America and West Indies Station
1930 – 1932
West Indies and Central America Cruise
(14th November 1930 -12th January 1931)
Map and places/dates visited West Indies and Central America cruise
All photographs and documents can be enlarged. Simply click on the item you choose.
All hands immediately settled down to combining work with all the pleasure available. The squadron and Inter-port Football League games commenced soon after our arrival. The evenings were spent at the canteen or at the ‘talkies’ in the sail loft, where a change of programme three times weekly was greatly appreciated. The cinema in the dockyard is indeed a blessing. It must be remembered that at Bermuda a ship’s company has to find practically all its sport and amusement in Ireland Island.
We suggest the following website for more information regarding Ireland Island and the Royal Navy Dockyard at Bermuda.
Lieutenant Whetstone was promoted on the 15th December. He must have been highly flattered to join the distinguished fraternity of ‘two and a halves’ in the ship -Yes, this was written by a ‘two and a half.’
Deammunition and preparation for dry dock
Deammunition was carried out on the 17th, and on the 18th the ship entered the floating dock. Towards the latter part of our last cruise an ominous rudder knock was heard, and an examination in dock revealed that this was due to too much clearance between the pintle and gudgeon. Repairs and refit proceeded apace. Throughout the day, from the depth of the dock, came the noises of scrapers and chipping hammers mingled with lusty voices telling the world about the ‘Stein Song’ and ‘Spring time in the Rockies.’
Dry dock at Bermuda
During the first week Bermuda lived up to its reputation as a land of sunshine. Then came boisterous winds and torrential rain. Day after day we had nothing but wind, and no matter in which direction one cycled it seemed it was always against the wind. The married officers lived a strenuous life cycling between the ship and home. On several occasions sports had to be abandoned, owing to the grounds being unfit to play on.
H.M.S. Scarborough, direct from England, joined the squadron on the 21st December, and on the 5th the Dragon returned from Jamaica.
A ship’s concert was held in the Canteen theatre, in aid of the dependents of the two ratings who were drowned at Vancouver. Nasty weather on the night of the second performance was responsible for a comparatively small audience.
At this period of the commission the ship developed a ‘Second’ complex. We were second in the Squadron Road Race, second in the Commissioned Officers Sailing Race, runners up in the Squadron Boxing Tournament, knocked out in the final for the Garrison Hockey Cup, and second in the Volunteer Brass Bands Competition. Later we were also second in the First Division Football League. These were certainly ‘consistent and all round’ performances. Nevertheless, a first in a competition or a Cup will be very welcome.
We came out of dry dock on the 20th December and berthed in the South Basin. The 24th December found all hands preparing for Christmas Day.
Evergreens were brought onboard in large quantities. The Yuletide spirit invaded all parts of the ship except, perhaps, the galley, where the cooking staff was working at high pressure preparing the feast for the morrow.
The sun shone on Christmas morning for the first time for many days. All the messes were gaily decorated with evergreens, flags, paper chains, etc. The tables groaned under the weight of ‘good eats.’ Christmas cards and photographs of wives and sweethearts were arranged on the tables as only a sailor can fix them.
After Divine Service the fun started. Promptly at 1100 an unearthly din of bugle calls and other impromptu instruments heralded the arrival of Captain Vivian on the mess deck. Commander and Mrs Bruce, Commander (E) and Mrs Grethed, Lieut.- Commander and Mrs Onslow, Lieutenant (E) and Mrs Turner and all the other ship’s officers accompanied him. Every mess was visited and everywhere the procession received a warm welcome. Commander Bruce was temporarily relieved of his appointment by Able Seaman Hunt who, donning the Commander’s uniform, at once proceeded to deal with Lieutenant Nowell as an ‘offender.’
The punishment was not exactly consistent with King’s Regulations and many volunteered to be dealt with similarly, but there was only enough ‘punishment’ for two. Whetstone made a very good Leading Seaman. His hornpipe at the foot of the gangway as Despatch’s ‘cheerio’ party marched past was a masterpiece. Some day a photograph taken on the occasion may blackmail him. After an extremely humorous and enjoyable forenoon, the ship’s company settled down to their Christmas dinner and then some walked it off, others slept if off.
In the afternoon a hockey match was played at Somerset; Officers vs. Ladies.
During our stay at Bermuda the Ireland Island Dramatic Society produced “The Middle Watch.” The acting was magnificent and the houses were well packed. Lieutenant Bond played the part of Captain Randell, R.M. (Bobo).
An unfortunate accident occurred on the 29th December. Petty Officer Rayment received severe internal injuries while playing in a football match.
He was rushed to hospital and his serious condition cast a gloom over the whole ship. He will be a great loss to the Concert Party as, apart from his talent, his organising abilities were invaluable.
H.M.S. Despatch was the first to sail on a Spring Cruise, followed a few days later by the Dragon. H.M.C.S. Champlain arrived on the 9th from Halifax. She encountered heavy seas en route and lost her topmast. Boats were smashed and deck fittings washed away, while several of her crew received minor injuries.
Looking ‘spick and span’ with a new coat of paint, H.M.S. Dauntless commenced her Spring Cruise on the 12thJanuary. The period at Bermuda had passed pleasantly enough, but a charge of scenery, new places and new faces, are always appreciated.
We were pleased to hear before leaving Bermuda that P.O. Rayment’s condition was rapidly improving. We wish him a speedy recovery.
The Road Race, Bermuda 1930
Due to the fact that we were detained on emergency duties for about a month, there was not much opportunity to train for the Squadron Road Race at Bermuda. As a preliminary a race was held among the ship’s crew and was won by the quarterdeck team, A.B. Clark being the first man home. Thirty men were then chosen to go into training and from these we picked two teams of 12.
On the day of the race the roads were very slippery, the result of heavy rains, but luckily the rain held off during the actual competition. Cheering parties took up positions of vantage along the course, which ran from the Dockyard along the top road, then Boaz Bridge, Hospital Road, past the R.N. Canteen and back to the dockyard, the finishing tape being abreast of our ship. H.M.S. Dragon had the first man home. A. B. Clark was fourth, and soon it was a matter of conjecture as to whether we had beaten the flagship or not. Actually we hadn’t, but we were a good second. H.M.S. Despatch won the team medal and Squadron Shield.
Sailing Races, Bermuda 1930
On the forenoon of the 30th December the boats were sailed by Commissioned Warrant and Warrant Officers. We were not placed. In the afternoon race for Commissioned Officers, Lieutenant Nowell was second in a whaler. The race was so close that over a course of nine miles only twelve seconds separated the first two boats. The flagship had the first three boats home in the competition for ratings. We were fourth.
The Band Trophy
H.M.S. Dauntless, H.M.S. Delhi and H.M.S. Dragon competed with their volunteer bands. Each band had to play on the march and then two selections. The judges had a very difficult task in deciding the winners of the Trophy. After much deliberation they awarded it to H.M.S. Dragon.
We were two points behind and beat Delhi by 6 points.
Our first visit was to Tortola Island in the British Virgin Islands. This group of thirty islands had a total population of 5,000, 500 of whom live in Road Town, the capital, on Tortola Island.
The town is built along the foreshore of the bay with the hinterland rising precipitously behind it. There is one road, which runs through the town, hence the name of the capital. To explore the island one has to ride on ponies up a water course to the top of the hill. Going up is interesting and pleasant, but the gradient requires the ponies to be absolutely sure footed, which they are - provided the rider doesn’t try to take a hand in the matter. Many of us had great fun riding Tortolan ponies during our stay.
The colony is probably one of the most primitive and, possibly on this account, one of the happiest in the Empire. Its only industry is agriculture.
Each native has a plot of ground, on which is his hut, generally complete with wife and family. On the plot he grows some maize, some sweet potatoes and sufficient fodder for a goat; a few pigs are generally part of the household. What more can man desire? Why work any harder than is necessary to produce sufficient milk, corn and meat for self and family? And so the Tortolan is content, marvellously lazy and happy. He sometimes takes the trouble to catch some of the fish with which the Bay swarms.
Dwellings and inhabitants of Tortola
There is one policeman, who finds considerable difficulty in providing the one convict necessary to keep the prison garden in order.
Tortola has little communication with the outside world. Once a month a steamer from the United States’ Islands of St. Thomas calls - otherwise local fishing craft must be used. There is no wireless station; no one even has a receiving set. The annual visit of a cruiser is, therefore, an event of some importance to the eleven white people who live there. None of us will forget the Commissioner, the Padre, and the Doctor, the Planter and their respective wives or the Matron of the hospital. The Wesleyan Minister was away and the man in charge of the ‘Tropical Agricultural Experimental Station,’ a long title for ten acres and a hut, was sick.
The Planter, Mr. Roy, is a Scotsman and he needs to try to make a living out of Tortola; however, he appears to succeed by growing tobacco, limes and oranges. If you want something really strong to smoke try a Tortolan cigar. Periodically a hurricane comes along and blows his crops and bits of his house over the hill, but he just smiles and starts in again. We hope he will be spared another hurricane for many years to come.
We spent five days here, during which we had a Church Parade, the Concert Party gave a show, the band played and the cricket team lost a match on the most astonishing ‘ground’ in the middle of the jungle. It was fortunate that nearly all the inhabitants attended this match, for they were frequently needed to retrieve the ball from the dark forest.
The officers have memories of a wonderful evening at government House and doubt if their friends in Tortola will forget “Blackbird” and the other songs which nearly lifted off the roof. We wish them all good fortune in their lotus eating lives, far from the mad whirl of so called civilization.
World War 1 Cenotaph - Port of Spain Trinidad
On the 20th and 21st January, H.M.S. Despatch, Dauntless and Dragon carried out exercises with the Atlantic Fleet Squadron. Dragon reported sighting the ‘enemy’ on the second day and later Despatch came into contact, but before we could enter the picture the exercise was negative and all ships were ordered to proceed independently. Dauntless and Dragon anchored in Port of Spain on the 22nd, and the next day H.M.S. Rodney,
The following is an extract from a Trinidad paper on the occasion of this visit:
Our Welcome Visitors
Trinidad’s welcome to the British Navy vessels now in the Port of Spain harbour is both enthusiastic and sincere. It is a long time since we had
British battleships in the Gulf of Paria but although this makes us gladder to welcome them, Trinidad has always been happy and proud to
receive visits from the Navy, which has such an intimate connection with the storied Caribbean.
Has not the Gulf resounded with the shouts of men and the creak and rattle of ship’s gear as the British fleet sailed through the Bocas just in
time to witness the self-destruction of the unwary Apodocca’s ships? Surely we cannot forget that it was Nelson himself who helped to make
the waters that lap these very shores famous. And was it not here that those experiments were carried out on the first dreadnought, which
helped to revolutionise naval construction?
These things and more besides have made a romance of the Navy, whose colonial cradle was the Caribbean Sea. Glorious ships, glorious
men, glorious deeds have been given a glamour, which the traditions of a service magnificently fulfilled, have justified and heightened.
The might of the British Fleet when the Great War came was a bulwark of inestimable value to Trinidad and other Colonies in these waters,
and the sense of security, which it gave, will ever be gratefully remembered.
Our affection for the Navy, whose beginnings are part of the illuminated history of the Caribbean, thus has increased with the passage of the
years, until today there is no other sentiment quite like it. Not an inhabitant of Trinidad but looks with peculiar pride on these stately ships
which have anchored in our harbour, and we welcome them with the heartiness reserved for old tried friends who have nothing second rate in
Some of us have a habit of doing little to show how deeply we appreciate the Navy. Let us throw off this old restraint and make these visitors
so happy here that they will be sorry when they must go to keep their rendezvous at the Panama Canal Zone next month.
On Sunday 25th January, Captain Vivian and the Officers of the Dauntless were ‘At Home’ to the ships of the Atlantic Fleet and H.M.S. Dragon.
We sailed for Man of War Bay on the 29th, receiving several farewell messages from other ships present in harbour. The ship literally steamed through a sea of jellyfish.
Man O’ War Bay – Tobago
During the five days at Man O’ War Bay, where incidentally we struck one of the finest bathing beaches, this commission and all hands took full advantage of the ideal conditions.
The ship then proceeded to Kingston, St. Vincent Island, for a week. There we played football and cricket matches and bathed.
A certain amount of amusement was obtained from watching the natives dive and scrap for coppers thrown to them from the ship.
At St. Vincent
Lieutenant Nowell left the ship at St. Vincent to take passage home in H.M.S. Nelson. The Ward Room will have to search for a new ‘stylist’ in the next Regatta.
Friday 13th February saw us once again at Trinidad. We are beginning to regard Port of Spain as our home from home. Acquaintanceships were renewed immediately. Apart from private parties, the outstanding event of interest was a visit to Chaguanas Sugar Plantation, by kind permission of the management.
On the 14th February a party of about 80 were conveyed by the Trinidad Railway Company, in specially reserved carriages, to the Chaguanas Sugar Plantation. The journey was approximately 20 miles, and at the other end a personally conducted tour over the plantation and factory, which, we were told, belonged to a private firm but was subsidised by the local government. In the factory itself about 500 men and women are employed, working in two shifts, day and night, from January until May. The rest of the year they are busy on the plantations, ploughing and planting the canes for the next season. The output, we were told, was 12,000 tons annually.
Sugar cane workers and ox drawn cart
The whole process of manufacture, from the cutting of the sugar cane and loading into carts drawn by oxen, to the packaging of the actual sugar into sacks already for export, was seen. There followed dinner, and two cricket matches against teams from the estate, both of which we lost.
The party had time for a small tour round the village before catching the return train. Bundles of sugar cane were distributed to them. As we steamed out of Chaguanas lusty cheers were given our hosts, whose hospitality we appreciated and whose vitality we admired, and so to the ship after an exceedingly pleasant day.
After three days at sea we arrived at Santa Marta, Columbia. In Drake’s time this part of the world, known as the Spanish Main, must have been more interesting.
While at Santa Marta several officers and about 100 ratings visited the banana plantations, owned by the United Fruit Company. The officials of the company kindly arranged free transportation in a special train of four coaches, which conveyed the party over 60 miles inland to the chief plantations; through country covered with withered grass and thousands of cactus plants, through coconut groves and occasional banana plantations and through dry, desolate plains where one, at intervals glimpsed the bones of animals, picked clean by vultures which hovered overhead.
As the train approached our destination we observed miles and miles of banana trees, absolutely covered with fruit; a veritable banana jungle - a monkey’s paradise. Workers demonstrated how the trees were planted, the irrigation scheme and how the stems were cut and packed onto the trains for transport to Santa Marta. Particular care has to be taken to prevent the bananas being bruised, as the buyers accept no damaged fruit. Experts inspect the stems at least four times before shipping. We were told that the average number of bananas on each stem was 180.
On this occasion the United Fruit Company was under contract to ship 96,000 stems of bananas at 36 hours notice. To do this they were cutting 123,000 stems, not from the chief plantation alone, but also from their various plantations along the railroad. Obviously a performance of this nature calls for marvellous organisation, expert knowledge and hard work.
Sailors and Royal Marines in a banana plantation may seem as out of place as an elephant at a monkey’s wedding, but we were genuinely interested when walking round the estate, witnessing the different operations and mingling with the Columbian workmen and carts conveying the fruit to the wagons.
After a grand lunch, plus a bottle of iced beer, the return journey was commenced. The party arrived onboard at 1830, tired but happy, after the interesting and instructive day provided by the officials of the United Fruit Company.
Our visit to Colombia, in 1931, occurred during the centenary year of the death of Simon Bolivar, the great Liberator of the South American Republics. In order to celebrate this century in a worthy manner, the Columbian Government decided to form a national memorial to the Liberator at the farmhouse, where he died in 1831.
This farmhouse, a very attractive building with a charming garden, is situated some three miles from Santa Marta. A first class motor road has been built and on either side the various republics, which are indebted to Simon Bolivar for their freedom have bought plots of ground on which have been erected memorials of a variety of kinds, ranging from a cenotaph to a beautifully laid out garden. The memorials themselves have been provided by the cities, universities and all kinds of organised bodies in the different republics.
On the ship’s arrival at Santa Marta we were informed by the British Vice Consul that all the necessary arrangements had been made for Captain Vivian to lay a wreath on the statue of Simon Bolivar on the following day. At 1000 Captain Vivian accompanied by eight officers, landed and was met by the Governor of the Province and the Colonel Commanding the District, one Tomayo, a charming personage with whom we struck up a warm friendship although we had no common language.
A procession of motorcars was formed, the Governor, Colonel Tomayo, the Vice Consul, Captain Vivian, and the largest wreath we had ever seen in the leading motor. The day was excessively hot and the road terribly dusty. En route we had explained to us the terrain and were told that all the society ladies of Santa Marta would be there to watch the function.
On arrival at our destination we struggled from the motorcars and emerged somewhat dishevelled, for it is not easy to evacuate a motorcar with dignity when wearing a service helmet and a sword and, in the case of the Captain, carrying a colossal wreath. Before we had got really disentangled we found ourselves solemnly walking up a somewhat narrow path, closely followed by the rest of the procession, while on each side was seated a guard of honour of Columbian infantry. As we passed each soldier sprang from his chair, presented arms and resumed his seat. The drill was smart, the guard well turned out, and how wise not to keep a guard standing in the blazing sun in a tropical climate!
When half way along the path, we espied in front of us a blaze of many colours, which resolved itself into the frocks and hats of the youth and beauty of Santa Marta, collected at the spot where we knew Captain Vivian had to turn to the right to find Simon Bolivar’s statue facing him. All went well (we hoped we greeted the ladies with suitable smiles) and then the Captain turned to the right, and some twenty yards ahead of him was the statue surrounded by railing, through which he must pass. But on arrival it was found to be padlocked. Whispered questions elicited the terrifying news that the key was lost. We knew that the Captain was evaluating the situation.
What should he do? The railings were some five feet high. Could he scale them and still keep his clothes intact? The presence of the ladies would make the attempt somewhat risky. Yes, there were photographers, too. We wondered. Anyhow, the wreath couldn’t possibly be laid outside the railings; it was too far away and it would never do to just throw it over. We thought he’d better risk the climb, but remove his sword first. Ah! Is that the key? Yes thank goodness, they’ve found it just in time.
After the ceremony we were shown all over the farmhouse. The relics in the room where the great man passed away included the table on which the operation was performed, the instruments and even the towels, which were used.
One of the most interesting exhibits was a very old orange tree in the middle of the courtyard, in full bearing. The tree’s trunk is quite hollow and it appears as if the lower 6 feet or so is bark only.
On Sunday 22nd February, a Guard and Band landed and marched to the Santa Marta Barracks, where Captain Vivian, Commander Bruce and Commander (E) Grethed were presented with the Order of Simon Bolivar, a memorial medal to commemorate the centenary of the death of the Great Liberator. In addition to the detachment from the ship there was present a Guard and Band of a Volunteer Regiment. Captain Vivian and Colonel Tomayo inspected the guards, who then marched past. The Colonel congratulated the Captain on the smartness of his men and also presented Lieutenant Bond, who was in charge of the ship’s detachment, with the Order.
Several visitors came onboard during our stay at Santa Marta, though unfortunately we were handicapped by not being able to speak Spanish. A searchlight display was given one night, and on the morning of the 25th we sailed for Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.
While in Santa Marta, such mutual esteem and regard had sprung up between H.M.S. Dauntless and the Colombian officials, especially Colonel Tomayo that the Colonel particularly requested that the ship should fire a salute to the Country of Colombia as she proceeded out of harbour.
Anxious as the Captain was to comply with this friendly request, he was in a somewhat difficult position, as he knew that Santa Marta boasted no guns with which the salute could be returned. It must be explained that if a salute to a national flag is not returned gun for gun, all sorts of international complications are likely to ensue.
However, thinking that Colonel Tomayo might produce a field battery from elsewhere for the occasion, he extracted a very willing promise from the Colonel that, if fired, the salute would be returned.
As soon as the anchor was aweigh, therefore, a 21 gun salute was fired with the Colombian flag at the masthead. Then came a moment of anxious suspense. Would the salute be returned? Crash!!! All eyes were turned towards a stretch of desolate beach where there appeared a large cloud of white smoke, close to the ground. Lo and behold, we saw a man throwing bombs on the sand with one hand and timing the explosions from a watch in the other hand. Twenty-one bombs were fired, and what is more, it was about the best salute we had ever heard; the timing was perfect and the explosions terrific. Colonel Tomayo certainly surprised us with the novelty and efficiency of his return salute.
At Puerto Limon the United Fruit Company arranged a railway expedition to their coffee plantation and factory. A party of 21 officers and 140 men landed and entrained in five coaches specially provided for the occasion.
Soon after starting, as we rounded a curve, the train struck and killed a cow. The line was cleared and we proceeded on our journey, passing through large cocoa, banana and coconut plantations. The scenery was tropical; many pretty birds, flowers and butterflies were seen, occasionally the train steamed past small towns and villages where all the inhabitants in sight stopped working or idling to give us a cheer; even dogs and hens rushing out to great us. Before arriving at our destination we climbed for what seemed hours, and were told we were over 4,000 feet above sea level. Mountains could be seen on either side, and waterfalls and fast running streams; then came coffee, cotton and the inevitable banana plantations. At 1 p.m. we arrived at the United Fruit Company’s coffee factory.
The factory is fitted with up-to-date machinery from England. We saw coffee berries washed, the husks and inner thin skin removed, the drying process, the grading, and the final packing into bags for shipment. Then we wandered over the plantations in trolleys drawn by mules. The coffee berries, which are about the size of a marble, shoot out on little stems from the branches and each berry contains two beans. In addition, we saw castor oil trees.
A good dinner followed, and then the return trip through the same delightful scenery. Oranges and cold beer were provided in the train. This was the second occasion on which we were deeply indebted to the United Fruit Company for a pleasant railway journey and an interesting and instructive tour. We thank them sincerely and wish them the best of luck and prosperity for the future.
We entertained 150 Boy Scouts onboard and several other visitors, played football and in general, passed a pleasant time during our stay; sailing for Belize, British Honduras, on the 5th March.
It is probable that Columbia discovered the coast about 1502, when on his way to Cuba.
Englishmen knew the colony about 1638, probably through a shipwrecked crew. It is also likely that people from Jamaica visited the colony, and finding logwood abundant, established themselves. They must have come in contact with the Spaniards and Indians of the neighbouring parts of Mexico and Guatemala, as there are records of many fights between them. The Spaniards made frequent attempts to expel the Englishmen who came with slaves from Jamaica, and in 1667 the Governor of Massachusetts sent H.M.S. King George to help the settlers against their enemies.
In 1717 the board of Trade asserted the absolute right of Great Britain to cut logwood. In the next year the Spaniards tried to conquer the settlement and got as far as Spanish Lookout on the Belize River, which they fortified. Another attempt was defeated in 1754. A battle at St. George’s Caye in 1798 was the last of these disturbances with Spain. British Honduras became a Crown colony independent of Jamaica in 1884.
Mahogany was one of the chief exports of British Honduras, but it is not a flourishing industry just now. Chicle gum, obtained from the Sapodilla tree, is shipped from Belize; also copra. The citric fruit industry is comparatively modern in Belize and promises to be a source of much wealth.
Lemons, oranges, and limes thrive and thousands of pounds have been spent in the cultivation of grape fruit.
Fishermen inhabit numerous islands or ‘cayes’ off the mainland, and on others coconuts are grown, but many are uninhabited swamps. During our stay 100 ratings were taken by boat for a 12-mile cruise to a small island for a picnic and a swim, which was much appreciated and enjoyed.
The ship’s concert party gave an entertainment for charity, and rugger, football and cricket matches were played. Many friendships were formed.
The inhabitants of Belize believed they were out of the hurricane zone, but on the 10th September 1931, soon after H.M.S. Danae had relieved us of Hurricane Duties in the West Indies, word came through that a hurricane had devastated the town. H.M.S. Danae was immediately ordered to the scene of the disaster.
We messaged the following to the Governor of Belize:
Captain, Officers and Ship’s Company of H.M.S. Dauntless, who hold many pleasant memories of their visit to Belize,
desire to convey to you and to the people of Belize their deepest sympathy in your present misfortunes.
The following letter received by one of the ship’s company will give some idea of the misfortunes. Would that we could have been present to render aid to our friends and others in the stricken town.
Although you have read several accounts of the terrible disaster, which has befallen our city, perhaps you will be interested in a direct narrative
from us. On the morning of Thursday, the 10th instant, we were warned by radio that a tropical depression was approaching Belize from a south
easterly direction and that a hurricane could be expected to strike the city at about 1 p.m.
During the whole of the morning there were strong gusts of wind and sleet from every direction, visibility was extremely poor, and, generally
speaking, weather conditions were such as the inhabitants had never seen before.
Between 1 and 2 o’clock the wind greatly increased in intensity and blew with increasing force from the north-northeast. The zinc from the
houses began to tear off and some of the more flimsy buildings tottered and fell. The streets were utterly unsafe for pedestrians, and the rain
came down with such torrential vigour, notwithstanding the high wind, that it was impossible to see more than a few yards, and everything
inside and outside buildings became soaked.
In the meantime the waters of the sea were receding.
After about an hour and a half the storm subsided suddenly, one might say instantaneously. The sky cleared, rain ceased, and the sun came out
but the atmosphere was heavy and almost unbearable. Notwithstanding the general warning that the hurricane would return as soon as the
centre had passed thousands of people left their homes and wandered about to see the damage. By this time, although some hundreds of houses
had very badly damaged roofs and the streets were full of debris, probably not more than 20 or 30 houses were down, and out of 50 or 60
vessels in the harbour we do not think that more than two or three were wrecked.
Within five minutes of the calm, however, the receding waters turned and a tidal wave, estimated by old and responsible seafaring men to be at
least 30 feet high outside the reef descended upon the defenceless town. The water rose with extreme rapidity, breaking over the sea defences
at the height of 10 or 12 feet, and at varying heights over other parts of the coast north, east and south of the town. Some hundreds of people
were struggling through the swirling waters to get back to their homes. By the time the water had reached a height of 4 to 5 feet, the centre
passed and down with a roar only comparable to the so-called Crack of Doom, the real hurricane was upon us.
The recording instruments broke down after recording a velocity of 95 miles per hour. The wind was, of course, in exactly the opposite
direction to the first blow and the ensuing havoc is beyond our power to describe adequately. Corrugated iron roofs and huge beams and
rafters were flying through the air with the apparent speed of bullets.
The whole town collapsed like a pack of cards, and dozens upon dozens of vessels were dashed against the shore, carried over the coastline and
deposited amidst the wrecked houses.
The water began to go down after an hour of the second blow, but very slowly. The water had, of course, undermined the foundations of the
posts on which nearly all our houses stand and this combined with the terrific force of the hurricane, made it impossible for the buildings to
stand the ravage. Hundreds of houses (or what was left of them) were moved from their lot, and as the water settled down they too came to rest.
The full force was spent some time after 4 o’clock, but the wind continued with the force of a gale, with intermittent stronger gusts, for nearly
two hours afterwards. The water was then waist high, but this did not prevent people going about to see what had happened. You have, no doubt
seen the photographs that were subsequently taken, but with due regard to the faithful recording eye of the camera, the scene, as it appeared to
the eyes of those who had gone through it could never be adequately reproduced.
Not one single building exists that was not damaged to a large extent. It is no exaggeration to say that only 15 percent of the buildings are
repairable. On the western side of the town the hurricane swept with the force of a tornado. The suburbs of Yarborough and Mespotamia were
cleaned as with one gigantic scythe.
The rain fell incessantly the whole of the night, leaving not a single dry spot in the town and the dawn came as a wonderful relief to a night of
unmitigated horror. With the dawn the rain also ceased and the water had entirely gone. The population poured out into the streets everywhere,
but as yet with no realisation that anything had happened save a vast amount of material damage.
The volunteers were called out, extra volunteers were called out, extra volunteers enrolled, hundreds of special police sworn in, and the police
and fire brigade mustered, and an attempt was made to clear some of the most important streets to allow the passage of working parties. These
parties began to find, under the wreckage, bodies, which were brought to a central point for identification and immediately rushed to the
cemetery for interment in a huge trench, which had been dug by convict labour for the purpose. During Friday, and part of Saturday, these
bodies were brought with increasing rapidity, and although it was at first estimated that 100 had been killed, the bringing of bodies and
identification soon had to be stopped, because it was realised that in the devastated area there were not dozens, but hundreds of bodies, and
drastic steps had to be taken immediately to cope with the danger.
Accordingly, every available fatigue party was put into work, and after making sure that there were no living persons in the wreckage a
holocaust was made of the devastated area in Mespotamia, and hundreds of bodies burnt where they lay, without any attempt at identification
Hundreds of people took refuge in the churches, which, with one exception all collapsed causing the immediate death of goodness knows how
many people. By Tuesday it was estimated that the death toll was 1,500 souls, and although it will be many months before an accurate check-
up of the missing can be made; it is universally believed that not less than 2,500 persons have perished.
By 8 o’ clock on Friday morning radio communication had been re-established with the outside world. Aeroplanes came in that day with
supplies and doctors from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, a most welcome relief to our four medical practitioners who had been working
incessantly at very high pressure. Dressing stations were established all over the town and the injured attended to. The injured however, are
only a small portion compared to the dead.
The huge death roll is accounted for by the tidal wave, drowning being the most probable cause of 90 percent of the fatalities.
Two United States gunboats, the U.S.S. Swan and the U.S.S. Sacramento, were rushed to the scene, where they arrived on Saturday. Landing
parties appeared and given the enormity of the disaster comparative calm prevailed.
It should not be forgotten that thousands of cases of liquor were strewn about the streets from the Bonded Warehouses, but the ensuing orgies
were not as bad as they might have been.
H.M.S. Danae, then at Barbados, rushed to us under forced draft, but did not get here till late Tuesday or early Wednesday. This ship
immediately took charge, and the Americans went away, leaving an American Red Cross Party behind.
Whilst dozens of bodies are being found daily, it is believed that the danger of epidemic has passed, and the whole town is busily engaged in
clearing away the foot of oozy slime deposited by the tidal wave and making temporary shelter for the thousands of homeless.
When you realise that the total population of the town is only 16,000, the catastrophe can be assessed at its true value.
We are in no danger of starvation, food supplies having reached us promptly. The medical facilities appear adequate, and although the
Government have had to enact measures to conscript labour, the cleaning up is proceeding with as much despatch as could be expected under
The whole town being utterly and completely demolished, there is, of course, no attempt at normal functioning. There are no courts of law, and
naturally all payments of every nature have ceased. One cannot collect rents from tenants whose houses are gone. The loss on mortgage
investments is absolute. What will happen in the future cannot now be prophesied, except that undoubtedly at least half of the town will have to
be rebuilt. The devastated areas at Yarborough and Mespotamia are nothing but funeral pyres and unsafe for rehabilitation.
What arrangements will be made for financing we cannot tell? No spontaneous fires occurred, but by the irony of fate, the two or three people
who carried hurricane insurance have suffered the least damage.
It is surmised that an Atlantic upheaval has shifted the course of the Gulf Stream 75 miles westwards, and that this fact has brought us into the
hurricane zone from which we have hitherto been considered immune. It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that every few years we shall have
the unwelcome visitor, although probably with nothing like the force of the one, which has just spewed death and destruction so lavishly.
We understand that Washington is satisfied that the wind blew 150 miles an hour. We have spoken with dozens of old timers who have
experienced hurricanes and their devastating effects in all parts of the West Indies, and who state that this calamity is far, far worse than
anything they have ever seen previously. The United States Marine Guard, which was at Managua during the earthquake there, frankly stated
that Managua was a picnic compared to our situation.
Everybody in the town is undoubtedly ruined. The more one had to lose, the more one lost. In spite of this, a spirit of optimism prevails, based
on the hope that the outside world will exhibit that spirit of generosity which it has always done in cases of serious disaster, and come to our
help in no niggardly fashion.
The Dauntless Dance Band
Rumour has it that Jack Hylton first collected his ‘boys’ together in a disused garage, but Mate Maybury went one better doing the same thing in the classroom of the Jesuit School in Belize, British Honduras, on 5th March 1931. Great achievements often have humble beginnings. In addition to the leader (Mate Maybury), there were gathered together O. A. Brown and A. B. Clarke, of concert party fame, and Midshipman Vincent-Jones, of the gunroom, with a gramophone in their midst. One of the blessings of the band was their ignorance of written music. The tunes were played on a gramophone and were then reproduced as faithfully as possible by the orchestra. This was only made possible by the musical ear of O. A. Brown.
The first appearance in public took place at the Belize Golf Club, and so shaken were the foundations of the Club that some months later, during a hurricane, it collapsed.
Several members of the orchestra had the luck to pay a visit to Mexico City, and one memorable forenoon was spent in the establishment of Messrs. Wagner, Ltd. (purveyors of musical instruments). Our heroes were not satisfied until they had tested every instrument in the shop, and there must have been several hundred. They had entered with a sack containing about one hundred-weight of pesos and left with a fine tenor banjo and a set of jazz drums.
At Mobile, our next port of call, the band was joined by Midshipman Hodgkinson, a player of the fool by nature, who played (in addition to the fool) an assorted collection of jazz novelties. We spent several pleasant evenings in Tampa, Florida, and on one special occasion we played at four different buildings during the course of a night, including a short appearance at our ship’s company dance in the Army Hall, using borrowed instruments.
Shortly after arriving at Bermuda, we had the good fortune to obtain the services of A.B. Kellaway and his ‘hot’ trumpet, from the Dragon.
Kellaway is now one of the mainstays of the band.
During the reminder of the commission the band functioned on diverse occasions, including ‘At Homes’ onboard and at dances ashore, when no local orchestra was available. It is no secret that a dance band experiences the most difficult time at the commencement of a party, when both musicians and dancers are at the bottom of their curves of zest and are only just assessing the situation. Hilarity, abandon and success follow in due course.
On the morning of the 12th March we picked up a pilot and duly anchored in the harbour of Vera Cruz, one of the chief ports of the Republic of Mexico. The town of Vera Cruz is very uninteresting, but several officers and ratings paid a four day visit to Mexico City as guests of different members of the British Community, and the Mexican Light and Power Company respectively. The party travelled overnight from Vera Cruz to Mexico City in sumptuous carriages, specially provided for the occasion. The sleeping bunks were spacious and more than comfortable. At 7 a.m.
we were met at the station by our hosts and driven to our quarters.
What was our first impression? Vera Cruz was warm and moist. As we stepped out on the platform at the capital we felt as though we were once more in England on a cold, wintry morning, so cold that we wasted no time in putting on our overcoats. Mexico City is 7,400 feet above sea level, hence the change of temperature. Some of us also noticed the air was rarefied and experienced a little difficulty in breathing. Later one of two suffered from nose bleeds. We were warned against running up stairs or taking too violent exercise, which invariably made a new comer pant.
Our football team who in the second half of the game, seemed fresher than their opponents put up an amazing performance all things considered.
Our hosts drove us in cars to see the sights of the capital. We visited the site of an old Aztec village, saw relics of Aztec art and civilisation in the museum, entered the famous cathedral, viewed the Palace and drove out to the Pyramids and the Floating Gardens of Xoxhimilco where we sat in frail boats and were paddled past numerous floating flower gardens and boats coming down stream laden with flowers of every description and colour. Most of us were present at a bullfight one afternoon, a description of which follows later. At night the cabarets provided good entertainment.
Captain Vivian and three officers, accompanied by H.B.M. Minister, paid an official call on the President Senor Rubio and the Minister of War.
They received a cordial reception and were very much impressed by the smartness and courtesy of all the Mexican officials and officers.
The British Society, British Club and Ex-Service Association went to much trouble and expense to entertain their guests. We cannot thank them sufficiently for our wonderful visit
The British Club and H.B.M. Minister at the Legation gave dances for the officers where three officers were guests during the whole of the visit.
They will never forget the hospitality and kindness of His Excellency E. St. J. D. Monson.
The return trip to Vera Cruz was made in daylight. Once more the Railway provided us with free and comfortable transport. We sat back and appreciated the glorious scenery. At times we could see the railway winding down into the plains, miles and miles away. According to a story told us by Captain Vivian’s brother, the Mexican dogs are very intelligent. The train arrives at one station and is greeted by a bevy of dogs, begging for food. The train proceeds for half an hour, negotiating numerous curves and gradients and arrives at the next station, miles away, only to find the same dogs sitting up and begging.
How had they got there? Oh just by taking a short cut, sliding down precipices and zigzagging up steep gradients. We saw very few dogs, but as they were all the same colour we could not verify the story. The journey passed pleasantly enough. We seem to remember somebody ‘stepping over a sunbeam’ and a song about 999 chickens laying eggs.
At Mexico City the impressiveness of the red sash and gold braid of a Sergeant of Marines uniform was once more in evidence. The guard on arrival at the Palace saluted one sergeant; he was later photographed and given the rank of Captain, and on another occasion traffic was held up while his car went the wrong way up a one-way street.
If our hosts could imagine how much a sailor appreciates four days out of the ship in a place like Mexico City they would understand why we rank this hospitable visit as one of the events of the commission.
Lieutenant-Commander Whetstone left the ship at Vera Cruz on the 14th March. Officers. Ship’s company and band gave him a rousing send off.
We wish him the best of luck and thank him for all his efforts on behalf of the ship.
Football At Mexico City
Translation From Press Report
The British sailors are football experts. Playing against the best Necaxa team they lost by 5 goals against 3, but the British technique was
superior to that of the local team. The Mexican public gave a cordial welcome to the ‘Sea Wolves’ of the cruiser Dauntless. The proceeds of
the game were distributed amongst benevolent societies.
For a second time the Mexican football fans on Saturday last, witnessed the beautiful characteristics of the British football game through an
exhibition between the ship’s company of H.M.S. Dauntless and the Necaxa team of this city.
The first time this series, Necaxa vs. British Navy, took place was when the cruiser Durban visited us about a year ago. At that time, like now,
the victory, if one may call it thus, was for the Necaxa team, but the British, of a characteristically firm temperament, do not give any
importance to these defeats. They await the time when one of their large warships, the Nelson for example, will visit Mexico, and then they
will take revenge.
This exhibition, as well as the previous one, was due to the kindness of the General Manager of the Mexican Light and Power Company,
Mr. H. W. Fraser, who in both cases conveyed to the Capital a group of sailors who, as Englishmen, are considered true exponents of Saxon
football. This is so respected that the Necaxa placed the best of their first division against them, as if they had to play against the ‘Arsenal,’
‘Aston Villa,’ ‘Newcastle,’ or any other of the teams which are the vanguard of first class English football, famous the world over.
The British players, due to their daily occupation, are naturally not in condition for an equitable contest with our city teams. They go from 20
to 30 days without landing at any port, whereas our teams are continuously in practice. The climate, public, general environment, etc., were in
our favour. For the British it was all to the contrary; they had to play against a totally unknown adversary, at 2,000 metres above sea level,
before an equally strange public, and without the necessary preparations required in these cases, such as being acclimatised, having necessary
prior training etc. However, in spite of having all these factors against them, the sailors arrived at the playgrounds when a large crowd was
already there, and gallantly saluted in all directions. The public received them with marked cordiality.
One heard applause from all sides, shouts of enthusiasm, hurrahs and everything else. In the box of honour were the representatives of the
British Diplomats, duly attended by a commission designated by the Necaxa Club. The Uruguay players of the Bella Vista were also present.
Old amateurs who contributed to the promotion of football in our country, such as Messrs, Butlin, Clifford, Blakemore, Butt, Sharp and others
were also there.
The Necaxa team, eleven red and white ‘stars,’ marched on the field, one behind the other, and when they reached the centre they saluted their
The game begins directed by Mr. Luis Cerrills of the America team, popularly known as ‘The Bear’
‘The Bear’ is one of the many and good umpires the Central Federation has. He is not a collegiate, but he knows how to apply the rules of the
game methodically, without altering the results to suit his convenience. In a few words he is a judge with good intentions.
The teams take respective places as follows:
Dauntless: Blake, Barrington, Worrall, Thompson, Cartland, Nash, Hills, Pay, Giblin, Castleman and Hillier.
Necaxa: Pauler, Riquer, Rivera, Ortega, Mardones, Lopez, Equiarte, Ruiz, Vergara, Lores, and Perez.
It was evident right from the first that the Englishmen knew the game, and their combination was good. It was only in some points that certain
differences were noticed, but this was counterbalanced by their good will. Their right wing is at once appreciated to be something really
wonderful, worthy of forming part of the best teams which have ever visited Mexico. The sailors, despite the sangfroid generally attributed to
the British appeared happy, smiling and even a bit spectacular. Their goalkeeper is extremely gay. He wears a red sweater and white shorts.
He is a perfect clown with the humour of an Adalusian on a holiday. He pays all manner of attention to each ball that reaches him, and even to
send it off, employs special art, something quite new. Two to one is the result of the first part of the game, which can be considered as evidence
of the power of the Necaxa, as compared to that of the British. This in no way implies that the city players had the ‘Sea Wolves’ corralled.
Pauler, on more than one occasion, had to fight to stop the attack of the sharks.
The second half of the game was more interesting. Contrary to what was expected, considering how the first part of the game was played, our
players were the ones who became exhausted, and the English were therefore able to play boldly.
Necaxa was not defeated, due to the good work of the goalkeeper, Pauler, who certainly had a hard time defending his goal from the attacks of
the right wing of the Dauntless, who is indeed a wonderful player, and was certainly admired by the entire public.
In the second half the Dauntless obtained the moral victory as they scored three perfect goals, in exchange for three others by the Necaxa, one
of which, the last, was considered by the majority of those present as rather ‘off side.’
The sailors certainly controlled 80% of the second half; they practically had our team corralled. They even had the occasion to equal the score,
and if it had not been for Pauler, who was once more the guardian angel of the rattled Necaxa boys, they would have lost the game.
Five to three in favour of the Electricians was the final result. The statistics of the game were as follows: 1 foul by Necaxa to 3 by Dauntless.
10 offside by Necaxa to 1 of the Dauntless; and three corners to each team.
Of the English team, Hill, their right wing, is the best of their men; truly wonderful. Their two inside men are also very good. The rest
displayed very well and did their best to please the public. The English played fair; it was a clean game and this naturally won the public,
who did not cease to applaud them throughout the afternoon.
Judging them as a team of sailors, their work was worthy of praise. They did a lot, playing against a team, which had everything in its favour.
Furthermore, as the proceeds of the game were for charity, the public, which was a large one, certainly appreciated this proof of altruism on the
part of H.B.M. Navy.
They were cordially saluted when leaving the playgrounds and this certainly must have been their greatest satisfaction.
A Bull Fight In Mexico City
Combats between men and bulls took place in ancient Greece and Rome, but in later years, were prohibited by the Emperors and the Popes. They are, however, still a favourite spectacle in Spain, Portugal and Mexico. (That bit came out of an encyclopaedia).
I propose to describe a bullfight in Mexico City. If I do not seem to treat the matter very seriously, it is because I find myself unable to regard a bull fight seriously, except for the maiming of the horses, which is deplorably beastly.
A bullfight takes place in a bull ring-a-round place with hard sand for ground and with tiers of stone seats all round. For a small sum one can hire a cushion from a brigand. The cheapest seats are those facing the sun. I sat facing these.
Having arrived at the bull ring and secured a seat and a cushion, one waits for about half an hour after the show is advertised to commence. This is owing to the notorious Latin unpunctuality, but one stays one’s boredom with the thought that the unfortunate bulls have waited for the last twenty-four hours in a dark place and without food or water. This is to make them bad tempered. Supposing that one’s temper permits one to wait for half an hour, a fanfare of trumpets is heard, and is followed by a gaudy procession. Matadors, Picadors, Toreadors, and all the other ‘dores prance in and march around the arena, bowing to the spectators and looking exceedingly brave and magnificent.
The procession is tailed by a couple of teams of mules, with their harness for removing defunct bulls.
Being duly impressed by the procession, one observes a few gentlemen with red cloaks entering the ring by way of a number of funk holes in the barrier. Suddenly a door opens and out rushes a bull in a bad temper. No wonder the beast is irritable. When they opened the door of his darkened house he probably stood and blinked at the daylight, until some furtive lout stuck a small dart into the back of his neck. The bull promptly charges one of the red cloaks, but is soon distracted by another, and yet another red cloak, thus becoming seriously rattled. Lucky spectators sometimes see the bull concentrating on just one of the red cloaks for long enough to make the wielder beat it for one of the funk holes. This is a delicious moment.
After about five minutes of this sort of thing, the Matador (hereinafter called the Queen Bee), baits the bull with a red cloak. His display is to be admired. He takes many more risks than the previous performers and his agility is remarkable. As far as he is concerned, the funk holes don’t exist.
When the Queen Bee gets bored a bandillero (I think) enters the ring armed with a couple of long darts, the business end being barbed and the other end being decorated with coloured ribbons. This gentleman’s function is to plunge the darts into the bull’s neck. If he does this when the bull is stationary, the crowd whistles, which is the Mexican parallel to booing, hissing, or throwing eggs.
I would sooner go to sea than be a bandillero. His method of performing his task is to stand in the middle of the ring, and, holding his darts above his head by the ribbon end, make insulting remarks to his enemy. He has no red cloak, but his remarks and his uniform seem to have desired effect (no wonder), and the bull, having pawed the ground with his foremost hoofs to show how annoyed he is, advances at the double. Assuming that all goes well, the bandillero advances too, plunges in his darts and steps neatly aside. He is then applauded and succeeded by another bandillero.
I have just said, ‘If all goes well.’ Success depends on the bull having his head down to gore, the gaudiness of the gentleman’s uniform, the bitterness of his insults, the accuracy of his aim and, of course, his agility and courage. Lack of agility necessitates the prompt attention of the doctor and a priest. Lack of courage would mean lynching.
When the bandilleros have finished their work and the poor bull is decorated like a maypole, the horses appear, ridden by picadors, armed with 12 lances. The horses are all old and worn out beasts. They are blindfolded and the near side is padded. In theory, the horse is taken to within about 10 yards of the weary bull, who, on recovering his breath, charges and takes it out on the padding of the horse, being repelled by the lance of the picador against the side or back of his neck. The object is to tire the neck muscle of the bull so that his head will be lowered to facilitate his final despatch.
The lance of the picador is designed so that it will not penetrate, but makes an unpleasant skin wound. The bull then retires to the middle of the ring to recover his breath, and to argue with himself as to further methods of defeating these pests. That is the theory. In practice it is more usual for the bull to get under the padding of the horse, and for the horse to be capsized by the tremendous thud athwart-ships. In the latter case, the picador may be hurt. He is a brave man, but it is difficult to feel sorry for him. The bull continues to worry the horse till strangely merciful people distract his attention by waving red cloaks in the wings. If the wounded horse can manage to walk, he is led out and another one takes his place. If the horse is unable to walk, a mule team appears.
It is very difficult for a decent person to endure this part of the performance. At this point, I will make a few remarks on my fellow spectators, and on how they appeared to react to the horrid spectacle. Opposite were the ‘Yahoos,’ who made most of the noise. From them came most of the whistling when they were displeased and the yells of acclamation when they were pleased. It is to their credit that they whistled on one occasion, when a swine of a picador tried to persuade his horribly damaged horse to allow itself to be gored again. The poor beast was led out. On my right and left were two rather boldly dressed persons from the Dauntless who looked about as sick as I felt. In the front row of seats just below me was a party of children -the little dears - how they screamed with delight when the bull and a horse held a party in the ring just below them. The most impressive person close to where I was sitting was an exceedingly beautiful and slightly plump young woman. During the foulest part of the spectacle she ate a banana, and her face wore about as much expression as the face of a sheep.
The bull stands in the middle of the ring, the horses have disappeared, and we all feel unwell. By this time the bull appears to be rather fed up, and instead of registering fury, looks as if he rather felt his ridiculous position, with all those ribboned darts sticking in his neck. Thus it is necessary to get him moving again. The men with the red cloaks, who repeat their performance from Act 1 until the bull is really worked up once more, achieve this object.
The Queen Bee, who enters with a sword and the reddest of cloaks, follows them. The sword is about four feet long and slightly curved towards the point. ‘Q.B.’ advances on the bull, holding the sword under the cloak, to his left. The bull charges the cloak and ‘Q. B.’ moves aside sufficiently to miss the beast’s horns by - I can’t say how much - half an inch perhaps. The bull, poor soul, charges the cloak instead of the man. I expect it was this strange discovery, which started the art of bull fighting. Kipling has written a vastly entertaining story of a bull that insisted on charging the man instead of the cloak. Having repeatedly gored the cloak with great violence, the bull must be as exasperated as a man trying to open an oyster with a bus ticket. After a really fine exhibition of skill and nerve, the matador finishes off the bull by plunging his sword to the hilt in the back of his neck as his head is lowered to gore the cloak. The sword penetrates the beast’s heart, the mule team enters, the bull is dragged out, the ground tided up and fresh sand put down where necessary.
During an afternoon about eight bulls are usually killed. The feelings of most people at their first bullfight are mixed. The killing of the first bull rather nauseates one but after two or three one gets used to it, and is able to admire the undoubted skill of the bull fighters, more especially the matador. Myself, I was very sorry for the bull at first, but, after all, he is dying fighting, and is able to make a good scrap for it. He probably thinks that he has as sporting chance the whole time, not realising for an instant that he hasn’t an earthly. But the horses – I won’t dwell on the subject.
I have been told that in Portugal bull fighting is a game with entirely different rules. There, the horses are very special beasts, and a man who allows the skin of his horse to be punctured in the slightest is hissed, or whistled out of the ring. I should like to see that type of fight but never again one in Mexico.
Three days at sea brought us to the outer bar of the Mobile River, where we picked up two pilots and proceeded about 30 miles upriver to the town of Mobile, securing alongside a jetty, which was adjacent to a main road and a railway station. A large crowd witnessed our arrival.
Mobile is an old city, its historical background dating back to the first explorations of the New World after Columbia. The modern city which grew from the stockade, named in honour of the Grand Monarch, Louis XIV, has not lost its historical background in the march of progress nor has it clung to the past, except to preserve those priceless landmarks which recall the struggles and successes of its early inhabitants.
The greeting we received as the ship came alongside was nothing compared with what we received when we went ashore. The people of Mobile could not do enough for us. They met us as we came ashore, drove parties of us all round the sights of the city, entertained us at their houses, gave dances for us and, in many cases, even allowed sailors in uniform free entrance to the cinemas. Verily, ye people of Mobile, you took us to your hearts; you showed us what the word hospitality means, and we were strangers in your land. Would that we had more facilities at our disposal to return your kindness.
Almost every man onboard was driven around the Azalea Trail in Mobile. Every season, literally ten thousand Azaleas burst into bloom, the flowers hiding the leaves. Great masses of scarlet, crimson, pink and white flare up against their natural settings of dark green live oaks and magnolias. The effect is dazzling and arresting. Guideposts are placed throughout the city and suburbs, along a route, known as the Azalea Trail, to help visitors to find the prettiest bushes. Wisteria also grows in profusion.
Two exhibition football matches were given during our stay. A goal was described locally as sending the pigskin sailing into the mesh. Heading the ball was interpreted as butting the leather. The spectators were both interested and amused.
We landed a Church Party on the 22nd, and marched through the streets to Christ Church. The roads were lined with thousands of spectators, who cheered until they were hoarse. The Drum Major, ‘chucking’ his baton, was the great attraction. Thousands of visitors came onboard to see the ship and talk to a British Tar.
As we slipped from the jetty on the 26th, a thunderstorm broke. This did not disturb the enthusiasm of the crowd that was there to bid us farewell.
They cheered and waved handkerchiefs and the band played ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ Our one wish is that in the near future we may return to Mobile. In the meantime, we wish the town health, wealth and prosperity.
Extract From Mobile Newspaper
Spain Given Soccer By Captain Vivian.
Bullfighting Slips From Popularity Before Advance
Of British Sport
Captain J. G. P. Vivian, Commanding Officer of H.M.S. Dauntless, whose soccer teams have furnished several thousand Mobilians numerous
thrilling moments during the past week, is one of the British naval men responsible for the present popularity of ‘Association Football’, as the
British game is properly called, in Spain and Latin America.
Some years ago, 1901 to 1906, let us say, the Spanish ports Arosa and Vigo were harbours much frequented by the ships of the British Fleet.
Crews and officers, in leisure hours ashore, devoted considerable time to the playing of soccer.
A field large and smooth enough, Captain Vivian relates, was selected, improvised boundaries laid down, and goal posts of whatever suitable
material might be laying about, erected to meet the occasion. There ensued a lively exhibition of the game which, ranking next to cricket, is
Britain’s most popular sport.
At times there were as many as 123 vessels of various shapes and tonnages in the two harbours, so it might be gleaned Vigo and Arosa were
virtually booming with soccer matches. It follows the Spaniards were attracted to the numerous games, and naturally, in time, some of the
onlookers became sufficiently interested in the sport to attempt to play it.
Not even an optimistic American, however, whose missionary nature sharply contrasts with the self-contained British, could have anticipated
the alacrity with which the sport spread. The Spaniards avidly seized upon the game, and soon adopted it as an almost national pastime.
It is indeed astonishing, since, until recent years, Latins were most non-athletic. And even more astonishing, the Spaniards doubtlessly
espoused the game voluntarily, for a Britain takes his soccer, like his ablutions, naively and methodically - a part of the day’s routine.
Nevertheless, soccer swept Spain, and, no less contagiously, invaded South and Central America. Today it easily leads all Latin sports activity.
Bullfighting, the tall, bronzed commander of His Majesty’s cruiser, says, is no longer the popular Spanish pastime it was in years past.
The vanity, indolence and pseudo-sportsmanship attached to witnessing a bullfight, has been regenerated into active individual participation in
“Even France,” he says, “has largely shoved aside the coquettish boulevardier for the square shouldered, sinewy athlete.” Rugby football,
American football’s pattern, a favourite collegiate game in England, is a rough and gruelling sport.
Captain Vivian witnessed a baseball game for the first time last Sunday, when he saw the Mobile Bears play the Washington Senators. “I did
not begin to appreciate the fine points of the game until the sixth or seventh inning,” the naval officer confessed, lifting the corners of his
mouth in a smile, pronouncing decided approval of the sport. “Then I found myself deeply concerned about who won, and began to join the
crowd in cheering for Mobile.”
He was surprised to learn that football has eclipsed or at least is rapidly crowding out baseball as America’s most popular sporting event. “We
hear much more of baseball in England,” he said. The Englishmen, ruddy and clear-eyed, sportsmanship incarnate, are eager to see a game of
American Football. They have never witnessed our hurling, dashing, plunging ‘gridders’ in action.
“Besides baseball, what other typically American sports have you seen, Captain?” the reporter asked. “None” he smiled,” unless dancing – if
you call that a sport.” The commander of the 472-foot warship drawled out ‘dance’ with his native broad ‘a’ and acknowledged an amused
bewilderment at our ‘unique’ accent.
Between Mobile and Tampa we ran into two heavy thunderstorms. We picked up a pilot on the 28th March, and secured alongside Municipal Wharf the same afternoon, where a large crowd had gathered to witness our arrival.
The following is an extract from the Tampa Sunday Tribune:
His Majesty’s Ship Dauntless steamed into Tampa yesterday afternoon, for a five day good will visit and tied up at the municipal terminal,
every inch of the cruiser’s 472 feet a Man o’ War with bristling guns and a towering conning tower.
Mayor McKay welcomed Captain J. G. P. Vivian, R.N., and the other senior officers, at the city hall. An invitation was extended to the public
to board the big craft this afternoon between 1 and 6 o’clock.
The Dauntless is manned by 408 men, including 28 officers, all of whom will be guests of the city during their stay. Every theatre has thrown
open its doors to members of the crew in uniform and continuous entertainments have been arranged for the officers through the offices of
Peter Taylor, British vice consul at Tampa.
Visitors inspecting the Dauntless today will be impressed with the powerful appearance of the craft, with its two huge funnels and lookout
towers piled up one above the other, equipped with shining range finding apparatus, searchlights, and armour-protected posts for long distance
vision at sea. Under full steam the ship will plough ahead at 30 knots propelled by twin screws, with power from 40,000 horse power boilers
and steam turbines.
Once again our hosts could not do too much for us. Their hospitality and kindness were well up to what we had met at Mobile. Genuine friendship, esteem and good will existed between the inhabitants of Tampa and the ship. Apart from official and private entertainment, motorcars were put at our disposal. The people of Alabama and Florida have endeared themselves to us.
Again an enthusiastic crowd witnessed our Church Party Parade. The same afternoon it was estimated that over 5,000 visitors came onboard. One evening, pipers and drummers of the Scottish colony entertained the ship’s company to a good programme in the ship. Later approximately 2,000 school children were shown over the cruiser.
All cinemas were free to men in uniform, and the films shown were first class.
We sailed for Nassau on the morning of the 2nd April. The jetty was crowded with people who gave us a rousing send off. As our band played ‘Auld Lang Syne’ many of our shore friends were actually in tears. A few cars followed the ship for about 20 miles down channel. Our visit passed too quickly, but we hope to pay another call during this commission.
If anyone disagrees that the girls of the Southern States, particularly Alabama and Florida, are amongst the prettiest and most interesting in the world, it is suggested that he has no taste.
H.M.S. Delhi was in harbour when we anchored on the forenoon of the 4th April. This was the first time we had been in company with her since we commissioned just over a year ago.
Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas Islands, is situated in the centre of an archipelago of some three thousand islands, and for two and a half centuries has been the seat of government of the ancient British colony of the Bahamas. Its harbour has been the scene of countless stirring adventures, recalling the days of the Buccaneers, the treasure seekers, Spanish invaders and slaves, privateers and blockade runners, who each in turn, have played their part in the fascinating history of the islands. Nowadays, the town is very popular with American tourists who have tired of the Dry Laws.
Most of the ship’s company spent their time bathing. There are numerous sandy beaches.
Dirty Dick’s Bar will always be remembered. It is a replica of Dirty Dick’s in Liverpool Street, London. A marvellous variety of cocktails were available, including a ‘Corpse Reviver,’ which did good trade with the tourists.
For some interesting period photos including one of Dirty Dick’s Bar we suggest:
Soon after midnight, on one occasion, we experienced a heavy thunderstorm, with rain and wind squalls, which necessitated the hoisting of boats and raising steam. Squalls are always a snag at Nassau.
On the 8th April, the anniversary of our departure from Portsmouth, H.M.S. Delhi and H. M. S. Dauntless proceeded to sea for exercises, returning
to harbour the following morning.
Nothing of interest happened during the rest of our stay. The two ships weighed anchor by hand on the 11th, carried out exercises en route to
Bermuda, and after sub-calibre day and night firing, just off Bermuda, we entered harbour and secured in the South Basin. The Dragon, Scarborough and Champlain were present, and the following day the Despatch arrived.
We had been cruising for approximately three months.
Our third period at Bermuda lasted from the 16th April to the 7th July, during which time we competed in the Commander-in-chief’s Gunnery and Torpedo Competitions, the Regatta and the Annual Rifle Meeting. The ship was second (another second!) in the Torpedo competition and third in the Gunnery. One of the best full calibre concentration shoots ever seen was carried out with H.M.S. Delhi. What luck we had in the regatta and the rifle Meeting will be seen later on.
Cricket occupied much of our spare time, and we certainly were in a wining vein at Bermuda. Swimming in the dogwatches was a favourite pastime, and at night the Dockyard Cinema was well patronised.
The Commander-in-Chief inspected H.M.S. Dauntless on the 22nd and 23rd April, and expressed his general satisfaction on the cleanliness and efficiency of the ship and her complement; afterwards decorating Able Seaman Harrison with the O.B.E. for bravery in H.M.S. Hood.
We were in dry dock refitting from the 23rd May until the 10th June. During this time we learnt that the next cruise was to be round South America. Rumour had us believing that we were going to repeat our first Pacific Cruise. Some were disappointed; nevertheless, they were consoled by the novelty of the countries we were to visit.
Captain Bagot, R.M. left us early in May, and we gave him a hearty send off. The Ward Room was very sorry to lose a cheery versatile messmate.
Lieut. - Comdr. Leeds, Captain Gumm, R.M., and Lieut. Alison joined the ship at Bermuda. With the half-yearly promotions came the news that Lieut. - Comdr. Onslow was promoted. We were delighted. A brass hat lent colour to his medals and distinguished air. (Sorry Jimmy).
On the 23rd June, the King’s Birthday a Naval Review was held on Moresby’s Plain. His Excellency The Governor and Admiral Haggard were present. The display reflected great credit on all the ship’s companies, which participated. We offer our sincere congratulations to the Commander-in-chief on being made a K.C.B.
H.M.S. Despatch proceeded to England on the 25th May to pay off. She was given a marvellous send off by the rest of the squadron. All ships cleared lower deck and cheered her as she steamed slowly out playing ‘Rolling Home.’ The flagship had set a high standard of efficiency in work and sport to the remainder of the Squadron.
Our detachment of Royal Marines left the ship for a fortnight under canvas at Warwick Camp in company with the other detachments of the squadron. Small Arms training was carried out. A field practice with ball ammunition, demonstrating a company in attack, was staged by the Royal Marines of H.M.S. Dauntless and H.M.S. Danae and was witnessed by a large gathering of Naval Officers, who were greatly impressed. Such demonstrations are invaluable to Naval Officers.
The ship’s company of H.M.S. Dauntless held a very successful dance in R.N. Canteen, soon after our arrival. Our great excitement during this period of the commission happened when the M.V. Bermuda caught fire.
During this period at Bermuda, Mr. Steer,Commissioned Gunner, Mr. Pitt, Commissioned Engineer and Mr. Smyth, Schoolmaster, left the ship and Mr. Scrivens, Mr. Doy and Mr. Cummins joined as their respective reliefs. In addition, Mr Lush, Commissioned Shipwright, joined us.
At the Annual Squadron Boxing Tournament in Bermuda, we managed to muster eight competitors, which did not constitute a full team.
Nevertheless, we came out second to Delhi.
In the Novices Light Heavies, we provided the two finalists, A. B.’s Jenner and Miller, the latter eventually winning. Stoker Scott won the Open Middle Weight contest by a knock out in the final. In the Novices Middles Signalman Wadey was runner up and Signal Boy Northover took the best loser’s prize. A.B. Penley was a finalist in the Welter Weights and Boy Davis was awarded the best loser’s prize.
The Commander-in-Chief, after presenting the prizes, congratulated all the competitors on their keen and clean fighting.
During our cruises we sent representatives ashore at different ports to box against local colour, with varying luck. It must be remembered that in a ship, particularly on the station, it is a most difficult proposition to keep fit enough for such a strenuous pastime as boxing.
Squadron Regatta 1931
The Open Cutter and Open Gig Races were rowed on the 9th May, two days previous to the actual Regatta. In both events we were good seconds; actually we lost the former race by two strokes after another boat had steered into us and fouled our oars. The flagship beat us in the re-pull by 10 strokes. Two seconds in two races had boded well for the other events. What happened? We didn’t win a single race and were amongst the losers. During practices, we displayed good style and were regarded as likely winners of the Cock. But performances in practice and in actual racing are two entirely different things, and good style alone does not win a race. Every worthy critic in the ship will give a different reason for our unfortunate results, but there is one and only one actual reason and that is - we were up against better crews. However, at the next Regatta we hope to retrieve some of the money we lost by backing ourselves in the Totalisator. The Regatta most certainly did one thing for us - it shattered our ‘second’ complex with a vengeance.
We congratulate H.M.S. Despatch on winning the Cock and H.M.S. Danae, the runners up. The latter ship put up a remarkable performance, as she arrived at Bermuda late, and had only about two weeks in which to train. The results of the Regatta were:
H.M.S. Despatch - 156 points. Winner of Cock
H.M.S. Danae - 150 points
H.M.S. Dragon - 138 points
H.M.S. Delhi - 124 points
H.M.S. Dauntless - 98 points
H.M.S. Scarborough - 20 points. Sloops Cup
H.M.S. Heliotrope - 12 points
The Editorial Office Boy at this stage, desired to contribute his views on the Regatta. He says, “Elbow is all you want. All style and no ----- work is no good. Any crew that can pull 51 to the minute and pull the stroke through is bound to win. And if you happen to be last - well - take it laughing.”
The Fire In The M.V. Bermuda
At about 0320 on the 17th June 1931, a telephone message was received from the Police stating that a serious fire had broken out on board the M.V. Bermuda (20,000 tons), which was lying alongside the wharf, and that the fire, which for the time being was confining itself to the upper works amidships, could very possibly spread to the oil tanks, and blow up the ship; an eventually which would seriously threaten the destruction by fire of the town of Hamilton.
M.V. Bermuda Fire
The Dockyard fire engines were rushed to Hamilton in 33 minutes, a marvellous time. Each ship sent parties the first of which arrived about 0415. The first party found the ship blazing fiercely amidships, and the task appeared hopeless. The Furness Withy tug, ‘Castle Harbour’ had by this time raised steam and was alongside the ‘Bermuda’ with all available hoses playing water on the flames. Fire engines from the shore were also supplying water.
When the fire was a given, some of the crew of the liner packed up their goods and chattels and vamoosed. The remainder particularly the Engineers and their personnel, worked like Trojans at extinguishing the flames. The Engine Room Staff remained below throughout. Soon after the outbreak they drained the dangerous fuel into the bilges.
The arrival of the Naval party brought organisation. It was a sad sight to see walnut panelling, carpets and expensive furniture being destroyed by the flames. Wilful destruction was also necessary to prevent the fire spreading.
M.V. Bermuda Fire
By 0630 the fire was being got under control. At 0700 an additional contingent of 200 naval ratings arrived from the Dockyard in the tug ‘Sand Boy.’ The detachments onboard were doing magnificent work. Unfortunately, some of them were overcome by the heat and fumes and had to be removed to hospital.
At 1100 the fire was completely under control except for occasional outbreaks in cabins. The main party was withdrawn five hours later, but about 100 men were left onboard as No. 3 hold aft was still a source of danger. Eventually it was found necessary to flood compartments until the ship rested on the bottom. As she grounded, she developed a heel of about 25 degrees and leant against the jetty. Twenty ratings were left onboard that night to keep watch.
M.V. Bermuda Fire
Undoubtedly, but for the assistance of the Navy the Bermuda would have been a total loss and maybe part of Hamilton would have been destroyed. As it was, only A, B, and C Decks and the Bridge were burnt out.
During the court of enquiry that followed, the Chief Justice remarked that the general view in Bermuda seemed to be that:
“God is in His heaven, so all must be right in Bermuda.
But it would be advantageous if the people remembered Heaven helps those that help themselves.”
The enquiry failed to discover the cause of the fire. Ord. Seaman Robson and Boy Catlin, of the Dauntless were commended by their Lordships for their good work at the fire.
The M.V. Bermuda under her own steam, returned to a Belfast shipyard for repairs. During our South American Cruise we received the news that once more she had caught fire and had been almost completely destroyed in a shipyard at Belfast.
Annual Rifle Meeting - Warwick Camp 1931
Previous to the Annual Rifle Meeting at Warwick Camp, the results obtained by our detachment of Royal Marines when firing their courses, promised many successes in the competitions. Of the 30 men who fired we had 14 marksmen, 8 first class shots and 8-second class shots. Among the Lewis Gunners we had 4 marksmen and 4 first class shots.
At one period of the commission, we had the ‘second’ complex very badly, and then came the disappointment of the Regatta, but one fine morning, Cup after Cup was brought onboard. We stared and wondered what the Cups were for. The explanation followed. At the 38th Annual Naval and Military Rifle Meeting out of 8 competitions, Dauntless secured 4 firsts and 2 seconds. The R. M. detachment formed the nucleus of all the teams.
The following are the particulars:
1) The Individual Open Services Championship and Hamilton Cup. Winner: Captain A. P. Gumm, R.M., - H.M.S. Dauntless.
2) Bermuda Team Championship. Winners - H.M.S. Dauntless.
3) Bluck Cup. - H.M.S. Dauntless
4) Canada Cup. Winners: - H.M.S. Dauntless
5) Services Cup. Second: - H.M.S. Dauntless
6) Crisson Cup. Light Automatics. Second: - H.M.S. Dauntless
The ships company heartily congratulate Captain Gumm, who had recently taken over the detachment, on being the first Royal Marine to win the Hamilton Cup and Individual Championship of the Naval and Military Rifle Meeting on the America and West Indies Station.
Now that we have developed a ‘first’ complex let us hope that we will continue our winning vein. Bravo the shooting team! You have shown us the way. Apart from successes in the Rifle Meeting the ship did exceedingly well in all its matches against local teams during the various cruises.