At sea. Received an early call this morning from a stoker who had injured his hand. While I was dressing the would the syren blew and I learnt that a thick fog existed which necessitated frequent use of the syren and slackening of speed. Later on I was informed that we are bound for Plymouth all right, but for what reason no one seems to know. We shall soon know once that place is reached, I expect. We have been near the coast all day, keeping to a channel all the way marked by buoys. We passed several mine-sweepers at work.
A wireless message has been received informing us of the sinking of a Belgian Refugee or Relief boat this morning off the Kentish Knock Lightship. It is not yet known whether she struck a mine or was “submarine victim”. Saw the masts of three sunken vessels off Lowestoft this afternoon. Either submarine or mine victim I suppose. Off Harwich our two torpedo boats were relieved by two others from that base. Our late escort went into Harwich for fuel, provisions and orders.
An airship was sighted off Sheerness about 7 p.m. and at first was thought to be a Zep. The aerial guns’ crews were called to their stations and preparations made to receive the supposed raider. Shortly afterwards the craft was made out to be one of our own airships out scouting.
About 7-30 p.m. we came to the great net defences running from the English to the French coast. This defence further supported by mine-fields is a very great affair and no traffic is allowed through after sunset. Three channels are kept amongst the mine-fields. One for transport, one for commerce and the other for naval uses. Vessels wishing to pass through the Straits of Dover defences have to be piloted by special pilots. The channel is of course a secret one and so necessitates the use of special and responsible pilots to take vessels through safely. So close together are the mine-fields that only a speed of 8 knots can be travelled, otherwise the suction would be so great as to draw the mines in towards a vessel.
When we came to the defences a big liner – all lighted up, full of passengers and from Rotterdam – was just about to pass through but she had to get out of the way to allow us to go through first. There were several vessels waiting to be piloted through. These defences are indeed great and so splendidly organised.
I thought of you at 6-30 p.m. and wondered what you would say if you could see where the Roxburgh was at that time – not in Queensferry but somewhere between the Thames and Dover. Last Sunday coaled ship at Scapa, this Sunday very near the English Channel. Oh! we do go the pace these days.
I remarked this evening as I pointed in the direction of North France and Belgium “Not so very far over there I expect some fighting is going on”. I was thinking of the contrast that existed on the two sides of the narrow stretch of water hereabouts.
I am writing these notes at 9 p.m. and at present we are crawling along past Dover at 8 knots. There are plenty of busy little armed trawlers about to keep off the subs. if they can manage to dodge the mine-fields but I guess it would be a pretty risky undertaking. It has been a grand day and the water like glass. It seemed hardly possible that those calm waters contained such awful death-dealing instruments, yet one knew how dangerous those waters would prove to any ship that strayed beyond the channel. Several captains (mostly foreign though) have not taken notice of the Admiralty order with regards to calling into one of the ports for information as to what course to adopt. These captains have for the most taken their vessels into a mine-field with the inevitable result. Hence the large number of vessels that were sunk by mines during the first few months of the war. The mines that sunk the vessels were generally British ones, but all captains were warned about them, altho’ of course it was impossible to inform them where the mine-fields were.
Mine-sweepers are constantly sweeping the channels in case some of our own mines break adrift and get into the channels and also in case German vessels (and sometimes neutral ones in the pay of Germany) slip over in a fog and drop mines in or near the channels. Such a thing has been known to occur, and quite recently some mines were found outside Cromarty, having been laid during a fog it is thought. The precaution is always taken outside Naval bases to sweep the channels before the entrance or exit of men-of-war or vessels engaged on transport duties. During the Russo-Japanese was, a Russian battleship was sunk whilst passing out through one of their mine-fields guarding the harbour. It came to light afterwards that the Japs had layed mines in the channel during the previous night. The channel had not been swept before the ship came out and so she bumped the mine and went down. She was a flagship too and the Admiral (Makaroff I think) went down with his ship. That occurrence has taught us a lesson. The Germans adopt the same principle as we do and sweep their channels before sending any vessels out. It is a case of “looking before leaping” isn’t it?
I expressed a hope in last Sunday’s letter to you that we should be able to have an evening Service today, since we were not able to last week owing to the coal ship evolution in progress. There is no hope this week either, because the men are mostly on duty. Wonder what we shall be doing next Sunday and where we shall be.
Had a curious dream last night in which you figured. You, Marion and I were out in Plymouth town when we decided to go to a theatre. We made our way to a place which exteriorly resembled the main entrance to the Guildhall. The posters outside told one that a drama called “The Nun” was the feature. Only a few seats were left we were informed and at first we changed our mind and decided to go to the “Hippodrome”. However recognising that if we were to get a seat here we must quickly decide, I took the lead and paid right then and there for the remaining seats. We made our way to a place which resembled a circle but the seats were in occasional threes, plenty of room existing for movement between them. The seats were nicely upholstered and our feet sank into a very soft carpet. On the way to our seats a young lady with glasses on passed us and she looked back and smiled at you. You informed me that she was, before marriage, a Miss Williams.
The peculiar thing about the dream is that I recognised the young lady as a chum of my cousin Ethel who lives in North Road. I have not seen the girl for years and I fancy her name was Williams. I don’t remember seeing anything of “The Nun”, in fact my dream ended when we took our seats. I hope such a funny dream is not a sign of mental aberration, but one can’t help smiling sometimes at the absolute rot one dreams about.