steel, and even the fireproof asbestos sheeting which figured so extensively in the great Zeppelin sheds had been very sparingly employed. As this also proved to be the practice in the two large stations we visited the next day on the island of Rügen, it was assumed that the comparative cheapness of wood in the Baltic had been responsible for the freedom with which it had been employed to save steel and concrete. The inevitable penalty of this inflammable construction had been paid at Warnemünde, where the tangled masses of wreckage in the ruins of a burned hangar indicated that all the machines it had contained were destroyed with the building.

When we returned to the Viceroy after the inspection was over, we found a number of British prisoners aboard as the guests of the bluejackets. Several of them had asked for "rashers, or anything greasy," but for tobacco and "home comforts" they appeared to be rather better off than their hosts. The captain said that he had offered passages back to the Hercules to any that cared to go, but they had all declined with thanks, saying that they were helping to distribute food for other prisoners passing through Warnemünde on their way home via Denmark, and that they would not return home until this work was finished. We left them without any misgivings save, perhaps, on the score that they seemed rather too tolerant of the presence among them of a number of white-banded German sailors.

During our absence the German harbour master had come aboard to warn the captain that, as it was verboten to use the turning basin after five o'clock, it would be necessary for him to proceed there before that hour. When the captain thanked him and replied that he hoped to be able to carry on without resorting to the turning basin, the astonished official warned him that it was highly dangerous to go out backwards, that even the German T.B.D.'s never thought of doing so mad a thing. The sight of the Viceroy going astern at a good ten or twelve knots straight down the middle of that half a mile or more of canal must have been something of an eye-opener to that Kaiserliche harbour master.

Passing close to the railway station on the way out we had a brief glimpse of the sorry spectacle of a huge mass of Russian prisoners, who appeared to have been dumped there from one train to wait for another, going heaven knows where. A thousand or more in number, they had overflowed the narrow strip of platform under the train-shed, and as we passed some hundreds of them, huddling together like sheep for warmth and with no protection save the square of red blankets thrown over their hunched shoulders, were soaking up the rain which came drizzling down through the early winter twilight.

"Russian prisoners that we now send back to their homes," explained Korvettenkapit?n M-- as I passed his perch in the hot-air stream from the engine-room hatchway. "They do not like to leave Germany, but we have not now the food for them."

"Out of the frying-pan into the fire," commented the chief. "A return to Russia is the one thing left worse than what they've been through here. Poor devils-but listen to that! Talk about your bird singing in the rain--"

Deep, reverberant, pulsing like the throb of a mighty organ, the strains of what might have been either a hymn or a marching song were wafted to our ears on the wings of the deepening dusk. For two or three minutes the strangely moving sound, rising and falling like the roll of a surf on a distant shore, followed us down the canal before it was quenched in the roar of the accelerating fans as the bridge rang

down for increased speed. The German was the first to break the silence in which we had listened.

"The Russians are a strange people," he said, with a note of sincerity in his voice I had never remarked before. "There is always sadness in their happiness, and always hope in their despair. I think they can never be broken."

For the first and last time I was inclined to agree with him.

A three-hour run at a speed of fifteen knots brought us to the island of Rügen, where we anchored in shallow water three or four miles off the station of Büg, which we were scheduled to inspect in the morning. It was only a fair-weather anchorage, however, and the lee shore, together with a falling barometer and a rising wind, caused the pilot to advise running round to the somewhat better protection of Tromper Bay, on the opposite side of the island. This shift, which there was no real necessity for making, involved an alteration of plan, for the shores of Tromper Bay (where we now had to attempt a landing) were four or five miles from Wiek, the second station to be inspected, and entirely cut off from communication with Büg by a long lagoon. Under the circumstances, the only practicable plan seemed to be to walk to Wiek across the island, go from there to Büg by launch, and then endeavour to rejoin the destroyer at her first anchorage of the night before, to which she would return in the interim. This intricate itinerary we finally succeeded in following, but it almost killed poor "Hindenburg," the fat German flying officer escorting the party, who had confidently counted on doing all of his travelling by launch.


The motor launch refusing to start in the morning, the whaler was used to land the inspection party. As there appeared to be nothing in the way of a quay or landing-stage, the most likely place to get ashore seemed to be a dismantled pier, the piles of which were visible from the deck of the destroyer. "Hindy" (the name had already begun to stick to him), however, promptly appointing himself as pilot, in spite of the fact that he knew no more of that particular stretch of coast than any one else in the party, ruled in favour of landing directly upon the beach. Pulling straight in on the course he indicated, the heavily laden whaler grounded a couple of hundred yards from the shore, and was only worried off by all hands going aft and raising the stranded bow. Commander C-- took over the direction of affairs at this juncture, and the incidence of events was such that "Hindy" did not essay the leadership r?le again for some hours, and even then but transiently.

The old pier, to the end of which the whaler was now pulled, had evidently been wrecked in a storm of many years before and never repaired. Its planking was gone entirely, but two strings of timbers running along the tops of the tottering piles offered a possible, though precarious, means of reaching the two-hundred-yard-distant beach. When two of the American officers clambered up, however, they found the timbers so slippery with moss that it was a sheer physical impossibility to stand erect and walk along them. The only alternative was to sit astride one of them and slither along shoreward, a few inches at a time. This they did, pushing along a thick roll of filthy slime in front of them as they went, and stopping every now and then to disengage the end of a projecting spike that was holding their trousers. Following behind one of them, I found the progress both vile and painful, even after his wiggle-waggle advance had swabbed up the worst of the slime and uncovered the longest of the spikes lurking to ambush the seat of my trousers. It must have been unspeakable for the two self-sacrificing pioneers.

Halfway in, the timbers, less exposed to the splashing spray, offered a better footing, and from there, following the lead of Commander C--, we managed to stand up and walk. Not until we reached the end and jumped off on to the firm sand and began to count noses before striking off inland did any one notice that "Hindy" was missing. The account of that worthy's doings in the meantime I had that evening after our return to the Viceroy from the coxswain of the whaler.

For the first time "Hindy" had neglected to insist on the precedence due to his rank as a "three-striper" and push out in the lead at a landing. On the contrary, it appears, he had lingered in the stern sheets of the whaler until the last of the Allied officers had slid along out of hearing, and then coolly ordered two of the crew to wade ashore carrying him between them. He would show them, he said, how the German sailors joined hands to make a chair for their officers on such an occasion. Failing in this man?uvre, he had suggested that two of the oars be lashed together with the strip of bunting in the stern sheets and laid along across the tops of the piles to give him a firm footing. Two of the bluejackets, he explained, could go with him and "relay" this improvised gangway along ahead. It was only when the coxswain, in English probably too idiomatic to convey its full meaning to a German, expressed his lack of sympathy with this ingenious proposal that he screwed up his nerve to tackling the "wiggle-waggle" mode of progression.

Given a leg up by the whaler's crew, he wriggled astride the nearest longitudinal strip of timber and began his snail-like, shoreward crawl. At the end of a quarter of an hour he had barely reached the less slippery timbering halfway in, but here, instead of getting up on his hind legs, as the rest of us had done, and ambling along on his feet, the shivering wretch still persisted in embracing the slimy beam with his fat thighs and continuing to worry on "wiggle-waggle."

Finally Commander C--, whose eyes for the last fifteen minutes had been turning back and forth between the ludicrously swaying figure on the pier and the hands of his watch, uttered an impatient exclamation and squared his shoulders with the air of a man who has come to a great decision.

"We're already two hours behind time," he said, buttoning his waterproof and pulling on his gloves, "and it's touch and go whether we can finish in time to return tonight to Kiel per schedule. It's a cert we won't make it if we have to wait any longer for our tortoise-shaped and tortoise-gaited friend out there. There's a disagreeable duty to be performed, and since it is not of a nature that I can conscientiously order one of my subordinate officers to do, I guess it's up to me to pull it off myself. Kindly note that I'm wearing gloves."

Vaulting lightly from the sand to a line of timbering running parallel, at a distance of about five feet, to the one upon which "Hindy" was slithering along, he trotted out opposite the latter, reached across, lifted that protesting bundle of anatomy to his feet, and then, leading him by the hand, started back for the beach. The German followed like Mary's Little Lamb as long as he had the dynamic pressure of the American's fingers to give him courage, but when Commander C-- withdrew his guiding hand after he had led his fellow tight-rope walker in above the sand, "Hindy's" nerve went with it. Trying to sludder down astride the timber again after tottering drunkenly for a moment, he lost his balance and tried to jump. The drop was not over five feet, and to soft sand at that; but the remains of a riveter I once saw fall to the pavement of Broadway from the fortieth story of the new Singer building looked less inert than the shivering pancake that fat Prussian made when he hit the beach of Rügen. There was really very little to choose between it and a flatulent jelly-fish slowly dissolving in the embrace of a mass of stranded seaweed a few yards away; indeed, the subtle suggestion of that comparison may have had something to do with the reflex action behind a kick I saw some one aim at the jelly-fish in passing.

That was the last we saw of "Hindy" (except as a wavering blur on the rearward horizon) for nearly two hours.

Striking inland through the dunes and a plantation of young pine trees, we emerged at a crossroad where a signboard conveyed the information that Wiek (our immediate objective) was six and four-tenths kilometres distant. "If we can hike that four miles inside of an hour there's a fair chance of cleaning up the whole job today," said Commander C--, striking out along the lightly metalled highway with a swinging stride. "'Hindy' will have to get along as best he can. We won't need him for the inspection anyhow."

Passing several rather dismal summer hotels (one of which was called the "Strand Palace"), we came to a picturesque little village of brick and thatch houses, with brightly curtained windows, and standing in well-kept flower gardens. The villagers evidently a half-agricultural, half-fisher folk-could have had no warning of our coming, as even the station at Wiek was expecting us from the opposite direction, and by launch. Quite uninstructed in the matter of adopting "conciliatory" tactics (as those of so many of the places previously visited had so plainly been), they simply went their own easy way, displaying neither fear, resentment, nor even a great amount of curiosity. Most of the shops, except those of the butchers, were fairly well stocked, the displays of Christmas toys (among which were some very ingeniously constructed "working" Zeppelins) being really attractive.

Beyond the village the Wiek road, which turned off at right angles from the main highway, became no more than a muddy track. Deeply rutted and slippery with the last of the snow which had drifted into it from a recent storm, walking in it became so laborious that we finally took to the fields, across the light sandy loam of which we just managed to maintain the four-miles-an-hour stride necessary to keep from falling behind schedule. The several peasants encountered (mostly women with baskets of beets or cabbages on their backs) regarded us with stolid impersonal disinterest, and seemed hardly equal to the mental effort of figuring out where the motley array of uniforms came from.

A tall spire gave us the bearing for Wiek, and we passed close by the ancient stone church which it surmounted in skirting the village on a short-cut to the air station. This took us to the rear entrance of the latter (instead of the main one where we were naturally expected to come) and had the interesting sequel of bringing us face to face with a sentry wearing a red band on his sleeve, the first of that particular brand of revolutionist we had encountered. Although failing to stand at attention as we approached, he was otherwise quite respectful in his demeanour and made haste to dispatch a messenger informing the Commander of the station of our arrival. A number of other "red-banders" were seen in passing through the barracks area on the way to the sheds, one of them even going so far as to click heels and salute.

In spite of the flutter of red at the rear, there was no evidence of anything Bolshevik in the display set out for us in the shop-window. The men lounging about the sheds fell in at once on the order of the Commander, paraded smartly, and when dismissed showed no disposition to hang about the doors, as had occasionally been the case at other stations. They apparently had not even insisted on one of their representatives being present during the inspection. None but the five or six officers receiving the party conducted it around. These were all keen-eyed, quick-moving youngsters, but the fact that they were comparatively sparsely decorated seemed to indicate that the station was not of an importance to command the services of the "star turn" men we had seen at Norderney, Borkum, and other North Sea bases.

There was one thing which turned up in the course of the inspection which was not upon the list furnished us by the Germans, and that was a large stack of second-hand furniture which I stumbled across in an out-of-the-way corner of the first shed visited. An unmistakable French name on the back of a red plush-upholstered divan first suggested the lot was an imported one, and looking closer I discovered a half-obliterated maker's mark, with the letters "Brux-l-s" following it. Diverting one of the inspecting officers in that direction as opportunity offered, I asked him what he thought the word had been. "Probably the Belgian spelling of Brussels," he replied promptly, "and certainly the English spelling of loot." When the German Commander chanced to mention, a few minutes later, that his flight had only recently come from Zeebrugge, both conjectures seemed to be confirmed.

The inspection was over by the time "Hindy" arrived, and we departed for Büg immediately he had completed the wash-down and brush-up that his brother officers, who treated him with a good deal of deference, insisted on his having. He was too dead beat to display temper when he had been bundled into the launch, and he impressed me as telling the bare literal truth when he said it was the hardest walk he had ever taken in his life.

A half-hour's run brought the launch alongside the landing-stage at Büg, which ideally located station occupied a quarter of a mile of the narrow spit of sand separating the broad, shallow lagoon we had just crossed from the open Baltic. Concrete runways sloped down to both strands, so that seaplanes could be launched in either direction. It was an admirably planned and equipped station in every respect. An hour's inspection showed that the provisions of the armistice, here as at all of the other stations visited, had been satisfactorily carried out. A novel feature of the visit was the presence of a couple of photographers-evidently official ones, judging from the fine machines they had-who waylaid the party at every corner and exposed a large number of plates.

"Hindy," who had disappeared shortly after we landed, turned up again about the time the inspection of the last hangar was completed, picking his teeth and considerably restored in aplomb by the hearty mittagessen he had regaled himself with at the Commander's mess. Not until then were we informed that the station had no launch or boat of any kind available on the Baltic side. This meant that the Viceroy-she had now come to anchor three or four miles off-shore-would have to send a boat in for us, and that an hour's time had been wasted before making a signal for it. Hastily writing a message requesting that the motor launch or whaler be sent in to the landing, Commander C-- handed it to the Commander of the station, suggesting that it be made by "Visual" to the Viceroy in International Morse. Here "Hindy," brave with much beer, asserted his authority again. Snatching the paper from the station Commander's hand, he read over the signal with a frown of disapproval, and then handed it back to Commander C--.

"That is much too long and complicated for a German signalman to send in English," he growled. "You should write only, 'Send boat immediately.' That is quite enough."

There was a look in Commander C--'s face like that it had worn when he turned and left "Hindy" in a heap on the beach by the jelly-fish, but he controlled himself and spoke with considerable restraint.

"Since the Viceroy is not my private yacht," he said quietly, "any signal I make to her will begin 'Request.' I might add that if I were her captain, and a passenger of mine made me a signal like the one you suggest, he could wait till-till the Baltic froze over before I'd send a boat to take him off. Unless you're prepared to wait that long, you can't do better than see that the signal is made exactly as I have written it."

In spite of its "length and complication," that signal, as we saw it later in the Viceroy, was identical with the original to a T.

It was rather hard luck that Büg, which was the first station we visited without carrying our own lunch in the form of sandwiches, was also the only one where we were not offered shelter and refreshment. "Hindy" disappeared again during the next hour of waiting, and even had to be sent for when the whaler finally did arrive. The rest of us were so thoroughly chilled from standing out in the biting Baltic wind that we were only too glad to warm up a bit by "double-banking" the oars with the whaler's crew on the pull back to the destroyer. The sight of American and British officers bending to the sweeps with common bluejackets created a tremendous furore at the station. The photographers rushed out to the end of the jetty to make a permanent record of the astonishing sight, and from the significant glances all of the Germans were exchanging one gathered that they thought that theirs was not the only Navy in which there had been a revolution.

Climbing up to the bridge shortly after the Viceroy got under weigh for the run back to Kiel, I found the captain on watch with a hulking Number 8-bore shot-gun under his arm, at which vicious weapon the German pilot, pressing as far away from it as the restricted space allowed, kept stealing apprehensive sidelong glances with eyes ostensibly searching the horizon through his binoculars. On asking the captain what the artillery was for, he motioned me back beside the range-finder stand, where he presently joined me.

"I'm watching for ducks-great place for them along here," he said in a low voice; "but don't give it away to the Hun. He seems to think it's for him. It's old B--'s gun. He shot ducks with it from the bridge of his E-boat all over the Bight during the war."

"You don't mean to say that you'd stop the destroyer and circle back to pick up a duck in case you happened to wing one?" I asked incredulously.

"Wouldn't I?" he laughed. "Just tumble up if you hear a shot and see. There's no finer duckboat in the world than a destroyer if you got the sea room to handle her in."

It was an hour or two later that I was shaken out of a doze on a ward-room divan by a sudden jar, followed by the threshing of reversed screws. "The skipper's got his bird," I thought, and forthwith scrambled out and up the ladder, especially anxious to arrive in time to see the expressions on the face of the Germans when they realized that the "mad Englander" was going back in his warship to pick up a duck. Compared to that it turned out to have been an event of no more than passing interest which had happened. The pilot (perhaps because his mind was absorbed in the menace of that terrible 8-bore) had merely missed-by three or four miles as it transpired presently-the gate of the anti-submarine net fencing off that neck of the Baltic, with the result that the Viceroy had barged into that barrage at something like seventeen knots. Cutting through the first of what proved to be a double net, she brought up short against the second, the while her spinning propellers wound in and chewed to bits a considerable length of the former.

The seas were agitated for a half-mile on either side by the straining of the outraged booms, while from the savagely slashing screws floated up a steady stream of mangled metal floats like wienerwursts emerging from a sausage machine. Luckily, the cables of the nets were rusted and brittle, so that the propellers readily tore loose from them without injury. Backing off clear, the pilot ran down the boom until the buoys marking the gate were sighted, and from there it was comparatively open going to Kiel, which we reached at nine-thirty that evening.

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